Title: Robin Egg
Characters: Mensa!John, Rodney McKay, John Sheppard (minor appearance of Elizabeth Weir, and Dr. Keller)
Rating: PG-13 (Language mostly)
Prompt: Does Rodney think about the John Sheppard in Rod's version of reality? (Written for the Mensa AU fix exchange for paradise city)
It was about midday and the labs were full of working scientists. Those who hadn't been sent out into the city to check up on various systems and other experiments were running through numbers and doing research of their own. There was nothing strange about this. In fact it was so very normal and routine that they should have expected something odd or abnormal to happen. Nothing ran this smoothly in the Lost City of the Ancients for more than a few days before something strange would occur. The fact that they were coasting along normally for almost a week and a half was unheard of.
They just did not have the kind of luck that seemed to be gracing them. Living in Atlantis was not never easy or calm. There were daily crises to solve and emergencies to get through. There was threat to life and limb. Dangers of overusing their rather feeble power sources - as compared to a ZPM. There was strange food to contend with. Odd pieces of technology to be classified. Mysteries to be unraveled. So far they hadn't had a single emergency or crisis. Food was bland and predictable. The technology was easily categorized. And there hadn't been a single mystery to frantically solve in almost two weeks. It was putting people on edge. Because eventually karma or whatever passed for fate was going to swing in the other direction and with the easy time they were having it was going to be a swing to the very extreme.
Rodney was leaving the labs, heading to the mess for what promised to be another evening of predictable bland foods, when he heard a clattering sound from one of the storage closest. It sounded as though whoever was in the tiny room was fumbling around in the dark, knocking things over. Frustrated that he was going to have to break up two people's idea of a lovers' get-together, Rodney strode over to the door. It was just his luck that he was going to have to subject himself to the sight of two of his employees getting naked.
Waving his hand before the sensor next to the door, Rodney pulled his most disappointed, arrogant expression on this his features. He didn't even pause to listen to the voices on the other side of the door when it opened.
His jaw dropped the moment the doors had opened. "Sheppard?"
Except it wasn't Sheppard. At least it didn't look like his Sheppard. This impostor's hair was a little longer that the Colonel's hair was, and far messier. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a soft-looking, well-washed black t-shirt. It wasn't even the clothing that tipped Rodney off that this wasn't the real Colonel Sheppard. It was the pair of glasses hanging off one ear that really did it.
The other man, the Sheppard look-alike opened his mouth to respond but Rodney cut him off. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded, his hand falling to his thigh for the gun that typically was in the holster there. Except he wasn't wearing the gun because he'd been in the labs and they hadn't encountered anything more dangerous than old coffee in the last week and a half.
Now the look-alike just looked confused, and that pissed Rodney off. If anyone had the right to be confused it was him. "Rod?" the other man questioned. "It's me. Sheppard." And then the look of confusion evaporated with a slight sneer. "You know, just because I disproved one of your theories doesn't mean you need to be an ass about it. Everyone makes mistakes, McKay. Even you."
Rodney felt his mouth go dry as he reached up to his radio. Never taking his eyes off the impostor, Rodney clicked to the security channel. "Colonel?"
There was a slight pause on the radio before, "This is Sheppard. What's up, McKay?"
"I think you should come down to the labs with a security detail," Rodney responded calmly.
Another pause and then, "I'm on my way. What's happened?"
"I'm staring at a look-alike who is claiming to be one John Sheppard."
To say that Rodney hadn't given a thought as to the differences between this reality and the reality that Rod McKay had come from was an understatement. Once he was 99.99 certain that his creepy counterpart had made it back safely, he'd had other things on his mind. The loss of their ZPM and the scramble to cut back on their power use, gate missions to locate new power sources, and an increased population with limited resources had taken precedence over contemplating what the other members of Rod's team might be like. Aside from the few moments during his impostor's guest stay and the minutes thereafter Rodney hadn't given them another thought. He'd had more important things to worry about after that. If bad things happened in threes back in the Milky Way, they came as a baker's dozen here in Pegasus.
