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Fic: Two Guys Walk Into A Bank (McKay/Sheppard, G)

Title: Two Guys Walk Into A Bank
Author: brumeier
Recipient: rabidfan
Pairing: McShep
Rating: General
Disclaimer: SGA AU
Summary: A regular trip to the bank takes a completely unexpected turn for Rodney, and yields benefits he never could have imagined.




It's a perfectly normal day, until the shooting and the screaming.

Rodney's barely made it through the door himself when the automatic weapons go off behind him, and he nearly jumps out of his skin. He doesn't have much chance to react other than his heart racing before something impacts him and sends him crashing to the slick marble floor.

He lays there on his belly, stunned, and tries to catch his breath. Jesus, has he been shot? Was that what just happened?

"Stay down!" a voice hisses in his ear, breath hot against his skin.

"Everyone down on the ground! Now!" A much louder, angrier voice. "On your stomachs, heads down! You look at me, I'll be the last thing you ever see."

"Is this a bank robbery?" Rodney wheezes, incredulous. "Are you kidding me?"

"Shut up," the whispered voice advises.

There's movement beside Rodney and then he sees the man who's been talking to him, the man he now realizes had tackled him to the floor when the shooting started. The man has dark brown hair sticking up every which way and a pinched expression on his very handsome face.

"You could've hurt me!" Rodney says as quietly as he can manage. "This is marble! I could've broken something!"

The guy gives him a disbelieving look. "You'd rather catch a bullet?"

"Well, no. You could've given me some warning at least."

"Everyone shut up!"

Rodney winces and turns his head the other way. He sees three pairs of black combat boots and can imagine the rest well enough: tactical gear and machine guns and probably masks of some kind.

Once the bank clients and employees quiet down the feet move, pairs splitting off in different directions. Rodney doesn't like not being able to see what's going on, and just listening isn't telling him much. He thinks he hears the lock turned on the front doors, and the sound of spray paint being used. Instrumental music is being piped over the PA.

Rodney turns back to look at the guy next to him and sees that his eyes are moving, taking in everything he can possibly see without raising his head. There's a rigidity in his body that makes Rodney worry this guy is going to try and be a hero, and in his admittedly limited experience that never works out well.

"Are you planning something? You're gonna get yourself killed."

"I said shut your goddamned mouth!" A pair of booted feet come close and Rodney takes a kick to the side in the soft spot between his ribcage and his hip, leaving him curled up and wheezing in pain.

"Everyone up. I want you all in front of the teller stations, backs to the wall and asses on the ground. Now!" A different voice orders.

Rodney barely hears it over the pounding of blood in his ears. He doesn't think he'll be able to move, but then the Boy Scout pulls him up and drags him past the tastefully decorated waiting area.

"What's your name?" the guy whispers in his ear. "I'm John."

"Rodney."

"Keep your head down, Rodney. Try not to draw attention to yourself."

There isn't time for any further conversation. They join the other hostages - which is what Rodney suddenly realizes they all are - seated in a long row along the lower wall of the teller stations. Everyone looks scared, which isn't surprising. A big guy that could be a football player is holding a little girl on his lap, her face turned towards his chest as she cries. An elderly woman clutches an enormous purse in a white-knuckled grip. An Indian woman in a bright blue sari sits perfectly still, except for her hennaed hands which are twisting together.

Out of all of them only John seems composed. Rodney gives him a quick once-over, taking in the expensive gray suit and the gleaming black loafers, and wonders if he works at the bank. Manager, maybe, even though he doesn't wear any kind of name tag. But the way he's been assessing the room feels more like law enforcement or military; Rodney has worked with his fair share of both.

The three bank robbers look just like Rodney imagined them: black BDUs, tac vests, creepy plastic masks that made them look like lifeless porcelain dolls. The only way to differentiate them is by hair color and body size. There's a tall blonde, a stocky blonde, and a rangy brunette. It isn't much to go on but Rodney makes a mental note of it anyway, in case he survives long enough to give a report to the cops.

