Spoilers: Only vague ones, up to The Return
Author's Notes: Written for maverick4oz in the 2006 sga_santa, whose request covered a wide range of things, from which I picked: McShep. I like first time fics, episode tags (I'd especially enjoy something to "Common Ground".) I'd dig a team fic with the crew on Earth. My numero uno bullet proof kink is straddling.
So, two guys walk into a bar.
John has a thousand and one of them, collected over the years and several postings; bad joke after bad joke running through his brain. It keeps him busy and it's marginally more entertaining than calculating the drag coefficient on the peanuts he's flicking through a puddle of beer.
He's obviously been spending far too much time with Rodney if this is what passes for entertainment these days.
There's a football game playing on the big screen behind the bar and he's pretending to watch it. Pretending because a) the blonde at the end of the bar is trying to catch his eye and he's trying to avoid catching hers. She's cute but...
He's not really in the mood for a little flirtation tonight and damn if that doesn't mean he's definitely been spending too much time with Rodney. Any more of this and he'll end up wearing boxers with lemons on them - only in his case it would probably be mini, cartoon Wraith if he's going with an 'arch nemesis' kind of theme.
Sometimes it pays to keep Atlantis' CMO in whiskey and women if only for the little tidbits Carson lets slip every now and then - like Rodney's choices in underwear. Well, keep Carson in whiskey and Cadman, and he's pretty sure she counts.
Atlantis' former CMO now, of course, and the thought is a morose one. He refuses to dwell on it, though, and flicks another peanut across the table. It bounces off the blonde's leg and he winces. He throws her a chagrined smile, all bashful dimples and ducked head, but she glares in his direction before pointedly turning away and eyeing up the Neanderthal at the other end of the bar instead.
Well. That's ended his incredibly short shelf-life as a potential one night stand, and that thought's even more depressing. He didn't want her until she didn't want him and, damn, he's back in high school.
It's barely a distraction, though. Because there's a b) as well, the b that says he's so far out of the loop that he has no idea which teams are playing in forty two inch resolution in his peripheral vision, and where the heck his team are in the League.
He's not even sure who is on his team these days. Football or otherwise.
He's not sure if he still has a team, and that's the most depressing thing of all.
So, two guys walk into a bar.
Actually, this time there's just one of them and the one in question is weighed down, wet and out of breath, but still capable of bitching at the speed of light (which is 1,079,252,849 kilometres per hour and John knew that even before he started hanging out with the Geek side of the Force. Something to do with secretly wanting to be an astronaut someday, he swears, and nothing to do with wanting to get into Janet Mulrooney's pants back in college.
He eventually achieved one out of those two ambitions at least, and space travel is way cooler anyway.)
And just like that, John's day brightens immeasurably. Not quite at the speed of light but certainly approaching the speed at which Rodney moves towards the table. And Rodney? Can move damned fast if hot and spicy buffalo wings are on offer.
"Sorry, sorry," Rodney mutters, banging his bag against the table and John winces, pretty sure that there's a laptop in there at the very least. He wonders if the SGC knows that Rodney's wandering around with a naquadah enhanced laptop probably containing solutions to the secret workings of the Universe. Knowing Rodney, of course, it will be protected with password algorithms that not even the most dedicated of hackers would be able to crack, not without a brain that worked on higher physics the way that Rodney's does.
And since John's pretty sure that Carter's not in town, it's a safe bet that the secret workings of the Universe are safe for now. Carter can't be in town because Rodney doesn't have that half-pissed and half-gleeful look in his eye he always gets after going five rounds with the dumb blonde who's anything but.
And talking about dumb blondes...
"Is there any particular reason that the blonde at the end of the bar is glaring in your direction? I mean, it's not like you've been here long enough to actually offend her. Have you? I'm not that late, am I? Wait, why would I be asking you? You'd be late to your own funeral if you could manage it. Not to mention that you could offend someone in less time than it would take most people to find their own backsides with both hands. Unless we're talking some of the scientists - and I use the term loosely - that I'm currently assigned to work with. I'm pretty sure that they could spend all day trying to find their asses with both hands and still fail dismally -"
"Peanut," he offers succinctly, cutting Rodney off mid-rant and holding one up to the light so that Rodney can see it. "I hit her with one."
"Huh. Does that actually work?"
"I wasn't trying to hit her, Rodney. It just... happened."
"How do flying peanuts just happen? No... wait. Don't actually answer that question. I really don't want to know. It's probably some moronic military mating ritual, the slightly more up to date version of clubbing them over the head and dragging them back to your cave. I'm surprised she was able to resist you, Colonel, what with your demonstration of prowess in peanut hurling."
It's too tempting and John has never been one to resist temptation. And, contrary to Rodney's sometimes snide remarks, his aim is true.
The peanut hits Rodney squarely in the middle of the forehead.
"Oh, very mature, Colonel."
He beams and Rodney scowls at him, the expression so familiar that it hurts.