The sudden appearance of a Sheppard look-alike had taken Rodney aback. He hadn't expected to ever see another person from that particular version of reality ever again once they had closed the bridge between the two universes. But then again, this was Pegasus and the technically improbable happened on a near daily basis here. Because he hadn't been expecting it, he should have been preparing himself for it. Why? Because that was just the way that Pegasus, and Atlantis specifically, worked.
Staring down through the observation window into the isolation room below him, Rodney listed out the differences between the impostor Sheppard in the room below and the man standing next to him. The differences between the two of them were as startling as they had been between Rod and himself - and just as obvious too.
Physically they looked the same except for the slighter longer hair of the impostor and the glasses. That, and Rodney seriously doubted that Colonel Sheppard owned a pair of jeans like his counterpart was wearing. Rodney would bet good money that Colonel John Sheppard did not own a single pair of faded blue hip-hugger jeans that clung almost sinfully to thighs, butt, and groin. It was a shame, really, because the imposter looked damn good in those jeans, and Rodney would bet an equal amount of good money that his Sheppard would look just as good in them too, if significantly more self-conscious and awkward. But the physical differences weren't that large aside from those two points, and the choice in clothing.
It was the differences in personality that came through the most clearly. Colonel Sheppard was calm and collected while his counterpart had sniped, sneered, and snarked his way to the isolation room. He hadn't said anything particularly useful except to mutter darkly about wanting to kill someone just as soon as he got back to his own Atlantis. Sheppard had questioned a particularly loudly muttered threat and gotten stony silence from his doppelganger.
"He thought I was Rod," Rodney said to no one in particular. Crossing his arms over his chest, he frowned down into the room. The second Sheppard was sprawled on his back in the bed, glasses resting on his chest with an arm flung over his eyes. He looked like he might be sleeping except for the fact that the fingers of his other hand were drumming fitfully on his stomach.
"You think he's from the same version of reality that the Rod who visited us is from?" Sheppard asked.
Rodney shrugged. "There are countless alternate universes out there, Colonel. There is a slim chance that he's from the exact same universe. The probability of that is actually very small when you think about it. I mean, there would be more than one reality where we preformed the exact same experiment and got the same results. It's more likely that he came from one of our alternates' alternate reality."
The door hissed open behind them and they both glanced over their shoulder to see who had come into the room. Elizabeth was followed in by Dr. Keller, both women looking rather grim. Elizabeth more so compared to their new Chief Medical Officer. "Well, the tests have come back," Dr. Keller said, calling up the results on her tablet. "The blood work came back as an exact match to Colonel Sheppard's. That man down there is Colonel Sheppard."
"I'm standing right here," Sheppard said. "He can't be me. He's just another version of me is all." The last was said almost defensively.
Dr. Keller glanced over to Sheppard and shrugged slightly. "However you'd like it, Colonel. The man down in that room claims to be John Sheppard and the tests confirm that claim. He's you." She looked over to Elizabeth now and added, "I've also tested him for possible contagions, infections, and almost everything else I can think of. So far he's come back clean for everything except for the starting of a case of Strep throat. I've already administered a dose of antibiotics to combat the infection, but other than that he's in perfect health."
Elizabeth nodded, still silent.
"Well, that's everything. I have some work I need to catch up on. If you need anything else, let me know. I'll notify you when the rest of the more complicated tests come back with results, but I strongly doubt that we're going to find anything." And with that Dr. Keller left them to their silent observations.
"Rock, paper, scissors for who's gotta go down and talk to him?" Sheppard offered.
Rodney snorted. "Not a chance. I had to go and talk to my counter part. You've gotta go talk to yours."
"See I don't think he's going to want to talk with me, McKay," he responded. "See, now if it were me stuck in their reality I wouldn't be looking for the other me. I'd be looking for the other you to figure out how the hell to get me back home."
"Fair is only fair, Colonel," Rodney said sweetly. "I got to interview my creepy counterpart, now you get to find out just how uncomfortable it is to look at someone who is you but so obviously isn't."
"Actually," Elizabeth interrupted. "He wants to talk to you, Rodney. He very vocally demanded it before you got up here."
Rodney rounded on Elizabeth when she said that. "You have got to be kidding me! I don't want to talk to him. He isn't my look-alike. Besides, he's Sheppard, and if he's got half the training that our Colonel has, he could take me hostage!"
