Pairing: McKay/Sheppard, McKay/Sheppard/Lorne
Summary: Rodney was trying to catch his eye, but John didn't need the prompting. "I'm afraid you're mistaken in your assumptions, then, because Lorne is bonded. So give him back before this gets really nasty."
A joint mission with Lorne's team seems harmless enough--but that's how they all start, isn't it?
Notes: 20,000 words. Diverges from canon after season 4, though there aren't any real spoilers from previous seasons, either. Thank you to K., A., and S. for holding my hand through this. And to alyse for
Part 1 of 2
The bulk of the structures lay off to their right, small shanties and three-walled shacks that snugged up close to the shore, nearly spilling out onto the short wharves that were crowded with fishing dories. The deeper part of the harbor seemed to be directly in front of them, though. One long pier ran out into the black water, and one of the masted ships was tied up at the end.
Toms led them off to the left, away from the ships and towards a stretch of rock beach. A bonfire was already blazing, and some two or three dozen men were spread out around it, some sitting, some standing, a cluster pushing at each other in what might have been a dance or a fight. Their laughing voices carried easily on the breeze coming in off the water, though there were so many of them that John couldn't pick out any single conversation.
And then a figure stepped out from behind the bonfire, so tall that he couldn't be mistaken.
"And finally, they appear!" Fedeth shouted, waving them forward with a bottle of something in his right hand. "Come on, come on. Nothing too tart for your mouth, I promise!"
"It's only citrus!" Rodney protested, but John could tell he was in a much better mood already. Had been able to feel him relax as soon as they stepped off the elevator, even though John had let go before they did.
"That smells so good," Lorne said, and John had to agree. They'd eaten only a few hours ago, but John's mouth was watering from the blend of hot seafood and spices drifting towards them. Somebody's stomach growled. Loudly. They both looked at Rodney, who held up both hands in denial.
"Sorry," Toms said, smiling ruefully. "It's been a long day."
"Don't let us keep you," Lorne said, and Toms took him at his word, running ahead past Fedeth. A group of men reached out to him, pulling him into their midst with hands on his arms and legs. John thought he saw some noogie-action going on, too, but that might have been the wind in Toms' hair. The sailors were definitely a handsy bunch, though.
Fedeth maybe most of all. Once they got in range he hugged each of them, hard enough to make Rodney squawk, and ended up with his arm wrapped around Lorne's shoulders again. He led them past the bonfire, where several broken stumps and a couple driftwood trunks served as seats to keep them up off the damp rock. In the middle of all of it was a huge kettle, resting over a smaller fire and giving off a steady stream of steam. A man with streaks of white at his temples stood tending it, and he started filling bowls as soon as they approached. Fedeth passed them out, the first to Lorne despite Rodney's longing gaze.
The dish reminded John of a soupy paella, only with not as much spice or rice. Rodney was making ecstatic noises over it, not bothering to stop to worry about lemon, and John was quite content to let go of his own concerns and just fill himself up with the warmth of the stew.
"Here," one of the sailors said, handing over a tin stein. It sloshed warm over John's hand as he took it. "Don't want to get parched, do you?"
John raised his hand to his mouth to lick away the wetness, which proved to be a smooth lager and not the heavy stout that Henton had served them earlier. He dropped his hand, and found Rodney staring at him with heavy-lidded eyes. John glanced over to Lorne, worried that his unthinking action had come across as a seductive performance, but whatever the look on Lorne's face was, it wasn't disapproval. After a moment, Lorne smiled and raised his own stein in salute. The bonfire was highlighting his hair, casting shadows over his throat, making him look...
John sighed. He really didn't know what was going on in his own head. Rodney...there just wasn't any question about Rodney. Rodney eased something inside him that John hadn't even known was knotted up, made him feel giddy and free, better than any flight at Mach 2. What he and Rodney had was so different than what had been between him and Nancy, so easy and...real. He didn't doubt it. Definitely didn't want to screw it up.
But he couldn't stop looking at Lorne lately. Evan, his brain supplied, rolling the name slowly forward like seaweed coasting in on the backside of a gentle swell. Evan and Rodney.
"Corwit!" Fedith yelled out, breaking John out of his daydream. "They need to hear the one about the Eaderlings. This one is frightened of certain foods, too!"
Rodney huffed, and John gave him a teasing nudge as a pair of men made their way over. One was tall, darker in coloring and with a barely-there smile on his face. "It's not a shame to be frightened of food when it tries to eat you back," he said; John guessed he must be Corwit.
"It was just a little love-nip!" the other guy said, grinning. He was shorter than Corwit and looked like he was already well into the beer by the way he was using the other man as a post to lean on. Or maybe they were just really affectionate. It was hard to tell, given the way the men all around them were acting. "If you hadn't been so squeamish to start with, it never would have happened!"
They launched into a shared story that didn't make a whole lot of sense and kind of reminded John of Klingons bonding over gagh. By the end, though, he was laughing along with them, caught up in their amusement and the spirit of the evening. That tale led to another, and another, and then another round of beer. John eased his legs out in front of him, crossing them at the ankles and letting his thigh press tight against Rodney's. He shifted a bit, until it was natural for him to snake his arm behind Rodney's back. Rodney glanced over, giving him a curious look, but John just shrugged. It was a good night, they had the excuse of being in Rome, and he was pretty sure Lorne wouldn't tattle anyway.
It still took him a couple minutes to work up the courage to look over.
Lorne was looking back at him, but he jerked his gaze away the second after he met John's eyes. His jaw was tight, like he was close to grinding his teeth. Two seconds after that he stood up and headed off to the area being used as a latrine.
John tried to ignore the cold that was quickly replacing the alcohol-warmth in his belly. He'd been so sure that Lorne wouldn't care. Maybe he'd just been hoping too hard to read him right.
Corwit shoved his friend, blocking John's line of sight. "If you're so smart, Granif, you tell it!"
"I will!" He took a deep glug of beer, wiped his mustache free of foam, and burped loudly. "As soon as you tell me what I'm supposed to be talking about."
The sailors all around him busted up. John smiled, trying to get back into the spirit of things, but it was hopeless. He was cold-sober now, ready to get this mission over and done with. They needed to wait until Lorne came back, though; Fedeth had implied that he alone was the reason he was willing to share the secret of the spires.
