Codes: Sheppard, Sheppard/Lorne, MensaAU
Spoilers: none specific, McKay and Mrs. Miller for the series
Summary: Sometimes, like now, John's well aware of the huge chasm between theory and practice, between what he'd thought a relationship could be and what it actually was.
Author Notes: trobadora requested something out of The Principle of Exclusion in the request thread. This is set roughly right after Elizabeth tells Rod that the team composition and mission priorities are changing.
Lorne gives the sticks a thoughtful look. "Teyla said you got better."
"Teyla thinks I could face down a three year old if the kid was sleepy," John answers, wondering why Lorne is here. Sumner had assigned one of the lieutenants to do the follow-up after boot camp, which had suited John fine. The sticks are new; as far as John knows, Lorne's never taken lessons, and he wonders where Lorne got them. "You're here why?"
"Lieutenant's on the mainland, doing some exploring," Lorne answers, picking up the sticks and swinging them lightly. "Show me how to use them."
And no. "New kink? Not so much."
Lorne shrugs, eyes hooded. "I just want to see. You never relax with me or with Ford. I wanted to see what Teyla did."
If John was a betting man--and he is, currently banned from Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale--he'd say there's something more going on here than Lorne curious about John's regime. What it is, he has no idea, and since standing here isn't going to work it out, he might as well start. Closing his eyes, he remembers Teyla, moving through the simple exercise, the warmth of her body against his, hand on his hip, his elbow, his shoulder, teaching his body the simple movements that had seemed impossible to learn.
Your body knows what it must do, John. Set it free.
The first turn is easy, remembering Teyla's quick, slim body, the way the sticks spread apart, then together, a step, a half-turn, another step, and John falls into the rhythm, finishing the first exercise at quarter speed, then moving to half, letting his body get used to the rhythm before going to full speed.
When he's done, he blinks back into the room to see Lorne watching with an unreadable expression.
Lorne picks up the second pair, swinging them lightly. "Try against me."
He's got to be kidding. "You've trained for twenty years in hand to hand," John says, not even bothering to raise his sticks. "I'm not nearly that proficient--"
The first swing catches him unaware, a glancing blow that John barely gets his stick up in time to block, sending a sharp pain down his forearm and into his still-healing shoulder. The second hits just above the knuckle, numbing him to the wrist, and John jerks backward, almost falling before Teyla's lessons snap into effect, catching himself with his stick against the floor.
Shaking his hand out, John watches Lorne circle him, taking in the pattern of his movements. Lorne's never done more than watch Teyla train a few of the military interested in different fighting styles, and even John can see his form is sloppy, leaving easily breachable gaps in his defense, opening himself completely for any offense. A more skilled partner could take him down easily. Teyla wouldn't even break a sweat.
Hell, Ronon would just *sit* on him.
John Sheppard is neither of them.
"Give up?" There's a weirdly competitive look on Lorne's eyes--and something else that John can't quite name, something that makes John straighten, letting his body fall into the form as Teyla taught him hour after grueling hour, teaching his body the hard way how to move and how to bend and how to change.
But she didn't need to teach him how to think, and he's watched her fight beginners through the experts. "No."
Lorne comes again, a stroke he telegraphs so obviously that John turns into it without thought, catching Lorne behind the knee before ducking at the next swing. Fighting is all patterns, and stick fighting more than all of those. John may not be fast, but his recall is fucking *perfect*.
Another swing goes over his head, so close John can hear the whistle of the stick, and John's ready for the second, catching Lorne on the left side he neglects to protect, coming around with a quick blow on the thigh, breath tight in his chest but--
"The thing is," John says, hearing his voice thick from exertion, wondering when this became serious, feeling his knuckles swelling and knowing that Lorne can outlast him easily if this goes on much longer. "The thing is, Teyla said it's not about winning."
Lorne does an overhand that John can't duck, hitting his forearm almost hard enough to drop the stick, but Teyla's training holds; fingers numb, they're still locked around his weapon and he gets in a quick defensive jab, sending Lorne two feet back, enough for John to take a few steps back, feeling the strap of his bag beneath his heel.
