After two months working together, McKay finds out that Major Sheppard has some kind of weird electrical charge. It’s the only explanation, because when their shoulders brush or their hands collide, reaching, for instance, for the same carafe of vinegar-reeking Ruus wine on PX3-675, a spark arcs between their bare hands and snaps Rodney like a rubber band. And every time, Rodney yelps, pulling his hand back with an affronted expression, because Sheppard has to command some kind of control over the effect he has.
And every time, John furls his eyebrows in mild reproach. “Hey,” he complains (and his voice is drawn out to match his lanky lines as he rubs his injured hand), “Watch it, McKay.”
“Oh yes, I’m sure I contrived to shock you, Major,” Rodney retorts. And then the server returns, her heaving bosom practically overflowing her mid-eighteenth century top and predictably thrust in John’s direction and line of sight. That ends the discussion tidily. And there’s always something like that to end it in the first year.
The second year, it stops surprising McKay that Sheppard has some kind of charge. He tests his own electrical conductivity with other people, peons mostly who can’t really complain that Rodney keeps trying to zap them. He presumes that it’s a Pegasus special that keeps the sparks flying between the flyboy and himself, but there’s nothing he can find that supports that theory. His attempts to shock his underlings are sadly unsuccessful and it appears that it really is a Sheppard Thing (like the lazy grin, the pointy hair, his terrible jokes, and the way Atlantis sucks up to him). Only Rodney really wishes that it wasn’t because the pilot is far too easy to notice without the ready and available voltage.
So McKay begins surreptitiously glancing around to see if it bugs the others (a comprehensive and exhaustive research project that lasts about forever) – to see if Teyla touches her forehead to John’s and yelps, “Son of a—!” or if Ronon grabs John around the waist for a bear hug and dumps him back on the ground with a zap and a grunt of discomfort. There’s no indication that’s the case and then Rodney feels somewhat slighted. Of all the people to inflict with his cast-off Mutant power, it appears that Rodney’s the sole target. It almost feels intentional.
Only that Sheppard seems as surprised as Rodney every time he gets a little buzz.
Say, when they reach into the same bowl of popcorn and their fingers touch, Sheppard pulls back and narrows his eyes at Rodney with half-serious reprimand. “What’ve you been doing – shuffling over carpet?” he asks. “You keep zapping me.”
Rodney snorts and says, “Look in the mirror, Storm.”
“Who?” Sheppard pretends not to get it the same way he pretends not to be aware of his odd electrical charge. Which should hardly be surprising after three years of working together.
“Lightning-wielding mutant teacher at Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters; Halle Berry—”
“Catwoman?” Sheppard asks, popping a few kernels in his mouth and rubbing at his hand. Rodney narrows his eyes and Sheppard quirks a lopsided grin, looking pleased at annoying him. It’s always nice to know his team leader enjoys antagonizing him and it certainly makes him feel secure that this is the man who has his back offworld. Well, not really. Really, Rodney would trust Sheppard if he told him to jump off a bridge and really meant it (the clause there being very important).
That trust has kind of become their “thing” – a Sheppard-and-McKay Thing (like how they play together like middle schoolers, the teasing barbs, Friday night movies, and the static charge). And Rodney wishes he didn’t notice it as much as he does. It’s just hard to ignore it.
So when Rodney starts dating (Katie and then Jennifer), it’s a little bit of a relief that he can push his thoughts of Sheppard’s electrical charge and green eyes and magic gene to the back of his head. His impressive brain is capable of impressive intellectual multi-tasking but Rodney is fully capable of distracting himself with other thoughts and activities. It’s just that it begins eating at him when he realizes that he hasn’t felt the snap of Sheppard’s static electricity in a while. It vexes him how Sheppard seems more strained and impatient with him when he slides into his seat across from him in the mess hall. There’s no excuse for it.
Really, Rodney should be incredibly happy. Things are going well with his new girlfriend. She’s an attractive, energetic, bright girl most men would be happy to be involved with. But it occurs to him suddenly when he kisses Jennifer one night and when it comes to him, it knocks the breath from his chest. It occurs to Rodney that, as unforeseen as it is, he misses the little zap of Sheppard’s fingers brushing his, the crinkle of hazel eyes when he laughs and rubs at his hand. He can imagine, clearly, the feeling of that little snap if he pushed Sheppard to the wall and closed his mouth over his. The snap of electricity, the scrape of stubble, the vibration of Sheppard’s chuckle beneath Rodney’s fingertips… He’d give anything for the little discomfort.
Rodney pulls back, face flushed, and he begins babbling before he thinks it through. He always has. He’s as surprised as Jennifer when he says, “I’m sorry—I don’t think – I think we should break up.”
He’s still reeling a few days later when Sheppard slants a quiet, curious look Rodney’s way while Richard Woolsey is commanding a staff meeting. And later, when Sheppard catches up to him in the hall outside the transporter and drawls, “You know, I was thinking about going to the pier later…”
Rodney interrupts him. “I’m not broken up about it. It was… Not that you’d believe it, but I did the breaking up.”
Sheppard’s eyes are on his face, green eyes on Rodney’s red cheeks. He leans forward and punches the button. “Why? Seemed to be going okay with you guys.”
Rodney snorts. “No,” he says. “It wasn’t.”
“Why?” Sheppard asks and then, when Rodney looks at him, he glances askance, color rising in his neck and ears. He always skirts the issue of Rodney’s love life – and Rodney’s always believed it was jealousy that not every woman on every planet is into him.
“I assume it was because she wasn’t you.” Again, it’s Rodney’s stupid mouth on autopilot. He claps his mouth shut in belated horror as the transporter doors slide open, wide eyes meeting Sheppard’s. The Colonel looks as surprised as he does. “I mean…” Rodney fumbles for something to say. He can think of a thousand words but none of them actually come together to get him out of this. He smashes his face into his hand to get away from Sheppard’s raised eyebrows and blank stare. “Oh dear god. If I’d—” Then his world spins as Sheppard grabs the lapel of his science jacket and pushes him into the transporter.
It’s the little electrical pop that really gets it through Rodney’s head that it’s John’s mouth over his when the doors slide shut. For two whole seconds, he’s completely paralyzed with shock. And then he wraps his arms around John and kisses him like he’ll never let go because, really, he doesn’t want to. “Oh god,” he murmurs against John’s lips when they break apart, “I missed this.”
Sheppard’s chuckle vibrates under Rodney’s fingertips. “You never had it.”
Rodney snorts, throwing his hand out. “And that’s the worst part!” He doesn’t even mind when Sheppard swats him.
“You think this is good,” Sheppard tells him, “Wait until tonight. You don’t know what you’re missing.” He guffaws as Rodney’s eyes glaze over and if Rodney doesn’t know what he’s missing, he imagines it anyway.