Coming Home: 12. Shielded


Rodney spent the day alternately making love or sleeping like a baby in John’s arms. After his recent sleepless nights this did him the world of good, and, by the time he left John’s quarters the following morning, his entire body felt boneless and soothed from all the relaxing sex. He ached quite a bit, and was sore in places, but his body felt more alive than it had done for years.


Rodney went back to his quarters and stood there, glancing around the place. It felt as if he’d been a different person when he was last here – as if it had been a lifetime ago. He stood there, blinking, trying to get his head around all that had happened since he’d last stood here.


He already missed the feel of John’s fingertips on his skin, and the way his top liked to examine every inch of his body. He missed the way John tasted on his mouth, and the feel of John’s thick cock pounding into his body, and, most of all, he missed that magical energy that seemed to surround them whenever their lovemaking reached a particular level of intensity. That energy scared him a little. It seemed to connect them, binding them together with invisible ties, bathing them in a warm, sweet, intoxicating bath. Rodney had never experienced anything like it before, and he craved it and feared it in equal measure.


Rodney changed into a clean uniform and set off for the lab, taking a minor detour via the mess hall on the way. He entered the lab bearing a tray containing a pot of freshly brewed hot coffee, and a dozen donuts.


“Don’t panic! Rodney McKay is back at the helm. All is well!” he announced, putting his tray down on the side, and beaming at everyone in the room. “All right, boys and girls, I’m sure you missed me but the genius is back at his work station so you can breathe more easily now. So….” He glanced around. “Did the city blow up in my absence?”


“City is still standing, as you can see,” Radek said, rolling his eyes. “And you were only gone for one day! We would all be happy for you to be absent more often I think. Was very quiet in here yes?” He glanced around the room, and the science team shot fearful glances in Rodney’s direction, clearly unsure whether it would be wise to admit that.


“Ah, you were bored without me,” Rodney beamed.


“I am glad you took some time away. Are you better able to concentrate now?” Radek asked softly, taking Rodney off to one side. Rodney beamed at him.


“My genius is once again operating at full force, yes,” he told Radek. The other scientist rolled his eyes at that. “Well – what are you waiting for? The donuts are on me. Now, what systems have you been destroying while I’ve been gone, Radek?” Rodney handed Radek a donut, and glanced over the scientist’s shoulder.


The morning went quickly. Rodney threw himself back into his work, a whirlwind of happy, manic energy, and the people in his team started to relax – although he did catch them sneaking glances at him when they thought he wasn’t looking, surprised and wrong-footed by his buoyant mood. Rodney couldn’t help himself – he felt so damn *good*, and he bounced around the lab, radiating goodwill. Every now and then he’d pause for a moment in what he was doing, and rest his hand for a split second over his shirt, feeling the bite mark on the nipple through the thin fabric. Or he’d close his eyes for just a second, and have a flash of memory of John leaning over him, his white teeth gleaming against his tanned skin as he grinned down at him, and then slowly, so slowly, slid that powerful cock of his deep into Rodney’s ass.


He received an email at 10.20. Just one line but it made his entire body tingle:


“My quarters. 6 p.m. Don’t be late. Your ass is mine.”


Rodney giggled, and then glanced around the room to make sure nobody had heard. Radek shot him a surprised look but nobody else seemed to be watching. Rodney wondered just how much sex two people could have without spontaneously combusting but then he decided that he was quite happy to devote his life to finding out.


At 12 p.m. he went to the control room for a senior staff meeting. John was already there, sitting in the slouched position he favoured. His eyes lit up when Rodney came in but he didn’t move, he just sat there and watched Rodney with hungry eyes as Rodney took his seat. Rodney flushed. He doubted that anyone else had noticed but John’s gaze was so predatory that it made him want to grab his top, and take him some place private.


Rodney sat down, and tried to ignore the growing heat in his pants. John sat back and gazed at him, a lazy smile on his features, like a cat playing with a mouse. He undressed Rodney with his eyes, the expression in them absolutely plain for Rodney to read. Rodney tried to keep his mind on the meeting but he was so flustered that Elizabeth ended up asking him if he was feeling okay.


“Fine,” he muttered. “Just a little…heatstroke.” He made a face at John who grinned, smugly, and made a, “What? I’m not doing anything!” gesture with his hands. Rodney glared at him. Two could play at this game.


He left the meeting the minute it finished and headed straight for the transporter, activating the door behind him but not selecting a destination. Everyone else worked within walking distance – John was the only person who needed to use the transporter to get to his office. Sure enough, a few seconds later the door opened, and John got in. Rodney waited until the door closed behind him, and then he slammed on the door lock, turned, grabbed his top, and pushed him against the wall, all in one smooth move. Then he got down onto his knees, opened John’s fly, and gazed up at him.


“I can’t hold out until six,” he said. “And, judging by how horny you were acting in there, you can’t, either.”


“Are you offering me a TSBJ, Rodney?” John asked, raising an amused eyebrow.


“A what? Oh. I see. Idiot. And yes I am. Are you declining?” Rodney raised an equally amused eyebrow, and John laughed out loud.


“Hell no! This kind of thing makes you the sub of my dreams, Rodney. Get to work!”


He slid his hand into Rodney’s hair and took hold of it, just lightly, and that made Rodney’s body tingle with pleasure. He was claimed. John was *his* top. Rodney peeled down John’s pants and boxers to release his already fully erect cock which sprang up, eagerly, without any effort at all on Rodney’s part.


“What can I say?” John sighed. “Just sitting in that meeting watching you stammer your way through that technical spec did it for me.”


“I don’t stammer. Have you ever done this before?” Rodney blew gently on John’s cock, and it quivered, satisfyingly, in response. “I mean, have a relationship with someone you work with – not, *this*, obviously,” Rodney said, nodding towards John’s cock, which was nodding back, looking somewhat crestfallen at not being in his mouth. “Because I haven’t, and I have no idea how it works.”


