the_cephalopod (the_cephalopod) wrote,

Chaos Theory (part 1 of 6) - by Madison & the_cephalopod (NC-17)

Title: Chaos Theory
Authors: sgamadison & the_cephalopod
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: ~34,200
Spoilers: Up to the season 5 episode Tracker.
Authors’ Notes: Written for unamaga and chopchica’s Happyfest.
Acknowledgements: We’d both wanted to write a story about the Rodney/Ronon/Jennifer love triangle to set the story straight about what was *really* going on and how John fitted into it all. So, when we saw the post about unamaga and chopchica’s Happyfest, we were thrilled as it seemed like the perfect opportunity. In addition to thanking unamaga and chopchica for running the fabulous fest, we’d also like to thank patk and vida_boheme for the inspiration their journal entries and resulting discussion on the relevant season 5 episodes gave us. Finally, we’ve incorporated a small amount of the dialogue from Tracker into the story, courtesy of Gateworld.

Summary: “See, it’s like this,” Rodney smiled out at the reflection of the moon on the ocean, small waves sending the moonbeam rippling towards them on a ribbon of gleaming water. “I’m in love with Keller.”

A band of steel constricted in John’s chest at the words and a little voice within him sighed and said ‘here we go again’. He took another swallow of beer, admiring the steadiness of his voice when he spoke at last. “Don’t you mean ‘Jennifer’?”

Rodney looked at him sharply, startled. “What? Oh. Right. Whatever. Don’t start with me, Colonel Linguistics. Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

Chaos Theory

Part One

John stood in front of his open closet, looking morosely at the contents within. Didn’t he have anything that wasn’t black? He’d already taken an unreasonable amount of time deciding whether or not to redress in his BDUs post shower, but now that he’d decided to go civilian, he realized he really didn’t have all that much to wear. He’d selected the khaki cargo pants initially, only to discover they were missing a button at the fly and he didn’t feel like dragging out the mending kit just now. He’d opted for his well-worn jeans and despite the fact that he preferred his clothing somewhat baggy; they’d dragged over his skin, still damp from the shower. He’d zipped up carefully, making sure not to catch hair in an uncomfortable location. The plain white cotton shirt he’d planned to wear with them was hopelessly wrinkled from being balled up and tossed on the closet shelf from the last time he’d worn it. The Kelly green Izod had a distinctly funky smell to it. When was the last time he’d done any laundry?

In the end, he settled on the blue cotton shirt, an old favorite, even though it had been washed so many times it was starting to get a little thin. He rolled up the sleeves as he padded around barefoot in his quarters, unable to stop moving. Maybe this was a bad idea. It wasn’t too late. He hadn’t committed himself to anything yet. As a matter of fact, he could just chill out here in his quarters; get a little reading in, maybe practice the guitar. Yeah. That was a good plan.

He was just getting comfortable with the change in plans when the door chimed. Unconsciously, he glanced at his watch. A little after 2100. The door chimed again before he could move and a smile was on his face as he called out, “Door’s open.”

Rodney, as predicted, came barreling into the room. “Oh good, you’re here.” He seemed surprised and pleased at the same time and John reminded himself that was no big deal. Rodney had been through a lot lately.

Half a dozen smirky responses flitted through John’s mind, but he settled on a simple, “What’s up, Rodney?” instead.

“I just wanted to…oh, hey.” Rodney frowned suddenly, his hand moving up to gesture towards John. “I’m not interrupting…that is to say, you’re not…?”

John raised an eyebrow and waited. When Rodney continued to stare at him, train of thought obviously stalled out, he prompted, “I’m not what?”

Rodney blinked and then frowned again. “Do you have plans?”

John glanced down, taking in the bare feet, the comfortable jeans, the lightweight, only-slightly-wrinkled shirt. “Nothing in particular,” he shrugged.

“You took a shower,” Rodney persisted, as though trying to catch John in a lie.

“I went running with Ronon.” John hooked a thumb in a jeans pocket and rested his hand against his hipbone.

“And shaved.” Rodney looked as though he were trying to work out the best answer to the grand unification theory in his head.

John shrugged again. “I was already there,” he said, by way of answer.

Rodney seemed unconvinced. “I can come back later if I’m interrupting something.” He motioned first up and down at John and then vaguely over his shoulder. “If, you know, you have a date or something.”

There was an awkward little pause and then John said easily, “As a matter of fact, I was thinking about going to find you.”

“Really?” Rodney’s face lit up and for an instant, John wished Rodney could see himself like this. “Cool. Because I wanted to talk with you.”

