Title: The Air That Angels Breathe
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Genre: Romance, Mutant!Verse
Warnings: Explicit sex, discussion-human experimentation
Word Count: 8,936
Author’s Note: No DADT. Special thanks to Ladyholder and Chris King for reading ahead and always being a well of support for my crazy.
About the Art: DancesWithGary did the great fanart for me with John with black wings, which in turn inspired me to write about John with wings!
Summary: John has hidden his mutation all of his life, but in one moment, everything changes.
* * * *
Colonel John Sheppard knew it was one thing for people to know he was a mutant—it was another thing altogether for them to see that he was a mutant. His mutant status was a secret to exactly no one, but it was a little late in life for him to resent it. He’d been identified as a toddler, and his father, unlike so many other parents, had refused to give over his son to the US government. He’d sued them instead, and he’d won.
Among mutant circles, Patrick Sheppard was a legend. The man who fought like hell to keep his son and forced the world to see that the children that were mysteriously mutating were still children. Because of him, mutants were free from government control in the United States, and most of the civilized countries on the planet had followed that example.
John had become the symbol of free mutants at the innocent age of three years old. Still, he’d never displayed his abilities before anyone but his family, and no one had ever dared ask him. It was considered a very rude thing to do in their society—some thirty-nine years after the first mutant child was found.
The spontaneous jump in human evolution affected less than ten percent of the children born since 1970. John had always thought he was cursed to have fallen in that percentage, but he was blessed to have a father who loved him beyond all reason, even if he was a freak.
Thirty-two years of hiding his abilities, and in a split second, every single reason he had for hiding himself away just disappeared. John tossed aside his skateboard as he ran down the pier back toward the central tower—toward McKay, who was, for some reason he couldn’t even conceptualize, dangling from a goddamned balcony. He pulled his t-shirt over his head just seconds before his wings erupted from his back—blood sprayed like a burst of rain from the sudden emergence. John was in the air in under thirty seconds and caught McKay just as the scientist lost his grip on the ledge.
They both dropped in the air abruptly, but John caught an updraft, and for a few seconds, they were almost still. Rodney’s hands curled against John’s shoulders as Sheppard easily lifted them in the air.
The balcony was empty when they landed. John released McKay reluctantly. His black wings fluttered gently behind him. It felt amazing to have them out during the day, under the sun. Since coming to Atlantis, he’d confined himself to flying only at night when he was off duty and even then, no more than three times a month. Part of him knew that the city herself helped him keep his secret, and he was relieved enough to never speak of the telling marker of intelligence to anyone.
Rodney cleared his throat. “When I was small—I remember seeing you on TV with your dad. They always refused to discuss what your mutant ability was, so I figured it must be something pretty bad.”
“Not bad,” John murmured. “Just private and unique.”
“Very unique,” Rodney agreed. “That was—amazing. Thank you.” He motioned towards the railing then winced as he started to rub his shoulder. “It just broke. I wasn’t prepared.”
“Good thing you held on as long as you could,” John murmured. “It would’ve been bad otherwise.”
Rodney shuddered and glanced towards the edge. “You could’ve killed yourself—fallen with my extra weight, you beautiful idiot!”
John’s wings fluttered, and he rolled his eyes. “I’ve been flying since I was three, McKay. I know how much weight my wings can handle. I can carry two times my own body weight, at least for a short distance.” He glanced towards the door as he heard footsteps and let his head fall back. He grimaced as his wings resisted returning to his skin. They always did. It was natural for them to be out, but they relented and were gone by the time the balcony was stormed.
Jennifer Keller was the first to arrive, followed by Evan Lorne and Elizabeth Weir. “Are you two okay?”
“Rodney hurt his shoulder,” John said and glanced towards the pier where everyone was still standing and gawking. “I’m fine.”
“You’ll both need to come to the infirmary,” Keller declared, and John’s stomach tightened.
John shot the young doctor a hard glance. He didn’t like her, mostly for her overt interest in McKay, but that wasn’t something he was ready to discuss with anyone. “McKay had an accident. I didn’t. I’m fine.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Colonel Sheppard, I was on the pier. Wings sprouted out of your back, and you sprayed blood in a six-foot arc behind you when they did.”
John turned and let her see his back. The skin was probably a little damp with sweat and a little bit of blood, but the skin felt like it always did when he tucked his wings away. “I’m fine.”
“I’ll need to take some blood work,” Keller insisted.
“Absolutely not,” John snapped. “The only time you take blood from me, Dr. Keller, is when I go off-world, and then you’re only allowed to do a standard blood panel.”
“Colonel, under the circumstances….”
“Experimenting on mutants is illegal,” John snapped, and everyone on the balcony, but McKay, flinched. “Or didn’t they teach you that at medical school?”
Keller blushed furiously. “It’s my job to make sure everyone on the city is well, Colonel. And that includes the twenty-six mutants that live here. I don’t want to experiment on you, but I do want to make sure your body chemistry is normal for you.”
“I fly two or three times a month, Dr. Keller. This wasn’t a new thing. I’ve been flying without the benefit of an aircraft since I was three.”
“All the same….”
Keller crossed her arms. “Then I have no choice but to take you off-duty until which time you allow a physical examination.”
“You do that,” John returned evenly. “Forcing me into an examination or limiting my ability to function in my role in the Marine Corps based on my mutation is a violation of my rights. You file your paperwork, and then I’ll file mine.” He stalked off the balcony without looking at anyone else.
