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.
Okay, this was partially three things converging that delayed me: work, con.txt, and sheer laziness. An object at rest (ie me) won't move for crap, especially if it's for editing. But there you have it.
This part I'd call "The Part Where Rodney Bonds (But No Bondage) and Realizes What Everyone Else Figured Out like, Two Parts Ago. Really, Rodney. How Could You Not Realize This?" And you see why the title for this fic is shorter than that.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Teyla's already at the lab door when he arrives, at an indecent hour that's he's heard called dawn. Squinting, he looks at the dark-circled eyes and tries to pretend his stomach doesn't clench. "Breakfast?" he asks inanely. She nods, going back to her car while Rodney tells Zelenka he's doing an on-site inspection and not to call him unless they're all dead.
"Or for bail," Rodney says, recognizing the smell permeating the room. "God. In an FBI operation? Really?"
Zelenka shrugs, glassy-eyed. "We are making progress."
That's true. Going back out, Rodney spots Teyla by a flashy cherry-red convertible in the parking lot. Pausing, Rodney takes in her clothing for the first time. It's not the professional FBI agent, and it's not the casual jeans that seem Teyla's natural habitat, but it's not quite the hooker either. Her dark hair is highlighted in caramel, professionally messy and strangely touchable. There's something edged about her body, the almost too-low scooped neck of her shirt that draws attention to the generous curves of her breasts; the short skirt stretching halfway down long golden thighs and just slightly too tight over her ass; the tall heels that aren't quite morning wear for anyone sane.
He smiles, hoping it looks real. "Nice car."
She doesn't look at it, which is quite a trick when she's actually getting in. "It was a gift."
Of course it was; Rodney gets in, sliding on butter-soft leather seats, wondering nervously where Ronon is and how in the name of God he could have left her alone. Up close, he can see the skillful application of eyeliner, drawing out the exotic slope of her eyes, the fullness of her mouth in evening red. Gold circles her neck, her wrist, on the long fingers, her ears, sparkling with diamonds; it's an impression to match the clothes, the face, the statement her body makes with her car.
There aren't any trackmarks on the bare skin of her arms; then again, she's a junkie. She'd know where she could place a needle that no one could see.
"Teyla," he starts, but she puts the car into gear so abruptly he scrambles for his seatbelt, fighting the urge to close his eyes as she takes them out of the parking lot at a speed more suitable for the highway.
When his heart stops trying to beat out of his chest, he looks at her again, eyes veiled in sunglasses. He can't read her expression at all.
"I apprenticed with an agency in the city," Teyla says as they change lanes. "It was very exclusive; unlike Chaya, they could not know who I was. I spent three months learning how to become a fantasy for wealthy men who could wanted a trophy they could take to parties and lectures, someone who they could take to dinner and would fuck them after." She licks her lips, hands tightening on the steering wheel. "They taught me much; John taught me more. He knew their names and their companies, what they looked for. When we were assigned to infiltrate Cowen's cartel, it did not seem so difficult to do. He wanted--toys. Pets. We studied him for three months before John made the first approach. Two weeks later, we went to Colombia with him."
Rodney nods, wondering if he should say something. He's not sure what.
"It was easy," she says. "It was not so different from what we had done before. We immersed ourselves in the people we were to be, followed our plan. We--" she hesitates, mouth tightening, "--for verisimilitude. It disarmed him, to think we were prey to such weaknesses. It did not occur to us that--we could be."
"What happened?" Rodney says as the silence stretches too long. Prying his hand off the armrest, Rodney steals a glance at her face; he can't read a thing.
"We lost touch with our handlers. Cowen became very paranoid and John was injured--" she stops with a choked sound. "It is easy for something you pretend to become real when it is needed. Cowen enjoyed John's dependency as much as he enjoyed causing the reasons he would require treatment. It was--I do not excuse myself. It was seductive to be this woman who had no worries, no wants that were not provided for, a life that was nothing but--nothing but pleasure. I told myself it was necessary for the part I played. It was necessary to watch, to participate, to shoot him up myself when he refused. A part to play. That was all."
Teyla turns abruptly, brakes squealing around them as they exit the freeway. Rodney closes his eyes, visions of John dancing in his mind. Verisimilitude. For a part. "How far did you go?" he whispers.
"I don't know." She makes an abrupt right, the car thrumming beneath him as she hits a speedbump without so much as taking her foot off the gas. "But I know when Cowen cut us off, I did not know the name John called me by. It was foreign to me. He--I did not know how he procured more for us. I did not care."
