Author: Jilly James
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis, slight SG1
Pairing(s): John/Rodney, hints of others
Content Rating: NC-17/Explicit
Warnings: References to some canon-level violence
Spoilers: Season One
Beta Thanks: Naelany, who is awesome.
Special Thanks: to Cinna who helped plot this story. I wouldn’t have anything if she hadn’t spent a night brainstorming.
Author Notes: Written for the SGA Reverse Bang, and inspired by the art created by Nonexistenz
Word Count: ~10,400
Summary: People’s soulmarks are disappearing. Carson thinks he knows why, but there’s an anomaly in his data: Rodney McKay.
Inspired by the art created by the talented Nonexistenz. Go check out all the other art. It’s AMAZING.
– – – –
John sat in his newly assigned office going over the proposed members of all the Atlantis Recognizance teams. Dr. Weir had to approve the civilian appointments and John had to okay the military members. He was still getting familiar with everyone’s strengths, so this was as much a learning exercise as a command decision.
A tap at the door grabbed his attention and he looked up to find Dr. Beckett leaning in the doorway looking anxious. “Major Sheppard, we have a–” he broke off and looked around. “A serious problem,” he finished softly. “I need to speak to you and Dr. Weir immediately.”
“Do I need to radio McKay?” he asked as he got to his feet.
“No. Not yet. Just the two of you for now.”
That gave John pause because it was peculiar to exclude the Chief Science Officer. Odds were, any problems they had, they would need Rodney to bail them out. “All right. Let’s find Dr. Weir.”
She wasn’t hard to track down as she was going over supply reports in her office. “Do I need to radio for Rodney?” she asked immediately, and John nearly snorted in amusement at how her reaction mirrored his.
“Nay, lass, let’s discuss it amongst ourselves first.” He took a breath. “After Rodney’s success with the ATA therapy, today we administered it to six others. You both had the list in your email. Three of them were successful, but there was a problem, and I’ve asked them to keep it quiet for now.”
“What’s happened?” Weir asked, leaning forward.
“Their soulmarks disappeared,” Beckett replied.
Weir’s eyes popped open wide and her right hand immediately closed over her left wrist even though it was covered with an intricate leather band. A lot of people chose to keep the name of their soulmate covered until they were mated, and sometimes even after. Or, as in John’s case, they wore the bands so people wouldn’t notice the lack of soulmark.
The doctor continued. “Lieutenant Miller noticed first. He went of off duty, and when he removed his band, he noticed his mark was absent. Rightly he came to see me immediately. I discreetly contacted the other two who had taken to the gene therapy and they checked their marks… they were gone as well.”
“What is your theory?” Weir asked.
Beckett huffed out a breath. “I’ll be honest with ye… I have no mark myself. It’s part of why I developed such an interest in genetics. I wondered why a rare few in the world are denied a soulmate. Of course soulmarks are a very private thing, but they are part of everyone’s medical record.” He shot a look at John.
Having no reason to hide considering the circumstances, John gave a nod of his head, and got an abbreviated one back.
“Shortly after I joined the SGC and began looking into the ATA gene, I entertained the idea that the gene might have something to do with the soulmarks. I’ve never met a natural carrier who has one.”
Weir’s eyebrows shot up and her eyes flicked to John. “Not one?”
“No. But there were anomalies in the data that didn’t seem to fit the theory. But now with the gene therapy, the marks are disappearing! The gene has to have something to do with the soulmarks.”
“What anomalies have you encountered?” John asked, feeling oddly anxious. He thought he’d made peace with the issue of his lack of soulmark, but this was stirring up a lot of old feelings and inadequacies.
“Most notably people who don’t have the gene and also don’t have a mark. If my theory is right, they should have a mark if they don’t have the gene,” Beckett clarified.
“And how many did you encounter who had no mark and no gene?” Weir asked.
“Well, I’ve only encountered the one that I know of for certain, but I have no way of knowing if there were more. Prior to joining the SGC, I did multiple studies on people without marks but I have no idea if they had the gene or no.”
Weir nodded, looking thoughtful. “Who was the one you were certain of?”
“Rodney,” Beckett replied, shocking John down to to his toes. “He’s definitely not a natural carrier, and he never had a mark.”
“So wait,” John interjected, “you’re saying that of all the people on the city right now, with the exception of McKay, everyone who has the gene, whether natural or by therapy, has no soulmark. And every person without the ATA gene has a mark?”
“Aye. That’s what I’m saying.”
“Well, we need McKay here. Because he’s the anomaly in the data and we need to understand if he knows something that’s different about him. We need more people to get the ATA therapy, but they’re not going to do it if it costs them their marks!” And John got it. He’d always felt bereft that he was one of the rare few who missed out on the genetic lottery that gave him a soulmate. If he had that name on his wrist and it were taken away from him, he wouldn’t adjust to it well. They couldn’t ask people to take the gene therapy if it was going to leave their wrists bare.
It was only fifteen minutes before McKay entered looking half distracted and half frustrated. “This is terrible timing, Carson. We’re monitoring power flows and–”
“I’m certain your minions can handle it, Rodney,” Beckett responded. “But we have a problem we’re not going to be able to keep quiet and you’re at the core of the issue.”
“Me? How could I be at the core of a problem? In case you missed it, I fix the problems around here.”
Almost unwillingly, John snorted in amusement, and got the evil eye from McKay for his trouble.
Beckett succinctly outlined the issue and his theories and then everyone waited for Rodney’s response.
McKay was atypically still and quiet. Finally, he huffed and took the cuff off of his left wrist. “Well, looks like my mark is gone, too. I guess there’s no anomaly in your data,” he said, sounding annoyed.
“You’ve had a mark all along?” Weir asked as John and Beckett stared open-mouthed.
“Yes!” Rodney snapped. “Not that it was anyone’s business.”
“Rodney,” Beckett said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Even if you wanted to hide the fact that you had a mark, why didn’t you tell me about it disappearing before I gave the therapy to others!”
“I didn’t notice!” he snapped. “I never look at it, okay? I keep it covered as much as possible, and I don’t care that it’s gone. Is that it?”
John was too startled by the sincere emotional outburst to say anything, and Weir seemed to be in the same state.
“Aye, Rodney. You can get back to your work if you have a need,” Carson said gently.
McKay stormed out of the room. John wanted to go after him and find out what the hell that was about, but he knew now wasn’t the time. It took a beat for him to realize he also had no right to demand that kind of info from McKay anyway.
