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Fic: Wrapped in a Red Ribbon (1/3)

Title: Wrapped in a Red Ribbon (1/3)
Author: auburnnothenna
Recipient: chase_acow
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard, plus a cast of thousands SGA and SG-1 folks.
Size: ~23,000 words.
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Pinch hit for chase_acow, who asked for: an Earth-based high-rated AU with McKay/Sheppard first time, someone undercover as a slave but not heavy BDSM (whew!) fic with Rodney on top, one of the guys freaking out, a happy ending and a Christmas theme. Well, it's set around Christmas time, and chase_acow, if I'd had even another week to work on this, it would probably have doubled in size and included a lot more sex. I hope it works for you anyway.
Betas: Last minute work on this done by mirabile_dictu, lillian13, enname and one who will remain nameless, but is still very much appreciated. They did outstanding work and all mistakes and errors are mine, added subsequently.

---

"If I have to listen to 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer' one more time, I'm getting you to shoot out the speakers," Rodney declared as he dropped into the diner booth across from Sheppard. He set his briefcase on the red vinyl bench next to him. It was four forty-seven in the morning and the neon lights of Atlantis City still defied the night. "I mean, you're a cop. Playing that has to be crime."

"Sorry, no shooting innocent speakers," John said. He didn't look up from picking at his French fries. "I could probably bust Santa, though. Hit and run."

A lock of dark hair drooped over John's forehead. Rodney suppressed the impulse to brush it back, the way he always did. John needed a shave and he'd jerked his tie loose. Pretty much how John Sheppard always looked at the end of the night shift. The shadows under his eyes and the pallor weren't as normal. The latest case had begun to obsess him. At least, he was still eating. Rodney had seen John drop pounds over the course of a bad case. His own hypoglycemia made him more conscious of it than he otherwise would be, but someone had to keep an eye on John. The end-of-shift breakfasts had started out as Rodney's way of making sure a good detective didn't burn out or collapse. After three years, they were the best part of his night.

He wouldn't say anything when John started losing weight and sleep. Rodney knew him in every way but one and he knew John hated being fussed over. Rodney always wanted to do more, the same way he wanted to have more, but that was his problem. Meanwhile, he'd do his job and help John do his and appreciate what he did have.

"Sheppard?"

"Yeah?"

"You'll get him."

"It would be a hell of lot easier if you guys in the lab would come up with something I could use to track this perp down," Sheppard said. He popped a French fry into his mouth and chewed, while their regular waitress stopped by and filled Rodney's coffee cup.

"Same as always, Dr. McKay?" she asked.

"Yes, yes, do I ever order anything else?" Rodney demanded.

"Don't pay any attention to him, Oma," Sheppard told her and smiled as she topped up his cup.

"Do I ever?" she replied, smiling too, then sashayed back to the kitchen.

"Do you have to flirt with anything in a skirt?" Rodney asked and snatched one of Sheppard's fries. He'd spent all night analyzing an anomalous breakdown of chemicals found in the bloodstream of the latest victim from the murderer the Atlantis City PD were already privately calling 'Red Ribbon Killer'. Not that he'd made much progress.

Sheppard rolled his eyes and jerked his plate out of Rodney's reach. "Yes?"

Rodney snorted and opened his briefcase, pulling out a thick file. "Biro sent over the autopsy report on Lydia Dumais. It's official -- she definitely died before any of the other victims, even before Eugene Bates."

Sheppard flipped the file open and began reading, still nibbling French fries, apparently unmoved by the graphic photos of the partially decomposed body, recently uncovered in an empty lot behind a condemned building. Red ribbon had been found wrapped around her from head to foot, just like all the other victims. He frowned. "Here it is again."

"What? The drug? It's been present in every body except Bates'," Rodney said, sitting back to let Oma set his plate of eggs, sausages, waffles, toast, hash browns and fruit cup before him. Sheppard was too caught up in the autopsy report to give Rodney his usual look of mock horror. Rodney began eating immediately, still talking. "It's unlike anything I've come across before, must be a designer one, but completely fresh, not a tweaked version of the regular X and speed and downers. I'm not even sure what it does, though it looks like it may accelerate the metabolism based on some of the breakdown products also present -- "

"No, I meant the restraint marks."

Rodney paused and swallowed a mouthful of waffle. "Oh, that, yes, the marks could be attributed to the killer restraining his victims, but the marks don't gibe with that, really. Dumais has scars of a less than recent vintage. So did, uhm, Martin -- "

"Markham."

"Yes, whatever, Markham and the Canadian fellow. Campbell, right, not that the name matters. Anyway, my point is that the killer uses duct tape and electrical cords to restrain them."

Sheppard flipped back through the photos and squinted at one of Dumais' back. He shoved it toward Rodney. "Do those look like -- "

"Hey, I'm eating here!" Rodney protested, closing his eyes. Why did everyone think that just because he headed the night shift of the Atlantis City PD's forensic lab he had an iron stomach? Really. He worked with evidence, not dead bodies. Those were Biro's bailiwick.

"Suck it up, Rodney," Sheppard said.

