Codes: McKay, Sheppard, Sheppard/McKay, Sheppard/Kolya (McKay/Teyla, Sheppard/Teyla (implied), Teyla/Ronon)
Rating: NC-17, AU, prostitution, drug use
Summary: The first time Dr. Rodney McKay met Special Agent John Sheppard, he wasn't Dr. McKay and John was Michael Torres. This was balanced, in Rodney's view, by the orgasms. The second time was a lot trickier. It also didn't involve any orgasms at all.
Author Notes: This is mostly complete but not completely edited, so I'm not sure how many parts it will cut into for livejournal. I've been mentally calling this "The One Where John's an FBI Rentboy and Rodney's Very Confused", but that's a little long for a title. Plausibility is so overrated.
Warnings: Please see this entry for warnings.
I kind of want to subtitle this part "The Bit Where Rodney Wishes for Amnesia, or Possibly, a Good Interior Decorator Because Really, John. Really."
But I just kept to the title.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Rodney spends three days in his lab; it's dangerously addictive to not bother leaving, what with all the minions and conveniently placed take-out places within a five mile radius. But even Zelenka's looking tense when he comes out for his next fast food delivery: Chinese. He's always associated horrific personal life problems with cheap Far East cuisine in Styrofoam boxes.
"Rodney," Zelenka says worriedly when Rodney emerges from his lab of personal misery to pounce on MSG and related preservatives shaped into noodle form, stopping Rodney before he can find inner peace in rice and sesame chicken. Rodney double takes the glitter-spackled pink hair carefully formed into a column on the top of his head and green and white striped skirt. The colors clash. It hurts. "You should go home."
Rodney squints. "Can't you get Simpson to fix your eyeliner? It's--" Rodney gestures vaguely. "And--wait. Where are you going? Did I give any of you time off? Because I'm in the middle of a psychotic break and obviously lied. Go back to work."
Zelenka shrugs, setting glitter to float around him in a toxic cloud. Glancing behind him, Rodney blinks away the feeling of incipient terror when Grodin wanders by in hot pants and stilettos with Simpson chasing after him holding a tube of lipstick. "Out. It has been boring here. You promised working here, I would find alien ships. Have I? Not so much."
"One, this isn't Area 51, and two--I don't even have a two for that one." Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Rodney sighs, reaching for the egg-fried rice. "Fine. Go. I'd fire you if the paperwork wasn't such a bitch."
"Perhaps you could use a night out as well," Zelenka says after a moment of consideration, and right then, that second, Rodney knows he's officially reached the lowest point of his life. It's a toss up what's more utterly humiliating; the realization that his staff feels sorry enough for him to ask him out, or the idea of being seen in public anywhere near Zelenka's hair. "Come, fun, see the sights. You have been morose and unhappy and you steal my coffee. Mondays are always unpleasant. Drinking will help."
"Getting stoned would help, but sadly, I--" Rodney stops short, rewinding the conversation, then counting the days. "Wait. It's *Monday*?" Rodney looks at his wrist, but somewhere along the line he forgot what happened to his watch. Grabbing Zelenka, he pushes up the sleeve of his mesh shirt and checks his wrist. "Eleven-thirty. Shit. I didn't--I thought it was Sunday!"
"Then you have lost time." Zelenka studies him with narrowed eyes. "Perhaps--"
"No," Rodney says, feeling the beginnings of a alien-conspiracy-theory-related headache starting. "I was not kidnapped by aliens. I was not anally probed. You have got to stop *asking me that*."
"Any mysterious bruises or marks?" Zelenka asks with a smirk, reaching to trail a green-fingernail down Rodney's jaw, lingering on the fading bruise from John's teeth. "I am impressed. You said everyone here was boring and--"
"Your people scare me with your devotion to piercing body parts that should not be pierced, yes. Go away. Wait. Call me a cab and then go away." Feeling slightly better now that he has a goal, Rodney scoops up his chicken. "Five minutes, outside, need a ride, got a show to watch."
"You watch television?"
Rodney pushes the lab door open with one shoulder. "I have a weakness for reality TV."
Ten minutes of bitching gets him a security guard and a fluttery secretary who finally calls upstairs, and Elizabeth Weir herself meets him. Rodney wonders if she lives in her office. "Dr. McKay," she starts tiredly, which is kind of like a no and so Rodney feels justified in letting out some temper.
"I want to watch," he says, then wishes he'd phrased that in an entirely different way. "He's my team and I'm supposed to be analyzing Kolya's security and method. And imagine that, getting to see live footage of their lair might help! Shocking, yes. Give me the directions to the apartment."
Weir hesitates. "Lair? Dr. McKay--"
"If you keep calling me that, I'll start thinking I'm my father and he hit on anything that moved. It would be hideously embarrassing for us both. Directions? And a driver--hey. Ford!"
Ford, just coming out of the elevator, looks sorry he knows how to walk. Rodney leaves Weir behind, getting Ford in a death grip. "Dr. McKay," Ford says warily, with a desperate look at Weir.
"Please, just Rodney." Pulling him to the door, Rodney waves at Weir. "Nice to see you again, have a good evening and um, maybe go home sometime to water your plants?" Ignoring her bewildered expression, Rodney hustles Ford out the door. "I need to get to where they're doing the surveillance. You drive."
"Am I supposed to do that?" Ford asks, looking back inside as Rodney pulls him along.
"Hey, team," Rodney answers, looking up and down the block. "Drive now, talk later. Hey, want some chicken?"