Huh. Maybe this would go better than he’d hoped.

“It’s really nice out,” Rodney smiled at him. “You want to go out on the pier?”

“I’ll grab the beer,” John answered, moving towards the mini-fridge.

Rodney was right; it was nice out. The temperature was just starting to drop as the first of the moons was rising over the sea, but it was still pleasant, no need for a jacket just yet. Rodney settled himself down at the end of the pier, booted feet dangling over the edge. John seated himself a comfortable yet not-too-far distance away, crossed his feet at the ankles, popped open a can of beer and passed it over to Rodney, who accepted it silently and went back to staring at the moonrise. John opened his own beer and took a swig. Around them, the lights of the city were coming on, steadily brightening as the twilight deepened.

“You really are a good friend, John.” Rodney’s voice was uncharacteristically full of warmth. He glanced sideways at John, a happy; almost shy expression on his face.

“Rodney,” John protested out of habit, ignoring the warm sensation in his chest, the feeling that it would be okay and that this was the time to say what he had to say.

“No, really, John.” Rodney took a deep breath and let it out with satisfaction. “That’s why you wouldn’t let me say goodbye. You wouldn’t give up on me. I really appreciate that.”

That’s not the only reason, buddy. John hesitated, taking a breath to speak, but Rodney rolled on.

“As a matter of fact, that’s why I wanted to talk to you tonight. Because you have been such a good friend and because I’m pretty sure you can help me now.”

Faint little alarm bells sounded in John’s head. Rodney’s little speech had overtones of ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ to it and John had not yet steeled himself to say anything.

“See, it’s like this,” Rodney smiled out at the reflection of the moon on the ocean, small waves sending the moonbeam rippling towards them on a ribbon of gleaming water. “I’m in love with Keller.”

A band of steel constricted in John’s chest at the words and a little voice within him sighed and said ‘here we go again’. He took another swallow of beer, admiring the steadiness of his voice when he spoke at last. “Don’t you mean ‘Jennifer’?”

Rodney looked at him sharply, startled. “What? Oh. Right. Whatever. Don’t start with me, Colonel Linguistics. Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

“I heard you, Rodney.” John suppressed his sigh.

Maybe not enough, because Rodney sounded distinctly suspicious when he spoke, unlike the relaxed persona he’d been ever since they’d returned from Talos. “You have a problem with this?”

John played with the ring tab on the beer can, bending the metal back and forth until it fatigued and broke off in his hand. He flicked the small piece of metal away from him, watching it fall into the darkness of the water below. “I just think not all that long ago you were in love with Katie. Seems a bit sudden, doesn’t it?”

“Litterbug,” Rodney said shortly and then sighed himself. “Point taken. But this is different.”

“Different how?” John couldn’t look at Rodney as he gave his explanations—he stared down at the can of beer in his hands.

“Well, Katie and I didn’t have anything in common, not really. I mean, I think I was in love with the idea of being in love, if you know what I mean. She was sweet and she seemed to like me, a rare enough occurrence that it seemed like it meant something, that we could build a life together. I looked around and everything seemed to be moving so fast, you know?” Rodney had no qualms about turning to face John as he spoke. “One day I’m twenty and I’m the hotshot wunderkind on campus and the next I’m thirty and so full of myself I can’t envision ever making a mistake and the next I’m forty and I’ve blown up 5/6 of a solar system and traveled to another galaxy.” Rodney set down his beer and brought his hands together in his lap, tapping his thumbs repeatedly. “And I realized that my life is half over and I want more than I’ve settled for so far.”

“You offered Katie your hand in marriage because you were going through a midlife crisis?’ John could not help the incredulous tone to his voice and he laughed in relief when Rodney began to laugh as well.

“No, no, it’s worse than that,” Rodney chuckled. He picked up his beer can and waved it in a mock salute at John. “I proposed to her because of you.”

John’s heart stopped dead in his chest for a moment before it began to thud again at twice the previous speed.

“What are you talking about, McKay?” He deliberately drawled, keeping things cool.

“My charming sister,” Rodney twisted up his mouth in a grimace at John before he took another sip of beer, “in all her infinite wisdom, suggested that I should take what I could get, that I could do no better than Katie because I was ‘no John Sheppard’.” He made little finger quotes here at John.

John choked on his beer. “Okay,” he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, “your sister’s full of crap, you know that right?”

