Summary: "You know, you don't actually have to pick a fight in order to have sex,"
A/N: Concrit welcome, nay, encouraged. The idea from this came from the Elvis Costello song, but the song is rather more depressing.
"Though we fight in public, darling, with very little cause / Different sort of fireworks when we are on our own behind closed doors
"You know, you don't actually have to pick a fight in order to have sex," Rodney said, staring at his ceiling.
Beside him, he felt Sheppard twitch slightly. "What?" he drawled in his best faintly-incredulous tones. Rodney closed his eyes. Sheppard was putting up the protective camouflage already; this did not bode well, but he couldn't really get out of it now.
"Picking a fight. You find something to yell at me about, we yell at each other, and then half an hour later you're in here, or you find some excuse to get me out of the lab, and we have sex. I mean, in no way am I complaining here, but you could just, you know, ask."
Sheppard was silent.
"Unless you really are so dysfunctional that the only way you can have sex is by getting mad at me first," Rodney added. "Which I suppose is entirely possible, given that this whole thing started courtesy of the ongoing Pegasus Near-Death Experience Show. Although I think the anthropologists -- not that I talk to them if I can avoid it -- claim that sex after near-death experiences is normal, from which I presume that the whole of Atlantis must be at it like rabbits, horrible thought..."
"Rod-ney," Sheppard sounded put-upon.
"What? Are you going to claim that you're not just picking fights?"
"Believe me, I really don't need to try to pick fights with you."
"I am fully aware of that, which is why I find it all a little odd." That Sheppard was sleeping with him at all was pretty odd, of course, but Rodney wasn't about to look that particular gift horse in the mouth.
"We just -- fight. A lot. You know that."
"Yes, yes, we do. But not normally about lab security. More specifically, it is usually me telling you, Colonel Sticky Fingers, to leave things alone, not you trying to tell me about it."
Rodney swore he could hear Sheppard pouting. He glanced over. Yes, there it was. He wished he didn't find it faintly endearing, as well as incredibly irritating.
"You touch things too! And you didn't need to call me Colonel Sticky Fingers right there in the mess."
"It just looks odd, OK? Zelenka asked me yesterday if we'd fallen out -- and god, how tenth grade girl does that sound?"
"What did you...?"
"Oh, I told him there was nothing wrong, blah blah, that I assumed you were hormonal or had run out of hair-gel or something."
"Then we had an argument about recharging ZPMs so I'm pretty sure he just forgot about it. Anyway. I'm just saying. You could just, you know, ask."
"Right." There was another silence, then Sheppard said "I should -- go. Do -- military stuff." He was already sliding out of bed and back into his clothes.
"You do that, Colonel. Beat up marines or whatever it is you and Ronon do with them."
Sheppard slunk out of the door, and Rodney tried to pretend he wasn't looking at his ass.
"Well," he said to no one in particular, still lying on his back. "That went well. Or not." He sighed and leant off the bed to search for his laptop and his pants.
"Rodney," Teyla said over lunch a couple of days later, "is everything all right between you and Colonel Sheppard?"
"Yes," Rodney said, trying to look surprised and offhand, though he was dismally aware that acting wasn’t his strong point, "at least as far as I know."
"It is just that he has been behaving very oddly towards you, lately," Teyla said, a small frown creasing her forehead. "First he was constantly finding fault with you -- loudly, in public. Now he seems to be excessively polite. Are you sure -- "
"Surprising though it is that Colonel Sheppard might occasionally manage to be polite to anyone other than one of his offworld harem, I assure you there's nothing wrong between us," Rodney snapped.
"Yeah, you're pretty tetchy, too," Ronon said from across the table.
"I am only tetchy because people keep asking me if Sheppard and I have fallen out, which is just a ridiculous thing to ask about two grown men. And because they keep stealing my food! Ronon!"
Ronon grinned at him from around a mouthful of fries.
"I am taking my lunch to the lab, where I might actually manage to eat all of it," Rodney said with dignity, getting up with his tray and stomping off.
Teyla watched him leave, still frowning slightly. She turned back to Ronon, who wrinkled his nose and shrugged. She inclined her head doubtfully, but picked her fork up again.
In truth, Rodney was far from sure what was going on between him and Sheppard. Sheppard had indeed put a stop to the picking of fights, which Rodney had initially counted as a win. Then, a couple of nights after their conversation, Sheppard had shown up at Rodney's room, and hovered just inside the door, looking panicky. Since it was always Sheppard who made the first move, and Rodney didn't quite feel able to presume that Sheppard was definitely here for sex -- it still seemed all too implausible -- he wasn't quite sure what to do. Sheppard and he stared at each other for a few moments, and Rodney had just started to say something when Sheppard, more wild-eyed by the second, muttered something about the radio, and bolted, leaving Rodney to go through his reasonably extensive vocabulary of swear-words. Twice.
