Steven Caldwell, if he were being honest, didn't really think he'd planned on sex with John Sheppard. If he were being more honest, the thought that sex with Sheppard might control him hadn't even been a full-formed thought - it had flashed by too quickly to be consciously considered. Occasionally, he wonders if two ex-wives, three therapists, a son and a daughter might all have been right when they had all called him, varying their terms only slightly, a controlling bastard with delusions of adequacy. He is willing to consider it in the moist moments when Sheppard is wiping his mouth and tucking himself back into his BDU's. Because nothing has been as hot in years as the sight of that prettyboy asshole on his knees for Steven Caldwell and he wonders why that should be.
When he's in control of his temper and nothing has really annoyed him too badly that day, he can admit that Sheppard is an adequate officer. As military commander of Atlantis, he is woefully lackadaisical in documentation and command protocol, but Caldwell can't fault his commitment or the preparedness of his troops. He can even admit that Sheppard's crazy stunt getting the Wraith virus infected fighter off the Daedalus and flying it into the corona of a star was inspired and had saved their asses, his own included. That may have been the moment when Caldwell acknowledged that there was something he wanted there.
But on days when Caldwell has spent way too much time with Hermiod or has listened to fuel consumption debates rage for longer than two hours at a stretch, it is altogether too easy to remember that Sheppard is a fuck-up who stole Caldwell's plum job from him without even trying. Those are the days that he goes to bed early and considers his shameful, growing stock of memories of John Sheppard rumpled, kneeling or bent over, shattered by sex with Steven Caldwell.
The first time had been an accident. Probably.
He had requested that Sheppard take him scouting for a new beta site that could support the crew of the Daedalus, too, in the event a disaster ever required the cruiser to be evacuated. The first two sites had been rejected but the third planet they had visited had held a surprise -- some very hostile and well-armed natives, trigger-happy after a recent pirate attack. They had made it back to the 'jumper, breathless, bruised and sizzling with adrenaline.
"What the hell was that, Sheppard?" Caldwell was trying not to shout and not doing a very good job of it.
Sheppard was stabbing at controls and refusing to look at Caldwell. Despite his jerky movements, the little craft rose smoothly into the air, blue sky fading to black in a matter of moments.
"That was a royal screw-up of a first contact. Sir."
"And you're the one who screwed it up, Colonel."
A muscle tightened in Sheppard's jaw; Caldwell could see it out of the corner of his eye, but the man remained resolutely eyes-forward. "No, sir."
Caldwell's gut tightened. He'd been waiting for Sheppard to make his move, to buck his authority. Every report, every past C.O. the man had had, they had all warned him, had him ready for this moment.
"And what do you think happened, Colonel Sheppard?"
Sheppard turned and fixed him with a cool stare. "What happened was that you went in there expecting the native population to roll over at the sight of your manly swagger. What happened was that you didn't notice the scorching on the grass, the 17 fresh graves that we walked right past, or the fact that every person we met was bandaged or wounded!"
"And you didn't think to mention this to me, Colonel?"
"I tried. Sir. You told me, and I quote, 'let me handle this, Sheppard.' You had 'read about my previous attempts at diplomacy'. Sir."
Sheppard's long pauses before every "sir" were beginning to grate on his nerves. The fact that his version was essentially correct was really pissing Caldwell off. He should have noticed the scorched earth and the fact that everyone they met had been armed and on a hair-trigger. The slow trickle of blood drying on the side of his face was becoming unbearably annoying. Caldwell gritted his teeth, got to his feet and went rummaging in the rear compartment for the first aid kit. Unfortunately, Sheppard's voice still carried very well from the front.
"All we had to do was assure them of our peaceful intentions, offer them medical aid and some fresh seed for planting and we would have had some new allies and a beta site that suited your needs pretty well. Instead, no new allies, the 'jumper's got some new scratches and ..." his voice trailed off.
"And...?" Caldwell prompted coldly. He took the kit from its webbing and opened it, searching for the gauze pads.
"And we have still have to find a back-up spot to park the Daedalus the next time you try some diplomacy. Sir."
Son of a bitch. Smarmy, insubordinate, right son of a bitch. It was taking most of his self-control not to yank Sheppard out of his seat and punch him. Then Sheppard pressed some control, stood up and smirked at him.
"You want me to put a band-aid on that?"
Caldwell's hand shot out, grabbed Sheppard by his tactical vest and then he stopped, teeth gritted, muscles quivering.
