Summary: Shep, the intrepid captain of the Hail Mary, gets more surprise than he bargained for in his new passenger.
Length: ~ 9,000 words
"Honey! I'm home!"
The voice interrupted Shep from studying star charts and energy readings looking for their next big score. He rolled his eyes, vowing never again to explain Earth slang to his second in command as he turned around to lean one hip against the control panel.
Ronon sounded unusually cheerful, and that meant one of three things. Either he'd just killed something worth killing, Shep was about to have a rather lowbrow prank pulled on him, or they were about to become wealthier.
Ronon bounced into the control room with more hyperactivity then a man his size should legally be able to express, his dreadlocks flying fast enough to poke someone's eye out. He managed to dodge around Clah'g and take up a position opposite from Shep without too much of a mess; looking as if the effort it took not to just blurt out his good news was simply exhausting.
"So," he said leaning back and crossing his arms, "congratulate me."
"Congratulations," Shep said easily, raising an eyebrow and quirking his lips into a half-smile. "Now, what have you done and how long is the apology going to take?"
"No apologies this time, Shep," Ronon grinned; a sight that had won a few battles all on its own. "This is the real deal. I'm going to top the profit you made with that land scam back on Ystle."
Ystle, now that had been a con for the record books, Shep thought back fondly. However, that didn't change the fact that he had only sent Ronon out to buy some replacement parts for the kitchen apparatus, not to do something that was most likely profoundly stupid.
The larger man waited approximately ten seconds before he tired of waiting for Shep to ask just what they had to thank for their good fortune. "I ran into a delegation and kidnapped their leader," Ronon said proudly, ignoring or perhaps not noticing Shep's open mouth. "He kept going on and on about how much smarter he was then the rest of them and how he was indispensable. I figure we can ransom him back and have enough for real space dock maintenance time."
Shep felt a headache coming on and wished again that he could find the space equivalent of aspirin that didn't involve space-weed or space-liquor guaranteed to make him hallucinate his second grade teacher milking a cow. "You kidnapped... Just tell me that you didn't kill anyone," Shep started rubbing his temples hoping that this wouldn't decide to explode in their faces.
"You didn't kill anyone," Ronon intoned back at him and Shep glared until Ronon cracked and started laughing. "No, really, I didn't kill anyone. They were easy marks and they'll never track us back here. I've got him set up in storage room two."
"Fine, let's go see the damage," Shep sighed leading the way down the ship's hallway to the transporter. The bridge was forward toward the middle of the ship, but all the storage units were all on the complete opposite of the ship, down and aft.
The ship was far bigger than Shep's small crew needed, but they were able to shut down many of the unnecessary systems and use the extra power for increased life support, weapons, and shielding. It had come in handy several times over his years here in this galaxy. The round dozen of them lived quite comfortably in about twenty-five percent of the ship.
It was only a few minutes walk down the low-lit walkway, but they had to stop every time they passed someone on the way. Shep was not amused that each member of his crew decided to salute, wish him luck, and make sure that they were included in his will.
Then he turned the last corner after he and Ronon left the transporter and found out what had possessed his friends.
"Come back this instant, you Neanderthal!" a voice bellowed from within the cell, followed by a series of loud bangs. "I'll make you rue the day your mother gave birth to you and then didn't eat you!"
Tally grinned at Shep's look of wide-eyed shock, her blue hair dropping across her eyes as she looked up at him, "Hope you brought a gag, Shep. He hasn't shut up since Ronon threw him in there."
"Just what the hell did you bring aboard my ship?" Shep asked turning to Ronon who merely shrugged and gestured Shep toward the locked door. He sighed and stepped up to input his access codes wondering if he'd have to pay to get the hostage off of his ship, "Why do I get the feeling that my life just became a lot more complicated?"
Ronon just grinned and did Shep's signature 'leaning' move that Shep had taught him so long ago that it seemed like forever. Shep never even thought about a time before he became leader of The Hail Mary. That time of his life had ceased to be real to him. He was never going home, even if he found out where 'home' was, and he'd accepted that.
So, when he opened the door and saw the Canadian flag stitched on the sleeve of his hostage's jacket, it was fully understandable that he passed out from manly surprise.
"What are you going to do? Faint at me again?"
Shep rolled his eyes, already accepting the fact that he was never going to live down his brief stint with unconsciousness. The hostage had settled down after Ronon had jerked Shep out and slammed the door shut, and now sat on the far side of the storage room, arms crossed in front of his chest. The look on his face spoke of a severely disgruntled nature.
"Has anyone ever told you how funny you're not?" Shep answered, stepping into the room and looking around at all the panels littered across the floor and the mangled wiring inside the walls. It was just a good thing that this particular storage room had been rendered inert to ship some of their more delicate equipment.
Their hostage just settled further into himself, wrapping his arms tighter around his chest and glaring harder, "What do you want? I warn you now; my people won't stop looking for me. They'll blow you right out of the sky."
"Well, they'd have to find us first," Shep answered, glaring briefly at Ronon before stepping fully into the room. "As long as you're here, you'll be our honored guest."
The other man stiffly levered himself up to his feet, showing that although he was a little shorter than Shep he had the definite weight advantage. "Right," he said, his blue eyes squinting at Shep while his mouth twisted into a sneer. "So when does the 'honored guest' get to eat?"
"As soon as he picks up the mess he made," Shep said gesturing to the room.
