Pairings:Primarily McKay/Lorne, Sheppard/Mitchell, with a side of Lorne/Sheppard and minor pairings
Series: Acceleration (Major Fic the Second)
Author's Notes: A quick note regarding the timeline: this is effectively future-fic, set in what would be Season 6. Stargate dates are a bit screwy, because we only get a few solid dates (i.e. "2001"). I am basing my dates on Season 1 beginning in April or May of 2005, due to the fact that the sun is shining in Antarctica but it is still several months after "Lost City" - which, whatever Wikipedia would like to claim, took place in February of 2005. This is because we know exactly when "Inauguration" took place.
Summary: In which John Sheppard finds out about McKay and Lorne's relationship and reacts in a completely adult manner. Really. Meanwhile on Earth, preparations are underway for disclosure as the SGC, USAF, and USN expand their space operations. Also includes, in no particular order: wendigos, closed timelike loops, glowing spines, flyboys having fun, and a paradox.
== Part 1: Positive Slope ==
-- 1.1 --
Evan Lorne sometimes wondered what it said about his life that he found none of the following strange anymore: living in the lost city of Atlantis, being a partial-replacement cyborg, and most preposterous of all having a stable, loving relationship with Doctor Rodney McKay, PhD. PhD. et cetera which had lasted nearly six months so far and showed no signs of ending anytime soon. The answer probably depended on exactly who you asked and how strange was defined.
In Atlantis, the first two were fairly normal, for the odd sort of normal that applied to anything about the city. Just about every Lantean who made it through their first tour without fleeing back to Earth didn't see anything strange about living there, and in fact most of the 'lifers' like Evan who'd been there for years had slowly started to think that Earth was the weird place. That attitude had certainly shown up during the six weeks when the Ancients had returned. Those at the SGC and Area 51 had been left with the impression that they were all a bunch of co-dependent, quirky, but (mostly) harmless weirdos. Sometimes Evan suspected that if given a choice many of them would never go back to Earth except for vacations.
Being a cyborg was a bit weird, even by Atlantis standards, but it had been quickly accepted and it was becoming more and more common. Evan and Winchester the Elder had been the first to use the newly discovered Ancient medical technology to recover from crippling injuries, and since then others had followed - Captain Satterfield broke her back, Doctor Kuriyana when he got a little too close to one of his beloved sharks and needed a new hand, and a handful of others with less drastic but still major injuries. It made some of the new guys uncomfortable, but the ones who couldn't accept it tended to be the same ones who couldn't get used to living in Atlantis anyways.
Sleeping with Rodney, though, that was something everyone could agree was strange. It wasn't exactly common knowledge yet, although in as small a community as Atlantis sooner or later everyone would know. Those who did know seemed to agree that at the very least Evan had odd taste and at worst the stress of his job had made him gone stark raving mad. Their friends and teammates seemed to land firmly in the realm of good-natured bemusement. Radek, for example, routinely thanked him for "taking one for the team" and keeping Rodney in a good mood. Evan's team had mercilessly ribbed him for a month, while Teyla and Ronon had both been quietly amused, supportive, and politely threatening at times. Sheppard, as far as Evan knew, was still in the dark, a fact that made Evan immensely grateful because he had no desire to have that particular discussion with his CO just yet. The others who knew - Keller, Chuck, Stackhouse, Teldy, most of botany and Food Services - all seemed to be thankful that Evan's mind had snapped in a mostly harmless way. Evan doubted anyone else would care, at least not about the gay thing.
Regardless of how strange Evan's life was or was not, it had definitely never been better. He hadn't been kidnapped, exploded, nearly eaten, or otherwise gotten into serious trouble off-world in months, the detachment was running along smoothly despite the inter-service war to end all wars that was occurring back on Earth, he was being considered for a below-the-zone promotion, and he was in the best relationship of his life. There had been a few bumps in the road here and there, like Rodney's difficulty with remembering dates and the usual Marine antics, but those scarcely registered as more than minor annoyances. About the only way things could have gotten better would have been if the Wraith had gone vegetarian and world peace had broken out. All things considered, Evan was perfectly happy with the way things were.
