Pairing: Sheppard/Dex, Sheppard/Mitchell
Spoilers: Slight for 516 Brainstorm, general season 5; none for SG1
Warnings: Coerced sex, though not coerced by either of the participants in the sex.
Summary: What happens off-world... doesn't always stay there.
Not So Over
"Va - ca - tion," Rodney sing-songed again as he walked into the locker room five minutes before they were due in the gate-room. "One mission, one day of making sure everyone knows not to blow up my city in my absence, and then two weeks on Earth with no-one trying to shoot me, suck my life out, or otherwise bring about my untimely end."
He grinned round at John and Ronon, strapping on the last of their gear for the mission, and Lorne, who wasn't doing anything other than loitering, as far as John could tell.
"It's all right for some," Lorne offered dryly.
"Oh please." Rodney swapped his grey science jacket for the black one he usually wore on missions. "Like you're not secretly thrilled at the thought of getting to be in charge for two weeks while Sheppard's in another galaxy."
Lorne rolled his eyes. "You've uncovered my secret plans for a mutiny. Damn it."
"I always knew that polite, efficient thing was just a front," John said, handing over Rodney's tac vest in the interest of getting them through the gate at something vaguely resembling on time. Teyla had already radioed him twice to say that she was done briefing Stackhouse's team on the Vitraians and that perhaps they might like to get their asses down to the gate-room so she could be back in the city for Torren's bed-time.
She'd been more polite about it, of course, but John knew how to read between the lines.
Lorne shrugged, grinning.
"And I wouldn't be too sure about your life being out of danger on Earth, McKay, I've heard Zelenka talk about those scientific conferences," John added, not mentioning the last one, which had been followed by weeks of angst that John wasn't eager to relive.
"Yes, well, if you'd agreed to be my bodyguard like I asked, I wouldn't have to worry, would I?" Rodney was still as close to bouncing as John had ever seen him, though, and John couldn't help smiling.
"Thought it was some big honor," Ronon said, like they hadn't all been listening to Rodney go on and on, and on some more, about being chosen to present some of the SGC's research at some big conference in Europe. John thought he'd been chosen mainly because everyone was sick of listening to him complain that all his peers thought he was a scientific nothing since he hadn't published in years, but he kept that thought to himself. Regardless, it had proved to be good timing, coinciding with Teyla's proposed two weeks on the mainland for Torren to get to know the rest of the Athosians, now that he was nearly two and old enough to interact with them in a more meaningful way than giggling. Woolsey had apparently agreed, suggesting very firmly that John and Ronon might like some down-time as well, and that John could perhaps take his on Earth, now that the gate bridge was up and running again, at least until the next time it got blown up.
Rodney paused in strapping on his thigh holster to give Ronon a superior look. "Think of it as a chance for me to remind my ex-colleagues of just how brilliant I really am," he said.
Lorne laughed - he'd gotten a lot more patient with Rodney since they'd been trapped together in Michael's compound - and even Ronon smiled a little. Nothing like a little vacation time to lighten everyone's spirits.
"At least I'm not like the colonel here," Rodney added, turning suddenly to John, who blinked and tried to look innocent - not difficult, since he didn't know what he was supposed to be guilty of.
"What, actually capable of getting ready for a mission on time? Trust me, McKay, you don't need to point that out to anyone here."
"Yes, yes, you're terribly funny. Sadly, some of us have more important things to do with our time that shoot things and make paper airplanes, we can't all just sit around waiting for -"
John couldn't help the laugh that broke through, pleased when it was echoed in Rodney's grin. "Do you ever come up for breath?" he asked.
Rodney waved that away absently, finally clipping his P-90 to his vest and looking ready to go. "What I was actually trying to say is that at least I'm not like you, with the bouncing every time you think about going back to Earth."
"I've never bounced in my life," John said firmly, tipping his head to indicate that Ronon should lead the way to the gate-room and Lorne should think about getting back to whatever he was supposed to be doing. "At least, not since I got out of trampolining in kindergarten."
"Please," Rodney said dismissively. "You get this look like you're just picturing -"
Fortunately, Ronon chose that moment to open the door, and even Rodney had enough tact to shut up about John's sex life with the population of the city wandering by. Even leaving aside how much he never wanted to have that conversation in front of his XO, John really didn't want to get into it with Rodney yet again. His relationship with Cam Mitchell had been a fraught topic of conversation ever since Rodney had found out about it, as though John taking six months to tell him that he and Cam had started seeing each other as more than just friends who occasionally had sex, while the expedition had been back on Earth, was some kind of personal slight. Rodney didn't seem to understand that John had gotten so used to keeping his sexuality secret that he'd forgotten how to stop, or that John didn't actually want to talk about all the years of casual sex with Cam that had felt like they should be something more but never had time to be.
He should never have told Rodney that he'd only agreed to go back to Earth for his enforced leave because he knew Cam could swing a couple days off, unlike the last time they'd been scheduled for leave, then this wouldn't be happening. He wondered briefly if he could distract Rodney with the reminder that Ronon was apparently planning on spending some of his leave time learning to kick-box from Amelia Banks, something they'd been talking about since Michael's attack on the city a year ago, except that Lorne was still in hearing distance, walking next to Ronon, and that was yet another conversation that John didn't want to be having in front of Lorne. Or Ronon, come to that.
"I'm just saying -" Rodney started up again, turning down the corridor to the gate-room after John.
"Well, don't, okay," John said firmly. "Just - go back to crowing about your damn conference, would you?"