"Something you wanted...sir?" That same damned drawl again.
The only reasonable response to that was to shove Sheppard against the bulkhead and kiss him hard enough to draw blood.
He was never certain later if their tangling limbs had been trying to strike one another or tear off the other's clothes. No matter what the impulse had been, they were both sporting bruises and semen stains by the time they were done. Quick, messy, angry breaths hissing between them as hard hands gripped too hard and just right.
Afterward, still panting, they had wiped themselves off, straightened ruched up uniforms and tried not to look at one another from the corners of their eyes as they resumed their seats. Sheppard had a split lip and his hair was insanely tousled. Caldwell could feel the beard burn along the left side of his jaw and knew he would have to blame it on a hand-to-hand injury. The 'jumper hung in space before the 'Gate, waiting for Sheppard to give it some direction. Caldwell said nothing and, after a time, Sheppard dialed home and took them back to Atlantis and nothing was said.
The next time had been after another argument in Sheppard's office. Elizabeth Weir had shut Caldwell down neatly once again and he had gone to tear a strip off Sheppard's hide motivated by nothing more than wounded pride. But something had changed. Somewhere in between one barb and the next, Sheppard had smiled with a worrisome curl to his lip. Then he had gotten up, taken three steps around his desk and dropped to his knees between Caldwell's legs. In retrospect, Caldwell figures his shocked protests might have held more weight had he not already been hard.
The time after that, he had fucked Sheppard on an empty balcony sometime after midnight. The pained gasp he had drawn from the other man as he had thrust home was a balm to his frazzled nerves. The lapping of the water, the rasping of their breath, the grasping madness of sinking into Sheppard's body again and again all swirl in his memory when he's alone in his bunk. It never fails to get him off in short order. Especially when he remembers that it was Sheppard who brought the lube.
They never talk about it. They never fuck onboard the Daedalus. They have never used a bed nor has he ever brought Sheppard to his quarters nor visited him in his. If Sheppard actually gives more weight to anything Caldwell says during a briefing any more than he used, he can't see it. They don't even speak much outside of briefings, nothing more than the absolute minimum necessary to set up a meet and get each other's clothes off.
He doesn't let Sheppard fuck him. He rarely kisses him despite the temptation of that lush mouth. In fact, most of the time, he doesn't do much for Sheppard at all to get him off. He tells himself it's not selfishness and knows he lies. He just likes to watch Sheppard lose it at his feet.
Before the last time, he had started to wonder if he even liked Sheppard. Sheppard's team was in quarantine, having all been exposed to some sort of disease that sounded a lot like measles. They were all down with mild fevers and vaguely itching welts and were reported to be heartily bored when they weren't all dead asleep. His first visit had merely been a walk past the window of the isolation unit. The four of them had all been in bed, looking far too pale in the red hospital scrubs, even Ronon and Teyla. The red pinpoint welts looked like freckles and only served to make them all seem paler and sicker. There had been some desultory chat audible through the intercom system.
"We could be sterile, you know," McKay's voice had a tinny plaintive sound to it. Both Teyla and Sheppard had turned to stare at him.
"It's a mild case of measles, Rodney."
"It's a possibility," McKay insisted in the face of their silent disbelief. "Measles can result in male sterility. We should have Carson check our sperm counts."
There was a muffled snort from Ronon and Sheppard merely leaned his head back against his pillows and closed his eyes.
"I'm serious, Colonel. I have a responsibility to pass my genes on to the next generation. So do you, for that matter. The ATA gene is very rare and..."
"Rodney," Sheppard said quietly but with an tired emphasis that shut McKay up quickly enough. "I have a really massive headache, I don't need to pass on my genes, we don't need Carson counting our sperm and you need to seriously get a grip. It's a case of measles."
"Just because you've been sowing your seed all over the galaxy doesn't mean the rest of us can afford to ignore... bloog!" Sheppard's pillow caught him right in the face.
"I am sure Dr. Beckett is looking after all of our health needs adequately, Rodney," Teyla said calmly.
"Where've you been sowing, Sheppard?" Ronon asked interestedly. "Did they ask you at the village on Jerusak? The headwoman said she was willing to trade two lengths of wool for every coupling. Didn't Weir tell you?"
Sheppard groaned and turned his back on them all, pulling his remaining pillow over his head. Caldwell had gone his way then without being seen.