Rodney snapped his eyes open so he could roll them at Sheppard. "Suck it up? I'm more likely to chuck it up." But he pulled the file the rest of the way across the table and stared down at the picture. "What?"

"Do those look like whip scars to you?"

Rodney frowned and lifted the picture to change the angle and get rid of the glare off the shiny paper. "Hunh. Yeah. I saw...Torin Magen had similar scars, but they weren't new. In fact they looked like they were deliberate."


"He was a masochist who liked getting whipped, according to the interviews Mitchell and Carter did."

"Yeah, how did you get day shift's all-star duo to do interviews for your case?" Rodney asked.

"Oh, they still owe me for closing out the Lavin case."

"You?" Rodney exclaimed. "I'm the one who figured out he was using GHB injected into the cherry centers of the chocolates he gave all those women!"

"I'm the one who said it had to be dear old Lucius, the guy everybody loved," Sheppard said.

"Hmph." Who would have thought Lucius Lavin was a serial rapist? The guy acted cuddly and funny and completely harmless. A little irritating, sure, but no one suspected him except Sheppard, who had even been stuck with a reprimand from Caldwell after Lavin accused him of police harassment. "Okay."

"So, I've been doing a little poking into Lydia Dumais' background since you got me the ID on her body," Sheppard told him, "and it seems Lydia had some kinky tastes. Maybe the same kinky tastes Torin Magen had."

"And Sgt. Bates?" Rodney couldn't help asking.

"Bates is the anomaly, but I think he's dead because he was a cop. He must have seen something."

"Like maybe Lydia Dumais' murder," Rodney agreed.

"Maybe," Sheppard said. He closed up the file and handed it to Rodney. "Keep this for me." A quick look at his watch made him frown. "And could you hurry and eat at your usual light speed? Lorne is supposed to be here in a minute. We've got an actual lead. Except for Bates, all of the victims were members of Ascension."

Rodney frowned. John usually dawdled over his meals. "I've heard of it. Fetishes. Every variation of BDSM, very exclusive. And very discreet."

"Right," Sheppard said. "And we won't find out a damn thing from the owner, who happens to be Torin Magen's sister, even if we go in there with search warrants. So Lorne and I are going undercover. Eldon's getting us in and we're supposed to meet Ms. Magen here for an interview in five minutes. So scram."

Rodney shoveled in the last bite of his toast, closed his briefcase, and said, "Fine, but I expect you to tell me everything about --"

"Excuse me," a soft, faintly foreign voice said. Rodney looked up -- not very far -- and snapped his mouth closed.

She was caramel and bronze, with slanted brown eyes and a cool smile. She was Teyla E. Magen, now sole owner of Ascension, standing in Oma's Diner, tiny and hot as a Saturday Night Special in her miniskirt and custom-tailored gray merino blazer. The blazer clung to her and plunged down between her breasts, showing off cleavage and hinting there was nothing beneath but more gorgeous skin. The outfit probably cost several thousand dollars. Her eyes measured them both, withholding judgment while she waited for them to respond. A brute with dreadlocks and a sneer stood behind her, also dressed in a good suit.

Beautiful woman, Rodney reflected, the kind he used to want in a theoretical way that was completely different from the way he wanted John. The way he felt about John, if he was honest with himself.

John's quick glance at Rodney could have been a request for permission to speak or the warning to play along Rodney knew it was. Rodney nodded. "Ms. Magen," Sheppard said.

"I am Teyla. This is Ronon," she said.

John stood and, belatedly, so did Rodney.

"You are John?" she asked. "Eldon described you."

John nodded. "And this is -- "

"Rodney," he said.

Teyla raised an eyebrow and surveyed them both. Rodney knew he'd pass muster anywhere: he was wearing his usual, perfect suit. Since he didn't have any family to waste his money on and had patented several processes now used in labs all over the world, he saw no reason not to look his absolute best. Off-the-rack clothes didn't help compensate for his desk job waistline, either. It assisted him when he was on the witness stand and when dealing with the police department brass. Not that he needed to wear clothes that cost more than a detective's monthly salary when he had his towering intellect to browbeat them with, but some people found appearances important.

Sheppard was in his usual black suit, white shirt, and dark tie. The thing about Sheppard was that he could have bought the suit off a rack at JC Penney's or had it custom fitted in Milan. He made everything look equally good. Maybe because he didn't care. The charisma of confidence, Rodney often thought enviously. John couldn't help it, didn't do it deliberately, but it affected everyone who met him.

Not just women, either, though Teyla looked as unaffected as anyone Rodney had ever seen. He relaxed a little. As far as Rodney knew, the only woman John had been truly interested in and pursued had been Chaya Sarathar. Their relationship had fallen apart after Rodney uncovered that she was a very high priced call girl. That had been the only time Rodney's jealousy had got out of control, investigating Chaya's background had been over the line, even if he had been right. John had eventually forgiven him, though, and Rodney had forced himself to repress most of his feelings as John went back to dating a new woman every week, all of them gorgeous, there and gone again from week to week.

Teyla probably had someone of her own and wasn't interested in poaching on someone she thought was taken. Of course, John wasn't trying. Still...John didn't try with Rodney either, didn't even have a clue that Rodney felt anything more than the friendship John felt for him.