He could feel Rodney's gleeful grin come back full force. "You know last time I went to one of these - well, not counting last year, when I was too busy saving the world, again - I made three different people cry, and one man consider a change of career to sociology? Hmm, I wonder if he actually went through with it..."
And then they were stepping into the gate-room, where Teyla was waiting and the gate was already glowing blue, vacation was looming, and, really, John couldn't have stopped his grin if he'd tried.
Of course, this was Pegasus, which meant it all went to hell in less than an hour.
"Thought the database said this place was uninhabited," Ronon said, hands behind his head as he glared at the six gun-toting men in black uniforms, who'd come out of nowhere and surrounded the two of them while John was trying to raise Rodney and Teyla on the radio. At least it probably explained why he hadn't succeeded.
"It's ten thousand years out of date," John pointed out, and didn't add that they'd probably be better off assuming the opposite of whatever the database said.
The guy John was assuming was the leader, given that he'd done all the talking, was examining John's P-90 with a disturbing level of interest. John really hoped this wasn't about to turn into another attempt at arms' trading.
"Where's the rest of my team?" he asked. Rodney and Teyla had been tracking a faint energy signature to the east, while John and Ronon went after one to the west. John should have known better than to split up the team; when they got back to Atlantis, he was instituting mandatory jumper sweeps of every new planet before a team set foot on it.
The leader gave the P-90 one last stroke before handing it off to one of his minions so that he could smirk at John instead. John groaned internally - as if the gun-fondling hadn't been bad enough, the ones who smirked were always more creepy than the ones who were just angry. All he needed was a goatee of evil or a mustache to twirl. "They are safe. For now."
Great. Creepy and cryptic, John's favorite combination. "I want to see for myself."
The leader laughed, mocking and weirdly high-pitched. "You are hardly in a position to make demands."
John dialed down the urge to ask when they'd stepped into a cheesy thriller movie, just; it would have been funny, if Teyla and Rodney had been standing next to them, visibly unharmed. If they'd been armed, and not ambushed. Someone who could sneak up on *Ronon* wasn't someone John was eager to tangle with. "Okay then. Why don't you tell me what you want? I assume you do want something. Money? Weapons? Medicines? Cos I gotta tell you, taking us captive at gun-point isn't the most effective way to get our people to trade with you."
"What we want isn't anything your people have to trade."
That - really didn't sound good.
"I wouldn't be too sure of that." John really, really wanted to be armed, or at least not to be stood with his hands on his head, shoulders burning with memory till he could almost feel the sand in his face instead of the damp breeze between the trees. "How about you take us to the rest of our team, we can talk about it like reasonable people."
The leader shook his head, flicked a hand at two of his minions, who came forward with - wow, real metal handcuffs, something John hadn't seen anywhere in Pegasus yet. It didn't seem much - he was pretty sure he and Ronon could take the six of them, even in handcuffs - except for the threat of Teyla's and Rodney's absences, the prospect of what might be done to them if leader-guy didn't show up with Ronon and John.
John shook his head when Ronon started to struggle, waiting for Ronon to catch his eye. Ronon growled in response, glaring down at the minion fastening the cuffs to his wrists, but went still, every line of his body screaming tension.
"Bring them," the leader said, and they were prodded into forward motion.
John expected the walk to drag on, based on past experience, but he'd barely had time to start imagining everything that might have happened to Teyla and Rodney before they were being ushered into a huge two-storey brick building that reminded John of small town police stations. If it had been taking growth hormones. The whole setup on the planet was starting to feel weirdly like Earth, which just freaked John out more. Somehow, he didn't think this was going to end with the four of them making bail.
There were more guys in black when they got inside, all of them armed, though most of them still had their weapons holstered. They were led in a large, empty room, but there was no sign of Rodney and Teyla, just a whole lot of doors. John couldn't help looking for a trapdoor, reminded of the Genii.
"I want to see the rest of my team," he said again, fixing his best military-commander-of-Atlantis-don't-fuc
"You'll be given a chance," the guy said. "There is a penance to be made."
"For what?" Ronon demanded, vibrating with suppressed anger next to John.
"Your friends attempted to enter a building off limits to off-worlders and most sacred to our people. For this, they must pay."
"Pay how?" John asked, and didn't ask where they'd gone or what they'd done, specifically. Rodney on the trail of an energy reading was pretty much unstoppable, even by Teyla.
"It has already begun," the leader said. He looked regretful, almost, and it made something in John's chest go tight with fear. "They have been given the draft."
"What draft?" John felt Ronon shifting next to him, ready to make a break for it. It was strangely reassuring, in the midst of everything going to hell.
Apparently, the leader had noticed as well. "It will do you no good to escape. Even if you could find them, the draft is swift acting, and you don't have the antidote."
John swallowed against the burning knowledge of what the answer was going to be, and asked, "What does it do? The - the draft."
"Their lives are forfeit, in payment for their crime. The draft will take them, before the hour is up."
John heard his own voice, cracked with horror, say, "No," right before everything was lost under the sound of Ronon's roar, the smack of flesh on flesh. It took John's reeling brain a moment to catch up - this was an escape attempt, whatever the leader said, and he jerked his own head back, heard someone scream, close to his ear. The hands on his cuffed wrists were gone; next to him, Ronon half-turned, hurling someone bodily at the wall. That was all John saw before he was occupied fighting off two of the men, trying not to break his own nose, his hands useless behind his back, everything gone under the white noise of the fight, the red haze of terror inside his own head.
He'd known it wasn't going to work, before they even started, so, really, it was no surprise when he found himself face-down on the floor with someone's knee in his back, his head aching from being used as a weapon, his shoulder wrenched when he'd gone down. On the other side of the room, a third man was adding his weight to Ronon's still struggling form.
