Near Things

by Kass

Written for the Home Team, McShep Match, summer 2008. My prompt was "Eleventh Hour." Many thanks to Lamardeuse, Shoshanna, and Terri for beta!


"No, no, no," Rodney said, pushing back from the dinner table but not getting up. "At least two days before."

"C'mon," John protested, though it was mostly for form's sake.

"I am not risking the possibility of showing up at my own wedding with a hangover!"

"Who said anything about a hangover?"

"You didn't have to," Rodney said darkly. "I saw that look you gave Ronon."

"He doesn't trust us," John said to Ronon, shaking his head in a parody of sadness.

Ronon shrugged one shoulder. "Smart man."

"Of course I am," Rodney said, looking self-satisfied. John reminded himself for the millionth time that he wasn't allowed to find that attractive — especially not now. "Was that ever in question?"

"Fine," John said, heaving an exaggerated sigh. "Two days before the wedding."

"I have been wondering," Teyla said, "will women be allowed at this 'bachelor party'?"

"It's not traditional," John began, "but — it's up to McKay, honestly."

Rodney gave them an assessing look.

"What," John said.

"I'm trying to decide whether having Teyla present will increase or decrease the likelihood of something mortally embarrassing happening to me."

Ronon snorted.

"Look, it's not —" John blew out a breath. "We're not planning anything dramatic. I promise."

Rodney looked dubious.

"Just — some toasts," John said helplessly. "Last chance to hang out before you're a married man. Tell some stories, maybe."

"Aha!" Rodney crowed. "Stories. Well — as long as they're the ones where I come off sounding like a hero, that's all right."

This, John reflected grimly, was going to be a really long week.

When he first saw Rodney holding the ring, with its little chip of diamond, he'd made approving noises. What the hell else was he supposed to do? He'd never thought Rodney would actually go through with it. And meanly, he hadn't figured Katie would say yes. She'd always struck him as too sweet for McKay, too fragile a flower.

When Rodney told them the news, Teyla had beamed and thrown her arms around him. Ronon had grinned and given him a manly clap on the back that made him stagger a little. John had managed "way to go, McKay," in a voice that sounded stilted to his own ears. But nobody seemed to notice that. They were too busy celebrating.

That John's first reaction to Rodney's engagement had been dismay made him feel like the biggest jerk in the galaxy. Didn't he want McKay to be happy? Of course he did. But he wanted McKay to be happy with the status quo — work, missions, team tv night, getting his ass kicked by John at video golf. It seemed like Rodney was trying to trade up for a more conventional life.

John felt off-kilter for days. Like when they'd been forced back to Earth. Being away from Atlantis had been like being socked in. Nothing had felt right: not the sounds, not the light, not the smells. Colorado wasn't home anymore. Earth wasn't home anymore.

And with Elizabeth in her self-imposed seclusion and Teyla and Ronon too far away to even think about, the only time John had felt like himself was when he was on the phone with Rodney, listening to him brag about his new lab and bitch about his underlings. Which was fine, while it lasted, but every phone call had to end. And when they did, John felt empty all over again. Without his people. Without Atlantis.

So he'd pasted on an artificially bright smile, the kind of pretend enthusiasm that had gotten his ass kicked in Basic. Predictably, no one had noticed it, which only made him feel worse.

Acting like he was happy for Rodney and Katie felt a lot like that.

If Heightmeyer had been alive, he might have gone to see her. He would have sat on her couch and explained that he wanted Rodney to be happy, he just didn't think Katie was the person to make that happen.

Heightmeyer would have tilted her head slightly and looked at him, waiting. Maybe she even would have said, "If Katie isn't the person who can make him happy, who do you think is, John?"

But he didn't feel comfortable talking to the new shrink the SGC had sent. She was retired Army, so it was possible she'd be weird about DADT. And she hadn't been in Atlantis in the early days. She wouldn't understand what it had been like to walk in and wake this place up. To know you were the only Terrans in the entire fucking galaxy, and you might never make it back to Earth again. John didn't trust her.

Anyway, he wasn't going to say anything about this. Rodney was a grown man. And just because John's marriage had crashed and burned didn't mean Rodney's would.

So he kept his mouth shut and his mixed feelings to himself. Atlantis was abuzz with plans for the city's first wedding. And two days before the wedding in question, John would be responsible for its first bachelor party. It sounded like about as much fun as a root canal.

"I think I've made a mistake." Rodney walked into John's quarters, shoulders hunched and gait too fast: clearly about four seconds from the start of a panic attack.

