Reading Time: 17 Minutes
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Challenge: Trope Bingo (Amnesia)
Relationship: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Established Relationship
Word Count: 4,064
Author Notes: I decided to get the most unfortunate prompt on my card out of the way first.
Warnings: No beta, discussion of past unintentional cheating due to memory loss
Summary: John Sheppard is growing increasingly frustrated with his circumstances on the city of the Ancients and that starts and ends with the fact that no one will tell him anything about Rodney McKay.
* * * *
The people who’d taken him from the planet he’d woken up had promised him that his memory would return. They spoke of things he didn’t understand. They told him he’d ascended and that he had the blood of the Ancestors in his veins. They told him that he’d been missing for nearly a year. They told him his place on a city called Atlantis. They’d taken him to the city—it was beautiful, and just stepping onto it had warmed a part of him that had been cold since he’d woken up in a forest on a planet the inhabitants called Lorian.
The ones that had found him had been very kind to him. He’d been accepted into their village. They’d taught him to live as they did, and he’d adjusted. He’d made a home and had been on the cusp of asking his neighbor if they could officially court. On Lorian, they’d called him Elan. It had seemed like a fine name to him, so he’d accepted it as his own.
The people from Atlantis told him his name was John Sheppard. They’d been so pleased to see him and clearly upset to realize that he didn’t remember them at all. John hoped that they were right and that his memories would return. He liked the city, and everyone he encountered as he’d wandered about the city was absolutely thrilled to see him. It made him feel like he’d been a good person in the before, and he hoped he could live up to their expectations. The leader of the city, a man named Richard Woolsey, had patted him awkwardly on the shoulder every single time they crossed paths for the first week.
John was included in meetings despite the fact that he didn’t know what anyone was talking about, and there was another man running the city military. His old job, they’d told him. His replacement, a man named Abraham Ellis, had made it clear that he was very ready for John to return to his position so he could go back to Earth.
Earth. It had been amazing to be told where he came from. He’d read his own personnel file repeatedly on the tablet device they’d given him. It had also been a relief to note how comfortable he was with the stranger’s technology—clearly, he’d handled such things before. He understood how email worked and had browsed through every single email he had saved his account. Many were from a man named McKay, the former chief scientist of the city. Every time John asked about McKay, he was deflected away from the topic completely. It was frustrating since the tone of the emails made him believe that he and McKay were friends.
In fact, it was clear that McKay was the best friend he had on the whole city. So he really didn’t get it, and it was starting to get very frustrating. When he forced the issue, he would get brief statements about McKay returning to Earth after John ascended, and sometimes there was speculation that the scientist would return eventually, but those conversations ended quickly around John. He’d been on the city for four weeks, and his memories seemed to skirt around the edge of his consciousness no matter what he did.
John shifted the tablet in his hands and took a deep breath. He was getting ready to ask if he could return to Earth. It felt like he shouldn’t have to ask, but he figured it was going to be a thing since practically everyone on the city expected him to slot back into the life he left behind when his memory returned. But John didn’t think his memory was going to come back at all in his current circumstances, and maybe McKay was the key to that.
The Apollo was due to return to the city today, and John desperately wanted to be on the ship when it went back to Earth. He knew, deep down, that McKay had the answer to his questions, and the man was on Earth, so John was going there, too, one way or another. The door chime sounded, and he was proud of the fact that it no longer startled him. He’d ordered his lunch delivered, and no one had complained. Everyone on the city was still treating him with kid gloves, and John had decided to leverage that to get private meals regularly.
Largely, most of the population on the city believed him overwhelmed by his circumstances and the technology around him. While the people on Atlantis sometimes did put him on edge—the city of the Ancients felt like home. The technology embraced him as if he were kin. He’d kept that particular observation to himself.
John walked to the door and opened it manually with a brush of his fingers. He really didn’t like anyone coming into his quarters, so he didn’t make a habit of opening it mentally though he’d demonstrated he could when he’d been questioned. He accepted the tray and put about as much false cheer as he could to being addressed as Colonel Sheppard as he could. The young lieutenant was looking at him, face full of expectation and hope. John still didn’t remember him. Though he’d been told the younger man had acted as his admin for a year before his ascension.
It was difficult, but he ignored the disappointment on the officer’s face as he just gave him a nod and prodded the door shut. He put the food on his rarely used desk and walked out onto the balcony with half a sandwich in hand. He took a bite and watched the Apollo land on the pier not far from his quarters. Part of him thought he should be out there to greet the command crew of the ship. Perhaps that had been part of his duties at one time.
