General & Dr Sheppard: 3. Awakenings


Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard arrived at his desk a couple of hours early the next day, anxious to have time to prepare for his meeting with the general. He wasn’t sure why he was feeling so apprehensive, but he did know that there was something about the idea of spending a few hours in the company of his alter ego that both unnerved and excited him. The truth was, and John was barely able to admit this even to himself, but General Sheppard was exactly the kind of man he’d once wanted to be. He didn’t know when he’d lost touch with that ambition, or why, but seeing the general striding around Atlantis, so sure of himself and his place in the universe, whichever universe he happened to be in, had brought some uncomfortable emotions to the surface for John. It was hard to put his finger on it exactly—he just knew that he didn’t want the general to find him disappointing. He wondered if everyone felt like that around the man or whether it was just him because they shared the same face and name. Did people look at him like they looked at the general?, John wondered. Did they strive to impress him and do their best to get a word of praise from him the way he wanted praise from the general? Somehow he doubted it. He knew his people liked and respected him, but he also knew that he wasn’t in the same league as General Sheppard and he wondered why. What had happened in the general’s life that had rendered him so at ease with himself? He looked like the kind of man who’d never made a wrong decision, and even though John doubted that could be entirely true, he envied him the appearance of it all the same.


John disliked paperwork. He got it done, but he was rarely up to date with it so most of his files were a mess—except the ones on the Wraith. Protecting his people motivated John far more than filing equipment inventories, drawing up staffing rotas and conducting personnel appraisals. He was relieved that at least he’d be able to show the general a clean set of military reports, neatly filed and up to date; he just prayed the general wouldn’t ask to see anything else and even that surprised him a little. Since when had Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard cared what anyone thought of him?


John spent a couple of hours making his office and his files as respectable as possible, and had them in some kind of shape by the time the general knocked on his door. John called him in and then paused, finding himself seriously fazed because the general was wearing his uniform. His identical uniform. The leather pants, tight tee shirt and vest were gone. He’d still retained those little quirks that were presumably customary in his universe—the pendant around his neck, the silver earring dangling from his ear and the impressive black leather belt around his waist from which hung an assortment of different objects—but apart from that, there was no difference.


“Can I come in?” The general paused in the doorway, looking at John with a quizzical expression on his face.


“Uh…yeah…I… Sorry. Damn, but you look just like me,” John said, with a little laugh.


The general grinned. “It’s the clothes. Thanks for them, by the way. They fit just fine and it’s good to have something clean to put on. I even managed to persuade Rodney to wear those pants of Dr. McKay’s this morning.”


“Ah. I’m guessing that wasn’t easy,” John grinned.


“An understatement,” the general grinned back. “In the end, I resorted to taking his own clothes down to the laundry while he was in the shower so he had no choice.”


“I’m surprised I didn’t hear the yell of protest all the way from here when he found out about that,” John chuckled.


The general laughed. “Yeah. He wasn’t happy,” he said, shaking his head.


“Uh…now, perhaps I’m not understanding the rules of your society, but couldn’t you have just ordered him to wear them?” John said carefully. He was intrigued by the way things worked in this alternate universe. Everything about it seemed strange to him, and from what the general had said, he found everything equally strange about John’s universe.


“Ah, well, yes, I could,” the general nodded. “But I prefer to save that kind of thing for when it’s really important. There are ways to make things happen without throwing your weight around. At the end of the day, he knows that what I say goes, but there’s no point making every single minor issue a battle of wills. It’d be exhausting, apart from anything else, and also…I love him. I don’t want to squash him.”


John nodded, completely not understanding. Maybe this was just another example of how the general seemed to be so effortlessly at ease with his own authority. He didn’t have to assert himself unnecessarily because he was so sure of himself.


“Would you like some coffee?” John offered.


“Yeah, black, one…”


“One sugar, I got it,” John grinned. “I figure we both like our coffee the same way.” He handed the general a coffee and the other man took it, grinning back at him.


“You figured right, then.”