Blowing out a breath, he looked at Beckett. “So? What now?”
“Now, I have a lot of research to do. And we need to keep this quiet if at all possible,” the doctor retorted getting to his feet. “I’ll keep you abreast of my findings.”
– – – –
Rodney didn’t even start at hearing his voice. He knew Sheppard was behind him. He always knew when Sheppard was close, though he had no idea how or why. He sort of figured it had something to do with the ATA gene, but Rodney only had the experience with Sheppard and not with any of the other carriers. Sheppard’s gene was ridiculously overpowered though.
“Rodney?” Sheppard tried again, stepping up next to where Rodney was leaning on the balcony railing. “Everything all right?”
“Why aren’t you still in the infirmary?” Rodney asked, staring out at the sea.
“I talked Carson into springing me a day early.” Silence reigned for several minutes. “You want to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Wrong?” Rodney asked incredulously. “I had to watch you be killed yesterday.” He reflexively touched his chest. He’d felt oddly crushed when Sheppard had died. Yes, killing him had been the only way to get that creepy alien bug-parasite thing off the Major’s neck, but that didn’t actually make Rodney feel better. “There was nothing I could do.”
“Hey… you did exactly what you were supposed to do. If you hadn’t kept working on the ship, we’d’ve all died.”
Rodney just made a vague grunt.
Sheppard nudged his arm. “Come on… let’s go back. You can watch a movie with me and forget about yesterday and crazy mutant bugs and getting our jumper stuck in the stargate. Besides, if Carson sees me wandering around, he’s going to kick my ass.”
“I knew it,” Rodney groused, but let himself be led away.
– – – –
John was the last to arrive to the meeting with Beckett and Weir. He slid into the chair and reflexively gave his neck a stretch. He was mostly recovered from that crazy alien bug bite, but his neck still felt a bit stiff.
“You okay there, Major?”
“Yeah, Doc. So what’d you find out?”
“Starting with the assumption that you don’t lose your soulmate, I was left with the conclusion that some property of the ATA gene renders the mark invisible. With that in mind, I looked at several markers on the ATA gene, and while there is much we don’t understand about the gene, and I most certainly don’t understand what all these genetic markers even do, I’ve found one of particular interest so far.”
Beckett pulled up some medical/scientific looking stuff that made zero sense to John and pointed at the screen. “Every single person with the ATA gene, whether natural or from gene therapy, has this marker, which has the exact same non-coding DNA segment.”
Weir was looking at the screen intently. “What do you think it does?”
“I think it might be a genetic switch. I think they may have turned the mark ‘off’, if you will.”
“Why would they do that?” John asked.
“I can’t say. Anthropology, or really anyone reading through their historical archives might come across a better answer. I’d dearly love to know, mind you,” Carson added.
Weir shook her head. “We’ve been trying to find some reference in their database to soulmarks or soulmates, but nothing so far.”
“Well, maybe we should search by this DNA segment and see if anything surfaces?” Beckett suggested. Weir and Beckett talked it over for several minutes and she agreed to take on that part of the search herself.
“So, what’s next?” John asked.
“I start checking if there’s a way to turn back on what was once turned off. The problem is that I can’t exactly run tests on mice. Other than trying the new gene therapy on them to make sure it doesn’t kill them, just like before, I won’t know anything about its actual efficacy until I try it on a human test subject.”
“You can test it on me,” John replied.
“No he can’t,” Elizabeth interjected. “I’m putting my foot down about this. No experimental procedures on Dr. McKay, Major Sheppard, or yourself, Dr. Beckett.”
“Why?” John asked incredulously.
“Because the three of you are mission critical at this point. I don’t want to see anyone hurt, but we can’t afford to take you out of commission. Natural carriers will have to volunteer, or it will be one of the three people who took the gene therapy.”
“I agree about McKay and Carson being critical, but I don’t think I’m in the same league,” John returned.
“Major, you’re the only senior officer I have. Your second in command is a lieutenant. And though I appreciate Ford, he is young and inexperienced, and he’s not ready to be the military commander of this mission. The answer is no to you playing lab rat for Dr. Beckett. Now, Carson, how long before you’re ready to do a trial?”
“At least a couple weeks, lass. This is no trivial thing.”
– – – –
“Can I ask you something?”
Rodney rolled his head lazily along the back of the sofa so he could look at Sheppard. “I suppose. Not like I can stop you.” He found himself spending more and more off-duty time with the major, especially after a rough day. It was getting easier and easier to be open the longer he knew the man.
They’d had a rough mission on a planet full of children who thought that in order to protect themselves from the Wraith, they needed to kill themselves before they turned twenty-five. There was a chance they’d made a difference in the future longevity of those kids, but all Rodney could focus on was how tragic and pointless it all was.
Afterward, the entire team had gathered in John’s quarters to watch a movie. Ford and Teyla had just recently left, but Rodney was feeling too lazy to move.
“What’s up with you and your soulmark?” Sheppard asked carefully.
Rodney knew he was making a face, and probably an unattractive one, but he didn’t care. He didn’t even talk about this with his sister, but something about being stuck out here with possibly no way to ever go home made him more inclined to talk about it.
Or maybe it was just because it was John, who Rodney was starting to have ridiculous feelings for. And considering his mark and everything he’d done to avoid it, that was really absurd. “My parents introduced me to my soulmate when I was eleven,” he admitted.
Sheppard make a choking noise. “Excuse me?”
“It was this thirty-two-year-old man and he was creepy as fuck.”
“What the hell?” Sheppard said sitting up straight.
Rodney waved him down. “Don’t worry. I didn’t spent time alone with the weirdo.”
“And that was your soulmate?”
Snorting, Rodney shook his head. “At the time, I was devastated. We’re all raised with these romantic notions of finding your soulmate, but I was eleven and creeped out. And, really, how do you know you’ve found the right one? Just because he’s got my name on his wrist, doesn’t mean it’s me, you know? How many ‘Bob’ and ‘Jane’ combinations are out there? How do you know which is right? If you hate the other person, shouldn’t that be a clue?”
“So you don’t think he was your soulmate?”
Rodney sighed. “My parents introduced me to my soulmate again when I was thirteen. The new one was only ten years older than me. I still couldn’t stand him. He didn’t have an original thought in his head. And he wasn’t the last, either.”