Rodney took a deep breath and looked out over the too blue sky of New Lantea with a frown. Elizabeth wondered if he disliked the new planet as much as she did. Things had been difficult between them for a while, mostly because of nanite healing that Jennifer Keller had talked McKay into doing. Elizabeth had stringent instructions regarding such things in her medical records and would’ve never allowed it had she been conscious. McKay hadn’t known, and Keller had ignored those directives.
Part of Elizabeth wished she could’ve reprimanded Keller without involving McKay. Since she couldn’t, she’d let the situation go but had insisted on Biro becoming her doctor of record. They’d saved her life, but she hated the fact they’d used nanites to do it. She scratched her wrist and sighed. Rodney had confirmed a half dozen times that all the nanites were gone, but still, she itched a little at the thought of all of those tiny machines in her body.
“I’ll go to the infirmary on my own and see Dr. Biro for my injury,” McKay said after a protracted silence.
Jennifer took a deep breath. “Surely you see that I’m right, Rodney.”
“No, I don’t see that you’re right, Jennifer. Experimenting on mutants is illegal in my country, too.” He brushed past her and left the balcony. “Dr. Weir, will you school Carson’s replacement on such things before she’s allowed anywhere near the colonel again?”
“Yes, Rodney,” Elizabeth called after him. “Major Lorne, will you check on the colonel and make sure he’s okay as discreetly as you can?”
Elizabeth looked at the young doctor as they were left alone. She didn’t know her as well as she would like and had been concerned about her age from the start. Carson had highly recommended her to the posting, and maybe that wasn’t the ringing endorsement she’d considered it to be months before.
“You were aware that Colonel Sheppard was a mutant before this incident, correct?”
“Everyone knows he’s a mutant, but no one knew….” Jennifer paled. “There has never been a documented case of a mutant having the ability to shift or alter his shape, Dr. Weir. Colonel Sheppard literally sprouted wings. I know there were tests done on him and DNA work for the ATA gene therapy, but that is locked in the infirmary records.”
“I know. I locked them,” Elizabeth returned. “John only consented to the research because we needed to have others on the city with the ATA gene, and he had the strongest one we’ve ever found. Carson Beckett personally promised that his genome and his DNA would never be reviewed to investigate his mutation.” Elizabeth prodded the young doctor away from the broken railing. “You will not take Colonel Sheppard off active duty, and you will not pester him about what happened today. If you do—I’ll send you back to Earth.”
Jennifer opened her mouth but then closed it abruptly. “You know he should be examined.”
“I know his basic human rights are more important to me than your curiosity. And I’m concerned about your ethics in this situation. You’ve already demonstrated to me that you can’t be trusted to follow a patient’s directives in situations where you assume you know best.”
The doctor’s cheeks flushed. “I saved your life, Dr. Weir.”
“Dr. McKay saved my life,” Elizabeth corrected. “He’s the one that implanted the nanites and directed them to heal me. His unwitting involvement and the fact that he was able to retrieve every single nanite from my body is the only reason you still have a job, Dr. Keller. I’d have never consented to such a thing had I been conscious, and you know it.”
Jennifer frowned at her. “He was very excited to do the procedure.”
“He was equally horrified to learn that in doing the procedure, he had violated my body autonomy,” Elizabeth snapped, and Keller took several steps back toward the hall. She took a deep breath to calm down. “He tried to tender his immediate resignation when he found out. Dr. McKay thinks you made a mistake out of desperation in an emergency situation. But you and I both know differently, Dr. Keller. I spoke to you at length about the concerns and objections I have regarding nanotech.”
“I have no memory of such a conversation and barely had time to review your chart for current health conditions before the procedures,” Keller declared and stalked off.
Elizabeth took in another deep breath.
She turned and found Dean Bates standing in the open doors that led out to the balcony behind the stargate. “Sergeant Bates.” She motioned toward the railing. “Get with Dr. Zelenka about repairing this and have someone inspect all the ones we use—public and private—for issues.”
“Of course, ma’am.” Bates motioned her off the balcony. “I’d feel better if you went back to your office to plot against Dr. Keller.”
Since she fully intended to plot against that little bitch, Elizabeth nodded and headed for her office.
* * * *
John glanced over his shoulder and sighed at the Air Force officer. “You’re not very stealthy, Lorne. You did pass SERE training, right?”
Evan Lorne laughed and slid out onto the balcony. He offered Sheppard the t-shirt he had discarded on the pier. “I had Franks take your skateboard back to your quarters, sir.”
John pulled his t-shirt over his head and nodded, purposely ignoring the dried blood on his back. “Thanks. Is this…a problem?”
“Sir.” Evan frowned. “My younger brother has a mutation. You know it’s not a problem for me.” He sighed. “Though… I’ll admit to being a little jealous.” He shrugged when John glanced his way. “What pilot do you know who wouldn’t want wings? Jesus, that’s just made of complete and total win.”
John snorted and choked briefly on laughter. “Thanks.”
“Why do you hide it? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a wing mutation before, but surely, it’s not a problem. McKay’s mutation is pretty slick but not unique.”
John nodded. Rodney was what most people on Earth called a technopath; it made him a stunningly brilliant engineer and an asset to the expedition that could not easily be replaced. “I’ve met two or three that can do what Rodney does, but none to his ability. He’s a force of…nature.”
“Keller is something else,” Evan finally said. “She was looking at you like she wanted to see what your insides look like.”
