Spoilers: Through Season 4 episode "Travelers"
Summary: Basically, the gates aren't talking to one another. Something isn't interfacing correctly."
"Like a Mac and a PC."
"No. Not like."
John leveled an expectant look at Rodney.
"Yes. Okay, yes, like that." Rodney conceded.
Author's Note: The title is taken from the Steelers Wheel song, yes, that song. I did have to do some research on Batman, but it was scary how much I did know already. Thank you to my beta, who makes me a better writer. And to bluespirit_star, I hope this story helps to make your holiday merry and bright.
Stuck in the Middle With you
For a guy who could, and regularly did, see doom and certain death in most situations, McKay was handling the news pretty well.
"What do you mean there's a little problem?" John asked, standing in the middle of the midway station's control room and watching as Rodney's attention shifted from the data pad in his hand to the computer screen in front of him.
"In short, the gates don't seem to want to work?" Rodney lifted his fingers off of the data pad screen and curled and stretched them. He sat up straight and a pop pop pop could be heard.
John watched and bit back a comment about offering to help work out those kinks. Fixing the gate came first; coming onto a teammate would have to come later. John sighed.
"What? I wasn't dumbing it down," Rodney said, looking up at John and completely misinterpreting the meaning of the sigh. "I have no idea what's going on. All I know is that the chevrons aren't locking."
"Didn't this happen to SG1 years ago? You don't think…"
"No, no," Rodney interrupted. "They wouldn't know about the station anyway. No, this is something else. "
"Did you run a diagnostic?" John looked over Rodney's shoulder at the data pad screen.
"You know, I knew I'd forgotten something." Rodney said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Okay, okay, I'll leave you to your genius work. Yell if you need help holding a flashlight or something." John shoved his hands into his pockets and went back to sit at one of the other consoles where his book was waiting.
John looked up. Rodney was staring at him, an unreadable look on his face. "Yeah, McKay?"
After his run-in with Larrin and her band of Travelers, John had returned to Earth to apprise the SGC and the IOA about the situation and the threat that they could pose. Rodney'd hitched a ride, John teased, because he was hoping for more sexy aliens.
"Or else I just don't trust you to be left to your own devices." Had been Rodney's reply. "Every time I let you go off on your own, you go and get into trouble. Someone's got to keep an eye on you."
John couldn't be certain, but he thought he'd caught the slightest reddening of Rodney's ears.
While John had been sitting in meetings, recounting in triplicate how the Travelers had captured him; what their ship, technology, uniforms, and haircuts had looked like; and everything and anything else that he could think of, Rodney had been meeting with the science team at the SGC about new weaponry.
What had already been a long two days of meetings was extended thanks to the mandatory 24-hour quarantine on the midway station--a precaution after M3X-387. While a full day alone with Rodney would be some people's worst nightmare, for John it was quickly becoming an exercise in self-control.
They'd passed the time playing chess, Rodney narrowly beating out John in a best of seven, with a magnetic set Rodney just *happened* to have in his overnight bag. And later, when the chess pieces were blurring together in John's head, Rodney had retrieved his laptop to, he claimed, work on some energy formulas for Atlantis. John, however, knew better.
His suspicions were confirmed when he peeked over Rodney's shoulder to see a game of Spider under way on Rodney's screen.
"It's times like these that I really miss our game," Rodney admitted sheepishly.
"You just miss being able create your world of Carter clones."
"Well, yes, there is that, too. Although not so much anymore now that she's our boss." Rodney closed his laptop and turned to face John. "I just miss having our own thing to do, you know?"
John felt the words die in his throat. He nodded, digging his fingernails into the meat of his palms to keep from grabbing Rodney by his shirt and kissing him mute.
After an uncomfortable night sleeping on the corrugated floor of the midway station, John was more than ready to head back home to Atlantis and his own bed.
The next morning, the telltale sound of a gate activating drew John's attention away from his book.
"It's the Pegasus gate," Rodney said.
Before he could finish the sentence, the gate had closed down again.
A beeping noise from Rodney's data pad drew his attention, and John tossed his book onto his overnight bag as he moved over to where Rodney was sitting.
"What is it?" John asked, looking over Rodney's shoulder.
