Pairing: McKay/Sheppard, with mentions of former McKay/Lorne and Sheppard/Mitchell
Disclaimer: Not Mine!
Word Count: ~13,400
Author's Note: 2of7 requested: McKay/Sheppard; McKay/Lorne; McKay/Mitchell; angsty stories with whump, H/C and a happy ending (I love happy endings) AU; fusions (my favourite would be the Pretender, with McKay as Jarod, but other movies and tv-show are great too)
They would not like: Death!fic, non-con, unhappy endings</i>
I've never seen The Pretender but I did a little nosing around and discovered you liked Merlin. Originally I planned to write a fusion with Merlin but your story took on a life of its own. I do hope you enjoy it nonetheless. Merry Christmas!
Author's Note 2: I have several wonderful betas to thank for their help and advice while I was writing this story, but I hope they won't mind if I wait until after the reveal to name them.
Summary: In a time of magic, when Prince John mounts a rescue to save his family's oldest friend, he discovers more than just an ally in the sorcerer, Rodney McKay, as they seek to overthrow the Wraith Queen of Atlantis.
Since the discovery of his indiscretion with one of his fellow knights, Prince John's standing with his father had reached a new low, though not because he shared a common gender with this other knight. Male or female held no importance in this age of enlightenment, but John knew his father held high hopes for forming a union between one of their neighboring kingdoms. Unfortunately, Sir Cameron of Mitchell was no prince. He was but a lowly nobleman's son from the western edge of the kingdom; a man who had come to King Patrick's court as a boy to learn the art of war and politics, and to be a companion to the young prince.
John didn't love Cameron in that all-encompassing sense of the word but they were bound by a long and deep friendship. They had fought side by side in many battles and had earned each other's respect. The rest was just two friends finding solace in each other and nothing more. His father knew that too and yet, on that day of discovery, John had heard whispers in the court of his father threatening to disinherit him and make his younger half-brother, David, heir to the throne of Medea in his stead.
As far as John was concerned, David could have the throne. He had no desire to take his father's place upon his death even though it was expected of him as first born. He sighed and toyed with his food as the tense conversation carried on around the dining table. Many believed that the reason why father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye was because they were so similar in nature; both of them stubborn and proud. Yet where they differed in John's eyes was at a fundamental level. King Patrick thought nothing of sacrificing the common people to retain his position of wealth and power, ruling over his lands with an iron fist. He had outlawed magic after an attack against his throne by a Lantean sorceress when John was but a babe-in-arms, putting to death anyone who used magic and banishing all of the witch's people, the Lanteans. Since then any Lantean or practitioner of magic found in King Patrick's kingdom risked execution, and many had paid that terrible price over the long years.
Usually, any animosity between John and his father faded quickly but on this occasion, his father's closest friend had felt greater concern. Lord Woolsey had always favored John over David, probably for the sake of John's long dead mother, whom it is rumored he loved as a sister. Woolsey broke the unnatural silence around the dining table.
"My old friend, it has been too long since we paid tribute to our ally, Queen Teyla. I was thinking of visiting her. Perhaps Prince John should accompany me?"
John looked up from his uneaten meal, glancing across at his father. Their eyes met briefly and John could see the flare of anger directed at him. The excuse to visit Athos was shallow at best but it would give John time apart from his father before harsher words passed between them.
Woolsey smiled. "Sir Cameron will, of course, remain in Medea to protect the house of Sheppard."
At least his father had not threatened to exile or execute Cameron for what was truly a minor indiscretion. Of course it might have been far different if John had wanted to take Cameron as his life companion.
King Patrick offered a tight smile to Woolsey. "Yes. An excellent idea. You will leave tomorrow and send my respects to Queen Teyla."
Grateful for an excuse to leave the table, John pushed his untouched plate aside and stood up. "If you'll excuse me, father. I have preparations to make."
The journey to Athos would take perhaps three days at the slower pace that Woolsey preferred, and a messenger was sent on ahead to inform Queen Teyla of their imminent arrival. Even if he had not felt a great desire to leave his father's court far behind, John would have looked forward to the visit. He liked Teyla. She was several summers younger than John and had taken the throne of Athos upon the early death of her father but as a leader she was everything his father was not. Teyla ruled her people with wisdom and great affection, and if she had not already been betrothed to her childhood friend, Lord Kanaan, then John might have suggested an alliance of blood between Medea and Athos even though his preference ran to a male companion.