"You will keep your mouths shut," the tall one says. "Any attempts at heroism will end in loss of life. My partner will be collecting your cell phones, tablets, and any other electronic devices you have. If you hold something back you'll be leaving here in a body bag."

Rangy pulls a plastic shopping bag out of his back pocket and goes down the line collecting everything, even MP3 players. Rodney holds his phone protectively against his shoulder, unwilling to turn it over.

"In the bag," Rangy says. He prods Rodney with his foot.

"Just give it to him," John hisses.

"I have a lot of important work contacts in here that I can't afford to lose," Rodney protests. "Can't I just turn it off?"

Tall, who seems to be the leader of the group, strides forward and pushes Rangy out of the way. "You're just itchin' to be my example to the others, aren't you?" He pulls out a pistol and presses it hard against Rodney's forehead, pushing it into his skin.

Rodney closes his eyes and forgets how to breathe. Jesus, he's going to die in this bank and his whole legacy will be reduced to a nightly news tagline. Bank robbery that left one man dead and several injured. And still he can't relinquish his damn phone, not the way his hand has locked around it like a vice. Any second now that gun is going to go off and he isn't even sure he'll hear the shot before his brains are splattered all over the wall and -

"It's okay, just let it go." John pries the phone out of his hand but Rodney can't make himself look, not with that pistol still jammed between his eyes. He hears the clunk when it lands on the others in the bag.

"You'd better keep your friend in line," Tall says. "Next time I pull the trigger."

The gun finally moves away and Rodney gasps, no longer holding his breath. Rangy moves on down the line but Rodney still keeps his eyes tightly shut. In his whole life Rodney has almost died five times. Once was anaphylactic shock, three times from lab accidents, and once he was almost struck by lightning. But it's different when there's malice aforethought.

"Hey. It's okay." John presses himself against Rodney's side, and it's only then that Rodney realizes he's shaking. It embarrasses him and he makes an effort to pull himself together. He opens his eyes but keeps his gaze focused on the floor.

"Who the hell robs a bank these days?" Rodney mutters. "In person? It makes more sense to hack in and move the money electronically."

"Speaking from personal experience?"

He shrugs. It's not the time or place to discuss his misspent youth, and Tall is coming back around again anyway. Rodney presses his lips together. Not talking is difficult for him at the best of times and right now he has the nervous urge to babble.

"You. On your feet." Tall picks someone out of the group, a man with a droopy moustache and an ill-fitting brown suit. "You the manager?"

Rodney can see the guy is wearing some kind of nametag. His eyes are wide behind clunky tortoiseshell glasses.

"District manager. I'm not usually at this branch."

"You'll do." Tall shoves him off to the side, and takes a look at the other people huddled miserably against the wall. "And you."

He yanks the woman in the sari up by her elbow and when she lets out a little scream Rodney feels John tense up next to him, as if he's getting ready to intercede. Rodney can't see any way of helping that doesn't end with bullets and bloodshed, so he clamps a hand on John's knee to keep him in place.

"It won't help," he hisses.

"Please," the woman says in a wavering, frightened voice. "Please, I don't know anything!"

"You're to keep Mr. District Manager in line." Tall wraps an arm around her bare midriff, keeping her close. "Let's go."

He leaves Stocky and Rangy to watch over the hostages and disappears through a door behind the teller stations with the manager and the woman. Rodney doesn't feel any safer for having one less set of eyes on him.

"This isn't about money," John murmurs. "That would've been an in and out job. There's something else they want here."

Rodney shook his head. "It could be the money. The network is impervious to hacking, I set it up myself. If they want to do an electronic transfer they need to be hardwired in."

John gives him an appraising look. "You work for the bank?"

"No. But I feel very strongly about protecting my assets."

"Clearly." The tone is mocking but John hasn't stopped gauging the situation. "They blacked out the windows. Snipers will be blind, no way to get a bead on these guys."

"Who are you?"

John startles Rodney by saying, very loudly, "How long is this gonna take?"

Stocky is closer than Rodney realized, and he backhands John in the face hard enough to split his bottom lip. "Shut up!"