"Gee, thanks for that particular observation on my character," Sheppard responded dryly.
Elizabeth held up her hands for quiet. "John's right, Rodney. If any of us were to find ourselves stuck in some alternate reality you are the first person that we would all go looking for to fix things. But aside from that, he's refused to speak to anyone but you. He hasn't said a word since one of the marines guarding his room started asking him questions when we refused to deliver you promptly."
When Rodney stepped through the door to the isolation room, he was still wondering how he seemed to always end up doing these kinds of things. The look-alike Sheppard had gotten up off the bed and had been pacing the room. He'd stopped when Rodney entered and stared at him for a moment. Rodney had kept off the gun he wanted holstered on his thigh. There was too great a chance that this Sheppard might not be exactly who he had claimed to be in the beginning, and he likely had the same military training that their Sheppard had. When the door hissed shut behind him, Rodney circled into the room, giving the other man a large berth, keeping the door behind his back. The windows of the observation room weren't bullet-proof. He knew that the Colonel would open fire into the room if his doppelganger tried anything funny.
"So I'm here," Rodney said, crossing his arms over his chest. He was trying for bored, but was probably failing badly.
"It's about damn time too," look-alike Sheppard snapped. "What the hell took you so long getting here anyway? Did you find the piece of Ancient Technology that got me here in the first place?"
"No," Rodney answered hotly. "We didn't find anything in the broom closet I found you in. And it wasn't like you told us what to be looking for in the first place. According to Dr. Keller and Dr. Weir you haven't told them a thing after they refused to come and collect me at your demand. And it's not like you've told anyone who you are at this point either. Expecting us to cooperate when you have been less than cooperative yourself is not only arrogant, it's rude."
The other man huffed and crossed his arms over his narrow chest, hip cocked forward, foot tapping impatiently on the floor. "I kind of thought it would be obvious who I was," was the answer given. "I'm Dr. John Sheppard."
"Yes, well, our Sheppard doesn't have a PhD," Rodney commented. "He's also a lot more pleasant than you are."
"Of course he hasn't got a PhD," Sheppard sneered. "He's in the military." The last was practically spat on the floor. "Look, did you find a piece of Ancient Technology that looks sort of like a Robin Egg?"
Rodney thought about it for a moment, going through the mental list he kept of all of the pieces of Ancient Technology they had discovered so far in the city and off-world. Nothing came to mind matching the description that he'd been given and Rodney shook his head. "No, we haven't found anything like that here."
Sheppard seemed to deflate before his eyes - shoulders rounding and curling forward, arms holding himself tightly, head dropped forward, body slumping forward slightly. It only lasted a moment before he came right back up with an expression that rivaled the single most arrogant expression Rodney possessed. "Well, I can tell you where we found it in my Atlantis. I can even tell you how it's supposed to work. And if we don't find it here I'm sure that Rod will figure something out on his end to get me back home."
After that first night, Rodney found that his thoughts were filled with this new John Sheppard. Not because he really wanted to constantly think about the other man, but because he was always there. He bitched and complained loudly about the Ancients and their level of organization in the labs while he sorted through the database looking for the entry about the Robin Egg. He nearly brought about a mutiny after he verbally berated a group of scientists while he corrected one of the equations on one of the many white boards. He'd even managed to make not one, but two linguists cry when they had mistaken him for Colonel Sheppard.
And he'd only been in the city for four days.
Then again, he didn't show up in the labs before noon, sparing a number of people his presence for a short time. Rodney found that many of his co-workers could change their set night-crawler patterns to become morning people just to avoid having to be around Dr. Sheppard in all his arrogant glory.
Even Colonel Sheppard avoided his counter part for the first day. But after hearing about the chaos Dr. Sheppard was causing with the science staff, he took to loitering in the labs on the pretence of being a calming influence on his alternate universe twin.
The arguments the two of them had gotten into had provided more insight into Sheppard (both of them). Rodney couldn't help but listen to the two of them toss back little facts about their lives as they compared and contrasted their experiences. Colonel Sheppard's parents had remained happily married whereas Dr. Sheppard's parents had divorced when he was twelve. Colonel Sheppard had joined the track team in high school - Dr. Sheppard played lacrosse. Colonel Sheppard had gone to some tiny little university. Dr. Sheppard had gone to the same little university for his BA, then gone to Harvard for his Masters, and then to CalTech for his first PhD. Colonel Sheppard had joined the Air Force and Dr. Sheppard had been rejected because of his eyesight.
