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Summary: In a different world, not all sexual relationships between military personnel are forbidden. Slightly cracky AU, spoilers up to Duet.

Categories: Slash Pairings > McKay/Sheppard, Slash Pairings > Multiple relationships
Characters: John Sheppard, Rodney McKay
Genres: AU - Alternate Universe, Humour
Warnings: Adult themes
Chapters: 1 [Table of Contents]
Series: None

Word count: 7926; Completed: Yes
Updated: 13 Sep 2008; Published: 12 Sep 2008

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Story Notes:
This fic was originally inspired, a long time ago, by an icon (http://p-userpic.livejournal.com/69353061/1309471) by ellymelly. This fic is also the first one I've written about this pairing, and my first one in over a year, so any feedback would be awesome. A big thank you to kimberlyfdr for the sharp-eyed beta!


John leaned on the wall outside General O'Neill's office, trying not to look as impatient as he felt. Sure, he was a little early for his appointment, but McKay had been in there forever, and they still hadn't reached a consensus. Either the General was really bad at talking scientists into doing things or McKay was the most frustratingly stubborn man on Earth. Having cautiously listened by the open door for the last ten minutes, John was starting to lean towards the latter option.

"– still doesn't mean I want to do it," McKay was saying. "Just because Colonel Carter decided to join the military on top of being a somewhat adequate scientist, and likes putting herself in harm's way, does not mean I should, too!"

"But this is a whole new galaxy, McKay! Galaxy! Who knows how much new and undiscovered technology there is? Come on; you can't tell me you aren't interested."

"In the tech – of course I am! But I happen to be even more interested in staying alive!"

There was a soft bang and a heavy sigh.

"Alright," said O'Neill after a pause. "How about this, then? You volunteer for the Atlantis expedition, and when you get there – if you get there – you won't have to go on missions."

Dubiously, McKay asked, "But I'd still be in charge of the city?"

"You'll still be the Chief Science Advisor," O'Neill said. "In charge of keeping the city up and running, yes. Dr. Weir will be in charge of the whole expedition; you'll be her second in command from the civilian side."

"And what about all the tech that gets discovered by the gate teams?"

"They'll bring it back to the city and drop it right down at your feet," O'Neill promised.

John shifted his weight from one foot to the other, glancing at his watch.

McKay's voice was skeptical when he said, "I don't know. It still sounds a lot like Siberia, if you ask me."

"It will be nothing like Siberia," O'Neill said. "I swear. You'll have minions, and tons and tons of alien tech, and we'll keep you fed and clothed, and you will never even have to leave the city."

It wasn't like that was a promise O'Neill could necessarily keep. They were talking about a whole new galaxy; who knew what was out there? They might be forced to abandon the Atlantis base in the first week for all they knew. But, John reasoned, if the expedition needed McKay, and that was what McKay needed to hear, well – if they all died horrible deaths, it wasn't like McKay could come back and have O'Neill's head for it.

McKay didn't say anything, but something must have shown on his face, because O'Neill cajoled, "Come on. Food and tech. Tech and food. What else could you possibly want?"

There was another pause, a long one, and after a while even John started to feel uncomfortable. He replayed the last bit of the conversation in his mind and then wanted to thump his head hard on the wall behind him. Fucking Christ, of course it would come to this.

"Well," McKay said, so casual that even John could hear he was faking it, "there is of course one more thing..."


+++


Article 69 dictated that it was possible for high-ranking officers and the civilians on the US Military payroll to make a contract that gave them a carte blanche to sleep with the lower-ranking military personnel.

Originally, it was to keep the men in charge from going crazy in war zones. In more modern times, it was used to motivate people to climb up the ladder, or to work for the military as civilian contractors.

The catch was that it was supposed to be mutual. No soldier could be forced to have sex with someone. They were heavily encouraged to do their duty, of course, but it was the one command they were allowed to say no to. This was done for equality – so that there would never be soldiers so pretty that they only worked as some sort of sex slaves. Everything had to be consensual. The lower-ranking officers were supposed to enjoy it, too. There were also all sorts of black lists and other failsafes that helped keep things under control.

These days, Article 69 was not terribly widespread, but it wasn't uncommon, either. And if modern societal norms frowned deeply at the mere idea of it – well, in some cases, the US Military was a bit of a backwards place. There was pressure to have it removed, but so far, it was still there.

John was pretty enough to have been ordered to fulfill that part of someone's contract many times in his career. He didn't mind, exactly – it wasn't like he'd had many long-term partners, and it was an easier way of getting rid of some extra tension than picking someone up at a bar. If someone grew too fond of him, though, to the point where they started requesting only him, then it had gone too far. But as long as he was no one's toy and it was a mutually satisfactory arrangement, he had no problem.

