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Rodney gave due consideration to the idea of letting Sheppard continue to keep him in an envelope taped to the bottom of his mental bureau drawer. That took about thirty seconds, and then he called, "Sheppard!"
After a few seconds, Sheppard's voice said, "Yeah?"
"Where are you?"
Rodney looked around the room. "Sheppard, I really think we ought to discuss this. Not that I have a problem with it -- quite the contrary, in fact. I just think --"
"So talk." Sheppard sounded pretty much like always, slightly amused, slightly bored.
"I'm not having this conversation with your disembodied voice."
"I'm right here, McKay."
"You're nowhere to be seen!" Rodney glared at the room, the papery white walls, the gleaming wood floor. "Which, don't think I don't appreciate the symbolism, but I'd still prefer your actual -- look, in case it wasn't abundantly obvious, in case you didn't catch one of the ten thousand clues that must be scattered all over my brain like so much spilled popcorn, you've got nothing to worry about. The feeling is entirely mutual."
" 'Scuse me if I kind of doubt that."
"No, seriously," Rodney said, and then he threw up his hands and said, "This is ridiculous. I might as well be talking to myself." And he thought a nice cushy recliner into the middle of Sheppard's meditation space and sat down in it.
"Very tasteful," Sheppard's voice said.
"Oh, so you can see me," Rodney said. "Good." He put a disco ball on the ceiling and set "Wish You Were Here" going loudly, because if Sheppard wasn't above cheap symbolism, then neither was he.
"If you bring out the blacklight, I'm leaving," Sheppard's voice said.
"You're not here in the first place," Rodney pointed out. He conjured up a bag of vinegar chips, but since he couldn't remember very clearly what they tasted like, they weren't much good, and the uncertainty wrecked the illusion. He threw them on the floor instead.
"This place wasn't trashy till you showed up," Sheppard's voice said.
"Consider yourself lucky I'm past the blowing-things-up phase," Rodney said. "Unless a nice explosion is what it would take to make you show up."
"McKay, seriously, I'm right beside you." Sheppard was sounding a little angry, which Rodney hoped meant he was a little rattled. "I'm just as much here as I always am."
"Yes, yes, my point exactly," Rodney said. "You're not even trying."
"I shouldn't have to try," Sheppard said. "Existence doesn't require effort."
"If you say so."
"Fine," said Sheppard's exasperated voice. "This is me putting my full effort into existing, which is the kind of thing that gets you kicked out of Philosophy 101."
"Uh-huh. Good luck with --" Rodney stood up, scattering crumbs over the floor. There was a dark shape barely visible through the paper wall.
He ducked through an open doorway that hadn't been there a minute ago --
And found himself in an empty room, exactly like the room he'd just left behind, except without his own mess.
"Oh, cute, very cute." He put rust-colored shag carpet on the floor and brown bamboo print on the walls, just because he could. "You consider this making an effort?"
"I'm doing the best I can." Sheppard's voice was plaintive, and Rodney considered the possibility that he was telling the truth. Maybe it wasn't that he didn't want to be found but that he didn't know how.
Of course, the end result was just the same. "Still not good enough."
This time, the dark shape was clearer, more obviously human, and Rodney went through the doorway at a half-run. Another empty room, another shape on the wall -- this time the silhouette marked it clearly as Sheppard, unruly hair and a holster lump on his thigh -- another doorway, another empty room --
"God damn it!" Rodney picked up a chair without wondering where it came from and flung it at the thin wall between him and the Sheppard shape. The paper tore with a whining sound, and Sheppard's voice said, "Hey, now," and Rodney shouldered through the dangling shreds --
Into snow, deep snow with a thick crust on top and a biting wind blowing over it. He thought himself into arctic clothing hastily, and then turned a slow circle. Bright low sun, no building behind him, nothing in any direction except a single line of footprints.
"I've known showgirls who were less effort than you are," he grumbled, and floundered off after them.
The walk was just long enough to make him begin to wonder if it was ever going to end, and then he came to a little rise with a huddled gray-green shape at the top of it. He stumbled up the slope and dropped down to sit beside Sheppard.
The fur-trimmed hood of Rodney's parka obscured his vision, so that he had to turn his entire head to see Sheppard, at which point the fur-trimmed hood of Sheppard's parka was all he could see. Sheppard was looking steadily off into some snow just like all the rest of the snow.
It was crazy, really, to think this could work. He was pretty sure that much more patient people had battered themselves to pieces against this wall; he was all for plumbing the mysteries of the universe, but the mysteries of the universe weren't usually actively trying not to be discovered.
He sighed. It was going to suck to go back to normal life after seeing those pictures, after knowing that Sheppard had this inside him and wasn't willing to let it out. But he didn't see that he had any choice.
"I'll go," he said.
Sheppard's hand shot out to grip his forearm. "Rodney," he said.
Rodney didn't move, didn't say anything, didn't feel the slightest warmth from Sheppard's gloved hand through his parka sleeve.
After a moment, Sheppard turned him slightly and unfastened the map pocket on the back of his parka. There was a file folder inside.