"You wish to join my club?" Teyla asked.

Sheppard closed his eyes for a second. Obviously Eldon had described Sheppard to Teyla and not his partner Lorne, names hadn't been used, and Teyla thought Sheppard and Rodney were an item.

"Yes," Rodney said, before Sheppard could correct her.

"And he is your slave?" Teyla concluded with a smiling glance at Sheppard. Sheppard froze, while Rodney's mind raced in a thousand different directions. The thought of Sheppard acting like a slave to anyone was just laughable; the guy could barely pretend he obeyed Lt. Caldwell's orders. That was part of why he'd been exiled to the night shift - aka Antarctica.

"Yes," Rodney said.

Teyla tipped Sheppard's chin up and examined his face. "No collar?"

Rodney huffed, trying to ignore the temper glinting in Sheppard's eyes. "Of course not. That's for amateurs. John knows who he belongs too. Neither of us can afford to make displays in our professional lives. That's why we're interested in becoming members of Ascension."

Teyla seemed to consider that, taking in John's leashed, silent tension and Rodney's faked confidence. She opened her small purse and withdrew a card, handing it to Rodney. "Present this tomorrow night along with the initiation fee for yourself and John."

Rodney knew better than to ask how much that would cost.

"Thank you," he said, turning the deep purple card in his fingers, feeling the expensively embossed, elegant Pegasus in the center. There were no words on it at all. Anyone who had been given that card would know exactly what it was and no one else would ever be able to guess.

Teyla nodded to him, patted Sheppard's cheek and left. Ronon, who hadn't spoken once, followed her. Once they were out the door, Rodney slumped back in his seat and Sheppard stared at him.

"Well, shit," Sheppard muttered.

~*~


John groped for and found his phone, squinting against the dim, almost orange light making it way through the curtains of his bedroom. Late afternoon light, he identified through the last shreds of sleep.

"Sheppard," he rasped into the receiver. He hadn't made it to his apartment and his bed until noon. Setting up Rodney to go undercover with him instead of Lorne had taken forever to clear with the brass. The go-ahead had finally come down through the new day shift guy, Landry, from Chief Hammond himself. It was worth the risk, if John could get a line on the Red Ribbon Killer. Everyone wanted this case closed: Eugene Bates had been a good cop, a real hard-ass, but the kind of officer you wanted covering your back.

"They found another one."

John groaned.

"This one's fresh," Lorne went on. "Looks like his latest. Even got an ID on her already -- Marin Olles. Carter caught the call, pegged it for our perp immediately."

John slumped back against his pillow and glared at the cracks in his bedroom ceiling. "Yeah, well, it's hard to mistake a vic wrapped up in red satin Christmas ribbon like a mummy."

Lorne chuckled.

"Man, I cannot believe you're going undercover as McKay's slave."

John sighed. "If you'd showed up on time for once..."

"Oh, come on, this Magen woman was early. What kind of dominatrix shows up to a meeting before dawn?"

John shrugged. "One that's been up all night, just like the rest of the night shift."

"Hunh. Guess you have a point. Think she's the one?"

John thought about Teyla Magen. No. No way. There was something...serene about the woman. He didn't buy that she'd done in her half-brother or even Eugene Bates, even if he had busted her once, when she first started working in Atlantis City. Besides, she was just physically too small, though that bruiser of hers, Ronon, could have pulled off the murders without breaking a sweat.

The background check they'd run on Ronon Dexter had come back clean as whistle. He was from L.A. and had done seven years in the US Army Rangers. Some kind of wound that left a piece of shrapnel in his back had got him out of the army, but surgery later had removed it. Apparently, Ms. Magen had paid for the surgery and thus earned his undying gratitude.

"Nah," he said.

"Carter and Mitchell are handling the Olles case for now, they'll copy everything to the night shift," Lorne went on.

"Great."

"Hey, Detective Doran left a message. Said to meet her at Vittorio's Leather World at seven. Man, you have the strangest dates."

"It's not a date," John snapped. "Vala's..." He grimaced. "Picking out my undercover gear for tomorrow night."

Lorne's laughter did not make him feel better. John harbored no illusions that Rodney had either the skill or inclination to do undercover work, but they were going to have to wing it anyway. He'd been surprised a little at how quick Rodney had been in the diner, though he knew Rodney was smart. It was just that he was so easily flustered, too. Still, Rodney always pulled out a win in the end, finding the evidence to put away more than one crook that would have walked otherwise. John trusted him, even if he'd never tell him in a million years.

"Is she going to help pick out something for Doc McKay or does he already have his own stuff?" John could hear Lorne slapping a desk or table as he cracked up.

Christ, he hadn't thought of that. Rodney wouldn't have anything but thousand-dollar suits in his closet. He didn't even do casual wear, much less whatever 'masters' were supposed to wear to Ascension. He'd better call him and make sure he met with John and Vala at Vittorio's.

Well, at least he could afford it. John didn't really want to think about what this case was going to do to his own bank account, let alone what the reimbursement paperwork would look like. He quirked an unseen grin at the ceiling. Since McKay was going to be his master, maybe he could get him to pay for everything. That sounded about right.