Granif was finally building to his punchline when John realized Lorne hadn't come back yet. He'd been gone a good ten minutes, maybe more. John hoped he didn't have whatever Ronon had come down with. If he did, it was time to pack it in and get everyone back to the infirmary. John glanced at his watch, wondering if he should go check on him. He didn't really want to interrupt the guy during a private moment, but...
Rodney clued in a couple minutes later. "Where's Lorne?"
John shook his head. "I think he's in the head."
"For half an hour?"
John sighed. Yeah, maybe not. He keyed his radio. "Major Lorne. How's it going?"
Lorne didn't respond.
"Lorne, did you fall in over there?"
John looked at Rodney, who looked as worried as John felt. He reached for his radio again, intending to contact the rest of the team--but a strong hand curled around his wrist, stopping him before he could reach the button.
"Evan is fine," Fedeth said, and there was too much knowledge in that statement for John to be comfortable.
"Where is he?" Rodney asked.
Fedeth grinned. "He said he wanted to see the spires. And so he shall."
John didn't like the sound of that at all. He pulled his legs in, trying to angle himself away from Rodney so that he could get to his feet and pull his gun if he had to. "What exactly does that mean?"
Fedeth stood. All six foot six of him, smiling superiorly down at them. John scrambled upwards, but it didn't even out the intimidation factor all that much.
"He is to be my bonded. My sea mate, wedded to me in the place of witness."
"What?" Rodney's voice cracked, but it was one more word than John could manage. "Are you kidding? You don't even know each other! I can't believe Lorne would just decide to do that. He didn't say anything about it!"
John glared at Fedeth as hard as he could, bringing every bit of hate he'd gained in Afghanistan and at the hands of the Wraith into his eyes. "He didn't decide, Rodney. Did he?"
Fedeth shrugged. "He has no bonds to keep him from joining with me. He will choose, and I know I can make him happy."
"I'm afraid it doesn't work like that for us." John didn't bring his P90 up yet, but oh, he was so ready to. But they were way outnumbered, and he had no idea if Lorne was standing in the line of fire five feet away. He took a deep breath and made himself calm down. Or at least look a little calmer on the outside. "Look. I get that Lorne is a pretty damn attractive guy. But you can't go snatching somebody because he catches your eye. Just let him go, and we can go back to our party here, no hard feelings."
Fedeth nodded. "No hard feelings, of course. But Evan stays with us."
"You do not want to make an enemy of me," John growled. "And if you go through with this, you definitely will."
To his surprise, Fedeth laughed. "Such determination for one who has gone unbonded for so long. I really didn't think anyone would fight for him, but if that is what you want, so be it."
John took a step forward, but Rodney caught his arm.
"Wait," Rodney said. "You say you're only doing this because Lorne doesn't have a husband?"
"Or a wife. He has no ties to your people, so I am free to make my claim." Fedeth rubbed his thumb over his bottom lip suggestively. "As you said yourself, he is a very attractive man. And I like his humor."
Rodney was trying to catch his eye, but John didn't need the prompting. "I'm afraid you're mistaken in your assumptions, then, because Lorne is bonded. So give him back before this gets really nasty."
Fededth raised an eyebrow. "Bonded? To whom?"
John didn't think. "Me."
Laughter roared up all around them. John had been aware of the sailors closing in while their argument grew, but they were surrounded by at least a dozen now, all laughing. John glanced at Rodney, who looked as puzzled as he felt. "What, you don't think I'm good enough for him or something?"
Fedeth leaned down, close enough that his wind-blown curls tickled against John's cheek. "Do not lie to me, John. We see your bond mate right here beside you."
Crap. John tried to think. He could lie, disavow Rodney, but if they believed him, that would just leave Rodney open to getting husband-napped instead of Lorne. And he wasn't about to trade one for the other.
John widened his stance. Crossed his wrists across the butt of his P90 and grinned up at Fedeth as ferally as he could manage. "So you're only half stupid. Yes, Rodney is one of my bondmates. Evan is the other."
"Two men?" Fedeth looked out at his gathered mob of supporters, eyebrows high. "You're saying you have taken two men rather than a man and a woman?"
"I think I was pretty clear the first time around."
That drew a few chuckles from the group, but not as many as before. Fedeth was starting to look a little cranky around the edges. "I don't believe you."
John shrugged. "You know what? I don't care if you believe me. Because the truth is, Evan is mine, and I'm going to get him back." He took a step forward, forcing himself into Fedeth's space, and tapped him hard on the sternum. "No matter who's standing in my way."
Fedeth definitely wasn't smiling now. John could see his chest rise faster with each angry breath.
Someone coughed. "He has the right, Fedeth."
Fedeth's jaw jumped, but he didn't break his staring contest with John.
"Right to what?" Rodney asked.
Fedeth finally took a deep breath. He looked over to Rodney. "He has made his claim. Any who have ties to Evan may choose to fight for him. But if someone claims that he is already bonded, then that person has the right to prove the bond."
"I already told you I am."
"Will you prove it?"
John looked to Rodney, who looked like he was going to be sick all over Fedeth's boots. Would serve the bastard right. "As long as my people come out of this in one piece, then yeah, I'll do what it takes."
"Good." Fedeth nodded to someone behind him. John heard Rodney start to yell something--but then the pain hit, and the world went black.
His head ached. That was the first thing he noticed. His head ached, and the room around him was dark and swaying--and Rodney's hand was on his face.
"John, wake up, please." Rodney was quiet, but John could hear the desperation as easily as if he'd been shouting.
"I'm awake." He caught Rodney's hand, holding on to it as he tried to get his bearings. After a few seconds he realized that his aching head was the only actual symptom of getting knocked out that he had. The room really was dark, and it really was swaying.
He moved his hand down and got a good grip on Rodney's forearm, and then heaved himself into a sitting position. He could sense walls close by, that there wasn't much space around them, and the smell couldn't be mistaken. "We're at sea."
He could just make out Rodney nodding. "As soon as they knocked you out, they took us out to Fedeth's ship." He swallowed loudly. "I, uh, didn't try to fight."
"Good." John found the back of Rodney's neck after a bit of fumbling--his coordination was still a little off--and just held on for a moment. "Good. What about Lorne?"
Rodney sighed. "Fedeth said he was on board, safe, but I haven't seen him. They're taking us somewhere, obviously, but he wouldn't tell me anything else. Just locked us in here without any food. Or water. Or food."