But what's he supposed to say? So, Rodney. Sometime when I was using up some of that leave they insisted I take before I move on and get my own gate team - which I already have, thank you very much - I was just bumming around like a lost, little boy and I kind of... you know. Missed you. Maybe. A little.
Rodney stops rubbing his forehead and beams backs at him. The expression is so immediate (and, he has to admit, a little desperate) that it throws him for a loop.
"So... how was your vacation?"
He just stares at Rodney until Rodney's face falls. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Not exactly the most witty of questions. 'How was your vacation?'" The words are accompanied by dismissive little quote marks, Rodney's fingers curling in a way that is so him that John has to stifle a smile. "Maybe I should have gone the whole hog and asked you 'what did you do on your vacation?' and then that -"
"So. How's... the new job?"
"... And that's really no better. It's... challenging, interesting and I'm surrounded by morons. Your turn."
This, this is better. This is familiar. Comforting almost, and John feels himself relax for the first time in over a week.
"I went to New York."
"Oh, really?" Rodney has that desperate 'trying to sound interested and act human' look on his face and in the tone in his voice, and John never fails to find that funny. "How was it?"
"Oh. Well... " Rodney being at a loss conversationally never fails to be funny either, usually because at that point he gives up on the 'trying to sound interested' thing and launches straight into the Rodney thing instead.
The Rodney thing is much more fun.
"Any particular way in which it sucked? Or are you planning on drawing this whole conversation out all evening, dropping me little titbits of suckage along the way?"
"I don't think suckage is actually a word, Rodney."
"Yes, yes. I'm sure you got the drift despite that, Colonel." Rodney's already looking around as he talks, trying to catch the eye of one of the overworked waitresses. It's early yet - and the fact that he managed to drag Rodney out this early either means that Rodney has yet to settle into Area 51 and find his niche, or he's snowed under with work and hasn't gone to bed in the last forty eight hours - but the bar is still busy and Rodney doesn't have much luck. It's therefore very satisfying that no sooner has Rodney given up - crossing his arms and huffing in that endearing annoyed way he has - John manages to catch the attention of one with a raised eyebrow and a smile.
"How do you do that?" asks Rodney as soon as she's sauntering off again, all hips and attitude.
John raises his eyebrow again just to hear Rodney's little disgusted snort. "Do what?" he drawls.
Rodney doesn't deign to answer him, but he'd swear blind that the word Kirk is muttered under the man's breath. Oh yes. This is familiar, and he lets the last of the tension seep out of him, stretching in his chair and letting his boot bump companionably against Rodney's foot.
"So," Rodney begins again, tapping his fingers impatiently against the table while eyeing the door through which their waitress has disappeared hopefully, as though her return, laden with buffalo wings and beer, is imminent. "Are you going to tell me why New York sucked, or are you going to keep me on tenterhooks for the rest of the evening, waiting for the next thrilling chapter of 'What I did on my vacation'? Was it a general or specific level of suckiness -"
"See?" John interrupts. "Suckiness is a word."
"What?" The outrage is funny too. "Oh for... Suckiness is not a word."
"It's more of a word than 'suckage'."
"I think you'll find, Colonel, that neither of them are actually found in any dictionary, unless there's one for 'dude-speak'." He eyes John suspiciously. "Please tell me that there's no such thing as a dictionary for 'dude-speak'."
"You think I'm a dude, Rodney?"
"Changing the subject!"
"Yes." He leans forward, carefully avoiding any spilled beer as he leans against the slightly battered table top, and treats Rodney to one of those shit-eating grins that he knows Rodney hates. "But I'd like to point out that I've never actually used the words 'suckage' or 'suckiness'. That was all you, Rodney."
"New York!" Rodney splutters.
"New York. It's a wonderful town."
"And yet," Rodney says, gesturing expansively, "you found the need to leave a week early."
Damn. Caught out.
"Well, I wasn't planning on staying in New York the full two weeks, Rodney," he hedges. "And it didn't suck. Not really. Not entirely, anyway."
"So you saw the city," Rodney staccatos, impatient as always. "Probably visited Ellis Island, took in the sights, got bored - and please don't tell me that the 'it sucked' reference was some lame attempt to allude to getting laid while on vacation because, please, so not interested - and what? The Grand Canyon was shut? You didn't feel like seeing the Giant Ball of Twine in Assend, Wyoming?"
"I don't think there is an Assend, Wyoming, Rodney."
"Once again, changing the subject."
"And how come you're so interested in whether I got laid or not?"
"And - Wait. What? I'm not..."
Now Rodney sits back, arms folded and a scowl on his face and, damn it, he's missed this too.
"Relax, Rodney. I'm just teasing."
Rodney's scowl deepens. "I am relaxed!" And the sad thing is, this is probably as relaxed as Rodney ever gets, at least when he's awake. Asleep it's a different matter. He knows from countless off-world missions how Rodney's face goes slack and placid when he finally lets go and falls into the abyss. Abyss is the best description for the depths Rodney sinks to when he's asleep, all sprawled limbs and open mouthed snores.