~*~


Rodney presented the card at the door of Ascension and was ushered inside by a stone-faced woman. He snapped his fingers and John followed him inside. They were taken directly to an office where the financial details were presented and Rodney found himself writing a twenty-five thousand dollar check that bought full memberships for John and himself.

Once his money proved good, Teyla appeared. She seemed to find them and their clothes acceptable, John in the clothes Vala Doran had picked out and Rodney in another Italian suit, since he'd balked at even the prospect of wearing leather.

She guided them around, introducing Rodney to other members. John stayed a step behind and to the side of Rodney. Rodney asked questions, trying to guess what John would want to know, while John kept his mouth shut, watching and listening. Ascension was a little like an elite men's club. There was a dance floor, but there was also a dining room, library, and gambling. All very elegantly appointed, the dance floor all shining dark mirrors and black metal, angles out of a Frank Lloyd Wright design, the library filled with gilt-spined books, green leather club chairs and brushed-steel shaded reading lamps. The floors were parquet and covered with rich, red-themed Turkish carpets. Only the clothes or lack of them would have raised eyebrows, at least until you reached some of the specialty rooms.

Teyla took them into a room where a blond girl on a rack was being whipped. John jerked and looked wide-eyed at Rodney. Rodney set his hand against John's back, abruptly conscious of the heat and smoothness of John's skin under the black silk tee-shirt Vala had picked out for him. They'd gone for sexy but restrained for this first visit. Plus John had demanded boots so he could at least carry his back up gun. Tiny shivers were running up and down John's back and through Rodney's fingertips as they watched the girl writhe under the lash. The man using the whip on her wore a full face mask with a zipper over the mouth and goggles over his eyes.

It freaked Rodney out too. He didn't even want to think about marring the expanse of John's back -- glimpsed while they were trying on Vala's selections the night before -- even with welts that would heal. Anything that would scar would be a sin.

God, John's skin was hot. Rodney flexed his fingers against the silk covering it without thinking and heard John suck in his breath.

Teyla heard it too and leveled a knowing smile at both of them. Rodney prayed he wouldn't blush. John was better at undercover than he was and leaned back into Rodney's touch like he wanted more of it. He hoped John would interpret his actions as acting. Of course, when would he ever have the opportunity again to grope John without giving away how much he wanted him?

He slid his hand over John's hip instead, knowing the gesture looked possessive. For once he got to be possessive of John. He wouldn't take advantage, that was just wrong, but he could enjoy the privilege of touching John for once. John, who was so straight he didn't have a clue Rodney cared more and wanted more than friendship offered. It wasn't like Rodney was obvious about it, but even if he had been, John might not have noticed. He seemed oblivious even to most out-and-out come ons.

They left the room and Teyla knocked lightly on the next door.

It opened a moment later.

"Elizabeth," Teyla said. "May I introduce Rodney?" She rested a hand on John's wrist. "And this is his slave, John. They have just joined us. I am showing them around tonight."

"Just getting acquainted," Rodney said in a tight voice. He knew one of the protocols of Ascension was never acknowledging any connection to the outside world, but it still felt bizarre to see Elizabeth Weir of the Mayor's office, dressed in a demure, almost Victorian frock, holding a flogger in one hand, while her partner bent bare-assed over a padded apparatus that reminded Rodney of a gymnastics horse.

Elizabeth's partner made a questioning noise and Rodney realized he was blindfolded.

"Shush, Simon," Elizabeth said.

Simon subsided.

Elizabeth eyed John with a hungry expression. "Perhaps we can get better acquainted." She ran the loose ends of the flogger up John's arm.

John twitched back toward Rodney while Rodney narrowed his eyes at Elizabeth. No way, he thought, would he share John with anyone. Provided John was actually his to share. The rigid muscles under his hand told him pretty clearly that John wasn't interested in getting a spanking from Elizabeth either. Or anything else.

Teyla must have picked up the tension in both of them, because she kissed Elizabeth's cheek and ushered them out again.

"As you see, we have facilities devoted to whatever punishment your slave is in need of," Teyla murmured, showing off several more rooms. "We also have a licensed physician on the premises at all times, if you would care for an introduction.

John caught Rodney's eye and gave a tiny, nearly invisible nod.

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble."

After the check he wrote on arrival, it had better not be too much trouble. At least the membership included both him or John separately. There had been a second option, that allowed him to bring a 'guest', but only in his company. Rodney had paid the extra fee to provide John with access without him. It was going to be hell getting the department to reimburse him.

"Of course," Teyla said. "Janet's a bit of a martinet, but a marvelous doctor. She prefers to get to know everyone here anyway. In fact, before you can make use of some of our more esoteric practices, you'll both need to undergo complete physicals."

"Blood work?" Rodney demanded.

Teyla nodded. "We insist on practicing safe sex at Ascension, but there is always the danger of faulty prophylactics or one of the members becoming too enthusiastic. And, of course, there are those who wish to indulge in blood play. We can't take the chance of spreading any STDs."

Rodney nodded. "That's good. John and I are both tested regularly as part of our professions."

John glared at him.