John looked confused. “I know some families put a lot of pressure on their kids to go through those soulmate matching sites and whatnot, but I don’t understand… you were so young.”
“And slipping out of their control already,” Rodney replied cynically. “I was being recruited by colleges when I was ten and proving to be… well, I guess you could say I was already disinclined to follow the path my parents had set out for me. I suppose they thought they could gain some measure of control over me if they ‘chose’ my soulmate.”
“Jesus,” John said on a breath. “What’d you do?”
“Well, I used some money from the trust fund from my grandfather to hire an attorney who sued for my emancipation—which was granted just before I turned fifteen. There were more factors than just the parade of ‘Johns’, but that was the nail in the coffin, I think. Because I was a minor, no one could talk about the case anyway, and then my attorney had everything sealed up under protective orders.”
Rodney hadn’t ever really talked about this, and he was surprised that it wasn’t more painful. “By that point, I was already in college and had been covering my mark with really good makeup. People believed I didn’t have one, and then, like most people, I started wearing wrist bands. I was happier not having a soulmate, and I never regretted it.”
Sheppard was staring at him with his brow furrowed. “A parade of ‘Johns’?”
“That was my soulmark.”
Rodney glared at him.
John held up his hands. “Okay. No need to break out the angry eyes. But wasn’t that weird? Didn’t you wonder with every John you met if this is the one?”
“No. I wanted to be an astrophysicist, not Mrs. John. People find their soulmates and turn into idiots,” Rodney snapped. “I didn’t have the time or patience.”
“You want to stay alone forever?”
“Who said that? People who aren’t soulmates date… they have sex and get married and some are stupid enough to even have children. I’d rather be with someone I’m compatible with and don’t have to hide my work from than spend all my time and energy trying to find the right ‘John’,” Rodney groused, crossing his arms over his chest. To himself, he quietly admitted that he had a pretty good John sitting right next to him. And with them stuck out here and possibly not able to go home, he might put some more thought into that some day soon.
– – – –
John joined Elizabeth and Carson in the conference room for another update on the soulmark situation. They needed to make traction on this because they needed more gene carriers—John needed more pilots—but no one would want to take the therapy if their soulmark vanished. It had already been over three weeks, and most of the the last week Beckett had been distracted by trying to help the Hoffans perfect their cure to Wraith feeding. An effort which had failed abysmally when it began killing the “cured”.
He noticed that Carson was still looking strung out and tired, and not a little defeated when the doctor said, “I have nothing new for you, lass. I haven’t had time since we went to Hoff to address the soulmark issue.”
“Yes, but I have something for you,” Elizabeth responded. “In the Ancients’ logs, we finally found a reference to the soulmarks. As the Ancients began pursuing ascension, it seems they found the notion of seeking a soulmate to be a distraction. The entries on the subject are long and full of justifications, but that’s the essence of it. They created that DNA sequence to block the mark from forming on the skin.”
Carson perked up. “Were there notes about the actual genetic modification or just the rationale?”
“What and how seems to all be there, and I’ve forwarded it to your tablet.”
Not even bothering to say anything, Beckett just got up and left.
Elizabeth gave John a searching look. “When he figures it out, will you take the new gene therapy?”
“Of course,” John replied. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“We’re out here, you may never have the opportunity to find the person. Is it more pain than it’s worth?”
John shook his head. “I’ve always wanted the mark. Not everyone finds their soulmate, I know that, but you don’t know what it’s like to be the odd one out who was cut off from something nearly everyone else has.”
“You’re right, I don’t. I’ve always had my mark, and I can’t imagine not having it. Whatever you do, you will of course have my full support.”
– – – –
Rodney stood on the balcony, looking out of the sea again. He loved nighttime on Atlantis. Everything seemed calm and peaceful. He knew it was an illusion, but sometimes he needed the illusion.
He knew when John was a couple steps behind him and didn’t react when John leaned on the railing beside him. “So that was… weird.”
Rodney snorted. They’d gone to a planet shrouded in this white mist, and thought they’d found a way to dial Earth. Instead, they were put into a kind of coma and into a fabricated reality by the aliens who comprised the mist. The energy of the stargate would have killed the alien entities on the planet, so they’d locked the team into artificial realities instead.
“Something you want to say about what happened in your fantasy world?” John asked. “You’ve been distracted since we got back.”
He most definitely didn’t want to discuss that. There was no way he’d reveal that he’d clung so hard to his fabricated reality because John had been in it. A John who’d had his mark revealed and it had been Rodney’s name. And, Rodney, who’d never been interested in having a soulmate, had been desperately clinging to his fake-life with one.
“There’s not really much to say,” Rodney finally said. “They managed to find some things locked in my head that made staying there… alluring.”
Sheppard blew out a breath. “Yeah. Alluring. That’s one way of putting it.” Rodney found himself wondering just what had been in John’s fabricated reality.
“We still on for a movie?” Rodney asked, wanting to change the subject.
“I’m gonna go get snacks. I’ll meet you in half an hour,” Rodney said, eager to get away. As much as he enjoyed being with Sheppard, after the close time with illusion-Sheppard, Rodney wasn’t eager for conversation.
John listened to Rodney’s footsteps fading away, then took a deep breath and stared out of the water again.
“Hello, Teyla,” he said without turning around.
She stepped up next to him and leaned on the railing, though her posture remained more erect. “I understood your hints to not mention that Dr. McKay was part of your illusory world. It is of course a private matter, but as your friend… are the two of you fated?”
Fated was how the people of Pegasus referred to soulmarks. “Neither of us bear a mark, Teyla,” he said evasively.
“What?” she asked, shocked. “How can this be?”
“Beckett thinks it has something to do with our close connections to the Ancients, some of my people don’t have them. It’s something we hold very private.”
“Of course,” she said quickly and with a lot of sympathy. “And Dr. McKay…”
“That was purely wishful thinking,” John admitted. “So I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d keep that between the two of us.” He’d known all along, surrounded by friends long dead, with a soulmark on his wrist, and Rodney by his side, that it was all bullshit. But damn, if it wasn’t so fucking compelling.
Teyla blinked a few times, then inclined her head. “I shall, of course, keep your secret, John Sheppard.”
“Thanks, Teyla, you’re a good friend.” And right now John wished that he could just get hammered and forget about what he’d been teased with today.
“Though if neither of you are fated, should you not then make your own fate?”