"As I said." The face of the leader loomed in front of John, full of satisfaction. "It will do you no good to attempt to escape. Take them to the cells. They may see their friends when penance has been paid."
They'd been in their cell for ten minutes, by John's watch, which he couldn't take his eyes off. Long enough for it to become clear there was no way out through either the thick metal door or the solid stone walls, not without more time or more tools than they possessed at that moment. Long enough for Ronon to pace himself out and drop onto the cot next to John. Long enough for John to start feeling like he'd never move again, overwhelmed by the thought of Teyla and Rodney dying somewhere, probably in the same fucking building, for a simple mistake, for nothing, while he and Ronon sat there, fucking helpless to do anything but wait and take their bodies back to Atlantis. Back to Kanaan and Torren, to Keller, to the Athosians who still looked to Teyla for leadership and the scientists who did the same to Rodney.
It made John feel like throwing up, fighting it down through force of will, because that was the last thing this situation needed.
"Someone's coming," Ronon said, standing up and moving to the door.
"Already?" John asked. It hadn't been long enough, surely. It wasn't as though there was really any chance of them being rescued, but this was Pegasus, every other day was some kind of last minute rescue.
He forced himself to his feet, Ronon stepping back to stand by him in the middle of the cell. John kind of wanted to reach for his hand, feeling light-headed, unmoored.
He'd been expecting the leader; he got the two guards who'd locked them up.
"Your friends are still alive," the shorter one said, taking a step into the cell, weapon drawn. They might be cruel, but they weren't stupid. John was pretty sure at least one, maybe two, of Ronon's opponents in the fight had been seriously injured.
"And?" John asked, happy to hear the lack of relief in his voice, relief he knew better than to start feeling.
The other guard stepped inside the cell as well, though they kept the door open. "We can take you to them, get you the antidote."
"In return for what?" John asked. No mention of getting them out of the building, or back to the gate, but they'd survived worse odds, and he'd bet on Ronon knowing the way back anyway.
"You," Shorty said, looking at John.
John already had his mouth open to agree - yes, him, fine, anything, in exchange for Rodney and Teyla, yes - when Ronon said, "Him for what?"
Beanpole's eyes went shuttered and dark. "That's not your concern."
Ronon's snort could have rivaled Rodney in his most sarcastic, irritated moods. "You're not going to kill him. The guy in charge doesn't know you're doing this. So what do you want him for?"
John felt like Rodney for a moment, his brain jumping ahead, because Ronon was right, no way this was sanctioned. Which meant the two guards probably wouldn't be sticking around afterwards, and they'd have no use for John. No use for John dead, anyway.
The sick, cold feeling in his stomach came back, twice as bad, watching Beanpole watch John get it.
"No," Ronon said, sudden and fierce, and John gasped in relief because he'd never have been able to say it, however much he wanted to. Would never be able not to do it, with Rodney and Teyla's lives hanging in the balance and time running out. There were worse things to trade than what these two were asking for.
They could take these two, he thought, even unarmed. Force them to lead John and Ronon through the building - maybe. Except that it was a huge building, with probably thousands of doors, and they'd have no way of knowing which way was the right way. The guards could lead them around until Rodney and Teyla were dead, and neither John nor Ronon would be able to do anything about it. Playing along was pretty much their only option.
"If their lives are worth so little to you..." Shorty started.
"I -" John started, but Ronon cut him off.
"Not with you. Me and him, you can watch. Give us the antidote, get us out of here, and we'll take you through the gate with us. Leave you somewhere safe."
John half-turned, unable not to stare at Ronon, who wasn't looking at him at all. He wondered if that was what he sounded like when he was proposing some insane plan to the local populace to save his team, his city. Wondered when exactly in this mission he'd handed over control to Ronon, what made Ronon think John would agree to this, even though John already knew he would.
Wondered, very briefly, about Cam, and already knew that he wouldn't say anything unless he absolutely had to. This had to be a built-in exception to unspoken agreements of fidelity, but there were things Cam didn't need to know about. Things John didn't *want* him to know about, least of all from John.
"And you consider that a fair trade for the lives of your friends?" Beanpole asked.
"Your freedom in exchange for the antidote and their safety?" John asked, trying to pull himself together. "I'd say you're getting the better end of that deal."
Shorty looked like he was giving it serious consideration. John felt his teeth scrape over his lower lip before he could stop himself. This had to work, it had to, and it had to be fast. He looked down at his watch, helpless not to, and wondered if he'd wound it too tight, if the hands were moving too fast.
Ronon edged fractionally closer to him, and when John looked at him, he was looking back, expression full of questions, only some of which John could understand. He nodded, trying to project some reassurance. Ronon didn't look like he'd succeeded, which was fair enough; John wasn't feeling particularly reassured himself at the prospect of having sex with one of his best friends in front of the creepy alien guards while Rodney and Teyla headed towards death somewhere on this fucked up planet.
"You swear you can get us safely off this world?" Shorty asked. John wondered, briefly, exactly what it took to get made a guard here, if it was anything like what it took to get punished. Then he remembered that the two of them wanted to drag John off into the wilderness to play with, and felt a hell of a lot less sympathetic. It wasn't like he wouldn't get rescued, or even manage to rescue himself, but rescue was almost never immediate.
"We swear," he said, lying through his teeth. He couldn't even swear to being able to get his own team safely home, never mind two people he really wasn't all that set on saving in the first place.
Beanpole nodded, and the cell door swung closed with a loud, echoing clang.
