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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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dvd commentary: mexico city 1/2
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
And final part of the trilogy, and wow, I forgot how gutted reading that makes me feel.

Mexico City, Director's Cut.

Enjoy!



Okay, the thing about Mexico City is, it was not *ever* supposed to actually happen. I had my assassin AU. I had a brief pornographic afterward. We knew we were getting Rodney to Brazil. We, however, did not know that we were--I am speaking in the plural why? I didn't really think I'd write this, because I didn't know I'd need to.

Then I picked this up, which at the time was only this first section, and thought, well, hell, why *not*?


*****

"So," Rodney says, trying not to swallow when he stares at the nightmare in front of them, in all its rusty, made in the *nineteenth century* glory. "Let's walk."

"Rodney."

"Seriously. It's good exercise." And walking the entirety of central America doesn't sound so bad. "That can't possibly fly." It breaks the laws of god, man, and thermodynamics. "We're going to die."

John's hand brushes the small of his back on his way to what appears to be a plane. A very, very old and very, very rusted, and no-way-are-they-stepping-foot-in-that plane. "It's airworthy. She's just a little battered. Aren't you, sweetheart?" And he sounds like he does when Rodney's going down on him, but to a *plane*. One hand runs affectionately over her--it!--not unlike the way he touches Rodney.

John/Plane OTP. John has a lot of one true loves. He can be a slut like that.

This does not make Rodney like her--it!--more. "We're not flying in that."

John turns enough to give him a bright smile. Like those work. Which they do. Except for now. "It'll be fine. What did you expect, a Boeing? Relax." John walks the length of the body, and Rodney swears he's crooning at the thing.

John's missed flying a lot. I mean, especially since the tragic death of the Lamborghini, which still makes me tear up. God. That car.

My God. "You're scaring me."

John glances back over his shoulder and smirks, then ducks under a wing, catching up with Lorne, who seems almost as entranced as John is. It's got to be a military thing. Or maybe a pilot thing.

It's both. And it's a guy thing.

Rodney pulls out a tortilla and looked around the airfield again, the tiny, dilapidated hangar, the cracked pavement and huge, waving trees beneath a dangerously bright sun. A airfield, he thinks, that would not be out of place running, say, drugs, and this, this is the life he leads. Following around a competent not-assassin, avoiding capture or messy, messy death, sleeping in *cantinas*, eating not-goat, and possibly negotiating with *drug lords* (well, drug *flunkies*) for the use of their dilapidated planes and airfields.

Like I said, ultimate portable food, tortillas.

Rodney reflect how his life has changed. Sure, he has no identity, no money, no friends except John, they're kind of homeless and running for their lives, and sure, every government in the world is out to get them except, weirdly, Brazil, but. He has tortillas. He has John. There is regular sex. Happy.


Reaching for the bottle of water on his backpack, Rodney tries not to imagine his fiery aerial death, preferring to dwell on the very real possibility of good coffee--not the shit he's been drinking, but something in double espresso; hell, he'd take the raw *beans* at this point. South America might have a reputation for excessive numbers of drug lords, a lower standard of living, and perhaps some scary police, but they're also the home of the best coffee in the world.

God, *coffee*.

John swings back under the wing, looking happier than Rodney's ever seen him, and it only takes a second for Rodney to realize why. "Oh my God. He gave you a new gun."

"Not just any gun." Swinging it down from his shoulder, John holds it reverently in both hands, eyes soft and warm and damned if he isn't glowing. "P-90. Beautiful, isn't she?"

Yes. Yes it is. Rodney does not know it, but John will put that gun on a chair by the bed in easy view not just because he wants it in reach for survival purposes.

Rodney stares, then takes a bite of tortilla. "Did you name her?"

John flushes. "…no."

"Yet."

This is why John should be supervised when playing with other former military boys. Next thing Rodney knows, he'll wake up and John will have bazookas and crates of grenades and God help them all, nuclear weaponry stacked around him, and then Rodney will have to exile him to the floor, which will suck for their sex life so much. "All right, that's it. No more playdates with Lorne for you."

He would, too. John likes weapons. They are shiny.

Glancing back, Rodney spots their disturbingly well-dressed rental guy, gesturing happily as he talks to Lorne. Huh. "Question."

"Shoot," John says, and Rodney catches his face soften from the corner of his eye. The expression, disturbingly, is aimed at the gun.

Awww.

"Right. Listen. Are we going to be, I don't know, *drug running* or something with this?"

John's head twists around, giving him his special reserved look of utter disbelief. "Yes. What, you didn't know my second job, you know, during my off hours, was the narcotics trade?" Rolling his eyes, he gets a none-too-gentle elbow in the ribs. "No. Jesus no. And hey, guess what? No more bad action/adventure movies for *you*."

Okay, see, thing is, Rodney's only half-wrong here. This plane is used for drug running normally, and John and Lorne *know* it. And not just for drug running. This plane smuggles people around as well. Possibly ivory. I am thinking oh-so-much-illegality, but that's kind of the point. They need something that is by necessity as far off the radar as possible, with people who have way too much to lose to even *consider* fucking them over, even for a massive reward.

