Working Double Time On The Seduction Line

Author: Minervacat
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: R
Spoilers: Through 2x04, "Duet"; set between "Duet" and "Trinity".
Summary: In which Rodney commits a social blunder, John acquires a pair of leather pants, Ronon wrestles a tiger, and Cadman always gets the last word.

On PR7-X89, Rodney traded Lt. Colonel Sheppard to a pack of mostly naked, well-oiled, large-muscled men in exchange for a bottle of something potently alcoholic and a leather pouch full of dried leaves that resembled marijuana more than it resembled the promised tobacco.

Sheppard was, understandably, a little upset about the whole thing.

"I cannot believe you, McKay," he hissed, when they were finally allowed to talk to him after half an hour of fierce haggling with the mostly naked natives. "You traded me to an alien race for a bottle of hooch."

"It was an accident," Rodney said. Teyla was standing in the corner talking seriously with the leader of the mostly-naked well-oiled men; Rodney hoped that she was negotiating the return of their own leader. Ronon was lurking ominously in the corner, looking at least as large, naked, and well-oiled as the natives, which Rodney hoped was a point in their favor. If Teyla's negotiations failed, maybe Ronon spoke the trading language of large naked men.

"An accident is Zelenka blowing up an Ancient superconductor," Sheppard snarled, and he wriggled distractedly. "Trading me to potential allies is a colossal, enormous, gigantic fuck-up."

As soon as Rodney had taken possession of the booze and the alien dope, the naked natives had clamped large hands over Sheppard's upper arms and unceremoniously but politely hauled him off behind a closed door, which was the first sign that maybe, maybe, Rodney had done something wrong. Rodney had immediately leapt to his feet, to his own credit (though Sheppard hadn't been there to see Rodney protesting on his behalf), and said, "Hey, what the hell are you doing with him, you maniacs?"

Ronon had slapped a large hand over Rodney's mouth and Teyla had asked the same question in a much more polite way, and in the middle of the explanation that Sheppard was apparently now destined for a life as a high-class hooker on an alien planet, the kidnappers had returned Sheppard to the tiny room where SGA-1 was meeting with the people of PR7-X89.

Sheppard was wearing something that put Ronon's shirts and Teyla's skirts to shame; it was leather, leather that looked incredibly soft and buttery, and there wasn't very much of it at all. Sheppard was showing a lot of smooth, tanned skin underneath the leather, flat stomach and bare feet and well-muscled arms all laid bare for anyone to stare at.

Rodney tried very hard not to stare. He failed, and Sheppard crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Rodney like looks could kill. "Uh," Rodney said, and thankfully Teyla came back at that exact moment, and the two burly men that she had been talking to stood menacingly on either side of Sheppard, who looked increasingly murderous and uncomfortable.

Teyla opened her mouth, hopefully with a very good explanation of how they were going to get out of this without Rodney having to give up his alcohol, but before she could say anything at all, Sheppard let out a high-pitched yelp. Since Rodney was unfortunately still staring at Sheppard in all his leather-clad, bare-skinned glory (and sure, Ronon looked better, but Ronon was an alien, he had an unfair bad sci-fi script advantage), he also saw Sheppard leap six inches into the air, after the guy on Sheppard's left grabbed Sheppard's ass. "Hey," Sheppard said, turning his glare from Rodney to the guy who, it appeared, had claimed ownership of Sheppard. "That is not public property."

"Actually," Teyla said, and Sheppard's face fell briefly, and then resolved itself back into the death glare and flickered menacingly in Rodney's direction. "The people of this planet - their society is based around an active ... sex industry. It seems that Colonel Sheppard has been traded into a position of that sort."

"So Colonel Sheppard's ass is public property?" Rodney said, before he could stop himself. Sheppard scowled. Ronon dropped his head, but Rodney heard his snicker. Teyla's face was still and solemn, like it always was, but Rodney thought he saw a gleam of amusement in her eyes. And why not? Aside from the fact that Sheppard was trying to burn a hole in Rodney's head with his glower, the whole thing was mostly hilarious.

Weird, but hilarious. Which was, in Rodney's opinion, a rare situation in the Pegasus Galaxy. Mostly it was just weird and life-threatening.

"Rodney," Sheppard said. "I cannot believe you - "

"But the trade is not binding," Teyla interrupted. "It may be reversed."

"Good, then get me the hell out of here before I have to do anything ... anything I don't want to do," Sheppard said, turning for the door they'd taken him through before he reappeared in leather.

"Colonel, it is not that simple," Teyla said, and Sheppard and Rodney groaned in chorus. Rodney glared at Sheppard. Sheppard glared at Rodney. The burly guy on the right, the one who hadn't grabbed Sheppard's ass, wrapped one of his ham hands around Sheppard's upper arm; Sheppard twitched at the touch, and glared up at the guy. He was getting his glaring practice in, that much was clear to Rodney; maybe it would help the next time some of his doltish Marines touched something they weren't supposed to and got themselves turned into lemurs.

Sheppard glared down at the hand on his arm one more time, and tilted his head to the side; his universal signal that whoever was giving him the bad news should keep talking, and Sheppard would do something incredibly stupid at the end. "The trade is not binding, but we cannot negotiate for your freedom today. Trades may not be made and annulled in the same cycle of the sun rising."

"Great," Sheppard said, through gritted teeth. He was clenching his jaw, the muscles in his neck twitching involuntarily. "Just what I wanted this week, a free vacation as a sex slave." He took a deep breath, the leather pulling tight across his chest, and Rodney felt a little weak in the knees. It wasn't that Rodney hadn't slept with, fantasized about, ogled men before - but thinking occasional lusty thoughts about his teammate was one thing, and uncontrollable, overwhelming lust when faced with Sheppard in stomach-baring leather was another thing entirely.

"We can return tomorrow and discuss the terms of your release," Teyla continued, and Sheppard grimaced again.

"I'm not staying here alone," Sheppard said, and turned to the native on his right. "Can I have some privacy, please?" The guy just stared at him. "I'm not going to run off," Sheppard said, and waved his hand at his new bodyguards. "Can you please just go, I don't know, stand outside the door?"

The native on the right glared at Sheppard, and then raised an eyebrow at the native on Sheppard's left. "A minute with my team," Sheppard said. "Then I'm all yours." He shuddered after saying that, and Rodney tried to suppress a grin. Sheppard was laconic and laid back at all appearances, but Rodney was pretty sure it was an act. Faced with being a sex slave to an entire planet of burly, well-oiled men, Sheppard was slightly less unflappable than usual.

The guy on the left shrugged at the guy on the right, and Sheppard's captor let go of Sheppard's arm. Sheppard twitched, plastered his best phony smile on his face, and said, "Thanks a bunch."

The natives retreated to a corner and stared silently at the Atlantis team standing together in the middle of the room. "So what you're telling me," Sheppard said to Teyla, "is that I have to stay here tonight and fulfill any ... duties these guys might have for me?" He twitched his head in the direction of the burly guys; the guy who had formerly been the-guy-on-the-left brightened visibly at Sheppard's nod in his direction, and Rodney bit down on another grin, trying to stifle the hysterical laughter that was bubbling up under his chest.

"No," Teyla said. "You must stay, yes, but you may be accompanied by one of our team. Because the trade will be annulled shortly, you will not be asked to perform any of the traditional ceremonies."

"I'll stay," Rodney said immediately. "Me. I'll do it."

Sheppard glared. Ronon smirked. Teyla raised one eyebrow. Rodney cursed his mouth for working faster than his brain for once in his life; he absolutely didn't want to stay on this rotten planet, not for all the alien hooch in the city, with a sullen, half-naked Colonel Sheppard. If Rodney stayed on PR7-X89, he could not necessarily be held responsible for what his lizard brain might choose to say to Sheppard, and those sorts of confessions were not the kind of things that Rodney wanted to wake up having made anywhere, Earth or Atlantis or PR7-X89.

"No," Sheppard said. "Ronon can stay."

"Hey," Rodney said. "What's the matter with me?"

Sheppard glared at him. "Repeat after me, McKay: you traded my virtue for a bottle of moonshine. You will have nothing to do with this planet or my sex life ever again." He turned back to Teyla. "Check in with Elizabeth, tell her Ronon's staying here, take care of anything you need to here, then 'gate home and explain the whole situation. Ronon, find out where they're going to keep me, secure the room, and then ... try not to strain something smirking at me." Ronon rolled a lazy shoulder - Rodney knew full well that he'd gotten that gesture from Sheppard, and it looked just as I'm-only-playing-smart on Ronon as it did on Sheppard - and ambled off to make small talk with the burly guys who were still hovering in the corner, not so covertly eyeing Sheppard's leather-clad ass. "And God, please, get back here early tomorrow."