"Oh, come on!" the other man exploded, hands flying. "I'll have you know that I'm hypoglycemic! If I don't eat soon then, I won't be held responsible for my actions! And you'll have to live with depriving the galaxy of badly needed brain power."
"Well, I wouldn't want that," Shep smiled sweetly. "I guess you'll have to hurry."
"This is just inhumane," the Canadian groaned, straightening from where he'd bent to pick up the first of the panels to put back in place. Ronon had stripped him of everything that could possibly have been used as a weapon, but Shep was impressed to see that the other man had improvised in order to cause the most damage in the least amount of time.
"You should have thought about that before you started taking apart things that aren't yours," Shep answered easily leaning against part of the still intact wall. This was turning out to be enjoyable; he'd left orders with the others to prep Mary for an immediate jump from orbit, so all he had to do was stay here and try to gather some intel.
"That's so very helpful, thank you," he replied, his face turning read as his fingers flew over the massacred circuitry. "What am I supposed to call you anyway?"
"You could call me by my name."
"Were you born the most irritating man in the universe or did you have to work up to it?"
"Neither. I got it by popular vote." Shep said, grinning at the other man's groan, and then took pity on him. "You can call me Shep, captain of this fine space ship."
"Fine piece of junk you mean," he muttered under his breath, sticking his tongue out as he reconnected several wires and replaced conduits.
Shep blinked as he realized he was actually having fun with this oddly impolite Canadian; more fun than he'd had in a long time. "You're free to walk out an airlock anytime you like."
The other man snorted, and finished with the last panel much earlier than Shep would have thought. He turned back around and squinted at Shep then jabbed his hand out, holding it for Shep to take, "Dr. Rodney McKay, PhD. Three of them to be precise, now you said something about dinner?"
Smiling because it was impossible not too, Shep took the hand he was offered and shook it, holding it maybe a tad longer than was strictly necessary. He only let go in order to execute a flourished bow, waving his hand in the air toward the open door, "Hostages first."
"For the last time, no!" Rodney yelled, stopping his pacing so that he could glare straight at Shep. "No, I will not give you the coordinates to Atlantis. No, I will not give you the gate address. No, no, no, no. And no amounts of leather pants are going to change my mind."
Shep sighed, looking down at his pants and wondering what they had to do with anything. "How do you expect to make if home if we can't negotiate the price?"
"You could always let me go."
For a man who loved to hear the sound of his own voice, Rodney clamed up anytime Shep tried to find the location of 'Atlantis'. In fact, when Rodney had accidentally let the name slip, he'd cursed and clamped his mouth shut for the rest of the interview. Never mind that the name meant little to Shep and even less to Ronon.
Rodney was a completely unhelpful informant, and Shep was no closer to finding out how a Canadian had traveled so far with relatively so little scarring. Oh, he had his spots for sure, but nothing like the history that Shep had written out over his back. It was enough to make him pull at his hair in frustration.
"You know what Shep?" Ronon asked casually from the corner where he was sharpening a knife from of his wide array of knives. "I think he likes it here."
Ronon had certainly got used to having Rodney around to torment. Shep was amused himself, watching them play at big dog and little dog because regardless of size, Rodney certainly wasn't the little dog in that relationship. Ronon would circle getting in the jibes until Rodney exploded in haranguing that could be heard three decks up. Then the second either of them even hinted at hurt feelings the other would make some sort of overture to smooth things again.
It was damn uncanny what an odd couple they made.
"Oh certainly," Rodney scoffed, rolling his eyes. "Because I enjoy being in the company of space pirates who range between dirty and dangerous to scarily incestuous."
"So just give us something," Shep said reasonably, or tried to anyway. There was a limit even to his patience, and Rodney was creeping awfully close to it. They needed to head for home, but that would have been infinitely easier without the stubborn scientist.
"For the... Ba'al's nuts! Fine, just stay in here with Ronon for all I care!" Shep yelled, knocking over the chair that he'd been sitting on as he stormed out passed Rodney. At the exit, Shep paused just long enough to see the look of hurt that flittered over Rodney's face before the door slid shut.
Sighing his anger away, Shep felt drained as if he'd just run a marathon with Goa'uld overseers chasing after him. It had been a long time since he'd let his emotions get the upper hand; he'd learned that lesson the hard way. There was just something about McKay that got under his skin.
He leaned his head against the cold metal of the door, hoping it would sooth away the stress in his forehead. Through the door, he heard Ronon's muffled question and let out a low chuckle waiting for Rodney's response.
"No you can not have another PowerBar! I need those to survive!"
Feeling a little calmer, Shep straightened up his jacket and rolled his shoulders trying to get back into his headspace. With just a few orders on his part, they'd be headed home for a much-deserved break for his crew. He'd just have to deal with McKay on the way.
"What have you been doing to her?" Rodney cried out as he rushed into the room Shep had stopped them in.
Shep smiled and watched as Rodney cooed over the fried circuitry and burned out crystals. His last attempt to get Rodney to open up to him had failed miserably, but this one was foolproof. "We took some fire, and overloaded the systems. I can't make them work when their broken, and no one around here really understands how it works."
"Of course not," Rodney scoffed, crouching to open a panel and poking around with a modified flashlight. He'd been itching to get his hands inside the ships computers, and here was finally his chance. "There's no one on this ship with two brain cells to rub together."
"Really?" Shep asked inflecting his voice just enough to get Rodney to notice, crossing his arms and cocking his head. Rodney did not understand his dry sarcasm well, and seeing him flounder was just never going to get old.