John stood up--carefully, hand held high above his head to make sure he didn't smack into any beams. Just standing in place was tricky, and he hoped that was because he hadn't gotten his sea legs yet, and not because he had a serious head injury. There wasn't a porthole anywhere that he could see, but there was a faint rectangle of light coming from his left. John slowly made his way over, and felt around for a knob, a lock, a gap he could pry loose, anything. The door was hinged on the outside, which meant that theoretically it should be easier to bust open from this side, but it felt far too solid to broach without a battering ram. And no, he wasn't carrying one of those around in his pocket, thank you very much.
"They took everything I had on me," Rodney said. "Not just the gun and radio. Laptop, scanner, tools, everything."
John sighed. "How long have I been out?"
"They took my watch, too." Rodney's shoes scratched loud against the planking as he shuffled forward. His outstretched hand hit John just below the throat before he stopped walking. "It felt like forever. I don't think it was all that long, though. Maybe twenty minutes?"
Twenty minutes. It wasn't that long, not when they were traveling by sail. But there were so many islands around them, and the long range sensors on the jumper didn't work. Atlantis would have a hell of a time finding them. And even if he, Rodney and Lorne managed to overpower Fedeth's whole crew of sailors, then they'd be stuck on a ship they didn't know how to sail with no idea where they were.
It wasn't the worst situation they'd ever been in. But it still sucked.
"Come on," John said, catching hold of Rodney's arm and tugging him back towards the pallet he'd woken up on.
"Do you have a plan?"
"Yeah." John sat back down, ass thumping a little uncomfortably from misjudging the distance. Rodney actually sat down beside him without any prompting. "We're going to sit here and wait until they come get us, and then we're going to try to talk ourselves out of this mess."
"So you're not going to fight." Rodney sounded relieved.
"No, there wouldn't be any point. We need the crew to get back to the jumper."
"I meant you're not going to fight Fedeth himself, not the whole crew."
"Fedeth? Why would I fight Fedeth?"
Rodney's hand brushed against the back of his head, and then his fingers were probing at the sore spot.
"Ow!" John grabbed his hand and pulled it down to his lap. "What the hell?"
"I just wanted to make sure your skull wasn't cracked open. You might have a concussion anyway, if you're not remembering stuff." Rodney squeezed his hand hard. "Right before they knocked you out, Fedeth said either you could prove Lorne was yours, or fight for him. Sounds like some big cage match set up, if you ask me."
"Oh, right." John frowned. "Well, if that's what it takes, then that's what I'll do."
"Are you insane? That guy could break Ronon in half with his pinky."
"I really doubt that." Although Ronon's mysterious illness made a hell of a lot more sense now. Especially with the way Abalyn had been fawning over him and feeding him tea. Worried about the best race horse in the field? Better dose him with a little ipecac to even things out.
"Yes, well, it doesn't matter if he could or not. You're not Ronon."
"Gee, I'm touched you noticed, McKay."
"You should be." Rodney sighed. "What about the other option? He said you could prove that Lorne was yours."
John rubbed the gooeyness out of the corners of his eyes. "What about it?"
Rodney was silent a long time. "Well, how exactly is someone supposed to prove that they're in a relationship with somebody?"
"I don't know, Rodney. I don't have a ring handy, so I was going to go with Vogon love poetry."
"Yeah, that's... I hope that works," Rodney said, like John's suggestion had been completely serious. John poked him in the shoulder, but Rodney just half-heartedly batted at his finger and didn't say anything else.
"Okay, what's going through your head? How else would they want me to--" John clicked his mouth shut. Oh. "That's... You've got a dirty mind, Rodney. They can't possibly mean that."
"Yes, because obviously someone who kidnaps people with the intent of keeping them as his oh-so-happy sex slave wouldn't do something as obnoxious as asking for a live show." Rodney crossed his arms, right elbow bumping hard into John's side as he did it. John wasn't sure if it was on purpose or not. "And I'm the one with the filthy mind?"
"This really wasn't in the job description," John groaned. He dropped his head into his hands, but that didn't help his headache at all. Probably because by now it had less to do with getting hit and more with the situation.
"You have to do it."
John raised his head. "What?"
"If they want you to prove it that way, then you have to do it." Rodney sounded calm, but he was fidgeting like crazy. "You said yourself that we can't fight our way out of this."
"I can fight Fedeth by himself! I get that you don't think much of my skills, McKay, but I don't really have a choice, do I?"
"You do have a choice! That's what I'm saying!" Rodney stood up and started pacing, right in front of him. It was amazing that he didn't trip over John's feet. "And it's not that I don't think you can fight. I don't know, maybe you can even beat him. But do you really think they'll just let us go if you do? If you do...whatever it turns out to be, then maybe they'll have to acknowledge Lorne isn't up for grabs."
"So I'm supposed to grab him instead? I don't think so, Rodney." John rubbed his face again. The damp was everywhere, seeping through the hull of the ship and his clothes alike. "Setting aside all the parts where it's rape if Lorne doesn't want to and the risk to our careers if he does, what makes you think they'd honor that more than a fight?"
Rodney sighed. He stopped pacing, found his way back to John by touch and sunk down beside him. "I don't know. I was just hoping, I guess."
"Hoping? You were hoping I'd cheat on you with Lorne?"
"Are you kidding? Let me think about this. You could either get the crap beaten out of you, possibly even be killed by some behemoth, or you could have sex with a hot guy we both like. Please." Rodney huffed. "And it's not cheating if I'm okay with it. Which I am, if you hadn't figured out yet."
John's breath felt too loud in the dark. His pulse felt too loud in the dark, pounding the way it was. "Rodney? Are you saying that you want me to have sex with Lorne?"
He could feel Rodney squirm. "The thought has crossed my mind a time or two, yes. But this isn't about fantasy, I swear. I don't want you to get yourself killed because you're too stubborn to do it the easy way."
"I got that." John tried to think about everything rationally, concentrate on the problems at hand, but he couldn't. "You'd really be okay with it?"
"I'd rather be involved, but God, yes. You two would be so hot together." Rodney was hot against him right now, leaning into his side. "Don't tell me he doesn't turn you on."
"Maybe a little," John breathed. He turned his head, found Rodney's cheek with his nose. "You have really lousy timing, you know that?"
"I know. God, I know." Rodney moved first, surging against him like this was their last chance ever for a kiss. John pressed back just as hard, just as hungry. Rodney whimpered deep in his throat, and John had a moment where all he wanted to do was push him down on the pallet and keep going. But he made himself pull away. This really wasn't the right time.