Rodney cleared his throat noisily. Not that he could deny that he'd gotten Sheppard into this situation, but that didn't mean he was stupid, either. Sheppard was scrupulously fair about dividing up the work on any off-world trip, where he could, and besides, Rodney's brain was big enough that he should really always be included in any plan at all.

"Nothing to do with this planet, McKay," Sheppard said, with a warning tone in his voice. Rodney kept his mouth shut. He patted Teyla on the shoulder and said, "Thank you." Then he turned to Rodney and said, "Thanks, McKay."

Rodney raised an eyebrow at Sheppard. The leather was clearly going to his head; Sheppard had reminded Rodney enough times in the last ten minutes that yes, yes, this was Rodney's bad judgment that had landed Sheppard in a leather streetwalker's outfit. "What's the point of going to another galaxy if I don't get to broaden my horizons?" Sheppard said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Go on, get out of here. Sooner you get out of here, sooner I can get out of here." He turned on his heel and sauntered over to Ronon and the burly natives in the corner.

"I hate this galaxy," Rodney said, watching Sheppard's backside amble away from him. Sheppard paused next to Ronon, nodded a couple of times at something the burly guy who'd grabbed his ass said, and then all four of them disappeared through a different door. Sheppard waved, halfway between resigned and jaunty, over his shoulder. Teyla patted Rodney comfortingly on the shoulder, and if Rodney hadn't been staring at the door Sheppard had just disappeared behind, he knew he would see her smirking, as well.

Teyla and Ronon both insisted that no one in the Pegasus Galaxy knew what this mysterious smirking was, but they were both experts at it anyway. If they both hadn't saved Rodney's ass more times than he wanted to count, he might have made an issue of it, but they had, and Rodney was no stranger to a well-placed smirk, either, so he let it go.

Elizabeth was waiting for them when they stepped through the 'gate. "Rodney," she said.

"Yes, yes," Rodney snapped. "My fault, don't do it again, never allowed back to that planet, Colonel Sheppard already took care of all those lectures, Elizabeth, and I don't mean to undermine your authority, but I would really prefer to just hide in my lab in peace for a couple of hours before we have to turn around and go back to liberate the Colonel from the sex-crazed half-naked natives."

"Rodney," she said again. "I was just going to ask what happened."

"Oh," Rodney said. "Well, honestly, I can't understand how this actually is my fault. We were simply in conversation, and - "

Elizabeth cut him off. "Maybe you and Teyla could join Major Lorne and me in the conference room? Where we normally hold debriefings?"

"Yes, fine," Rodney said, and he followed her up the stairs and out of the gate room, which was a small blessing if only because he was certain he had already heard the story of how Dr. McKay traded Colonel Sheppard away for an hour with a sex slave starting to circulate in whispers, and that was simply trouble he didn't need.

When they were all seated around the conference table - and Teyla was still trying to hide the amusement that was written large across her face - Elizabeth said, "So. This was an accident?"

"Yes," Rodney said impatiently. "Trade negotiations were fine, were going well - the people of PR7-X89 were very politely offering us some excellent homemade wine and half of their tobacco crop, which Teyla said we could trade on other planets for something useful, and I said that we had many things we would be willing to trade in this arrangement."

"Yes," Elizabeth said. "But how did you trade Colonel Sheppard?"

"Miscommunication," Rodney said. He was absolutely not the bad guy here; the mistaken guy, the guy who hadn't been fully briefed on the customs of the planet they were traveling to, but that wasn't his fault. That could be blamed on the anthropologists, maybe, or the linguists translating the trading partners section of the Ancient database.

"What kind of miscommunication, Rodney?" Elizabeth said. Lorne, sitting next to her, was wearing an expression similar to Sheppard's standard reaction to Rodney's unintentional mistakes, only with an extra shot of excitement - amusement that Rodney had traded away his CO, annoyance that Rodney had traded away his CO, and the fleeting joyful thought that Rodney had traded away his CO and maybe Lorne would finally get a promotion.

"You're not getting his job," Rodney said to Lorne, who practically strained something trying to rearrange the military ladder climbing thoughts off his face by the time Elizabeth turned to look at him. "Well, I was looking at Colonel Sheppard when I said that we had many things to trade."

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. Lorne tried not to choke on his own laughter. Teyla sat next to Rodney and irritatingly radiated inner calm - Rodney could feel the superiority rolling off her in waves, in between the giggles she was failing to suppress, and if he didn't know that she could kick his ass, he might have been slightly more vocally annoyed by her.

"Apparently, on PR7-X89, because the trade in human beings is so common," Rodney said. "Which, by the way, has got to be some kind of human rights violation."

"We aren't here to regulate anyone else's behavior, Rodney," Elizabeth said. "What about the trade behaviors on PR7-X89?"

"Apparently, if you make eye-contact with a member of your own trading party while discussing a trade with the people of PR7-X89," Rodney said reluctantly. "If you do that, it is considered trading away that particular teammate. And since I looked at Colonel Sheppard when I said that we had items to trade, well, they assumed that I was apparently, and let me remind you totally unintentionally, trading Colonel Sheppard for their supplies."

"Oh," Elizabeth said.

Lorne just snickered.

"Teyla, were you aware of this practice on PR7-X89?" Elizabeth said.

"No," Teyla said. "My people had never ventured to their planet before now. We never had need for their supplies."

"So totally not my fault," Rodney said. "How was I supposed to know that I was accidentally selling Sheppard into slavery?"

"Well," Elizabeth said. "I suppose we should concentrate on how to get him back, then. Teyla, you spoke with the leaders?"

"Can I go now?" Rodney said. "Colonel Sheppard made it very clear that I was to have nothing to do with his rescue. Like he has any virtue left for me to trade away."

Lorne started to choke on his own suppressed laughter. Elizabeth tried to frown in his direction, but the corners of her mouth were twitching too hard for the gesture to be particularly effective. "Right," Rodney said. "I'll just leave you all to laugh at my humiliation in peace. If you need me, remember that Sheppard wants me to have nothing to do with this, and don't bother calling."

He stomped out of the conference room and into a transporter. He was less annoyed at PR7-X89, Colonel Sheppard, and the entire world when he stomped into his lab, but only until Zelenka looked up from his laptop.

"Bad form, Rodney," Zelenka said.

"It was an accident!" Rodney said, and was dismayed to hear it come out more like an outraged shriek and less like a statement of fact.

"Marines say this is why scientists should not be allowed off planet," Zelenka said. "Trading away commanding officers is generally frowned upon by all protocol."

"Shut up," Rodney said, and wrenched Zelenka's laptop away from him.

At dinner, Rodney heard three different pimp jokes, two different Sheppard-never-sees-it-coming jokes, and one honest query from a chemist about whether or not Colonel Sheppard looked as good in leather as Ronon did.

Rodney almost turned around to give her a first person opinion on the subject, but the anthropologist across the table cracked the third and final pimp joke, and Rodney decided no one else on the science team, in any discipline but especially in a soft science, needed to know that Colonel Sheppard did, in fact, look as good in leather as Ronon - and a great deal less terrifying, given the fact that Sheppard was not quite as much of a mountain man as Ronon.

"You're never going to live this down," Laura Cadman said, sliding into a seat across the table from Rodney.

"Colonel Sheppard had glowing, non-corporeal sex with an alien life form," Rodney said. "How come I don't hear people talking about that all the time?"

"Oh, they talk about that," Cadman said, shoveling purple mashed potatoes into her mouth. "Just not where you can hear it. Everybody knows you're totally irrational about her, we hear enough ranting without provoking more."

"Technically, I’m your superior," Rodney said.

"Technically, you traded my CO to an alien race," Cadman said. "Your credibility, as it were, McKay, has dropped. Not to mention the fact that I was in your head, I know what you think about Sheppard wearing leather like Dex does."

"You wouldn't," Rodney said. He'd suddenly lost all appetite, even for the barbequed venison from PR6-7X8. Not that he spent a lot of time thinking about Sheppard wearing leather, but when you had Ronon and Teyla running around the city - literally, a lot of the time - wearing comparatively very little, a scientist who hadn't had sex in almost 18 months couldn't be held responsible for what kind of thoughts floating through his mind. Especially not when a nosy Marine Corps demolitions expert was poking around in his subconscious while he slept.

Not that he'd dreamt about Sheppard wearing leather.

"Oh, I wouldn't," Cadman agreed cheerfully. "Just wanted to remind you that you can't fake it with me."

"You are an evil woman," Rodney said. "And you should be destroyed."

