Stellar

by The Grrrl

Title: Stellar

Author: The Grrrl

Author's email: thegrrrl2002@gmail.com

Author's URL: http://thegrrrl2002.slashcity.org

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Pairing: Mensa!John/Rod

Summary: MensaAU fic. Dr. Sheppard has no interest in working for the government. He's perfectly happy where he is, thank you very much.

Notes:Written for the "Getting To Know You" challenge at mensa_au. A great big thank you to chelle for looking it over and listening as I tried to figure out what the heck I wanted to write.

"Good job, John," the department chairman says, toasting him with the champagne. "I knew you'd do it."

John agrees. "I thought so, too. Piece of cake."

Although in reality, getting tenure was anything but. John finally realized he had to put aside the far-reaching work he was most passionate about, just to jump through their hoops. But achieving tenure was the only way he'd be free to focus on the real challenges of his field. The tenure committee probably had no idea of the work he was truly capable of, and he was going to blow everyone's minds when they realized it.

And boy, were they going to feel stupid for having nearly rejected his tenure bid when he achieves that Nobel Prize.

One step at a time, though. John smiles and makes his way around the room, accepting the congratulations of colleagues and students. He's going to enjoy the moment, having finally received his due, albeit in a small way.

"Dr. Sheppard, may I offer my congratulations?"

John doesn't recognize the man. He frowns at the stranger, wondering if he is a visiting professor whom John should know but doesn't. "Sure, thank you." He takes the extended hand and shakes it.

The grip is firm and warm. "Rod," the man says. "Rod McKay."

"Do I know you?" John asks. The man has very blue eyes, and is fairly attractive. John's sure he would have remembered having met him before.

The man smiles, as if John said something funny. "No, but you should."

"Right." Attractive or not, there's something annoying about the man's attitude.

"Sorry, sorry," the man holds up an apologetic hand. "Let me explain--we work in the same field, and I think we have a lot to talk about."

"And you're from--?"

"I work for the government."

Only hacks worked for the government.

"Oh, I see," John says. "Let me guess. NASA?" If this guy were any good, he'd be elsewhere. Doing real work.

Again, the man smiles. "No, not NASA. The Air Force, actually."

Even worse. The guy was some kind of engineer, most likely. "Yes, we should definitely talk sometime. But right now--I'm a little busy. Send me an email. I'm on the department web page." John pats the man on the shoulder and goes off to receive congratulations from an ancient dead-wood academic who John is sure voted against him.

***

A few weeks later John gets his first email from Rod. He's a little confused--he can't place the name at first, but then sees the '.gov' email address and remembers. Blue eyes, fluffy brown hair. Leather coat and firm handshake.

Rod wants to meet with him, of course. He's involved in a program that he knows John will be interested in. John just needs to sign the attached paperwork so they could talk freely.

John is not interested in government programs. He has grant proposals to write, classes to teach, graduate students to mentor. He's on five different faculty committees. He just had another manuscript rejected. There's a glitch in his simulation program that keeps making the supercomputer crash.

He sends a polite response to Rod, declining his offer, but Rod sends him another email, and then another, and soon there are voicemail messages to go with the emails. It's annoying and flattering all at the same time. Finally John agrees to meet with him. Heck, maybe he can finagle grant money out it. The military had tons of money, right? He needs money. He has students to support.

He needs more processor hours.

He agrees to meet Rod at a local coffee shop.

***

After coffee-buying and polite preliminaries, Rod gets to the point. "This is big. Bigger than big. It will blow your mind. Things you can't possibly imagine--this is what you need to be doing with your life, not wasting your time on little projects here."

"Little projects?"

"You see," Rod puts his coffee down and looks thoughtful. "It's as if you are wearing blinders right now, and you only see what's directly in front on you."

John sips his coffee and glares.

"Just a little piece of the puzzle. When out there--out there is everything else and you need to see it, and you need to be working in that kind of space, not this one." Rod pinches his thumb and forefinger together, indicating John's supposed tiny little perspective on time and space.

"Oh really?" Rod, John decides, is not attractive at all. He's kind of irritating.

Rod nods excitedly. He pushes the papers in front of John. "You don't have to decide right away. But sign the agreements, and I can show you things that will make up your mind for you."

"How could you possibly know what I should be doing?" John demands, ignoring the papers in front of him.

Rod smiles an ingratiating smile. "Trust me."

"I don't even know you. How can I trust you?"

"John--"

"It's Dr. Sheppard. And why would I leave my job now? They don't give tenure to just anyone here, you should know that."

"Of course, I didn't mean to imply--"

John remembers that yes, while he does have tenure, things haven't gotten any easier for him. "Okay, why don't we talk about some ideas, I'm sure we can come up with a way to work together, one that will be mutually beneficial--"

"No, no, no, it doesn't work like that," Rod interrupts.

"Listen, right now I've got my hands full, classes, and I'm revising a manuscript I have to get out--"

"Plus you have a presentation for the annual meeting in Florida in two weeks time, and you are writing that grant application for equipment money, and you're spending a lot of your time building a serially linked processor that should help with some of your smaller calculations. You're a very hard worker. Driven, one might say."

"Yes, one might say that," John acknowledges with a quick nod. "Hold it, how do you know all that?"

"We've done a thorough background check on you." Rod taps the papers. "You should be aware that we don't make this offer to just anyone."

