Title: Thanatology, or, God's Play
Summary: "Your man Silva was speaking to the leader of your people near the Ancestral Ring when suddenly he turned and ran into the forest. We have not seen him or the rest of your people since."
AN: Beyond general season 4, the vaguest of spoilers for recent Teyla events; you'll probably miss it if you squint. This was written for the Urban Legends Challenge
, for legend 117: The military puts saltpeter in the food and drink of enlisted men to control their sexual urges. betaed by kisahawklin
There's kind of a creepy ringing in his ears; he wonders whether he should mention that, or the edgy looks McLaughlin's been giving him, and just when he decides that it's really not worth the trouble it might cause, he hears the screaming.
"de Silva, what was that?
" Atlantis demands over his earpiece, and he'd answer but he's too busy running. He thinks he knows that scream. He's heard it before. This planet was supposed to be
he thinks, crashing through the the edge of the forest next to the native settlement, hoping he's going the right way; the forest is huge and dark, which at least makes for good, clear ground. "McLaughlin!" he shouts, slowing. He spins in a circle, slowly, almost casting for scent; obeying an instinct he can't name, he darts through a diseased-looking shrubbery and runs and runs and runs, as fast as he can.
He nearly trips over McLaughlin. She's crouched on the ground, kneeling over something he can't quite make out; her long, long blonde hair reaches to the ground, pooling by her feet, and as she looks up, bluest eyes wide in a face that's gone oddly pale, he can see that she's hugging herself, as if for comfort; it takes him a couple minutes to notice her fingernails drawing blood where they're digging into her own arms.
"What the hell, McLaughlin?" Alex gasps, more from habit and sense memory that tells him he should be out of air than for any other reason; he's oddly pumped. He can hear the blood running through his veins and his heart pumping loud in his ears, and it's invigorating. There is a tiny buzz in his right ear, and he swats it away without thinking.
McLaughlin nearly falls on her ass as she scrambles away from him. Her eyes are getting wider every second, or so it seems to Alex, and she's panting a little and licking her lips. "God," she moans, staring at him. She shakes her head, hard, like a dog shaking off water. "Sir, you have got to get the fuck out of here -"
"What the hell," Alex repeats, liking the sound of it on his lips. "What?"
"Get away from me
," McLaughlin screams, louder than a little woman like that has any right to. She stands up jerkily, her limbs unfolding themselves like clockwork gears. She stalks jerkily toward Alex, muttering the whole time; the distraught expression on her face is at odds with her body language, which makes Alex think of a documentary he'd caught the tail end of once - the hunter's stalk, weight forward, tensed and ready to chase. He likes the way it looks on her, likes the way it makes him feel; he starts to imitate it, up on the balls of your feet, weight forward, shoulders up, hands out just a little, just like that, ready for anything -
except her rush; she jumps him, sinks her teeth in just above the collar of his jacket. He grunts a little and knocks her back with an elbow in the throat; there's nothing in her face now except violent lust, depraved hunger. Her eyes almost glow in the dark, under the trees that are blocking the light.
They circle a little, both dropping back into stance for a precious few seconds before coming back together. Sometimes they're Marines, striking and blocking and parrying in rhythms that have been written into their muscles; other times they seem to forget what's been so carefully taught them, instead fighting with teeth, with nails, with fingers hooked like claws. He finally knocks her out with an elbow to the temple; when she shows no sign of moving, he drops to a crouch, bracing one hand on the ground. He feels more secure that way.
