Coming Home: 7.Rodney’s Stalker


It was late afternoon when Rodney woke, his head was still pounding, and there was a visitor sitting beside his bed, typing quietly into her laptop. Rodney blinked, blearily, and Elizabeth smiled at him and closed her laptop, putting it to one side.


“Are you feeling better?” she asked, her hand finding his on the blanket, and squeezing, gently.


“Yeah.” He managed to sit up and she rearranged his pillows behind him. His mouth felt dry, and Elizabeth poured him a glass of water and held it out for him to drink. Then he lay back, exhausted by the effort.


“Colonel Sheppard told me everything,” she said.


Rodney sighed. “Everything?” he groaned.


She grinned. “Everything,” she said firmly. “You and I need to mend some fences, Rodney.”


“Wish I knew how,” he muttered, meaning it. “I’d like to promise that everything will be okay from now on…but…I keep surprising myself you see. Don’t know what’s going on really. Everything…got kind of jumbled up.”


She gazed at him thoughtfully, and then nodded. “Let’s take it one day at a time then.”


“All right. Are you going to have Sheppard punish me for running off last night?” he asked, wearily.


“Does it work?” She raised an eyebrow.


“When Sheppard does it? Probably,” he replied, honestly.


“I’ll bear that in mind then. But, Rodney, nobody is going to punish you for last night,” she said firmly, getting up and coming to sit on the bed beside him. “I think, because we’re so far from home, and there are so many pressures out here, that maybe you and I lost touch with what’s important. I’m sorry for my part in that. I’m just glad you’re okay.” And then she took his head gently between her hands, leaned forward, and kissed him tenderly on the forehead. Rodney blinked uncertainly. “Please don’t do that again, Rodney,” she told him, drawing back and gazing at him affectionately. “You’re far too important for us to lose you.”


“Well that’s true enough,” he replied. “I mean, Zelenka’s good but he’s not brilliant. He’s not a bona fide genius like yours truly.”


She gave a little gurgle of laughter. “You’re probably right!” she said, and then she shook her head, her smile fading. “But that’s not what I meant,” she added softly, her hazel eyes deadly serious. “Get well soon, Rodney. And please remember that if anything upsets you then you can talk to me. My door is always open – especially to you.”


She got up, picked up her laptop, and left. Rodney gazed after her, startled. It occurred to him then, that despite his best attempts to keep people at arm’s length, somehow they’d all crept in under the radar anyway. Carson, Sheppard, Elizabeth – even Radek and some of the other members of his staff. He had responsibilities here, and people who cared about him, and he really needed to stop being an idiot and start being Dr McKay again. Not that the whole belated teen rebellion thing hadn’t been fun, in its own way.


Rodney closed his eyes again, and this time, when he slept, it was a deep, dreamless, healing sleep.


The next few days crawled by interminably. Once Rodney started to feel better he made sure that everyone in the infirmary was just as miserable as he was, and Carson’s lectures gradually mutated from the wearily sympathetic to the extremely pissed off. Rodney was immune to it. He was bored and desperate to be back at work, and he hated all the enforced idleness.


“I feel sorry for the top you end up with!” Carson admonished him in desperation after one particularly heated exchange.


“Hah. There isn’t a top around who could handle me!” Rodney riposted.


“You’re the worst patient I’ve ever had!”


“You’re the worst doctor I’ve ever had!”


“Is there a problem here?” Sheppard arrived, one eyebrow raised inquisitively. Rodney scowled at him. The colonel visited him every morning before his shift began and every evening after it ended, and Rodney had no idea why. He could only assume that Sheppard felt guilty for punishing him and was trying to make it up to him. Either that or he thought Rodney was such trouble that he wanted to keep an eye on him.


“No problem, no,” Carson said, glaring at Rodney maliciously. “Rodney was just telling me that there isn’t a top alive who could handle him. Apparently.”


“Is that so?” Sheppard leaned against the wall, folding his arms over his chest and regarding Rodney in a way that made Rodney’s scalp tingle and his entire body flush. His eyes raked over Rodney’s face, amused, like a cat playing with a cornered mouse. “You should be careful about making those kinds of statements in public,” Sheppard drawled. “Some tops might take it for a challenge.”


“He started it!” Rodney accused, pointing at Carson.


“Aye, I did,” Carson nodded. “I was just telling him, colonel, that I pity the top he ends up with, poor bugger.” The two of them exchanged a look that Rodney didn’t understand at all, and then Sheppard burst out laughing.


“Oh, I’m sure there’s someone out there who can tame him,” he said.


“I’m ill and you’re taunting me. It’s not good for my recovery,” Rodney sniffed. “If only Carson would let me go back to my quarters….”


“You’ve only got a couple more days in here, Rodney,” Sheppard said, in that reasonable tone of voice, helping himself to one of Rodney’s Athosian cherries.


“He won’t let me work!” Rodney accused.


“Well then we’re even because you won’t let me work, either!” Carson exploded.


“How’s his ankle? Can he walk?” Sheppard asked.


Carson shrugged. “He can hobble.”


“Good. Then how about I get him out of your hair for a couple of hours – wear him out with a walk down to the south-west pier?”


“That would make me a very happy man,” Carson breathed. “Thank you, Colonel. A wee bit of mild exercise would do him good I think.”


“Isn’t anybody going to ask *me* whether I want to go for a walk?” Rodney fumed. Sheppard and Carson glanced at each other, and then shook their heads.


“Nah,” Sheppard said.


