Shore Leave

by Kass

Many thanks to Lamardeuse and Sihayab Black for beta!

Atlantis had been parked on Earth for about ten days when people started going stircrazy.

When they'd been in in Pegasus, no one had wanted to leave the city, much. Sure, people went offworld, but when it came to downtime, you made your own fun. Watched movies. Drank beer on the pier. Sparred until somebody (usually John) wound up with a split lip and somebody else (usually Ronon) wound up grinning an apology all the way to the infirmary.

But now that they were parked within spitting distance of the Golden Gate Bridge, people were lining up to ask for shore leave. Everybody and his brother wanted a night off. People who John would have sworn had never set foot in San Francisco had favorite nightspots they were suddenly jonesing to return to. Conversation in the mess skewed toward the best places in town for sushi, for a burger, for Pakistani food, for burritos.

Apparently when they'd thought they couldn't have any of those things, nobody missed them. But now that they were right there, almost close enough to touch, not having them was torture.

John knew something about wanting and not being able to have.

Setting up duty rosters had never been John's strong suit. He left that stuff to Lorne, mostly. But because coming and going from the cloaked city was a matter of security, Woolsey insisted that John sign off on every single request for an overnight out of the city.

Which meant that John was the first to know when Rodney put in a request for a weekend away. It was not the best way to start his Monday morning. John got to his office, looked morosely at his schedule for the day (office work, followed by office work, and then if he was lucky maybe a workout with some of the Marines) and opened up his email, and the message from the furlough auto-scheduler was the first thing in his inbox.

The address on Rodney's form was a funky B&B not far from Nob Hill (John googled it), and picturing Rodney and Jennifer there made John feel lonely and lame.

For a second he considered denying the request, but he couldn't come up with a plausible reason to keep Rodney in town. And the fact that he'd even vaguely contemplated that made John feel like a jerk.

So he clicked "approved" and tried hard not to think about Rodney and Keller walking the hilly streets, or laughing over glasses of brandy by the fire, or whatever the hell they were going to do.

A few hours later a request came in from Keller. Which wasn't any surprise; obviously they both needed approval to leave the city. John didn't even read it, just clicked "approved" and felt glum.

The hell of it was, he liked Keller. When Carson died, she'd been promoted to a position she hadn't aspired to and hadn't known how to handle, and she'd risen to the occasion even though she was terrified of fucking things up. John could relate. She was a good doc, didn't bat an eye at any of the weird shit Pegasus threw at them.

And she was funny, and sweet; it wasn't hard to see the appeal. John just...missed having Rodney around. Ronon had Amelia, Teyla had Kanaan and Torren, and John was the odd guy out.

And, okay, if he were honest with himself: he wanted more than a best buddy to play video games with. He wanted Rodney to be more than that. But it wasn't going to happen. So there was no point in dwelling on it.

He told himself to stop thinking about Rodney's romantic getaway weekend, but he failed. And it didn't help that they were in some kind of weird post-splashdown limbo, waiting for new marching orders from the SGC, so he didn't have much to distract him from his miserable imaginings of how much fun Rodney would have with Jennifer and how he would probably never get to spend quality time racing remote-controlled cars with Rodney again.

The last thing in the world he expected was for Rodney to sit down at the dinner table and say, "Hey, want to come into the city with me on Friday?"

John gaped at him.

"I got approval for a weekend's leave, made a couple of reservations at a B&B I used to like," Rodney continued, slicing into his chicken with gusto and apparently not noticing the look on John's face at all. "Figured it'd be nice to go walk around, have a few drinks, sleep in for a change."

"With me?" John winced; that hadn't come out quite right. "I mean, I know you have leave. Approving shore leave is my job these days."

He hadn't meant to sound quite so bitter. Teyla touched his arm affectionately. "I am sure we will return to offworld duties soon," she offered.

John shrugged.

"So, you want to come?" Rodney looked at him expectantly.

