Warnings: Please see this entry for series warnings.
Rodney spends most of the night with Grodin, disabling the SGC protections and defenses, slowly stripping out command level code inch by painful inch. The SGC had never been able to achieve a good interface with the Ancient computers, so the massive databases and upper level computer functions were relatively clean, leaving Rodney to start rebuilding new protocols from scratch. His fingers remember better than he does, pulling Miko from decryption to start work on the laptops that need to be evaluated, setting up a network between them to back them up into a single secure area before starting the process of wiping them clean. SGC runs with Asgard and Nox protections, and Rodney's brilliant, but that doesn't mean he wants to spend the next year trying to wipe them out if they trip a defense code.
Weapons control, environmental, defense, sensors, power consumption, and Rodney grits his teeth at the dazzling information just beyond his fingertips and forces himself to move on, not look too closely. He has time. God, does he have time.
Elizabeth comes in for a little while, Bates at her elbow, and they talk supplies and scenarios for contact with Earth while Rodney personally vets each laptop Miko finishes, writing new protocols to keep the city running until he can get one of his programmers down here to work on an entirely new interface.
"They just copied the database," Rodney tells Elizabeth as she watches over his shoulder. "Didn't bother with setting up any kind of reasonable interface here, since they didn't need to."
"I’m almost surprised they didn't wipe the entire database," Elizabeth says softly, eyes on the screen.
"No need. The Ancients were big fans of overkill--lots of extra space." Backing up another laptop into an isolated section of the network, Rodney start reconfiguring, and Elizabeth leaves again, Bates a shadow behind her. Rodney doesn't think she's fooled by John's bland statement of security, though it's that, too, but she hasn't said anything yet.
Six hours in, Rodney frowns at his watch and touches his radio. "John?"
There's a pause. "Sheppard here" He sounds breathless, and Rodney feels something tighten in his chest as he pushes the laptop away. "Problem?"
"Where are you?"
"The gym." John laughs suddenly, and in the background, Rodney can hear other voices—a lot of voices. "Setting up security teams, that sort of thing. Teyla's been demonstrating how thoroughly she can kick my ass." The sound of a body hitting something that's not quite floor interrupts, and over the radio, Rodney can hear John's breathing, fast and light. "Lorne's now enjoying quality floor time. Everything okay up there?"
Rodney frowns at the laptop screen. "Just a lot to do," he says, which doesn't explain why he's wasting time on the radio when he could be working. "Athos hasn't called in yet."
"How's Carson coming along on the implant?"
Rodney snorts. "He's not an engineer, but he's working. I'll check on him. Look, I get we need to keep the population low, but if we want to actually use this city, I've got to get more people.
"I can get them," John says easily. "Gateroom okay? I'll bring them up. Which ones?"
Rodney mentally maps the distance between the cells and the gateroom. It would be faster if he went to the labs, but-- "Gaul. Simpson. Going to have a little talk?"
Even through the radio, Rodney can hear the smile in John's voice. "A little explanation of the rules. There's some ankle monitors they used on prisoners when taking them offworld on work detail or transported on the Daedalus. They'll do for a short term solution with small groups. Check security and see if there's a way to flag specific people so you don't have to have them directly under your eye, or I can get a couple of people to watch them."
Rodney doesn't seriously think that any of his people, after seeing John, will do more than nod hysterically and promise whatever the hell he wants as long as he puts down his gun, but John's got a point. "Right," Rodney says dryly, catching Grodin's eye. "Have fun with that. I'm going to my lab and then check up on Carson. Radio me if anything interesting happens."
"Got it. Sheppard out.." The radio clicks off on the sound of Teyla's voice calling for John, and Rodney watches Grodin's head jerk down, concentrating on his screen as if it holds the secret to cold fusion. "Peter."
Grodin stiffens. "Dr. McKay—"
"You didn't survive Colorado because I'm sentimental." Rodney waits for Grodin's fingers to twitch, slipping off the keys. "Simpson and Gaul will be up here soon, and that makes you expendable. I need scientists, but I can live with being short staffed. Do we understand each other?"
Grodin lowers his chin, eyes downcast. "Understood, Dr. McKay."
"Good. When Simpson and Gaul get up here, brief them and get them started. Sheppard wants security flagging on them. Find a way for the computer to identify them automatically. I'll be in the infirmary. Keep me informed."