The gentle hum in the back of his mind that represented the city shifted. Atlantis was happy. John pressed a hand to his chest as if he could calm the sudden thundering of his heart with just a touch. He took a deep breath and started to activate the radio he kept in his ear more because it was expected than because he truly desired it. His fingers brushed over the device, but then he lowered his hand.
There really wasn’t anyone in the city he felt he could trust with his connection to the city. Absolutely no one had spoken of similar experiences when he’d talked to other gene carriers about Atlantis. No one spoke of the awareness or the feather-light fluttering of emotions that sometimes brushed across his mind. So, he’d kept his mouth shut and just nodded when they’d talked about the ATA gene, genetics, and Ancient technology.
He retrieved the second half of his sandwich as he processed the change in the city’s emotional landscape. He didn’t think she was happy with the Apollo’s arrival itself as there was a small tick of irritation of the foreign ship being landed on her. Perhaps it was because there was nothing special or sentient about the ship from Earth, and the lack of communication from the ship itself put the city off. Maybe it was like having a fly land on your hand.
His heart rate slowed as he allowed himself to relax. There was no use in speculating regarding which of the ship’s passengers had excited the city so much. Perhaps it was just another strong gene carrier like himself. He’d been told there was one on Earth with a similar gene—an Air Force general named O’Neill.
John hadn’t mentioned his desire to return to Earth to anyone, but he’d ask to meet with Woolsey soon. John didn’t know if the man suspected anything or not. He really didn’t know what he’d do if he was told no. He wasn’t being treated like a prisoner, but he figured those circumstances could change rapidly if he didn’t act as they believed he should.
John finished his meal then picked up his laptop, which he took out to the balcony. He was due an email from his brother, David. Communication between them had clearly been stilted and difficult in the past based on his reading of their previous communications. David had been elated and relieved to find out that he’d been found. His brother hadn’t been told about the Stargate Program nor John’s ascension. John felt it was wrong to have been listed as MIA for all those months he was ascended then abandoned on an alien world by the Ancients.
There was no new email. He set the device aside, irritated not to have anything in the big data dump from the ship. Everyone had been talking about it and how the bulk of the communications from Earth came through it. Only priority communication happened through the Stargate currently, and that had been the case since the loss of the Midway Station. Woolsey had told him that Earth was building a new facility, but it was eight months from completion.
Zelenka had let it slip the week before that McKay had been part of the design team for the new station. The naming of it was one of the most heated debates at the SGC currently. John had been press-ganged into participating in three different polls since he’d come back to the city. Currently, as far as he knew, Lovelace Point was winning. Though he’d been partial to Katherine Johnson personally after he’d read the bios of all the scientists that were being considered. Miko Kusanagi was lobbying hardcore for Lemar Station. John found the whole conversation interesting, and the investment people had in their arguments was actually sort of endearing, but he knew better than to say that.
His door chime went off again, and John set aside the laptop with relief because staring at his empty email inbox was disheartening. He checked his watch as he went to the door. Normally, the mess would retrieve his tray around three if he failed to bring it to them. He waved his hand over the sensor, and the door swooshed open. John liked the sound it made—it reminded him of something, but he didn’t know what exactly. He had a lot of holes like that—as annoying as that was.
John stared for a moment, confusion and recognition warring in his mind. He reached out before he even realized what he was doing and grabbed the man’s arm. His mouth went dry as he looked into the man’s bright blue eyes.
“I know you.”
The man offered him a crooked smile. “Of course, you do. They tell me you still don’t remember jack-shit, but I figured it’s all there under that ridiculously fluffy hair. They’re comparing you to Daniel Jackson, which is ridiculous and a mistake since he isn’t a gene carrier.”
John pulled the man into his room, then shut and locked the door with a thought. “Rodney.” He cleared his throat and blinked back tears. “Your name is Rodney.”
“Yeah, it is.” And rewarded John with another smile. “Zelenka told me you’ve been asking about me. I’m sorry they didn’t tell you anything—that crackpot they have playing psychologist out here isn’t any better than the Barbie they have running medical.”
John couldn’t stand the psychologist. The man had been making himself an absolute pain in the ass from day one, and he’d almost asked to go back to Lorian to escape him. “Dr. Bush is an asshole. I don’t like him at all, but he acts like we were really friendly before I…ascended.”
“You’ve hated him since you set eyes on him,” Rodney assured, and something in John relaxed because that felt like the truest thing he’d ever been told about himself.
“Right!” John agreed and huffed as he grabbed Rodney’s other arm to keep the man still in front of him. “Who else do I hate?”
Rodney grinned. “John, I’ve missed you so much.”
“I…” John took a deep breath. “Where have you been, Rodney?”
