Rating: PG, for language
Summary: Flyboy and geek had turned themselves into soldier and scientist. Pegasus in turn transformed them to warrior and wizard.
Author's Note: Stole this from myself. I put the original line in "Leadership in Pegasus" but it got buried in the story... It just gnawed at the back of my brain and begged for further exploration. I hope this time I did it justice.
John wanted to fly from the time he could remember. There were a series of toy planes and books about flying for Christmas and birthdays. The year John turned twelve, his parents moved to within cycling-distance of a small airport and it was like Christmas every day. Who knew you could take flying lessons as soon as you could see out the cockpit windows? And even a twelve-year-old helper was welcome to hang around with the pilots and mechanics. By the time John graduated high school he had his instrument rating and could qualify to be a flight instructor, if he wanted. He didn't care to teach others, he just wanted to fly for himself.
But John wanted to fly fast. That required he join the military, which in turn required that he go to college. So John went for the biggest prize of all, the Air Force Academy. It really was a long shot, but at the last minute the kid who was supposed to go backed out and as the first alternate, John found himself a cadet.
There wasn't much flying the first couple of years. In fact, he learned quickly to stay under the radar – staying out of the way of both upperclassmen and professors. He obeyed the rules well enough to not get picked on too much and did well enough in classes for the professors to overlook him. It was to everyone's surprise, including John's, when he found himself in the top 20 cadets by his junior year. "Sheppard? Which one is he?" was the most common question. But those that knew John would sigh and either say "He could do better" or "He's going to be trouble some day" with equal conviction.
While at the Academy, John dated a series of girls, each of whom thought they would be the one to tie him down, only to find he had flown on when they weren't looking. As a result of the incredibly lopsided male to female ratio at the Academy, John also ended up with a small handful of male classmates who had some of those same delusions. To John, it was just sex and there was nothing long term about it. Not that he didn't care about other people, he just cared about flying more.
John ended up seventeenth in his graduating class. He thought that auspicious only in that seventeen is prime and math fascinated him almost as much as flying. Since the two went hand-in-hand, John figured he was on top of the world.
Rodney was always an odd child. Between his allergies and genius, his personality didn't have much of a chance to develop properly. His allergies made him suspicious of everything and his genius made him suspicious of everyone. The piano lessons eventually made it worse – he never did tell his parents that, besides the basic idiocy of the teacher, she used lemon oil on her piano regularly and it made him physically sick. It's hard to be passionate about music when you're busy being passionate about breathing.
The only cool experience Rodney had as a kid was when the CIA came to his house about the atomic bomb he had built for the sixth grade science fair. Well, it was only a model, but the fact that it got the attention of some adults who both understood what he had done and were impressed by it made a serious impression on Rodney. It taught him that showing off his genius got him the attention he wanted, although it did have the down side of making him even more unpopular with his classmates.
By the time Rodney got to college, his suspicions about both things and people had pretty much taken over. Only the fact that a couple of his professors were enough of a genius in their own right to challenge Rodney and keep him focused on his work prevented him from becoming outright paranoid.
Rodney also would make an effort to get along with others, in fits and starts. His sister Jeannie would nag him into doing things not related to his studies and Rodney would sometimes surprise himself by enjoying it. Museums were usually okay, musical concerts could go either way. After the first time, Jeannie learned not to take Rodney to lectures or documentaries, but science fiction films were usually entertaining since she also could laugh at the bad science with him. When Jeannie married that English major, Rodney took it personally and stopped talking to her. He also pretty much stopped going to museums and concerts and only watched films on TV.
The girls that would date Rodney always wanted something from him. Tutoring, papers, homework, any number of things. Once in a while one would feel guilty about what she was doing and let Rodney take her to bed, but rarely more than once. Not that Rodney was bad in bed, but he never stopped talking. Rodney wondered maybe if it was that he wasn't really interested in girls so he would date the occasional guy. He'd have to stop talking when he was giving a blow job, which he actually got quite good at it, but guys really didn't do much for him either.
By the time Rodney had earned his second PhD, he had pretty much given up on relationships. Physics was the only companion that was true to him. In its own way, it would laugh at Rodney, but he was used to being laughed at and with Physics he generally got the last laugh.
Afghanistan is where it all came together and all fell apart for John.
In Afghanistan, John learned that sometimes flying had a purpose – and not always a good one. Flying wasn't so pure anymore when you were being shot at. The adrenaline from working hard to stay alive was very different from the adrenaline from flying for the sheer joy of it. Both were addicting, but one could get you killed.