It was uncomfortable to be undressing next to Ronon, uncomfortable, but not that weird, as long as John kept his back to their audience. He'd never been into being watched, or the risk of being spotted - too many years in the Air Force had given him that as a fear, not a kink - and the situation wasn't exactly conducive to getting turned on even without that.
He shivered in the cool air of the cell, reminded himself why they were doing this. At least it was Ronon, who he knew, who cared about him, who was, already, a little familiar like this. And it was just sex. No big deal.
Ronon's big, warm hand on his upper arm still made him jump. "Hey," Ronon said quietly, turning John to face him. John looked up at him, still shivering, and Ronon cupped his jaw carefully and leaned down to kiss him.
John made himself relax into it, his own hands going to Ronon's bare hips. He remembered this, from a handful of encounters after John had gotten back from the time dilation field, when he'd still been trying to remember how to fit into his own life. Ronon had offered, and it had been easy and uncomplicated, and then slowly trailed off until they were just friends again, no benefits, or at least not those kinds of benefits.
John closed his eyes, kissed back, tried to tell himself they were on Atlantis, in his room, nothing else to do one evening. Ronon ran the hand on John's arm up over his shoulder, down his chest to stroke lightly at one nipple, and it felt good, good enough to sustain the illusion, to make John's cock start to take an interest in what was going on. It was only fair the he reciprocate, sliding one hand up to press into the hollow above Ronon's hip, the one spot that always made him gasp.
"Enough," Beanpole said suddenly, and the illusion fell away. A tin rattled to a stop at John and Ronon's feet, making them both look down. Some kind of lubricant, from the printed description, though not a name John had seen anywhere else in the galaxy. When he looked back up, Ronon was looking questions at him again, but easy questions this time, or at least, easy to read.
John nodded, yes, and Ronon nodded back, solemn and intense. John looked away, caught sight of his watch half-tucked into his boot. No more stalling.
He got down on his hands and knees, the stone floor rough and chilled against his skin.
"Facing us," Beanpole said. John turned, trying not to look up, trying not to feel the two pairs of eyes on his naked body, his soft cock. Live action porn, he thought, and choked down the hysterical laugh. He'd never felt less able to get it up, never mind actually come, in his life, and never needed to more.
The edge of panic receded a little when Ronon knelt behind him, his whole body curving forward, warm against John's back, his head lowered so both their faces were shadowed. "We don't have to," Ronon said quietly. He rested one hand on John's hip and John shivered. He hoped it looked something like arousal to their audience. "We could fight our way out."
John shook his head, knowing Ronon had already come to same conclusion he had. He'd never have offered this otherwise. "It's okay," he said. "Just do it and we can get out of here."
Nothing happened for a moment, then Ronon ducked his head a little further, and kissed the back of John's neck. John bit back the noise trying to escape his throat, afraid of what it would sound like. Ronon kissed him again, then shifted back.
John closed his eyes against the light, listening to Ronon open the tin and the squelch of his fingers sinking into whatever was inside. Even knowing it was coming, he tensed up when Ronon's finger skated across his ass before pushing inside. "Breathe," Ronon said quietly. John took a quick gasping breath, then another, trying to breathe deeply and relax. Ronon moved, kneeling with one leg on either side of John's, his mostly-soft cock against the side of John's thigh, and ran one hand down John's back. John focused on that, instead of the feel of Ronon's finger pushing further into him, and wished he could touch Ronon back. Whenever they'd gotten together before, it had been face to face, and John had been able to touch as much as he wanted, feeling the connection between them. This felt way too vulnerable.
It felt worse when Ronon added a second finger - he was too tense, too tight, couldn't relax, and Ronon would never be able to... He couldn't stop thinking about Rodney and Teyla, imagining them in pain, waiting for Ronon and John to come.
The unintentional pun made him laugh, though it sounded more like choking.
Ronon said, "Easy," and slid his hand down to wrap round John's cock, big and warm. He obviously remembered what worked for John, just on the edge of too tight, a little faster than usual in deference to their time constraints. Don't think about that. Ronon was rubbing his own cock against John's thigh, pushing a third finger into him, stretching him open, and John took a moment to be grateful for Ronon's coordination, because he couldn't do a damn thing on his hands and knees like this.
He heard buttons snapping open somewhere in front of them, sending a burst of something like panic through him, so strong he felt sick with it. Ronon stroked John's cock again, tightening his fist slightly over the head. John took another deep breath, tried to let go. It was actually working, as long as he didn't think about the two guys watching them.
"John," Ronon said. "We don't have anything."
It took John a moment to get his brain together enough to figure out what Ronon meant. Not that it helped any when he did - they were probably lucky their jailors had supplied lube, he couldn't see them coming up with any condoms. "It's okay," he said, since there wasn't anything else to say. They both got tested for all sorts of things pretty regularly, the chances were they were clean.
Somehow, he didn't think that was what Ronon was really worried about. John hadn't fucked anyone without using a condom since Nancy, and even then, they'd been together months before he felt able to approach the subject.
Ronon slid his fingers out of John, shifting again. John tried to adjust his own weight, his knees sore from the rough stone, his arms aching from holding him up. How long had they been doing this, anyway?
"Relax," Ronon said, much closer than he had been, then he was pushing into John, and it took all of John's concentration not to tense up all over again, not to push Ronon away. He could do this. They didn't have any choice.
It seemed like Ronon was just as aware of the time as John - he had a better internal clock than anyone John had ever met. He fucked John hard and fast, one hand on his back for balance, the other still around John's cock, every thrust pushing John's cock into his hand. John kept his eyes closed, tried to think sexy thoughts, wishing he could block out the sounds of the audience participation going on three feet from his head. It was better than being taken off into the wilderness for the two of them to play with until he could escape. Better than letting Rodney and Teyla get killed.