“Anyway, I flicked through some of the mission reports and pulled out the ones that seemed most relevant,” John said, gesturing to the general to sit in the chair beside him. “It’ll be interesting to see how many things happened the same way in our different universes. Perhaps we could compare notes. You might have done something different to us that worked better than what we did, or vice versa.”


“Sure.” The general nodded slowly, taking a bunch of files and leaning back in his chair.


John leaned back in his own chair and then they both, simultaneously, swung their long legs up onto the desk. Then, taken aback at the mirroring, they glanced at each other and laughed.


“Damn, but this is weird,” John said. “I told Rodney it was kind of like having a twin brother, but it’s still weird to acquire one as an adult.”


“Damn weird. We even have the same mannerisms,” the general said. “I’m glad to hear you spoke to Dr. McKay about this situation we’re in,” he added thoughtfully. John raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “I understand that you and he are not together in this universe, and Dr. Beckett was kind enough to explain that your people have some taboos about same gender relationships, so I completely appreciate that things are very different for you, but….” He broke off with a shrug. “It’s just sad to see him like this, that’s all.”


“Like what?” John asked, frowning.


“Alone. Lonely.”


“Oh, Rodney’s fine.” John waved his hand around airily. “Yeah, he can be snippy, but he’s like that with everyone. That’s just him.”


“No. It isn’t,” the general said. “He’s like that because he’s lonely. I know because that’s what my husband was like when I first met him.”


“Your Rodney is still pretty snippy,” John pointed out, feeling a little stung.


“Only with your Rodney,” the general replied sharply. “And I think that’s because he really hates being reminded what he was like. And of course he’s also pretty stressed out about our current situation, but I think I’ve taken care of that and he’s calmed down now. Your Rodney doesn’t have anyone to look out for him, though—there’s nobody to calm him down.”


“Oh, there’s nothing wrong with Rodney!” John replied, more forcefully than he’d intended. “He’s not lonely. He’s just a workaholic who never gets laid and exists in a state of more or less permanent high stress. That’s the way he likes it. Well, apart from the not getting laid thing probably, but he’s fine. You make it sound like he’s about to have a nervous breakdown or something.”


“No…nothing like that. I just wish he was happy,” the general said softly. “Tell me, Col-onel—John—it seems so weird to me that you and I would look so alike, and have the same mannerisms even down to the way we like to put our feet up on the desk when we’re reading—and yet we seem to have very different feelings. Can you honestly tell me that you’ve never thought about Rodney as a potential—”


“No!” John interrupted firmly, feeling himself flush.


“You have to have noticed how incredibly cute he is. The bright blue eyes, the attitude, the intelligence and, of course, that great ass.” The general grinned.


John swallowed hard. In all honesty, he had noticed all those things about Rodney, but never in a focused way. He didn’t spend his time sitting around thinking about it, but there were times when he’d looked—and then looked away again, dismissing the thought as idle sexual speculation, not something to be taken seriously. This was Rodney they were talking about, after all, and although John had had plenty of sexual experiences with other men, he’d never had a relationship with one. It was too much hassle and had never been worth it in terms of his career, apart from anything else. He liked women, too, and that was a much easier path to go down. Was that just society’s conditioning?, John wondered. Because the general’s people seemed to be comfortably bisexual.


“So you have noticed,” the general murmured, those hazel eyes of his missing nothing.


“Yes. Okay. I’ve noticed,” John replied in a strangled tone, wishing fervently that they weren’t having this conversation. “But this is Rodney we’re talking about here. I’d never go there. He’d probably shoot me with my own gun if I even tried. Trust me, we’re not as alike as you think, General. Rodney is seriously uncomfortable with the relationship you and Dr. Shep-pard have. It’s not something he wants in his own life.”


“Maybe he’s uncomfortable because it is,” the general said softly.


“No.” John shook his head. “Really. No. There is simply no way that’s what’s going on in Rodney’s brain right now. Mainly, what’s going on in Rodney’s brain is that he’s really pissed off that he fucked up and brought you here and he really wants to send you back to where you came from ASAP. There’s not a whole lot else going on.”