The next hit is easily blocked--Lorne isn't familiar enough with the patterns to get them quite right, and John lets the next one slide down his stick, feeling the strain up his arm like slamming into a wall, going to one knee while pushing his heel into his bag. Another hit and one stick clatters away.
"Then what did she say it was about?" Lorne says, coming at John in an overhand. "What did she teach you?"
John gets his stick up just in time to block it, feeling the reverberation all the way to his spine, pushing his hand into his bag and jerking out the gun, lining up his shot with the ease of long practice.
Lorne stops short, sticks raised, eyes wide in surprise.
"How not to lose."
Sometimes, like now, John's well aware of the huge chasm between theory and practice, between what he'd thought a relationship could be and what it actually was. It's another body beside his in bed, meals spent with someone who liked to hear him talk, evenings watching horrifically bad sci-fi movies or working through Lorne's anime collection. Sometimes it was just nights in Lorne's quarters while John rewrote system protocols and Lorne painted on the balcony. It's predictable and domestic and all the things John had seen on television and never thought were real. But they are.
They're evenings in the messhall, with Lorne's men sitting near them, making jokes that for the first time aren't at John's expense. They're late nights in the lab when Lorne brings dinner and touches his elbow, his back, brushing an absent kiss against the back of his neck, watching John work while doing his own paperwork. Sometimes, it's afternoon quickies that John comes out of dazed and warm, feeling Lorne's hands, Lorne's mouth for the rest of the day, humming energy beneath his skin.
But then there's this, and it doesn't fit into any pattern John's learned; Lorne's a lot of things, but unpredictable has never been one of them.
They go through the rest of John's routine as usual, though Lorne's not as smooth as Ford, putting John through some of the exercises far too fast, impatient with his progress. By the end, John can feel the edges of something sharp like anger poking through his calm.
The first thing Teyla had taught him was to control the anger.
"It is fuel," she said calmly, knocking the sticks out of his hand so effortlessly that John had still been staring at his empty hands when she almost gently deposited him back on the floor. "But it can blind. If you cannot use it, discard it."
"You *are*," she said, extending a hand to pull him to his feet. "And I feel it often controls your actions, both here and--not."
John stared at her. "You don't--"
"I watch." Backing off a step, she waited as he got into position. "When you engage an enemy, they do not care that you are angry. They do not care if they have shot your friend," John felt himself flush, but Teyla moved on quickly, "if they have hurt those you care about. They only care to take your life. When you meditate, you find that quiet place that nothing can touch. It must be the same here."
That quiet place is fraying under the constant observation, sharp commands to straighten *here*, move *here*, and John can feel his body going stiff and slow, self-conscious that he wasn't fast enough, strong enough, that all the movements he'd learned will never match his teachers.
In his life, there's never been anything he couldn't learn the first try but this, and he can feel that fraying him, winding him tighter than he should be. All of Teyla's lessons seem to be dissolving beneath the frustration of Lorne's voice, Lorne's body moving through the motions with perfect ease like a mockery of John's, and--
--he's getting *pissed*.
Coming out of a forward roll, John twists around on one knee, wincing at the sharp pain, facing Lorne. "This is why I never asked you to teach me."
Lorne blinks, straightening so suddenly that John can almost hear his back popping. "What?"
"You're not objective. You expect me to be either completely incompetent or master this as quickly as one of your men." Standing up, John fights the urge to limp, fights the urge to do something incredibly stupid, like kick Lorne and probably end up flat on his ass. It's juvenile and beneath him, but Jesus Christ, he's going to have to go to Beckett again and he's *tired* of the pitying looks and clucking tongue.
And if Rod sees it--John cuts off that train of thought and grabs his towel, dropping on the padded bench with a wince.
It's thirty minutes earlier than usual, but John's body's given up. He needs to get to Beckett and get his hand wrapped, and he needs a hot shower before he stiffens up, and he still has at least four hours in the lab before he can even think of lying down. "Yes," John bites out, knowing if he says more, it will escalate and badly. Packing up his bag, he takes out a bottle of water, finishing it to avoid looking Lorne in the eye.