Then Sheppard found out, and life went from wonderful to immensely aggravating.
-- 1.2 --
One would assume that dating someone who understood the importance of Rodney's work with regards to both uncovering the secrets of the universe and regularly saving said universe would result, and in fact had (much less spectacular but still important) universe-saving duties of his own, would make the relationship far less likely to fail because of fights over time spent working. This turned out to be true.
One would assume that dating someone who could tell, possibly by some freakish psychic ability caused by over-exposure to Sheppard's so-called leadership skills, exactly when it was best to pull Rodney away from his research to maximize relaxation and minimize interruption of actual work would help make the relationship actually be a net stress loss, unlike just about every one Rodney had been part of before. This also turned out to be true.
One would assume that said relaxation would not only include dinners and enjoyable exploratory jaunts around the city (productive and relaxing - much better than stupid trips to museums or beaches), but also plenty of sex, and that sex with a hot pilot would be even better than sex with regular people. These assumptions proved to be very true.
One would assume that dating a person who was used to Rodney's rambling, which sometimes continued during and after sex, and his epiphanies, which often occurred while he was very relaxed (i.e. post-coital, or alternatively in the bath) and sent him scrambling for computer, would put up with said rambling and epiphanies because he would expect them. This was true. This in turn would mean that said person was likely to continue having sex with Rodney rather than cutting him off in a snit. This was also true - if anything, it seemed to result in more sex 'for the good of science and mankind'.
One would assume that having regular sex would be an excellent method of stress relief. Very, very true.
One would assume that all of this would make life much more enjoyable and all-around better.
That last was the sticking point. Oh, certainly, ever since Rodney had started dating and fallen in love with Evan Lorne, his life had gotten far better than it had been before. His blood pressure was down, his minions revolted less often, and he was having brilliant ideas at an unprecedented rate. The problem was that it increased the mean and median levels of 'goodness', admittedly by a very considerable amount. It did not, however, affect how bad the regular bouts of terror, pain, and all-around horribleness were.
For example, Rodney was currently locked in a tower with his team. If Evan had been there, maybe things would have been better (certainly the company would have been more decorative) but as it stood their relationship really didn't do much to change the fact that Rodney was feeling increasingly bored, mildly scared, and extremely annoyed..
Well - that wasn't completely accurate. Looking forward to post-mission sex made things a little brighter. But only a little, since he had to survive to have post-mission sex.
"I'd just like to point out that this is totally not my fault," Rodney said, peering out one of the room's windows. They were at leave five hundred feet up, at the very top of what appeared to be fucking Orthanc. The large windows opened and closed freely, because it was clear that their captors didn't expect anyone to be able to climb down the slick black Ancient-made not-really-stone walls without plummeting to their horribly splattery dooms.
"Excuse me?" John said, looking up from the bed where he sat moping. "You're the one who wanted to come here and check out the power readings and the Ancient building."
"That was just me doing my job, Colonel," Rodney retorted. "You, on the other hand, were under no obligation to go flirting with the high priestess."
"I was not flirting!" John protested. There was a snort from the other side of the room, where Ronon was trying to force the door open without much success. John aimed a glare in his direction before continuing, "If she chose to interpret me being friendly as flirting, it's not my fault. Also, she didn't get antsy until you started poking at that palantir-thing."
"Please. They didn't care that I was poking anything until you lit it up. Then it was all 'guards, guards!' and pointed electro-pikes and desecration of the holy shiny things and blah blah blah." Rodney looked over his shoulder. "If you ask me, it's just an excuse to jump your bones. She'll probably demand you stay behind for the night to 'worship' her or something."
"I find that unlikely they would do such a thing," Teyla said tiredly from where she lay on the next bed over from John's. "The Order of Nail-gaith is not known for making such demands, or for harming visitors. I am sure that whatever price they desire will not be onerous."
"Ha!" Sheppard said.