Abruptly his vest is constricting, threatening to cut off his breathing. His fingers don't seem to want to operate the buckles, but he wiggles out of it eventually and drops back into his crouch, keeping one eye on her the whole time. Something is nagging at him, at the edge of his mind; he can't seem to concentrate enough to think what it is, but trusts in himself enough to let it go in favor of the more interesting thing he's just thought of. She's a beautiful woman, after all, and -
He's moved forward without his conscious volition, not even bothering to stand - she's only a couple feet away, after all - but his knee squelches into something that smells distractingly delightful. He sniffs it, his head cocked to the side, and slowly pieces together the jigsaw puzzle of body parts on the ground beneath him, missing a few parts. Good
, he thinks, struggling with the thought, unable to be more coherent, even in his own head. His instincts are screaming at him, irresistible, and second by second he slowly loses the reasons why he shouldn't listen, watches them trickle through his fingers and forgets them when they're gone. Good
- he traces the line of her leg, up over her hip and coming to a stop midways on her chest. He can hear it in there, speeding up a little; maybe she's going to wake up soon, and his instincts tell him that's bad, so he pulls back and plunges
"Lieutenant de Silva, come in, please," Chuck says for the twentieth time in as many minutes. He eyes the wormhole with growing concern on his face. "That's it, ma'am," he says after a minute, turning his chair to face Colonel Carter. "I don't think we're going to get a response."
Colonel Carter nods grimly and taps her earpiece. "Colonel Sheppard? Please have your team report to my office."
Sheppard and Rodney drift in separately, followed a few minutes later by Teyla and Ronon. "Who needs rescuing this time?" Rodney asks, smirking a little.
"de Silva's team reported in less than half an hour ago," Carter says, looking squarely at each of them in turn. "He sounded a little odd, but I didn't think anything of it until someone started screaming. We're presuming de Silva went to investigate, but about twenty minutes ago he just stopped talking to us."
Sheppard squints in Sam's general direction. "They're on PX4-993, right?"
"Yes," she says, leaning back in her chair. "They reported that the Loderan elders were quite happy to discuss sharing a portion of their crops with us."
"And the trillium?" Rodney interjects.
"They hadn't quite gotten around to that yet," Sam says, resisting the urge to grind her teeth with the ease of long practice. She fixes a smile on her face. "Tubers, then trillium; that was the agreement, Rodney."
"That's everything you know?" Ronon asks dubiously, cutting Rodney off when he opens his mouth. Sometimes Sam is completely amazed at how much easier he is to deal with on Atlantis, and sometimes she wants to give the rest of his team medals, or maybe trophies.
Sam stands up. "Yeah. Go find them," she says softly, nodding to each of them in turn. They file out, rather more quickly than they'd entered, and Sam sinks back into her chair and quietly wonders whether she'll ever see de Silva's team again.
"Ready?" John asks as he swings into the locker room; Ronon tosses him his vest and he catches it, swings it on one shoulder as he props his boot on the bench and checks the straps on his thigh holster.
"Yeah," Ronon says, leaning against the wall. John didn't doubt it, but then he hadn't been asking Ronon.
He raises his eyebrows at Rodney, who sighs heavily. "Coming, coming," he says hastily, tugging his vest into place.
"Every minute counts," John says sweetly.
Rodney pushes by him, pausing by the door. "What are you waiting for?" he says, and John grins, following.
Teyla joins them on the way, peeling off from a tiny group of female scientists who turn down the corridor leading toward the mess hall. "You all set?" John asks her over his shoulder, picking up the pace now that the team is complete.
"Yes," she says calmly. She's always like that, and John sometimes wishes he could borrow just a little of her certainty; but he's been around when it cracks, and he knows that it's hard-won. He doesn't have the patience.
He angles toward his favorite jumper when they hit the bay and rushes a little through his personal start-up check; it's a little silly to have a warm-up list on a jumper, when with a thought he could have every system fully powered and online, but it feels a little bit like heresy to just climb in and take off. "Control, this is Sheppard," he says. "We're ready to go."
" Carter says over his earpiece, and ignoring the little rush he still gets every time he hears it - Colonel
- he takes the jumper through the roof and into the gate room. He tosses off a little salute as the preprogrammed path takes him past Carter on the control room portico - and god, it's still a wrench to see her there instead of Elizabeth - and heads through the gate.
It's not very far to the native settlement; John parks on the other side of a nearby hill and engages the cloaking device after they all get out, just in case. He tunes out Rodney's bitching as they head for the settlement - "It's not that far, Rodney, get a grip." - and tries his radio at odd intervals. He gets nothing, not even the static of an open comm frequency, and slowly grows more concerned by the minute. John can tell Ronon's worried, too; Ronon's hand keeps sliding to the hilt of his gun. Eventually he just leaves it there. John approves.
