cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

Slash fic: "Mnemonic" by cupidsbow

Title: Mnemonic, or Four Ways John Sheppard Didn't Lose His Mind
Author: cupidsbow
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: R
Warning: Some dark themes (I know that's vague--they're implied rather than overt)
Disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowed.
For: svmadelyn's Cuff 'Em, Vamp 'Em, or Just Make 'Em Come Already Kink and Cliché Multi-Fandom Challenge, with the prompt of "Amnesia."
Note: There's now a remix of the first story: Mnemonic (One Man Army Mix) by rokeon.


1. Sojourner

Of course, Elizabeth had heard the rumours before. Lorne had reported on the vague whispers his team had gathered from one or two of their less sophisticated trading partners, and the anthropologists had collected a handful of disjointed anecdotes from the broken, helpless peoples Atlantis gave humanitarian aid to in the wake of Wraith attack. Elizabeth hadn't paid much attention to any of the stories at the time, though--none of the expedition had paid much attention--having enough to deal with in terms of their own survival and the usual research-related problems, not to mention the latest political maneuvering at the SGC which was rapidly heading towards crisis point once more.

All that changed when a group of Athosians--gone off-world to visit extended family on Karrigondria--came home bearing more than gifts. Along with the sacks of grain, ripe fruits, and fuzzy, tartan-weave blankets, they returned with the gospel of a new religion: spilling over with tales of a man who was taking the fight to the Wraith and winning. Tales of people on six, ten, no a dozen worlds escaping Wraith culling; of darts exploding across the skies like puffs of glowing dandelion-seed borne on hurricane winds; of a man who could stand before a Wraith with just a knife and his wits and be the only one to walk away.

Sojourner, the Athosians called him; his name echoing around the mess, passing from mouth to mouth like an air-blown kiss:

"Sojourner isn't like other men. He's as tall as a giant--"

"...the dart fell from the sky, landing right at Sojourner's feet, like a dog cowering before its master, and then he tamed it, made it open to him, made it fly for him..."

"--as tall as Ronon--"

"...he's like the blade of a well-made knife: beautiful to look upon, but never to be touched by careless hands..."

"--no, taller!"

"...and then Sojourner touched the gate once, like so, and it obeyed him, and would not open to let the fleeing Wraith past, and then he held his arms wide and the very air burst aflame with his anger and the Wraith turned to ash when his words touched their ears..."

None of the Athosians had actually seen Sojourner themselves, but even Halling, usually so balanced and full of gravitas, was lit up on the inside, as though he believed every impossible word the others spoke.

Rodney sat with a half-eaten pudding cup in front of him, looking at Elizabeth as the words swirled around them, eyes filled with that same glow of impossible hope, his shoulders lifting from the dejected slump he'd worn every day for the last eleven months.

After a particularly gory tale of a hundred Wraith being lured into danger and then buried alive under a Sojourner-triggered avalanche, Rodney leaned towards her and said, "So-journ-er. Is it just me, or does that sound a lot like..."

The crazy thing was, it wasn't just Rodney. She'd been thinking the exact same thing.

He said, "If this guy can make Ancient tech work, just by touching it, he has to have the ATA gene, and that's not in the native population..."

He said, "Tall and beautiful. What are the odds!"

And, "God, what if he didn't die, Elizabeth? What if he has a head injury? What if he's lost his memory?"

And, finally, after the Athosians had all left on the shuttle for the mainland, he followed Elizabeth into her office and said, "We should at least go and look, right? I mean, this is Pegasus. If anyone can cheat a fiery, explosive death, lose his memory, and become some scarily charismatic anti-Wraith cult leader, it's John. Right?" Rodney waved his hands wildly, cheeks pink, eyes shining; he was looking at her as though he couldn't believe she'd ever say, "No," to him. Not about this. "I know it's a leap, I know it's probably not him, but we have to at least look. We owe it to him to look. Leave no man behind and all that. You're with me on this, right?"

Elizabeth let out a weary sigh and rubbed a hand through her hair, vainly trying to relieve the tension pressing against her temples like a vise. She had been a leader for a long time; she knew what her answer had to be, knew just how destructive false hope would be to the expedition after they'd all said their goodbyes and moved on. She groped for the right words, some tactful way to speak the bitter refusal that was sticking in her throat; trying to soften it, lessen the blow that she knew would crush Rodney the moment she spoke.

She reached out, folding her hand into Rodney's, wanting to offer him at least the simple comfort of touch.

His eyes were round and guiless as he waited. After a moment, he gently brushed at the wetness on her cheeks with two work-roughened fingers. "Say, 'Yes,' Elizabeth."