"Although the Nail-gaith-la did seem... inordinately interested in you, Colonel, and the acolytes did seem surprised that she ordered us detained."
"Ha!" Rodney said.
John scowled and crossed his arms. "It doesn't mean anything."
Three hours later, Rodney was proved absolutely, completely correct, as usual. The high muckety-muck's chief aide arrived at their door to deliver a message, flanked by several large over-muscled grunts.
"The council of twelve has made a decision regarding the incident in the sanctum," she nervously told Sheppard. "While there was some question as to whether your friend had been properly blessed before being allowed to touch the relics, it has been decided that it was an unknowing fault, and that as he is your companion he was already blessed. Thus, your original detention was unnecessary."
"I told you it was your fault," John said, looking over his shoulder at Rodney. He looked back as the acolyte. "That's great. So, when can we leave?"
The acolyte flushed. "However, the Nail-Gaith-la and the council have also determined that you carry the divine grace, as shown by your awakening by the Nail-Gaithan. As such, you have a duty to spread that grace. You will do this by... by providing your blessed seed to the council and the other members of the order, so that one or more holy children might result."
Rodney thought that watching John's face fall was a wonderful thing, as was saying, "I told you so!"
"What if I don't want spread my seed?" John growled.
"Let me guess," Rodney said. "If he doesn't, you'll toss the rest of us off the tower."
"Rodney!" Teyla snapped.
"Heavens, no," the priestess said, looking at Rodney has if he'd grown an extra head. Clearly she didn't get out around the rest of the galaxy very often. "No, you will simply remain our guests until all adult members have been blessed."
Teyla arched an eyebrow. "Being guests usually implies the freedom to leave."
"Ah... perhaps, yes, but in this case the council has decided otherwise." She looked at Sheppard and flushed again. "We shall see you this evening, Colonel Sheppard."
When the priestess and her goons had left again, everyone looked at John. He stared at the ground and resolutely refused to meet their eyes. "It's not because it was flirting, it's because I have the gene."
"Mmm-hmmm, yeah, sure. So what's the plan?"
"What do you think the plan is?" John asked. "I'm sure as hell not having sex with them, that's for sure."
"Probably take forever to get through them all at your age anyways," Ronon rumbled from near the door.
Sheppard's head snapped up. "What was that?"
"Just sayin', you're not exactly young anymore."
"Oh, ha ha. Very funny," John said, trying to kill Ronon simply by staring at him and wishing forcefully. Given how many times Rodney had tried that with his much superior brain, he doubted John was going to have much luck. "Look, we're already an hour overdue. We'll just wait until Lorne shows up and then work out an escape plan."
"Sounds good to me," a voice said from the window directly behind Rodney.
Rodney yelped (in a very manly way), jumped, and spun around. He saw nothing there but open air, but after a moment he narrowed his eyes. "Lorne?"
"Hey, Rodney." A hand appeared from nowhere and waved. "How's it going?"
"It was going fine, until Colonel Sperm Donor here got us locked up."
"Shut up, McKay," John said as he elbowed Rodney out of the way. "That you, Major?"
Evan's face appeared, which was extraordinarily creepy because right around his ears is head faded away into nothing. "Yes, sir. We've got a jumper parked right here. I'm thinking that you could all just climb out the window and we'll be gone before they even know something was up."
"Climb out the window?" Rodney's eyes bugged out at the thought. "Are you insane? Do you see how far down it is?"
"Four hundred and eighty-seven feet." Evan grinned broadly. "Don't worry, if you fall I'll catch you."
"Well, okay, I suppose -" Rodney's brain caught up with the idea, which for some reason that Rodney couldn't even begin to had seemed fathom strangely reassuring. "Oh, yes, because clearly you'll be able to keep us both from tipping over, what with your gigantic size."
"Also, we can tie a rescue line around you."
"Oh. Okay, then."
John nodded. "Toss the line over and I'll get it secured around him. Ronon, wait at the door, listen for anyone coming up. Teyla will be next, I'll go last."