It makes him grin, the grin widening when Rodney's face lights up in a way that can only mean that food is approaching. And, of course, Rodney wouldn't be Rodney without his normal twelve stage interrogation process about whether or not the food has been anywhere near citrus and a snide little remark or three about the levels of cleanliness in dives like this one.
"Seriously. They put lemons in the drinks. Lemons! Little slices of death! And you just know that they don't rinse the glasses well enough. This would be why I make sure that I always drink beer out of the bottle. Not even somewhere like this can screw that up."
John makes a mental note to swap their bottles on the next round even as he sends the waitress a little apologetic smile - from the look on her face, he's pretty sure she's thinking of a little addition to Rodney's next drink. Something along the lines of a slice of lemon 'accidentally' finding its way to being rubbed around the neck of the bottle.
He's got Rodney's back, which is just as well, the number of people who come away from meeting the man wanting to kick his ass.
He watches her stalk away again, hips sashaying under the cheap, plain, black skirt she's wearing. It's a nice view, unspoken threats of death by citrus aside, but his attention is drawn back - as always - to Rodney, this time by the small sounds of pleasure.
"Hmmmm... This is good. No, seriously. Very good," Rodney mutters through a mouthful of chicken.
"Chicken and beer." John nods seriously. "Manna from heaven."
Rodney snorts. "I wouldn't go that far, Colonel," but the way he's sucking the sauce from his fingers gives lie to his words. It's bordering on the pornographic, and John has to duck his head to hide the sudden smile at the idea of internet porn of Rodney eating.
"To chicken wings and beer," he offers solemnly when he has his face back under control. Rodney looks up, that small frown creasing the area between his eyes like it always does when he suspects he's missing something, but he plays along anyway, knocking the neck of his bottle against John's.
John's expecting a roll of the eyes - a typical Rodney expression - and the sudden beaming smile hits him hard somewhere around the solar plexus.
"So..." he says, wiping the condensation off the side of his bottle with one finger and looking anywhere but at Rodney. "How's... " He almost says 'work' before realising that it's not like Rodney can start spilling deep dark secrets about working on wormhole theory on a top secret project in the middle of a crowded bar although, knowing Rodney, that's always a possibility. He settles on the slightly less incriminating, "...things?"
Now he gets the eye roll, complete with Rodney's trademarked little huff.
"Things are fine, Colonel, as I believe we've already established. Things are fine, New York sucked. That's where we'd got to, right?"
"You know what New York reminded me of, Rodney?" he asks, apropos of nothing. The condensation is still taking up most of his attention.
John's turn to snort and he's pretty sure he didn't do that as much before he started to hang out with Rodney. "Pretty close. Hot, noisy. Not as much sulphur as you would expect, though."
"It was the steam rising from the sewers that always got me."
"Yeah..." The word's drawn out, his fingernail now peeling back the label of the bottle. It doesn't come away cleanly, leaving a white mess of torn paper behind and that, if anything, is symptomatic of his life right now. "It kind of reminded me of... Sateda."
He hesitates before saying the name of the place, but this is the good old US of A. Half of the people in the bar wouldn't be able to pinpoint Germany on a map and it's even odds that there's a small town in Massachusetts that sounds something like it. Hell, it's probably twinned with Assend, Wyoming.
When he glances up, Rodney is staring at him, blinking.
"Yeah." He pauses in his label peeling and stares past Rodney's head. "I mean, the New York nightlife is more... lively. Hell, so is the 'day life', but... Yeah. It did. A bit."
Rodney has stopped blinking and has gone straight for that thinned lips thing he does. "Did you, by any chance, visit the World Trade Center site?"
"What? No." He shakes his head. "That wasn't it, Rodney. It's a building site now, just looks like any other building site, except maybe a bit bigger." He overrides Rodney's 'ah ha!' look, heading off any comments before Rodney gets a chance to make them. "It was everything else - the skyscrapers, hell, even the fire escapes. I mean, they could have been on any Manhattan tenement, you know? It just... you know." He shrugs, not being able to find the words. "It made me think."
Another huff from Rodney. "Something morbid and filled with guilt, no doubt."
"Now, Rodney, when have you ever known me to be morbid and full of guilt?"
"You're right, you're right," Rodney grumbles, turning his attention back to his chicken wings. "Something slutty and full of glee is far more your usual level."
"Hey!" Long exposure to Rodney has softened any offence and the response is automatic rather than heated. "Just because some of us still possess social skills, Rodney, doesn't mean you can get personal."
"Social skills, huh?" And he doesn't need another of those eye rolls of Rodney's to tell him that something snarky is undoubtedly on the way. Probably something linking back to the 'Kirk' thing that Rodney seems obsessed with. One of these days he's going to order Rodney a pair of Spock ears online, and it will be worth the resultant bitching just to see his face.
