Title: The Taming of The Fly, Part Two
Word Count: ~13,000
Warnings: M/M sex, not-quite-human
Summary: Rodney wants to regain the Colonel's trust, so he's going to help him get over that little mutating-into-a-bug problem.
A/N: Written for slashfest. I owe a debt of inspiration to Seperis's Shed Your Skin and Martha Wilson's Transition Point. I was thinking of doing something like this before I found the request for it, so the story sort of ran away with me.
Back to Part One
The next day, Rodney threw himself into his work. Not that he was avoiding Sheppard, or anything -- there wouldn't be much point to it, would there? He'd already decided not to be ashamed of his urges. Of course, it would be a lot easier to control those urges if he didn't have to spend time with the object of his fantasies, but that wasn't why he stayed away from the infirmary. He just had a lot to do that had been neglected for too long, as the incident with the desalination system proved. He spent most of the morning checking over that system and reinforcing his scathing condemnation of the scientists who'd been neglecting it.
He went over Optican's ideas with her, explaining in detail why rapid-fire phasing between the cloak and the shield would drain too much power from the ZPM, even assuming it didn't leave them semi-invisible and semi-protected. She insisted she could make both cloak and shield viable with only 20% more energy than the current scheme. He told her to prove the concept using a jumper's cloak/shield first, and offered to let her use the jumper recovered from Olesia if she would oversee the repairs. Then, of course, he had to check on the current state of those repairs, yell at the idiots who'd been farting around as if they'd never laid eyes on an Ancient scanner before, much less a puddlejumper, and dump responsibility for the stalled project in Optican's lap. Then he went in search of Zelenka to find out what else had been learned from the crashed Wraith dart that had culled him and Cadman.
It wasn't until Radek mentioned something about dinner that Rodney realized how much time had passed. It was coming up to the part of the day that he'd been spending with Sheppard lately.
He looked back at the display of Wraith symbols that were beginning to blur together before his eyes. "Oh. Well . . . this is important. Maybe, just for today, I should skip --"
"Rodney." Radek's lips were pressed together disapprovingly. "You are starting to tremble."
"Well, it's chilly in here!"
"It's nearly twenty degrees. You are not thinking properly."
Rodney drew himself up in indignation. "That is not true! I'm thinking just fine, thank you very much --"
"Your blood sugar is low. You need to eat, and the Colonel will be wondering where you are. We can discuss the translation of the technical terms tomorrow."
Radek was completely wrong about Rodney's brain function, of course, but it was true he was starting to feel a little peckish. Aside from the steady stream of coffee, he'd had nothing but a pastry for lunch, and breakfast was a long time ago. So Rodney went to the mess. He could always head back to his quarters afterward to go over those translations.
He found his teammates at dinner, looking more cheerful now that Sheppard was recovering, but still somewhat at a loss without his company. It would have been rude not to sit with them, so Rodney carried his tray over.
"McKay," Ronon acknowledged, eyeing Rodney's plates speculatively.
Rodney shifted to a chair closer to Teyla and strategically placed his iced tea -- with absolutely no lemon wedge, thank you -- to hinder any grabs from Ronon's direction.
"Dr. McKay," said Teyla with a warm smile. "I was hoping to have a chance to speak with you."
Rodney glanced up from his spaghetti. "Oh yeah?"
"A dear friend of mine, Charin, has requested my company. I will be spending several days on the mainland -- perhaps as much as a week."
"And, what, you need a pilot to take you?"
"No, I've arranged to travel with one of the regular supply flights. Ronon has expressed an interest in going with me."
Rodney checked quickly: Ronon was still lounging in his chair, and none of the food was missing except what Rodney had eaten himself. "Foe?" he said, then chewed and swallowed hastily. "So?"
"So . . ." Teyla continued slowly, "I wish to ask your opinion. Do you think Colonel Sheppard can do without our company for that length of time, or will it make him too anxious?"
"You're asking me?" No one had ever consulted Rodney about someone else's feelings before.
"I did speak to the Colonel about this plan when I saw him this morning, but he made no response that I could understand." Teyla glanced over at Ronon.
