Author's Note: Kid A is a Radiohead album, and for some reason, it got attached to this story as a working title and I haven't been able to shake it (despite the advice of both betas). It's not songfic, though, I promise—or kidfic, for that matter—so don't worry! I wrote this in Africa, where shalott betaed it. The invaluable Terri gave it a good scrubbing when I got home.
He's not sure how it happens. It's just after Darika, right when they come back through the gate, and John feels perversely proud of Rodney, who pulled his gun right when he was supposed to, and shot just the way he was supposed to, firm and high and without hesitation. Rodney even reloaded swiftly and accurately without being told—and John knows that was his influence, knows it was the effect of hours logged at the shooting range, of him muttering in Rodney's ear, Faster. C'mon—faster.
And Rodney was pretty fucking fast on Darika, firing blam blam blam and killing three; reloading and killing another two. John had fast-crawled to his own weapon by then, and had closed his hand on it just as he heard the distinctive crick crick of Rodney's gun jamming, and John only had time for a quick thought— time for an upgrade—before rolling to his knees and firing blindly at the last Darikan, who stumbled like he'd tripped, and crashed face-first into the ground, shot in the back.
John slowly got to his feet, brushing dirt off his pants. Rodney was still standing there, hands clutching at his still-aimed weapon, his chest heaving almost hypnotizingly in and out, in and out.
"Major?" Ford's voice was tinny in his earpiece. "You all right?"
"Fine," John replied; he wasn't able to take his eyes from the six dead Darikans. Rodney was still standing there, hyperventilating. "Breathe, Rodney," John said softly.
"Sorry, Major? I didn't copy."
John looked at Rodney and said, to Ford, "Everything's fine. We'll meet you back at the gate; we're getting out of here," and it's only once they're safely back in Atlantis that John remembers the jammed gun.
The damn SP-33 always jams during rapid shooting, but it's otherwise a good gun for beginners. Still, Rodney's earned an upgrade, so he elbows Rodney and jerks his head in the direction of the armory. When they get there, John waves his hand over the genetically coded key strip, and the light flashes green.
That's when things start to get blurry. The door opens and closes, and he leads Rodney between some high-stacked crates. He stops at a small cache of Glock semiautomatic handguns, picks one up, checks the mechanism, loads it with a clip and checks it again. It smells oily-plastic-y, and he twirls it once, in his hand, partly testing its grip and partly just showing off, then turns to give it to Rodney.
"Give me yours," John says, and Rodney hesitates only a second before unsnapping the little piece of leather that secures the gun in his thigh holster. Rodney gives him the SP-33, and John replaces it with the Glock. "Glock semi," John explains, and Rodney nods. "It won't jam like that piece of shit you've been using." Rodney turns it over in his hands, and then he checks the mechanism, unloads and reloads the clip, checks it again. John's spent a lot of time watching Rodney's hands; he's seen them flying through the air and typing furiously and rewiring machinery, and lately, he's seen them loading weapons and defusing bombs. Now he stares at Rodney's hands—strong, square, long fingered—as they move over the gun.
Finally Rodney makes a satisfied-sounding noise and shoves the gun back into its holster—that's when it happens, and he can't remember how. He thinks that he must have bumped into Rodney, or maybe Rodney stumbled against him—or maybe it was the gun, maybe he was going to fasten the gun back into Rodney's holster with the little leather strap—but suddenly he's unbuckling Rodney's belt, and Rodney's fumbling at his fly. John pushes Rodney back against an army-green plastic crate, and Rodney's wearing faded gray briefs, but his cock is big and angry-red, the head already glistening. John wraps his hand around it like a joystick and thumbs the smooth, leaking tip. He feels Rodney's hand before he sees it—Rodney's got him, Rodney's—God, good, yeah—and when he finally glances down, he sees that Rodney's grip is upside-down and backwards, that Rodney is using his two little fingers to massage the flared lip of his dick.
John doesn't know how this happened, but he isn't really surprised: this sort of thing happens, has happened, and will definitely happen again. He's been in the military long enough to know that guys console themselves with booze, fighting, and getting off—and John's never been one for drinking or fighting. So he isn't surprised—not that surprised, anyway—to find himself being jerked off by Rodney McKay. He isn't surprised at anything until Rodney grabs his face, turns it, and kisses him.
Slow, slow, so fucking deep and slow—and Jesus, that isn't—that is totally not how it works. Rodney is kissing him slow and soft, and it's a lot stranger than the hand on his cock, because he jerked off last night, but he hasn't been kissed since...well, he's never been kissed; not like this. Cause when he's kissing, he's kissing; it's him doing the kissing; and he's kissed a couple of girls since Atlantis, but Rodney's kissing him like he's in charge, his tongue stroking thick and deep into John's mouth. And John hasn't ever been kissed like that, so he grabs Rodney's shoulder to shove him away—but Rodney moans and leans into the touch, and the hand around John's cock tightens and he is there, world whooshing blue behind his eyelids, that deep dark blue that's the sky beyond cloud range and the color of all his orgasms.