However, Rodney doesn't get a chance to comment and, really, almost three years in the Pegasus Galaxy should have told them that Murphy's Law was a concrete, physical law, one that is immutable and inevitable. So John shouldn't be surprised by the fact that the blonde from the bar, the one he'd been half eyeing and half ignoring, chooses that precise moment to stalk out past them, Neanderthal in tow, and mutter a barely concealed, "Gay. Figures," as she does so.
And, God help him, the look on Rodney's face, just then, is funny, funnier than Spock ears even, and it only gets funnier when Rodney turns to him, that look of half-pissed and half-gleeful on his face that John recognises from every sparring match that Rodney's ever had with Carter and says, "So. What was that you were saying about 'some social skills', Colonel? It appears that some women just don't care for the peanut gallery method of wooing."
So funny, in fact, that he's denying all responsibility for leaning forward over the table and saying, "Rodney. We've just been outed. I think you'd better drop the 'Colonel'. This is pretty close to a military town after all."
He's only human and Rodney's resulting spluttering adding to the beer puddles on the table goes a long way towards making his whole evening.
John catches the waitress's eye again even as he moves to hit Rodney - probably harder than is called for - on the back. It seems that the 'eye roll' thing is contagious because he could swear that she's doing just that even as she hurries towards them with a handful of napkins. John therefore feels perfectly justified - and not a little evil - in asking her, "Are you sure there was no citrus in these things?"
Rodney's body tenses under his hand and he taps his back again - even harder this time to shut him up - but he's pretty sure now that the convulsions he's feeling under his fingers are due to laughter and not Rodney choking or anything like that.
Pretty sure, anyway, and when he leans down to peer into Rodney's face to check, the man's complexion might be red but the look that Rodney throws in his direction is that same half-pissed and half-gleeful one that tells him that Rodney is having far too much fun.
The waitress's smile is slightly sour and even more deadly than lemons. "I'm sure, sir," she says, and he can almost hear her teeth grinding.
"Maybe... we should just get the bill," he offers and he may have faced down Wraith but 'pissed off minimum wage-slave' could give them a run for their money in the 'scary mother' game.
"It will be my pleasure, sir," she says in a bright and breezy tone that makes it perfectly clear that the only pleasure she's likely to get tonight will be from seeing their backs as they leave her place of employment.
All of which makes John think that a good tip is called for. As for what Rodney thinks...
Rodney, his coughing fit over, is staring forlornly at the wings still left on the plate.
"Do you think they do doggie bags?" he asks wistfully.
So, two gays walk out of a bar...
"So..." Rodney is juggling his case in one hand and the bag of chicken wings in the other and looks in imminent danger of dropping both. "Have you heard from Elizabeth?"
The question is too casual and Rodney's eyes don't meet his. John doesn't say anything at first, but after a moment of indecision he rescues the chicken on the grounds that it's closer to him. Rodney gives him a quick nod of thanks, his free hand already pulling on the straps of his laptop bag distractedly.
"I called," John admits. "She hasn't returned it yet. But, she's probably... busy." Busy, because that's Elizabeth who is always busy and never lost like the rest of them.
"Huh." More pulling and John resists the urge to slap Rodney's hands away. The fidgeting is making him nervous because Rodney doesn't fidget. He's always in motion, that's true, but his hands are steady and sure. They don't twist aimlessly. "Me either. I mean, she hasn't returned my calls not that I haven't returned your calls."
"I knew what you meant, Rodney."
"Yes, yes." Rodney's reply is just as distracted but that's not unusual - he's no better at talking about this stuff than John is. "I knew you knew. I mean -" He breaks off and rubs his brow tiredly, and John decides that of the two options, it's the 'hasn't slept for forty eight hours' one he should plump for. "I miss them too, you know." He finally catches John's eye. "Ronon and Teyla."
He looks embarrassed and John... John doesn't say anything. He didn't really need the clarification; it wasn't confusion that had struck him dumb, but Rodney's unusual insight and the fact that Rodney not only saw straight through him but that he said so.
"That is why you came back early?"
"Yeah..." The sound comes out hoarse and he swallows. "I..."
"New York sucked, right?"
The smile on John's face is wan but genuine. "Yeah. Like you wouldn't believe."
Rodney makes that little humph noise of his, but it's the non-committal humph and not the 'oh God, oh God, we're all going to die' humph so John lets it slide. "I'm pretty sure I've been to worse places, Colonel."
He nudges Rodney with his elbow, bouncing the bag with the chicken in it against his leg until he remembers that grease and denim don't mix. "You need to drop the Colonel, Rodney, remember?"
"Oh, fine," Rodney huffs. "John," but the look he sneaks John is smug around the edges.
It's warming somehow, in spite of the cool night air, and also so like Rodney that he feels that hurt again, that sudden twinge right in the middle of his chest.
"I might possibly have missed you too," he mutters, staring past Rodney's ear and jangling the car keys in his pocket. With that and the chicken occupying his hands he's pretty sure he's not going to do anything stupid, like reach for Rodney.
"Oh." Rodney sounds ridiculously pleased. "Wait? Possibly?"
