Author's Notes: Thank you to ladyofthelog for a list of prompts after my own heart. Unfortunately I didn't have time to do the epic team-as-family VR OT4 fic of my heart, but I hope this little romp is still good fun for you. Thanks to my awesome betas, montanaharper and sian1359. Any mistakes left definitely my own
Summary: John can't help touching things he's not supposed to.
"Why did you touch it?" Rodney complains again, staring at the silver bracelet on his wrist. "Especially while I was touching it!"
John plucks at the gold bracelet on his own wrist and wonders the same thing. There were two touchpads. Rodney was touching one. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
"It doesn't hurt, does it?" John asks, shaking his wrist. It's a little tingly but not painful.
"No," Rodney answers, trying to tug his off. "Seriously, Colonel, you're like a twelve-year-old sometimes."
John grins, mostly because if he acts like a twelve-year-old it's because hanging around Rodney has that effect on him. "Well, figure out what it's doing so we can get the things off."
They spend several minutes thinking off at various pieces of equipment, the bracelets, and each other. "What is this place supposed to be, anyway?" John asks.
"Who knows?" Rodney says, tapping on the laptop. "Nearly everything in the database is labeled as 'possible weapon' or 'possible ascension device'. Maybe it made their bodies explode when they ascended."
John's internal sensor isn't going off at that idea - he doesn't feel like the bracelet's trying to kill him, so he grabs a bit of floor and sits down to wait.
"Ow." John catches Rodney's boot before he can nudge it into John's ribs again. "Stop."
"Sure thing, sleeping beauty. I didn't know you snored."
"I don't snore." No one he's ever slept with complained about him snoring - wait, including Rodney. "You know I don't snore, we've bunked together off-world."
Rodney shrugs. "Sometimes you start up when you get older. You're no spring chicken, Colonel."
"Thanks, Rodney." John gets up, a little slower than normal, because his old ligament injury seems to be acting up. "Is it raining?"
Rodney's got several tabs of the database open on the screen in front of him, flipping through folders at a remarkable speed and throwing the interesting ones to the side to look at later. "What?"
"Is it raining?" John asks again, massaging his thigh muscle.
"I have no idea," Rodney answers, continuing to go through the information in the database quicker than John's ever seen, and that includes several life-threatening situations. If that wasn't enough to set off his spidey-sense, a cursory once-over of Rodney certainly is. Rodney looks mostly the same, except somehow slighter, and his hair looks lighter.
John looks again. Definitely lighter. Longish, too, falling over under its own weight into short almost-curls.
"You need a haircut."
"No I don't, I got it cut the day before last." Rodney's still not listening to him, using the HUD to flip through files, another something that's not quite right. Rodney's always preferred to use his tablet to interface with the consoles.
"There is no way you got it cut two days ago," John says. He can't recall Rodney's hair ever being this long. It wasn't this long at breakfast this morning. "Rodney," John says, glancing down his arms and legs. Rodney's still ignoring him. "Rodney, do I look any different to you?"
Rodney gives him a cursory glance and turns back to the database. "Nope."
"Can you please focus on the issue at hand?" John's not sure, but he would bet Rodney's throwing out anything that catches his interest to read later, which, knowing Rodney, is nearly everything. "You can look for information on the ZPMs when we get the bracelets off."
Rodney looks over his shoulder at John guiltily. "Right, of course." He moves through the database even faster now that he's not pulling things out of it every few seconds. "We'll probably never find it, you know, without an idea of what these things do, there's no way to search the database except one subdirectory at a time. I'm most of the way through the energy section-"
"The what section?"
"I've already gone through the ascension section. It was pretty easy, thanks to Elizabeth's searchable subdirectories. There wasn't anything about bracelets."
John wipes his hand down his face. He's tired, and his little nap didn't do anything to make him less so. "Maybe we should get something to eat," he says, hoping a little protein will get him back on track. There's another terminal; maybe if Elizabeth made translations of the ascension stuff, he can search through that part of the database more thoroughly.
"All right," Rodney says, shutting down the terminal. "I'm starving." When he turns around, his eyes go wide. "Whoa."
John sighs. "What? What are the bracelets doing?"
