Anyway, next part of Crimes Against Humanity. Tag here.
Warnings: Please see this entry for series warnings.
John gives his briefing rumpled, still glazed from sex and satisfaction, lazily draped across his chair as he drawls out statistics gathered from Lorne on deathcounts and MIA, so comfortable in his skin that Rodney has to lock his fingers around the bottom of his chair to keep from touching.
Elizabeth's irritation fades with every word, a slight frown creasing her forehead as she listens, making brief notes into one the tablets Miko cleared for general use. "Is there any sign that they know about Atlantis?"
"If they didn't when they arrived, they probably do by now. It's been at least two days since the place was taken and they definitely took at least ten people." Slumping even further into his chair, Sheppard smiles with lazy malice. "Makes you wonder about the legend of the boogeyman, huh?"
Elizabeth's eyes narrow, but she doesn’t comment, turning back to her notes while Carson gives a bored report that's all biology and pointless trivia on aging that Rodney has no interest in hearing. Teyla makes some complaint regarding her people, still on Athos under Lorne's strict supervision, and Rodney makes his report on the effects of the implant with no clear idea of what he's saying when John turns half-lidded green eyes on him.
"Can we start mass producing it?" Elizabeth asks, and Rodney can almost feel her submerged excitement.
"As soon as I get facilities built," Rodney says, feeling John's booted foot bump into his beneath the table. "I'm putting--Gaul on it. It's fairly simple, and upgrades to the programming are integrated automatically." Rodney feels the boot slide up his calf and loses his train of thought completely as John smiles, slow and dirty. Jerking himself to attention, he finds Elizabeth watching with a sardonic lift to her brow. "When I have enough for a initial test, I'll let you know."
"I'll look forward to it, Dr. McKay," Elizabeth says genially, leaning back. "If that's all, dismissed. We'll meet again in the morning to set up a strategy in case we encounter these Wraith--and consider what skills we may need to get from the mainland." Her expression turns thoughtful. "If the implant works as Dr. McKay has said, we can easily control a large enough population to make life here much more comfortable."
"Staff would be useful," John says, stretching, and Rodney watches Elizabeth's eyes focus on John briefly with a look that's unmistakable. "Not to mention we need to start looking for supplies. The MREs aren't going to last forever."
"The implant works," Rodney says shortly, eyes narrowing. "But as you know, most of the population still can't access the city since they don't have the ATA gene. Work's going to slow down until Carson catches back up with his research on the ATA." Standing up, he watches John's head tilt back, controlling the urge to wrap a hand in his shirt and pull him to his feet, drag him somewhere unoccupied and just touch. John's rumpled and liquid and smiling, legs slightly spread. Rodney knows his skin tastes like salt now, and Rodney's come is still smeared on his inner thighs, beneath the straps of his gun.
"If I could speak to you, Dr. McKay," Elizabeth says from behind them. With a raised eyebrow, John gets to his feet, smirking as he leaves Rodney hard and half-panting. Touching his radio, John glances around the gateroom, and one of his men appears at his side like he'd been waiting the entire time for just this reason. Together, they vanish into a transporter.
Rodney forces himself to look away.
"I have a list of key personnel that require the implant so I can start them on duty," Elizabeth says, tapping at her computer, and Rodney, with a frown, sits down and opens the list she transferred. The names aren't a surprise--Rodney's scientists from the mainland, Elizabeth's people (which had to say something, that she was willing to implant her worshipful followers), some of the Athosians including Halling to keep Teyla in line-- Jesus. She's got to be kidding. "John?"
Elizabeth looks up, hands folded beneath her chin. "I think he's a risk."
Rodney stares at her, appalled. "God. I never thought you were stupid before."
The dark eyes narrow abruptly. "Sheppard is unstable and a danger to us all--and to you as well, Dr. McKay. You have to know that. I don't trust you, but I do believe you are aware of the benefits of our continued--association. Sheppard isn't."