For the Atlantis expedition, the Air Force had tried to attract the brightest people on the planet. Since half the members were civilians with the option available to them, John couldn't help but wonder how many of them had Article 69 written on their contracts. When he found himself in General O'Neill's office a week later, discussing the role of the USAF in the expedition, he tried to find a subtle way of bringing the topic up.

But then O'Neill said space ships and John completely lost interest in Article 69 and thought of nothing but speed so great it felt limitless.

"Yes, sir," John said, in response to O'Neill's query about whether John thought he could handle flying a space ship. He didn't say he could fly just about anything, because that might have come across as too cocky, and he had a feeling O'Neill wasn't impressed by overconfidence. Instead, he said, "I'm used to flying, and I do have the gene."

"Right," O'Neill said and thumped a huge pile of paper on the desk. "We know something about the Ancient technology when it comes to spacecraft. You may want to take a look at these files before you go."

Well, that was John's last two weeks on Earth sorted. "Yes, sir," he said.

"You'll have oh so much fun with it all, I'm sure," O'Neill said, and eyed the pile a little warily himself.

John just sighed. He hadn't exactly joined the Air Force for the paperwork.

It was at that moment that a blur of movement entered O'Neill's office, saying, "My schedule for the next two weeks is ridiculous. It's about enough work for two months. And that's not counting the calculations I need to make – oh, er. Sorry. I didn't realize you were busy."

It was McKay, whose eyes locked onto John with a gleam that John found rather scary. Sometimes people looked at him like he was a piece of meat, and, okay, that didn't happen as much as before, but the point was that John was used to that. McKay, however, looked at John like John was a piece of a delightful puzzle, or maybe a million dollar check. Like John was something he could use to meet some other goal entirely.

"Dr. McKay," O'Neill said, and even though it was completely unnecessary, added, "You remember Major Sheppard?"

"Oh yes, yes," McKay said.

McKay sure remembered him. McKay had been chasing around after him in the corridors to get him to touch this piece of technology or that flat metal thing that McKay theorized was actually a weapon. John wasn't sure why McKay was always going after him and never bugging O'Neill, who also possessed a strong Ancient gene, but he supposed it was because O'Neill was a General. That, or it had something to do with the Siberia thing.

O'Neill, who seemed to take odd pleasure in McKay's focus on John, as well as John's faked indifference over the matter, put his clasped hands casually on the desk next to the monstrous pile of paper. "So, what can I do for you, Doctor?"

"Right, er – as I was saying, it looks like this is my last night here with any spare time at all, and I, uh...I was hoping maybe the terms of my new contract would already be valid." McKay glanced at John, but this time he looked a little secretive, a little embarrassed.

"Uh huh," O'Neill said, his face blank. Then realization dawned and he said, "Oh, right. Article 69."

McKay fidgeted and glanced at John again. John made sure his expression remained impassive. None of his business what the CSA had in his contract.

"Right, right," O'Neill said, and brought up more papers from a drawer. He spent a long, quiet while shuffling them around, looking for the right one. Finding what appeared to be McKay's personnel file, he said, "No preferences?"

McKay cleared his throat, lifting his chin. "Easier that way," he said, a little defensively.

"Right," O'Neill said again, and looked through the pile of the rest of the personnel files. He pulled one out, and John was slightly horrified to catch a glimpse of his own photo on it.

He already knew what the file said about him.


Willingness to execute Article 69: On an individual basis.
Preferences: None.


In other words, John was just as suitable a candidate as anyone else, even if his rank was a little on the high side. Also, he was sitting right there, which made him convenient.

Predictably, O'Neill looked up. "Major?"

"Er," John said, and looked at McKay, who apparently hadn't caught on yet. He was standing there, tapping his foot, looking nervous.

McKay was impatient and rude and belittled almost everyone around him. He wasn't in top shape, and he was wearing the basic science uniform that didn't look exactly squeaky clean. The line of his mouth was crooked, and he treated John like John was another one of his scientific tools.

On the other hand, McKay was one of the most intelligent men on the planet. He had beautiful eyes and quick hands. He was the one whose expertise might yet help John fly a space ship, if they actually found one in Atlantis. He was solidly built and thorough in everything he did.

"Yeah," John said. "Okay."

"Alright," O'Neill said and waved his hand in a way John had come to interpret as 'dismissed'. "Don't forget your papers."

John got up from his seat, nodding, and gathered the pile in his arms. McKay said, "What? What did I miss?"

"No preferences, right? So tonight, I'm all yours. You can have someone else next time." John exited the office, and when McKay failed to follow him, called over his shoulder, "Are you coming?"

McKay caught up with him halfway down the hallway. "This is it? This is what I had to do to get to spend some time with you? I have been trying all week to catch you at a time when I could make use of that gene of yours, and this is how I get you?" He lowered his voice to a hiss as John pressed the elevator button. "For sex?"