He focused on Ronon instead, the panting breaths that meant he was getting close, the warmth of his body where he was curling over John again. If John turned his head slightly, Ronon's dreadlocks brushed against his cheek. They had to be running out of time.
Ronon squeezed his cock, his thumb pressing against the head, all the things that worked for John, though he wondered if that was going to change. Come now, John, I want to see you, and he couldn't remember who'd said that to him, but it worked. His cock jerked in Ronon's hand, orgasm like a solid punch to the gut, more pain than pleasure. It didn't matter, none of it mattered. Ronon groaned, let go of John's cock to grasp his hips and fuck him hard for another few strokes, coming with a gasp.
It was over. It didn't matter that it hurt when Ronon pulled out, that both their jailors had wet patches on their pants where they'd obviously gotten off on watching them. It didn't even matter that Ronon had to help John up, his knees locked up from kneeling on the cold floor for too long, or that his hands were trembling so badly he could barely fasten his shirt.
It was over. Everything was going to be okay.
They didn't run into anyone, moving through the compound to where Rodney and Teyla were being held. It didn't stop John from reaching for the weapon he didn't have, and he felt Ronon doing the same next to him.
"Wait here," Beanpole said outside a door that looked exactly like all the others they'd just passed. Less than five minutes later, he came back out, Teyla and Rodney behind him, fully dressed and sure as hell not looking like they'd been on the edge of death. Surely it hadn't all been some kind of trick.
"Oh thank God," Rodney said when he saw John and Ronon. "We thought - well, I don't know what, really, but -. What took you so long?"
"Rodney," Teyla said reprovingly. "We are very grateful to you both for your timely rescue."
"Were you -" John started, but there wasn't a way to ask. It wasn't like he was wishing that they had been tortured. Not exactly.
"The draft they gave us caused no pain," Teyla said, giving him an odd look. "It was almost like falling asleep."
"Yes, except for the knowing we weren't going to wake up part," Rodney added.
"We should go," Ronon said, and then they were too caught up in getting out of the compound and back to the gate for anyone to ask any more questions. They sent the two guards through to one of the big market place worlds they'd been to, somewhere they were bound to find jobs, and dialed the alpha site, since their IDCs had gone the way of their weapons and radios. Some days, it really sucked to be captured by technologically advanced people.
It wasn't until John was keying in the code for the box containing spare radios at the alpha site that Rodney's curiosity overcame his focus on running for their lives. John was actually kind of surprised it had taken that long.
"So, how exactly did you convince those two guards to help us escape? I assume they captured you as well, unless you just happened to run into them on your way to effect a daring rescue. Which I wouldn't put past you, actually."
The lid of the lock box sprang open with a click. John made a mental note to send someone to add some more ear pieces, since he was taking the penultimate one. Apparently they'd been losing more than he'd thought, which was a pretty depressing realization.
"Well?" Rodney asked. "Not that we're not grateful for the rescue and everything, even if it was typically last minute, but it wouldn't hurt for you to share how you did it, just in case it comes in useful in the future."
John forced a slight smile onto his face before straightening. Fitting the radio into his ear allowed him not to look at Rodney, or at Teyla and Ronon, guarding the gate but not far enough away not to hear. At least it would save him an embarrassing conversation with Ronon about exactly what they'd tell Woolsey. "The guards offered to get us out and give you the antidote if we'd get them through the gate to a safe planet. Wasn't exactly a hard sell."
Ronon didn't move at all, but John could still feel his eyes on him. He thought it should have felt weird, uncomfortable, but actually it felt warm and safe.
Rodney frowned. "That's it? And that took you nearly an hour?"
"Perhaps we should just be grateful that Ronon and Colonel Sheppard were able to get to us in time," Teyla suggested, a hint of reprimand in her voice. "Without them, we would be dead by now."
"Thank you, Teyla," John said, turning his head to smile at her without meeting her eyes. He felt uncomfortably sure that, like Rodney, she suspected something wasn't right with the story. Unlike Rodney, there was a chance she might figure out what it was. "Ronon, you want to dial the gate?"
"That's it?" Rodney asked. "We nearly died and -"
"I know," John snapped, and, whoa, he had not meant for his voice to come out like that, cracked with fear. Even Rodney started back a step, his expression twisting somewhere between worry and... fear? "I'm sorry," John said, not really sure what he was apologizing for. "Can we just go home?"
"Of course," Rodney said quickly. "Of course, right away. As soon as Ronon dials the gate and Woolsey lets them drop the shield anyway, unless you want to be splatted into it. Which you don't..."
John took a deep breath, letting Rodney's voice wash over him, grateful that his explanation to Woolsey came out sounding normal and in control.
Stepping through the gate was like stepping into a pool of cool water. It was the best thing John had ever felt, until he stepped out into Atlantis, with Woolsey coming down the stairs to talk to them, four marines on guard, a bunch of techs up on the balcony, the gate closing behind them, the shield up. It felt like the safest place in the universe, wrapping him up in security so strong that he could barely remember what he'd said to Woolsey by the time they got sent off to the infirmary for check-ups.
He didn't notice Ronon and Teyla looking at each other, but they must have done, because Teyla drew Rodney into conversation and strode out ahead, allowing Ronon to slow and fall behind, keeping John with him. There was no way that wasn't on purpose.
"You need to tell Keller what really happened?" Ronon asked, low voiced, when Teyla and Rodney turned a corner up ahead. John couldn't help looking round for anyone who might be listening, even knowing that Ronon wouldn't have asked if someone was.