“You know him pretty well, then?” The general smiled.


“Rodney’s an open book,” John said with a shrug, taking a sip of coffee. “You can pretty much tell everything he’s thinking by looking in his eyes…although that’s less helpful than it seems, because mostly what he’s thinking about is food!” He grinned.


“Oh, yeah. Ain’t that the truth.” The general grinned back at him. “Or sex, of course,” he added, and grinned again when John choked on his coffee at that.


“So, back to business,” John said in a bright tone when he’d recovered. “Mission reports.”


They worked for a couple of hours, comparing notes as the general read through the reports.


“So in your universe you found a ZPM on Dagan. We searched there, but didn’t find anything.” The general shook his head.


“Ah, yeah, that was the Indiana Jones mission,” John grinned. “Not that finding it did us any good because we didn’t get to keep it.”


“Of course, your Rodney had the incentive of Acastus Kolya holding you hostage to help motivate him,” the general muttered grimly.


“Kolya didn’t show up in your universe?” John asked. He’d often thought how much easier that mission would have been without Kolya, but the general was telling him they’d never even have found the ZPM if Kolya hadn’t come along and given Rodney an incentive to be more brilliant than usual.


“No, Kolya didn’t show up in my universe because Kolya was dead,” the general said grimly. “I killed him myself.”


“You killed him?” John turned, startled. The general had gone very still, and his body was taut. “When? Why?” John asked.


“Why?” the general said, in a surprised tone, as if it was obvious. “He touched Rodney,” he growled. “During the big storm—he took a knife to Rodney’s arm and scarred him for life with his mark. He put his mark on my husband. He hit him, held him prisoner away from me, and he hurt him.” The general looked absolutely outraged and John was unprepared for the other man’s vehemence. “You think I’d let him live after that?” the general growled, in a hard, cold tone that sent shivers up John’s spine. “I followed him through the Stargate and killed him with my own hands in a fair fight in front of his people. I think that sent a message to the Genii that nobody hurts anything of mine and lives to boast about it. They haven’t troubled us again since.”


“Right. Okay.” John nodded slowly. Just when he’d been feeling at ease with the guy, the general showed a darker side than John had hitherto glimpsed. He suddenly had the feeling that this man was really not to be messed with—or, perhaps more to the point, Dr. Rodney Sheppard was not to be messed with—because if anything happened to him, John had the feeling that the general would go ballistic, and his revenge would most likely be short, to the point… and fairly brutal.


They flicked through some more mission reports, and then the general paused, deep in thought.


“I’m wondering—as your Rodney found that ZPM—did he also have any luck with the Arcturus weapon, or didn’t you encounter that?”


“No, we encountered it all right,” John sighed, throwing his counterpart a file. “There you go.”


“Man, what a fuck-up that mission was,” the general said, flicking open the file.


“For us, too,” John told him.


“Ah.” The general read through the file, quietly, one finger playing with the pendant around his neck as he did so. When he’d finished, he looked up, shaking his head. “Well, that’s pretty much what happened in our universe too,” he sighed. “Half a solar system blown away and we were lucky to get out of there in time.”


“You agreed to allow your Rodney to work on the weapon, then?” John had always regretted allowing Rodney to talk him into that one, and he was pleased to hear that his counterpart, for all his air of being totally in command of any given situation, had also tripped up on that occasion.


“Yes,” the general sighed and then he glanced sharply at John. “But it says here you agreed, too. What did he say to convince you?”


“Some stuff about trust and having faith in his abilities, yada, yada, yada, and then he threw in something about him winning the Nobel prize…and he just looked so kind of…well, you know what Rodney’s like. He was like a really determined and over-eager puppy with extremely sharp teeth and he just wouldn’t take no for an answer. I suppose on some level, also, I really wanted to be convinced because that weapon sounded really cool, although I’m still kicking myself about that. How about you? Did your conversation with him go the same way?”


“Yeah, pretty much by the sounds of it. Although my Rodney also threw in a truly spectacular blow job for good measure,” the general said and then he grinned when John pulled a ‘too much information’ face. “Your Rodney must be pretty damn persuasive if he managed to convince you without the benefit of a blow job,” the general commented.


