hesternic (hesternic) wrote,

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Candy Floss: McShep AU Fanfic

Title: Candy Floss
Author: Hesternic
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Summary: In an Alternate Universe, Rodney runs away from the SGC to join the circus, instead of going on the Atlantis mission. Then he meets a handsome motorcycle stunt driver who teaches him that love can conquer fear.
Word Count: approx. 6000
Warning: Clowns, Songvids
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: None
Beta: Rusty Armour
Disclaimer: The corporation that actually owns these characters would never let them run away to join the circus. So, I had to help them escape.

"Candy Floss" Soundtrack Playlist

Candy Floss

Rodney McKay stomped his way along the dusty paths of the fairground in the hot midday sun. The roustabouts were putting up the marquee tents for the show that night, but Rodney was focused on getting to the mess tent for lunch, before all the blue jello was gone. In this late August heat, even jello might melt.

As he hurried along, Rodney noticed a new guy among the circus crew. This wasn’t unusual. Carnies are a nomadic lot, and the staff of this circus tended to change with each engagement, as local people drifted in and out. One more ‘bit of rough’ on the roster was not that surprising.

But Rodney was struck by the sight of this new stranger. He was tall, dark, and lean, and he had his shirt off to work in the blistering summer heat. His tanned shoulders bunched with ropey muscle as he swung his sledgehammer efficiently at the massive tent pegs that held the guy wires of the Big Top in place. His hair was blue-black in the bright sunlight, and it stuck up in tufty spikes despite the wilting humidity of the day. Dark stubble coated his cheeks in a shadow that looked well past 5 o’clock, even this early in the day, giving him a slightly dangerous air.

Rodney was mesmerized by the sun glinting off the man’s sweat-covered back. The stranger turned his head and caught Rodney staring, but he seemed unconcerned by the scrutiny and flashed Rodney a casual smile, accompanied by a slight nod of acknowledgement. His hazel-green eyes glinted with amusement.

Rodney nodded back, a tad embarrassed. Then, from behind him, he heard someone shout, “Look out!”

Turning, Rodney looked up to see the main tent-pole – a massive timber over 40 feet in height – falling directly towards him. He froze in place, his eyes glued to the falling pole. He felt the shock of something solid strike him, knocking him off his feet to sprawl on his back on the dusty ground. Rodney looked to his side and saw the giant tent-pole thump to earth, harmlessly, a few feet away from him. And then he realized that what had hit him was not the pole, but a body. A very firm, half-naked body. The dark stranger who had been wielding the sledgehammer had executed a flying tackle to knock Rodney out of harm’s way.

“Y’okay there, buddy?” the stranger drawled with a slight American twang. His weight was still atop Rodney’s torso, and his handsome face was very close to Rodney’s startled blue eyes.

“Yes … uh … thanks,” stammered Rodney.

The man hopped nimbly to his feet and extended a hand down to Rodney to help him up. Rodney took the proffered hand and righted himself.

Without letting go, the stranger shifted his grip into a handshake and introduced himself.

“John Sheppard -- I’m new around here. ”

[Technical Note: If any of the embedded videos below refuse to play, and you get a message that says, "We're sorry, this video is no longer available", try refreshing the page. All the vids should then be available again to play.]

“Roustabout” sung by Elvis Presley

“Rodney McKay,” he replied, releasing the hand that still clasped his.

“Oh, McKay the Magnificent!” Sheppard said, nodding to a poster advertising Rodney’s magic act.

“Well… yes… um… ‘Magnificent’ is just a traditional appellation in the magicians’ world, and, besides, it makes a nice alliteration…” Rodney trailed off, his face turning a bit pink.

“I’m sure the moniker is appropriate,” Sheppard said, straight-faced and sincere. “In fact, I was thinking of coming to see your show tonight, before my act.”

“Your act?” Rodney repeated, bemused.

“Oh, yeah – I should have mentioned – I’m the new motorcycle stunt driver,” Sheppard replied.