He gives it up, hard and shaking, with Rodney's tongue in his mouth, and Rodney's cock jerks and spurts into his fist. John gasps for breath, and Rodney breaks away just long enough to mumble, "Oh my God, oh my God; God; yes," and then Rodney grabs his face again and pulls him close, and Rodney's kissing the motherfucking life out of him. John doesn't know what to do, doesn't know what the fuck to do in this situation—hit him, or push him away; or explain that, no, no, this isn't; this wasn't what he—but instead John finds himself opening his mouth and pushing his tongue against Rodney's and generally kissing Rodney back as hotly as he can manage, because Jesus, this is good.
It's a while before they break apart, and Rodney kind of grabs the back of his neck and gives him two hard, blunt kisses before finally letting go of him, and when he does, his face is flushed. Rodney doesn't meet his eyes; instead, he looks away, looks down, zips up his pants, then pulls his shirt out over his waistband—and so John numbly does the same, rearranging himself back into something that might even pass for normal.
He doesn't know what to say, exactly; this wasn’t what he was expecting, wasn't the quick, clean, military jerkoff that he's used to: guys under stress, guys just being guys. This was weirdly personal, and kind of emotional—and unresolved, somehow, great orgasm notwithstanding. He doesn't think it's because Rodney's his friend; he's had occasion to jerk off his friends before, and normally, you get past the awkwardness with a grin and a beer. But this, this is—and he searches his mind for the right word, and when he finds it, he groans softly, because Jesus, he's got to clear this up immediately.
"I'm not gay, Rodney," John says, and it's awkward to have to say it, but it really has to be said.
Rodney jerks to look at him and barks out a laugh, and John's about to be really, really angry when he sees Rodney flinch and quickly look away again, his mouth in a tight, unhappy line.
"Oh, believe me; I know," Rodney says with something like his usual scorn, and things would almost feel normal if Rodney would just look at him. "Gaydar's working fine, thanks; I don't need a memo filed in triplicate—though I do enjoy patronizing post-coital talk as much as the next guy."
John's now sorry he said anything. "Hey, come on. I didn't mean—"
But Rodney sighs and waves that away. "No, no, it's fine; don't worry about it. I've been working for the military since the beginning of time, so whatever: I'm used to it. We won't speak of this again, blah blah."
"Well," John says helplessly, "just so long as we're clear."
"Fine, we're clear. Bell-clear; sunny sky-clear; Pythagorean Theorem-clear, all right?" and Rodney's halfway to the door when he turns and says, "Oh, and hey: thanks for the gun."
"We'll never speak of this again," Rodney promised, and boy, he wasn't kidding; Rodney's better than the most jaded, careerist military officer John's ever worked with at keeping a secret. Not only doesn't he ever mention his jerk-off session with John, but he doesn't let it affect his body language—not even when they're standing close together, not even when they're standing close together and talking about guns. You would never in a million years guess that Rodney's had his hand on John's dick, that Rodney's tongue has been in John's mouth. Rodney's still the same, pushy, in-your-face guy he's always been, and John realizes with dismay that he's radically underestimated Rodney's capacity for subtlety—either that, or he's losing his mind and nothing happened between them at all.
It's weird how easy it is to doubt his own blurry memory: Rodney kissed him, didn't he? or does John just wish he had? The whole thing begins to take on the character of a daydream, a ghost of a memory that vanishes every time he tries to match it up to concrete detail: Darika, Rodney shooting and killing four (five?) Darikans before his gun jammed. John taking him to get a new one and then pushing him up against the stack of army-green crates and kissing him—or does he just wish he had? John stares at Rodney, looking for some indication, some clue in his face, but Rodney gives him no sign at all. There's no flicker of guilt—let alone heat—in his eyes when he catches John looking at him. Rodney just says, "Hm? What?" and John shakes his head: nothing. "What is it?" Rodney insists, and when John doesn't answer, Rodney frowns and checks his teeth with his tongue. It's enough to make John wonder if maybe he's been hallucinating, if maybe the Darikans had psychedelic air or something. Eventually, he checks the logs just to make sure they actually went to Darika—which they had, so score one for him.
"I wanted to be an explorer," John says, staring into the the brilliant purple-blue sky of Kotuna, which seems to stretch out forever. The rope is cutting into his wrists, and his wrenched shoulder hurts. "But everything seemed to have been explored already—except for the sky. That's why I became a pilot."
"You think small," Rodney says from behind him, and John feels more than hears Rodney's grunt of effort as he manages to work a finger into the loop of slack John's just made. "I wanted to go to Mars—well, initially; I pretty much got over that when I was ten or so," and John imagines what Rodney must have been like as a kid: model of the solar system on his desk, glow-in-the-dark constellations mapped out on the ceiling, and a closet full of identical shirts, like Charlie Brown. "Actually, I was over most of the Milky Way by then. Too local—wait, yes, there, I've—" and Rodney's fingers are doggedly undoing the knots.