"John's *feral*," and Rodney can imagine this in sickening technicolor--the first kick of pain, and they might as well give up hope of living until morning; John Sheppard will cease to *exist*. There's no way to explain what John could be like when Sumner was done with him, no way Elizabeth gets there's a fucking narrow line between John, smart and violent and restless, and the guy who had to be chained down during regeneration sequences because he would kill his doctors while bleeding out on the floor. The only thing that had kept Sumner alive was that he *knew that*. "Jesus. He's the most powerful manifestation of the ATA we have. And we still don't know how the ATA *works*. If we really want to see if he can sink the fucking city on the power of his fucking *mind*, hey, keep up this train of thought." He pauses, watching her mouth go tight and hard.
"We're all dangerous." Rodney clenches both hands beneath the table. "You're not touching him, Elizabeth. I even think you're pulling shit like that, I'll let him kill you."
Elizabeth's eyes narrow. "And what's to stop either of you from turning on me?"
Oh. She wants leverage. That actually makes more sense. "Common *sense*. Look. You agree to all your people and Teyla's, I'll agree to all of mine and John's. That puts everyone on equal footing."
Elizabeth's eyebrows raise in polite disbelief. "Will John agree to that?"
Sometimes, Rodney thinks Elizabeth isn't nearly as bright as reputation suggests. "Of course." Slamming the laptop closed, he tucks it up beneath one arm. "I'm starting mass production as soon as I can get Gaul to assemble the equipment." Walking out, he radios Gaul, ordering him into the largest of the cleared labs before stepping into the transporter, feeling Elizabeth's eyes on him until the door closes.
Out of sight, he sags back against the wall. Elizabeth's smart, and she has enough people here. God knows Beckett will do anything he's told if it's said in the right tone of voice. Someone among Elizabeth's people just might be stupid enough to try that shit if she orders it, and they're amazingly fucked if John shuts down again.
God. John will try to rip it out with his bare fingers if it happens. And the first time someone tries to activate it--
Yeah, no. Rodney shivers and punches in the lab location, coming out to see more of John's recruits wandering by in the mind-bending uniform of the SGC. They give him short, respectful nods, which he ignores as his due, barging in to find Gaul waiting. Opening his laptop, Rodney uploads the design. "Start mass production. Recruit whoever you need." Gaul nods briefly, turning to his laptop, and Rodney watches his face drain slowly of color, eyes almost black as he recognizes what he's seeing. "Gaul," Rodney says, and Gaul turns toward him with slow horror. Rodney likes that look, wonders what Grodin will look like when Rodney sends him to get the implant. "Think of it as a guarantee."
Gaul nods, ashen as he looks back at the screen, licking his lips restlessly. "How many--how many units--"
"One hundred seventy-five in the first group. Five hundred in the second. They're fairly simple; the core program is already uploaded. The basic structure should be easy enough to mass produce." Rodney taps a few keys, then leans one hip against the lab table. "Gaul."
One shaking hand locks onto the edge of the table. "Sir?"
"Keep in mind I pulled you off the mainland. You're here and not an after dinner fuck for some men and women much larger and dumber than you because I wanted you. That can change at any time. You fuck this up, you warn anyone, I give you to Carson to play with. And he's running out of former guards. I hope we understand each other."
Gaul nods quickly, fingers flying over the keyboard as he goes to work, and Rodney's satisfied by the blank terror on his face. Humming, Rodney settles on a stool, pulling up the Atlantis mainframe to check Miko's progress in debugging, and turns his attention to clearing the last of the SGC code.
Gaul's motivated at least; he's already got the protocols in place, and two engineers are adapting equipment to start manufacturing the implant with no clear idea what they're making. Rodney sends him to bed when it's clear he's beyond exhausted, one of John's men following him at a discreet distance; Rodney wonders idly if Gaul even notices.