"A background check?" A chill runs through John. His sexuality is not entirely a secret, but he's kept it quiet, especially with the whole tenure decision. It doesn't matter now, of course, he has tenure; they can't take it away, not for that, but still.

Rod leans forward, again with the apologetic smile. "John--excuse me, Dr. Sheppard, please--"

"Been real nice talking with you." John says in a tone that indicates it was anything but. "Gotta go." He grabs his coat and escapes.

***

He's not really surprised when Rod attends his presentation in Florida. It all goes well and John is feeling good, so he sits in the hotel bar and talks with Rod again, having gotten over his initial dismay about the intrusion of his privacy. For his part, Rod is carefully polite. It's almost charming. He talks to John about his presentation, asking surprisingly pointed questions. It turns into a spirited discussion and to John's delight Rod actually gets it, sees where John is going and John realizes how much he misses having someone on the same page with him.

Despite his initial belief, the Rod isn't a hack at all. John had checked his publication record. He had had potential; authored some rather intriguing papers early on, but he hasn't published in years. Top secret stuff, John supposes.

No way would he ever agree to that. To not get the recognition one deserves is out of the question.

John feels almost regretful.

***

They meet again, a few weeks after John gets back. John has no idea if Rod is in town on some other business, or whether Rod flies in just to see him.

And when Rod sits next to John, his leg brushes against John's leg, and maybe it lingers just a little too long. John gives him a long hard look over the edge of his cup. It's possible Rod is flirting with him. Wooing him, maybe, with more than just the promise of science.

It should piss him off, but it doesn't. It's actually rather nice for a change. Rod sprawls in his chair like he doesn't have a care in the world, meeting and accepting John's scrutiny. Then, with an easy grin, he says "I've observed the particles. I have hard data on them."

"That's impossible." John puts his cup down. "You did not."

"Hard." Rod says, and John's eyebrows rise.

"Data," Rod finishes, after a suitable pause.

A pause that could mean anything.

"It is not. The data. You can't observe--" And John is too flustered to finish. He has no idea what he's doing, but there's something about that smile that gets under his skin and it's possible he's in over his head and is Rod being suggestive?

"I can show you. I can show you all kinds of things." Rod's voice has become downright seductive. "If you sign a few papers."

John's cell phone rings, startling them both. He's late for a committee meeting. It had been rescheduled, and he had forgotten about it completely.

The department chair does not sound pleased.

As John gets up, Rod reaches out and stops him with a hand on his arm. "John," he says, "Think about it. Is this what you really want out of life? How much of your time is spent doing actual science?"

It hits too close to home. John pulls his arm away. "I have to go, okay?"

He's aware of Rod's eyes on him as he leaves.

***

It's the third time John's submitted the manuscript, and he knows as soon as he sees the email, it's been rejected again. First Nature, then Science, now Physical Review Letters.

They don't understand. They're too dim-witted to understand that John has it right, and they all have it wrong.

The other professors make sympathetic noises, and some of them might actually be sincere. His students bring him donuts, and agree that the review committee are a bunch a brain-dead, dogma-worshipping imbeciles who wouldn't know a scientific truth if it bit them in the ass.

But in the end it's John, alone in his office late at night, staring at the equations and wondering why no one else believes in them.

***

When John gets a thick envelope from Rod, he tosses it on his kitchen table and ignores it for five days, believing that it is some kind of paperwork. Reprints, maybe, or some other sort of advertising material, intended to seduce him to the government side of research.

John's still not interested, but he thinks that he would like to meet with Rod again. Rod's actually pretty bright. Rod would respect his ideas. Rod has broad shoulders and quick hands that give John a little thrill every time they move.

And sometimes, Rod acts a little flirty with him.

It's been a long time since John has had time for anything other than work.

On Saturday, when John's straightening up his apartment, he unearths the envelope from the pile of mail on the table. He opens it as he heads for the trash. Then stops short.

It's his manuscript, the one he electronically submitted to the journal.

Corrected.

The scrawled note across the top reads "Not bad--you were pretty close. But you had Beckwith's constant all wrong. And your assumption in equation 17 is mistaken."

John's chest feels like it's being squeezed tight. "Son of a bitch."

He can't believe the arrogance of the man. His work--Rod had gotten access to his confidential work, through illegal means, of course. John is going to sue the journal. Maybe the Air Force, too. And maybe Rod, personally. After he takes Rod down a few notches by pointing out how abysmally, completely and utterly wrong he is.

John drops everything, pulls out his laptop and gets to work.

Thirty-six hours later John's eyes feel like they've been sandpapered. His back hurts and his wrist aches and his mind is going around in circles and he can't prove that Rod is wrong. John gets up from the table and paces around the apartment. Rod's numbers lead to all kinds of tantalizing possibilities, answers to questions that haven't even been fully articulated yet and no way could Rod know what he claims to know.

When he sits back down again, he has a new email in his inbox. It's brief and to the point.

You've been on line a long time--you must be getting tired. Take a break, get some sleep, and meet me for coffee tomorrow morning at eight.

John hates Rod with the heat of a thousand suns.

***

The next morning he signs the papers.

***

John sits in the control chair and the room lights up all around him. Rod looks awestruck, but at this point nothing surprises John anymore. The week has been like Christmas and Thanksgiving and Halloween all rolled into one.

"Did I do that?" John asks, even though he knows very well that he did. He sees the flash of envy on Rod's face and bites back a grin.

"Think of where we are in the universe," Rod tells him.

And the stars realign, just for John.

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