After a few seconds, he feels Lorne sit down beside him. John puts down the bottle and looks over. "I was a little hard on you. I'm sorry."
John frowns, watching Lorne stare at the far wall, wondering, and not for the first time, what exactly goes through Lorne's head when he looks like that. "Okay." When Lorne looks at him, John tries to think of something else to say, some way to put the room in perspective, but there isn't any. There's no reason for Lorne to be here, no reason for him to ask to oversee John's workout, but there has to be something or he wouldn't be here.
Picking up his bag, John shoves the bottle in, gingerly getting to his feet as his knee twinges. "Hey," Lorne says, standing up, and John lets Lorne draw him closer, brushing a sweaty kiss against his mouth. With his free hand, John cups a hand around the back of Lorne's neck, leaning into the slow kiss, breathing in sweat and day-old aftershave and that scent below that he's come to identify as Lorne, familiar and comforting and known. Relaxing, John moves closer, letting his mind turn off at the ease of touch, stroking his fingers against the slick skin just below Lorne's collar, dropping his bag to rest one hand on a hip.
When Lorne's hand slides down to his ass, though, it's time to cut this off. "Wait." John pulls off a step, fighting the suddenly restrictive hands, blinking in surprise when Lorne doesn’t let go. "I have to get back--"
"Blow it off." Soft lips track down the side of his throat, teeth grazing gently, then not so gently, and John feels a flicker of heat ripple down his spine, settling low in his belly. "The afternoon. Blow it off."
"I can't." He has lunch and meditation, hours of simulations he has to finish. Meet Teyla for dinner, maybe, then--
Lorne's hand curves up against his spine beneath his shirt, slipping on sweat-slick skin before his fingernails draw slow patterns just above the top of his track pants. John catches his breath, still surprised by this, still amazed, still silenced in sheer awe. Touch given so casually, to incite, excite, arouse, please, the pads of Lorne's fingers callused and rough as they slide into the back of John's pants, mouth hot against his throat. He's giving in before he's aware of it, pushed up against the wall with his track pants jerked down, lost in tactile overload.
And he loves it, and hates it, too, the way he goes pliant for this, too easy, the way his body says yes and please and more and now; hates that Lorne uses it, too, even if he doesn't know he's doing it. Hates when he reaches for Lorne, twisting his fingers in short dark hair, using his height to pull him around, push him up against the wall, unfastening the BDUs and pulling them down, stroking a hand over the hard cock beneath thin boxers, trying to think through the onslaught of pure sensation.
"Come on," Lorne murmurs against his ear, tracing it with the tip of his tongue, and John bites down against a groan as he shoves their hips together--*Christ* that's good--sweaty skin against sweaty skin, the rough prickle of hair, the wet sounds when Lorne licks his palm and pushes it down between them, taking them in hand-- "God."
"Yeah," John pants, eyes closed tight, forehead pressed to Lorne's shoulder, the other braced against the wall, fingernails digging into Ancient metal. "Yeah, please--"
No one's ever touched him like this, not even Rod, not with expertise and ease and knowing him so well it's like a homecoming every time. It's right and not quite perfect, too rough with not enough to slick the contact between them, but he's burying his moans in Lorne's shirt, biting through sweaty cotton into equally sweaty skin. Lorne's other hand draws slow lines up and down his back, short, blunt fingernails scraping new lines of sensation that make him shiver and twist and whimper.
Those same fingers slide into his hair, pulling him up, breathless and glazed with pleasure, Lorne kissing him with ruthless focus, centering John's attention on the tongue in his mouth and the hand building heat in his cock with every slow stroke. It twists him tighter, thrusting harder into that perfect hand, this perfect body that Lorne lets him touch so easily, so openly.