"It's from Radek."
"What's going on?" John could see schematics, and what he assumed was an email from Radek. John would be the last person to claim that he was a science whiz, but he was no dummy, but the words that he could read on the screen made no sense. "Is that even English?"
"It's our shorthand. Basically, the gates aren't talking to one another and they're trying to figure out why. Something isn't interfacing correctly."
"Like a Mac and a PC."
"No. Not like."
John leveled an expectant look at Rodney.
"Yes. Okay, yes, like that." Rodney conceded.
"How long are we going to be stuck here?"
"He didn't say. It could be hours, or it could be a couple of days. It all depends on how quickly they figure out where the bug is and how to fix it." Rodney looked down at his data pad one last time and then set it out on the console. "There's nothing I can do from my end, so we'll just have to wait. Luckily, we still have a stash of MREs."
"Oh, yeah, lucky us. Cheese Tortellini or Beef Patty cooked in a bag. Yum."
"I actually like MREs. I'd prefer it if they'd have a wider selection of foods, but as far as meals go, I'd prefer a Meal Ready to Eat over a TV dinner any day," Rodney said a bit defensively. "It's not like I hoard them and eat them in my room or anything."
"I didn't say you did. Three months straight of nothing but MREs, though, kinda turns a guy off to the appeal of it." John watched Rodney's face as he processed the information, and he waited for the questions.
When the questions didn't arrive, John realized, in the way Rodney was looking at him expectantly, that Rodney wasn't going to ask anything he wasn't ready to share. A wave of gratitude hit John hotly in his chest.
"So… You up for a game of chess?" John asked.
Rodney reached for his overnight bag and retrieved the chessboard.
They sat on the floor of the control room, moves being plotted before the pieces were even in place.
"You and Radek really have a shorthand? Why am I not surprised. You two have conversations without using actual sentences. It's kinda creepy sometimes," John said, taking one of Rodney's pawns.
"Jealousy is not an attractive feature, John," Rodney said, looking up from the board, a flirtatious smile on his face.
"I thought everything looked good on me, I'm rakish, remember?" John replied when he could remember how to use his voice.
Two hours later, they were at what appeared to be a stalemate.
Rodney shifted onto his stomach and John winced sympathetically as he heard something pop in the region of Rodney's back.
"Seriously, I don't know how you can still be sitting like that, my leg fell asleep half and hour ago," Rodney said, moving around to find what John assumed was a comfortable position. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were doing some psychological warfare trying to win this game."
"I might stoop to some levels in order to win, but I'm not willing to hurt myself just to win a stupid chess game," John said, spotting his kill move as he spoke. "That said... Checkmate."
If looks could kill, Rodney would not be an assassin, but the look on his face clearly said that if Rodney could've upended the chessboard, he would have.
"That's it. We need a new game," Rodney announced, swiping the pieces off of the board.
"We could play Prime, Not Prime,"
"It's no fun when you're playing with a ringer."
"I can't do all of the heavy lifting, McKay. We've reached critical mass with the chess. You don't want to play Prime, Not Prime. There's no fun way to play speed solitaire or anything."
"I suppose I could go back to working on the nanite program," Rodney said, his voice clearly indicating he'd rather be doing anything else. He looked over in the direction of John's bag and the book that was resting on top of it. "No more War and Peace?"
"Naw," John drawled, smiling as Rodney rolled his eyes. "I kept getting distracted--a Wraith attack here, Genii invasion there, six months with Ascension happy Ancients--after the hundredth time starting to read it from the beginning I decided it made a better doorstop."
"Spoken like a true lover of the classics. I bet you always had a pile of comic books stashed neatly under your bed while your school books were wherever they'd landed." Rodney turned over onto his back and crossed his arms as he looked up at John, a smug smile on his face. "Tell me I'm wrong. That is if you ever took the books out of your school bag."
"Hey, hey. I was a pretty good student. And for your information, yes, the comics were nicely stacked under my bed." John shifted position so that he was facing Rodney. "But so were the school books. They made good bases for ramps."
"When you weren't studying, of course." Rodney smirked and John very nearly kissed the smile off of him.
"Hey, I couldn't spend all my time studying. There were trees to climb and roofs to jump off of."