“I know that she’s right in that I’m not you.” Rodney nodded thoughtfully as he swallowed some more beer. “I’m not. You’re cool and hot and you’ve got the smirk and the hair and that slinky something or other that makes people just notice when you walk into the room. I’ve got my own charms and I know they lie in other areas. But Jeannie was wrong about my not being able to do better.”

The light of the rising moon shone on Rodney’s face and something inside John pulled back in on itself at the beaming expression he found there.

“What makes you so sure it’s Jennifer then?” Aside from the fact that she was young and smart and hot. Really hot. He remembered that in the alternate timeline, the one where he went missing, Rodney and Jennifer had returned to Earth as a couple. Maybe the two of them were destined to be together whether or not he was present. It was a depressing thought. He suddenly pictured Jennifer lifting her face up towards Rodney with a smile, watching in sick fascination as that crooked mouth took possession of her lips, the strong hand stroking her jaw line, her reciprocating hand placed squarely on his chest…

“Well, that’s the beauty of it,” Rodney was openly smiling now. “See, with Katie I was always trying to be on my best behavior and it was nearly impossible to sustain. But Jennifer’s seen me at my very worst, and she still seems to like me. And we’ve both taken turns at the whole saving each other’s life thing. Okay, she might have a slightly unfair advantage there because she’s, you know, a medical doctor and everything, but still.” Rodney bumped shoulders with John, still smiling. “So we’re good, you see?”

“I can see where that would be an unfair advantage,” John said with only a slight smirk, into his beer. Rodney shot him an evil glance.

“So what’s the problem?” John added stiffly, hoping his lack of enthusiasm wouldn’t show.

Rodney’s face fell. “Ronon,” he said succinctly.

“Ah,” John agreed. He’d noted the somewhat predatory glances Ronon had been shooting Keller’s way for a while now, and the way “Jennifer’ was now more often than not included at team mealtimes. He’d been pleased on Ronon’s behalf, happy to know that Ronon felt comfortable enough to try to start something with someone, a sign that he was willing to put down roots. And to know that someone, somewhere, was getting some action. But lately he hadn’t been so sure that the two of them were together, and it just wasn’t the sort of thing he’d ask. “Um, you’re not asking me to ask Ronon to step aside, are you?” Because that could get really messy.

“What? No!” Rodney’s face took on the expression of a startled and horrified rabbit. “God, no. What made you think I’d ask something like that? For one thing, if you did and he did, then how would I ever know that Jennifer really wanted to be with me?”

John shrugged, sipping his beer. “So what do you want my help for?”

Rodney ducked his head momentarily, fingers picking at the edge of the pier. “Well.” He let out his breath in a little huff of air. “I thought maybe. Well, you know.”

“No, Rodney, I don’t know,” John said in an overly patient voice. “I left my Rodney-compiler in the geek brain back in my quarters.”

“So that’s how you do it,” Rodney grinned slyly. “I thought that the geek brain didn’t come standard issue with the flyboy model.” Rodney flicked his fingers up and down in the general direction of John’s body where he sat. “But they’re networked, right?”

John snorted out a laugh. “You’re changing the subject.”

Rodney bit his lip and nodded. “Yes. Well, yes and no. See, what I want is for you to teach me how to be cool.”

“What?” It took all John’s effort not to spit beer again at Rodney’s statement. He didn’t want to start making a habit of that. “Rodney,” he said, his voice coming out somewhat strangled, “you know, I’m really not all that cool.”

Rodney tipped his head back, his eyes narrowing as he folded his arms across his chest. “Oh please. Look, if you don’t want to help me…”

“I didn’t say that!” John protested. “I’m just saying…maybe I’m not the best example…you know what? Why don’t you get Teyla to help you with this? I mean, she’s gotta know what Jennifer wants, right?”

Rodney made the sort of face he made when John said something really stupid during a technical crisis like, “why can’t you just fix it?” He sighed and flapped a hand in John’s direction. “You know what Teyla will say. She’ll tell me to just ‘be myself’ and we all know what kind of crap answer that is.”

John nodded in silent sympathy. It was one of those incomprehensible girl things that Teyla would say that would leave Rodney with no clear direction as to how to proceed. “So what exactly is it you want me to do?”

Rodney conspiratorially hitched a hip closer to John; seemingly sure John was on board now. John could feel the heat coming off his body in the cool night air. “Well, I’ve been watching you…you know, how people react to you…for years now. And it never fails. Within moments of our arrival on some deserted planet somewhere, some hot chick appears and makes a play for you.”

“Rodney…” John began but was forestalled by the upraised hand.