John fought against a delighted grin of irony and said simply, "Yep."

McKay was clearly torn. He hopped from one foot to the other, pressing his hands together. The elevator pinged and John stepped in, McKay following behind.

The ride up was surprisingly comfortable. McKay was still fidgeting, but John was actually starting to enjoy winding him up.

"Which way is your room?" John asked.

"It's, it's right through there," McKay said, gesturing vaguely, and caught up quickly when John strode determinedly in the given direction. "But, uh, I was – the Ancient technology is incredibly complicated, and if –"

"This one?" John said, slowing down at the only door in that particular part of the hallway.

"Yeah," McKay said, but made no move to dig up his key card. "See, if you could just find some time to come down to my lab and use that gene of yours on a few pieces of technology we might have all sorts of breakthroughs."

John gave him a look, half-exasperated, half-indulgent. "Are you going to open the door?"

"Huh? Oh, right," McKay said, patting his pockets. He slid the key card through the slot and the door clicked open.

Determinedly, John opened the door even with his hands full of papers and walked in. He put the pile down in the middle of the desk, where it stood out from the existing mountain of paperwork only because it was the one pile that was even relatively organized. In the corner of the small room, there was an open suitcase with clothes, both civilian outfits and science team uniforms, thrown haphazardly over it.

McKay had a pretty nice-looking bed, too – a queen. Either McKay had bitched enough to be given a nice bed, or it had been done because of his new contract, or O'Neill had just wanted to avoid the pandemonium. John was unsurprised; he'd just known McKay would be one to get special treatment. It was the reason John had decided to head straight for McKay's room instead of his own. That, and his appreciation for keeping his own privacy.

McKay followed John, the door closing behind him. "Look, if you've got time now," McKay said, "I mean, we could just go to my lab and run some tests on the tech."

Taken off-balance, John turned around. "You'd rather use me as a human on-off switch than have sex with me?" he asked, incredulous.

"Well," McKay said. And that was when the litany truly started. "I mean, don't take this the wrong way, you're not bad-looking, even if your hair is a little – anyway, I'm sure you're great in bed. I'd love to have you – I mean, not have you, but I'd really like to, er, sometime, later. But right now I've got a lab full of bits and pieces and I can't even begin to put them all together – well, I can, but it's time-consuming. I just, it would be so much easier if I – if you – if someone could turn them on for me. We learn so much more every time. And everyone is doing their part, but we only have a handful of gene-carriers, and you know how special your gene is, how precious it is to the expedition –"

"McKay," John interrupted. "I'm not insulted."

He wasn't. As a matter of fact, he was oddly pleased. He hated nothing more than the Generals or civilians who thought they deserved to have sex with everyone on the base just because they had a particular clause in their contracts. In truth, it didn't work that way. The idea behind Article 69 was that it was a bonus, a way of stress-relief, an afterthought. And, if McKay was genuinely more interested in one of John's genes than his cock, well. McKay obviously wasn't one of those people who took the clause too seriously.

"Oh, good," McKay said, sounding relieved. "So, uh...should we go?" He pointed at the door, looking hopeful.

"I'm not insulted," John repeated, "but...I'm not some sort of prostitute. You're not paying me by the hour. I'm not here to spend time with you. Article 69 dictates you're allowed to have sex with whoever General O'Neill pairs you up with. Tonight that is me. If you decide you don't want to have sex with me, then I'll leave."

McKay looked half-embarrassed, half-annoyed. He opened his mouth, presumably to protest, but then changed his mind. He said unhappily, "I didn't think you were a prostitute."

He was flushed, embarrassed, and his mouth was crooked but tight. Standing there with his chin up and arms crossed in front of him, he looked surprisingly appealing. The front McKay was putting up was clear as day, and John wanted to break it all down and see more of the softer side of him.

"Come here," John said, sitting down on McKay's bed and bouncing lightly on it.

Slightly awkward but not unwilling, McKay obeyed, sitting down next to him. They weren't sitting close together, so John figured he might as well take advantage of the distance and started with single-minded focus taking McKay's jacket off. By the time he'd got the article of clothing wrestled off McKay's shoulders and had his hands pressed against the t-shirt-clad chest underneath, McKay was staring at him with a new sort of interest in his eyes.

Leaning forward, McKay cupped John's face and kissed him, soft and wet and wonderful, and John responded with enthusiasm, because not everyone in this situation was willing to kiss.

To be fair, not everyone in this situation had McKay's skill, either. Few ever did, John concluded distantly, as he let himself get lost in the sensation of a pair of soft, warm lips brushing against his own. McKay's tongue slipped shallowly into his mouth, the kiss turning hard but remaining unhurried, and John felt himself hardening.

McKay's hands were everywhere, and John was naked before he fully noticed. They had sex like that; it was fast, intoxicating, surprising. For all the selfishness he presented while working, McKay turned out to be very considerate in the bedroom. For all his general awkwardness, McKay made sex easy.