He ignored that and focused on the matter that had been bothering him since he examined the Red Ribbon Killer's first victim. The drug that had produced the fascinating breakdown products in the bodies.

"What about drugs?" he asked bluntly.

Teyla raised an eyebrow at him. "What about them?" she replied.

"What's your policy on them?"

"We do not offer any illegal drugs for sale at Ascension. The bathrooms stock simple, over the counter remedies such as aspirin and Alka-Seltzer, anything stronger Dr. Fraiser will supply if necessary," Teyla said. "Beyond that, what members bring themselves is not regulated, though once again, illegal substances are not welcome."

"Ah, good, just wanted to get that straight," Rodney mumbled.

After that, they met Dr. Janet Fraiser, who was diminutive and intimidating. Rodney had thought Teyla packed a lot of personality and force into a small frame. Dr. Fraiser was even shorter and had enough attitude to qualify as a pocket Napoleon rather than a pocket Venus. She looked the two of them over and declared, pointing at John, "Vitamins, more sleep, less beer, and think about a massage once a week. You're tense as a violin string." Her gaze settled on Rodney and she added, "Halve your coffee intake, stop yelling at your subordinates, no more donuts and stop hunching over a computer all day if you don't want to have back surgery in the next five years. Also, your cholesterol and blood pressure must be out of sight."

John barely muffled his chuckles as Rodney spluttered at her. "Oh, get them out of here, I don't want to see them unless they've broken something interesting -- " Fraiser declared, waving them out of her office.

Teyla brought them back to the public portion of the club. The flickering lights caught in John's hair and his eyes. He smirked at Rodney for an instant, before reverting to the blank expression he'd been wearing all night. Rodney let himself smirk back as a new song started, the speakers turned so loud he felt the bass in his bones. "Do you like it here?" he asked John.

John cocked his head and shrugged.

"We should dance," he said.

Rodney let John drag him out onto the dance floor and laughed when John plastered himself against him. The noise and ever-flickering lights offered near privacy. No one could overhear them or read their lips. Of course, Rodney had always been a lousy dancer. But he'd seen John on the dance floor at Landry's daughter's wedding and knew John was no Fred Astaire either, so he went with it and tentatively rested his hands on John's hips, while trying to keep a tiny bit of distance and dignity.

"Hey," John whispered, leaning so close his lips brushed Rodney's earlobe. "Aren't you supposed to be my master? Telling me what to do?"

"Yes, of course," Rodney blustered. "I just don't dance with other men often -- at all, I mean -- and I really don't want you punching me after we get out of here."

"I'm not going to punch you for keeping up our cover, Rodney," John murmured. He wrapped his arms around Rodney. Rodney reciprocated and they moved with the music for a while.

"What do you think?" John asked .

"I still think you're right, there's definitely a tie between Ascension and the killer, but I don't think Teyla has anything to do with it," Rodney whispered back. John's head rested on his shoulder and Rodney had his nose in John's hair. He closed his eyes and tried to memorize how it felt to hold John so close, the heat of their bodies bleeding into each other, music driving their heartbeats into matching rhythms. He could smell John's sweat and the shampoo he used, both things he'd never let himself get close enough to notice before.

"Yeah," John mumbled into Rodney's neck, warm damp breath making the hairs at Rodney's nape stand up. He tightened his grip on John and was surprised when John leaned into him and breathed something else, something he couldn't hear, against his neck.

"Time to go meet some more members, I guess," Rodney said reluctantly when the song ended.

John pulled back and nodded, then followed Rodney off the dance floor. He fetched a drink for Rodney and sipped water himself, while several men and women introduced themselves. They weren't very interested in Rodney, which didn't surprise him, but were very interested in John, which also didn't surprise him. He could see Torrell imagining John on his knees, tied up and at his mercy, and men like Sumner or Cowen imagining what it would be like to make John follow their orders, while women like Elizabeth Weir wanted to own him. It made Rodney a little sick to his stomach, comparing that to the way he felt about John. Yes, he thought of John as his, but he didn't want break him down or control him. Where was the fun in that?

He enjoyed a glass of wine with a dark-haired woman in a scarlet dress who introduced herself as Allina and found himself discussing religion of all things, especially the growing popularity of the Origin cult, but found himself wishing John could join in, instead of standing silently at near attention just behind him.

"John," he said.

John stepped forward. Rodney handed him his empty wineglass. "Get me another glass. You can drive us home."

John's fingers brushed his as he took the glass. He glanced at Allina and raised his eyebrows. She waved at her own, half full glass. "No thanks."

After John walked away, garnering more attention as he moved through the crowd, Allina leaned forward. She tapped Rodney's hand. "Don't look, but to your left, that's Kolya. He's had his eyes on your John all night. I don't know if you share or not, but don't share John with him if you give a damn about him."

Rodney didn't look directly, instead finding a mirror along one wall that showed him a tall, intense man with a pockmarked face staring at the bar. A quick glance showed that John was the object of that stare, leaning against the bar top, smiling at the bartender, the glossy black PVC pants Vala had picked out for him showing of his ass and legs. Rodney suppressed a shudder.

"Why's he so bad?" He tried to sound casual.