Afghanistan is also where John learned about teamwork. He had worked in groups before, carried his weight even. Never like this. The guys on your team were your lifeline and they depended on you as much as you depended on them. As the pilot, John was the responsible one. It was often his decision whether to fly or not – weather, terrain, condition of the 'chopper. John learned to think twice about taking chances when it was someone besides himself that might get killed. His guys learned to trust John's decisions on whether they flew or not. John learned to listen to his guys when they suggested he get a life.
Mitch and Dex were in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was nothing John could have done to save their lives. He didn't do anything wrong, which actually made him feel worse. John wasn't even there at the time, he was off on another mission. He came back to base to learn that they had been killed outside Kabul responding to a medical emergency.
So when Holland's 'chopper went down in hostile territory, it was a conscious decision on John's part to go after him and his crew alone. John wasn't going to get anyone else killed. He turned off the radio so he wouldn't hear the order to return to base. It was bad luck that cost him his 'chopper and even worse luck that the others died before John could get them out. At least this time there were bodies to send home. But that didn't save John from the black mark on his record – losing a helicopter while disobeying orders, even in an otherwise good cause, didn't make his superiors happy.
John had enough sense to take the assignment to Antarctica when it was offered to him. He knew it was that or leave the service and since he had nowhere else to go, Antarctica was as good a place to be as any. Flying scientists around started out really boring, but John figured it was time he quit looking for the adrenaline rush and Antarctica let him go cold turkey. He had fun asking questions of the scientists at McMurdo that showed he really did know something about what they were doing. The scientists were always glad for an audience and it made John relatively popular. To John, it was probably as close to having a life as he was going to get.
Then there was the incident with a general, a flying squid-shaped torpedo and a cool chair that glowed when he sat in it. It was enough of an adrenaline rush to get John hooked again. When the General suggested that he wanted John to go – to another galaxy! – with the expedition, John dithered enough to not seem too eager. For one thing, John always knew never to volunteer. But he never really did get that life that Mitch and Dex wanted him to have and maybe this would be it. Deep down, the truly sad part was that he still didn't have anywhere else to go and being wanted for this special gene thing was as maybe good as it was going to get.
Besides the gene thing, there were also lots of scientists going wherever it was they were going. McMurdo had taught him that scientists could be as much fun as pilots, so John was willing to give it a chance.
Stepping through the Stargate – that was way too cool – and arriving in Atlantis was like coming home for John. For the first time in forever he had someplace to be, somewhere he was wanted. That loud scientist guy, McKay, attached himself to John and they started exploring the city together. In spite of being loud and obnoxious, and usually right about everything, 'McKay' soon turned into 'Rodney' in John's head. He didn't even realize it had happened.
Rodney realized as an undergraduate that he'd end up working for the US government somewhere along the line. They were the only ones who were doing anything he was remotely interested in and some variation of the CIA guys he had met in sixth grade had kept in casual contact over the years. So while he was never popular, he kept his record clean and kept his mouth shut long enough to get recommendations from a couple of his professors to get a job working for the US Air Force at Area 51. Years later, Rodney figured the recommendations were their way of getting him to leave the university and not stick around and earn yet another PhD.
Area 51 was so close to everything that he wanted that Rodney immersed himself in his lab work. Everyone hated him pretty quickly, but they also went to him when they were stuck on their own projects. The one or two people who honestly tried to understand Rodney found themselves absent-mindedly rebuffed. It wasn't that Rodney wasn't interested, he liked sex as much as the next person, but he didn't realize what was happening until it was too late and they had given up on him.
When SGC called Rodney in to consult and he saw a real, honest-to-God-functioning Stargate for the first time, he almost came in his pants. Meeting Samantha Carter caused pretty much the same reaction. Sam Carter was – almost – as much a genius as he was, drop-dead gorgeous, had actually been through the Stargate and was so wrong, wrong, wrong about Teal'c being stuck in the buffer of the Stargate that Rodney was stunned. Rodney didn't pay enough attention to Jack O'Neill as he drooled over Sam Carter and found himself assigned to working for the Russians on naquadah generators instead of going back to Area 51. The scientists there were so pissed at the SGC about losing their DHD that they talked freely in front of Rodney about the Stargate. No one thought to ask if he actually had all the proper security clearances and by the time anyone realized, it was too late and the Russians and the Air Force had to retro-actively give Rodney clearance.
