Team: Home (McShep Match challenge)
Prompt: Dead Ringer
Pairing(s): McKay/Sheppard

Warnings: Spoilers for season 4 Doppelganger, but one need not have seen that episode to read this story. Swears, especially toward the end. Slash.

x-x

- NOW -

Rodney stared up at the ceiling arching overhead, his vision filled with the calm blue light that was so typical of Atlantis. He couldn't breathe. Maybe he should panic about that?

"Medical team to the 'gate room."

It seemed like he should panic, like he would have, not that long ago, but something was different now. He wasn't sure what it was, but something had changed. He didn't feel panicked over his lack of breath. He was supposed to be doing something. Something important.

Right, the 'gate. He had to get to the gate. He tried to roll over, tried to move, but he couldn't. And maybe he should panic about that as well, but there were faces overhead, activity around him, someone calling his name, and his heart beat madly, filling his ears, and then nothing.

And then everything, as he felt himself hoisted up and flung over someone's shoulder, then the pain as they sprinted, probably toward the infirmary, every step an agony. Then even that started to slip away as he watched the floor blur by, and only then realised that he was riding, head down, on someone's shoulder. Lorne's. On Lorne's shoulder.

The voices got loud around him, and he was thrown, and tugged, and, and… And.

- THEN -

"Medical team to the 'gate room."

As the words crackled across Rodney's earpiece his head shot up. Someone must have been injured. He hadn't even heard the 'gate activate, although you'd think, with all the fuss and fury that involved, he would have, but he'd been so involved in fiddling with this damn thing that maybe he'd spaced it. Who was off world, anyway? It was the middle of the damn night.

His fingers clenched to the edge of the console he'd been working on. If something had happened to Teyla, or God, to Sheppard. He was close enough; the damn 'gate room was just down the hall. Dropping his wrench, he took off – not quite at a full run, but certainly at an extremely fast walk.

It was supposed to be a simple mission to New Athos. Nothing big, more of a chance for Teyla to visit people than anything else, so Rodney and Ronon hadn't gone. Sheppard and Teyla had done it a million times before. A brief visit, go there, say hi, come back, no big deal.

Rodney rushed into the 'gate room, and right into a swirl of activity, the med team standing off to the side as huge circle of the 'gate, already activated, loomed over them. Rodney tapped his fingers against his thigh, eyes, like those of everyone else in the room, on the 'gate, the brightest thing in the night darkened space. He tried to stay in the background, keep his face composed as befitted a concerned member of Sheppard's team, and not… He closed his eyes briefly, blocking that thought.

He had never told Sheppard how he felt. Sheppard was military, for Christ's sake, and he was not willing to jeopardize that. He wasn't even sure if Sheppard swung that way; and even if he did, Sheppard had not once in their years on Atlantis even hinted at being attracted to men in general, or to Rodney in particular. And the man was way out of his league anyway. Not a chance. But none of that changed how he felt. He just tried not to let it show. Not even in situations like this, come all too often, with Sheppard possibly being hurt, or worse.

A looming presence slid in beside him, and he didn't even need to look to know that Ronon was there. It helped, having him there, like a mountain of confidence by his side. Still, he clenched his hands into fists, waiting for the inevitable.

When Sheppard strode through the gate with Teyla on his heel, it was so anti-climatic that Rodney felt himself deflate. He exhaled audibly, and Ronon bumped his shoulder gently.

Sheppard's eyes met his, and he saw a flicker of a smile there before the man was surrounded by medics and Teyla was explaining to Sam that they'd, "…been at the settlement, where one of the children had found something that appeared to be Ancient technology. Apparently, one of them had found it when they'd been here on Atlantis, and they'd been playing with it for some time without the adults knowing about it." Her eyes moved from Sam to Rodney, and she gave him a wry look. "They thought it was a ball. It was not until John touched it that they realised it was not."

Rodney could imagine the scene. Sheppard, with his super-powered Ancient gene, probably had taken one step too close to the "ball", and the thing had lit up like a Christmas tree.

"You'd said you needed a medical team," Sam said, concern darkening her features.

"It's nothing," Sheppard drawled, typically nonchalant despite the medics buzzing around him.

Teyla simply arched a brow in response, then turned back to Sam. "When the device activated, the Colonel seemed to… it was as if he went blank," she finished with a frown. "It took some time before he was himself again."

"I'm fine," Sheppard said, from his expression obviously bothered by all the fuss.

"Still," Sam said, clearly doubtful. "I'd like you to see Doctor Keller, just to be safe."

Sheppard nodded, seeming resigned to his fate, and followed the medics toward the door. As Ronon stepped forward and spoke to Sam, Teyla turned toward Rodney and held out her leather bag. "I brought it back, just in case," she said, lifting the bag in his direction.

Thing couldn't be that big if it fit in there. He took the bag with a sharp nod, eyes following Sheppard as he left.