"Hey, I tried to help you with women," Cadman said. "And that was a disaster. So I thought I'd try a different tactic this time; if Katie Brown isn't really your type, maybe Colonel Sheppard in leather is."

"Could you not say that so loudly," Rodney hissed. "There are Marines who would not look kindly on hearing these things all over this place."

"Rodney, you have got to get out of the lab more often," Cadman said. "Can I have your pudding?"

Rodney clutched his pudding cup protectively against his chest; he was having a sincerely bad day, he needed the pudding for moral support.

"Fine," Cadman said, leaning back in her chair again. "Don't share with me. All I'm saying, Rodney, is if you paid attention to other people once in a while, you'd notice that most of the people stationed here - military and scientist and diplomat alike - were mostly chosen because they've got open minds and aren't afraid of weird things happening. And that includes their CO dating a scientist. You think we all got to come to Atlantis because we're not paragons of discretion? Because we can't keep our mouths shut when we have to?"

"Be that as it may," Rodney said, standing up and grabbing his tray. "Tolerance is good, but that doesn't mean I have to suffer matchmaking efforts - sincerely misguided matchmaking efforts - from a demolitions expert."

"Explosives expert," Cadman said. "Be that way, Rodney, if you want to be, but seriously, I bet he looks just as good in leather in real life as he did in your head, and what are you going to do? Wait until another priestess comes along and seduces him and have a temper tantrum?"

"No," Rodney said.

"Life's too short anywhere to live like that," Cadman said. "But it's especially too short in the Pegasus Galaxy."

"Go to hell, Cadman," Rodney said.

"Only if you'll be there," Cadman said, and shoved another bite of potatoes into her mouth.

Rodney stomped out of the mess, pudding cup still clutched against his chest; he could turn left and hop a transporter up to the lab, or he could turn right and go see what Elizabeth had planned for the rescue re-trading mission, or he could climb up the stairs in front of him and hide in his quarters for a while, where hopefully no nosy Marines would stop by and give him unwanted advice on his non-love life.

It was no question - suffer through Zelenka's barely disguised barbs about this fiasco, or catch up on who was uploading the best new porn to the central server in the privacy of his quarters, and his quarters won every time. He stomped up the stairs, glared three Marines and two biologists into submission as they smirked when he walked by, and sequestered himself in his quarters.

He didn't remember lying down on his bed, but apparently he did, because all the downloads he'd started were finished and the light coming in the windows was early, early morning and not late evening - and someone was banging hard on the door to his quarters. "What?" Rodney said. "I am very busy and important, what is it?"

"Open up, McKay," a female voice said, and Rodney thought the door open - it slid sluggishly, the way his brain felt, and then Cadman was framed, back-lit, in his doorway. "Morning, sunshine," she said. "Up and at 'em, we're going to get the Colonel."

"I'm not allowed," Rodney said. "Christ, Cadman, are you always this cheerful?"

"Pretty much," she said. "What's not to be cheerful about?"

"Oh, I don't know, everything," Rodney said, struggling to his feet and glaring at her.

She just grinned back, P-90 strapped across her chest, and said, "Mission gear, McKay."

Cadman refused to avert her eyes while Rodney pulled on his pants, followed him into the bathroom when he brushed his teeth, and grabbed him by an elbow and frog-marched him out of his room, into a transporter, and then onto the 'gate room floor when they emerged from the transporter. "You are incredibly annoying," Rodney told her, when she deposited him with Teyla, behind a cluster of Marines, the first wave going through the 'gate.

She mouthed the words "leather pants" in his direction and sauntered over to stand next to Lorne, who was briefing the Marines on Rodney didn't know what - maybe not getting close enough to Rodney that they'd be at risk for being traded away. "Where's Elizabeth?" he asked Teyla. "Isn't she going?"

"No," Teyla said. "She is not needed. Only the team needs to return."

"So what's with the burly, brainless escort?" Rodney said. "If returning the bottle doesn't work, we're going to grab the Colonel and run?"

"We're just going along to make sure nobody tries to shoot you, McKay," Lorne said.

"Because as soon as the nice people on PR7-X89 give Colonel Sheppard his sidearm back," Cadman said, "I'm pretty sure he's going to be pointing it right at you."

"Not my fault," Rodney hissed at her. "None of this was my fault!"

"It is all right, Rodney," Teyla said. "I am sure that Colonel Sheppard understands that sometimes mistakes are made during trade."

The 'gate tech said, "Dialing PR7-X89 now!" and they all watched the chevrons encode and the wormhole splash into life.

"He's really not going to be happy to see me," Rodney said to no one in particular.

Cadman patted him on the shoulder and said, "It won't be any different than how most of us feel every day, McKay, you'll survive." Then she stepped through the wormhole, the last of the Marines. Rodney sucked in a breath, scowled as hard as he could, and stepped into the 'gate.

On the planet, it was nearly sunset, and the natives - Rodney still hadn't figured out what they called themselves; the 'gate did a reasonable job of translating Pegasus languages into something resembling English, but that didn't make the names of the natives any more pronounceable, not when they were full of three times as many consonants as vowels - had sent a welcoming committee. A fairly large welcoming committee, from the looks of it, made up of both half-naked, burly men and half-naked, burly women. At least two dozen of them surrounded the Marines, none of whom had their guns up but all of whom looked vaguely surprised (and in Cadman's case, highly amused).

"Teyla," the leader from the day before, whose name was something that sounded like Jim, said placidly when they stepped onto the platform on the other side of the 'gate, and the Marines shifted back from the welcoming committee to let her walk toward him. "Teyla, daughter of Athos, we welcome you. And Doctor McKay, we welcome you, as well."

"Thank you," Teyla said. "We are honored to join you."

"Can we just have - " Rodney started to say, but he was prodded firmly in the back with what felt like the butt of a P-90, and he craned his neck to see who was behind him. Cadman smirked. Rodney shut his mouth.

Jim said, "I believe your friend is ready to leave. He has been a most enchanting guest, and we would welcome him here again at any time."

"He's not our friend," Rodney said, shoving Lorne in front of him to walk beside Teyla and Jim as they started to move. "He's this guy's boss, and I know that your people are excellent hosts, but I'm not sure that he's going to want to come back."

"He will," Jim said. "Anyone who spends a night under our protection always comes back."

Rodney rolled his eyes. Cadman, standing next to him, smirked so fiercely that Rodney was certain he could hear it. They followed Jim and Teyla and Lorne into a large banquet hall - from which fantastic food smells were emanating, and Rodney knew that they hadn't been shown this place the day before - where Ronon, wearing a new set of leather pants (clearly in the style of the natives of PR7-X89, and Rodney wasn't gay, exactly, because he liked women just as well as men, but it was hard to ignore someone as large and as suited to leather as Ronon), and Sheppard, still wearing what was apparently the traditional costume of honored gay sex slaves on PR7-X89 and looking gorgeously disheveled in them (Rodney wasn't blind, either), were seated at a table near the front of the room.

"They meant it about honored guests," Rodney said.

"I'd honor Ronon," Cadman said with a leer.

"Oh, God, shut up," Rodney said. "I don't need to hear that sort of thing."

"Think of it as punishment," Cadman said. "I know what your subconscious was thinking when I took your body for a test drive."

"Oh, please, shut up," Rodney said. "I've tried to repress that."

"So have I," Cadman said.

Jim led them up to the table where Sheppard and Ronon were sprawled, sipping on something that smelled potently alcoholic from even a distance. The Marines did a complicated dance - the ones who weren't on 'gate teams looking surprisingly and amusingly shocked at being forced into a ritual banquet of any sort - and Rodney ended up shoved into the chair to the left of Sheppard, with Teyla on Ronon's right. The Marines spread out and the half-naked natives (looking even more naked than the day before; maybe it was ceremonial - Rodney could have asked one of the anthropologists translating the database, except he didn't quite care) settled into chairs in between the soldiers.

"So, Colonel," Rodney said, and Sheppard turned toward him. He was tipsy, Rodney thought, and the expression Sheppard tried to resolve into a glare fell somewhere short of bemused irritation. "Did you enjoy being traded to the away team?"

"Weren't you traded to the Russians for a player to be named later, Rodney?" Sheppard said.

"Hey," Rodney said.

"What's a player to be named later?" Ronon said.

"Sometimes," Sheppard drawled. "When a team member is so entirely useless, the team trades him to another team and doesn't get anything back for him, because it's more important that the team gets rid of him than that the team gets anyone back for him. So they say, they're going to get a replacement from the team they traded him to, later on."

"I was not traded to the Russians for a player to be named later," Rodney said.