Ronon just shrugged. "Don't look at me. Sheppard doesn't seem too happy when I'm around. Think he's still mad that I shot him." The corner of his mouth twitched. "Twice."
Teyla turned back to Rodney. "Dr. Beckett has indicated that you seem to have a rapport with Colonel Sheppard, and Lieutenant Addams -- the night nurse -- says that the Colonel was actually speaking last night while you were present."
"Oh. Well." Rodney sat a little straighter. "I suppose it would be fair to say we have an understanding." Oops, too suggestive. "Or, or a connection, of sorts. I'm pretty sure he understands most of what we say to him."
Teyla nodded thoughtfully. "Then he will not be surprised, at least, when Ronon and I do not visit for the next few days. But I could not tell if the idea distressed him or not."
"Well, you know, I think it's pretty boring for him, being stuck in the infirmary all day. But I'm sure there are other people who could, you know, try to keep him amused." Rodney squirmed a little, remembering his own half-plan to avoid the infirmary tonight.
"Dr. Beckett thinks that the scratching will abate within a few days. He says, if the Colonel's mental function improves as well, he might be released to stay in his quarters then."
"Ah. That will probably help. He can read, listen to Johnny Cash, watch his own movies for a change." Like, for example, the modest collection of porn (disappointingly straight and vanilla) that Rodney had stumbled across on some of Sheppard's CDs when looking for ways to amuse him.
"So I thought." Teyla frowned. "I am looking forward to spending some time with Charin. But if you think Colonel Sheppard needs our company, I can postpone the trip."
"No, don't do that," Rodney said automatically in response to her wistful look. "We can keep him occupied, no problem. I've got some more movies lined up, you know. And maybe Major Lorne can assign some people to spend time with him." He considered a moment and added sourly, "Too bad Cadman's not back yet -- no one could be bored with her around."
Teyla smiled at that. "Thank you, Rodney. I am glad to know you will be there for Colonel Sheppard. Now I can visit Charin with my mind at ease."
Rodney gulped at this statement of faith. "Right. Yes. You, uh, do that." He turned back to his spaghetti, then frowned in consternation. "What happened to -- Ronon!"
The big man grinned around a mouthful of Rodney's garlic bread. "S'good stuff."
"That was the last good piece! All the rest were burnt!"
"I know." Ronon took a swig of iced tea -- Rodney's iced tea. "I'm still learning what's good or not, but you always get the best."
"Oh, so now you have standards? Other than 'food good, hunger bad?'"
Ronon laughed and clunked the empty glass down on the table. "See you later, McKay." And he followed Teyla out of the mess hall.
Rodney sighed as he finished off his dinner -- what was left of it, anyway. Avoiding Sheppard was obviously not going to work, not with Radek and Teyla and probably half the rest of the expedition conspiring to put them together. He'd just have to ignore his fantasies and keep his eyes above Sheppard's waist.
He still didn't head straight for the infirmary when his meal was done, though; he needed to stop by his quarters to pick out another movie. He'd originally lined up some old Star Trek episodes to watch next, but now he was thinking the unresolved sexual tension between the military leader and chief science officer might be too much for him. So Rodney had to consider what they could watch that would be reasonably enjoyable for himself and familiar to Sheppard, yet had no unfortunate subtext to make Rodney squirm.
Star Wars. The first one, of course -- the others were just elaborations on the theme, and except for Empire they all got progressively more ridiculous as Lucas lost all restraint. Rodney had a DVD of A New Hope around somewhere; he just had to find it.
He was rifling through the jewel cases on his desk when a prickling at the back of his neck made him stop. The same subliminal sense (well . . . and the sudden cessation of insect noises) had told him the Wraith was nearby, back on Ellia's planet. Carson hadn't picked up on it, and Rodney had been surprised to realize he was no longer the most bumbling, most clueless member of the party.
Now that same instinct was telling Rodney he wasn't alone in his quarters.
He spun around, reaching automatically for a sidearm he wasn't carrying. But there was no one else in the room that he could see. He stepped quickly and quietly to the entrance of the bathing alcove -- no one in there, either. He resisted the urge to check under the bed; there wasn't any room under there anyway. Shaking his head at the mistaken signal from his subconscious, Rodney turned back to the desk -- and froze: there was someone, or something, there in the darkness of the footwell.