Since then, Sheppard had been excruciatingly polite to him, refused to shout even when Rodney, driven to distraction, tried to pick a fight with him instead, and was avoiding Rodney as much as was possible given their respective positions in Atlantis. He wasn't responding to Rodney's attempts at their usual low-level snarking, wasn't showing up at the lab to peer over Rodney's shoulder, wasn't eating with him and Teyla and Ronon... Rodney had even heard Lorne, baffled and slightly uneasy, tell Chuck in the gateroom that Colonel Sheppard was doing his paperwork.
Rodney was quite happy to admit that he missed the sex, which had been pretty damn good and increasingly regular. But he missed Sheppard, as well, which was something he was much less happy about admitting, even to himself.
Unfortunately, the thought of actually doing anything about it brought him out in hives; and it wasn't as if his last effort to inject some common sense into their terminally incompetent interactions had worked out particularly well.
Rodney swore viciously and went in search of scientists to victimise.
Whatever bizarreness was going on in Sheppard's head wasn't enough to get them out of the next mission. Sheppard was still all exaggerated politeness towards Rodney, who was being bitchier than normal in an increasingly desperate attempt to get a reaction. Teyla kept shooting both of them worried glances, and Ronon, who was more sensitive to atmosphere than might be assumed from his borderline-psychotic exterior, was clearly off-balance.
One or all of which things were probably what led to all four of them missing the signs that the slightly standoffish traders were about to become homicidally pissed-off traders.
"What the hell happened there?" Rodney shouted to Teyla, just in front of him, as they ran back through the forest, John and Ronon behind them turning at intervals to shoot back.
"I do not know," Teyla said. "But I do not think that this is the time to discuss the matter!"
She put on a bit more speed, and Rodney gave up talking as he tried to keep up -- something he certainly wouldn't have been close to doing three years ago. In a corner of his brain that wasn't occupied with dodging tree roots and panicking about impending death, he wondered whether "The Pegasus Program: Run Faster Or Die" exercise DVD might sell well.
As they reached the clearing the Stargate was in, Rodney could see from the other side of it that something was wrong.
"No no no no no," he muttered as he raced up to it.
"What is wrong, Rodney?" Teyla asked, glancing back over her shoulder.
"Get a move on and dial us home, McKay!" Sheppard shouted from behind him. He heard more gunfire.
"What do you mean, you can't?" Sheppard sounded pretty homicidally pissed off, too.
"It's been smashed. I can't dial it." As he spoke, Rodney wriggled out of his backpack, grabbed his laptop, and crawled under the DHD console.
"Well, can you fix it?" Sheppard demanded.
"If you’ll let me finish! No, I can't fix it. But it looks like whichever moron decided to vandalise it was too ignorant to know to do any damage to the control crystals -- it's only the interface that's affected. I can dial it manually."
"I don't know! Look, if it weren't me here -- or possibly Zelenka -- you wouldn't be getting this fixed at all, and our probable impending death would be very definite impending death. I'm working as fast as I can."
"How long?" Sheppard demanded again. He and Ronon had reached the DHD now, and Sheppard's face appeared in front of Rodney as he scrabbled to connect the laptop up to the control panel.
"I don't -- OK, five minutes. Happy?"
"It's going to be close," Ronon commented. "We put them off a bit but I think they're regrouping back there."
Sheppard swore. "Hurry up, McKay."
"Believe me, Colonel, I am all too fully aware that we are being chased by a bunch of homicidal mediaevalists with pitchforks -- "
"And arrows," Ronon added helpfully. "They have arrows, too."
"Thank you, Ronon, that correction is enormously helpful at this point. Homicidal farmers with pitchforks and arrows who want to kill us, and I assure you that that is far more motivating than you telling me to hurry up!"
"Fine, well, just -- get it done, OK?" Sheppard said.
But it was, in fact, strangely reassuring to have Sheppard back to normal, even if "normal" did sound like he wanted to kill Rodney almost as much as the homicidal farmers did; and complaints to the contrary, Rodney was aware that he did work better when he had something to occupy him other than trying to save their collective asses, and panicking.
"I believe I hear them coming," Teyla said, a couple of minutes later.
"Come on, McKay, what the hell are you doing down there?" Sheppard demanded.