"Hey!" Rodney protests. He's surprised at the flare of anger that wells up in him when he sees the blood on John's face.

"Don't make me repeat myself." The snarling voice sounds extra menacing coming from that frozen, plastic face. Stocky swings his gun around and points it at Rodney. "Boom."

He returns to patrolling the perimeter and Rodney contemplates all the possible ways he could perpetrate violence on the man.

"Let it go," John says. He wipes the blood from his lip with his thumb.

"Why did you do that?" Rodney whispers, really trying to keep his voice as low as possible.

"Let it go," John repeats. He lapses into silence and Rodney does the same, afraid his chatter might bring them both more trouble.

Rodney's sure that the manager was taken to the back so that Tall could get into the network. It's the only thing that makes sense, and it shows that these thieves did their homework before they came in guns blazing. So not just brutes, there's at least one brain amongst them.

He opens his mouth to say as much to John when there are two gunshots in rapid succession from the back. There are gasps and cries of dismay from the assembled hostages, and one muffled scream from the old lady with the purse. John's jaw clenches so tightly that Rodney fears he might crack his molars, but aside from one aborted, jerky movement forward he doesn't rush the armed men like Rodney can see he so clearly wants to do. And oh, God! They shot those people!

Tall comes striding back out into the lobby, pistol in his hand. He confers briefly with Stocky before he turns and addresses the hostages. "Dr. McKay."

Rodney cringes back at the sound of his name. He thinks maybe if he doesn't say anything he can escape notice, but it turns out Tall knows exactly who he's looking for.

"Dr. Rodney McKay, the man who can't stop talking. Don't make me come and collect you or I'll have to shoot someone." He points his weapon at the little girl; her father does his best to shield her.

"No, no! Don't do that!" Rodney scrambles to his feet. "I'm here!"

Tall swings his pistol around so it's pointed at Rodney's chest, which isn't an improvement as far as he's concerned. He can't possibly imagine what the thief wants with him, though it can't be anything good. Just the fact that they know his name and his face is a bad sign.

"In the back. Let's go." Tall gestures with his gun hand but Rodney finds himself unable to take a step.

"You can be carried if you won't walk." Tall aims the gun lower and Rodney flinches.

"No, okay. I'm coming. Just...don't shoot me in the back."

Rodney glances back at John, wishing he could properly thank him for trying to save his life. John is glaring up at Tall, his lip still sluggishly bleeding, and there is pure, unfiltered loathing in his eyes. Rodney wants to tell him not to do anything stupid but he also doesn't want to draw anymore undue attention to the man.

They walk back behind the teller stations and through the door. Rodney's slightly hunched over because it still hurts where he was kicked. It feels akin to a death march. Rodney can hear the phantom echo of those gunshots and knows that he's not likely to fare much better than the district manager. If he couldn't give these guys what they want, what chance does Rodney have? He'd helped upgrade the network, sure, but that doesn't mean he still has access to it. Which, okay, yes, he did, but no-one knew about his backdoor code.

On the other side of the door is a short hallway that has access to two management offices, a staff lunch room, and the stairs leading to the basement where the vault and safe deposit boxes are kept. Rodney keeps looking for blood spatter or bodies, but there's nothing, not until he gets shoved through the door of the second office and sees the woman in the sari sitting at the desk.

She looks up at him, her fingers never stopping their rapid tick- tick-tick across the keyboard. "We've been waiting for you," she says in a soft British accent.

"Oh, no." It's worse than he thought; the three armed thugs aren't the only ones in on whatever is happening. "You're not dead."

"I see they weren't joking about the genius IQ," the woman says dryly. "You may call me Mali, Dr. McKay. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

"I wish I could say the same," Rodney replies. Tall cuffs him upside the head, making him stumble forward a step. "Look, I don't work for the bank. I can't help you."

"Of course you can." Mali stops typing and swivels in the chair so she can look at him full on. "This was the only branch I couldn't hack into. Clearly you have something of great value to protect."

