John vanishes for the morning and Rodney leaves the mess as is when he goes for coffee and blueberry bagels, sitting at the table still in his boxers and John's stolen t-shirt because he couldn't face touching his bags again. The kitchen seems less sunny, painted small and grey from the gathering clouds outside, and Rodney thinks blackly of hurricane season and how pettiness is beneath him except it's really, really not.
Outside, it's even darker, and Rodney glances at the surf that's getting slowly stronger, trying to find John in the fast moving, white capped waves. A sane person wouldn't go out on a day like this, but John's board is missing from the garage and he's never been sane anyway.
Going down the stairs, Rodney comes out on the shoreline. Without the skin-searing heat, he can actually kind of enjoy the sensation of sand shifting beneath his bare feet, the slow progress of the tide as it pulls out, and though he'll deny it to his dying day, there'd been a five second period of his life where he'd picked shells with his mother and cleaned them, neat rows on his bookcase, memories of family vacations gone by.
He may even still have some, in the depths of storage.
John materializes in front of him, wet, sand-encrusted feet invading his line of sight, and Rodney takes a few seconds before looking up, long, hairy legs, a nasty bruise forming across the top of one calf, wet shorts, bare tanned chest and finally, wet hair pushed back enough for Rodney to see the dark circles under the hazel eyes.
At least Rodney wasn't the only one who couldn’t sleep. "Nice swim?"
John's eyes flicker out over the water. "A little rough today. I thought you'd be--" the pause is so short that Rodney almost misses it, "--working."
Rodney shoves his hands in his pockets and shrugs. "It's a nice day."
John squints up at the sky, then back at Rodney, amused. "No sun?"
"No hideous death by sunstroke today, no." John leans the board against the edge of a dune and Rodney takes in the jerky movements, edges shaved off, the kind of exhaustion that only comes when you're searching for it. He starts walking again, and to his surprise, John falls in step beside him.
"You look tired," Rodney says, breaking into John's solid silence. John shrugs, kicking sand a little like a kid. "I made more coffee."
"Coffee would be good." With his head tilted down, his hair hides his expression.
"You need a haircut," Rodney hears himself say, and John's eyes jerk up, hand going to his head self-consciously before he stops himself. "Seriously. What is with you and your hair anyway?"
John smirks but doesn't answer, and Rodney lets the silence settle this time. He's too tired to fight and he need a lot more caffeine in his system before he can think again. It's a pleasantly cool morning and a deserted stretch of beach. It's been too long since he had time like this, unstructured and quiet. "The town's your closest neighbor?"
John shrugs. "There are some others out here, but I've never seen them." And didn't look, either, if Rodney reads the body language right. John liked Antarctica, Rodney remembers suddenly, so an empty stretch of beach--. Yes, very John.
"General O'Neill said he contacted you," John says slowly, each word as careful as a foot on moving sand.
Rodney blinks, dismisses the need for caffeine, and keeps his eyes on the sand. "He did. And I assume it was your instructions that he be as brief and uninformative as possible?"
John's step stutters. "It was a--joint decision." This may be as close to an apology as Rodney will ever get.
"We deserved better than that." It's starting all over again, Rodney realizes with a sinking feeling, hearing the heat in his own voice. He's never had to control his temper before, isn't sure he knows *how*, and around John, it'd never been a requirement to even try. It's going to be silence and John walking away again and he's only half-packed. If he was going to leave, he would have done it last night, which argues that he's even more of a masochist than he'd thought. "I thought--"
"Yeah." John's voice is quiet. "It was a shitty way to do it."
Rodney takes a breath. "Yeah. Care to tell me why?"
John shrugs. "Believe it or not, I was kind of having a hard time. That doesn't lead to clear thinking. By the time I had time to think, it was too late." John's eyes flicker to him briefly. "I didn't expect anyone to come looking for me just because I was an asshole about how I said goodbye."
"Hey, apologize on your own time. I just came to drag your ass home."
John's steps stutter briefly, tripping over perfectly normal sand. "Rodney--"
"You're living on the Pacific coast, alone, when you could be anywhere, doing anything. The view is spectacular, and really familiar. If this isn't homesickness, I don't know what is."
John's head turns, irritated. "You're a lousy psychologist."
