Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Genre: AU (Alternate Universe)
Word count: 4.148
Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis doesn't belong to me, neither do the characters. This is a work of fannish love and I don't make money from it.
Author's Notes: This was a rush writing, once I got over a little stumbling block somewhere in the middle, thanks to darkmoore for that. I hope you like it, cimera! Merry Christmas!
Summary: Rodney's assistants fluctuated on a monthly basis, no-one really stayed long with him, and it had been ages since he had gotten anyone good-looking - though, brains were more important than looks. Mostly the people they sent him though were morons finishing their thesis. Not like he'd start anything with a co-worker. Absolutely not. Well ... maybe, depending on how said co-worker saw the issue.
Dark Places, Deep Water, Crowds, and Ducks.
Rodney had long ago perfected the art of walking around campus while reading simultaneously. It optimized his time and it made sure he always looked unavailable for any kind of question at all. Especially the stupid ones. Whoever said that there are no stupid questions had never had the misfortune to teach at Northeastern. Or they wouldn't have spouted such utter nonsense.
One could easily tell which of the students had had the pleasure of taking Rodney's Physics 101 class already; they were giving him as wide a berth as possible. Just the way he liked it. Students were the one part of his job he really didn't like. At all.
"Professor McKay! Professor McKay!"
Speeding up, Rodney made an unhappy noise and concentrated harder on the paper. But it was too late, a young woman pulled up by his side and had the gall to smile at him. "What?" he snapped, irritated already.
"I just wanted to ask you a few questions on-"
"Any and all questions can be handled by my assistants. Come by during their office hours or write an e-mail," he answered, hoping that'd be the last he'd hear from ... whoever she was. The face looked slightly familiar, but he couldn't put a name to it.
Her smile fading a little, she nodded. "Yes, of course, but what about -"
"Any and all," Rodney repeated forcefully, rolled up his reading material and strode away from her. This was exactly why he had assistants. And yet, every semester it was the same. Students who didn't know him accosted him everywhere, trying to ask questions about the topics discussed in class and - far worse - about organizational things that didn't interest Rodney in the slightest.
That was it. Rodney whirled around, glaring for all he was worth. "What? Do I look like I want to talk? Do I have a sign on my back saying 'please speak to me'? What is it?" He asked before he even got a good look at whomever had greeted him. Then his sight caught up with his mouth. The man standing in front of him was drop dead gorgeous. Wow, Rodney thought, his eyes traveling up and down the trim body. Rodney was sure he'd never seen the stranger before, he'd remember that smile. And the hair. Rodney was momentarily distracted by the way it stood up in all directions, seeming to defy the very laws of physics. And the guy had really nice eyes. They were green and had little smile lines around them that made him look ... Rodney caught himself staring and lowered his gaze down onto his papers again, "Was there anything I could do for you?" Rodney back-pedaled quickly.
"Yeah, actually, I think you can. I'm looking for the physics department and I seem to have gotten a little lost," he said with a smile that made Rodney's legs go all gooey. "You wouldn't happen to know how I can get there?"
"I ... Yes, yes, I was going there myself," Rodney answered, horrified at how his voice broke in the middle of the sentence.
"Cool," the man said, looking at him with twinkling eyes, as if he was seeing something hilarious and was barely holding back a laugh.
Rodney stared for a moment, then cleared his throat and stared some more.
"So..." the stranger drawled and raised his eyebrows at Rodney in a silent question.
"Yes?" Rodney asked, ridiculously eager to hear some more of that voice. Oh god, please don't fuck this up, Rodney, he's even going in your direction. Plenty of opportunity to make a good impression.
"The physics department?"
Wanting to kick himself, Rodney half turned and motioned into the direction he had been going. "This way," he said, then took off, hoping he hadn't already scared tall, dark and handsome off for good.
"I'm looking for Doctor McKay. You wouldn't happen to know where I can find him, would you?"
Rodney frowned at that. He wasn't usually sought out by anyone but students - and then only those who didn't know that about the all-stupid-questions-to-my-assistants rule. "What do you want from him?" Rodney asked, curious in spite of himself.