"All right." John's never been one to resist temptation. "Probably."
"Probably?" That's a squawk. Score one for John.
"All right. It might be approaching a mathematical certainty. Happy now?"
"Ecstatic." Rodney's voice is pure acid and for some weird, twisted reason that only makes John happier.
"So..." It's John's turn to stretch the word out. "What now?"
"Um." And there's another one of Rodney's looks with which he's very familiar - that deer in headlights look.
"I mean, can I drop you off anywhere?"
Only, it isn't what he means and it comes out all wrong.
"Oh." The sound this time is disappointed, and John has to grab for the laptop bag as Rodney twists his arm to see the watch on his wrist and the strap slides down his shoulder. He grabs for the laptop because... Well, grabbing for Rodney might be a little too emotional right now, and he's still a guy, admissions that he's missed Rodney aside.
"Really?" Rodney continues. "It's early yet. I mean... um... Of course. It's getting late and you've had a long trip, you're obviously tired..."
"It's only ten, Rodney," John protests. "Look, I'm not... I'm not tired. Besides," he waves the bag he's carrying hopefully, "we still have chicken."
"Oh!" and he likes to think that Rodney's face doesn't just brighten because of the prospect of more food. "Well, then..." Rodney's gaze darts around the empty street as though it will give him ideas. "Did you want to find another bar?"
"Nah. Don't think they'll be too happy at us bringing our own." Another wave of the bag to drive the point home.
He should want a bar. Should crave one because there's nothing to beat American beer - although the purists would disagree - and after almost three years subsisting on the bitter Athosian alternative, a nice, cold bottle of Bud is as close to heaven as he can get with his clothes still on. But...
But the car keys press into his fingers and he's survived too much to kill himself and Rodney in a flaming wreck of his own making. It wasn't exactly his smartest idea, to drive here when he's arranged to meet Rodney in a bar, but, hell, he's had a lot worse when it comes to ideas.
And he kind of acquired a taste for the Athosian brew. Almost three years would do that to you.
"We could grab some beers and..."
And what? Sit on a park bench somewhere until the cops come roust them out?
Rodney is still fiddling with the straps of his bag. "I've... um. I haven't got a place yet." He laughs nervously, fingers twisting. "I mean, I've had so many more important things to be getting on with, but the SGC put me up in a not quite the pits motel thingy and it has refrigerator. I think it might even have a mini bar, in case you feel the urge to start flinging peanuts again."
"Peanuts." John nods seriously, kind of gleeful on the inside, hopefully where Rodney can't see it.
But Rodney probably does, if the way he's back to rolling his eyes is any indication.
Two guys walk into a beer...
There are no peanuts, but the beer is cold and it slides down his throat easily. Right now, that's pretty much all he cares about.
Rodney's room is a typical mid-range motel room, about as far from homey as you could get and still have a couple of beds and a bathroom, and it's nice to see that the SGC is still counting those pennies. It's all generic beige walls and checked bedspreads, at least the parts not buried under paper and clothes and at least two open bags of Doritos. It's somehow reassuring to see that Rodney's room is as messy and chaotic as the man himself, as though there are a thousand and one things going on at the same time and none of them are related. He'd still bet that Rodney could put his hands on whatever he needed straight away, just like he pulls miracles from his ass on a daily basis, and he's not thinking about Rodney's ass, not with Rodney sitting on the bed opposite him, so close that every time John moves, his leg brushes against Rodney.
That right there makes it pretty damned homey as far as John's concerned.
It's Rodney's turn to pick at the label on his bottle, his mouth moving at the speed of light as words trip from it, spilling forth everything he couldn't say in public. About how it's a pity there aren't peanuts in the rather limited mini-bar because, frankly, he reckons that half of the staff he's currently working with should be paid precisely that and no more: "Monkeys, John. I swear. God, I would sell my soul just to have Zelenka assigned to the same project. Miko too, maybe, because even if her calculations occasionally lack insight, she makes a mean not-quite-beef-on-rye sandwich, although, of course, I'm not sure how she'd do with real beef from an honest to goodness four legged cow but I'd be willing to take the chance." About the cafeteria: "And they couldn't even tell me if the chicken surprise had lemon in it. In fact, I'd be surprised if it even had chicken in it, and I'm not talking about it having been replaced with those dodo things from P3X 494. And don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about, John. I know how you and the caveman's little eyes would light up every time there was a chance to go and shoot some, although why you would want to beats me. Talk about sitting ducks. Dodos. Whatever. I can't imagine that it's sporting, although considerably less suicidal than hunting Wraith."
About everything and nothing and, God, John's missed this.
"Hey." Rodney pauses in his (series of) diatribes to wave his empty bottle in John's general direction. "Do you want another one of these?"
"Um." He glances down at his own bottle, aware of the faint and pleasant buzzing at the base of his skull.
"Oh." Rodney's face drops. "Of course. Sorry. You're driving and... you'll probably want to get going..."
"I haven't actually got anywhere to go, Rodney."