“Yes I have,” John said. “Are you making me wait, Rodney? Because I’m sure we can make up some rules about *that*.”


Rodney grinned, and planted a little kiss on John’s eager cock.


“I was just wondering how you manage it, that’s all. I’ve spent most of the morning running around the lab grinning like an idiot, thinking about what we did all day yesterday, and I was completely useless in that meeting just now. Quite frankly, it’s distracting. Does it settle down after awhile, or am I condemned to being a simpering halfwit forever?”


“I have no idea,” John replied with a shrug, thrusting his hips eagerly in the direction of Rodney’s mouth.


“But you just said you’d had relationships with people you worked with,” Rodney protested, pausing, tantalisingly, with his mouth just an inch from John’s hopeful penis.


“I know, but that was different.” John shrugged.


“How?” Rodney frowned, moving in to take the tip of John’s cock in his mouth. He could feel John’s hand, stroking his hair softly.


“Because I wasn’t in love with any of them,” John murmured.


Rodney felt his heart flip inside his chest. There it was again, the L word. He loved hearing it but it scared him too, and he was all too well aware that he hadn’t said it in return. Rodney had no frame of reference for being in love – it had never happened to him, and he had no idea what it might feel like. He could just say it, for the sake of it, but once it was said the inevitable break-up would be even more painful, and his gut twisted in response to that thought. Instead, he turned his attention to John’s cock, deciding that if he couldn’t tell his top he loved him then he could at least give him the best damn blow job in the history of the universe.


He adored John’s powerful cock in any case – the skin felt hot and silky, stretched over all that ramrod hard strength. Rodney dipped his head and swallowed it deep into his throat, making John yelp with pleasure. Rodney ignored his aching jaw and spent several minutes pleasuring his top’s cock, until John came with a shout and Rodney swallowed down his come. He was, he thought, gradually starting to figure out the way John liked to be blown. Everyone was different, and Rodney liked to adapt his technique accordingly. John liked a lot of attention on the very tip of his cock, and he liked Rodney to ripple his lips down over his hard shaft with exquisite slowness. Rodney cleaned up John’s spent cock, and then leaned back and gazed up at his top. John was resting against the wall of the transporter, a dreamy look in his eyes. His hand was still stroking Rodney’s hair, and he looked utterly boneless and relaxed.


“God that was good, Rodney,” he sighed.


“Thank you. Now, next time you look at me like that in meetings you know what to expect.” Rodney got up and pressed his destination into the transporter.


“Shit, Rodney, now that I know that I’ll do it in every single meeting!” John protested.


Rodney grinned. “Okay – just so long as you know that you’re the one who has to get yourself to where you need to be after.”


The door opened on cue and Rodney stepped out with a cheery wave of his hand in his top’s direction. John’s eyes widened with the realisation that his legs weren’t doing a good job of holding him up, and he was completely incapable of moving until the after-waves of his blissful orgasm had passed. Rodney just grinned to himself, and started walking off down the hallway.


“I’ll get you back, McKay!” he heard John call after him. “Damnit, you’re such Trouble.”


Rodney had never been a clock watcher, but at 5.45 he started finishing up what he was working on, and at 5.55 he was out of the door, much to the surprise of everyone in his team. Usually he was the first to arrive and the last to leave – sometimes they came to work to find he’d never even gone to his quarters the previous night, and was still working. Now though – he just wanted to get to John’s quarters, and see what his top had in store for him.


Much to his disappointment, John wasn’t there when he got there. Rodney sat down, then got up again and paced the room impatiently, and then sat down again. He didn’t have long to wait – John arrived a few seconds later. He walked in, went straight over to Rodney, and, without pausing, pulled him to his feet by the lapels on his lab coat and kissed him deeply. Rodney sighed and surrendered, his hands going around John’s body and coming to rest on his firm, tight ass.


They kissed hungrily, passionately, for several minutes and then John drew back. “Damnit I’ve been dreaming about doing that all day.” He glanced down at Rodney and then frowned. “Only, in my dreams you were completely naked. You know, I think we might have to make it a rule that when we’re alone together, you don’t wear any clothes.”


“Oh please. That sounds very unhygienic,” Rodney sniffed.


“I mean it.” John grabbed his lab coat and ripped it bodily from him. “I want access, Rodney! I want to know your body is ready and available any time I want to touch it. And besides…” he paused for a moment in unzipping Rodney’s fly, and gazed at him fondly. “I like looking at you.”


“What?” Rodney frowned.


“You heard. I like your body. I want to be able to see it as often as possible. And I want you to get used to being naked, Rodney – I want you to look more comfortable in your own skin. I saw the way you couldn’t wait to get into my bathrobe yesterday after we had sex, or to wrap a towel around your waist. I don’t want you to do that.” John unzipped Rodney’s shirt, yanked it over his head, and then pressed a kiss to Rodney’s now naked shoulder. “I want you to accept that you’re my sub and I get off on looking at you – because you look damn good, Rodney.”


Rodney snorted. Okay, so he was a moderately good-looking man, but he didn’t kid himself that he had the kind of sexual allure that John seemed to see in him. His body was okay – it wasn’t in brilliant shape, but it wasn’t too bad. He still wasn’t as fit as he could be, but he’d toned up a lot since coming to Atlantis, and he’d lost some weight during his recent emotional turmoil.


“I mean it,” John said, his hazel eyes deadly serious. “It’s not something you shrug off, Rodney. It’s our second rule. I want you to get used to being naked around me. I want you to view your body as my plaything, ready for my use any time I want to touch you, or take you. Got that?”


Rodney sighed, and melted against his top, finding John’s words a total turn on.


“Yeah,” he said, “Got it.”


“Good.” John kissed the side of his neck and then licked a trail down to his nipples. They were still a little sore after all the play the previous day, but John just kissed and licked them gently and Rodney relaxed and allowed his top to do whatever he wanted. John got him undressed, and then led him over to the bed.