On the second day they passed from the woods into the denser Atlantean Forest that spread across several realms--that of Medea, Athos and the lands of Lantea. A shiver ran through John, making him feel more alert as he scanned the trees that grew thick along the ancient road between Medea and Athos.
"Sir Markham." John called softly and the knight rode up beside him.
"I don't like this. Pass the word among the men to keep their eyes open and make sure Lord Woolsey stays in the carriage with the shutters down."
As they moved deeper into the forest, heading towards the ford in the river which formed the boundary of Medea and Athos, John noticed how the forest had fallen silent around them, with not even the rustle of a woodland creature or the song a bird to break the spell.
The attack came suddenly, heralded by a war cry as over fifty men surrounded them. John drew his sword at the first cry, swinging it from his vantage point in the saddle. The clash of steel upon steel echoed through the clearing, vibrant against the dull thud of arrows and the piercing screams of the injured and dying, man and horse. He hacked at one pale-faced brigand, the spray of blood from a severed jugular arcing across his legs and the hindquarters of his mount. From the corner of his eye he saw three brigands bring down one of his fellow knights and hack him to pieces on the ground. John cried out in pain as a mace smashed against his thigh, pulling his horse around and twisting in the saddle so he could deal a fatal blow to his assailant. Sir Markham arched like a bow in his saddle, the arrow between his shoulder blades having pierced his chain mail to bury deep into fragile flesh. John saw him fall into the mass of animals disguised as men, saw the daggers and stabbing swords rise and fall as blood splattered his attackers, dappled liked the sunlight through the trees. He skewered another brigand who had caught hold of his mount's reins intending to bring him down, before using his foot to the dead man's chest to pull the sword out of the man's body. Another flash of the battle scene showed men surrounding Lord Woolsey, dragging him from his carriage but John was too far to go to his aid and surrounded. An arrow glanced off his pauldron, the blow forcing his shoulder round, spoiling his strike of the man below him. The brigand's blade slashed across his outer thigh, finding the chink in his chain mail to cut deep into flesh. John brought the sword handle down hard on the man's skull, smashing through bone, and kicking away the already falling body as he turned to the next attacker.
There were too many.
He jerked in the saddle as two more grabbed hold of the reins, his horse rearing to lash out at the men with its front hooves but the momentum sent John tumbling backwards, the weight of his own armor making it impossible for him to defy the laws of nature and regain his balance. Even as he fell, his thoughts were spinning through his head, and he knew beyond a shadow of doubt that he was done for as the bloodied and triumphant brigands fell upon him with their knives and swords.
Instead of darkness, a blinding light filled his vision and the men seemed to explode backwards, as if expelled from his body. Triumphant yells turned to cries of fear and the brigands scattered in all directions leaving him splayed on his back on the blood-drenched battlefield, surrounded by the barely recognizable bodies of his men. Darkness crept around the edges of his vision, the world fading in and out as someone hooded hovered over him, and all he could see before he slipped into the darkness was piercing blue eyes that glowed like sapphires caught in the blaze of the sun.
Rodney glanced around the battlefield nervously, aware that his magic would not keep the others away for long for they had claimed only part of their prize. He had seen them drag away the nobleman, presumably to torture or to hold for ransom, but they had left much of value behind including the tribute intended for Queen Teyla of Athos. He was tempted to steal the tribute but it was not the prospect of gold and jewels that had brought him here, or that had given him the courage to cross into King Patrick's realm, but the forces of magic that were slowly bonding him to the man lying wounded before him. Sadly, his magic wasn't strong enough to carry a full grown man weighed down by chain mail and armor any great distance but it could lighten his load while he draped the fallen knight over the saddle of the horse fretting near its fallen master.
Rodney pushed to his feet and spoke nervously to the horse before coming to his senses and using the old words to reassure the stricken creature. The eye rolling and stamping feet eased until the horse was calm, snorting softly as Rodney led it back to the fallen knight. A change in the aura of the forest warned him that the brigands were overcoming their fear and regrouping; he did not have much time left. Another quick spell stanched the worst of the blood flow from various wounds but Rodney knew it was a temporary measure at best. He had potions and herbs and finer magic that could be used to heal the wounds... if he could get the fallen knight back on his horse.
"Believe me, this is going to hurt me more than you," he murmured to the unconscious knight before grasping his upper arms and pulling him up to a seated position. Rodney moved behind the man, speaking softly in the ancient tongue to lighten the dead weight enough for him to draw him up and push him over the saddle.
"Ow," he murmured and arched his back. "Oh yes. That definitely hurt."