“Well, okay, every seemingly deserted planet that turns out really to be inhabited. And not just the women mind you, but the men too. Oh don’t get all squiffy on me.”

John had opened his mouth to protest again but Rodney rolled on. “I’m not casting aspersions on your sexual orientation, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’m merely saying that you have this utterly effortless, universal sex appeal and I want to know how you do it.”

Rodney was staring at him earnestly and it occurred to John that he’d never before had a better opening to discuss his sexual orientations with Rodney or had felt less inclined to do it. “I think that’s mostly a matter of attitude, Rodney. I’m not sure how you can teach that.”

“Well, it has to be a matter of attitude,” Rodney frowned, “because really, taken point by point on an individual basis, you really shouldn’t be all that hot. But I figure since you taught me how to shoot a weapon and how to fly a jumper, it can’t really be all that hard, right?”

John blinked at Rodney for a moment, trying to process what he’d just said and unhooked his ankles and heaved himself to his feet with a sigh. He reached down, holding a hand out to Rodney.

“Where are we going?” Rodney asked as he let himself be hauled up.

“I need something stronger than beer,” John said, turning back towards the doors without waiting to see if Rodney was following.

Unfortunately, he did. And by the time Rodney had come into John’s quarters behind him, John could feel the excitement rolling off of him in palpable waves.

“Okay, so let’s do this,” Rodney said, snapping his fingers and pumping his fists together simultaneously. John felt a momentary pulsing heat in his cock and quickly turned away towards the fridge. Replacing what was left of the beer; he pulled out one of Radek’s home-distilled bottles of vodka and fished around for the shot glasses. He poured himself a neat glass and took it in an abrupt swallow.

“That vodka is purple,” Rodney said suspiciously as John poured him a shot.

“Tormack,” John said briefly, noting the gleeful expression that shot over Rodney’s face at the words.

He still drank from the glass cautiously. “Smooth,” he said in surprised delight.

John wanted very badly to kiss him just then and thought perhaps it was wise to stop drinking now.

“So where do we start?” he said with a sigh.

“I thought we’d begin with working on my appearance. You know, a clothes-make-the-man kind of thing. And maybe you could show me how you do that sticky-uppy thing with the hair.”

John set the bottle of vodka down with a thump on the table beside the fridge. “You want me to give you a makeover?”

“No! Well, yes. Okay, look. Remember Rod from the alternate universe? Well, he was me, but not me. I mean we looked the same but we didn’t. And I for the life of me don’t know wherein the differences lay or how to duplicate them.” Rodney looked up at him very hopefully over the rim of the shot glass as he paused and then took the rest of it in a gulp.

“You want me to do a makeover,” John repeated, feeling the grin start to grow ever so slightly over his expression.

Rodney made a face and thumped him on the arm. “Will you stop calling it that? And yes, that’s why I need your help.”

John walked over slowly and carefully removed Rodney’s empty glass, placing it beside the other on the table. “Okay,” he agreed, “but you have to place yourself under my complete authority.”

Rodney rolled his eyes. “You’re going to enjoy this very, very much, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” John grinned back at him. “Come with me.” He headed for the small bathroom, pausing to make little ‘come on’ gestures with his hand when Rodney failed to join him.

Rodney huffed his way into the bathroom and then frowned at the tight spacing. “Here.” John grabbed him by the arms and pushed him in front of the mirror, coming to stand behind him so that he was looking at their reflections over Rodney’s shoulder. “Hair first.” He reached past Rodney’s shoulder and touched the controls, the mirror sliding back to reveal a row of shelves. John grabbed a small jar and the mirror slid back into place again.

“I knew it!” Rodney crowed. “I knew your hair didn’t do that naturally, no matter all your protestations to the contrary.”

“Rodney,” John chuckled. “This stuff gives it some control. You should see it when I don’t use anything at all. Here. You try it.”

John watched over his shoulder as Rodney deftly opened the jar and then plunged his fingers down deeply into the gel. “Whoa!” John reached around his waist and grabbed his wrist. “Okay, not so much. It’s not lube, for crying out loud. Not only is this crap expensive, but a little goes a long way. Think of it as naquada.”

Rodney began to laugh as he tapped his fingers on the side of the jar and then scrapped off most of the remaining gel bar into the jar as well. “Naquada,” he said, meeting John’s eyes in the mirror, his own bright blue with merriment. “Only you.”

“No, only you.” John corrected. “I have to use technical analogies with you. Alright. So you just take your fingers and…” he mimed pulling the gel through his hair in random directions.