Of course, Teyla knows this as well.


"I'm just saying--"

John rolls his eyes, swinging the P-90 back up, then, under Rodney's amazed eyes, *patting it*, before reaching for Rodney's arm and pulling him along. "We're meeting Lorne back at Fortunato's later. Anything you need?" John's eyes flicker as they walk off the small private airfield, approaching the latest in John's string of cars with what Rodney suspects are deliberately broken odometers.

Fortunato is a friend of Concepcion's, which is why they are using it as a meetup point. John and Rodney are not staying there so as to keep separate from Lorne and Parrish just in case.

"Just sleep." Rodney's lived in an cashless economy too long, characterized by online transactions, credit cards, and ATMs. He still twitches every time he sees the cash John casually tosses into their bags, because there's just something about seeing paper money that feels wrong. "Though coffee would be good. And hey, could we stay somewhere soon that actually *has* a star rating, or is the entire slumming thing really working for you?"

John cashed everything he could for this little venture, so he's carrying serious money around with them.

The slumming thing is three parts. One, when John came to Mexico, the resorts were boring and family-ish and he hung out with normal people, not shiny resort types. Second, hotels and resorts et al keep records and get weirded out by too much cash, even in Mexico, and popping down hundreds is just a bad idea. Third, John probably can speak Spanish more formally, but he learned it originally the very old fashioned way, by listening to the local dialects. He's going to stay where he's comfortable and the ease of communication is highest. And where he can pass for not necessarily a native, but a resident.

Again, Teyla knows this, too.


John's arm settles over his shoulders as they come in view of the car. "You're spoiled. Do the words low-profile mean anything to you?" But it's chased with a kiss, casual and friendly and utterly, utterly John. "And no, but I promise clean sheets and drinkable water."

John opens Rodney's door, ushering him inside, before circling the car, and it never stops being interesting, never stops fascinating Rodney--no matter how nonchalant John appears, he's always watching, even now, the hand that had been around Rodney's shoulder hovering over his gun. He makes it seem natural, like a normal part of living. Putting his bag on the floorboard, Rodney pulls out the bag of remaining tortillas and does a quick count.

Sliding into the driver's seat, John reaches for the ignition. The engine stutters, refusing to turn over. It's a little jarring. "Rodney?"

"Hmm?" He only has a half a dozen tortillas left from Concepcion and part of him wants to space them out, but mostly, he's just hungry and they're extremely portable.

"Question." John's slowly leaning back, and there's an indefinable change in the air, making the hair rise on the back of Rodney's neck. "How fast can you move?"

Rodney doesn't even bother asking why. Grabbing his backpack, he clutches it to his chest, then pauses to pull a tortilla from the baggie. If he's going to die, he won't be hungry while he does it. "Fast enough."

"Count of three." John slowly reaches for the door handle. "Don't open until you jump, and keep running until you fall over, got it?"

Rodney bites off half the tortilla. "Got it." Door trigger, in case the person driving is experienced, like John. It's almost poetic. Better would be an explosion on initially opening the door, but maybe whoever it was worried that it wouldn't get them both. "Ready."

John nods, hand on the door. "One. Two. *Three*."

Later, Rodney's only stopped by the wheezing from telling John that they really need more tortillas.

This entire sequence is the reason that I'm glad I wrote Puerto Vallarta, right here, even if at the time, it wasn't the reason. They're easy with each other. They're familiar with each other. Rodney is now adapted to John giving bizarre orders and doing bizarre things and going along with it. He's had time to watch John work, and time for John to instruct by example. Trust bone-deep, which is why the last half, John can start acting odd and Rodney won't even ask *why*.

*****

"Another car?" Lorne says sympathetically over a very dirty glass overfilled with very, very bad beer.

John frowns. "Not my fault. Car bomb."

"Did you use that excuse with the F-15s?" Lorne asks curiously, and Rodney almost sighs, because it looks like a night of reminiscing, in which Lorne and John exchange war and boot camp stories until Rodney and Gary both want to cry from the horrifying boredom of it all.

A thousand years ago, John's plane got shot down. Lorne has never been shot down. Lorne never gets tired of reminding John that he never got shot down. This is their thing.

Right now, John is thinking how if Lorne had a car, there would be sugar in the gas tank.

At least Gary's not here, sleeping off an apparent, and foolish, attempt at the water. Rodney feels very competent in comparison. He got that over with *weeks* ago. Picking up his beer, in a much cleaner glass thanks to a five second Spanish lesson and John doing his leaning-on-the-bar thing, Rodney takes a drink of what has to be the best beer in creation.

The bartender has been making eyes at Rodney. Rodney does not notice. The bartender stopped when he saw John was both armed and kind of scary.

Bartender started thinking, kinky threesome.

Oh my random OCs. How I love them.