Rodney picks up his tablet and activates the camera. It takes John a second to realize the face on the screen is his; he's got a fair amount of salt in his salt-and-pepper hair, way more than the last time he dyed it, which was only a couple of weeks ago. He looks a little tired, too. He pulls down one of the bags under his eyes.
"Well that sucks," he says, looking at Rodney again. His hair is even longer now, sandy blond and strangely curly, thickening in the front where his widow's peak usually stands out. And he's not getting thinner so much as un-broadening. "I'm getting older and you're getting younger."
"I am?" Rodney asks, and turns the webcam on himself. "I am!" He gives John a delighted grin before he can control himself, and then turns back to the terminal as he clicks on his radio. "Zelenka, Simpson, Kusinagi, I need you down in the labs on the second sublevel of pier two immediately."
Rodney turns back to John and looks him up and down. "Okay, I look like I'm maybe twenty-eight, which is about thirteen years. I'm not too good with guessing age, but judging by your rapidly whitening hair, I'm going to guess we're at a one to one ratio."
"Great," John says, sitting again. His sore ligament is making his whole thigh ache, and the slight tingling in his wrist has turned into an almost painful buzz all the way up his arm and across his chest. "I love getting old. It's a hobby." At least when Todd had taken his years it hadn't been slow enough to feel every ache and pain.
"And we've been in here about four hours, so that's roughly three years an hour."
It's simple division, but it's a little fuzzy now, John has to think about the numbers, they don't just pop into his head. Rodney seems to be even faster than normal, his energy almost manic. "That's nine hours before I cease to exist, and that'd put you in your late seventies."
"Terrific," John says, because he's too tired to come up with a better comeback. He sits back down on the floor and almost immediately nods off again.
"Damn it," John says, as Rodney shakes him. "Can't stay awake."
"You shouldn't be that tired from just growing old, though," Rodney says, looking him over critically. "You're maybe sixty-five but it's not like you're losing a lot of muscle mass or anything."
"Well, you are basically sucking the life out of me," John gripes, his voice rougher than he remembers it. Rodney looks away, obviously flustered, and John can't help but stare at the young man Rodney used to be.
He looks even younger - his hair's so long he's got it twisted into a loose, not-really-ponytail hanging down his back, and there's a surprise when it goes straight to John's cock. There's a certain amount of relief at still potentially being able to get it up in his old age, and he can't get worked up over the fact that it's Rodney because he's always had a type, and Rodney just happens to fit it right now. He's never been sexually interested in Rodney before, and it's been decades since he's gotten really hot and bothered over a guy.
"Snap out of it, Sheppard, the science team's tromping down the hall."
John can hear Radek giving Miko a hard time as they come down the hallway, so he stands up creakily and rubs a knuckle into his eye.
The three scientists stop just inside the door and stare.
"Don't just stand there," McKay bitches, but his voice isn't quite as sharp as usual. "We touched these pads - or should I say Colonel Unable-To-Keep-His-Hands-To-Himself couldn't resist touching that one while my hand was on this one, and now this." His hair's come out of the twist he had it in and he twirls it around his fingers, getting it out of his way for roughly half a second before he moves his head and it falls in a curly mess around his shoulders.
"Did you -"
"Of course I brought up the HUD and checked the last several logs. No luck, at least nothing that helped me identify these bracelets or what they do."
"And you tried -"
"Of course we tried touching the pads again. Each one of us, both of us, and thinking 'please make us our actual ages again.'"
"Why don't we -"
"Yes, that's an excellent idea. I'm starving and John should definitely get checked out. I'll take him to the infirmary and you get everything you can out of these consoles. I'll meet you in the lab as soon as Dr. Singh says we're okay."
Radek and Simpson roll their eyes at each other, but Miko smiles and pulls out her ponytail and hands the rubber band to Rodney before turning to the nearest console and hooking it up to her tablet.
"Fine," Radek says, making shooing motions at them. "We will see you in the lab."
They don't even get to the transporter because his damn boot's untied, which happens all the damn time because he hates lacing his boots all the way up, but now it's a pain in the ass to bend down and tie the damn thing up. He thinks he may be getting crankier with age.
He ignores the bootlace as long as he can, the laces fwip-fwip-fwipping on the floor, until Rodney puts a skinny arm across his chest to stop him.
"We can't have you fall and break a hip, now, can we?"