He shook his head. He ached in all sorts of places that he didn't usually ache after missions, but he could deal with that once he got under a hot shower. A shudder ran down his spine, completely unexpected, and he stuck his hands into his pockets. "It's fine. It'd be better if no-one knows, especially Keller. She might decide she needs to tell Woolsey, or the new shrink. I'd rather this didn't go on our records."
Especially his, with all the suspicion that would come with what they'd done, all the correct assumptions. John had spent a long time keeping his private life secret, and a couple of skeevy aliens weren't going to change that. "Wait. Do you need to tell her? Or Dr -" He blanked on the shrink's name, again. It wasn't like he didn't know it, he just... forgot. His brain still wanted to say Heightmeyer, even after two years.
Ronon shook his head, giving John a look that clearly said how stupid that suggestion was. "Thought I might have hurt you," he said, looking away.
"You didn't," John said, smoothing his tone out to cover the way it was half a lie. Ronon didn't need the guilt, and John was hardly going to whine over being uncomfortable sitting still for a couple of days. "I'd rather it was..." He trailed off, the words sticking in his throat. This wasn't a conversation for a public hallway, no matter how empty it was.
Ronon seemed to get it anyway. He nodded, eyeing John closely for a few more seconds before offering up a small smile. John smiled back, weirdly breathless with relief. "Come on, before Keller decides to send out a search party for us."
Keller decided to keep Teyla and Rodney in overnight, since they'd been injected with two different and completely unknown compounds in the space of a few hours, and John managed to slip out when Kanaan arrived with Torren to check on them. Someone noticed - he felt them watching him as he left - but whoever it was didn't call him back, and no-one came after him.
It was still only mid-afternoon, which meant he should have gone down to his office, checked in with Lorne, but his uniform felt grubby against his skin, and he really, really needed a shower. They'd been scheduled to take until the early evening for the mission, so he wasn't due anywhere important, and anyway, they'd been captured. He was owed an hour to take a shower, change into some clean clothes.
The shower was hot enough to fill the room with steam within seconds of John switching it on, and the water stung his skin when he stepped in. He closed his eyes, stuck his head into the stream of water until his hair was soaked through. The water felt good, washing away sweat and come and lube, everything he didn't want to think about. The memory was already hazy, fading away like all the other missions that went badly but not horribly, only sparking into full life when something happened to remind him.
He didn't feel like he'd been in the shower that long, but his watch, when he got out and toweled the worst of the water out of his hair, said it had been nearly an hour. John winced, fastened it back round his wrist, and went digging in his drawers for clean clothes. He was technically on duty, which meant putting on his last clean uniform.
Halfway out the door, he stopped and went back for his black fleece.
He went down to the armory for another side-arm - third in six months, the SGC was going to start complaining again - made a note of the weapons they'd lost on the planet, ready for the next inventory; stopped by stores for a new ear piece, which reminded him to contact Lieutenant Peterson and ask her to drop some more off at the alpha site.
It was still too early for dinner, and John found himself drifting aimlessly towards the control room. They'd been having a quiet week, but he couldn't shake the sense that there was something important he was forgetting, and there was an even chance Woolsey would remind him what it was.
He didn't make it all the way there - Ronon caught up to him on his way past the civilian gym, the one that Cadman had tried to convince them to designate as a dance studio. "Hey."
John glanced sideways at him as Ronon fell into step with him. "Hey," he said, blinking. "How did you get your gun back?"
"Didn't." He patted the butt of the gun.
"Wait a minute." John stopped, the scientist he hadn't noticed walking behind him nearly walking into him. "Sorry. You've had a spare, all this time, and you never even let me borrow it?"
Ronon shrugged, but there was a hint of a smile on his face, if you knew where to look, like John did. John couldn't help smiling back, though it kind of made his face ache. Ronon's smile flickered. John took a deep breath, and made himself keep smiling for another moment. The air in the corridor felt strangely thin, and John had a sudden, shockingly clear flash of Ronon's hand on him as he pushed into John.
"Sheppard," Ronon said, sounding far away, his hand tight on John's elbow.
John blinked, everything coming back into focus. Ronon definitely wasn't smiling any more. "Sorry."
"You all right?" Ronon asked.
John nodded. "I'm fine."
Ronon didn't look convinced, but one of the nice things about Ronon was that he knew when to drop something. "I'm gonna go check on Teyla and McKay. Keller'll make her people bring dinner for us as well."
John's stomach clenched uneasily. "I've gotta check in with Lorne and Woolsey. I'll come by later."
"I'll come by later," John said again, hoping he didn't sound as desperate as he felt. Ronon gave him the look John recognized from when he and Teyla had been arguing about her not telling them she was pregnant, like John was a huge disappointment to him in that moment. John hated that look, even when it was followed by Ronon sighing in agreement and walking away.
He managed to avoid the possibility of running into either Ronon or Kanaan at dinner by getting Lorne involved in a debate over whether they ought to restructure some of their lower-tier teams. It was a little freaky how interested Lorne could get in those things, but it worked in John's favor more than half the time, and it meant Lorne didn't ask too many questions about the mission. By the time they'd decided that they were probably best off keeping things the way they were, the mess was nearly ready to stop serving dinner, and also almost empty, and it was too late, once he'd eaten, to go by the infirmary. Keller would only hover until John got the hint and left. He might as well not bother going in the first place. Someone would have radioed if anything had changed.