“It’s a miracle anyone ever gets better with this kind of care,” Rodney snapped. “First I’m locked up with the local witchdoctor for days on end, and then I’m made to go out walking in the cold….”


“It’s summer,” Sheppard pointed out.


“Whatever,” Rodney sniffed.


Sheppard grinned, and held out his hand. “Come on, Rodney, before Carson kills you with his bare hands.”


“Fine. Ignore me. The pair of you just enjoy bossing me around when I’m too ill to fight back,” Rodney complained, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and treading down gingerly. His ankle was still very painful and he had a pronounced limp. Carson held up a bathrobe and helped him into it.


“Oh you’re doing just fine with the fighting back thing. Here take my arm.” Sheppard held out his arm. Rodney looked at it as if it was a poisonous snake.


“I can manage,” he growled, holding onto the side of the bed as the room swam a little.
Sheppard grabbed his hand, wrapped it firmly around his own arm, and then held it there.


“If you feel like you’re going to pass out, or you’re too tired to go any further, then tell me,” he said. Rodney glared at him, but he knew he’d never manage to walk all the way down to the south-west pier without holding onto something, so he finally gave in.


It was kind of nice to be out of the infirmary too, even if he really wanted to be at work and not wandering at a snail’s pace through the city hallways, clad in his pyjamas and bathrobe, hanging onto Colonel Sheppard’s arm. Sheppard was being kind of nice to him, making conversation about the puddle jumpers, and how he’d recently made a trip over to the mainland to visit the Athosians in their new settlement.


They finally reached the south-west pier, and Rodney released his grip on Sheppard’s arm and hung onto the balustrade. He’d spent so long locked up in his lab that he’d forgotten how good it felt to just stand, soaking up the sunshine, the wind gently rifling through his hair. Atlantean summers were pleasant too – not too hot, but nice and warm, and he sighed, and gazed out across the ocean.


“This is my favourite place in the city,” Sheppard told him. “I often come here just to get away from things. To sit and think.”


“It is nice,” Rodney agreed, suddenly realising he’d only ever viewed the city as a piece of machinery, something that had to be made to work, something to be maintained. He’d never gone anywhere to just sit and think.


“You ever been on the mainland, Rodney?” Sheppard asked, gesturing with his head into the deep blue yonder. Rodney shook his head. “It’s nice – a bit wild, but nice. After I finished dropping off supplies for the Athosians, I took the puddle jumper along the coast and found this great beach. White gold sand, pure blue water – completely unspoiled.”


“You sound like a travel brochure,” Rodney muttered.


Sheppard grinned. “Maybe I’ll take you there one day,” he said.


Rodney scowled. “I hate beaches. You get sand between your toes and salt in your hair and everything’s messy.”


“You must have liked going to the beach when you were a kid.” Sheppard put his head on one side and gazed at Rodney intently. Rodney shifted, uncomfortable under all that hazel-eyed scrutiny.


“I don’t remember ever going to the beach as a kid,” he muttered. “My parents didn’t believe in vacations – it would have meant them spending too much time together. They hated each other.”


“Why did they stay together then?” Sheppard asked in a curious tone.


“They had some weird co-dependency thing going on, and besides I think they enjoyed the battle too much. They were both switches, and neither of them ever wanted to give an inch to the other. They were locked into this little battle and they loved it.”


“Must have been kind of hard to be in the middle of all that.”


“Are you kidding? It was gruesome. They used me and my sister like chess pieces in their warped game of marital dysfunction. We were moved across the board, back and forth, like pawns, and god knows they were Grand Masters at it. You?”


Sheppard looked taken by surprise by the way Rodney had thrown the topic back at him but he just shrugged, in that casual way he had.


“My dads were great. *And* they took me to the beach. A lot,” he grinned. The wind lifted his dark hair, and the evening sun bathed him in orange light from behind, making him look impossibly handsome. Rodney grunted. He hated impossibly handsome people. He especially hated impossibly handsome people with an easygoing charm and perfect childhoods. It was irritating. It was nice being out though. Sheppard was easy to be with, and Rodney found himself letting his guard down a little, and chatting. He was surprised when Carson radioed Sheppard to ask where his patient was as they’d been gone for a couple of hours.


The fresh air knocked him out, and by the time Sheppard delivered him back to his bed he sank back on the pillows, closed his eyes, and fell into an immediate doze. He was vaguely aware of Sheppard and Carson having a conversation but it washed over him, like waves on the seashore, coming in and out of focus.


“How did it go?”


“Fine. No – great.”


“You didn’t end up wanting to throttle him then?”


“Nope. He’s got this weird vulnerability thing going on. Even when he’s at his most obnoxious you still can’t help liking him.”


“Aye. Damn him. So you haven’t changed your mind?”


“Yeah, right. You know me better than that by now, Doc. If anything I feel it more strongly than ever – and I’ll do whatever it takes. I mean – look at him – he’s….”


Rodney didn’t hear any more as he was sound asleep.


It was a great relief when he was finally released from the infirmary and allowed to go back to his lab and see what kind of a mess Radek had made of things while he’d been gone. Nothing had been done to his satisfaction so he set about correcting all his team’s errors while at the same time pointing them out to them as loudly as possible. He managed to berate every single member of his staff by ten a.m. on his first day and felt much better thereafter.
He was surprised when Colonel Sheppard dropped by at lunchtime and asked him if he was going to the mess hall to eat.


“I thought I’d grab a sandwich and work through,” Rodney replied curtly.