– – – –
John went to his quarters and immediately tugged off his shirt. He was sore and tired and in desperate need of sleep, but his mind was spinning on everything that had happened the last few days. A storm had nearly taken out the city—which they’d had a plan for. At least up until the Genii had snuck onto Atlantis and tried to take over, screwing things up left right and center. The hardest part for John had been the level of danger Rodney had been in. He should have cared equally that Elizabeth was in just as much jeopardy, but he didn’t.
It was ridiculous how much Rodney—melodramatic, brilliant, fussy, sexy Rodney—meant to John. They’d been on the city barely four months, and, in his opinion, that was not enough time for the level of connection he felt to the eccentric scientist. The soulmate possibility wasn’t lost on John. That Rodney had borne the name “John” on his wrist for the majority of his life seemed significant.
As he finished undressing, he wondered what he would do if Carson’s new gene therapy worked—if he suddenly had a soulmark of his own. And, more importantly, if that soulmark read, “Rodney.” Actually, that didn’t require much wondering; he was certain that if he had Rodney’s name on his wrist, he’d be pursuing the man all over the city.
Abruptly, he halted in his nightly ablutions under the staggering realization that he already had that level of interest in Rodney, soulmark or no. Right now both their wrists were bare, but John didn’t think he’d be more interested if that weren’t the case. He couldn’t imagine being more invested in Rodney. He was just letting the soulmate issue get in the way.
Before he could put any serious thought into it, he was back into his clothes and heading for Rodney’s quarters.
When Rodney answered the door, he was in a short-sleeve t-shirt and sleep pants and looking tired, but not asleep. “Major? Is there something wrong?” he asked looking out into the hallway as if a problem might have literally followed John.
“No. Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Yeah. Uh, come in.” He stepped back and waved John inside. The room was clean but also had a fair amount of surface clutter as Rodney clearly brought his work home with him. “What did you need?”
John opened his mouth to try to explain, but nothing was really coming out. Impulsively, he reached out, closed his hand around the back of Rodney’s neck, and drew him into a kiss. Rodney’s lips were soft and luscious but pretty much completely unresponsive. As a matter of fact, Rodney was still as a statue.
Pulling back, John stared down into wide-open eyes filled with incredulity. “Look, I should have said something, but I’m totally gone on you. I came so close to losing you yesterday with Kolya and the storm, and I just–”
Rodney yanked him down into a kiss, cutting off the flow of words. There was no doubt about responsiveness this time. Their tongues met and it was like nothing John had ever known; it was hot and arousing and everything he would expect from a great kiss, but it made him feel whole in a way mere kissing never had before. He groaned into the kiss, grappling at McKay’s back, sliding his hands under the t-shirt and along soft, warm skin.
He found himself being shoved back towards the bed, and their mouths separated long enough for McKay to viciously yank both of their t-shirts off.
“Is this too fast?” Rodney asked breathlessly against John’s lips.
“No… it’s perfect.” In the next instant, he was shoved down on the bed and Rodney straddled his hips before their mouths met again in a furious clash of lips and tongues. There was a sense of urgency that blotted out everything but touch and sensation.
Rodney got up to slip off his pants. John was shimmying his own pants down his hips when Rodney got impatient and yanked them the rest of the way off, followed by his boots and socks. Dull thuds were heard in different parts of the room as the boots went flying.
Then the first press of their naked bodies, hard cocks rubbing together, had them both moaning. “Fuck!” John gritted out when Rodney began a thrusting/circling motion with his hips.
“Okay,” Rodney said agreeably and it took John a beat to catch up.
John didn’t bottom all that often, but he had no hesitation about it now. “Then get on with it, McKay,” he said as he arched up, rubbing against Rodney’s dick.
There was a brief hesitation. “You know we both came out here with a clean bill of health and I haven’t been with anyone since we got here…” he trailed off.
“Neither have I. We don’t need condoms unless you want them.” John had never in his life been willing to forego condoms. He sure as hell had never let anyone fuck him without one. But the idea of Rodney being inside him bare, nothing between them… his cock twitched in obvious interest.
“Nope. Want to feel every inch of you.” Rodney knelt up, pushing John’s thighs apart, and immediately palmed John’s cock, making him shudder. “God, you’re hot… look at you. You’re so fucking gorgeous.” Before John could say anything, a slippery finger circled his entrance, then slowly pushed inside.
And damn if Rodney wasn’t a fucking genius with his hands. By the time he was up to three fingers, John thought he was going to lose his mind, and possibly come too soon. He clamped down on the base of his own dick, fighting off orgasm, even as he rode the fingers in his ass.
“Really?” Rodney asked, sounding delighted.
“You know you’re good, I’m not going to stroke your ego,” John bit out, keeping a stranglehold on his dick because those fingers were… guh!
With a smug little grin, Rodney removed his hand and slicked his cock up, guiding it quickly to John’s hole. Though the urgency had never really left, it had abated briefly—but now it was back in full force as John felt that blunt pressure become a sharp stretch. His eyes rolled back as he grabbed at Rodney’s shoulders. The thick cock filled him perfectly, glancing off his prostate in a way that made his whole body tremble.
Rodney mouthed at John’s neck and jaw as he began to thrust, quickly picking up speed and force. “You’re so fucking perfect,” Rodney whispered.
John wanted to say something, to tell Rodney he felt the same, but he was so caught in the sensations and the connection that he could only grunt his agreement. He pulled Rodney down, tightening his legs around that perfect ass until Rodney was more rocking into him than really thrusting.
“God that’s good,” he finally managed. The shift in position and steady rocking motion had Rodney’s cock pressing against his prostate almost constantly.
“Just good?” Rodney murmured against his mouth.
“Don’t make me come up with adjectives, you asshole. Fuck!” he yelped when Rodney tweaked his nipple on the next rock in. “There’s never been any better. Goddamn. Don’t stop.”
Rodney broke the clutch of his legs and swiftly moved them up over his shoulders so John was almost bent in half. Then he started fucking in earnest, until John came almost violently—the electricity exploded in his body and oddly coalesced in his chest, but he couldn’t focus on it properly. He just rode the intense wave of sensation as Rodney fucked through his own shattering release.
– – – –
Rodney woke and immediately had to flail about for why he was pleasantly achy and, more importantly, why there was a warm body at his back and an arm around his waist. The memories came rushing back, and he was damn glad John had stayed, because he wasn’t sure he’d believe it otherwise.