The nagging sense of something he'd forgotten hadn't gone away, even after Lorne assured him that he was, for once, up to date on his own paperwork. Back in his quarters, he booted up his laptop, checked the mission roster for something important coming up that had slipped his mind, then the latest Daedalus roster. No new marines coming in, nothing particularly exciting on the cargo list. It was a mystery, one that was going to nag at John for days, and probably keep him awake at night into the bargain.
He spent an hour poking at his mission report, which only served to highlight the depressing reality that they had no idea what the punishment for the crime might mean, no idea what Rodney and Teyla had been drugged with, and very little chance of turning that planet into an ally. If John authorized another trip back, which he wouldn't. The whole thing just made him tired.
He shut the laptop down again, brushed his teeth, undressed, got into bed. Maybe tomorrow would be better. He just needed sleep.
Forty minutes later, he was still staring at the darkened ceiling, body wide awake and brain too exhausted to slow down, jittery with something like irritation at his body's refusal to give him the oblivion he was looking for. Maybe he could go borrow Rodney's bath, try to relax. Except then he'd have to walk back from Rodney's quarters in the middle of the night with wet hair.
Really not that relaxing.
There was always Ronon, who never turned down an opportunity to either run John into the ground or beat him with sticks till he fell over all on his own. Except that would come with Ronon's disappointed look again, because he'd know John hadn't been by the infirmary after saying he'd go, and pointing out that it had been too late wouldn't do any good.
He flopped over onto his side with a sigh and fumbled around in the top drawer until his hand closed over the small bottle of lube. It was unpleasantly cool squeezed onto his fingers, but it warmed up when he shoved his hand into his boxers and stroked his cock. He wasn't feeling particularly turned on, but maybe if he could come, he'd be able to relax enough to fall asleep.
Of course, it would help if he could get hard in the first place. He shifted, pushing his hips up so his cock slid into his fist, and something twinged, a moment of sharp pain that made John gasp. He gave it a minute to recede back to just a dull ache, and moved onto his side, started again.
With his eyes closed, he could kind of pretend it was someone else. He conjured up Cam, lying snug against John's back, stroking him slowly, both of them half-asleep. It was kind of lame, and not something he'd ever admit to anyone, but that usually worked for him better than anything else. He didn't want to think too hard about what it meant that he apparently got off on the comfort more than the sex.
Just like with Ronon, feeling him curved over John's body, protecting him, how much easier that had made it.
John shoved the memory aside, trying to think of Cam, just Cam, his normal sized bed and his compulsively neat apartment, and -.
John flung himself upright, swinging round till his feet were on the floor and he could look down at the vague shape of his still soft cock through his boxers. For a moment, he felt insanely close to tears of sheer frustration, wanting to sleep so badly, and even his own body had betrayed him.
"Fuck," he swore softly, and got up, reaching for the jeans he'd tossed over a low cupboard after movie night a couple of weeks ago. He didn't bother with socks, just shoved his feet into his running shoes and pulled his fleece back on again.
The corridor lights were still bright, despite the late - or early - hour, Atlantis having as many night owls as it did early birds, but the lights in the infirmary were pleasantly dim. Rodney was fast asleep in the far corner, snoring gently on his back. Teyla, in the bed next to him, was curled round Torren, both of them breathing deeply. Ronon, fully clothed in the next bed over, looked like he was asleep as well, though John wasn't entirely sure he was fooled. There was no sign of Keller.
He shoved his own shoes off, and climbed onto the bed in the nearest corner, a couple away from Ronon, curling onto his right side on top of the covers. He felt his eyelids start to droop almost immediately, sleep finally catching up with him. He forced them open a couple of times, just checking. The final time, Ronon was looking back at him, eyes soft with something that wasn't at all disappointment, and John let himself slide away.
He slipped out while the others were still sleeping in the morning, went for a run alone, though he suspected that Ronon had woken up when he left and half-expected the company. He wasn't sure if he was disappointed or not when it didn't show; it wasn't Ronon's usual style to give people space, as much as he liked for them to do him that favor.
By the time he'd showered and made it down to the mess hall, the breakfast rush was in full swing. He got dragged over to a table of marines, who wanted to hear - again - about John and Teyla's adventures on P3X 892 a couple of months back, a combination of treasure hunt, pitched battle and triathlon, in which they'd emerged victorious with a quarter-charged ZPM, though the marines were more interested in the violence than the prize.
He ended up spending too much time with them, made himself late for a meeting with Woolsey, who didn't mention anything that might explain the sense of having forgotten something that John hadn't managed to lose overnight. That meeting ran late, as a result of John being late, and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the morning, so that he ended up working through lunch, only eating because Ronon, on his third visit to John's office, brought food. John thanked him politely and didn't ask about the increased visits - it wasn't like they never saw each other during the day, but it was pretty rare for any of the team to come hang out in John's office. That was unspoken reserved space for Lorne and the marine officers, some kind of distinction between John the commander and John the person that everyone understood, for all that none of them could actually verbalize it.
The thing was, he didn't need Ronon looking out for him, checking up on him. That was John's job, unless he was in the infirmary, and even then, only if he was unconscious. It made him vaguely uncomfortable, like Ronon thought John had gotten the worst end of the deal on that planet, instead of Rodney and Teyla who'd nearly died. A bit of unplanned sex with one of his closest friends for an alien audience was nothing by comparison.
Even if Teyla had been telling the truth about the drug being painless.
Whatever. John wasn't some blushing virgin who needed his hand held after sex. He'd slept with plenty of people - plenty of guys, even - and, okay, none had been in front of two alien guards who really wanted to kidnap him as some kind of walking, talking sex toy but still. It was just sex. No big deal.