"Kolya likes to use knives on his...pets. I heard that one of them threw himself off the top of the Proculus Tower after Kolya ruined his face."

"Nice," Rodney commented as John arrived back with his wine. He pulled John in close and turned to stare at Kolya as arrogantly as he knew how. "I don't share," he added, loudly. "And I don't need to mark my slave for him to know who he belongs to. That's for amateurs."

With that, he raised his glass toward Kolya and then took a deep drink.

~*~


John thought it would be hard, faking interest in Rodney, not looking at some of the incredibly beautiful, half-naked women wandering around Ascension. It wasn't.

Not after the dance.

He wasn't much of a toucher. He liked his physical distance, had even before he'd become a cop. He just wasn't touchy-feelly.

He didn't think he'd ever had that much body contact with Rodney before. Aside from training in the police academy or wrestling down a perp, he'd probably never been that close to another man and the circumstances were pretty different.

It had felt...really good. He didn't know what to think about that. It made it easy to stay in close contact, to lean into the solid heat of Rodney's body when he reached out to reel John in closer. He was glad he didn't have to make conversation, because Rodney's hands were distracting him over and over again.

That had started even before the dance floor, when Rodney rubbed his hand up John's back. He'd relaxed so fast he'd shocked himself. Every time Rodney had casually stroked his thumb of John's hip or his waist since, John had wanted to shiver. He didn't know what to think.

He wanted to believe it was just the ambiance of the club getting to him. He didn't think it was, though.

And then there were the looks Rodney kept giving anyone who came to close to John. Stay away looks. Don't touch looks. Possessive, jealous looks. Looks that kept giving John a shameful thrill, because it felt good to be wanted, but better to be cared about, and he knew Rodney cared about him. He just hadn't guessed Rodney cared about him that much. But they were the same damn looks Rodney had given Chaya and every other woman John had dated since meeting Rodney.

John hadn't seen it before. He wished he hadn't noticed it now.

Except he didn't.

He pressed closer to Rodney and closed his eyes as Rodney swept his hand up John's thigh.

He wasn't going to think about it anymore. He had a case to concentrate on. He needed to listen to the talk around them.

~*~


"Whoa, nice outfit, Shep!"

John gave Sgt. Stackhouse the finger as he walked past the front desk of the stationhouse. Lorne looked up from his computer when John dropped into the seat across the desk from him. He blinked and then grinned, sitting back in his rolling chair.

"Nice look. How much do you figure you could make selling it on the street?"

"Enough to pay for your funeral," John replied, logging onto his own computer and starting the report.

"So how'd it go? How'd McKay do?"

"McKay was fine. Some people are sick. I got felt up and at least two offers to pierce parts of me I like whole just fine."

Lorne started laughing.

"So where is the doc?"

"He had to check into the lab. He does have other work besides this case. Just like you do," John answered. He started filling in the form, listing and describing everyone they'd met inside Ascension. He bit his lower lip and narrowed his eyes. Reports were a pain and even computers didn't make them much better. It didn't help that compared to 'I Could Have Been a Secretary' Lorne's touch typing, his own speed verged on hunt and peck.

Lorne kicked his feet up onto his desk and eyed John. "So, I've always figured McKay must be some kind of real genius for you to put up with him -- "

"I don't 'put up' with Rodney."

" -- because he's a real pain in the ass."

John stopped typing for a second and nodded to himself. "Yeah, Rodney's a real pain in the ass, but he's an honest pain. That's why he's here in Antarctica."

Lorne made a 'go on' gesture. John rubbed his nose.

"Back when the Gould crime family was really expanding, Jack O'Neill and Carter had this informant, a gangbanger called Tee."

"Jack O'Neill?" Lorne asked. "The guy that took the job in DC with the Feds?"

"Yeah." John rolled his eyes. He couldn't imagine putting up with the red tape the Feds did. "You want to hear this or not?"

"Hey, sure, keep going."

"The Goulds framed Tee up and got him sent to death row. Carter was doing everything she could think of to get the conviction overturned. She figured she could get the evidence, but not in time. Tee had about four hours left before they gave him a lethal injection." John stopped and thought about it. She'd gone all out for Tee. He kind of liked that about Carter, even if she was a know-it-all the rest of the time. "Anyway, she tried to muscle Rodney into fudging some lab reports so she could use them to get the Governor to stay the execution."

"Oh, boy," Lorne said, sitting up and setting his boots on the floor. "I bet that went over -- "

" -- Like a lead balloon," John finished. "Yeah. Rodney wouldn't budge. The evidence said Tee was guilty, the lab hadn't screwed up and he wouldn't lie."

"So Tee got the needle?"

John shook his head. "Nope. Guy named Quinn showed up with some new evidence at the last minute, O'Neill broke the speed of light getting it in front of the governor, and Tee eventually was cleared." He frowned at the computer screen. "Carter pulled some strings somewhere, don't ask me with who, and got Rodney exiled to the night shift. That was about three years ago."

"The same time you came on," Lorne said.

