Burning Bridges

Many thanks to Wesleysgirl for beta reading this.

When subtle doesn't work, McKay has to try something else.

And, really, why had he ever thought it would? He's a man; Sheppard's a man. Men don't do subtle. Unless they're fond of making themselves look totally pathetic...

He thinks back sourly to the three times he got Sheppard to hold still while he removed a non-existent eyelash from a furiously blinking green eye. The first time, he was told his breath smelled of onions. Wipe out. The second attempt, Sheppard had been tapping his foot the whole time, and muttering about a meeting with Elizabeth.

The third had ended in tears. Lots of them, from a single, profusely watering eye, inflamed and reddened.

McKay had refused to apologize. If the man hadn't jerked back like that, McKay's finger wouldn't have slipped and poked him, and stabbed was not an accurate description, and his fingernails did not need to be trimmed --

Although that was promising. Sheppard was noticing small, inconsequential details about him. That was good, right?

So he abandons subtle and courts her ne'er-do-well, black sheep cousin, cunning.

Far better idea.

Cunning consists of lurking -- no, skulking; McKay can, sometimes, be honest when there's no one listening but himself -- outside Sheppard's room, just out of sight, waiting for him to return from a run, sweaty and hot.

He waits a carefully timed four minutes, hammers on Sheppard's door, and yells, "Emergency!"

Sheppard, shower-wet and barely wearing a towel that's barely big enough to wear, opens the door. The Ancients hadn't left any soft, fluffy towels behind, and those that came with the expedition seem to have mysteriously vanished. McKay has a suspect list concerning a certain green bath sheet and he's going to Poirot his way to the culprit one day, oh, yes, indeedy.

His eyes map and scan and freeze halfway down. Sheppard's hip is an equation-perfect curve culminating in a sharp point of bone. It's captivating, entrancing, and amazingly, conveniently, right next to his cock.

McKay stammers out a retraction of his call to arms, too dizzy with lust to lie well -- which is deeply worrying both at the time and in retrospect -- and stumbles blindly to his own room.

He rations himself to jerking off once every other day after that, unless he can be certain that he'll have the self-discipline to climax without imagining his teeth trapping that point for his tongue to lick and his lips to suck scarlet. He doesn't want to wear the memory out.

He generally manages to convince himself that it's safe to do it, anyway.

Lying. He's so good at that, and yet it doesn't seem entirely fair to get his heart's desire that way.

Not entirely. There's some wiggle-room there.

'All's fair in love and war' becomes his favorite saying, knocking 'Geniuses aren't like other people, and if you have to ask why, you just make yourself look stupid' off the top spot.

It wasn't all that funny, anyway, so it was probably due to get rotated out.

He's not about to despair, because that's the refuge of an inadequate personality, and he's not about to give up, because he doesn't do that, ever, but he is feeling a little... frustrated, when he notices something.

Sheppard's around. More than usual. In his lab. Beside him at meals when he's trying to give his staff a pep talk -- Miko's hiccups, that last three hours, are coincidental, not a direct result of his attempts as morale-boosting, no matter what Carson says. And, most telling of all, Sheppard saves his life on a planet and doesn't smirk once afterwards, accepting McKay's slightly more fulsome than usual thanks ("Next time you want to dislocate my shoulder, just ask, Major; no need to involve a hundred-foot drop and a dive-bombing flock of birds') with a brief, absent-minded nod, clearly meant to hide his turbulent, swirling emotions.

Or maybe he had hiccups, too.

McKay decides to make a move. Burn bridges, risk everything on the throw of a dice -- except that should be 'die', as 'dice' is plural, and everyone gets that wrong, always, which is deeply irritating, just like the numbskulls celebrating the millennium a year early --

Which is why he's lying naked in Sheppard's bed, trembling, not about to throw up, not, waiting for the man to return and have a Road to Damascus epiphany that he wants to fuck McKay more than anything in the world, and the hell with the consequences, fallout, and impending death from the Wraith attacking, as they surely will, and they'll all die, and McKay doesn't want to die, not yet.

That's vaguely blasphemous, given the context. McKay enjoys a brief respite from panic as he lists the number of internal contradictions within Genesis alone to soothe his guilt.