Rodney shifts uncomfortably in the chair as intelligent conversation devolves into a story involving Iran, a goat, and someone's purse, absently patting the holster John had put on him before they left the room tonight. The gun still feels obvious and bulky, even if it's hidden under his shirt, and John had done something strange and magical so the bulk couldn't be seen unless someone was looking very closely. A few experimental draws under John's critical eye were followed by John sighing and saying that in the event of a random shooting, drop and stay dropped until otherwise instructed.

Rodney's aim is very good, provided he actually gets the gun out. After three falls, one of which ended up a quickie on the floor, John gave up and just enjoyed the view of his boyfriend wearing his holster and spare gun. Yes. Good times.

Rodney's good with that.

"..and it turned out I called her mother a goat sucking whore." Lorne finishes his beer with relish, then sets it down with a wistful sigh. "So I kinda had to leave the country."

That's not what happened.

What happened was this:

Lorne sees pretty girl. Lorne talks to pretty girl. Lorne forgets he's in freaking *Iran*. Lorne realizes he is engaged to pretty girl. Lorne runs, runs, runs like the wind.


John grins, leaning both elbows on the table, looking utterly entranced. Beneath, however, one booted foot is rubbing up Rodney's calf with slow deliberation, a reminder of the fact that they didn't get their post-near-death sex, and also that the last of Rodney's tortillas were lost in the fiery blaze. "Any word yet?"

John's actually just trying to get Rodney's attention here. It's the cutest thing ever. I mean, *footsie*. God, John.

"On the carbomb? No." A pretty girl in bright colors comes by carrying more beer, liquid dark eyes flickering to John, stutter at Rodney's glare, and fix on Lorne as the most likely target.

Rodney had a foot out to trip her with, too. He learned from Maria.

"Mas cervezas, senor Lorne?" she says sweetly, leaning over more than was strictly necessary, an upward glance taking in the reactions of the table. John's lazy grin doesn't change, and neither does the foot that's pushed behind Rodney's knee.

Because while Rodney trips his rivals and mocks their fallen bodies, John's method is to distract his significant other. Oh how cute.

Lorne smiles at her cleavage, and Rodney wonders how long it will take him to find an excuse to go talk to her alone. "Gracias, senorita."

Five seconds after they leave. Lorne has been enjoying Mexico way too much.

She strolls away, Lorne watching her like a man faced with steak after six months of goat pie. From the corner of his eye, Rodney catches John's smirk and fights the urge to echo it. "We need to get back," John says innocently, kicking Rodney's knee before standing up. "See what you can find out about our little car problem, would you?"

Getting to his feet, Rodney hastily finishes his beer in a gulp. Lorne barely bothers to look at them, eyes fixed on the bar. One hand comes up to wave them off absently. "Sure thing. Night."

Once outside, John's smirk widens. "You know, I don't think he'll be alone in his room tonight."

"He's sharing with Parrish."

This is why this is funny.

Lorne will in fact take Senorita Cha-Cha up to his room and they will proceed to disrobing and deeply romantic sex on a straw pallet that smells of goat dung while Parrish, who claimed the only bed, cleverly times a session of nausea. And let me tell you, nothing puts you off like listening to someone throw up in the corner.

John's smirk becomes a full on grin. "He's in for a treat, then." They aren't too far from the room, an actual *decent* one, with a ratless bathroom and clean towels and a huge, comfortable bed with the least offensive sheets yet. The owner, a tiny old woman who spent the entire negotiation for a room staring at John like a lovesick puppy, had let them borrow a coffeemaker. Rodney could almost like her for that.

John's shoulder bumps his companionably as they walk in comfortable, easy silence. Mexico City is huge and sprawling and dirty and weirdly romantic, and Rodney wishes the hadn't been on the road most of last night and on their feet all of today, that he wasn't so exhausted that even two beers is enough to make him lightheaded and reckless, enough to want to do stupid things like touch John's shoulder, reach for his hand, slide an arm around that slim waist, kiss him here on this dilapidated street where no one speaks English. Take John inside and push him down on the bed and touch him, everywhere, tongue the bruise just below the collar of his shirt that Rodney's seen glimpses of all day today, feel John shift and shudder under him, low moans and softly hissed curses in his ear.

*sighs dreamily*

Their room is smaller than the places they've stayed before, but nicer, more of a bed and breakfast type than a motel room, even if the electricity owes more to the fifties than the twenty-first century and the lamp by the bed has a disturbing tendency to spark at random. Rodney's learned to steer clear of it.

John smiles at him at the door, doing a quick search of the room before pulling Rodney inside, a quicker kiss before he starts to disarm.

John's as exhausted as Rodney is, no matter how alert he tries to play it; they both undress mechanically, Rodney climbing in bed while John does his security thing before coming back to the bed and, leaving his gun on the bedside table. There are dark circles under his eyes that Rodney hadn't noticed before, a tightness to his mouth that's new.