There's blinding pain as the rope runs through the raw, deep grooves in his wrists, but then they're free and scrambling up on numb, shaky legs.
"Oh," Rodney says softly, and John tenses, thinking the Katuni are back. But Rodney's just staring at John's mangled wrists and the bloody rope, and right then, John knows he didn't dream anything.
The look's gone in a flash, but John knows what he saw, and after he returns to Atlantis and makes his report and gets his wrists seen to by Carson, he goes to Rodney's room. Rodney frowns but lets him in, and John takes his face in his hands and kisses him before he can say anything. But Rodney twists away and pushes at his shoulders, holding him at a distance; he looks startled and deeply suspicious.
"What—" Rodney says. "What are you—" and John doesn't say anything, just lets his hunger and desperation show on his face, and after a moment, Rodney says, "Oh, all right," and pulls him back toward the bed.
They fuck twice—the first time fast and sloppy, kissing messily with their hands in each other's pants, and the second time at a more leisurely, exploratory pace. John has a bad moment when Rodney's hands first worm their way under his clothes, but he tells himself not to be chickenshit and lets Rodney undress him and touch him and kiss his throat. It's weird, but having Rodney's fingers sliding across the small of his back feels gay to him, even though he came in Rodney's hand not five minutes ago. He has another bad moment when Rodney breathlessly guides John's hand to his nipple, but this works out okay, because it turns out that Rodney really, really likes having his nipples played with, and Rodney totally loses it when John bends his head to suck one into his mouth. Rodney returns the favor in spades by sliding down his body at John's first, hopeful nudge downward and giving him the best blowjob of his life—longer, and slower, and more expert than anything John's ever gotten from a guy—or from a girl, for that matter.
Even before he crashes into sleep, he knows that this thing with Rodney is going to be A Thing With Rodney, because it's just too good not to be. Once becomes twice becomes a semi-regular thing, and then it's more of a regular, semi-committed, semi-exclusive thing. They don't talk about it, but then again, they don't have to, because Rodney seems instinctively to know what's in John's comfort zone and never pushes him past it. Rodney himself seems happy with having his nipples kissed and getting handjobs, though he does once ask if he can watch John jerk off. John thinks about it and decides he's okay with that, and afterward, Rodney says in a strange, cracked voice, "That was—yes. Very—thank you," and John tucks his arm behind his head and feels smug.
John had been positive that Rodney's thoughts were written all over his face, but now he wonders if that's some kind of diversionary tactic; he sure can't see himself there. Rodney's face never changes, and neither does his voice, or the way he talks to John when they're offworld, not even the morning after Rodney first whispers, "You can fuck me. If you want," and Christ, of course John had wanted, and it had been crazy fucking hot and a hell of a power trip to have Rodney underneath him, moaning and sweating, to rub Rodney's hips with his thumbs and have his cock up Rodney's ass. But Rodney's the same as always the next morning, arms crossed and getting snippy with Zelenka over the radio about some miscalculation or other—and goddamn it, John's not used to being the weak link in the chain. But he is, because he's the one who's finding it hard to pretend that there's nothing between them, and he worries people will look at him and guess. So he overcompensates, goes too far the other way, saying cutting things to Rodney when they're offworld or in front of other people. Rodney seems to know what he's doing and just rolls his eyes.
No one thinks he's gay. They just think he's an asshole.
Still, the combination of secrecy and guilt drives John out of his comfort zone a little, because he wants to make it up to Rodney somehow. He doesn't get to see the look on Rodney's face the first time he kisses his way down past Rodney's belly to his cock, but Rodney inhales sharply and the muscles in his thighs flex hard. John's own neck and shoulders are aching with tension as he grips Rodney's cock and slowly kisses the rounded tip. A drop of fluid wells, and John darts out the tip of his tongue and decides it's all right. From there, he tentatively moves to licking the shaft, and then the crown, and he hasn't had it in his mouth for long when Rodney shoves him away with a swift, hard push to the forehead. John's just about to complain when he sees that Rodney's cupping his cockhead against his belly and come is leaking out through his fingers. Rodney's gasping, half-sitting up and still coming, and John's torn between disappointment (it's over too soon) and relief (because he wasn't really up for swallowing yet.)
When he offers to try again the next night, Rodney's gesture of goodwill ("Look, you don't have to." "It's okay. I want to.") turns into an argument ("Seriously, you don't have to." "Are you actually arguing against getting your dick sucked?") which worsens ("I just want to make sure you—" "I know, I know! Jesus, like you could make me.") and then takes a surprising left turn: ("Oh, I could make you.") John's taken aback, and suddenly he realizes that he and Rodney are standing very, very close, and they're both breathing hard. ("You think so, huh?") Rodney tilts his chin up and knots his hand in the collar of John's shirt. ("I know so. I could totally make you.") and that's how John ends up on his knees, struggling to breathe and more turned on than he's ever been in his life. Rodney's hands tighten in his hair, and Jesus, that's good —-and he lets his mouth slacken so that Rodney can fuck his face. But it's not enough, it's not—Rodney's being—it's all still too damn gentle, and so John wraps his arms around Rodney's thighs and yanks him off balance. Above him, he can hear Rodney say, "What—what are you—?" but by the time Rodney's cock slips out of his mouth and he can speak, he doesn't have to, because Rodney's bent his knees to keep his balance and John easily takes him down. Rodney lands on his ass, and John pins him down on the floor, crawls between his sprawled thighs, and sucks him off hard and fast.
