Characters: John Sheppard, Rodney McKay
Rating: Teen and up
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction. I am not affiliated with the television series Stargate: Atlantis, nor any of the cast and crew. No harm is intended. It's all just for fun.
The first kiss heavily borrows concepts from Carnival by Elizabeth Bear. If you haven't already read this book, you really ought to. And hopefully she won't hate me for boosting her world.
The fourth is a reworking of Scrunch Time. I always meant to continue it, and this is what happened. It's been rewritten to fit the tone of the other four sections. Apologies if you feel cheated that you don't get five new scenes.
Rodney is sure there's a ZPM on P276-3420. John and Elizabeth agree it's worth investigating, and the usual team is assembled for the pre-mission briefing. Telya has traded with the people there before, and knows the leaders would be willing to let them take it if it exists. She warns them that PR-276342 is a Matriarchal society and that there are certain rules and customs that absolutely must be followed or the results will be disastrous.
John looks skeptical. Elizabeth looks interested. Ronon just looks kind of bored. He tends to ignore things until someone mentions things like guns or explosions, and then he sits up a little straighter.
"Oh, well of course," Rodney supplies.
Elizabeth gives him A Look and smiles at Teyla. "And what are these customs?"
"Men are given second-class status. They are looked upon as livestock. Useful only for siring children. They are more like... well-kept pets. Groomed and tended to by servants, or raised for sport."
All three men sit up a little straighter.
"What kind of servants?" Sheppard asks, his eyebrows trying to mesh with his hair. He's envisioning harem girls in skimpy clothes, feeding him grapes and giving him massages.
"Other men. Lesser, weaker men, who would not make such good breeding stock." Teyla doesn't intend to look in McKay's direction when she says this, but he catches the fraction of a second glance and sinks back down in his seat.
"Great," he mumbles. "Perfect."
"The problem," Teyla says slowly, "is that I will not be able to obtain your ZPM if it is housed within Ancient technology."
"So? Me and McKay are going. Either one of us could activate it."
"Yes, Major. But you do not understand the rules of the city. Men are not allowed into the temples."
"They're not allowed in at all?" Elizabeth frowns. "Not even ones from off-world?"
Teyla shifts uncomfortably and studies her hands. "The only men who may enter the temples are what they call Gentles."
"I'm gentle!" Rodney says, and disproves his point by slapping his open hand against the table, causing coffee to slosh out over the rim of Sheppard's mug.
John glares and moves the coffee further out of McKay's range. "Define 'Gentle,'" he says, suspecting this is not going to be a good thing.
And oh, no... it's not. The look on Teyla's face is enough. The realization blooms in Elizabeth's eyes, and then even Ronon picks up on it and snorts. John chucks a pen at him. "Keep laughing, ponyboy."
"What am I missing?" McKay looks around the room. Teyla's blushing and staring now at the floor. Elizabeth has the back of her hand pressed against her mouth, but there's uncontained laughter in her eyes. Ronon's practically giggling, and Sheppard.... Sheppard is looking at him with an expression somewhere between utter terror and a leer.
When they cross through the Gate, it's Teyla who leads them. Teyla who wears the uniform and carries the weapons. Ronon is dressed much like he always is and John wonders if there are the usual weapons hidden in the long fall of dreads because frankly, he feels pretty naked unarmed and in civvies. Even Rodney keeps reaching to his thigh where his gun should be.
They're met by the Governor - a tall, slender woman whose penetrating stare makes John feel tense and suspicious, which makes him feel guilty because he feels like she can see the lie he and Rodney are selling. Rodney always looks tense and suspicious, so he's no help. Ronon is grinning like a boy at Christmas because there are women giving him approving looks and murmuring about his quality. There are whispered discussion about Ronon's possible ability as not only an athlete and a warrior, but as a stud and yeah, maybe Sheppard is a little jealous that no one's looking at him like that.
Of course, they wouldn't. He's supposed to be a Gentle.