Rodney bends down in front of him and sets to tying his shoe, and the twinge of interest earlier has turned into a full-blown craving, and he's so busy trying to figure out how to look nonchalant that it's a complete mindfuck when Rodney glances up at him, does a double-take, and then slowly, deliberately, licks his lips.
"Did I ever mention," Rodney says, in a voice that's much smoother than his usual grating patter, "that I had a thing for my professors when I was in college? Especially the older ones, with salt and pepper hair."
And John had a thing for barely-legal guys with long hair and a swimmer's build. It was a long time ago, he thinks, and he hasn't seen anything that's tempted him in more years than he can count, but Rodney's hair is damn near blond now and practically down to his waist, held back in a ponytail by the rubber band Miko gave him.
Rodney's prettier than John would have ever guessed from the man Rodney grew into. His skin is smooth and pale, his features are sharper, and his hair is long and wavy and practically begging for John to put his hands in it.
John's hair is getting long too, but nowhere near Rodney's - either hair grows slower as you get older, or his hair grows much, much slower than Rodney's. The ends of his hair are black; if it wasn't obvious to everyone before, it's pretty obvious now. He's been dying it for over ten years; he never thought the silver at his temples was as distinguished as Nancy said.
He reaches a hand out toward Rodney's hair for a second before curling his fingers into a fist and dropping it to his thigh. Rodney tracks the movement and smirks up at him, the sarcastic look strange on his newly angular features. "Can I help you with something else, Sheppard?"
John swallows and looks away. They're in the middle of a hallway, not to mention in the middle of a possibly life-or-death situation. "We have to get to the infirmary, Rodney."
Rodney shrugs one shoulder and pops up off the floor. "Maybe later."
By the time they reach the infirmary, the tingling sensation is all the way across his chest, and it's uncomfortable enough that it's the only thing he can think about. He settles in, mentally listing prime numbers in order, and then by type, and then naming all the Batman villains he can think of before switching to thinking about Christmas presents for his team.
After his blood has been drawn, the physical exam has been done, and he's been scanned under four different machines, the buzzing stops.
"Oh!" Rodney cries, and John glances over at him under one of the scanners. He looks like a teenager, slight in build and a bone structure that might be considered pretty. Not quite handsome, but definitely pretty. "Did you feel that, Sheppard?"
"Yeah," Sheppard croaks, his voice full of gravel. Rodney stares at him, and the longing on his face is disconcerting. If Rodney's a teenager, John's got to be over sixty, and it's weird to think Rodney went for that sort of thing when he was that age. He wonders if Rodney's professors were surrogate fathers, if he was looking for some kind of approval because...
He stops the line of thought. Rodney doesn't talk about his family - the same way John doesn't - and it's one of the reasons their friendship works so well.
"Aha!" Rodney crows, "Radek must have stopped it." That probably should have been obvious, but John still feels a little foggy. Growing old has mostly made him tired and slow.
Rodney's fussing with the scanner, trying to wriggle out from under it. "Good, now we can go back and help them."
"Not so fast, Dr. McKay," Marie says, holding Rodney down by the shoulders. "Dr. Singh will have to release you."
"Look, we don't have time for this! If this process starts up again, it won't be long before I cease to exist and Colonel Sheppard is completely useless - or dead."
"Thanks, Rodney." The sarcasm in John's voice seems even more pronounced with the gruffness in his voice and Rodney turns to stare at him again.
"I can release you," Dr. Singh says unexpectedly. "We could see your cellular structure changing under the scanner and it's stopped. If the accompanying tingling has also stopped, we can assume you are stable for the moment. If it starts up again, report back here. We'll continue to run tests."
John blinks. Dr. Singh is completely different from every other doctor they've had on Atlantis, and so far she's his absolute favorite. She never keeps them waiting around while she runs tests and while she protects her patients (and their confidentiality) fiercely, she's not completely risk-averse. She understands the way things work out here in the wild.
"Thanks, Doc," John says sincerely, and Marie lets Rodney go and comes over to help John out from under the scanner.
As soon as they're out of the infirmary, they head for the transporter in mutual understanding, no words necessary. If John had thought Rodney was easy to read before, it's nothing like he is now, every thought crossing his face practically labeled in permanent marker.