"Oh, sure. That was me making you," Rodney snorts, but he sounds more breathless than ironic. "Trust you to invent X-treme cocksucking," and John grins and finds that he likes the idea.
He's fuelled to new extremes by Rodney's desperate-sounding whimpers and slow, groaning pleasure-noises—and it's nobody's business anyway, what he likes to do in bed and with whom. Still, he's surprised by how much he likes it; it's its own kind of power trip, reducing Rodney to broken-sounding gasps, but he also likes the way Rodney's hands card through his hair and stroke his temples. He even likes the shiver of powerlessness he gets when Rodney's cupping his jaw and fucking his face; maybe that especially.
He feels safe enough to fall asleep over at Rodney's more nights than not; when people want him, they use the radio, and so it doesn't much matter where he is. He tells himself that it's just to avoid waking Rodney up after sex—Rodney works hard, and he's usually pretty zonked out by the time he finally falls asleep—but the truth is that he could probably give Rodney a good shove and Rodney would just roll over onto his face and keep sleeping. John's a light sleeper himself, and sometimes, lying awake and listening to the ocean, he can admit that he really likes having Rodney there beside him, warm limbs all tangled up with his.
Elizabeth stops him at the end of a meeting one day and says, in a serious-sounding voice, "John, do you have a minute?"
"Sure," John replies. "What's up?" and Elizabeth looks him in the eye and says, "I want to talk to you about Rodney."
He doesn't remember sitting down at the conference table; his mind is too busy shuttling through tactics. He considers straight out denial ("I don't know what you're talking about"), vehement denial ("Whoever told you that is full of shit"), accusatory denial ("Where the hell do you get off?"), sorrowful denial ("Jesus, Elizabeth, I thought you knew me better than that"), and just copping a plea ("Okay, it happened, but it's over, and it won't ever happen again, Elizabeth, I swear"). Having examined his cards, John relaxes into the chair and casually drapes his arm over its back while he waits for her to make her play.
"Rodney's invaluable in the field—well, I don't have to tell you that." Elizabeth's hands are folded together in front of her; sometimes Elizabeth reminds him of his sixth grade teacher, Miss Peterson. He had a massive crush on Miss Peterson. "He was good to start with and he's only gotten better; thanks to you, I suppose. And I'd like him to devote more of his energies to making offworld explorations with you and your team, but that's going to require reassigning some of his projects to Zelenka, and, well—" Elizabeth stops and sighs, then shows John a rueful look. "You know how touchy Rodney can get about that."
Oh, he knows. He knows all about it; boy, yeah, Rodney sure can be touchy, you got that right.
"—advise me how to approach him," Elizabeth is saying. "Because it's a compliment, John, if only he would see it that way." She hesitates and then adds: "Maybe he would take it better coming from you. You seem to have a way of managing his—" and with a frustrated wave of her hand, Elizabeth sketches out the shape of his general, truculent Rodney-ness. "Will you talk to him?"
Sure, he will. No problem; he'll talk to Rodney. Don't worry about it. Consider it done.
"Thanks, John," Elizabeth says gratefully, and John shows her his most charming smile. Later that day, he sits down next to Rodney in the mess hall and says, between mouthfuls, "You've gotten good on your feet and you're starting to think like a soldier. You're going to work more with me, now."
Rodney pauses, mid-forkful, to consider this, and then says, "Yes, all right, fine."
That night, he fucks the living daylights out of Rodney. He hadn't planned to; it had been late, and he was thinking maybe he'd just suck Rodney's nipples for a while and then ask for a blowjob, but Rodney pulls him down on the bed and kisses him slow and deep, and suddenly John's desperate to fuck.
"Turn over," he says, and pushes at Rodney's shoulder.
"No," Rodney says, breathlessly. "Fuck me on my back."
"But I want—" John begins; Christ, he's so hard he can't think. "Believe me, you'll want—"
"Oh, well," Rodney says, rolling his eyes. "I didn't realize you had a vision," and yeah, okay, John does have a vision: he wants Rodney up against the wall and coming his brains out. He puts Rodney on his knees facing the wall, and Rodney leans forward, braces his hands, and lets his head drop down, exposing the nape of his neck. John takes a moment to run his hands over Rodney's broad, milky-smooth back, and Rodney shivers and spreads his knees further apart. "Christ, hurry."