“It’s your first day back. You should take a proper break,” Sheppard told him. Rodney sighed, loudly.


“Oh all right – I suppose Carson sent you to check up on me,” he muttered. Sheppard just grinned and shrugged, and Rodney assumed that he’d been right about that so he wasn’t entirely surprised when Sheppard showed up again in the evening.


“Dinner?” the colonel suggested.


“You really don’t need to make sure I eat. I always remember to eat,” Rodney told him, rolling his eyes. “Go and tell Carson that I’m fine, and I don’t need a babysitter.”


Sheppard grinned again. “You don’t always remember to eat as we both know all too well. And I need you to eat right now because I don’t want you fainting on me in the firing range.”


Rodney frowned. “What?”


“Firing range. I’m giving you your first lesson tonight.”


“And when were you going to tell me this?” Rodney snapped.


“I just did.”


“Well it’s impossible. I’ve been away from the lab for days, and it’s a miracle the city is even still standing as my completely incompetent staff seem to have managed to wreck just about every single thing I asked them to do.”


“It’s your first day back and you are not working in here until midnight,” Sheppard told him firmly. “Carson said you had to take it easy.”


“Carson knows I always ignore him when he says that.”


“He might. I don’t,” Sheppard shrugged. “Seems to me that if he says take it easy then that’s what you’re going to do. The firing range will be a good change of scene, and besides, you need the practice. Now, tear yourself away from your laptop and let’s get moving. I’m starving.”


Rodney stood there, completely flummoxed. “You’re serious about this aren’t you?” he said. Sheppard just smiled. “What if I say no?” Rodney narrowed his eyes.


“You don’t want to do that,” Sheppard replied easily, still smiling.


Rodney sighed and gave in. “Some tops just can’t leave it in the bedroom,” he muttered to himself as he limped over to the door. Sheppard gave a little snort, as if he’d heard that, and when Rodney got close he put a hand on his shoulder and escorted him out into the hallway.


Rodney had very little interest in guns, beyond a kind of vague horror that he might accidentally shoot off some part of his own anatomy in a moment of blind panic. He had to admit (to himself at least but not to Sheppard) that the colonel was a pretty good teacher. He explained how the gun worked (a lecture that made Rodney mentally roll his eyes because he knew how a goddamn gun worked), and then moved onto the best way to hold a weapon and how to load ammunition on the move. Then, finally, he gave Rodney a handgun to fire.


“No – don’t stand like that – stand like this.” Sheppard moved close behind him, and slid his fingers over Rodney’s hands where they were held out in front of his body, clutching the gun. Rodney could feel Sheppard’s breath on the side of his face, and the front of the colonel’s body was pressed tight against his back and buttocks. Rodney found himself going very still, and his breathing seemed to slow down. He tried to concentrate on what Sheppard was saying but all coherent thought seemed to have escaped him. He felt very calm, very quiet…sort of lost in a little world of his own. It was the most peaceful he’d felt in a very long time, and he longed for the sensation to last. Then Sheppard was squeezing his hands, encouraging him with low, hypnotic tones, and Rodney found himself firing at the paper target, rapidly, one shot after another, and every shot was going home, right in the centre, tearing the target apart.


“Wow,” Sheppard murmured in his ear, and Rodney broke out into a warm sweat. “Looks like you’ve been holding out on us, McKay.”


“Did I do that? I didn’t do that! My god – I did that!” Sheppard loosened his grasp on him and Rodney jumped towards the target excitedly. “There – see – genius *and* sharp shooter!” he exclaimed, hopping from one foot to the other in glee.


“Try again,” Sheppard said, laughing at his obvious excitement.


Rodney took up position, and fired at the new target Sheppard put in place – and missed, dismally, several times, although one shot did puncture one of the lights overhead.


“Must have been a fluke,” Rodney sighed, dejected. “Damnit! I always wanted to be good at something cool – not that rocket science and astrophysics aren’t cool, but, well, you know, nobody else thinks so – but this *is* cool. If I could have done this at school then maybe I wouldn’t have had to hide beneath the bleachers during recess with those idiots from the science club who got beat up all the time.”


“You used to hide beneath the bleachers?” Sheppard raised an amused eyebrow.


“With our experiments!” Rodney explained, as if that rendered it less sad. “I nearly split the atom under the bleachers. There was this one time when….”


“Shall we try again?” Sheppard suggested. “And this time….” He came up behind Rodney and pressed in close again, his hands sliding down Rodney’s arms and over his fingers and squeezing, “Stroke the weapon gently. Imagine you’re on your knees, pleasuring some fantastically hung top, and you don’t want to piss him off by going too fast, too soon, so you’re just gently doing this….” Rodney felt his throat go dry as Sheppard talked, in that slow drawl of his, straight into his ear. He was a captive within the colonel’s embrace, and that sensation made him want to go very still, and he felt that warm, peaceful glow descend on him again. He squeezed the trigger, as instructed, and hit the target in the centre, just as he had before.


“There you go,” Sheppard said, as he finished firing. “Not a fluke.”


“No,” Rodney said softly. He didn’t have the heart to tell the colonel that if he was going to repeat the feat in the field then Sheppard would have to be standing right behind him, whispering in his ear the entire time.


