Summary: If anybody was to make sure that this man would stay safe and sound, it would have to be John, if only for the reason that everybody else would kill the overconfident son of a bitch within the first five minutes.

Categories: Slash Pairings > McKay/Sheppard
Characters: Carson Beckett, Elizabeth Weir, John Sheppard, Radek Zelenka, Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagan
Genres: Angst, Episode Related, First Time, Hurt Comfort
Warnings: Adult themes
Chapters: 4 [Table of Contents]
Series: None

Word count: 13823; Completed: Yes
Updated: 17 Mar 2006; Published: 14 Mar 2006

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Author's Notes: This is a prologue of sorts, set at the beginning of Rising. The Title is from "Lord of the Rings". Originally, this story was intended for a fanzine, but it got rejected because of too many POVs. Well. I like them. ;)
I thank Denis and Bröt-chan for the beta (the usual suspects), as well as Jane and Fenris_Wolf. Any remaining mistakes are mine alone.



The first time John saw the inside of the research facility he'd been flying to and fro for the past three months, he just had been almost killed by an alien space missile. Then suddenly there was that weird orange guy staring at him and demanding even weirder things, like imagining their position in the solar system. It was only after blue lights and star charts had come up all around them, that he realized just how bad an idea it had been to sit down in that damn chair. Judging by the greedy way that dark-haired woman watched him, he had just signed over his soul to the devil. The General's look had become calculating, and the Scot somehow managed to radiate worry and excited interest at the same time.

The orange guy merely seemed pissed.

Two days later, John was transferred from McMurdo to stay with the research team. "I'm not gonna force you to do anything you don't want. It's a big decision," O'Neill had said. "But if you're not going, the least you can do is help them figure some things out before they leave." On one hand, it would probably make his nights a lot less cold, since this was a base full of highly intelligent civilians, none of whom would give a shit about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', or rather, the 'Don't Pursue' part of that law – not telling was definitely encouraged. On the other hand, he was assigned directly to the head scientist Dr. McKay, of whom rumour told that he practically never slept. Well, with a bit of luck, he could combine the two. Who knew, some of those scientists he had seen that first time had been pretty attractive, and McKay might be gay. The man was Canadian, after all.

Turned out that McKay was the orange guy. He was pushy, arrogant, belittling, and so caught up in his work he wouldn't notice a come-on if it bit him in the ass. Worse, he wasn't attractive at all. The blue eyes were kind of beady, the mouth was wide and crooked and its corners always turned down, the skin was the kind of pale that suggested a strong aversion to all things outdoors, and if that and the hint of a double chin weren't enough, the receding hairline just added to the picture. So John resigned himself to a week of work and work alone. Maybe his cooperation would get him reassigned to somewhere warmer. He liked Antarctica and its wide, white solitude, but it wasn't worth freezing his ass off. He sure as hell wasn't going to Atlantis. It was hard enough getting his head around Stargates and aliens and technology he could control with his mind. But going to another galaxy to explore a mythical city without knowing if he could ever come back? Fuck, no!

He was well into his third day of turning things on and off at McKay's command, bored and irritated, when one of the other scientists barrelled into their little lab and excitedly announced that the SGC had okayed the taking along of two more naquadah generators. McKay's whole face lit up, and suddenly, inexplicably, John found that crooked could be quite sexy when combined with a grin, and that smug satisfaction could make blue eyes shine brightly enough to compensate just about anything. He couldn't help grinning back, even if he didn't have the slightest idea what a naquadah generator was, and that grin seemed to be his ticket into the wonderful world of science. Because after that, impatient orders and otherwise silent working became, well, impatient orders and even more working, but the silence was drowned in the animated spilling forth of hypotheses, theories, explanations, and lots and lots of bitching. And you kind of had to like a man who was so passionate about what he was doing, who really was smarter than anyone else, although it wasn't easy to get around the enormous ego and discover the playful sense of humour normally hidden under biting sarcasm.