“I want to take you from behind,” he said, guiding Rodney onto the mattress. Rodney shivered, excited by the idea. Up until now, John had only taken him from on top, always looking into Rodney’s eyes when they made love, reassuring him and kissing him throughout. This felt more basic, more like a top asserting his right over his sub’s body, and that sent a thrill of arousal through Rodney, making his cock quiver. He knelt on the bed, taking up the position that John guided him into. John stood behind him, and a few seconds later Rodney felt the cool caress of lube against his anus.


“Ssh…good boy…open up for me,” John said, in that low, throaty tone he saved just for sex. Rodney moaned, and opened up so that John could get his fingers inside him. “Oh this is such a good look for you,” John murmured. “On all fours, naked and exposed. I’m not even going to get undressed, boy. I’m going to just release my hard cock and take you like this.”


That excited Rodney even more, and he mewled and put his head back. He felt completely submissive like this, every inch his top’s plaything. John caressed his naked bottom for a few seconds, and then Rodney heard him undo his zip, and few seconds later he felt something big and wide rub against his opening.


“I’m going to take you harder this time,” John whispered. “Now you’re getting used to it. I want you to just kneel there and take me, Rodney. You know the rules – you can come when I’m done, and not before. Now open up for me.”


Rodney found he wasn’t tense – he even backed up a little, his ass ready and waiting, longing to feel John’s hard cock inside him, and dying to have his own release. John opened up his buttocks with his hands, and Rodney felt his cock pressing against his anus, and then John, true to his word, plunged all the way in. Rodney let out a roar, and bucked slightly, tears pricking behind his eyes from the sudden intrusion. John held his hips tight, stroking him, calming him, and then Rodney’s body adjusted and it just felt good, the way it always did.


John began thrusting with his hips, powerful, surging thrusts that hit some sweet spot inside Rodney unerringly every single time. He felt lost in the moment, utterly enjoying the sensation of being taken from behind by his strong top, and he threw his head back and cried out with every inward thrust, screaming out his pleasure and devotion.


This was his top taking him, claiming him again, reducing Rodney to a mass of molten sensation, and Rodney loved how it made him feel. Their bodies seemed to fit so perfectly together, and John’s cock felt as if it belonged here, rammed deep inside his ass, connecting their bodies together and making them move as one.


John’s thrusting became more urgent, and was so powerful now that Rodney wasn’t sure he could take it, and then he felt John’s hand on his own cock, and heard John growling out his name, over and over again, the way he often did whenever he came. His hand was still moving on Rodney’s cock, but again, the sound of his own name on John’s lips at his moment of orgasm did it for Rodney and he came over John’s hand a few seconds later.


Rodney was so zoned out by his incredible orgasm that he fell onto the bed and just lay there for the next few minutes, dead to the world. John dropped down beside him and wrapped his arms around him, and Rodney sighed, feeling utterly relaxed. There was something *too* good about the way John’s clothed body felt against his own naked one. It made him feel every inch the submissive, in thrall to his top’s commands, and he was surprised to realise just how much he relished feeling like this.


Finally, John tore himself away and got washed up, then went to get some food, while Rodney continued to just lie there, basking in the warm glow that came in the aftermath of truly great sex. When John returned Rodney got up, and reached for John’s bathrobe, but that earned him a glare from John so he rolled his eyes and dropped it again.


“Nobody ever looks good eating naked,” Rodney protested. John just grinned.


“You look fine. The point is, I like having you here, naked and within touching distance,” he said. “And besides, it’s a rule now, so shut up and sit down.” He dropped a kiss on Rodney’s shoulder and spidered his fingers lightly across Rodney’s stomach, making Rodney giggle and give in.


He felt stupid sitting at the table to eat without one scrap of clothing to cover himself, but John started talking to him as if it was the most natural thing in the world for them to be sitting at the table, one naked, one clothed, eating their dinner. And if his top wanted it this way then Rodney couldn’t really think of any good reasons to keep arguing about it. He supposed it would take awhile to get used to it though.


Rodney didn’t have any particular hang-ups about his own body but he wasn’t comfortable seeing so much of it on display, either. He tried to sit up and suck his stomach in, but that was impossible while he was eating and he just ended up feeling more self-conscious than ever. To cover his embarrassment he shovelled his food down his throat even faster than usual, and then looked up, aware of John’s eyes on him, to see his top shaking his head.


“Slow down, Rodney. We have all evening,” John told him. “You eat way too fast anyway.”


“I like food,” Rodney retorted.


“You wouldn’t think it to watch you eat,” John replied. “It disappears so fast it’s like all you want to do is get rid of it. You could try actually tasting it. Here.” He picked up a forkful of food and held it to Rodney’s mouth. “Now, go slow,” he said.


Rodney hesitated, and then opened his mouth and took the food. He saw a flash of pleasure light up John’s eyes but it was matched almost immediately by the wave of panic he felt in his own belly. This was too much for Rodney. He’d been swept off his feet and now he felt out of control, in the grip of something that was overwhelming his life. He’d never seriously thought about sharing a plate with a top before – he was too obsessed with food to want to surrender that degree of control – but, even more than that, he was very well aware of what it meant to share a plate with a top. It signalled to the world that they were a couple, and in a serious relationship at that, and once they reached that point Rodney was afraid that the inevitable break-up would be more public and painful than he could stand. He chewed the mouthful of food slowly, barely tasting it.


“Yes, yes, very nice,” he said when he was done, turning back to his own meal quickly before John could feed him another mouthful. “But the quicker we go, the sooner we can get back to the whole having hot sex thing.”


John couldn’t disagree with that logic at least, and when Rodney dropped a dollop of gravy down his naked chest a few seconds later, John got to his feet and came over to lick it off with a swirl of his tongue. One thing led to another, and before long they were back on the bed. Rodney was happier when they were having sex. It blocked out the need for him to think about the wider implications of being in what, he was rapidly coming to realise, was a full-blown relationship.


Rodney woke up later that night, after several hours of completely satisfying love-making, to find John’s naked body pressed against his back, John’s arms tight around his waist, John’s breath warming his shoulder. It should have felt suffocating, but it didn’t.