After a short hike they reach the outskirts of the village de Silva and his men had been negotiating with. To the naked eye, everything looks calm and peaceful; or, at least there are no heads on spikes. The village is a little tiny, but John's used to that by now; there's no sense in crowding people together in the Pegasus galaxy, like the cities he’d grown up in. That's basically sending the Wraith an all-you-can-eat flyer.
He can tell they’ve been spotted by the sudden upswing of activity; one of the kids runs into a hut and comes back out with an old, old man, notable in a galaxy that doesn't favor the elderly. John wants to feed him a sandwich.
"We've been expecting you," the old man says, bowing a little. "When your friends went into the forest and did not come back, I knew you would come."
"What do you mean, went into the forest?" John asks suspiciously. It sounds like a euphemism for ritual sacrifice to the local goats.
"Just that," the old man says, shrugging. "Your man Silva was speaking to the leader of your people near the Ancestral Ring when suddenly he turned and ran into the forest. We have not seen him or the rest of your people since."
"Right," John says slowly. "Well, I hope you don't mind us checking for ourselves."
"Of course," he says, shrugging. "I do not desire to stop you." He starts to walk away, then turns back. He looks troubled, John thinks. "There are man-eating animals in the forest," the old man says hesitantly. "Please be careful. I do not want to lose our first trading partner."
"Oh, we will," John says confidently. Privately, he can't think of anything that can withstand Ronon's stunner except the Wraith. This doesn't feel like them, though. If he had to bet, he'd put his money on bounty hunters who hadn't heard about the whole Genii coup-and-explosion thing.
After that, it's just a matter of sitting back and letting Ronon and Teyla do their thing. They pick up de Silva's tracks almost immediately – the area around the gate is strangely bare, like it’s not used much. They make a beeline for the forest edge. "He was running," Ronon says, rocking back on his heels. "Fast."
"What the hell is going on here?" John asks the universe, a little creeped out.
"Let's go," Ronon said, ignoring him.
They followed the tracks through the forest. It wasn't hard; the tracks were clear and fresh. The distance between them kept changing, and John caught himself trying to remember how tall de Silva was, and how long were his legs, and wondering whether his strides should really be that long.
John stops dead when Ronon puts up his hand, and stays where he is while Ronon sticks his head over a slight rise in the forest floor. He isn't expecting the sick, pitying look on Ronon's face when he turns back, though. "Found one of them," he says, grim.
He pushes past Ronon and proceeds slowly into the little clearing, training his P-90 on anything that looks like it might move until it's apparent that whatever happened, it's over. He stops short of the spill of long, blonde hair, stained here and there with sticky red, and works on trying not to vomit.
Christ, it's a lot of blood, he thinks sickly. Her body's just lying there, eyes empty in a way John finds all too familiar, and underneath her is a pile of shredded flesh and bones that John automatically classifies as animal.
"Oh jesus," Rodney's voice comes from behind him. John thinks, far away from the rest of his mind, that he hopes Rodney managed to get out of the clearing before he started puking. He breathes shallow through his mouth until the impulse has pretty much passed, and then he kneels, pushing hair out of the way until he can touch her neck. John feels around for the chain of her dogtags and snaps them off harder than he means to, standing to look at them in the dim light coming through the trees.
Not that he'd had any doubt, but the clenching in his gut just gets worse.
It's the last thing he wants to do, but he kneels again to examine the body. It's mostly intact, unlike the animal in pieces underneath her, with only a large, ragged hole under her ribcage to show how she'd died. There's a thick trail of blood leading away from the body to the south, into the darker parts of the forest.
John doesn't want to think about why her mouth is covered in blood. But he doesn't touch her any more than he has to.
"It's strange," Teyla says, kneeling by McLaughlin's body. "If she was killed by an animal, why are there no bite marks?" Her voice is as troubled as his thoughts. The whole scene - it's just wrong
His voice still shaken, Rodney presses in a little behind John. "The Aztec sacrificed people that way," he says, a little shaken. "They cut out the heart and burned it."