Teyla and Ronon are not happy to see him, but the geek kids are revoltingly excited, fluttering up to surround him in the stench of abject adoration. You take out *one* tiny chain of major banks and suddenly you're a superstar. It's deeply creepy, but mostly because all of them are very unattractive and smell like they haven't bathed since WorldCon.
"Did Dr. Weir give her permission?" Teyla asks sternly from the couch, silvery phone between her fingers. Rodney cranes his head to see the monitor, currently showing an empty hall in what appears to be a fairly expensive hotel. Extracting himself from the groupies, Rodney settles himself beside her, vaguely relieved to see her in comfortable jeans and a t-shirt; he doesn’t need rentboy John on the screen and Teyla in a mini and boots at the same time. Human bodies just aren't designed to withstand that.
"Yes. Ford drove me here right after I talked to Weir," Rodney answers as Ford occupies himself in frantic activity at the refrigerator. Opening his chicken, Rodney smiles brightly. "So. Anything?"
Teyla looks wary, but she puts her phone away. "John has encountered the target. They are on route to the hotel." Several monitors show various elevators and stairways; as the geeks fiddle with their laptops, another dark monitor flares to life showing a hotel suite with a fantastic view of the city's skyline. "I can't even express how terrifying I would find this level of surveillance in other circumstances," Rodney tells her between bites. "Any beer?"
Ford brings him one but seems more comfortable hovering as close to an escape route as possible. Rodney glances at Ronon, who engages in a staring match with Teyla before quietly stomping off to the other room. Ford, after a nervous look at them, follows, leaving Rodney alone with Teyla. He can't count the geeks as people; he's really not sure they're sentient. "Bad evening?" Rodney says, gesturing with his chopsticks toward the door.
"It is--difficult," Teyla answers levelly, flipping through a magazine. *Universal Soldier*. She pauses to look in admiration at something with a suggestively long barrel and three separate triggers. "We all worry when John is on assignment."
If John always has personality episodes, Rodney can see why. "Huh."
"Why are you here, Dr. McKay?" she asks, voice so gentle that he probably would have been fooled if her hand hadn't been stroking a very detailed picture of a machete. Swallowing in a suddenly dry throat, Rodney wonders what response is least likely to get him injured in what will probably be a hideously painful but completely non-life-threatening way.
"I wanted to make sure he was okay." Rodney takes a drink of beer, trying to work out what will get him the least number of non-fatal injuries. This entire evening could be improved with the steady application of something in the vodka family. And a lot of it. "Look, the other night--"
"It is hard to see him hurt," Teyla says quietly, "and be unable to give him anything but the space he requires. I apologize for my--anger with you."
Rodney puts down his half-empty can. "He was half-right. But I didn't go there to--" Rodney stops, seeing the brown eyes narrow. "Fun. That's all. I just wanted to--I don't know." And he doesn't; at least, not in a way that will make sense to Teyla. It barely makes sense to him. "I met Chaya."
Teyla's lips tighten.
"None of us knew until long after where Sumner had told him to gain his--experience. I have met her." Teyla tilts her head, face going soft and dreamy. "We had a very interesting conversation."
"You scared her into pissing herself, didn't you?"
Teyla blinks at him with John's innocent expression. "I did not check the state of her underwear, but she did remain seated long after I left, yes. This is the first time she has approached him since he was moved to Weir's authority."
Rodney takes another drink of beer. "How many times has he done this?"
Teyla frowns, picking slightly at a rip in the knee of her jeans. "When we were partners, several times. After--only now." The expression on her face says that this will be the last time or someone, somewhere, will suffer. "We will find other ways. This--" she shivers, shaking her head, and Rodney remembers her last two outfits with a start of understanding.
"Oh," he says, feeling stupid. "You do this too."
"Sometimes." she shrugs, hands smoothing her knees. "John and I have worked together on cases before this," and that would be a surveillance video to see, "but this is the first time I have acted as his contact and handler."
Rodney finishes the can. Teyla would be a good choice; if she's done this, she'd know better than anyone what she was watching, judge John by more than what he'd say or admit. Rodney tries not to stare at the monitors too hard, willing John to appear. "Tell me about Kolya."
"You did not read the file?"
"I read the file." Rodney tries to control his impatience, but he's never had to before and he's bad at it. "And that doesn’t tell me anything about what I'm about to see."
"Ah." Leaning back, Teyla marks her place in the magazine, closing it and setting it aside. "John was involved with Kolya's predecessor in Columbia," she says matter-of-factly. "After Cowen's death, Kolya took control of Cowen's remaining assets."
"He's not an asset," Rodney says, knee-jerk, then shakes himself. Maybe to them, he is. "So Kolya contacted him?"
"John and I were unavailable at the time," Teyla answers. "When we returned, Weir and O'Neill asked John to consider resuming his role as Michael."
Rodney nods stiffly. "And he agreed."
"He agreed," Teyla answers. "I did not." The brown eyes fix on a point somewhere across the room. "John was convinced that Kolya was more dangerous than Cowen had been, and John's handlers had unfortunately already made contact to assure Kolya that Michael was available. We came to an agreement. John would resume Michael's persona in return for the removal of his original handlers."
"The suits that were here the other night." It's not even a question. Rodney's honestly surprised they were willing to be in the same room with her. There was stupid, and then there was outright suicide, and her boot heels had been very, very sharp.
"Dr. Weir assigned Ronon and I to John, with the understanding that this would be the last time we would utilize Michael. Or any of those identities. Weir and O'Neill agreed immediately."
And maybe hadn't wanted all this in the first place, but Rodney's been reading between the lines in those folders for weeks. There's a lot that can be implied in even the most innocuous report, but whatever Sumner had been doing with his agents, no matter how successful the results, Weir and O'Neill had wanted it stopped.