"You think it was Kolya."
She nods briefly. "And I think when Kolya left, he knew what John would do."
Abruptly, they're in front of the apartment of secrecy, and it's just about the last place on earth Rodney really wants to be right now. Getting out, he glances at the bystanders, wondering which ones are real, which are agents, then follows Teyla up the stairs and past a solemn looking Lorne and sober Ford, ordering the geeks out with a word.
Rodney frowns to back her up, but they're falling over themselves to get away. Teyla seats herself in one of the abandoned chairs, tossing her purse on the couch. "Open it," she says as she starts typing.
Warily, Rodney goes to the couch, picking up the tiny purse. When it's open, he slowly removes the thin leather case, the bag of snow-white powder that could pay for a small economy car.
His hands are shaking so badly he has to put it down.
"He hated it," she says, voice steady. "I didn't know--it was pleasure, and how could someone think of distant things like duty when there was such enjoyment to be found? He would--he would refuse, sweating and stinking in the corner of the room and Cowen would bring me to persuade him. Sometimes, I could not persuade him. And sometimes, I did not care to try."
Rodney stiffens. "You made him?"
Video flashes up on the screen, Kolya and John. Rodney gets up, studying John as Kolya hands their passports to immigration. "When was this?"
"When they left; Elizabeth sent it this morning." Teyla's obviously seen it before, and equally obvious, there's something she wants him to see. Taking the chair farthest from her, Rodney watches Kolya's hand resting possessively on John's hip while Kolya's goons look suspiciously around them, like assassins will leap from the floor to attack at any moment. John rolls his eyes, leaning back against the wall, saying something to Kolya that Rodney wishes they had the sound to hear.
John looks relaxed, but as Michael, he's always relaxed, careless, all glossy prettiness and unfettered greed. When customs lets them through, Kolya reaches for John's hand, and the rolled up sleeve of his shirt rides up his elbow.
Teyla freezes the screen, and Rodney feels the hiss building in his throat when he sees the badly pixilated shadows. "Twice," Teyla says.
"Could be more. His shirt--" God. The whole two weeks. Rodney rubs his palms into his thighs, thinking of the amount he could have taken, the unlimited access that Kolya could give him to the purest heroin in the Western hemisphere. For John, for Michael, nothing but uncut, laboratory class.
"No." When he looks up, her mouth curves in a bitter smile. "John never hides it."
Rodney stares at her. "You can't know that."
"Did you not ever notice his right arm? He had an infection from multiple use. He said if he was going to be a junkie, he wouldn't hide it." She takes a breath. "Not even from himself."
It's too much information; Rodney's mind refuses to put the data together, come to some kind of conclusion, make an observation.
"What happened to your handlers?" he hears himself ask from somewhere far away.
"It seems there was a--breakdown in communication. We were told they were unable to reach us."
Rodney takes a breath to control the flare of rage, the memory of those contemptuous men he'd met on his first visit here. "They cut you loose."
Teyla inclines her head, but she doesn't disagree.
"Then you think Kolya--"
"I think John was alone," Teyla whispers. "I think Kolya was kind to him, and cared for him. I think that Kolya made himself the thing standing between Cowen's anger and John and I. And I think when Kolya left, Cowen--I think that John does not remember for the same reason I cannot. Because then, he did not care."
Rodney thinks of John and John with Kolya, how he slips into Michael, and the history between them as obvious as writing on a wall ten feet high.
"He woke me up after he was done; he woke me up and used my name, and I did not know who he spoke to. He took me to the car and told me we were going home. I did not understand what he spoke of. O'Neill met us in Panama and took John away. I did not see him again until Carson sent us away for treatment after John--John tried to detox himself. He could not bear anyone else to see what he'd become. He nearly died."
Rodney can't even be surprised. It's something John would do.
"Do you hate me, Dr. McKay?"
Rodney jerks his head up, staring at her. Teyla looks back unflinchingly.
"I sold him for what they would give me. I sold myself. It was a part to play, but it was me as well. I would climb into Cowen's bed and let him use my body, his associates, his men, whoever he asked, whatever he asked, if they would give me more. In the end, I did not do it for duty, for my job, for cover. I did it because I could not comprehend life without it. It had no meaning." The hands in her lap are solid fists. "I watched John do the same, watched the things required of him that he would not have done, even for duty, had I not been there. And I did not care."
