Title: Breaking the Mold
Pairing: McKay/Keller, McKay/Sheppard, very vague mentions of Sheppard/OFC, Sheppard/OMC, and McKay/OFC
Warning: Temparary bodyswap, discussion of menstruation with possible PTSD implications
Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine.
Author's Note: Written for sga santa for hyperfocused. Post-series, sometime after Atlantis has returned to the Pegasus galaxy and everyone's settled back in. Also, in my world, clone!Carson is back permanently and shares CMO duties with Keller. Just in case it's confusing; the first two parts are from John's POV and the last is from Rodney's.
John grumbled to himself as he trampled through the thick vegetation along the forest floor. He wasn't headed in any particular direction, just needed to get away from the nauseating amount of pure sap back in the village. It was just a routine medical visit but Rodney had volunteered to help out, something about Keller's insistence that he continue to be The Kinder, Gentler Rodney McKay, and John had stupidly come with him. It always made him edgy when Keller tried to make Rodney act like something he wasn't, he supposed she was nice enough but, in his mind, it would always be her who wasn't good enough for Rodney, not the other way around.
John had helped out as much as he could but as the day wore on and patients (including stuff for him to occupy himself with) began to dwindle down he was feeling increasingly useless. Not to mention his just plain needing to not have to overhear Jennifer and Rodney twitter honey-coated phrases back and forth. Sickening.
When he reached the point of wishing he'd brought Ronon along just so he could ask him to stun them John decided it might be best for him to take a walk.
Of course it figured he'd get lost. He had the worst luck. But he wasn't ready to talk to anyone else just yet so he figured he'd try to find his way back on his own for a while longer before radioing in for some help. He really didn't want to have to do that.
Something caught John's attention out of the corner of his eye and his gun was half drawn before he realized it was only some sort of ruin. It could be interesting so he fought his way closer and reached out to touch it. It was just a waist-height pillar with symbols that looked suspiciously like ancient to him, but what did he know, except when his fingertips touched the sculpted stone he felt a mild shock pass through him. That was strange. He checked for damage or changes, it's not possible to be too careful around ancient technology, but found none. John shrugged it off as an anomaly and turned back to the kind-of-path he'd been kind of following.
He was just about to give in and make that embarrassing radio call to ask for directions when he realized with a sigh of relief that he had passed this tree formation before. He knew where to go now. Maybe.
Dusk was settling in when John finally made his way out of the forest and into the clearing that housed the little village. Everyone had left the darkening outdoors in favor of other things, probably food. Food sounded good now. But he really just wanted to get back home, to Atlantis, where he had his own space and could at least pretend his best friend wasn't turning into a cheesy romantic.
He made his way to the little hut they had been using as a clinic but walked in to find only Jennifer packing away supplies.
"Oh, Hello, Colonel. Have a good time out exploring?"
"Um, sure, say, where's Rodney, I was kinda hoping we could head back if you were done here."
"Yes, of course, he just went to get some food while I packed up,
see, all done…"
She had just looked up from zipping closed the last of her things and really looked at him for the first time since he'd entered. She gave him a double take then let her eyes travel quizzically up and down him. It made John nervous. He cleared his throat.
"Uh, everythin' alright, doc?"
She seemed to snap out of it but was still staring at him, "Colonel, um, you're glowing."
"What?" John held his hand out in front of him and stared at it. Then he brought it closer. Then back away. He flipped his hand over to look at the palm. There was a slight bluish light emanating from his skin. It probably wouldn't be noticeable with the right lighting but it was definitely there.
"Huh, whatduya know?'
Keller stepped forward slowly, pulling a scanner out of her vest pocket.
"Just hold still for a moment, please, Colonel."
She waved the scanner around for a while, frowning.
"Nothing. Why don't you sit down over here."
She motioned to the table they'd been using for exams. John sighed but sat. He knew there was no getting out of an exam, not with is skin shining like he was still out under the moonlight. Keller waved her little flashlight in front of his eyes then reached out to take his pulse. The moment her thumb hit his wrist he felt like he'd been shocked again. The room went blurry and everything disappeared.