John's nowhere to be found--not the messhall currently a mess of half-open containers and slowly spoiling food from people too stupid to put up what they don't eat; not in the practice room, though a few limping people give Rodney the impression John's been around recently; not in their quarters, though there's still water clinging to the shower. Rodney reaches for his radio, annoyed, then stops himself. Leaving his laptop on the neatly made bed--and that's John, who is the cleanest person Rodney's ever met--Rodney wanders down to their old cells, unsurprised to see John cross-legged in front of Ford's, a emptied tray in front of him. Rodney watches John holding a water bottle through the bars with an expression that Rodney can only describe as fond.
"Rodney," John says, not looking at him. "Done?"
Rodney hesitates, then nods, crossing the room to see Ford, both hands wrapped around the bars, watching John with wide, glazed eyes. Besides food, there's a used hypodermic needle and laboratory class heroin on the tray. Huh. "You want to get something to eat? And how long have you been down here?"
"A while," John says vaguely, waving a hand, but he takes back the bottle, setting it on the tray. "Get some sleep, Ford."
Ford pushes himself into the bars, looking desperate, and prison is apparently not agreeing with him at all--the dark skin is ashen, black circles beneath his eyes. "Sheppard--"
"Ford." John stands up lazily, tray in hand, one eyebrow raised. Ford deflates, fingers tightening on the bars. "I'll be back tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," Ford whispers, staring up at Sheppard with an expression of desperate hope. John smiles, quick and bright, then turns away, shoulder bumping Rodney's as they go out. With a brush of fingers, John lets the lights drop, stepping out of the hall and closing the door behind them.
John shrugs, handing the tray to one of the men stationed outside. "He's malleable. Seriously. Whoever did his psych-eval should get another job." Shaking his head, he bumps Rodney's shoulder with his. "You look tired."
"It's been a long day." Rodney hesitates, thinking of the conversation with Elizabeth. John doesn't need to know. On the other hand-- "You should keep someone from security with you," he says as they walk toward one of the transporters. John's raised eyebrow is answer enough. "I'm aware you can take care of yourself," Rodney snaps, pausing as John touches the controls and going inside. "But if something goes wrong--and really, how many of these people can we really trust?"
"None of them," John says philosophically, leaning into the wall as Rodney programs in their destination. When Rodney looks up, the green eyes are focus `1ed on him with startling clarity, and Rodney has uncomfortable flashbacks to watching John with Elizabeth. "What's making you suddenly worried about my safety?"
Rodney crosses his arms; the ground under his feet seems suddenly unstable. "I just--"
John slumps slightly, looking harmless and relaxed, which is how John always looks, as good as a warning, teeth bared and ready for an unprotected throat. John works on pack theory, and Rodney's his pack. Rodney *gets* that. Making himself stay still, he meets the flat green eyes with careful detachment, hoping to God he doesn't look as sick as he feels. "You want to know about what happened with Elizabeth."
"I'm more interested in her list."
And that's what Rodney was trying to get across to Elizabeth--this is the only ATA gene they've ever seen that manifests this strong. If John asks the mainframe, it'll damn well show him what he wants to see--or what someone told him to look for. And Rodney suddenly wants to know who the *fuck* told John "If you really thought I'd fuck you over, you would have killed me already. So cut the shit and just ask."
John pauses briefly--a second of flickering thought, a moment to decide six months against whatever the hell he saw (and Rodney wonders, suddenly and sickly, if that entire scene in the conference room was staged just for this moment; Elizabeth has that kind of mind)--then he nods slowly, and Rodney can almost feel the tension melt away. Breathing out, Rodney crosses the transporter, leaning into the wall beside John, close enough for a casual brush of shoulders, a less casual thumb brushing John's wrist.
John's mouth curls up in a tiny grin, but Rodney can feel his pulse slow into calm. "What deal did you make?"