Rodney looks away. He doesn't. He does. He's has no fucking clue. John's thousands of miles away while Kolya shoots him up and Rodney can't think of anything but the image on the screen of Kolya and Michael, of a man who wiped out part of a drug cartel because he'd been abandoned, who tried to detox himself rather than admit weakness.
"Why did you tell me?" he says helplessly. He can't blame her; been there, done that, have the medical records and the hands that know the feel of a needle, a mind that mapped the blood vessels of the body so precisely he could shoot himself up in the dark. He blames her because it's John.
"Because he will not."
It makes sense, as much as any of this does. Getting up, Rodney feels every day of his age and every second of that long-ago rehab when he woke up in a small room, sweating through his t-shirt and willing to promise anything, anything at all, just *give it to me, now, please, please, please*. Picking up the baggie, Rodney weighs it in his hand and remembers the second he broke, the second he knew that the animal that crawled and cried and begged in that tiny room wasn't who he wanted to be.
"You know my record," he says finally, staring at it; he's never had anything this good. He can almost feel it, a rush better than sex or money or power have ever been.
Teyla hesitates, but that's all the answer he really needs. "You were the best. And you knew, as we did, what would be at stake. John didn't agree because he had to prove he could withstand it. He agreed because when we found him, he said he would rather be dead--" her voice breaks. "Dead than live like this, and that he did not think he could live without it."
Rodney looks at the case, the baggie, and thinks of John. "Do you trust him?" he says finally.
Teyla hesitates, then stands up, eyes fixed on his hands. Taking the bag, she leans over, picking up the case, then goes to the bathroom, door ajar behind her.
Going to the bathroom, he opens his mouth to say something--God knows what--but there's the sound of something breaking and the toilet flush, the scratch of metal on porcelain. When he opens the door, Teyla's staring at the spinning water with an expression he recognizes from a mirror the day he walked out of the facility, twenty pounds and three years skinned away, raw and shaky beneath the sun and thinking that maybe, maybe now, he knew exactly who he was.
Bracing a hand on the sink, Teyla sucks in a shaky breath. "Yes. I do."
The condo is combed for clues; Kolya's not predictable, exactly, but he's not and never has been impulsive. He had a reason, and a good one, to leave so suddenly that John only had time for a single message.
Rodney rewatches the surveillance video unflinchingly, tracking the hours before John made the phone call, looking for clues. There's nothing, just leaving for dinner late one evening and not returning after. Rodney tries to imagine what John would have done when he found out, but the only person he can see is Michael, shallow blue eyes and bright smile, and the way that Teyla had looked when she'd said that John would rather be dead.
"I really hate this place," he says thoughtfully from beside the monitor, currently showing a small army of specialists who moan over stray hair and unlikely cotton. It reminds him of CSI, but so much less interesting, and none of them are at all attractive. Spinning the chair in a slow circle, Rodney stares up at the ceiling, pitted with two and a half boxes of pencils. He has a running bet with Ford when the first one will fall. "I can make it look like an electrical fire."
Teyla, reading another report from her slump into a corner of the shabby couch, glances at him. "I do not think that would be a good idea," she answers uncertainly, pushing back a strand of hair. "We could ask."
Sometimes, it's better to do first, ask later. Through half-closed eyes, he watches a pencil quiver and pretends that he doesn't feel that same tearing sense of loss that chased him those months after rehab, the empty echo of something he'd given up and would never have again.
He supposes it's weirdly appropriate to compare John to a drug, but he still doesn't like it. Standing up, he flips off the monitors to automatic. "Staying here?" he asks as he gets his jacket from the arm of the sofa.
"Ronon will relieve me in an hour," she answers without looking at him. He thinks he should say something, try and ease that look of guilt away, but the words aren't there, not yet. Not until John gets back.
"Good night," he says finally, turning to the door. "I'll be at John's," he tells her. "In case anything--"
"I know." He can hear a faint smile in her voice. "It's very clean."
Rodney forces himself not to flinch, thinking of the condo. "Maybe I should mess it up a little," he says as he opens the door. "With black paint."
Teyla's laughter follows him into the hall and down the stairs and into the early morning dawning grey across the sky.
He still hates the fucking mattress, but it still smells of John, so he pretends he doesn't.
Morning comes with a backache, a headache that has nothing to do with alcohol (more's the pity) and sudden, startled revelation.
"We should redecorate," Rodney tells Teyla while rinsing his hair in John's shower, phone strategically placed to yell into before he turns off the water and gets out, dripping water over John's immaculate floor. It's incredibly cheering.