Mexico City is kind of necessary and hellish, too. Puerto Vallarta, like I said, was technically John's own territory--he knew the people, he knew the area, he knew where to run and hide, and it was stuffed full of tourists, so they had pretty good cover wherever they went. Mexico City is none of these things--it's huge and sprawling, he's pretty much twenty four seven alert and here he never leaves Rodney even for a second. He's also slipping uppers, which is fucking with his judgment a lot, because he's worried about being asleep and another Kolya showing up. By now, they'll have found Ronon's body, know John is doing everything *but* fulfill the contract, so someone else has been hired to find them.

"John?" Carefully, he brushes his fingers over John's forehead, smoothing his hair back.

John snorts out a breath. "The car bomb threw me."

Yes. It was a vivid reminder there.

Oh. Rodney rewinds, flickering through the events of the day--early morning making out with no orgasms, depressing, breakfast, meeting with Lorne, meeting with not-a-drug-runner-rental-agent, lunch, another meeting, plane, car bomb, no sex, dinner, bar, home. "Kinda seems like par for the course at this point." Except for the sex. It's depressing, actually, now that he thinks of it.

John snorts again, folding both arms behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. "If they could get your second from Colorado to duplicate your work, they would have. If they could get *anyone* to, we'd know about it. So the dead part of dead or alive no longer applies. And most of the countries negotiating to get their hands on you are aware you have to be *alive* to give them information. Or so I assume." An arm unfolds, sliding over to wrap around Rodney's waist as John rolls over. "So it's someone new. And I don't like surprises."

So the thinking is this--the new person, whoever it is that is setting bombs, is going for dead, period. Before, John figured he'd at least see them coming. Now there are carbombs. That? Is not a good development.

Oh. "Maybe they're worried I'll sell the information--" But no, by now, they probably know he won't. Emphasis on probably. "Okay, this is getting ridiculous. It wasn't enough I had *countries* after me. Now there are just *random* assassins involved?"

John's mouth is curved in an unhappy smile. "I suppose there's no chance we'll get bored." The arm tightens, and Rodney closes his eyes at the feeling of callused fingers rubbing soothing circles into his back. "We'll figure it out." But the look on his face is still worried.

"What else is bothering you?"

John hesitates, then shakes his head. "Nerves, I guess."

No. He's thinking that this feels like Teyla. He'd be right.

John's nerves have become, to Rodney, the equivalent of a mental burglar alarm. "Something specific?"

"Something about our rental guy." John frowns briefly. "He's said some things that make me wonder." John's eyebrows arch a little, amused. "He doesn't know I speak some Spanish, so he's been--let's say indiscreet with his associates. But our only other option is driving straight down, and I don't like that option."

What John actually heard was argument over taking the American money for them. However, wiser heads prevailed. And by wiser heads, I mean, guns to temples stating if you fuck up our operation, rental guy, they will find your body as mulch.

Oh God. *Driving* the entirety of central America. "Jesus."

"Yeah." John's eyes flutter closed, then force themselves back open. "Any suggestions, genius?"

Rodney snorts softly, trying to shift off already sweat-slick sheets. Air conditioning. Come hell or high water, the next place *will* have air conditioning. "Not exactly my usual strength, this plotting thing." John's struggling to keep awake now, and Rodney brushes a finger below his eye. "Get some sleep."

John hesitates, but exhaustion is exhaustion, and he falls off so fast that Rodney almost smiles. John's been a light sleeper since Puerto Vallarta, easy to disturb with a turn in bed or a restless dream. Restless as euphemism for bad, sometimes men in black who come to the door and drag him away, sometimes small rooms and endless questions, and sometimes, Ronon's bullet going through John's heart because Rodney had hesitated a microsecond too long.

Rodney closes his eyes, but he's pretty sure he's not going to sleep well tonight.

Rodney's post-Ronon breakdown was fairly internalized. Frankly, there was just too much happening for him to absorb that he'd killed someone. By the time it really sank in, he was spending a lot of time learning to shoot a gun and watching John sleep and worrying about their basic survival, so post-death angst just really doesn't come out consciously.

Most of what he dreams of is being too slow and watching John die. Like John, after giving up so much, he's come to realize there may be something here he's not willing to lose.


*****

John likes things that go very, very fast--this is the man, after all, who came searching for him in a very subtle Lamborghini in the desert. So it is completely unsurprising when he says, "Let's go find a car" that they end up staring at a high end Porsche. "Okay, I'm exercising partner veto here."

Who did not see this coming? Seriously?

John gives him an amused look "I hadn't heard about this partner veto."

"Partners?" Rodney waves a hand between the two of them. From some distance, the salesguy watches them, looking confused. "In crime? Running across the continent escaping evil men out to kill us, and yes, *partner*, and no, not a Porsche."

Regular sex, sharing food, nursing through horrible digestion related incidents….

Totally reasonable. Go Rodney!


John's eyes narrow. "What did you want to look into? Something in domestic?"

"You," Rodney says, getting hold of John's arm and pulling, "are not buying a Porsche for a week before we leave. Have you *seen* the driving here?" It's like there are no basic laws. John's eyes gleam. "And no. Come on. Let's find something to eat."