Rodney actually stopped what he was doing and looked up at him, focusing his attention on Shep and colored a little bit, "Well, present company excluded. Maybe."
"See," Shep grinned over Rodney's flustered state, uncrossing his arms and pointing back and forth between them, "I knew you liked me,"
"Yes, fine. Can you stop talking?" Rodney asked, bending back down before Shep had a chance to open his mouth to reply. "Working here."
Shep moved closer bending over Rodney's shoulder and peering at what he was working on. It occurred to him that it would probably be a pretty good idea if he learned how to fix this stuff. McKay wouldn't be around forever, no matter what ludicrous ideas Ronon was suggesting. Shep was pretty sure it would take more than a promise to feed him everyday to get Rodney to stay.
"All right," Rodney shouted as he began working crystals out of their slots. "This isn't near as bad as I thought. It's just probably impossible to fix instead of certainly impossible."
"You know, you don't have to yell," Shep said quietly, his mouth beside Rodney's ear.
Rodney looked up and froze, his blue eyes widening so close to Shep's own. The moment stretched with neither one of them moving. It would only take a second to stretch one way or the other and they'd be breathing each other's air.
Finally, Rodney broke and took the breath that both of them had been holding. He looked down at his hands, wringing them as he said, "Look, I'm not..."
At that moment, Shep realized what they must have looked like, and straightened, jumping back until he ran into the wall, "No, no. Me either!"
It was no wonder Rodney didn't want anything to do with him, scruffy space pirate that he was. Shep was just amazed that for that one brief second, he'd thought about it, when it had been years since he'd let anyone that close to him.
"Oh right," Rodney glanced up sharply, hunching his shoulders a little. There were a few seconds of awkward silence and then he cleared his throat, "So then, I'll just get back to work."
"Yeah, I'll leave you to it," Shep took the excuse, as ungraceful as his exit had been. He nodded to Sah and Sai outside the door and took himself down the corridor toward his own set of rooms. While the bridge area was most often his place of refuge, lately even his crew had been looking at him strangely. A little solitude was just what the doctor ordered.
The doors to his room opened with a quiet hiss as he stepped up to them. The outer room held a table, some low chairs and a couch. There were a few items he'd picked up from his travels the past couple of years scattered about the room, a blanket over one chair, a picture on the wall, and other junk carelessly placed.
He moved through, swiftly on to his bedroom. As little as he'd kept recently, he had even less from the time before that. Shep kept it in a wide but shallow box under his bed, just so that he knew the only monsters under there were of his own creation.
The sight of his dog tags curled around the amulet of Apophis no longer made his stomach clench up into his throat, instead he just felt tired. Shep shifted the contents around, brushing his fingers over the arm and leg bands that he'd worn in the service of the Goa'uld. The polished metal was cool on his fingers, but his skin heated at the thought of how they'd controlled his actions and responses.
Sometimes he wondered why he bothered to keep them, why he had to poke at the bad memories like a sore tooth. But in the end, he always packed them away neatly, stuffing the edges of his past into the box and shoving the bundle back under his bed.
Lying down, Shep closed his eyes and dreamed of living in the Ka'Tesh again, but this time Rodney was there. He stood between Shep and Apophis, foaming at the mouth, yelling about one thing after another until the Goa'uld had shrunk away to nothing.
"You live in an Ancient outpost?"
Shep had to grin at the wide-eyed look of wonder Rodney was wearing as he turned trying to look everywhere at once. He loved showing his hideout off; he figured it was like parents introducing their children around. He hadn't felt this at home since his mother had died a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, "Well, I know it's old, but we do try to keep the dust down."
"That's not what I meant, loon," Rodney said, his odd brand of harshly sarcastic teasing had become commonplace over the ship for the past several days. He cocked his head back to look up at the skylight, the sun dyeing his skin in hues of bronze and gold. "The people around here call them the ancestors."
"We stumbled on it just after we got the transmitter out of Ronon's back. It's worked out nicely for us, and there's room for more whenever we find them," Shep looked around proudly, running his hands along the railing in front of them. The first moment he'd stepped inside and made the place light up, something had snapped into place inside of him. He didn't know what he'd do without it anymore.
"Well, it's not the Hilton, but I suppose it'll do," Rodney harrumphed, turning to skip down the stairs. He charm showing through his prickly exterior as his excitement built up. He fit in much better with the rest of the crew since he'd taken to wearing some of Clah'g's castoffs. He'd bitched and moaned at first, but the sweater was made of the softest stuff that Shep had ever felt, and Rodney had eventually given in.
Shep shook his head leaning over to pat the wall fondly. "He didn't mean it, sweetheart," he whispered, winking even though he knew the city couldn't see him. It never hurt to be polite, and besides, he'd seen enough weird things in his life not to take anything for granted anymore.
"Are you coming?" Rodney bellowed, his voice easily rising from the bottom level.
"Right behind you," Shep answered, whistling while he took the stairs two at a time in order to catch up to Rodney. The rest of his crew had looked at him strangely when he'd started to bond so quickly with Rodney, but as he laughed easier and teased more, they'd taken in Rodney too. Made him the ship's mascot even.
"This is just amazing!" Rodney had found the control systems, and was running his hands reverently down the displays. "And the Wraith haven't bothered you?"
"Nope, we think it's because the chaapa'ai was destroyed from before we found the place," Shep said moving his head to look at the rubble that was the only thing left of the great stone ring. "There's no other human presence on this planet, and the remaining shields block any energy readings even if they ever got close enough to notice."