She can't be saying what Rodney thinks she's saying. "Wait. All this is to rob me? This is a little over the top for corporate espionage."

He does a quick mental rundown of the contents of his box. There was some cash, because he felt it was important to be prepared for anything, and several thumb drives holding his most confidential work, projects he hadn't yet shared with anyone because they were still in the planning stages. There was no telling what they'd be worth if they turned out to be successful. The prototype, though, that's close to priceless.

"Dr. McKay, I cannot access your safe deposit box without your assistance. The retina scan would be easy enough. My associate is quite adept at plucking out eyeballs."

Rodney feels all the blood drain from his face. He doesn't understand how such an innocent-looking woman could be so ruthless.

"As it happens, you also have a voice-activated passcode lock." Mali gestures at the computer, her movements graceful. "I could get through it manually but that will take time we don't have."

There aren't many principles that Rodney actively stands by, but his work is important to him. His reputation is really all he has. He controls when his projects are released and who they're sold to. At least three of them could be weaponized and he's not about to let just anyone take them.

"No." Rodney crosses his arms, feigning a confidence he doesn't feel. "I won't help you."

Tall brandishes a very large, very shiny knife. "I'll bet I can change your attitude."

Rodney tenses, mostly to stop himself from shaking. He bites his lip to keep from saying anything that will make this situation worse, and then almost bites right through it when a voice speaks unexpectedly behind him.

"I'm sure there won't be any need of that."

It's the district manager, also looking incredibly alive. He's changed out of the frumpy brown suit into one that's expensive and tailored, and he's peeling off his moustache.

"Is everyone in on this, for fuck's sake?" Intellectually Rodney knows this isn't true but he can't help feeling like he's the butt of some really intricate joke, and it chafes at him. He might as well be back in high school with Cheryl Warner pretending she wanted to go to the prom with him and then laughing at him with all her stupid cheerleader girlfriends.

"There's no need to damage the good doctor," the formerly-mustached man says. "We can use...other methods of gaining his cooperation."

"Yes, let's take bodily harm right off the table." Rodney nods in agreement.

The district manager, if that's even who he really is, pulls Tall aside and whispers something in his ear. Rodney watches the masked man walk out of the room with a feeling of dread. They won't have to hurt Rodney directly to get him to comply, not if they bring that little girl in; he's already demonstrated that he doesn't want her harmed. But it isn't the little girl that Tall brings back with him. It's John.

Rodney watches John as he assesses the situation, looking for some sort of clue that he's in on the plot. He could be a plant to gain Rodney's confidence. If he is, he's an excellent actor. John's expression doesn't give away anything but anger and maybe a tiny bit of relief when he sees Rodney's still in one piece.

"Colonel Sheppard, glad you could join us."

Rodney was right, John is former military. Definitely former, considering the messy, non-regulation condition of his hair.

"I don't believe I've had the pleasure."

The district manager smiles at him, as if John has said just the right thing. "You can call me Oscar."

"Look, I don't -" Rodney starts to say but Oscar holds up his hand.

"Colonel, you're here to motivate your boyfriend. Make him see that assisting me helps all of us."

Boyfriend? "No, we're not -" Once again Oscar cuts Rodney off, this time by having Tall wrap his arm around John's throat and pull him back, choking him.

Rodney doesn't know what to do. John's face is turning red, and he's pulling at that beefy arm to no avail, and Rodney's hands curl into fists as he takes a step forward. But then John does something, a backwards step and some other move, and then Tall is flipping over his shoulder. John goes for Tall's gun but Oscar already has one out and pointed at him. It's a Desert Eagle and all Rodney can think is what a big hole that will make if it goes off.

"That's enough. Secure his hands."

Tall gets to his feet looking murderous, and pulls zip ties out of his tac vest. Rodney expects him to turn John, and bind his hands behind his back, but Tall does the opposite. He yanks the zip ties tight around John's wrists, pinching the skin and making the other man wince. "Fuck you," he snarls in John's ear.

The phone on the desk rings, and Mali quickly returns to whatever she's doing on the computer. Rodney wishes he had a good view but it has one of those privacy screens affixed to the front.