Rodney would never admit it, even to himself, but the stint in Russia was good for him. There was enough to do to be interesting – hello? Naquadah generators – but not so much that he could immerse himself totally in his work. He was curious enough about the Stargate program to take the time to listen to the others he worked with. In turn, someone would take pity on him and invite Rodney to a cultural event or even their homes, and with a thought about Jeannie, he would make himself go. As a bonus, there was some occasional casual sex thrown in from someone who actually didn't want anything from Rodney but sex. That was enough of an anomaly that Rodney didn't talk quite so much.
Rodney secretly suspected that Jack O'Neill – and if O'Neill could become a General Rodney figured his cat probably could, too – put Elizabeth Weir up to asking Rodney to go to Atlantis. O'Neill wanted to get Rodney away from Samantha Carter and sending him to another galaxy was one way to do it. Rodney really didn't mind since he ended up in charge of the scientific end of the expedition by default since he knew the most about Stargates, Ancient devices and everything else for that matter. When that Air Force guy sat in the control chair and all but made it stand up and dance, Rodney was immediately jealous, but relieved that someone who wasn't afraid of the chair would be coming with them.
Atlantis was Rodney's dream and nightmare come true. There was more Ancient technology than they would be able to understand in a lifetime – and there were the Wraith. Every discovery was tinged with concerns about power use and whether it could be used as a weapon.
It would take Rodney a long time before he would admit that Zelenka was just about as good as he was. Some of the other scientists needed to be prodded into shape, but even Rodney couldn't call any of them 'stupid.' Not that it stopped him from doing it anyways. Well, except maybe for Kavanaugh who wasn't intellectually stupid as much as even more socially challenged than Rodney.
Warrior and Wizard
John was not comfortable being the military commander of Atlantis after Sumner died but he saw the reality of his position. Leadership on this scale was not in John's plan, he just happened to be along for the ride. The problem was John understood enough of what they faced and Afghanistan had taught him enough about teamwork that he knew he could do it. Besides the people, he had a city – a planet – damn it, a galaxy – to protect.
The soldier dug deep into himself and the galaxy honed him. There were more enemies than friends to be found, that didn't seem fair, but they survived.
The Ancient database for the city was depressingly large and just as depressingly hard to search. There were too many times that they didn't find the information they desperately needed until after someone had died. The deaths of his – and they had become his – scientists shook Rodney to the core. He vowed to do what he could to protect them and if that took miracles on a regular basis, so be it.
It was together they found their stride. John had to coax Rodney to be on his team, but the opportunity to search for ZPMs was too good for Rodney to pass up. It was working together and believing in each other that re-created them. While each had experienced others depending on them for answers, no one had ever believed in them the way John and Rodney believed in each other. No matter what was said aloud, what happened between them, the faith they had in each other never wavered.
For Rodney, the transition in his head from 'Major' to 'Sheppard' to 'John' was gradual. The day Rodney realized he was looking forward to John coming to pry him out of the lab for the night, he freaked. When he looked up and saw faint worry lines around John's eyes, Rodney realized John was probably just as scared about this as he was and he relaxed. The night they both fell asleep watching a movie in Rodney's room it seemed natural to wake up together, entangled in each other. There might have been sex that morning, but they were already running late for a mission briefing, and the promise of it hung over their heads that day.
It was four days, what with meeting more enemies, finding one possible friend, bad weather and a wonky DHD all in one fell swoop. With Ronon and Teyla watching for ambush, it took both John and Rodney to get the DHD to work long enough to get back to Atlantis. John had an enforced overnight stay in the infirmary to deal with a nasty cut he got when handing crystals to Rodney. Then one of the biologists got trapped in a lab he was exploring and it took a combination of John setting up the C4 and Rodney knowing precisely where to put it to get him out. By the time John and Rodney had time to be alone together, they were way past nervous and into 'finally.'
It was as natural as breathing. They went from two individual people to one without conscious thought. John and Rodney commandeered larger quarters about six months later and no one commented overtly – most of the Atlantis residents figured they had been sleeping together for ages. John suspected the Marines were afraid he would set Ronon on them for more intense 'training' if they gave him any grief. Elizabeth gave them a hard look one day and when Rodney said "What?" at her, totally oblivious to the question she was not asking, she gave up and went on to the next worry.
People they knew and led and loved still died on their watch, this was Pegasus after all. Even regular runs by the Daedalus weren't the same as having the ship there all the time. John and Rodney knew they were doing more than anyone could ask, had pulled off miracles that had saved any number of lives, so they kept on. For this was home, this was their life and they were living it on their terms.
Flyboy and geek had turned themselves into soldier and scientist. Pegasus in turn transformed them to warrior and wizard. Yet, in the quiet times, they were still John and Rodney. That was enough.