Christ, thought Rodney, who does this guy think he is? Evil Knievil? The previous motorcycle rider had broken his leg a week ago and had had to drop out of the tour. It looked like they’d found someone foolhardy enough to volunteer as a replacement.

“My last show isn’t till eleven. If you’re finished your magic act by then, why don’t you drop by and see me do my thing?” Sheppard invited.

“Uh, yeah, maybe,” Rodney prevaricated.

“Great,” said Sheppard. “See you later tonight, then.” And he turned to retrieve his sledgehammer.

Rodney continued on to the mess tent, trying not to show how much the near miss had shaken him.


Later that day, Rodney was resting in his trailer, wishing it was air-conditioned, and biding his time until he had to go on stage for his magic act that night. As he lay there in the late afternoon heat, he heard a knock on the trailer door. He got up and opened the door to find Sheppard standing there.

Sheppard had obviously just stepped out of the shower. His spiky black hair was damp, and his previously scruffy stubble had been freshly shaven to reveal a strong, clean jawline. He was wearing faded and snug-fitting jeans and a simple black t-shirt. Even from Rodney’s cautious distance, Sheppard smelled of soap and shampoo, and, underneath, a scent more integral to the man himself – just the faintest hint of something spicy and sweet – carnations? Oh, seriously, come on, thought Rodney, this boy even smells like flowers!

“Hi!” said Sheppard, smiling up at Rodney. “I was wondering if you’d like to go out for a little while before our acts start. You know, stroll along the midway, get something to eat?” he invited.

“The midway?” Rodney repeated, reflexively making a grimace of distaste.

“Yeah, it’ll be fun,” said Sheppard. “Besides, I just saved your life today, so I figure the least you could do is show me around the place, make me feel welcome.”

“Oh, okay,” Rodney sighed, relenting less than graciously. “Just give me a sec.”

Rodney headed into the tiny bathroom of his trailer, where he brushed his teeth and splashed cool water on his face, in an attempt to look presentable. He stripped off his grimy “I’m with Genius” t-shirt, with its arrow pointing upward towards his own face, and replaced it with a plain, clean, baby blue one.

“Ready,” Rodney said, stepping out of the trailer to where Sheppard waited patiently in the lengthening shadows of the fading day, his hands in the back pockets of his jeans.

“Great,” said Sheppard, “Let’s go.”

The two men headed off towards the lights and noise of the midway.

"That Song about the Midway" by Joni Mitchell

Rodney hadn’t actually spent any time on the midway since joining the circus and he didn’t really know his way around. So, he just followed Sheppard’s natural lead. Sheppard didn’t know where he was headed either, but he had a confident way of moving, even when he was just wandering.

“So,” said Sheppard, “how did you wind up joining the circus?”

Rodney hesitated, as if thinking how to avoid the question.

“Running away from something?” Sheppard joked.

“Yeah, you could say that, I guess,” mumbled Rodney, failing to elaborate. Yeah, he thought, I was running for my life.

Rodney had joined the circus almost by accident. He’d been on the run from the American military. He’d been a top scientist with the Stargate program and he’d gone AWOL, just when they’d asked him to go to the Pegasus Galaxy to head the science team in the lost city of Atlantis. It was a post he had originally coveted – the post he had believed he deserved – but that job was now the last one in the universe that he wanted.

The post had initially been given to Dr. Radek Zelenka, the Czech scientist. Rodney had been passed over for the position because they considered him too temperamental, too volatile, to be a part of that unpredictable new mission.

And now Zelenka was dead. He’d had the life drained out of him on Atlantis by an alien vampire called a Wraith. Rodney had seen Zelenka’s desiccated corpse when it had been brought back to Area 51 for autopsy. He’d seen the corpse of the Wraith who killed Zelenka too. And now an armada of Wraith were swarming the Pegasus Galaxy, intent on taking over Atlantis and devouring every human being there.

Rodney had reacted with equal parts anger and fear when he had been chosen to replace Zelenka. Oh sure, he’d thought, now that Atlantis is essentially a slaughter-house, you want to send me there.