John shuddered. “She isn’t the first. The doctor that diagnosed me as a mutant and reported me to the government looked at me like I was his meal ticket. My father decimated him in a matter of weeks and then took on the rest of the world.”
“He’s a great man,” Evan said and leaned on the railing. “By the time my brother was born, there were laws in place to protect him because of what your father did. I keep hoping he’ll come out to visit so I can meet him.”
“His job in Homeworld Security keeps him busy,” John admitted. “But he wants to see the city. This will get back to him.”
“Was hiding what you could do his idea?” Evan asked.
“No, not at all. He never expected me to hide at all, but he respected my wishes and guarded my privacy so zealously that anyone who did know was afraid to say it in public. It became a habit to hide it. I’m not ashamed of what I am. It just became intensely private but….” His gaze flicked to the part of the city where the accident had happened. “Nothing is more important….” He shrugged and took a deep breath.
“Than McKay’s life?” Evan questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“I like to think I would’ve done it for anyone,” John admitted, and then he blushed when Evan grinned. “Seriously.”
“I believe you would, but it’s good that you realize that because it was Rodney, you didn’t even hesitate. You were moving even as it happened. He never would’ve survived that fall.” Evan looked out over the sky. “I really don’t know how you’ve kept yourself out of the sky so much here. I’d be up there every damn day.”
“I learned long ago not to give in to the lure of the sky.”
Evan grinned then. “Now, you don’t have to deny yourself.” He waved his hand to encompass the sky. “It’s your day off, sir. Just keep your radio on so I can contact you if I need you.”
“Not today. I want to check on McKay, but thank you for not being an asshole because I’m a freak.”
“Don’t,” Evan snapped and looked away from him. “Don’t call yourself a freak. I spent most of my time in high school kicking people’s asses who called my baby brother a freak. It’s unacceptable.”
“So is kicking people’s asses,” John returned dryly. “Unless they’re Genii, Wraith, or Wraith worshippers.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve never really been bothered by the word. I heard it a lot in school. I was famous before the first grade, so there was no hiding my status. Kids were profoundly unkind. I learned not to let it or anything else they said or did hurt me.” He pushed against the railing a little. “I heard Bates put out an order to check all the balconies we use. Expand that project to include stair railings, especially the outdoor ones.”
He left the balcony and headed for the infirmary. The walk through the city helped him get his head in the right place, so he was glad to have skipped the transporter. No one looked hostile, so that was a relief. Everyone on the city was certainly used to him, but some people didn’t like mutants to shove their mutation in their faces and responded badly when it happened.
Rodney was getting ointment rubbed into his shoulder by a nurse when John entered. The infirmary was quiet, and the door to Carson’s office was shut tight.
John glanced around at everyone. “What did you do?”
McKay shook his head. “Nothing.” He glared at the closed office door and then sighed. “She’s young and sort of silly, John. I don’t think she’s one of those people that would experiment on us, but her enthusiasm and curiosity just pisses me the fuck off when it’s directed at.…” Rodney blushed and looked away. “You.”
John leaned against the bed. “You know we’ll be alerted if she tries to do DNA work on me. The security protocols in the DNA lab are your design, after all.”
“Someone will report your mutation back to the SGC,” Rodney said roughly. “I don’t…. I’m sorry, John.”
“No, don’t apologize.” John reached out and touched his arm briefly. “It’s okay. Really. It’s kind of a relief to have it all out in the open.” John waved a hand. “It’s not like it’s ever been a secret that I was a mutant, and my father is the Director of Homeworld Security. He’s already proven he’s an absolute monster when it comes to my protection.”
Rodney chuckled. “No doubt. He made the world see his point of view before everyone else had even bothered to form an opinion. I don’t think there is another man in modern history that has shaped the public opinion of the entire world like that.” He paused and inclined his head. “I honestly don’t know why he didn’t encourage you to show your wings. I bet you looked like one of those cherubs when you were little. All gorgeous green eyes and pretty fluttering ebony wings.”
The nurse rubbing his shoulder choked on laughter when John blushed scarlet. “People would’ve thought him an angel.”
Rodney shot Sheppard a long, accessing look. “He’s no angel.”
John grinned and ran his fingers through his hair. “No, but I had a boyfriend in college who thought I might be a fallen one.”
“That fits,” Rodney agreed.
“Colonel, did you want me to clean your back, check for tears that didn’t heal?” Marie questioned. “You let loose a lot of blood—it’s probably the first time you’ve shifted in such an emergency.”
John gamely pulled off his shirt for Marie and hopped up on the bed beside Rodney. “Not the first time, actually. The first time was the day my parents realized I was a mutant. We were staying in this cabin in Alaska, and I was absolutely fascinated with these eagles that were nesting in this large tree. My parents couldn’t keep me from the window in the second floor of the cabin. One afternoon, I crawled out the window and onto the roof.” He shifted forward a little as Marie started to wipe the blood from his skin. “This feels good.”
She cleared her throat. “Do your wings need to be cleaned?”
John shook his head. “No, they’re nested in my skin right now. Most of the blood that sprayed out came from them—shaking loose the membrane that holds them in my back. You don’t really want to know more than that. It’s pretty disgusting on a biological level.”
“That’s why you have this large black tattoo all over your back?” Marie questioned. “It’s your wings merged into your skin?”