John looked up from his comic book. "Oh?"

"God, oh God, I'm doomed," Rodney said morosely. He was pacing already.

The sight set John's heart to racing. Was it remotely possible that Rodney wasn't going to get married after all? And how much of a loser did it make him that he was excited about that, when he knew damn well he wasn't going to make a move anyway?

"Sit," John said firmly, and Rodney sat down on the chair next to his bed, though one of his fingers was still tapping restlessly against his thigh.

"What's up?" John tried to sound approachable.

"Does it seem remotely within the realm of possibility to you that I might have — rushed into things?"

"With Katie," John clarified, half-expecting Rodney to bite his head off and yell that he was talking about something else entirely. But Rodney just nodded mutely.

"What gives you that idea?" John said carefully. He resisted the impulse to whoop.

"It's nothing in particular, I just —" Rodney stopped himself. "Okay. No. It is something in particular. There's a...fundamental incompatibility between us, which I've been trying to ignore, but I don't think I can pretend it's not there any longer."

John froze. Was Rodney about to come out to him? His imagination grabbed that idea and ran with it: Rodney was going to come out to him and then hit on him! Rodney was going to declare undying love! Rodney was going to press him into his mattress and kiss him, and John would kiss him back, and then —

"She wants to go back," Rodney said, apparently unaware that he was popping the bubble of John's big gay fantasy.

"Back?" John echoed, confused.

"To Earth," Rodney clarified, unhappiness written in his eyes and the cast of his mouth.

"Fuck," John said, startled. "She's a xenobiologist!"

Rodney gave a little shrug. "Apparently she's not so excited about that whole 'xeno-' thing these days. She says Pegasus isn't a safe place to be raising kids, and she's getting on in years — I mean, not too old to have a baby, obviously," Rodney backpedaled, "but studies have shown, I mean, after thirty-five — the point is, she wants to get pregnant right away, so she wants us to move back to Earth. She suggested we could honeymoon there and just...stay."

"I didn't know you were talking about kids." Rodney with a crying infant: there was a mental image to strike fear into a man's heart.

Rodney made a face. "I thought it was a hypothetical. Next thing I knew she was talking about how many bedrooms we're going to need."

"Y'know, Earth's a lot more dangerous than Pegasus in most respects," John pointed out. "I mean, for most members of the expedition. People who aren't us."

"Oh, believe me, I told her that," Rodney said. "I calculated the odds of dying at the hands of the Wraith, versus the odds of a car accident in a city of any size at all --"

"At which point she told you you're too pessimistic?"

"At which point she suggested we live in a small town," Rodney said, with horror in his voice, and slumped back in his chair. "She said I could teach at a community college somewhere."

Community college?! "Look, Rodney," John said. "I just don't think you two are looking for the same things." It was obvious that Rodney didn't think so at this point, either. John was proud that his voice didn't reveal his relief.

"I know." Rodney looked down at his hands.

"It's better to figure it out now than in six months, trust me."

"I know," Rodney said. His voice was quiet and his posture was collapsed like an empty star. "I have to tell her this, don't I?"

"Yeah. You do."

"God. Tomorrow's going to suck."

"Probably," John agreed. There was a pause. "We've got a lot of booze," he offered.

Rodney looked up and gave him a faint smile, at that. "True."

"Tell you what," John said. "You talk this through with Katie tomorrow morning. Tomorrow night we'll have a 'Rodney's Single' party."

"Mm, yes, I'm sure I'll be flooded with excited suitors," Rodney said, but he sounded more cheerful already.

"You never know," John said.


"We are always happy to have new trading partners," Teyla was saying to the woman in the silvery tunic at the front of the room. The woman was a high-ranking functionary in the Vaxan government, and her retinue flanked her, all of them in throne-like chairs across the front of the room.

The rest of the gate team stood arrayed behind Teyla, trying to look appropriately deferential. One of the Vaxan women kept glaring at Ronon. Matriarchal societies were complicated. Should've brought Cadman along, John thought.

"Psst," Rodney whispered. "Check this out." He gestured with his head to the left wall, ornamented with heavy tapestries in weird geometric patterns.

After glancing at Teyla and the Vaxan pooh-bah to confirm that they weren't paying close attention to him, John turned his head to check out the tapestry more closely. The design mimicked the look of Ancient machinery. "Huh," he said, and stepped closer. Was it actually woven metal? He reached out to touch the thing, lightly, just to see what it was made of.

