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05 December 2006 @ 02:20 pm
Concubia Nocte, SGA, McShep, PG  
Written for undermistletoe - Day 5: Romantic Movie Week - While You Were Sleeping

Title: Concubia Nocte
Rating: PG
Pairing: McKay/OMC, McKay/Sheppard
Size: 7,994 words
Notes: AU, obviously. Betaed very kindly, by killalla. More rom than com, I suspect, but I hope that won’t matter! Also, the science? Sucks. Hopefully not worse than the show’s, though :)
Summary: John’s upset enough when he discovers his friend, Dr Ingram, collapsed on his return to Earth, but that’s nothing compared to how disturbed he is when he learns who’s brought him home…

The noise is what John hears first. Trouble is always preceded by its accompanying warning. Except when it isn’t. If he were a more philosophical man, he would remember it as being the moment when he knew. But he honestly doesn’t.

He never sees these things coming.


“Yes, thank you – if you’d keep from dropping him on his head, he might – and I stress might – have a chance of continuing to lead his science team.”

The unfamiliar voice is raised and impatient; worry apparently making its owner as cutting as glass. It makes John frown, even before he sets eyes on the too loud striped shirt, worn over t-shirt and jeans. He raises his gaze to catch sight of blue eyes, round cheeks and thinning hair. The civilian dress makes him feel off-balance, it’s so rare. Even now, even with the Daedalus appearing in their skies like a fantastic dream, even now John can’t quite feel that it’s real. This man, this loud, noisy – obnoxious – man, is part of that. He’s not real either.

It’s probably why it takes John that long to notice the gurney.

Ingram is still, his skin waxy and beaded with sweat. The Daedalus had informed them that Ingram – Isaac – is unwell, but not to this degree. Carson is already hovering, relentlessly eliciting information from the Daedalus’ medical team, but getting his answers as much from the stranger as from the qualified personnel. One of the nurses rolls her eyes, and John is surprised to find himself smiling. Three weeks with this man looks like it’s been a long time.

John ambles forwards, not really willing to get in the way, but curious, on alert, tension sparking in muscles that ache to do something in a situation of obvious danger, even though it’s being handled, and it’s not his field. He sidles up to the non-regulation stranger, prepared to be as nice as pie. He might be NID, or worse. He might be anything.

“Colonel Sheppard, military head of Atlantis, pleased to meet you. And you would be?”

The hand he’s stuck out for the man to shake is scrutinised like it’s going to bite, and unaccountably John wants to smile again. He approves of such wariness in the Pegasus galaxy – it promises very healthy survival instincts. Or it could just be an insult. But honesty can be valuable too.

“Rodney McKay – Dr Rodney McKay.”

The chin sticks out like John is going to throw up his hands in horror, but John just keeps on smiling, wondering if he’s missed a briefing.

“Rodney McKay? The Rodney McKay? Butcher of Beatty? I’m sure there are other names, if that one’s too passé.”

John watches the other man’s eyes, as they go shiny and defiant. His smile drops as he does remember something, although he was in Antarctica by then. Something about a little town near Area 51, and an accident – an explosion. People dying.

“That’s right, Colonel. I knew you’d remember. Well, you needn’t worry. I won’t touch anything. I’m not here in any official capacity. I’m here for him.” The chin sticks out again, and John could swear that there’s no tremor in the voice. Like this attitude is normal for him. But the chin wobbles. Just slightly. It confuses John all over again. He’s not sure where he stands, when a self-professed murderer announces he’s taken up residence.

John looks at Ingram, and then back at McKay. McKay shrugs. “Hey, I’m as confused as you are. Isaac just keeled over one day, and I couldn’t wake him up. Believe me, I was a lot more freaked about it than you are.”

“But…” says John.

“Oh, didn’t I say?” McKay continues brightly, “I’m Dr Ingram’s fiancée. Should I be pleased to meet you?”


“What the hell, Elizabeth!”

John wants to pound his fist on her desk, but it won’t impress her, and it’ll lose him points. Points he may well need.

“It’s out of our hands, John,” she says, quietly, lacing her fingers together. “Rodney McKay has already worked for the Stargate program, at Area 51, and in Siberia. Therefore he already has clearance. In a way, we were lucky. If Isaac had been alone when he collapsed, valuable time could have been wasted while they tried to determine what was wrong.”

John is glad Ingram’s back, he really is, but why did he have to come back with such a… complication. News travels fast around here – he’s already heard his and McKay’s conversation in the Gateroom being discussed even as he was on his way up to report to Elizabeth. The tone hadn’t been friendly. DADT doesn’t apply to scientific personnel, of course, or to Canadians, but John thought that those folks who didn’t care about orientation, might just have a thing or two to say about getting hitched to a man with McKay’s past.

“So what exactly is wrong with Isaac?” he asks, “Apart from losing his marbles and getting engaged to a scientific pariah.”

Elizabeth looks disapproving, but there’s no-one else in the office. She hates it when he’s undiplomatic, she purses her lips and frowns. She’s got a thousand frowns. It would normally keep John amused through even the most tedious of their meetings, but this time he’s too exasperated. In many ways all the new personnel coming on the Daedalus are bad enough, the disruptions caused by trying to get them oriented are a headache already. Dammit, John wants Ingram. He wants him doing his job. Soothing feathers, sorting out pecking orders. He’s missed his friend’s deep belly laugh more than he’d ever realised. He seems further away than ever, even though he’s right down the corridor in the infirmary.

“Carson thinks it’s something to do with the ATA gene – an effect of the distance Isaac was from Atlantis. He’s working on it now. As luck would have it,” although Elizabeth pulls a wry face, “Isaac was our only artificial gene carrier in the party that returned through the Stargate. Natural carriers don’t seem to be affected – or at least Sergeant Markham doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects.”