“Well, you know Rodney,” John shrugged, wondering what a truly spectacular blow job from Rodney would be like and then catching himself wondering and shrugging the thought quickly away.


“Anyone would think you had a soft spot for him,” the general murmured.


“Nice try, General, but we’re not going there,” John replied. “And I wish he hadn’t damn well persuaded me. That decision still keeps me up at night. How about you?”


“It doesn’t give me sleepless nights—although I can’t say the same for Rodney,” the general said softly. “My Lady Elizabeth really wasn’t happy about that one.” He gave a little grimace.


“Yeah, ours wasn’t thrilled, either. She gave Rodney a chewing out half the base heard.”


The general frowned. “Maybe that’s why it still occasionally keeps you awake at night, then,” he murmured.


John glanced at him questioningly, trying to figure out what he was getting at.


“Well, you supported Rodney—so surely some of the fallout should have come your way when it all went wrong?”


The general raised an uncompromising eyebrow and John didn’t know how to respond to that. He hadn’t thought of it that way. He was saved from having to reply by a knock followed by a flurry of activity at the door as the two Rodneys tumbled excitedly into the room. Now that they were dressed identically John had to take a moment to tell them apart—the likeness really was uncanny. His task was made even harder by the fact that neither of them would keep still and they kept finishing each other’s sentences.


“We think we know how to fix the QDD!” one of them announced.


“Of course it isn’t simple. What happened was that during transport the energy exchange was so great that the internal crystals were obliterated,” the other said.


“Completely burnt out,” the first one continued.


“Which sounds bad…”


“And in fact is bad…”


“And at first we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to repair them or not….”


“We looked at them for hours and then we decided we couldn’t repair them….”


“Even two brains working at our level of genius can’t repair crystals that damaged….”


“Although if anyone could have repaired them, it would have been us….”


John glanced at the general to find the other man glancing back at him, looking as completely bemused and stupefied as he was feeling. If having one Rodney around was both exhilarating and faintly scary, having two pacing around the room, both of their hands flailing madly as they spoke at top speed, was positively disorienting.


“So we need to find some new crystals….”


“Sounds easy. Isn’t…”


“We checked through an inventory of everything we’ve found on Atlantis since arriving and there aren’t any crystals of the exact shape and energy type we need…”


“We could modify some but that would be time consuming…”


“But…then I remembered there was this planet we went to about 5 months ago, PBX-250—”


“Hang on!” the general said, finally managing to get a word in edgeways. “PBX-250—wasn’t that the planet with the really unfriendly aliens? The ones who wanted to tie us up and sacrifice us to their gods?”


“Yes, yes, yes!” his Rodney said impatiently—John had identified him by his slightly longer hair and the glimpse of his leather collar beneath his shirt.


“As I recall, we barely got away with our lives last time. What makes you think it would be different in this universe?”


“Maybe they don’t worship the same gods in this universe?” the general’s Rodney suggested.


“Unlikely,” the general snorted. “The colonel and I have just been going through their mission reports. Things seem to happen pretty much the same, with just a few minor details changing.”


“Well, it’s worth a try!” both Rodneys said at the same time.


“Okay, pipe down here. It’s hard enough concentrating on one of you, let alone both of you,” the general said. “You—Rodney—sit down and shut up for a second. You—Dr. McKay, could you finish explaining this, please?”


The general’s Rodney sat down with a dramatic sigh and a little pout in his husband’s direction. The general reached out a lazy arm and cuffed the back of his head affectionately in response. That left their own Rodney taking center stage—something he looked happy about, as usual.


“According to Dr. Sheppard here, Planet PBX-250 used to be some kind of Ancient outpost,” Atlantis’ Rodney said, puffing up his chest as he held forth. “The people who live there now are primitive—as evidenced by the whole human sacrifice thing—but if we can get around them, then there is Ancient technology just littered around the place. Dr. Sheppard said there was a large chamber, sunk deep into a mountain rockface, where he definitely saw crystals of the kind we need—and all kinds of other stuff. There might even be a ZPM!” he said excitedly. “Not that that would help with the QDD, of course, but…”


John closed his eyes and tried to concentrate—there were far too many acronyms being casually thrown around in this conversation.