"I'm not *blind*. Sorry to hurt your delicate feelings. I would have been nicer if you'd just come back. Hell, a note that you were alive, which even the SGC couldn't confirm with any degree of certainty."
John's step stutters again. "You were looking."
Rodney jerks to a stop. "Every year for two weeks, I'd wander back to Earth, get my fast food fix, and annoy the shit out of anyone who *might* know where you would have gone. So if you're thinking we didn't care, well, you just weren't paying attention. It's not that I don’t get you were pissed. I just don't get why you took it out on m--on us."
"On you." Flatly.
"On Elizabeth and Teyla and Ronon, on Carson and Radek and Lorne and every other fucking person who watched you go back to earth for a two week vacation and never come back." And that still pisses him off. "Elizabeth would have had you back before the ink was dry on your resignation papers. You know that."
"It wouldn't have been that easy." John's voice is sharp.
"Elizabeth would have fought for you." And that had been some meetings that Rodney would as soon forget. "We all would have fought for you." Rubbing his eyes, he starts walking again. After a few seconds, John's footsteps follow.
"There were other reasons that it wasn't practical at the time." John's voice is steady, but there's something underneath that makes Rodney wonder, filing it away for later thought. "And--"
"Come home." His voice cracks on an upward note. Rodney hadn't seen this coming, throat tight and scratchy, like he's been swallowing sand. That hadn't been in the speeches, carefully logical and enticing, hadn't been anywhere close to what he was going to say, but it stills John. "Come back home."
Thunder rolls darkly overhead, like a warning, and of course there's going to be an interruption, that's just the kind of luck Rodney has. The sky breaks in darker grey and Rodney looks up in resignation as it begins to rain.
John has tons of DVDs, stacked in the cabinet by the TV and on the floor, and Rodney retreats to the living room after changing, going through the piles to see what he's missed in the last three years. He's too distracted to pay any kind of attention to what he's choosing, finally picking at random to put in the DVD player and fall onto the worn couch, stretching out full length, bare feet brushing the armrest. He's a third through when John wanders in, dry and rumpled and slightly glassy, hesitating before he crosses to the couch. Rodney pulls his legs up but keeps his eyes on the TV.
The movie fades into background noise--John's straight and weirdly blank beside him, and Rodney had to be imagining that he can feel the warmth of John's body with his feet. The faded green t-shirt's seen a few too many washings, stretched over chest and arms in a way that's distracting when viewed from the corner of Rodney's eyes, a thin strip of exposed stomach above the jeans. He looks tired, Rodney thinks, and sits up slowly, watching John's eyes flicker slowly shut, slumping more with every breath before stretching sideways in the newly freed-up space with a sigh.
"Bad night?" Rodney says, fingers twitching inches from John's hair. Dark lashes fan downward, like John's too tired to keep his eyes open.
"Yeah." John's voice is slower, drawling the word into several syllables before trickling off, settling himself more comfortably on the couch. "It's supposed to rain for a few days," he adds, one hand curling up near his stomach. "It gets pretty weird here, so--"
"I survived a Wraith siege. I think I can deal with a little rain," Rodney says, and his fingers gingerly brush the top of John's head, not nearly enough for John to feel it. The movie plays on, but Rodney has no idea what's happening on the screen at this point, a blur of color and sound that he tunes out, paling in comparison to John's head inches from his thigh. "What do you usually do when it rains?"
John shrugs briefly. "Beat my own high scores on Gran Turismo II. Sleep." A yawn breaks in, and John's eyes flicker shut. "Read."
Rodney tentatively lets himself touch again, silky hair sliding like liquid across his fingers. "Get some sleep," he says, and he's never heard his own voice that soft, that careful. Another touch, firmer and less careful, but John doesn't pull away. "We'll play later and I'll beat all your scores when you get up."
"As if." Rodney watches John pull his legs up, looking uncomfortably cramped with his legs bent, feet braced against the armrest. He starts to get up, but John's hand snaps out, grabbing his wrist without even looking up. "Stay."
Rodney eases himself slowly down as John shifts up the couch, head resting on Rodney's thigh, legs dangling over the arm of the couch, and with a contented sigh, he slips off into sleep, mouth soft, fine lines sanded from his face into the kid he must have been years ago.
"I missed you," John whispers into the cool darkness, and Rodney's breath catches. "Don't--I don't want you to ever think I didn't."