As soon as the doors to the transporter close, though, Rodney turns on him and pushes him back against the wall.
"What -" John yelps.
Rodney goes down to his knees, his hands reaching for the top button on John's BDUs. "Please," Rodney says, and okay, apparently John can't read Rodney at all because he hadn't expected anything like this, despite Rodney's earlier flirting.
"Please, Sheppard, god, I haven't been this horny since I was twenty and I really, really want to suck you."
John's cock apparently wants that too, because hearing those words come out of Rodney's mouth makes him hard enough to hurt. Rodney grins, unbuttoning John's BDUs and pushing them and his boxers down just enough to get his cock free.
"Rodney," John says, because this is so wrong, on so many levels, and he has no idea how he's ever going to face McKay again when he's back to normal.
"Please," Rodney says, looking up at John through his lashes again.
John braces himself against the back wall of the transporter because he's not an idiot and Rodney is willing and fuck, they can deal with everything else later. "Yeah," John says, "okay."
Rodney has an amazing ability to keep his eyes on John's while he's sliding up and down John's shaft, and for the life of him, John can't remember ever feeling so pinned by someone's gaze. He can only watch for a little while and then he has to let his head fall back against the wall or he'll come down Rodney's throat and this will be over way too soon. It's only a couple of seconds before he has to look back down, though, watching Rodney take him apart, piece by piece, and it's a lifetime in a few minutes when he finally says, "Rodney, please, stop, I -"
And then Rodney doesn't stop, and doesn't slow down, he just does something with his tongue that make a kind of unbelievable suction and John is coming, his hands finally moving to rest in Rodney's soft, wavy hair.
Rodney stays on his knees, John's cock in his mouth, for a long moment after John comes. John couldn't see Rodney's hands at all, but they weren't on him anywhere - something he might have noticed sooner if Rodney hadn't zapped his last remaining brain cells with the whole "dropping to his knees" thing. Rodney brings his hands up to John's hips now, though, pressing him back against the wall, and pulls his mouth off John's cock unbearably slowly, sucking the entire way.
"Fuck, stop," John groans, but Rodney doesn't, just keeps slowly pulling up his shaft, the tight pressure of his lips made overbearing by the suction.
Just before he lets John's cock go, he swirls his tongue over the head and John closes his eyes and lets his skull thunk back against the wall. He is going to have the images of Rodney sucking his cock burned into his mind forever and he might as well give up on blowjobs now because he's pretty sure no one else is ever going to come close.
Rodney gently tucks John in and re-buttons his BDUs and when John can feel that he's fully dressed, he looks down where Rodney is still kneeling in front of him, his hands back on John's hips and head bowed.
"Rodney?" John asks. He hadn't given half a thought to Rodney's orgasm before now, and he suddenly wonders if Rodney is going to need a hand. There's no way he can reciprocate, his knees would never allow it, but he'll find a way to pay Rodney back. "Hey, are you okay? Do you need something?"
Rodney looks up at him, his eyes mischievous, and grins. "Just doing a memory trick," he says. "I don't want to forget any of that." He gets off the floor with ease and John can see the stain on the front of his pants as clear as day.
"Okay," John says, turning to the transporter and pressing the spot nearest their quarters. "Let's go get cleaned up."
When they get back to the lab, it turns out the science team hasn't found a way to turn the bracelets off. They're still taking readings and crawling under consoles and generally gathering data.
"Automatic shutdown," Rodney mutters. "Imagine that, the Ancients actually using a failsafe."
"Does that mean it'll automatically turn us back?" John asks. He's suddenly less worried about the whole situation. If there's an automatic shutdown, he has high hopes that the effects aren't permanent.
Rodney shrugs. "Maybe. I can't figure out why the bracelets aren't removable, though."
John rolls his eyes. "Because if they were, the change would be permanent. And while you may enjoy that, I think I'd like to go back to my regular age, thanks."
"Oh, that makes sense," Rodney says, but he sounds a little sad.
Now that the life or death situation is off the table, John thinks, he can probably bug out of here. "If you don't need me," he says, "I think I'm going to go back to my quarters and sleep this off." Getting old is exhausting.
Rodney looks at him strangely but waves him off. "Go take a nap, Colonel. Radio me if you need some cookies and milk."