John sucks in a breath as the implications of that sink in. They’ve given the artificial gene to everyone that would take it. It’s active in over forty percent of those personnel. That’s a hell of a lot of people. His people.

He meets Elizabeth’s eyes. She looks as worried as he feels.

“You know Carson’s the best – if anyone can work out what the problem is, it’s him. He designed the gene, after all.”

John nods, slowly. Really, put into that kind of perspective, Ingram’s whirlwind romance is no more than a tiny storm in an even tinier teacup. Something to worry about later.


“Well?” John demands, as soon as he walks into the infirmary.

Carson raises his eyebrows and looks like he might tut. John smiles as charmingly as he can to deflect the inevitable disapproval. Carson has a good bedside manner if he’s not hurried, but things in Pegasus are always moving too fast. No-one has time for Carson’s usual fuss, least of all John.

A different voice actually answers his question, with the slightly hectoring tone that’s already becoming familiar.

“Since the Daedalus’ beam down, Isaac’s blood pressure has been steadily falling. It’s out of the danger zone, and your witchdoctor is beginning to think about weaning him off the drugs. He’s been on enough dope to kill an elephant for nearly three weeks now – those voodoo priests have been feeding him horse tablets to keep him alive for the journey. I was telling Dr McCoy here, it’s about time.”

“And I’ve been telling you, laddie, that it’s too soon to risk it.”

Like a tennis match, John looks backwards and forwards between the two men, both with identical glares trying to burn strips off the other. He finds he wants to smile again. What is it with this McKay anyway? Does he antagonise everyone he meets? Has he no shame at all? It’s admirable, if not very wise. Doesn’t he know how popular Isaac is? Doesn’t he care what trouble he’s storing up? But then, John thinks, the ‘Butcher of Beatty’ probably doesn’t give a damn. What’s he going to do for an encore, after all – torture babies? He decides he’s not going to ask though – just in case McKay says yes.

Carson’s beginning to breathe hard, which is never a good sign. John takes one fast all-encompassing look at Isaac, notes that his colour’s better, and that he’s not sweating any more, then turns back to McKay.

“I’ll walk you to your quarters,” he tries, before McKay huffs and shakes his head. He’s looking anxiously at Isaac, whose lips have parted in a slight sigh. It lifts John’s spirits to see it, and Carson immediately bends over the monitors.

McKay opens his mouth, but before he can say anything John swiftly cuts in, “It wasn’t a suggestion, Doctor.”

The man bitches all the way down the corridor. John hardly has to say a word. It’s almost refreshing, in a way. The only time he shuts up is when they stop outside Isaac’s quarters. It doesn’t take McKay long to get it. Isaac wrote a cheerful au revoir on his whiteboard, before he left, and as he reads it, McKay’s eyes grow huge.

“I hadn’t thought… I mean, is it really necessary… It just doesn’t seem right.”

Ridiculously happy to see the man discomforted, John grins his biggest, dorkiest grin.

“Hey, he’s your fiancée. I thought you’d want to share his quarters.”

But even as he says it, John’s regretting the impulse. McKay’s shoulders are hunching a little, and he seems smaller somehow. John’s not quite sure why this should make him concerned, but somehow it does.

Almost in apology, he adds, “With all the new personnel from the Daedalus, we’re really short of quarters, right now. City exploration takes time and resources we don’t have.”

“What’s it like?” McKay asks, suddenly, clutching his hands tightly to his chest. “Atlantis. Is it everything we imagined?”

“We?” says John, and tilts his head. McKay just stares. Finally John says to that painful honesty in McKay’s eyes, “Hey, once you’ve seen one Ancient abandoned city, you’ve seen then all. Ten thousand year old plants, and architecture that’s early stained glass.” He waits, but it’s somehow uncomfortable. He can’t leave it there. “It’s beautiful, and wonderful. Fascinating and creepy, and really fucking dangerous.”

McKay nods, like John’s told him something special, although it doesn’t feel like that to John. His chin goes up again, like John remembers from the Gateroom, and he faces the door squarely as he swipes the locking panel.

The hiss of the door is almost drowned out by the cry from Curie, who’s obviously as pleased as ever at being left alone. She dashes towards the door, a little tabby streak of light, and John prepares to body block her, not that it ever works. Instead, unexpectedly, she leaps up into McKay’s arms and hangs on. John is almost prepared to believe his gasp is entirely due to the pain of Curie’s claws digging in, and not total surprise on seeing her. But only almost. He narrows his eyes.

Shouldn’t Isaac’s fiancée know he has a much beloved cat? John’s about to ask, when two things happen. His headset goes off, and McKay begins to pet Curie expertly, curling his fingers round her ears, and along her spine. The sound of her rumbling purr fills the corridor.

John gives McKay one more suspicious look before picking up the call. He swipes the locking panel and watches the door slide shut in McKay’s face. He hasn’t got time for this. He’s too busy. It’s a pity, but he’ll have to leave the mystery that is Rodney McKay to another day.


It’s two days later when John decides he has to make the time.

The raised voices near the secondary labs are loud and getting louder. One is much higher pitched, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s McKay. John wonders if the man has a deathwish when he arrives on the run to find him arguing with three of his marines. Two are detailed to guard the main doors, and one is a pal who’s obviously stepped in to support them, and is looking far too eager about it. There are cracking knuckles with the sort of unholy relish that a marine only tends to get when staring at a three day pass, or an untended burger. John counts McKay’s chances as less than zero, although he doesn’t seem to realise it, but John finds that he’s smiling again.

He breaks it up before blood is spilled, and drags McKay away. The man starts moaning before they’re even out of earshot.