There was a muffled shout in the distance and he could feel something connecting with his cheek. The haze slowly fell way until he recognized the yelling voice as Rodney's, and it wasn't far away at all. A palm connected with his face again. John opened his eyes blurrily.
"Oh, thank god, Jennifer! Just hold on a minute…"
John could make out Rodney's back as he turned away and leaned over someone else. Keller. Damn it. What happened? He wondered how long Rodney had been trying to wake them.
"John?" There was a slight slapping sound, then again, "John!"
"Mmm? What, McKay?" John mumbled. Then the body next to him stirred.
"Oh, Thank god, Sheppard."
"What?" Because John was really getting tired of Rodney calling him and not telling him why. Then he turned his head and froze. That's so not right. The person next to him had opened their eyes and was looking at him with the same expression he was sure he was wearing. Actually, he was more than sure. It was the same expression. It was the same face.
"Oh, thank god! What the hell happened! Do you have any idea how terrifying that was? Oh, no you don't! You aren't moving until Carson gets here and says its ok, and I don't care what you say about you being just as qualified."
John sighed but lay back down. He couldn't remember ever even thinking anything along those lines but he had bigger concerns right now.
"Um, McKay, you wanna tell me…" he brought a hand to his throat. That really didn't sound like his voice. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Why there are two of me?"
Rodney's eyes got wide, "Two? Oh, my god! It's worse than I thought!"
"Um, Rodney?" The other him cleared their throat just like he had, "relax, just let me look at…" He reached closer. Rodney half-heartedly tried to stop it but gave up after the other him said reassuringly, "It's ok, Rodney, I'm not moving much."
He peered closer as John backed away. The other him reached out to grab his wrist. John looked down. He stared. That wasn't his wrist, or his fingers. That wasn't his arm. But he could feel the fingers wrap around his wrist. Oh, god, John looked back into the other's eyes.
"This isn't good is it?"
Their eyes widened. They whispered, "Colonel?"
"No, I'm the toothfairy! Who do you think I am?" but then, "wait! Who do you think I am?"
Rodney was watching their exchange with increasing terror, "Oh, my god! Who are you? What's going on here?"
The other him sat up shakily, "Relax, Rodney." He moved to cover Rodney's hands with his own, and, whoa, that was not cool in John's book. "It's just, I mean… I'm Jennifer."
Rodney pulled away suddenly, looking more confused and horrified than ever, but something just slid into place for John.
"Wait, you mean we…" He waved his hand around between them, "Shit. You gotta do something doc."
"Well, there's not much I can do just yet. We'll have to wait for Carson then we can try to figure out what might have caused this and what we can do to fix it."
Rodney moved closer. John could all but see the gears turning in his head. Rodney's eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head.
"You mean, He was telling the truth? I mean, she, I mean, what do I mean? If you're Jennifer, then…" He turned to John almost shyly.
"Oh, my god! This is like one of those bad science fiction movies! You swapped bodies!!!"
Carson, of course, chose that moment to enter the hut, followed by a nurse and two marines.
"What's all this about, lad?" Carson asked calmly as he sat on his heels between John and Jennifer and brought out a penlight.
"Sheppard and Keller have swapped bodies! Carson, you have to do something! I can't live like this, I'm gonna have to start taking orders from Keller and… Oh, god! That's my girlfriend!" Rodney pointed to John's body. He looked frozen in shock. It hurt. Just a little. Not that John was going to admit it.
Carson's eyes were flicking between the two people before him. Keller, in John's body still looked a little shell shocked, and John was blocking all his panic, for the moment. Carson raised an eyebrow quizzically at Keller, "Colonel?"
"Over here, Doc."
Carson's head swung slowly between them for a moment. He sighed.
"Alright, then. Well, now, there's nothing more I can do here and you both seem to be in working condition. How's about we go home, eh?"
All three of them nodded wordlessly and started the trek back to the 'gate.