"Are you high?" she asks suspiciously, voice tinny even through the iphone.
"Not yet, but we may need to be. His apartment."
Rodney thinks he can hear Ronon in the background, making sounds like "Please, God, yes," and "Teyla, come the fuck *on*," and has a horrible feeling that Ronon isn't talking about redecorating.
Rodney stares in the mirror and hates them both.
"We will be there in one hour," Teyla says finally.
Elizabeth left him a voicemail that he deletes; he's pretty sure it has something to do with work, but he's been working all week and he's taking a fucking day off. After emailing Zelenka, Rodney sorts through John's clothes for something that will fit and fishes his boots from under the bed, almost knocking himself out on the frame. There's coffee in the freezer, and all that watching John in his anal-retentive coffee glory have taught him the mysteries of the grinder, though not so much with judging strength.
Teyla and Ronon are both at the door within the hour, looking vaguely rumpled and freshly showered. Rodney just does not want to know.
"Coffee," Teyla says darkly, fumbling the mug Rodney wisely gives her and taking a long drink. Ronon looks at them both with bleary resentment, so Rodney gives him the second cup and tells him that he didn't put a laxative in it, just to see how long it takes for Ronon to drink it anyway.
After a few long minutes, Teyla, looking more human and far less homicidal, marches to the center of the hideous white living room and stares around her like a general ready to slaughter her enemies. "We will burn everything," she announces, then frowns. "Though that could bring undue attention."
"Give it to Goodwill," Ronon offers, getting a bottle of juice from John's refrigerator. Before Rodney's disbelieving eyes, a gallon vanishes in a single drink. "Or we could chop it up."
Rodney winces. "Manual labor."
"Goodwill it is," Teyla says, and gets out her phone.
Teyla finds six rookie agents and convinces them there's a major sting in progress. When they arrive, armed and terrified, Teyla orders them to move everything into the alley, leaving them with strict instructions to protect the furniture with their lives if necessary. Rodney giggles hysterically until Teyla elbows him and takes him to an official FBI issue Humvee so they can go shopping.
It's possibly the most intimate thing he's ever done with anyone in his life, especially considering the anyone in question isn't even there. Rodney studies couches and chairs and loveseats, running his hands over insane patterns that hide coffee stains and dropped onion dip, that look comfortable during all-night Playstation tournaments and when making out for hours with all their clothes on. A coffee table that's strong enough to hold a dozen bags of fast food and the perfect height for John to sit on when Rodney blows him. A bookcase for trade paperbacks read so much they fall apart and have to be taped back together. A new mattress, because while John's a former soldier who can probably sleep on concrete, Rodney back isn't sixteen anymore and they're going to sleep without praying for death in the morning. Pillowtop it is. And pillows made in the last decade.
Rodney's just finished charging a black leather sofa and loveseat with thick overstuffed cushions to his FBI expense account when he stops short and reads the writing on the mattress tag. "I'm in love with him."
It's not really a surprise.
Teyla glances at him as she directs disgustingly happy salesclerks with an imperious wave of her credit card. It is, Rodney is pleased to see, linked to an FBI expense account as well. "I know."
Rodney looks into the distance of dining room tables and bedroom furniture, thinking of the structure of the life he's building here, planted in a single place with a single person. He's buying furniture and thinking of towels, contemplating new rugs and wooden blinds, imagining later, when John gets back, when he'll coax John out to look at new carpet and curtains to help ease him through potential withdrawal. Rodney pulls Teyla behind him toward the untapped potential of a less art deco kitchen table, small and intimate for shared meals and the perfect height for crazy pre-dinner kitchen sex. Pre-lunch kitchen sex, too.
"Does he like me?" Rodney asks her worriedly, mostly lost in mindblowing visions of waking up every morning to John anally grinding coffee before they eat breakfast and going off to whatever they do at work--saving the world, catching bad guys, mocking Zelenka's newest tattoo, oh, hey, morning sex--
"Yes, I think he does," Teyla says, a blinding smile lighting up her face. "Perhaps we should get a new bedroom as well? His bed is most uncomfortable."
A new bed, new sheets, a whole new fucking *world*. Rodney closes his eyes and takes a second, letting the it tilt into place and settle with a sigh. "This is what I was looking for," he says finally. Grabbing Teyla's arm, he points. "Bedrooms. That way."
The phone rings, waking Rodney from uncertain sleep on the most wonderful mattress an FBI expense account can buy. Grabbing for it, he pulls his head out from under the pillow. "When I find you, I will kill you," Rodney mutters. "Leave a message and your social security number."