Rodney still wasn’t entirely sure how all this had happened but he decided to blame it on the beach. Up until that point he’d been perfectly happy living a single life, without a top giving him orders, albeit somewhat sexy orders. Then there had been the sea, and the sand, and Colonel John Sheppard wearing an open-necked shirt with wind billowing through his dark hair, and Rodney had found himself lying on his back being kissed and since then things had happened far too quickly. The trouble was the sex was so damn good that he didn’t want it to stop, but the relationship…that freaked the hell out of him. If only he could have one without the other – but would it be so good? Was it possible that it was the relationship that made the sex so satisfying?


Rodney lay there in the dark, gazing at the picture on the nightstand. John’s parents smiled at him from it, their arms wrapped around each other much as John’s were wrapped around him right now. Just because they had been happy didn’t mean his relationship with John would work out but Rodney felt the weight of John’s expectations radiating out from their beaming smiles.


“You awake?” John asked, and Rodney sighed and shifted in his arms.


“Yeah. Just thinking….”


“I thought so. The sound of you thinking is always deafening.”


“At least there’s something actually going on in my head which is more than can be said of most people,” Rodney sniffed.


“Yeah, but when it’s noisy it’s usually crap. The good stuff tends to be silent,” John said. Rodney frowned, wondering when John had got to know him so well.


“Well, regardless, I was *thinking* that I should be getting back to my own quarters.”


“No rush,” John murmured, squeezing him lightly. “Might as well stay until morning.”


“Someone might see me,” Rodney protested, but it was warm, and he liked the way John was holding him, so he didn’t really want to move.


“So? How long do we have to keep our relationship quiet anyway?” John asked.


“Longer than one day, which is how long we’ve lasted so far!”


He heard John sigh behind him. “At least move some of your stuff in here,” John told him. “A toothbrush, change of clothes, bathrobe….”


“You mean you’ll actually let me wear a bathrobe? Won’t that interfere with the whole being-naked thing?” Rodney asked in a mock-incredulous tone, and was rewarded for that by a little bite on the back of his neck.


“Move in,” John said suddenly, taking Rodney by surprise. “I mean, move in properly – not just a toothbrush. All your stuff.”


“What?” Rodney twisted in John’s arms to find a pair of bright hazel eyes looking at him hopefully.


“I want you here, naked, every time I come home, Rodney,” John told him. “I want to know I can touch you whenever I want. I want you within arm’s reach all the time.”


“I’m just down the hallway,” Rodney said softly.


“You think I’ll ever be able to sleep knowing you are just down the hallway and not in my bed?” John asked. “Seriously? I mean, after the couple of days we’ve just had? It’s not just me, Rodney. You were the one who waylaid me in the transporter this afternoon. It’s stupid to even pretend we’re going to sleep apart from now on. We can still keep our relationship quiet – for as long as you want – but you might as well move in with me in the meantime.”


Rodney gazed at John helplessly. His top’s logic was sound enough, but Rodney felt a little knot of foreboding form in his stomach. This was the beginning of the end. There was no way in hell their relationship was going to survive them living together. John had no idea what he was taking on. Yet he couldn’t think of a good reason to say no. So, in the end, he found himself nodding, and John grinned and kissed him on the mouth, and it was much easier to pretend he hadn’t just sounded the death knell for them when he was being kissed so passionately. He could never think about anything when John was kissing him like this anyway.


Rodney returned to his quarters the following morning and gazed around the place. It was, he’d be the first to admit, a mess. That was another problem. John’s quarters were military-neat, while Rodney’s were scientist-untidy. There were books and papers and laptops strewn all around the room, to say nothing of discarded cups of coffee and the odd half-eaten donut. It was a mess, but it was *his* mess.


Rodney had never lived with a lover before and he didn’t even know how it worked. He sat down on the side of the bed and buried his head in his hands. He didn’t want to move. He *liked* his quarters damnit! They were convenient for the lab, and they were slightly larger than John’s. He looked at the picture on his nightstand and sighed – John had a picture of his too-damn-perfect parents with their visibly shining love standing on his nightstand, while Rodney had a picture of his favourite cat, a big, long-haired tabby he’d had to leave behind on Earth when he’d left to come here.


Fluffy gazed back at him serenely, with big yellow eyes, completely oblivious to all his inner turmoil. Rodney missed his cat more than he missed his dead parents, or his estranged sister but even that said volumes about the impossibility of his relationship with John. John was someone who formed attachments to real, living, breathing people, while Rodney could honestly say that he missed Fluffy more than he missed any person back on Earth.


Rodney took a shower and got ready for work. He was about to walk to his lab when he got a call from Carson, who sounded very pleased with himself, asking him to report to the infirmary. He infuriatingly refused to answer any of Rodney’s questions about why so Rodney trudged off in high dudgeon wondering what the hell could be so important.


“Well?” Rodney said when he arrived, glaring at a very bouncy looking Dr Beckett. “This had better be good, Carson because if you dragged me all the way down here just to tell me about your latest sex session with Ford then I won’t be happy.”


“You’re never happy, Rodney, and when do I ever tell you about my sex life?” Carson said. Rodney frowned, but he had to admit the truth of that. He wandered over to a cage of white mice Carson kept in the lab. They weren’t exactly anything like Fluffy, but Rodney had a soft spot for animals so he found himself smiling at them and poking his finger into the cage in the hopes of stroking a furry back. “I called you here because I believe you wanted to be the first to try the experimental gene therapy when it’s ready?” Carson said.


Rodney managed to touch a pink nose, and he grinned. “Hey there, little fella,” he crooned. “I do want to be the first,” he said to Carson in the same breath. “But you’ve been working on that ATA thing for about 100 years so I’m not exactly…oh.” He stood up straight and then turned, and saw the gleeful expression in Carson’s eyes. “Oh shit. It’s ready?”