It's just that he's beginning to realize that being under threat of death when you've got someone you'll mourn, but no one who'll mourn you, is a pitiful end, and one he wants to avoid.

And he wants Sheppard to be the one to help him side-step it, because Sheppard has become an unanalyzed obsession of late.

McKay stirs, restless and terrified, between sheets that carry Sheppard's scent to him every time he breathes, and feels his cock harden and wilt as desire and panic feud.

His hands are clutching the edge of the sheet and pulling it chin-high.

"Oh, very seductive, Rodney," he mutters, willing his fingers to release their grip.

The sheet edges down a few inches, until his nipples are bared. It's dark, but the cooler air brushes them erect and his thumbnail scrapes one, quite accidentally, setting off a domino-reaction of tingles and thrills that gets his cock finally, unequivocally, in the game.

He can't separate the moment when his hand isn't on his cock -- nowhere near -- from the moment where it is, clinging and squeezing and stroking. Realization comes as he hears a throaty grunt of pleasure and recognizes it as his, and he snatches his hand away with a stifled, bitten-off wail.

He's messy when he comes. Always forgets that the end result involves viscous fluid with a tendency to get everywhere and stick like leftover cereal to a bowl, if allowed to dry; always neglects to have tissues in reach, or a towel, or a T-shirt, or anything that isn't his skin or bedding.

Anyone would think he liked that warm splat-splash on his belly.

But jerking off in Sheppard's bed when Sheppard isn't even there -- no. No way.

Three more strokes slip in, leaving him shaking, biting his lip savagely, and he locks his hands across his chest, circling his thumbs frantically.

Where is he?

He's not a virgin. Not quite. And he's not ignorant. He's... prepared. Squeaky-clean. Sweating through his deodorant, yes, but it's clean sweat.

Anything Sheppard wants, he can have. McKay's feeling generous, unselfish, glowing with it. It must be love; he's willing to surrender control.

Only until he gets the hang of this, mind you.

And it's not entirely unfamiliar ground. There was another narrow bed, another time he lay, stiff and limp with fear and yearning, waiting for a man to pierce and fill him.

And that really isn't something he should be thinking about now. God, you went to a different galaxy and the memories pursued you, still.

He just has time to wonder if it's a warning from his subconscious that deserves more than a swift kick back into a dark cupboard when the door opens and Sheppard walks in, his arm around the blonde lab assistant who keeps dropping beakers, the one recently assigned to McKay; Jenny, who blushes every time Sheppard comes to see him --



"I'm sleepwalking."


"Get out of my room!"


"Yes! That's my name! I'm impressed that you remember it!"

He screws his eyes up against the wash of light from the corridor and feels tears swell and push at the back of his eyelids.

Low, murmured voices and a subdued, guilty, shocked giggle, and it's just him and Sheppard and a closed door holding the world away for the moment.

The bed doesn't creak, or dip, but his knee is nudged by Sheppard's thigh and he opens his eyes to find the room illuminated by a low, diffuse glow.

"This is unexpected," Sheppard says gravely.

"I imagine it is."

Attack. Never the wrong option.

"Want me to think of a cover story, since your two attempts really sucked?"

"Thank you, that won't be necessary." McKay sits up, clutching the sheets to him, and nods at his clothes. "Would you? Just throw them over and turn your back?"

Sheppard's dark, thick eyebrows, the left one -- his left -- just a tad thicker, tug together. "Okay, that's a lot of clothes. Would I be right in assuming that you're naked under there?"

As his briefs are uppermost on the heap, McKay thinks Sheppard could have worked that out himself, and spared him the admission. "Yes."

"I'm going to regret asking this, but if I don't, tomorrow, when it's way more awkward than it is now, I'm going to want to, so I will. Did --"

"Tomorrow's going to be worse?" McKay blurts out, horrified. "It gets worse than this?"

His leg is patted. "Oh, yes. Way worse."

"I see." McKay feels his protruding lower lip tremble and clamps down until it stops.

"You came here for sex, didn't you?"

"I --"

"Thought so." Sheppard sighs. "I just -- it's not that I'm not flattered, because I am, in a strange way. Kind of thought you had the hots for Sam Carter, though, burning a torch, and all that --"

"I do," McKay said, surprised that it could be in doubt. "You're not my type at all, which is what makes this so inexplicable."