Rodney leaned back so he could look. It was hardly the first time the man had seen the black markings on John’s back. The first time had come after a mission, and he’d asked a sarcastic question about tribal tattoos and drunken nights in Vegas. Then he’d asked if John had considered just covering his whole body in ink.
“So, you climbed out onto the roof?” Rodney prodded.
“Yeah, and then into the tree. I’d just turned three. By the time my parents realized I was missing, I was up in the tree about six stories up and in the eagle nest. They were a mated pair and let me sleep there most of the afternoon with their eggs. My parents called in the National Forest Service because the cops couldn’t figure out how to get me out without hurting the eagles or the eggs themselves.”
“I’d spank your ass,” Marie muttered and blushed when John looked over at his shoulder at her. “I mean…not now, of course.”
John laughed. “Well, they woke me up while they were trying to figure out how to rescue me. I went to the side of the nest to look down, and part of the side of the nest broke away. One of the eagles tried to catch me—they think because he ripped my shirt away, and as I fell…my wings burst from my back. I remember screaming, but it was more shocking than painful. The fireman had put out a net, and they caught me, but I flew for a few seconds.”
“Your parents must have freaked the fuck out,” Rodney muttered.
“Well, my mother did. She was horrified, but my father was just relieved I was alive. There were already hundreds of documented cases of mutants around the world, so he wasn’t concerned that I’d suddenly sprouted wings. I was the right age for a mutation if it was going to happen to me.”
“Your mother was never on TV or in court with your father during the.…” Rodney waved a hand.
“She blamed him for my mutation since all of the mutants that had been identified were male at the time. Everyone thought that the Y chromosome was responsible. It was nearly four years later that they found the first female mutant,” John explained. “She left him when he filed a lawsuit against the government because the Department of Defense demanded they surrender custody of me.”
“She thought you should go to the government.”
“She didn’t want a freak in her home,” John murmured and glanced back at Marie, who had stilled. “It’s okay, Marie.”
“No, it isn’t. She needs help; what a horrible woman, Colonel. I’m very sorry. How any mother could abandon her child and husband during such a time is beyond me.”
“So, it’s just been my dad and me since then. He’s done a lot of dating, but he never came close to marriage while I was still at home.”
“And you haven’t seen your mother since?”
John grimaced. “She came around briefly last year when I was on Earth for the declassification press junket. Dad doesn’t know. I didn’t figure he needed the hassle of her on top of everything else. She’s remarried with two kids—she introduced me to her normal children as if I was some lab experiment. A boy and a girl.”
“Why did she bother?”
“Because one of her grandchildren mutated when she was just six months old. My brother wanted to talk to me about living as a mutant so he could prepare his daughter.”
“Wings?” Marie questioned.
“Gills,” John admitted with a small laugh. “Pretty little girl, though. Her father took it a lot better than our mother ever did. I gave him some contact information, but I made it pretty clear that I didn’t want anything to do with the woman that gave birth to me. I think they both understood.”
“Kayla and Kevin Phelps,” John rolled his eyes. “Twins, no less. My sister is a doctor, and my brother is an architect. They are two years younger than me, so she didn’t waste any time replacing her husband and child.”
“They sound pretty boring,” Rodney admitted conversationally. “I mean, they’re hardly intergalactic explorers or anything.”
“I thought you wouldn’t agree to a physical exam, Colonel?”
The pointed question brought all three of them to a halt, and they turned to look at Jennifer Keller, who was standing in the doorway of Carson’s office with her arms crossed. Marie cleared her throat. “I was just cleaning off Colonel Sheppard’s back for him, Dr. Keller. He’s not here as a patient—as far as I can tell, his main goal was to flirt with McKay.”
John chuckled and pulled on his t-shirt. “It’s my SOP.”
Rodney shook his head as he watched Sheppard slide off the infirmary bed. “He’s just a tease, that’s all.”
John grinned. “You know better than that, McKay.” He gave Keller a long look and then walked away. At the doors, he turned back to McKay with a tilt of his head and leaned on the doorframe. “I have the new season of Dr. Who.”
“1800 hours?” McKay questioned. “I’ll bring dinner.”
Rodney huffed when John let the doors shut and then looked at Marie. “Can I go now?”
“I think we should scan your shoulder,” Marie admitted and glanced towards Keller. “Dr. Keller?”
Jennifer nodded. “Do you think he tore any muscles?”
“No, but it can’t hurt to check.” Marie lifted her chin stubbornly. “Dr. Beckett let me run the scanner if you don’t have time to do it yourself. I can see that you get the results.”
“I’ll do it.” Jennifer motioned Rodney across the infirmary to the large Ancient scanner. She cleared her throat as Marie walked away. “You know I’d never try to hurt Colonel Sheppard, Rodney. I was just surprised, and I let my shock get the better of me. I’ve participated in sanctioned mutation research for years. It’s why I was chosen for the expedition—why Carson brought me out here because he needed help with the ATA gene and with the Hoffan virus therapy.”
“I’m aware of your work in genetics, Jennifer.” Rodney let himself be put in the scanner without physical protest. “I approved the job offer you received. I am the Chief Scientist on this expedition, after all. I have oversight over your research as a scientist, and I expect you to follow the charter to the letter regarding all your activities on the city.”
She blushed and sighed. “I know you’re upset with me, Rodney, but it would be nice if you gave me a break.”