And, yeah, that came out wrong too.
"Well..." He scratches at the back of his neck, a little embarrassed. "I figure this motel is as good as any, right? So, I'll just saunter over to the office, get myself a room. So, yeah. Another beer would be good."
He tries beaming but Rodney's giving him a narrow eyed, thoughtful look. "So, what? You decided to call me before you even got yourself booked into a hotel?"
He's not sure it's the right thing to say, but Rodney surprises him by beaming again, bouncing a little on the bed. It's infectious and John's smile widens further, becoming something big and stupid and goofy.
"Because you missed me!" and, okay, he could do without Rodney's triumphant little finger waggle, but... "You admitted it!" Rodney crows.
"I did not!"
"Did too. You said, and I quote, 'it might be approaching a mathematical certainty'."
John snorts, swallowing the last of his beer before saying, "New York really sucked."
Again it's not the 'we're all going to die' humph. Rodney is still looking pleased and that, in turn, makes John pleased, because, yeah. It's approaching a mathematical certainty that he missed Rodney, missed this.
So damned much.
And that's probably why, when he leans forward to place his empty bottle onto the side table between the beds, his hand lands on Rodney's thigh. It's either that or his tolerance to Bud has worn off in the two and half years since he's been gone but the buzz is staying this side of pleasant.
Rodney freezes, his eyes darting up to John's face uncertainly and, wow, who knew that this was all it took to shut Rodney up for more than five seconds.
John doesn't have an answer for Rodney, assuming that Rodney is even asking a question. All he can do is stare down at his fingers where they curl in the fabric of Rodney's pants because he's pretty damned sure that he can't move them away again.
That's all he's sure of. His heart is pounding in his chest and he's as close to freaking out as he has been for as far back as he can remember. But he's also tired, damned tired of everything, of losing everything. He's tired of being homesick - and it's only been a week, damn it - and he's tired of feeling like everything is just there, underneath his skin, like an itch he can't scratch, like an ache he can't get relief from.
And he missed Rodney.
And Rodney has missed him, right?
Rodney's fingers curl around his and Rodney's hand is warm and steady, even if his voice trembles slightly as he says, "John?"
This time it's definitely a question, even if Rodney's fingers don't seem to be able to move either.
"I -" His voice cracks. "I guess I really did miss you."
"Yeah." Rodney's fingers squeeze a little and then release, although he doesn't let go entirely. "I guess you must have." And his voice is gentle, and that really, really fucks John up because Rodney is many things - abrasive, paranoid, brilliant - but gentle isn't one of them.
Except when it is.
"I guess the blonde in the bar was right, huh?" He doesn't want to hear it, whatever justifications Rodney comes up with for John freaking out and touching him like this, and the joke - any joke - is an automatic response, however ragged it comes out.
The humph this time is amused and, he hopes, affectionate, and Rodney's thumb brushes over the back of his hand. "No offence, John, but I think the hair gave it away." There's a long, weighty pause, and then Rodney's voice, still scarily gentle but also kind of terrified, adds, "You don't have to do this."
"Yes." Still ragged and raw but somehow Rodney being scared helps. He's weirdly used to Rodney being scared. Rodney being scared and doing whatever scares the shit out of him anyway. "Yes, I do. I'm so fucking tired..." Rodney's fingers on his tighten almost imperceptibly. "I don't mean..."
He's not sure what he means. He's never been good at this, and neither has Rodney, although it's never been this kind of 'this'.
"I want this."
"You're military." Rodney's words might be blunt but his fingers stretch across the back of John's hand, fingertips resting lightly on his wrist, just underneath the edge of his sleeve, brushing warmly against the skin there. It's intimate. Yes, intimate, that's the word he's looking for, and the word - finding just the right word - gives John enough incentive to look up, meet Rodney's eyes as Rodney peers back.
"Yeah, I know. Was it the dog tags that gave it away?"
Apart from a snort, Rodney ignores him, choosing instead to state the obvious. "It won't be easy." He swallows, glancing away from John, the muscles in his throat tightening and making John's heart skip a beat. "I'll be here, and you'll be at the SGC..."
"You make it sound like I'll be half way across the Universe."
It's another snort not an 'humph' this time. "Not completely unlikely."
Yes, it was. Now. Halfway across the galaxy, maybe, but not all the way into a different one.
"You're saying no." And now that his fingers could let go, it didn't seem as though Rodney's could.
"What? Oh, for - No. I'm not saying 'no'. I'm saying... Actually, I'm not sure what I'm saying but I'm pretty sure it's not 'no'. As though I'm in any position to turn down offers of sexual favours. As though I'd turn you down even if I was."
And yeah, okay, that's enough to make him smile. "So, if you're not saying 'no' then you're saying... 'yes'?"
That puts the 'deer in headlights' look back on Rodney's face, but it's a good look for him. "I... I guess I am, yes." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but John goes with it. Goes all the way with it, sliding his hand out from under Rodney's and slowly dragging it up the inside of Rodney's thigh. John follows it, Rodney slowly toppling before him until he's sprawled across the bed and John's pretty much sitting in his lap.