"I'm one of his new assistants. They hired me yesterday and said I could start today, but apparently the building is a little hard to find," he drawled again, his voice full of humor.
"You're the new assistant?" Rodney asked, incredulously. His assistants fluctuated on a monthly basis, no-one really stayed long with him, and it had been ages since he had gotten anyone good-looking - though, brains were more important than looks. Mostly the people they sent him though were morons finishing their thesis. Not like he'd start anything with a co-worker. Absolutely not. Well ... maybe, depending on how said co-worker saw the issue. But apart from Tracy, his secretary - whom Rodney was scared half to death of - none of the people had hung around long enough to get to know. Mostly because Rodney forgot his hard learned manners and social skills when deep inside a new theory, and not everybody could deal with being yelled at, for their mistakes. Rodney couldn't see why that was, but he figured some people just had no backbone. It wasn't like they could not yell back after all. They had a mouth. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Rodney grinned at the man walking to his right and said, "As it happens, I'm Rodney McKay and I guess that makes you John Sheppard."
Sheppard stopped in mid-track. "You are Doctor Doctor Rodney McKay? The 'astrophysics genius of the century'? You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"
The air quotes weren't needed to hear that Sheppard was reciting from the People's Magazine - dedicated to obscure sciences, something that still riled Rodney up. Annoyingly they hadn't even bothered to put a picture in and all he'd gotten was a paragraph. "What? Why should I pretend to be someone I'm not?" he snapped back. He never lied. Firstly he hated being lied to - and should not one always treat others the way one wanted to be treated? - and secondly, keeping track of lies took up too much of his brain capacity to really be a useful thing to do. How normal people kept track of what they told whom was always puzzling anyway. Rodney certainly had better things to think of. "As if anyone would dare to imitate me, they're way too scared of me."
"You're just - so young," Sheppard answered, his hesitation clearly audible in the way he drew out the 'just'. "I mean, you don't look old enough to be a professor. Hell, I'm older than you are," he seemed mainly amused by that.
The small smile that accompanied the words took the sting out of them. What with everybody always harking on about his age he was a tad sensitive to that. "Genius," he said instead of flaying Sheppard alive with words, pointing at himself. "I have a higher IQ than most people can count continuously, which isn't hard, considering most people are idiots. So maybe I should find another analogy."
Sheppard laughed. "Maybe," he said.
Finding himself smiling back, Rodney suddenly hoped Sheppard would not be one of those that left after a few days. He thought he could genuinely like the man - and not just because of the fact that he was seriously hot. It didn't happen often that someone found Rodney funny and it felt good. "So what brings you to University? I should probably say back to University," Rodney amended before Sheppard had even opened his mouth.
"I've decided to go for a degree after all. Broaden my horizons and all that," Sheppard answered.
When Rodney looked at him there was a somewhat forced smile on his face that didn't go with the easy drawl in his voice. The dissonance made Rodney almost itchy. "You didn't come back voluntarily?" Rodney asked.
Sheppard's expression grew pinched; Rodney could tell that he was unhappy even though he was only watching the man from the corner of his eyes. "I got honorably discharged from the Air Force and now I don't quite know what to do with myself. I figured I might as well go back to what I was doing before, you know?"
Actually, Rodney had no idea how that would be like. He'd never liked the military, to him they were a kind of last resort for people who were too stupid to go through life differently. His involvement with the US government was minimal at best, just the way he wanted it. Sure, he took the odd freelance work from the CIA or the military sometimes, but that's as far as it went. If there was anything Rodney hated more than stupidity it was people following orders without thinking about them. "I guess so," Rodney hedged, keeping a hold of the rant he was tempted to spill. But a small - and very vocal - part of him was hopping up and down cheering at him for not giving in. It also yelled at him to not fuck this up.
"I'm going for aerospace engineering and I've already got a masters degree in applied mathematics," Sheppard went on, blissfully oblivious of how Rodney thought about the United States Military.
They entered the physics building and Rodney muttered something about how aerospace engineering was a good choice while he led Sheppard to his department. "That's your workspace," Rodney told Sheppard and pointed at the only free desk. "I'm afraid you'll have to share the office with the three other assistants and it's never quiet in here, but room's short."