Sheppard managed a small, tight smile. "Yeah, only I got sent here because no one wanted to work with a guy who had lost three different partners." Holland, Mitch, Dex Dixon. He'd been an absolute mess when he came on the night shift and there were three cases he'd have fucked up royally if Rodney hadn't handed him the evidence for the arrests and convictions on a silver platter. He'd never forget that first night. Rodney had stomped into the squad room, grabbed him and dragged him down to the labs, saying, I've got something you need to see, Detective.

Sometime after that, they'd ended up in the habit of rendezvousing at Oma's Diner at their end of their 'day.' John never had been one for following the herd and by the time he heard all the stories about what a monster Rodney was to work for in the lab, or how he'd almost got an innocent man killed, or just that he was obnoxious, arrogant and twitchy, John had already started thinking of him as a friend. It had reached the point now that he felt like something was missing if he didn't get his daily dose of sarcasm, egomania, and sneaky humor.

That hadn't changed after he got assigned Lorne as a partner. He liked Lorne. Lorne was a fine cop and John had never asked how he got assigned to Antarctica, but they just weren't as close as they might have been. A lot of cops, especially the ones who weren't married, were closer to their partners than anyone else. But John's best buddy was Rodney and he couldn't even say why.

"Hunh. Guess four's your lucky number," Lorne said.

John shrugged.

Lorne gave up needling him and John finished his report and took the chance to read the new file on Marin Olles. He shook his head as he went over it. She'd been young, worked for the city chamber of commerce, pretty, and now she was dead. He pulled out the forensics report and began reading. Zelenka, the squirrelly DNA expert who acted as Rodney's second in command of the lab had been doing double shifts and had signed off on it. John sighed in relief. He knew all the night shift people and trusted their work more than the day shift people. They might be misfits and troublemakers, weirdos and wackos, but no one worked for Rodney McKay who wasn't topnotch at their jobs. The day shift people were more presentable, but they were slackers in comparison.

He frowned at the findings in the report. Marin Olles had the same breakdown chemicals in her bloodstream. Zelenka had also extracted what he thought might be a sample of the actual drug. Only it didn't look exactly like a drug.

John picked up his phone and hit the speed dial for the lab.

"What? I'm a busy man," Rodney answered.

"So am I," John replied. "So tell me, what the hell is an artificial enzyme?"

"Oh, you read Zlenko's report."

"I'm looking at it right now."

"Look, this thing is something out of a cutting edge medical research facility, not a meth lab in the back of some redneck's trailer," Rodney said. John could hear his fingers clacking over a keyboard as he spoke. "We need to check if any of the victims is connected to -- Yes. There it is!"

"There what is?" John asked.

"Lydia Dumais worked for ATA - Alternate Technology Associates," Rodney crowed. </i>"It's a biomedical firm founded by Dr. Carson Beckett. They design gene replacement therapies and artificial hormones and enzymes. I'd bet whatever this thing is, it came out of ATA."</i>

"So we need to find out if Lydia Dumais was tied into Ascension somehow."

"Yeah, about that," Rodney said. "If we went in there tomorrow night, maybe I could get into the offices, hack the computers and pull a membership list."

"Fruit of the poisonous tree, McKay," John reminded him. "I want to put this guy away, not see him get off on a technicality."

"Yes, I know," Rodney replied, words spilling out fast and high, "but if you had a list, that told you where to start to find the evidence you need... And, and, you wouldn't even have to see the list. I could just tell you and on the witness stand, you just say you had a hunch, no need to say it's a hunch based on what I said, right?"

"Rodney."

"Okay, okay, we'll just, we'll think about it."

"It's too dangerous."

"But we're going back there tomorrow night, aren't we?"

"Yeah," John said. He didn't want to. The place had made him feel weird. On display, freaked out, dependent on Rodney, and once weirdly turned on. It was out on the dance floor, when he realized they were so close to the same height, close to the same strength, which was just too confusing. Then while Rodney was flirting with Allina, he'd felt... jealous and relieved when Rodney wrapped his arm around John's waist, pulling him close. "Yeah, we need to go back in, maybe ask about your 'friend' Lydia -- who mentioned Ascension to you. Since no one uses last names, you'll have to be careful. Hopefully, I can get a chance to talk to some of the 'slaves.'" He rolled his eyes, a habit he'd picked up from Rodney.

"Okay," Rodney said. "I'll pick you up at your apartment, that way you can dress there."

"Yeah, great, don't remind me," John muttered before hanging up. He didn't bother with goodbye. Rodney never did either. God, those clothes were going to give him hives. He should have ignored Vala and followed Rodney's example, just wearing something that looked good without terminally embarrassing him. He felt like an idiot wearing leather pants.

~*~


"I'm pretty sure I spotted a camera monitoring each play room," Rodney whispered into John's ear. He slid his hand down and squeezed a handful of John's ass through the leather pants he had already had on when Rodney arrived at his apartment. John was all smooth muscle that flexed under Rodney's fingers.

"Your hand is on my ass, McKay," John hissed back.

Rodney leaned closer and murmured, "Just doing my best to make this look real. You should try remembering you're supposed to be my slave. A few 'Masters' wouldn't hurt, you know."

"I guess I'm just a really bad slave," John replied. "Master."

Rodney laughed and said loud enough for Cowen and his companion Sora to hear: "You know what happens to bad slaves, John."