Whatever-it-was shifted, and two golden spots gleamed in the shadow. "Rodney," said a hoarse, half-familiar voice. "Help."
Rodney staggered back to sit on the corner of the bed.
"Help," said Sheppard again.
Rodney forced his breathing to slow down, hoping his heart rate would follow suit. "Right. Okay. Just a minute." With a shaking hand, he activated his radio. "McKay to Beckett."
"Not now, Rodney, we've got an emergency here. Colonel Sheppard is --"
"Here," Rodney said.
"-- missing. We don't know how he got -- what did you say?"
"He's here, Carson, in my quarters."
Beckett heaved a sigh. "Oh, thank God. I'll send a couple of Marines round to --"
"No, don't bother. He's not causing any trouble," Rodney said quickly. The yellow eyes were fixed on his.
"What? Are ye sure, Rodney?"
"Yes, I'm sure. He probably just wants some time away from the infirmary. I can keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't hurt himself."
The eyes blinked.
"Look, Rodney, he's getting better but he isn't quite all there just yet," said Carson uneasily.
"He's not going to hurt me," Rodney scoffed. "I think he just wants to be left alone for a while; I can do that. I mean -- that is, I'll be here, so he won't be alone alone, but --"
"Aye, you're right that he hasn't been happy in the isolation room. But I expect ye to call me if there's any sign of --"
"Right away, no problem. Got it."
"I'll send the Marine tasked to guard him to stand outside your quarters, then. Just in case."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Oh sure, that will be a big help if something goes wrong."
Carson either didn't notice the sarcasm or didn't care to acknowledge it. "Good, then. I'll see to it."
Rodney sighed. "McKay out." He looked at the hunched form under his desk. "Okay, I fixed it so you can stay here. What do you want?"
"Rodney," Sheppard rasped.
"You remember my name, good." Rodney kept his tone cool, but a thread of warmth curled behind his breastbone at the thought that Sheppard recognized him, even when he could barely speak.
"With what? I got rid of the guards -- well, not rid of them, but they aren't going to drag you back to the infirmary, at least. What else?"
Sheppard shifted back and forth, just visible in the doubled shadow under the desk.
"Look, why don't you come out from under there? Oh. Here." Rodney frowned a little and thought the lights down low. "Is that better?"
Sheppard crept out slowly, head turning toward the door.
"They're not coming in here, and the lights are down. Is there something else?"
Sheppard's stance looked uncertain, even sheepish, and he shrugged his shoulders. Rodney couldn't recall him doing that before, in his bug frame of mind. He was definitely looking more human, although still not quite himself.
"I have, um, a movie picked out, if you want me to set that up?"
Sheppard brightened briefly, but then his shoulders hunched again and he extended his hand. It took Rodney a moment to realize he wasn't reaching for something, but instead holding the hand out for inspection. Rodney squinted down at the armored fingers.
"Is that -- wait, is that blood? You promised you wouldn't hurt yourself!"
"No scratch," Sheppard said solemnly.
"Oh great, you've stopped scratching yourself, but instead you've bitten your, um, fingernails to the quick and worse!"
"No scratch. No . . . claw. No scratch."
"Oh." Rodney bent closer to the curled hand, trying to see in the dim light. "Well, that almost makes sense, but is that claw stuff ready to come off yet? You can't just rip it free if it's still attached to you!"
"Huh?" Rodney straightened. "Why me? You could have stayed in the infirmary and gotten Carson to do it for you."
That was definitely a pout. "No straps."
"Oh, for -- you know he only did that to keep you from hurting yourself!"
Sheppard's head bobbed. "No scratch. No claw. Help." He bumped his knuckles against Rodney's chest confidently.
Rodney sighed. "All right, I'll see what I can do. But I'll have to turn up the lights -- no, wait. Come over here." He tugged Sheppard's hand toward the desk and the small lamp he used for delicate circuit work. "This is bright, but it won't fill the whole room."