It had been a long time since any sex he'd had was so profoundly good, John mused with the last tiny functional portion of his mind, while the rest of him still sparkled with the sense memory of one hell of a good orgasm. There was a chance he might not mind being conveniently there in the future when some higher-up paired McKay off with military personnel.


+++


By the time they had got to Atlantis and things had begun to settle down – as much as they were likely to settle down in the near future, given that there were space vampires around – everything had changed.

John, a mere Major in the Air Force, was now in charge of a whole bunch of Marines. The city they had come to inhabit was floating in a huge sea, more beautiful than anything most of them had ever seen. They had made friends with some of the Pegasus natives, and a lot of their own people had died. It was bittersweet.

After all that, John didn't think it was much of a stretch to talk McKay into changing his contract. The thing was, McKay was obviously the best scientist they had, and John wasn't about to let an asset like that go to waste, huddled up in the city. They needed him out there in the field.

"Completely ridiculous!" was McKay's take on his suggestion. "Never going to happen!" He banged around in his lab, working on at least three different computers almost simultaneously.

"Oh, come on," John said. "The city is practically defenseless. It's literally no more dangerous out there than it is in here."

"There are Wraith out there, Major," McKay snapped. "Every time you go through the gate, there's a possibility you're walking right into a trap."

"Which is why we have MALPs," John soothed. "Come on. You know as well as I do you would be brilliant in the field. Some weapons training, a good team, you'll be great."

"No," McKay said. "I was promised a relatively safe working environment. I am not going to go on missions with one of your moronic junior Marines."

"But this city is no longer a safe working environment," John said, cajoling. "And I'll make sure you get a good team." He thought about it; what else could he offer McKay? "In fact, you should join my team. Me, Teyla, and Ford, we'll have your back."

McKay stopped spitting fire at John, but still looked dubious. "You think you can protect me?"

"I know we can protect you," John said. "I promise, nothing bad is going to happen to you."

It wasn't a promise he could necessarily keep – but then again, this was another one of those times when, if something did go terribly wrong, it wasn't like McKay was going to come back and demand retribution.

"Besides," John added, "what about all the tech that's too big for the teams to bring back? What if we find a space cruiser on the other side of the galaxy? Are you going to just leave it there?"

McKay's eyes glazed over at the mention of a space cruiser, and John knew he'd won.


+++


Amidst all the chaos, it took a long time before anyone mentioned Article 69 again. There were a few scientists with the clause in their contracts, John had come to note now that he had access to everyone's files, but so far, they had been much too busy to think about such unnecessary things as sex. It was only twice in the first two months that John had to appoint someone for that particular duty. Fortunately, the Marines seemed to think Article 69 was little more than a spice of life, and they were both willing to do it and, on top of it all, surprisingly discreet about it.

It was weird. He was a Major, not above performing the duty himself, and here he was, handing out assignments. It felt like it symbolized everything that had happened – Sumner's death, John's unforeseen rise to command. He was way out of his depth. And yet, for the first time in his life, he was given the opportunity to do things to the best of his abilities – or, in other words, as recklessly as he pleased.

McKay didn't mention the Article for a long time, either. The first time he brought it up was after the debriefing of a mission-gone-awry, when he and John were having a late-night snack in the mess, both of them tired and somewhat grumpy.

"You don't suppose..." McKay said, putting his fork down and wiping his mouth with a napkin. "You don't suppose you could get someone to, er...you know, Article 69?"

John emptied his glass of water. "If you want to be cool about it," he said absently, "it's usually known as 'entertaining'."

"Oh," McKay said, and smiled a little. "Thanks. So, er, you don't suppose you could get someone to entertain me for a bit tonight? Nothing too...strenuous. Just a bit of, hmm, relaxation."

John ran idly through a mental list of the Marines he thought might be able to handle McKay, considering. It was late and most of the crew were already snug in their beds. John threw his napkin down on his empty tray. "Well," he said. "I suppose I could do it."

McKay blinked at him. "Isn't this the sort of task you're supposed to delegate?"

With an off-handed smile, John shrugged. "Yeah, but I'd hate to wake anyone up." He leaned back in his seat, stretching. "Besides, I could use a little relaxation myself. Unless you'd rather not be with the same person twice, hmm?" He smirked.

"No, no," McKay said, waving a hand. "You would be great; you were, in fact, pretty good. I just thought you'd be, you know, taking advantage of being in charge."

"I am," John said casually, and pushed his chair back as he stood up. "Coming?"


+++


Later, when McKay lay in a boneless heap on the bed, his breathing slowly returning to normal, John nudged him in the knee. John liked giving blowjobs, he really did, because he knew he was so good at it. But he also liked being on the receiving end. McKay, immobile and presumably on his way to the dreamland, failed to take the hint.