“But a ZPM would be very useful for 101 other things on Atlantis!” the other Rodney finished excitedly, clearly unable to keep out of the conversation. The general cuffed him lightly on the back of the head again.


“Shh. It’s hard enough following one of you, let alone both,” he growled.


The general’s Rodney grinned back at his husband. “John—this is do-able!” he exclaimed. “We could gate over there, grab the crystals, gate back, install the crystals in the QDD and be home in a couple of days.”


“Is that true?” John said, turning to his own Rodney for confirmation. “Is it that simple?”


“Well, theoretically, yes,” Atlantis’ Rodney replied. “Although the crazy religious cult people might not be so keen on us stealing their stuff.”


“They’re not using it!” the other Rodney protested. “They don’t even know what it’s for! It’s just lying around, underfoot!”


“Rodney, last time we went there, they nearly barbecued us,” the general pointed out.


“But we do have the advantage of the fact that you’ve been there before so you know what to expect,” John said slowly. “And also we’ll have the benefit of surprise—you’ve been there but we haven’t—so they won’t know anything about us and they won’t be expecting us. If we plan it right…”


“I could draw up some maps and we could talk about how we deployed our team,” the general said slowly.


“If we went in prepared, with a clear mission objective and the right equipment…” John continued.


“Hah! And they thought we were confusing when we did that,” the general’s Rodney said, his eyes gleaming. “So?” He looked at the general expectantly. “Is it a ‘yes,’ John?”


The general glanced at John who sighed and held up his arms in surrender. “It’s the over-eager puppy dog thing, like I said,” he muttered.


“Yup. They’re just so persuasive. Even without the truly spectacular blo…”


“Uh, yes!” John told the Rodneys, interrupting the general before he could finish that sentence. “We’ll need to run it by Elizabeth, of course, but I don’t think she’ll object, so it’s a yes.”


“When do we set off? I could be ready in an hour,” his Rodney said.


“Tomorrow will be fine, Rodney,” John told him, with a roll of his eyes. “I know we want to send these people back home as soon as possible, but we do have some planning to do before we set off.”


“Fine. Okay. Fine. We need to do some preparation, in any case, because the housing was burnt out during the transfer. It’ll need …” The Rodneys continued their discussion as they walked back out of the door.


“Well, at least they seem to be working together okay,” John said once the two Rodneys had left.


“Yeah—for now at least. I guess there’s nothing like a good intellectual puzzle to keep them both out of mischief, and away from each other’s throats. Now, let’s get working on that plan,” the general said, clearing a space on the table.




Several hours later, John left his office, rolling his head from side to side and getting a satisfying crack in response. He could feel the usual pre-mission excitement building in the pit of his stomach and was actively looking forward to the following day. First, he had to run a couple of errands, though. He stopped by the practice room first and found Ronon there, as he often was, sparring with a couple of volunteers. John beckoned him over. He and the general had already gone over the mission plan with the big man, but there were some private orders he wanted to give him.


“Listen, tomorrow I want you to stick to Rodney Sheppard like glue,” John told him.


Ronon gazed at him dispassionately, assessing that comment.


“Got that?” John asked. “I want you to be his personal bodyguard—make sure that nothing happens to him. I don’t want a hair on his head harmed.”


“Very well,” Ronon nodded, his eyebrow rising ever so slightly in unspoken query. “Just Rodney Sheppard—the other Rodney? Not our own? Not the general?”


“Nope. The general can take care of himself and our Rodney always seems to manage just fine.”


“You think that the other Rodney is a weak link?” Ronon frowned.


“No. Not at all. I just know that if anything happens to him, the general will go ballistic and that’s a complication we can do without. Understood?”


“Understood.” Ronon nodded his head thoughtfully.