"Kolya is--" Teyla hesitates. "Very dangerous. After the destruction of the Columbian estate, we studied the list of those killed. Not all of them were within the estate, or in the country, at that time."
"So he killed them?"
Teyla licks her lips. "Eventually, yes, they were allowed to die."
Rodney doesn't want to know. "And John's with him. He doesn't suspect--" He thinks of the John he'd seen the other night, flashy blond hair and glazed eyes, lazy, sex-drenched body. No. Not even Rodney would have suspected it. "So he took Cowen's operation and Cowen's boyfriend. Nice."
"He is clever," Teyla admits. "And he is ambitious. John was correct; he has far greater plans than merely continuing the Syndicate. What they are, however, we are not certain." She pauses, studying him thoughtfully, apparently trying to make a decision; Rodney wonders what exactly she's looking for. "He is very possessive of John," she says slowly. "Far more than Cowen. It has been a challenge to keep them under surveillance. That is part of the reason that you were contacted; there are places he takes John that have been impossible for us to follow. So far, John has been able to keep the majority of their time together in the hotel that Kolya owns, but--"
"We're working on his house," Rodney answers quickly. The security's a bitch; Rodney's never worked with anything so counter-intuitive. The system almost seems to be outthinking him, and that makes no sense at all. "Is he violent?" Rodney asks, then realizes that's not what he meant at all. At least, not like she might think.
Except she does. "Not to John." Something uncomfortable passes over her face, but before Rodney can track down the reason, she shakes herself. "While Kolya is in the city, he tends to spend the majority of his time with several senators. They have visited John's suite several times. John says they don't talk very much around him, but he suspects, and I agree, that they do not suspect John, but they do not trust hotel security. Neither does Kolya."
"So, house. Right."
Rodney picks up his chicken, then sets it aside. Suddenly, he's not feeling all that hungry. The silence stretches into something that could, at any second, become extremely uncomfortable. "I met him before, you know," Rodney blurts out. "Before--"
"He told me."
God, he's blushing. At Teyla's curious look, he makes himself continue. "Right. It was--I mean, he didn't tell me--I didn't know he was--"
"He is very good at his job," Teyla says neutrally. "He was meeting Kolya's contact that night; however, it is fortunate that you were there. Apparently, the contact was more interested in removing the potential of John's--influence."
"Kill him?" Rodney hears his voice break.
"Yes." Teyla turns back to watch the monitors with a thoughtful expression and Rodney has a horrible thought. "God. Was it--" He gestures toward the monitors helplessly.
"Oh. No, John was not under surveillance that night. Though I admit, when John first told me, I went to see as well." She smiles at him, and for the first time, it feels real. "It was good for him to be Michael and have it be pleasant. I do not think he expected that."
Rodney stares at the coffee table. "I wouldn't have gotten him high if I'd known he was--"
"He is careful," Teyla says before he can finish. "He went to Carson the next day. John did not enjoy his--experiences before."
Right. Of course. John's a very good former-junkie. He reports to his doctor. It's--God. "I have no idea why I'm here," Rodney says helplessly.
"Because you wish to see the difference," Teyla says softly. Rodney jerks his head up to look at Teyla, but she's staring at the monitors. "You wish to know which one is real. And you wish to know what happened that night in the club."
Rodney opens his mouth to answer, but just then, the monitor set to the lobby shows John walking in, wrapped in a black wool coat, blond hair garishly bright as he leans against the wall while another man in dark brown pauses at the front desk, speaking to the woman on duty. John sighs, staring up at the ceiling in boredom; Rodney can see Chaya's swaying body in the loose ease, the way he stretches, all fluid promise and unsubtle invitation.
The clothes beneath the open front of the coat are perfectly respectable; a tailored suit, pinstriped tie, but the body doesn't match the clothes. He looks like someone playing dress-up, and from the looks of those who pass him, they feel it too, with expressions that Rodney feels a deeply primitive need to remove from their faces with the application of a fist. He contents himself with memorizing their faces and deciding how thoroughly he'll destroy their credit scores later.
John doesn't seem to notice, but Rodney doesn’t think for a second he's not perfectly aware of it and hating every second. Rodney thinks of Chaya in the club, mocking and clever and cruel. Training. There's a lot of ways she could have done it to create that kind of reaction, and all of them make Rodney flinch. "You know," Rodney says as the brown-coated guy and John approach the elevator, one hand resting possessively on the small of John's back, "I could destroy Sumner's life if someone would run get my laptop."
Teyla pauses thoughtfully. She also doesn't say no. "When this is over," Teyla says slowly, drawing her fingers over the cover of the magazine in a way that tells Rodney she wishes it were Sumner's flesh, "John and I will go to Jamaica. He will enjoy it there, with much sun, many boats to drive at dangerous speeds, and many beaches to surf." Her gaze softens. "Maybe he will wish to fly again."
Rodney's chest tightens. "He was a pilot, wasn't he?"
She nods. "Yes."
Rodney stares at the remains of his sesame chicken so he doesn’t have to look at her. "Are you two--" He stops, so surprised he actually asked that he forgets what he was going to say.
"No." There's a smile in Teyla's voice. "John and I are long past that." Her eyes fix on the monitor showing the elevator, where the man in the coat--Kolya, Rodney reminds himself--pushes John against the side, one hand holding John's face while he kisses him roughly. John loops an arm around his neck and kisses back, melting against Kolya in a way that's thoroughly nauseating.
"You know," Rodney says, staring at a spot right above John's head, "I can see why you're not eating."