John, clumsy with lust, somehow manages to slick himself up and then he's pushing the blunt head of his cock into Rodney, who groans and pushes back against him, pushing him in. That's just—and John holds on tight and lets his cock go on autopilot, and as he goes wilder, Rodney meets him there, until he's practically pistoning forward and Rodney's arms are straining to the point of buckling—and then John drags Rodney down, pins him to the bed beneath him, and fucks him one, two, three until pleasure explodes up his spine like fireworks and blinds him, and Rodney's convulsing beneath him.
Rodney finally lifts his head groggily, looks around, and puts it down again. "Jesus," he mutters into the pillow. "Remind me never to question your vision," and John, who's collapsed on top of him, smiles faintly into his shoulderblades and wonders exactly how much mileage he can get out of a promise like that.
The crisis comes on MC7-920. Rodney's leaning far over the edge of a cliff with a radiation sensor, trying to get a read on what might be a power-source in the valley, and John has a momentary heart-clench of "Rodney!" and then forces it down—because Jesus, he's not the guy's mother or anything, and it's probably fine, and Ronon's right there, and besides, he does dangerous shit all the time and he hates it when people get all over-protective. And just to make the point, John jams his hands in his pockets and turns away to see what Teyla is doing—and so he hears, rather than sees, the sudden rough sound of crumbling rocks, and he turns back just in time to see Rodney and Ronon doing an awkward dance on the cliff's abruptly eroded edge. He has a glimpse of Rodney's pale, terrified face, and Ronon's grabbed Rodney by the arms and is struggling to drag him onto solid ground while still moving carefully, because the edge is still crumbling away beneath their feet—and John's standing there with his hands in his pockets.
For a moment, he's certain that he's going to lose both of them, and then Ronon lets out something like a war cry and heaves Rodney up, off the ground, and sort of throws him toward solid ground, rolling with him in a jumble of pale and dark limbs away from the edge and practically to John's feet.
Teyla's there in an instant, pulling them apart, helping them up, and Rodney's face is scratched and dirty and his shirt is torn, and John's finally got his hands out of his fucking pockets—but they're shaking, so he quickly shoves them in again. He has never been so paralyzed; he doesn't know what to say—how to justify—how to explain what he was doing—thinking—wasn't doing—and all he wants is to throw his arms around Rodney and kiss him—just once, on his scraped-up cheek, just to make sure that he's really alive. But he doesn't, because he can't, and he's afraid that anything he says will come out wrong, and so finally he manages to half-yell: "Rodney! What the fuck?"
Teyla glares at him reproachfully, but that feels good; that feels right; yelling feels safe, somehow.
"If you're trying for a Darwin award, just leave Ronon out of it!"
Rodney's made it to his feet, with Teyla supporting his arm, but he still looks wobbly. A moment later, he gives up and sits down, sending up a little cloud of dust, and puts his head between his legs. "I—sorry," Rodney manages, and he must really be feeling lightheaded. "Oh my God, that was close."
"Yeah, it was," John says, voice slathered with sarcasm. "Nice work, Ronon," and by God, he ought to be court-martialed: it's his job to protect his people. John puts on his most irritable expression and tightens his hands into fists and hopes his team will mistake his agitated shaking for rage, because Jesus, he blew it, he can't believe how badly he blew it; he's not fit for his own damned command.
Back on Atlantis, he sketches out a bare-bones report to Elizabeth, and then goes for a run. He runs, and he runs, and he runs, all the way around the north pier, and halfway up the south, and then back again, and by the time he gets back to his room, his legs feel like rubber and he's really almost hallucinating. He almost falls asleep in the shower, and he passes out on his bed still wrapped in a towel and wet behind the ears.
He doesn't go to Rodney's room that night, or the next night, or the next, but there are no hurt expressions or reproachful stares; Rodney's just exactly the same. He keeps expecting Rodney to waylay him in order to ask just what the hell is wrong with him (a question John's never been able to answer to his own satisfaction.) But when Rodney finally does waylay him, it's only to slide a long-range satellite photo across the table to him. John picks up the picture and turns it around a couple of times, trying to guess which way is up; it's something mechanical, anyway, floating in space somewhere. It's a...?
"It's a weapons system," Rodney says, beaming, and John sees then that Rodney's practically bouncing on his toes. "I think—and oh, you're going to love this; you're going to love this so much—but I think it's a disintegrator beam," and the thing is, John does love it, John loves it with an unholy passion; loves the idea and the thing itself and the very words: disintegrator beam.
And so he's grinning stupidly and repeating, "A disintegrator beam?" just to say it out loud, and Rodney grins back and says, "Yeah. A disintegrator beam," because obviously Rodney loves to say the words as much as he does.
"Okay, that's cool," John says, and really, his face hurts—because a disintegrator beam. "A disintegrator beam is just cool," and Rodney manages to say with a straight face, "You think the disintegrator beam is cool?" and John says he thinks the disintegrator beam is way cool.
"So how can we get it?" John asks, and Rodney says, "Ah, yes; well; that's the tricky part."