Rodney was tired by the time he returned to his quarters later that evening. Maybe Sheppard had been right about the whole taking it easy thing. The colonel insisted on walking him back to his rooms before saying goodnight and Rodney assumed the man didn’t actually trust him not to go back to his lab. Of course, he might be right not to trust him, as Rodney had definitely considered it, but he was just too tired and his head was spinning. Rodney crossed the room, moving his head from side to side to relieve an ache in his neck, and he caught sight of himself in the mirror. He had a pink scar on his head from where he’d fallen the previous week. That was already fading but what struck him, suddenly, was how long it had been since he’d really looked at himself.


He got up close and examined his reflection, wincing slightly. His hair was long, far longer than was really respectable, and kind of greasy, matted at the ends from where he’d run his fingers through it after eating a jelly donut earlier in the day. It was sticking up in places, giving him a dishevelled look. He couldn’t be bothered with shaving most days, and just did the minimum to keep the stubble on his chin from getting wildly out of hand. His clothes were clean enough, and he knew that he didn’t smell, but he tended to just pull on whatever came to hand, without thinking about it. The result was that he was wearing an oversized tee shirt with a pair of baggy cargo pants, making him look a bit like a tramp, in clothes that were a size too big for him. Rodney pulled up the tee shirt and surveyed his stomach – it was perhaps a bit flatter than it used to be, and he hadn’t been eating as regularly over the past couple of months as he usually did. No wonder his clothes were hanging off him.


“Man you look bad,” he muttered to his reflection. He considered rummaging around in his belongings for some more flattering clothes – or bartering for some a size smaller on Atantis’s flourishing black market – and possibly having his hair trimmed too while he was at it, but then he stopped. He remembered the look on Bates’s face as he’d tried to put that collar on him and the last thing he wanted was to attract the attention of any other psychotic tops out there. Better to keep them at bay with both his sharp tongue and his slovenly appearance. There weren’t any tops on the base who interested him in any case – he’d made a vow to himself that he wasn’t going anywhere near a military top ever again, and none of the scientists was remotely appealing so that pretty much ruled out everyone. He couldn’t see the point in smartening up just for the sake of it, either. He held out his arms, clutching a pretend gun, and re-lived the sensation of John Sheppard sliding his hands sensuously down his arms, his body pressed so close that Rodney could almost hear the beating of his heart. What kind of a top would John Sheppard be, he wondered? Then he dismissed the thought immediately.


“Impossibly handsome, remember?” he told himself. “Undoubtedly full of himself. The kind who’d make you blow them in front of a mirror just so they can watch themselves come. And he’d make you do his hair every morning. Probably already has a sub just to do that. A special hair sub – the servant of the gel. Dedicated to the sole task of whipping that artfully tousled hair into a state of perfection every morning. Expect he beats the hell out of the poor bastard if there’s so much as one strand going in the wrong direction. Are you talking to yourself in the mirror? Why, yes I am. Idiot.”


He moved away, stripped off his clothes, and went to take a shower, trying to banish all thoughts of John Sheppard from his mind.


Keeping John Sheppard out of his mind would be a lot easier if John Sheppard would only keep out of his sight, Rodney thought to himself a few days later. It was bizarre, but everywhere he went the colonel seemed to pop up a few seconds later. It started with breakfast – no matter what time he got to the mess hall to eat, Sheppard always seemed to show up before he got the first spoonful of food to his lips. The colonel would wander in, glance around the room, and his eyes would fall unfailingly on Rodney. Then he’d come over, sit down beside him or opposite him, and give that lazy grin of his. They’d make conversation – Sheppard would ask him about what he had planned for his day, and Rodney would explain that it was far too complicated for a mere Airforce colonel to understand. Sheppard would just smile and say ‘try me’ and that was like a red rag to a bull to Rodney who’d immediately find himself launching into a detailed technical explanation in the hope of proving to the colonel that there was no way he’d be able to keep up. Much to his annoyance, Sheppard was actually pretty good at keeping up, and would even ask the occasional intelligent question. Finally Rodney would realise that he was running late and tear himself away and forget about Sheppard for a few hours while he worked – until the colonel showed up around lunch time, where he would proceed to hang around the lab, getting underfoot, until such time as Rodney agreed to go and have lunch with him. There wasn’t even any escaping the man in the evening – he seemed to know precisely what time Rodney would finish work, and Rodney would find him lounging around outside the lab door, or just nonchalantly walking down the hallway at the exact moment Rodney was leaving. It was kind of spooky, and Rodney was starting to get freaked by it. It wasn’t that he minded the man’s company as such, but he couldn’t help thinking that maybe this was all part of some giant practical joke, and if it was, then he was pretty sure the joke would be on him. Sheppard was military after all. Alternatively…it was possible that Sheppard was keeping an eye on him, determined that he wouldn’t cause any more mayhem after the whole running off to find a ZPM stunt he’d pulled. That irritated Rodney – he was doing his best to turn things around after all the problems he’d had when they first arrived, and he resented the fact that he wasn’t trusted. The third possibility, which Rodney suspected was the most likely, was that Carson had appointed Sheppard as his personal health supervisor or something, and the man was under orders to trail around after him to make sure he was eating and not falling down ravines, or otherwise hurting himself.


After two weeks of this, Rodney finally snapped when Sheppard came to his lab late one night and leaned against the wall.


“It’s nearly midnight,” the colonel said.


“And your point would be?” Rodney frowned, trying to couple two extremely delicate wiring systems together, his fingers shaking ever so slightly from an overload of the caffeine he’d been consuming every half an hour throughout the course of the day.


“My point being that what you’re doing looks kind of fiddly and complicated so wouldn’t it be better to wait until morning when you’re fresh?” Sheppard commented.