They're shown to their quarters in the Governor's House. Ronon is escorted to the men's dormitory. Teyla is given a large room with a luxurious bath, a massive bed, and a discreet passage that leads to the men's dorm, should she request the service of "her man" - or any of the Governor's men.
He and Rodney are shown to what reminds him of a motel room. An upscale motel room, but certainly not a suite at the Ritz like Teyla's been given. The room is spartan. A bed. A toilet and shower in a little alcove. A desk and chair. A panel sunk into the wall for communicating with the House staff.
John's certain that the room is also bugged, so when they're returned to their room after dinner (a painful affair in which Rodney complained loudly about everything until John punched him under the table, in the thigh), he backs Rodney against the wall and nuzzles his neck.
"Sheppard...what...." Rodney starts (loudly), so John bites his earlobe and hisses.
"We're being watched."
Rodney's spine goes stiff and his arms lock down at his sides. Not what needs to happen.
"Hug me," John growls and feels Rodney's eyelashes flicker. "I mean it, Rodney. They have to think we're gay."
"But we're... I'm not..."
"Actors do this all the time."
"But we're not actors, either."
"Look. Just close your eyes and pretend I'm Angelina Jolie or whoever, and kiss me."
Rodney gets as far as nearly shrieking and John clamps his mouth over Rodney's. It's messy and painful and Rodney bites him (twice). Rodney's also trying to push him away, but if anyone's watching, it certainly looks more like they're grabbing at each other. So that was the first time (although, naturally, John doesn't think of it as "the first time" until after the second or third time).
"Not here, Rodney," John says breathlessly, pulling himself away. "We might be monitored and you know how shy I am." John hopes like hell that Rodney gets it and doesn't say anything stupid.
"I thought you said they were..." And there's the stupid thing. But thankfully - thankfully! - Rodney's brilliant mind makes the connection and he shuts up before he says anything that could really get them in trouble. "Yes. You're right. We should just..." He gestures weakly at the bed.
The bed is only large enough for them to sleep with a little space between them. It's a restless night, but they survive it. In the morning, when they're being shown to the temple, the Governor makes a comment about John's shyness and he knows they were being watched. McKay reacts to John's (justified!) smugness with his usual scowl.
John extracts the ZPM with no problem and the Governor sends them back through the Gate. Twenty-four hours. Not a single incident. No shots fired. Ronon looks relaxed and happy and... oiled. Teyla's obviously pleased that the mission went so well. Rodney is so pleased to have a ZPM (even though it's down to about 5% capacity, it's at least worth researching) that he doesn't mention or even seem to remember the kiss.
John leaves that small detail out of the mission report.
The natives of P543-9000 have some sort of ritual that involves eating mushroom-like things and inhaling herbs that have been thrown onto the fire. The weapons they're holding are a pretty strong indicator that participation is not optional, but mandatory. Fortunately, the locals take into account that Sheppard and his team have never done this before ("Well, there was this one time back in college..." Sheppard starts, and then decides it's not really wise to share that sort of information.) and suggest only a fourth of the usual amount of mushroom-like things.
Two hours later, and Teyla is spinning, arms outstretched, laughing up at the night sky, singing something in a language Sheppard doesn't understand. Ronon is leaning against a rock, grinning like he's been lobotomized, and occasionally laughing uproariously at something no one else hears. John managed to palm most of his dose, but the drug is still in his system, making it feel like his brain is itching. The herbs on the fire, on the other hand, are making him feel passive and like his limbs are made of iron. Or noodles -- heavy and loose at the same time. The village elders are all in similar states of bliss - talking, laughing, singing, or dozing.
Rodney is next to Sheppard, curled up in a fetal position, and whimpering. It isn't until Sheppard turns to him, fully prepared to tease him about having a bad trip, that John realises that something is actually wrong. That McKay is actually having a bad trip. "McKay?" he says and crouches down next to Rodney.