"Everyone but us--you, me, Elizabeth, and Teyla." Though right now, Rodney would give a lot to get Elizabeth down to Carson, there's just no way they can pull it off and not have a fucking holy war in the middle of Atlantis. "That includes Lorne," Rodney adds, not even trying to hide his pleasure. "We'll do everyone on Atlantis first, then sift through the mainland to see if there's anyone there we need."
"All of them," Sheppard says suddenly, but before Rodney can ask, the door opens. John goes out, lazy and loose-limbed, but still on edge, though Rodney suspects that whoever told John to go looking for that list is the one who is currently the focus of that simmering anger.
Jogging a little, Rodney catches up, noticing that they're heading toward the mess hall. "Okay, give. What the hell made you think I'd want you *implanted*? From a practical perspective, you control the people who make sure *my people* don't try to kill me in my sleep. I'd rather have nothing that impairs your efficiency in your reign of terror, thanks."
John smirks, throwing him an affectionate look before draping an arm across his shoulders. "I didn't."
"So that little moment in the transporter--"
"I wanted to know." With his other hand, John draws his gun, checking it briefly before the mess hall doors open. John stops him two feet in with a gentle touch. "I'll just ask next time. Hey," John says, glancing across the mess hall, and Rodney watches the gun come up and take a shot before whoever the hell John is talking to has a chance to respond.
Instantly, there's scrambling from the table, quickly hushed screams to keep from drawing attention, and Rodney takes a step back and flips open the panel with the manual lock, flicking it before leaning into the wall.
John doesn't rush his stride--there's only one voice screaming, one person on the floor, clutching helplessly at his knee, surrounded by spilled mashed potatoes and a handful of lettuce leaves. John casually kicks a chair out of his way, nudging the table aside with one hip before lowering one boot onto the man's chest, flattening him on the floor.
"You know," John says thoughtfully, flicking the safety with a thumb as he shifts his foot, boot pressing on an unprotected throat, "I hate being manipulated. And working with Elizabeth was just stupid."
The guy--Rodney vaguely remembers him being from one of the other cellblocks, dressed in the grey uniforms all of Sheppard's people had adopted--whimpers breathlessly, and Rodney watches John put more pressure. Even from the other side of the room, Rodney can see the panic, one hand reaching up to clutch helplessly Sheppard's boot. He says something that Rodney can't quite hear, but Sheppard cocks his head, nodding pleasantly. Then he shifts his weight abruptly, and Rodney can almost hear the crunch of the man's throat beneath the heel of John's boot.
Blood bubbles up around the man's mouth, eyes huge and dark and terrified as he struggles for air.
"I'm glad you realize that. But this lesson wasn’t for you." John pauses, leaning back on one hip. Both the man's hands clutch at his ruined throat, and Rodney can almost hear him thinking of the regenerator only a transporter away--even now, he could probably be fixed. Hell, he could die and still be fixed.
John just watches, head cocked, kicking one reaching hand aside as the man rolls over on his side, struggling for each breath with sickening sounds like tearing a wet paper bag. After a few more seconds, John turns away, stepping over one reaching hand. "Leave him there," John says to the assembled crowd, who maybe didn't quite get that John didn't earn his reputation by being a truly vicious chess player. Holstering his gun, John smiles at them. "Move."
They scatter, some glancing toward the main door and Rodney, the others shifting warily toward the balcony--to jump off, Rodney supposes maliciously, thinking that hitting the ocean from this height will be like hitting solid concrete--while John wanders through the kitchen, filling a tray with whatever's at hand. "Coffee," Rodney calls as John pauses by the carafes, and John grabs one and the sugar, coming back toward the door as Rodney unlocks it and takes the carafe and cups before the tray tips over. Glancing back, Rodney lets himself enjoy the terrified silence, then at John's nudge, follows him out into the hall.
"Feel better?" Rodney asks, reaching for an apple teetering on the edge of the bowl and taking a bite. John grins.