“It’s against my better judgment to give anyone a break,” Rodney returned evenly. “And you owe Colonel Sheppard an apology, not me.” He said nothing else while the scanner was running and sat up abruptly when it was over. He stared at her for a few seconds and hopped down off the bed. “And for the record, there are absolutely no sanctioned mutant research projects on this city. Period.”
Jennifer blushed. “That’s been made clear to me.” She touched his arm and smiled. “Also, we had plans for dinner tonight, remember? I’m sure Colonel Sheppard will understand when you tell him that you forgot.”
Rodney blinked at her. “Actually, considering the circumstances of the day, I feel like I should spend some time with John.”
“I realize you’re angry with me, but I think we should talk about this.” She moved in closer. “We’re building something good between us, Rodney, and the colonel surely wouldn’t want to interfere with that. He knows you’re not gay.”
Rodney thought that was entirely unlikely since he and John had exchanged more than one hand job in the showers after a mission. He sighed and forced himself to really look at Jennifer Keller. She’d been on the city for six months and the CMO for about three months—since Carson had returned to Earth to take care of his ailing mother. They’d been casually dating for a few weeks, but he hadn’t considered it to be a serious thing and was surprised she thought they were building something. She wasn’t even the only person he was dating since he sort of counted John, even if the Marine in question didn’t think they were dating.
“I’m bisexual, actually,” Rodney said flatly, and her eyes widened with shock. “I’m not really interested in building anything with someone whose go-to response to surprise mutation is unsanctioned human experimentation.”
She huffed. “That’s not what I intended at all. He really does need a physical as if he were on a mission because of what he did.”
“And I don’t?” Rodney questioned. “I was the one injured, Dr. Keller, and you weren’t trying to force me into the infirmary. Moreover, you haven’t asked for a blood panel or anything like it since I came in here.”
“But I’m not unique around here, right? One in fifty mutants manifests as I have.”
“Colonel Sheppard demonstrated the ability to shapeshift,” Jennifer said. “That is certainly unique and should be studied.”
“He didn’t shapeshift,” Rodney said evenly. “His wings are encased in his back—they merge with his skin. But even if he had, you wouldn’t have the legal or moral right to study him.”
“That’s certainly the prevalent opinion,” Jennifer said. “His father made sure of it.” She crossed her arms. “And now we know why. Patrick Sheppard must have realized immediately that his son was nothing like the other emerging mutants, and he purposefully hid him. I wonder how things would’ve gone if the world had known what he was really hiding.”
“I would hope that his love for his son would’ve still shined through,” Rodney said. “And the world would’ve come to understand that John Sheppard and every other mutant out there deserved to be treated with decency and respect. Otherwise, the outcome would’ve been wretched for everyone.”
She frowned and averted her gaze briefly. “Don’t you understand how much resentment there is to be had for those of us who aren’t gifted? Many feel cheated by it. Don’t we deserve a chance to have it for ourselves? The right kind of research could open up mutations to everyone.”
Rodney took a deep breath because he’d heard that argument before. “Human evolution does not and never has needed the help of science. It is best left to nature.”
“What a stupid thing for a scientist to say,” Jennifer said evenly. “I thought better of you, McKay.”
“I’ve got seventy IQ points on you, Keller,” Rodney returned and watched her mouth drop open. “The fact is that people can’t be trusted with that kind of research, and you’re a prime example of that. You act like some higher power is bestowing mutations on the chosen ones, and that’s ridiculous.
“Evolution tells us that mutations are a fundamental tool in the survival of our species. Interfering in that process would have astronomical consequences that you could not begin to calculate, and I don’t think you care. That’s honestly terrifying. Going forward, your access to the genetics lab is rescinded. If you have a problem with that, feel free to complain to Dr. Weir.”
Her mouth dropped open. “You can’t be serious! Half of my job is working on the Hoffan problem.”
“My decision is final,” Rodney said. “And don’t go near John again. I mean it.”
* * * *
John was coming out of his bathroom dressed in a pair of track pants when Rodney entered. He continued to dry his hair as he watched Rodney set up their dinner trays on a low coffee table in front of John’s couch. “Hey, you look…more irritated than when I left you.”
Rodney sighed. “Keller thought we were building some sort of serious relationship, and she tried to argue with me about mutant research.”
John lifted an eyebrow. “She isn’t the only one. You stopped hanging out with the team so much. You asked her to go to Earth with you for your presentation in front of the UN….” John trailed off and flushed when Rodney frowned at him. “Well, you did.”
“I figured she would look good on my arm, and you were busy.” Rodney crossed his arms over his chest. “Remember? I asked you what you were doing with your leave, and you said that you and your dad were going to Aspen for skiing.”
“Oh.” John blinked in surprise. He’d forced his father onto that trip so he would have an excuse to be on Earth during the presentation in case Rodney got into trouble. He sighed. “So, you’re not serious about her?”
“No. She’s beautiful, so that was interesting for a bit, but her views on mutants and our rights are galling. Plus, she wants kids. I don’t even like kids, and she mentioned on our third date that she’d like to have three.” He paused. “To increase the chances that one of her children would mutate.”
John’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, seriously. She was dating me for my genes, John, and that’s not even remotely sexy.”
“You’ve had a vasectomy,” John muttered, and then it was his turn to blush when Rodney lifted an eyebrow at him. “I’ve had your balls in my hand, McKay. I know what one of those scars feels like. I’ve got one myself.”