They were tossing about names when Rodney glanced up from the power analysis sheet from four days ago. There was no explanation attached to any of them, as though the significance of each name should and would be obvious to the other. Rodney was watching them with some curiosity at this point. Sheppard didn't talk about his past or about himself unless he had absolutely no choice in the matter. The fact that Sheppard was sitting on a desk in the public labs (which were empty except for them) discussing what sounded like a list of lovers and other important people in his life, was not something Rodney could easily ignore.
"Sarah Parkman," Colonel Sheppard said.
"Of course," Dr. Sheppard responded. "I think she would be a given no matter which version of reality you came from." Colonel Sheppard nodded at that and kicked his feet a little when Dr. Sheppard tossed out, "Lorry McNamara."
"Shot down. Ginn Bennett."
"Oh, God, please tell me you are not serious," the other Sheppard responded with a disgusted tone. "Jerad Conway."
That name stopped Colonel Sheppard's kicking feet. The grin disappeared from his face and he considered his look-alike carefully. Rodney couldn't help but wonder who this Jerad Conway was to make Sheppard almost literally stop in his tracks. Silence fell for a moment before Sheppard said, "Anna first."
That made the other Sheppard turn in his chair and face Colonel Sheppard with a look of shock. Now Rodney wanted to know who both Jerad Conway and Anna were. They were obviously important people in Sheppard's life. But as it was, both of them seemed to have forgotten that he was in the room with them. It was sort of like eavesdropping, except that he wasn't lurking just outside of the room listening to this. He'd been in the damn lab first.
"I didn't go near Anna," Dr. Sheppard confided. "She was a... well gold-digging tramp is the most polite thing I can say about her in this instance. I could never keep track of the sudden beginnings and endings of her relationships. I can't even begin to imagine what she was like to be dating. Actually I shudder just to think about it."
At this point Sheppard covered his face with his hands and muttered, "Dating her wasn't the hard part. Being married to her was damn near impossible to do."
Dr. Sheppard chocked on his own spit. "Married - What!?"
"Yeah. Lasted about eighteen months before I realized I couldn't stay married to her. I wasn't good with the whole marriage thing. We got divorced after almost two years. Seven months after the divorce Jerad came into the picture." Sheppard was still talking into his hand, not looking at either of them.
Dr. Sheppard's gaze went from the man sitting on the table to Rodney and then quickly back again. "Anyone since?" he asked.
"No one serious, but not for lack of trying on my part," Sheppard replied and hopped off the table. "Look, its late and I have a meeting with Lorne in the morning. I'll see you two later." And then he was gone.
Rodney was just suddenly left with Dr. Sheppard and the silence that followed in Colonel Sheppard's wake. Turning his gaze from the door that the Colonel had just gone through, Rodney looked over to Dr. Sheppard. The other man was giving Rodney a considering look, his head cocked slightly to one side. Rodney wanted to squirm under that particular gaze.
"What?" Rodney snapped. "It's not my fault the two of you got trapped traveling down memory lane while I was still in the room."
Sheppard shook his head and pushed away from the laptop he'd been using. Standing up, he walked over to the table Colonel Sheppard had been sitting on, and hopped up on to the same spot the Colonel had been sitting. It was in the moment that Rodney realized that Dr. Sheppard had found some time to do some laundry because he was wearing the hip-hugging jeans he'd shown up in again. "It's not that," he said. And it took Rodney a moment to figure out what the hell he was talking about because he'd gotten really distracted by the way that the jeans clung to the other man's legs.
"What is it then?" Rodney asked, forcing his eyes up to Sheppard's face.
He smirked down at Rodney. "I think you are honestly more oblivious than Rod is."
Rodney leaned back in his chair and raised an eye brow. "Oh, and what would I be oblivious about?"