God, John in a Porsche on the streets of Mexico City. That is love.

John waves sadly at the salesman, looking like his favorite puppy just got run over. "We have to meet Lorne in an hour," he says, looking mutinous. Rodney doesn't care.

"That's nice. Strangely, that doesn't change the fact that I'm *hungry*. You want a car, find something in not-noticeable and disposable." With luck, a working odometer, too. "Those fish things that you got last night--"

"Fish things."

"Yes, where did you get those? Get a few dozen. And some empanadas. And tortillas. And some fruit. Wait. Let's get ice cream."

John's tongue is firmly pressed into his cheek for a second. "Do you want to do the grocery shopping?"

"Tragically, my Spanish is limited to 'beer', and 'please remove your hand from his ass, thank you'." John's eyebrows shoot up. "I asked Lorne. So no. Food. Sleep. Possibly sex, if you bring me ice cream and a car that doesn't scream, I like to drive really recklessly."

One night in a small, forgettable town halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City, Rodney watched in horror as a woman with a mustache attempted to climb into John's lap to commit unspeakable acts of heterosexuality with facial hair. This lingers in Rodney's head.

So later, while John did his thing walking around and breathing in Fortunato's, Rodney cornered Lorne and learned a few key phrases. These two seemed the most useful.


John snickers softly, knuckles skimming Rodney's arm before he flags down a cab and, with elaborate politeness, ushers Rodney in first. "Where are we going?"

"Back," Rodney says firmly, because John's still eyeing the car lot with an expression that doesn't bode well. "And you're not coming back to get it either, so just put that out of your head right now."

"You lack a spirit of adventure." But John's grinning when he says it, turning pointedly toward the front as the car starts to move. "Habla ingles o espanol, senor?"

"English," the guy says with a frighteningly Yankee drawl, and Rodney almost grins at the look of surprise on John's face.

"English, then," John says pleasantly. "Also, pull over."

John actually is working off of unconscious clues here as well as the fact that there aren't many Americans who are going to drive taxis in Mexico.

The guy's eyes in the cracked rearview mirror don't look away from the road. Rodney sees John's hand slide down to his waistband. "I wouldn't," the guy says, and Rodney wonders when they stumbled into a Bruce Willis movie, because this shit is getting really old really fast. "The car blows if I get shot. So just dial it down, commando. Someone wants to talk to you."

"I don't have to kill you," John says calmly, and he moves so fast, Rodney's never gotten over that, one hand wrapped around the guy's throat, half across Rodney's lap. Rodney fumbles for his own gun under the cover of John's body, holding it against his stomach. To think, two months ago? He'd never held a gun before in his life.

This entire scene is pretty much an emphasis on how comfortable a partnership this is now. Plus, I get violence and cars. I mean, happy place, seriously.

"Just talk," the guy grunts, somehow managing to stay on the road. "If you kill me--"

"I'll take my chances unless we're stopped in the next five seconds." John's knee digs into Rodney's thigh in a completely painful way, far too close to the groin for Rodney's peace of mind. "Four. Three. Two--"

The car curves into the side of the road, coming to an abrupt stop. Rodney breathes again when John shifts a knee onto the seat and decides he won't mention the horrifying pain in the spirit of gratitude that John saved his life.

"Rodney, give me--" Rodney pulls John's gun and silently holds it up into John's line of sight. "Oh. Thanks." Through the rearview mirror, he sees John's grin flash out. "Best partner ever. For that, no Porsche."

"We'd already decided that." John's other knee is still pressing into the seat between his legs. It's distracting. "For this, chocolate. Can I get out now?"

"Look out the back and tell me if you see anyone," John says calmly, and Rodney twists around, careful of John's precarious balance. He doesn't recognize the street--and hey, Mexico City, he barely recognizes *their* street, but it's deserted. Which for some reason strikes him as weird.

Or maybe he's getting a little paranoid. "No one."

"How far are we from whoever you're taking us to?" John asks. In response, a gargle. "Right. I'll let you breathe now. That could change. How. Far?"

The man coughs, a little dramatically in Rodney's opinion. "A mile. Maybe two. What--" He's cut off again with a sound like a watermelon against a brick wall. Not pleasant. "Yeah. You get some sleep there." If he cranes his neck, Rodney can just see the guy slumping into the steering wheel. "Go ahead and climb over the seat. I don't want you in the open."

"Do I look like a contortionist?" Yes, this is normal. He's climbing the tiny space between John's body, the seat, and the ceiling. It's not pleasant.

"I don't know," John drawls, then makes a sound like a kitten being stepped on. "You seemed pretty limber last night."

Christ, he'll just flirt no matter what, won't he? "Cute," Rodney huffs, getting his palms into the front passenger seat and using his feet to push him off the backseat. "Just. Fuck. Out in the open might be *safer*."

"Not so much with the entertainment value, though," John says as Rodney gets his feet over. Accidentally, Rodney's foot brushes his forehead. Just a brush. "Also, ow, what the hell? You want to drive this thing?"