And then the tapestry flared with a bright white glow, there was a loud zap!, and John rematerialized in a small room somewhere entirely else, with no doors or windows visible anywhere.

"Hey," he yelled, though no one was there to hear him. He tapped his communicator. "Sheppard to McKay, do you read me?" Silence. "McKay, come in! Teyla, Ronon, do you read?" More silence.

"Fuck," he said, scrubbing a hand through his hair, and sat down on the low bench that was extruded from the wall to wait for rescue.

Half an hour later, one of the walls of his cell dematerialized, revealing that it was an alcove in a much larger room. John tried to walk out and bounced back onto the floor, stopped by some kind of invisible, pliable force field. "Great," he muttered.

Two men in white entered, one bearing a tray of food and the other — grey-haired, maybe the guy in charge? — holding a small grey device that looked like a life-signs detector.

"Excuse me," John said. "There's been some kind of misunderstanding here --"

"I am Kez," the older one said, "court healer and chief astrologer."

"Pleased to meetcha," John said, figuring it was pretty obvious that he wasn't. "Listen, I'd really like to talk to my people."

Kez held up the scanner and aimed it at John's feet, sweeping up toward John's head. The thing beeped and chirped like R2D2 on steroids.

"Remarkable," the other man breathed, beaming at Kez.

"I am quite a piece of work," John agreed. "Somebody care to tell me what the hell's going on here?"

"Most auspicious," Kez agreed, and handed the scanner to his assistant. "Take this to the Queen." He traded the scanner for the tray — bread, cheese, some kind of tree fruit — and then passed the tray through the force field to John. Apparently the force field was one-way, because the tray came right through. Or maybe Kez was able to control it somehow? He was wearing a chain-link bracelet that glowed faintly; maybe it let him pass through.

"Thanks for the grub, but I'd really like to know --"

"You are blessed with the gift of the Ancestors," Kez said placidly.

The ATA gene. "Most of my people are," John said. "Speaking of my people, they're probably pretty worried about me right about now, so if you'd just let me call home --"

Kez shook his head. "Not until after the ceremony. The sacred writings are clear."

"...Ceremony?" That was never a good sign.

"I'll need to consult my star-books, and of course the princess's cycle," Kez said, "but I think we should be able to proceed in a few days' time."

"Cycle?" Okay, seriously, this was not sounding good.

"With your genetic gift, you'll guarantee the second princess an appropriate heir to the throne," Kez said.

"You want me to impregnate your princess?" John boggled.

"It is a tremendous honor."

"I'm sure it is," John said tightly, "but this really isn't how we do things where I come from. I'm going to have to insist that you let me contact my people."

Kez clucked his tongue. "A word of advice, boy. I wouldn't speak that way to the princess -- or to the Queen." He turned on his heel and headed for the door.

"Wait," John called, but Kez was gone.

John picked up the fruit, sniffed at it, and put it back down.

"C'mon, McKay," he said to the walls. "Get me out of here."

By the time the phalanx of guards showed up -- six very strong women with truncheons and stun guns -- John had come up with a plan. Well, the start of a plan: pretend to go along with this insanity, and sweet-talk them into stashing him someplace he might be able to break out of.

"I understand I'm going to be the consort to your princess," he said.

"Mmm," the tallest one said, gripping his arm and marching him forward. She was wearing a shining bracelet, too; they all were. That had to be what enabled them to use Ancient tech. No wonder they wanted a strong ATA holder in the royal line.

"I'm looking forward to it," he tried.

She snorted.

"Listen, do you think you could upgrade my accomodations? Maybe to someplace more...appropriate...for future royalty?"

"You're a glorified sperm donor," guard number two muttered. "Don't get uppity."

"We're taking you to the Tower," guard one said.

"Sounds nice," John lied.

They led him down the corridor to a transporter. When they stepped out again they were in a round room with two big windows. They weren't barred, which was a good sign. There was a bed, and a table with a bowl of fruit on it. What was it with these people and their fruit?

"Welcome to your new home," guard one said. "You'll be here until the ceremony."

"I don't suppose you have any idea when that will be?"

"The princess will be ovulating tomorrow," guard two offered.

John opened his mouth, then closed it. "Right," he said. "Okay then."

"Let's go," guard one said, and they walked in lockstep back to the transporter.

As soon as they were gone, John rushed to the window. He'd scaled towers in Atlantis; how much worse could this one be?

A lot worse, it turned out. It was easily as tall as the central towers in Atlantis; the face was sheer, no chinks or footholds that he could see; and it descended right into a crashing sea, so even if he got down the tower somehow, there wasn't anywhere he could go. Dejected, he walked back to the bed, which creaked when he sat down on it.