"Explain this one more time, people." Woolsey said, sternly cutting over Rodney's continued lamentations over the impact this could have over his life.
"I may have touched something that looked kinda ancient and gotten shocked while out on a stroll in the woods and when I came back Keller said I was glowing. So she did her thing but when she went to take my pulse I got shocked again and blacked out. When we woke up we were like this."
"I've done full body scans of both of them and they're in excellent condition, the same condition they were in last time they were scanned. The only thing that seems to 'ave changed is their brainwave patterns. As far as I can tell they've simply been switched. And without the ancient device I've no way of knowing what can be done to reverse the process."
Woolsey nodded, "Well, then, as soon as morning hits on that planet I'll send Rodney and Zelenka to try and retrieve the device, along with some marines, and no, neither of you are going off-world until this is cleared up. Colonel," and John could tell just how consciously he had to look at him and not his body, "do you think you can tell us where to find this ancient device?"
'Maybe', he thought to himself. But he wasn't the type of man to admit he was lost when he'd gotten away with it so far, "Sure, just let me draw a map or something."
John wandered over to Keller's desk, because it was closer than Carson's, and started putting down everything he could remember on a piece of paper.
After handing the map to Woolsey and waiting for him to leave Carson let them leave, too, with a warning to tell him the instant anything happened, of course. John waved him off and got the hell out of there.
He was relieved when the door to his quarters opened easily for him. He may not have his super-gene with this body but at least Atlantis seemed to recognize him no matter what form he took. It was comforting to know that at least someone wouldn't have to adjust to this. John closed his eyes and leaned back on the closed doors. Damn, ponytails were uncomfortable to lean back on. He knew what he would normally do after a long day off-world but there was no way he was taking a shower in this body. Not to mention it was now physically impossible for him to enjoy that shower the way he really wanted to. He cringed. No, it wouldn't do to be thinking like that. Instead he just pushed away all thought and flopped down on the bed face first ready to pass out and hope this day would be revealed as a very disturbing dream when he woke up.
John blearily opened his eyes. It took him a moment to realize what had woken him. He really needed to pee. He sighed but lifted himself off the bed and stumbled toward the bathroom with his eyes half closed. Without bothering to think the light on he reached down for his zipper. It was only when he realized that his fingers weren't finding anything to tug out of his boxers, and those weren't even boxers, that the events of the past day came back to him. John pulled his hand back out of his pants like something had scalded him. He thought the lights on and sat on the edge of the tub with his elbows on his knees.
Except they weren't his elbows or his knees. And that certainly wasn't his bladder. He felt trapped. He knew it had to be done but he felt kind of like a pervert even thinking about it. This wasn't like he'd simply been turned into a girl. That might be a little cool, for a while. But just knowing this body wasn't his, that it had an original owner, one that would be getting it back, made him nervous about how he treated this body. This was the body of his best friend's girlfriend and he wanted so badly to just give it back. God, it was starting to hurt, he really needed to pee.
Resolutely not thinking about what he was doing he yanked down his pants and backed toward the toilet. No problem. Just sit down. He knew that much. It was strange not having to worry about where his dick went but he shoved that thought aside. When he was seated he took a deep breath and tried to relax. Ok, not that hard.
John sat there for a few minutes after he'd finished. This would really be the hard part. He was fairly sure girls had to wipe now. Another deep breath and he began unrolling toilet paper. He took way more than he needed and wrapped his hand up in a many layered bandage. He didn't want to touch anything. He closed his eyes, faced the ceiling, and reached between his legs.
Needless to say, John didn't sleep too well that night. He lay awake for most of the early morning hours trying very hard to not think about anything at all. He would force himself to relax, stretched out so he was touching as little of himself, of Keller, as possible, but then, just as he'd gotten to sleep, he'd turn onto his side and wrap his arms around himself and a part of his mind would flail in retaliation. The resulting jump had almost sent him off his bed more than once. When it was time to get up to meet Ronon for their morning run John gratefully got out of bed.