Sheppard turned his head away as Rodney snapped on the lamp.
"You realize I promised to call Carson if you were hurting yourself." Rodney pulled the lamp and magnifying glass forward for a better look at Sheppard's blue hand.
"No straps." Sheppard was sure of his audience; he didn't even try to pull away.
"Hmmph." Rodney didn't want to admit it, but he probably wouldn't have the heart to turn Sheppard in, short of an outright suicide attempt. "Well, this isn't as bad as I thought at first. Raw, but not actually bleeding."
"Yes yes, I see your vocabulary still needs some work." Rodney rummaged through the clutter of tools on his desk for the grips and snips he used on some of the Ancient crystals. They were larger and stronger than his own nail clippers, but designed for fine-scale work. Cautiously, Rodney pried at the chitinous stuff where it started over Sheppard's knuckle, on a finger that wasn't looking too raw from the Colonel's own attempts.
"Ow," said Sheppard, but he didn't pull away.
"See? I told you it isn't ready to come off yet. It probably needs another couple of days."
"Help," Sheppard said firmly. "Yes help. Good help. Rodney help."
"Okay, that's clearly a vocabulary improvement if you're equating 'Rodney' with 'good.'" He tapped the tool cautiously on the end of Sheppard's wicked claw. Just as he'd thought; hollow inside. "All right, let me see if I can cut this."
It took some pressure, but the sharp end of the claw came off cleanly with no protest from Sheppard. Rodney angled the finger up to see into the open end, and caught a glimpse of pink (or at least a paler shade of lilac) skin inside. A little at a time, he trimmed the claw back to the level of the fingertip.
"I can't really tell if it's attached to your normal fingernail or just to the skin," he muttered while he worked. "If that means you're going to lose all your fingernails when this stuff peels off, then ouch." Satisfied that he'd trimmed that claw as much as he could without hurting Sheppard, he started on the next. "This is weird -- it looks like your fingers are fused together in pairs, but they aren't really, are they? I can get the tool in between them. It's more like they have to move together, isn't it?" He tried to pull Sheppard's index and middle fingers apart, but there was a murmur of protest when they were barely a centimeter apart. "Okay, okay, I guess your tendons or whatever need time to get back to normal, too." Rodney finished trimming the remaining claws, then picked up a fine rasp and filed down the edges. "There. No sharper than a regular human fingernail. You'll still have to try to keep from scratching, but if you forget once or twice you won't rip yourself open."
Sheppard held his hand up and inspected it, then extended his left hand in its place. With a sigh, Rodney got to work on that one. The casing was thinner on this hand and cut far more easily. In fact, he found that it was almost ready to peel off. He tugged at the covering on Sheppard's little finger and came away with a curiously-shaped indigo shell. The finger underneath looked nearly normal, with the nail intact.
"Huh." Rodney studied the hollow claw over under the light. It was fascinating, but a little disgusting too -- like pulling off a really big scab in one piece, only pulling it off your friend instead of yourself.
The ring-finger claw came off as well, but Sheppard flinched when Rodney tried the others. He trimmed the ends back as he had done on the right hand, filed the edges down, then brushed all the little shavings into the trash. "All done."
With no special effort or struggle for balance, Sheppard lifted his foot onto the desk.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me. You escaped from the isolation room in the infirmary, evaded your guards, and came all the way to my quarters so I could trim your toenails?"
"Okay," said Sheppard sweetly, but Rodney was certain he saw a glint of humor in the inhuman eyes.
Rodney grumbled, but turned his attention to the claws on Sheppard's toes. All of these were ready to peel off; Rodney did most of the work with a small pair of needle-nosed pliers. There was no good reason for him to be more squeamish about dealing with Sheppard's feet than his hands, but somehow it just seemed more personal.
"Supposed to be keeping my eyes above your waist," he muttered to himself, and then bit his lip, hoping that Sheppard hadn't heard or hadn't understood those particular words. The Colonel was obviously getting general meanings, but how much he could pick up of subtle implications was unclear.
"Rodney good help," said Sheppard.
"Yes, I've gathered you still remember how to manipulate me even with a five-word vocabulary. There! Are we done now? Can we watch the movie?"