"Shouldn't you be taking Jennifer?"

Rodney dropped his fork. Teyla gave John a sad, compassionate look, as if to say 'I expected so much better from you.'

"You didn't hear," Rodney said, sounding chagrined.

"Hear what?" John asked, though from the expression on Rodney's face, the answer was pretty obvious. How had he not known they were on the rocks?

"Y'know what? I'm going to get dessert. Somebody else tell him, please," Rodney said, and pushed away from the table.

"There was a pile of mail for Keller at the SGC," Ronon said. "Including a long letter from the guy she almost married before she came to Atlantis."

"Let me guess," John said, doing the math: she'd chosen her former almost-fiancé.

Ronon shrugged. "He's apparently some big-shot surgeon. Sounds like SGC might be recruiting him, but they won't tell him what for."

"Atlantis," John guessed, his heart sinking for Rodney even as it rose, meanly, for himself.

"It seems likely," Teyla confirmed.

"Jeez." John was torn between exasperation at Rodney for not telling him sooner -- was he supposed to be psychic or something? -- and horror at himself for having wished Keller out of Rodney's life, because now he kind of felt like he'd succeeded. Was her ex going to join them in Atlantis? That would be awkward.

"I assume now you know the whole sordid tale," Rodney said brusquely, dropping in to his chair again. His ice cream sundae clattered onto the table but didn't spill so much as a drop of whipped cream.

Obviously Rodney wanted a couple nights away from the city to drown his sorrows. John could handle that. He'd been that guy before -- the "let me distract you from your failed relationship" guy. With Rodney, even. It was a familiar role, one he knew how to play.

And if some part of him wished they were going to town for a different reason? He wasn't about to let on. "Count me in," he said, and made himself smile.

It was weird, leaving town via Zodiac instead of through the gate. John and Rodney met at the northwest pier, facing into the open ocean, where one of the Marines was waiting to ferry them to town. Rodney was wearing jeans and a soft sweater and a corduroy jacket; he looked like a professor, and for a second John could imagine him in some other, monogalactic life.

"First thing we do, we're going out for coffee," Rodney said, over the buzz of the engine and the slap of waves against the rubber of the hull. "I know this great place -- God, they used to have bowls of café au lait the size of your head, I hope they're still there."

"How do you know San Francisco?" John asked.

"Hm? Oh, Steve and I used to weekend here, once upon a time," Rodney said absently, tucking his hands under his armpits to keep them warm despite the cold wet air.

John blinked at him.

"Steve?" John repeated, trying like hell not to jump to conclusions and failing miserably. Rodney had dated a man? How the hell had he not known that?

"Yeah, it was during my first postdoc -- I was with the NSF, he was in Santa Cruz," Rodney explained. "We figured we'd meet here on weekends; I mean, why not, right?"

John wondered whether he looked as gobsmacked as he felt. "Guess that...didn't work out?" he offered, still fishing for some proof that he was reading Rodney right. The Marine piloting the Zodiac ignored them altogether, for which John was desperately grateful.

Rodney shrugged. "We wound up going after the same second postdoc. I got it, he flounced off in a huff. Last I heard he was teaching at some liberal arts college somewhere."

So were you fucking or not, John wanted to ask, but didn't. "Almost there," he said inanely. The boat skipped over the waves, which had to be why John's heart was in his throat.

"Don't let me railroad you," Rodney said at some point midafternoon after they'd had coffee, eaten a long lunch, walked around in the rain, browsed three different bookstores in search of rare editions that didn't seem to exist, and stopped for a beer at a nautical-themed pub that was all dark wood and polished brass and tiny porthole windows.

John was drinking an Anchor Steam, crisp and light on his tongue. Having a beer at four in the afternoon felt ridiculously decadent. "Nah, don't worry about it," he said. "I don't actually know the city, so -- whatever you want to do is cool with me."

"Really?" Rodney sounded surprised. "I would've figured you, of all--" He colored slightly. "I mean, it's one of the great American cities, I don't know how you missed it."