His next port of call was the lab. It was late, but Atlantis’ Rodney was still working, as John had known he would be, lying on the floor gazing up at the underside of the QDD. There was no sign of the other Rodney—or, in fact, anyone else—but John wasn’t surprised by that. They’d been working in here since the crack of dawn and he doubted Rodney had taken any breaks, save for a couple of minutes to snatch some food which he’d have undoubtedly stuffed down his face while still working. All the others were either too sensible to work such long hours, or less personally invested in the problem.


“McKay, time to turn in,” he said.


Rodney glanced out from underneath a pile of burnt-out crystals and various bits of housing, looking befuddled by the interruption. John noticed the dark smudges under his eyes and the weary lines around his mouth.


“Not yet. It’s still early,” Rodney said.


“It’s nearly eleven,” John pointed out. “And we’re leaving at six tomorrow.”


“Eleven? I never usually turn in before one,” Rodney said brusquely, returning to his work.


“Well, you will tonight,” John told him firmly.


“Oh, I’m sorry—for a moment there I assumed you were the general mistaking me for his slaveboy with all the ordering around that’s going on,” Rodney snapped.


John felt his eyes narrowing and he gazed at Rodney for a moment. He knew for a fact that the scientist had worked all through the previous night, and he had learned to read Rodney very well since they’d all arrived on Atlantis. The scientist could get by on very little sleep, but when he did he was snappy, and his reaction times were slower, and John didn’t want to risk that on the mission the following day—especially if the natives were as unfriendly as he’d been told.


John decided not to take no for an answer. He reached out and waved his hand in front of the light panel, plunging the room into darkness.


“What the hell are you doing?” Rodney demanded.


“Turning off the light so you can get to bed,” John replied sweetly. “And…” He thought about it for a moment, heard a satisfying mental click, and then grinned. “I’ve kind of told the city not to turn it back on again for a few hours,” he added. “I doubt you’ll be able to over-ride that particular command, Rodney.”


“Oh, for God’s sake!” Rodney slid out from where he was working and bumped his head on the underside of the housing as he sat up. John winced. “Ow! Dammit, that’s your fault and this is ridiculous!” Rodney told him, charging across the room and trying the light switch, anyway. The room remained resolutely dark.


“Sorry.” John crossed his arms over his chest and stood there impassively, waiting for the torrent of complaints. He wasn’t disappointed.


“I have work to do, Colonel, and I should point out that I’m Head of Science here, not you, and I can work whatever damn hours I want to. I don’t tell you how to run the military operation here and I don’t expect you to interfere with my work. Now turn the bloody lights back on again!” Rodney ranted.


“Nope.” John remained where he was. Rodney was so close to him in the dark room that he could see the angry flash of his eyes as he spoke, but John wasn’t going to back down on this one. “I’m sorry, Rodney, but I want you rested before we gate into the arms of these sacrificial cultists tomorrow. It won’t be an easy mission and I need you to be alert.”


“When have I ever not been alert during an offworld mission?” Rodney snapped.


“Look, Rodney,” John said, in a softer voice, leaning in close, “you’ve been under a lot of strain these past couple of days and you need the rest. Why are you fighting this? You’re clearly exhausted—you look like shit—why not just go with it?”


Rodney stood there for a moment, and he was so close John could hear the restless, nervous movements of his hands, hands that John had never known to be still.


“Cute,” Rodney muttered at last.


John frowned. “Sorry?”


“Your concern for my wellbeing. Cute. I’m very touched. Now you’ve done your duty. Turn the lights back on again please, Colonel.”


“No.” John’s voice was harder this time. Rodney stood there for a moment and they were eye to eye, nose to nose, and John had a sudden, surprising impulse to grab Rodney and kiss him, hard, on the mouth, and make him give in. He bit the disquieting impulse back down. Damn, but having the alternate Rodney and John around was giving him the most disturbing thoughts. The moment passed, and Rodney’s mouth settled into that hard, crooked line that John was very familiar with.