Instead, Rodney had packed up and done a runner in the night, heading straight for the Canadian border. He'd been pretty sure the military would follow, considering the secrets he was privy too, so he couldn’t go to his sister or any of his old haunts. And, so, he’d made himself disappear. He’d gone first to Toronto, then he’d hopped on the first Grey Coach heading vaguely north. He’d found himself in a Central Ontario tourist town on Victoria Day weekend. He’d followed the fireworks that were lighting up the sky and found himself at the fairground, where a small, second-rate circus had set up.

Rodney had entered a large tent with a sign advertising a magic show, only to find it disappointingly empty. He’d wandered backstage, and found the magician’s paraphernalia, and started messing about with it. As a teenager, Rodney had been fascinated by magic. He’d become quite adept at creating illusions based on scientific principles.

As Rodney had been sorting through the magic props, a short fat man in a grubby business suit had walked into the tent, smoking a cigar.

“You the new magician?” the man had asked.

Rodney had stared blankly.

“You applying for the job?” the man had demanded.

“Yes,” Rodney had replied. He’d auditioned there on the spot and signed up with the circus, heading out on the road with them the very next day. That was three months ago now.

“You hungry?” Sheppard asked, smiling at Rodney, who seemed to be lost in thought as they wove their way through the midway throng.

“Yeah, sure,” said Rodney, pulling his thoughts back to the present. Rodney was prone to hypoglycemia – he was always hungry – and he was starting to feel a bit faint.

Eventually, Sheppard caught sight of what he was looking for. Taking Rodney’s forearm in a firm but gentle grip, he led the magician through the crowd towards their goal. Rodney looked up to see that they were heading for a food stand topped by a giant fiberglass replica of a hotdog. Frank’s Franks, declared the sign. Grimacing at the kitsch, Rodney was about to demur, but the smoky scent of char-grilled hotdogs suddenly reached his nostrils, and he felt his chronic hunger pains intensify.

Sheppard approached the counter and ordered two jumbo hotdogs and two draft beers from the young woman at the grill.

“Uh, make mine coffee,” said Rodney. “I need to stay alert for my magic act.”

The woman behind the counter quickly fell under Sheppard’s spell, and she blushed prettily as his fingers grazed hers when she handed him his change. Rodney rolled his eyes. This man was an irrepressible flirt, almost oblivious to the power of his own charm.

Sheppard handed Rodney his hotdog and coffee, and they went over to the condiment bar to dress the dogs. Rodney piled on the ketchup, relish, dill pickles, pickled peppers, and sauerkraut. He looked up to see that Sheppard had put a single, neatly zig-zagged stripe of mustard on his hotdog. Sheppard wordlessly cocked an eyebrow at Rodney’s overloaded bun and handed him some extra napkins.

They found an empty picnic table nearby and sat down to eat. Rodney sat on the bench seat with his back to the midway crowd, his knees wedged under the tabletop, and his messy feast on the table before him. Sheppard placed one foot on the bench and swung himself up, to perch his butt immediately beside Rodney’s dinner on the tabletop. His outer thigh rested against Rodney’s shoulder.

With a plastic cup of beer in one hand, and his hotdog in the other, Sheppard gazed out at the sights of the midway as he began to eat. Rodney stared up at Sheppard as the man’s full pink lips closed around the almost naked sausage. Rodney felt his skin grow hot at the point where Sheppard’s leg was making casual contact with his shoulder, through the thin fabric of their summer clothes. Rodney felt a bit giddy. Blaming the feeling on hypoglycemia, he turned his attention to his own hotdog.

When they were finished eating, Sheppard looked down at Rodney and smiled. Picking up one of the napkins from the table, he dabbed carefully at the corner of Rodney’s mouth. “You got a bit of ketchup there, buddy,” he said, smirking.

“Good thing you got extra serviettes, then” said Rodney, wiping his own face.

With some food in his stomach, Rodney now felt better and was starting to relax, even beginning to enjoy the midway a bit. He followed blithely wherever Sheppard led next.

“Why don’t we go on one of the rides?” Sheppard asked.