Sheppard just grinned at him and dropped onto his chair in a sort of graceful sprawl that turned Rodney's mouth dry. "It's alright, I like company."
With a muttered "okay" Rodney fled to his office, sure he was blushing furiously. It wasn't until he'd nearly stumbled over a stack of books, that he realized he'd forgotten to tell Sheppard what exactly he was supposed to be doing. He buried his face in his hands and groaned, "God, Rodney, get a grip on yourself." The hardest thing was to turn back and find Sheppard still sitting where he'd left him. He looked expectantly at Rodney with the same easy grin on his face and an amused sparkle in his eyes that turned Rodney's legs into jelly. Oh yes, he definitely had it bad.
John sank onto his bed with a relieved sigh. He'd rarely felt this awful in his life. It wasn't that working for Rodney was especially taxing or unpleasant; it was more the fact that he liked Rodney far more than he was supposed to. More than was strictly good for either of them, actually. And he hated that he had to do this. Hated that he couldn't tell Rodney how he felt about him.
He enjoyed spending time with Rodney, accompanying him to classes and going for lunches. And he knew Rodney enjoyed it, too. Could see it in his eyes, the way he smiled at John and sometimes leaned towards John with a look in his eyes ... the one that said John was about to get kissed. Whenever that happened either one of them usually got a grip and stepped back, just in time. It was torture. Pure and simple.
This wasn't what he had expected. At all. He'd been told Rodney was a terrible person to work with. That he had an ego bigger than the solar system and treated everybody like they were stupid. But it wasn't like that. Sure, he liked to yell, he was sarcastic and when someone was being a moron, Rodney told them to their face. It was refreshing though and John found the brutal honesty Rodney had going was a huge turn on.
But really, those blue eyes, wide and innocent - or as innocent as someone with a large repertoire of curse words could be - and naïve did terrible, terrible things to John's self-control. Made him want to bend Rodney over his desk and...
John wasn't even going to go there in his mind, certainly not while he was lying in bed and trying to sleep. Nothing was going to happen. Nothing could happen. Not like this. Not with so much left unsaid between them. In a couple of weeks maybe, when they'd have had a chance to get to know each other. Maybe.
Curling up around a pillow John willed himself to sleep, ignoring that he was half-hard just from thinking about Rodney in a mostly innocent way. It was going to be a long night.
The next weeks were torture. John Sheppard was obviously flirting with Rodney. Even Rodney could pick up on that, and he - admittedly - wasn't the most socially sensible person around. Rodney'd never been touched quite so much his entire life, than he was since Sheppard was around. But whenever Rodney was about ready to do something about it, John backed off. Very rapidly. It was confusing and frustrating at the same time and an ever-growing part of Rodney felt like John was leading him on. Either that or he had so much baggage from being closeted in the Air Force that coming out and actually starting something with Rodney was just too hard to do. Rodney didn't know which was the preferable explanation, but he was starting to have the worst case of blue-balls ever and it wasn't fun.
"Hey, Rodney, do you want to go and grab some food? It's almost three," the reason for his absentmindedness said, sticking his head through the door.
Rodney nearly jumped out of his skin. "Don't sneak up on me," he growled with a frown. He hated it that John got the drop on him every. Damn. Time.
Instead of looking properly chastised, John grinned at Rodney and raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, yeah, lunch," Rodney grumbled and stood up, his hands on his table to keep his balance. His blood sugar was treacherously low and he hadn't even noticed. He so blamed John for that. John, who was looking at him with such a worried expression that Rodney couldn't help but forgive him for being the biggest tease in the history of humankind.
They walked amiably next to each other with Rodney telling John just what he thought of Kavanagh and his latest "idea", while John made sarcastic remarks. That was until John got weird - again. He grabbed Rodney's arm, just as Rodney was about to take the right turn through the park, and pulled him back towards the roundabout way. "I really, really don't like parks," John said, not letting go of Rodney until they were far enough away from the gravel walk that would have meant a shortcut of at least fifteen minutes.
"What?" Rodney asked, still looking back. "Why don't you like parks?"