“You don’t remember this, obviously, but we had a plan,” Rodney explained and took a deep breath. “Did they tell you how you ascended?”
John made a face. “No, Keller and Bush said I should remember it all on my own. I wasn’t even given a redacted copy of that mission report.”
“Quacks,” Rodney repeated and huffed. “You were injured off-world, and I knew you weren’t going to make it back to the city. I encouraged you to ascend, John.”
John thought about that but said nothing as Rodney maneuvered him across the room and onto the couch. “You…” He took a deep breath. “I took a bullet for you.” He turned and cupped the back of McKay’s head as he tried to process the random images that were flickering through his mind. “Sorry. You were so mad.”
“I was,” Rodney agreed. “I don’t know where you get off thinking that I’d be okay living without you.”
John felt so much all at once that he couldn’t process it. “What was the plan?”
“You ascend, do everything you can get away with to help the expedition, then you’d either get kicked out by the Ancient twats or de-ascend on your own. The first thing we learned is that the Ancients really can’t be everywhere at once, and the ones in the Milky Way had no idea you’d ascended. So, I went back to Earth, and you visited whenever you could to pass me information. To avoid attention, we decided to be as subtle as possible.”
John nodded. “Makes sense.” He took a deep breath. “What did I do?”
Rodney grinned. “As it turns out, the Ancients are more concerned about physical interference than anything else. So, the first thing you did was un-fuck the database on the city.”
“Is that why Dr. Kusanagi keeps hugging me? At first, I thought she was hitting on me, but all she ever does is hug me.”
“It’s exactly why she hugs you and never, ever think she’s hitting on you again. She’s ace and utterly uninterested in you.” Rodney paused. “Frankly, she prefers to have romantic relationships with people smarter than her. Or at least as smart as she is. I barely qualify on that front, and she thinks I’m an asshole, so that whole crush thing on me barely lasted a month.”
John huffed a little then laughed. “Right.” He took a deep breath and released McKay. “I…”
“What?” Rodney questioned.
“I’m confused,” John admitted and waved a hand. “Which is pretty much a given since I was brought back to the city. I was going to come to Earth to find you because no one would tell me about you, and you weren’t here, and that sucked, Rodney. Nothing made sense without you—I don’t think it has since I woke up naked in the woods.”
Rodney snorted. “Those assholes. That whole naked thing is just straight up troll behavior, you know.” He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry it went down like that. It’s kind of my fault. You were just a few days away from doing your own de-ascension, and I went and had a heart attack. You saved my life, John, then they took you away.
“I don’t know when they started watching closely. Chaya told on you when she realized you’d went to the Milky Way and were with me on Earth. She thought when you ascended that you’d eventually join her. Why she thought she had a better chance than Teer of keeping your attention, I don’t know. Teer came to visit me after you were taken away and called me selfish for interfering in your destiny.”
John made a face as the names were only familiar because of mission reports. “Chaya’s an asshole and Teer…” He trailed off and cleared his throat. “I don’t know why, but when I read that report—I was put off by that whole sanctuary idea. What a waste of resources. The Ancients are so full of themselves.”
“True, but you knew Teer for six months versus the few hours that you knew Chaya,” Rodney pointed out reasonably. “At any rate, I had a heart attack, and help wasn’t going to reach me in time. It was the first time you had to directly physically interfere as it were. At least they let you save me before they snatched you away. I went to the SGC and turned myself over to Carolyn Lam for observation and filed a report on your near-certain de-ascension. Every off-world team here and in the Milky Way were given pictures of you with the instructions to bring you home as peacefully as possible. O’Neill made it clear that no one was allowed to force you as he figured they could just send me along to collect you regardless.”
John was certain he’d have gone wherever Rodney wanted him to without a token protest. “Ronon and Teyla found me,” John admitted. “They’re on a field team with Major Hughes, but they let me know if I want to go back in the field once I have my job back that they’ll want to be on my team again.”
“It’ll be good for you,” Rodney said and inclined his head. “You don’t want your old job back.”
“I don’t even know what it is,” John said roughly. “I’ve read the reports, of course, but I don’t…I just don’t know. I don’t know enough of anything to be any kind of asset right now. What if I get someone killed?” He cleared his throat. “Again?”
“Again?” Rodney questioned.
“A lot of people died on my watch, Rodney,” John said. “I made a fucking list!”
“Right.” McKay rubbed his head in frustration. “The work is dangerous, John, and not a single person is on this city who doesn’t understand that intimately. Exploration is dangerous, and it’s even more so off-world. No one comes out here thinking it’s going to be some amazing, safe adventure with beer and snacks. I can’t believe they let you read mission reports but refuse to answer your questions about your personal relationships.”