Rodney does a brief check-in with the gateroom, but it's apparently closing on evening, which reminds Rodney that they need some kind of shift assignments put into place and reminds himself to get a copy of how John set up the shifts for security. Miko gives distracted answers on how far she's progressed decrypting the last databursts. Rodney finds it worrying how many times she uses the word 'sir' without direct threats.
Mostly, though, he just wants to get John somewhere to rest. Rodney knows the signs of exhaustion, and that little scene in the messhall, though fun, was as good as a warning.
It's weirdly domestic, watching John remove his boots for cleaning, careful not to get any blood on the floor on his way to the bathroom while Rodney hunts for the flatware he'd brought in days ago. Eating while Rodney instructs John on the tablet Rodney liberated from Miko for John's use. Powering up his own laptop while John spreads out a drop cloth on the bed and starts to disassemble and clean his guns. John takes reports from Lorne, still on Athos with Teyla and Halling as they hunt down both her people and Athosian collaborators; from Bates on Elizabeth and her followers, meditating in one of the larger lounging areas; check-ins from every person assigned to watch a scientist; and Cadman, reporting on Carson's stability as she gently shifts him back to ATA gene therapy studies.
After checking the progress of the scientist Gaul had designated to continue work on implant production, Rodney does a brief check of diagnostics on the tragically draining ZPM before finally leaning into the wall to watch John. John, who's humming tunelessly, looks peaceful as he reassembles a nine millimeter and sights it before setting it aside. "You said all of them."
John looks up, Zen moment broken. "What?"
"The mainland. When I said--"
"Supplies," John says, stroking gentle fingers over a knife as sharp as a straight razor. "As in, we are no longer supplied from Earth."
Rodney pauses. "Oh."
"It's land, they're people, and they have no other use." John shrugs as he sets the knife aside.
"And how many are farmers?"
"They'll learn or they'll starve. Teyla wants to bring some of her less--obedient people back. At least, the ones she doesn't kill on sight." John looks thoughtful. "Elizabeth wants to start contact with some of the worlds the SGC has exploited already; with any kind of luck, their bitterness will be strong enough not to question too closely how Atlantis came under new management. More likely they won't care all that much." John sighs and starts to put everything away, folding up the drop cloth and sliding it under the bed. Rodney wonders if he's doomed to a lifetime of smelling gun oil and getting hard. "But even assuming we can set up some kind of trade, I'd prefer having a regular supply line on the planet." Rodney must have been showing his surprise, because John grins at him. "You'd be surprised what they teach you when they're grooming you for command."
Rodney smirks, fighting the urge to kiss the smile off his face. "Right."
John smirks, pulling up his knees, narrow socked feet pressing into the bedcover. The short hair is still unfamiliar. Crawling onto the bed, Rodney knees his way between John's thighs, reaching out to run gentle fingers through the fine, spiky strands. John's eyes shut lazily, leaning into each touch, making a low, appreciative noise that could be a purr deep in his throat.
"I liked it longer," Rodney says wistfully, tipping John sideways on the bed, the better to stretch him out and look at him, long and lean and perfect. John makes a vaguely affirmative sound, shifting onto his back so Rodney can arrange him as he likes, one arm curled beneath his head, legs slightly spread, lazy and sleepy and content. "Let it grow out."
John's eyes half-open, giving Rodney an amused look before they flicker closed again, body going boneless. Reaching for his laptop, Rodney moves up the bed, opening up the latest of Miko's decrypted databursts, petting John as he reads, soft hair, silky skin, the stubbled line of his jaw. He never gets tired of touching John, feeling John uncoil beneath his hands. "Daedalus," Rodney says thoughtfully. John shifts beneath his fingers. "Were they coming back?"