Grabbing the reins he got the horse moving, resisting the temptation to take another horse because he had never learned to ride one of these beasts and knowing his luck he would fall on his ass if it moved beyond a slow walking pace. The brigands were drawing closer so he muttered a blinding spell under his breath that would conceal them from all but the most observant, banking on them being too interested in the trinkets, horses and weapons, and in the expensive armor adorning the dead.
The trees grew closer together as he made his way through paths known only to him, but he did not breathe a sigh of relief until he crossed the small river that formed the border with Medea. After another hour of walking through even denser forest, he came to a clearing wreathed in magic. At the center stood a strangely domed ancient burial mound but its secrets did not lie solely with the bones of the ancient kings buried within. Beyond the burial chamber were hidden passages that only one of the ancient bloodline could open.
After securing the horse with enough rope to allow it to reach the succulent grass, Rodney cast a blinding spell over it even though few would venture this far into the forbidden forest. Rodney pulled the wounded knight from the back of the horse and half-carried, half-dragged the heavy man deep inside.
"Perhaps I should have stripped off all the heavy armor first," he huffed. A quick murmur of a spell lit the torches, casting flickering shadows over the large room. Carefully, Rodney set the man down on the pallet and sank down next to him, exhausted.
Strangely, his powers had not manifested in his youth, as was the case with most sorcerers and witches. Instead they had come later after drinking a potion brewed by a powerful healer to cure him of an fever that was affecting both his body and spirit. Carson had taught him much since then, having learned in turn from another great potion master, Halling, who had long served Queen Teyla as a loyal subject. However, Rodney had quickly outstripped Carson in his sorcery skills, perhaps because his curiosity far outweighed Carson's overly cautious nature, letting him take greater risks.
"Well, he's not going to heal himself," Rodney muttered as he unfastened the heavy cloak and left it draped under the knight. Next he began to unbuckle the vambraces protecting the knight's forearms, setting them aside before starting on the dented pauldron. Once the shoulder armor was removed, Rodney cursed under his breath as he struggled with the heavy chain mail. He had never needed to remove chain mail before so he wasn't certain how to strip off the habergeon. "This is ridiculous," he stated.
Placing his index finger at the top of the chain mail at the base of the knight's throat, he incanted as he moved his finger down the knight's body, watching the tiny rings of metal pull apart beneath his fingertip. He doubted the knight would be grateful but Rodney was certain he could find another spell to knit it all back together again, perhaps even stronger than it had been before. Rodney grimaced as he peeled away the chain mail from over the knight's left thigh, seeing the heavy bruising and puncture marks left behind by a mace but, fortunately, the bone beneath was not broken. On the other thigh, a sword had sliced across an unprotected part, perhaps where the chain mail had shifted during the movement of battle. A lucky strike for the attacker that could have had severe consequences for the knight had it severed the large blood-carrying vein in the leg. It was deep and already Rodney's magic was failing to hold the wound together. Despite the nastiness of the wounding from the mace, this was the most serious injury he had discovered so far, though it was hard to see where other wounds might lie as the knight was covered in blood--not all of it his own.
Rodney had all the necessary herbs and mosses on hand, quickly making a poultice and infusing it with magic to draw out any poisons. As he covered the wound, he incanted softly, smiling as a green light flared around the wound and the flesh beneath began to seal. He copied his actions on the mace wound and only then did he light the stone hearth and draw fresh water from the underground spring and set some of it to boil to make a restorative soup, thick with vegetables and roots. The knight's face and hair were sticky with blood so he mixed a healing potion into the rest of the water and began to wipe away some of the blood and gore. For the first time, Rodney truly looked upon the knight's face, seeing the soft, almost elven features that favored those of the strongest bloodline. He was a handsome man, almost pretty, with crescents of dark lashes and full lips that called to Rodney. Rodney resisted the urge to wake the sleeping knight with a kiss, continuing instead on his self-appointed task as he wrung out the bloodied cloth and wiped away more of the blood splatter, slowly working his way down the half-naked body.
His hand began to tremble as he reacted to the sight before him, feeling the magic entwining them through the call of blood to blood, and Rodney pushed it away in annoyance. Others had called to him in this same way but never so strongly, and he had not succumbed to the temptation despite the desire filling him. He would not succumb now. Breathing deep and slow, he let the effects of his close proximity to the knight settle deep inside; let the urgency of his desire fade to a pleasant warmth. After all, what good could come of it? This man was a knight from King Patrick of Medea's court and of noble birth, and Rodney was a Lantean who would be executed on sight in Medea.