"Do you know how the sex position 69 came to be called that?" John asked, casually, as if he was making small talk.

McKay opened one eye just enough to glare at John, apparently for disturbing. John, however, chose to interpret the look as a curious one.

"It was named after Article 69. The idea behind it is that when you're sixty-nining someone, it's all mutual. You're both getting something out of it." Pointedly, John nudged McKay again. "Just like with Article 69."

With a put-upon sigh, McKay sat up to grab at John and push him down on his back on the bed. "I get it, I get it," McKay said, his nimble fingers making quick work of John's fly. "I was just enjoying the afterglow, for heaven's sake. You should have given me a minute. I would have taken care of you."

And then McKay's hot, delicious mouth closed around John's achingly hard cock, and as the initial shock of sensation blurred into a slow, continuous fire, John thought dimly that if he was good at this, McKay was fucking amazing.


+++


It became a habit.

Slowly, Dr. McKay became just Rodney, a much more vulnerable man behind the brilliant scientist, and his place in the expedition changed. He'd started out as the stay-at-home CSA, the man to keep the city running, and he'd morphed into a mission-going miracle machine, their biggest asset. He'd started out as the obnoxious man Sheppard had to tolerate, and become a true friend.

Having sex with Rodney may have had something to do with it.

In any case, Rodney never requested anyone else, nor did he ever request John in particular. He always made it clear he was asking for someone to step in for the duty, and never assumed John would still pick himself. On the flipside, there was no one John would have trusted to be able to handle Rodney with sufficient grace and discretion. Also, John had no one he desired, and lacked the motivation to go look for other simple solutions. As far as he could see, having sex continued to be a win-win situation for the two of them. They were friends, co-workers, and they had sex – yet they weren't in love, there wasn't anyone else for either of them, and they never thought they'd spend the rest of their lives together.

It was easily the oddest relationship John had ever found himself in.

During the first year, they ended up having sex about a dozen times, usually in Rodney's quarters save for that one time when they got a little carried away in one of the labs. At first, John had been slightly worried about what sleeping regularly with Rodney McKay would do to his authority, but it turned out he didn't need to give it one thought. Instead of casting John in a negative light, the arrangement made people respect Rodney even more. The word on the street was that Rodney was so special that Major Sheppard, the military commander, wouldn't trust Rodney with anyone other than himself.

Needless to say, this pleased Rodney to no end.

But even with reminders everywhere, John started to forget. He forgot this was part of his job, forgot it was a duty, forgot Rodney was allowed to change his mind about his bed partner at any time. All John remembered was that he was doing this voluntarily.

It was because of that voluntary nature of the arrangement that John didn't even think about Rodney when he gave the job of supervising the execution of Article 69 among other annoying duties to Major Lorne, who was fresh out of the SGC and his brand new second-in-command. He was a Colonel now, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, and the knowledge of that made his days brighter, because he had never been supposed to get this far. There was nothing he didn't love about being Colonel and having Major Lorne take care of the details.

He didn't think about it until they were back on Atlantis and he found himself lounging about Rodney's lab, where Rodney casually asked, "Oh, hey, Major, any chance of some – entertainment – tonight?"

"It's Colonel," John said automatically, and then blinked, because – oh. "And, um. Major Lorne is in charge of that now."

The expression on Rodney's face was unreadable. Then he gestured with his hand and said, "Oh."

"So you'll have to, um. Ask him," John said.

"Right," Rodney said.

"I have a meeting with Elizabeth," John lied, and fled, an odd sense of guilt weighing in his stomach.


+++


He was a Colonel now, his rank too high for him to be expected to fulfill the duty of Article 69, and he missed the casual ease of his and Rodney's arrangement.

Colonel was a high enough rank for him to have that particular clause in his own contract, but he hadn't wanted it. He'd never been keen on it, never thought it a particularly good idea in general. Still, on some occasions it had come in handy, which he could acknowledge now that it was all in the past.

He thought about going to Rodney, in the early weeks of his promotion, of offering the same deal they'd had before – comfortable, mutually enjoyable sex with no strings attached. It had worked out well in the past; there was no reason it couldn't continue working.

Having spent a few days planning what to say to Rodney, John ran into the man himself in the mess hall. It was all fine and dandy, except for the part where Rodney was talking to Major Lorne, who was nodding.

It was like John's spine abruptly turned into cold, hard steel. Suddenly, it was a little hard to move.

Lorne gestured with one hand, obviously shooing Rodney away, while he lifted his other hand to his earpiece and spoke to someone over the radio. Rodney, looking slightly uncomfortable and slightly excited, like John remembered him looking all that time ago in O'Neill's office the very first time, left the mess hall in the direction of his quarters.

John, a slightly sick feeling appearing in his stomach, decided he didn't want food after all, and headed for the gym.