"That'll be the police. Dr. McKay, why don't you and the Colonel discuss the situation and we'll regroup in...five minutes?" Oscar nods at Tall, who shoves John towards the door.

"Hey!" Rodney dodges between them. "Lay off!"

"Don't tempt me," Tall grumbles, one hand on the butt of his pistol.

Rodney keeps one hand on John's shoulder as they're shoved into a very narrow supply closet and the door is locked behind them. Luckily for Rodney's claustrophobia there's a sensor light in there so they aren't in the dark.

John's already looking over the shelves, presumably for something he can use as a weapon. Unfortunately for both of them there aren't any AK-47s nestled between the post-it notes and the coin wrappers.

"What do they want you to do?" John asks as he looks around. His hands are red, which can only mean the zip ties are cutting off his circulation. Not good.

"They want to get into my safe deposit box, which is a bad idea. I mean, really bad. If they get someone as smart as me, which is admittedly not going to be easy, to look at the prototype I have in there...well, trust me when I say no-one wants that."

"Prototype? What kind of prototype?"

"Listen, Colonel -"

"It's Major. Well, it was. Clearly Oscar's intel isn't as accurate as he thinks it is." John brandishes a stapler, gives it a test swing, and then tosses it back on the shelf with a disgusted look.

"It's classified. I can't tell you what's in that box. Just know that whatever it is could be very dangerous, especially in the wrong hands."

"What the hell are you, a spy?" John finds a pair of scissors and hands them to Rodney. "Cut this damn thing off me. From the bottom."

John tucks his hands under his chin so that Rodney can cut through the zip ties from the underside, which has to be incredibly painful because the ties are so tight Rodney can barely get the scissor arm between them and John's skin.

"I'm a research scientist, actually. For a very prestigious firm. I run the aerospace division, and these idiots are trying to steal my work." It takes several tries before Rodney gets one of the ties cut through. The scissor really isn't the best tool for the job. "I can't let them get their hands on the contents of that box."

"Is it worth your life?" John asks, his voice hushed.

Rodney looks at him, momentarily mesmerized by the softness in his hazel eyes. John really is a very attractive man and Rodney wishes they'd met under different circumstances.

"Why are you in the bank today?" he asks.

"I'm here for a job interview, actually," John says with a shrug.

"Teller?"

"Security."

Rodney snorts and finally cuts through the second tie. "You're a little late."

John just nods, rubbing one wrist and then the other. "So any thoughts?" After he flexes his fingers a few times he snatches a roll of clear packaging tape off the shelf.

"Well...there's one thing. But I'm not sure it'll work."

John tosses the zip ties at Rodney and starts pulling off strips of tape. "Put those back on me, and tape over the cuts. Keep it loose."

"Are you always this suicidal?"

"Just on Thursdays." John stands patiently while Rodney tapes him back into the zip ties. "So what's the thing?"

"Well, it's kind of a weapon. In the safe deposit box."

"What kind of weapon?"

"The hypothetical prototype kind, that's what." Rodney is very careful to make sure the zip ties are loose enough that they won't hurt John. "If I can get them to let me open the box, and assuming the prototype works, I might have enough time to incapacitate them. If you can buy me a few seconds."

"This all sounds a little too hypothetical for my taste."

"If you have a better idea I'd like to hear it," Rodney snaps. "If I say no they'll probably shoot you. Not to mention there are five of them and only two of us. What are you going to do? Rush them and hope for the best? You really are suicidal."

They're standing too close together but Rodney finds he can't make himself move away. John could be perfectly safe if he hadn't acted so hastily when Tall and the gang first burst into the bank. Now Rodney feels responsible for his continued safety. And, if he's being honest, he's kind of flattered by the attention. He's a man with very few friends, and he's not sure any of the people he works with on a daily basis would go to such lengths for him.

John startles him by reaching for his hand and Rodney flushes when he realizes it was just to check the watch on Rodney's wrist. "Time's almost up." But he doesn't let go of Rodney's hand, just rubs his thumb in a little circle on Rodney's palm.