"You're welcome to check," John says, gesturing in invitation. "I, for one, am not that curious."
Ronon nudges McLaughlin's body over onto its side to look at her back; it's untouched except for the blood soaking every inch of her uniform jacket. John rubs his eyes a little. "All right, what... " He trails off, shocked into silence by what her body had been covering; a pale, white female hand, more delicate than McLaughlin's; it's still attached to the armbones, fingers partially curled as if reaching out for help. "Fuck," he says helplessly. "Fuck - " There had only been two women on de Silva's team, he thought numbly. Doctor Beecher was an anthropologist, but she'd been able to talk anyone into anything -
John shuts his eyes and stops that train of thought deliberately. When he opens them, he looks down at the remains. "Teyla, see if you can find Beecher's dogtags," he says. "Ronon, de Silva and Shelton are still out there. Rodney, don't puke on the bodies."
"Fine," Rodney says tightly. He backs up toward the edge of the clearing and sits on a handy rock. John rolls his eyes and turns back to Ronon.
"We have to assume that the other two are - " God, he feels stupid just saying
it - "suspects." He nods at the trail of blood leading to the south. "After you."
Ronon looks around the clearing assessingly, then takes two giant strides to the south edge of the clearing and pulls out his gun. John starts to follow, but he doesn't get more than two feet before Ronon comes back. "It's de Silva," he reports, holstering his gun. "He's dead. Something ripped his throat out. And he had this." He holds an almost-unrecognizable lump of flesh in his hands, but John knows what it has to be.
John remembers the waterfall of blood around McLaughlin's mouth and starts to get a sick, disturbed feeling in his stomach. "What the hell is going on here?" he says again. Behind him, he can hear Rodney puking again and feels only vaguely sympathetic.
"Colonel Sheppard, this is Atlantis. Please respond.
"Atlantis, this is Sheppard," he replies, looking around at the others.
" Carter says, coming on the line.
"Sir, I'm not really sure what the hell's going on here," John says, getting a little angry with the whole situation. "We've got three dead, of what I can't really tell you, and Shelton's still missing."
"You can't say what they died from, or you don't know?
John sighs. "If I had to make a guess, I'd say Dr. Beecher died from some sort of animal attack, Lieutenant de Silva ripped out Sergeant McLaughlin's heart with his bare hands, and Sergeant McLaughlin ripped his artery open with her teeth."
A breath of silence, then Carter spoke, slowly. "I'm sorry?
"I have to tell you, I have no idea what happened here," John says, suddenly weary. "I don't think the Loderans had anything to do with this. There's something else going on here."
Carter hesitates again, just for a moment. "I'll send a team for the bodies. Maybe Dr. Keller can give us some answers.
"Understood," John says. "Sheppard out."
He sends Ronon back to the gate to lead the medical team into the forest; John keeps Teyla and Rodney with him as he heads back to the village.
"John," Teyla says when they're about halfway there. "What do you hope to learn from these people? They are simple farmers."
"This is their planet," John says grimly. "The leader said something about us being their first trading partner. I want to know why nobody comes here."
John acknowledges the medical team's arrival over his radio, but nobody else speaks again until they're in the village. The old man hobbles back out of his hut. "Did you find your friends?" he asks anxiously.
"Three of them," John says bluntly. "Dead. They ripped each other apart."
The old man swallows and taps both shoulders in a move that's too practiced to be anything but religious. "Then it is as I feared," he says quietly. "Please, come to my dwelling. I will speak more there."
"Why should I trust you?" John demands. "For all I know, you made them do it."
"No, no!" The old man is visibly distressed and a little shaky on his feet. John suppresses the automatic surge of pity, but he's finding it harder and harder not to trust the guy, when he's so obviously distraught at what's happening. "Please, you must believe that we would never do such a thing."