“It is, yes. So…if you’d like to take a seat.” Carson patted the infirmary bed and Rodney bounded over and leaped up to sit on it.


He’d longed to be able to activate the ancient technology that abounded in this city since he’d first arrived, and when they’d first got here it had frustrated him beyond measure that the city lit up wherever Colonel John Sheppard went, but remained resolutely silent and dark for *him*, the one person who understood her most, and knew her the best.


His resentment had faded somewhat in recent weeks, for obvious reasons, but it still glowed a little, deep inside. He rolled up his sleeve and then rolled his eyes as Carson took hold of his opposite arm, and rolled up that sleeve instead, and then tied a rubber strap around his arm and slapped his forearm far too heartily for Rodney’s liking, to raise a vein.


“It’s not dangerous is it?” he frowned, as Carson filled a syringe with a clear liquid from a vial.


“Well, we haven’t exactly been able to get FDA approval,” Carson began. Rodney eyed him suspiciously. “But I’m sure it’s fine,” Carson beamed.


“Wait a minute…” Rodney began, but he was too late, as Carson plunged the needle into his arm. Rodney held his breath, wondering if he was going to faint, or vomit, or come out in an ugly rash, or, worse, just expire on the spot, but he didn’t feel a thing. “How long before we know if it works?” he asked, feeling a little disappointed by the lack of any dramatic response.


“A few hours,” Carson said, still smiling that big smile. Rodney gazed at him, fighting an urge to tell Carson all his problems. Carson was his closest friend, and it felt weird keeping his relationship from John from him – and yet, he could hardly insist to John that they didn’t tell anyone and then go and do just that. Still, he wished he could discuss his feelings with someone because they were driving him crazy, crashing around noisily inside his skull. “Is anything wrong, Rodney?” Carson said, frowning. “I thought you’d be excited about this.”


“I am!” Rodney bounced off the bed. “Of course that’s if it actually works and no offence, Carson, but it’s not as if all that messing around with test tubes you do is an actual *science*.”


“If you’re going to insult me in my own infirmary then you can bugger off, laddie,” Carson growled, still grinning.


Rodney did as he was told, examining the tiny pin prick in his arm as he went. Strange how he could take any number of bites during sex, or lovingly inflicted spankings, but be thrown into a state of total hypochondria by a needle mark.


Still, the thought of being able to use ancient technology excited him, and he walked eagerly back to his lab, thinking of things to test the new gene therapy on. At least this was a good distraction from all his worries about his relationship with John Sheppard, and the looming trauma of actually moving in with his new top.




“Throw me off the balcony!”


John stood there for a moment, gazing at his sub’s gleeful face. Rodney looked ridiculously excited – he’d charged across the control room to intercept him on his way to Elizabeth’s office, and was now grinning at him inanely having made his frankly bizarre request.


“It’s tempting…but I think I’ll pass,” John replied.


“Shoot me then!” Rodney said, practically bouncing.


“Again, tempting, but I can think of several dozen things I’d prefer to be doing to you right now and none of them involve taking you to the infirmary,” John said, shaking his head. “Now, if you want to ask me to spank you, I think I could manage *that*,” he said. “And if you don’t tell me what this is all about within the next ten seconds that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.”


Rodney was still grinning as he glanced around the busy room. Everybody was coming and going, and nobody was taking much notice of their conversation.


“*You*, Colonel I’ve-got-the-ancient-gene Sheppard, are no longer the only one around here who can make this place work – well, if you ignore Carson and I do because his gene isn’t anywhere near as lively as yours. But, whatever, because I’ve got it now too! Carson injected me a few hours ago and it works! It works!”


Rodney did a happy dance and it was impossible for John not to laugh out loud. His sub looked so completely, ridiculously excited and full of himself. It was all John could do not to reach out and kiss him, but he was mindful of the fact that they were both on duty and the control room was bustling with people. Not that anyone would think it strange for a top to grab his sub and do any number of things to him in public, but Rodney had asked that they keep their relationship quiet and John had agreed to go along with that – for now at least.


“Well that’s great, Rodney,” John drawled. “I can see why you’d want me to throw you off the balcony in order to celebrate.”


Rodney giggled, a sound that always went straight to John’s heart. “You won’t hurt me. Trust me,” he said, pointing to a little green device stuck on his shirt. John gazed at it with a raised eyebrow. “It’s Ancient technology – and I made it work all by myself with my new gene – well, technically it’s *your* gene – weird to think of our DNA mingling – but anyway, *I* activated it.”


“That’s very exciting,” John said, in a completely unexcited voice. “But I’m still not seeing why you want me to throw you over the balcony.”


“It’s a personal shield!” Rodney said gleefully, pointing at the green device again. “I already tried to stab myself, and then I got Radek to try to strangle me – something he agreed to far more readily that you I might add – and it’s impossible! I’m fully protected!” He did another happy bounce. “So go on – shoot me!”


“Am I going to regret this?” John asked with a sigh. There was something so adorable about how excited Rodney was right now, his blue eyes shining, his feet incapable of standing still. John decided that he was rapidly turning into one of those tops so besotted by their subs that they were incapable of saying no to them.


“Nope!” Rodney shook his head, twirling his finger excitedly in the direction of John’s gun. John drew the weapon, and pointed it, half-heartedly, at Rodney’s leg.


“If I hurt you then you’ll be in so much trouble your life won’t be worth living,” he said. Rodney just giggled and waved his arms around in a gesture of encouragement. John sighed again, and then squeezed the trigger. He half closed his eyes in dread, fearing that Rodney would fall down amid much howling, but instead, the bullet seemed to bounce off an invisible wall around his sub, leaving him completely unscathed. The bullet ricocheted harmlessly away and embedded itself in a nearby door.


“See! See!” Rodney hopped from one foot to the other in glee. “I’m Invulnerable! Nobody can touch me!”


John gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then he broke into a grin as he realised how useful that could be. “Cool!” he said.


“*Now* will you throw me off the balcony?” Rodney asked, still dancing.