And then, even with the first syllable of denial trembling in her throat, a wild, effervescent bubble exploded in her chest, and from a long way away she could hear her own voice saying, "Yes, yes. Oh God, Rodney, yes. We have to look. We have to at least look," and when he pulled her into his arms and hugged her tight, Elizabeth could almost bring herself to believe that there was some chance that everything would finally, finally be all right again.

* * *

2. The Prodigal

"What are you doing?" Rodney demanded, even though he could see exactly what John was doing. It was disbelief that kept him still for the few seconds it took John to cross the temple, and John didn't even need to use one of his combat moves to press him back against the rough, cold stone of the wall. Rodney went with it, tense but unresisting; he'd spent too long trusting John to just stop.

"You know what I'm doing, Rodney."

Over John's shoulder, Rodney could see the Priestess kneeling on the floor before the temple's altar. Her pupils were blown, and her eyes seemed like twin black holes as she stared at John. She rocked back and forth, back and forth, arms crossed over her chest, whispering, "Yonah, Yonah."


Earlier that evening, Rodney had made sarcastic comments in an undertone to John all the way through dinner, in counterpoint to the Priestess's narration of the story of the planet's God, Yonah, who had run away from his father's wrath ten millennia ago. Rodney had been more interested in the seafood dumplings, and the strange energy reading coming from the temple, than in some primitive mythos about a once and future God, who would supposedly return to liberate his people from the Wraith once he got over his daddy issues.

Admittedly, Rodney had paused between one bite of the burnt-sugar pudding and the next, sharing a significant look with John, when the Priestess got to the part where Yonah had supposedly left a holy relic embedded in the wall of the temple, just waiting for the day he returned. It was this probably-apocryphal power source that Rodney had snuck into the temple to scan for, despite the prohibition of the Priestess when he'd asked for permission after dinner.

The not-so-apocryphal power source was currently circling the crown of John's head like a neon-blue wreath of Caesar, making Rodney's scanner whine in the teeth-grating nirp, nirp that only ZPMs and refined naquada usually triggered.

"It's a just myth," Rodney stuttered. "What have you... John, you're not..."

John leaned forward, nuzzling the side of Rodney's face, making Rodney's breath hitch and his whole body flush with want, as though John had just flicked a switch somewhere deep inside him, as though it was that easy to turn him on.

"I'm sorry," John said, the words a warm tickle of breath near Rodney's ear that sent an arrow of arousal straight down to his cock. "I'm so sorry, Rodney, but you can't know this yet."

When John kissed him, the scanner fell out of Rodney's hand, and for one electrifying moment Rodney understood exactly what was about to happen--

--that the universe was swirling around him in a rainbow-coloured whirlwind of matter and space, and to change the pattern, to create a new shape, all John had to do was reach out into it with his deft hands and redirect the flow, make one tiny little twitch, just so--

--and then he was kissing John back, both hands tangled in the soft nap of John's hair, John's mouth fervent against his own, hot and sweet and so long wanted.

"Oh God, I've wanted you so long," Rodney panted into the taut hollow beneath John's jaw. "I never thought this would happen." His fingers clutched and stroked John's hair as though looking for something, as though expecting something to inhibit their progress; but there was nothing to stop Rodney from touching John all he wanted, nothing but the smooth, perfect circle of John's skull cradled in the curve of Rodney's restless hands.

"I know," John said, and a trick of the temple's acoustics made his voice sound a little sad. "I've wanted you, too. All my life."

Rodney moaned. "You can't just say that and expect me to stay sane. Bed. Now."

John "Mmmmmmed" in agreement, then added, "Before that Priestess comes in and has us lynched for blasphemy or something," and they inched along the wall towards the door, still kissing, not wanting to let each other go.

At the skitter of the scanner--kicked sideways by their shuffling feet--Rodney murmured against John's neck, "What were you doing in here, anyway?"

John slowly peeled himself away and bent over to pick it up, automatically pressing the Save button on the disappointingly low power readings. "Security check," he replied as he straightened. "I knew you'd be by." He waggled the scanner meaningfully at Rodney, before sliding it into the pocket of Rodney's pants. He took his time with it, letting his hand linger.

Rodney shuddered all over, and John's eyes were heavy-lidded as he smiled at Rodney's reaction; smiled in a way that made Rodney forget everything but his need to strip John naked and fuck and fuck and fuck.

Rodney took John's hand and impatiently pulled him through the temple door and out into the crisp night air. "And were there any dangerous security breaches?" he managed to ask, more out of habit than any real curiosity, and without much bite to his sarcasm.

"Only you," John said, twining his fingers with Rodney's as they climbed down the stairs. "Only you."

* * *

3. A Shepherd in Wolf's Skin

The fresh-faced scientist straight off the Daedelus stammered out, "Excuse me."

Sheppard lifted an amused eyebrow, no longer used to scientists bothering with the social niceties, and stepped away from the transporter doors, letting her through.