His team would get him out of there eventually. Or else Sam would negotiate for his release. And if it took them a few days, and he had to — perform — well, as alien torture rituals went, quasi-consensual sex was pretty high on the list. But being treated like a prize bull was depressing. He felt like crap.

He'd just have to sit tight and hope for —

His earpiece crackled to life. "McKay to Sheppard, do you read?"

Heart pounding with relief, John tapped his communicator. "About fucking time," he said. "Get me out of here."

"Working on it," Rodney said crisply. "Where are you?"

"In some kind of tower. Got here via transporter. Window on each side, ocean at the bottom."

"Hang on, let me pull up the HUD."

Thank God; they were in a jumper. "How'd you get the jumper through?"

"Took a clever bit of hacking, but their gate let us in cloaked," Rodney told him. "Sam's in the big house parlaying with the Queen; that ought to keep them busy while we rescue you."

There was a pause.

"I think we're at your window," Rodney said in his ear. John ran to one side of the tower, but didn't see anything. "Other side."

"Thanks, McKay, I'd figured that out," John said, striding to the other tower window. Sure enough, floating in midair was the open hatch of the cloaked jumper, Ronon crouching in the doorway.

John raised a hand and Ronon nodded to him, then tossed a coiled rope his way. John was just fastening the harness around his pelvis when his door burst open.

"Go!" he yelled, and with a sickening jerk the jumper yanked him out the window as the women of the guard fired what were probably tranquilizer darts his way. They missed. He hung on to the rope for dear life, and waited for Ronon to pull him up into the jumper so Rodney could pilot them home.


"Wow; that's a whole two hours of my life I'll never get back."

John resisted the temptation to roll his eyes. "You loved it."

"It was terrible!"

"It's okay, Rodney, your lowbrow tastes are safe with me." John kept his voice mock-serious. "I'll never tell."

Rodney threw a popcorn kernel at his head. John tried to catch it in his mouth, which would have been pretty suave, but it bounced off his chin. Rodney smirked.

"You want another beer?" They had tomorrow off, so John was sure as hell having another. He went to the mini-fridge and pulled out two without waiting for Rodney's response.

When he turned back around Rodney was checking his watch. "It's eleven," Rodney said dubiously.

"Actually it's 2300 hours," John pointed out, because he knew it would annoy Rodney.

Which it did; Rodney reached for the second beer and yanked it out of his hand. "I don't know why you insist on military time," he said, taking a gulp of his beer.

John shrugged and followed suit, sitting on the floor next to Rodney again. "I don't know why you're so attached to AM and PM."

"I'm a creature of habit!"

"So get in the habit of telling time like a normal person."

"I'm sorry, when did you become the standard for 'normal'?"

John laughed a little and let his head fall back on the bed, enjoying the mild buzz. He tipped the bottle toward his lips and took a long swig.

Rodney's cough sounded slightly forced. When John looked up, Rodney wasn't meeting his eyes. "I should probably go," Rodney said.

What the hell had just happened?

It was easy to touch Rodney's arm to stop him, so John did. His arm was warm and John's eyes traveled across his chest (broad chest, nipples visible through his shirt) to his face. Rodney's cheeks were flushed and his long lashes were downcast. "You don't have to," John said, lamely.

Rodney was staring at John's hand as though it had passed through an invisible force field between them.

And when Rodney looked right at him John felt like he'd been suckerpunched. He wasn't getting enough air. There was a faint suggestion of five o'clock shadow around Rodney's crooked mouth, and as John watched, Rodney straightened his spine and brought his shoulders back. Like he was preening. Or preparing to hear bad news.

"It's funny," Rodney said, in a tone of voice that didn't suggest humor at all. "First I almost got married—"

"Oddly, I remember that," John said.

"And then you almost got married--"

"More like 'pressed into service,'" John pointed out.

Rodney just kept talking. "And after each of those 'near-marriage experiences'," making vague quotation marks in the air with his hands, "I thought, life is too short; one of us is going to make a move."

Now John really couldn't breathe. This was really happening. He knew what Rodney was about to say, and he wanted to stop time, to hold the anticipation. Was this what he'd been supposed to feel before he proposed to Nancy? Like his whole life was hanging by a thread?

"But I didn't want to fuck things up, you know?" Rodney sounded surprisingly calm, for a guy who was about to change everything.