"You know I can't, right?" His lips brushed Rodney's skin with every word. "Even if I was willing to give those bastards a show, I wouldn't do that to him."
"What do you mean you wouldn't--" Rodney pulled back. "You're kidding. You have to have noticed the way he looks at you."
John swallowed. "What, like a commanding officer? Although he's not really that good at the whole respect thing sometimes. Not that I'm one to talk..."
"I can't believe you." Rodney sounded completely exasperated. "You really don't notice, do you? Sometimes I think you're with me just because it's obvious how much I want you."
"Rodney, you know that's not true." John swallowed. "You do, don't you? This thing for Lorne--"
"Yes, I know." Rodney huffed. John could hear him take a breath, but he didn't say anything else. The silence grew between them, prodding at John to be more reassuring, more convincing. But he didn't know how, without coming across as insincerely sappy. Rodney would just roll his eyes at any big declarations.
Footsteps sounded outside the cabin. John stood up, and a second later the door he'd felt up earlier opened. Whoever was there was carrying a lantern, and John threw his arm up, trying to shield his eyes.
"It is time." The sailor backed away from them, leaving a halo of light on the floor that was much easier on the eyes. John grabbed for Rodney's arm, tugging him up. He took a deep breath, and then stepped out of the cabin.
They only had a short distance to go, half a hold and up a short flight of steps. Then they were out on the deck of the ship. The moon was out, bright enough that he could see it reflecting off the dark water all around them, gilding the mainsail and the light wood of the wheel, but he only had eyes for two things: Fedeth standing tall at the prow of the ship--and Lorne behind him.
"You okay, Major?" John called, and then he remembered the part he was supposed to be playing. "Evan? Did they hurt you?"
"I'm fine," Lorne called back. "Just waiting around for a rescue. John."
John let out a sigh of relief. Lorne either knew what he'd said to Fedeth, or he was bright enough to play along.
"John." Rodney tapped him on the shoulder, almost politely if it weren't for the way he just didn't stop.
"What?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Rodney point up. And up. John raised his head, looking beyond the lines of the masts. A thin spire rose straight up from the sea, needle thin at this distance and tall enough to touch the low-hanging moon. John started turning a slow circle, craning his neck as he tried to match what he was seeing to the painting in the tavern.
There weren't three spires. There were a dozen, ringing the ship in an uneven circle. And not thirty feet from where their ship sat calm was the main spire. It wasn't spikey like the others. A thick base at least as big around as Atlantis's main tower rose up ten, fifteen feet, and then it flaired out, forming an elongated bulb that towered above the ship. John couldn't tell for sure, not this far away, but the material looked smooth, darkly reflective like obsidian.
"Is that Ancient?" he asked.
"I don't think so." Rodney's voice was low, almost awed, but it must have carried on the wind.
"This is ours," Fedeth said, hand held palm up towards the main spire. "This is what remains of the greatness that my people were, before the floods came and changed our world forever. The spires alone remained to keep us safe, to protect us from the Wraith."
Rodney snorted. "Um, hello? You already said that you're as vulnerable to the Wraith as anybody else."
Fedeth sighed. He dropped his arm and walked towards them, slowly. John expected him to get angry. Maybe threaten them a little and then rattle off the usual spiel about how the old ways were the best, and hey, how about a little blood sacrifice to satisfy whatever gods or ancestors were supposed to be in charge.
"Yes," Fedeth said instead. "We are. Whatever power the spires had to protect us faded long ago, before our grandfathers' grandfathers' time. The stories say that light would shine forth like a second sun whenever the Wraith drew near, but I can only dream of such a thing."
"So what, you took Lorne because you want me to fix it?" Rodney asked. "You could have just asked."
Fedeth laughed. "How do you fix the unfixable?"
"I doubt it's unfixable. Unless it needs a ZPM or a power source of similar magnitude. The question is--" Rodney started snapping his fingers. "Hello! That's got to be it. The whatever it was that's causing the interference with the long range sensors. It's got to be some kind of power source somewhere. Low-level, probably underwater, but still impressive enough to be going after-- How long ago did you say the floods were?"
Fedeth shrugged. "Many generations. The rising water was the price we paid for holding so great a power, they say."
Rodney went still, then turned and pointed straight at John. "Global warming. That's what had to have happened. No ice caps, all the little islands... We're on Waterworld."
John raised an eyebrow. "You've seen Waterworld?"
Rodney looked like he'd swallowed wrong. "It was on a date. A date that went horribly, embarrassingly wrong, and can we get back to the whole maybe-not-unfixable-by-me-power-source thing now?"
"Actually," John said, taking a step towards Fedeth. "I'd like to get back the letting-Lorne-go thing. I get it, you wanted to be a bit theatrical, but you've showed us your magic spires, so let him go."
Fedeth smiled, but it looked sad. "No man who is not wedded to the sea may see them. Not unless he is brought here to be bonded to one who is, or has come to fight for another's return. That is the most ancient pledge amongst sailormen, the only one that is kept alive on every island home. I cannot allow you to break it."
"And yet it's okay to kidnap someone who is completely unwilling," John said. Whatever good will Fedeth's calm manner had bought, it was gone now.
"That is one of our traditions." Fedeth half-turned, looking back to where Lorne stood. John could see now that his hands were tied together and leashed to a post high above him. He looked annoyed more than angry or frightened, which helped settle John's stomach some. Not a lot, but some.
"What do I have to do?" John asked, tired of the game. His pulse started to pick up, Rodney's theory trying to push its way to the front of his thoughts. He licked his lips and pushed back, focusing on the here and now. "Tell me so we can get on with it."
"You claim him as your own mate, even with another standing at your side." Fedeth took a step forward, so that they were standing toe-to-toe now and John had to tip his head back. "I do not believe you, but my crew insists that you have the chance. So go to him, and prove that he is yours."
"Okay." John's mouth was completely dry, his lips sore from constantly licking away the salt-damp air. "How exactly do you want me to do that? We usually have papers with fancy seals on them from where I come from, but I don't have them on me."
Fedeth's smile was mocking. "Among our people, a kiss willingly accepted is enough."
"Oh." John's gut plummeted with relief--thank God Rodney was wrong this time--but then it tightened up again as he processed what he really had to do.