"The SGC sent you to Russia and didn't get anybody back, right?" Sheppard said. "Sounds like it to me."

"Did you have a good night, Colonel?" Rodney said. "Enjoy being molested by homosexual aliens?"

"Nobody molested me," Sheppard said.

"Can we trade Rodney to Lorne for a player to be named later?" Ronon said, apparently having contemplated Sheppard's explanation and, unlike Teyla, processed things out on his own.

Rodney liked Ronon, because he never said much and that left Rodney more time to talk, except that when Ronon did say something, it was usually rude, and at Rodney's expense. Rodney would have cared more, except that at that moment, Sheppard shifted, spreading his legs a little wider and Rodney gulped, watching the soft leather cling to Sheppard's thighs in a disturbingly attractive (and eerily similar to Rodney's fantasies) way.

"No," Sheppard said to Ronon. "No one molested me," he said to Rodney. "No one even offered."

"Oh, I'm sure they didn't," Rodney said, suddenly exponentially more irritated by the entire situation than he had been the day before, or that morning, or fifteen minutes ago when he'd sat down next to Sheppard. It was the leather pants, he was certain. Ronon's leather pants were ignorable, but Sheppard's leather pants were downright distracting. "I'm sure you sat around with your legs spread in those ridiculous pants, and no one tried to molest you at all. It makes perfect sense; you never see it coming when it does happen, you probably don't remember it at all."

"McKay, you're acting weird," Sheppard said.

"I'm not acting weird," Rodney said, looking around the room frantically for a place to escape to. Lorne was making small talk with Jim and Teyla at the other end of the table, and Cadman was flicking grape-like fruits out of a bowl in front of her at the Marine two down from her, one of the new ones whose name Rodney still hadn't learned.

"You're acting weird," Sheppard said. "I'm the one who got traded to another race of people and you're the one who's acting like he's been molested!"

"I'm worried about you being traumatized," Rodney snapped. "This was a very traumatic experience for you."

"This was a vacation," Sheppard said. "And it was a vacation, remember, that you got me into. I guess I should thank you, huh? It was a nice break from running for my life because you insulted someone."

"Oh, God, you're brain damaged," Rodney said, and Sheppard raised an eyebrow and leaned in toward Rodney, his leather-clad thigh pressing up against Rodney's leg. "These people damaged your brain."

"No one damaged anything, McKay," Sheppard said. "Except Ronon. He broke a chair last night, but that was just poor construction, I think."

"Now you're talking about furniture! Obviously something is wrong with you!" Rodney howled, and half the banquet hall turned and stared at him. Cadman leaned out across the table and shook her head at him disapprovingly. Rodney gave her the finger.

"You're never going to win anyone over with an attitude like that, McKay," she called.

"I can't be interested in furniture?" Sheppard said. "I thought they might make us pay for it, that's all."

"You were never interested in furniture before," Rodney hissed. He could still feel the eyes of a whole bunch of half-naked natives on him, and it was disconcerting. Sheppard seemed nonplussed, but people stared at him and Ronon wherever they went, maybe this was nothing new.

Sheppard opened his mouth to reply, but he was interrupted by Jim standing up and ringing a bell.

"Honored guests and honored citizens," Jim said. "I welcome you to our table."

Then he sat down again, all the natives (and the Marines, including Cadman, who stopped throwing grapes and started stuffing them in her mouth) dug into the plates of food on the table, and Rodney said, "Huh."

"They're not much for talking," Sheppard said, mouth full of something gamey-looking that smelled a little like chicken.

"Of course they're not," Rodney said, and Sheppard raised an eyebrow. A man could learn to hate that eyebrow of Sheppard's, Rodney thought. It was as quixotic as its owner, and almost as unintentionally seductive. Which was not what Rodney was supposed to be thinking about in the middle of a dinner that would theoretically lead to the negotiations that would lead to Sheppard no longer being a sex slave on this godforsaken planet.

"Of course they're not," Sheppard said, and Rodney stared at him.

"You're repeating everything I say," Rodney said. "I knew there was brain damage."

"You didn't finish your thought, McKay," Sheppard said, and elbowed Ronon in the side. "Pass me that ... antelope thing."

"Oh," Rodney said. "Of course they're not much for talking, they're too busy trying to sleep with everyone who walks through their 'gate!"

"No one tried to sleep with me," Sheppard said. "Try the antelope, no citrus, and it's tasty."

Rodney forked an antelope onto his plate and cut into it. "I saw how those guards were looking at you when we left," he said through a mouthful of meat. "Like they wanted to jump your bones."

"No bones were jumped," Sheppard said. "Ronon wrestled a tiger, though."

"He wrestled a tiger?" Rodney said.

"It was a little one," Ronon said. "For fun."

"Your definition of fun," Rodney said. "And stop trying to distract me from your trauma, Colonel, I can tell that you're suppressing these experiences!"

"McKay, you can drag me in to see Carson or Heightmeyer when we get back, but I swear to God, I'm not traumatized," Sheppard said.

"I'm starting to be," Cadman said from down the table.

"No one asked you!" Rodney snapped, whipping around to glare at her. "You're a grunt, Cadman, keep your nose out of this."

Cadman was wearing an angelic expression, though, and she tossed a grape in the air and caught it in her mouth before winking at Rodney. When Rodney turned back to Sheppard, he was placidly cutting into another antelope steak and Ronon was gazing at Cadman with an expression that Rodney eventually parsed as lust, which was frightening on multiple levels. Even more so when Ronon said, "Can we trade McKay for her?"

"She's got a name," Sheppard said, and popped a bite of meat into his mouth. "Seriously, McKay, I'm fine. We sat around a campfire, we drank some of that hooch that you got when you traded me away, Ronon broke a chair and wrestled a tiger, we went to sleep, and I woke up with all my clothes on and my virtue intact."

"As if you have any virtue," Rodney said.

"Hey," Sheppard said.

"Leather pants," Rodney hissed.

"You're awfully concerned with my pants," Sheppard said. "Maybe you're after my virtue."

"I'm not after your virtue," Rodney said, and Cadman made an undignified noise behind his back. "I'm trying to protect your virtue!"

"I thought you said I didn't have any virtue," Sheppard said. He was smirking at Rodney over the rim of a cup of something that smelled potently alcoholic, and when Rodney met his eyes, Sheppard waggled his eyebrows like something out of a romantic comedy.

"Stop that!" Rodney said, dismayed to hear it come out as more of a shriek and less of a command.

"I'm just trying to figure out what kind of problem we're having here, McKay. If you won't communicate with me, I can't figure out what you want." Sheppard leaned in again, cup still in his hand, and licked his lips.

Rodney jerked backwards reflexively, and then wanted to lean back toward Sheppard, but he wasn't going to encourage these delusions. He had enough problems without trying to figure out what Sheppard was trying to do here. "We have no problems, Colonel! You have a problem, and you are clearly not dealing with it well at all!"

Sheppard hummed under his breath and stabbed at the last antelope steak. Ronon beat him to it, barely missing Sheppard's hand with his fork, and Sheppard yanked his hand back so quickly that he tipped off his chair and into Rodney's very personal space. Sheppard grabbed at Rodney to stabilize himself, his hand coming down on Rodney's thigh and squeezing hard. "Geez, Dex," Sheppard said.

"I fought a tiger for that," Ronon growled.

"You fought a tiger for another bottle of hooch," Sheppard said. His hand was still on Rodney's leg even though he was glaring at Ronon, and his thumb was rubbing small, idle circles just above Rodney's knee. "Nobody fought anything for this meat."

Ronon grunted. Rodney stared down at his lap and Sheppard's hand, which hadn't moved. "Uh, Colonel?"

Sheppard looked over at him, and Rodney cleared his throat and flicked his eyes down to his leg. "Sorry, McKay," Sheppard said. "Little distracted." He didn't move his hand.

"Clearly," Rodney snapped, "these people have warped your mind. We're never coming back here, ever."

"I'm pretty sure I told you never to come back to this planet, at least," Sheppard said. "And yet you're here anyway. So I'm not sure what your point is."

"I don't want to work with a team leader who's scarred from a terrible sexual experience," Rodney said. "You could make bad decisions in the field and get me killed. I'm not ready to die just because you're sexually repressed."

"McKay," Sheppard said. "Are you hitting on me?"

"Can we trade Kavanagh for a player to be named later?" Ronon said thoughtfully.

"No," Rodney said to Sheppard.

"No," Sheppard said to Ronon.

Cadman started to laugh so hard liquid ran out her nose, and the Marine sitting next to her started pounding on her back.

"Aren't you sorry you explained that to him now?" Rodney hissed at Sheppard.