Was that Rodney's idea of flirting with him? Couldn't be. Still, John took another gulp of his beer to cover for the pleased little smile he was sure he was wearing. "Shore leave in San Francisco doesn't generally go over so well with the brass."

Rodney considered that. "You're taking it now," he pointed out.

"Well, yeah," John said. "Nobody has to approve my leave now but me."

"Hm," Rodney said, with a speculative tilt to his head. But he didn't say anything else. So John didn't either, just enjoyed his beer and the way the soft foggy light landed on Rodney's eyelashes when he tipped his pint back to get the dregs at the bottom of his glass.

They had a bottle of wine with dinner, and then a scotch apiece -- Knob Creek, which John hadn't had in years -- and by the time they walked back to the B&B John felt pleasantly tipsy. He was pretty sure Rodney had caught him staring a few times, especially once they got to the far side of the wine bottle, but Rodney didn't seem to mind, which made John feel warm and tingly.

This was dangerous as hell, but some combination of being offworld (well: it felt like offworld; their own planet was foreign to him now) and being alone with Rodney and drinking more than usual allowed him to tamp down the panic that wanted to flare around the edges. They were just hanging out. Maybe he was ogling Rodney a little. No harm, no foul, right?

When they got to their hallway Rodney blurted out, "You want to come in for a drink?"

John cocked an eyebrow at him. "Another one?"

"There's a fireplace in my room," Rodney said, raising his chin and throwing his shoulders back in a way that was probably supposed to look determined but mostly just made John want to kiss him senseless. Which wasn't anything new, exactly; he just wasn't used to feeling so bowled-over by it. "And complimentary sherry."

"Well, if it's complimentary," John agreed solemnly, and stood back to let Rodney curse at fumbling the ornate old Victorian key into the old-fashioned door lock.

The fireplace was the kind with a gas jet in it, so all Rodney had to do was turn a switch and it sprang to life.

"Handy," John noted.

"Yes, well, ordinarily it would offend my sensibilities, but I admit at the moment I don't exactly feel like fussing with kindling," Rodney admitted.

John poured them two glasses from the bottle of sherry on the sideboard -- the little embossed card read "With our compliments;" Rodney wasn't kidding -- and handed one to Rodney, sitting in one of the wingbacked chairs in front of the fire. The heat felt good. John took a swig of wine; that heat felt good, too.

They lapsed into comfortable silence and John's mind started to wander. He really had been jealous of Jennifer. John could admit that to himself, now that the thing he'd been jealous about was over.

It seemed like some kind of ridiculous luck that John was the one getting to walk around town with Rodney, listening to his snarky comments and watching him savor an expensive grass-fed steak (those noises; Jesus, Rodney knew how to enjoy himself) and now unwinding with him in front of an honest-to-God fire.

"How're you doing?" John asked, because this train of thought was reminding him of the real reason they were here: to cheer up Rodney. Not to indulge John's fantasies, which were probably a lost cause anyway. Funny thing was, he felt so warm and happy right now that he didn't even really care that his fantasies were ridiculous.

Though Rodney didn't seem to need cheering-up, much. Apparently he was taking his newly-single status in stride. He had toed off his shoes and pushed up the sleeves of his sweater, and his cheeks were pink from the cold walk and from the wine, and he looked...contented. It made John's heart seize up in his chest.

"I'm great," Rodney said, after a moment. "In fact, I'm fantastic."

There was a pause.

"You?" Rodney asked.

"Me too," John said, and drank another long sip of sherry, and gave in to the temptation to close his eyes for a second.

He wasn't sure how long he was out -- a minute? longer? -- but when he opened his eyes, Rodney was looking at him with such open longing that it took John's breath away.

As soon as he saw John's eyes open, Rodney looked down.

"Rodney," John began, his head spinning from the wine and the fire and most of all from the intensity of the desire he'd just seen blazing across Rodney's face. Was he reading that right? Was it really that easy? Had they both been carrying torches all this time?