He walked forward in a fog--a figurative fog, not a literal fog, because the everpresent clouds were high and thin tonight and wow, he was babbling like Rodney on their first real date--one foot planted on the wooden decking, then the other, and again, until he was standing in front of Lorne. Fedeth had followed, and he knew Rodney was behind him to his left, and he was vaguely aware of the other sailors who had been ringing them the whole time. But Lorne was in front of him, with a little half smile on his face--and John wanted to do this. Wanted to do it right, with Rodney the only audience and Lorne completely willing.
"I guess I drew the damsel card this month," Lorne said, lips quirking up even further, and John laughed, softly, letting some of his tension out with his breath.
"Nice of you to give me the time off," John said, grinning. "Last time Ronon wound up shooting me to get me out."
"I hear that's how he gets his fun these days." Lorne's eyes flicked down, towards John's mouth. Whatever Rodney thought, John wasn't completely oblivious to those kinds of signals. Frequently confused, yes, and the price of being wrong was rarely worth the risk.
He thought he'd be okay this once.
John moved forward, close enough that he was in Lorne's personal space, but not actually pinning him against the wood behind him. "So, ah, you know what's going on here?"
Lorne looked over John's shoulder, where Fedeth waited. "I got the picture pretty clearly."
"Right." John looked back, towards Rodney. It took a moment for Rodney to look up, away from where they'd been nearly touching. John knew that look on his face, had seen it so many times in the dark that the moonlight was almost extraneous. He waited anyway. Waited until Rodney rolled his eyes and motioned for him to get on with it.
"So, Evan. Fedeth here doesn't believe that you're mine." The mine came out more gravely than John had intended.
"His mistake, obviously."
"Right." John had to swallow twice to clear his throat. "Will you willingly accept a kiss from me, to prove it to him?"
"Absolutely." And Lorne--Evan--tipped his head back, readying himself. John only intended to brush a quick peck across his lips, but Evan opened his mouth, just enough that John couldn't resist the offer. Their tongues brushed together, and John desperately wanted to deepen the kiss, but Evan was still tied up. Still had no control over the situation, so John pulled back and turned to face Fedeth, his lips still wet.
"There," he spat. "Happy now?"
"Oh, I am far from happy." Fedeth sighed, gaze heavy on Evan. "You have proved your claim, but I will have my turn."
"That wasn't part of the deal." John went for his P90 without thinking, but of course it wasn't there. He could see movement off to his left, one of the watching sailors moving forward.
"Oh, but it is." Fedeth stepped in, nearly shouldering John out of the way. "And you will let me have my say."
Evan nodded at him, but it was Rodney's hand clutching at his shirtsleeve that got John moving backwards. A kiss. Nothing more than a kiss by Fedeth's rules, and Evan could handle that.
"Evan Lorne. I see in you all the power and swiftness of the sea beneath me, and you thrill my veins like no other man has ever done." Fedeth rested his hand on Lorne's chest, just below his throat. John's muscles twitched, urging him forward, but the look on Fedeth's face was so besotted that he managed to hold himself back. "I know that you have the skies in your hands, and that perhaps the oceans look small to you because of that. And for that reason I've done this thing, and asked my people to help me to do it, when they were right that the old ways weren't the best way to your heart."
John raised his eyebrows. He glanced at Rodney, who looked just as shocked as he was. Maybe they were going to get out of this thing after all.
"Kidnapping really isn't my idea of foreplay," Evan said dryly. "Not that I'm not flattered, but sorry, no. Maybe if you hadn't..."
"I don't think you would have." Fedeth looked up, spreading his arms wide towards the sky and the towers above them. "But you wanted to know the spires. Marliane warned me that I would pay for my arrogance, but I could not resist the temptation."
"That's...sweetly creepy." Evan looked their way again, eyebrows all over the place.
Fedeth nodded. "But will you accept a kiss from me willingly?"
Evan shook his head. "No."
"So be it." Fedeth reached for his belt. John saw the flash, was moving before his mind registered the knife. Fedeth twisted, catching John's ankle with his own and sending him tumbling to the deck. By the time he righted himself again Fedeth had the knife out--and was using it to cut Evan free.
"I would fight you for him, if I thought he wanted to stay." Fedeth resheathed the knife and turned his back on Evan. He moved towards John, walking wiith slow, sad grace. He dropped the rope that had bound Evan's wrists into John's hands. Then he grinned, mad-happy again as sudden as the sun in January. "But I look forward to witnessing the three of you come together as husbands. We haven't had the pleasure of watching a union of three since before I took charge of our ships."
John blinked. "Um."
Fedeth laughed. A great big, crowing laugh with his eyes crimped tight and his mouth open to the sky. "Oh, you should see your face. That alone is almost worth the grief I have caused tonight."
John was saved from having to respond by a wind kicking up hard, gusting debris into his eyes and snapping the furled sails against the masts. He looked towards the source instictively--which is why he saw the jumper uncloak. Whoever was flying--Danforth or Friedman, could be either one--brought it down backwards, butt of the jumper to the portside of the ship until it was just a few feet higher than the deck.
The hatch lowered slowly, filling the night sky with a growing rectangle of warm yellow light. By the time it was halfway down, John could see a figure outlined against that light. Teyla, with her legs braced wide and a P90 cradled in her hands, standing like some terrible sky goddess of destruction. Or better yet, Ellen Ripley ready to kick some alien ass.
"Colonel," she shouted. "Do you need any assistance?"
"We could use a lift," he shouted back. He figured Fedeth was remorseful enough to take them back to the village without any hinky stuff, but he wasn't going to take any chances.
"It'd be nice to have our weapons and other equipment back," Lorne said, barely loud enough for John to hear. He was talking to Fedeth, hands on his hips like he hadn't just been tied up and had two grown men beg for his kiss. "It'd go a long way towards repairing the relationship between our people."
Fedeth nodded. It only took another minute for a pair of sailors to return with their stuff. John zipped into his tac vest, checked the P90 and his pistol, but he didn't bother with anything else. The jumper descended another few feet, so that they wouldn't have to step over open water to get in. It was still a trickly maneuver, what with the ship rocking in near counterpoint to the jumper, but Ronon was there to help. He was pale and sweaty, but he was there, and the three of them made it in without problem.
"Good skies to you all," Fedeth called, and that was the last thing they heard before the hatch closed.
"Well," John said, taking his first deep breath in what felt like forever. "Have I ever mentioned that you guys have fantastic timing?"