Shep turned back around to find Rodney staring curiously at him. It was unnerving to have Rodney's intense scrutiny directed totally at him, when there was so much technology within his grasp, "What? Do I have something in my teeth?"
"No," Rodney replied slowly, drawing the word out as he mirrored Shep's previous look over toward the rocks. "But what did you just call that?"
Shep mentally cursed at himself. No one in this region of space called them chaapa'ai. That was only the Goa'uld back in the Milky Way, and Rodney surely knew that. "Ummm."
Luckily, Mika chose that moment to squeal into the room and knock Shep over, landing on his lap and kissing him within an inch of his life. Rodney stared at him opened mouth as Mika's yellow skin glowed a little in a show of happiness. Shep smiled and ran a hand through her hair and then gently set her aside so they could both get up.
"Rodney, I'd like you to meet Mika," Shep introduced them, a hand on Mika's shoulder. "She keeps us all fed around here. Mika, this is our new guest Rodney."
"Hello, Rodney," Mika says, inclining her head toward him and smiling, showing her pearlescent teeth. She was mostly all bark and little bite, especially since she'd started sharing a room with Ronon, but that hadn't stopped her from playing the game with Shep.
"Charmed, I'm sure," Rodney said quickly, glancing quickly back and forth between Shep and Mika. He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets and took a step back from them.
Shep wrinkled his eyebrows. As odd as it was to say, he wasn't used to being able to read Earthlings. Comparatively the people around here were open books, and the Goa'uld were much easier to manipulate. Rodney was strange, an alien even if they'd once been born on the same planet. "Mika, our guest must be hungry, maybe you'd like to show him around, while I go take care of some things?" Shep asked politely knowing that Mika would take it as the order it was.
Rodney opened his mouth to say something, but quickly snapped it shut again as Mika took his arm and stroked his bicep. Shep held his breath but Mika managed to lead him away, while Shep watched until Rodney was completely out of sight.
"You're up late."
Shep startled, jumped and released the ball way too early making it miss the rim all together and slide down the wall behind the backboard. He turned around to find Rodney shifting nervously from foot to foot in the doorway, the dim light keeping most of him in shadow.
He walked over to retrieve his makeshift ball, and stood with it cocked on his hip while he regarded Rodney, "I could say the same thing to you."
"You know," Rodney said, a little too casually, and if Shep ever played poker again, he wanted badly to play with Rodney. "We have a game like this from where I come from. It's called basketball. A bunch of over-paid, steroid-tripping, wife-beating, looming goons run up and down a court, bouncing a ball and trying to get it through a hoop like that."
"Yeah, well, my ball doesn't bounce," Shep answered looking anywhere but into Rodney's eyes. He really should have realized that his deflecting talent wouldn't work in the face of Rodney's sheer need-to-know. Ronon had cornered him in the hallway after Shep had taken an extreme roundabout way to the supply corridor to avoid a run-in with Rodney.
"We need him," Ronon had said staring straight at Shep and not losing eye contact. "We need him to fix some of this stuff, and you need to convince him that he wants to. Whatever it is, get over it."
Shep took a deep breath, tossing the ball from hand to hand, "You want to throw a few?"
"Right, because I'm the poster boy for useless athletics," Rodney snorted though he did finally leave the hallway and enter the room proper.
"C'mon, it'll be fun," Shep wrangled, ignoring the pounding of his heart and the slight headache forming behind his eyes. "We'll even make it interesting. I'll shoot first, and for every shot I make you have to fix a piece of Ancient technology."
"And for every shot I make?" Rodney asked, lifting an eyebrow at Shep's shrug. "Okay, for every shot I make you have to answer a question. And I won't fix anything of weapons material."
Heart in throat, Shep could only nod, frantically looking for a way to make this less devastating to his secret, "Yes or no questions only."
"It's a deal," Rodney said smugly, again holding out his hand for Shep to shake. He backed away, taking off his uniform jacket and leaving it in a heap on the floor. He went to stand under the basket and made an impatient motion with hand for Shep to start.
He made eight straight shots, feeling better the couple of times that he didn't even hit the rim. Then, Rodney missed catching the ball, and had to bend over to pick it up, forcing the shirt to strain across his broad shoulders and revealing a strip of skin between pants and t-shirt. Shep's next throw went wide as he tried hard not to lick his lips.
Rodney snagged the ball, and walked underneath the rim, looking up until he was sure he was in the middle. He then paced out with measured steps until he seemed happy with his distance and turned back around to face the rim.
His first shot whooshed through, nothing but net, if Shep had had a net that is. The smug look on Rodney's face would have been far more annoying if Shep hadn't known that with it also came looks of intense emotion that ran the gamut from vulnerability to glee. He figured that if he wanted one, he'd have to take them all.
"Were you born in this galaxy?"
"No." It had taken a stream of traders and smugglers to get him as far away from the Milky Way and his memories as possible. Sheer luck had led him to pick up Tally, and dumb luck had found him the Hail Mary and the rest of his crew.
Rodney nodded a little to himself, and caught the ball as Shep tossed it to him. He lined up the basket and shot again, making it with a little tap to the rim.
"Are you from Earth?"
"Yes." Shep blinked away an image of his mother, the memory of graduating from officer's training, and the first time he'd flown across the ocean, the blues melting together until he was a part of the sky.