“I can’t believe you let your Neanderthals walk round without leashes, Colonel! It’s a disgrace when a man of my reputation is…” He trails off, and John glances sideways to see why. McKay is suddenly pale and sweaty, from being red-faced and angry, and John finds he’s tensing in sympathetic concern. He’s marvelling at that, when McKay makes a small sound and collapses into his arms. He’s heavier than he looks, and John can’t help but notice the breadth of the arms he grasps to lower McKay to the floor. John finds he wants to laugh. Even if DADT didn’t make things impossible, he’s leering over another man’s fiancée. Way to go, John. Courting a black mark of a completely different kind.

It doesn’t mean he leans away though, when McKay’s lashes begin to flutter open. He’ll take his thrills where he can get them. McKay’s eyes are very blue. It still astonishes John that he hadn’t known Isaac was gay, and the possibility that he’d missed all these months teases at his mind. The civilian Head of Science was a liaison that the military leader of Atlantis could have considered. Maybe. If he’d dared.

It makes his breath move faster in his throat, or that’s what he blames, when McKay stares up at him in consternation.

“You fainted, McKay,” John drawls, and watches, fascinated, as colour chases itself up McKay’s face.

“Yes. Well. I expect it’s the stress of being subjected to the hooligan tendencies of your men. Or maybe…” McKay pushes himself into a sitting position and John forces himself to shift away. Until McKay sways, even sitting down, and John crowds back into his space, offering him a solid shoulder to lean upon. McKay reaches for the back pocket of his jeans, and John finds himself swallowing, as his crotch is pushed towards him. It’s completely innocuous, and John knows that. He also knows he’s completely screwed.

McKay pulls out a power bar and proceeds to munch it. It’s peanut butter flavour, and the warm peanut smell drifts towards John as he sits there, not moving. Not moving away.

“I’m hypoglycaemic, you know,” McKay offers, less defensively than John expected, “So when I pass out it’s not my fault.”

“What were you doing in the labs anyway?” John asks, for something to say, and because he can’t let his suspicions go just because a man’s thrown himself at his feet.

McKay breathes out hard through his mouth, and John gets another peanut scented gust.

“Look, I have two PhDs, post doc work in Lorentzian topology, and know more about the theoretical workings of the Stargate than anyone in this galaxy.” He puts his head slightly to one side. “Probably two galaxies. I’m a genius. I have the pieces of paper, and the crappy memories of high school to prove it. I deserve to be in there. I’m wasting my time pacing the corridors and working on my tan, Colonel, when I could be doing something useful.”

John stares into blue eyes gone rather wider than they were. He thinks, so screwed. He does his job.

“And Beatty?”

He hates it that he makes McKay flinch. He wonders if he’ll have to apologise to Isaac when he wakes up.

“Beatty was a regrettable accident.” McKay’s voice wobbles. John hates that too. “Beatty is a small town on the outskirts of Area 51. I got caught up… in the experiment. I pushed it through when I should have let it go. The containment field wasn’t strong enough, and… I wish I had listened. I know people paid the price for my mistake, but I assure you, Colonel, that it won’t happen again.”

McKay stares at him with a horrifying amount of sincerity in his face. John almost wishes he could believe it was a lie.

John thinks about all the accidents they’ve had on Atlantis. About Johnson, and Dumais, and Collins. Thinks about the letters he’s had to write, and the letters Isaac’s written. Thinks about the way Zelenka’s right eyelid droops permanently now. Accidents are commonplace. He wishes they weren’t, but he can’t deny that McKay would fit right in. And they’re always shorthanded, even with the Daedalus.

At least McKay will know what a Stargate is before he steps through it for the first time.

“I’ll think about it,” John says, and tries not to see the gratitude.


He takes the decision to Elizabeth.

John gets McKay’s file in the weekly databurst, and it’s starkly damaging. John reads between the lines and finds it makes him wince. Four people died in Beatty, and there was a substantial amount of property damage to the surrounding area as well. But the report makes it clear that it wasn’t just McKay working on the project, and he wasn’t the man in charge. A scientist called Dow should have been to blame, but it looks like McKay took all the flak. John’s not sure what to think about that. Is McKay a hero or a villain? Does it even matter? He’s paid the price regardless. They can’t take his PhDs, but they took everything else as far as John can see. Clearance revoked, service discontinued, forbidden from ever describing what he’s been working on. The man is thirty seven years old without a published paper to his name. In academic circles he’s dead in the water – no reputable establishment would take him on now.

But in Atlantis… In Atlantis McKay could be an asset. John weighs it carefully, but he doesn’t think any bias is creeping through – and anyway, Isaac will surely insist on it once he wakes up. John’s not jumping the gun by suggesting it now. He resolutely doesn’t think about what will happen if Isaac doesn’t recover, because that way lies madness and beating his head against the wall. Isaac’s his friend. How can he even be considering hitting on his fiancée – not that John’s been thinking about it. Oh no. Because that would be so bad and wrong that it curls his toes even to have the possibility cross his mind.

So he takes the decision to Elizabeth, and she arches an eyebrow at him, because he’s not averse to the occasional personnel change without consulting her, and technically it’s a security issue, except that it’s not really. The issue. John smiles at her with all the charm he can muster, until she shakes her head and signs. John finds himself breathing hard outside her office, and has to go for a run before he looks for Rodney. Then does another lap of the east pier when he realises he’s started thinking of him as Rodney, and not McKay.

John thinks it’ll be totally worth it though, when he gets to tell him.

He’s not in Isaac’s quarters, and he’s not in the mess hall, and he’s not in the jumper bays, which John thought was a distinct possibility. So he takes a breath and walks to the infirmary, which, really, should have been the first place he looked, except – well, he wasn’t thinking about that. Denial is so much more than a river in Egypt.