"Not as sorry as you're going to be that you traded me away," Sheppard said.

"I'm sorry!" Rodney shrieked. "I'm incredibly sorry! As sorry as it is possible to be! Now, will you stop being stoic and manly and admit that you're completely troubled by your experiences on this planet, so we can move on and get back to our normal lives?"

"Can we trade Kavanagh for the tiger?" Ronon asked.

"No," Sheppard said.

"Was that no to the tiger, Colonel, or no to getting back to our normal lives?" Rodney said.

"I like how you think I'm all fucked up over this, McKay, but you want me to move on as quickly as possible," Sheppard said. "You can't have the tiger, Ronon. Where would you keep it?"

"'Gate room," Ronon said.

"Huh," Sheppard said. "What do you think, McKay? You like cats. Think we should get Chuck a tiger for protection in the 'gate room?"

"You are trying to distract me from your trauma," Rodney snapped. "And no, I think a tiger is a very poor idea."

"I can't distract you from something I don't have," Sheppard said. "McKay, have you eaten anything tonight?"

"What?" Rodney said.

"Eaten something," Sheppard said patiently. "I'm still pissed at you, but if it's a choice between listening to you go on and on about my ordeal or listening to you complain about hypoglycemia, ordeals win every time."

"You never care about my health," Rodney said, staring at Sheppard suspiciously. He was even more certain now that the Colonel had some sort of repression thing going on. Sheppard was never interested in Rodney's well-being, and he was never this easygoing when he was pissed off.

"I care about your health all the time, Rodney," Sheppard said. "I didn't let Ronon eat you the first day we met him, did I?"

"Wouldn't have eaten McKay," Ronon mumbled through a mouthful of something that looked like fish.

Sheppard reached out, over the now-empty platter than had held the antelope steaks, speared a fish-looking filet and dropped it on Rodney's plate. "Uh," Rodney said. Sheppard stabbed a bite off with his fork and popped it into his mouth, chewing theatrically.

"No citrus, and it's pretty good," he said. "Eat."

"Colonel, are you the royal taster for McKay?" Cadman called from the end of the table.

"When we get back to Atlantis," Rodney said to Sheppard, who was staring at him with a weirdly fierce expression that Rodney couldn't quite read. "I'm going to throw her off the north pier. Please don't tell anyone it was me when you're forced to investigate her disappearance."

"Cross my heart, McKay," Sheppard said. "Eat."

"What are you, my mother?" Rodney said, but he shoved a forkful of fish into his mouth and Sheppard was right, it was good - flaky and light and covered in some sort of cream sauce. The fish was good enough - and the squash-like substance that Sheppard scooped onto his plate next to the fish was, too - that Rodney had almost forgotten why they were there, except that Jim stood up and rang the bell again, silencing the room and dragging everyone's attention to the head table, where only Rodney and Ronon were still eating.

Rodney froze with his fork halfway to his mouth, little bits of fish falling off the sides and into his lap, as flashes of information flipped through his brain like a slide show. He was sitting at a table eating alien fish because he'd traded Colonel Sheppard away, and Sheppard was furious at him.

Suddenly, the whole evening, which had previously been an annoying distraction from other annoying things in the lab, felt far stranger. He'd been arguing with Sheppard about trauma, and Sheppard, in his own infuriating way, had pushed the conversation so far from what Rodney had intended it to be about that Rodney had almost forgotten what it was supposed to be about.

"I hate you," he whispered to Sheppard. Jim, who had stood up as if to make a speech, had bent done and was conferring with Teyla. Ronon, in clear view over Sheppard's shoulder, was glaring at Jim's back as though he'd like to stick one of his hair knives into it.

Sheppard said, "Aw, McKay, that's not very nice."

"You're a sick man," Rodney continued. "You enjoy fucking with the minds of poor, unsuspecting scientists. You're no better than Cadman!"

That accusation had made a lot more sense inside his head, and Sheppard blinked at him a couple of times before whispering, "Unsuspecting scientists? McKay, you suspect everything. You suspect fictional things. You are not unsuspecting."

"I notice you don't deny anything about Lt. Cadman," Rodney hissed. Sheppard blinked a couple of times and looked like he was going to say something else, but Jim finally straightened up and cleared his throat.

"Honored guests and honored citizens," he said. "We have welcomed and greeted the guests from the city of the Ancients in a suitable fashion, and at the close of our meal, we will be bidding good-bye to them all as they return to their city. We have especially enjoyed the companies of Ronon Dex, warrior, and Colonel John Sheppard, pi-lot, whose easy laughter and epic stories kept many of our men entertained into the late hours of the evening."

"You have an easy laugh," Rodney hissed at Sheppard. Sheppard, who was watching Jim with a lazy smirk on his face, reached back and patted Rodney on the leg in a gesture that coming from anyone else, given to anyone else, might have been comforting - but it was Sheppard and it was Rodney and no one ever patted Rodney on the leg like that because it wasn't comforting. "Oh, God, see, this is not normal, Colonel Sheppard, you are not normal, what have they done with your easy laugh and your epic stories? They've stolen all the things that make you interesting?"

"Rodney," Sheppard said, without turning around or taking his eyes off Jim. "Please shut up."

"You never say please," Rodney said, and Sheppard turned around in his chair and glared at Rodney. Over Sheppard's shoulder, Rodney could see Teyla leaning forward in her chair, stretched out across the table, and doing the same thing. He snapped his mouth shut and tuned his brain back to the speech that Jim was giving.

"... always welcome at our table," Jim said. He turned, leaning over Ronon's bulk, and patted Sheppard on the shoulder.

"Thanks," Sheppard drawled. "It was nice to be here."

The crowd of nearly naked natives jumped to their feet and began applauding and whistling. Sheppard shrugged magnanimously and waved a hand at the crowd. Rodney said, "Oh, God, I can't believe you slept with all those people, of course you're traumatized."

Sheppard spared Rodney a blank look and said, "McKay, I didn't sleep with anybody," before turning back to a conversation with Teyla, who had ousted Ronon from his seat. Ronon was arm-wrestling with a native at one of the other tables, cheered on by Cadman and a couple of Marines, and that was traumatizing Rodney as much as Sheppard's leather pants were. Sheppard was still sitting so close to Rodney that his hip was pressed against Rodney's thigh, his arm thrown over the back of the chair brushing against Rodney's shoulder.

Rodney twitched a little; Sheppard was casual with his body, but never this casual. Rodney appreciated Sheppard's body - with a face like that, who wouldn't appreciate those hips? - but he preferred to appreciate it from a distance, where his appreciation wouldn't get him kicked in the face by a bunch of unhappy Marines. Sheppard's easy sprawl, his apparent ignorance of his invasion of Rodney's personal space - it was all vaguely upsetting and vaguely arousing at the same time, and it was making Rodney's head hurt.

Or maybe that was just because of the way everyone in the room was leering at Sheppard like he was a piece of meat.

Teyla turned and murmured something inaudible to Jim, and he nodded. She stood up from her seat and nodded at Sheppard, who unbent those long legs (not that Rodney was watching) and stood up himself, stretching his arms over his head and showing off a hairy, tanned stomach and garnering several appreciative sighs from the audience of nearly naked natives (and one, Rodney thought, from Major Lorne, which was surprising and disturbing both). "All right, kids, let's get this show on the road."

Ronon slammed the native's arm down to the table with a grunt and Cadman applauded. The native limped away clutching at his wrist and the Marines fell back into business mode, shepherding Rodney out of the hall. Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon followed behind him, Teyla still in quiet conversation with Jim, and Ronon's low voice rumbling over them.

Sheppard said, "No, Ronon," as Cadman fell into step with Rodney.

"So," Cadman said, and Rodney was certain that if he looked sideways at her, she would be smirking. "The leather live up to your fantasies?"

"Cadman, I am going to feed you to Ronon's tiger when we get back to Atlantis," Rodney snapped.

"Aw, McKay, you say the sweetest things," she said, and ambled away toward Lorne at the front of the group.

The group did the standard thanks-for-having-us-we'll-have-our-people-call-your-people in front of the 'gate, and Sheppard shook Jim's hand. He was still in the leather the natives had forced him into, albeit with his P-90 strapped across his chest and his sidearm in the thigh holster on his right leg, and Rodney gulped once when Sheppard cocked a hip and the straps of the holster pulled the soft leather tight across his ass.

"Stop staring," Cadman whispered.

"Go now and die in the way that seems best to you," Rodney whispered back.