Warmth pools in his belly, tracing down his spine in lines of pure heat, dragging out more sounds he loses in Lorne's mouth. So close. So fucking *close*--
"Jesus," Lorne whispers against his mouth, jerking harder, and John comes with a sudden shock, slick and hot against his belly, leaning into Lorne as his legs go weak, feeling Lorne come with a silent grunt against his throat. Mind wiped blank, coasting on the aftershocks, cocks still pressed between their bellies as Lorne lets go, wrapping an arm around John's waist as they lean into the wall, panting breathlessly.
John thinks this might explain a lot about why Lorne's always so enthusiastic about post-mission sex. Apparently, sparring has the same adrenaline effect.
After a few long seconds, John makes himself pull back a little, finding balance on shaky legs. Lorne loosens his hold but keeps John close, nuzzling gently at the side of his neck, affectionate now, something Lorne does because he likes touching John, likes being around John, and it's still so novel that John can't quite make himself pull away. "That was unexpected," John whispers, still shaky. Lorne kisses him just below the ear. "I have--I have to get some work done today. I'll see you at dinner tonight."
"You mean I'll drag you out of your lab at dinner." Teeth press down sharply against the side of his throat, and John jerks back, getting enough momentum to pull completely free. Crouching, John grabs his bag. "If you're not unconscious already." There's an edge of bitterness to his voice that John's never heard before. Staring at him, John tries to work out the problem.
"I have responsibilities," he says, and Lorne has to know that, he has some of his own. What they are, John has no idea, he's never been interested enough to ask, but surely he does something on the base. "I have to--"
"McKay turned down the transfer request," Lorne says suddenly, out of nowhere.
John nods blankly. This isn't a surprise. "Dr. Weir's still considering it."
Lorne frowns. "John--"
"What, you want me to talk to Weir? She's not exactly thrilled I want to join a First Contact team that my lover leads, okay?" John winces away from the terminology whenever possible--relationship categories always seem so ridiculous--but Lorne's the type that needs the compartments.
"Talk to Rod."
John takes a breath before answering. "He'll say no."
John doesn't know. He's thought about it, argued it, tried to work out the logic that Rod follows, but he always comes up short on motivation. Rod's not being logical--but then, he rarely is.
"I mean, does he ever even notice any of you outside missions?" Lorne says. "He leads exploration for ancient tech. He should have a science based team."
"I've heard this argument before."
"And you agreed with me."
John pauses, thinking about it, trying to match Lorne's sudden insistence with recent events, coming up with zero. He's never told Lorne about Rod--not the first time and certainly not the last, a memory that still sends a rush of heat through him like a hand wrapped around his cock. Lorne likes Rod, always has--*everyone* likes Rod--so this feeling is new and disconcerting.
Pushing his bag over his shoulder, he glances back at the door, his inner clock ticking away. Get away from this conversation, which is going somewhere that John can't predict and has no desire to follow. Go to Carson, get his hand checked. Grab a quick lunch from the messhall . Meditate. Go see Ronon. Go back to work.
His life has careful timetables for a *reason*. "I need to go."
"You want to go."
And that's true. He wants out of this confusing conversation and Lorne's strange intensity, because the team arrangements aren't that important. Lorne can get another scientist if Rod's that weird about changing their team. Several signed up for boot camp. "I'll see you tonight. Your quarters?"
Somewhere in there, John knows, is an unspoken argument about room use, but John's not up to it, not explaining his need for his space, the things he's not yet ready to share.
Lorne's amazing, unlike anyone he's ever met. He makes everything easy and new and different, living and working and sex, drawing John into something he'd never expected to have with anyone. It's good, they're *good* like this, it's more than John could have imagined after that first awkward date, still warm in memory.
It's more than he'd ever thought he'd get, and he wants to keep it, enough for him to stand here and wait, let Lorne make the decision, accept what John wants to give.
Lorne watches him for a second that seems to last forever, then nods shortly. "I'll be by your lab at seven for dinner," he says, and John nods in relief, tension uncoiling inside him. Smiling, he crosses the space between them, a brush of lips that says goodbye, pulling away before it can go further, turning to the door with a quick wave.
Lunch, right. Beckett, then shower, then lunch. He still has time for everything today.