"Rodney," Teyla whispers, voice low. "John is home."
Rodney bruises his knee on the way to the floor and barely notices; the next thing he remembers is yelling at a man in a car and hoping to God it's a cab and he didn't actually jack someone's private vehicle. Not that he cares much. There's nothing but stretches of blank time that end with Teyla opening the door, face ashen and exhausted and almost painfully relieved, but that's something he only remembers much later. The only thing he sees is John.
From the arm of the couch, John smiles flatly. "Hey."
Rodney ignores sense and pride and the rough ache in his knee; crossing the room, he wraps an arm around John's shoulders, ignoring the instinctive stiffening of his body, pulling him close enough to bury his face in his shoulder, breathe in the scent of sour sweat and familiar warmth. "Hey," he whispers back.
Rodney feels like he's taking his first breath in weeks when John's arms circle his back tentatively, tightening by slow degrees. "'Been a bad week," John says, voice shaky. The body beneath Rodney's hands feels thinner than he remembers, bones pressed too tightly against thin skin. "Sorry I--"
"Don't care." Pulling back, Rodney cups John's face, cradling the unshaven jaw in his palms Jesus, he wants to crawl in John's skin, erase that exhausted, haunted look that tells him more than a report or a word what John's been giving up to do this. "Hungry?"
John licks his lips, eyes flickering to Teyla, and Rodney's surprised by the start of jealousy he has no idea how to control. "Not--not yet. Teyla--"
"I ordered pizza. Ronon and Ford are on their way," Teyla answers calmly. "Rodney, help John change clothes. And shower." Her nose wrinkles. "Did you walk through a sewer, John?"
John shrugs as Rodney pulls him off the couch. "A few alleys," he answers, swaying slightly when Rodney gets him to his feet. "He left this morning."
Rodney calculates it backward; it's been eighteen hours. "Trying to detox yourself?" he asks, not really caring now that John's here. The green eyes flicker to his face, fixing briefly, and Rodney can see the black circles beneath his eyes, the faint twitch of his left cheek, in both hands. "How long? Never mind. Shower first. Then food. Then sleep. Then talk."
John's mouth curves in a faint smile. "Report, then sleep." He tries half-heartedly to pull away, but Rodney ignores him, fingers twisted in the too-loose waist of his pants. Had Kolya not noticed his favorite pet was losing weight? How the fuck could he miss it? "Rodney--"
"Shut up. Shower." Opening the bedroom door, Rodney gets him all the way to the bathroom by dint of sheer persistence. Leaving John swaying slightly at the door, Rodney grabs the clothes Teyla left out on the bed and shoves them into Johns' hands. "Do you need help?" he asks, hearing the edge in his voice, but pathetically, it's a sincere offer as well. He's only seen John naked once, and that high and mostly drunk in a badly lighted motel room. He gets the feeling the view in full light is even better. "I can wash your back."
John cracks a smile, choking on a laugh. "I can wash myself, thanks."
Rodney waits impatiently at the foot of the bed, unwilling to go beyond easy hearing distance of the shower, though he knows Ronon and Ford have arrived, probably with pizza if the sound is anything to go by. Sitting down, he makes himself sit still for all of five seconds before he goes to the bathroom door, then away, because he trusts John.
He *trusts* him, and that means when the toilet flushes and the water turns off, when John comes out, he doesn't check the toilet or John's pocket, search the bathroom, ask a simple question that may not have a simple answer.
In the plain t-shirt and jeans, the weight loss is hideously obvious; so are the track marks hidden earlier by the long sleeve shirt. Some at least two weeks old; one as new as yesterday. None newer than that: there are places he could go that even Rodney would have a problem finding, but he thinks of Teyla: *"He wouldn't hide it. Not even from himself."*
"How bad?" Rodney asks, keeping his voice even. John, sitting slowly on the foot of the bed, looks up, and for a second, something dark looks back at him, slashed with the raw, uncontrolled rage Rodney had first seen in this room what feels like a lifetime ago.
"Not too bad."
Sitting beside him, Rodney takes his arm, ignoring the stiffness, gently running his fingers over the pitted skin, the build of darker scar tissue beneath. "Didn't anyone teach you to hide it?" he murmurs, knowing the answer before he asks the question.
"Who would I hide it from?" John answers with the lightest trace of irony. Rodney jerks his head up, meeting John's eyes. "He likes to know he has a hold on me. It's what he's been waiting for. A detoxed junkie isn't nearly as easy to control."