He pauses a little outside the door, because he can hear voices, and doesn’t want to disturb Beckett in the middle of an examination. But then he realises it’s only one voice, Rodney’s voice, murmuring quietly. John wants to walk away, he does, but he’s not that strong.

“So it’s everything I dreamed it was, and I know the power fluctuates on the west side, and the inertial dampeners on the – south east? – pier are shot, but I could do so much with my shield modifications, I know I could, and… Zac, it’s everything I was promised. And I want you to know how grateful I am. How lucky I am. Really. I couldn’t have done this without you. You’ve got to know that. I so want you to wake up, but…”

John can’t bear it any more. He’s not in standard issue military boots, but they make a good deal of noise all the same. Rodney jumps, actually jumps, when he realises it’s John. And the look on his face when John tells him is everything he thought it would be, wide-eyed eagerness, pathetic gratitude, and a hunger somehow satisfied. Rodney looks at John like he’s chocolate and peanuts, and the Holy Grail, all rolled into one. But.

John knows it’s not the same.


John likes switching things on with his mind.

Or that’s what he tells himself, when he begins to hang around in the labs more. It’s a cheerful chaos anyway, more lively than hanging out with the marines. Scientists don’t think of John as the man in charge. To them, he’s a convenient light switch. Rodney doesn’t even realise there’s anything wrong. He dives into the politics, and the problems, and the pettiness, like a pig dives into shit. John could smile at that too, if he didn’t think it was being obvious. John can imagine Rodney carving his way into tenure with barely a whimper, or torpedoing a budding career or two without even pausing for breath. It’s his natural environment, which shouldn’t have surprised John, but somehow it does.

Zelenka pauses now and then to observe John, as he stands hipshot against a wall, or leaning on a lab bench, and always, always with Rodney in sight. Sometimes he murmurs, in Czech or not, but his accent was thick before, and since the accident the droop of his mouth has added to the problem. Zelenka works mostly alone now.

Rodney needs watching, John thinks. His fingers as they snap for a tool, or an answer. His broad, thick body that hunches as though to disguise his true height – or to try and hide. His PhDs are in astrophysics and mechanical engineering, ideal for the work they’re doing, and John watches the other scientists try to keep up, before resigning themselves to their petty jealousies. John finds it amusing that Rodney doesn’t really notice either tactic.

But John can’t help but notice. Rodney berates, he doesn’t help. He carves chunks off with his sarcasm, and then he fixes the problem. He orders when he should defer. He’s a pain in the ass, but productivity has doubled. He’s that good. John can taste a kind of bitterness, when he salutes Isaac in his mind – he’s found himself a partner that’s perfect for Atlantis, a genius, as Rodney reminds people at least once a day.

Rodney doesn’t know John’s watching him. He’s oblivious to the why of it. He looks up sometimes, and there’s a huff or two, or once or twice a ‘huh’ before he dives back in. There’s a frenzy to his work, like he’s trying to cram in the years he’s missed, as though he expects it to all be taken away again. And he starts to talk to Zelenka. They finish each others sentences, when no-one else can even work out what Zelenka’s trying to say. It would be admirable, if it didn’t scare John how easily Rodney fits in.

Once, John walks into the labs to find Rodney asleep with his face all mashed into his keyboard. He finds the sight actually gives him a pang, godammit, drool and all. And that causes his stomach to lurch, and his palms to sweat, but John shakes it away before he thinks about it too hard. He’s just hungry, because it’s late and his mission was so long and boring. So he shakes Rodney awake and drags him to the mess.

They have meatloaf and blue jello, and Rodney waxes lyrical about the phase shift in the Stargate’s buffer zone, while John shovels food in without tasting it. Instead he listens, and watches Rodney’s mouth. He finds himself nodding when Rodney suggests testing a new Ancient device, and then wants to kick himself and his own stupidity, before going for another very long run.

John is suspicious of Rodney. He watches him all the time. He’s just not sure any more what he’s suspicious of.


“Colonel, may I have a word?”

Carson is being unusually discreet, and John would worry about that if he was looking tense, or even worse – excited. They have all learned to be very, very afraid of anything that excites Carson Beckett.

Instead, John smiles his usual smile, and ambles into the office that Beckett has just appeared out of. Transporter technology is great, but it also means that everyone is used to having people pop up like jack-rabbits, way out of their usual territory. The ATA gene has only made it worse. Long gone are the days when only John’s touch would make Atlantis light up like a Christmas tree.

“Hey, what’s up, Doc?” John grins like it’s not the oldest joke in the book, or close to it. Carson raises an eyebrow.

“I understand you’ve been spending considerable time with Rodney, as he is so new, and his status so unsure. Quite right too,” Carson says, “So I thought you’d like to be the first to know. We think we’ve cracked the problem. We think we can wake Isaac up.”

John’s glad he’s learned to hide himself, over the years. He doesn’t let his smile fall. He widens it a bit, in fact, hoping he doesn’t look like some demented Cheshire Cat. This is good news, he knows it is – Isaac’s his friend. He is. Still. Whatever else has changed while he was sleeping.

But then John feels wrung with guilt, because this isn’t just about him and Isaac, or even him and Rodney and Isaac. This will have huge implications for all the ATA gene carriers. It means that people can go back to Earth and see loved ones without collapsing and maybe dying. It means people can leave. They don’t have to stay here forever. John has forgotten all about that, and that’s bad, because it has implications. Well. John’s never even thought about leaving. And he knows what that says about him, or maybe Atlantis, jealous girlfriend that she apparently is, but he doesn’t really care.

Rodney wanted the therapy. Begged for it, one day, when it was just the two of them working in the puddle-jumper bay. He’d looked so lost when John kept refusing. John had wanted to jump up and down and go ‘yes, yes, have the damn therapy, be tied to us, stay’ but, of course, he didn’t. John hates being Sheppard sometimes.