"To borrow your comment from earlier. Why am I so not surprised."
"Well how did you used to kill time when you were a kid? Aside from making inactive models of nuclear bombs, that is."
"That was only until grade six," Rodney said somewhat dreamily. "No, I tended to spend a good amount of time studying."
"But, when I wasn't studying, I was working on all sorts of science experiments. Usually inspired by the villain of the week on Batman."
"Oh man, I used to love to watch Batman. Especially when I was home sick. I made my own utility belt once, and of course I had to try it out."
"This will not end well."
"I was halfway up the side of my house when my mom came outside and, wow, could she yell when she wanted to. And I was using her hand rake as a grappling hook. She yelled, I fell and busted my arm."
Rodney looked like he was biting back laughter, and when John's smile gave way to the beginnings of mirth, their laughter echoed in the control room.
"The villains were the real reason to watch the show anyway," John said, wiping away tears of laughter.
"If for their costumes and superior scientific knowledge alone. And their acting ability. How they got some of those actors to play villains on a show with a guy in tights is beyond me."
"Julie Newmar." Rodney aimed a challenging look at John. "And there's one other, Catwoman. Although she was in the movie and not the show. Do you know who that was?"
"Very good. This is good. Okay, how about..." Rodney closed his eyes in thought. When he opened them, he looked like the cat that ate the canary. "Tallulah Bankhead."
"She was the spider queen. Like something out a 40s film." John remembered, picturing the uniforms. "Black Widow. Okay, my turn. Um, David Wayne."
"Ah, Ellery Queen's dear old dad, or, as Batman called him, the Mad Hatter." Rodney crossed his arms behind his head.
"Ellery Queen, McKay?" John asked, raising his eyebrow.
"Oh shut up, Jeannie liked the show. Okay, it's time to up the challenge. Michael Rennie."
John closed his eyes, thinking back to being a kid and sitting in front of the TV, the credits of "Batman" scrolling through his mind. The big guys were already eliminated--Joker, Riddler, Penguin--and Otto Preminger was the second Mr. Freeze. "Bookworm?"
"Nope, that was Roddy McDowell." Rodney raised a finger and smiled. "However, Rennie was, like McDowell, also in a classic sci-fi movie for which he is better known. And it preceded his role in Batman. And there was a robot."
The robot clue tipped the scales. The Day the Earth Stood Still had been one of his favorite movies growing up, his dad had taken him and his brother to a double feature of it and Forbidden Planet at the drive-in when he was eight and he'd fallen in love with the film on the spot. When Klaatu showed up as a bad guy on "Batman," John had been traumatized for days.
"The Sand Man," he answered triumphantly.
"Yes," Rodney said, grinning proudly. "Who would've thought that Klaatu would be a bad guy?"
"I totally mangled one of my mom's throw pillows by punching it. She didn't appreciate the trauma of the event. Cornelius could be a bad guy, but Klaatu? He was all about keeping the peace."
"Once the CIA let me go and I was back home, I made my own Gort," Rodney confessed. "I wish I'd kept him. He was cool."
The robot was the last straw. He'd been able to see this coming from the day he'd looked up from the control chair in Antarctica and saw Rodney in his orange polar fleece, but the timing, the when had been the unknown variable. But with the teasing, and the looks, and with Rodney just *lying* there, with his hands behind his head, the time was now, and if Rodney didn't know what he was doing, then he really was the stupidest genius John had ever met. Rodney'd made a Gort robot for God's sake.
"Gort," John said softly just before he leaned forward and indulged in the fantasy that had been occupying his thoughts for longer than he cared to admit.
Rodney was surprised for all of a split second before he opened his mouth, probably to form some question or protest and John, seeing an opportunity, took it, letting his tongue flick against Rodney's top lip.
Rodney wrapped his arm around John's shoulder, pulling him down as their mouths slid together into a proper kiss.
"Okay, no, this isn't going to work," John mumbled, pulling back slightly. He slid his legs out from under him. "I'm not as bendable as I once was."
"You a hell of a lot more limber than I am," Rodney said, keeping his arm tight around John's shoulder as John arranged himself in a more comfortable position--half draped over Rodney. "Also, might I add, it's about damn time."