"I am a professional." Her mouth tightens. "I have seen John do far more." Rodney studies her face, assesses himself, and gets up, going to the refrigerator. There's beer and wine and hard liquor (Rodney's beginning to suspect the FBI is a lot more fun than he's ever been led to believe), but he goes for the beer, because this isn't just a night in nauseating television; Teyla's watching because if anything goes wrong, she has to get John out.
Taking out six beers, Rodney goes back, setting them on the table before thrusting one into her hand. She looks at him gratefully. "Thank you."
Rodney opens his and takes a long drink as John emerges into the hall. "I think we'll need it."
Rodney kicks the geeks out when the festivities really start. Ignoring their incoherent, whining protests, he herds them into the hall with the power of his snarl and shuts the door, taking their place. It's ridiculously easy to figure out their set up and he itches to redo it into something that resembles logic but contents himself with storing up witty cracks to mock them with later.
Sadly, they'll probably like it.
Teyla gives him a sidelong look, but since she didn't protest, he figures he's okay. Unfortunately, taking their place means being very close to the monitors and everything that was plenty visible on the couch is now much closer and much, much sharper. Getting the beer in both hands, Rodney steadies himself while watching Kolya strip John in the middle of the suite.
Coat, tie, shirt all hit the floor without any finesse, revealing smooth skin and John's still bandaged left side. "You were injured?" Kolya asks in concern, palm flattening over the bandage.
John smiles at him vacuously. "One of Ladon's guys, wanted a freebie." Shrugging, he sways as Kolya wraps an arm around his waist, letting Kolya take his weight.
"I'll kill him," Kolya says pleasantly, dipping his head to lick slowly up John's neck. John closes his eyes, leaning into it.
John waits until Kolya looks at him, blue eyes wide. Rodney blinks the dissonance away; contacts, of course. "I can take care of myself."
Kolya nods, gently cupping John's face. "But you should not have to." They kiss again, which sends Rodney for his beer, and the eventual bedroom activities are enough to convince Rodney's he has a future as an anorexic. It's almost like a porn movie, albeit with actors that are pretty good at their jobs; John is good at this. He drapes himself across the bed with easy sexuality, offering his body up to Kolya's hands and mouth like he wants nothing more.
It's intriguing and sickening and weirdly dissonant; that's not the John he's met or Michael in Rodney's apartment, but it's not the man who felt him up with Chaya either. He's beautiful, almost too beautiful to be real or human, but the startling part is watching John perform like that, every movement and expression and sound so close to real that Rodney could almost believe it.
Chaya must have sat here like this--well, not here-here, but in a room like that one, teaching John to use his body like this, telling him how to look, how to act, how to breathe, when to touch like this, shift like that--
"Pretty," Kolya murmurs, slowly fucking between widespread legs, cupping John's chin so he can look into the glazed blue eyes. "You were made for this, weren't you?"
John turns his head, Kolya's fingers slipping into his mouth, sucking lazily while Kolya grunts, moaning as he speeds up, and Rodney has to turn away when Kolya comes--and presumably, John too, from the sounds--and takes comfort from the fact that Teyla can't seem to watch, either.
After is almost worse, though John fakes sleep while Kolya curls protectively around his back, one arm around his waist, nuzzling the back of his neck. Rodney goes to the refrigerator and gets two more beer, joining Teyla on the couch in time to see John's eyes open briefly, staring at the wall with a blank expression when Kolya gently slides one hand down John's side. "I would have taken care of him for you," Kolya murmurs. John shuts his eyes, and Rodney wishes he could, too.
Teyla closes her eyes briefly. "Is--is Kolya--" Rodney can't finish the sentence; he doesn't want to finish the thought. Teyla nods slowly, picking up her cans and carrying them to the kitchen.
Feeling sick, Rodney gets his own, and hopes that John doesn't know that Kolya's in love with him.
Kolya leaves after an hour of disturbing cuddling that makes Rodney want to shoot himself. To compensate, when Ronon and Ford come in to relieve them, he and Teyla get very, very drunk in a place that Rodney's almost sure is a legal bar. So drunk, in fact, that Rodney actually doesn't remember the part where Teyla says, "Let's get out of here," in a way that he couldn't possibly misunderstand.
Drunk. So drunk. That's the only explanation Rodney has for coming to himself with Teyla fucking him in what appears to be a crappy motel room with neon light streaming through the window that seems to be the color of Zelenka's hair.
This is my life, Rodney thinks, cupping her breasts, sucking one nipple between his teeth while he tries to forget the way John stared at the wall while Kolya touched him. When he looks up, Teyla's eyes are closed, leaning into Rodney's hands as he pushes up into her, feeling her tight and wet around him, little sounds like sobs breaking between her lips with every thrust.
He wonders if she's forgetting the same thing.
Rodney lies down on his lab table by the brooch with a wet towel on his face and pretends he doesn’t have a hangover. It's a vicious lie that he hopes will eventually become fact if he wishes hard enough.
The brooch beside him remains stubbornly lifeless; he really wants to break it in some clever way that will look entirely accidental.
The sound of the lab door opening is almost, *almost* enough to make him sit up, considering it's coded to his DNA. But honestly, if someone is here to kill him, they'd be doing him a favor. "Make it fast," Rodney says through the towel. "And Zelenka is right down the hall. Get him, too. And his groupies. They won't stop playing A Perfect Circle and that's grounds for innocent by reason of insanity. You'd get off scot free."
The footsteps pause. "The bathroom is right through that door," John's voice says. "And yet you are still using a trash can."