"Irregular supply runs," John answers huskily. "Hmm." Raising himself on one elbow, John leans across Rodney's lap, peering into the screen. "You know. They were supposed to come to get the Athosians when they decided against gate travel--to save ZPM power. That was at least two regular runs ago. They might be due back." John yawns, shifting back to the bed, but he doesn't look as relaxed anymore. "New prisoners, too."
Rodney rubs soothing circles into John's neck. "Sumner talked a lot?"
"He left his laptop open a lot." John's mouth is tight. "But this was in one of the databursts. If the Daedalus left, that means they'll be out of communication range of Earth by the time SGC checks in with us. Just in case that goes wrong."
Rodney thinks, a little nauseated, of the Daedalus--weapons, cloaking technology, shields, a hyperdrive, while they have a mostly-depleted ZPM--but for some reason, John expressions softens, going dreamy. "What are you thinking?"
John shrugs, eyes glittering. "I've always wanted my own hyperdrive ship."
Rodney stares at him. "You want to take the Daedalus?" Of course he does. John commits grand theft spaceship with Asgard cruisers, so why the hell *not*? "Nevermind, stupid question. Have any idea how we'll get it?"
John smiles tranquilly. "A few." Reaching up, he tangles his fingers with Rodney's. "You know Elizabeth's going to approach me next."
Rodney remembers the way Elizabeth watched John at the briefing, feeling himself tense, fingers tightening around John's. There was more than one reason she'd want John to have the implant, and not just to keep him under control. All on its own, his mind jumps, imagining Elizabeth straddling John's lap in the conference room, hands buried in his short hair, *touching him*. Holding that tiny remote and using it while she fucks him. The nausea's so strong he thinks he might be sick. "Yeah." Breathe out, think *logically*. "If you killed her--"
"She has too many people here. I'd have to kill every one of them, and they could do some serious damage before we got rid of them all." Pausing, John waits, coiled energy at rest, and Rodney can guess what she'll ask. He just doesn't think he can deal with it. "Rodney."
"If she--" Rodney licks his lips, and he can actually feel the request, sticking to the tip of his tongue. Send John out to kill her now, and maybe they could get rid of most of her followers, but maybe they won't. Bates reports her with the scientists, with security, with Teyla…. "If she *asks*--"
"That's the question."
Looking down at John, face smoothed over in calm acceptance, Rodney's throat goes tight. John will do it if he asks, even if it's a crappy idea. Pushing the laptop onto the bed, he twists around, cupping John's face in his hands. "No." He doesn't know how to share. He's never learned. He doesn't want to. He'll kill her himself first, and he knows, knows that John's right. If they wanted Elizabeth gone without complications, it's far too late for that. Teyla and the Athosians, Elizabeth's followers, whoever else she's got. "Do you want to?" He can't even make himself say it. "With her?"
John snorts softly, leaning in for a brief, warm kiss, and Rodney licks desperately into his mouth, feeling the tension drain away with every possessive touch Rodney leaves on his skin. "I'd rather watch her die."
John rolls him over, stretching out on top of Rodney like a cushion, settling them together like pieces clicking into place. Rodney wraps his arms around John's back tightly, accepting the slow kiss with fingernails digging into John's back, marking wherever he touches. "Then we'd better be able to deal with what she'll do with that answer."
After a while, Rodney can breathe again, exhaustion pulling him under. Pushing John gently over, he gets the covers pulled out, watching as John sleepily struggles out of his pants and shirt, curling up with a heartfelt sigh of satisfaction against Rodney's shoulder before drifting off, gun shoved beneath the pillow, one leg slung over Rodney's thigh, fingers twined in the waist of Rodney's boxers like he thinks Rodney might get away if he sleeps.
He doesn't want to give her John, not for a second. See John learn to relax into someone else's touch, go pleasure-soft and boneless, twined with Elizabeth in her bed, sitting in the conference room close enough to touch. He can't *do* that.
He can take care of this himself, he thinks, closing his eyes at the feel of soft hair against his chin, matching to John's slow, deep breaths. He just needs to think.