Rodney's throat tightens again, and he strokes through John's hair with more confidence, because if John didn't want to be touched, he sure as hell wouldn't be falling asleep in Rodney's lap.
Clearing his throat, Rodney nods blindly. Idiotic, unproductive sentimentality, he thinks hopelessly. So very John. "I missed you, too."
They end up sacked out in the living room for most of the day--it's cool enough outside to turn the air conditioning off, and Rodney raids the kitchen while John's sleeping, coming back with chips and more cookies and soda from the fridge. John obediently lifts his head, still mostly asleep, when Rodney prods him, snorting softly before falling back under when Rodney's hand settles on his neck.
Two movies later, Rodney's drifting in and out to the sounds of rain and John's steady breathing, slumping into the corner of the couch, knowing his back will pay for this later and not caring at all when John throws a heavy arm over his thigh, like Rodney has any intention of getting away.
He can't make himself stop touching--innocent and weirdly chaste, running his thumb down the side of John's throat to feel his pulse, learning the rough curve of John's jaw by touch, the slow slope of his shoulder beneath his palm. It's too weird to admit to, too needed for Rodney to stop.
It's been three years, and he's making up for every lost second in touch, because if John says no, this may be the only time he has. "John," he says, softly enough to keep from waking him if he's really sleeping, but a few long seconds later, the dark lashes flutter open and John rolls slowly onto his back, blinking up at Rodney, mouth slightly open and soft-looking.
When Rodney leans down to kiss him, the soft mouth is even softer, and John's breath catches. It's slow, and sweet from cookies, carefully navigated with bad angles and awkward bodies, but Rodney can't pull away even for the seconds it would take to change positions. If it's the only time, he wants all of it, everything he can get, memorizing the texture of John's mouth, the slant of his lips, the sounds he makes into Rodney's mouth, the wet slide of his tongue against Rodney's, the way one hand curves around the back of Rodney's neck, pressing into his skin like he might leave fingerprints. Rodney wants him to, wants marks to remind him, etched into his skin that he can touch, later, and remember.
Eventually, John shifts up, never breaking the kiss, half in Rodney's lap, a little to big to do it all the way, but close enough now for Rodney to slides his hands under his t-shirt, up John's back, hot, smooth skin slick with breaking sweat. John holds his face in both hands and kisses like he's flying a puddle jumper in a war, intense and focused and devastating all at once. Slow licks and gentle thrusts of tongue, biting Rodney's lip and soothing it with a kiss, like he's learning Rodney by touch, too.
They do that forever, Rodney learning the taste of John's throat with his mouth, the place under his jaw that makes him shiver, tonguing the curve of John's ear and shutting his eyes when John sucks hickeys into his neck and shoulders, letting John pull off his shirt and working John's up, bare skin against bare skin better than anything Rodney can remember. He feels like a teenager again, the careful, tentative touches when you're learning something brand new, but Rodney had never done this as a kid and that makes it better somehow.
Night falls startlingly fast, and Rodney follows John to the kitchen, pushing him up against the counter to kiss him while leftovers from last night are warming in the microwave, sliding his hands into the back pockets of John's jeans to press against him, earning a gasp and a slow grind that could drive him crazy if he let it. Pressing a knee between John's thighs, Rodney licks into his mouth, pulling away reluctantly when the microwave pings far in the background.
They eat chicken and peppers and rice right out of the Tupperware bowl, sprawled on the living room floor on a blanket John pulls from the hall closet, unable to stop touching enough to bother with plates or manners, forgetting food altogether when Rodney mouths the length of John's spine, circling each vertebrae with his tongue, sucking slow kisses into the dip, breathing over wet skin to feel John shiver.
Later, they curl up in John's bed on top of the covers, lights out, making out to the sound of rain and Rodney falls asleep with John's head buried in his shoulder, one long leg across his, even breath puffing against his skin. One arm wrapped around John's shoulders, Rodney drifts off, knowing they're being stupid and honestly not giving a good shit.
John's right--it rains like the world's going to drown in it, and the electricity goes out twice. John's restless, reminding Rodney of the times they'd been grounded on Atlantis, how it scraped at John's calm until he was nothing but sharp, restless edges and sharper tongue. Halfway through the morning, he pushes Rodney's laptop off his knees and crawls into his lap, kissing like he's starving, and later, Rodney can't remember a word of the hypothesis he'd been writing, tasting blood sweet and copper-bright every time he licks his lips. That afternoon, he strips Rodney's room and throws down dropsheets and tells Rodney with frantic, fragile calm that he's about to learn the value of manual labor.