“Fine,” he said, in a quieter tone than John had been expecting. “You win, Colonel.” He grabbed his jacket from the back of a chair, strode over to the door and opened it. “Oh, one last thing,” he murmured. “Who is going to be in charge tomorrow?”


“What?” John frowned, wondering what the hell he meant.


“You or the general?” Rodney asked, the sweetness of his tone masking the savagery of his question. “You’re just a lieutenant colonel, after all, and he’s a general, so he outranks you.” It was meant to wound and it did.


“Me,” John snapped at him. “I’ll be in charge—as usual. You’re my people. I know you and what you’re capable of. And he didn’t earn that rank in this universe, so as far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t outrank me. He’s just a very useful guest who’s coming along with us to help out.”


“Does he know that?” Rodney asked sweetly. “Only…he doesn’t strike me as the kind of man who likes anyone else to be in charge.” And with that he gave John a fierce, triumphant little look and turned on his heel and walked away.


John stood there for a moment, feeling like he’d been punched. Damn McKay for always knowing his weaknesses and where to hit—although John knew that he’d laid down the gauntlet himself by effectively throwing the scientist out of his own lab in the first place. He should have known he wouldn’t get away with that without Rodney retaliating in some way. Rodney McKay was no pushover—and John had come to accord the scientist a grudging respect for that.


With a sigh, John decided that his errands weren’t yet over for the evening. He took himself off to the room that General and Doctor Sheppard shared and hesitated for a moment outside, wondering what he might be interrupting. He thought of the other Rodney, with that endearing giggle of his, pressing himself into the general’s arms, and imagined the other John kissing him, hard, fiercely, passionately, on the mouth, the way John had just wanted to kiss his own Rodney. John shook his head, trying to banish the mental image. These thoughts didn’t go anywhere so he’d have to find a better way of handling them. He knocked on the door and a few seconds later the general opened it and squinted at him blearily. He was only wearing a pair of boxer shorts, which he’d clearly hurriedly pulled on as his fingers were still pulling at the waistband as he caught sight of John.


“Sorry to disturb you. I just wanted to make sure we were clear on one thing before tomorrow,” John said softly, glancing over the general’s shoulder at the mound in the bed which shifted at the sound of his voice and uncurled to reveal Rodney Sheppard. The scientist sat up, his eyes sleepy and his hair looking disheveled and…kind of adorable. John swallowed down hard.


“Is there a problem? Has something happened?” Rodney Sheppard asked, sliding out of the bed. He was completely naked and John felt his dry throat become even dryer. The scientist had a compact body, with firm, pale flesh, and there was something utterly compelling about his naked body. He was unconscious in his sexuality, with the loose, unembarrassed movements of someone both familiar and comfortable with his own nudity. John’s eyes flickered down slowly over the broad firmness of his shoulders, the tattoo on his upper arm, the little red bite mark over one nipple, and the smooth curve of his cock as it swung in a nest of soft brown curls.


“Eyes front and center, Colonel,” the general growled in a low, warning tone.


John tore his eyes away.


“Rodney—either get back in bed or put some clothes on,” the general snapped over his shoulder. “You’re lucky it’s you,” the general told John. “Anyone else would be lying on their back with my fist mark on their jaw right now for looking at my husband like you just did. If your interest lies there, then you have your own Rodney, remember,” the general added softly.


“Sorry…I didn’t mean anything. I was just startled,” John said quickly. “There’s no problem, Dr. Sheppard. I just wanted a word with the general,” John directed this comment over the general’s shoulder and Dr. Sheppard sighed and slid back into bed, but he remained sitting up, his arms wrapped around his knees, gazing at the door. “I wanted to be clear on one thing tomorrow, General,” John told his counterpart. “I just realized it wasn’t something we discussed earlier and I think it’s important that it’s said. I really appreciate your help, but these are my people, and there can only be one person in command.”


The general gazed at him for a moment, an assessing look in his eyes.


“I realize you technically outrank me,” John began, trying to address the other man’s arguments before he made them.