"Yes, I saw," Rodney said. "Very flattering, though at this point I'd be willing to trade the whole gallery for, I don't know, direct eye contact."
"Just open it," Sheppard said wearily.
Rodney had to admit that his own fantasies made much better blackmail material than Sheppard's did. What had been warm and connected and exciting in his head was pornographic, almost violent, here in black and white.
"It, it wasn't, I didn't mean." Rodney dropped the photos in the snow, gesturing helplessly. "It isn't like this."
"You're sure of that," Sheppard said in the flat tone of someone who thought he already knew the answer to the question.
Rodney moved again to go, and Sheppard turned suddenly -- Rodney saw his face for the first time now, windburned and grave. He tore off his glove, then fumbled with Rodney's, and took Rodney's bare hand in his, palm to palm.
God. Sheppard was tense, almost shaking. Around them, the wind turned the photos and blew them over, images of their naked limbs tangled and sweaty, and Rodney's heart stuttered in his chest with the feel of Sheppard's hot, slightly damp palm on his, Sheppard's fingers tightening.
With his other hand, he reached up and pushed off Sheppard's hood, undid the toggle at his throat, pulled the zipper slowly down. Sheppard drew a sudden breath and his hand tightened further, but his voice had a warning note to it. "Rodney --"
"The hell with that," Rodney said, pulling the zipper of Sheppard's parka all the way down and reaching into that hot space to untie the waist string one-handed. "I'm not buying it, Sheppard. John. I'm not buying it. We don't have to choose. We can have both."
"Rodney!" Rodney pushed the sides of the parka open, and John shuddered hard. "It's twenty below out here."
"Then change it." Rodney let go of John's hand and shoved the parka off his shoulders, revealing a green wool sharpshooter's sweater underneath. "We're in your head, John. Make it safe for us." And then he wrenched his own parka off.
The cold hit him like a slap, taking his breath away, and for a second he was sure he had it all wrong, horribly, horribly wrong, and he didn't know if he could die here but he wasn't eager to find out. And then the wind died, suddenly, as if someone had turned off a fan, and the still air went warm all at once.
Hot, even, with the characteristic metallic smell of too many computers running in a small space, and Rodney realized that the white that had been snow was the rumpled sheets of his own unmade bed.
"I probably, if I were a purist I'd insist on your room --"
"Rodney," John groaned, "jesus christ," in an aggrieved tone, pressing him down on the bed, and the rest was lost in his mouth.
Rodney knew entirely too well what John looked like when he was getting kissed by some random beautiful dangerous alien, all lazy acquiescence or ostentatious gentleness. This full-body yearn was nothing like that at all. John had hold of Rodney's head with both hands, and he wasn't so much kissing him as drinking him.
Rodney rolled him fast and pushed the pants and longjohns off his legs -- and hooray for verisimilitude having its limits, because his own clothes and both their boots had gone back into one of the many closets in John's imagination.
"Oh, god," John sighed as Rodney's weight came down on him, and Rodney bit hard at his throat and his shoulder just to feel him yield.
When Rodney started down John's body, John struggled hard, shook him off and went over on his face, sides heaving in and out.
"Oh, god, yes," Rodney breathed, because it was exactly the way he'd always imagined it, and he drew one hand up the back of John's hairy thigh from his knee to the lower curve of his ass, feeling the shudder roll through John and into him, and then John spread for him and Rodney curled forward against the warmth of his body.
It was fantasy, and everything ought to be perfect -- but it was John Sheppard's brain, full of twisty little passages, and god knew what would happen. Rodney rested his elbow on the bed and let his head drop, mouth right against John's ear. "It doesn't hurt," he said. "I absolutely will not hurt you; you should know me better than that. Let me in." And John's hand groped wildly, and found his, and squeezed, and Rodney's cock slid into him without guidance, without resistance.
"God," John said in a voice almost too quiet to hear, but he picked up volume as Rodney began to move: "God, Rodney, yeah, yeah --"
"Yeah," Rodney said. "Oh, god, John, I thought you'd never, oh --"
John pushed back against him, tentative, and then he did it again, and again, demanding. Rodney fought him, working smooth and slow and deep as he could, using his weight to keep control. John pushed up, harder, and groaned again when Rodney didn't budge.
"Is it," John gasped, "is it like this? For real?"
Rodney pressed his face against the back of John's neck, because he'd suspected, but to be told was something else again. "Better," he said.
John shuddered hard under him, clenching down on him, coming without a sound; his head reared back when orgasm hit him, pressing the side of his face against Rodney's mouth, and Rodney opened his mouth to taste John's sweat.
"Better," he said again, and, god, he wanted it now. "Slower, harder, tighter, realer, you have to, god, John, you have to make it happen, you have to fight --" and just saying it made him come, hard, pinning John's panting body to the bed that didn't smell quite right because John didn't yet know what Rodney's pillow smelled like, but he would, he would.
"You will," Rodney told him, and John said, "Yeah."
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Back to in medias Res
January 20, 2006