He splashed some water on his face, resolutely not looking at his reflection in his bathroom mirror, and changed hastily, his eyes closed when possible, into his tightest workout clothes. They weren't small enough and he had to tie the waist as tight as it would go, all bunched up and kind of puffing out around his hips. Which he was not thinking about. The bra had been uncomfortable from the moment he realized it was there, when trying to relax as an attempt to fall asleep. It had made him more aware of the body. It may have had something to do with why relaxing hadn't helped him sleep.
Anyway: bra. He shrugged and twisted helplessly, trying to shift it into a more comfortable position after having twisted a bit overnight. When that did nothing he reached up under his armpits, shirt still on, and wiggled that strap a bit. That would have to do. He was not about to move her breasts around in the cups. The physical relief may be nice but it had nothing on the mental discomfort that would result. Then it was just a matter of donning his tightest tight black shirt, with his eyes firmly closed again. It was kind of big and baggy now but at least that meant the breasts weren't as noticeable, and then slid on the same shoes Keller had worn off world yesterday.
John couldn't remember ever having been so glad for the way Ronon just seemed to take everything in stride. He must have been made aware of the situation but he was still waiting there in their usual meeting place and only nodded to John before heading out on the run.
This was just what he needed. His strides were shorter, the boobs bounced, his ponytail swished a little and it took a few minutes before he got his balance coordinated well enough for these kinds of speeds but watching the sun rise over the pier while keeping pace with Ronon and letting his mind blank for a while was close enough to normal he finally felt like he could fake calm again for the rest of the day. They even got in the full five miles that he liked to do because, while Keller may not be in quite as good a shape as he was, he had to admit she had youth on her side and there was definitely possibility there.
John let Ronon lead the way to the mess, figuring he should suck it up and at least grab something. He made his way down the line, avoiding glances and some badly disguised stares. It was really very obvious which of the people here were in the know. John didn't stick around. He nodded good bye to Ronon and ate a breakfast sandwich on the way to the infirmary. Normally he would shower and change first but, face it, that was not happening today.
Keller and Carson were both in, working side by side in one of the medical labs off the infirmary. It was strange, seeing himself bent over a microscope, hard at work. Thinking. Not that he didn't think, he liked to think he thought a lot. But he didn't think like this, all theories and sciencey. He didn't think as a scientist. It really wasn't the same thing. His hands were taking notes in some short hand he didn't know how to read with chemical equations thrown in and processes outlined. It was disturbing.
He cleared his throat and asked, faux casually, if they had found anything. Keller looked like she'd been up for a while, maybe hadn't slept at all, but was still energetic and practically bouncing. His brain kept determinedly supplying 'I', 'I look tired', 'I look energetic', 'I look happy'. He wondered how long it had been since he'd smiled like that.
"Oh, this is just fascinating, Colonel, and it's only the preliminary results of some scans Zelenka was kind enough to send back two hours ago. The neural pathways we have are similar, of course, but unique and had to be overwritten by the machine to accommodate the new consciousness, truly fascinating."
Carson took this opportunity to cut in, well aware of John's philosophy on techno babble, "Rodney and Radek have been out for nearly five hours, we're hoping they send us more soon, but so far, as fascinating as this is, we haven't found anything useful yet. Sorry, lad."
John nodded, "So, ah, still no idea when I get my body back, then."
"Ah, no. Why don't you go back to sleep, get some much needed rest, Colonel. Maybe," Carson's eyes lingered on the sweat spots, "take a shower."
Right. He didn't look very ladylike. But a shower? No, so not ready for that.
The horror must have shown because Keller moved closer to pull him into a more private room, she only paused a moment before wrapping her, 'my' his brain supplied helpfully, hand around his, 'her!', arm. He looked up, really noticing for the first time just how short and small this body was. When he had been running with Ronon he was small, too, of course, but he was used to being smaller than Ronon. Now Keller, in his body, was having no trouble dragging him around and he couldn't remember ever feeling more vulnerable, more weak. He was well aware that if he and Keller were in their correct bodies getting her to move where he wanted like this wouldn't have merited a first thought, much less a second, but being on the other side? He didn't like it at all.