Shep avoided Rodney's questioning eyes, looking at the ball before he passed it back. Again, Rodney sank the ball, and Shep realized his error in challenging a physicist to a game that was basically all about angles and velocity.
"Did you work at Cheyenne Mountain?"
"Yes," Shep answered, trying not to flash back to how painful it had been, separated from the sky under the mountain. For a pilot like him it was punishment worse than death. He'd been on the edge of giving up and resigning his commission when the chaapa'ai had bloomed to life that first time and he'd been dragged away from everything and everyone he knew.
"Were you captured by the Goa'uld?" Another sank basketball.
"Yes." His skin crawled as he remembered the feeling of the Goa'uld hand devices sliding over his flesh. The first year in the slave camp of Apophis, he'd wished for death everyday, but never could go through with it. He'd called himself a coward, but the moment that rebellion swept through, he'd been right there at the front.
Rodney made an abortive step towards Shep, but stopped as Shep instinctively backed away and curled his arms around himself. "How did you..."
"Some stories aren't meant to be told," Shep shook his head; thinking back to the only time he'd told the whole story and the blank looks he'd been given by the Jaffa. He'd escaped and brought vital intel, and they were too good to take help from a lowly Tau'ri. "Are you going to shoot again?"
"This is stupid," Rodney sliding the ball between his hands looking at Shep the same way he looked at the burnt out circuitry. As if he could fix Shep too. "Why can't we just talk about this?"
"We can talk about the technology you're going to fix, but other than that, no," Shep said taking the offensive and crossing his arms in front of his chest. "I'm not your buddy McKay. We can't talk about our feelings and paint each other's nail to make it all better. The past is done. There's no changing it."
Rodney looked like he wanted to argue, but that wasn't anything new. In the end, with exaggerated care, he placed the ball down and turned back to Shep, "Very well, Captain. We'll talk about the Ancient technology in the morning."
Shep kept his eyes hard as Rodney skirted around him out to the hallway, telling himself that it was for the best.
After a day of avoiding Rodney, Shep only felt like more of an ass that he had been so rude to someone who was only trying to help and understand him. He hadn't slept last night trying to think of something he could do to make it up to the man that had rapidly become a friend.
Finally, he'd hit on the idea this morning, and laid his trap, talking to Sah and Sai who were on cooking duty this morning. The one thing this planet wasn't short on was wild game, so they were having a special steak and egg breakfast this morning. Shep figured that would put Rodney in a good mood to begin with.
In fact, Rodney was making little noises of joy through his mouthful of eggs as Shep set his plate down in front of the seat opposite. Rodney looked up and nodded cautiously, then turned his attention back to his food though with less enthusiasm.
"Morning Rodney," Shep said deciding that it was better to pretend that nothing had happened, even as he slid over his breakfast sweet to Rodney's easy reach. "Did I ever tell you about the automated Ancient locking device on what we think was one of their storage rooms? It's only a hop, skip, and a jump away. Galactically speaking, of course."
Rodney stared at him hard for a moment, and then grinned, "Of course."
"How can you still be asleep?"
Shep groaned and turned, pulling the pillow over his head while curling his knees up toward his chest. He should have realized that would hardly have been enough to keep McKay away. Moments later, he could feel poking through the feathers of his pillow.
"Shep? Shep. Shep!"
"McKay!" he groaned, reaching around his back to grab Rodney's wrist, fending off further attacks. "We can't even get in for hours yet, why are you awake?"
"Are you kidding me?" Rodney's voice trembled and was higher than normal; Shep could easily imagine the excitement on Rodney's face even though he had yet to open his eyes. "This could be the biggest discovery of my scientific career! If I can get my hands on a Zed-Pee-Em and if I have a chance to study..."
"Yeah, yeah, if, if," Shep groaned pulling Rodney off balance until the other man was sprawled across the bed next to him. "But not for another five hours. Go back to sleep. Your Nobel Prize will still be there in the morning."
Rodney struggled for a moment, sputtering, but Shep just landed his arm heavily across Rodney's chest and sighed, shifting the sheet over so it would cover Rodney too. "We'll wake up in time, and be all rested for dangerous exploring," Shep breathed out against Rodney's neck. "Trust me."
Shep curled up a little more, and felt Rodney relax against him before he slipped back asleep.
When he woke up the next time, it was to Rodney's hair tickling his nose, and sunlight streaming in through his opening blinds. His arm was pins and needles where he'd kept still so Rodney could sleep, though he could and did indulge in a good leg stretch, his toes curling in pleasure.
Rodney stirred under the sheet, his hand flexing against Shep's shoulder as he pressed his face tighter into Shep's neck. A moment later, Shep felt Rodney push against his hip, morning hardness a growing heat even in the gentle warmth of their body heat under the sheet.
Okay, this was a little different, Shep thought freezing in place while Rodney mumbled sleepily. He was at a distinct disadvantage here, as Rodney had come in fully dressed for a day of exploring, and he was still in his underwear and little else.
Luckily, as soon as he started to tense up, Rodney woke up and realizing where he was, or perhaps who he was cuddled up next to, rolled away until he fell off the bed landing on the floor with a dull thud. Resisting the urge to laugh, Shep moved and peered over the edge of the bed, "Good morning to you too, Prince Charming."
"Shut the fuck up," Rodney glared, his words softened by the grin flirting with his mouth.
"Why are you so excited, anyway?" Shep asked Rodney who was fairly vibrating with tension next to him waiting for the locking mechanism to open. Even with the enforced nap, they'd still gotten to the storeroom, a short hike along a ridge, nearly half an hour early. "Haven't you been on these missions all the time?"