Rodney looked up at the roller-coasters and other thrill-seeker rides that dominated the skyline. “I don’t like roller-coasters,” he said, “They’re too fast, and I get vertigo”.

“Actually, I had this in mind,” said Sheppard, stopping in front of an elegant antique carousel. It looked to be from the turn of the previous century, with beautifully carved horses and meticulously restored paintwork.

There wasn’t much of a line-up. Sheppard bought two tickets and ushered Rodney through the gate. They climbed up onto the stationary merry-go-round platform and chose two horses, side by side. Rodney’s was brown, with green and gold decoration.

Rodney grinned like a kid. “I think I’ll call my horse Henry,” he said.

Sheppard’s horse was pure white, with folded wings picked out in silver. “Pegasus,” John said under his breath.

The boys settled on their mounts, and the attendant started up the ride. Organ music filled the air as the wooden horses pranced up and down on their brass poles. Rodney relaxed into the flowing motion of the horse, which seemed to almost dance to the waltz-time music. He smiled over at Sheppard, who smiled back. Rodney felt slightly dizzy, but it was a nice feeling.

As the horses spun lazily around on the wheel, Sheppard suddenly stood up in the stirrups and reached above Rodney’s head, grabbing something in the rafters. He sat back down upon the white horse, holding a brass ring in his hand.

“For luck”, Sheppard said, tossing the ring to Rodney, who caught it in mid-air with one hand, to his own surprise.

“Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears

With the brass ring tucked safely in his pocket, Rodney walked beside Sheppard as they made their way further along the midway. The scent of waffles filled the air, and Rodney started to salivate. They were passing an ice cream stand with freshly made waffle cones.

“Dessert?” offered Sheppard.

Rodney nodded happily in agreement.

Rodney ordered a double scoop of Rocky Road ice cream, in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone rolled in sprinkles, topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream. And a cherry on top.

For himself, Sheppard ordered a single scoop of chocolate ice cream in a plain waffle cone, and declined the extras. He paid the attendant for both ice creams and handed the more elaborate of the two cones to Rodney. They ate as they walked, in contented silence.

Once they’d finished their ice cream, Rodney spotted a bumper-car ride. He’d loved these things as a kid. He’d particularly enjoyed tormenting his little sister Jeanie by banging into her car repeatedly. It was a wonder she hadn’t got whiplash.

“Can we…?” Rodney asked Sheppard, nodding to the bumper-cars.

“Sure,” replied Sheppard, buying the tickets for them both.

They hopped into the cars and started to manoeuvre around the floor. It wasn’t long before Rodney realized this had been a bad idea. He’d thought he was good at this, but Sheppard was amazing. Every time Rodney tried to get into the clear, Sheppard would cut him off from a different angle, thumping into him mercilessly. Rodney was feeling unpleasantly rattled long before their time was up.

“You didn’t have to pick on me all the time,” Rodney whined petulantly as they left the bumper-car concession. “You could have hit some of the other kids sometimes.”

“I wasn’t picking on you, Rodney. I only hit you because I like you. Besides, I didn’t know the other kids, and they were … well, kids.”

Rodney continued to sulk, but he was softened up slightly by Sheppard’s declaration that he liked him.

“Wait here a sec,” said Sheppard, heading off towards a red wooden cart being pushed by an elderly vendor. He came back immediately, holding up a shiny red candy apple.

“Peace offering?” he said, holding the candy apple out to Rodney.

“Okay,” said Rodney, mollified. “Thanks.” He smiled shyly at Sheppard.

Walking by Sheppard’s side down the midway, Rodney happily munched his taffy-coated apple on a stick. Suddenly, he stopped and mumbled, “Wow, look at that!” through the last mouthful of apple pulp.

Sheppard looked around, trying to figure out which particular thing in Rodney’s visual field had elicited this reaction. “What?” prompted Sheppard.

“Look at that stuffed rabbit!” said Rodney, pointing to one of the largest prizes at the Shooting Gallery booth.

The rabbit was white, dressed in top hat and tails, just like a magician.

Sheppard looked at the enraptured grin on Rodney’s face. “Would you like it?” he asked.