Despite what people thought of him, Rodney was quite self aware. He knew exactly what he was like and didn’t delude himself, even if he sometimes pretended he did. As brutally honest with himself as he was about his weaknesses, quirks, and foibles, he was just as honest about his strengths. One of the things he knew to be true was that he was a good lover. No one who’d ever been to bed with him didn’t want another ride. The problem was that people he tended to want more with usually weren’t interested in that with him, and the ones who were interested, he wouldn’t waste two words on—sex maybe, but not actual conversation. It had been a frustrating conundrum his entire adult life that he had no problem getting laid, but relationships were a nightmare of incompatibility.
But John Sheppard was something else entirely. John he wanted to keep. Now he just had to make sure John felt the same way. And if this was just sexual compatibility again, Rodney reserved the right to have an epic fit about it.
“Why are you thinking so hard,” John mumbled against Rodney’s shoulder as the arm around his waist tightened.
“How do you know I’m thinking?” Rodney shot back. “I could be basking.”
“Your fingers move when you’re thinking. I got to see basking earlier. You don’t even twitch.”
“Smartass,” Rodney shot back.
“Mmm.” John’s hand slid over Rodney’s hip and palmed his ass. “You have a gorgeous ass.” He pressed his rapidly hardening cock against Rodney’s butt and ground against him. “It’s been driving me crazy.”
“Is this just sex?” Rodney asked bluntly.
John stilled briefly. “No.” He pressed a kiss to Rodney’s shoulder. “But it’s a little hard to think about anything else when your ass is holding my cock so perfectly.”
“Good… so are you going to fuck me now?” Rodney more demanded than asked.
Kisses rained over his shoulders and then John whispered in his ear, “Gonna love you now.” And Rodney was a goner, because that’s exactly what John did. He touched and teased until Rodney was ready to beg. He learned that Rodney’s nipples were deliciously sensitive, and that he didn’t like too much prep.
When John finally slid into him, Rodney felt loved and completely cared for. For all his sexual experience, he’d never tried this position as it was a lot like being held, and seemed oddly more intimate for that. But now he reveled in John’s arms around him while that thick cock moved slowly within his body.
He didn’t know if John Sheppard was the John that had been on his wrist, but that didn’t matter. John Sheppard was the one he wanted, and the only one who mattered.
– – – –
John slid into his seat at the conference table. “So what’ve we got?”
“I believe I have found the way to reverse what the Ancients did to block their marks,” Beckett said with enthusiasm.
“Really? So soon?” John was filled with horribly mixed feelings. A week ago, he’d have been in line to try whatever gene therapy Carson came up with, but now he felt like he had something pretty damn perfect with Rodney and what if this screwed that up?
“I’ve been working on it for several months, Major,” Carson replied with a touch of reproof in his voice.
“Right. Of course. I’m not surprised you found the solution,” John managed, thoughts really not on the current issue.
“When will you be ready to test it?” Elizabeth asked.
“In the next day or two, I’d think. Lieutenant Miller has volunteered to be my first test subject. Since he was treated with the ATA therapy, that’ll be the first test. After him, Sergeant Markham and Dr. Kusanagi have volunteered to test for the natural carriers.”
“One test at a time, doctor,” Elizabeth cautioned. “Until we determine that it has no effect on their ATA gene, only one test subject from the natural carriers.”
“Aye. Of course,” Carson agreed. “Question is, which one? If one of their genes were to be damaged, which can afford the loss of the gene?”
John had a strong opinion on that. “I realize the science department wants to keep as many people who can use Ancient tech as possible, but Markham can always stand in as a light switch, Dr. Kusanagi cannot stand in as a pilot under tactical situations. You’ll need to experiment with non-military.”
Elizabeth thought that through for several seconds, then nodded. “I agree. To be cautious, Markham cannot be treated until we know the therapy works and is safe. He’s too valuable as a pilot.”
“Very well,” Carson replied. “I’d like to point out that I’m a good candidate for the trial. I have the natural gene, but I don’t control the tech as well as Dr. Kusanagi.”
“No,” Elizabeth said sternly. “I’m not even happy with Miko doing it, but I recognize that we need to sort this out. But I am not reversing my decision—not you, not John, and not Rodney.”
“Should we even tell Rodney?” Carson asked.
“Let’s wait until we know more,” John advised. “He’s probably not even interested, but it’s also a sensitive subject.”
Beckett gave him a look. “You know what’s going on with that, do you?”
“I do. I’m sure you know that I can’t say anything else.”
“Nay, lad, wouldn’t ask you to break a confidence. Just happy he’s told someone. There’s no telling what might be rattling around in that head of his.”
– – – –
Rodney slipped into John’s quarters and found himself pressed against the wall, his mouth immediately devoured. The last week with John had been the best of his life. They were trying to be subtle about it, and he was pretty sure they were succeeding. They were still just as snarky with each other, so he doubted anyone suspected anything. Except maybe Teyla. She kept giving him these odd looks he didn’t know how to interpret.
John pulled him over toward the couch, still kissing, and god, did Rodney love John’s mouth. They pulled apart and his clothes were hastily yanked off. But before he could get his hands even on John’s t-shirt, he found himself pushed over the back of the couch and his legs kicked apart.
The rough handling made him groan and go sort of loose and compliant. Yeah, he had a kink. He wasn’t sorry.
Two slippery fingers circled his entrance, then roughly pushed inside. There was cursory prep, then the fingers were gone and the head of John’s thick cock was pressing past the tight ring of muscle. Groaning, Rodney grabbed onto whatever he could reach in order to have some leverage as he pushed back. When John bottomed out, he felt the rough rasp of BDUs on his ass, and he shivered. John was still fully dressed, and damn, if that wasn’t hot.
John’s thrusts were hard and sharp, and hit all of Rodney’s buttons just right. When John moved one hand to Rodney’s shoulder for better leverage to thrust even harder, Rodney’s brain whited out and he came with a muffled shout.
He went completely boneless over the couch as John continued to fuck him until he too came, his hands pressing faint bruises into Rodney’s flesh.
A few minutes later, he was sprawled out over John on the couch, who was still dressed. And, yeah, that was always going to be hot. Even if Rodney’s ass was getting cold. “You okay?” he asked.
“Just thinking about how I could have lost you today,” John replied, pressing a kiss to Rodney’s head.