"We will come to your dwelling," Teyla interjects smoothly, moving forward to put a gentle hand beneath his elbow. "Then you will tell us what you know." She leads him to the door of the hut he'd just come out of, aiming a look over her shoulder at John, who sighs and follows. Rodney crowds in behind him as they duck to enter the door.
The hut is small and close, cluttered with shaky wood furniture and alien knickknacks. The old man sits at the table and sighs gratefully. They pull up whatever seating they can find around the table and wait while he pours them all something that looks very much like Athosian tea. Rodney drinks his immediately, but John's not so trusting and leaves his to cool on the table as the old man leans in and begins to speak.
"I am Luth, keeper of tales, singer of songs, and village healer. We worship the sainted one." Luth taps both shoulders again. "At one point in our history, it was custom to sacrifice the sick and infirm when we believed we had transgressed upon his patience." He looks down at his hands and sighs. "It is barbaric, and shameful to speak of, but my forefathers believed, and so it was...
"They ceremonially consumed those they had sacrificed, to ensure that their spirits would remain among us." He pours Rodney another mug of tea and smiles sadly at John. "Please, drink. It is simply ahnak
John cocks an eyebrow at Teyla, who nods. He notices that she hadn't had any, either, and had almost unconsciously laid a hand on her stomach. He shrugs and takes a sip, then another. It's like and curiously unlike the Athosian tea, but it's good, and Rodney hasn't keeled over yet.
"You ate them?" Rodney asks, sounding horrified and curious at the same time.
"To my shame, they did," Luth says, halting a little. "There are also myths that predate that time by more years than I can tell, myths that tell of creatures more animal than human, who hunted their fellow man and consumed them like animals. They had the strength of the demons that come from the sky, but no more intelligence than any brutish animal that roams the forest. When one was caught and killed, it was revealed that he had been a man from the village, cursed with these unnatural desires."
"You think that whatever happened to that man may have also happened to our friends?" Teyla asks.
Luth spreads his hands, looking helpless. "It is the only explanation I have."
"Why are we your only trading partners?" John asks abruptly. He feels a little itchy, sitting here, doing nothing, talking
"I do not know," Luth says. "None save the demons have come through the Ancestral Ring in many, many years, since before the time our histories begin."
"My people have never heard of this planet," Teyla says thoughtfully.
"Perhaps that is it," Luth agrees.
"Or maybe the cannibalism was a good enough reason for everyone to forget this place existed," Rodney says irritably. John kicks him under the table. "Ow!"
Before it can go any further, John's radio crackles. "Colonel?
John smiles tightly at Luth and stands, going outside before he answers. There are a few people out and about, doing chores, but no one's in his immediate vicinity. "This is Sheppard. Go ahead."
," Keller says over the radio. "I have some rather disturbing news.
"Any answers are better than what we've got now," John points out, impatient. "What did you find?"
The radio crackles for a second before she answers. "They both died of blood loss, and very quickly,
" she says; John can tell her voice is troubled, even over the shitty connection. "The wounds you observed to Sergeant McLaughlin and Lieutenant de Silva were the cause of death, as far as I can determine.
"That's helpful," John says, struggling to keep the sarcasm under control. Sometimes he thinks he's spent too much time around Rodney, but he's having a harder time not biting her head off than he should.
"Dr. Beecher died first,
" Keller says quickly. "Dr. Biro I found what look like human bite marks on her bones. They match Sergeant McLaughlin's teeth perfectly, which is consistent with what we found in her stomach.
"Let me guess," John says grimly.
" Keller says, so quietly John almost misses it. "Colonel, we have no idea what caused this, and there's every chance that you and your team have already been exposed. Atlantis hasn't sounded quarantine on the medical team yet, but we know it's not infallible.
John takes a deep breath. "Right. When we find Shelton, I'll call you for Hazmat suits," he says, thinking it out as he goes. "You can put us in quarantine until you figure this whole thing out."
"Affirmative. Keller out.
John looks around suspiciously, but nobody's paying him any undue attention. It's hard to feel hunted when nobody seems to care. And yet, he can smell something in the air; it smells like fear.