The second time he had dropped by, two days later, they were obviously feeling better. Caldwell wanted to do a double-take; it looked like a bizarre pajama party. Ronon was draped like a big cat over the end of Teyla's bed; she was sitting cross-legged and watching Sheppard. McKay was doing the same, sitting in a desk chair with his sock-clad feet up on Sheppard's bed. They all watched him intently.
"Another, of young people, was grouped round the beautiful Princess Helene, Prince Vasili's daughter, and the little Princess Bolkonskaya, very pretty and rosy, though rather too plump for her age. The third group was gathered round Mortemart and Anna Pavlovna."
The military commander of Atlantis was reading Tolstoy aloud to his team and they all looked as if milk and cookies ought to be arriving any moment. Listening for a moment to the polysyllabic names spilling from Sheppard's lips, Caldwell wondered how insanely bored he'd have to be before he'd let anyone read Russian novels aloud to him.
"Your French accent would have you shot in Quebec," McKay said suddenly.
"Hey! I was at the top of all my French class. My teachers said I had talent."
"Yes, well, forgive me if I don't bow to the opinion of the world-renowned francophones of Marin County."
Sheppard looked at the scientist and smiled, too happily for a man with red welts dotting his hands and face. Ronon and Teyla were also smiling, but Ronon said, "Get on with the tale."
Then Sheppard had raised his head and caught sight of Caldwell through the window. His smile changed in some indefinable way, then he had nodded before looking back down at his book and Caldwell left before he realized that he has never smiled at Sheppard.
He is still wondering if he likes Sheppard a day and a half later in a deserted corridor on a level too ruined by water damage to be passable to any but the most determined wanderers. He is running his fingers through the man's thick, dark hair and reveling in the suction of that curving mouth. God knows he likes Sheppard's cock-sucking ability; that was never in question. Sheppard's hands are rubbing up and down Caldwell's thighs, massaging firmly. They stop when the radio clicks and McKay's voice snaps through both their headsets.
"Colonel Sheppard, Colonel Caldwell? Come in."
There is an obscene slurp as Sheppard pulls back to tap his earpiece. "Kind of busy here, Rodney. Is it there a problem?" The damp air is chilling on Caldwell's cock, but not nearly as bad as McKay's next words.
"Yes, there's a problem, Colonel. Get off your knees; we're going to have a little chat."
There are firm footsteps from down the darkened passageway. Sheppard's hand clenches suddenly on his thigh muscle and Caldwell knows he will have a bitch of a bruise there. Their eyes meet and the jagged realization in the pit of his stomach is reflected in Sheppard's gaze. Sheppard pushes off and stumbles to his feet. For some reason, watching Sheppard wipe his mouth on the back of his hand seems dirtier than grabbing his own damp cock and stuffing it back in his trousers before his numb fingers slip the buttons back into place. He is barely decent when McKay's acid voice comes from the gloom off to his left.
"Hardly the place I would have chosen for a romantic interlude, but true love doesn't mind the décor, right?"
They watch each other for a moment like dogs trying to decide if they are about to fight. Sheppard is looking at his boots, no help at all. Caldwell decides to go on the offensive. "Why are you here, Dr. McKay?"
"Because the security camera feed from this previously unused corridor was showing the military commander of Atlantis and the commander of the Daedalus engaged in an act definitely in violation of the US Uniform Code of Military Justice. Section 925, article 125, to be precise."
"Which you think is utter crap, Rodney," Sheppard says, looking up quickly.
"Because it is." McKay stabs a finger through the gloom at Sheppard. "But you're missing the point, Colonel. Which is - you've been on candid camera, gentlemen."
A soft explosion of air from Sheppard's lips is his only reaction. Caldwell can't seem to get his brain to get past the phrase "uniform code of military justice". It wasn't that he didn't know what they were doing was in violation, it's just that he never expected to get caught. He knows it's a stupid thought the moment it crosses his mind, but it is regrettably true.
"What do you want to do here, Rodney?" Sheppard asks calmly, too calmly for a man whose career is now officially in the toilet. Along with his own, Caldwell reminds himself.
"What do I want? What do I want?? I'd like to not spend valuable free time modifying security logs, video recordings, ancient database logs, you name it! I'd like to not spend half my time tracking you two idiots around the city and diverting security patrols from whatever sector you've decided to play hide-the-P90 in this time. Every time the Daedalus is in orbit, I lose hours of my life trying to protect a career you don't seem to have much interest in saving yourself. I want you to keep it in your pants and off this base!"