“Well, yes,” said Rodney, his grin fading, “but I’m not a good enough shot to win it.”

“I am,” said Sheppard.

Sheppard stepped up to the booth and paid for a turn. He chose one of the mounted rifles and took aim. A series of moving targets sprang to life at the other end of the booth – baby ducks, bull's-eyes, and clown faces. Sheppard picked off every single one in rapid succession.

The old carny manning the booth rolled his eyes. “Bloody sharpie!” he muttered under his breath. “All right, son,” he sighed, “choose your prize.”

Sheppard chose the rabbit magician and handed the stuffed animal to Rodney, who clutched it gleefully.

The day had faded, and dusk was quickly setting in. Suddenly, out of the twilight, two clowns appeared, offering helium balloons to passing children. Sheppard tried to suppress a shudder at the sight.

“Clowns scare the crap out of me,” he commented.

“Yeah, they’re really the stuff of nightmares,” Rodney agreed.

"Send in the Clowns" sung by Shirley Bassey

“Hey, we’d better start heading back to get ready for our shows tonight,” said Sheppard.

Rodney realized with a shock that he was actually disappointed that their time on the midway was up. He didn’t want this day to end.

As they made their way back to the staff trailers, Rodney spotted a booth selling freshly spun cotton candy. “Candy floss!” he said excitedly.

“Hold on there, buddy,” said Sheppard. “Don’t you think you’ve eaten enough junk food for one day?”

Rodney looked crestfallen, and Sheppard immediately relented.

“Okay,” said Sheppard, “pink or blue?”

“Blue,” said Rodney without hesitation. “Because I’m a boy … um, man…” Rodney tried to correct himself, then trailed off, realizing there was no way to make that statement sound any less silly.

Sheppard was trying to hide a smile, and Rodney realized with wonder that Sheppard’s expression wasn’t a look of ridicule, but rather one of affection and indulgence.

“Here ya go, sport,” said Sheppard, handing Rodney a baby blue cloud of spun sugar.

“Candy Floss” by Wilco

Sheppard escorted Rodney back to his trailer, just as the first stars were starting to appear in the indigo sky.

Pausing at the trailer door, Rodney hesitated, fidgeting nervously with the magician bunny’s bow-tie. He turned to Sheppard shyly. “Uh… thanks,” he said sincerely. “Today was fun. I really enjoyed exploring the midway with you.”

“Anytime,” said Sheppard, his hazel eyes gazing intently into Rodney’s.

Sheppard stepped a bit closer. A crust of blue sugar from the now-devoured candy floss still clung to the corner of Rodney’s mouth. Not having a napkin to hand, Sheppard licked the pad of his thumb and rubbed gently at the spot. Then, he moved in even closer and kissed Rodney full on his sugar-saturated mouth.

“Meet me at the motordrome after my last show?” Sheppard whispered softly as he pulled away.

“Yes,” Rodney replied, barely able to breathe.

And before Rodney could say anything more, Sheppard had slipped away into the shadows of the rapidly descending night.


Rodney placed his giant stuffed bunny at the head of his bed, then stripped off his clothes and hopped in the shower. Then he donned the clothes that he would wear on stage – a black tailcoat with satin edging, matching pants with a satin stripe down the leg, a pleated white dress shirt, and a crisp white bow-tie. White gloves, a tall silk top hat, and an opera cape lined with red silk completed the outfit. Dressed, he made his way to the marquee tent along the back paths used only by staff.

“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” by the Beatles

As curtain time approached, Rodney peeked out from the wings while the last of the sell-out crowd were taking their seats. Coming through the entrance, at the tail-end of the crowd, was a familiar figure whose lithe stride was unmistakable, even if the house lights had not also thrown his inimitable spiky coiffure into sharp silhouette. Sheppard didn’t take a seat, but stood in the rear near the exit, since he would have to leave partway through Rodney’s show in order to make it on time to his own performance at the motordrome.

Still, Rodney felt a warm glow of satisfaction to know that Sheppard had bothered to come see at least part of his act.