"Was that really necessary, Doctor?"
"Colonel," She sighed, "Sheppard, I know this is hard for you, it's not fun for me either, but you are going to have to shower, and change. All the way. I can stop by later with a few sets of clothes and stuff."
John flushed but stammered out, "I, ah, was hoping Rodney and, you know, everyone, would be able to fix this soon."
"Soon, maybe, but not soon enough."
"I, ah, I mean, look, why aren't you freaking about this?" He yelled. She should be the one person who understood what he was going through, right?
Keller sighed and looked away, "I just, I guess I'm just not as afraid of touching you as you are of me, and it's not like this is permanent."
John tried very hard not continue this conversation, he had already decided he really didn't want to know, but, "touching me?" he squeaked.
Keller flapped one hand, John wondered if he talked with his hands at all, "well, you are in here at least once a week and touching people is kind of my thing. I haven't showered yet, if you're worried, I just haven't had the time. Then again, I didn't go running."
John gulped, "but you do plan on… you know."
"Changing, bathing, being naked in your body?"
"Yes, I was planning on it. But, I mean, if it really bothers you that much I'm sure we can reach some kind of agreement. Is that it? Or, do you, I don't know, do you," Keller huffed a small laugh, "do you need my permission?"
It sounded kind of perverse when put like that but that was kind of the thing. Exactly what he'd been worried about all night. He didn't want to touch anything or do anything without her knowing what was happening to her body. It was hers after all. He hadn't realized just what it was until now, or that maybe he'd been expecting her to feel the same way about his. Thinking about it, though, she did have a point about the doctor thing. He'd been in the infirmary, unconscious, for days before. Someone had to have taken care of his needs. He knew he'd had catheters and needed sponge baths before, he just never really thought about what that completely entailed, just that he'd been taken care of. It made him uncomfortable to think about it now but it did make sense that in the case of his not being in control of his own body Keller would have no problem assuming responsibility for things like bathing.
He stood there blinking stupidly at her for a moment before she spoke again, "you have it. Really, Colonel, take a shower, change, fondle my breasts if you want," John blanched, she laughed, "they're yours. Really. I think this will be kind of cool, after you get over some of the identity crisis, and it's not going to last forever. We get to live on the other side for a while," she was actually smiling, it made him nervous, "so we might as well enjoy it. Now, um, do you think, are you comfortable with me doing the same?"
John blinked a few times. If he was going to be honest, no, no he was not comfortable with it but it's not like he can say that after what she'd just given him. Even if he has no intention of following through with her offer. And it wasn't like he was actually going to know what she did exactly, right? Comfortable, maybe not, but he could accept it. He nodded once.
John returned to his room just long enough to change back into Keller's uniform pants. He didn't feel like being alone with this right now and, while he was relaxing into this slightly, he still was definitely not ready to get naked. At least one good thing had come from his conversation with Keller, though, and he didn't have to wonder about how violated she might feel just because he needed to use the bathroom. John didn't even close his eyes when he changed this time, thought the temptation was still there.
He left his quarters and wandered to his office. Lorne occupied the office next to him and as he passed Lorne got up and followed him. He let John sit behind his desk before nervously closing the door and taking a seat opposite.
John sighed, "Major?"
"You're not planning on stepping down for this, sir?"
John sat up straight and glared at Lorne, "I can still do my job, Major," he was ignoring the part of himself that questioned whether he would believe that from anybody else. He'd never had a problem with female COs and he wasn't about to start questioning them now that he was one, at least physically, for a while.
Lorne raised his hands placating, "of course, sir, I just think it would be a good idea to make it official. So everyone knows who's giving them orders. The men aren't likely to respond well if they think one of the CMOs is trying to run the training ops, sir."
John was pretty sure most people knew by now but he had to concede that Lorne did have a point, without confirmation a rumor was just that and his men would definitely be confused. Knowing it was him inside this body, him giving the orders, would make it easier on everyone. Neither of them voiced the concern that some of the men might have had a problem following his orders without knowing he, operative pronoun, was giving those orders. He sighed, not only was he now a woman, the whole base was going to know. His day just kept getting better.