"He likes you helpless."
John starts to pull away; Rodney keeps his grip. A few seconds pass before John sighs. "He likes knowing there's something I want that only he can give me." The green eyes close, lashes matching the shadows beneath his eyes. "I needed to think."
Thinking is highly overrated. Pulling, Rodney gets John to lie back on the smooth comforter, stretching out beside him. Thinner, pale for someone who was just in South America, probably on some sort of beach. "You look like shit," he says, lying through his teeth. "And you need to eat. And sleep."
"After I report." John curls an arm under his head, eyes closing completely, sealing Rodney away from his thoughts.
Rodney tries to think of something that will help. Sex is his best method and that's pretty much the worst idea Rodney can imagine. "I signed Sumner up on ten porn mailing lists under all of his email addresses," Rodney offers. John opens his eyes and blinks at him for a second before he cracks and starts to laugh, curling on the bed and really going at it. It's so horrible that Teyla comes in to marvel and tell John he sounds like a dying horse before wandering out again with a disturbingly indulgent look that Rodney doesn't want to think about at all.
"I went to Carson already," John says finally, sounding breathless and more like himself than before. "Have my script, my orders, and they include, yes, a lot of sleep. And regular check-ins."
Rodney reaches for him, breathing out in relief when John melts into the touch this time, sighing when Rodney daringly shifts closer. "This is going to suck."
"I'll stay with you. I can be unproductive with the mysterious jewelry just as easily from your apartment as I can from the labs." He should probably tell John he already moved in and the third bedroom he'd discovered during their great redecorating experiment has been converted into a state of the art lab by deeply bitter FBI techs who hate him. Rodney had a great time making them work while Teyla called on gods that Rodney hadn't known existed in the brand new guest bedroom next door with Ronon making sounds like a wheezing kitten.
John groans softly, burying his head against Rodney's shoulder. Throat tight, Rodney wraps an arm around his waist and curls protectively around him, feeling the sharp edges of John's bones. Soup, he thinks immediately. Sandwiches. He's never learned to cook, but a million housewives pull it off every day. He can do this. "Maybe I'll make you breakfast," Rodney says speculatively, testing the concept on his head.
"All that *white*," John mutters unhappily into Rodney's collar. "So fucking pretentious. Did I ever mention my parents were kind of nuts?"
Rodney strokes his hair and thinks of hardwood floors and rugs that were meant to be walked on. "At least you came by it honestly," he says, and John snickers, teeth grazing Rodney's collar, and Rodney wonders if he's ever been this happy.
Everyone's depressingly sober by midnight and going through John's information. It's not a lot; Kolya's possessive and protective of his pet, keeping him isolated behind a wall of creepily efficient bodyguards wherever they go. Worse, Kolya's in love with him, and most men don't trot out their illegal activities to someone they're trying to keep. There've been four attempts on Kolya's life and at least one on John's so far, with a casualty count in both bodyguards and potential assassins that's hitting the double digits. Rodney can't believe the guy's still in DC, no matter how many Senators are licking his boots.
Shoving a pencil behind his ear, John pretends he's not in the first stage of withdrawal by way of sheer denial, though he's sweating and his eyes are getting glassier by the second. "He's got three labs," John tells them, marking them on the map. "That's where the other tech is."
"How is reproducing going?" Rodney asks, though he can guess. Not very well or not at all. Whatever the hell that stuff is, it's like nothing Rodney's ever heard of; impervious to everything. He swallowed his pride and called up his thesis advisor two days ago and didn't feel homicidal for ten entire minutes. He's grown as a person since he met John, he can feel it.
Sadly, the guy didn't know anything useful, but Rodney feels that the fact he did it is an accomplishment to be savored.
"Badly," John answers, and something on his face tells Rodney exactly who's been taking the brunt of John's frustration. "But hmm." Leaning back on one arm, John stares at the ceiling, collarbone in stark relief above his t-shirt. "He changed up security. Triple locks, new faces, and a DNA scanner at every door. They found something."
Teyla frowns. "He has met with three Senators in the last month," she says slowly. "One welcomed him openly."
"One of them wanted to buy me," John says dryly. "He settled for Kolya not killing him on sight. Which says something."
"He's got something." Ronon gets a cheese stick from the plate they discovered wasn't microwave safe the hard way.
John chews on his pencil, pushing back a stand of too-long blond hair. "Rodney, how's the money looking?"