“Cool,” he says, and listens as Carson blathers on about serotonin levels in the brain, and deficiencies of vital chemicals that John thinks of as vitamins but that probably aren’t. It turns out that Atlantis herself somehow provides supplements for the artificial gene carriers, but that they slowly deplete over any time spent away. A natural carrier produces them directly. John’s happy for Carson, because the mystery is solved, and he doesn’t want to point out that it won’t actually help their personnel leave for home unless they’re on the equivalent of drugs for the rest of their lives. But John supposes Carson will figure something out eventually. There’s nothing Carson likes more than some radical therapy. And it’s still good news about Isaac.

Carson wants to tell Rodney about Isaac, but, “No,” says John, defiantly.

It might not work, after all. Rodney might get all fired up for nothing. Best to test it first, John suggests. Get Elizabeth’s approval.

He doesn’t realise he’s holding his breath until Carson finally walks away.


“Now,” says Carson, and depresses the plunger.

John wonders if Isaac will spring to life like a robot switching on, or spasm like Frankenstein’s monster in the old black and whites. Insanely, he also has an image of Rodney leaning over and kissing Isaac, until his eyes slowly open at his touch. John wants to scream. Or maybe scream with laughter. He stands and watches instead.

Elizabeth looks proud but anxious. As though another one of her baby birds is learning to fly. She’d probably hate the image. Isaac, in actual fact, shifts restlessly, as they bend over him, like his skin is too itchy for comfort, and then groans.

“Now, we must expect a certain amount of disorientation,” says Carson, calmly, “It’s really hard to say how much. The poor laddie’s been through a lot.”

No kidding, John thinks. And then.

“No kidding,” says a familiar voice by the door, sarcasm primed, armour in place. “And when exactly were you thinking of informing the anxious next of kin? Only after you’d killed him with your voodoo experiments, I suppose. Once you’d realised that there was no way in hell I’d have signed the consent forms, maybe?”

John wants to laugh then for a different reason. Elizabeth’s face is a picture as she thinks through the implications of what Rodney’s saying, and Carson’s look of bafflement is priceless. John can’t blame them. Carson hasn’t even had to think about a consent form for at least two years, probably longer. John wonders who would win, in a legal battle about medical ethics in another galaxy. The military, he supposes. They usually do.

Rodney strides forward to the foot of the bed. It’s only then that John realises he’s terrified. Something in the tilt of his head, in his wide eyes. So blue, John thinks, as always. It’s stopped surprising him that he can read Rodney this well, after only a few weeks. Why the hell is the man so frightened?

Isaac groans again, and their heads turn comically, like at a game. Deep chocolate brown eyes blink open, and John finds himself smiling into them. It relieves him. He’s not so lost inside himself that he can’t feel the happiness of this moment, bittersweet though it might be. He watches Isaac look at Elizabeth, and at Carson, watches his gaze as it slides past John and onto Rodney. His fiancée. Here it comes, John thinks, and braces himself.

Rodney inhales sharply. He’s gone pasty and white, and John has an instinctive urge to hold him up, and thrust a power bar into his hand.

“Who are you?” asks Isaac, in a voice like broken nails.


“Memory loss!” says Rodney, waving his hands. And.

“What have you done to him?” says Rodney, “He doesn’t know his own fiancée!”

His obvious panic softens the hard flinty face that Elizabeth has donned in an instant, like chiselled armour. There have been too many surprises in the Pegasus galaxy. There have been too betrayals and too many deaths. John wonders if Rodney gets that, really gets that. He’s about two seconds away from being marched to the brig. Three seconds away from being shoved against a wall with John’s arm against his throat. That’s when it hits him that he might be a little pissed at Rodney.

“It’s possible,” Carson says, although his tone says otherwise. That he doesn’t really believe it. He sounds affronted, but then, John knows how much Carson hates being wrong.

“What?” says Isaac, his thready unused voice getting stronger all the time. “What?”

“This,” John tries, “Is Dr Rodney McKay. PhD. You’re supposed to be engaged to him. Remember now?” John looks at Rodney, and lets a little of his feelings through. Rodney almost flinches. “He saved your life.”

“I don’t… I don’t know. Are we at the SGC – no, we can’t be – Elizabeth, what’s going on? The last thing I remember is…” Isaac’s sounding worried now, and Carson’s drawing himself up, fluffing himself up like a cat defending territory. He’ll throw them all out any minute.

To reassure him, all of them really, John squeezes Isaac’s shoulder. “Hey, buddy, it’s good to have you back. You scared us for a while there.”

Rodney’s eyes are glittering, but John can’t tell from what emotion. He glares at Rodney, and almost wants Elizabeth to give the order. Instead, she asks, “I’m sure you can understand, Dr McKay, why suddenly your story seems to be less plausible than it was. Do you have an explanation for me?”

Trust Elizabeth to stay cool under all circumstances. Rodney’s chin jerks up, like a challenge has been offered, which John supposes it has.

“I presume you want me to prove it. Prove that I’m… That we’re… involved, as though, oh yes, poets and fools haven’t been trying for centuries. It’s not like a theorem, you know.”

And that’s a bad image for John’s peace of mind. Rodney’s clever hands working out proofs, in swirling ink and symbols, on warm naked flesh. He shakes the picture away, his ears a little warm.

“What do you want from me?” And dammit if Rodney’s voice doesn’t wobble a little. “Do you want me to recite all of Isaac’s qualifications? All his awards? I can, you know. Or tell you his favourite joke, the one he tells all the time, that isn’t even funny, about two ‘I’s being better than one – but it always makes him laugh. Or maybe…” A pink wash colours Rodney’s neck, and his voice is high. “Maybe you want more personal details. Like his… injury. A partner would know that, I suppose? That he only has one… umm… ball. Is that the kind of thing?”