“But not in this universe,” the general said, which had been John’s exact point from earlier. John wasn’t surprised about that—during the course of the day he’d found they thought the same way on a number of issues. “It’s all right, Colonel. I wasn’t intending to throw my weight around tomorrow. These are your people, however much they might look like my own. Besides …I’m looking forward to seeing you in action,” he said.


John nodded, relieved, and then he thought about that last comment for a moment and felt his stomach clench nervously. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be assessed by this man—or, at least, he didn’t want to be found wanting by the general of all people.


“Way to pile on the pressure,” John grumbled.


The general laughed. “I have every faith in you,” he replied, patting John’s arm. “You’re me, remember?”


“Well. Kind of.” John shrugged, glancing over the general’s shoulder at Dr. Sheppard again. If he was the general, then he’d have someone that enticing waiting for him when he got back to his quarters and not a cold, empty bed. He wondered what it would feel like to have a naked Rodney wrapped around his body, those restless hands of his running over his skin, teasing and arousing him.


The general cleared his throat warningly.


“Anyway, like I said, I’m sorry to disturb you,” John said, tearing his gaze away from Dr. Sheppard again. “Sleep well.”


He turned and left, but his footsteps didn’t take him back to his own room. Instead he found himself walking towards Rodney’s room. He paused outside, wondering what the hell he was doing—or intending to do—and then, finally, he knocked.


Rodney opened the door a few seconds later…looking disappointingly clothed. He gazed at John resentfully.


“Come to make sure I’m actually in bed, Colonel?” he asked. “No, wait, you’re probably here to tuck me in yourself. Or maybe you want to handcuff me to the bed just to be sure I don’t leave. Having the general around seems to be having a bad effect on you.”


“I actually came to apologize for pushing you around earlier, but you know what? Forget it,” John told him, snapped out of his mood by Rodney’s sarcasm and seriously not wanting to even consider the enticing mental image of Rodney handcuffed to a bed. “If you want to work all night, then go ahead. You’re a big boy. But if you screw up on the mission tomorrow because you’re worn out, then I promise you that you’ll hear it from me, long and loud.”


“You’ve turned the light back on in the lab?” Rodney asked suspiciously.


John concentrated for a moment and then nodded. “Done. But I meant what I said, Rodney.”


“Fine.” Rodney glowered at him.


“Good.” John stood there, wanting more than anything to wrap his arms around Rodney and kiss him hard. The thought of the other Rodney’s erotically compelling naked body was still running through his mind, in an endlessly repeating loop, bringing fantasies and emotions to the surface that John had never allowed himself to seriously consider before.


“Great,” Rodney said.


They stood there for a moment, both as tense and taut as piano wire, although presum-ably for different reasons, John thought. He wondered what Rodney’s mouth would feel like under his, and whether his body was the same as the other Rodney’s. Presumably it was, minus the tattoo and a little softer around the middle maybe. He licked his lips, remembering the other Rodney’s cock, smooth, slightly curved, and beautiful, nestled in its bed of light curls. As for the tattoo… John liked the idea of Rodney somehow being marked as his, bearing his initial on his flesh, imprinted there for everyone to see. He could feel himself getting hard just thinking about it…which was ridiculous, because this wasn’t going to happen. Whatever the other Rodney and John felt for each other, this Rodney, standing here in front of him, had never given any indication that he was anything other than straight. He was always bleating on about his thing for blonde women in a way that John often found irritating. Besides, he couldn’t just…what, pin the scientist against the wall and kiss him? Rodney would scream loud enough to wake up the entire city and after that John could imagine the questions he’d be subjected to, to say nothing of a possible charge of sexual assault. Rodney might just be vindictive enough to pursue something like that to the nth degree.


John took a deep breath and the highly charged moment passed. “Well, then. You can go back to work. If you want.” He nodded in Rodney’s direction, and then turned and walked back to his own room as fast as he could. He was barely inside the door when he opened his fly, grabbed his aching cock and rubbed it with a few brisk strokes, which was all it took before he was coming, all the time imagining Rodney McKay, his Rodney, on his knees in front of him, that crooked mouth of his opening wide to suck him.


End of Part Three



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