“Do I tell you how to run your missions? No,” Rodney said firmly. “Do I hang around your office making suggestions about rotas and rifles and I don’t know, all that military stuff that I presume you do all day? No.”


“You’d be perfectly welcome to hang around my office. It’s not as much fun as your office though,” Sheppard grinned, glancing around the lab. “For a start, nothing gets blown up – well, for the most part anyway. And any time you have any suggestions about rifles I’d be interested to hear ’em.”


Rodney rolled his eyes. “It was just an example. I have no idea what you do all day but I’m sure it’s very important and involves far more blowing things up than I get to do, more’s the pity. Oh fuck.” The coupling escaped from his shaking fingers and slid to the floor. Rodney bent down and retrieved it.


“How much coffee have you been drinking?” Sheppard asked. Rodney bristled.


“None of your damn business.”


“It’s just that your fingers are shaking.”


“I’m perfectly well aware of that, thank you, Colonel!”


“Okay. Just saying.” Sheppard crossed his arms over his chest, and leaned back against the wall. “Only it seems to me that if you worked shorter hours, and took more care of your health, then you’d probably get just as much done because you’d have a clearer head – and you won’t have worked yourself into the ground in the process.”


Rodney gave him the Evil Glare of Doom that he saved for only his most irritating staff members – only to find, much to his irritation, that it didn’t seem to work on Sheppard who just grinned at him. Rodney muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath and turned back to the coupling. He was so distracted by Sheppard’s comment though, that his fingers slipped and he sliced one of them on the sharp metal casing. He dropped the wires with a yelp and clutched his hand to his chest as large droplets of red blood fell on the floor.


“Easy. Here, let me see,” Sheppard said, suddenly by his side, his hand on Rodney’s shoulder.


“No. You have done enough, Colonel. This wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t so annoying. Now just get out of my way.” Rodney made for the door, still clutching his bleeding hand to his chest. Sheppard fell into step beside him. “I mean it!” Rodney growled. “I’m going to the infirmary and I don’t need your help getting there. Leave me alone!” Sheppard thought about it for a moment, and then nodded, and allowed Rodney to go on his way.


Rodney strode down to the infirmary, to find Dr Biro the only occupant. He glared at her. “Where’s Carson?”


“In bed I’d imagine,” she replied. “It’s gone midnight, Dr McKay. Are you hurt? I’m the doctor on night duty. Can I help?”


“No, you can’t,” Rodney said, turning his back on her and marching off in the direction of Carson’s quarters. He kicked the door several times before his friend finally answered it, dark hair tousled, blue eyes sleepy and bemused.


“Rodney? Are you okay?”


“No, I’m not okay!” Rodney snapped, pushing past Carson and striding into his room. “I’m bleeding, and it’s all your fault. Oh.” He pulled up short as he saw someone slide out of Carson’s bed and reach for his clothes.


“I’ll leave you to it, Doc,” the man said, pulling on his pants and then pressing a kiss to Carson’s cheek. “Thanks for tonight – and, you know, good luck with McKay. You’ll probably need it.”


Rodney watched him go, open-mouthed, and then rounded on his friend. “Ford? You’re sleeping with Ford?” he said, in disbelief.


“Why not? He’s a good looking lad,” Carson said defensively.


“He’s a kid.”


“He’s legal! And he’s cute!”


“He’s got a massive crush on Teyla!”


“I know!” Carson snapped at him, two angry red dots appearing on both his cheeks. “I’m bloody well aware of that! He made no bones about it – came here this evening and said he wanted some no strings fun, couldn’t promise anything more as he was holding out for Teyla, but in the meantime he’s a sub, I’m a top, and why not play?”


“You’re such a slut,” Rodney said, sitting down on the side of the bed.


“I haven’t taken a sub in months!” Carson protested. “I’m lonely!”


“He’s *military*,” Rodney growled.


“So?” Carson shook his head. “Just because you had a wee bit of bother with some of the military lads doesn’t mean they’re all bad. I like Aiden – he’s a very eager-to-please young man and we enjoyed a nice scene this evening.”


“I don’t want to hear about it.” Rodney glanced at the lube on the nightstand, the soft wrist
restraints hanging from the bed, and a rather sumptuous looking suede flogger abandoned on the floor.


“I wasn’t going to damn well tell you about it!” Carson said. “Rodney what are you doing here? Damn it – are you bleeding on my sheets?”


“Oh. Yes. Sorry about that,” Rodney muttered, looking down at his wounded hand, from which splashes of blood were dripping.


“Show me.” Carson sat down beside him and pulled his hand over, none too gently.


“Ow!” Rodney complained.


“There is a night doctor on duty you know,” Carson told him. “If you want more caring treatment you know where you can go.”


“I wanted to see you, seeing as how this is all your fault,” Rodney retorted, nodding at his bleeding hand.


“My fault? How the hell is this anything to do with me?” Carson asked, his fingers carefully probing Rodney’s wound with their usual gentle skill, despite his words.


“It’s Sheppard! You’ve got to call him off,” Rodney said. Carson frowned.


“Call him off? What do you mean, lad?”


“I mean that you have to tell him to stop following me around. I’m a big boy and I can take care of myself. I’m not about to fall down any more ravines!”


“You think…you think that I’ve somehow set the colonel on you to make sure you don’t do yourself any harm?” Carson asked, blankly.


“Well haven’t you?” Rodney said, jutting out his jaw, suddenly feeling a little less sure of himself. Carson laughed, softly, shaking his head.