"Just in case Operation This Will Most Likely End Badly goes off as expected, I wanna say...it was nice meeting you."

"Are you mentally deficient? There hasn't been anything nice about...mmphf..."

John presses his lips to Rodney's, insistent and firm, and Rodney hesitates for a fraction of a second before he kisses back. A zing of excitement runs up his spine and he can't help but think that things like this never happen to him. And then John opens his mouth, slides his tongue against Rodney's, and all coherent thought goes out the window until the doorknob rattles.

"Good luck," John whispers in Rodney's ear just before the door is yanked open.

Tall grabs hold of John with one beefy hand and yanks him out of the closet. "You boy's enjoy your seven minutes in heaven?"

"Infantile sense of humor, what a surprise." Rodney scowls at Tall. He can still taste John on his lips.

"Move it." Tall directs them to the stairs.

The bank vault and the safe deposit room are adjacent, accessed through a secured gate that requires a key card. The gate is open, as is the vault door. Rodney's not sure but it doesn't look like anyone's been rifling around in there. Yet. Oscar waits for them by the entrance to the safe deposit room looking a little tense.

"We have about ten minutes before the bank is breached," he says. "Dr. McKay, can we reach an agreement?"

"I doubt it, but I'll give you access to my box."

They move into the other room, which is lined on three sides with gunmetal gray boxes of varying size. In the middle of the room is a long table topped with a slab of marble. It takes Rodney a moment to recognize Mali, who's standing next to Rodney's box. She's changed out of the sari and into jeans and a baggy pink sweater. Gone are the henna tattoos - the faint smell of rubbing alcohol lingers - and the blue jeweled bhindi that had adorned her brow. She looks like a college student.

"Nice costume change," John remarks. "You'll blend right in once it's all chaos upstairs."

He's right. Rodney wouldn't have recognized either of them if he hadn't been spending so much quality time in their company. The hostages thought the district manager and the Indian girl were dead, and they probably wouldn't even realize that two "strangers" had been added to the mix.

"You're smarter than I gave you credit for," he tells Oscar.

"That's quite a compliment, coming from you."

"Please access your box." Mali looks far more on edge than her compatriot does, which does nothing to set Rodney's mind at ease.

"One qualifier," he says. "I have to be the one to open it."

Oscar shakes his head. "And have you destroy the thing I need? I don't think so."

"If you don't let me open it, a device inside the box will be triggered and everything will be destroyed anyway." Rodney sticks his chin out and defies Oscar to call him on the lie. Booby-trapping isn't his style but for once his reputation helps him.

"Don't try anything," Oscar warns him.

"Genius, remember? I don't have a death wish."

Rodney takes a deep breath to steady himself before accessing his safe deposit box. He leans in for the retinal scan, opening his eyes wide, and waits for the green light to flash before he gives the verbal passcode.

"16431879196842."

John snorts behind him, like he finds something funny, but Rodney is focused on the box. The second light flashes green and the box releases. He pulls it out and sets it on the table. He spares a quick second to make eye contact with John. Now or never, he hopes that glance conveys.

"Nice and easy, Dr. McKay." Oscar is at the opposite side of the table, watching intently. Mali is at Rodney's elbow, and he's going to have to be fast if he's going to get off a shot before she can intervene.

Right on cue John makes his move, pulling his hands out of the taped-up zip ties and throwing himself backwards. He uses his body as a battering ram to slam Tall back into the wall of safe deposit boxes. Rodney has to force himself not to pay attention to that. Instead he flips open his box and pulls out the prototype. He thumbs it on and spins, pulling the trigger and praying to a God he doesn't believe in that the damn thing works.

And it does.

A flash of blue light hits Mali in the neck and drops her to the floor. Rodney whips around and catches Oscar in his sights, going for his oversized handgun. "Don't move."

"Little help here!" John chokes out. He and Tall are grappling for one of Tall's many weapons.

"John, move!"