"You didn't plan this, did you?" John asked, sliding his hand up under the hem of Rodney's shirt.
"What?" Rodney's face went from blissed out to focused in a nanosecond. "Did I tamper with the gates and potentially strand us in between two galaxies in what is essentially a souped-up Airstream just so I could seduce you and then wait until you made a move?"
"Well when you put it that way."
"I would hope that, if I did, my plan would be better than that." Rodney shifted, threading his fingers through the back of John's hair. John shifted as well, sliding his thigh between Rodney's. "Also, it would be a hell of a lot more comfortable. This is going to be murder on my back."
"We could always stop," John suggested, leaning down to kiss along the side of Rodney's neck.
"Not on your life, John." Rodney turned his head, exposing more kissable skin.
John smiled, aiming his kisses lower, to the junction of Rodney's neck and shoulder.
"How's this, next time I'll be on the bottom," John suggested, lifting his head so he was looking down at Rodney. "We can take turns."
"That is a part of our thing, isn't it?" Rodney looked awed by that thought and John felt something hot and bright explode inside his chest.
"Yeah. It is."
John leaned down and met Rodney's waiting kiss. It had been quite a while since John had just made out with someone, and there was no doubt where this was heading, but for the moment, he was content to stretch this out. Make it last as long as possible. The reality of Rodney's agile mouth moving against his own was a far better reality than any fantasy John had created, and he was content to let those images burn away with every kiss.
The sound of a gate activating broke them apart quicker than a bucket of cold water, and John thanked an assortment of deities that the station hadn't been set up for teleconferencing yet.
"Rodney? Colonel Sheppard?" Radek's voice echoed through the midway station. "We have made the repairs to the gate. You may come home now."
John let his forehead fall onto Rodney's shoulder, a frustrated laugh bubbling up from his chest.
Rodney tapped his radio and then wrapped his arm around John's shoulder. "Radek your timing, I must say, really sucks,"
"This is the thanks I receive. I work to bring you home and you comment on my timing," Radek answered, followed by a litany of very fast Czech phrases.
John rolled onto his back and watched as Rodney sat up and ran a hand through his hair.
"Did he just call us nerdy teenagers?" John asked,
"No, if my Czech is correct, he just referred to us as horny teenagers." Rodney aimed a glare in the direction of the Pegasus gate. In a loud voice, he said, "Thank you, Radek. Colonel Sheppard and I will be dialing Pegasus in a couple of minutes."
"We shall be waiting with bells on," Radek answered and the wormhole disengaged.
Rodney stood up and John couldn't hold back the smile. Rodney's hair was a mess, his shirt was rucked up at odd angles and mouth was red from kissing and John's stubble. "You might want to straighten yourself up a bit, you look like you've just been making out on the floor of the midway station."
"And whose fault is that?" Rodney grumbled, a smile plastered on his face. He finger-combed his hair and smoothed out his clothes. "We can't all get away with looking like we've just rolled out of bed and make it work."
"You're such a sweet talker Rodney." John brushed non-existent dust off of Rodney's shirt. He leaned in for a quick kiss. "Home?"
Rodney dialed Atlantis while John grabbed their bags.
"You know, I happen to have The Day the Earth Stood Still back on Atlantis," Rodney said casually. He took his bag from John's hand and they made their way down the stairs toward the active gate. "And I bet I have the materials that I would need to make another Gort. It wasn't too complicated of a construction, if I remember correctly."
"That would be cool," John said. Looking over at Rodney, he added. "But I had some other ideas of what we could do when we got back. Keep the robot erecting for another time."
"Oh my God, Radek was right. You really are a teenager."
"Well, he wasn't wrong about the horny part."
"John, Rodney, you're clear to come back now." Sam's voice announced in their radios.
"Right. We're on our way," Rodney said, blushing. "Stop making comments like that, I'd rather not to walk into the gateroom with an erection."
"How about later?" John asked, raising his eyebrow.
Rodney kissed John quickly and pushed him toward the gate. "Seriously, Sheppard. Go."
John stepped through event horizon with a stupid smile on his face and Rodney at his side. And with a certainty he'd rarely known, he knew he didn't want it any other way.