Rodney thinks that if he'd ever thought John was easygoing, well, he just hadn't been around a John on enforced inactivity like this. Somehow, he's holding a paintbrush and watching John patiently turning the walls from cream to a lighter shade of pale. John's down to cut off shorts and a t-shirt that's seen better decades, restless energy emanating off him almost visibly, and Rodney wouldn't have missed this for a brand new ZPM and five pounds of Godiva chocolate.
Rodney has no idea what he's doing, but body memory has John behind him, hand covering his, whispering "Long, slow strokes", turning a do-it-yourself home project into some bizarre porn where Rodney's hard every time he stokes--God, *paints* the wall, and he gets two walls done without any clear idea how it happened. John lets Rodney shower first, and Rodney comes out to John standing on the balcony, watching the ocean knocking into the shore, soaking wet and wide-eyed, like he might be remembering another storm entirely.
When he opens the balcony doors, John doesn't move. In the dark of early evening, the water's barely visible, a rolling, lightless mass, the scent of salt so strong in the air Rodney can taste it on the tip of his tongue.
"We've never been at our best talking," Rodney says. "Or, you don't, and I do it too much, and that always worked out really well for you, didn't it?"
John cranes his head sideways, eyebrows raised in polite, false confusion.
"Oh please, like that works on me. I always wondered why you liked me. It took a while to figure out that it was because I didn't ever ask you anything you didn't feel like answering."
"I told you--"
"You haven't told me shit. Christ, you're stupid but not a masochist. Explain what happened. Tell me why the hell you won't come back."
John leans both elbows on the balcony's rail. There's a streak of paint across one cheek and spotting his hair. The sharp features seem even sharper now. "You only have a week left," John says softly, and Rodney hears the quiet certainty, and the way he says it tells Rodney that nothing's changed. "You want to spend it arguing?"
"You want to spend it fucking?"
John pushes up off the balcony, and that space is all around him again. Talking won't change it, fucking won't crease it, and if anyone ever figured out a way to get through to John Sheppard short of blunt force trauma, well, they never shared the secret with Rodney. "Yes. I do." And John takes one measured step toward him, then another, then by him, cold wet skin brushing Rodney as he goes to the shower, and Rodney….
It's between them, the offer that's more a certainty than anything ever has been, and when Rodney goes back in the house, he dries himself again and listens to John in the shower.
It isn't enough, it's stupid to even think it, but it may be all either of them get, and Rodney can't, won't walk away from that.
The guest room is still drying, so at some point, all of Rodney's luggage and the extra desk migrated into John's room. John fell asleep almost as soon as he got out of the shower, one hand resting on Rodney's hip, fingers wrapped loosely in the top of his boxers. Despite his own exhaustion, Rodney can't quite follow, stretching on the bed next to John, controlling the urge to wake him up and start the sex part of the next five to seven days.
He's hard, but there's no urgency to it--it can wait, burning on the edge of his consciousness, because right now, it's almost enough just to sit here and look at John. General O'Neill had been vague and at the same time to the point. There was an issue with the Air Force. John had resigned to avoid a dishonorable discharge. Details never came, and Rodney's had three long years to feel his absence, more every day, and he'd never seen that coming.
O'Neill had said, here's where he's been, and said, he's not ready yet, and said, why are you doing this? Then this last time, he'd given Rodney a patient look and said, *this is where he is*, on a totally non-SGC piece of paper, handwritten directions that, by the way, *sucked*. Then he said, *you really sure you know what you're doing?*
Rodney had said yes, but he'd really meant, no, not at all.
"You know what else I miss?" Rodney tells the top of John's head. The soft breathing almost catches. "Missions. I never thought I'd say this, but the regular adrenaline rush was kind of fun."
John shifts, just barely.
"I can tell that you're awake."
John snorts, lifting his head with a patient look. "I was trying to go back to sleep."
"Yeah, well, I'm bored. I miss missions. Happy?"
With exaggerated patience, John pushes himself up on an elbow. "You miss missions."