He spins in place when he hears crashing from the hut behind him. He's already got his P-90 up and at attention, safety off, as he dashes through the door to Luth's hut; John skids to a halt as he takes in the shattered furniture, Teyla's shocked face, Luth backed up against the far wall, and Rodney... Rodney is standing in the middle of it all, his hands in fists at his sides, his face red. He looks pissed, John thinks, and inexplicably a thrill runs through him. The fine hairs on his arms and back shiver. "What the hell, Rodney?" John says.
Rodney folds his arms. "It's nothing," he says tightly.
"That sure looks like nothing," John replies a little sarcastically, flipping the safety back on, double-checking it automatically, and rehooking the P-90 to his vest.
Rodney scowls and refuses to answer. John looks questioningly at Teyla, who shakes her head.
"Colonel Sheppard, it is of no moment," Luth says, taking a step forward. "I can easily have repaired what was broken."
"I'd still like to know what the hell happened," John says, looking straight at Rodney.
Rodney is looking a little less angry and a little more ashamed. "I don't know," he admits. "Luth asked me if I was interested in religion, and..." Rodney waves a hand dismissively; John only lets it go because Rodney is looking pretty ashamed of himself.
"You don't normally blow up like that," John says. It's not a question.
"No," Rodney agrees. He blinks. "Wait," he says. "You're not thinking -"
"Yeah, I am." John rubs a hand across his eyes; they hurt a little, but that wasn't uncommon on worlds with a slightly different solar spectrum, as he'd discovered when he asked Carson for an eye exam. The train of thought inevitably leads to Carson's untimely demise, and the wash of utter rage leaves John a little stunned at his own capacity for emotion. "Not just you," he has to admit. He drops his hand and looks Rodney square in the eye. "What about you, Teyla? Any unexpected urges to pound our heads into the ground?"
"None yet," she says calmly.
He can see the fear in Rodney's eyes, but there's something else, something that makes John's heart pound a little louder in his ears. "Teyla," he says, forcing himself to look away, "whatever happens, Atlantis has to know what happened to us. Finding Shelton is secondary."
She doesn't look happy about it, but Teyla has always been able to see the big picture, even when she doesn't want to. "Understood," she says reluctantly.
John turns to Luth. "Do you have a jail?"
They don't, but one of the huts has a real door. It'll have to be good enough. "I never thought we'd ask to be thrown into a village jail," Rodney says, sighing. He sits down, his back against the wall opposite the door.
"Yeah," John agrees. He doesn't really feel like talking; it's been a pretty exhausting day, and it looks like it's just going to get longer. He sits down next to Rodney and stares at the door that's between him and freedom. He's always hated being locked up, and it's worse now that it's his own idea. He itches a little, or maybe that's the damn virus or whatever it is.
"This sucks," Rodney says suddenly.
John nods. "It really does."
"I always wonder if it'll be this time," Rodney confesses, his voice going soft. "If it's this time that they'll fuck up and let me die."
"Nobody's going to die," John says, a little harsher than he meant to. The thought had occurred to him. "Keller's good at her job. Let them work on it. You can panic later."
"Yeah," Rodney says, his voice strangely unfocused. "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" John can't hear anything over the sound of Rodney's fidgeting; his uniform is whispering to John.
Rodney squints. "Huh," he says, and falls silent.
John leans his head back until it hits the wall; it feels kind of weird to expose his throat. A couple of minutes of silence pass, and then John suddenly understands what Rodney's talking about. There's a ringing in his ears that has nothing to do with the silence of the room.
"That's annoying," he says, bringing his head back down. It doesn't help. John frowns at the door.
"Yeah," Rodney says beside him. He sounds more out of it than he did before, and John can't help looking over; Rodney doesn't seem any different, but John thinks he's seeing him differently, because he's pretty sure Rodney never looked tasty
before. "Shit," he says out loud.
Rodney turns to look at John; his pupils are dilated a little, making Rodney look like he's on drugs.
"Sheppard, this is Atlantis.
" Right on time.
"Atlantis," he says, trying to think through the haze that's settled over his mind, "please be advised that I believe Dr. McKay and I are exposed."