+++


After that, John spent a long time resolutely not thinking about Article 69 at all. Not one bit. Not one cell in his brain was focused on it.

Rodney had forgotten about him pretty quickly, hadn't he? That was just to say, John hoped it would not affect their working relationship, or their friendship. Any relationship that was thrown off-balance was quite possibly headed for a crisis. Sex always changed a relationship, and so did stopping with the sex.

Rodney really had forgotten about him pretty quickly.

In the following months, John did not once look at the file Lorne kept on the server to see who was entertaining Rodney. It just so happened that every once in a while he had something else to check, such as who had the clause in their contracts, and he couldn't help but see the tabs Lorne kept on Rodney. There were several Marines – young, pretty, fit Marines. Most of them were even blonde.

Somewhat morosely, John thought that Rodney must be happier now that Lorne was in charge of Article 69. Apparently, Lorne was a lot better at matchmaking than John had ever been.


+++


"Colonel," Rodney said, and his voice was oddly formal. "I, um. I need your help with something."

John looked up from where he'd been studying the MALP data over a technician's shoulders. "Sure, McKay," he said. "What can I do for you?"

"If you'd –," Rodney pointed down a hallway. "Walk with me? Please?"

Leaving the technician to his data, John stepped away from the console and followed Rodney out of the command room. Rodney looked around with slightly wild eyes and eventually pushed John into a lab that was full of blinking lights and beeping machines but void of other people.

"What's the problem?" John asked, feeling slightly alarmed.

"It's –," Rodney said, and hung his head. "It's Cadman."

"Cadman?" John repeated, surprised. He'd thought Rodney was over the two-consciousnesses-in-his-brain thing already.

"She keeps – Major Lorne keeps – Article 69." Rodney sounded defeated.

That was not a full sentence, was it? John was probably the best person in Atlantis to interpret McKay's attempts at communications – save for Zelenka, when it came to physics – but even he wasn't making heads or tails of this. "What about Article 69?" John asked, because that appeared to be the problem here, and truth be told, he still wasn't over how easily he'd been replaced. Sarcastically, he thought of it as professional pride.

"Major Lorne keeps sending Cadman to entertain me," Rodney blurted out in a rush. "And it's, it's, alright, she's a beautiful woman, but she's seen the inside of my head, and I'm sure she's only doing it to spite me, they're both doing it to spite me –"

"McKay," John said. "If you don't want Cadman to show up at your doorstep, just say so to Lorne."

"It's a conspiracy!" Rodney insisted. "They're in it together! Please, won't you just talk to her and tell her to leave me alone?"

As satisfying as it was to see Rodney not enjoying the special clause in his contract, John relented under the vulnerable stare of those blue eyes. Rodney wouldn't ask this of just anyone, that was for sure.

"Alright," John said eventually. "I'll see that you get someone else next time. Okay?"

"Thank you," Rodney said emphatically, sounding like a man who hadn't got properly laid in a long time.


+++


In the end, John didn't go talk to Cadman. Instead, he went straight to Lorne.

"I hear Cadman's taken over McKay's entertaining duty," he said casually, slouching in the doorway of Lorne's office.

Lorne had his own office. It was because he had so much paperwork.

"She seems to like it," Lorne said. "Don't know why."

"What does McKay think of it?" John asked.

Lorne looked up from whatever file he was going through and shrugged casually. "Women are often popular. He hasn't complained, if that's what you're asking."

"Not to you, I take it," John sighed. He stood up properly. "Listen. McKay is obviously not going to come to you about this, but Cadman isn't the right person for the job. She's...well. Frankly, I think she scares him."

Lorne, not saying anything, stared at John with some bewilderment.

"McKay needs...someone who can handle him. Someone a little more discreet. Someone who'll respect him." John tried to smile, but it didn't feel right on his face. He let it slide.

"So...someone...younger, then? A Lieutenant?" Lorne asked, blinking.

"I wouldn't think of it in terms of rank," John said slowly. "More like...you have to find the right person, not the right age or the right rank. Get someone patient for the job. Someone laid back. Someone who'll learn to appreciate McKay's sense of humor. He can be a lot of fun, you know."

The last sentence escaped John's mouth before his brain had time to process it. If he'd been the blushing type, he was pretty sure his face would have started flaming as soon as he realized what he'd said.

"Right," Lorne said. He nodded slowly, but the look in his eyes was still dubious. "Is there...anything else I should take into consideration? Sir?"

John took the careful way in which Lorne phrased the question as an invitation to list sordid details of Rodney's habits in bed. Or, more likely, it was a polite way of asking, does McKay have any major kinks I need to know about?

"Nah," John said, suddenly in a rush to get out of the tiny office. "Just keep that in mind. Find the right person. You'll be fine."

With that, he turned around and escaped before Lorne had time to ask anything else.