Carson, for a miracle, almost passes for normal in fresh scrubs and a white lab coat, various bottles and beakers in neat lines across the shelves. Something's in the incubation oven, but Rodney honestly does not want to know what. "Carson?"
Carson turns around with a wide grin. Laura's not in evidence, but Rodney remembers vaguely that she's former Marine and Sheppard had probably picked her up for security. Coming around the bed, Rodney glances into the isolation ward window briefly and then turns away before he sees anything he might regret. "Thought you'd be lost in the databases," Carson says jovially, washing his hands in an Ancient sink. Rodney watches bloody water swirl down the drain with a flicker of bitterness as the water turns off at a thought. Carson has the gene. John has the gene. Rodney thinks he could get heartily tired with not having the gene very, very fast.
"Rodney?" Carson says, and Rodney jerks his attention back to Carson. "Do you need something?"
"A lot, and I need it yesterday." God, it's been twenty four hours since this started and he's slept less than a full hour since. "To start, the implant. I send my notes with Laura. Can you make it?"
Carson rubs his chin thoughtfully, crossing to one of the few cleared laptops and sitting down. Pulling up the correct screen, he frowns slightly, then shakes his head. "Possible, yes, but--"
"But what? I can find you an engineer to build it if you can do the surgery."
Carson turns his head up. "S'not that. Body rejection of artificial--"
"And you are a geneticist. With Ancient tech. Look, this isn't a point of debate--"
"*Rodney*." They stared at each other for a second. Running an absent hand over his face, Carson sighs. "Rodney. I've not practiced for over four years--"
"And I haven't touched a computer in nearly three, but do you see me whining? Figure. It. Out. Preferably before Earth and the SGC figure out what's happened and we end up right back where we were." Leaning into the side of the table, Rodney stares down at Carson until he looks away. "You want to go back into a nice cell somewhere far away? And hey, you're not enjoying actually touching your wife, are you?" Carson flinches. "This isn't a debate. It's an order. We have plenty of very smart people to help build it and a few thousand to test it on to get it right."
"I can build the implant," Carson says finally, eyes flickering to the screen. "What I can't guarantee is that it will be as reactive to mental commands as you wish."
"I don't need it reactive to mental commands. A manual control will do for more direct action. I just want them to be sensitive to--unfortunate turns of mind."
Carson's mouth turns down. "You want them tortured for how they think."
Rodney raises his eyebrows. "I'm sorry, did we skip into an alternate dimension where you give a shit? Don't argue purity of research and the advance of scientific knowledge being a higher purpose. It didn't work in court and it won't work on me. Unless prison time was good for you. Or do you even remember?"
Carson's mouth tightens, but he's already turning away, flicking through his laptop, opening up Rodney's design. "Give me a few hours to build a prototype. I'll need a test subject, preferably someone already engaged in thought patterns we can use to fine tune control."
Like that's hard to decide. "Just tell me when it's ready."
"Rodney?" Carson says slowly, and Rodney pauses, hand on the pad. "Sheppard brought one of his men down for regeneration."
Rodney turns around, feeling a smile curl up the corners of his mouth. "What happened?"
Carson gives him an steady look. "Looks like he lost his hand to a door. I was able to reattach, but he'll have some weakness for a while." Carson's eyes darken, and Rodney wonders if Carson's done any delving into their files. From the look on his face, he might have hit Sheppard's. "Said it was an accident with the technology."
Rodney leans into the door, arms crossed. "Then that's what happened, isn't it?"
Carson watches him for a moment, then nods slowly. "I suppose so."
"Carson," Rodney says softly, and the blue eyes flicker up. "Don't try and grow a conscience now. Go play with your new toys. It's a whole new world we've got here. We're not going to fuck it up." Pushing out the door, Rodney goes into the hall, touching his radio as soon as he's out of earshot of the infirmary. "Grodin?"
There's a pause that lasts almost too long. "Dr. McKay?"
"Get to the infirmary and makes sure Carson gets that prototype ready. And watch him until Laura gets back. I don't want him leaving his lab for anything short of the city sinking."
Kusanagi and Gaul are both assigned to the main lab to start debugging. SGC had been careless and stupid both, setting up the protections in the same pattern of all Earth-based SGC computer systems, hybridized human-alien technology that would be frighteningly complex to the layman.
Careless and stupid, setting up the same system that Rodney had designed himself at the SGC. Setting them each to a task, Rodney starts work clearing the databases of all blocks, hoping to God the SGC hadn't left corrupt data in their haphazard attempts to remodel Atlantis into a prison.