"Teyla and Ronon?
"I don't know," John manages before turning the radio off. He looks over at Rodney, who is sitting on his hands and staring straight ahead at the opposite wall - he's literally sitting on his hands
, and John can't help but laugh. He's restless now, so he gets up and starts pacing the hut - three paces long, four paces wide. It's weirdly big for a jail - he's been in hotel rooms smaller than this.
"What are you doing
?" Rodney asks, and he sounds almost normal. John pauses and looks over and can't look away for the life of him; Rodney is red in the face, and his hands are clenched tighter than before.
"What's wrong?" he asks, but then he starts to get it, a little, and it turns out to be a stupid question. The world
is wrong, not them. There's nothing wrong with what they want, what they need, and it'd be so easy to just reach out and take it, to consume -
The thought is so overwhelming that John starts to sweat. It's all he can do to hold himself there, to stop himself from - and the mental image is such a shock that it clears his mind out and he can think again, at least a little.
"Rodney," he says, his teeth clenched tight.
Rodney shakes his head. "This is bad," he manages.
John nods, concentrating on staying on his side of the room. A sudden thought strikes him. "How long do you think we can keep this up?"
"Not long enough," Rodney answers, keeping his eyes trained on the floor.
John nods. "That's what I was afraid of." He gets up and crosses over to Rodney, who swallows visibly.
"What are you doing?" he asks, panic in his voice. "This is a really bad idea - "
"Shut up, Rodney," John says, hauls Rodney to his feet, and kisses him. He curls his fingers into Rodney's collar, bringing him a little closer, and nudges Rodney's mouth open with his tongue.
He doesn't have a chance to get any further, though, because Rodney shoves him away. "What are you doing
?" he says, shocked.
"Don't tell me you're straight
," John says, sneering, and maybe this is enough, he thinks, maybe, maybe.
Rodney snaps to attention, which is still a couple inches shorter than John. "I don't have to tell you anything!"
He saunters in a little closer, just in reach of Rodney's wrist. "I'm going to make you tell anyway," he says, and he says it like a promise.
Rodney's indignant protest is cut off when John grabs Rodney's wrist and yanks, pulling him closer; John lifts Rodney's wrist to his mouth and sets his teeth in, closing his eyes and shivering at the taste and the thick feel of Rodney's flesh in his teeth. He just barely manages to stop himself from breaking the skin to get at the blood he can almost hear. John lifts his head to see Rodney staring at him, eyes wide. "Oh," Rodney says, "oh
"I can't guarantee my willpower without a distraction," John says, spelling it out for him just in case. It's maybe a lie; John thinks that he might be able to do it anyway, but he has no idea how long it will be before Keller rides in to save the day. It's really not something he wants to gamble on.
Rodney grabs his jacket and pulls him in; he's still holding onto Rodney's wrist. John kisses Rodney again, desperate - he's struggling with the instincts, trying to subvert them to the lust that's so familiar to him, and it's a hell of a fight. But he's determined, and Rodney's willing, and eventually he shoves the intruders in his mind far enough below the surface that all he can taste and feel for the moment is Rodney.
John gets their clothes off fast, dropping them in a pile on the floor; he never stops kissing Rodney, although he omits the little bites that are usually part of his repertoire. Rodney's got his hand on John's ass already, and John pushes him back against the wall, kissing him, kissing him, kissing him until he feels like he's drowning. Rodney's kissing him back just as fiercely.
John slides his hand down, down, until he's got Rodney's cock; he grins against Rodney's mouth, kissing him harder and harder until Rodney moves his
hand down and crooks a finger just enough so that it slides inside of John. He bites his own lip and jerks a little, unconsciously, pushing Rodney's finger deeper; at the same time he tightens his hand on Rodney's cock, beginning a sweat-slick rhythm with his hand, from base to tip and back again. It's slow and hypnotizing and Rodney's heavy breathing in his ear is working really well for him; he realizes that he's rubbing off against Rodney's thigh with short stutters of his hips, and while it's fucking amazing, he wants something else.