John’s embarrassed on all their behalfs now. Isaac’s mouth is stretched wide in an ‘oh’ of disbelief, and Rodney… Rodney looks like he wants to turn and run. Even Elizabeth looks perturbed.

“Yes, thank you, that’s quite enough excitement to be going on with,” says Carson, interrupting, and John’s never been so glad in his life.

It breaks the tableau, and Elizabeth looks away. Rodney’s shoulders slump, and John’s still holding Isaac’s arm like he can’t let go. Quietly, and without any of the fuss John associates with him now, without a comment, or an insult, Rodney turns to go. It’s not right, somehow, but John doesn’t say a word. They have Isaac back again. He’ll be on his feet organising his old team in no time.

Maybe, by then, they’ll know what to do with McKay.


“Yes, yes, Colonel, you don’t have to say it.”

Rodney’s facing away from the door, and John can’t see his face. He’s in his quarters – in Isaac’s quarters – and Curie is purring on the pillow, on top of a shirt. Rodney’s tugging on it ineffectually. There’s an open bag on the bed.

It’s peculiar, but until now John hadn’t realised, looking round, how little influence Rodney has had on this room. Nothing’s been changed, it’s all as Isaac left it, and that leaves John really disturbed. Does Rodney usually have as little impact as that? Somehow he doubts it. John feels plenty impacted. Sometimes he feels like he’s been hit in the head by the unstoppable force. He’s trying to be the immovable object, but it’s getting harder all the time.

“Say what?” he tries, but Rodney doesn’t reply, and besides, John thinks he knows.

“Carson’s checking Isaac for memory loss,” he offers, anyway, and sits on the bed.

Rodney spins round, abandoning the shirt, and folds his arms. “And I suppose you think this is funny – this… toying with my life.”

“There’s nothing I find funnier than a security breach, McKay – the paperwork’s a laugh a minute.”

They stare at each other, and John, as always, is torn between a desire to smack Rodney silly, and wrap his arms around and never let him go. It’s getting less scary though, as he gets used to the idea. He’s stopped hyperventilating, John thinks it’s an improvement.

Rodney turns back to his packing, and then bends to stroke Curie, not looking at John.

“I knew about Atlantis. I was meant to be working on the plans to get there. I was going to be flying to Antarctica the week after… Beatty.” He sniffs. “Without me, I’m surprised you made it at all, since Bill Dow is an ineffectual ignoramus – and I’m still amazed you’ve survived this long in the Pegasus galaxy without killing yourselves.”

“Gee, thanks, McKay.”

“But after… Beatty. Well. My stay in Siberia was a warm balmy day in the park compared to my welcome at the SGC.”

“I can imagine.”

Rodney seems to give up on Curie, and just sits on the bed. Their thighs brush, and John stops himself leaning in. Rodney looks so lost.

“Atlantis was mine, Colonel. Can you understand that? I just knew… And it’s not like an empty apartment with chips down the back of the sofa is anything to look forward coming home to.”

John knows. He remembers sitting down in the chair in Antarctica for the first time. The way the universe had opened up around him, the way the power at his fingertips had been wired into his bones and blood. Control ten times more sensitive than any craft he’s ever flown – except the ‘jumpers, of course. It felt like Saturday afternoon sunshine, like beer fizzing through his veins, like a promise, like… coming home. Oh yes, John knows.

“I had to do something, do you see?” Rodney looks at him sidelong, his lashes impossibly lush, downcast, shadowing his cheek. He looks frightened, and John wonders why, until he remembers his anger in the infirmary. The anger’s faded away. He’s almost forgotten it, because Rodney’s explaining, he’s opening up. To him, John Sheppard. And that feels right. Finally, he’s stopped lying. Because Rodney’s so very bad at it, thinks John, and suddenly it’s a revelation. He wants to grin like a loon.

“What did you do, Rodney?”

“What any self-respecting scientist does in such a situation. I tried nepotism, and then I tried blackmail. They didn’t work.”

He sounds so outraged. This time John lets himself smile, and bumps Rodney’s shoulder. He feels him relax a little more.

“That’s because you piss off everyone you work for, and everyone else is scared of you – but not in a good way.”

“There’s a good way to have people scared of you?”

“Trust me, McKay.”


They sit there, and John thinks, how comfortable. How much he wants Rodney to stay. There must be something he can do.

“So blackmail and nepotism didn’t work, what did you try next, bribery?” he prompts, attempting casual.

McKay blinks, and then says, “I never thought of that. I went for begging. I started visiting every other physicist or scientist who might be contacted to go to Atlantis, and pleading with them to put in a good word. It didn’t matter whether I knew them or not.”

“Well, that would have helped.”

“Yes. Thank you, Colonel ‘I’m Too Charming for my Pants’ Sheppard.”


It doesn’t quite work. They’re trying too hard. But it feels good that they’re trying, and that matters. Rodney eyes him, even as his voice falters.

“I missed Ingram. He’d already gone. His apartment was empty, his neighbours had no idea where he’d gone. But he was the best lead I had – I don’t know if you realise it, Colonel, but not everybody… warms to me. But I’d met Isaac at a seminar or two. And then I researched him.” He cocks his head. “I have a perfect memory, you know. He was definitely one of the likeliest candidates to take on the job – not that anyone could replace me!”

“Yeah, we know. Get on with it…”

Rodney’s chin goes up and John grins. It’s like too easy.

“Yes. Well. I just kept paying attention. Waited until he got back. If he got back. And then I went to see him. I knew he’d been to Atlantis. I knew it…”

Rodney is almost whispering now, and John has to lean forward to hear him.