John grinned, because really, being with Rodney was many things but never, ever dull, and then he reached out a cautious hand towards his sub. His hand tingled as it made contact with the green forcefield, and it felt crackly, like he was touching electricity. He didn’t even manage to touch Rodney’s body, but by pushing, hard, against the forcefield, he managed to make Rodney topple backwards over the balcony. John looked over the edge, anxiously, just in time to see Rodney bounce harmlessly to a halt, thirty-odd feet below, completely unscathed. John ran down the stairs towards Rodney, at the same time as Elizabeth and Peter rushed up, concern etched on their faces.


“Rodney – are you okay? Colonel, what the hell were you thinking?” Elizabeth snapped, looking seriously pissed off. Rodney laughed out loud and started to do his happy dance again.


“It’s okay – he didn’t hurt me. Look, Beckett’s gene therapy worked. I was able to activate this.” He pointed at the glowing green device on his chest. “It’s a, uh, personal shield. It acts like a protective skin and it must have inertial dampening properties too, because I didn’t feel a thing!” he said. “Watch.” He turned to Peter. “Hit me.”


John stiffened – suddenly this whole playing around with the shield thing didn’t seem like such a good idea, and he suppressed a low, involuntary growl as Peter did as Rodney had instructed. John felt a fierce protective instinct kicking in, and wanted to grab Peter and pound his face into the wall for daring to raise his hand against his sub, despite the fact that he knew this was just a game, and Rodney couldn’t be harmed. A split second later, Peter’s fist made contact with a bright green flash of light and he doubled over, clutching his hand.


“Oh god! Damnit that hurt!” he yelped, glaring at Rodney who was completely oblivious.


“You didn’t have to swing so hard,” Rodney said, grinning smugly. John thought for a moment about all those judicial spankings Peter had handed out to Rodney, and couldn’t help but think that Rodney was enjoying this a little too much. “And notice he didn’t even hesitate. He’s as bad as Zelenka!”


Elizabeth looked a little amused by the fun her head scientist was having and John couldn’t blame her – Rodney, in full happy sub mode would melt even the sternest top’s heart.


“Very funny, Rodney, but I’m still trying to understand how you thought it was a good idea to test this device by having someone throw you off a balcony,” she said, giving him a mock-severe look.


Rodney’s grin widened. “Oh, believe me, that’s not the first thing we tried – I got Colonel Sheppard to shoot me first.”


“I would have expected better from you, Colonel,” Elizabeth reprimanded, her eyes still sparkling. John grinned, shaking his head. They were always facing some disaster or another, and it felt good when they could laugh and joke around together for a change. This was one of the things he loved about Rodney – his sub was always the smartest guy in the room, but he had this childish side to him that chimed in well with John’s own inner overgrown kid, and that made Rodney endlessly entertaining to be with.


“What can I say? He was very persuasive!” John rolled his eyes at Rodney.


“Also – invulnerable!” Rodney said, doing the happy dance again.


Elizabeth shook her head. “Aren’t you the one who’s always spouting off about how proper and careful scientific procedure must be adhered to?


“In-vul-nerable!” Rodney repeated in a sing-song tone.


Elizabeth laughed out loud. “Alright, take it off. Let’s go have this meeting.”


Rodney pouted, clearly unwilling to part with his new toy so soon, but the combined force of two tops gazing at him sternly was obviously too much for him, and he sighed, and reached for the shield…and then stopped as the forcefield around him flashed bright green. John frowned.


“This could be a problem,” Rodney muttered, trying again. “I can’t get at it.”


He gazed helplessly at John, who felt a tide of anxiety rise in his belly. He stepped forward and reached for the shield too – only to find his path blocked by the forcefield. His hand tingled as he pushed harder, and he gave a low growl of frustration.


Rodney was gazing at him with horrified blue eyes. “Why can’t I get it off?” he asked, panic-stricken. He tried to get his hand onto the device again but John could see that his way was completely blocked by the forcefield.


“I think that perhaps we need to take a trip to the infirmary,” Elizabeth said.


“What good will that do?” Rodney asked. “This is a matter of technology – we can’t expect Carson to mutter a few of his spells and incantations around me and for the damn thing to just drop off.”


“Well, he might have some ideas – and apart from anything else, Peter’s hand is going to need bandaging, courtesy of that dangerous new toy you’ve got there, Rodney,” Elizabeth said, with a nod at where Peter was standing, still clutching his hand, a pained expression on his face. Rodney had the grace to look a little sheepish at that.


John walked along to the infirmary beside his sub, allowing Rodney’s worried chatter to wash over him. He had worries of his own. He didn’t like how this whole thing was panning out and he reached out to put a calming hand on Rodney’s shoulder, to try and quieten his restless sub down, to be met by a mild flash of pain and the frustrating sizzle of the shield rebuffing his attempts to make physical contact. Rodney glanced up at him.


“You shouldn’t do that,” he said.


“Thank you, Rodney but clearly it was instinctive,” John growled sarcastically, massaging his hand.


“It seems to respond to the degree of force,” Rodney said, putting his scientist hat back on and musing on the issue authoritatively. “So a punch rebounds painfully, while a very slow, careful touch doesn’t hurt at all – although it’s still not possible to actually touch me. An unconscious touch like you just did probably just fizzes a bit.”


“You’re so lucky you’re wearing that personal shield right now,” John muttered darkly, his fingers itching to deliver a well-placed cuff to the back of his sub’s head. Rodney gazed at him sideways from under his eyelashes.


“Sorry,” he sighed, and all John’s anger melted away again.


“We’ll figure this out,” he said firmly, because the alternative didn’t bear thinking about.


John went and stood at the back of the infirmary, leaning against the wall, while Elizabeth explained the situation to Carson. Carson was so excited that the gene therapy worked that he didn’t seem particularly concerned about Rodney’s predicament. John kept quiet. He could feel all the muscles in his body tightening, and he didn’t want to make anything worse by having an outburst right now. He wasn’t even sure what was wrong with him, but everyone was treating this as if it was some kind of joke while he found the situation disturbing on some deep, dark level. He’d never had feelings like this before he’d fallen for Rodney, and he was still trying to figure them out.