Of course John would go last. The sad part was, it wasn't because he was only being threatened with stud duty, but because he always had to go last, the heart-stopping, hair-graying moron.
The line was tossed through the window and John looped it under Rodney's arms. The window was large enough that Rodney could sit in it and with a bit of help from a repositioned table he started to carefully ease his way out feet-first until he was perched precariously on the edge and his legs were dangling down the wall. More of Evan appeared, until Rodney could see his chest and his wide-spread arms. Of course, Rodney could also see the ground far, far below, and the intellectual knowledge that the jumper's ramp was right below him didn't stop the monkey portion of his brain from screeching in terror.
"You'll be fine," Evan said softly.
"Of course I will." Rodney lifted his chin slightly, closed his eyes, and pushed himself forward. His feet hit the ramp just inches down and he stumbled forward, right into Evan's waiting arms. Evan pulled him tight and they carefully took a few steps forward into the safety of the jumper's rear compartment. When Rodney opened his eyes again, he found himself staring straight into Evan's insanely pretty blue orbs. (And when the hell did Rodney start thinking of eyes as orbs? Fuck, he was getting poetic, not good.)
"Uh. Hi," Rodney said weakly.
"Hi," Evan said. He started removing the rescue line from Rodney's chest. "You okay?"
"Fine. Perfectly fine, now that you're here," Rodney said. A second later he winced, because that had to have been the most cliched thing he could possibly have said. As Evan's grin grew wider, Rodney quickly changed the subject. "Who the hell is flying this thing?"
"Howdy!" Rodney looked forward to see Dean... Winston? No, Winchester. Winchester (Marine Version) was waving at him from the pilot's seat. Winchester (Lawyer Version) and Parrish were also peering back at them.
"What, you trusted him to hold us steady while I climbed out the window?" Rodney asked incredulously. "Are you insane?"
"He's a good pilot," Evan said.
"Good at flying too fast, maybe!"
"I am sure that Captain Winchester is perfectly capable of holding the jumper steady," Teyla said, appearing at their side. "Good afternoon, Major."
"Afternoon, Teyla," Evan said, frowning slightly. "You were supposed to wait until I sent the line over again."
"It was unnecessary once I saw the position of the ramp."
As if the emphasize her point, there was a thump as Ronon jumped into the jumper. John slithered out the window moments later and slinked inside as well. He hesitated as he passed through the cloaking field and his brow scrunched up in surprise.
Rodney suddenly realized that he and Evan were still standing all of an inch or two apart, which was way, way too close for two straight comrades, and he jumped back. Somehow he didn't think it helped. If anything, his sudden movement only drew attention to their positions. Rodney's cheeks burned with embarrassment and he waited to see how John would react.
"Huh," was all John said. He closed the hatch and leaned against the wall. "Okay, that's all of us. Take us home."
The flight back to Atlantis was awkward but thankfully short. John didn't say much of anything, just assured Evan that everyone was okay. Then there was all the usual post-mission rigmarole of putting away weapons and getting a medical check and telling Woolsey that it might be best to send someone else to that planet in the future. It wasn't until later that night during a game of chess that Rodney finally caught John alone.
"So, um. About this afternoon," Rodney said during a lull in their conversation. He paused as he realized that going straight into the actual matter at hand might be a bit too sudden and quickly shifted gears. "I was probably a bit, um, obnoxious about the flirting thing, and that sperm donor comment was probably out of line. You have just as much right to not be harassed by me or random alien women as anyone else. So I'm sorry."
John stared at him and slowly said, "Are you feeling okay?"
"What, can't I apologize for being rude?"
"Yes, but it's not exactly normal."
"I say I'm sorry all the time."
"No, you don't," and now John was grinning, the cheeky bastard.
"Yes, I do."
"No, you really don't."
"Yes, I really - oh, never mind." This was exactly the sort of thing that made Rodney not bother with apologies in the first place. "Anyways, more importantly, I know this afternoon you might have, uh, seen something between me and Evan - Lorne, I mean. Evan Lorne. Between us that might be interpreted in certain ways."