Sheppard looked shifty. "Help?"
Rodney sighed. "With what! I've already given you the manicure and pedicure, now what do you want -- a mud bath?"
Sheppard bobbed his head. "Okay."
"That was a joke. I am not going to give you a mud bath. Got that? No bath."
"Ow? Ow what? I didn't hurt you, did I? Oh, hell. Carson will kill me. Or at least scold, in that really annoying Scottish way of his."
Sheppard frowned. "Ow . . . scratch. Itch." He rubbed at his chest through the somewhat grimy cotton shirt he was wearing. "Itch!"
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Oh, for -- I'm not going to scratch your itches for you! I gave you perfectly good blunt finger . . . claw . . . things, so you can scratch yourself. Carefully, that is!"
Sheppard's shoulders slumped, and the pout came out. His eyebrows, too, showed that they were more mobile than yesterday -- more like the regular Sheppard and less like a botoxed diva.
"What is that?" Rodney demanded. "You're not a puppy dog even when you're . . . well, ever. Stop trying to look like one."
Sheppard looked down and shuffled his feet.
"I don't know what you expect me to do about it, anyway. Scratching won't really make the itch go away, you know."
Sheppard looked up suddenly and darted around Rodney, still abnormally fast. A moment later he was back, holding the bottle of aloe gel that had been on Rodney's nightstand. "Yummm," he said.
Rodney took the bottle gingerly. "So this is your mud bath, huh?"
Sheppard nodded. "Rodney good help."
Rodney sighed, feeling a sense of inevitability. "Oh, all right. Better take your shirt off. And sit down on the bed so I can reach you."
Rodney's eyes were adapted to the low light now, and it was interesting to see how much Sheppard had changed since last night. The bumps on his neck and shoulder had subsided into little medallions on the skin, and the blue color was less pronounced almost everywhere. The scaly growths behind elbows and spine flaked away with a firm rub; Sheppard murmured "Yum" and bent forward to give better access to his back, which put his face right around Rodney's navel. Rodney gulped and hastily finished working on Sheppard's back, pressing him to sit straight so Rodney could do his chest next. The subtle swirling patterns of iridescence across Sheppard's pectorals were fainter but still visible, and Rodney was obscurely glad to see that the hard little cones over the nipples were still in place too.
When Rodney would have stopped at the lower belly, Sheppard said "Yum. Itch. Yum," and reached for the drawstring of his loose scrub pants.
"Oh, I don't think that's --" but Rodney was too late. His mouth went dry as Sheppard pulled down the pants with an artful wriggle of his hips and lay back on the bed. "Oh."
Jutting up between Sheppard's thighs was a sort of re-interpretation of the human penis. It was covered in interlocking rings of a deep cobalt blue that slid over each other to allow a telescoping motion -- Rodney could see it in action as the organ grew taller under his gaze. The head was cased in a wicked-looking helmet, so dark it was almost black, where a foreskin should have been.
Rodney suspected that the reality of sex with a partner so endowed would be complicated at best, and pretty painful at worst. That didn't stop his mind from presenting him with a number of implausible scenarios, or his own dick from poking at his boxers to try to measure itself against the enhanced version.
"Um." He licked at dry lips. "I, uh . . ."
Sheppard looked up at him with an odd sly expression, gold eyes gleaming and nearly round-pupiled in the soft light. "Rodney good help."
"I . . . what?"
With one blunt-clawed hand, Sheppard pried at the base of his erection. "Help."
Rodney stiffened indignantly. "Oh, I am not going to use a heavy-duty cutter to trim your -- your . . ."
Sheppard's hand moved higher in a manner common to every man. "Yum."
"That . . . ohhh." Rodney couldn't tear his eyes away, and he found he'd moved closer without intending to.
It was a bad idea -- a terrible idea, in fact; Rodney knew that, but he couldn't quite remember why it mattered. His hand was reaching out without conscious volition. "Okay," he said weakly. "Let me, um, have a look."
Clinical, he told himself. Professional. Just a guy helping out a friend. But his hand wasn't listening to that order either; it stroked once delicately from base to tip, then took a firm grip around the shaft.