“Yeah, that’s another thing. She apparently missed the fact that I’m bisexual, and I guess she thought I was leading you on. Regardless, I made it clear that I wasn’t interested in dating her anymore, and I’ve cut off her access to the genetics lab pending a review. I’m sure she’ll complain to Dr. Weir.”
“I’m so much better looking than she is.” John took a t-shirt out of a drawer and pulled it over his head. “Don’t you think?”
Rodney glanced him over. “You know very well what you look like. I’m not feeding your ego anymore today.”
John grinned and settled on the couch next to Rodney and picked up the remote for the TV and the PlayStation. “I set this up before I got in the shower. How is your shoulder?”
“Good. The ointment helped, and Keller did a scan to make sure everything was cool. It was.” Rodney cleared his throat. “I had the vasectomy done when I was in college. It’s not in my SGC records, and Carson never felt the need to add it. He said it was my business.”
“It is your business,” John agreed. “Do you think Keller will be an ongoing problem?”
“I don’t know,” McKay admitted and shrugged. “We have some fundamental differences regarding mutant research, and Elizabeth is a no-holds-barred kind of person on the subject since her sister was killed due to experimentation before it was made illegal in the US.”
“I meant on a personal front.”
“I made it clear we were done,” Rodney admitted and opened his coke. “The thing is, I’m sort of an asshole, and I’m really of the opinion that my life partner should be not an asshole. Jennifer is shaping up to be a real piece of work.”
John snorted and bumped him gently. “Did you really want to take me with you to the UN?”
“Yeah,” Rodney admitted. “But you were going to be with Patrick, and I know you don’t get a lot of time with him. I might not have a father who cares about me, but I understand how close the two of you are. I didn’t want to interfere.”
“We would’ve both gone with you,” John admitted. “We watched you on TV and made sure we were on the SGC’s call list if something happened.” He started the DVD with a sigh and opened his own drink. He really needed to do something about this thing with McKay.
* * * *
John looked up from his tablet and lifted an eyebrow at one of his Marines hovering in the doorway. “Something you need, Sergeant Givens?”
“Yes, sir.” He entered the room completely and let the door shut behind him. “As you know, I work with leather. I have a really nice black piece from the Athosians. I was going to use it for knife sheaths because we go through a lot, and that kind of equipment gets lost sometimes in the shuffle when it comes to the supply runs.”
John nodded. “You do great work, Tom. What’s going on?”
“It seems to me, sir, that you don’t have anything protective to wear if your….” He flushed. “If your wings are out. None of your uniforms are cut to fit you, and you probably can’t do a lot of flying if it’s cold.”
John sat back, surprised. “What did you have in mind?”
“If you’d let me take some measurements—I can make a few pieces that you could put on around the wings. Probably lace down the side like I did for those pants you ordered last year.”
John loved those pants mostly because whenever he wore them Rodney’s eyes bugged out a little. “Yeah, okay.” He glanced around the room. “We’ll need to go somewhere else for the measurements.”
Which is how he found himself in Gym Three with his wings out. Only a few Marines were in there when he and Tom had started, but that had changed quickly. John didn’t mind their curiosity but was relieved when Bates shut and locked the doors to prevent anyone else from coming in.
Tom cleared his throat. “Sir, can you extend them out completely so I can see how the muscle groups move?”
John complied, and several people around the room took deep breaths. He glanced at Evan Lorne, who was leaning against the wall near the door. “Apparently, Major, pilots aren’t the only ones who’d like to have wings.”
Evan grinned. “It’s a pretty righteous gift, sir. You should let me paint you.”
John lifted an eyebrow. “Are you hitting on me, Major?”
“Nah, sir, I like to be the pretty one in my relationships.” Evan grinned when several men in the room laughed. “Besides, I don’t think I can compete with the smartest man in two galaxies.”
“Probably wouldn’t be worth the paperwork,’ John said in amusement, and Lorne scoffed. “Also, the last time I dated an Air Force officer, General Rampart looked at me like I’d committed sedition.”
“You Marines have impossible standards,” Lorne said.
“The Admiral might like to see a painting or something,” John admitted in an effort to avoid dealing with the subject of McKay, which he figured Lorne would bring up again if given room to do so. If his men had ever had their doubts about how he felt about McKay—yesterday had laid those to rest. He took a deep breath and flicked his wings. “Hey, wow, that tickles.”
Tom Givens chuckled. “Sorry, sir.” He stepped back and made a few notes on his notepad. “I need to see how your skin moves when you fly, sir. To prevent bunching and to increase the comfort. Can you make your wings move like you’re flying without lifting off?”
“Yeah, my dad made me practice for years on the ground before he let me in the air for real. I didn’t get to fly without a net under me until I was fifteen, and even then, he required my hard deck to be less than twenty feet.” John took a deep breath. “You’ll have to give me some room. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
He extended his wings and curled his toes against the padded floor as he gave in to the desire to move his wings. He always wanted to shift them around when they were out, and if he were honest, even when they were in his skin.
“You should keep the fit tight,” Lorne offered from the sidelines. “So you don’t mess with his aerodynamics and increase his drag. He’s probably used to flying without a shirt.”
Tom nodded. “Right. Good thought, sir.”
* * * *
“The Marines say you have wings.”
John glanced up from his place on the floor and continued to stretch as Ronon took a place in front of him to do the same. “Yeah, you missed all the excitement.”
“Yep. He strained a muscle, but he’ll be right as rain before the next mission.” John leaned forward to stretch out his back. “Did you have fun on New Athos with Teyla?”