"Of course, Major, I'm still not over the shock of this myself. Will a memo be alright or would you prefer to gather the troops and parade me around in front of them."
Lorne just smirked at his CO's mood, "I think a memo will work, I'll get right on that."
"Very well, dismissed."
Lorne rose to leave but turned back at the door, "permission to speak, sir?"
John grimaced but waved his ok.
"Are you dealing with this alright, I mean, ah, should I worry or anything?"
John slumped, "I'll be ok. Just a lot to get used to, you know? And it's not like its permanent."
Lorne nodded nervously, "alright. Just, if you need anything, ah, well, you know where to find me."
John nodded again, head down and not looking at the Major, listening to the door close.
John had four fallback activities when he was bored or upset or just needed a distraction. He would run, get in some target practice, hang out with Rodney, or, well, there was always his right hand. He may be getting to the point were changing wouldn't put him in therapy but he wasn't close to ok with thinking about that last one. His run this morning was just what he needed at the time but he'd kind of forgotten that not everyone was conditioned to run like that. And with Ronon of all people. Even in his own body he'd allowed a month before he worked himself up to the pace Ronon liked to set. Keller was fit but she wasn't military and she definitely was not a trained runner. He was already starting to feel what would no doubt be some impressively sore muscles tomorrow. Target practice would be nice. But he'd had to oversee her civilian firearms training and knew that, while she could handle a gun quite well, she just wasn't up to more than a few minutes of the recoil on P-90s and the like. He knew she'd had bruises. Again, fit, but she didn't use the same muscle groups the same way that he did and he was already feeling bad about stressing her body this morning. John knew he had some kind of permission to treat this body as his own but he didn't want to hand her back a battered body. Which left Rodney. Who should be back any time now but there was no telling how he'd react to John like this. What if he was still too freaked out to talk to John? He didn't want to push it.
John wandered slowly, avoiding people as much as was possible and stopping occasionally to stretch his sore muscles, letting the day catch up to him, draining the energy from him. Late afternoon found him back at his quarters physically and emotionally exhausted. He slumped onto his bed, spread eagled, and let himself drift.
It was dark when he woke and it took him a moment to recognize the door chime before he got up and mentally opened the doors. He was rather taken aback to find Zelenka on the other side.
"Ah, what's up doc?"
Zelenka tilted his head and raised an eyebrow, John waved it away and moved aside so he could come in.
"Rodney has sent me to give you report," He said as he handed over a tablet. John took it, sitting on his bed and scrolling through. He looked up when Zelenka turned to leave again.
"So, he's not talking to me then?"
"Is taking time, I think."
John smirked humorously, he wondered if he pulled it off as well with Keller's face as he did with his own, "you seem to be doing ok so far."
"Ah, well, I have not seen you naked."
John choked, eyes going wide, "huh?"
"Keller is Rodney's girlfriend, yes? They have been intimate, yes? You are his best friend. You now have her body. Probably is trying to, ah, reconcile physical and emotional intimacy for you both."
John just gaped for a moment then he slowly drawled, "and that's why you're ok with me like this."
Zelenka shrugged, "is not so strange. I see Doctor Keller, I speak to Colonel Sheppard. Is like eating at same table but talking on headset."
John didn't know Zelenka too well but he knew this was one of the things he liked about the man. He and Rodney always seemed like they were on the same wavelengths but where Rodney thought in long loopy spirals of cascading proofs Zelenka could take in a situation, see it clearly, and make leaps that never would have occurred to anyone else but somehow looked so simple once you saw it. He was a lot like Ronon. If Ronon were a short, wispy haired man that cursed in Czech.
"Huh, well, thank you."
"Of course, Colonel, I will let you get back to sleep now."
He hesitated then blurted out, "call me John."
Zelenka studied him for a moment then smiled, "then I must insist you call me Radek."
John smiled in return and nodded.
"Good night, John."