"Defying death and the statistical probability of failure on a daily basis. Kind of a rush. Going where no human--or our kind of human, anyway--has gone before, encountering Wraith, occasionally stumbling over ZPMs and negotiating bad treaties. It was fun. I never told you that. But it was."
"Why'd you stop going?"
Rodney resettles himself on the pillow. "My team leader vanished."
"There are a lot of teams--"
"Well, there are. Under Caldwell. And as I once told you, I'm an extremely vital part of the Atlantis mission, invaluable, even, and risking me on the field was unacceptable when there was so much more important work I could be doing. That's a quote from the senior staff meeting where this decision was made."
John gives him a blank look. "And you let him?"
"Weirdly, no one wanted me on their team." Rodney almost smiles at John's wide-eyed surprise. "I probably overawed them with my brilliance and made them feel their inferiority. They couldn't handle it as well as you did." Rodney thinks. "I suppose they must have felt that way about all the science staff. All that brilliance in one place. Most of us haven't left the city in years. Not until well after a planet is declared perfectly. Fucking. Safe." Rodney snorts softly. "And you can guess how often that happens."
"Right," John answers dryly, but a frown is creasing his forehead. "Teyla and Ronon--"
"You may not really get this, what with all the time you've been away, but you chose weird people for your team. It's not like anyone else was chomping at the bit to get us. Teyla mostly does negotiations with Weir these days."
"Ronon--" John's voice rises on a questioning note, like he sees where this is going.
Rodney gives him a steady look. "They don't trust him. Or her. But mostly him. He and Teyla go out on assignments from Weir, but let's just say that Caldwell's people aren't exactly the most fun to hang out with."
For a few seconds, John doesn't do anything but stare. "I didn't know that."
"No, really? Since you didn't keep contact with us, I thought you'd *intuit* it out of thin air across two galaxies. Though on a guess, O'Neill kept you informed of some things, didn't he?"
From the look on John's face, yeah, and Rodney thinks lovingly of what he's going to say to the general next time he sees him.
"Right." John's fingers are stroking his hip beneath the top of his boxers, and Rodney struggles to keep his attention fixed. "Why are you doing this?"
Rodney grounds his attention on John's face. "Doing what?"
"Coming here. It's weird, even for you. I mean, especially for you."
Rolling onto his back, Rodney stares up at the ceiling. "Six months ago, there was an attack on the city. We were invaded. It was all very dramatic and annoying, and I was working on some diagnostics when the alarm came. My entire department was herded into the gateroom, where they executed us by initializing the gate and sending us into space one by one. Three died before I remembered I could shoot a gun, and there were five bodies in space by the time we got control of the room. It was a while until Caldwell's people could ride to the rescue. I think they were a little offended that we rescued ourselves."
John's sitting straight up now, hand leaving Rodney's skin. "How did they penetrate--"
"Little late to be worried about lapses in security," Rodney says sharply, missing John's touch. "And so not the point of the story. I'm a really good shot. I had this asshole instructor who made me learn to shoot. He drilled me every week, no matter how much the city needed maintenance or how much I needed sleep, and if I wasn't there on time, he'd *get me out of bed* to do it at an indecent hour. Every week, three hours in that fucking room. He taught me to handle a P-90, and every piece of aliens weapons technology we got, I had to be drilled in it, just in case. And when I asked why my time and skills were being wasted like that, he told me that one day, I was going to be alone and a completely unfamiliar weapon might be the only way to save my own life."
"Shut up. This time, my life wasn't in danger. They just wanted my security codes, and they started killing my people to get them. They didn't get the ATA gene thing, they didn't understand why the city wouldn't respond, and I watched *three people die* because I forgot I used to be more than just a scientist."
John's eyes darken. "You shouldn't have to be anything else."
"Oh *spare me*. They were my people and they died. The military wasn't there, there was just me and some goons from outer space and these laser twisty things that looked like batons and shit, those things hurt. After everything--after the memorial and the staff meeting, everyone was just so shocked that we survived, that *I* had stopped them, that I was capable of doing anything but hiding in a corner or throwing up on someone's feet as my last line of defense. And you know what? I forgot too. It took three of my people to die in front of my eyes before I remembered, I used to do this stuff *every day*. And I thought, if John could see this, he'd kick my ass for not keeping up my drills. Especially when two more died when I missed my first four shots."