The house lights faded to black, and the fanfare heralded ‘curtain-up’. Rodney strode to centre stage. He whisked off his black silk top hat and flourished it at the audience in greeting. He then showed its interior white silk lining to the crowd and snapped the hat to collapse flat upon itself. He snapped the hat open again, then reached in and pulled out a live white rabbit by the scruff of the neck. The bunny’s nose twitched, and the audience applauded appreciatively. Rodney looked towards the tall, dark figure standing at the back and grinned.

Rodney placed the rabbit on a table in the middle of the stage, then covered the animal with the top hat. When he lifted the hat, the bunny was gone. Reaching into the hat again, Rodney pulled out a white dove. With a sweep of his hand, Rodney released the dove, sending it soaring out over the audience. The spotlight followed the dove as it flew to the very back of the tent and took up its perch. Sheppard’s handsome face glowed in the spotlight as the white bird landed lightly on his muscular shoulder. Sheppard didn’t move, but simply shifted his eyes to look at the dove, a smile playing on his lips. The dove only paused a moment on Sheppard’s shoulder before it took flight again. The spotlight followed the bird up into the top of the tent, where it suddenly seemed to multiply into an entire flock of doves, which then shattered into thousands of shards of brilliant white light that began raining down upon the crowd, turning into confetti in mid-air. Sheppard caught a piece of the confetti as it drifted towards him. It was about the size of a dime, white and heart-shaped, with the word “Love” written on it in lavender ink.

Sheppard was charmed by the illusion. Catching Rodney’s eye across the heads of the audience, Sheppard winked, then waved a quick goodbye and headed for the exit, just in time to make it to his own show at the motordrome.

Rodney completed the rest of his magic act in a daze. After the final ovation from the crowd, he went backstage and stripped off his cape, tailcoat and bow-tie. Not having time to change into street clothes, he simply removed the cufflinks from his pleated tuxedo shirt, unbuttoned the collar, and rolled up the sleeves. Then, he raced out into the warm summer night and headed across the fairground to the motordrome.

The motordrome was a high circular wooden structure, open at the top, with vertical walls, and a slanted concave floor. The stunt motorcyclists would wheel in ever faster circles at the bottom until they picked up enough speed to be able to climb the vertical walls, where they did their tricks. A viewing platform with steep bleachers for the audience ringed the top of the structure, and a central pole supported a striped tent above.

Ominously, the huge lighted sign on the outside of the structure proclaimed it to be ‘The Wall of Death’. And it very nearly had been for the previous stunt driver, who had shattered the bones in his leg in a spectacular crash.

Rodney climbed the stairs to the viewing platform two at a time, making his way determinedly through the growing crowd. He squeezed himself into the last possible space in the front row, his hands gripping the railing that ringed the top of the wall. Looking down into the barrel of the motordrome, he felt a wave of vertigo, but he forced himself to overcome it.

For the moment, the motordrome was still empty. Pounding music played over the speaker system, heightening the crowd’s excitement. Then, the house lights dimmed and the floodlights illuminated the inner chamber. A door opened in the rounded wall, and Sheppard rode in down a ramp.

He was dressed completely in black leather, his shoulders and the seams of his sleeves adorned with four-inch-long fringe. The jet-black colour perfectly matched his ruffled raven hair.

Rodney felt his stomach grow cold when he saw that Sheppard wore no helmet.

The motorcycle Sheppard rode was an antique American Indian. Small in scale, and lightweight for the greatest possible manoeuvrability, its bodywork was painted electric blue, with chrome detailing, and it had a silver lightening-bolt motif on the flanks.

Sheppard rode the bike into the centre and skidded to a stop, looking up at the crowd. He smiled reassuringly when he saw Rodney’s tense white face staring down at him.

Sheppard revved the engine, then started his first circuit of the lower ramp. His speed increased dramatically, and soon he was climbing the vertical wall. He began to loop upward in ellipses, the crowd gasping each time he came close to the top edge.

‘Wall of Death’ Motorcycle Stunt Video

A group of teenage girls squealed ecstatically each time Sheppard passed the spot where they were peering over the rail.