"I am driving this thing," Rodney answers, watching John as he begins to pull their erstwhile driver out. "Because there's no way in hell I'm doing the watching the prisoner thing. Just slide him over and hey, maybe the car won't blow up."

John snorts. "He was lying."

Rodney cranes his neck back to stare at John. "How the hell would you know?"

"Job requirement," John says. "Can you get his feet, please? I'd kind of like to get out of here. If you could spare the time?"

Rodney doesn't even bother with a reply, shifting the guy under John's directions until the seat is clear and Rodney can angle over the gear shift. Standard. Great. "Seatbelts."

John's head pokes out from whatever he's doing in the back. "What?"

Tentatively, Rodney turns the key, relaxing when the engine turns over. "Seatbelts. I've seen how people drive here."

John makes a face Rodney usually associates with people in deep physical pain. "McKay--"

"And you can keep this car." Flipping to first gear, Rodney warily checks the roads. "Where are we going?"

"Lorne," comes the firm reply from the back. "He can pry himself off Senorita Braless or whoever he's picked up since this morning to help me figure out what the hell's going on."

Great. Lorne's staying in a bar in the northern part of the city. That's a lot of nightmarishly bad driving to navigate. "Right." Shifting into second, Rodney watches two cars run a red light with a sense of inevitability. "You so owe me chocolate."

I love this scene, even more than the first one. Rodney's fairly quick to pick up on how to go about being a successful fugitive. He makes me smile a lot.

*****

Lorne takes their reluctant prisoner off their hands, since John's tension's skyrocketed just in the brief time they spent in the open area near the bar. Whoever the taxi driver is, he's making John nervous, and a nervous John seems to be one who talks too fast and goes too quiet and stands too close.

Yes, welcome to John's world. John's world is sharply edged and dangerously bright, where everyone's a suspect, even the guys you have to trust.

Not that too close is bad, necessarily, but Rodney'd prefer less life or death situations for it to manifest. Also, John's crowding him from his beer, and it's not good beer, but it's all the apparently infatuated bartender will give him, while throwing John come-hither glances that aren't in the least amusing, even given the thick mustache and John's utter obliviousness. "Tomorrow." John says, leaning into Rodney's shoulder briefly, and damn, he missed part of the conversation.

The conversation:

Sheppard: We're leaving tomorrow.
Lorne: We don't get the plane until--
Sheppard; Tomorrow.

It wasn't very interesting, so you can see why I left it out. Excluding two key facts.

One, John's got his hand on his gun the entire time.

Two, Lorne knows now John will shoot him.


"We told them in a week."

"That was before two attempts on our lives in less than twenty four hours. Call me paranoid, because I'm kinda getting there."

Oh baby, you are there. You have *been* there. You *live* there. You have bought a house, a car, and a summer home there.

Lorne frowns, glancing to the stairs. "I'll try--"

"You'll *do*." Standing up, John's hand slides to hook in Rodney's belt. Ah, so it's time to go. Why waste words to *ask* when he can just pull Rodney along like a puppy? Deliberately, Rodney takes another drink of beer and smiles when the bartender frowns. "Nine tomorrow morning." Another pull, less subtle. Rodney glares over his shoulder, making a show of finishing the beer and standing up on his own power. Lorne gives them a narrow look. "I'm not kidding. We're either on that plane or I'll take him somewhere even your Weir can't find him."

John's not actually aware of what he's doing. He just wants out. Fortunato is a suspect, everyone is a suspect, and he wants Rodney back in a place he can totally control. Say, a moving vehicle.

Lorne leans an elbow on the bar. "Sheppard--"

"This conversation is over." Another pull, even less subtle than the last one. Rodney glares over his shoulder. "See you then." And John lets go, but only to give Rodney a long look that's kind of like an order. Right. Time for the dramatic exit. And God knows, interrupting John's drama would be a waste of time and a really good performance.

It's so nice when your boyfriend shares your interests and aspirations.

Outside, John's hand closes over his upper arm on the short walk to the car. "The belt thing was annoying."

"The carjacking thing was annoying, too," John answers shortly, and Rodney fumbles out the keys, sliding into the driver's side before John can say a word. "Hey--"

"Get in," Rodney says. "Hey, you're the one armed to the teeth, I'm the powerless and helpless civilian, and hey, look, we're *not moving*. In. Now."

With a look suspiciously reminiscent of a pout, John crosses in front of the car, sliding into the passenger side. His mouth is a sharp, tight line that makes Rodney want to lean over and kiss it softer, but he knows better than to even try. Starting up, Rodney maneuvers slowly onto the dusky road. "On a guess, we're not going back to our room."

"That genius is showing." John's eyes scan the street, hand near his gun. "I'll find us someplace else and go back to get our stuff--"

"Alone?" Wow, does that sound like a recipe for stupidity? Yes, it does. "Right. I mean, no, *wrong*. You're not going without me."