John smirks and Rodney grins back at him and he's pretty sure they're going to be okay.
When John wakes up, it's fully dark in his room and he feels like he's been hit by a truck. His ligament isn't hurting, though, so he gets out of bed and shuffles to the bathroom to look in the mirror.
He still looks a little old - and the tingling sensation is back, he notices - but nowhere near sixty. Maybe fifty.
"You were right." The voice makes him jump and he turns around to squint into the darkness of the room. He can't see anything, so he thinks off the bathroom light and wills his eyes to adjust. "Automatically bringing us back to our normal ages."
"Good," John says, plucking at the bracelet again. Still stuck. "So we'll be back to normal by tomorrow morning, right?"
John wonders at how normal it is having Rodney in his room in the middle of the night - how he hadn't even questioned Rodney's presence, once the surprise'd gone out of him. "Are you okay?" John asks.
Rodney sighs. "Yeah. It's a little disheartening to feel the difference between my twenty-year-old self and my forty-something self. I can feel the changes to the way my brain works already. Not to mention I'm constantly tired. That goes away eventually, right?"
"Yeah. I feel pretty good now, actually."
John can see Rodney's outline in the darkness, sitting at John's desk, and he's definitely broader than he was. His hair is still long, though.
"Are you going to keep the ponytail?" John asks, ignoring the spike of interest at the thought.
"No," Rodney answers. "I just didn't want to bother cutting it until we were totally done."
John has an urge to run his fingers through it again. "It's nice," he says, hopping up onto his desk. "Soft."
"I didn't know you had a thing for guys with long hair."
John huffs out a laugh. "I didn't know you had a thing for guys three times your age."
"It was a long time ago," Rodney says, tilting sideways to lean his shoulder against John's thigh.
"Yeah, me too," John agrees. "If I'd known you back in the day, I probably would've hit on you."
"You wouldn't have been my type back then," Rodney says.
John can't help laughing. "I wouldn't have really hit on you. Too shy."
"No," Rodney says, laughing too. "Colonel Smarmy was shy?"
Hearing Rodney laugh makes something in John's chest ease. "Wasn't always this smooth."
"It's hard to imagine," Rodney says, his breath short. "You must have had a rough life."
"Oh, yeah," John says, "terrible."
John is completely back to normal the next morning, and he's is so relieved, he straps on his running shoes and goes for a five mile run along two of the piers. He's on an exercise high when he gets back in, sweating ridiculously because his hair is long - ponytail long - and apparently that makes him sweat.
When he gets back to his quarters, Rodney is there again, hair freshly cut and looking worried.
"What's up?" John asks, grabbing a towel and wiping some of the sweat off. "You look back to normal."
"I am," Rodney says, eyeing John up and down. "Looks like you are too. Though I probably shouldn't point out the length of your hair. Wouldn't want you to turn into a narcissist."
"No," John says, though he looks down at the strands. Black tips, a stripe of white in the middle, and mostly black for the top six inches, some white strands still on his temples. "But you could let me know who cuts your hair."
"Ramirez," Rodney answers. "He's surprisingly good at it, and quick."
"Great. I'll make an appointment."
"Don't dye it," Rodney says. When John turns to look at him, he looks sheepish, but stubborn. "It looks good with the salt and pepper. And makes you seem less like a twelve-year-old."
John smirks. "I don't think I'll be mistaken for a twelve-year-old any time soon."
"Actually," Rodney says, coming over to stand next to John. "You could." He takes John's hand in his and gently tugs on the gold bracelet until it comes off John's wrist. John hadn't even thought to check that, and when he looks down at Rodney's hands, he's twirling the pair of their bracelets in his hands.
In general, John is not one to test his luck where Ancient technology is concerned, but something in Rodney's voice tells him to tread carefully.
"I don't know that messing around with this stuff is a good idea."
Rodney nods. "Of course. I was just..." He breaks off and looks down at the bracelets. "I'll take these back down to the lab."
Rodney turns to go and John grabs his arm. "No, wait." He looks at Rodney, sees the shadow of the young man in this version of him, and says, "Maybe I want to hang on to mine. For a souvenir."
"Does that mean..." Rodney turns back, confusion written on his face. "What does that mean?"
John grins, shrugging at Rodney. "I have no idea. But now we have time to figure it out."