"Ducks. I am deathly afraid of them. They are pure evil," John answered, his expression earnest and yet Rodney couldn't quite take him seriously. "Honestly," John reinforced his claim with a small smile on his face, "I hate ducks."
"You hate ducks," Rodney repeated slowly. God, how many phobias could one person have? "How did you even get into the Air Force? You're afraid of the dark, you don't like deep water and you can't stand crowds!" He knew he was being unfair. Rodney didn't like underground garages either, but mostly because getting out wasn't as easy as it looked, but he'd never, ever made the same fuss about them as John had that one time they'd gone for a meal. Never. "And now you're telling me you hate ducks? I thought pilots were supposed to be fearless daredevils?"
John flashed him a smile. "How often do you think a pilot has to be fearless in the face of deep water, underground garages or ducks? Also? Not that many people at ten thousand feet."
Even while Rodney had to concede the point, Rodney started to think that John was pulling his leg. "Yeah. Right. Why don't you just confess that you want to spend more time with me rather than make up some bullshit?" He hadn't even meant to say that, but his brain had jumped to its own conclusion while he'd been baffled by John's twisted mind and his mouth had run with it. Mortified he looked at John, but there was only amusement on his face, his eyes glittering with something that Rodney couldn't identify. They stopped walking with John still holding onto Rodney's arm.
"I'd like to spend more time with you, Rodney," John said, his voice even, his eyes glittering with amusement while his body was so close that Rodney had problems thinking. Then he moved away as suddenly and let go of Rodney's arm. "Here," he threw Rodney a PowerBar,
"eat something before you faint on me."
"Faint?" Rodney sputtered in indignation. "I don't faint," he said, "I only pass out from manly hunger, if at all."
John smiled at him, "That's what they're calling it now then? Okay, eat, before you 'pass out from manly hunger', Rodney."
Growling, Rodney opened the treat and bit into the PowerBar. It was his favorite. "You know, you can be quite annoying," he observed calmly.
"Yeah," John said, his voice gentle, "I know."
Maybe the park wasn't that great a shortcut, because it didn't take them 15 minutes to reach the canteen, which was thankfully not as overfilled as during noon. There were groups of students spread out, obviously working on projects while some of them munched on food. "Wanna share a pizza?" John asked, as if the answer to that wasn't painfully obvious. They quibbled a bit over the toppings, and got a soda each, then looked for a table that was out of the way - and the eyesight - of the other occupants of the canteen. They bantered back and forth throughout the meal and it was easily the best meal Rodney had ever had. And the pizza hadn't even been that good. Mainly Rodney enjoyed the company of someone who didn't fold whenever Rodney started to be sarcastic. John pushed back. He gave as good as he got. It was exhilarating to find that behind the pleasant exterior there was a mind that could almost keep up with Rodney. John might not be a genius himself, but he wasn't stupid either.
"We should get back," John suddenly said, his eyes weary. There was a tension about him that Rodney hadn't seen before. When John ushered Rodney out of his chair and herded him towards the door there was nothing of the laid back man Rodney had started to get to know over the past week.
A bit stunned and just a tad annoyed by the sudden end to a rather wonderful time, Rodney demanded "what the hell" when he was suddenly pulled to the side and a weapon dug into his neck.
"Well, well, Sheppard," somebody said right next to Rodney's ear. "What an unpleasant surprise. Now, you'll stay right where you are while Doctor McKay and I go our way, and nobody will get hurt."
Apparently John had been discharged from the Air Force for being unable to follow orders, because instead of staying put he was suddenly there, pushing the weapon upwards. Before Rodney knew it, he was lying on the floor and his attacker was pushed against a wall with John holding the gun into his face.
What came after was a bit of a haze for Rodney. The man - Rodney never got to know who he was or what he wanted - was carted off in a military vehicle by people saluting John and calling him 'sir' and 'Colonel'. Then John gently led Rodney, who still felt numb and shocked, back to his office. John sat him down and explained how the US government had received intelligence about someone wanting to nap Rodney because of his freelance work for the military. And that's when everything finally sunk in and Rodney . . . snapped. Just snapped.