It feels like he's turned into liquid and flows around McKay ("Cool," he thinks. And then, "kinda creepy."), pulling him up into a sitting position and getting Rodney's head on his shoulder. He says "You're okay Rodney. It'll wear off, soon. Look, everyone else is starting to come down and fall asleep." At least that's what he thinks he says, but what actually comes out is a drawn out "Dude. Bummer."
Rodney makes a noise that's some kind of combination sob, laugh, gagging sound, and derisive snort, which is good. It's pretty conclusive evidence that Rodney isn't dying; he's just miserable.
And then, just like that, John kisses him. It's the drugs, certainly, and maybe the fact that his brain is giving him messages like "words no work good" and "talk hard" but he still needs to tell Rodney somehow that he (Rodney) will really be okay and that all he needs to do is sleep it off.
So that's the second time. But it doesn't count because neither John nor Rodney remember it the next morning.
The third time, which according to John is the second time, is a completely spontaneous act brought about by nothing in particular. Except the usual "Oh my God, I thought you were dead" thing that seems to happen, like, once a week. And this time he really thought Rodney was dead. All they found was Rodney's jacket in a torn and bloody heap and three fingers. So when he sees Ronon leading a limping, bleeding, dirty, and pissed off (and perfectly intact) McKay through the woods, John finds it necessary to grab Rodney by the ears and plant a rough kiss on him.
Okay, so maybe he's a little crazy from the heat and the fact that he's dehydrated, and he might be a little concussed from the explosions that were going off around them for the better part of an hour. And frankly, if he thought Ronon or Teyla had been turned into kibble, he'd probably have kissed the hell out of them when he found out they were still in one piece.
Rodney shuts up about how disgusting it is once John shows him the fingers, and he spends a good ten minutes playing with them before realising they don't know to whom the fingers belong, and what kind of germs might be on them and was John an idiot?! How could he just pick up someone else's fingers?
This kiss doesn't make it into the mission report, either.
On the exceptionally long list of things he would never, ever do under any circumstances, making out with John Sheppard is last on that list with an estimated 75230584096.2 percent chance against. The longest of longshots. On his To-Do list, it was below "be eaten by sharks" and "bathe in toxic waste again."
But here they are, on the floor of Rodney's room, Sheppard pinning him down and his own traitorous hands clenched so tight he's sure John's shoulders will be bruised. That'll be fun to explain to Beckett, he thinks.
They had been arguing about... what? Oh. The specifics of a particular mathematical sequence. Rodney was sure the math was sound. John was sure there was an error somewhere because what Rodney said the formula was, was obviously what the formula wasn't. He had the gaping hole in his shirt to prove it. "Well you just did something wrong!" Rodney insisted, and then John was in his face. Rodney backs up until he's against the wall, which, unfortunately, means John has him trapped.
"Self-centered, egotistical..." John's angry words are punctuated by even angrier stabs at the wall directly next to Rodney's left eye. "Can't accept the possibility that you were wrong. It could have killed me! One setting higher and it would have disassembled the atoms of my stomach!"
John seethes. "What."
"That's what it is! It's for disposal of organic materials. It dissolves the molecular bond and turns it into energy. Good for a place where burial space is limited, or for getting rid of your enemies bodies. It probably wouldn't have hurt you because you're still alive. It couldn't have broken down-"
John is purple, and he is so going to punch Rodney in the face. Rodney employs the best hand-to-hand, close-quarter, self-defense move he knows.
He tightly shuts his eyes, sucksin his lips, and drops his neck and raises his shoulders until his chin is near his chest. Even his testicles draw up tight, desperate for shelter.
"I really wish you'd look at me when I'm yelling at you. Look at me, McKay!" John gripsRodney's face and tries to pry Rodney's eyes open.
Rodney squeezes them tighter and tries to turn his head, but John has hands that are not just strong but large and it's simply not possible. Rodney's fists clench in anticipation of the blow and hopes as hard as he can that it won't break his jaw, because then eating would be just impossible. Although he might be able to use it for months of guilt.