"Done!" Rodney said. He waited for the whoosh of the Stargate opening, then disconnected his laptop and wriggled out from under the DHD, as Sheppard shouted at Teyla to get through the gate. Rodney stood up, grabbing his backpack, then suddenly felt a searing pain in his chest, and stared down in disbelief at the arrow protruding just beneath his collarbone. He passed out as Ronon was manhandling him through the Gate.
When he woke up in the infirmary, Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon were all hovering nearby.
"Hey bud," Sheppard said, cautiously.
"Rodney, you are awake," Teyla said with a smile.
"What -- happened? I mean, good, I'm still alive, but what actually happened?" Rodney asked. He breathed in a little and winced.
"You were very fortunate," Teyla said seriously. "The arrow missed most of the important organs. One of your lungs was punctured, but Carson says it will recover given time."
"Well, that's -- that's good," Rodney said weakly. "Recovering. Recovering is good." Not that near-death experiences were anything unusual any more, but he still found it alarming that he was so frequently in situations where the words 'missed most of the important things' counted as a success story.
He really didn't feel too well, either. He shut his eyes again, and heard the rest of his team talking quietly to each other, which was a surprisingly soothing sound.
"Just going to..." and he was asleep again.
A couple of days later, Rodney was driving Carson and the nurses quite rapidly insane. Sheppard had spent most of the time sitting with him, pretending to do his paperwork and snarking at Rodney. Rodney's relief at still being alive was very nearly exceeded by his relief at having his friend back. Maybe he'd screwed up the sex thing -- and yes, he was pissed off about that, dysfunctional sex was better than no sex at all, especially dysfuctional sex with Sheppard, which was actually pretty spectacular -- but at least things were normal again. But he was still bored rigid, and that witch-doctor Carson was refusing to let him have a laptop.
"Oh, for pity's sake, Rodney," Carson said, after yet another rant about the limitations of medicine and of Carson himself. "John, if I discharge him, will you keep an eye on him and keep his laptops away from him? He's really not well enough to be working yet."
"Hello, right here! And it was my chest that arrow hit, not my head. I am entirely fit to work, and if I don't get back now that Czech weasel will steal my notes on the ZPM."
"Sure, Carson," Sheppard said easily.
Back in Rodney's room, Sheppard carefully settled Rodney on the bed, and just as carefully shut the door. Rodney had discovered that whatever he might have claimed to Carson, he wasn't all that much better at all, if "better" implied "able to walk down the corridor under his own steam without wanting to pass out afterwards". Any hopeful thoughts about possible post-near-death-experience sex vanished as he lay down, shut his eyes, and tried to stop shaking. He could have sworn that Sheppard had sat down next to him on the bed, and was gently stroking his hair, but that seemed far too implausible to be anything other than a hallucination as he slid back into sleep.
When Rodney woke up again, Sheppard was settled in the chair across the room, so Rodney concluded that the hallucination theory was correct. He half expected Sheppard to leave again, but he stayed, and played chess, and repeatedly confiscated Rodney's laptops whenever he managed to reach one. Later on Teyla and Ronon showed up as well: they watched a couple of movies, and Ronon showed great restraint in not stealing any of Rodney's popcorn. Which Rodney actually found quite alarming, and briefly considered radioing Carson to check that he wasn't in fact dying and no one had told him.
There was no more sex, though. Sheppard didn't pick any fights with him, and they snarked at each other as per usual, and argued about Batman, and, when Sheppard "borrowed" a Playstation from one of the Marines, whether either of them was cheating, but it was all just -- friendly.
Friendly was nice, Rodney thought. Friendly was good. The whole sex-with-Sheppard interlude had been wildly implausible from the beginning, after all. Obviously it was just a brief aberration and they were back to normal. And normal meant hanging out with Sheppard, far and away the best friend he'd ever had, and with Teyla and Ronon who weren't far behind. Which was all far, far better than he'd ever have anticipated when he came to Pegasus.
Friendly was good.
A fortnight after that, Rodney was recovered enough to be back on duty, and he and Sheppard were having a flaming row in the middle of the staff meeting. Elizabeth, eventually, called them to order, and they spent the rest of the meeting glaring resentfully at each other. Rodney stomped off back to the lab afterwards, muttering about how utterly, unutterably wrong Sheppard was.
Half an hour later, Sheppard appeared in the door of the lab.
"Oh, hello, Colonel Moron, have you come back for me to explain to you again just what an asinine plan that was?" Rodney snapped.
Sheppard didn't say anything. Rodney looked at him properly, and felt a flare of heat in his stomach. Then Sheppard swore viciously under his breath, turned, and left.