The woman said, "Thank you, Colonel," and sidled past, heading towards the zoology labs.

Sheppard didn't bother watching her walk away, even though he was pretty sure she had an ass well worth watching; things were going well--more than well--with Rodney right now, and Sheppard really didn't need to deal with one of his jealous fits because of something as inane as idle ass-ogling. Somehow, Rodney always knew, so these days Sheppard only did it when he wanted to piss Rodney off.

He stepped into the transporter and pressed the button for the corridor nearest his office. The transporter hummed, unconstituted and reconstituted him, and spat him out at his destination. He headed out with a spring in his step, bestowing a smile universally on the other people in the corridor, his body loose, joints well-oiled, without any sign of the slight twinge of the pain that too often plagued him these days. Today's work-out with Ronon had been a thing of beauty, one of those magical sessions when his body moved through space exactly as he willed it to, and he was high on endorphins and being alive.

The marines he passed straightened their shoulders a little, perhaps in response to the smile; the civilians smiled back, even as they continued to debate their latest theories about this and that. It was a well-used corridor, and half of Atlantis seemed to be bustling along. Sheppard felt a proprietary thrill: these were his people, good people, and sometimes it still shocked him how right it felt to be one of them.

A few feet further on, Sheppard turned left and entered his office; the door already open and waiting for him, the lights already on. He trailed a hand along the wall as he moved to his desk, and beneath his fingers he could feel the thrum of the city pulsing in time with the familiar, bee-like buzz inside his head. At a thought, the lights dimmed and the window slid open, letting in a wash of salt-laden air. He breathed in deeply as he dropped into his chair and swung his feet up to rest on the edge of his desk. Then, with some reluctance, he prodded his laptop awake.

The computer screen flickered to life and a small pop-up window informed him that he had new mail. This was expected: the weekly SGC transmission had been scheduled to take place while Sheppard had been in the training room. He clicked open the mail reader and scanned the subject lines of the messages queued in his inbox. Nothing seemed particularly urgent, so he started at the top and worked his way through them, trashing most straight away, forwarding a few to Rodney or Elizabeth or Lorne, sending a quick 'Yes' or 'No' to others, and leaving a couple that needed longer responses.

There was nothing unusual about "Memo: Off-world Trading Review," and he scanned it with his finger poised to click the Delete button. Half way through, he jerked to a halt, his attention riveted to the screen. The rest of the world dwindled from his awareness, and his heart rabbited in his chest with a sudden surge of adrenaline.

Between a paragraph on the importance of minimalising cultural contamination in pre-industrial societies, and a dot-point list of the guidelines recently passed by the SGC Oversight Committee, there was a line of text which looked like an error. It read:


As the words soaked into his cortex, Sheppard's body convulsed. It was so violent that the office chair rolled out from under him, dumping him onto the floor. He landed hard, and lay there twitching, his fingers scrabbling at the floor's textured polymer surface.

His mouth opened, but he made no sound. His legs thrashed, sending the trash can skittering across the room, spilling candy wrappers and the dead stems of a bunch of flowers Teyla had bought back from the mainland last week. With an effort, he managed to get his hand within an inch of his communicator before his muscles locked into place.

All movement ceased, then, and he lay still, eyes unseeing, while inside his head Atlantis's buzz was drowned out by the escalating violence of his own thoughts.

Barely three minutes later, it ended. Gingerly, he sat up, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. His head hurt like a sonofabitch.

John really hated this part. Wolfskin had only been activated twice before, and he had forgotten, of course, exactly how much he hated the process. He shook his head, once, viciously, and the last, tenacious tendrils of the Sheppard persona lost the fight to retain control of John's body, settling reluctantly into his subconscious.

Using the edge of the desk for support, John levered himself up. He flexed his hands, shaking out the residual tremor, then drew his side-arm, checked it, and reholstered it. That done, he opened the desk drawer and took out the extra clip he kept there, sliding it into his pocket as he considered his options. A handgun alone wasn't going to cut it; he needed additional supplies. His gaze fell on the computer screen and the Trust's message. He snapped the laptop shut without bothering to delete it--if his mission failed, Rodney would be able to reconstruct his inbox no matter what John did. No point wasting the time.

At the thought of Rodney, the Sheppard persona stirred again, clawing for control. John staggered, but fought the attack off without much effort. Still, it was time to move out, before Sheppard managed to find some chink in his defences.

When he got to the door, it stayed closed.

John reached out with both hands, smoothing them over the cool surface, echoing the gesture with his mind. He stroked the city, coaxing her, and after a moment the doors slowly stuttered half-way open.

John smiled, said, "Thank you, sweetheart," and stepped through, headed for the armory and the additional weapons he'd need to complete his mission.