So he just stood there, never taking his eyes off Rodney. It all felt so wrong. He had felt like this before, back when he’d watched Rodney being punished the first couple of times. The wrongness of it had eaten at him, because even back then, before they’d got together, he’d felt on some level that Rodney was *his* damnit. Nobody got to touch him except for him…and now, now nobody could touch Rodney at all, him included, and he found that just as frustrating.


Rodney was his sub, and John needed to touch him the way he needed to breathe. It wasn’t just a sex thing – he wanted to put his hand on Rodney’s shoulder, to kiss his sub’s hair, to pull his sub’s body against him and feel his skin against his own. It was more than just an urge – it felt like a biological imperative.


John remembered that flow of energy that seemed to pulse between them whenever their lovemaking was particularly intense, and he knew that on some level it was fed by their physical contact. If he couldn’t touch Rodney then the flow was interrupted, and that made him feel queasy in the pit of his stomach. He wondered if Rodney felt the same, but Rodney looked preoccupied elsewhere at the moment.


“Um, just a thought here, but have you tried eating or drinking anything since you put that on? Peter asked, while Carson bandaged his hand. Rodney’s eyes widened, and he grabbed a mug of coffee from the table and held it up to his lips. It flowed out onto the floor and Rodney stood there, his blue eyes horrified.


“This may be more serious than I suspected,” Carson said, glancing at Elizabeth, and then at John, with a look of concern in his eyes. About damn time, John thought to himself. He still didn’t trust himself to speak, and he noticed that Rodney was avoiding his eye.


“Why, thank you!” Rodney snapped. “I’m hungry already. What am I going to do? If I don’t get this stupid thing off, I’ll be dead by the end of the day.”


“Relax,” Carson told him. “You can live for three or four days without water.”


“You mean I have to go without food for four long days before dying of thirst?” Rodney asked, tragically. Elizabeth gave a snort.


“Some Ancient technology uses a mental component for operation,” Peter offered helpfully.


“Yes, yes it does!” Rodney snapped his fingers excitedly. “Shut up everyone! I’m thinking!”
They all watched as Rodney screwed up his face and concentrated hard, but the device on his chest remained resolutely in place. “I’m a dead man,” Rodney sighed, his shoulders falling into a dejected slump.


“Not so fast, Rodney,” Elizabeth said. “I don’t believe the Ancients would deliberately create a personal shield that would kill you, do you? It doesn’t make any sense.”


“It could be as a result of artificially imposing the gene,” Carson said. “Damnit, maybe this is all my fault.”


“Or maybe – it *does* require a mental component,” Elizabeth mused. “And the reason it won’t turn off is because Rodney doesn’t really want it to.”


“What do you mean? Of course I want it to!” Rodney protested. “I don’t want to starve to death!”


“Rodney, we’re way out here in a strange galaxy, in the middle of a battle with scary life-sucking aliens,” Elizabeth told him. “You could be forgiven for not feeling safe. Maybe the shield is picking up on that, and *that* is why it won’t deactivate.”


“I don’t think so,” Rodney said. “I mean, yes to all that, but it’s not like I lie awake at night worrying about the Wraith. They’re not on my mind the whole time.”


“Is there anything else that’s worrying you?” Carson asked. “Anything that you feel you need protecting from?”


Rodney hesitated, and for just a split second his gaze flickered in John’s direction; John felt as if he’d been physically punched in the gut.


“No,” Rodney said softly. “I can’t think of anything.”


John started walking, his legs working on automatic. There was no way in hell he was going to hang around here a second longer. He needed to get out, needed to get some damn air in his lungs because he was finding it hard to breathe right now.


He got into the hallway and started running and that felt better, the way it always did. He ran back to his quarters, burst inside, locked the door, and then opened his window and stepped out onto the balcony, taking long, deep gulps of air, trying to get control of himself. All he could think about was the expression in Rodney’s eyes for that split second he’d looked at him, and his stomach churned. He heard a sound behind him and whirled around, annoyed, knowing he’d locked the door, and he saw Rodney standing there, a scared look on his face.


“How did you get in?” John snarled.


“You, uh…programmed the door to let me in, remember?” Rodney said, taking a step towards him.


“I can see why that would scare you enough to feel you need Ancient protection,” John said sarcastically. Rodney stopped in his tracks, and winced.


“It’s not like that,” he protested.


“I have never forced a sub in my life!” John yelled, losing what last degree of control he had. “I’ve done nothing to you – nothing – that would make you feel you needed to be protected from me.”


“You’re getting it all wrong…” Rodney said, flustered.


“I thought you trusted me! You said you trusted me. How many more goddamn lies were you telling me, Rodney? Were you just using me to keep Bates away?”


“No.” Rodney’s face was pinched and white, and his mouth settled into that thin line and his jaw jutted out the way it always did when he was refuting something. “I *do* trust you, John. You have to believe that.”


“Yeah – that would explain why you need *this* to keep me at bay,” John said, gesturing at the device on Rodney’s chest, his voice half-way between a bitter laugh and a low growl.


“It’s not you I don’t trust. It’s me,” Rodney said quietly, and that punctured John’s mood, just as he was about to launch into another tirade.




“It’s me.” Rodney sat down on the side of the bed, still white-faced, his fingers moving nervously, more restless than John had ever seen them. “I don’t trust me. I don’t trust myself not to screw this – us – up, John. I’ve never had a relationship before, and suddenly you appear out of nowhere and you want me in a way nobody has ever wanted me before. Damnit you even want to live with me.”


John took a deep breath, and then another one, and felt himself starting to calm down.


“If you didn’t want to move in then you only had to say so,” he muttered.


“I wanted to please you,” Rodney whispered pathetically. “I just can’t see any way this can work.”


John felt that knot of anxiety form in the pit of his stomach again. “Why the hell not?” he demanded.