They’d found a crashed Wraith ship on an abandoned planet and the single Wraith who had been in hibernation had managed to ultimately kill the two other scientists with them. Rodney and John were lucky they survived it at all.
And yeah it hadn’t been good, so life-affirming sex was the order of the day. He was totally okay with that.
– – – –
John actually hesitated at the door to Rodney’s quarters, which was ridiculous. Rodney wasn’t going to lose his mind over John’s news, John just wished the timing were better. But it would be common knowledge soon and he needed to have this conversation with Rodney first.
He finally signaled for entrance and Rodney answered with a frown, but he stepped back so John could enter.
As soon as the door was shut, Rodney said, “It’s a little early. Did we need more life-affirming sex?” Rodney’s lips turned up in a small smile.
John chuckled. Okay, so he got a little grabby and aggressive every time Rodney’s life was in danger. And between the Wraith more than a week ago, and then that stupid nanovirus yesterday that had nearly killed Rodney, John had reason to be grabby. And he had been just last night. Repeatedly. He smiled at the memory.
“Oh, quit looking so smug. What was it, four days ago that I rendered you completely nonverbal, immobile, and almost unconscious?”
“Yeah,” John said with a fond smile. “That was a good day.” The things Rodney could do with his mouth were just too good to give up. Ever.
“So what’s going on?”
“Let’s talk for a minute,” John said a bit evasively.
“We are talking, and I hate conversations that start with ‘let’s talk’. They tend to go poorly for me.”
“Rodney,” John said with exasperation, “just sit down.”
“Fine,” Rodney said with a huff as he sat. “What?”
John perched on a chair. “Carson has been running trials on fixing the problem with the soulmarks. About two weeks ago, he gave his new gene therapy to Lou Miller, and his soulmark came back with no apparent effect on his new ATA gene.”
Rodney was sitting stock still. “And what about the natural carriers?”
“Have you noticed that Dr. Kusanagi has been particularly happy the past ten days or so?”
“Carson gave one of my minions gene therapy without telling me?” Rodney yelped.
“It’s technically medical, and she doesn’t have to tell you,” John countered.
“I’m the Chief Science Officer. I should know about all research, including the test subjects!” But there was no real conviction in his voice.
“And you would have if you hadn’t refused to be involved in the research,” John said gently. “I get it, Rodney, but you had to know this was proceeding without you.”
“So now what?” Rodney bit out.
“Since there was no effect on Miko’s gene, Elizabeth okay’d Carson to treat himself. And what’s going to be hard to hide tomorrow is that Miko and Carson are soulmates. Their name combination is particularly unusual and they’re both rather pleased at the moment.”
Rodney looked like he was sucking on a lemon. “They shouldn’t need that mark on their wrists to know if they are compatible,” Rodney snapped.
“Rodney, they’ve both admitted that they’ve been attracted to one another, but their work doesn’t have them cross paths very often or give them reason to spend time together. Just… Does it matter how they came together if they’re happy?”
“Fine. They want to have marks popping up, makes no difference to me.”
John took a steadying breath. “Elizabeth and Carson want to know if you want the therapy.”
“I don’t need it!” he snapped. “I’ve got you and I don’t need some mark on my arm. I don’t know if you’re the John of some crazy biological destiny, but it doesn’t matter. Because you’re my choice, and I love you. Why can’t that be enough for anyone?”
Breathless, John could only stare. They’d never explicitly said the I love yous before. John knew the feeling was there, it was growing all the time, but words were so powerful. “Rodney…”
“John, are you going to get that gene therapy?”
“Are you asking me not to?” John countered.
“Do you love me?”
John scowled. “Are you doing the ‘if you love me, you won’t do this’ ploy?”
“No. Just answer the damn question.”
“Yes! I love you. What’s your point?”
“What if you get that therapy and the name ‘Susan’ is on your wrist? Then what? Will you love me less? Will you just be biding your time with me until you find a girl or a boy named Sue? Will you leave me because some arbitrary DNA marker didn’t match us up?”
“No, John, when do honest feelings and choice begin to matter more than a biological quirk?”
John ran his fingers through his hair. “I do love you, and I wouldn’t leave you, even for a boy named Sue,” he said with a quirk of his lips. “You’re right, it doesn’t matter what name is on my wrist, because I choose you.”
“But you want to get the mark anyway,” Rodney interjected.
Throwing up his hands, John got to his feet and started pacing. “I understand you have issues and bad feelings around your mark, but I’ve always felt disconnected from everything because I didn’t have one. You don’t know what it’s like to be so unlike everyone around you in such a fundamental way. I don’t care about some abstract person the mark represents. I just…” he trailed off, not even sure how to articulate it.
“I’m asking you not to,” Rodney said. “I’m asking you not to risk us, because if it isn’t my name, how will I be able to keep you?”
“Because I’d choose to be here,” John snapped. “I need to think about this. Give me a couple days.”
But John just left.
– – – –
John looked up from his paperwork. “Hey, Carson. Come on in. Wait, I thought we were meeting with Elizabeth in an hour?”
“We are, but I’d like a private word first,” he replied as he took his seat. “I’ve treated all the gene therapy carriers to reverse the soulmark problem, except for Rodney, which I understand. But I’ve also treated all the natural carriers, with 100 percent success, except for you—who had been enthusiastic. Care to tell me what’s troubling you, lad?”
“I’m just trying to decide if it’s right for me,” John replied evasively.
“Right? In what sense?”
“Maybe it’s better to choose who you’re going to be with…” he trailed off.
Carson frowned. “You want to tell me what’s really going on?”
John made a face. “What if you really want one person’s name to be on your wrist, but then you find out that that’s not who it is? That’s irrevocable, right? Once you know, you know.”
Cocking his head to the side, Carson stared at John for several long moments. “Oh, lad… Not all soulmates get on. If you get someone like say Rodney’s name on your wrist and he makes you tear your hair out, you move on. We don’t like it, but it happens.”
Wincing, John just looked away.
“Oh, dear… I’m afraid I didn’t see that coming. You want to be Rodney’s soulmate?”
“And if I do?” John said challengingly.
“I think you’d do well together.” Carson’s eyes narrowed. “But I suspect you already know that. How long?”
John blew out a breath. “Since the night after we saved the city from that storm, but we were dancing around it before then. The thing is, he doesn’t want me to get my mark revealed.”