"I know," John said, and let his thumb stroke across Rodney's forearm. He felt the radius and muscles flex beneath the skin. "I didn't, either."

Rodney's eyes darted down to where John was touching him, then back up to John's face. He was starting to smile now, the way he smiled when he was holding a brand-new ZPM, and John's heart was doing somersaults.

Before Rodney's wedding, he'd tried so hard to shoehorn himself into the role he knew he was supposed to play. And before his own commitment (commital?) the Vaxans had shoved him into a pigeonhole without giving a damn about who he was at all. But now Rodney was looking at him like he was something incredible. He didn't have to pretend anymore.

"I'm going to kiss you," Rodney said unnecessarily, and leaned toward John, and John leaned right back.

Rodney's body laid out before him like a feast: his neck, his broad chest, the fine arrow of hair that pointed down his belly —

Rodney's voice, first peremptory and then satisfyingly broken as John went to work mapping his hipbones, the crease of his thigh, his eager cock —

John had seen him naked a thousand times: in the locker room after missions, after swimming on a hot Lantean Sunday afternoon. But he'd never had permission to touch. And he'd never heard Rodney's voice quite like this before.

Spending four years in each other's back pockets suddenly felt like the galaxy's slowest, most thorough foreplay. Rodney shuddered beneath him and John ground his own erection against the bed, unthinking.

"God, fuck, get up here," Rodney managed. John gave his cock one last slow suck before complying.

"Was there something you wanted?" John asked archly, but they were kissing before Rodney could reply.

And then Rodney's broad hand closed around John's dick, and John gasped into his mouth. It wasn't long before the kiss got sloppy and then Rodney broke away, breath hot against John's ear. His hand was tight and his rhythm was perfect and his cock dragged wetly against John's belly.

"F-fuck," Rodney gasped, and the warm pulse of him made John shove into his fist crazily, desperate, so close —

"That's it," Rodney murmured, low and intent, working him so slow and hard John bit back a moan of pleasure that was almost pain. "Come for me," he whispered. "I want to see you —"

Rodney really saw him. Could anything in the universe be more terrifying, more exhilarating? John's orgasm raced through him and left him shaking, blissful, in Rodney's hands.

John waved his hand in front of Rodney's door, only slightly surprised when Rodney's quarters let him in. Rodney was sound asleep on his stomach, face mashed into the pillow, snoring very faintly. John felt the dopey smile settling across his face.

He sat down on the edge of Rodney's bed. "Hey," he said quietly.

"Mmph," Rodney muttered, and rolled onto his side, pulling the sheet with him, which gave John an excellent view of his ass.

"Morning, sunshine," John said.

Rodney's breathing stopped, then started again in a different rhythm. "John?"

"Mm," John agreed, and Rodney rolled onto his back, looking startled.

"What time is it?"

"About six-thirty," John said.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me. We have the day off!"

John shrugged. "Career military."

"What, you can't sleep in?"

"I've kinda forgotten how."

"You're a freak."

"Maybe," John agreed, and grinned.

"Oh, God, you're a morning person," Rodney said despairingly. "I should have known."

"Sue me, I'm having a nice day."

"What's so nice about it?"

"Got a pretty good view so far," John said, and waggled an eyebrow.

"You're ridiculous," Rodney said, but he was blushing.

" got plans for our day off?"

"Not exactly," Rodney said, yawning as if he couldn't help himself. "What did you have in mind?"

"I thought we could make out for a while," John said. "Maybe take a nap. And then there's some paperwork I was thinking about filling out —"

"Okay, I was with you up until that last part," Rodney said. "Are you sure you're feeling all right? Maybe it's sleep deprivation. Since you woke up at the crack of dawn."

John pretended to consider. "I think I'm okay," he said. "I was just contemplating requisitioning a bigger bed."

"Mm, I take it back, I like the way you think," Rodney said, his voice warm with approval. "Hold that thought," and he kicked his sheet free and got out of bed.

"And see, my day just got better," John said.

"If you're about to make some kind of 'early bird gets the worm' joke, it's going to get a lot worse," Rodney warned him.

John spread his hands. "Wouldn't dream of it."

"Good," Rodney said. "Be right back."

As water ran in the bathroom, John toed off his shoes and leaned back on Rodney's bed. Huh. It felt pretty nice, actually. Solid. Like something he could depend on. He let himself lie back and relax on Rodney's pillow.

"Much better," Rodney said, emerging still naked and now smelling minty.

"Maybe we'll requisition another orthopedic mattress," John said idly, making himself at home.

The End