"You lied to me," Rodney yelled loud enough for anybody passing by his office to hear. He didn't care. He jumped up though, feeling caged in his own office. "You fucking lied to me about who you are, Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard." In all his life Rodney had never been so angry before - or so hurt. He'd thought that Sheppard had liked him, had cared for him. Hell, he'd thought Sheppard had flirted with him, found him attractive. God, what a fool he'd been. "Fuck," Rodney muttered. For a genius, he could be pretty stupid sometimes.
"Rodney," John entreated and reached out for him, but Rodney twisted away and John's hands only brushed him as Rodney rapidly backed away.
"No," he hissed, "don't touch me. Was any of that real? Or did you just spend so much time with me because you had to?" Rodney ran his hands through his hair, then rubbed his face, trying to stall the tears that threatened. "Fuck, you don't even like me, right?" They'd kissed once. It had been a rather aborted kiss with John backing up quickly after a short brush of lips. That had been all, and still, Rodney felt violated to the core.
Then John was there, his hands hot on Rodney's biceps. "Rodney, damn it, listen to me," he pleaded. "Just shut up for a minute and -"
"Don't you dare tell me to shut up," Rodney roared, yanking his arms out of John's grasp. He didn't care what John wanted to tell him. "You are a fucking liar and-" John suddenly pushed him against the office door and put his hand over Rodney's mouth in a well practiced move. Pinned to the door as he was he couldn't even push John away and Rodney had to settle to stare balefully at his tormentor.
"Now, listen to me, Rodney. I was sent to protect you, because you were in danger and you're a valuable resource for the US government. But I didn't lie to you . . ." he said desperately, trailing off at Rodney's disgusted snort and a glare. John cleared his throat. "So yeah, I'm still in the Air Force and I might have been muddling the lines a bit when I said I was afraid of the dark, deep water, crowds, and ducks. Aside from that nothing was a lie. I'm still John Sheppard, I have a degree in applied mathematics and aerospace engineering. Okay? And I like you a lot."
When John took his hand away, Rodney still hadn't regained his ability to speak. He just blinked and looked - no, stared - at John. He wished he knew how to interpret the 'and I like you a lot' without embarrassing himself any further.
"Oh for fuck's sake," John growled angrily. Then there were soft lips on Rodney's and John was licking Rodney's lips until they opened as Rodney returned the kiss almost desperately. Rodney went from being pinned against the door to clinging to John in the space of a thought. He ran his hands over John's back until one settled in the gravity-defying hair and the other snuck underneath John's shirt.
When they parted Rodney didn't let go, and John didn't back away. They were practically breathing the same air and John feathered kisses over Rodney's jaw.
"Ha," Rodney gasped, "I wasn't wrong. You did flirt with me."
John buried his face in Rodney's neck, taking deep breaths. "Yeah, you are a genius after all," he said, his breath ghosting over Rodney's sensitive skin. "God, Rodney," he whispered, "do you know what kind of willpower it took for me to not just kiss you?" John's hands were roaming aimlessly over Rodney's sides, like he didn't know where to touch first.
"Why didn't you?" Rodney asked, his voice hitching when John licked his neck. Suddenly John moved back to look at him and Rodney whimpered with the loss.
"Because you wouldn't have forgiven me if we'd done anything like that. I couldn't start a relationship with you as long as you didn't know all the facts." The serious note in John's voice nearly undid Rodney.
"Relationship?" Rodney asked, awed and stunned by John's admission. He reached out and pulled John closer again, brushing his lips over John's, unable to keep away. "You really mean that?"
"Yeah," John said quietly, then captured Rodney's lips for a brief kiss and pushed one of his legs between Rodney's. His eyes were dark and his voice rough while a persistent hard-on poked Rodney's hips, "Let's take this somewhere more private?"
Rodney nodded, his fingers busy mapping the smooth skin on John's back, "Okay."
"Your place is closer," John whispered, his breath hitching as Rodney's hand settled on his ass, squeezing ever so slightly.
And Rodney had to admit that John might be even more intelligent than he'd previously thought. His place was indeed closer.