"In his public accounts, business as usual." Rodney pulls his laptop over and pulls up the latest reports. "In the ones he laughably considers secret--let's all take a minute and contemplate that--a lot of movement but not really going anywhere." There's a pattern building in Rodney's mind. "Hmm. You know. He's got to know we know about these."
John looks up sharply. "Yeah?"
"He's a thug, but he's not stupid. So lots of activity with no real reason--" Rodney flips to the public accounts, studying them with one part of his mind while the rest works on what's missing. "There's no change every month," Rodney says finally. "Not statistically significant anyway. Expenses aren't this static in his line of work, and profit isn't either." All that new security. State of the art labs. John's Lamborghini and designer wardrobe and that hideously expensive condo. "We're missing money."
John straightens. "How much?"
"For that I'd have to know every deal he's made, but--assuming a lot--at least a few million. Probably a lot more than that. Probably--" Rodney looks at the lab locations on property that starts in the millions per lot. "And he's being financed. He's got something." And it's big; big enough for Senators to block search warrants and welcome him into their homes. Rodney closes his eyes. "That fucking brooch."
John tilts his head. "He hadn't mentioned it in a while, actually. In fact--" John leans across Rodney, getting a water bottle; he's close to just falling over and sleeping for two days.
Rodney glances at Ford, currently reading through the last week of surveillance reports with Teyla and jerks his head toward John. Ford nods and casually gets up, grabbing his coat before going out the door.
"There was this special on nuclear power," John says thoughtfully. "He came in when I was watching it." Somehow, Rodney doesn't find it surprising that John would voluntarily watch the Discovery Channel. He's just that kind of person. "They were talking about how splitting the atom is the greatest power source known to man and he started laughing." John's frown deepens. "He said that only small minds couldn't conceive of something greater than that."
Rodney turns it over in his mind, checking the angles. "Power," he says finally, and looks at his laptop. "He's redistributed his stock. Moving out of fossil fuels, and--" Rodney stops short, thinking of the brooch. "What if he figured out what's powering the tech?"
John opens his mouth, then shuts it with a click. "I--" Teyla gives John a sidelong glance and pulls the folder out of his hands as Rodney stands up, stepping across the pile of papers to pull John to his feet. "Uh," John bats at Rodney's hands. "What are you--"
"I will contact Elizabeth," Teyla says while Ronon brings John's coat and forces it onto his body. "Rodney--"
"I'll send my analysis in the morning." Sliding an arm beneath John's shoulders, Rodney leads him to the door just as Ford bounces through, flushed with cold and hopefully dead sober. "Make that afternoon. Late afternoon. Well after the sun has risen."
"Guys," John says plaintively as Teyla follows long enough to wrap a bright red scarf around John's neck. Leaning forward, she kisses his mouth, slow and with a little tongue, which shuts him up until Rodney's got him bundled into the car and driving a hundred miles an hour.
John stares at Rodney. "You scare me."
Rodney nods and kicks Ford's seat; this car can go 220. No reason to stint. "It's a gift."
John gives the living room one blinking assessment and then nods, like he couldn't have expected anything less. Rodney shoves him into the bathroom for another shower to warm up after the chill night and goes looking for clothes that are preferably about to fall apart; one more designer label and Rodney will start considering how to bring the fashion industry to its knees.
When he gets back, John's standing on the rug drying off, and Rodney freezes at the sight of the near-skeletal body; John's nothing but bone and muscle, skin stretched thin over it. When he turns, revealing the long line of his back and new bruises, there's something at the base of his spine that's nothing like a bruise.
He must make some kind of sound; John glances at him over his shoulder, eyes glazed with ice. "Yeah. Like I said. He--"
"Gets off on helpless." Rodney takes a step into the bathroom, trying to come up with something to say that won't end in having to leave and find a gun and get himself killed trying to find Kolya. Rodney has no illusions on how well he can carry out an assassination, but he kind of wants to try anyway. "When did he do that?"
John shrugs, drying his hair before tossing the towel aside. "I was high."
Rodney comes a step closer, staring at the tattoo that spell out the certainty of ownership. Reaching out, he runs his fingers over each letter of Kolya's name, something in him shivering when John's body doesn't even bother to stiffen up: passive. "John."
John's eyebrows arch in innocent query. "Rodney."
Rodney circles around, coming as close as he can and still make John look at him. "Tell Elizabeth to pull you out."