John's expression changed from amused to hunted like a switch had been flipped. "Maybe?"
"Maybe? What does that mean?"
"I mean there's... plenty of non-certain ways that you two standing together could be interpreted."
"Yes. Well. Let's just say that the most obvious interpretation is correct, and that he and I have... a relationship. A sexual one. Well, not just sexual, romantic too. We're dating and have been for several months, since that entire explosive outpost fiasco. Actually, no, since the sauna, the explosion was just when things got more serious."
"You have," John said flatly.
"Yes. I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier, but you're his CO and he wasn't comfortable telling you yet, and so we decided to wait a while... and I really should have asked him before talking to you, I suppose." Rodney winced as he realized that, but it was too late now, and the cat had probably been out of the bag anyways.
John was biting at his lip and quietly said, "I hadn't even realized you were gay."
"I'm not. I mean, okay, I do like some men, but mostly I'm attracted to women." Rodney took a deep breath and went on, just a bit hesitantly, "I guess it just never came up. It wasn't that I don't trust you or anything, and if it had ever mattered I swear I would have told you. It just wasn't important until now. But now I'm with him, and I want to be sure that we're - you and me - that we're okay. We are okay, right?"
John didn't say anything for a second, just swallowed and nodded sharply once. He gave Rodney a broad smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Of course we're okay, Rodney."
"You sure?" Rodney asked suspiciously. He could tell something was off about John, in a way that reminded Rodney a lot of the Great Non-Proposal Disaster, but John was just about the only person Rodney had ever met who was more inept at expressing his feelings than he was.
"Yes, I'm sure," John said, rolling his eyes like an annoyed teenager.
"Good. That's good." Rodney wasn't entirely convinced, but he suspected that John was just feeling a bit shocked still and would get over it. In any case, he wasn't going to get more than that out of him without alcohol, and so Rodney turned his attention back to the game and moved his rook. "Mate in five, by the way."
-- 1.3 --
At first, Evan had been sure that Sheppard was perfectly fine with his relationship with Rodney. They had talked about it - if three words consisting of "We okay?" and "Yeah" could be considered talking about it - and Evan had taken Sheppard at his word. It took him a while to realized something was up. Life on Atlantis was always hectic, full of sleepless nights and weird schedules, and Sheppard himself was every bit as friendly and laid-back as ever. That was why Evan didn't spot the sabotage for almost a month, although later it was obvious in retrospect.
"Good morning, Lorne!" Sheppard said cheerfully as he strolled into the command office for one of their regular briefings. "How's my favorite major this morning?"
"I'm pretty good," Evan replied. In truth he wasn't feeling all that great, because it was 0900 AST and with the longer days Atlantis had the time translated into something like seven in the morning back on Earth as far as his sleep schedule was concerned. Unlike Sheppard, Evan was decidedly not a morning person. Sheppard got up with Ronon and ran a few miles before the sun even came up; Evan preferred to sleep in and if he had to get up, the only exertion he wanted to make beyond dragging himself to the shower was some lazy wakeup sex. That hadn't been happening much lately.
"You don't sound good," Sheppard said with a deep frown as he sat down in the chair across the conference table from Evan. "Look out the window, it's a beautiful day."
"See those clouds?" Evan replied. "Meteorology says it's going to storm in about two hours. Torrential rain and winds gusting up to fifty miles an hour."
"But it's sunny right now. Come on, smile, Major Grouchy."
"Not going to happen, sir," Evan said, fighting a grin.
"Fine, be that way." Sheppard crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. "Anything particularly interesting on the table today?"
"Not really, sir. It's mostly administrative stuff, nothing too out of the ordinary. I don't think there's even been any disciplinary actions that you need to know about."
"Really? The guys have been slacking this week."
Evan eyed Sheppard skeptically. "Please don't take that as a cue to encourage them, sir."