"Wrong gender?"

"Wrong hair colour; I'm flexible on the other."

Sheppard looks... taken aback, but rallies. "You like blondes."

"And blonds. Yes. Well, mostly."

"Like Jenny."

"No. Too...." McKay wiggles his hand. "Giggly."

"She does giggle," Sheppard says thoughtfully.


"Kind of. But in general --"

"My type. Yes."

"And when you realized that you were in love with her, and had lost her to me --"

"When I did what?"

"You -- crazed with jealousy and despair -- decided to stop me from seducing her --"

"You were going to have sex? On the first date?"

"You wanted me to with you, unless I'm reading way too much into the getting undressed bit."

"Point taken."

"And stop interrupting. You risked everything on one throw of the die -- did you just whimper?"

"No. Carry on."

"And came up with a way to ruin our attempts to have meaningless, fantastic sex, by making her think I was gay and your boyfriend. Or something. We can work out the details as they come to us."

"Yes, I guess we can," McKay says absently, running through the permutations of Sheppard's face saver. "Did I get her transferred to my section because I loved her, or fall for her after she was right in front of me, tantalizingly close, yet out of reach?"

Sheppard purses his lips. "Mmm. Tricky."

"I'll work on it," McKay says, fighting back a yawn. "Clothes, please."

There's a pause and then he gets hit in the face with an armful of uniform. "Hey!"

"Why are you being so calm about this?"

"Why are you shouting now?" McKay's puzzled.

"Because you're just going to get dressed, leave, and brazen it out tomorrow with a supercilious smile on your face, daring anyone to say anything! Nothing touches you, does it?"

"I'll have you know, I'm going to be up all night fretting, and it's going to be very, very awkward for me facing that woman tomorrow." He can feel his nostrils flare and his lips tighten. It's not his most attractive look, but who cares? "Feel better now?"

"Not noticeably, no."

McKay lets the sheet slip down to his waist and sorts out his top, pulling it over his head. He's about to push his arms into it when he sees that Sheppard is studying his chest, transfixed, slack-jawed.



"You were staring. At me. Why?"

He gets a defensive look that just begs to be attacked. "No reason."

He's got nothing to lose. Nothing. And his curiosity's burning high and bright.

McKay lets his shirt hang in a wide ruffle around his neck, not caring that it looks stupid because if this works, Sheppard won't be looking at it, and tosses the sheets aside.

Sheppard's gaze drops like a stone in still water.

"Oh." McKay's throat hurts from holding back a triumphant yell.

"Yeah." Sheppard glances up -- and, yes, his lips twitch in a smile that vanishes as McKay scowls and pulls his shirt on properly. "I might have lied about the not being interested."

"I'm shocked," McKay says primly. He continues getting dressed. There's no way this is going any farther tonight, and they've been in here too long already. "I suppose she was a way of making me jealous?"


"How very subtle of you."

Sheppard looks crushed. "Not cunning?"

"It didn't work." Well, except for the part where it had. "And it's obvious she's got a thing for Ford, and was using you to make him jealous." McKay had barely noticed Ford trailing in Sheppard's wake, but it was all clicking into place now... "Hence, subtle."

Sheppard is clearly having trouble keeping up.  "Subtle means bad?"

McKay sighs tolerantly. "Well, of course it does."

"Explain that."

"We've been alone in here for ten minutes, and by now I imagine all of Atlantis knows I was naked in your bed when you got here. How long do you usually take to reach a climax when there's someone else involved?"

"Explain it some other time," Sheppard says hurriedly.

McKay finishes getting dressed.

Eleven minutes.

He stares at Sheppard, who rises from the bed, close enough to be disturbing. McKay reaches out and unzips Sheppard's pants, just a little, then traces the bare jut of hipbone with one, then all of his fingers, absently noting Sheppard's hiss of breath, dragged in fast and released slowly, and the way his hips arch and sway under his touch.

He smiles at him and steps back. "Night, Major."

"Good night, Rodney."

Worth it all, just for that, really. His fingers itch to transfer the captured heat to his cock, the sensation of smoothness over hardness to his memory. He hurries through the silent corridors and tries, when he passes someone, to look desolate and distressed.

That's neither subtle, nor cunning; it's concern. For Sheppard.

Things have changed.

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