Which is... yeah.
"Okay." Rodney's blinking at him, panic lurking behind his eyes - and John's way too familiar with that look too - but his hands have come up and they're wrapped around John's biceps. While they're not pulling him closer, Rodney's not holding him off either. "This is... um... unexpected."
The last word comes out as a squeak, probably because John's a little tired of the not being pulled closer thing and takes matters into his own hands. Or mouth.
Rodney tastes of beer and chicken and once again John goes with it, at least until he needs to breathe.
"Is it?" The words come out husky but he figures that that's okay, given the situation and, you know, the whole kissing Rodney breathless thing.
"Um... yes?" And, yeah. Rodney sounds breathless. "Okay. Maybe not completely unexpected. I mean, I'd hoped. And -"
"The hair, right? Rodney..."
"So maybe a little unexpected but, you know. Not unpleasant."
"Wow. That's a ringing endorsement."
He tries to pull back and Rodney grabs at him, sounding panicked. "Don't -. Where are you going?"
"I just thought... Rodney, I'm sitting in your lap!"
"Yes, yes you are. And?" The belligerence is familiar but the way that Rodney's hands slide possessively up his arms isn't. "I kind of like it." And there goes Rodney's chin, titled upwards in that trademark little stubborn way.
Rodney's hands slide further, moving over his shoulders, down his back and John can't help it, arching into Rodney's touch, losing track of what he was saying.
It doesn't matter. Rodney's there to pick up the slack and he can't remember exactly when they started to do this, when Rodney started to finish his sentences and he started to finish Rodney's.
"So, you really want to do this?" Rodney's still sounding breathless, even as his fingers stroke over the small of John's back, dipping lower and lower.
"Rodney..." It's a plea and a demand, all rolled into one, and the fingers dip lower, smoothing over the curve of John's ass as Rodney's face becomes determined. Determined and once again shit scared, and, yeah, that right there's familiar too. "Yes. I really want to do this. I've... I've thought about it, okay? A lot."
"And you're acting on it now because...? Oh, God. Is this because you think you're never going to see me again?"
He shouldn't laugh, he shouldn't, but it's also typical of Rodney's doom and gloom attitude. Figures that it would extend to sex too. "I'm not planning on besmirching your virtue and running, Rodney. You can relax easy. I'll still respect you in the morning."
"Besmirch? You mock me for suckage and suckiness and you use the word 'besmirch'?"
There's no way that John can resist a line like that. He's only human after all, even on those occasions when he's not. He leans closer, letting his breath - hopefully not beery - ghost over Rodney's ear as he murmurs, "So if I besmirch you, will there be suckage?"
Rodney's fingers tighten on his ass and he laughs again, startled and breathless.
"I think... I think I might be able to promise you that, Colonel."
"John. Unless you get off on using my rank, Rodney."
"No." He tries not to find the shock in Rodney's eyes too amusing, but he's fighting a losing battle. "Of course not. But you are military."
"And I'm tired, Rodney."
Rodney snorts again. "Tired of fighting your attraction to me?"
"Well, yeah." And the look of disbelief Rodney throws at him would be insulting if it was anyone but Rodney. "That and... Christ, Rodney. How much shit have we been through?"
"At last count... a hell of a lot. And strangely enough, you've never reacted to it by trying to jump my bones. Why now?"
John sits back, making damned sure that he traps Rodney's hands under his ass. If he's going to do this, he's going to make sure he gets something out of it. "Because I am no longer your Team Leader." And it still pangs, twisting somewhere deep inside him. "You're not my responsibility any more, Rodney, so if I fuck this up, well, I just fuck this up. I don't end up fucking everything else up too. And... maybe I'm just tired of losing people, Rodney. Maybe I'm just tired of walking away."
Rodney's watching him, lip curled down in a familiar scowl. "A word of advice. Don't ever go work for Hallmark. You suck at the whole poignant little speech thing."
"And you don't? And that was considerably more than one word." He should get offended, he really should, but Rodney's fingers choose just that moment to tighten their grip on his ass and... okay, maybe Rodney's got a point about the whole Kirk thing because he seriously does not want to move.
But Rodney is nothing if not tenacious.
"This isn't because of the whole almost dying thing, is it? Is this your delayed freak out because you've finally realised that you are not, in fact, immortal?"
"Which almost dying thing?" he shoots back, and it's a good job that Rodney's fingers are still doing that kneading thing with his ass or he'd be so out of here the second he thought his knees would be up to it. At the moment they're a little wobbly. "The 'oh wait I actually died from an insect bite' thing? The 'almost blown up by a nuclear weapon' thing?" Rodney releases one hand from his ass to hold up an admonishing finger at him, his mouth already opening to argue, and John grits his teeth, grabbing it firmly and placing it back as he cuts Rodney off before he gets a word out. "Twice." It might possibly still be a bone of contention between them. "Although again, I'm not sure what I should have done different either time. What about the -"
This time Rodney does get a word in edgeways but is smart enough to leave his hand on John's ass.