The military detachment was remarkably orderly and major incidents like fighting were few and far between. Still, the city was isolated and there wasn't a lot to do off-duty, so there was always a certain amount of low-grade mischief of one sort or another going on. For the most part, he and Sheppard turned a blind eye to it all, but the men had been chosen for their intelligence and creativity as much as their skill as soldiers, and so when things did get out of hand they tended to do so in an immensely spectacular and usually amusing way.
Sheppard tried to look offended. "Major, I'm insulted that you'd think I would do anything of the sort."
"You dive-bombed the south pier with a paint bomb last month," Evan pointed out.
"That was a legitimate military exercise."
"Well, to hear the guys tell it, so is everything they do. Just try to..." Evan trailed off as he watched Sheppard continue to affect an innocent expression. "Are you even listening?"
"Somehow, I didn't think so. Anyways." Evan reached to the end of the table and dragged his tablet over and a stack of folders. "As I was trying to say, it's just ordinary stuff. You need to check over the final supply list for the next Daedalus run and sign off on two leave requests and one transfer."
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "Braddock?"
"Thought so. After that business with the biologists, I didn't expect that he'd last long."
In general Atlantis was a model of civilian-military cooperation. The two groups were simply too interdependent and lived in too close of quarters for it to be otherwise. True, the soldiers tended to hang out mostly with soldiers, and scientists with scientists, but there was plenty of mixing between the groups. There were the off-world teams first and foremost, but there were numerous other points of contact, especially since much of the technical support staff were military. That wasn't to say everyone was friends, but then all the scientists weren't friends with each other either.
Sadly, despite careful screening a few bad apples popped up from time to time when there were new arrivals. Sometimes it was a soldier who thought the scientists were useless wastes of space, sometimes it was a civilian who thought the soldiers were brain-dead, violent apes. In either case, the troublemakers quickly discovered that their own comrades weren't on their side and that the old hands could make their displeasure known in all sorts of ways. In Braddock's case, a cocky attitude and hard-headed refusal to admit he might be wrong had culminated with a live squid turning up in his bath and an unfortunate botanical incident that turned his skin blue.
"Next, there's a few new IOA mandates, mostly about new procedures for handling reports for exploration, negotiations, science project, and just about everything else. I'm sure you'll pay them the same due diligence that you do right now." Evan watched Sheppard roll his eyes at that and nod. "Also, U.S. Transitional SPACECOMM has once more punted us to a new branch, this time to Galactic Exploration Command since it's a primarily scientific organization. General O'Neill thinks that this should be permanent this time."
"Has anyone pointed out to them that we're not in the same galaxy they're exploring?" Sheppard asked.
"I think the key word is 'exploration,' sir," Evan replied. He lifted his tablet so Sheppard could see the screen more easily and pointed at part of his agenda. "Also, O'Neill addressed that concern here, where he instructed me to 'tell Sheppard to stop being a smartass,' which I think applies right now."
"Are you calling me a smartass, Lorne?"
"I would never dream of it, sir," Evan said with a straight face. "However, in this case I'm thinking in O'Neill terms, and I'm pretty sure he would."
Somehow Evan didn't think that Sheppard was buying that argument. "Does he have anything to say about you being a smartass?"
Evan carefully checked over the email. "Not in the least, sir. I'm sure he didn't think it was necessary, because he knows I would act or speak in anything but a completely polite and professional manner."
"That act might work on someone else, but I'm on to you, Major," Sheppard said, pointing at Evan. "You just manage to be more subtle that some people."
"Well, sir, I disagree, but if you feel I'm acting unprofessionally you are free to reprimand me." Evan waited a beat before adding, "Assuming you can find the right forms, of course, and file them correctly."
Sheppard laughed. "I'm sure I could do it eventually."
"Of course you could, sir."
"Actually, sir, there is an issue I wanted to bring up about the changes you made to the mission schedule."
Evan hesitated a bit, because there wasn't a great way bring up his problem. For the last couple of weeks, his team and Sheppard's team had going off-world on a more or less opposite schedule. It wasn't completely unusual, since they tried not to have both teams away at the same time in case of an emergency, but lately it seemed like the instant one team got home the other was leaving. Between the missions and their regular work, Evan and Rodney barely had a chance to see each other for more than a few hours here and there. They had finally reached a point where things were getting back to normal, but the day before Sheppard had made a few changes to the upcoming roster that had thrown things off again. Evan couldn't exactly ask for more time with his boyfriend, though.