They spend the next couple of hours hunched over the table working out a plan—sketching it out, and then refining it, and then figuring out how to pitch it to Elizabeth, complete with "good cop-bad cop" contingencies, ("We need this for science!" "We need this for war!" depending on Elizabeth's mood on any given day) and when they've got something they're both pretty happy with, they break into the mess and eat an entire roll of Atlantis's highly-coveted Oreos. They peel off to their respective rooms with a wave, still covered in black crumbs, and John's almost at his door when he remembers that he and Rodney sort of have A Thing, except, huh, maybe they don't anymore. Maybe they're just friends, now, again, like they used to be before Darika. That's good, John thinks, taking off one boot, to know that Rodney's cool like that, except really, it's unnerving, John thinks, taking off the other boot, because it's like Rodney doesn't even remember that they've been fucking; like it never really happened at all.
Except John's changed too much to believe that; he remembers Rodney's tight, wet mouth, and how it felt to fuck him halfway through the wall. More importantly, he remembers the way Rodney's cock felt on his tongue, heavy and thick, and there's no way he made that up, because cocksucking was never part of his imaginative repertoire. He never dreamed about kissing nipples or sucking cock before (or did he, and he just pretended he didn't?) He lays back and drapes his arm over his eyes, and what he remembers, mostly, is the way Rodney kisses him. And how it feels not to have to sleep alone.
John reminds himself that no good can come of this, that he's the military commander of the most distant base ever known to planet Earth, and he can't afford any distractions, particularly of the gay kind—but already he's crumbling, and he's cold, and Rodney found him a disintegrator beam, and Jesus. He holds out for another couple of days, and then he's on the way back to his room when he suddenly swerves and goes to Rodney's instead, and Rodney opens the door and says, "Oh, hey," and lets him in.
They don't talk about it; John just says, "Hey," and runs his hand along the fly of Rodney's pants, and by the second upstroke, Rodney's cupping his face and kissing him. They make it to the bed, and it's almost like old times: lying there, kissing, with their hands in each other's pants. But then John breaks away, and bends to kiss Rodney's nipples, and then slides down to take Rodney's cock into his mouth, and when he feels Rodney's hands sink into his hair, he lets himself drift into happiness.
It's so easy, falling asleep next to him, like they've never been apart, that John could almost believe these last few weeks never happened. But then, a few nights later, Rodney says suddenly, "Do me a favor. Fuck me slow."
"How slow?" John asks.
"Slow as you can manage," Rodney answers, and John says okay. Rodney lies on his back and lets his legs splay apart, and John kneels between them and kind of half-leans over Rodney while he fucks him, slow and steady. He figures that Rodney wants to kiss while they fuck, so he's kind of expecting Rodney to pull him down and kiss his mouth, but Rodney doesn't kiss him—Rodney just lies there, eyes half-lidded and looking pleasure-drunk. John strokes in as slowly as he can, and Rodney's eyelids flutter, and he says, "Oh," and "God," and "Please," and then: "John. John," before he comes all over himself.
When the weak link in the chain finally snaps, it's Rodney after all. Dr. Parrish is giving John and Elizabeth a tour of the greenhouse and babbling excitedly about the virtues of various plants they've discovered. Rodney's there, too, as the head of the science division, but he's plainly bored to the point of distraction; John himself is blinking a lot more than normal: blink and nod, blink and nod. Uh-huh, yep.
He tries to shake off his lethargy, and turns to feign interest in some nearby plants—except they're actually interesting: red, sunflowery things with a prickly yellow center and a white stalk, dangerous-looking and really pretty. John gently touches his fingertip to the pad of yellow pricks to appreciate their sharpness, and they feel neat, like bristles, and then he thinks ow, and then whoa, and then I can't feel my legs, and then he's on the floor and there are hands on him and voices shouting, and then nothing.
He seems to remember Carson's low murmur, and Elizabeth's sensible-sounding voice, but they're far away and kind of floating over him; he's made of stone, he's paralyzed: very possibly he's dead.
He smells Rodney before he sees him, what must be the blur of him, and then he feels Rodney's hand ghosting over his face—tracing his hairline, down his temple, the line of his jaw. Then Rodney's fingers are gripping his chin, and he feels Rodney's two soft, firm kisses to his mouth. "Please be okay," Rodney murmurs. "Just—be okay, okay?" and John tries to say he's okay, because he hates hearing Rodney—
"Teyla," and John knows that voice: that's the voice Rodney uses when there's an absolute disaster and they're all going to die. "Teyla—wait. Please," and it's only then that John realizes that this is another kind of disaster: Teyla knows, Teyla has seen Rodney kissing him—and John's mind instantly goes to its safest place, plausible deniability. Rodney kissed him, and he's unconscious, he's paralyzed; probably dead; he can't be held responsible for—
"It is all right," Teyla says softly, and John can almost hear her smile. "Do not worry about—"
Rodney's voice is soft and desperately urgent and farther away; he's gone to her and he's talking fast. "I need you to promise me that you won't say anything. Not to anybody. Promise me, Teyla; please?"