Then one of the Marines was dialing the 'gate, and Rodney pulled his eyes off Sheppard's ass and fixed them solidly on the chevrons encoding and locking. The wormhole engaged, Teyla said something polite and cordial to Jim, and they all strolled through into the Atlantis 'gate room as though this hadn't been the strangest mission of Rodney's Pegasus Galaxy career - and that was saying something.

Elizabeth was standing in the 'gate room when they stepped through. She blinked at Sheppard's appearance a couple of times and said, "Colonel. Welcome back. I trust nothing out of the ordinary happened this time?"

"All fine, Elizabeth," Sheppard said lazily. "Except for McKay's little social blunder, everything was just fine."

Rodney said, "Ronon wrestled a tiger."

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. "Really?"

"Sheppard wouldn't let me keep it," Ronon offered.

"For the best, I think," Elizabeth said. "We'll debrief in half an hour. Colonel Sheppard, you're certain you're fine?"

"Promise, Elizabeth. I'll see Kate if you want me to, but I don't need to, I swear," Sheppard said. "But I think McKay's more than a little freaked out by the whole experience."

Elizabeth stared at Rodney with a frowning, measured expression. Rodney tried not to stare at Sheppard in leather. Ronon wandered out of the 'gate room. There was a long silence from everyone while Rodney attempted to look sane and not at all driven mad by the sight of his team leader in leather whore clothes, and then Chuck knocked a metal mug off his console, shattering the silence and causing at least three people to leap in surprise.

"Go see Kate tomorrow, Rodney," Elizabeth said.

"I don't need therapy," Rodney said. Someone at the back of the room muttered something indistinct and a couple of Marines laughed. "Shut up, Cadman!" Rodney shrieked, and everyone who hadn't been staring at the Colonel in leather and Rodney having an apparent nervous breakdown from the stress of being forced to look at the Colonel in leather before then turned and stared. "Fine," Rodney muttered. "Fine."

"9 a.m., Rodney," Elizabeth said. "Everyone is excused, except for Colonel Sheppard and Teyla. Briefing in half an hour."

The Marines drifted out of the 'gate room, heading for mess or the ready room, and Rodney stomped toward a transporter, unsure if he was heading for his quarters or his lab, but certain he was heading somewhere out of Cadman's reach.

The trouble with 'gate travel was that time never stabilized. It had been late evening on PR7-X89 but it was only early afternoon on Atlantis. Rodney stomped into the transporter and stomped out down the hall from his primary lab, and he was about to think the door open when his radio crackled to life and Zelenka said, "Rodney, Kavanagh has made something explode in lab three."

Rodney said, "I'll be in my quarters doing very important work all afternoon, Radek." He turned on his heel, headed straight for the transporter, and didn't stop to talk to anyone - nearly running Cadman over in the process, leaving her spluttering, "Nice manners, McKay," behind him - until he was safely in his quarters.

He shoved his radio under his pillow, opened up the latest simulations he was running on his laptop, and hid for several hours. The sun had started to set - throwing unfortunate glare through his window onto the laptop screen - when his radio started to bleat under the pillow.

"Yes, what?" Rodney snarled, jamming it back onto his ear.

"You will miss dinner in the mess if you continue to hide from Colonel Sheppard in leather pants," Radek said placidly. "And the Ancient artifact that Kavanagh blew up has turned out to be harmless."

"I am not hiding from Colonel Sheppard or his leather pants," Rodney snapped. "And how did you know he was wearing leather pants?"

"The Colonel came by the lab in search of you," Radek said. "He was still wearing them."

"Oh, well, thank you for that report on the Colonel's quickly declining fashion sense," Rodney said. "Is that all, or did you need to tell me something else utterly unimportant?"

"Kavanagh is not dead," Radek said.

"What a shame," Rodney said, cutting the connection with his thumb. He couldn't face an entire mess full of people leering about Sheppard in leather pants, and he had a dozen MREs still stashed underneath his bed. He dropped down onto the mattress and fished one out. The day had been a wash; the whole damn week had been a wash. The only good that had come out of all of it was the fish at the banquet on PR7-X89, and a pair of leather pants.

Sheppard wasn't acting like he was still pissed at Rodney, but that didn't mean he was going to let Rodney appreciate the leather pants up close. Even if Sheppard had been inappropriately touchy during the banquet - the whole mission to PR7-X89 had sucked, was continuing to suck, and tomorrow he had to go talk to Kate Heightmeyer, which was last on his list of things he'd rather eat glass than do.

Rodney shoveled in the last of the food in the MRE and pitched the wrapper across the room at his trashcan; he missed.

"Goddamnit," he said, rolling over and shoving his face into his pillow. Rodney wasn't one to sleep away his problems - he didn't have any problems he hadn't been able to solve before, except the one where Sam Carter didn't love him, and the one where clearly he was in lust with John Sheppard and his stupid sex slave leather pants.

When he woke up, his windows were dark and the life-signs monitor told him that the night shift Marines were halfway down the hall, heading away from his quarters, so he headed toward the transporter at the other end of the hallway, certain that the labs would be empty except for people who were too afraid of him to make smart remarks about Colonel Sheppard's pants.

The lights were low when he stepped into the lab, and most of the workbenches were empty, except for the one where Zelenka was prodding at the insides of a dismembered laptop. "Rodney," he said. "Where are you hiding the spare hard drives?"

"Radek, I am not going to set up you for a cheap punch line about leather pants," Rodney snapped, and Radek blinked at him sleepily.

"No, really," he said. "Hard drive in this laptop is kaput! Smoke and burning smell and everything. I would have called on your radio, but there was only static on the other end. You are not really hiding the hard drives in Colonel Sheppard's pants, are you?"

"Shut up," Rodney said. "They're underneath all the junk in Kavanagh's to-do pile. I figure if he gets to the bottom of that pile without dying or killing someone else, he deserves a new hard drive."

"Ah," Zelenka said. "Very logical. Perfect sense." He collected up the laptop bits and pieces in his arms and headed for the door. "Do not sleep in the lab, Rodney. Dr. Weir is becoming increasingly adamant about all personnel getting enough sleep."

"Yes, yes," Rodney said. "Whatever you say. I slept already; I'm not going to sleep here."

"I am taking the last cup of coffee," Zelenka said, balancing his dismembered laptop in one arm and emptying the coffee pot into a travel mug with his free hand. "So you will have to leave if you want more."

"Fine," Rodney said. The simulations he'd tried to run earlier were still failing, and he was trying to figure out what was going wrong, except that his brain kept telling him that the problem was not enough leather pants, which was clearly not the answer.

"Goodnight, Rodney," Zelenka said.

"Whatever," Rodney said, staring at his output graphs and focusing very, very hard on the numbers, and not on Colonel Sheppard, or a 9 am appointment with Kate Heightmeyer, or Cadman leering at him over a plate of grapes, and he hardly even noticed the door sliding shut behind Radek.

The labs in Atlantis, like all good labs everywhere, didn't have windows - no way to tell if it was raining or snowing, midnight or morning - and Rodney preferred it that way. Why make yourself insane over the fact that it was a beautiful (probably allergen-producing) day outside when you could be inside with numbers and simulations that made sense? No point in that.

It screwed your sleep schedule all to hell, though, and when Rodney woke up with a cup of coffee under his nose and a P-90 prodding him in the side, he wasn't sure if it was Tuesday or Thursday or Sunday-and-a-half (to compensate for the longer days on Atlantis, even though after two years most people were still trying to live on a 24 hour clock, and failing miserably), and he wasn't sure why he had the imprint of a space bar on one cheek.

"Geez, McKay, if I'd wanted to be your alarm clock, I wouldn't have spent all those pointless years in school learning how to blow stuff up," Cadman said, smirking down at him.

"Goddamnit, Cadman," Rodney grumbled, reaching for the cup of coffee with the hand that wasn't asleep from having been trapped under his chest for hours.

She slid the mug just out of his reach. "Up and at 'em, McKay. You're already late for your appointment with Heightmeyer."

"I hate you so much," Rodney said. "How come you pulled babysitting duty?"

"Not babysitting," Cadman said cheerfully, poking him hard in the shoulder with one finger. "Babies are cuter than you, way cuter than you."

"Semantics aside," Rodney said.

"Colonel Sheppard thought you might try to get out of it," she said. "I had some free time, and you can't deny that you enjoy my sparkling wit and winning personality."

"Colonel Sheppard hates you," Rodney told her. He struggled to his feet and stretched, feeling his back crack in several places it shouldn't have. "Ow. And he hates me, too."

"Aw, the Colonel doesn't hate you," Cadman said. "Don't be such a pessimist. It's just intense dislike, or maybe loathing."