Teyla smiled. "Once or twice. Truthfully, we should have not taken so long, but I didn't act on my suspicions until we could not raise you on the radios."
"I'm just glad you made it." Friedman was taking them up, hovering above the spires, but not away just yet. "How'd you find us, anyway?"
"Marliane knew the general direction to go," Teyla said. "And it did not take much convincing for her to tell us."
"We just kept flying until we picked up your sub-Qs," Danforth said.
John nodded. "Good work. Now let's get out of here."
"Wait!" Rodney yelped. "What about the spires? The technology is like nothing I've seen, and there's got to be so much more down there. We can't just leave."
"Some other time, McKay." He wanted to get home, get Ronon and everybody else checked out before anything else could go wrong.
"But the long range sensors don't work. How are we going to find our way back here?"
"We have a record of the flight path, Dr. McKay," Danforth said. "It shouldn't be any harder to find it the second time around than it was the first."
"Oh, right." That seemed to do it. Rodney sort of slid down to the bench seat next to where Ronon had collapsed on the floor. Teyla gave them both a fond look. John caught her arm when she moved towards the forward compartment.
"How good was your timing?" he asked as softly as he could.
She tilted her head to the side. "I am not sure what you mean."
John frowned. "You didn't see anything...odd going on between any of us, did you?"
Teyla shook her head. "The four of you were simply standing around, looking at each other, as far as I was able to tell. If something happened after I moved to the back, I do not know."
"Nope, nothing." John smiled and let go of her arm. Teyla gave him another funny look, but it was full of enough resigned affection that John didn't feel he had to explain. She moved on, taking the open seat next to Dr. Lindsay. Lorne had already slipped by, and was standing between the front seats, watching the screen as they flew back towards the gate. John stretched out on the free bench and closed his eyes, trying to forget that this day had happened.
John walked towards his quarters as fast as was seemly. No sense in getting the patrols' attention, making them question their commanding officer to see if he was headed off to an emergency, when he simply wanted to kick his shoes off and relax as soon as possible. They hadn't been on PX5-624 even twelve hours, but it felt longer than that. He wasn't exhausted, but he was worn out mentally.
And keyed up, too, if he were being honest with himself. He could still feel Lorne's lips against his. Could still hear the way Rodney had gone all breathy while they talked about the fantasy. He hoped Rodney hadn't already gotten caught up in his work. John really wanted to finish what they'd started earlier.
He stepped through the doorway of his quarters--and pulled up short. Rodney and Lorne were sitting side-by-side on his bed, angled towards each other so that their knees were touching. They looked up slowly, as if their conversation was too interesting to leave behind. John took another step in, letting the door slide closed behind him.
"Lorne," he said, giving him a cautious nod.
Lorne nodded back.
"He was-- We were talking," Rodney babbled, which put John even further on edge. "He brought me this."
John took the dangling pendant Rodney held out to him. It was a black-dark blue or burgundy, made out of some kind of light glass or very hard plastic and sculpted into the shape of a shark's tooth. Or maybe a stylized wave. He passed it back, and Rodney grabbed on like it was a miniature ZPM.
"Apparently the spires aren't as everlasting as they look," Lorne explained. He had one hand flat on the mattress behind him now, supporting himself as he looked up at John. The position stretched his black shirt tight across his chest. "They carve these out of the bits they find floating."
"At least they're not chipping away at the spires themselves," Rodney muttered.
John nodded. "So what, you're planning on testing it? See what it's made from?"
To his surprise, Rodney pinked up. He glanced at Lorne, then back up at John. "Um. I hadn't actually decided yet." He cleared his throat. "I mean, if we go back to the Noroon, then we'll have access to the actual structure."
John looked between the two of them. Something else was going on, but he couldn't figure out what.
"Fedeth gave them to me," Lorne finally said. He stretched the neck of his shirt to the side far enough that John could see the leather cord against his skin. "Before we got to the spires. They're supposed to be a symbol of the pledge between...well, you know." He shrugged, looking embarrassed. "I thought maybe I'd hang on to mine as a souvenir."
John could almost buy that. He'd known guys who'd brought home stranger--and a lot more disturbing--things as trophies of their time served. Hell, a pretty little necklace to commemorate one of the times you got kidnapped had nothing on trying to smuggle a grenade out in the gas tank of a truck. Except Lorne couldn't seem to look away from his own toes, and Rodney had the cord wrapped so tightly around his wrist that a halo of white surrounded it on his skin.
He crossed the room, half-sitting down on the bureau beside the bed and leaning forward so he could rest his elbows on his knees. His body didn't know whether to be turned on or be tired, and his brain just wasn't quick enough tonight to play all the games that needed to be played.
"What do you really want," he asked softly, "Evan?"
Lorne looked up with a tight smile on his lips. "More than I have any right to ask for."
John caught his breath. This was stupid. They didn't have any excuse now, couldn't write it off as some attempt to escape captivity. He was willing to take chances with Rodney--but Rodney's career wasn't at risk. And John wasn't in a position to force Rodney into taking that risk.
"You know I can't ask," John said at last.
"But if anything ever happened, Rodney would have to be involved."
Lorne grinned, slow and predatory. "Oh, that is not a problem at all."
"Good." Because no Rodney would have been a deal-breaker, no matter how hot Lorne looked, smiling up at him like John was on the menu. John cleared his throat. "Good."
"Oh, for God's sake. I'm not going to watch you two stare at each other all day." Rodney leaned forward, catching hold of Lorne's arm like he was going to pull him in for a brain-melting kiss. But Lorne turned his head, and Rodney stalled out. "Um."
"I think that's the most eloquent I've ever heard you, Rodney," Lorne teased.
Which was exactly the right thing to do. Rodney snorted. "Right. Just wait until later, and we'll see who's the eloquent one." Then he moved forward, angling his head for an awkward kiss. Lorne went with it, and then Rodney brought his hands up, framing Lorne's face, and it went from awkward to hungry just that quick.
Rodney'd been right about that much--watching him and Lorne kiss was the hottest thing John had ever seen. Lorne brought his supporting hand up, wrapping both arms around Rodney's back, and Rodney tipped them over onto the bed. Rodney was draped over his chest, but their hips hadn't met yet, giving John a very good view. Lorne's jeans were tight, showing off the hard line of his cock temptingly.