"I think you are underestimating Dr. Weir," Teyla chides gently. "Not to mention the rest of us. You and Colonel Sheppard are popular leaders in Atlantis; people will be happy for you."
"Look," and Rodney's voice is violently torn between irritation and desperation, "I don't have time to explain the way the world works to you, but trust me when I say—"
Teyla's now annoyed. "Trust me when I say that Dr. Weir would—"
Rodney cuts her off. "It's not Dr. Weir I'm worried about."
"But..." Teyla falls silent—probably confused, because God knows John is confused.
Rodney's voice suddenly sounds ragged and raw. "Teyla, look—I just—oh, Jesus," and John's never heard Rodney sound like that; they've been under threat of imminent impending death and he's never heard Rodney sound like that. "Just—please, promise me that you won't—" and then Rodney sighs and says, "Look, he'll break it off," and the words feel like a slap.
Now Teyla sounds shocked. "How can you believe—"
"He will," Rodney says flatly. "I know he will. Look, you don't understand, but believe me, he's him and I'm me, and this thing we have—it's fragile, all right? It won't withstand—he won't stand for—look, he just can't know anybody knows. Or there won't be anything to know about, and I'd like to have this a little bit longer, if it's all the same to you."
"Rodney," and Teyla's voice is low and sad and sympathetic. "Someone is going to find out. Atlantis is a small place; sooner or later—"
"Thanks, I'm not stupid," Rodney says sharply, and no, Rodney McKay is anything but stupid. Rodney can think through a problem faster and more exhaustively than anybody John's ever known: why should this be different? When Rodney speaks again, his voice has lost its edge. "It doesn't have to be forever," Rodney says quietly. "'Sooner or later'—I'll take later; later is better. He nearly died today, if you didn't notice. I could die tomorrow, or the day after that. In my fantasies, I think—maybe something happens before he..." Rodney doesn’t finish the thought. "Mostly, I think I'd just like to have this as long as I can."
"That is not very romantic," Teyla says.
"It's practical," Rodney replies. "You have to know who you're dealing with," and that's the voice Rodney uses when he's analyzing data or discussing natural phenomena, except now it's him, splayed out for dissection. The worst thing, of course, is that Rodney's right: Rodney's got him pegged as neatly as a mathematical figure or a species of butterfly.
"I think you are underestimating him," Teyla says loyally.
"Don't be ridiculous; he's the chief officer of a military outpost in another galaxy," Rodney replies irritably. "I don't expect him to—"
John never learns what Rodney doesn't expect of him, because suddenly he opens his eyes and it's Carson, sitting there. "Congratulations, Colonel," Carson says, with a faint smile. "You've conducted a very successful medical experiment for us, thank you."
"Scared the hell out of us, more like," and that's Rodney, and when John turns toward the sound of his voice he sees that the room is full of people: Carson and Elizabeth are standing by the bed, and Teyla and Ronon are looking on. Rodney's taken a position in a chair on the far side of the room, by the door, and John knows what it must be costing him to keep his distance—like he's nobody, like they're nothing.
"That too," Elizabeth agrees, "but I'm with Carson: it's better to look on the bright side."
"Uh, guys," John says, trying to sit up, and failing, "before you decide this is the bright side, I should probably tell you that I still can't feel my legs."
"Yeah, well, that's because that flower you touched turns out to be an Ancient anesthetic," Rodney snaps from the far side of the room. "We could have done open heart surgery on you and you wouldn't have felt a thing," and it's funny, but John does feel kind of weirdly hollow inside.
When they release him, John's too exhausted to do anything but face-plant on his bed and sleep for sixteen hours. When he finally wakes up, he feels better—plus, he's starving, so he walks on unsteady legs over to the mess and eats two MREs and drinks a half-gallon of Athosian kula juice. That leaves him feeling full and happy and tired, and so he substitutes a quick radio check for the command center visit he'd been planning ("Everything's all right, sir. You just feel better, sir.") and goes back to his room.
He goes back to bed and lies there with the pillow over his head for at least fifteen minutes before groaning and getting up again, and Rodney's not in his room yet but that almost doesn't matter—the pillows smell like him and so John gets under the covers, pulls Rodney's hypoallergenic comforter up around his neck, and passes out.
He wakes up at Rodney's surprised shout, and braces himself for the furious whispered tirade: "What the hell are you doing here? You're not well—you should be in bed, asleep; your bed; not to mention that people will be looking for you, Carson, the nurses, Elizabeth and Lorne, Jesus—"
"Shut up," John says, "and get into bed."
"Fine," Rodney says after a moment. "But it's your goddamned fault if anything happens," and Rodney gets into bed with a lot of grumbling and shifting around under the covers, and when he finally settles down, John rolls over and presses his face into the evening-bristly skin just below Rodney's jawline. Rodney doesn't say anything, but his hand immediately comes up to cup John's head, fingers sinking into his hair just the way that he likes.
But things don't feel quite the same, even though life goes back to what passes for normal on Atlantis.