+++


When John had said discreet and respectful, this wasn't what he'd had in mind. Patient, laid-back – perhaps, perhaps, yes, why not, those were all very fitting attributes, but the fact was that the combination package was still all wrong. So very, very wrong.

John stared with horror as Rodney nudged Lorne with his elbow, said something into his ear, and walked out. Lorne, for his part, checked his watch, said something to Kaufman, and went after Rodney. He even had a slight bounce in his step, because he knew he was about to get laid by Rodney.

John knew first-hand how great getting laid by Rodney could be. Unfortunately, so did Lorne.

It was infuriating. When John had been a Major in charge of the supervision of Article 69, he'd had to put up with a lot of shit for getting personally involved in it instead of delegating it all. And now, now – now there was Major Lorne who was doing the exact same thing and no one said a word.

Worse yet, Lorne appeared to be doing it all better.

Rodney had stopped complaining. He even wore a smile sometimes. He was obviously happy with having Major Lorne continuously take care of all his sexual needs.

It made John want to punch holes into walls.

It was just – John had given up on it. He'd given up on convenient, casual, wonderful sex just because he'd been promoted. Nowhere in the rules did it say Lieutenant Colonels weren't allowed to sleep with civilian contractors who had Article 69 in their contracts. It wasn't generally done, but what about the Atlantis expedition was in any way usual by US Military standards?

John had given up on convenient, casual, perfect sex, just because he'd been too – too stubborn, too private, to make it publicly obvious how much he enjoyed it.

Rationally, John knew people were more accepting of this new arrangement because Lorne wasn't in charge of the whole military population. Emotionally, he thought everyone just liked Lorne better. Even Rodney. Rodney, who didn't like almost anyone, except John. And now Lorne.

Well, John thought morosely, at least he hadn't been turned down by Rodney the way Cadman had been.

Cold comfort.


+++


John appeared to be magnetically drawn to Lorne's office. He couldn't bring himself to go to Rodney about it, but the whole thing felt like a sore wound he couldn't help but poke at.

Rodney was himself on their missions. He and John still argued and laughed and played chess and plotted world domination. They were friends, and in a lot of ways, it was a relief to see their friendship had survived being stripped of sex. Their friendship had only got stronger, John felt, the connection deeper.

It still sucked.

"You know," John drawled, feigned indifference in each gesture, "when I said you'd be fine with McKay? I didn't mean it literally." He smirked with one corner of his mouth, easy, casual, teasing.

Lorne looked up from whatever form he was going through. He shrugged one shoulder. "If you want something done properly, do it yourself," he said. "Or are you here to tell me he's afraid of me, too?"

"Nah," John said, though something in him wanted nothing more than to warn Lorne off. "Looks like you're doing fine."

"Uh..." Lorne said, confused. "Thank you."

John waved it off, but couldn't quite bring himself to leave even when Lorne looked down at his papers and bit absently on the tip of his pen. A moment later, Lorne looked back up, still looking confused. "Was there something else, sir?" He stressed the 'sir' lightly, as if trying to remind John of his position.

"I was just wondering," John said, even though he had no idea what he'd been wondering, and found himself pulling up a chair. It was like his mouth was completely disconnected from his brain. "How is he? McKay, I mean."

Lorne turned his face down without breaking eye contact with John; the epitome of a blank stare with a touch of 'I'm worried about your sanity'. "He's fine," Lorne said, and then opened and closed his mouth for a couple of times, as if aware that John was waiting for him to elaborate but not knowing what else to say.

"See, O'Neill promised him three things – tech, food, and sex. It was the only way he'd volunteer for the mission. I just want to make sure we're delivering," John said, casual as ever.

Lorne blinked, some sort of odd resignation sweeping quickly over his face. "Far as I know, he's getting all three," he said blankly.

"So he's...satisfied?"

A muscle in Lorne's jaw flexed, tightening. "It would appear so, wouldn't it?" he said, and there was something odd in his tone of voice, something just a little wild and barely controlled. He shifted, his whole body tensing, and the look in his eyes turned a touch poisonous. "But to tell the truth, I'm not so sure. He's – he – he's a lot to take in, and he can be overwhelming. I'm used to it by now, I even like it, but the feeling doesn't always seem to be mutual. I – I can't take this anymore! You should never have handed him over to me! He calls me John in bed!"

And, as suddenly as it had come, the spike of frustration passed and Lorne slumped in his chair, deflated.

John was distantly aware that his jaw was hanging open.

"I'm –," Lorne said, cutting himself off. He rubbed a hand hard over his face and tried again, "I'm sorry, sir. I apologize. I was out of line."

"H-he..." John said, one of his hands rising to make odd gestures in the air. "Calls...?"