“No, Rodney. I haven’t.”


“Then why does he keep *appearing* all the time?” Rodney asked, puzzled. “Everywhere I go, he’s there. Oh my god! You don’t think he’s stalking me do you?”


“Why would he do that?” Carson looked like he was having trouble keeping himself from bursting into a fit of hysterical giggles.


“I have no idea. But why does he keep meeting me at meal times, hmm? And when I’m walking down the hallways he just pops up and he…he puts his hand on my shoulder,” Rodney said, in a low, meaningful tone, because that seemed particularly sinister now he thought about it.


“Maybe he’s just being nice?” Carson suggested.


“Why would he be nice?” Rodney asked, blankly. Carson sighed.


“I have no idea, Rodney, but I do know a way you can find out.”


“Really? How?” Rodney leaned forward conspiratorially. Carson leaned in too.


“You could try asking him,” he said, in a whisper.


Rodney gazed at him for a second, wondering what on earth he meant, and then realised he was being teased.


“Oh thank you very much, Doctor. Ha, ha,” he said mirthlessly. “Are you done with my hand yet?”


“No – but it’s not very serious. You need to go to the infirmary and get Dr Biro to wash it and bandage it, and then you’ll be right as rain,” Carson told him. Rodney glared at him.


“Hah. It’s bad enough letting you loose on me with your witchdoctor needles but now you expect me to let some other practitioner of the voodoo arts get their hands on me.”


“You’ll be fine.” Carson got to his feet, pulled Rodney off the bed, and then pushed him towards the door.


“If I die it’ll be your fault,” Rodney told him.


“I’ll just have to live with it on my conscience,” Carson replied sadly.


Rodney hesitated in the doorway. “Seriously – you didn’t tell Sheppard to keep an eye on me?”


“Seriously. I didn’t.” Carson shook his head.


“Hmmm.” Rodney sighed, and walked out of the door.


“You’re welcome!” Carson yelled after him. Rodney thought he heard some Gaelic swearing coming from the doctor’s room as he walked away but he couldn’t be entirely sure.


Rodney pondered the whole situation with Sheppard for the next few days. The colonel didn’t seem to have taken his brush-off amiss, and he still showed up for breakfast the next morning and insisted on sitting with Rodney, as usual. He asked after Rodney’s bandaged hand, which Rodney held pointedly on the table so that nobody could miss it. Rodney found himself sneaking glances at the colonel when the other man wasn’t looking, wondering what the hell was going on. It would help if Sheppard wasn’t so damn attractive – Rodney found his gaze lingering on the colonel’s permanently moist lower lip, on the lean swagger of his hips, that neat, firm ass, and the surprising elegance of his hands. He didn’t find his answers in any of those things though – Sheppard had that lazy, cool mask completely in place, and Rodney longed to get behind it for just a moment, to glimpse that other man again, the dark, passionate, edgy man who’d thrown Bates across the room, or the commanding, demanding man who’d broken down every one of Rodney’s barriers during that punishment session.


He got his wish a few days later on TMP-0986. They’d been on the trail of another ZPM, and Rodney had run on ahead excitedly as his readings had indicated they were close, when a bunch of hostile natives appeared from nowhere. The first Rodney knew about the danger was when an arrow missed his nose by millimetres, and ended up embedded in the tree beside him. He’d turned, horrified, just in time to see Sheppard bearing down on him. The colonel grabbed his arm and threw him, almost bodily, out of harm’s way, and then rolled down the side of a mossy bank after him, firing his gun as he went. He came to a halt on top of Rodney, and Rodney tried to disentangle himself impatiently.


“What the hell…?” Rodney began. Sheppard put a hand over his mouth and Rodney’s eyes widened.


“Keep very quiet and very still,” the colonel hissed, gazing meaningfully over Rodney’s shoulder. Rodney gazed up at him, horrified, and was then surprised to find his body going completely still under the colonel’s warm weight. This wasn’t the first time this had happened and Rodney wondered what it was about the colonel that made him feel calm when he would normally be all panicking like crazy. Rodney heard people moving around just yards away, and he held his breath, hoping they’d pass by without seeing them. Sheppard looked down on him, and gave just the faintest hint of a quirky grin. Rodney managed a ghost of a smile in return. Sheppard was heavy on top of him, and even though he lacked Rodney’s breadth, he made up for that in height, and a steely strength that took Rodney by surprise. Rodney felt himself relaxing even more under the colonel’s hard body, and he closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing. Sheppard smelled of sweat from their recent exertion, but there was something else about his scent, something warm and musky, that made Rodney want to sink back further, and open his legs and…. Rodney’s eyes flashed open, horrified at where his mental image had gone. Sheppard’s knee was between his thighs, and their groins were pressed against each other, and Rodney could feel himself getting hard. If only he could banish that persistent mental image of Sheppard holding him down, arms above his head, the full weight of his body pressed on top of Rodney while he slowly….