“But I couldn’t get him to admit it.” Rodney won’t look at him now, his gaze skittering about the room, not landing on anything. “There may have been words exchanged. Maybe. He might have said he wouldn’t have me if I was the last man on earth… Possibly. And then he collapsed.”

“Oh, that’s when he collapsed.” John is sardonic, his heart beating uncomfortably fast at these revelations. He could definitely have Rodney put in the brig for this, and no-one would argue. He could, but he doesn’t want to. Not any more.

“Look, I did what I could, and then I called the SGC, and not 911, because I just thought it best, besides it wasn’t my fault – really! I thought he’d had a heart attack, or a fit, or maybe gone into shock, and that they should know, in case they needed someone to, you know, fill in…”

“You’re all heart, McKay.”

“And I just kept thinking, ‘not if I was the last man on earth’ – and how it wasn’t fair! Because I should go, I was meant to go, and how Isaac had more to leave behind, because he at least had a cat, there was this picture on the TV. And I thought ‘I bet family gets to go’ and… Well. That’s when… It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Rodney seems to have run out of words at last. All John can hear is Curie purring into the silence. And it’s stupid, and it’s not what he should be asking, there are hundreds of other things he should be asking, but it’s bothering John. He puts his head to one side.

“So, how do you know Isaac’s only got one ball..?”


The infirmary is quiet. Isaac is asleep, breathing deeply, and John looks fondly at him as he passes through. Carson is in his office, and the nursing staff are all busy, or at least not here, which is the main thing as far as John is concerned. He checks the life signs detector once more to make sure.

Everything is as quiet as the grave.

John wishes he hadn’t just made that analogy.

He heads for the metal drawers at one side of the lab, and pulls out the correct one, very, very slowly. The slight screech that results makes him wince, but Isaac doesn’t stir. He takes the supplies he needs and then heads for the chill cabinets on the other side. He wonders why Carson doesn’t keep them locked, but then dismisses it. It’s not his job to worry about security procedures right now. Technically he’s in violation of his own, but since he wrote them, John figures he’s allowed a little leeway.

What he’s doing would be illegal if they had actual laws on Atlantis. It’s certainly against the rules, in spirit if not the letter. Elizabeth would frown. John consoles himself with the thought that all of Carson’s research is illegal, so really, what’s a little larceny amongst friends. In a good cause.

He makes his way back to Isaac’s room. It’s the middle of the night now. Hours have gone by since he left Rodney to his packing, unable to convince him that he’d get a reprieve. Unable to convince him that he deserved one. John had to wait his chance to get into the infirmary unattended. And he had to wait out the shakes he got once he thought of this plan. Is it worth it? Will it even work?

And, of course, Rodney isn’t there. John has a bit of manly panic, before he figures out that the life sign blinking at him on the balcony at the end of the corridor has a fair chance of being Rodney. He hesitates before swiping his hand over the door panel, and wants to laugh. By the light of a silvery moon. Great – it’s clichés ‘R’ us, and it’s two silvery moons, if you want to be picky.

But the night is beautiful, and John finds he holds his breath as he looks out over Atlantis spread around them, and the water sparkling and shifting endlessly beneath. Rodney is leaning against the railing, arms bent, his short sleeves emphasising surprising muscle. Rodney in the moonlight is just the frosting on the cake, not that John would ever say. Wild horses couldn’t get him to admit to anything, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy it.

He walks up and stands next to him, fingers on the railing almost close enough to brush. “Hey.”

“Hey yourself.”

“You done?”

Rodney glances at him, and gets that baffled, ‘I can’t believe I’ve just been asked the stupidest question of the year’ look, before his shoulders slump a little. “It is redundant, and ridiculous, and I can’t believe the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life is going to end this way – but yes, I am done, as you so simply put it.”

He stares out over the water again, his eyes wide. Rodney’s not young any more, any more than John is, but in that moment John reckons he can see the kid he was once. And the lanky young man, looking up at the stars.

“God, I’m going to miss this place,” says Rodney, and John thinks, yes, yes

He moves his fingers. It’s not much, but he figures anything at this point is doing well. His mind is screaming at him to run, but his body has other ideas. It’s now or never. He laces Rodney’s fingers with his own and stares fixedly out to sea.

The silence is deafening.

“Well, touching though this pity is, Colonel, I should probably go to sleep. Hmm?”

Panic he’d expected, but the frozen reserve he hadn’t. It makes him want to hit things. It makes him want to…

John turns and kisses Rodney, shoving into his personal space, hustling him against the railing, pushing into his mouth. Rodney’s warmth in the evening chill, a furnace with a trip-hammering heart, and waving hands that settle, as John keeps pushing, one at his waist and one at his neck. John might groan a little but he’s not paying that much attention, everything is hot, and wet, and really, really good

They part, gasping.

“The being engaged thing really didn’t do it for me, McKay,” John drawls, out of breath, and trying to hide it, “Because – oh wait – I don’t betray my friends. But that wasn’t pity…”

“No, no,” Rodney says, his eyes huge, “I get that.”

The next bit should be the easy part, but John doesn’t know what to say. He shuffles his feet, and looks out to sea, and wants to just throw himself off the balcony when he realises he might begin whistling, probably off-key, at any moment. Great. He can kiss the guy, but he can’t…

“Look,” he says, at last, a little desperately, “Do you want to…” And thrusts the spoils at McKay.

Rodney unwraps the package, and then John’s hands are under his, supporting them, as he nearly drops the contents. Rodney’s hands are broad and soft, a little chafed from the crystals in the lab, but John doesn’t want to let go. He stares at Rodney as they cradle the plunger and the dose of purloined ATA gene therapy between them. Hey, it’s not a ring, but John reckons Rodney will know what he means.