John doesn't say anything for a long moment. "You didn't sign up for that part. That's why you *had* a military presence--"
"That's what Atlantis *is*, and I signed up for all of it. You're the one that taught me that. And I forgot, we all forgot. We forgot that it wasn't all laboratories and research broken by meals and sleeping. That it wasn't just earth on a different planet. It became more for me, you *made* it more." Rodney takes a breath, searching for the words. "You put civilians on military teams and told us we had to be more, be better. You took us out of our safe labs and sent us out to explore the universe that we'd only seen from a safe distance, and then you were gone and we lost that. You changed us and then you walked away and everything went back to the way that, I'm sure, it was supposed to be all along. And I really, really hate that."
John's eyes fix on the wall, and Rodney watches the long fingers clench into fists.
Rodney shuts his eyes. "Miko was the fifth one. When I missed my fourth shot. They pushed her through and she screamed and then she died of explosive decompression. We didn't even have bodies to send back."
There are other things Rodney could tell him. That when Lorne and his team had finally broken in, there'd been five dead space goons on the floor and the rest were being shoved into space to experience first hand the effects of vacuum on living flesh. That maybe, Rodney had gone a little crazy for a little while there, because he doesn't remember giving that order, only that it was obeyed without question, that not even Lorne had been able to stop them. That later, he'd asked to be issued a weapon and the interminably long meeting where Caldwell had explained in far too many words that it wasn't safe, that it wasn't necessary, that this was the exception that proved the rule, blah blah blah, so much *bullshit*, and it all boiled down to, no, you're a *civilian*, a scientist, and you're nothing else. Then he'd been sent to Heightmeyer. Then he'd gone to Elizabeth, and after that, it all blurred until he arrived on the Pacific coast, looking for the Atlantis he'd lost.
When John looks at him again, it's like John's seeing him for the first time.
"They sent you back?"
"Not exactly." Rodney's fingers twist in the sheets. It's easier than he'd thought. "Caldwell was pretty pissed when Elizabeth put me on extended leave when I told her that I wasn't coming back without you. If he had his way, I wouldn't be going back at all." Sitting up, Rodney watches John's mouth tighten. "Post traumatic stress disorder, whatever nonsense they came up with to explain. Kate figured it was smarter to make up a diagnosis instead of admitting their Chief Scientist just went crazy."
"Oh." It's quiet, with the slow sound of rain outside and the hum of electricity, and John's so still that Rodney can almost see him thinking.
"Now tell me why you left us. You changed us and then you left us. And I never realized how much I resented you for that until just now."
John lets out a slow breath, sitting up, arms hooked over his knees. "There was a shake-up at the SGC. I don’t know what Elizabeth did to piss them off so much, but they wanted--someone else in command of the military." The strong arms tighten, knuckles going white. "Someone they trusted. So I had a choice. I could be tried, and you and Elizabeth could come back to testify that no, I had never acted inappropriately with either my mission leader or my teammate. And you'd both be grounded to Earth for months, and maybe I'd be cleared, but the city would be without you and the SGC would have control until they let you go back. Or I could resign quietly and let them choose someone else to command Atlantis."
Rodney draws a breath. "Inappropriate behavior?"
"What I was doing. Did I get my job by fucking her? Did I break regs by fucking you? I don't even want to know what else they had listed--I didn't listen. I went to O'Neill and I resigned." John's mouth twists up in a smile. "They really did think I'd fight it. They wanted me to, to get her back here, to lock her down. To muddy the waters, to weaken her leadership. They got Caldwell, but they still had to keep Elizabeth, and I could live with that."
Rodney thinks of O'Neill at the SGC. "General O'Neill helped you."
"He understood what was important to me. After that--I could have told you, I guess, told Elizabeth, but then what? God knows what she would have done, and I couldn't risk that, not when they wanted her backed down so badly. So I left, and O'Neill helped me stay lost." John's eyes are distant, like he's seeing something else. "I don't miss the uniform. I don't even really miss flying--you wouldn't believe how much they apparently were paying me for two years in a different galaxy, so I bought a plane. I don't really miss bad food and I don't miss having some asshole give me bad orders that I somehow have to make work."
John's eyes grow distant, fixing on the balcony doors, the water outside.