They've both got a point, but Rodney's point is better and also more in line with John's instincts at this point, which is why Rodney wins. Rodney in a hotel room somewhere isn't as comforting or as mobile as Rodney in a car. So basically, this is a knee-jerk reaction, not thinking it through.

The hazel eyes turn on him, full attention. "No."

"You need someone to drive. I'll--you know," he says, waving a hand at the steering wheel. "Do the getaway car thing."

John stares at him. "No movies for you at all ever again. Seriously."

"No running off doing the commando alone thing ever again, ever. Seriously." Turning, Rodney hazards a guess and decides that he recognizes the direction. "Just tell me where you want me to wait."

"In the hotel."

"You aren't helping. What do I know about subterfuge? I could drive straight up to the door, right?" Not that he *would*, but it's almost worth it for the horrified expression on John's face. "Well. Then you'd better show me, right?"

The hazel eyes narrow in a way that Rodney reads as victory and, grinning, he shifts wildly into second gear, feeling weirdly reckless and a little hungry. "I thought you'd see it my way."

*****

It's the longest thirty minutes of his life; longer than when Ronon held the gun on him, longer than the feverish fifteen minutes he'd waited for the first lab explosion, longer than that nightmarish hour in his bathroom when he'd stared into his own eyes and saw someone different looking back.

Thirty minutes, God knows who, and their room. His laptop never leaves his body, so that's safe enough, but survival's a lot less possible without money or weapons. Fingers drumming a discordant rhythm on the steering wheel, Rodney tries to gather his thoughts, press them into some kind of order. John's good at this, great at this, fucking *genius* at this undercover-fugitive-running thing. He does by instinct what Rodney couldn't learn in a hundred years. He doesn't need to worry.

He really does.

That doesn't change a goddamn thing, and Rodney realizes that his hand's on the butt of his gun, finger perilously close to the safety. He'd probably shoot himself before he'd even get it out of the holster. It's comfort though, the only kind he has right now, without John and the safety that Rodney had begun to take for granted. Like John really could hold off the entire world all on his own.

It's so fucking *teenage girl*, but God, he doesn't think he'll breathe again until John's in the car.
Quarter of a mile to their room. Quarter mile back. However long it takes for John to scout it out, get inside, do--whatever (*kill them, him, her, whoever is there*) come back out. John's good at the killing thing, Rodney thinks, then flinches.
Rodney's getting good at it, too.
In this part of the city, there aren't outdoor lights, and the car's parked with the only decent angle to catch enough moonlight to see someone coming. Rodney watches, hideously aware that anyone competent in this sort of thing could probably sneak up on him pretty easily and get a gun to his head before he even has time to draw a breath.
John, he thinks, taking a deep breath. John. Come back now. Fuck the money. Fuck my remaining tortillas. Just come back. Come back.
The passenger door opens and Rodney sees John seconds before he accidentally fires off a shot that will assure a severely limited sex life for as long as he lives. "Jesus, Sheppard."
"Go." The worn duffle bag is against his chest--the other he tosses over the back seat. Rodney spares him a quick look but shifts into first immediately. He's learned John.
Blood has a smell, Rodney's learned, and even without light, he knows John's wearing it, soaked into his shirt, rubbed into his skin, sprinkling the bags. They drive in silence, John's single word directions leading them into yet another part of town. Shoving the bag onto the floorboard, John unzips it as they drive, pulling off his shirt. Even in the dark, Rodney can see the darker stains on pale skin. It's an effort to control the urge to pull over. "You're hurt."

"Graze," John says shortly, grabbing an identical black shirt from the bag and pulling it on, not even *wincing*. Rodney bites his tongue as John wipes his gun down with the ruined shirt, reholstering it, then takes out a knife that looks less clean than when he went in.

Rodney can't stop himself. "John--"

"Stop here."

"John--"

"Not *now*." The green eyes flicker up, looking at Rodney for the first time. "Pull over."

Jerking the steering wheel, Rodney rounds to the crumbled curb, glancing up at the old, dilapidated building behind scraggly hedges, then keeping his eyes on the road as John gets out. "If I'm not back in five minutes--"

"I'll be sitting here waiting to die," Rodney says harshly. John pauses, hand tightening on the door. "I'll be here."

John hesitates, then nods. "Right." Slamming the door shut, he walks away, every movement sharply controlled.

Keeping his eyes on the road and his gun in his lap, Rodney gropes behind them, feeling for his other bag. Alcohol, peroxide, gauze bandages, surgical tape, things he'd never used, never thought he'd need to learn. The scar on his arm throbs in reminder. The case is below clothes, and he pulls it to the top, rezipping the bag by touch.

John's back a few seconds later. "Leave the car." Grabbing the duffle bag, he straightens again, with an almost invisible wince. Rodney says absolutely fucking nothing, getting his gun back in the holster in a smoother movement than he'd ever been able to achieve before tonight, laptop over his shoulder, second bag under his arm, pulled right out from under John's hands. He gets a frown but ignores it, crossing in front of the car to wait while John pulls out and comes up beside him.