There was a shout above them, and Rodney looked up to see one of their attackers pointing at them. He was almost relieved that they’d been discovered before his growing erection embarrassed him further, and the prospect of imminent disembowelment by a sharp arrow, although not entirely dissimilar to his fantasies, did at least focus his mind on survival rather than sex. Sheppard got to his feet, grabbed hold of Rodney, and pushed him away, yelling at him to run while he covered him. Rodney took off, his heart pounding in his chest as he stumbled through the trees, crashing so loudly that all he could hear was the sound of his own panicked flight. He was dimly aware of gunfire behind him, and he half-turned, anxious to make sure that Sheppard was okay, and, not looking where he was going, he crashed straight into a tree and bounced off it, landing awkwardly on the mossy forest floor. It was only then that he realised it hadn’t been a tree he’d careened into, but the solid chest of a man standing a good six feet six inches, and built like the side of a mountain. He was dressed in strips of leather, and had a whole rack of knives hanging from his extremely impressive black belt. He looked like his entire purpose in life was to fight in hand-to-hand combat – and it was clearly a sport he enjoyed, if the big grin on his face was anything to go by. Rodney tried to scramble away, terrified, but the man just laughed at him, revealing a set of gold teeth, and then he reached out one big arm, and pulled Rodney bodily to his feet by the collar on his shirt. He looked Rodney up and down for a moment, and then gave a distinct leer. He looked as if he was about to run his fingers over Rodney’s face, but there was a noise behind them and instead he swung Rodney round, and pulled him close against him, so that Rodney’s back was pressed against his attacker’s flat, hard belly. Rodney felt the sharp blade of a knife pressing against his throat and at that exact moment Sheppard ran into sight…and came to a sudden halt, breathing heavily, as he saw the situation Rodney was in.


“I…uh…don’t think he’s friendly,” Rodney squeaked.


“You don’t say.” Sheppard looked kind of pissed off, which wasn’t exactly the reaction Rodney had been expecting. Okay, so he’d just gotten himself into a hostage situation but he was sure that wasn’t entirely his fault. Sheppard didn’t look like he cared about that though, and there was an extremely angry glow in his hazel eyes.


“I’m sorry!” Rodney called to the furious colonel. “He just appeared out of nowhere. I crashed straight into him.” Sheppard barely looked at him, his eyes were fixed instead on the man holding him hostage.


“Let him go and I won’t hurt you too much,” he said, waving his gun menacingly in the air.


“Uh…hello! He’s the one with the bargaining chip right now!” Rodney protested. The big man just wrapped his beefy arm more tightly around Rodney’s body, and pressed the blade of his knife closely against Rodney’s neck. It was uncomfortable, and Rodney could feel the knife pressing against his skin. He swallowed hard, knowing that one quick slice of that sharp knife could cut his jugular, and end his life within seconds.


“What do you want?” Sheppard asked. The big man growled something in a language Rodney didn’t understand. “Is that the only language you speak?” Sheppard demanded. Another torrent of something that Rodney didn’t understand, and, right at the end, his captor spat on the ground as if to emphasise his point.


“Charming,” Rodney muttered. “Homicidal *and* lacking in manners.”


“He doesn’t speak English, Rodney,” Sheppard told him. “So he won’t understand what I’m telling you to do. When I say ‘duck’, I want you to do just that – try and elbow him in the belly while you’re at it.”


“Oh you have got to be kidding me!” Rodney yelled. “He’s got a knife on my jugular, Colonel. There is no way you’re that good a shot that you’re going to get him and not me.”


“Rodney – just do as I say and you’ll be fine,” Sheppard ground out, looking extremely pissed off now.


“No way. No. No, no, no,” Rodney said emphatically. “Why don’t we try reasoning with these people? I’m sure they’re very nice. It’s just a little misunderstanding.” He looked up at his captor hopefully, and the man grinned down at him, the light glinting menacingly off his gold teeth.


“How can we reason with them if they don’t understand a word we’re saying?” Sheppard yelled at him. “We don’t even know why they’re pissed off with us! For all we know, he thinks you’re lunch. Or worse – you’re his new fuck toy.”


Rodney swallowed hard. The big man did seem to be holding him really tight, and there was something un-nerving about that knowing way he kept grinning at him.


“Just how good a shot are you?” he squeaked.


“Pretty damn good. Now take a deep breath. Ready?”




At that moment a shot rang out nearby and his captor swung around in the direction of the sound. Sheppard took advantage of the distraction to fire, and next thing Rodney knew he was lying on the ground with a dead weight on top of him. He wriggled out, and came face to face with his captor, his face now grinning in a ghoulish kind of death mask, a big hole in the middle of his forehead.


“Shit. That *is* pretty damn good,” Rodney murmured, as Sheppard ran up.


“I told you. Now come on.” Sheppard still looked furious as he grabbed Rodney’s arm and dragged him back towards the gate. They came across Teyla and Ford a few seconds later, both of them running like crazy too.


“Was that you firing?” Sheppard asked Teyla. The Athosian woman nodded grimly as she ran. From far behind they heard the sounds of pursuit. Rodney glanced over his shoulder to see a rag-tag band of hostile natives pursuing them. Some of them were on horseback, and Rodney had no idea how they were going to outpace them. He stumbled and Sheppard’s grip on his arm tightened, keeping him upright. A horse outflanked them, and Rodney got a brief glimpse of a tall, savage-looking woman with a scarred cheek. She leaned forward, surveying the Atlanteans intently, as if searching for someone. Then another horse loomed into sight. It was being ridden by a warrior but carried, as a passenger, a small, ugly man, clad in a thick black cloak. He was a shrivelled skeleton of a man and he was clutching some kind of orb in his hand. He pointed at Rodney and Ford, and yelled something in a language Rodney didn’t understand. The scarred woman nodded, and then rode her horse towards Ford. She was knocked from her steed by one of Teyla’s batons before she even got close to the lieutenant. Rodney didn’t have time to find out what happened to her because next thing he knew a big, grey stallion was bearing down on them, and a thin, hawk-nosed man was lunging straight at him, trying to grab him. The man went down before he even got close, as John fired his P-90 into him, sending the man flying, blood spurting everywhere. John grabbed Rodney’s arm again the minute he finished firing, and their pursuers drew back, nervous of the superior firepower the Atlanteans were packing.