“Yeah,” Ronon said with a little grin. “Music, dancing, and lots of wine—lots of sex. It was a pretty great time. You should’ve come along.”
“I kind of wished I had, at first, but I’m really glad that I stayed here.” John lifted off the floor and took a deep breath. “If I’d come back and found Rodney had fallen…and died.” He shuddered at the thought.
“How come you’ve never shown them before? Everyone is saying it’s a big deal.”
“It was private, and my mutation isn’t like others. I’ve never known anyone else like me,” John admitted. “But I couldn’t let Rodney fall.”
Ronon blew out a dramatic breath. “Well, my father always said that when you tell someone you love them—you should go all in or not bother.”
John blushed. “Ronon.”
The Satedan just laughed and tied off his braids. “Let’s go. Five miles to make up for all the food I ate for the last week.”
* * * *
Rodney rushed out onto the Southeast pier and pushed through a crowd of Marines until he got to Major Evan Lorne and what looked like a modified stationary cannon. “Major Lorne!”
“Hey, McKay,” Lorne said cheerfully. “What’s up?”
“What the hell is this thing?” Rodney demanded.
“It’s sort of an air cannon. The guys in artillery modified it so we could launch soccer balls.”
“At Colonel Sheppard?” Rodney hissed. “What the actual fuck?”
“Hey, relax, Doc. This is just a little PT. He’s never had an opportunity to really….” Lorne trailed off and waved a hand. “Have fun with it. That’s all. He’s out far enough that when he catches them, they are losing velocity. We wouldn’t try to hurt him.” Lorne frowned at him. “Seriously. He’s our CO—that’s like sacred, McKay.”
Rodney frowned at him, then sighed. “Well, have you tried making him chase one? It’s important that you develop his speed and agility as well as his ability to catch.”
Lorne grinned. “See, that’s the spirit.” He turned to one of the Marines. “Franks, let’s load it up and change the trajectory to see what he does.”
* * * *
Rodney was lounging on his balcony when John landed lightly on the railing, his bare toes curling charmingly around the edge for purchase. He frowned at him. “You let your men shoot at you, Colonel.”
John chuckled. “They worked hard on that rig. I made them fire it a few times for me to watch before I consented to try to catch the balls.” He stepped down onto the balcony, his wings shifting delicately in the air behind him as he did so. “Lorne said you got a little bent with him.”
Rodney flushed and set aside his tablet as John walked to his lounger and, without so much as a quirked eyebrow, slid into his lap. His jeans were old, threadbare in places, and his wings were still fluttering in the air behind him.
“You do look like a debauched, fallen angel.” Rodney flushed when John just grinned and settled his weight on his thighs like it was something he did every day. “Are we doing this now? Because I was kind of under the impression that I only got to touch you when we had really fucked up missions and have the showers to ourselves afterward.”
John’s eyes widened briefly. “Is that why you never…fuck…McKay. Teyla’s right. We’re both socially dysfunctional.” He sucked in a breath as Rodney’s hands clamped onto his hips and pulled him in. “That second time, I just figured that was all you wanted because you didn’t let me kiss you. So, after that, I just took what I could get.”
“Of course, I would’ve let you kiss me.” Rodney frowned at him. “You didn’t try.”
“You turned your head, Rodney.” John pressed his forehead against McKay’s. “And then gave me the most perfect hand job ever.”
McKay laughed a little. “Okay, wow. I was a little embarrassed because I came so fast. You just touched me…and you said my name.”
“That was hot,” John admitted. “I thought I would get a chance to take you back to my room and do some filthy things to you, but you bailed as fast as you could.”
Rodney’s fingers trailed up his back but jerked as he encountered his wings. “Is this okay?”
“I can put them away if they bother you.”
“No.” Rodney shook his head. “You don’t have to hide anything from me.” He paused and took a deep breath. “You’re not an asshole.”
“Nah, I’m good people.” John sucked in a deep breath as Rodney’s fingers trailed through the soft downy feathers at the base of his wings—where they emerged from his back. The touch was delicate, intuitive, and insanely arousing. “Oh, fuck.”
“Yeah?” Rodney questioned.
“God, yes.” John shuddered and tilted his head just a little so he could kiss Rodney’s mouth. The kiss was soft, exploring, and they both pulled away from it sighing.
“Let’s get you out of these jeans,” Rodney murmured as he worked one hand through the buttons. “Commando, Colonel?”
John grinned. “When I was little—I would fly naked. It drove my father crazy.”
“I’m sure you had a sound reason,” Rodney responded and grinned when John shifted off his lap and took off the jeans with the kind of casual grace he’d never master in a million years. He quickly pulled off his t-shirt and shoved his track pants and boxers down and off. John tossed him a small bottle of lube from his jeans pocket, and his dick jerked a little as he caught it. “Jesus.”
“Well, birds don’t wear clothes.” John settled back into McKay’s lap with a little sigh and groaned against McKay’s mouth when Rodney immediately pulled him as close as possible. “You did put the privacy lock on your door, right?”
“Yeah.” Rodney ran his fingers over John’s thighs and cupped his ass. “This okay?”
“God, yes.” John shuddered and wrapped his fingers over the top of the lounger. “How private is this balcony?”
“As far as I can tell, no one has a good view of it,” Rodney responded as he nuzzled John’s neck, sucking on the skin he found there. “You’re probably only fueling my angel sex fantasies if that is your worry.”
