The Home Front
Series: What Might Have Been
Series Order: Pre-series Interlude
Word Count: 2,374
Summary: John Sheppard comes home.
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The Pegasus galaxy should’ve been the death of me. She certainly tried hard enough to do the deed in the time that I was there. A year and a half on the city of the Ancients hadn’t changed me as much as some people like to assume. The experience of living on Atlantis hadn’t made me a different man—no more than it had the scientists and Marines I was able to bring home with me. I knew it pointless and disrespectful to hide the man I am after suffering so much and losing so many. The people we buried in Pegasus—they’d earned honesty from me with their blood.
So, returning to Earth in failure only to be promoted to Jack O’Neill’s 2IC hadn’t changed me—it’d just made it easier to stay. I’d really thought I’d be shuttled off to a nowhere base and had resolved myself to riding out the years I had left until I could retire. It wasn’t an unpleasant surprise to be wrong—to see that the people of the SGC didn’t see the Atlantis mission as a failure. Jack O’Neill didn’t hold the losses against me—not like I did. I blamed myself for the deaths of every single member of our expedition and it had all started when I’d failed to rescue Marshall Sumner.
I shuddered against the stream of hot water pouring over my head and closed my eyes. Two hours of PT with the Marines had settled down my body, gotten rid of the excess energy that had come with the genetic changes wrought by alien DNA that couldn’t be separated from my own.
In that respect, people could say that Pegasus changed me—fundamentally. Those that did know the particulars of my genetic modification kept the information sacred—not so much because they weren’t curious themselves but maybe because they understood how innately dangerous such information could be in the wrong hands.
After Jennifer and Carson had successfully returned me to normal—my biggest concern had been being recalled to Earth for testing at Area 51. I still worry about it a little—worry that Jack O’Neill won’t always be around to shield me and protect others. I know, deep down, that I’d never submit to testing—they would have to kill me and I couldn’t even imagine how many of them I could kill before they succeeded.
I lifted my head and glanced towards Cameron Mitchell. It was hard not to respond to him physically after the night he’d given me earlier in the week. The man had rocked my world but now things were different—he was under my command and I didn’t fuck around with the men who had to follow my orders in the field. “Mitchell.”
“Are you alright?”
I nodded. “Yes, just thinking about getting off base and finding some place to settle in for a while.”
“Try McKay’s—used to be O’Malley’s but Rodney McKay bought it a few months back. Great food, the drinks aren’t watered down, and if you’re lucky McKay will be behind the bar being an asshole to people. I think locals go there just be verbally abused by him.”
I nodded. “Yeah, sounds good.”
McKay. Christ. I turned off my shower and hastily wrapped a towel around my waist. The last thing I needed to do was think about Rodney McKay in front of a platoon of Marines and Cameron Mitchell. I dried off and dressed quickly—throwing on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that had seen better days. I hadn’t had time to replenish my civilian clothes since returning to Earth but I had forty-eight hours of down time coming. I’d rather fight the Ori that go shopping but we all have our weaknesses.
Back in my quarters, I allowed myself to think about Dr. Rodney McKay. It wasn’t like he hadn’t starred in a few x-rated fantasies of mine in the last year or so—ever since I met him all too briefly in Antarctica. He’d been slotted to go on the Atlantis mission but a family problem had taken him out of the game early on. So early that I barely even got to meet him before he was gone and I was left with Radek Zelenka and Peter Grodin in the Ancient outpost. Grodin had ended up being the Chief Scientist on the mission. I winced as I thought about him—regulated to a wheelchair. He’d lost his legs six months ago in an accident off world. I knew that the SGC had found work for him at the Ancient outpost but wondered how a man so active could be satisfied with that.
McKay had been a vibrant and vivid force of nature—cutting a path through the scientists at the outpost to get to me so viciously that I think some of the might have been left crying in his wake. Sitting in the chair hadn’t been my brightest move and to this day, I can’t really explain why I did it. I just felt like I had no choice—the thing wanted me to sit in it. Later I would learn that after I sat in it—it wouldn’t respond to anyone else. Something no one bothered to test until after I was gone on the Atlantis mission. I have to think they wouldn’t have let me leave Earth if they’d known.
McKay had been the Chief Scientist for the SGC when I’d left but now he worked part time and apparently owned a bar. It had been a disappointment when he hadn’t appeared in any of the debriefings but I hadn’t felt like I should ask about him. I knew the new president intended on changing the rules about gays serving but that didn’t mean I could just announce my silly and inappropriate man-crush on McKay my first week home.
After we’d reestablished contact with Earth—McKay’s emails had started to appear whenever we had a databurst. I only received two or three myself but I’d read most of the ones he’d sent to Grodin and Zelenka due to how each email eventually impacted our entire mission. Zelenka more often than not would enter a room with the words “Rodney says” at the front of his conversation for days after a new databurst.
Grodin hadn’t tolerated what he referred to as McKay’s “meddling” well at all but the Earth-bound scientist’s advice often proved accurate. That hadn’t done a great deal to endear McKay to anyone on Atlantis except for maybe me. I liked that even though he wasn’t on Atlantis that he appeared to care about her just as much as I did.
In fact, the third and last email I ever received from him was in response to the video tour I had Aidan Ford help me make of the city for McKay’s benefit. The brief email had contained only four words but it had been like a punch in a gut for me—“Thank you so much.” I got the feeling that McKay didn’t say thank you often—to just about anyone. I’d kept the email for about a month before my ridiculous teenage girlness started to embarrass me and I deleted it.