This time, Lorne's glare looked sharp enough to pierce skin. John let his hand drop back into his lap. Lorne sighed, leaned forward to put his elbows on his desk, burying his face in his hands.

"May I make a suggestion, sir?" Lorne said after a while, voice muffled. He lifted his head from his hands and looked tiredly in the direction of John, who nodded, because it seemed Lorne was the only one who wholly understood the situation here. "I know Lieutenant Colonels don't generally perform Article 69," Lorne said, proper and formal and respectful even when he didn't meet John's eyes, "but I'm growing more and more convinced that Dr. McKay warrants an exception."

"Is that so?" John said, because he had no idea what else to say.

"Actually, I'm pretty sure you should override my authority here," Lorne said, nodding morosely. He was staring vaguely at the papers spread out in front of him. "After all, if you want something done properly, do it yourself."

John nodded, and held back the beaming smile as best he could. "You're absolutely right."

"He's your scientist," Lorne said, and hastily added, "I mean, the scientist in your team. He's your responsibility."

Feeling light-headed with relief, John nodded enthusiastically. "He is."

He stared at Lorne staring at his desk for a moment. Slowly, Lorne leaned forward in his seat until his forehead was pressed against his desk. "With all due respect, sir," Lorne said quietly, "please go away now."

John almost shot out of his chair, bouncing over to the doorway where he hesitated. He knew full well what Lorne was giving up – sex with Rodney. In that moment, he wanted to give Lorne a big kiss – or maybe a promotion. But the moment passed and he bounced out of the office, finding himself in the hallway leading to Rodney's quarters and not minding at all.


+++


John told himself he was being ridiculous when he five minutes later bounced gleefully on his toes behind Rodney's door. Rarely had the impulse to just use his ATA gene and barge into someone else's space been as difficult to ignore as it was now. Out of courtesy, he waited for Rodney to open the door for him.

"John," Rodney said when the door slid open. His hair was sticking up ridiculously, and belatedly John realized it was pretty late.

"Hi, I, um...sorry, is this a bad time?" John said, vaguely aware that he wasn't usually this polite to Rodney.

Rodney, eying him dubiously, seemed fully aware of it as well. "No, I was just about to –," he said, cutting himself off. "Is there something wrong?"

"No," John said, "I just wanted to –," and pushed past Rodney.

When they were both standing in Rodney's quarters and the door had closed behind them, John said, "Look, um. Lorne said I should take over Article 69 for you from now on."

Rodney blinked and said, "You came here in the middle of the night to talk about Article 69?" He ran a hand through his ridiculous hair and appeared to stifle a yawn. A little more sharply, he added, "And isn't Lorne technically your subordinate?"

"Well, he suggested it. He had a pretty strong case, too." John thought about how wrecked Lorne had looked by the end of their little chat. "But technically, this is actually me overruling him."

Rodney sat down on his bed. "Oh. Um, okay."

"Good," John said. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, feeling suddenly antsy. "Look, um...I was thinking, maybe we could. I mean, you shouldn't go to Lorne about it anymore. He's still in charge of everyone else, but – you're a member of my team, and you're my responsibility."

"So I'll come ask you, then, and you can hand-pick someone for me to have sex with," Rodney said, and he didn't sound as happy as John had hoped. In fact, he seemed downright dismayed. "You are aware that I had a pretty good thing going there, right? Lorne was – well, he – he's not unintelligent. And he's, actually, he's pretty hot. And he seemed to like – me. Or at least sex with me."

John bit the inside of his cheek to keep from blurting out that he liked having sex with Rodney. And he liked Rodney, too.

"Was that it?" Rodney said, looking up, when John didn't know what to say. "Was I having too much fun?"

"Christ, Rodney," John croaked out. "I meant you should have sex with me from now on. Just me. I'm – fuck, Rodney. I'm asking you not to go to Lorne anymore about it. I'm asking you to –," and, predictably, John choked. He closed his eyes and forced himself to say, "I'm asking you to delete the whole thing from your goddamn contract and just come to me from now on. For sex."

"Oh," Rodney said, and when John dared open his eyes, Rodney was staring at him.

For a moment, they were both stunned speechless by what John had just said.

"I, I," Rodney said. "Just sex?"

"And movies," John said a little reluctantly, "and chess."

Rodney's mouth opened and closed. "You make it sound like..."

John sighed. "Yeah," he said, and sat heavily down on Rodney's bed next to him.

For a few minutes, they looked at everything but each other. Then Rodney cleared his throat and glanced at John from the corner of his eye. "How about we start with the sex?"

"God," John breathed, relieved beyond belief as he turned and pushed Rodney onto his back. "You have even better ideas than Major Lorne."

Rodney quirked an eyebrow at him before apparently coming to the conclusion that John's mental state wasn't nearly as interesting as pulling him down and kissing the life out of him, and John, responding to the kisses as best he could, really couldn't have agreed more.