Rodney sits up so fast his head swims; his stomach takes a second to remind him that sudden movement of any kind is a very unwise idea, but since there's nothing left in it, it's pretty much an empty threat. Pulling the towel off his head, Rodney stares blankly at John, currently occupied in finding a stool and looking fresh and young and disgustingly well-rested in his charcoal slacks and black sweater. Even the blond looks respectable. It's creepy.
"What are you doing here?" Rodney asks, almost adding "what with that night of athletic sex and all" but then he remembers John wears three guns and probably can kill people with his little finger. Not to mention that Rodney never, ever wants John to know he watched. He's pretty sure that John carefully pretends that no one ever watches, even though he knows they do. Rodney himself is a huge fan of denial and approves of it on principal.
John frowns, looking vaguely constipated and scratches uncomfortably at the back of his neck. "I wanted to--come by and see how everything is," John says, speaking intently to the wall behind Rodney's head. "After--we last talked. To--"
Oh my God. He wants to talk about it.
"Can we pretend we talked about this, came to a satisfactory conclusion, hugged, then never speak of it again?" Rodney asks in horror before John can get another terrible word out. Who told him to talk about his feelings? Who would be that crazy? "Good. Now that you're here, touch the ugly jewelry." Sliding off the table, Rodney's stomach makes one last bid for freedom, then gives it up. Rubbing his head, Rodney searches out another vicodin from the script that he nagged out of Carson, chewing it dry and swallowing the remainder with a drink of cold coffee.
John grins at him, picking up the brooch between long fingers, but Rodney barely notices the green glow; somehow, John's face is a lot more interesting.
The next week is a lot like that, with John showing up at random times to be ordered to touch the crappy jewelry and do crossword puzzles while Rodney stares at the results of every test with deep loathing. It's powered by something he's never seen before, works like there are no silly laws of physics that should apply, and sits there like a lump unless John is innocently molesting it. Rodney finds himself dragging out his masters texts from physics, his research for his first doctorate, trying to make sense of the utterly impossible. He also thinks there's a better than average chance he's developing a kink for John and hideous jewelry, and that just can't be healthy.
"This is good," John says one day, eating one of the sandwiches that Zelenka brought in earlier when Rodney told him he was thinking of declaring his lab a sovereign nation ("Blood sugar is low," Zelenka said knowingly, going to the phone). Zelenka ordered several, two of which are John's favorite turkey, which are like some sort of John-catnip; shove one in his hand, and he's not going anywhere for a while.
Rodney appreciates the strategy; he just wishes that Zelenka would stop cornering John to mutter sweet insanities about how if John would only help him, they could reveal the alien conspiracy already. Of course, he also wishes John didn't look so interested when Zelenka talked about it, either.
"Don't you have a job besides street corner hustling?" Rodney demands, trying not to find the way John fastidiously wipes his fingers on a napkin utterly charming. In his neat, dark blue suit and tie, hair combed, he's just the most adorable little FBI agent ever. He could have his own calendar. They could use him to *recruit*.
John gives him a syrupy smile. "I'm your security this week."
Rodney narrows his eyes. "Where's Ford?"
"He lost a bet." John picks up a potato chip and cranes his neck to read Rodney's notes. " Huh. So exactly what orifice are we talking about that makes the glowy jewelry scream like a little bitch?"
Rodney slams his notebook closed. "I'm telling Zelenka you're part of the conspiracy."
"He won't believe you," John says, stealing Rodney's pickle. Rodney gives himself a moment to watch John eat it. "Hey, did you know there's an X taped to the outside window?"
Sputtering, Rodney gives up.
In between, he sits surveillance twice more and finds out the red-head Scully-like woman is a FBI botanist named Katie Brown, who likes him enough to have dinner and who he forgets for four days when Zelenka's group tries to have a rave in the lab.
It's so insane that Rodney can't even yell at him, and it takes an hour of staring viciously at Sumner's bank accounts from the couch in his apartment before he realizes Zelenka was trying to make him go home.
"I am in hell," Rodney tells Zelenka's voicemail. "And you will pay. Bring donuts tomorrow or I will kill you before you step in the door."
Throwing his phone into a corner of the couch, Rodney thinks of John, who shows up at odd hours, wondering if he stopped by the lab, or is sitting outside, or God, leaving alone to go home and play chess with himself or--
"Huh." Picking up his laptop, Rodney closes Sumner's accounts (after moving out a hundred just to see if the guy notices), and opens up another program. "So. Address."
It's unlisted and also under a the name of an eighty year old woman who apparently teaches kindergarten and attends Mass every day. John's sense of humor is deeply, deeply sick. Rodney studies the neat, non-descript door, then knocks twice, feeling fifteen and idiotic loitering on the doorstep of an upper-class, bland apartment in a building where he suspects both children and dogs have free access to roam. He thinks he hears someone killing something but realizes that it's actually a baby crying.
It takes everything in him not to run far, far away.
The door opens without so much as a creak, and Rodney stares blankly at blond John Sheppard in comfortable looking sweatpants and a MIT t-shirt that's three sizes too small, feet bare on white--white!--carpet. He blinks. Twice. "Rodney."
"I'm bored," Rodney says before he can say something stupid like "you are really attractive even when you're not a prostitute" or "I kind of spent last night in the lab wondering if you'd like me more if I killed Kolya for you". "Entertain me."
Pushing by a bemused John, Rodney finds himself in a tastefully bland apartment with high-end furniture and not a scrap of any living personality. It's like the Stepford Wives, but without the wives and so much more creepy. "Nice place," Rodney manages, staring at a white couch and white rug and Jesus God, white gauze curtains. Turning slowly, Rodney takes in polished dark wood and vases that look expensively brittle. "It's very--clean."