"I miss the city. I miss--I miss the people. I miss being part of it." The hazel eyes flicker up, and it must be a trick of the dim light, that they look so green. "I hated you all for a little while. That you got to keep doing what I couldn't, and I couldn't even tell you why."
"So you're over it now? Missing it? Being pissed?"
John draws his knees in, looking smaller, vulnerable in the middle of this big bed. Chin resting on his knees, it's almost like he's seeing John for the first time, too. "You don't get over things like that, Rodney. And I didn't." Another pause, longer, and then the word comes out between clenched teeth, like it hurts to say. "Haven't."
Something in him loosens, startling him into a smile, the tension of three years melting away like ice in the sun. "I know."
John fidgets, mouth curving in a rueful line. "I don't think I can give it up again."
John lifts his head, eyes fixed just above Rodney, like he's contemplating a new paint job. Rodney's arms hurt thinking about it. "I gave Jack the directions and told him the next time you wandered to earth, he could let you know."
Rodney breathes out. "You give shitty directions."
John grins, bright enough to light Atlantis. "I thought you needed the challenge."
"Son of a bitch." Reaching out, Rodney rests a hand on John's knee, and somehow, he's cupping his face, jaw rough and scratchy against his palm. Rodney kisses that smile, unable to help it, the curve of his lip and the rough cheeks and the point of his jaw, and John lets Rodney push him down, stretching like a huge cat, pulling Rodney down on top of him.
"You're coming home," Rodney says against his mouth, using his weight to pin John to the bed. "There's no reason not to. Elizabeth wants a civilian security advisor, she has applications out, but you're first choice. I have the contract in my laptop. It'll keep you in planes for many, many years. Or you could invest in puddle jumpers." He can barely think through the feeling of John stretching out under him, long and hard and perfect, and they can *do this*, they're doing this right now, and God, after, they'll do it again. "We have an *armory* that we can't use and Atlantis hates us because you aren't there. We can explore planets and annoy Caldwell and wait, *stop that*, if you're a civilian, we can let you know--God--where we hide the good coffee. This was part of my speech--oh God," and John's busy hands are pulling down his boxers and sliding inside. Oh God yes. "Oh God, say yes."
John snickers into his throat, biting down hard enough to make Rodney's cock jump. "I don't know. Tell me the rest of your speech first. I'm kind of curious how the SGC recruits."
Rodney pushes his hands into the bed, balancing his weight like John had taught him a thousand days ago, getting John's hands stretched out above his head, looking down at the grinning, flushed face, and God, this hadn't been in the speech but it will be now. "I'll fuck you. In my lab, in my quarters, in the puddle jumper, in your quarters, because they aren't haunted, I don't care *what* those spineless idiots say." Excitement and hope have a taste all their own--they taste like salt and skin and John. "You can teach me to shoot again and--and--" John bucks under him, cock brushing his through the soft cotton. "Oh. John."
John arches up, wrapping a leg around Rodney's. "The inducement is sex?"
Rodney grinds down, cock jumping at the way John's eyes go unfocused and wide. "Whatever it takes. I learned how to negotiate from you."
John laughs and Rodney frees one hand to jerk down John's boxers, line them up, and oh God that's good. That's so good. John grinds up with a strangled gasp, and Rodney leans down to kiss him, licking inside his mouth and breathing him in. Despite the cool air, they're both sweating, mixing with the precome on John's stomach, slick against his cock. "Rodney," he whispers, losing his vowels half-way through the word. "It's--not that easy."
"Make it easy." Rodney pulls John's thigh higher on his hip. "You want to. Fly the jumpers and go where no man's gone before. Make my city stop resenting us. Help Elizabeth keep the SGC in check." His breath's coming too fast, it's going to be over too soon, and God, he wants this forever. Cupping John's face, Rodney looks into his eyes. "I want to be more. I can't do it alone. I like the person you made me want to be. I want him back. I want you back. I want *you*."
John's eyes widen, going still, and Rodney shivers at the jerk of John's cock, the spill of heat between them, the look of shocked pleasure on John's face. That's enough, it's more than enough, he kisses John's warm, soft mouth and comes like a shot of electricity down his spine, comes whispering John's name and later, when he lifts his head, sated and exhausted and still hungry, still starving for all he's missed, he sees the answer in John's eyes, better than words.
But. "Say it, John."
And John says, "Yes."