The trickle of water calmed him as he wiped away the blood and gore to reveal shallower cuts and slashes, treating each wound in turn. Once he had cleaned the knight as best he could, Rodney drew a warm blanket over the still unconscious man. The fire had taken the chill off the air, casting a warm glow about the chamber and Rodney felt his eyes grow heavy with exhaustion as his use of magic took a toll on his body.
Eventually, he slept.
John opened his eyes slowly, trying to make sense of the shadows and light cast around the chamber. Licks of flame curled around a bundle of kindling in an open hearth and he watched the pale smoke rise. Several torches adorned the walls, and in the flickering light he made out the shelves of potions and the herbs strung from poles, mingling with a richer aroma that made his empty stomach rumble. It looked like a healer's place but he could see no windows to the outside world and had a sense of weight upon him, as if they were far underground.
"Huh. You're awake." A figure moved across his vision and helped him to sit up a little. The man moved to the hearth and returned moments later holding an earthen bowl.
"What is it?"
The man crossed his arms and raised his chin in defiance as if daring John to make a fuss. Usually, the owner of any woodlands forbade anyone to hunt deer, boars, hares or rabbits. If caught they faced having their hands cut off. Under the circumstances, John was hardly in a position to make accusations for he had no idea where he was--Medea, Athos or in the lands of the Lanteans. He took the bowl in trembling hands and spooned down half of the thick broth before looking back up. It was warm and filling, settling comfortably into his empty belly and making him feel more alert. The man had moved to the other side of the chamber to dish up a bowl for himself and John watched him carefully, studying the broad shoulders of a man who stood perhaps 2 or 3 inches shorter than himself. His hands were quick and his fingers nimble, and John could see no sign of calluses, so this man was definitely no farmer or warrior. Weirdly, he wondered how those hands would feel upon his body, only then noticing his state of undress. The man must have stripped him to tend to his wounds so perhaps his thoughts of those hands were just a memory clinging to his skin. The gleam of metal in the corner of the chamber caught his eye: his armor.
"Who are you?"
"I should say no one of great importance but that would be telling a lie." The man turned and stepped closer, and in the brighter light John saw his bright blue eyes and he knew this was the same man who had come to his aid during the battle.
"I'd like to know the name of the man who saved me."
The man preened. "Yes, I did, didn't I?" His smug grin faltered. "McKay. Rodney McKay."
"I'm John. John Sheppard."
McKay looked confused. "John Sheppard. That's it? Not Sir John of Medea or Sir John of Athos?"
"Medea." Part of him wanted to trust McKay with his true identity--that he was more than just a knight of Medea--but he remained cautious instead. Suddenly the rest of his memories fell into place. "Lord Woolsey!" He struggled to rise but fell back, overcome by weakness.
"They will be taking him to the Wraith Queen."
"Wraith Queen? That's just a myth."
"Yes, well, myths are often derived from the truth, with a few embellishments."
"And you know of this Wraith Queen? Where to find her?" John clutched at McKay's arm. "I need to rescue Lord Woolsey."
"She's... a sorceress, who practices the dark magic. She's bad, and by bad I mean pure evil. She found a means of obtaining immortality, but at a price. She can survive only by eating the souls of mortal men... and women. And children too, so I've heard."
"Where do I find her?"
McKay looked uneasy and began wringing his hands. "I don't know."
It was a lie. John could tell that by the way McKay's eyes darted about the room. Gritting his teeth, John pushed up from the pallet of straw that formed his bed. He struggled to his feet, swaying for a moment before finding something to lean against.
"You're not so good at the lying, so where is she?"
McKay sighed. "According to legend she disappeared deep into the mountains of Atlantia to the east." McKay jumped to his feet when John started for his armor. "You can't go after her on your own. She's too powerful."
John turned and stared hard. "You offering, McKay?"
"I... Well, I don't think..." He sighed again. "Yes." He held up a finger. "But we still need more help."
"It's at least a full day's ride back to Medea. By then Woolsey's captors will have reached the foothills"
"The Lanteans will help."
John stared even hard, in disbelief. "Why would they help Medea?"
McKay shifted uncomfortably. "Because I will ask them?"
Rodney winced when John picked up his habergeon and it parted down the center.
"I can fix that," he stated quickly, and murmured a spell that had it repairing seamlessly despite it being dropped to the ground by John in mid-repair.
"You use magic." It was an accusation rather than a statement of fact and Rodney shifted uncomfortably under the hostile glare.