"I know why the SGC sent you, particularly, to Atlantis," Rodney said to her. "Clearly they thought that Colonel Sheppard was actually going to blow himself up, and General Hammond knew that I couldn't survive without someone to irritate me beyond all belief. Give me my coffee."

"Here you go," Cadman said, shoving the mug into his hands and her P-90 in the small of his back. "Now march, McKay, or I'll chase you down there myself."

"You'd enjoy that," Rodney said, but he moved, coffee in his hands and, thankfully, Cadman's gun not in his back anymore.

"I would," Cadman said cheerfully. "I haven't gotten my run in yet today, since I'm on deliver-you-to-the-shrink duty."

"How does your mother live, knowing she birthed Satan's spawn?" Rodney grumbled as they stepped into the transporter across from the labs.

He didn't have time to blink - damn the Ancients to hell - before the doors slid open on a direct view of Heightmeyer's office doors, and Cadman said, "I didn't know you'd met my brother, McKay, but my mom's seemingly okay with his continued existence. Thanks for asking!"

She gave him a shove out of the transporter - none too gentle - and smirked when he tripped on his own feet and glared back at her. She gave him a jaunty little wave and the doors slid shut, and Rodney was left with an empty corridor, a cup of lukewarm coffee, and Heightmeyer's stupid office, staring him in the face. He almost turned and headed back to the lab, no Cadman to make sure he actually sat through his session, but Heightmeyer always had coffee in her office, God only knew where she got it, and it was good coffee. He knocked on the door.

"Come in," she said, and the door slid open. "Rodney," Heightmeyer said warmly. "It's good to see you."

"Dr. Heightmeyer," Rodney said. He made a beeline for the coffee pot plugged into a Zelenka-rigged adapter plugged into an Ancient power source.

"I've told you to call me Kate, Rodney," she said.

"And I'd rather not be here," Rodney said, "so we can't all get what we want, alas."

"I know you're not a fan of psychology, Rodney, but you're here at the request of Dr. Weir, correct?"

"You call her Dr. Weir, but I don't get to be Dr. McKay," Rodney said. "I think that's patently unfair."

Heightmeyer ignored him. "The mission on PR7-X89 didn't go exactly as planned, did it?"

"Actually," Rodney said sarcastically, "it did. I've been trying to get rid of Colonel Sheppard for months now, but they were just the first ones who took me up on the offer. Sadly, he wasn't pleased by the whole thing and I've got to find a better match culturally the next time I try to dump him on aliens."

Heightmeyer stared at him, a tiny smile that might have been polite interest and might have been amusement on her lips.

"Oh, come on, you know I was making a joke," Rodney said. "I know you have a sense of humor hidden somewhere."

"So the mission didn't go as planned," she said again patiently.

"No, it didn't, and Colonel Sheppard was furious with me when Teyla and I left for Atlantis, and surprisingly mellow about it when we returned to regain custody of him," Rodney said.

"Ah," Heightmeyer said.

"Which doesn't make any sense," Rodney said. "Sure, he likes everyone to think he's this easygoing, damn the man, question authority sort of guy, but nobody stays in the military that long if they didn't like rules and regulations to some extent, right? So by his rules, he should still have been pissed when we went back."

"There are other reasons for staying in the military," Heightmeyer said. "Have you asked Colonel Sheppard about his reasons for remaining in the Air Force?"

Rodney pulled out the expression he used for the very stupidest of the anthropologists. "Oh, of course, Dr. Heightmeyer, because Sheppard and I spend all of our free time sitting around and discussing our feelings with one another."

Rodney's least favorite thing about Kate Heightmeyer - and honestly, she was a very nice woman, and smart, too, from the few non-therapy-related conversations he'd had with her in the mess or the control room, but he just couldn't get past the idea of someone that sharp choosing to go into psychology, and Heightmeyer hadn't taken his announcing this fact very well at all - was the way she reacted to his sarcasm exactly the same way as she reacted to anything genuine he might say. Nodding and smiling like the stupid lab assistants Rodney had been saddled with at Area 51 before he moved over to the SGC. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was going to blow up spectacularly as soon as his back was turned, every time she nodded and smiled.

She was nodding and smiling now, like all the men on the Atlantis expedition who were forced to see her denied having deep, personal conversations about their feelings with Colonel Sheppard. "Colonel Sheppard and I have a very good working relationship," Rodney said, because the silence of the nodding and smiling was starting to make him feel even crazier than Sheppard's leather pants. "But we're not friends. We don't talk about our feelings or our dreams or our futures together. We're not 12 year old girls, Dr. Heightmeyer."

"Colonel Sheppard seemed very concerned about your feelings, Rodney," Heightmeyer said. "When he stopped by this morning - "

"Wait, wait, isn't that doctor-patient confidentiality?" Rodney asked. "Can't you, I don't know, be stripped of your license to practice this voodoo if you tell me these things?"

"Colonel Sheppard didn't stop by for a session, Rodney," Heightmeyer said. "He stopped by to tell me that he thought you were a little too worried about his safety on the recent mission."

"Oh, great," Rodney said. He dropped into the chair Kate had for patients and he usually refused to actually sit in and said, "Great, fantastic, now the Colonel is not only furious with me for trading him away, but he thinks I'm too concerned about his feelings."

"You're not concerned about the Colonel, then," Heightmeyer said.

"Of course I am!" Rodney snapped. "Military leader of Atlantis, we're talking about here! If he wasn’t around to fly suicide missions into hive ships while sitting on top of a nuclear bomb that I built, remember, who would? That's a mission slot that's hard to fill, Dr. Heightmeyer."

He still felt sick to his stomach at that flash of memory - Sheppard ambling out of the chair room like he didn't have a care in the world, getting ready to die to save Rodney's hopped-up-on-stimulants self, getting ready to die sitting on top of a bomb that Rodney's shaking hands had put together. It was one of Rodney's all-time top five least favorite memories, and the Pegasus Galaxy had given him far more memories he never wanted to remember again than he had thought possible. Colonel Sheppard flying that 'jumper out to save them all was number one with a bullet on that list.

"So you're concerned about the Colonel," Heightmeyer said slowly. "But you're not concerned about his safety on this last mission."

"No!" Rodney said, leaning forward sharply. "I'm concerned that Colonel Sheppard isn't concerned about his safety! I'm concerned that Colonel Sheppard didn't seem to be concerned that he spent an entire evening as a sex slave to an entire nation of alien people! I'm concerned because he's going to get himself killed stupidly and messily one of these days, and then who's going to be around to keep me from being killed? For that matter, who's going to keep me from dying of boredom during briefings if he's not around to make those stupid little sly jokes under his breath? He's not as funny as he thinks he is."

He was panting when he finished talking, and Heightmeyer started nodding immediately, but something he said must have jiggled the psychotherapy babble button in her head, because she smiled broadly and started talking about overcompensating for someone else's feelings and codependency and Rodney tuned her right out. She went on for five minutes straight, and when she finished, Rodney looked across the room and said, "So basically I should tell Colonel Sheppard that I care about him, and I care about his safety, and I think that he's reckless and stupid and has a death wish?"

Heightmeyer said, "Well, maybe not in those words, Rodney, but you can't go around bottling up your feelings for your entire life, can you?"

"I certainly can," Rodney snapped back. "And I don't think I bottle up my feelings at all. Everyone here knows exactly how I feel about them at any given moment. I am incredibly open with my feelings."

Rodney was pretty sure that Heightmeyer was hiding a smirk behind the folder that was suddenly in front of her face, but she said, "I'm sorry, Rodney, I didn't mean to offend you. Of course you're open with your feelings. Except, perhaps, with Colonel Sheppard?"

"Have you met Colonel Sheppard?" Rodney said. "Talking to the man is like talking to a brick wall in terms of emotions. He's intelligent and his sense of humor is certainly more like a scientist's than a military man's, but he is a closed book on the discussion of feelings."

"Well, how do you feel about Colonel Sheppard?"

"It depends on the day," Rodney said. "And whether or not he's tried to blow himself up recently, or endangered my life in new and unusual ways. For the most part - well, I would prefer he not blow himself up. Is that an acceptable feeling in this situation?"

"Of course," Heightmeyer said. "I think we all feel that way. And his pants?"

"I'm sorry, what?" Rodney said.

"Colonel Sheppard seemed concerned that you were preoccupied with his leather pants," she said.

"Well, wouldn't you be? They're distracting. We wouldn't want him wearing them out in the field, where anyone could see them and get so distracted that they accidentally blew us up!"

"Doesn't Ronon wear leather gear in the field?" Heightmeyer said, sounding like she was more interested in Ronon's leather than Sheppard's, which was incomprehensible to Rodney.