Sheppard groaned and lifted his hips.
The armor was more supple than it looked, not really chitinous at all. Rodney forced his hand move to the first ring at the base and pulled gently as Sheppard had done. It seemed loose in the sense that it wasn't attached to the skin beneath, but it was tight around the engorged organ. The sheath as a whole would not pull up off of Sheppard's penis, but Rodney couldn't tell if that was because some part of it was still attached or because it wouldn't fit over the broad head.
"I think, uh . . . I think you're going to have to lose this erection before it can come off."
Sheppard nodded, his eyes on Rodney's hand which continued its traitorous stroking. "Okay. Rodney goooood help."
"You're really going to hate me for this once you're back in your right mind, you realize that?"
Sheppard raised his hips again, pushing against Rodney's palm. "Yummm."
Oh, God. "Well, just . . . remember that you asked for it, all right? Or better yet, forget about the whole thing."
Rodney gave his hand license to do what it wanted, and brought the other hand up to join in the act. Sheppard encouraged him with groans and hot little gasps as Rodney moved his hands up and down, shifting the flexible rings against the skin beneath.
Sheppard gave a small wince as Rodney gripped too hard or moved something the wrong way.
"Wait, wait -- here." Rodney grabbed the bottle of aloe and spread the slippery goop over the sheath, trying to get it in between so it would reach the skin. The overlapping plates did seem to move more easily, and Sheppard pushed into his grip with renewed interest.
"Move forward a little," Rodney instructed, grabbing Sheppard's hips and pulling him to the edge of the bed. He nudged the other man's knees apart and crouched down in between.
This was really hot, Rodney's brain insisted. Kneeling to suck off a half-mutated John Sheppard, sprawled out over his bed as ultra-cool as ever -- even his fantasies weren't usually this hot. He nudged his own erection against Sheppard's shin as he bent down.
Sheppard's dick tasted mostly normal, like others Rodney had had his mouth around, but with something sweeter added in. Rodney didn't know if that was Sheppard himself or the bug, but he liked the taste. He tried to take more in his mouth, but it turned out the aloe gel he'd smeared lower down didn't taste so good. So he confined his oral attentions to the head and its surprisingly flexible helmet. He could feel Sheppard's pulse under his tongue, even through the layers of armor -- and Sheppard could feel his tongue, too, if the noises he was making were any indication.
Rodney probed carefully at the slit where new growth gave way to normal flesh, and Sheppard's groans ratcheted up a notch. Happy with the discovery, Rodney switched off between sucking and tonguing, still massaging the shaft with both hands. Sheppard's cries grew sharper and louder, incorporating something that might have been Rodney's name. Rodney reached one hand up to rub and pinch the little blue cone of a nipple, startled when it pulled free in his fingers. Sheppard shouted at that, grabbing Rodney's arm in a painful grip and moving it to the second nipple. This one didn't pull off, and Rodney went back to his sucking routine while he rubbed. Sheppard's moaning built to a sharp pitch, and suddenly he was pushing hard at Rodney's shoulders, heaving, the shaft in Rodney's hands pumping out long pulses of hot liquid.
Sheppard's semen was sort of . . . well, orange. Rodney blinked in surprise at the drops that had landed on his hand. He was tempted to taste it, but it was probably a good idea not to share bodily fluids with the man with multiple retroviruses coursing through his body. Rodney should be grateful Sheppard had pushed him off at the end . . .
Sheppard was still pushing, and then pulling, at Rodney's shoulders. He was too strong to resist, which just turned Rodney on even more. Sheppard urged Rodney up on the bed beside him and tackled his fly.
"Oh," said Rodney, a new surge of arousal rushing through him. "You don't have to . . . oh." He had a moment to be glad Sheppard's teeth hadn't mutated, and then he was thrusting into wet perfect heat, making noises that ought to be embarrassing but were actually pretty hot, stuttering over Sheppard's name (was it okay to call him John?) and then he was coming so hard that he lost track of the world for a while.