John closes the door, looking around like this is a place that anyone with a soul could live and not try to suicide messily at some point. "It's okay." Walking by Rodney, he sits on the couch like it's something that is supposed to be used, picking up a thick, leather bound book from beside him, carefully marked with what appears to be an actual bookmark. Setting it on the spotless coffee table, John goes back toward a kitchen filled with stainless steel appliances and likely matching hand towels. Probably spotless. And white.
Rodney follows him, laptop bag clutched to his chest protectively.
"Can I get you anything?" John asks, opening the refrigerator. If Rodney looks (which he can't make himself do; he's just not that strong), there will be milk, with an unexpired expiration date, and juice in neat bottles; in the darker parts of Rodney's imagination, he can almost see the fresh fruits and vegetables filling the crispers, never to rot because John will cook them for dinner. Rodney bets he eats three helpings a day.
Edging to the counter, Rodney subtly pushes on the lever that opens a spotless trash can and looks sadly at the lack of fast-food containers. "How do you live like this?" Rodney asks, throat tight. John ducks from the refrigerator with a bewildered expression on his face. "Er. Coffee."
The beans are, predictably, in the freezer. Rodney perches awkwardly on a kitchen chair that feels as if no ass before his has ever touched it. John measures the coffee with an actual set of tablespoons that gleam dully in the bright kitchen light, grinding the coffee in a grinder that makes sounds that remind Rodney of that horror movie he saw while tripping and convinced his dog was actually a serial killer, and makes coffee, all on a solid white countertop, and doesn't even so much as spill any grounds.
While the coffee maker does it's thing, John gets out cream and sugar, bringing them to the table with spoons and napkins at the ready. Rodney tries to find some kind of conversational topic that doesn’t start with asking if John is actually a Cylon sent to earth to destroy them all, because he has a bad feeling in that scenario he's Baltar.
Relief comes with coffee cups; normal colorful coffee cups that say stuff like "Have a good morning" and "FBI", which somehow in comparison to the rest of this room of nightmares is rebellious and a little edgy. Taking a drink, Rodney closes his eyes. "Oh hell yes."
John snickers but doesn't say anything else.
With half a cup of liquid courage in his stomach, Rodney makes himself release his laptop to another chair (no way in hell it's going near that white rug) and looks at John, sitting at attention on the other side of the table. "So reading?"
John shrugs. "I'm on the clock tomorrow, so I thought I'd take it easy." The hazel eyes study Rodney thoughtfully. "Surprised to see you out of the lab, though."
Rodney frowns at his coffee cup. "Zelenka went crazy," Rodney answers bitterly. "But he'll pay."
"I'm sure he'll clean it up tomorrow," John answers soothingly, and Rodney almost nods agreement, because hell yes he will, when--
Wait. "How do you know the lab needs cleaning?"
John freezes and goes for his cup. Rodney stares at him before pointing an accusing finger. "You did it."
John blinks with dewy innocence. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
But now that Rodney thinks about it… "You had to have. Everything was coordinated. The streamers matched the balloons. And the balloons didn't resemble a penis with a Prince Albert. Oh my God," Rodney's finger begins to tremble, "you *are* human."
John smirks and refills both their cups. "It was that or let a goat in there to lure you out." John fixes both their coffee, apparently having memorized how Rodney likes it from watching. "You were starting to look a little crazy."
Rodney slow-blinks his disgust that there's ever a time that people think he's *not* crazy. "A goat would have been cool," he admits, taking the cup from John's hand. Their fingers brush briefly, which is just enough for Rodney's body to remind him it really, really likes John's.
"I thought so too, but they eat anything. So I left it in Sumner's office for the weekend." John folds his hands on the tabletop. "Bored, huh?"
Rodney stares back at him, fighting the urge to laugh. "I was thinking of dyeing my hair."
"Are you sure?" John says dubiously as he pulls on the latex gloves that Rodney watched him take from under the bathroom sink. Of course John has latex gloves. For all those household emergencies that require a sterile work environment and clean hands. "It's very--"
"I know." One of John's incredibly soft, incredibly white towels is around Rodney's neck; another is draped across his lap. Rodney looks forward with almost pathetic eagerness to staining them but good. That fucking white rug, too. A white rug in the *bathroom*. "You know how to do this?"
"I have to do my own hair for work," John answers dryly. Rodney eyes the blond for a second. "Okay, not this time; Teyla did it. But usually it's just me." John pauses. "With Teyla supervising."
"That sounds about right." John tilts Rodney's head forward before reaching for the dye, working it gently through the hair at the base of Rodney's head. The long fingers slide against his scalp with impersonal care and that's enough to make Rodney hard enough to feel dizzy. John's--
"…and Katie actually asked *me*, so I figured that you probably lost her number or something."
Rodney almost jerks up his head, then stops himself at the last minute. "Who?"
"Katie Brown," John answers, combing his fingers through the strands to make sure they're saturated. "She wanted to know if I'd seen you."
Rodney rewinds his week. "Scully," he says, then, "Pretend I didn't say that."
John moves Rodney's head again before he adds more dye. "If it's any consolation, I spent my first year here trying to find the basement office where the X-files were hidden."
Rodney catches John's eyes in the mirror. "Find anything?"
"Not yet." There's an edge of grim determination in his voice that makes Rodney shiver pleasantly. "Zelenka stole Jack's passwords, though, so we should have an answer soon." John fingercombs more dye in, pausing to study his work critically. "Also, Katie."
"Katie." Rodney blows out a breath. "I forgot."