John pulls back and does a tuck and roll maneuver which Rodney finds just a little bit impressive. He shoots Tall with the energy beam and feels incredible satisfaction when he topples to the floor with a hard crash. Oscar tries to sidle closer but Rodney brings the weapon back to bear on him.

"That's far enough."

"Jesus, Rodney. Is that a phaser?" John limps over to the table, his eyes on the weapon in Rodney's hand.

Rodney huffs out a laugh. "What are you, a closet Trekkie? It's an EPP. Energy Pulse Pistol. My own design." There's no small amount of pride in his voice when he says it. It's one of his favorite inventions, but also the one that has the most potential to fall into the wrong hands.

"Where's the quantum trigger?" Oscar asks, and finally his shell of calm has broken. He sounds desperate.

"The what?" Rodney looks at John, who just shrugs. "I thought you wanted the EPP. How did you know I had it, anyway? I haven't told anyone about this."

"I don't care about that! I just need the quantum trigger so I can get back to my own reality, and I'm running out of time."

"Here." Rodney shoves the pistol into John's hands, ignoring the delighted look on the man's face. He needs his hands free so he can pace. He's not a genius for nothing and this new information has his mind going in countless different directions at once. "So you're saying Everett's multiverse theory is correct? It's never been proven."

"It's true." Oscar keeps looking at the box, as if Rodney's holding out on him. "I was sent here from my reality to steal the trigger. It's the only way I can get back."

"You were sent. By who?" John turns his attention from the pistol to the interrogation, eyes narrowing.

"I was contracted by an agent of the Trust. They have a device that gives them access to alternate realities, but it's a one-way trip. He assured me that Dr. McKay had a quantum trigger, a way to get back."

"So you're just the hired help," John says disdainfully. "I hope the payday was worth it."

"The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward." And even now Oscar manages to sound smug. "Where I come from I have a reputation for getting the job done."

"Time to update your resume."

"Can we please get back to the alternate reality thing?" Rodney paces, fingers twitching. "Is that how you knew me?"

"I read a full dossier on you, and your work with the SGC. Mali is the one who lured you to the bank today, on the pretense of signing some forms. I hadn't anticipated the Colonel coming with you."

Rodney frowns at Oscar. "What's the SGC?"

"It's Major, by the way. Except I'm not in the Air Force anymore."

"You were in the Air Force?" Rodney asks with interest. He can see it. John has a reckless air about him that fits right in with what he knows of pilot flyboys. He probably looks amazing in a dress uniform.

"You don't know each other?" Oscar asks, confused.

"Just met today." John grins at Rodney. "Hell of a first date."

"Wait, what?"

"I think you got burned, pal," John says to Oscar.

"No, but...this was supposed to be an almost identical reality to mine!"

"This Trust guy must not have liked you very much," Rodney says. He can tell that Oscar is finally realizing just how screwed he is. "I can see why. John?"

"On it." John hits Oscar with the energy pulse. "This thing is awesome!"

Rodney snatches it out of his hand before he can get any ideas, and tosses it back in the safe deposit box. "We're almost out of time, let's go." He slides the box back into place, waiting until the lights flash to red before he steps back. "You okay?"

"Fine. Let's get up there before the cops bust in." John precedes Rodney out of the room, and locks the gate back up once they've cleared it. "How long does your stun gun last?"

"Um...a few minutes?"

"You don't know?"

Rodney's face heats up, which has almost nothing to do with watching John's very nice ass as he follows him up the stairs. "The only one I had to test it on was myself, and my cat. And I wasn't about to stun my cat."

John stops at the top of the stairs and stares back down at Rodney. "You tested it on yourself? What are you, a mad scientist?"

"I'm going to be, if you don't get moving." Rodney gives John a push, hand on his hip. The limp is already improving, so whatever Tall did was just temporary.

They beat the breach with a minute to spare, and during the ensuing chaos of black-uniformed SWAT officers and smoke bombs and headshots that take down Short and Rangy they slide back into place. When the hostages are led outside John and Rodney go along with them. They're separated to give their statements to the cops, and Rodney has every expectation that he'll never see John again. Unless he does something about it.