Teyla's gentle voice came from in front of him. "He's probably fine."

He nodded again, eyes still on Sheppard until the man was out of sight. "I'll, erm…" he said, gaze finally meeting her warm brown eyes.

Her expression changed, just slightly, and Rodney wondered just how much he was actually hiding. "I'll check this," he said awkwardly, turning away quickly so that he wouldn't reveal any more. With a confidence in his step that he didn't feel, he strode toward his lab.

x-x

He could understand why the kids might have thought it was a ball. Sitting propped in a ring he'd rigged from a hand towel, the device was completely cylindrical, blue, and… he poked it with one finger… kind of squishy. The thing probably did bounce, although he wasn't quite ready to test that theory. The only thing that let him know it wasn't a child's rubber ball – other than fact that it was semi-transparent and almost entirely smooth – was the text going around its circumference. Pulling his desk lamp closer, he peered at the line of script. It looked like some sort of variation on Ancient, but he'd need to dig into it to be sure. Maybe that linguist could help, Darcy, Darby… Anyway, he thought, leaning back in his chair, eyes moving to the moonlight coming through the nearest window. It wasn't working now. Maybe it needed a stronger gene carrier to activate it. Or maybe whatever Sheppard had done had shorted it out. Typical. They find something new, and it's broken.

He heard the door open, and looked up to see Sheppard walking through the doorway, hair looking a bit wilted, for once. The man looked tired. Understandable. It was well past midnight.

Rodney stood and stretched his back, and then his neck. "Jennifer let you out?" he asked with a yawn.

"After a full battery of tests," Sheppard said, approaching the table with a wan smile. He placed both hands on its surface, eyes on the device. "You been working on this thing since I got back?"

"Yeah," Rodney said. He raised a sarcastic brow. "Did she do that fun test with the…?"

Sheppard raised an insolent gaze. "No. That one, I managed to avoid."

"Thank God," Rodney said. He rubbed at the back of his neck with his palm. He'd been hunched over this device for far too long. "So, what did the good doctor think?"

"Whatever happened, she says I'm fine now." Sheppard gave a tired smile as he moved to Rodney's side of the table. "She told me to come back if anything weird happens."

"Weird, like, believing in flux capacitors weird?" Rodney asked with a sideward glance to Sheppard.

"I didn't…" Sheppard sputtered. "You're never going to let that drop, are you?" he said, seeming resigned to his fate.

"No," Rodney said simply.

Sheppard gave him his snarky half smile in return. "You figure out what this thing is yet?" he asked, indicating the object on the table before them. As he lowered his arm, the back of his hand brushed Rodney's, just slightly, then away.

Rodney stretched his neck again, trying to work out the kinks. He waved a hand toward the object. "Well, no. I mean, I think it's broken –" He cut off when Sheppard stepped directly behind him, well within his personal space. He could actually feel the heat coming off the man, and then he froze as strong hands began rubbing his shoulders. This was new. This was different. This was… Sheppard's fingers trailed up his neck into his hair, and it was all Rodney could do not to gasp. "Shep – John," he amended, voice rough. "What are you doing?" Sure, it was past midnight, but this was his lab. Anyone could walk in and assume something that the Colonel probably wasn't intending.

"I'm giving you a back rub," Sheppard said frankly. "Would you rather I turn this thing on instead?" he said, suddenly all innuendo and suggestion, and at that, Rodney did gasp, because wow, so out of character, and wow, erm… yes to both, actually.

Sheppard swung a hand toward the device, which suddenly lit up with an inner glow that cast soft light across the desk.

Okay, Rodney thought, torn between the device and whatever Sheppard… er…. John was trying, which, if he thought about it, was obvious, and maybe he should stop thinking now, because if he thought too much about this, he might miss out on the feel of John's hands against his neck, the shiver he felt as the man raked his fingers up through his hair again, the heat of John's breath as it puffed against the nape of his neck.

Maybe John was intending what Rodney thought he was intending.

John's hands slid down his neck to his shoulders, coming forward to massage his chest just below his collar bone.

Definitely, John was intending what he thought he was intending. This was completely out of character, and no way was he going to take advantage of… whatever had… Oh, God, right there, he thought as John hit a knot of tension he'd not even realised he'd had. Whatever the hell else John was, he was brilliant at giving backrubs. And, er… this was not right, but he wished that it was.

John's hands drifted back and lower, trailing along the waistband of Rodney's trousers, and Rodney actually had to close his eyes and brace himself to prepare for what he did next.

He stepped away.

Turning sharply, he pointed an accusing finger at John. "You. Infirmary. Now."

John's eyes widened in shock, but when Rodney didn't budge, his brow creased, and he held out an imploring hand.

Before he could say a word, Rodney shook his head. "Now," and with a gentle push, he turned John toward the door, and marched him back to the infirmary.

x-x

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