"Rodney," Sheppard starts and even Caldwell has to wince at the placating tone in his voice. Anyone could see that McKay is not in the mood to be placated. And, of course, he holds both of their careers in the palm of his hand.
"NO," McKay cuts him off sharply. "Do not take that tone with me, Colonel. Not after I just sent Sgt. Bates to investigate a false life sign across the city. He was two levels away from here, heading straight for you, do you get that?! If I had decided to have another cup of coffee, you'd be facing a court martial right now."
Unwelcome as that tidbit of information is, it does shut Sheppard up. Caldwell wonders vaguely if his own face is as pale as Sheppard's. "How?" he manages hoarsely.
"The gene. Since we got the ZPM, anywhere a natural gene carrier goes, the city registers it. Even if you don't touch any equipment, the city knows where you are and turns on the cameras, if they're working. Bates noticed a reading out here, where no one is supposed to be, and was coming to check it out." McKay suddenly sounds tired and he slumps against the wall across the corridor from them.
"What the hell is wrong with your quarters? Do you really need the thrill so badly?"
Caldwell looks at Sheppard and he shrugs.
"It's not like that, Rodney," Sheppard answers for them both. "It's just a buddy-fuck."
Caldwell expects McKay to start gesticulating or sniping again. Instead, he only stares, then says, "Don't you have to actually be buddies for that to work?"
Oddly enough, Sheppard looks ... hurt. But McKay's words shut Sheppard up again, for which Caldwell is grateful. He has never especially liked what Sheppard has to say. He suspects that hearing him detail what he thinks this has all been about will bruise him in places he does not care to feel pain any more. If he has to start psychoanalyzing himself in a dank hallway with these two men he may just have to shoot someone. It makes his voice harsher than he intends when he asks,
"So what do you want, Dr. McKay?"
McKay stares at him. "Are you not keeping up, Colonel? What I want is for you two to stop fucking in empty closets and balconies and corridors and let me get back to work. I don't want to know a damned thing about your sex life ever again."
That is what Caldwell wants, too. "Fine. It's over. Is that what you want to hear?" An odd chill runs through him as he says the words; he thinks it might be relief. He doesn't look at Sheppard.
"No! Well, yes. Just stop trying to get yourselves ... just... stop."
"You heard the man, Rodney. We've stopped."
Sheppard's voice sounds as clipped and efficient in the gloom as it does over the headset. It sounds light years away from the voice that teased him into fucking Sheppard just days ago. McKay doesn't reply and they stand there like idiots for a moment, then a deeper chill runs through Caldwell as he remembers McKay's earlier words.
"You said something about modifying security logs and videos. You didn't destroy them?"
McKay straightens up from his slouch against the far wall. His chin lifts and he glares at Caldwell. "No, I didn't destroy them. If I'd erased them, there would be missing data and someone would be bound to notice. I modified them and replaced the data with something less ... dangerous."
"What did you do with the originals?"
McKay's gaze narrows and Caldwell knows he isn't going to like the answer at all. "I kept them, Colonel. All of them."
"Rodney..." Sheppard starts and is silenced by a sharp gesture from McKay, whose gaze has never left Caldwell's.
There is lead in his belly. Cold, hard lead. He wets his lips and stares at McKay. He can't ask.
McKay tells him anyway.
"If you ever try to sabotage Sheppard's career because of this, if you ever try to stage a coup here, if you ever mess with Atlantis personnel for any reason, Colonel, those tapes are in the next data burst to Earth and your career is over."
"That would end Sheppard's career, too," he manages.
McKay shakes his head and smiles. It is not a nice expression at all.
"I'm good at altering security logs, Colonel. If it ever becomes necessary, you'll have been screwing around with some airman whose face you can't quite make out on camera. Bad for chain-of-command."
"Rodney, you can't do this," Sheppard says sharply. "That's blackmail."
"Yes, Colonel, yes it is. And I sure as hell can."
"Don't do this, Rodney," Sheppard says quietly. "It's not right."
They are staring at one another now, Caldwell is completely forgotten. He wants to be surprised at Sheppard defending him, but he knows at least this much about his former... lover? Fuckbuddy? Sex partner? Sheppard will never leave someone behind.
"I'm not really interested in 'right' here. I'm interested in results."
"We'll stop, Rodney, I promise." Sheppard sounds oddly cajoling, as if he is comforting McKay.
"Do you really not get it? Do you really not see what this has all been about?" McKay's hands are waving again. One finger stabs in Caldwell's direction.