Ronon's leather was enormous and mountain man-like, and both vaguely frightening and eminently forgettable; Ronon's leather was something that was there every day, like Sheppard's stupid hair, and Teyla's fantastic rack. Ronon's leather fell into the category of things that didn't bother Rodney anymore because they had become so routine that they were boring. Plenty of things about Sheppard were so routine that Rodney hardly noticed them anymore, or at least he didn't notice them in a way that was annoying - Sheppard's stupid jokes and bad puns, Sheppard's purposefully non-regulation hair, the way one side of Sheppard's mouth curled up when he was making a sarcastic comment that was only meant for Rodney.

Rodney, who was a little disturbed to find a simple thought about Ronon's leather pants leading in this direction, because he hadn't known that he'd noticed that much about Sheppard even before the distracting pants, said, "Ronon's leather pants are boring," because he wasn't sure what else to say.

Rodney considered himself pretty well in touch with his feelings; he knew what he liked and who he liked and what and who he had no time to be wasted on, and he knew that he liked Colonel Sheppard well enough. But apparently he liked Colonel Sheppard a lot more than he had consciously known he did, and the leather pants, tight around Sheppard's ass and thighs in a way that was probably illegal in a lot of places back on Earth, floated back into Rodney's head and left Rodney's mouth suddenly dry. "I'm sorry," Rodney said, standing up suddenly. "I'm sorry, Kate - I've just. Thank you. This was incredibly helpful. I'll tell Elizabeth that you're excellent at what you do. I'm going to go now."

"Rodney, I don't think we're - " Heightmeyer said behind him, but Rodney was already in the hallway, door sliding shut behind him, and he was thinking oh, this makes so much sense, and he wasn't trying to annoy me, he was - when a frustratingly familiar voice said, "McKay, I'm supposed to make sure you stay in there the whole time, or Colonel Sheppard's going to yell at me."

"Oh, God, Cadman, please just go away," Rodney said. "I have used that session to the fullest extent and now I am taking action, and I promise you, Sheppard won't mind a damn bit that I didn't survive a whole 50 minutes with Kate Heightmeyer picking my head apart - he hates going in there way more than I do."

"Oh, so you've found a use for that mumbo jumbo shrink talk, huh?" Cadman said.

"I've always had a use for it," Rodney said loftily. "But yes, today was particularly helpful. If you want, you can go and finish out my session. I'm sure Dr. Heightmeyer could do your charming personality some good."

"Stuff it, McKay," Cadman said, but she was grinning. "Okay, you can go, but if the Colonel comes looking for you here, what should I tell him?"

"I'll be in my quarters," Rodney said. "If he could be so good as to stop by later on."

"Sure thing," Cadman said, wheeling on one heel and starting off down the hallway. She stopped before Rodney could activate the doors on the transporter and turned back toward him, twisting around and grinning at him over her shoulder. "McKay, I got a question for you," she said.

"You have terrible grammar, too, but what can I expect from Americans?" Rodney snapped. "All right, what is it?"

"If I see Colonel Sheppard, should I tell him to bring the leather pants, too?" She cackled with laughter and took off down the hallway, running full speed and nearly taking out Major Lorne, rounding a corner with an armful of what appeared to be Sheppard's un-filed paperwork from about 14 missions.

"What was that about?" Lorne said to Rodney as Cadman's shrieks of laughter faded away from them.

"Those damn leather pants," Rodney said.

"I hear they're a hit with all the female scientists," Lorne said.

"And some of the male scientists, too," Rodney said with a grimace, because he couldn't believe that he was having this conversation with anyone at all, much less having a conversation with Sheppard's second-in-command about it, much less having the conversation with Sheppard's second-in-command be the third conversation in the space of only ten minutes about the damn pants.

"Oh, yeah?" Lorne said, looking interested, and not in a gay-bashing sort of way - more in a maybe-I'll-get-myself-a-pair-of-those way, which, on top of Rodney's revelations about his feelings was Colonel Sheppard, was way more than Rodney could deal with that particular day.

"But you didn't hear it from me," Rodney said, shaking himself out of his stupor and stepping into the open transporter, punching violently at the location of the closest transporter to his quarters. "And Sheppard better not, either."

Either Major Lorne was plotting to out Rodney's lust for Colonel Sheppard's pants in a completely humiliating fashion or Lorne had designs on one of Rodney's scientists - he was grinning wickedly at Rodney when the transporter doors slid shut, and when the doors slid open again down the hall from Rodney's quarters, Rodney was still feeling distinctly ill from either possibility.

He preferred to work in the labs - Zelenka was almost always good for an idea when Rodney was blocked on something, even if his ideas were not always good ideas. But the labs were full of people who had lunch with Cadman on a regular basis, and while for the most part the whole science team was made up of generally decent, tolerable people, not after a lunch with Cadman, and certainly not after a lunch with Cadman armed with knowledge about Sheppard's pants.

So working in his quarters it was, and Rodney was fully prepared to stay there until the end of time, or at least until Lorne got himself a pair of leather pants and seduced whatever hapless biologist he had his eye on and everyone talked about them instead.

Rodney shuddered at the thought of Lorne in leather pants, slopping cold coffee stolen from Heightmeyer before his dramatic exit all over his hand and the reports he'd dragged home from the lab days ago, before anyone in Atlantis besides Ronon and Teyla had leather pants and Rodney still had full control of his mind. As distracting as Sheppard's pants were, the thought of Lorne in leather pants was just terrifying. He shoved the image out of his head, only to have it replaced by the image of Sheppard lounging lazily in the stupid pants at the stupid banquet on stupid PR7-X89.

"I hate everything," Rodney said to the empty room, and settled onto his bed to read power usage reports, which were sufficiently boring enough to make him annoyed enough to forget about Sheppard.

He was halfway through the third report, in the middle of a note to Radek about trying for more efficiency with the damn saline tanks that filtered their drinking water and ate ZPM power like it was chocolate, when his door chimed. "Go away," Rodney said.

The door chimed again, and a third time.

"All right, hold on," Rodney said, and threw the report onto the floor before crawling off the bed and stomping toward the door release. Before he could hit it, the door slid open and Sheppard was standing on the other side of it. "Christ," Rodney said. "If you were just going to open the door yourself, you didn't have to make me get up."

"It's polite," Sheppard said, one side of his mouth curling up in a smile.

"Polite behavior is overrated," Rodney said. "I don't trust people who are too polite. They're usually the ones who shoot at you and steal your research and attempt to force your team leader into sex slavery."

"Still upset about that?" Sheppard said.

"No," Rodney said.

Sheppard raised an eyebrow.

"Yes," Rodney said. "But only because I think they burnt all your clothes on that planet, because you are still wearing those godforsaken leather pants."

"I hear the pants are all the rage with the science team," Sheppard said.

"I'm sure they are," Rodney said. "They're distracting enough that I'm never going to make it all the way through the power usage reports because I keep thinking about you wearing them, and - " He stopped, carefully replayed what he'd just said in his mind, and then said, "Oh, crap."

Sheppard smirked at him and took a step closer, blocking the door with his shoulder and forcing Rodney to stand there staring at his pretty face and his artfully disarrayed hair and his I-know-what's-going-on smirk.

"If you're going to punch me," Rodney said with a sigh, "go ahead and do it now, while I'm braced for the impact. No surprising me out in the field."

"No," Sheppard said. "That's not what I'm thinking about all." And then Sheppard leered at him, standing in Rodney's doorway, and licked his lips in a decidedly more than friendly sort of way.

"Wait, what?" Rodney said. He'd asked that question more times in the last two days than he had in his entire lifetime, and it was all Sheppard's fault.

"It wasn't the gay sex I was opposed to. It was that you thought I couldn't get what I wanted from somebody here." Sheppard paused, and then, "If you'd wanted me to wear leather, Rodney," stepping through the door of Rodney's quarters, which slid shut behind him, and straight into Rodney's personal space, and Rodney blinked a couple of times when Sheppard's hand fisted in his shirt instead of punching him in the jaw, "you could have just asked."

"Ronon's pants would never have fit you," Rodney said, because he honestly had nothing else left to say about the subject, and then Sheppard's mouth closed over his and Rodney didn't have a chance to say anything else at all.


author's notes: r. and asb did super-fast, super-excellent beta duty; in addition, asb and pru have listened to me moan and wail about this story since i started it in april, and always offered truly helpful advice when pressed for it, advice like, "when in doubt, more boob touching" and "seriously, a tiger?" and "oh, for the love of all that's holy, please shut up about that story". i owe all three of them. title, of course, from ac/dc, "you shook me all night long."

feedback always welcome.

stargate: atlantis fanfiction