Sheppard’s speed continued to increase, and he circled the very top edge of the wall at a blinding rate. He let go of the handlebars and raised both hands above his head. The fringe of his sleeves caught the wind and billowed out behind him, giving the appearance of wings.

The audience cheered wildly.

Sheppard let his speed decrease just slightly, then leaned forward to grab the handlebars again. Rodney started to heave a sigh of relief, but caught his breath when Sheppard suddenly stood up upon the seat and then pressed himself into a handstand on the handlebars.

The crowd roared their approval.

Rodney thought he was going to faint. By all the laws of physics, that shouldn’t be possible! his brain screamed. But then he realized that Sheppard had sat down upon the seat again and was spiralling more slowly to the bottom, where he stopped.

Thank God it’s over, thought Rodney.

But it wasn’t over. The door in the side of the giant cylinder opened again, and two pretty young women walked in, dressed in skimpy outfits. One carried a large hoop, five feet in diameter. The other one carried a flaming torch.

No, this can’t be happening! thought Rodney, his knees turning to jelly, and his palms turning slick against the brass of the railing.

The woman holding the hoop attached it to a wire hanging from the top of the tent, and then there was a whoosh of flame as the woman with the torch set it alight. The crowd gasped as the flames licked upwards. Using a pulley system, the two women then hoisted the ring of fire high above the top edge of the circular wall and exited through the door by which they had arrived, pulling it closed behind them.

The floodlights dimmed so that the entire scene was lit almost entirely by the firelight.

Sheppard revved the engine of the old Indian motorcycle and started circling the ramp. He came up to speed and made several rapid circuits of the wall, heading ever higher and increasing his speed each time. When he was no more than a black and silver blur, he pointed his front wheel skyward. The bike flew up over the top edge of the wall, tipping backwards into an arc. Upside down, Sheppard soared through the burning ring of fire, looping around so that his wheels touched down vertically on the opposite side of the curved wall.

“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash

Sheppard did several more circuits at decreasing speed to bring the bike safely to a stop in the bottom of the well.

Rodney was astounded. The impossible stunt had been done with such assurance and skill, that Sheppard had made it seem easy. Rodney was so in awe of the performance that his earlier fear for John’s safety had evaporated, and he was applauding ecstatically with the rest of the crowd.

Sheppard made a final circuit of the floor, waving to the audience. He winked up at Rodney, then drove out through the now open door.

The flaming hoop was doused by some pyrotechnic magic, and the house lights came up. The crowd buzzed and chattered excitedly as they filed out down the stairs.

Rodney made his way to the roped-off backstage area behind the motordrome. Two beleaguered-looking security guards were trying to hold back the group of teenage girls who had earlier been squealing so loudly in the audience. Rodney flashed his circus staff ID to the bouncers, then ducked under the rope barrier.

Sheppard was leaning against his antique bike and chatting with the two scantily clad assistants. When he caught sight of Rodney, he excused himself from the young women and strode toward him.

As they came face to face, Sheppard looked at Rodney sheepishly, his eyebrows raised in an expression that said, So, what did you think? Concerned that Rodney would be angry with him for the risks he had taken, he was too reticent to actually voice the question aloud.

“That was amazing!” said Rodney breathlessly.

“You liked it?” asked Sheppard, his hazel eyes sparkling, and his face breaking into a boyish grin.

“Yes … I mean no… I mean … Christ, John, you scared me!” Rodney exploded. “Don’t do that again!” he pleaded.

Sheppard sighed, pressed his lips together in a thin line, and looked pensive.

“Yeah… um… I think we need to talk,” he said quietly. “Somewhere private,” he continued, taking Rodney by the elbow and leading him back towards the midway.

The crowds had all made their way home half an hour before, and the midway was now deserted, with only a few carnies left closing up their booths.

Sheppard headed straight for the enormous Ferris wheel, which was now dark and still. He led Rodney past the gate, and gestured at the bottom chair. “Have a seat,” he said, a note of command in his voice.

