“I want McKay.”
There was a sudden silence in the hangar as everyone turned to stare at the man who had spoken.
Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard was new to the Atlantis base – new to the entire Jaeger program, after he’d accidentally activated the drift-calibrator while delivering supplies to the SGC. His subsequent drift tests were off the charts, but so far they hadn’t actually been able to get him behind the controls.
He had only just started basic training when they’d lost the Colonel Sumner to a level-five kaiju and suddenly John was the ranking military officer. He’d tested compatible with Ford and Teyla, but hadn’t been able to fully drift with either of them, always trying to control too much of the jaeger and breaking the connection.
In his downtime, John had been hanging around the labs, showing a surprising skill for advanced mathematics and a sound understanding of mechanical engineering, along with the much more useful talent for being able to distract Rodney from angering the other scientists enough that they wanted to actually hurt him. Rodney had tried to steal him for the science department, but they desperately needed to get their jaeger back into action and John was by far their best pilot.
Frustrated, Elizabeth had demanded that John choose his own partner – but no one had been expecting that particular answer.
Rodney found his voice first. “Are you insane?” he demanded. “No, don’t answer that, Sheppard, because clearly you are. I’m an engineer, remember?”
“I remember,” John drawled. “I also remember you’re the genius who designed that thing. Which could come in handy out there.”
“And how am I going to fix anything if I’m plugged into the controls?” Rodney protested.
“Not a lot you can fix in the middle of the ocean, from there or from here,” said John. “But with a pilot and an engineer, we can use Puddle Jumper to her full advantage.”
“That’s an excellent idea, John,” said Elizabeth. “You can get started immediately.”
“I know you have drift ability, Rodney,” she interrupted, gently. “You insisted on putting your test results on file.”
John caught his elbow. “C’mon, McKay.”
Rodney allowed himself to be towed out of the hanger and into the corridor that led to the training rooms. He frowned when John pulled them to a stop just after the first corner. “What?”
The pilot’s expression softened. “Hey,” he said. “I’m not above blatant manipulation, but I’m not going to make you do this if you really don’t want to.”
“I didn’t say that,” Rodney protested. “But you don’t know what you’re asking.”
“I know exactly what I’m asking,” John insisted. “We’re friends, Rodney. Or, at least, I thought we were. You understand me better than anyone ever has.”
“The drift isn’t about understanding, colonel. It’s about surrender. It’s about taking everything you are and just… handing it over to another person.”
Rodney hadn’t realized how tense his shoulders were until John curled his hands around them, holding tight.
“No, buddy, of course it’s not,” he said. “It’s about partnership. That’s why I couldn’t make it work with Ford or Teyla. They’re good, but I’m still their commanding officer. I couldn’t give up the responsibility, I kept worrying that they were just following orders.”
“And you don’t worry that about me?” Rodney asked.
John smiled. “I rely on your ability to tell me exactly what kind of idiot you think I am.”
“Drift with me, Rodney,” the pilot said, his voice a low rumble.
“I…” Rodney began, then swallowed hard. “Okay, please tell me I am not reading that tone all wrong?”
“Are you getting that I want you to kiss me?” said John. “Because I was really hoping you’d pick up on that.”
“Oh,” said Rodney. “I’m usually terrible at reading human social cues. If you want any kind of consistent results moving forward, you’re going to have to be less subtle.”
“Hey, Rodney,” said John, leaning close enough that the scientist could see the flecks of green in his hazel eyes.
“I – Okay,” Rodney mumbled, and titled his head up to press their lips together.
The need for air broke them apart, but John didn’t go far. One of his hands had stayed on Rodney’s shoulder, and the other had found its way under the scientist’s t-shirt, where his thumb traced idle patterns on bare skin.
“Drift with me, Rodney,” repeated John.
“Okay,” said Rodney, and kissed him again.
(And when they finally did go down to Carson’s lab to test the drift, it was less like the ‘handshake’ they called it and more like that kiss all over, like John had always been missing from Rodney’s mind and now he was complete.
“Cool,” said John, and Rodney agreed.)