John's not really sure how to ask. The ringing in his ears is back and he just wants it to go away
; at this point, anything will do. He backs up a little and turns Rodney around, shoving him up against the wall before Rodney can say anything except "Hey!" John looks at the long, soft lines of Rodney's back, rounding out into his ass, and swallows, acknowledging to himself that this may have been a bad idea - he bites the back of Rodney's neck a little, and Rodney goes all soft and quiet under his hands and teeth. God
, John thinks, grabbing Rodney's hips to steady himself, keeping himself from biting all the way down with a last thread of self-control. "Rodney," he says urgently, "can I - god, can I - "
"Do it already," Rodney orders, pushing back, nearly knocking John off his balance. "Just - "
John shoves Rodney back and leans a hand on the wall, bracing against it. He takes himself in hand and just goes for it, no preparation, shoving himself inside with all the finesse of a brick wall. It hurts, but John keeps going at it, pushing in a fraction of an inch at a time until he has to stop for a second just to get his breath back. He realizes that he's curled over with his head on Rodney's shoulder, in the perfect place to listen to Rodney moaning non-stop. "I didn't realize you had a pain kink, McKay," he says without thinking, and the idea slams through him and gives his cock a jolt, making it swell, making John curse and gasp and jerk his hips. God, it's so hot - Rodney's
so hot, John is losing his fucking mind
Rodney's got his hips canted back, helping John, giving him a better angle, which seems to work for him. John finally bottoms out and starts the slightly quicker process of pulling back, but he bites Rodney on the neck again as he does - just to make sure Rodney isn't getting any ideas
, he assures himself, but it's maybe more about the taste and the way Rodney groans and drops his head forward against the wall.
," Rodney gasps, and something about the way Rodney says his name - his name
- John comes so hard he forgets how to breathe and has to remind himself.
When he lifts his head a couple minutes later he's covered in sweat and blood - turns out lube is a pretty good idea after all - and other things John doesn't really want to think about. He's given a stay of execution when Rodney sacks out on top of his clothes, and when he realizes how tired he is, John gives up and lies down beside him. John drops into sleep with a little bit of hope.
When he wakes up, Keller is shining a penlight into his eyes. "Welcome back, Colonel," she says, full of cheer and good nature.
John, however, is nursing the headache from hell. "Doctor," he says. "What the hell happened?"
Keller smiles. "You're fine, Colonel."
John can accept that answer. "Rodney?" Keller points to the bed on his other side, where Rodney is snoring away like nothing ever happened. "Good," he says, relaxing a little. "What was that thing?"
"There's a substance in their food and water that we're not equipped to metabolize," Keller says, growing serious. "It changed your brain chemistry with a mechanism we've never seen before."
"Weird," John says, not really caring about the technicalities. "So I take it Ronon and Teyla are fine?"
Keller nods. "Perfectly healthy," she says. "As always."
John snorts, then snaps his fingers as he remembers. "Hey, did anyone find Shelton?"
"No," she says, shrugging diffidently. "But Colonel Carter wanted to talk to you when you woke up."
"All right," John says. Keller leaves, after approximately a million tests, and John sits back with a sigh. It's nice to have his brain under his own control again, but he's conscious of something he misses, or maybe something he's forgotten.
He looks over at Rodney after a while only to find Rodney staring back at him. "Hey, buddy," he says, completely innocent. "Glad to see you awake."
"What the hell happened?" Rodney asks in dismay.
"It was the tea," John informs him, leaning back and crossing his arms.
"Huh," Rodney says intelligently. "You know, I don't know why I'm surprised. Your military is probably drugging the food right now, you know that? They've been doing it for years - "
John starts to laugh, cutting Rodney off in mid-sentence. Rodney frowns at him. "What?"
He has to take a few deep breaths to be able to stop laughing long enough to say, "Rodney, that's a myth." The look on Rodney's face sets him off again, and as Rodney begins to try cowing John into submission with his superior intellect, John thinks, maybe it'll be okay.
It's good enough for now, anyway, and that's all John has ever asked for.