Rodney sat down tentatively. Sheppard suddenly threw the machine into gear and leapt into Rodney’s chair just as it began to move forward. The chair rocked alarmingly, as Sheppard shifted his weight and sat down snugly beside Rodney, pulling the safety bar into place in front of them.

“Are you crazy?!” screeched Rodney.

“Calm down,” said Sheppard as the rocking of the chair began to subside. “I know what I’m doing. You’re perfectly safe.”

As the chair rose with the turning of the wheel, Rodney looked down at the receding ground, a growing sense of panic constricting his chest.

“No, really, I don’t like heights,” he wheezed. “Please let me off.”

“Shh, Rodney – relax,” said Sheppard in a voice that was wholly authoritative, yet oddly soothing. He laid his hand on Rodney’s thigh, the warmth of his skin seeping through the material. At Sheppard’s touch, Rodney felt the panic within him starting to recede.

“That’s better,” said Sheppard, leaving his hand where it was. “Hey, aren’t the stars beautiful tonight?”

Rodney looked up. Now that the lights of the midway had been extinguished, the stars gleamed like diamond dust in the rural night sky.

“Yeah, they are beautiful,” said Rodney, entranced.

They were at the very top of the Ferris wheel now, with the entire horizon spread before them. “See that constellation in the eastern sky?” Sheppard asked, pointing with his free hand. “The one with the four bright stars forming a large square?”

Rodney nodded.

“That’s the constellation Pegasus,” said Sheppard. “And over in the far corner of that constellation is a remote galaxy, also called Pegasus. You can’t see it with the naked eye because it’s too many light-years away. You can’t even see it with a telescope. But you can go there. It’s as easy as stepping through a gate.”

He paused and looked at Rodney. “But you already know all this, don’t you, Dr. McKay?”

At the use of his professional title, Rodney tried to draw away from Sheppard’s possessive hand.

“Who are you?” Rodney demanded.

“Lt. Col. John Sheppard, United States Air Force.”

“Did the SGC send you to find me?”

“Yup. I was just recently seconded to the Stargate program.”

“So they sent you to abduct me and drag me back?”

“Well, I like to think of it more as a Search & Rescue mission. I won’t force you to go back with me, Rodney, but I do hope to persuade you.”

Rodney put his face in his hands, almost sobbing. “No, I can’t go back there. I can’t go to Atlantis – it’s a suicide mission. I won’t do it.”

“Rodney, the Atlantis mission needs your expertise desperately,” Sheppard said, moving his hand to Rodney’s bent shoulders.

“No!” Rodney snapped. “I won’t offer myself up as a free meal to a horde of alien vampires!”

“You’ll be safe there, Rodney. I promise. I won’t let anything happen to you under my watch.”

“You’ll be there?” Rodney asked, looking up, puzzled.

“I’ve just been appointed as Atlantis’s new military commander. I leave for the Pegasus Galaxy as soon as I can convince you to come with me. Please, Rodney, we need you there. I need you!”

Rodney looked into John’s serious face, backlit by a million stars. This man had saved his life once already today. Rodney had seen him do feats tonight that he would have sworn were impossible. If anyone could defend Atlantis against the Wraith and keep its personnel safe, it was this man.

“Okay,” said Rodney, nodding.

“You’ll come to Atlantis with me, then?” Sheppard asked.

“Yes,” Rodney reaffirmed.

“That’s great,” said John, leaning towards Rodney and taking his face gently in his hands.

The chair rocked precariously as Sheppard’s weight shifted. But Rodney had forgotten to be afraid. As John smiled and kissed him, Rodney knew that he would follow this daredevil anywhere. He trusted him – with his heart, with his body, with his very life. If this beautiful man was going to the Pegasus Galaxy to fight the Wraith, Rodney was going to be right there by his side.

The darkened Ferris wheel continued to turn against the backdrop of the starlit sky, and one single chair rocked and swayed to the rhythm of love.

“Both Sides Now” sung by Judy Collins

~ END ~
Tags: atlantis, au, candy floss, fanfic, mcshep, sga, stargate

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