Rodney was left with a raging hard-on and an equally raging fury at dysfunctional military officers with insanely cute asses, which he took out on Kavanagh.
Reducing Kavanagh to incoherent fury -- Rodney had an ongoing bet with Zelenka that one day he would actually manage to make Kavanagh cry -- didn't help Rodney's mood. Faced with a choice between breaking something in the lab, and finding Sheppard, Sheppard won. Just. Trying the radio got nothing; armed with a life-sign detector, Rodney finally tracked him down in a deserted room way out near the East Pier.
"Why the hell don't you answer your radio, you idiot? And what are you doing all the way out here anyway?"
Sheppard put his chin out. "I'm -- looking. At -- things." He sounded slightly defensive.
"You're exploring, aren't you? Without me? What happens if you, I don't know, touch something, or breathe on something, or..."
"I am supposed to be Atlantis' chief military officer, McKay," Sheppard said, sounding a bit more annoyed. "I can look after myself."
"Yes, because that's always stopped you from triggering insane Ancient booby-traps before," Rodney retorted. "Anyway," he waved a hand in front of him, "that's not the point, that's not why I came up here."
Sheppard started looking shifty again. "No?" he said unhelpfully.
"No. I came all the way up here to find out what the hell is going on. First there's the near-death-experience sex, and fine, OK, I can understand that. And then there was the having big rows sex, and, yes, I can understand that too. And then there was the picking arguments sex, and that was frankly just a bit fucked up. And then there was the weird polite thing and no sex, and then a near-death-experience and thank god not being polite any more, but no sex, and then it's like we're back to just, you know, hanging out and whatever, and OK, fine, whatever. And then we have an actual row, and you show up with the actual-row-sex look -- and then you just leave. And what, why, what..."
Sheppard broke in while Rodney was still waving his hands around, searching for a way to explain that he'd rather have dysfunctional sex than no sex, especially if that dysfunctional sex was with Sheppard, that didn't sound embarrassingly desperate.
"McKay," Sheppard said tightly, expression blank, looking past Rodney's shoulder. "It's fine. I know you don't want this. It won't happen again, OK? You should probably -- " he waved a hand at the door behind them, still not meeting Rodney's eyes.
Rodney ignored the dismissal. "You -- wait. Wait. You think I don't want this? What? Are you insane? Do you think I'm insane? Of course I want it. I mean -- " He gestured helplessly at Sheppard, trying to indicate his overwhelming hotness. Sheppard was frowning at him, looking confused, but he hadn't actually stopped Rodney, so... Rodney took a deep breath. "Look, I know we're dysfuctional, god knows dysfunctional is practically normal round here, but can't we, look, we're going to be dysfunctional anyway, can't we -- be dysfunctional with the sex? Can't we -- " Rodney waved his hand between himself and Sheppard, and ran out of words.
Sheppard opened his mouth, then shut it again.
"Well?" Rodney demanded.
"I thought -- " Sheppard seemed to be struggling for words, as well. "I thought you were, you know. OK with being friends."
Rodney sighed. "Well, of course I'm OK with being friends. I was under the quite reasonable impression that was all that was on offer now. For God's sake, Colonel, I'm not a 15 year old boy. I'm not going to stop being your friend just because you don't put out."
"You thought I wasn't..." Sheppard was still frowning, but his expression was starting to open out.
"Look, we spent the best part of a week in my quarters, and you didn't come anywhere near me. Apart from stroking my hair while I was passing out," Rodney added on a whim, and watched the colour rise on Sheppard's cheeks. That was -- interesting information.
"You couldn't even stand up!" Sheppard protested.
"Oh please, like that's stopped either of us before."
At some point during the last couple of minutes one of them -- both of them -- had moved slightly closer to each other. Sheppard was eyeing Rodney speculatively, and Rodney felt his heart speed up.
"You know, Rodney," Sheppard's drawl was pronounced, "I'm not actually angry at you any more."
Rodney tilted his chin. "Are you asking?"
Sheppard shifted minutely further towards him, and smiled -- teasing, but a real smile, not the smirk he used as protection, and Rodney's stomach jolted. "I don't know, Rodney. Are you asking?"
Rodney could see, behind that smile, the nervous vulnerability that Sheppard expended so much energy to hide from the world. "Yes, John," he said, and closed the distance between them.
They probably were still pretty damn dysfunctional, he thought as he felt John's mouth on his; felt, more than heard, John groan at the back of his throat: but it didn't really seem to matter. They could be dysfunctional together.