Rodney tried, but succeeded only in looking like a startled chick. “Here, let me,” John offered, but when Rodney tried to turn to face him, John pushed him back towards the mirror. “No, you watch and learn, young Grasshopper.”

They stood this way for a few moments, John rubbing his hands all the way through Rodney’s hair to collect the gel and then he began pulling at it the way he would do his own, while Rodney made faces at him in the mirror. “Okay. Not bad,” he said when he was done, stepping back but resting his hands on Rodney’s shoulders.

Rodney tilted his head from side to side. “Not bad indeed. Hey. It makes me look like I have more, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, McKay.” Rodney gave him a goofy smile through the mirror.

John stepped back further, brushing his hands over Rodney’s shoulders and down along his back, looking at him critically. “Okay,” he said when he straightened and met Rodney’s gaze in the mirror again. “Dressing when off-duty is about making the most of your assets. You’ve got really nice shoulders. And when you wear those t-shirts with the short sleeves, that really sets them off.”

Rodney began to beam at him.

“Only, you’re starting to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame,” John gripped him lightly by the juncture of neck and shoulder and gave him a little shake. “Too much time slumped over a keyboard. You need to do something to work the opposite set of muscles, your traps and your lats.”

“Uh-huh.” Rodney crossed his eyes at him and then yelped when John squeezed harder on his shoulder.

“See, you’re all tight here. So I’m going to give you a set of exercises and you’re going to go down to the weight room and do them, right?”

Rodney sighed. “You’re going to make me work out, aren’t you?”

“I’m just saying,” John began, but Rodney interrupted him.

“I know I’ve put on a lot of weight in the last few years. I mean seriously, if you’d known me back when I first met Sam, you’d scarcely recognize me now. But honestly, that’s how I handle severe, chronic stress. I eat.” Rodney poked disconsolately at his stomach.

“Okay, for starters, I’ve seen pictures of you when you were younger, Jeannie, remember? And though we can’t discount the effect of your pretty, pretty hair,” John tried unsuccessfully to duck when Rodney swatted at him and continued half-laughing, half-serious, “there is such a thing as too skinny. Honestly, Rodney, I think you’ve gotten better looking with age.”

“Really?” Rodney met his eyes in the mirror with a startled expression and then suddenly got a thoughtful look on his face. “I wonder what you looked like when you were younger.”

“We’re talking about your assets,” John said smoothly. “Back to what looks good on you. Anything that brings out the blue in your eyes, but especially that kind of steely-color blue you science guys wear. And leather. You look really good in that leather jacket you have. You need to pay attention to what you’re wearing off duty.”

“Like you and the clothes you have on now,” Rodney nodded at him. “Which, to be honest, look as though someone should have given them to Goodwill but when you put them on, are suddenly…”

“Back to you,” John said a little more forcibly. “At some point we’ll need to go through your closet and I can show you what I mean, but for now, remember, play up your assets and hide everything else. So for you, that means short sleeves when you can get away with it, don’t tuck your shirts in, leather when appropriate, and even when it’s not.” He gave Rodney a quick wink in the mirror before tilting his head and looking down. “And anything that shows off your ass.”

Rodney’s mouth opened and closed in the mirror several times. “Yes, McKay, one of the best asses in Atlantis and that’s really saying something with Teyla and Ronon around. So you’ve got it, now flaunt it.”

“But how?” Rodney whined.

John sighed. “We’ll work on that. Trust me.”

Rodney turned back to face the mirror again. “I really do need to lose some weight. I don’t get it though. I’m always running from something or scrambling to save the day. I should really be in better shape by now. And Ronon eats four times the quantity of food that I do and look at him.”

“You’re in better shape than when you got here,” John assured him. “I think it’s what you eat more than how much. Don’t get me wrong, McKay, you’re like a PopTart vegetarian.”

“A what?” Rodney sounded aggrieved and incredulous together.

“A PopTart vegetarian,” John reiterated. “You almost never eat any meat or vegetables, it’s always bread and crackers and tormack. Maybe you should talk to Teyla; she could help you out on that one.”

“Everything here just tastes funny,” Rodney complained. “I eat what I like.”

“So learn to like other stuff,” John shrugged. “If you want to get the girl, that is.”

“Right,” Rodney frowned. “If I want to get the girl.” His expression lightened as he faced John in the mirror again. “Thanks. You know, for helping.”

“No problem, buddy,” John said, forcing a smile back at him and hoping Rodney wouldn’t realize it was faked.


Chaos Theory part 2

Tags: chaos theory, fic, first time, happyfest, mcshep, sga

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