“Well, all due respect to Rodney, he can’t make that choice for you. Soulmarks are an intimate, personal thing. Even if we never find the other person, or choose to walk away from them once found, they’re part of our tangible connection to the human race—to another being who should be compatible with us. Life circumstances can hinder that compatibility, but in theory, they represent a connection to something beyond ourselves.”
“But if I’d choose Rodney no matter what, why bother?”
“John, only you can make that choice. And Rodney knows what his mark says, so you’re on an unequal footing. Whether he had a good experience with his mark or a bad one, he still had the mark. He has that experience and that connection. I understand why he’d ask you not to, but it has to be your choice.”
“The thing is, I believe Rodney is my soulmate,” John blurted out, realizing the truth of it as he said it. “I truly do believe that. I feel so connected to him, even before, when I should have just found him weird and annoying. How could anyone else be for me considering how I feel?” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Okay, we’ve wandered into overshare territory. Sorry.”
“Nay. You need to talk this out with someone objective who knows the both of you. But, John, only you can know what’s right for you. Not me, not Rodney.” Carson hesitated for a second. “Let me ask you this… If you knew that the name on your wrist would be Rodney, would you get the mark or no?”
“Yes,” John replied without hesitation.
“Because it’s his mark… it’s the representation of him, and I’d want to wear that on my body for the rest of my life.”
“I wish life came with guarantees, John, I truly do.”
– – – –
Two days later, John knew he could no longer put off talking to Rodney. Plus John had made a critical error and he had a feeling he was going to pay for it with that which he had come to value most.
When Rodney opened the door, John asked, “Can we talk?”
Rodney stepped back and gestured for John to enter. “What did you decide?” he asked without preamble.
“Rodney… Damn. I believed with everything in me that you were my soulmate. I’ve felt so connected to you since we met and I never want to be with anyone else. Nothing has changed.”
“But you got your mark and the name wasn’t mine,” Rodney said woodenly.
“No, it wasn’t.” The black leather cuff around his right wrist was no longer hiding his lack of mark, but damning evidence that some quirk of fate said he wasn’t destined for Rodney. “But it doesn’t matter. My feelings aren’t any different, Rodney, just like I knew they wouldn’t be! You’re the one I want to be with.”
But Rodney just looked away. “I need you to go.”
– – – –
Rodney was an idiot. Certifiable. He’d been so angry at John for getting his mark revealed that he’d pushed him completely away and refused to talk about anything personal for weeks now. He’d been stuck in being angry, and he’d assumed there’d be time. Time to talk, to make things right, to let John really choose to be with him again. They continued to work together and Rodney knew John wasn’t happy, but work was all Rodney had allowed them. Still, he’d been wavering about staying apart, and, really, only stubbornness kept him from fixing the problem.
But then the Wraith had come and they were trying to take Atlantis, and Rodney was wishing he’d talked to John before now and fixed it. Because one of them could die at any moment and things weren’t settled between them.
He was trying to get the control chair working so John could remote pilot a jumper to one of the Wraith hive ships and set off a nuclear bomb. But it wasn’t working and he just needed a few more minutes, he was absolutely certain. But suddenly Sheppard said, “Goodbye, Rodney,” and jumped out of the chair.
“John!” Rodney called after him, trying to get him back. He just need a few more minutes, dammit!
He tried radioing for him, but got no response, and Elizabeth told him to come to the control room. When he got there, he thought they were going to begin an evacuation, but then he realized John was manually piloting a jumper up to the Wraith ship.
“You know, if this works, somebody might have to do it again,” John’s voice came over the comms.
“Understood,” Elizabeth replied.
“No, not understood,” Rodney snapped. “John, what the hell are you doing? Get your ass back down here!”
“I can’t, Rodney.” John’s voice sounded strained. “Someone has to do this.”
“John,” he said pleadingly, not caring about the looks he was getting.
“This is my choice, Rodney. You were right about choices being the most important.”
Rodney felt like his heart was constricted and he could barely breathe. “Please don’t leave me like this,” he whispered, not caring that everyone could hear him. He felt Carson’s hands settle on his shoulders.
It was silent for a second before John replied, “We picked a horrible time to make up. But I love you. That never changed. I have to do this… as much for you as for everyone else.”
“You’re such an asshole,” Rodney sniped.
“Yeah, I am. Now tell me you love me, and promise me you’re going to focus on saving the city and not on listening to what’s going on here.”
“Damn you,” Rodney said, feeling choked up. “I promise.” He swallowed and forced the words out. “I love you, John.” He spun away from the screen showing John’s progress toward the hive ship and found Elizabeth staring at him in horror.
“Rodney,” she whispered.
“Let’s activate the self-destruct,” he snapped, refusing to do anything but focus on the problem. He always focused on the problem.
When the hive ship blew, Rodney felt like everything he valued in life was gone. Even if they survived and saved the city, how the hell would Rodney go on from this?
But then suddenly John’s voice was on the radio. “Atlantis, this is Sheppard.”
“John?” Elizabeth asked as she looked at Rodney who was too stunned to function. His heart was beating in an erratic rhythm and he had to force himself breathe normally.
“What other Sheppards do you know? You okay, Rodney?”
“How?” he managed to get out.
“I’ll tell you all about it when I get home and we can finish making up.”
Rodney managed to get himself together. “You should be so lucky!”
– – – –
John’s very timely rescue by the Daedalus was greatly appreciated, but he was more than happy to be back on Atlantis. This was home. Elizabeth immediately sent him off to see Colonel Everett, but John detoured until he found Rodney and Teyla.
He knew he could only indulge for a second, but he pulled them into a room, and Teyla gave him a smile before she turned her back. Rodney was looking at him like he wasn’t sure John was real—he looked wounded and vulnerable and then suddenly he was in John’s arms.
John held on for the very few minutes they had, not caring about anything that had gone on before. The only thing that mattered was right now. “That was too close,” he whispered against Rodney’s temple.
“Don’t ever do that again, you crazy bastard,” Rodney retorted.
“I have to go see Colonel Everett,” John said reluctantly.
Rodney held on a little tighter. “As soon as possible, I expect you in my quarters for some life-affirming sex.”
“Yes, sir,” John said on a chuckle.
“Go… kill Wraith. I’ll be waiting for you.”