Sheppard frowned and waved for Evan to hand the tablet over. "Is there something wrong?"
"It's just that you seem to have given my team all of the extra night missions for the next two weeks," Evan pointed out. "It's not a big deal, but it is a bit inconvenient for my guys."
"Huh." Sheppard's frowned deepened as he looked over the schedule. "I was just trying to cover the gaps left by Stackhouse's team until they're out of quarantine."
The First Sergeant and his team fallen afoul of an unpleasant but thankfully not dangerous mold and were now trapped in a decontamination suite until Keller and whatever mold-studying biologists the city had were confident they were clean. It was the sort of thing that every team was glad had happened to someone else.
"I know, sir," Evan said, "but Major Teldy and I had already split up his missions between our teams. I was going to get your approval today, but then you sent out the current schedule."
"Sorry about that." Sheppard shook his head and handed the tablet back. "I don't know why I didn't realize I'd given you all the late ones. Do you want to change it again?"
"Like I said, it's not a big deal, I just wanted to make you aware of it," Evan replied with a shrug. Sometimes, Evan hated being the reliable one. Another man might have complained more and pressed the issue, but he had never been one to bitch and moan about doing a little extra work. Besides, it was only a few extra nights - compared to some people on long-term deployments on Earth, he had it pretty easy.
"I'll be sure to check with you guys next time," Sheppard said. "For now, since I've already set the schedule I'll leave it as it is. The last thing I need is Woolsey poking around and wondering why we keep changing it."
"That's fine, sir."
"I'll find some way to make it up to you," Sheppard promised.
Evan opened his mouth to say it wasn't necessary, but thought better of it. He might not have been a whiner, but he wasn't above using a good guilt trip to achieve his goals. "In that case, sir, perhaps you'd have time tomorrow for a meeting about the military's share of preparations for the Non-Denominational Earth Northern Hemisphere Winter Holiday Party?"
Seeing Sheppard's trapped look was totally worth one or two fewer nights with Rodney.
The problem was that it started to turn into more than just one or two fewer nights. By the time Stackhouse was de-mossed, it was Evan's turn to have a week as the mid-watch officer on duty. Strictly speaking, he could have pawned it off on one of the lieutenants, but Atlantis was never completely dead and he liked to take a shift every now and then to see how things were running. Then Evan was stuck off-world for four days supervising a joint botany-zoology field trip, riding herd on almost a dozen scientists plus an equal number of bored marines. As usual, despite having a rank that made him qualified to lead over a hundred men, Captain Winchester proved absolutely useless at keeping the marines from finding creative ways to relieve their boredom. It was times like that which reminded Evan why Teldy had choosen a NCO to round out her team.
The following Saturday, Rodney begged off on coming to Evan's team movie night. He had been coming regularly since they'd started dating, but that week Sheppard had apparently decided his team needed a team night and happened to choose Saturday. That meant no post-movie sex, of course. Then their regular city exploration date was canceled because Rodney had to go off-world suddenly to assist an ally with a technical problem, although when he got back the next day he complained loudly about the job being one any engineer could have taken care of. The next one was put off because Evan had to go on another multi-day trip to pick up their share of the harvest from a trade partner, which of course meant taking part in their harvest festival, which meant awkwardly turning down inebriated natives and making sure the marines didn't get too rowdy.
Those were just some of the biggest missed dates, but there were a dozen smaller little issues that occurred from day to day. Half the time they finally managed to sit down and spend time together, Evan would be called away while talking to Rodney to help Sheppard with a military problem, or alternatively Rodney would need to assist him with some kind of weird technical issue. They would meet for lunch or dinner, but Sheppard would turn up, with or without the rest of his team, and the mood would change entirely. Evan would go to the labs to make sure Rodney took a break only to find that Sheppard had gotten the same idea, and while spending time with both of them was usually fun it Evan would have liked to have a different kind of fun as well.