Rodney turned to the wall mumbling something; his tell was his hands, shoved deeply in his pockets instead of flying a mile a minute. Shep just had to grin, teasing, "What was that, Rodney?"
Rolling his eyes, Rodney turned back around, his mouth twisted in a grimace, "No, actually. This was only the second off-world mission that O'Neill let me go on."
"What happened on your first mission?" Ronon asked from the other side of Shep and the whole expedition, consisting of the three men along with Mika and Tally, turned to Rodney who immediately went bright red.
"There might have been a small miscommunication on my part with the natives of that planet," Rodney said forcefully. Hands flying checking his pack for what had to be the hundred time. "But obviously they weren't worth our attention anyway."
"They chased you back through the gate with spears didn't they?" Ronon asked, snorting with laughter, his eyes scrunched up until they looked as if they were closed. His mirth was contagious, and soon the entire group was chuckling along.
"Laugh it up, Yeti," Rodney rolled his eyes, flapping his hand at Ronon. "I can't help it that they were frightened of my vast intellect."
"Your ego, maybe," Shep added as Ronon elbowed him in the ribs and cracked up again.
"Ha, ha," Rodney said deadpan, cocking his head to the side and glaring at Shep. "Don't we have important business here? Finding the secrets of the Ancients or something?"
"All right boys and girls, let's be careful," Shep said, wiping at his eyes and turning to stand at the door as the last seconds ticked down until it would open. "No one touch anything unless McKay or I say it's okay. Rodney, stick close to me."
The door slid back, the lights coming on as Shep stepped over the threshold, Rodney a comforting shadow right behind him.
The mission was easy, the only hitch coming when Tally couldn't help but fall behind looking through a series of lock boxes. Shep had made the entire team detour back until they'd found her. Rodney had not been pleased with the delay, and though Shep had let him sound off for several minutes, he'd finally snapped and asked what they should do if Rodney were to get lost.
He'd gotten this horribly lost look on his face, searching Shep's eyes for a moment before he shook himself. Back was the smug and in-charge glare as Rodney shrugged, "I don't get lost."
Shep had smiled in return and kept an even closer eye on the scientist.
"Well, between your super gene, and my super brain, we make a pretty good team," Rodney said happily, his mouth quirked up in his infectious grin. The two ZPMs they'd recovered sat, glowing slightly, on the table in front of them.
Rodney didn't even know he was flirting, had absolutely no idea the effect he was having on Shep. That was the only thing that let Shep break through his paralysis, and reach out, slipping his fingers through the belt loops of Rodney's pants to tug him forward. Rodney stumbled forward, eyes wide looking up at Shep.
All day, he'd watched as Rodney had been amazed at their discoveries, bantering easily with everyone. It was the best day that Shep could remember for a long time, full of sunlight, laughter and the people that meant the most to him. He couldn't get over how good it'd felt to wake up beside Rodney this morning, and wanted nothing more than to do it again.
The last step was Shep's to make, bumping into Rodney's chest as he circled his hands around Rodney's waist. "I'd go so far as to say, we'd make a great team," Shep said, shifting so that his leg ended up between Rodney's.
"What do you think you're doing?" Rodney whispered, blinking furiously but not backing away. His hands came up, grabbing the front of Shep's jacket and holding on for his life.
"I thought you were the one with the super brain?" Shep teased smiling, and tugging again on Rodney's waist. "C'mere."
Their first kiss was soft, tentative as he waited for Rodney to pull away or even to punch him. Instead, Rodney leaned into him, tilting his head up and opening his mouth, deepening their kiss. He twisted his fingers around and shoved his arms inside Shep's coat, his fingers brushing down Shep's back.
With a slight groan, Shep broke the kiss, panting a little as he lowered his head to rest on Rodney's shoulder, his mouth near the other man's ear. "This is okay," Shep said, feeling how his chest pushed into Rodney's. "Tell me this is okay."
"Of course this is okay," Rodney breathed harshly against Shep's neck, his hands scrabbling to make it underneath the material of Shep's shirt. "Are you insane?"
Laughing, Shep pulled back enough to look at Rodney in the face, "Well, it's debatable." Then he leaned in for another kiss to forestall Rodney's inevitable comeback.
"You could come too," Rodney said, trailing his hand down Shep's stomach as they lay together in the quiet morning. It was the last morning they'd have together before Rodney would meet up with his expedition members at their alpha site.
Shep sighed, curling his fingers in the hair at the nape of Rodney's neck, tugging softly. It was the same argument they hadn't been having for the last two days. "My people are here. My home is here."
"You could take care of them on Atlantis," Rodney argued, lifting his head so that he could look Shep in the face. He looked so earnest in the dim lighting of the cabin that Shep ached with him. "You'd love it there, technology lighting up at your fingertips, not having to steal your next meal and you could all help us fight the Wraith."
Unspoken was the fact that Rodney would be there, and the tenuous relationship they'd started would have a chance to continue. Rodney wouldn't use that, as unfair as it would be, given that Shep hadn't cared more about anything than flying before Rodney showed up. Shep sometimes wondered if Rodney had any idea how important he was to him.
"Because the military is so accommodating to outsiders and foreign cultures," Shep said a little angrily, even after all this time not able to forgive them for what he'd gone through. A simple poker game should not have had such dire consequences for the rest of his life, and as unreasonable as it was, Shep blamed the brass for it.