"I'm sorry," Rodney said, fast, his voice low, and John shook his head (he didn't need to apologize!) but Rodney was looking down so he didn't see. "I know just because you came to the city with me -- and you didn't bat an eyelash when I mentioned Steve, for which I am grateful, believe me, because I know you're not a homophobe but that could have been one hell of an awkward way to start the trip -- I mean, just because you're okay with my being...whatever, that doesn't mean you're actually interested in anything like what I'm--"

"Wow, you're a maudlin drunk," John said, swept by a wave of fondness as strong as the desire buzzing through his veins.

"I am not!" Rodney insisted, affronted enough that he actually looked John in the eye again, and whatever he saw there shut him up quick.

John swallowed around the lump in his own throat and watched Rodney watch him. He stood on feet which were slightly unsteady, inhaling hard as his jeans tugged at his erection. For an instant they remained frozen there, Rodney in his chair and John standing over him. Maybe nothing was going to happen.

But then Rodney pushed his own chair back a millimeter and stood too. And then he closed the gap between them. John's hands slid around Rodney's head to hold him steady, Rodney's strong arms held John tight, and the kiss tasted like sherry and like five years of buried yearning finally rising to the surface like Atlantis from the bottom of the sea.

He hadn't really thought he was that drunk, but once he was flat on his back the room was spinning slowly around him. Or maybe that was because Rodney had bitten his way down John's neck and collarbones and tugged his jeans away and slid his wide, beautiful mouth down over John's aching cock.

"Fuck," John managed, fisting the bedcovers as though that would help him hold back from coming in a heartbeat like a teenager.

Rodney hummed happily and wrapped one hand around the base of John's dick to hold him steady. His mouth was hot and wet and oh, oh, the suction was so good that John couldn't think, couldn't do anything but try to hold back the inevitable, because he did not want this to be over yet.

How long had it been? Years since he'd been with anyone besides his own right hand, and last time had not been with someone this eager. It hadn't been with someone he'd spent five years silently aching for. Oh, God.

"Rodney," John pleaded, "I can't--" He couldn't hold on. His brain wanted to go slow, stretch this out, savor every gorgeous drunken second, but his body was not on board that train.

But Rodney had found his rhythm, and he would not stop. Leave it to Rodney to go straight for what he wanted, John thought, and a wave of affection overpowered him as he came, helplessly arching up into Rodney's mouth and his hands.

Rodney climbed back up his body, breathless and laughing, and John yanked him close and kissed him, dirty and full of intent. Rodney melted into him and John rolled them over, pushing Rodney onto his back. "What's so funny," John asked, biting at Rodney's ear.

"Nothing, just -- happy," Rodney said, tilting his head back to give John better access.

"Stay there," John said, and stripped off his own clothes. Rodney lay lazily and watched him, eyes moving over his body appreciatively. (Jesus: how had he never noticed?) And then he stripped away Rodney's, stopping to press kisses to Rodney's bicep and nipple and hip. Rodney was hard and flushed. The sight made John's mouth water.

He mouthed at Rodney's balls, and Rodney whimpered, his legs rolling open. The sound went straight to John's own dick, and even though he couldn't get hard again this quickly he shuddered, caught in a spasm of unexpected pleasure.

The room was dark and John was drunk and he had never felt so safe. "If we had lube," he murmured, wistfully, imagining Rodney pushing inside him. His ass clenched involuntarily.

"Fuck," Rodney swore in response. "John, I--" John licked at the base of his cock and sucked at his balls, avoiding the crown -- a tease he expected Rodney to call him on, but Rodney seemed content to lie back and take whatever John wanted to give him.

"You have -- ah! -- no idea how badly I've wanted to fuck you," Rodney admitted, gasping as John traced the vein behind his balls with a wet finger.