"Of course I used magic. I'm a sorcerer. How do you think I managed to get you off the battlefield without both of us being hacked to pieces by the Wraith Queen's followers? By asking nicely?"
"Magic is forbidden."
"In Medea... but as we're not in Medea." Rodney lowered his chin belligerently and glared up at John through his lashes, aware that he had been in Medea when he saved John. "I've heard all the lies, hearsay and exaggerations decrying all forms of magic across your kingdom, but that's all it is. Not all magic is used for evil, or even bad... unless it's Kavanagh wielding it because that poor excuse for a sorcerer hasn't managed to get one spell to work correctly yet." He shook his head in annoyance. "But I digress." He raised his hands. "Everything around us is filled with magic. It's how it's wielded that determines if it is good or bad." He could see that he was starting to get through. "Look, I can use an ax to chop wood... or I can use it to cleave an innocent man in two. Is it me or the ax that is evil?" He could see John thinking on his words. "Magic is a tool, the same as an ax. A powerful ax."
"And you wield it."
"Beats chopping wood manually. Do you know how many blisters I had on my hands the last time I tried to do that without magic?" He showed John his hands, palms outward. "These hands are delicate. They're not meant for manual labor."
John raised an eyebrow but otherwise remained silent. Rodney watched as John pulled on his armor and lastly his royal blue cloak.
"I guess you didn't happen to pick up my sword."
"I was kind of busy saving your life at the time," Rodney snarked back.
John sighed but seemed resigned to having no weapon, though Rodney could always offer him the wood ax if he was that lost without one.
"Yes. Well. If we're going to save your Lord... Whoever... before he becomes Wraith Queen food then we'd best get moving."
John stopped as they passed through the burial chamber above Rodney's home. Something drew him across the chamber towards the resting place of one of the most ancient of the kings. He paused above the stone sarcophagus that was carved into an effigy of the king interred inside and reached for the stone sword, brushing his fingers along the flat of the blade from the point to the ornately carved cross guard. Rodney felt a flood of magic in the chamber and he whispered the words echoing in his head. Before him the stone began to melt away to leave gleaming metal in its place. The carvings along the flat of the blade and cross guard became engravings of runes, magical symbols of power and strength. The pommel was a jewel that glowed a deep blue when John wrapped his fingers around the grip and lifted the sword from its mount.
Rodney watched as John held the sword before him, eyes traveling the length of the blade in equal awe before looking to Rodney.
"The Sword of Atlantis!" Rodney stated in shock, recognizing it from manuscripts describing the old legends. It was thought to have been lost a thousand years ago after the last great battle against the Wraith.
John's puzzlement faded as a determined expression crossed his face again. He indicated to Rodney to lead the way up through the secret passages to the surface and walked purposely towards his horse.
"Wait! You can see it?"
"The horse! I put a... Oh never mind." His blinding spell only worked on the less observant so perhaps John had keener eyes than most.
John greeted the horse with affection before climbing into the saddle and moving the horse forward towards Rodney; he stopped and held out his arm. Confused Rodney looked from the outstretched hand to John's face, the determined expression moving swiftly to exasperation.
"Get up behind me."
"As much as it pains me to say this, I'd prefer to walk."
"I don't have time to go at a walking pace." He shook his arm impatiently towards Rodney, the meaning clear.
With a put-upon sigh, Rodney stepped forward and clasped his forearm. "Another thing I'm going to regret," he mumbled as he swung up behind John and wrapped his arms tightly around John's waist.
Rodney pointed east towards the mountains, and gave a startled cry as John set off immediately, almost overbalancing. He clung on tight and buried his face against John's chain mail-covered shoulder as they cantered through the forest.
John was surprised when Rodney's directions took them to a small village consisting of mainly wattle-and-daub buildings.
"What? You were expecting mud huts?"
John threw a chagrined apology over his shoulder at Rodney because he had expected the Lanteans to be as backwards as the common people of Medea who lived well outside the city walls. Instead the homes looked strong and well kept, with the cobbled main road clean and surprisingly clear of the rotted food, animal excrement and stagnant mud pools found in most Medean villages. Water channels swept away the debris along with any excess water. The road opened out into a large square, and John felt curious eyes following him from behind shutters as he made his way to the raised stone platform at center. A line of men spread out in a semicircle, all wearing clothing that was not quite a uniform and yet was similar enough in nature to imply a trained force. At the center stood a single man who stood close in height to Rodney but the resemblance ended there. The dark-haired man had the bearing of a warrior, standing with his hand resting lightly on the pommel of his sword.