It's pretty boring, all things considered, and Rodney closes his laptop before the lure of Ancient data can tempt him into staying too long. From somewhere distant, his stomach rumbles, and Rodney abruptly remembers he's no longer bound by a schedule. He can eat *any time he wants*.
"I'm getting something to eat," he says, and catches a hopeful look on Gaul's face. "Yeah, nice try. Figure out how to get that self-destruct disabled first." Rodney glances at the plain prison pants, bare feet peering from beneath the folded cuffs, and notes the shine of the security anklet on one thin ankle. Looking at his laptop, he pulls up the security logs and sees Grodin's program patch that shows Gaul in here, with Simpson under Grodin's eye upstairs. Assuming Grodin's not contemplating further rebellion--and in all honesty, Grodin doesn't have that kind of courage, so Rodney feels comfortable enough--all should be fine for an hour away.
In the hall, he passes two fairly professional-looking pairs of former prisoners, redressed in the guard uniforms, unarmed but trying to look dangerous, and assumes that John's got his security force. Rodney touches his radio anyway. "John?"
This time, John's even more breathless. "You're still awake?"
Rodney frowns and goes back into his lab, opening his laptop and pulling up the security feeds. "Where are you?"
"Gym," John answers promptly, and Rodney checks his watch, just to make sure.
"For the last ten hours?" If this lab had windows, he'd probably be able to see late morning on Atlantis.
"Still testing personnel," John says easily, and Rodney tries to remember if John's military background had included command experience.
"So that's who's wandering the halls." Rodney frowns. "Is there a point, since they can't actually, you know, *shoot anything*--"
"You'd be surprised what they can do without a gun," John answers, sounding amused. "Come down. I'm almost done."
"I'll buy you dinner. Know a great little place." The background sounds sudden rise in volume--it sounds like people yelling. "Come down. Where are you, lab one?"
Close enough. "There."
"Take the transporter to your left and follow the noise. Trust me, you won't miss it." The radio clicks off just as the sound of crashing comes over the radio. With a frown, Rodney keys it off.
John's right, it's not hard to find--well before he finds the right corridor, the noise is at an almost painful volume. The door opens at a touch, and Rodney walks in to see a group in a large circle around two moving figures, both armed with--and he can't believe this--what looks like pieces of wood.
The room's thick with sweat, hot even with the far windows opened wide, and Rodney thinks he sees Laura on the other side of the circle, but the moving bodies keep blocking his line of sight.
It takes him a second to recognize John, shirt stripped away, feet bare on the padded surface of the floor, flushed and looking about as happy as Rodney's ever seen him. A flicker of long leather skirts draws his attention to Teyla and her halter top of minimum concealment, and he watches as John ducks another swing, crouching to watch her for a moment before they begin to circle each other again.
Rodney pushes one at someone's back until they see him, moving out of his way fast enough to make him wonder if Lorne's been talking, coming up to the front in time to see Teyla roll gracefully out of John's way, almost faster than Rodney can follow, sweaty hair clinging to her forehead and the back of her neck. This close, Rodney can see fresh bruising rising up on John's arms and a thin cut on his temple, the reddened knuckles on both hands. Eyes searching the crowd, there aren't many that don't have some sign of having their asses kicked, but no one seems willing to leave and miss this.
He can't blame them, really. Watching John in his element is always, always the best part of his day.
It doesn't last much longer, though, and Rodney half-tries to follow the crowd's shouted instructions and encouragement, but John, slick with sweat and flush with energy, pulls his attention back every time. Another flurry of sticks, sharp and fast, and John's on his back with Teyla's foot pressed into his throat, skirt swirling around John's head.
He has, Rodney thinks, a little dazed, one hell of a view. The room goes quiet, either due to the fact that the fight's over or they're all thinking how they can subtly find some time alone after watching the closest thing to pornography Rodney's ever seen live.
After a long moment, Teyla removes her foot, extending one hand, pulling John up almost effortlessly. Then her hands close over his lower arms, pulling him close, John's head tilting toward her, and Rodney watches them touch foreheads. Right. The Athosians did that. It didn't mean anything.