The laptop bleeped at him and he started back, realizing he'd been leaning on the keys and typed four pages of j's without noticing. He sat up straighter and started deleting them all again, trying to remember what he'd actually been working on.
Rodney came by at quarter past seven, just as John was starting to contemplate going down for dinner and leaving the rest of his newly acquired stack of forms - he'd swear, some days, that Lorne made these things up - for the next day.
"Finally," Rodney said, hovering in the doorway for a minute before stepping inside and taking one of John's visitors' chairs. "I've been looking all over for you."
John hit save and watched the cursor blink at him from the middle of a sentence. "That's why we have radios," he suggested.
"Yes, well." Rodney waved that away. "I thought yours might not be working, since you didn't bother coming by the infirmary after Keller let us out. I thought maybe you hadn't gotten any of the messages for some reason."
John hadn't gotten any of Rodney's messages, though he'd had one from Keller to let him know that his team were back on active duty again. It probably had something to do with the way he'd had his radio turned to the military net for most of the day, which Keller could hook into as a member of medical personnel, but Rodney couldn't. "I take it you're fine?" he asked anyway, since Rodney appeared to want some kind of commemoration of the event. "No alien parasites, weird super-powers, or inclination to turn into a bug?"
"None of the above," Rodney confirmed brightly. "Though it's possible that Lunderton may have acquired an alien parasite - it would certainly explain what he was trying to do to the transporter controls before I put a stop to it."
"Good thing you're here," John said, and the flash of remembered fear came out of nowhere, completely overwhelming for a second, because, God, Rodney nearly *hadn't* been here.
When he shook it off, Rodney was looking at him worriedly, hand halfway to his earpiece. "John?"
"I'm fine." John took a deep breath, then another to squash the queasy feeling in his stomach. "Rodney, I'm fine. You don't need to call anyone."
"Are you sure?" Rodney asked, his hand dropping away slowly. "Because you looked just like Jeannie when she used to get petit-mal seizures, and, well, it's a little late for you to be developing epilepsy, but not that much of a shock, given the number of head injuries you've had -"
"I'm fine," John said again. "I don't have epilepsy, it wasn't a seizure, I just zoned out for a second. Didn't sleep well."
He realized as soon as he'd said it that he shouldn't have, Rodney's ears practically pricking up with interest. To John's amazement, he didn't ask the obvious question, just tilted his head toward the corridor and said, "Come have dinner."
John's stomach rolled unpleasantly at the thought. "I had a big lunch."
Rodney sighed. "What, two lettuce leaves instead of one? Come on, Teyla and Ronon are already down in the mess. Ronon will eat all the chocolate pudding."
"Oh no," John said drily. He'd never understand the love Rodney and Ronon had for the artificial taste of the goopy chocolate pudding the Daedalus brought them. "I'm sure you can fight him off on your own."
"Sadly, even my genius can't withstand Ronon Dex when chocolate pudding is on the line." Rodney took a couple of steps further into the office, pinning John with an appraising look that made him want to squirm away. "Come and sit with us. You don't have to eat, just come and have coffee at least."
John could withstand a lot of things. Rodney McKay making an effort to be nice to him, because he thought John needed it, wasn't one of them. He shuffled the files together again and stood up, not missing the victorious grin that Rodney tried to hide. "Don't think I'm going to help in your fight for pudding," he warned, following Rodney out into the corridor.
"I thought -" Rodney started, then cut himself off, looking away. John waited, trying to figure out what Rodney had intended to say, but nothing came, and they walked a couple of corridors in mildly awkward silence. They were right on the edge of the military corridors when Rodney said, "So, all packed?"
"What?" John asked.
"Packed," Rodney said again slowly, like John was being exceptionally idiotic. When John kept looking at him blankly, he added, "For Earth? Dial-in tomorrow, two weeks of vacation with you-know-who?"
Vacation. Suddenly, the nagging sense of something forgotten made a lot more sense, and how the *hell* had he forgotten that he was supposed to be going to Earth, when he'd been waiting for it for weeks.
"John?" Rodney said. John looked down at the floor, saw Rodney's hand come into his line of vision and catch his elbow. He felt himself being pulled somewhere, a door opening and then closing with them on the other side. He looked up and found himself staring at Rodney's worried face, and behind him, shelves and shelves of cleaning supplies. "You forgot?"
"I'm a busy man," John said, knowing he sounded way too defensive and unable to stop it. "I've had a lot on my mind."
"And you're generally such a forgetful person," Rodney added, mocking. "Is this about what happened on the planet yesterday?"
John looked away again, wishing he was anywhere else but where he was.
"What did happen, anyway? Because that story you're telling everyone has more holes than Back to the Future. Did they torture you and the two of you are just too stoic to admit it?"
John shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it," he managed.
"No, you're right. Much better to hide away in your office, ignore your friends when they're in the infirmary, make Torren think he's done something to upset you. I'm sure it's not a bad sign that you forgot about a little thing like a trip to Earth."
"Just drop it," John snapped. He felt worn thin, right on the edge of cracking. When he looked up, Rodney had his arms crossed, making his defiant you-can't-hurt-me face, the one that always, always made John cave. "I'm sorry, okay? Just - can we not talk about it? Please."
Rodney sighed, and suddenly looked about half a second away from trying to hug John, which John definitely wasn't strong enough for. He didn't though, just nodded and waved John out ahead of him. John got the message anyway, especially when Rodney brought him over a bowl of soup and a warm roll that he had to have bribed someone for, then glared at John until he ate all of it.
He felt better, after, kind of. Not that he was going to tell Rodney.
Not that it helped him sleep any.