John felt Rodney wriggle behind him, grimacing as Rodney gripped a little too tightly as he dropped from the saddle to face the warrior. He missed the warmth of Rodney at his back immediately, but he also missed the strength of Rodney's arms around him and the soft heated breaths against the back of his neck. Being held by Rodney had felt so good.
The warrior's demeanor changed the moment he saw Rodney, his granite expression softening with something more than just respect.
Rodney greeted the warrior with a wild and happy grin, and John felt a moment of jealousy that this Evan was the recipient of Rodney's enthusiastic greeting. His seemingly unwarranted jealousy raised another notch when Evan reached out to cup Rodney's cheek in one hand and draw him in for a chaste kiss on the other cheek. Evan's expression hardened as his eyes moved from Rodney back to John.
"Why are you here, Medean?"
Before John could answer, Rodney spoke up. "Ah. That would be my doing. He needs help rescuing someone from the Wraith Queen."
Evan looked to Rodney in disbelief before narrowing his eyes and staring hard at John. "You expect us to help... him, after all his king has done to us?" He looked back to Rodney for an answer.
"He's more like us than you think," Rodney replied softly and glanced towards the sword John carried. Taking the hint, John drew the sword and let the Lanteans see the brightly glowing jewel in the pommel and brilliant sheen of the blade. Evan's eyes widened momentarily before he lowered them in respect towards John.
"Evan Lorne at your service, my liege." Around the semicircle, all the men bowed their heads in respect. "Only a noble and true warrior of Lantea can wield the Sword of Atlantis."
"Does that mean you'll help me rescue Lord Woolsey?"
Lorne looked up and gave a tight nod. "I will call your men to arms." At his nod, another warrior raised a horn to his lips and blew a deep, melodic note that resounded around the village square. John could hear the sound of activity from every direction as both male and female warriors began to amass quickly until the square was teeming with warriors and their mounts.
"This going to be enough men?" Rodney leaned in and murmured softly, and John shivered as the warmth of Rodney's breath fanned across his sensitive ear.
"Considering I don't have a clue what I'm going up against," John half-answered but the sight of so many warriors filled him with relief. At least now he had a chance against the Wraith Queen's followers.
"We ride immediately," Lorne shouted as he mounted the horse brought to him by one of his lieutenants.
John offered his arm to Rodney again and, this time, he heard no complaint as Rodney climbed up behind him. He noticed Lorne eying them curiously before offering John a small nod and wry smile. The small army of Lanteans began to move once John had drawn up alongside Lorne, with both of them setting out together.
Once they cleared the village, Lorne turned in his saddle. "We're no match for all of her followers. We need a plan."
John grimaced because his plan of get in, save Woolsey, get out just wasn't going to cut it. At least he had an idea of what was ahead of them after grilling Rodney during the ride to the Lantean village. Still, Rodney was no tactician and Lorne would have a greater idea of numbers and possible obstacles lying in their path.
"How about I tell you what I know and you fill in the gaps. Then we discuss plans after we make camp tonight."
Lorne agreed and they spent the next few hours trading information with Rodney adding details that impressed even Lorne. Slowly the legend of the Wraith Queen unfolded, revealing a tale that stretched back through the centuries for at least three thousand years. John listened carefully, aware that success might lie in the smallest of details. All knew the legends, of the Great War against the Wraith, of how they had descended upon a world teeming with billions and emptied the great cities of man, leaving them to fall to dust just like the victims the Wraith consumed with their greedy hands. They knew the tales of great warriors, of the Lantean King Myddrin who had wielded the Sword of Atlantis, cutting off the head of the Wraith Queen. Smaller legends sprang up in the thousand years that followed; of knights doing battle against Wraith found slumbering in deep caverns, and then, a mere thirty-seven years ago, began a new legend of the Wraith Queen.
King Patrick had denounced it as a lie spread by the Lanteans to put fear into the hearts of others but John was no longer so dismissive. What concerned him was that this legend had begun around the time of his birth, when all forms of magic had been banned from Medea, and he could not help but wonder if the two events were connected.
They rode hard all day, reaching the foothills in the late afternoon. Part of John wanted to push on, aware that Woolsey's captors might be only five of six hours ahead of them but common sense prevailed. They dare not meet the followers of the Wraith Queen while tired from a hard journey. That way led to defeat on the battlefield.
Rodney nudged him hard. "Are we going to stop now because my ass is seriously numb? And if I don't eat soon then I'll pass out from manly hunger."