The disintegrator beam works, though it has a limited range, and Rodney rigs it up to a jumper so that John can fly stealthy nighttime raids to destroy key pieces of Wraith equipment—which succeeds as a strategy by baffling the Wraith as much as anything else.
John sleeps in Rodney's room most nights, and he spends a lot of time watching Rodney suck his cock and wondering what else Rodney knows about him that he isn't saying.
They narrowly escape being eaten by a hideous, fast-moving beast on M8L-140, and are saved only because Teyla draws their attention to the increasingly agitated chittering of the planet's bird-like creatures. John impulsively decides better safe than sorry, grabs Rodney's arm and drags him into a dense thicket of shrubs; Ronon and Teyla have just ducked behind their own bushes when the thing bursts out of the forest—a green, scaly wall of eyes and teeth and tusks—and runs past them, making the leaves rattle and the ground shake beneath them.
"What the hell?" Rodney whispers.
"Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal," John replies, and Rodney's flat line of a mouth crooks upward at one corner, and the name Traal sticks to the planet, though only the scientists get the joke.
John thinks about asking Rodney to fuck him, but he can't figure out if he wants it, or if it's just guilt. In the end, he sort of guides Rodney's hand to his ass one night when they're kissing, though he freaks out and nearly breaks Rodney's wrist when Rodney makes a first, tentative exploration with his finger.
"Sorry," John manages, and he can barely breathe; inside, he feels almost hysterical, like he's going to crack into pieces if something doesn't break soon, if something in him doesn't break. "I— Rodney, I—"
Rodney slings a warm arm around his neck and kisses him. "Shh, yes; it's all right. Jesus, calm down."
"Yeah, okay," John gasps, and hangs on.
On Strungi, they set out on a day-long hike up into the mountains to search for the remains of a highly-technological people that Sateda used to trade with; Ronon thinks they might have survived the Wraith because they rarely ventured into the open and lived instead in a network of shielded underground caves. They've walked for maybe four hours under the hot sun, mostly uphill, when John realizes he hasn't heard a word of complaint out of Rodney—and then he sees that's because Rodney's doing fine. Rodney's got a good stride, and he's barely sweating, and his hand is relaxed but just near enough to reach for his gun.
"What?" Rodney says, and Jesus, he's not even breathing hard.
"Nothing," John replies.
But Rodney sort of squints at him. "You're quiet, even for you—and you've raised laconic to an art form."
"Nah. I'm just the strong and silent type," John says.
"Hmph. I was never going to be strong or silent," Rodney says, "so I had to overcompensate by being brainy and rich." John tries to stifle a smile and says, "Rich? You never told me you were rich," and Rodney says, airily, "Oh yes; didn't I say? I'm loaded; stinking with it. I could show you my bank statement, but you'd have to brace yourself for the zeroes."
John loses the fight with his smile. "Oh yeah? Well, in another life, I was a cowboy."
Rodney snorts at this. "A surfer, you mean. Maybe the guy who sells people those shell-bracelets."
"Okay, a surfer-cowboy," John allows. "Who plays country music on the side."
"They made that one already," Rodney replies. "I think Keanu Reeves was in it. It sucked."
"Fine, then," John says, rolling his eyes. "What would your movie be?" and he's expecting a funny answer like Weird Science or Buckaroo Banzai, but Rodney thinks about it seriously as they hike together in the hot sun, and in the end he says, "You know, I don't think my movie's been made yet."
He's not sure how it happens, why that day as opposed to any other. He remembers sitting at a big table in the mess, and Elizabeth and Teyla and Ronon were there, and Rodney was there, too, sitting across the table. He remembers looking down at his tray and realizing that he'd eaten all of the little skinny things that tasted almost like french fries. He remembers that Elizabeth had been talking about Wilby and Miller, who'd asked her for permission to get married, and while Elizabeth had been delighted at the prospect of the first Atlantean wedding, some debate had ensued about who had authority to perform the ceremony.
Things get a little blurry then, though he remembers someone saying that it should be Elizabeth, as governor of the Atlantis colony, and someone else suggested Caldwell in his role of ship's captain, and it must have been Teyla who suggested Halling, and he's pretty sure it was Rodney who said, what did it matter, it was all just symbolic anyway. And maybe it was that, or maybe it was Elizabeth saying it was strange that more people hadn't coupled up, or maybe it was just that Rodney hadn't finished his french fries, but John suddenly hears himself saying, "Rodney and I are sort of together," and he doesn't know who looks more surprised, Elizabeth or Rodney, who's staring at him like he's broken all the laws of physics.
Teyla looks vaguely smug, and if Ronon's surprised—well, John doesn’t even know what that would look like. "Oh really?" Elizabeth says, recovering a lot faster than Rodney. "That's..."
"—great, yeah," John says, supplying the word for her, and Elizabeth says, "Well, yes; yes, of course."
And Rodney is still staring at him with an open mouth, and, as John reaches across the table and starts eating Rodney's french fries off his plate, he suddenly can't remember ever being this happy.