"All right," John says, pulling away, fingers lingering on Teyla's shoulders for longer than Rodney thinks is strictly necessary. "Clean up, bandage up, sleep, and be back here at twenty-two hundred hours and I'll assign out shifts. Laura, Lorne, pick your teams and be ready by six tomorrow morning." Taking a towel from Lorne, John wipes his face and glances toward the back of the room. Craning his neck, Rodney follow his gaze to Elizabeth, Bates at her elbow, watching with dark, thoughtful eyes. "Be ready. We have a lot to do tomorrow." He waves a hand, bringing instant pandemonium as people move to leave, and Rodney pushes out before he dragged outside with them, coming up to John just as Elizabeth pushes off the wall.
"Only two teams?" she says softly, and John shares an unreadable look with Teyla before shaking his head.
"Halling is taking a group of Athosians and I'll be leading another group, four total." Cracking his neck, John's eyes flicker over to Rodney. "Ready?"
"What do you need teams for?" Rodney asks, watching Elizabeth turning to Teyla, fingers delicate on the curve of her elbow. Rodney flickers a look at Lorne's bandaged hand and then catches the dark eyes for a moment before Lorne moves toward a small group comprised of two Athosians Rodney doesn't recognize, Laura, and Bates.
"Athos," John says, running the towel over his arm, wincing as it comes in contact with bruised flesh. "If the message doesn't come tonight, either something's wrong or they figured something out."
"They can't contact Earth directly."
John shakes his head. "No, but they can send out a subspace transmission that eventually, the Daedalus could pick up when they enter the galaxy." Tossing the towel into a pile near the door, John shrugs. "Anyway, they'd expect to be contacted if they miss check-in, so--"
"You're going to go." Rodney stares at him. "John Sheppard. Recognizable on sight by pretty much everyone. Yes, that sounds like a brilliant idea. Did you want to offer yourself up for a quick bullet to the head or wait until they try to question you?"
John grins, reaching out, and Rodney lets long fingers close around his wrist, pulling him to the door. "Don't worry so much. I'll take care of it." John lets go, pushing his hair back with a frown, then shaking his head. "In and out. Once Teyla's there, the Athosians will do whatever the hell she wants, and as for the Earth personnel--" John's smile widens, showing teeth. "I can bring Carson a nice present. If I can."
Rodney frowns, that urge rising again, because John's good, but he's reckless, and Rodney just doesn't trust anyone here to know how to keep him safe. It's a whole new galaxy and Pegasus doesn't know John Sheppard. "I want to go with you."
John shakes his head. "Security only. In and out, no fuss, promise. Besides, I don't want Elizabeth left here alone."
Yes, that's one for the nightmares. "Right," he says, staring past John to Elizabeth, still talking to Teyla. At a glance from John, Bates casually starts to move toward her. "And you think I can stop her if she does something stupid?"
"I know you can," John says, following it with a kiss, brief and salt-thick before fingers close over his wrist, gently pulling him to the door. "Have you been in the labs all this time?"
"Just trying to keep the city running while you and your friends play soldier."
"And we're eternally grateful," John answers as they go out, door opening at look from John. "Your new people behaving?"
Rodney thinks of Gaul's barely concealed terror and Simpson's white lipped silence. "If they aren't complete idiots, we should have the computers clean by tomorrow."
John nods as the transporter door slides closed, programming it absently before leaning back into the wall. Rodney catches himself staring at the bare, narrow feet peeking out from under grey pants hanging too low on narrow hips, wonders what happened to his shoes. And his shirt. "Who are you taking to Athos?" Rodney hears himself say, and John makes some kind of answer, but Rodney's staring at the line of his shoulders, the gleam of his skin, pale gold beneath Atlantis' cool white light, the curve of his mouth as he falls silent.
The transporter door opens. Still staring at John, Rodney reaches out and palms the door closed. "Get on your knees," he hears himself say breathlessly, and John complies, hands loose at his sides, head titled up, pupils blown wide. Riding on enough endorphins and energy for Rodney to feel with the first touch against one high cheekbone, humming beneath his skin as he runs a rough thumb over the cut on John's temple, blood flaking in the air. "Who did that?"
"Teyla," John says, voice husky. Rodney reaches down, jerking his chin up farther. John licks his lips briefly, and Rodney can see his hands fisting at his side. "She's--"
John swallows, eyes almost black as the lights seem to respond to them, edging yellow, painting John in dark gold. Rodney pushes his foot between John's knees, knocking them farther apart, hearing John's breath catch when he comes up against John's cock, pressing against his leg. "Suck me." He slaps away John's hand when it brushes against the waist of his pants. "No hands."