John slipped off the dresser and bent down to untie his boots. He toed them off quietly, then walked around the foot of the bed so he could slip in on the other side of Rodney. The physics of this was going to be tricky, especially on his tiny bed, but Rodney had a way of making tricky physics simple. He ran his right hand over Rodney's back, on down to play with Rodney's ass. Rodney raised his head and looked back over his shoulder, smiling. His lips were red and his pupils blown already, and John went from half-hard to full mast.
"You need a bigger bed," Lorne said. He did something, shifted a bit, and Rodney rolled over snug against John's hip. John let his hand drift with the motion, until he was oh-so-accidentally cupping Rodney's cock through his pants.
"I keep forgetting to requisition one," John said, lazily working his thumb over the growing damp patch. Lorne had shifted upwards, propping up on his elbows so he could watch the show. "I never seem to have the time, what with always having to rescue damsels in distress."
"Or having to get rescued yourself," Rodney added. It might have been a better burn if he hadn't panted out the words, or if he hadn't pulled his right leg high and wide to give John better access. John obliged by running his hand down to his balls. The material over them was nearly skin-hot, and John loved the soft weight of them, the way Rodney squirmed as John played.
Lorne shifted again, sitting up and swinging his legs off the edge of the bed. Rodney managed to sprawl out to take up most of the surface area without ever truly moving; it was one of his innate talents, like remembering every single gate address they'd ever dialed and being able to inhale a whole meal without once interrupting his own lecture. Lorne's shoes clattered to the floor, and then his left hand was above John's, unbuttoning Rodney's pants and working the zipper down.
"Oh, God," Rodney said.
"Yeah, keep talking, McKay." Lorne grinned down at him. "I want to know exactly how eloquent I have to be later to win."
"That's not--" Rodney squeezed his eyes shut when Lorne slipped his hand through the placket. John could see his fist move under the cloth. "--fair. Just-- Please?"
"Please what?" Lorne asked.
"I don't know. Anything." Rodney was staring sightlessly upwards, mouth open as his breathing sped up. He looked half-crazed, what with his hair spiked from the sea air and their long, frustrating day, as well as the thick stubble along the line of his jaw. John caught Lorne by the wrist, stopping his hand.
"What do you want, Rodney? Really."
Rodney took several breaths, each one longer and fuller than the last. Lorne was watching him, eyes dark and intense; he hadn't been lying when he'd told John that including Rodney wouldn't be a problem.
"I want to watch him fuck you," Rodney said at last. "I've wanted--that."
John nodded, understanding what he couldn't get out in a full sentence in front of Lorne. That was Rodney's full fantasy, what he'd been talking about earlier on the ship. "What do you say, Evan?" John asked, but by the way Lorne's lips had parted, he didn't think he was reluctant. "Do you think you can handle that?"
"Shouldn't be a problem," Lorne said, and John could almost hear the sir at the end. But it wasn't there, and the way Lorne was looking at him didn't look subordinate at all.
"Good." John let go of his wrist, then he stood up so he could get their clothes out of the way. Rodney's pants and smiley-face boxers went first, John dragging them down until he had to stop to pull off Rodney's shoes. He tossed them all to the floor, somewhere in the middle of the room where he wouldn't trip over them maneuvering around the bed. Rodney and Lorne were working on getting Rodney's shirt over his head without falling out of bed, so John took a few seconds to strip out of his own clothes.
Which only left Lorne.
Lorne looked from John to Rodney to John again. "Give me a minute," he said in response to their pointed looks. "You guys aren't the only ones with fantasies, you know."
"What, your fantasy didn't include getting naked?" Rodney asked.
Lorne snorted. "You've got me there." He stood up and stripped off his T-shirt in one smooth move. His fingers on the button and zipper of his jeans seemed to take forever, drawing out the moment with striptease precision, but that was probably just John's impatience slowing time. Lorne finally pushed his jeans down--and he wasn't wearing underwear. His cock bobbed free, thick and clearly eager for more.
He sat down on the bed again, across from John at Rodney's waist. John cupped his hand around the back of Lorne's neck, drawing him forward for their second kiss. Their first that wasn't forced. It wasn't as needy this time, not as desperate, but full of the certainty of something more. That this time, neither one of them would be able to hide from what they really wanted.
"I feel like a kid at his first all-you-can-eat buffet," Lorne said, smiling against John's mouth.
"Well, you can stay all day at this one," John said, feeling a bit dangerous. "And you don't have to get a fresh plate every time."
"What does that even mean?" Rodney asked, sounding horny and bewildered.
Lorne laughed. John pulled back, but he held Lorne's gaze as he spoke. "What's your choice, Rodney? A nice little blow job for the main course, and then Evan having his way with me for dessert?"
Rodney cleared his throat. "Your metaphors suck, but, ah, yes, that sounds perfect."
John grinned. Lorne returned it, wolfishly. John started to lower his head, but Lorne caught him by the shoulder. John acquiesed easily; he wasn't going to pretend that the idea of seeing Lorne get Rodney off wasn't something he didn't want to see.
Lorne settled in between Rodney's legs. John watched him move forward, teasingly slow, watched him lick over the wetness on the head of Rodney's cock. Rodney tensed beside him and let out a strangled moan. John tore his gaze away so he could stretch out on his side, squeezing himself into the small space next to Rodney.
"Hey," he whispered, sweeping his hand up Rodney's belly, stopping to finger his chest hair. "How's it going?"
"Oh, you know," Rodney said shakily. "Not ba-- Oh, God."
John looked back down the bed, and found Lorne looking up at them, eyes straining upwards as he slid his mouth over Rodney's cock. John reached down, brushing a finger over Lorne's cheek, feeling his lips stretched wide, and circled the base of Rodney's cock. Then he turned back so he could focus on Rodney. Rodney kissed him hungrily, sloppily, fingers digging into John's left shoulder--until his mouth went completely slack. John watched as the orgasm washed over his face, his own cock throbbing hard against Rodney's hip.
"Oh, God," Rodney whimpered before he opened his eyes again. He smacked his lips twice, and then he grinned up at John, smug and happy and satisfied. John chuckled and kissed him again.
"Was that okay?" Lorne's voice was gravelly, the thing seduction was made of, and John reached down and hauled him upward by the upper arm. He collapsed half across Rodney, but John kissed him hard anyway, until the taste of Rodney started to fade and Rodney himself was shoving against them.