Lorne rode up beside John as he stared towards the mountains, and his words confirmed John's own thoughts. "We should rest here for the night. The mountain paths are too treacherous without good light and rested men and horses."
"Oh thank Myddrin!"
Before John could stop him, Rodney slid down the back of the horse, his legs buckling so he landed on his so-called 'seriously numb ass', but that didn't stop him from crying out.
"Thought the ass was numb, McKay?"
"Well obviously it wasn't as numb as I thought," he snarked back, and John hid a grin as he watched Rodney clamber back to his feet like an ungainly newborn foal.
Lorne seemed to find it equally amusing but he hid his mirth before Rodney spotted it, looking sympathetic instead. As Rodney staggered back towards the rest of the warriors, rubbing his 'abused ass' and yelling about setting up camp, John noticed Lorne watching Rodney with a soft and interested smile. It was the same smile from the village square earlier, speaking of deep affection or intimate knowledge. A flare of jealousy rose in him again, almost certain now that there was history between the two men that went beyond platonic. He wondered if it was a past relationship, or if they were still lovers, and the thought made John's stomach flip because he felt drawn to Rodney, as if his very blood was calling to the other. It didn't make any sense because they barely even knew each other but he hated the thought of anyone else having Rodney. John stood on the sidelines as tents went up and fires were lit. The aroma of cooking came soon after and John truly felt like an outsider as Rodney stomped towards.
"Huh! Just like a Medean knight, standing around doing nothing while everyone else works their fingers to the bone providing food and shelter."
"In case you hadn't noticed, Rodney, I don't happen to have either luxury right now."
"What? Of course you..." He gave a deep, frustrated sigh. "You can share my tent."
"You have a tent." Of course it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility as Rodney was a sorcerer after all.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "No, I was just saying that to raise your hopes only so I could enjoy your misery when I dashed them." He huffed. "Of course I have a tent. Lorne's tent, and you're welcome to share."
"I think I'll pass," John replied because he seriously did not want to lie in the dark listening to Lorne and Rodney together, trying to keep the distaste out of his expression but obviously failing.
Rodney's eyes widened a fraction before narrowing in anger. "So Lantean hospitality isn't good enough for a Medean?"
John raised a hand defensively. "No! That's not what I..." He dragged in a deep breath and let it out fast. "Look. I can see you and Lorne have... something and... I don't want to," he shrugged, "You know."
Anger had moved into confusion. "No. I don't know. And for your information, yes, Lorne and I had something. Past tense. And I have to admit that it's good having at least one former lover who doesn't want to eviscerate me on sight so..."
John couldn't help the way his heart beat faster as hope filled him. "Former? So there's... no one else."
Rodney looked uncomfortable. "No."
"Good? Are all Medeans this confusing, or just the pretty knights?"
John smirked. "So you think I'm pretty."
"No. I did not say..." He squeezed his eyes tight momentarily. "Yes. I did say... But what I meant was..."
"You think I'm pretty," John singsonged.
Rodney stabbed a finger at him, "Yes! No!"
John slapped him hard around the shoulder, ignoring the pained, "Ow!" He walked with purpose towards the center of the encampment where he had seen Lorne earlier. "Let's get some food and rest. Big day tomorrow."
When he glanced back over his shoulder, Rodney was still standing there with his mouth moving like a gaping fish out of water. Rodney shook his head and began to follow, and the grumbling coming from him made John grin even wider.
The torches flared with a murmured incantation, lighting up the interior of the tent. The tent wasn't large or luxurious by any means but no one was expecting to lay siege to the halls of the Wraith Queen. At least Rodney hoped not otherwise he would have to magic up some better furnishings. The plan was pretty simple. While Lorne's warriors kept the Wraith Queen's followers busy, he and John would sneak into her lair and rescue Woolsey. Then they would all go home.
Simple. Which meant it was bound to go horrifically wrong.
Lorne would bed down with his warrior lover this night, renewing bonds of brotherhood with Ronon before the fight tomorrow, and leaving John and Rodney alone in the tent.
"I should check those wounds," Rodney murmured, indicating towards the bandages that were visible now that John had removed his armor. Carson was far better at the healing spells than Rodney, whose skills ran more to the manipulation of inanimate objects. Fortunately, there was a group of healers in the camp headed up by a young but surprisingly good healer called Jennifer. Her healers would stay back, tending to any warriors wounded in tomorrow's distraction. This left Rodney to focus on just the one man.