Cowen chuckled. "Try Room Fourteen," he suggested.

Rodney tightened his hand on John's butt cheek. "You know, I think we will. Come along, John."

John didn't say anything while they were in the hall and Rodney said, "Cameras," before he could turn on him once they were in Room Fourteen.

'Bastard,' John mouthed and Rodney had to admit to himself that he was having too much fun with this. Not the master/slave thing so much as just keeping John off-balance. He looked around the room. There were any number of restraints, paddles, blindfolds, dildos, vibrators, and more varieties of whips than Rodney had ever imagined. He spotted a simple wooden ruler and wondered how many kinks could be traced back to Catholic school and corporal punishment from nuns. John was turning and looking around the room with wide eyes, too.

"Calm down, John," he said. If this had been real, if John had really been a slave and Rodney a master, he'd definitely have taken it slow.

"You calm down," John said. "I really don't like being tied up."

That wasn't surprising. Rodney had figured out a long time ago that the laid-back demeanor John projected hid a control freak on par with Rodney himself.

"Well, you don't get a choice tonight," he said. He waved John over to a set of restraints hanging from the ceiling. Rodney checked them over carefully. They were made of butter soft leather and wider than most restraints, which would distribute any pressure over a greater expanse and leave shallower marks. "Hold out your hands," he instructed.

After a beat, John obeyed, but that beat said it all: John was choosing to obey. There was no compulsion that Rodney could use that could force him to submit. Rodney buckled first the right and then the left restraint around John's wrists, snapped them together and attached them to the chain leading up to a pulley near the ceiling. Neatly wound through the chain was a black wire leading to a red push button. Teyla had shown them how it worked the night before. In case of an emergency, where a slave was gagged and couldn't get out a safe word or the master ignored it, the person in restraints could push the button. It sent an alert to the club's security center, insuring someone would come to the room immediately to check on the occupants.

"Nothing nonconsensual is practiced here," Teyla had stated with an underlying steel in her tone. She had shown them rooms where every kink and fetish could be indulged, mentioning that the doors could always be unlocked from inside and that security had overrides and would check each one in the event of a fire or other evacuation situation.

Rodney tucked the emergency button into John's right hand. "Just in case," he said.

"Just in case what?" John asked. They were standing so close Rodney felt the warmth of his breath on his cheek. He smoothed his fingers over the buckles on the binders. He stepped back and found the pulley control, starting the chain tightening, until John's hands were pulled up over his head, just taut enough he still had his weight on his feet.

"Rodney," John said, a warning laced through the syllables.

"I'm just going to snoop around. If you're with me someone will notice. This way I can say I'm teaching you a lesson."

"One you couldn't teach me at home?"

"No handy-dandy restraints with chains there," Rodney said with a grin, then slipped out, keying the door shut behind him

"Watch out for Kolya," John called as it fell shut. "I saw him watching us earlier."

~*~


"So," John said to himself after Rodney closed the door. "I'll just be hanging around."

What had possessed him to let Rodney do this again? He tugged at the chain holding his arms up. Right. He'd been curious. This was supposed to be a turn on?

Because he really didn't like it.

He took his time and really looked around the room. Whips. Who the hell got off on that? Not him. He understood it intellectually, release of responsibility, control, catharsis, endorphins, the whole idea of the internally generated high, but viscerally it freaked him out. He didn't like pain and didn't want to mix it with sex.

Apparently he had an exhibitionistic streak, though, because having people watch him, watch Rodney touching him all evening had got him half hard. Knowing Rodney wouldn't let any of them near him had been the heart of it. Even on display like a piece of meat, he had felt safe. Safe enough to do what he'd never done before and touch back. He'd begun with Rodney's fingers and moved on to tucking his hand beneath the waistband of the gray trousers Rodney wore.

He even leaned in close enough to brush his nose against Rodney's hair once and jerked back once he realized he wanted to stay there.

He'd been a little worried that Rodney's insistence on wearing 'normal' clothes would make him stand out, but Ascension's members wore everything and nothing. There were more people wearing formal evening clothes than musclemen decked out in black leather straps and chaps and dog collars. Rodney's restrained choice had let John wear clothes that clung but covered up everywhere, too.

He tipped his head back and looked at the pulley. Being tied up and left alone didn't make him feel safe, it made his skin crawl. Rodney had definitely taken this unofficial cop thing too far. It bugged John that Rodney was out there, trying to poke around Ascension, without John there with him. Anything could happen.

He could run into that asshole Kolya. Or security. Ronon was a pretty intimidating character.

John curled his hand around the emergency button. The room didn't have a clock and he didn't have a watch. He had no idea how long he'd already been in here. How long should he wait? He shifted his wait from one foot to the other. This could be hard on the shoulders after a while.

And he had a itch, right under one shoulder blade.

The click of the lock opening came as a relief. He was opening his mouth to tell Rodney to let him loose when Kolya stepped through the door, followed by three others.

John jerked at the chain holding him in place and hit the emergency button.

"It looks like your master has been neglecting you," Kolya said, smiling. "That's a shame. Maybe we can have some fun instead."

Part Two
Tags: genre: slash, pairing: mckay/sheppard
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