"Rodney! You are unharmed?" Radek is waiting for him with a company car, looking as frazzled as always. "We saw everything on the news."

"Save it. We have bigger things to think about. Get me everything you can find on quantum theory, and call Shelly in HR. There's someone she needs to hire." Rodney slides into the backseat and immediately snatches up the tablet that Radek brought him. It's time to get back to work.

One Week Later

Rodney's deep in research mode, surrounded by stacks of print-outs, diagrams, and white boards crammed full of equations written in different colored markers. He's actively ignoring all of his other projects, which have been delegated to his staff, and has barely left his office in days. When a knock sounds on his door he grumbles and waves a hand at it even though whoever is on the other side has no way of seeing that. He doesn't take his eyes off the screens in front of him.

The door opens despite Rodney's desire to be left alone, but when the interloper speaks Rodney's head jerks up so fast he almost strains something in his neck.

"Hey, Rodney."

John leans in the doorway, wearing a snug pair of black jeans and a black button-down shirt with the Atlantis Corp. logo on it. He looks good.

"Oh, you're here. Are you finished with the training then?" Rodney tries to affect a casual tone, even though his heart is pounding.

"I'm official. Background checks completed, fingerprints scanned and run, and my picture in the company database." John unclips the ID from his belt and waves it in the air. "Personal security, reporting for duty."

"Yeah, forget that and come look at this." Rodney waves him over, trying to hide how happy he is to see the other man. He insisted that John be hired, but they hadn't had any contact during the process thanks to Rodney's self-imposed exile and John's rigorous training.

"What are you working on? I hear you haven't seen the light of day in a while." John comes around the side of the desk and leans over Rodney's shoulder, one arm braced on the back of Rodney's chair.

"What? Oh. The multiverse problem. If you believe Oscar, and I have no reason not to, he was from an alternate reality. I'm just looking for a way to prove it."

"You looking at Tegmark's levels or M-theory?"

Rodney tips his head to the side and looks up at John, assessing. "You're not just another pretty face, are you?"

John shrugs, though there's a smirk on his face. "Just a regular guy. I didn't peg you for a Douglas Adams fan."

The abrupt change in conversation leaves Rodney momentarily confused, but then he remembers John's amusement after he'd spoken his passcode at the bank. "42. The answer to life, the universe and everything. I'm surprised you caught that."

"Took me a little while to work out the importance of the three dates, but I'm pretty sure I have that figured out too."

Rodney feels a flush of pleasure roll over his skin. "You have a head for numbers."

"I have a degree and everything. You can check my personnel file if you want." John leans down, turning the chair so that his arms are bracketing Rodney. "Or we could get to know each other the old-fashioned way. Unless you don't fraternize with your employees."

Rodney licks his bottom lip, remembering that kiss in the supply closet. "I've never seen the need."

"And now?"

"Well, I'd say some research is definitely called for." Rodney reaches up and slides his hand around the back of John's neck, pulling him close enough to press their lips together. Finally! He'd been trying to remember that taste, the flavor of John, but the reality is so much better than the memory.

"That's really good," he pants, pulling away.

"I'm good at a lot of things," John replies, waggling his eyebrows. He pulls Rodney up out of the chair. "Such as making sure my new boss gets himself some food. Come on. Treat me to lunch to celebrate my first day."

"Why do I have to pay?"

"'Cause you make the big bucks. Let's go."

Rodney lets himself be manhandled out the door without protest. He's feeling pretty damn good, really, and starts planning on how he's going to transition John from security to full team member.

He's never believed in destiny, but the facts are hard to ignore. What were the odds that John would show up at the bank the same day Rodney was there to be robbed by people who knew different versions of them in an alternate reality? A reality where they were dating?

"So, tell me," John says as they head for the elevator. "What's a guy gotta do to get his own phaser?"

They argue all the way to lunch, and Rodney thinks it just might be the beginning of something really good.

The end
Tags: genre: slash, pairing: mckay/sheppard
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