Rodney's door chimed when he was four-fifths of the way through his morning routine. He checked his radio automatically -- why hadn't whoever-it-was just called him? Maybe they'd tried while he was in the shower. Pulling his shirt straight, Rodney went to the door.
It was Sheppard, holding a laptop with some stuff piled on top of it.
"Colonel! Uh . . ." Rodney looked around nervously, but of course there was nothing incriminating in the room, and Sheppard had seen it before, anyway. "Do you want to come in?"
They'd been avoiding each other ever since Rodney woke up with his sheets smeared in blue scales and orange semen, to find himself alone. There was a discarded sheath of interlocking blue rings on the bedside table, which was somehow just the capstone to the entire bizarre experience. Rodney had confirmed that Sheppard returned safely to the infirmary, had dropped off some movies to keep the man amused, then washed his hands of the whole affair.
After all, what could you say to a guy who talked you into sex against your better judgment and then skipped out, leaving behind an unmentionable (almost indescribable) body part as a souvenir?
Sheppard hadn't sought Rodney out either in the last couple of weeks, which made Rodney think he hadn't done their friendship any favors by giving into Sheppard's demands. If Duranda had all but killed the Colonel's trust in him, this must have been the nail in the coffin.
But here was Sheppard now, looking almost entirely human and not especially angry. "I, uh, brought back your movies and music and stuff. Thanks a lot -- I really needed something to keep my mind occupied." He gave a little self-deprecating grin. "Otherwise I might have gotten ahead of schedule in War and Peace."
"Oh. Good. Some of the movies were donated by other people, you know. I'll just, uh, make sure they get them back." Rodney set the laptop and disks on his nightstand, checking redundantly to make sure his little souvenir was out of sight.
Sheppard stood just inside the doorway, looking uncomfortable. "There's, um. A chocolate bar there, too. Since you said that would be a way to thank you."
Rodney had to think for a minute before he remembered saying that, while Sheppard was still in the infirmary. "Oh!" God, if Sheppard had understood and remembered that from when he couldn't even speak, what else did he remember? But he wouldn't be giving Rodney chocolate if he were angry, surely. Baffled, Rodney changed the subject. "You're looking, um, pretty good? I mean, with the, uh . . ." He waved at the right side of his own neck, mirroring the only patch of blue he could see on Sheppard's body.
"Yeah, it's just that and a little bit on my arm." Sheppard turned his wrist up to show Rodney another scaly area inside his elbow. "Doc says I should be cleared for missions in a week or so, and meanwhile I can start catching up on my paperwork."
"Oh. That's -- good, I suppose." Rodney knew Sheppard avoided paperwork like the plague.
"Right. So, uh, I was wondering . . ."
"You busy today?"
"Well, I have some simulations to . . ." Rodney caught himself. If Sheppard wanted him to do something, something that might repair their friendship, Rodney could find any time he needed. "Nothing that can't wait. Why?"
"Well, my ATA gene seems to be pretty much back to normal. I wanted to try out some moves in a puddlejumper, but Beckett says I should have another pilot along, just in case."
"Oh. You want to give me another flying lesson?" It was a euphemism for a barrage of friendly insults, but Rodney's flying had been improving, slowly.
"Actually, I was thinking about that thing you wanted to check out. An Ancient research station on the second moon?"
"Oh!" Rodney's interest was kindled. "It's probably just a sensor array, not a full station, but if we can get it going it will boost our subspace range --"
"All right then, what are we waiting for?"
Rodney blinked. "We can do that today?" He started scrambling for his mission gear. He wouldn't need a full tac vest, but his data tablet and some tools would come in handy . . .
"Sure, why not? I figure maybe on the way, we can try turning off the artificial gravity for a little while."
"Gravity? Wait, why --"
"Hey, you got a lot of pockets there. You can carry this stuff." Sheppard tucked a couple of square packets into Rodney's vest.
Condoms. And a small tube of personal lubricant.
"What the -- what's this for?"
Sheppard shrugged and gave his most appealing grin. "I've always wanted to try sex in zero gee."
Rodney was left standing in the doorway of his quarters, vest half-on and half-off, mouth flapping uselessly.
"Well?" said Sheppard from halfway along the hall. "You coming, or not?"