“Because of them!” Rodney pointed at the picture of Adam and Gil on the nightstand. John shook his head, frowning.


“What the hell have my parents got to do with this?”


“Everything! They stand there in their bright, shiny love, smiling out at the world with beneficence, perfect in their loving lifebond, and they’re your bloody role model for relationships!” Rodney snapped. “I can’t live up to that. I’m messy and difficult and people don’t like me – which is fine because I don’t like people much. I’ll be crap in terms of your career. Can you imagine introducing me to some stupid bigwig General? If he was an imbecile I’d tell him so – and you could wave goodbye to whatever promotion you had your heart set on. I could take you anywhere and you’d charm the pants off everyone but it isn’t the same the other way around, and you know it. I’m not the kind of sub that tops like you end up with, and that hurts damnit because I like you, and I want to end up with you. It’s just never going to work.”


Rodney raised his chin defiantly, and gazed at John. John stared back at him, completely winded.


“And you were going to tell me all this when?” he asked quietly.


“I don’t know. Probably after we broke up,” Rodney said. “Or, more likely, during actually breaking up. I’d get drunk and insult your parents, and we’d have a big argument, and I’d give you all the reasons why it wasn’t going to work anyway and walk out.”


“You were thinking this all the time? When we were making love….” John shook his head, unable to take that in.


“Not when we were making love, no,” Rodney replied. “Because mainly when we were making love all I was thinking was ‘mmmmm’ and ‘oh god’. I was thinking it in those few seconds over the past couple of days when we haven’t been rutting like rabbits.”


“If you felt like that then why were you with me at all? It wasn’t all just about sex for you. I know that,” John told him. “Nobody could fake the way you reacted when I took you that first time, you least of all, with that terrible poker face you have.”


“It wasn’t just about the sex, no,” Rodney sighed. “The sex was fantastic and stopped me being able to think straight. If I’d been thinking straight I’d have known it wasn’t ever going to work.”


There was silence for a moment. John gazed at his hands, trying to get his head around all this. A few hours ago he’d been happier than he’d ever been in his life – and now…now he thought it was entirely possible that he was angrier than he’d ever been in his life.


“You’re wrong about my parents. They would have liked you,” John said eventually.


Rodney snorted. “They would have hated me. Their precious only son, their golden boy with the big, bright military career, falling for a cranky, opinionated scientist.”


“They just wanted me to be happy.” John shrugged and sat down on the chair opposite Rodney.


“You’re presuming I can make you happy. I can’t,” Rodney told him firmly.


“You’re presuming I don’t know exactly what you’re like and what I’m getting into. I do,” John replied, equally firmly.


Rodney shook his head, and that make John feel even angrier for some reason.


“You want me to make this easy for you?” he snapped. “You want me to back off so that you feel safe enough for that shield to drop off? So you can go back to leading that lonely, fucked-up life you were leading before I came along? Well, I’m sorry, Rodney, but it’s not going to work like that. I accept that you trust me. I also accept that you have zero expectations of relationships because your parents lived such a fucked-up existence, but that doesn’t have to ruin your life. I trust you, Rodney. You say all the wrong things but do all the right things. I have trust enough for both of us, and I trust you not to screw up what we have.”


Rodney gazed at him, looking startled.


“You still want me?” he said. “I mean, even after insulting…” he nodded with his head in the direction of the photo on the nightstand. John rolled his eyes.


“Oh for god’s sake – one argument doesn’t mean a damn thing. You’re my sub, and I love you, and while I might be mad as hell with you right now there is no way I’m giving up on us this easily.”




“Really.” John stood up. “But I can’t be around you while you’re wearing that shield, Rodney, because I swear that seeing you and not being able to touch you is screwing with my mind.”


He felt his hands curl into fists at his side. He wanted to grab Rodney, and kiss some sense into him, and he knew that if he could do it, then it would work, but he also knew that it was a short-term solution. Rodney’s self-doubt would always come back to haunt them both unless he dealt with it now, once and for all.


“You have to figure this out for yourself. I can’t do it for you. Somehow you have to learn to trust yourself enough to give this a try, or you have to end it. And it would seem that you have about four days to figure out which it’s gonna be. No pressure.” John gave an ironic little half-smile, and then started walking towards the door.


“Where are you going?” Rodney asked, a note of panic in his voice.


“Anywhere you’re not,” John told him firmly.


“John…wait – I’m sorry.” Rodney hopped after him and reached out a hand, and John felt that now familiar fizz from the personal shield, obstructing any physical contact.


“I want you, Rodney,” he said, fiercely, turning and glaring at his sub. “I want you right now. I want to grab you and kiss you but I can’t, and that makes me so angry that I can’t be around you. You have no idea what it’s like for me – you’re my *sub*. You’re mine and I want to touch you. I don’t mean sex, although hell, that’s been damn good between us – the best I’ve ever had. But I mean touching you. Just…doing this….”


He held up his hand and reached out, his fingers caressing the air just to the side of Rodney’s head, the forcefield flashing green under his fingertips.


“It feels…wrong.” He fought down a powerful sensation of dislocation, of something being so wrong that it physically hurt. “Don’t you feel it too?” he said and Rodney nodded, a scared look in his eyes. “Remember sometimes when we make love? That…*thing* that happens between us, like there’s some kind of umbilical cord connecting us to each other, and some kind of energy flows along it, warm and sweet like honey, back and forth?” Rodney nodded again, his eyes as wide as saucers. “Well, right now it feels like that cord has been blocked, and none of that energy can get through. That makes me feel like I have an open wound in my belly, and seeing you and not being able to touch you is like having a knife twisted in that wound. Do you understand now?”


Rodney bit on his lip, and nodded again.


“Good. Because this is about what’s going on in your head, not mine. So figure it out, Rodney,” John told him, in a low, brusque tone, and with that he slammed his hand on the door sensor, then stalked out into the hallway, leaving Rodney behind.




End of Part Twelve



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