John laughed and then groaned in the next instant as he shifted and rubbed the head of his cock against Rodney’s belly. “I want to ride your cock.”
Rodney huffed. “You can’t say shit like that to me and expect me to last more than a minute.” His hands drifted back up John’s back, and Rodney allowed his fingers to dance gently between his shoulder blades where the wings emerged. “Your wings are a little damp. Did you fall in the water?”
“No, I took a shower in the big communal shower off the barracks. It was pretty cool. I’ve never had a shower big enough to do that.” John admitted and reached down between them to wrap his hand around McKay’s cock. “Get me ready.”
McKay flipped open the lube and took a deep breath. “How long has it been for you on this?”
“With a real cock?” John asked, amused. “About three years, but I blame you entirely for that.”
“You have a toy?”
“I have a few,” John admitted as he brushed his lips against the side of Rodney’s neck and started to stroke his cock in an easy rhythm. “I like to plug when I jerk off.” He took a deep breath when McKay pushed one slick finger into his ass and then shivered a little—his wings snapped in the air behind him before he settled against Rodney’s chest with a soft sigh.
Rodney took a deep breath as he pushed a second finger inside, and John buried his face against the side of his neck. “Feel good?”
John nodded and moaned against Rodney’s skin. “Yes, so good.” He rocked back on Rodney’s fingers slowly.
Rodney pressed the lube into John’s free hand as he added a third finger and pushed in deep to hit John’s prostate. “You’re ruining me for the rest of the intelligent life in this universe.”
John chuckled and poured a generous amount of lube into his hands. He pressed a soft kiss against McKay’s mouth and then lifted away so he could watch as he coated Rodney’s cock with lube. “No one deserves you as much as I do anyway.”
Rodney’s eyes widened briefly, and he pulled his fingers from John’s ass. “John.”
“Rodney,” John murmured and leaned in to kiss him again.
Their mouths melded briefly, tongues gliding together gently before he lifted away and hit the button that would lower the lounger’s back. He let it go down just enough to put McKay on an incline, and then he lifted up. The glide of Rodney’s cock into his body was so perfect and surreal that he closed his eyes. His wings spread out behind him—expanding fully and trembling with his pleasure as he settled in Rodney’s lap.
McKay shifted under him and groaned. “Fuck, John.”
John opened his eyes slowly and rocked back on McKay’s dick with a gentle motion. Blue eyes met green, and Sheppard shuddered. “You’re mine, Rodney.”
“Yes,” Rodney agreed as he wrapped one hand around John’s cock to jerk him off.
They fell into a slow, easy rhythm that belied the heat burning off their skin. McKay’s hands clenched on John’s thighs as he lifted his hips. The air swept around them, stirred up by the sweep of John’s wings behind him. “So good,” John whispered, his words slurring with pleasure and relief. “Love this, love you.”
Rodney sat up and wrapped his arms around John’s back just under his wings. He nuzzled against Sheppard’s throat and groaned out his shock and pleasure. “You’re everything to me, John. Everything.”
John curled into him, hitching closer and clenching down on Rodney’s cock as his wings retreated into his back. He shuddered as McKay rolled them on the lounger, pulling out of his ass as they shifted, and put him on his back. McKay was sliding back into him before John had time to voice a complaint. He hitched his legs up to Rodney’s broad shoulders and curled his hands around the edges of the lounger for purchase.
“Fuck me, Rodney.” John lifted up off the lounger and rocked into the thrust of McKay’s body shamelessly. “God, yes, give it to me.”
McKay wrapped his hand around John’s cock and started to jerk him hard and rough. John arched and came with a startled gasp that sent Rodney right over the edge. He emptied into John’s ass with a hard groan and slowly lowered them onto the lounger.
“I think you could kill me with that,” Rodney confessed.
John offered him a smug grin and sighed when Rodney’s rapidly softening cock slipped from his ass. McKay manhandled him until they were curled together on the lounger and pressed his face against the back of John’s neck with a contented sigh.
“Tell me about it.”
John shifted in his arms and glanced out over the horizon. The sun was setting, and the double moons of New Lantea were rising. “It’s like nothing in the human experience and certainly the most freedom I’ve ever known. I developed a hatred for the ground when I was a child because it was nothing at all like the freedom of the sky.”
“Is that why you became a pilot?”
John sighed. “I was worried that one day the wings would disappear, or I’d have an accident, and my mutation would go dormant. It happens, and I was petrified of losing the sky. My father understood and did everything he could to make sure I was safe and that all of my dreams came true.”
“Are you concerned about people knowing?”
“I feel safe here, and I don’t worry too much about the people on Earth, and we have the Mutant Protection Act in the US. There are too many of us that are adults now for normals to risk trying to control us. The fallout would lead to war.” John turned in his arms and met his gaze. “I meant it, you know.”
Rodney rubbed his thumb over John’s bottom lip. “You don’t say things you don’t mean.”
John leaned in and kissed him carefully. “So, we’re doing this.”
“We’ve been doing this badly for a while,” Rodney conceded. “Maybe it’s time we try to do it right.”
“Hmmm, so you’ll stop dating blonde doctors?”
“And you’ll stop flirting with that new guy in geology.”
John grinned. “I didn’t think you’d noticed the guy in geology.”
“I notice everything about you, John.” Rodney cupped the back of his neck and pressed a firm kiss against his mouth. “I love you, too.”