John pauses. "You *forgot*?"
Rodney wonders what John would say if he told him that dinner with Katie had been a long interrogation on John and his world disguised as food. How Katie didn't figure that out is a mystery. "It's just--" Rodney shrugs, hoping John will read into it something that doesn't scream asshole that blows off people for the sheer fun of it. Not that it's not true.
"Oh." John takes a second to concentrate on the crown. "So it's Teyla, huh?"
The smooth, calm voice almost fools Rodney, but he knows John. You learn a lot about a person watching them have creepily good sex with horrible people. "So she told you about that?" He should have guessed; Teyla wouldn't have any reason to lie, not if the subject came up. Rodney doesn’t either; but weirdly, he feels like he'd be happier if he did.
"Back under Sumner, we--" John pauses, going after a piece of hair that one would think from the expression on his face was trying to fight off the dye with its last breath. "We couldn't afford to let--anything remain secret." John shrugs. "Habit."
Habit. Rodney waits until John will meet his eyes. "It was one night. We were very drunk. And she threw up on me after."
John's mouth twitches. "She told me that, too."
John turns him to do the front, leaving Rodney to stare at his chest, covered in warm, worn cotton, and a slice of tanned stomach where the sweatpants sag. It's a physical effort not to touch him. "MIT?" Rodney asks casually. John has one of those mind-numbingly perfect backgrounds that Rodney had thought only existed on TV; trust-fund baby to MIT, Masters, on his way to a comfortable life of expensively fast cars, society parties, and number theory before a sharp left turn that tells more in its simplicity than elaboration ever would. Air Force, he thinks, trying to reconcile the polished proto-socialite he must have once been to the records of a man who spent his life flying planes and carrying a gun.
John slides slow fingers around Rodney's hairline. "Three and a half years." John gently tilts Rodney's head and works his way down the side. "Had a blast."
"Crazy nights were when you blew off homework to watch Monty Python, weren't they?"
"Or hid in the girls' dorm for a weekend," John answers placidly. Rodney jerks his head up, splattering John with fine drops of dye; relentlessly, John puts him back into place. "Girls who could factor in their heads on a campus of guys who made their virginity a social statement? I had a motorcycle. It was good times."
John was fucking *catnip*. How one of them didn't get around to drugging his water and marrying him while he was unconscious is a mystery that Rodney will never be able to explain. "I'm disturbed that I find that hot."
John ducks his head, but Rodney sees him grin. "I still have a motorcycle."
Rodney takes a second to imagine John on something small and fast; he'd be in it for the speed, not the appearance. Leather jacket. "You had an earring." Rodney pauses, flipping through his memory. "God. Do you have a tattoo? Tell me you have a tattoo and I just didn't see it."
John laughs, stumbling against the sink. It's the most horrible sound Rodney's ever heard and Rodney wants to hear it again; maybe, maybe for the rest of his life.
Latex covered hands cup Rodney's head, tilting it back. Obediently, Rodney lifts his head, and warm lips touch his, slow and chaste, closed mouth and so achingly gentle that Rodney can barely sit still.
But he can, has to, because he can feel the tremble in the hands holding him, the shiver that runs through John just for this, and Rodney locks his hands around his thighs and lets John control the careful kiss, parting his lips at the first touch of John's tongue, somewhere between tentative and eager.
He has no idea how long he sits there, dazed and giddy, lost in John's slow touch, kissing that's both expert and somehow strangely unsure. John does it like art, practiced and perfect and weirdly uncertain. He could lose himself in this man. It's terrifying and exhilarating, like the first time he went skydiving, pissing himself halfway down and staring into a sky so huge he couldn't breathe.
It's better than getting high and better than a month in the lab. It might be the best thing he's ever had.
John draws away finally, hazel eyes half-closed, mouth pink and swollen, scratched from stubble; Rodney blinks his way back to the world with a surprised John looking down at him. Rodney licks his lips, clinging to the taste of John's mouth. "I've never been on a motorcycle."
John's fingers slide over his hairline distractedly. "I'll take you."
John has a blowdryer; Rodney would have been kind of shocked if he didn't. Sitting in front of the mirror, Rodney looks at his reflection in satisfaction.
"Well," John says, wiping his hands carelessly on a ruined, ruined, ruined towel, "it's definitely different."
Rodney nods thoughtfully. "It is."
Rodney nods, then sighs. "Zelenka's hair was making me feel very--" he gestures at the mirror, then gives up. "Boring."
John nods soberly. "He added silver stripes the other day. He's been waiting for you to stare at him and tell him he has no taste."
Rodney wonders what it means that he didn't notice. Probably because Simpson was going through some kind of style renaissance that rejected all things underwear and embraced shirts made of cellophane. It was unnerving; Rodney kept waiting for an acid spill or a charge of public indecency.
Using another ruined towel, Rodney checks to make sure he got all the dye off, sliding off the bar stool, glancing in the mirror in time to see John leaning casually against the bathroom cabinet, comfortable and easy in his skin like he's never been in Rodney's memory.
Turning around, Rodney leans against the sink; his body couldn't pull off that kind of sexy casual if he tried. Bracing his hands on the edge of the sink, Rodney takes in the slightly disheveled hair and sweats. "You know," Rodney says slowly. "You almost had me."
John blinks. "What?"
"The apartment. That was inspired. Do you do this to everyone?"
John hesitates, then grins back, giving up. "Teyla keeps threatening to torch it. She leaves boxes of matches around when she comes by."
"She should," Rodney answers seriously. "I'll help."
"I'll remember that," John answers, equally serious. Then. "I have a Playstation 3."