"Yeah?" God: it sounded like Rodney had thought about it. Maybe a lot. Hearing that made John feel generous; he lifted Rodney's cock and licked the head. Rodney gasped and twitched up into his hands.

"Fuck, yes," Rodney chanted, and whether it was in response to John's question or to what John was doing didn't really matter.

The dark made John daring. "Tell me," he said, and sucked Rodney down.

"Oh, God," Rodney said, breath hitching as though he were on the verge of sobs. "I've thought about it -- ohh -- so many times, I --"

John tried to remember what Rodney had done when their positions had been reversed. What had felt good? He hadn't done this in years, but Rodney didn't seem to mind.

"Wanna lick you until you're crazy for it," Rodney babbled, "want to make you want it -- as bad as -- I do," and his whole body was tensing, now, he was trying hard not to come. John sympathized, but he wasn't about to show mercy. He slid a finger into his mouth alongside Rodney's cock and then withdrew it, rubbing Rodney's balls just hard enough.

Rodney losing it was so spectacularly hot, John wished he could follow suit.

When John woke up, his head was pounding. Rodney was sprawled across more than half of the bed, face pressed into the pillow, the expanse of his back and one shoulder exposed by the sheet which had been half kicked-away.

John wanted to touch, but he also wanted aspirin. Desperately.

He had aspirin. In his own dopkit. Which was next door.

And getting dressed and going to dig through his own luggage seemed like a great way to make sure Rodney woke up alone and jumped to the wrong conclusions about why John wasn't there. John sighed, slid out of bed, and made his way to the bathroom. On the way there he caught sight of the in-room coffeepot. Ripping open the foil packet of coffee was more difficult than it should have been, but he got it going, and staggered into the bathroom to turn on the shower.

After a moment's consideration, he brushed his teeth with Rodney's toothbrush. (Considering where their mouths had been last night, Rodney wouldn't care, right?) And drank three glasses of water. By the time he finished his shower John felt almost human.

When he stepped back out of the bathroom, the suite smelled like coffee. John poured a glass of water and a cup of coffee and took them both over to Rodney's bedside table. Rodney opened one eye, blearily.

"Water first," John said.

"You made coffee." The tone in Rodney's voice suggested that the making of coffee ranked alongside finding a fully-charged ZPM.

"I did," John confirmed, and sat on the edge of the bed.

"I love you," Rodney said fervently, pushing his way to a seated position and going straight for the coffee. He closed his eyes as he drank, so obviously savoring every drop that John remembered what it was like to be the focus of that intense attention. His dick twitched.

Half the mug was gone when Rodney stopped and his eyes flew open. He looked vaguely panicked. "I, um-- I didn't mean--that is, I'm not--"

Did Rodney think John couldn't handle the L-word? That was actually kind of insulting.

Obviously Rodney was going to insist he hadn't meant it. But given everything they'd been through together, John was actually pretty sure he did. And he didn't feel like letting Rodney backpedal.

"I love you too," John said calmly, just to watch Rodney choke on his coffee.

Rodney set down the mug, yanked John close, and kissed him hard. Rodney tasted like coffee and he kissed like there was nothing in the world he would rather be doing.

The sheet and John's towel were both tangled up with their legs by the time they took a break. "I've been thinking," Rodney said, "about the next stops on your tour of San Francisco."

"Hm?" John thumbed one of his nipples to watch it stiffen, then licked it. Rodney's breath caught. "I kinda figured we could stay in."

"You did mention some...provisions," Rodney pointed out, and wow: when he blushed it went well beyond his shoulders.

For a second John had to think about what he meant, but then it hit him and he shuddered, overcome with a wave of wanting.

"I mean, if you still--"

"I do," John said hastily, before Rodney could say anything that might make him come all over his towel.

"Good," Rodney said, his face still pink. "Because I, ah, like that plan."

"Yeah," John agreed, and kissed him again. Because he could.

"I think I like this city," Rodney said, inanely, and kissed him back.


The End