The light from the torches played across John's golden skin, and catching against the silkiness of the abundant dark chest hairs. Touching him while he was unconscious had been easy but this time he felt the weight of John's gaze upon him as he murmured small healing spells upon the poultices before applying them. Already Rodney could see a difference though he wondered if it was all his own work or if John simply healed faster than others. It was a possibility as all of those who displayed traits from the Ancient bloodline tended to heal faster, himself included once his magical abilities had manifested.
The warm fingers cupping his cheek made Rodney look up from his work to meet John's eyes, and the want in them held him motionless as John leaned in and took his mouth in a gentle, inquiring kiss. John pulled back and whispered hoarsely.
Swallowing hard, Rodney knew his answer from the way his body thrummed with pleasure after just one simple kiss. "Yes."
He moaned as John kissed him again, harder this time, with John's tongue lapping against his lips, waiting for him to let their tastes mingle as the kiss deepened. He felt John's hands pushing at his tunic, palms running over his skin, higher and higher, pushing his tunic up until Rodney had no choice but to remove it entirely, pulling it over his head. John ducked and lapped at a sensitive nipple, worrying the nub with his teeth to send exquisite pain and pleasure racing through Rodney. They stripped away the remainder of their clothing before falling on to the makeshift mattress of cotton filled with dry leaves.
John knew what he was doing so Rodney laid back and let him do all the work, moaning as each pleasure point was caressed by hand and mouth teasingly until Rodney reached breaking point. He grabbed at the messy dark hair and tugged until those clever fingers and tongue were playing over his hard cock, tongue lapping across the sensitive head before swallowing him down deep. John wriggled around until his knees were splayed out on either side of Rodney's head and it took no effort at all to taste the cock hanging above him before taking it into his mouth. His fingers played with John's ass, eliciting moans of pleasure that vibrated along Rodney's cock.
He had once spent an hour like this with Lorne strung out in desperation above him but perhaps it had been too long since the last person had touched him in this way, or perhaps he simply needed the release too desperately to play games. Instead of prolonging the pleasure, Rodney worked harder, slipping a single digit into John to ignite the pleasure in that hidden place and bracing himself as John came hard with a choked cry, deep in Rodney's throat. His own release was so close too, and he pushed up into John's pleasure-slackened mouth, rubbing his own nipple to send shock waves of pleasure through his body and refusing to admit that he whimpered as he came, muffling his cry against John's inner thigh.
John turned around and flopped down beside him, gathering him up against him as he smoothed his hand over Rodney's flank from waist to thigh.
They kissed again, slow and easy, sharing the taste of each other in languid kisses as they moved towards sleep.
Sounds of the camp awakening came just before dawn and Rodney stretched out only to realize that the warm body that had lain so close was gone. He sat up and watched as John pulled on the last of his armor.
"In the Ancient texts known only to the Lantean, there was a time when the world consisted of more than one land mass. A time when billions of humans walked the Earth."
"The Wraith came on a sky ship so large it blotted out the sun, and they gorged themselves for centuries on the souls of man until none were left in those distant lands, and to ensure none could hide from their hunger, they caused the sea to swallow the lands until all that remained was Lantea."
"Yeah, well those legends also say the Athosians came from the distant stars too, brought here by the Wraith."
Rodney chuckled. "Is there really such a thing any more? Athosian, Medean, Lantean. We are all human and our blood has mingled over the millennia."
Although tempted, Rodney refrained from mentioning that John's blood had to be heavily tainted with that of the Lantean people or he would not have been able to draw the Sword of Atlantis from its hidden cast of stone. John must have had the same thought though as he glanced towards the magnificent sword before taking the few steps across the tent to pick it up. The stone glowed a deep blue, reflecting off John's face as he held it aloft to study its intricate engravings.
"Do you know what this says?"
John smiled and glanced at him. "Care to share?"
An eyebrow rose sleekly in Rodney's direction. "Why?"
"Because I don't want you to start thinking you're invincible."
"Okey dokey? What's that supposed to mean?"
"It just means... alright."
Rodney gave a derogatory snort. "Then why didn't you just say so?" He knew he was being petty because last night with John was probably the only time they would spend together in intimacy. By the end of this day John would either be dead or on his way back to Medea with or without the nobleman he had sworn to protect. It was likely that they would never see each other again.
John replaced the sword in its makeshift scabbard and crossed the tent until he was on both knees before Rodney. Reaching out to frame Rodney's face in both hands, he drew him into a heartfelt kiss.
"Don't worry. I'll be careful."
"You had better, seeing's how I'm going to be with you."
( The Sorcerer King - Part 2 of 2 )