– – – –
John was exhausted. Now that the city was once again Wraith-free, he could finally go in search of his heartmate. Because that’s what Rodney was. Maybe they weren’t destined, but that didn’t really matter. And, yes, everyone on base and on the Daedalus knew about them now, but John didn’t care. They’d both survived this damn siege, and somehow made up in the process, and that was all that mattered.
Normally, John was aggressively all over Rodney when they’d had a brush with death, but as much as life-affirming sex had appeal, it was pretty much only intellectual appeal at this point. The body was too exhausted for anything that wasn’t on the direct route to sleep.
When Rodney opened the door to his quarters and pulled John inside, he finally felt like he had truly come home. The door had barely closed before he was yanked into Rodney’s arms, and it was perfect. They stood together for a long time just holding on to one another. Eventually they pulled apart. Knowing Rodney was just as tired as he was, they showered together quickly, then fell into bed.
Despite their exhaustion, they lay face to face, just gently touching.
“You went on a suicide mission,” Rodney whispered. “And you expected me to listen to you die.” His voice was tight and wavering.
“I’m so sorry, baby…” John murmured as he pressed his lips against Rodney’s. “It had to be done, and I couldn’t ask someone else to do it.”
Rodney made a little choked sound and John pulled him closer, not surprised that this was when Rodney would break down. He always let himself be most vulnerable in the dark.
John’s fatigue was forgotten as he held Rodney. Gentle, reassuring kisses turned deeper and more impassioned. Eventually, he pulled away from Rodney’s lush mouth and trailed kisses along his jaw and throat.
He loved how sensitive Rodney’s nipples were and spent several minutes teasing them. Normally Rodney would have cursed him out for the focused attention, but tonight he just twisted and arched and whimpered.
Eventually, he moved on, lower, until he had wiggled down the bed and Rodney’s thick, heavy cock was right in front of him, straining and hard. He took it in hand, licked a stripe across the head, earning a groan and a twitch from Rodney.
He could feel the physical fatigue pulling at him, but there was really nothing he wanted more than Rodney’s cock in his mouth. Slipping the head past his lips, he teased it with his tongue, before working more of the thick shaft into his mouth. He had more of a gag reflex than Rodney did, so he kept his hand at the base as he began to work his mouth on and off Rodney’s cock.
He palmed the sensitive balls with his other hand, stroking the tender area behind. The telltale trembling began to suffuse Rodney’s body as John pulled him swiftly toward orgasm.
Rodney came with a sharp jerk of his hips, and a whimpered, “John.”
And John swallowed every bit of cum as it spilled into his mouth. After giving Rodney a moment to recover, he let the smooth flesh slip from his mouth, giving a last lick to the head, and getting a full body shudder for his efforts.
A few seconds later, Rodney pulled him back up the bed and kissed him, sliding his tongue aggressively into John’s mouth. The man was such a freak about kissing John after John had blown him. And it was a kink John didn’t mind at all.
When Rodney slid down the bed, John tried to stop him. “I’m too tired, Rodney. The mind is willing, and all that jazz.”
Rodney just snorted and seconds later, he pulled John’s half-hard cock into his mouth completely and abruptly. John yelped in shock, and quickly his cock completely filled out. Rodney immediately began deep throating him. And John saw fucking stars. It was the shortest, most aggressive blowjob of his life, and when he came, he shouted Rodney’s name.
He couldn’t move when it was over, their efforts at reconnecting physically and the orgasm having taken what little energy he had. All he cared about was that Rodney was draped over him and that they were going to be okay.
When he woke, it was barely light out. They’d shifted position and he was curled up behind his mad scientist. He could feel Rodney tracing his fingers over the cuff on John’s right wrist. “Please don’t let that come between us,” John whispered. Rodney gave a start of surprise and John held on a little tighter. “Please, Rodney.”
“I won’t, John.” He sighed. “It’s just… until you knew, I could pretend that the John on my wrist had been you, you know? I truly don’t care about the soulmark anymore, because you’re all I want. But when I was younger, despite how much I came to hate the mark, I dreamed of finding my true soulmate one day. I know it was romantic silliness.”
“It’s not silly… It’s part of who we are as a people. As a species. Several galaxies over.” He stroked his hand gently over Rodney’s chest.
“I guess. I just liked thinking that part of me, that stray bit of DNA, was about you.”
“You think I didn’t want that, too? I didn’t care about the soulmate when I got the mark, Rodney… I just wanted it to be you. I wanted to wear your mark for the rest of my days.”
“I get it. I’m sorry I was such an ass.”
“We both made mistakes. I just want to know that this,” he waved his right wrist, “isn’t going to come between us.”
Rodney grabbed the wrist in question. “So it’s the right wrist, huh? I kind of thought it was. You cover them both so I wasn’t sure. I didn’t think I wanted to know, but I think I have to. I’ll go crazy with every person you meet if I don’t.”
“Rodney,” John said cautiously.
“No, seriously, John. If I know, then I can freak out on hopefully rare occasions. Please don’t let the name be Robert or William, that’s just way too common. But, you know, if it’s Eugene, I’ll just save being neurotic for those isolated instances when there’s some guy named Gene around, and not for all the time,” Rodney rambled.
“It’s not even a man,” John replied on a sigh, knowing he was going to give in. “Which is kind of weird, because I’ve always leaned heavily toward men.” He rolled Rodney on his back and braced himself over the love of his life. Damn, but he’d missed this. “But, Rodney, I need you to know something, it doesn’t matter how many Merediths I meet, I’m never going to choose one over you.”
Rodney froze as his eyes opened wide, then he was suddenly nearly wrestling with John and yanking at his wrist cuff like he found it personally offensive. Finally, he was peering at the mark and staring with his mouth open.
“What the hell, Rodney?”
“My first name is Meredith,” he whispered.
“What?!” John yelped, thinking he’d misheard.
“M. Rodney McKay. Meredith Rodney McKay.”
John was still trying to absorb that when he found himself flat on his back with Rodney hovering over him, dropping kisses all over his face. “You are so perfect. Perfect for me. You always were. And even if for some reason that’s not me, I don’t care. You’re mine.”
But John knew it was Rodney. He’d been so sure before, and then been so stunned when “Meredith” had appeared on his wrist. But that was his Rodney. His Meredith, apparently. He planned to give Rodney hell for leaving that piece of information out.
First, though, some aggressive life-affirming sex.
And then some make up sex.
Extra make up sex.
He was pretty sure he’d get around to mocking Rodney’s name in a few days. A week at most.
– – – –