"I was thinking more along the lines of 'having your life sucked out by a Wraith'."
He should be mad, being sideswiped like that, but he's just numb. Not so numb he can't make a stupid remark - he'd have to be dead to stop that from happening and thinking about that... well, the point is that he's not thinking about that.
"Again with the sucking, Rodney. And yet, not with the sucking."
The pinch is uncalled for. Totally. And the resulting yelp should not be making Rodney laugh, even if that means that the resulting movement does interesting things to John in spite of the sting in his ass.
"Look, I just -"
"Okay, enough with the talking." That's a relief, and while it's nice to know that Rodney has finally paid attention to Teyla and Ronon at those unofficial hand to hand combat training sessions he didn't think that John knew about, it takes John twisting his body in just the right way to let his weight help that lets Rodney roll him over onto his back, reversing their positions.
"Have you done this before," he asks Rodney as Rodney struggles with his belt buckle.
"Unfasten a pair of pants? Yes, strangely enough I have. I even know how to operate a zipper." John catches his eye and Rodney ducks his head, a faint flush of red staining his cheeks. "No. You?"
"Not really. And no Kirk jokes, please."
Another 'humph' but John's really not complaining, because Rodney's finally got his pants undone and the resultant warm air gusts over his cock, making it twitch towards Rodney's mouth. Heat curls low in his belly as Rodney's lopsided lips turn up in a delighted smile.
"We've explored a whole different galaxy. I'm pretty sure that we can cope with expanding these horizons. And as for Kirk, please. He was a womaniser. I, in case you haven't noticed, am not a woman. And no jokes about Cadman, please. I still have nightmares."
He's missed laughing with Rodney, so much so that he even misses out on making the obligatory 'to boldly go where no man has gone before' comment. Missed this, even if he's never had this, never had Rodney's fingers sliding over his skin before, curling around his hip in a way that screams possession.
"It's alright, Rodney. Kirk was completely gay for Spock. Everyone knows that."
"And where was McCoy in this twisted little scenario you have in your head, Col - John?"
"Rodney. You have your mouth inches from my dick. While normally that would pretty much guarantee you having me at your mercy and promising you anything if you close those inches, no way in hell am I inviting Carson into bed with us."
And, God, if Rodney laughing inches from his dick felt good, it's got nothing on Rodney laughing while his mouth is wrapped around John's cock. And no matter what Rodney claims later, that is not a whimper that leaves his mouth. Nor does he spend the next forty minutes telling Rodney just how much he missed him, even when it's John's mouth that's occupied and words... well, who needs words when actions speak.
So... two guys...
Rodney's voice is a deep, peaceful rumble, reverberating through both of their bodies. John makes some vague contented sound in reply. He's pretty sure that words are beyond him and he can't move. Doesn't want to move, even though the hair on Rodney's chest feels weird against his face; he's used to softer curves instead. Doesn't really want to move even though his bladder is currently reminding him of the beer he's had tonight.
Rodney's arm must be going to sleep under his head but Rodney's fingers are still moving through his hair, almost petting him, and he's sure that when he does finally get moving and make it to the bathroom, his hair's going to be even wilder than usual.
He can't find it in him to care. For the first time since they lost Atlantis - lost their home - the itch in him has eased. But it's not the sex that's scratched it, fun and surprising though it was - is. He thinks it might be this, just this. Rodney's hand in his hair, Rodney's scent in his nostrils and Rodney's heartbeat under his ear.
This... in a weird sort of way, this is home.
"I'm sure that Ronon and Teyla are fine."
And that comes out of left field.
"That wasn't what I was going to say, Rodney."
Rodney's hand strokes down his back, a long, slow glide that does a little more to ease the restlessness within him. "I miss them too."
"I wasn't going to say that either."
"You're up for round two?"
And it's nice, the way that Rodney's hand tightens on him as the chuckle rumbles through his body. "Always. Hey, I'm a guy. I just have to be awake."
"And if you're asleep?"
"Wake me up. But that wasn't it either."
"Guy." He can't see Rodney's nod, but he can feel it. "Of course. What were you going to say, then?"
What was he going to say? Somehow it doesn't seem important, not with Rodney's hand absentmindedly skating over his skin.
"I... can't remember."
"You can't remember?" The snort reverberates through him too, and he must be a sap because he kind of likes the way that Rodney's belly flexes under him. "You woke me up and you can't remember?"
"You weren't asleep, Rodney."
"That's beside the point. You woke me up and now you have to entertain me."
It might not be an expression of Rodney's that he's seen too often, but he's pretty sure that he can picture the leer that must be there now. He's not seen it often, but he's seen it recently.
"Oh, I do, do I?"
Rodney's grip tightens. "Yes. Yes, you do."
"Huh... So, this Athosian and Satedan walk into a bar..."
Yes. He's home.