"Thank God," Rodney breathes gratefully. "Lead the way."
John's bedroom is huge, with a breathtaking view, but the bed is normal and even unmade, which almost makes Rodney cry in relief, it's just so human. John settles them with a pile of pillows from a closet in front of a TV that makes all other TVs feel ashamed that they exist, bringing out beer and chips and cheap onion dip. Rodney kisses him again when John eats a chip, licking away the bit of dip at the corner of his mouth while his car crashes and John somehow makes out with him and makes it to the end of the race too. Smart, hot, multitasks. Rodney wonders if this is some kind of weird joke and it'll turn out John's actually out for world conquest in the most indirect way possible. If so, Rodney's willing to help out. He's a genius. They'll have it done by Tuesday, easy.
"It was my parents'," John says, letting Rodney stretch him out on a few pillows, raising an eyebrow when Rodney pauses, staring at him blankly. "The apartment. I'm undercover. Can't go *home* all that much. To avoid being *killed*."
Right. "It's like a hospital," Rodney says, leaning down to kiss the hollow of John's throat. "Did you grow up here?"
John makes a face. "No. My parents liked to travel. I kind of grew up everywhere." John shivers when Rodney blows softly on the wet skin, fingers tightening in Rodney's hair. "After--after I moved to DC, I used to bring dates here. It was a pretty good barometer of how well they'd work out."
"It can tell you if they're secretly serial killers, true." He licks slowly up the column of John's throat, stopping to pay attention to a spot just below his jaw that makes John twist a little, breathe a little harder. Rodney tells his cock, currently trying to burrow into John's hip, to take it down a notch; this isn't sex. At least, not the kind Rodney's used to by a long shot.
He suspects the same could be true for John, lazily letting Rodney do pretty much what he likes. "You know," John says thoughtfully, sounding way too calm for someone who has a hand up under his shirt; Rodney's never felt more sixteen in his life, not even when he was sixteen, "I'm trying to imagine you when you were doing your world tour after leaving Northwestern."
"It was a lot less interesting than it sounds," Rodney admits. Propping himself on one elbow, he shifts to John's side, keeping one leg over John's, just in case John gets the crazy idea he should get up or something. Oh hell no. "But it did have an excellent selection of drugs and a lot of people willing to have a surprisingly wide variety of sex."
"Why'd you really leave?"
He should have known. "I don't know." Fingering the blond hair, Rodney tries to think of a way to explain the inexplicable. "I was nineteen. I had a doctorate. I had a lab. I had *minions*. I had a Nobel in my future and no one in my league. It was mapped out like a road that all I had to do was walk."
John waits patiently, eyebrows raised in polite query. Frustrated, Rodney pulls his hair, just to get him to scowl and kick him. Rodney kisses an apology onto John's shoulder, nuzzling his jaw for good measure. "I don't know," he says finally. "I was doing this--I don't even remember what it was. Huh. Actually I was doing a peer review. I kind of destroyed his soul."
"Can't imagine," John answers blandly. Rodney nips his neck, licking the salty skin after, breathing in John's scent. No aftershave, just plain soap and male, musky and interestingly dark.
"Well, he was stupid and wrong, wrong, so very wrong." Rodney shifts enough to see John's face. "So wrong. Postulates on black holes; he made the most intriguing study in the universe sound like a dissertation on the nature of salt. Salt that was pink and sentient. I'm not kidding about the stupid."
"I'm scared to ask if they're teaching."
"He is," Rodney answers with a sigh. "But it's a very third rate university. Anyway. I finished up, mailed it off, and realized I hadn't seen my girlfriend in two months."
John reaches out with casual menace and slaps the back of Rodney's head. "She was a girlfriend still?"
"Not so much, no. She'd moved out. A month and a half before. I hadn't really noticed." Rodney reaches for John's hand without thinking, lacing their fingers together. A sixteen year old girl, Rodney thinks sadly, but he can't stop himself. "It took about ten minutes to remember her name while I was frantically trying to call her." Rodney studies John's hand for a minute, the contrast of skin, the long fingers that wrap so casually around his. "I packed a bag to go home and sulk. I ended up in Los Angeles and--well. Never went back."
John tilts his chin up, looking at him with an unreadable expression. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
Rodney curls one arm under his head, closing his eyes when John's hand moves to his hair, leaning into each stroke. "I was nineteen. My entire life had been walls and buildings and papers and wanting to be the best. That was all there was for me. I wanted to know if that's all I was."
John's hand stutters, continuing smoothly. Rodney opens one eye, but John's looking at the ceiling thoughtfully. "They talk about it still," Rodney says softly. "They tell stories about me. It's a cocktail party joke; Rodney McKay, who blew off his life and threw away his chance to change the world. Check a physics conference, they have a drinking game with my name on it. They laugh and think I wasted my life while they write papers about a world built of numbers and never understand why they always feel alone."
John turns his head to look at him. "You send them viruses, don't you?"
"Usually. Or I just say I will. Has the same result."
John nods slowly, hazel eyes sharper than Rodney remembers ever seeing them; Rodney thinks he can feel them pushing through the surface of his skin, peeling away time and years and so much that Rodney can't regret and everything he can't help wishing he could.
"Why did you come back?" John asks, voice soft, hand gentle and implacable on Rodney's face, not letting him look away.
Rodney takes a breath before he answers. "I knew who I was," and even he's surprised by how honest he sounds. "Once I knew that, I didn't need to run."
John nods, and Rodney wants to ask, when will you stop, but John kisses him, slow and dirty and hot, and even knowing it's another way for John to hide, he kisses him back.
Next: Part 3