“He really is quack,” John complained. “I’m gonna complain as soon as someone will take me seriously. He suggested something called hypnosis. I didn’t know what it was. I’ve got a few papers to read about it.”
“Absolutely not,” Rodney said. “You’re not letting that fucker mess with your head!”
McKay pointed his finger for emphasis, and John was suddenly just bombarded with so much affection for the other man that he couldn’t contain it.
“I…” John leaned forward and pressed his mouth against McKay’s. Rodney’s hands immediately drifted in his hair, and they fell into a heated kiss. More memories flickered through his mind—hot, sexy images that left him shocked and horrified. He pulled his mouth free. “I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry, Rodney. I cheated. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know…I….” He took a deep, ragged breath as Rodney shushed him.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Rodney said. “I mean, it’s not okay to cheat, but you didn’t even know your own name, so we’re both going to cut you some slack on this. Though I am going to insist on a thorough STD test and the return of most of your memory before I let you get me in bed, again, Sheppard.”
“I got tested for everything when I came back to the city. Dr. Biro asked me if I’d had unprotected sex on Lorian, and I didn’t even know what a condom was, so, of course, I’d had unprotected sex.” John flushed. “It was just the one person—my neighbor. The Lorians don’t have gender expression, and there are four sexes. My neighbor, named Ayw, is…” John blew out a breath. “I’m not sure what the term would be on Earth, but Ayw has what we’d consider male and female parts. We were lovers for about a month before I was found.”
“Intersex,” Rodney supplied. “Historically, and it’s considered a slur these days, they would’ve been called a hermaphrodite.”
“Thanks,” John said and slouched a little. “I hate not knowing stuff, and I hate how everyone watches me struggle with it like they’re encouraging a fucking toddler to walk.” He grimaced. “But I really am very sorry about sleeping with someone else. I can’t even say it felt wrong or whatever while I was doing it.”
“I’m not mad, but I forgive you if you need to hear it,” Rodney said and smiled when John immediately picked up his hand. He cleared his throat. “So, the last thing you did—while you were healing me because I think you felt the others coming for you—is give me all the information I need to make a ZPM.”
John cocked his head. “The first thing I was asked was if I remembered anything about ZPMs or how to make them from when I was ascended. They were all disappointed to find out I remember nothing from ascension though Keller said it wasn’t a surprise because the human brain can’t handle that much information.”
“It took me two months to work my way through all the information, and I got migraines a lot,” Rodney admitted. “When I finished writing everything down, it was close to three million words. Carter has a copy of it—we’re working on the first model now, but it’ll be a few years before we can even start building since we’re having to create a whole new branch of physics. The project has been need-to-know only since I presented the first bit to Carter, but I can start my own team here and brief my people. They’ll stop asking you questions, promise. I was worried that the Ancients try to take it away from me, but apparently, that would be considered interference.”
John laughed. “Hoisted on their own petard. Is Teer still visiting you?”
“Not since I told her to fuck off the last time,” Rodney said. “I asked her where you were, and she told me that you were happy where you’d been left, and a simple, uncomplicated life was what was best of you. I told her to never visit me again.”
John nodded. “Good. None of them have visited me that I’m aware of. I don’t think I’d have anything nice to say to them considering what they took from me.” He looked down at their hands and laced his fingers with Rodney’s. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Sorry it took so long,” Rodney said. “I had to get a lot of things squared away before I could come back to the city permanently. The IOA wanted a new contract out of me as well since they thought I was on my way out the door. Plus, I had to have 5000 arguments with the US Government over the patents for the ZPM technology.
“Finally, Carter had to tell them that they literally had to give someone credit for the technology and no one else in the program could front it. Plus, I’m going to have to do a lot of work to make it stand up to peer review outside of the program, so I’m going to more than earn every single patent now and in the future.”
“But, it’s all settled?”
“The IOA finally came down on them because I was threatening to refuse the contract, and they knew that meant you’d come home. Woolsey has been telling them for weeks that he needed me to return to the city for both you and the job as Zelenka is a 100% done putting up with all the bullshit. Woolsey filed a report just before the Apollo left Earth. Apparently, there was a lot of concern that you were going to ask to go back to Earth.”
“I was,” John said and took a deep breath. “But now that doesn’t feel necessary. I just…I needed you, and I didn’t understand that. Now I do.” He quirked an eyebrow. “You know I might get my memory back faster with sex.”
Rodney sighed and rolled his eyes. “Why on Earth did I ever compare you to James Kirk?”
John made a face. “Who’s Kirk? Your ex?”
“For fuck’s sake,” Rodney exclaimed. “You forgot Star Trek? The Ancients are monsters!”