Sheppard's smirk turned into a grin. He leaned forward slightly and grabbed Rodney by the shirt, dragging him forward. Rodney sputtered out a protest, but was cut short when a pair of soft lips landed on his own. It was a gentle kiss, chaste except for the very damp hint of tongue on his bottom lip. Rodney had just started to kiss back when Sheppard's lips parted against his own and he nipped at Rodney's bottom lip.
Sheppard pulled back from the kiss and considered Rodney for a moment. The grin was still in place when he said, "He's just like me when it comes to our preferred lovers. Male or female, doesn't matter, just so long as they're smart, get the jokes even if they don't find them funny, and aren't afraid to back down from a good shouting match once in a while."
Rodney licked his lips, and tried to find words to make the question he wanted to ask. "You... he... I mean..."
Sheppard chuckled and slid off the table. "He, yes, definitely. Me, no, I got someone waiting back home for me."
They found the damn Robin Egg on the fifth day. Some brilliant idiot had been using the thing to level out one of the consoles in the secondary lab. The only reason that they had even found the thing in the first place was because Dr. Sheppard hadn't made it back to the rooms they had given him and had instead curled up on the couch that they had in the secondary lab. Rodney had gone in to get some of the good coffee that he kept hidden in the less-used lab space and found Dr. Sheppard sprawled out on the couch. Rodney must have made some sort of noise, because the next moment Sheppard had jumped about a foot off the couch and landed on the floor next to the console cursing up a blue storm. And then silence had fallen and Rodney had turned to see what was going on. Sheppard had been on his hands and knees and Rodney would have sworn that he was cooing to something under the console like one would coo to a baby that was blowing spit bubbles while it sucked on its fist.
By day seven, they had tested the Robin Egg and declared it safe for use.
By day eight, Dr. Sheppard was on his way back to his own universe.
By day ten, Rodney was still thinking about Dr. John Sheppard. The man was so very different from the pilot he knew by the same name. Colonel Sheppard was calm, collected, worked well under pressure, and made some of the most ridiculous jokes Rodney had ever heard. Dr. Sheppard by contrast had been overly serious and hadn't even spit out a single lame line the entire time he'd been there.
By day fourteen Rodney was ready to blow up his lab just to have something to take his mind off some of the things he'd heard come out of the Sheppards' mouths. Because now that he couldn't stop thinking about Dr John Sheppard, Rodney couldn't stop thinking about some of the stuff he had said and done. The kiss replayed itself over and over in his mind, and Rodney had woken up from dreams that had considerably more than kissing and with a different Sheppard entirely.
Catching Sheppard as he left the gym where he had been practicing sticks with Teyla, Rodney matched his pace to the other man's. They said nothing for a few moments. And as they were nearing the living spaces, Rodney commented, "I've recently been informed that I've been kind of oblivious." He had no idea where this was coming from or why he was even saying anything. He knew from past experience that Sheppard did not like to talk about this kind of thing.
Licking his lips, Rodney risked a sideways glance at Sheppard. His expression was bland, but there was something hopefully there as well. "McKay, you're kind of oblivious about a lot of things. Mind narrowing it down?"
Sheppard swept his hand over the sensor next to his door and stepped inside, Rodney followed quickly behind him. "Well, a recent visitor of ours pointed it out to me," he offered by way of explanation.
Sheppard stopped moving and turned to face Rodney instead. "And what did he point out to you?" Rodney had never seen Sheppard's expression that neutral before. It was like he was waiting for a slap or a punch or something else painful.
Rodney took a step forward and grabbed hold of Sheppard by the shirt, the same way his look-alike counterpart had done that night in the labs and brushed a soft kiss against his lips. When Sheppard didn't responded, didn't even breathe actually, Rodney pulled back quickly and released him.
"Sorry," Rodney muttered and backed away a little further. "Sorry. I - I probably shouldn't have done that. I mean, actually, I know that I shouldn't have done that. It's just that -"
"Rodney," Sheppard drawled. He stepped forward and grabbed hold of Rodney's face, dragging him back in for a quick kiss. "You caught me by surprise."
The next kiss was longer, deeper, and not nearly as chaste as the first two had been. Rodney groaned softly into the kiss and he felt Sheppard's rumbling growl in answer before he broke the kiss again. "Think we can use the Robin Egg thingy to send a fruit basket or something?" he asked.
"I'm sure I can figure out how," Rodney answered.