Rodney rolled his eyes, and scooted up a little, resting his head on his hand looking down at Shep, "It's not like that, I told you. We have a civilian led operation. Jackson would love to have your contributions. Not to mention the accomplishments the science department could make with your mutant gene at our disposal."
"Uh-huh, you only love me for my DNA," Shep murmured tracing Rodney's eyebrow and then dropping his fingers to cup Rodney's jaw pulling him down for a kiss. It was slow and full of all the things that Shep couldn't talk about anyway.
"You know, that doesn't mean you win," Rodney said against Shep's cheek when he pulled back enough to move his mouth down Shep's face. He was hard again, the length of his cock pushing against Shep's hip, and Shep shifted so that his own could push against Rodney.
Wiggling when Rodney's hot breath and moist tongue reached his ear, Shep quickly rolled over Rodney pinning him to the bed, and bared his teeth, "Close enough." Leaning down, Shep kissed one side and then the other of Rodney's down turned mouth, alternating until Rodney couldn't help but smile into the kisses.
Shep had pulled back, wanting to shimmy down Rodney's body and take his cock in his mouth, but Rodney stopped him with a hand on the back of his neck. He looked up with an eyebrow quirked, "I thought we were on the same page here, buddy."
"Same chapter at least," Rodney smirked pulling Shep back up to his mouth, pushing his tongue past Shep's lips and controlling the kiss. "Let me fuck you."
"Okay," Shep breathed before he could second guess himself and freak out. His sex life had been a solo act since he'd escaped to the Jaffa encampment. Rodney was the first person he'd let get closer enough to him.
"Okay, great, wonderful," Rodney beamed, rolling to the side as Shep flopped over onto his back, covering his eyes with a forearm. "Do you have any lube in here?"
"Uh, yeah, look over in the shelf," Shep said, hoping that the roaring he heard was for his ears only. It was probably just like riding a bicycle, once you had a man's dick up your ass, you never forgot. "There should be a jar of stuff that'll work."
The bed dipped as Rodney got up to look, and Shep took the chance to breathe deep and center his thoughts on now and not then. He felt Rodney come back and sit beside him, placing a hand over Shep's heart, "Found it."
"Good," Shep said, sitting up and winding his arms around Rodney from the back, pushing his face in between Rodney's shoulder blades. Rodney smelled good and clean, there was none of the perfume and musk that the Goa'uld preferred. "Do I have to tell you what to do with it too?"
"Don't quit your day job, stand up comedy is not for you," Rodney sneered turning around and shoving Shep over onto his belly, stretching out on top of him. "It's just a good thing you're so hot, I could be off stealing your Ancient tech right now."
"But could those machines actually take care of the hard on you've got?" Shep asked spreading his legs so that Rodney could settle between them and arching his back up into Rodney's chest.
Rodney's weight on him helped him to settle, as did all the little imperfections that made Rodney Rodney from the soft pudge of his belly to the hair that scrapped along Shep's inner thighs. Hot breath against his neck raised gooseflesh along his arms, and he pressed his face into the pillow as Rodney's hand traced down his ribs and across to his ass.
At the gentle touch of Rodney's fingers against his entrance, Shep let out a sigh and relaxed all the muscles that had tensed. This was familiar, this he could do. His cock was starting to take a renewed interest in the proceedings, and he wiggled a bit to gain more room, ending up pushed back on Rodney's finger.
"Oh, god," Rodney moaned sitting up and moving until he was kneeling between Shep's knees, adding another finger. His other hand ranged over Shep's lower body, petting away the trembles in his muscles. "Tell me if I need to go slower."
"It's fine Rodney," Shep gaining his knees and bunching the pillow up in his arms, tucking it under his chin. "I'm not some sort of blushing bride."
That gained him a slap on the ass before Rodney pulled him up, pressing against his backside so that Shep could feel Rodney's cock in the crack of his ass. "We'll save that game for another time," Rodney said biting down gently on Shep's shoulder blade.
"Promises, promises," Shep muttered into his pillow feeling the blunt head of Rodney's cock pushing against him. He relaxed, squeezing his eyes shut tight as Rodney slid all the way in, lube easing his passage.
"Been awhile, huh?" Rodney breathed next to Shep's ear, circling his arms around Shep's chest and pulling him up into Rodney's body. The feel of Rodney's chest against his back was enough to undo him, and Shep made a rather embarrassing mew, ducking down to try to hide it.
"You could say that," Shep said turning his head and pushing his nose against Rodney's and searching for Rodney's lips to kiss. It might not be perfect, but it was a hell of a lot better than anything Shep had had for years.
Rodney pulled back and wrapped his hands around Shep's hips, using both their momentum to increase his thrusts. For the first time in a long time, Shep let go, and just let himself appreciate the gift that had fallen in his lap. Figuratively speaking of course.
"Safe and sound, Dr. McKay," Ronon said as he walked Rodney down the hatch in the back that lowered with a thump to the ground. He handed out Rodney's bags, which among his assorted souvenirs of his hostage stay, contained two of the ZPMs.
There were several men surrounding them in the grotto that Rodney navigated to, and though none of their weapons were pointed at them, Shep didn't miss that several trigger fingers were twitching. He stayed in the shuttle, just inside the door watching to make sure that everything went down peacefully. His own hand stayed wrapped around his energy blaster.