In fact, once Evan started to think about it, Sheppard seemed to be turning up just about everywhere. Things came to a head one evening when Evan came to the lab, planning to pick up Rodney for dinner and maybe a movie, and found Radek working alone.
"Hey, doc," Evan said when he realized Rodney wasn't lurking in one of the storage rooms or behind one of the large Ancient devices currently being studied. "Where's Rodney at?"
"Rodney? Rodney just left with Colonel Sheppard to get dinner."
"What, again?" Evan sighed and sat down on one of the lab stools. "That's just great. Knowing my luck, there's no way I'll pry them apart tonight. You have no idea how frustrating this is getting."
Radek nodded sympathetically. "I think perhaps I do. Rodney has been, how shall I say, increasingly irritable of late and has been taking it out on us. I think it is because he has not been spending as much time with you and you have been failing in your conjugal duties."
"Hey!" Evan cried indignantly. "I don't have conjugal duties, and I'm certainly not failing them even if I do."
"Sorry." Radek shrugged and spread his hands. "Perhaps word choice was incorrect. My vocabulary, it is not always best."
"Your English is better than mine most of the time," Evan pointed out skeptically. "The only time you can't speak properly is when you don't want to."
"Commenting on that I am not."
"The point is, we have gotten used to the newer, more relaxed Rodney," Radek said. "The consensus among the science departments, and engineering in particular, is that it is in our best interests if your relationship continues to operate smoothly."
"Believe me, I'm all for smooth as well." Evan shook his head. "It's just been a bit hectic lately and we keep getting interrupted. I mean, just take today - this is the fifth or sixth time Sheppard's gotten to him first when I come to make him take a break."
"Colonel Sheppard does seem to be around more often than usual," Radek agreed. "Now that I think about it, he tends to turn up just before you do. Does that strike you as odd?"
"Yeah," Evan said, frowning in thought. "Yeah, it does."
It was then that things started to click together in Evan's head. Opposite mission schedules, a sudden increase in night missions and shifts, interrupted dinners, preempted movie nights - it all fit into a pattern. It wasn't a huge leap to connect Sheppard's behavior to something Evan had seen a dozen times off-world.
"Oh my God," Evan said, completely floored by his sudden realization. "That bastard is cockblocking us."
Radek blinked and pushed his glasses up. "Excuse me?"
"Sheppard. He keeps putting obstacles between me and Rodney spending time together, and especially between us getting laid. Look, have you ever seen what happens whenever Rodney is around a woman who actually shows even the slightest hint of attraction to him?"
"Aaaaaah, I see, I see," Radek said, eyes lighting up with understanding. "Like with Colonel Carter and the fruit basket."
"Exactly! God, he's been doing it for over a month, too. No wonder our schedules keep conflicting because of convenient," Evan made air-quotes, "'accidents'. He's doing it on purpose."
"Hmmm. I am not sure it is deliberate," Radek mused. "An autonomic response, perhaps."
"Maybe." Evan frowned, because it was possible, although it didn't quite explain why Sheppard would do it. "In any case, this can't be allowed to continue."
"No, it can't. Sooner or later, Rodney will snap from the stress, or worse yet, find out about the colonel's actions." Radek shuddered. "I would hate to think of what would happen in that case."
"It wouldn't be pretty, no."
Evan knew Rodney would be hurt if he knew Sheppard was trying to keep him and Evan apart, especially by such sneaky and back-stabbing methods. He loved Rodney and admired Sheppard too much to let their friendship be harmed, even if it would likely be a temporary rift. He would have to set things straight before he found out, and in a permanent fashion. Evan suspected it wouldn't take too much effort, if the right mix of positive and negative reinforcement was used. Evan knew what made Sheppard tick well enough to know exactly what buttons to push, and if there was one thing he was very good at, it was pressing buttons.
"Of course you realize," Evan said after a minute of consideration, "this means war."