John did his best to make the slightly mischievous smile, that promise of somewhat different fun, appear as often as possible. Because even though being Canadian obviously didn't equal being gay or at least polite, McKay was actually pretty cool, in a unique Sith Lord of all geeks kind of way, and John found himself drawn to the man almost against his will. And after all, he wouldn't ever see him again, so what could it hurt?

One week of trying to figure out Ancient technology turned into two due to unspecified trouble with some international committee, something he wasn't exactly unhappy about. What he was doing was interesting, and he had found that one of the Russian technicians gave great head, even if it was just minutes spent in dark corners instead of the nights he had been looking for. Dr. Weir was still on his case, but he wasn't intending to boldly go where no man had gone before, thank you very much. He had been born on Earth, and he was planning to die here.

The Scot Beckett, the guy who had tried to kill him on his very first day, was talking to McKay when John walked into the small lab they had set up at the end of his second week. Two more days, and most of the scientists in this part of Antarctica would break up camp and leave for another galaxy. Beckett was worried, speaking of Goa'uld and replicators and not knowing what the Ancients had run from, while McKay was impatiently trying to make him shut up, saying things like "It was a plague, Carson," and "Don't be stupid," to stem the thick flow of words that got harder and harder to understand. Finally, the Scottish doctor stormed off, and John turned to McKay. He had worked with the physicist for barely two weeks, but he already knew the man well enough to tell he was frightened underneath his annoyance.

"He does have a point, you know," the scientist blurted, surprising him. "We have absolutely no way of knowing what we're walking into, and frankly, that thought alone is enough for me to be terrified. There could be anything lurking in that galaxy, just waiting for us to arrive and be killed in a variety of innovatively bloody ways."

"There'll be soldiers coming with you, McKay. They'll protect you."

"Yes, well, I'll just put my life into the hands of total strangers then and hope they're competent enough to earn at least a little trust. Right." The other man paused, looking at him with a strange expression. "You sure you're not coming? Only O'Neill said something about exceptional flying, which probably means your reflexes are fast enough to make you a good shot, too, and you've got the gene, that's got to be an advantage-"

"McKay," John disrupted the rant, feeling helpless. "Look, I'm sorry, but-"

"Yes, yes, alright. Not coming. Fine. I'm sure it will turn out well. Don't you think?" The Canadian turned away before John could answer, leaving him with a strangely hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had never thought that the Atlantis mission could be anything but boring, a possible one-way trip into geek heaven. Uneventful. He hadn't expected the scientists to actually need protection.

That night, he couldn't stop thinking about it.

The next day Dr. Weir announced that they would leave Antarctica earlier than they had planned, right after McKay had talked with her for at least half an hour. She said she wanted to give everybody the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones, but John knew it hadn't been her idea. When he asked McKay, the scientist said he simply didn't trust the military to take proper care of his cat, and besides, they were allowed one single personal item, and what sufficiently impressive personal item could you possibly get in Antarctica or Colorado Springs? But then he glanced at Beckett, who was animatedly telling some colleagues how he would spend the time with his mum, and John knew all he had to know about Dr. Rodney McKay.

When they said their goodbyes, the physicist looked at John and cleared his throat.

"Well, think about it. Different galaxies, strange new worlds, chance of a lifetime, and all that stuff."

"I will," John promised, but he knew he wouldn't. Instead, he would think of scientists and their reluctance to put their lives into the hands of uncaring strangers. Of arrogant people who were too shy to brag about doing a friend a favour, and of things lurking in shadows, waiting for fresh blood.

About a man whose faults and shortcomings made him strangely endearing, who was attractive in a really quirky way, and who would walk into the unknown despite his fear and insecurities. Who deserved to be protected, if only to keep that sense of humour alive, that underlying and well suppressed belief that the universe really was a weird and wonderful place. If anybody was to make sure that this man would stay safe and sound, it would have to be John, if only for the reason that everybody else would kill the overconfident son of a bitch within the first five minutes.

He threw a coin to decide if he should bring "War and Peace" or the complete edition of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". The boring book won. That had to be a good sign, right?