"It's about influence, Colonel. Control."
Sheppard blinks. "Huh. And I thought it was about sex."
McKay starts to sputter and Sheppard holds up a hand. "Rodney, give Colonel Caldwell the originals." McKay stares at him, then Sheppard adds quietly, "Please."
McKay stares at Sheppard for a long moment and there is a conversation going on there that Caldwell will never hear. But, whatever the words, the outcome makes McKay nod slowly. "Fine. But you're being an idiot."
"Duly noted, Rodney." That irritating smirk is back on Sheppard's face but Caldwell is willing to overlook it this time.
They are all spared having to say anything else by the arrival of Sergeant Bates and his security team, hot on the trail of anomalous life-sign readings.
True to his word, McKay delivers a stack of recordings to Caldwell the next morning. The sneer Caldwell expected is nowhere in evidence. Instead, McKay looks resigned. He hands the stack over and watches quietly as Caldwell sets them to burning in his wastebasket.
"Because no one will notice the melted slag when they come to empty the trash," he snipes but his heart isn't in it and Caldwell can tell.
"It doesn't matter if they notice the slag, Doctor, only that they don't know what was on it in the first place."
He wants to ask, craves reassurance, but he also knows he doesn't deserve it, at least in McKay's eyes. But McKay says, with a generosity he hadn't expected,
"Those are the only copies. And that's every single incident I could find...and I was looking. You've got nothing to worry about."
There is nothing else to say. The small fire in his waste basket is down to crackles and pings of cooling steel. McKay is picking at his thumbnail. Then he says, still not looking at Caldwell,
"Why did you do it?"
Surprised into honesty, he says only, "Because I wanted to."
And that is more truth than he has allowed himself since this began. No one, not his ex-wives, his kids or even his therapists could know how few times in his life he has allowed himself the indulgence of doing what he wanted for no other reason than he wanted. He wanted to fuck Sheppard and he did. That Sheppard wanted it, too, was merely a convenient side note. The fact that it is now over is inconsequential.
McKay nods as if this is the answer he expected. As he turns to leave, Caldwell stops him. "Doctor. Sheppard has nothing to fear from me. Nor does anyone on Atlantis."
McKay looks at him for a long moment, then nods, apparently satisfied with his scrutiny. "That's good to know, Colonel." He leaves and Caldwell is left with the sharp reek of burnt plastic and a cool sense of relief.
Things ought to be different now; he expects them to be different. There has been a profound change to his world. He had taken what he wanted, despite knowing how destructive the taking, indeed the wanting itself had been. He had been discovered and exposed in that taking and been crudely and effectively stopped by a man who had no reason to spare him. He has broken the chain of command, fouled good order and discipline and actually broken the UCMJ.
But the next time he comes to Atlantis, it is as if the whole sorry interlude has never happened. Staff meetings are the strangest proof that nothing is different. Sheppard slouches, McKay snaps, Weir is diplomatic and Caldwell grits his teeth as he sees them do everything wrong, wrong, wrong. Except that it works more often than not. It is almost reassuring and, as the days go by, his sense of having dodged the bullet grows. If he resorts to jerking off to one of his Sheppard memories, it is no more than relief and lacks the bitter edge it once had.
He takes to playing chess with Dr. Weir, long, bloody intellectual battles to the death. Her skill at chess is emphasized by her lousy poker and he finds that he likes that dichotomy in her. They play cribbage on the quiet nights. But on the nights after the days where he has challenged her authority, they always play chess.
He knows that he is still a controlling bastard. Just like he knows now that Sheppard needed something from him that he could never give. It's a pity, because he sometimes thinks that he might have liked to be the man who could give someone what he needed. Instead, Caldwell will have to be content being the man who took what he wanted.
As visits go by, it becomes clear to him that someone is giving Sheppard what he needs. There is a depth of quiet in his eyes that was never there before, an ease of reaction that is new. He treats Caldwell with a distant kindness that seems all the more bizarre for all that has passed between them. McKay is more wary, but almost as friendly now. Thinking over that scene in the hallway with McKay, he is pretty sure where Sheppard's needs are being met, although how remains a mystery. He files it away in his mind under the heading of "Atlantis - who the hell knows?" and turns his attention to the latest fuel consumption debate.
Summary: "Steven Caldwell, if he were being honest, didn't really think he'd planned on sex with John Sheppard." Then Rodney finds out.