"No thanks to you, Caveman," Rodney snorted taking the bags and shifting them over his shoulder, his posture defensive. He'd been uncharacteristically quiet on the quick trip from Mary and through the gate. Rodney opened his mouth to say something else, but hesitated, glancing quickly to the shuttle and back.
"Hey McKay!" the older man that Shep pegged as the General O'Neill yelled. "Sometime today, perhaps?" He was the only one standing in a relaxed manner, slouched with his arms crossed over his weapon, but that didn't convince Shep that there weren't charges planted at this man's fingertips if they did anything he didn't like.
Rodney turned around to glare at him, but O'Neill seemed unimpressed and in fact, yawned a bit. Letting his shoulders drop, Rodney turned back around and held out his hand for Ronon to shake, "Try not to hack up any more hair balls."
"Try not to get kidnapped anymore," Ronon grinned, pulling Rodney's arm until he had Rodney clasped in the most awkward bear hug that Shep had ever seen. Ronon seemed to engulf Rodney, who as Shep knew, was no small man.
Eventually, Rodney brought his hands up and beat against Ronon's back. "Well, it worked out okay this time," he said softly looking up the ramp at Shep, his face softening into sadness. He looked years younger, vulnerable as if someone had just kicked his favorite puppy.
"I'll see you later," Shep had to say, hoping that Rodney would be able to hear him, and the promise that he made. When Rodney made it home and cleaned out his bag, he would also find Shep's dog tags and amulet. He would rather Rodney used them to remember him fondly than that he continued to live in the past with them.
Grinning as only he could, Rodney turned back to Ronon, and in a voice pitched so that Shep could only just hear it, "Take care of him for me."
Ronon winked and shoved Rodney toward the waiting military escort, turning to bound back up the ramp, "Let's go home, boss."
Watching Rodney walk away was one of the hardest things that Shep had had to do in a long time. His chest clenched as he saw Rodney bounce along toward O'Neill, already bragging about all the adventures he'd had, and the spoils he'd managed to bring home. O'Neill just rolled his eyes, but one of the younger members, marine if Shep still knew anything, clapped Rodney on the back, looking genuinely happy to see the other man.
Shep fought down a twinge of jealousy and turned to follow Ronon back up to the pilot's chair hoping that home would fix the hole that was opening up in his gut. If he hadn't already puked up what little he'd ate for breakfast, he would have now.
Shep was not sulking. Absolutely, brooking no arguments, crew tiptoeing around him, and his predilection for lonely dark places not withstanding, not sulking.
He almost wanted to be angry with Rodney, angry that the sky - space in fact, wasn't big enough to hold his attention anymore. None of it seemed to matter without Rodney beside him snarking and sharing the wonder of exploring the galaxy. Ronon was more than willing to spar with Shep to work off some of their aggression, and if they both carried more bruises than normal, well no one said anything.
Ronon wasn't so mulish about remaining stoic; he moped around for several days, poking equipment and people indiscriminately hoping for a reaction like the one he'd get from Rodney. Fortunately for Shep's peace of mind, that stopped after the second time Ronon managed to electrocuted himself. Mary had smelled like burnt dreadlocks for days.
At night, he dreamed about Rodney. Sometimes they were on Earth, in a little apartment with a dog and cat that would fight all day but still curl up next to each other at night. Other times, Rodney was with him, a slave to Apophis, hoping for rescue but abandoned to the whims of fate. A couple of times, Shep made it to Atlantis, an entire city that woke to him, returning as a hero to lead the fight against the Wraith.
During the day, he was simply Shep, captain of a ragtag team of traders and con men going nowhere in particular but no longer enjoying the ride.
Shep cleared his throat, and finally pressed into the control systems, buttons that his fingers tried to twitched away from, "Atlantis, this is the Ancient warship Hail Mary. We have wounded, refugees and what technology we could salvage from our outpost. We took damage from the Wraith and are seeking a safe haven and asylum."
The next few minutes were filled with tension and desperation, as no one in the bridge area said a word, looking to Shep hoping that he would once again find a way out of a tough spot. They had finally run into the Wraith, an ambush probably meant for the Atlantis expedition. The outpost was completely destroyed, and no few of its inhabitants.
Finally, a rough voice came on, a voice that Shep had fully known how much he'd missed in the past months, "It's about time you figured that you need constant adult supervision. You know admission is the first step to getting over your problems."
"It's good to hear your voice too, Rodney," Shep chuckled, shaking his head as he punched in the necessary steps to begin prepping for landing. Beside him, what was left of his original crew breathed a sigh of relief, except for Ronon who let out a whoop of joy, punching the air and catching Mika up into a swirling hug.
"Just come in safely."
"Will do," Shep looked up at the family he'd made for himself, seeing in his mind's eye the faces he never would again, those that were gone to the Wraith. He'd lost so much, but he only realized now how much he had left to gain.
"Mary you have permission to land on the southwest pier. We're lighting it up for you now. A team will meet you there," an unfamiliar male voice told them.
"Roger that," Shep acknowledged.
Throughout his life, Shep had prayed for several Hail Marys, and had probably received more than his fair share. They'd changed through the years, a football catch, an 'A' in calculus, an assignment in Afghanistan, death, life, but now the only thing he wanted was Rodney.
It just figured that he'd have to go through two galaxies, more pain than any one man should have to suffer, and Ronon's sense of humor before finding his home. Shep smiled as he let the automated systems take over for a landing, there'd be plenty of time later to figure out the landings and take offs. Right now, he had to find a certain physicist and never let him out of sight again.
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