The dark eyes flicker down, then John leans forward, and Rodney has to brace a hand on the wall behind John at the slow, deliberate rub, slow and hard, John's lips moving against the too-tight material, like a rough hand jerking him off. A scrape of something harder than lips, then John's mouth is wet and brief against his stomach before teeth close over the top button.
It spins lazily across the floor a second later, and Rodney watches as John slowly, deliberately leans forward, teeth closing on the zipper and pulling it down with aching slowness. Reaching down, Rodney caresses the tense line of his jaw when John leans forward again, mouthing his cock through the thin boxers, breath hot and wet and teasing against the head. There's a frightening chance Rodney could come just watching this. "John," he says, tangling his fingers in John's hair and tightening. "Do it. Suck. Me. Off."
John licks his lips, looking up for a heart-stopping second, then he's nosing the material aside, tongue on flesh, warm and wet and perfect, an air-gentle brush of lips, and Rodney peels his hand off the wall and reaches for his cock, pulling it through the opening in his boxers. Pressing his thumb into the joint of John's jaw, he opens him up, pushing past swollen pink lips, watching John's eyes flicker half-closed, mouth stretching round and obscenely hot, taking it with a tilt of his head as Rodney grabs for the wall, knees liquid. "Christ, John."
John has a mouth made for cock, and he knows how to use it, tongue sharp and fast on the underside, wet and slick and *tight*, cheeks hollowing under Rodney's fingers when he sucks. Wide eyes stare up at Rodney, glittering in the light, cock so hard against Rodney's leg that he's got to *hurt*, but he's still, hands loose at his sides, following the touch of Rodney's fingers, slow and easy, the way he likes it.
Except he wants more, shifting his grip, pulling back until just the head rests on John's tongue. "Hands behind you," Rodney hears himself whisper, and John obeys as Rodney pushes his knees further apart. Running the tips of his nails against the back of John's neck, he presses them in and thrusts into John's wet mouth.
John's perfect, God, he knew that, but he didn't know the half of it, John swallowing him down as naturally as breathing, taking it like this, eyes open and as dark as a moonless night. And it goes on, leaving him hovering on the edge, unable to look away from John's pretty, swollen mouth, his cock wrapped in the hot, tight flesh, sparks flickering in his vision, narrowing the universe to the space of the transporter and John on his knees in front of him.
Then John does something--something amazing, indecent, tongue pressing just *there*, and Rodney gets two more thrusts, losing feeling in his fingers from his hold on John, coming with a shock of sensation that starts everywhere, glittering bright and almost frightening, balance shot and John's hands on his hips the only thing holding him up while he swallows it all down, easing Rodney through each rippling shock, intense and so good he never wants it to end.
When his head clears, he just lets himself drop, trusting John to catch him, like he'd feel a goddamn thing if John cut his throat right now. "God. John."
John deliberately licks the corner of his mouth, grinning as Rodney pulls him forward, licking the taste of himself from John's pretty, pretty mouth. They make out on the floor of the transporter, John easy and pliable and almost lazy, pressed up against the wall when Rodney pushes his knees apart and opens up his pants with one hand, palming John's cock, slick and hot against his hand.
John shivers, head twisting away, and Rodney runs a finger over the bloody marks of his fingernails in the back of John's neck.
"Come on," Rodney whispers, licking John's ear to get another shiver, jerking him off as slowly as he can, watching his face as he bites his lip. "Yeah, like that, take it, John." Kissing the unresisting mouth, he pulls John into his lap, enjoying the feel of slick, sweat-damp skin and the way John tastes, the movement of his hips and the sounds he makes, buried in Rodney's mouth. John shivers and shudders and twists, breath hot and erratic against Rodney's temple when he licks down the slope of John's throat, skin salty-sweet, using his teeth below his jaw, John's arm around his shoulders tightening until he stiffens, breath catching in his throat, coming in Rodney's hand.
Rodney coaxes him back down, soft and careful, breathing into his skin as John relaxes in a liquid sprawl, flushed and indecent and the hottest thing Rodney's ever seen.
They're both going to need a shower before they can go near anyone, Rodney thinks contently as he runs his thumb on the blooming bruise high on John's throat in the shape of teeth. A few long seconds later, John lifts his head, eyes sleepy, looking almost drugged. Food. Maybe a nap. Rodney stands up, pulling John unresistingly to his feet, taking another brief kiss, all soft lips and caught breath, before leading John back to their room.