* * *

4. Future Shock

John stood very still, gripping the balcony railing hard with both hands, trying to empty his mind of everything but the cry of gulls and the white noise of the ocean.

The door swished open behind him; without turning to look, John knew it was Rodney. When the door swished shut again, it silenced the distant hub-bub of heated scientific debate which had followed Rodney onto the balcony.

"They're all morons," Rodney said, coming to stand next to John. He put his hands on the railing, and despite everything, there was something very reassuring about the sight of Rodney's broad, capable hands resting side by side with John's.

Below them, the sea slapped against the city's baffles in a gentle rhythm, and the sun was low enough in the sky that it was beginning to stain the thin band of clouds on the horizon.

Rodney shrugged a shoulder towards the lab and his minions. "They have no imagination." His face was earnest and less smug than usual when he looked at John; perhaps even a little apprehensive. "I would reassure you that we'll fix this, but it seems redundant under the circumstances." He laughed, brief and uneasy. "Or maybe you could reassure me."

"You figure out how to turn off the device," said John, keeping his gaze fixed on the horizon, seeing Rodney's frown only with his peripheral vision.

"Okay, that's still creepy. And less reassuring than I would have thought." Rodney didn't say anything else for a moment, just stood beside him, thinking; John knew it wouldn't take him long to figure it out. And sure enough, a few minutes later: "Is turning the device off enough to reverse the effect?"

John smiled, and despite his best efforts at keeping it casual, keeping his ever-growing panic at bay, he was pretty sure the smile came out shark-like: not enough deprecation and too many teeth. "Nope. Everything I remember now, I remember after you turn it off."

"Fuck," said Rodney. "That's bad. That's so bad."

"No fucking kidding," John snapped.

"Right, right. Sorry," said Rodney. He cautiously put a hand on John's forearm. "Can you, I don't know, stop thinking? Limit the number of memories?"

Rodney's touch was too much, shattering the last of John's control. He attacked: twisting his arm beneath Rodney's grip, reversing it, so that his hand was on top. Then, ignoring the squawk of protest, John stepped right into Rodney's space and body-checked him until his back was pressed up hard against the railing.

"And how exactly do you suggest I do that?" John demanded, letting go of Rodney's arm, but caging him, a hand on the railing on either side of his body. "If you had amnesia for half your life, and then suddenly remembered the other half, would you be able to stop thinking about it? Seriously, Rodney, if you have any handy tips about how not to remember the future, now would be the time to share. Because I'd really rather not know that I die of fucking pneumonia at the ripe old age of fifty-eight, or that Elizabeth gets impeached for human rights violations after we win the goddamn war with the Wraith, or that Radek loses an eye, or that you--"

John forced himself to stop, and the silence stretched out between them.

Just as the sun kissed the horizon, Rodney moved, tilting his head back so that he could meet John's gaze dead-on. He was wearing his most stubborn expression: pure 100% Rodney McKay. "Tell me. I want to know." His breath was warm against John's cheek; he probably didn't mean it as an invitation, but it felt like one. "What happens to me?"

John pressed forward that final quarter-inch, so that their bodies were touching pretty much everywhere; he rested his forehead against Rodney's. "Lots and lots of really hot sex, actually, and I gotta tell you, I'm kind of liking those memories. They almost make up for all the really shitty ones."

"John," Rodney blurted out, sounding terrified; all the stubbornness wiped away, just like that. "Don't... please don't do this if you're not serious..." His hard-on was hot against John's, he was panting, and his hands were clenching and unclenching against John's sides as though he was trying not to touch.

It was exactly the way John remembered, and he shivered in anticipation, because next--

Rodney's hips jerked forward and he moaned, the sound raw and uncontrolled. "Okay, I don't care if you don't mean it, just... Can we do this? Now. Because I really need to do this right now." And his hands were on John's ass, pulling him closer, making the friction of clothes and bodies and dicks exquisitely, painfully good.

"Now," John agreed, and kissed Rodney as though it were the first time--soft and slow and a little tentative--as though John didn't already know exactly how it would feel.

* * *

Author's Note: I usually get stories for challenges beta-read, but I came down with the flu a few days before the deadline for the Cliché Challenge, so I've broken that rule this time around. If you spot anything dodgy, please tell me.

Also, as a lot of you will already know, I don't have internet access at home, and do most of my posting at work when it's quiet. Because my access is so spotty, sometimes I don't get a chance to answer all the lovely comments people leave.

I do read all comments--I download them to disk and read them offline at home, often more than once, and they give me a lot of joy. So to all of you who have ever taken the time to leave a comment: thank you. I can't even begin to express how much happiness you've given me over the years, but I hope it's something like the pleasure my stories have given to you.
Tags: fiction, sga

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