Stay with us. Stay with me.

Just stay.

John reckons that’s enough.
Tags: ,
Ceares: mcshepceares on December 5th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
Oh Wow! This is really excellent. The change in POV from the movie gives it a whole new depth, and the characterizations are wonderful. WYWS is one of my favorite movies and I love this take on it.
Valderys: John/Rodney - Penguinsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC)
Well, I had to write it this way so I'm glad it works! I love Rodney to bits, but I find it incredibly hard to write from his POV, and of course Rodney's always the girl in the relationship *grin* so it had to be this way...
Lady Dayladydey on December 5th, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC)
Wow!!! This was really stellar. I don't tend to read a lot of SGA, but I really liked this, you worked the movie into the SGA 'verse nicely.
Valderys: Sheppard - major interestsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
Cool! Glad to tempt you in! I must admit I don't read SPN or SV either, but Undermistletoe is encouraging me to broaden my horizons too.
wildestranger on December 5th, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC)
This is gorgeous. I love how you've written Rodney here. :)
Valderys: Rod - cooler than the Tardisvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)
Oh that's really nice! I love Rodney to little pieces, but I'm not at all confident whan I write him, so thanks very much!
kbkkbk on December 5th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
Squee. This is. Yes, yes, yes, perfect, yes. (Though now I want to see Ingram vs. McKay in the labs...) The consent forms issue, yes, and how paranoid they are about impostors, and how McKay is so bad at people but productivity goes up, and Beatty = Doranda sans Sheppard, and. oh. Yes.
Valderys: Sheppard - major interestsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, indeed. These are many of the things that pleased me as well, as I was writing, so it's lovely that someone else spots the same things that make me squee :) Maybe Dr Ingram will get another airing, I'm tempted to use him again too, in fact I'm surprised no-one already has - or at least, I haven't read any?
merelyn on December 5th, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
Cool! Nice take on the movie. The Ingram thing was very, very clever. :)
Valderys: McKay - To be or not to bevalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
I'm really amazed that no-one else has ever written an AU with him - but to my knowledge no-one has. At least I don't think so...?
adafrogadafrog on December 5th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
Wow, very well done.
Valderys: John/Rodney - Penguinsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
Cheers, m'dear!
B: SGA Snark by mmmchellelovekeller on December 5th, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I love this. I like Rodney doing what he has to to get to Atlantis and how he manages to capture John's attention. Very interesting.
Valderys: Sheppard - major interestsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
And only *slightly* implausible :) Let's face it, I glossed over the rather unlikely prospect that they'd let *anyone's* fiancee visit the Pegasus galaxy!
<3.14apple_pi on December 5th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
I'm fascinated by how the change in POV changes everything - great job! :-)
Valderys: Sheppard - major interestsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
See above, really - had to be done. I find it incredibly difficult to write Rodney POV - whereas Sheppard comes much more naturally. Don't know what that says about me! Rampantly repressed, probably... :) It gave me enough differences from the movie too, which made it much easier to write.
tiki b.: SGA sharingtikiaceae on December 5th, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, very cool. I loved it. Poor desperate Rodney. I can totally see him going this far to get to Atlantis. *clings*

Lovely work. Yay! \o/
Valderys: John/Rodney - Poutsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, this far or even further, maybe! :) By the way, hon, I've noticed that the undermistletoe fics aren't going in the newsletter - have I missed something, or is undermistletoe just not on the radar? (Hope you don't mind me asking...)
(no subject) - tikiaceae on December 6th, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - valderys on December 6th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
whimsicalwhims: jack and daniel by wraith816whimsicalwhims on December 6th, 2006 12:26 am (UTC)
This is fantastic. I adore how this story differs from the movie, yet still stays true to the original theme. And the ending is fabulous.
Valderys: Sheppard - major interestsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
I couldn't - just *couldn't* have Sheppard propose at the end of the fic! I'd have eaten my own shoes before I could get him to do anything so... so... unrepressed! But I hoped the gene therapy was close enough to the spirit of the film :)
Susan: catastrophist since 1982: sleepy!Rodneydaydreamer on December 6th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC)
This was such a fascinating take on the movie - I love the POV and the way you were able to set it in an almost-canon 'verse. Very cool. :)
Valderys: John/Rodney - Penguinsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 07:27 pm (UTC)
I thought it would be more interesting to set it in *almost* canon 'verse - it's too easy, and not so interesting, I reckon, to be a complete AU. (Not to mention - lavvyan? - has written it already!)
darkhavensdarkhavens on December 6th, 2006 05:13 am (UTC)
I love it! Rodney, wanting so very much to get to Atlantis, and John, able to kiss Rodney and steal for him but not actually say the words - beautiful!
Valderys: John/Rodney - Poutsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 07:28 pm (UTC)
Well, of course not! John has demonstrated on any number of occasions how he absolutely refuses to talk about his feelings! (So we shouldn't make him, poor lamb - he only gets cranky :)
Cory Silvercorysilver on December 6th, 2006 07:30 am (UTC)
Nice, tight writing! The last scene is especially powerful. Wow.
Valderys: John/Rodney - Penguinsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot! Has to be tight - writing a whole film into one fic? It's hard! :)
melaganmelagan on December 6th, 2006 02:36 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed your take on the movie. I'm a sucker for John wants Rodney stories anyway and this was a pleasure
Valderys: Sheppard - major interestsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
Ta very much! John should always want Rodney. *nods firmly* Or, you know, except where Rodney wants John stories... :)
Becky: SGA White Christmas Rodneybeeej on December 6th, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
Lovely! Really nice twist, showing it from John's POV. :)
Valderys: John/Rodney - Penguinsvalderys on December 6th, 2006 11:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It's cool - John is *so* much easier to write for...