The punch dosen't come and it doesn't happen and Rodney thinks maybe it had but it had been so hard that it'd knocked him unconscious, or it had killed him.
When his stomach growles, he thinks Oh good. Not dead, and Sheppard laughes. Snorts through his nose, really. Humorlessly and a little ashamed.
Rodney opens his right eye just the tiniest fraction afraid that this would be the moment John chose and the last thing Rodney would ever see would be that fist aimed right at his head.
Instead what he sees is John's head aimed right at his head and before Rodney could even close his eye again, John's mouth is on his and one of his hands has snaked around to hold the back of Rodney's neck.
Oh my God, what is he doing? Rodney thinks wildly and now his eyes are both wide open and he can see John's nose, and the blurry flicker of John's eye beneath the lid, and isn't that repulsive? Yet strangely interesting. But why are Rodney's hands creeping up until they're on John's shoulders? And why aren't they pushing John away? And why are they both half sliding and half falling to the floor?
Hello?! I'm dead and this is Hell, right? Rodney tries to squirm away, but his mouth and his hands had their own agenda, and John's knee firmly between his legs and his weight against Rodney's thigh and abdomen limiting anything else he might have tried.
John's breathing deep, steady, and hypnotic. Rodney breathes through his nose and it whistles a little.
John bites Rodney's lower lip and slips his tongue in when Rodney squeaks. Rodney presses forward, but instead of evicting John's tongue from his mouth, he ends up with his tongue in John's mouth, and John tastes like Atlantis: water with a little salt and a little metallic tinge, and something like the taste Rodney gets in his mouth when something's emitting ozone. It is exactly what Rodney thought John would taste like.
Wait. What?! When was I ever thinking about what --. Rodney pulls back, pressing himself against the floor and finally managing to push up against John's shoulders.
They split apart, John still kneeling over Rodney's leg and Rodney flat on his back, looking confused, dazed, and irritated. Which is how he looks most of the time, really.
John wipes his mouth on his sleeve. "Ah."
"You're restricting blood flow to my foot, Sheppard."
"Right, sorry buddy." He absently pats Rodney on the stomach, then stands. Sheppard holds out one hand to Rodney. "Need help?"
"You've done more than enough for one day, thanks. What the hell was that? One minute you're trying to kill me, the next you're... still trying to kill me only in a really strange way. Maybe that disintegrator did more damage than Carson thought. You should go see him. Get your..." Rodney flapped his hands, "get your brain checked out."
John smiles slightly and tips his head to one side. "Yeah, maybe I'll do that. Catch you later, McKay."
Rodney's already falling under the spell of his computer, letting himself be distracted by the familiar and the safe and the sane. "Yeah, whatever. See ya, Sheppard."
So that was number four. Or maybe (by John's count) three through three-point... fifty-two or something.
It's the not talking about it that's worse than talking about it could ever be. They manage to not talk about it for months. Until at some point after they lose Elizabeth, and then they don't exactly talk about it.... they just sort of... do it again.
One minute they're standing there staring at each other, at a loss for words and unsure exactly what's going to happen next, and then suddenly they're... kissing. Aggressive and panting and groping, desperate for something real to hold onto. Something that isn't going to dissolve. Except John can tell by the way Rodney's hands suddenly falter when John touches his hip that this can't happen. That one or both of them will fracture and blow into a million pieces.
When Rodney regains his composure and his hands clutch the hair at the nape of John's neck, John tells himself that it's okay this one time. They're both searching for something solid and if that searching happens to involve tongues, then okay, it involves tongues and warm skin and the unique scent of Rodney (coffee, dust, electricity, and the strange soap that the Laundry uses on their clothes).
John tells himself that this is okay as long as they don't think about it, and as long as they don't talk about it, and as long as it doesn't go past this, and if it doesn't ever happen again.
He tells himself that the sixth time, as well.