"Okay, okay," Rodney said. "Yes, wonderful, thank you. Now get off."
The three of them squirmed around until Rodney was sitting against the wall, back padded ever so nicely with all of John's pillows. He slouched down so that John's head had a nice pillow, too, laying between Rodney's legs as he was. Lorne wound up kneeling between John's spread thighs, which was almost perfect as far as John was concerned. John opened his legs further, pressing into Rodney.
Lorne took the hint. He slid his hands up the sensitive skin of John's inner thighs, taking his time to stroke and play. His usual half-smile was missing, and there wasn't an amused gleam lighting up his eyes. He looked...intense. Like a pilot before his first flight. He leaned forward, kissing John long and lingeringly. John stroked a hand down his side, over the striations of muscle and bumps of his ribs, and got his hand on Lorne's cock for the first time. Lorne gasped into his mouth. John tightened his grip, but before he could get a good rhythm going Lorne pulled his hips back, freeing his cock from John's hand.
"Not yet." He kissed John again, then strained up to kiss Rodney. Then he slid down, kissing John's belly open-mouthed until it quivered in response. Lorne grinned up at him, breath hot just above John's cock, and an embarrassing whine slipped out of John's throat.
"Maybe later," he said, swiping his tongue across the head of John's cock, but he was gone again before the pleasure really sank in. He moved down, mouthing John's balls for a few glorious seconds, but then he was gone again. John couldn't spread his legs wider, so he drew his knees up, begging for everything. He heard a drawer slide open, and then Rodney's hand was in front of him, dripping lube onto Lorne's cupped hand.
Lorne held John's gaze as he pushed his finger in, the desire in his eyes so easy to read. John wasn't sure why he doubted it before--except he knew that he couldn't afford to believe, not when he couldn't give the possibility free rein. But Rodney was right here behind him, sweaty-hot and running his hands all over John's shoulders, chest, neck, grounding them both. John let his want rise up, let himself fuck back on Lorne's fingers without restraint.
Rodney's hands left him again. John heard the ripping tear, felt a drop of cold splash onto his shoulder, and then Rodney was handing Lorne the condom. Lorne squeezed the tip and settled it onto the head of his cock--but John was the one who rolled it down his length. Lorne's eyelids fluttered with his touch. John turned his wrist so he could get a grip on the base of him, and tugged, leading Lorne forward by his cock.
"Hang on." Lorne got his hands under John's ass and pushed, angling them upwards, and John did as much as he could with Rodney behind him to help. Then Lorne was pushing in, and God, it was perfect. John flailed his right hand behind him, and Rodney caught it, lacing their fingers together as Lorne started to thrust.
"So hot," Rodney murmured. "You should see it, John. You're both so... Hot."
John grunted in response. Lorne had John's ass angled high now, nearly on his lap, leaving John curled nearly in half, his chin tucked tight against his chest. But it was good, so worth it, Lorne hitting him sweet with every thrust. All John could do was lay there and think about letting the moans out, but every time he tried to draw breath Lorne would move again.
Rodney brought their hands down, pushing John's across his belly. "Go on," he said. "Show us."
It took John three tries to find his own cock. Not that it wasn't throbbing huge with need, but Lorne was pounding him hard now, shaking his aim, and the second time he got distracted when his fingers grazed across Lorne's belly. But he was too turned on to linger. He'd been wound tight all day, nerves strung taught by Lorne's flirting and Rodney's fantasies and the adrenaline high of Fedeth's machinations. He started stroking immediately, fast and without finesse, just going after what felt good until he was coming hard, all over himself and getting it on Lorne's belly as well.
"Oh, fuck," Lorne groaned. He shoved in hard. John could feel him come, even through the condom. His eyes were screwed tight, his mouth open, until he shuddered one last time and sucked in a breath. John could see his arms shaking, so he dropped his legs and drew Lorne forward, gasping himself when Lorne's belly pressed into his still-sensitive cock.
"You've really got to get a bigger bed," Rodney said. John smiled, happily sandwiched between Rodney and Lorne, one arm wrapped around each. "Or my back is going to be irreperably damaged."
John chuckled, still a bit breathless. "I'll make Evan do it. He's in charge of requisitions, anyway."
"Mmmph," Lorne said.
Rodney ground his heel into Lorne's ribs. "What was that? I'm afraid my puny brain wasn't able to grasp the depth of that highly intellectual statement."
"Fck...'kay," Lorne muttered into John's skin. John stroked his fingers through the damp hair at the base of Lorne's skull as he smiled back at Rodney.
"I think we broke him," he said conspiratorially.
"It's not like I didn't warn him."
Lorne laughed, breath huffing out in tickling waves across John's skin. He pushed himself up with one hand, just enough to meet Rodney's eyes. "Fine. You win. But I demand a rematch."
Rodney was flushed, satisfaction and happiness making him look more perfectly smug than ever. John could feel him perking up against his back, so it wasn't hard to make the offer. "Any time," John said. "We'll be here."
Lorne's smile froze, but it wasn't a bad thing. Instead, he looked thoughtful, and a little bit shy. He scrambled over John's legs, off the bed, and John had to fight down a rush of disappointment. He knew the bed wasn't all that comfy, but he'd been hoping to get a little bit more post-coital time.
Lorne didn't pull his jeans back on, though. He just groped in his pocket, finally coming up with something he kept hidden in his fist as he turned back to them.
"Ah," he said, scratching at his ear with the index finger of his left hand. John was kind of caught up in getting a good look at him. He looked amazing, naked except for the necklace around his neck, his hair darkened from exertion and his skin still flushed. "I don't want to make a thing out of this, but if you want it..."
Lorne opened his hand, palm up. Another necklace was curled in on itself, the same dark stone peeking out between the length of leather cord. John swallowed hard, but he took it without hesitation. He had no idea where they were headed, the three of them, had no idea how they could possibly make a relationship work, but he liked the idea of it. Liked the idea of this little reminder of a day that had turned from very bad to one of the best experiences of his life. He slipped the necklace over his head, staring down to where the pendant nestled against his dogtags.
"Wait a minute," Rodney said. "Fedeth gave you three necklaces? That's a little self-defeating, isn't it?"
Lorne snorted. "Well, he might have been a bit creepily obsessed, but I guess he was pretty observant, all things considered."
John shook his head. "I would have figured it out eventually," he said, and drew Lorne back down to the bed while Rodney laughed.