They saw the gate in the distance and picked up their pace. Rodney had never been so grateful to throw himself through the wormhole in his life. He arrived back in Atlantis a few seconds later, breathing heavily. Only when they were safe did Sheppard let go of his arm. Rodney threw himself down on the floor in exhausted relief as he saw that Ford and Teyla had made it back safely as well.


“What the hell was that all about?” Sheppard demanded, turning towards Teyla. Rodney winced. It looked like the colonel’s bad mood was still firmly in place. “Why did they attack us? We didn’t do anything!”


“I believe they wanted our submissives,” Teyla said.


“What?” Rodney screwed up his face in disbelief.


“One of the side effects of the wraith cullings is that the natural order of some worlds is disturbed,” Teyla explained. “Usually it is the case that the number of submissives and dominants on a world is more or less even, but sometimes, after a culling, that is not the case. Then it is not unusual, on primitive worlds, for dominants to launch hunting parties, looking for any stray submissives who survived the culling and are without dominants.”


“Oh please. How the hell could they know just by looking at us what our sexual preferences are?” Rodney snorted.


“They had a seer with them,” Teyla told him earnestly.


“A what?” Rodney rolled his eyes. He hated this kind of mumbo jumbo.


“Some societies appoint a seer to gaze into a child’s soul when he or she reaches puberty and determine what path they should take. It is usually a very peaceful and helpful ritual,” she said, her eyes looking a little bit dreamy. “I went through such a ritual myself.”


“You mean your people don’t get to choose their own orientation?” Sheppard shook his head. “That doesn’t sound like something I’d be comfortable with.”


“One is not constrained by the seer’s guidance,” Teyla told him with a little smile. “But the seer is rarely wrong, and for those who are confused it can help them make their decision. On that planet though, I fear those with the seer gift are misusing it to identify people’s preferences against their will – so that the dominants know who to target when they are out hunting.”


Rodney remembered the wizened man in the black cloak, clutching his orb and directing the warriors on horseback, and he shuddered.


“They did seem to know exactly what they were looking for,” Ford said. “A couple of them lunged at me and tried to drag me away but they weren’t interested in Teyla or the colonel.”


“But I didn’t go anywhere near a ritual!” Rodney protested.


Teyla made an apologetic motion with her hand. “They were watching us from the minute we arrived, I fear. And some seers practice a very black form of their art. Some seers do not even need to see you – they are able to tell your orientation from a possession, or a lock of hair. In our case I believe all they did was observe – and that was enough to determine which of us they wished to target. If you recall, they very purposefully did not injure either Dr McKay or Lieutenant Ford. Their sole aim was to split them away from the dominants in the group, leaving them exposed and available for retrieval. Their arrows were not meant to kill, but to frighten us into splitting up, making our submissives easier targets.”


Rodney remembered the way the man with the gold teeth had leered down on him, and he shuddered.


“So, that guy back there…he wanted to drag Rodney off and fuck him?” Sheppard growled. Rodney looked up at him, startled by the colonel’s tone.


“He wished to make him his submissive, yes.” Teyla said. “If they had succeeded they would have certainly killed you and I, Colonel, and taken Lieutenant Ford and Dr McKay. They must be very desperate people.” She shook her head sadly.


“My god, I’ve never heard anything more sick in my life!” Sheppard snarled. “And you….” His gaze fell on Rodney, and he suddenly reached down, grabbed Rodney’s arm in a vice-like grip, and hauled him off the floor. “You and I are going to practice how we get out of situations like that, and you are going to learn to follow orders when we’re out in the field!”


“The guy had me at knifepoint! You were going to shoot him over the top of my head – forgive me for not being happy about that!” Rodney protested.


“You have to learn to trust me!” Sheppard hissed. The colonel’s fingers were still digging into his arm, and he was looking at Rodney with a dark, intent gleam in his eyes. Rodney shivered – this was the same man who had thrown Bates across the room – he’d wanted to see him again, but now that he was face to face with him he wasn’t so sure. He found himself going very still again as he gazed into Sheppard’s wild eyes.


“Colonel,” he whispered softly. And then, “John? You’re hurting me.”


The atmosphere was electric as Sheppard just stood there, studying his face intently, breathing hard, looking like he was about to explode and…do what? Rodney had no idea.


“John,” he said again, trying to reach the colonel. The other man seemed lost in a world of his own, and, wherever it was, it clearly wasn’t pretty. Slowly, very slowly, normality returned to his eyes, and then he suddenly released Rodney, and, without another word, he turned and stalked out of the room.


Rodney gazed after him, with horrified eyes, and Teyla came up behind him.


“Are you all right, Dr McKay?” she asked, resting her hand gently on Rodney’s arm where Sheppard had been holding him.


“Me? I’m fine. Him on the other hand…” Rodney shook his head. “What the hell is wrong with him?”


“I will see to Colonel Sheppard,” Teyla said. “I think I recognise his distress. I expect he has gone to the practice room and will require a sparring partner. Perhaps you will debrief Lady Elizabeth?”


“Yes. Yes of course.” Rodney watched her go, still shaking his head in bewilderment over Sheppard’s bizarre behaviour.




End of Part Seven



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