Thirty minutes after my shower, I found myself pulling into the parking lot of McKay’s Place. I smirked a little—not entirely surprised that the man had slapped his name across the bar that had been an institution in Colorado Springs for three decades. From the crowd of cars in the parking lot, it didn’t look like the locals had been all that upset about the name change.
It wasn’t until I was sliding up onto a stool at the bar that I actually saw McKay. He was wearing a pair of ass-hugging jeans and a faded Van Halen t-shirt was stretched over his broad shoulders. I figured I was in all kinds of fucking trouble on the McKay front. His gorgeous blue eyes settled on me and he tilted his head slightly as if to study me. I watched recognition settle on his face, followed closely by a flash of emotion that looked a hell of a lot like guilt. I’d seen that look a lot on the people from the SGC and it was more comforting than I expected it to be. The Atlantis Expedition had never been supported by the IOA and the people at the SGC hadn’t been able to do much to alleviate our problems. The guilt was kind of misplaced in my opinion but I appreciated it nonetheless.
“Colonel Sheppard.” McKay put a bottle on the bar in front of me. “Your favorite beer.”
I quirked an eyebrow at him and eyed the label. “Never had it.”
“Let me rephrase—your new favorite beer.” McKay nudged it my way. “Trust me.”
I exhaled sharply and curled my hand around the Molson bottle. I did trust him and it was the damnedest thing. I barely even knew the man and yet sitting at the bar in front of him drinking a beer I finally started to feel like I’d come home. I nodded and swallowed. “Okay, so my favorite beer.”
McKay quirked his crooked mouth at me and my cock got hard against the zipper of my jeans. The man was damned lucky I had some self-control or I might have just crawled across the bar right that very second. “I’m right 99.9% of the time, Colonel.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Colonel, huh?” The guy on the stool next to me, swayed in my direction. “Air Force I bet—probably don’t let pretty motherfuckers like you in the Marines.”
“Benson.” McKay reached out and slapped his hand over the man’s on the bar. “You’ve had enough. Go talk to Charlie at the door about a cab.”
“Come on, McKay.” The man whined and pulled his hand free. He smirked in my direction and I resisted the urge to punch him in the face. “Let Killer here buy me a drink. After all, I pay his salary with my taxes.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d been called a killer but it was the first time it’d been done so casually. It hurt and that was stupid. McKay let out a shrill whistle and two guys the size of mountains came running. “Charlie, take Benson out of here. Put him in a cab and he’s not allowed back in.”
“How long on the ban?” Charlie asked as he hustled the man named Benson off the stool.
“He never gets to come back,” McKay snapped and glared at Benson when he started to speak. “Don’t say a fucking word—just go.”
I watched McKay move away from me—filling other orders and maneuvering around a lithe young man he had working behind the bar with him. All too soon, McKay was back with a plate of food I hadn’t ordered.
“You always decide what your customers want to eat, McKay?”
“Turkey sandwich.” He prodded the plate towards me. “Fries. Don’t even pretend you don’t want it, Colonel.”
I laughed and plucked up a fry. “Is this place always crowded like this on Thursdays?”
“Started with the basketball season.” He motioned around the room as if to point out the five large screens he had mounted on the wall. “I usually only have bouncers on Fridays and Saturday nights but I had Charlie and his brother start coming in on Thursday last month.”
“Any of my Marines get out of hand with you?”
“Sometimes but never so much that I have to call the police or anything.” McKay leaned on the bar and looked over my face in that shrewd way he had when we’d met in Antarctica. “You’re sleeping for shit. Miss the ocean or the hum of ancient things?”
I flushed. “I’m not entirely sure actually.”
“Try borrowing a device from Zelenka and leaving it in your quarters,” McKay offered. “And buy one of those ocean sounds CDs to play on your computer.”
“I’d rather learn to live without it.”
McKay lifted one eyebrow and frowned a little. “Punish yourself a lot, Colonel?”
I felt my face heat. “It’s best to get used to what you can’t have, Doctor.”
He nodded, a sad smile drifting over his mouth. “Yeah, okay. I get that.”
Rodney might as well have punched me in the gut in that moment—because that sad little smile was life altering. I’d been deluding myself for over a year—trying to convince myself that my instant attraction to McKay was nothing more than sex. The sex was there—I wanted nothing more in my life the way I wanted to take McKay down on a flat surface and push my cock into his tight ass. But, it was also more and I was in so much trouble. It would be months before the new regulations passed and I wasn’t going to ask McKay to be a dirty secret.
I concentrated on my food for a few minutes and when I was finished with the sandwich, McKay magically reappeared with a glass of water. I accepted the water with a quirked eyebrow.
“You don’t look the type to get drunk, Colonel.”
I nodded and fished around in my fries for an extra crunchy one. “Thanks, McKay.”
Watching him work was interesting—Rodney had snide things to say to most of his customers and his staff yet they all just seemed to take him in with the kind of indulgence I hadn’t figured a man like him could inspire. Another ten minutes passed and McKay returned with a piece of pecan pie.
“Oh come on.” I inclined my head. “How did you know this is my favorite?”
“I’m a genius, Colonel,” McKay announced with a small glare as if I should already be aware of that fact. “And I can read—it was the only thing you personally added to the supply list when you were out there.”
“Right.” I picked up the fork he supplied and exhaled sharply. “You should call me John.”
McKay nodded and reached out—he settled one hand loosely my arm. His blunt, strong fingers wrapped gently around my wrist. “Welcome home, John.”