John snorts and pushes him aside. Rodney follows him numbly to the bedroom, watching as John picks up the sweats with a tilted head and a faint look of surprise, like he's never seen anything like them before and can't imagine why they're here now.
Kolya makes John sleep naked, Rodney knows. Dresses him like a doll and plays with him like a toy. Rodney watches John drape himself over couches and on tables, straddle Kolya's lap with downcast blue eyes and artful helplessness, every trick that Chaya ever taught him on how to seduce and entrap and chain with the power of a pretty face and a body that was made to be used. Everything John does is carefully calculated to give Kolya everything he wants to see; someone pretty and helpless, vapid and greedy, someone who uses sex because it's the only thing he has to trade.
"Did you move in?" John asks in a completely different voice. John turns to the open walk-in closet, stepping absently into the sweats as he hops inside. When he comes back out, John stares at the bed for a second, then tests the mattress gingerly. "You threw away my mattress?"
"Back problems," Rodney answers, following John as he prowls the apartment. That John isn't even surprised has to say something, not even when he gets to the lab, flipping on the light to lean against the doorframe.
"You know I don't actually live here, right?"
Rodney doesn't bother to tell him that he does now; John will figure it out for himself.
When he turns around, Rodney braces himself for--he has no idea--but John just smiles at him and shakes his head. "Sometimes," John says, and Rodney has no idea how he does it, but one second, he's lounging at the door, the next, here's Rodney, up against the wall, held by nothing more than the arms braced on either side of his head and the fact John suddenly seems to remember that inch of height difference and uses it, "I forget you're the weirdest person I've ever met."
Rodney squints. "That's crazy."
"It really is." John yawns like a sleepy kitten, and Rodney reaches for him, wrapping both arms around John's waist and pulling him in. John sighs against his neck after a sloppy kiss that makes Rodney embarrassingly hard. "God, I'm tired."
"I figured." Rodney steers them toward the bedroom. "Wait until you get a night on that mattress. Trust me, you'll never be able to sleep anywhere else."
John snickers, but Rodney knows what he's talking about. And he's right; John sighs once, curls up around Rodney like a pillow, and falls asleep, breath warm and soft against Rodney's throat.
Zelenka stares at him like he just admitted he's the Smoking Man. "You are--moving?" Zelenka says slowly. Rodney frowns as he goes through his desk to see if there's anything else he needs to take to the apart--to take home.
It's still a terrifying word, but there's no desire to vanish into Portugal or start crying hysterically. Desensitization works; who knew?
"Already moved, yes." Fishing out a bright green folder labeled *This Can't Be Physics*, Rodney flips through, looking at his notes in the margins, most of which tend to describe the various scientists he will hunt down and kill for being so fucking useless.
Rodney jerks his head up a dull sound like someone knocked over a chair, but it's just Zelenka, who apparently tried to sit and missed entirely. With a scowl, Zelenka pulls himself into the chair, leaning back with narrowed eyes, arms crossed over his chest, one tattoo glaring at Rodney balefully. "And you wish me to contact Zoid--"
"Peterson. Please don't cater to his fantasies that he lives in a cheap video game."
"--*Zoid* to close your storage unit and send the contents here."
Rodney nods absently. "He won't answer his cell when I call."
Zelenka squints at him, then fishes the paper Rodney gave him from the floor. "This is Agent Sheppard's address," Zelenka says suspiciously.
Rodney gives Zelenka a long look.
"I moved in with John," he says, slowly, because Zelenka is very smart and very, very paranoid, but also a little slow. "So as to achieve cohabitation with more than a laptop, five pairs of jeans, two sweaters, and a pair of boots, I am trying to get my stuff."
"For a few weeks?" Zelenka says slowly.
Rodney concentrates on closing and locking his desk. "I was thinking of staying for a while."
The silence is so profound that Rodney can almost hear the sound of his heart trying to stop.
"You are in love!" Suddenly, Zelenka's on his feet, looking sickeningly gleeful. "Oh, I have waited many years for this. Many years. Won many bets. I am owed money."
Rodney narrows his eyes, but-- "How much?"
Zelenka consults his PDA. "One hundred thousand," he says finally, chewing on his lip. "One million option on marriage. Two if the person you marry is not human." Zelenka tilts his head, frowning at the screen. "Did you have an unmentionable relationship with some sort of wildlife in 1988? A--whale of some sort?"
Rodney puts his head on his desk and closes his eyes. "And that is why I gave up peyote. Find me some coffee and go die somewhere."
Next: Part 5