Glancing down, Rodney can see the gun in his free hand. "We got a room," John says, as casual as a late afternoon walk in the park.

"I miss LaQuinta." John goes first, thumb resting on the safety. "It was nice. It was quiet. It had air conditioning."

I really don't have a lot to say about most of this, because it's all very much internal on John's part, and John's not thinking clearly, what with having killed people. But I can tell you what happened in that room.

John went in with his gun out and got a slice across the chest for it. He took out the first two before he even got the lights on. There was more shooting and one trying to run away. The fifth spent quality time gibbering in the corner.

John picks him up and takes him to the bed, straddles his body and pulls his knife. Then he presses it against the man's chest and asks him, who do you work for?

The man shakes his head.

John makes one cut and waits. He asks again.

She wants the scientist, he says. For Ronon's life. His friend for the loss of her lover.

Fifteen minutes later, he packs up their stuff and goes outside. I don't think anyone was watching, but he was careful and made it to the alley before he started throwing up.


John doesn't answer, leading Rodney to a stained wooden door, pushing it open with one hand, gun pointed inside. After a few seconds, he flips the lights, going around the room in his security check while Rodney lists into the doorway and wishes desperately for coffee. And his tortillas. Definitely more tortillas.

"Okay," John says in a tired voice, and Rodney comes in, dropping their gear in a pile at the foot of the bed and kicking the door shut.

"Strip."

I could go into how this is one of those deeply symbolic moments in a relationship, where you get to the level where you can get naked, spiritually, in front of each other, and it'd be true and a lie. John doesn't want Rodney to touch him because of what he is, and that's exactly why Rodney wants to.

John thinks binary--either/or. He wants Rodney to see him as a protector, not as a murderer, not as someone who can kill five people and walk away. But if he's *going* to be that guy, then Rodney should see that, not that John just found out he's changed too much, that it wasn't easy, it wasn't simple, and that he can still feel their blood on him, that he'll always feel it.

What Rodney will never tell John:

When Rodney walked out of Cheyenne Mountain that day, he nodded to the security guard and set off the first charge as soon as he was outside the perimeter. He sat in his car and started it up and started to drive, and set the second detonation a little outside town, stopped for coffee and a donut, got powdered sugar all over the detonator.

He got three phone calls. All were from the scientists locked in the lab who couldn't get out. Gaul left voicemail. Rodney hasn't listened to it yet. But he still has the phone. He carries it with his laptop.


John turns, looking at him with wide, unreadable eyes, like he forgot Rodney was there. "Rodney--"

"Strip. Now." And John just *stands there*, the bare overhead bulb brutal on the tightly drawn skin, the strain around dark eyes, the blood on his forehead and smeared over one high cheekbone, down his throat, on one arm, bruises like smears of dirt. Reaching out, Rodney touches soft clean cotton of the changed shirt, and John--flinches.

When John left the alley, he went back inside and pinned a note to the last body with his deal. He told her, I shot Ronon. He told her, you can't have Rodney, but you can have me.

He didn't tell her, this is the one thing I can't stand to lose, because he thinks she knows that already.


Flinches with a step backward, and Rodney freezes, eyes going to the gun still in John's hand. "John." His fingers are white-knuckled around the grip, and Rodney moves as slowly as he knows how, wrapping his fingers around John's, loosening them one by one until the gun falls into his palm. Checking the safety, he tosses it on the bed, and this close, he can smell the blood like it's on his own skin.

John took two of those little blue pills when he left the room. He knows he won't be sleeping again.

He wants to ask, how many, but that would be stupid and he's not sure John could answer anyway. Still slow, he reaches for the bottom of John's shirt, pulling it carefully up and over his head. The hazel eyes are fixed on the far wall, like he's not even aware that Rodney's here at all.

It's worse beneath. The graze is clotted, thin and too clean to be a bullet. There's bruising across his chest, reminding Rodney vividly of the edge of the dresser in that room. Another cut just above his nipple, jagged-edged, smaller. Holding the t-shirt in one hand, Rodney circles him, flinching from the darkening bruising on his back, reaching out to touch, then stopping himself. "You're going to feel like shit tomorrow," Rodney murmurs, and he hears John make a small sound, agreement or amusement, he's not sure which. Coming back around, Rodney reaches for the button on the cargo pants, and John eyes flicker away. "Look at me."

"Rodney." One hand closes over his wrist, sticky and damp. Rodney slides two fingers in the waist of John's pants, keeping his hold. "You--"

"You need to get clean," Rodney says softly, giving John a careful tug. John's skin is fever-hot against his fingers. "Come on."

There is a shower, which Rodney murmurs thankful prayers for, stripping John's pants and boxers and shoes as they walk, pushing him behind the plastic curtain into warm, sulfur-thick water, kicking off his own shoes and socks to climb in after. John's leaning into the wall, eyes closed, and here, the light's kinder, revealing only exhaustion. Rodney picks up the rough soap from the wall socket, rubbing it between his hands.

"Rodney--"

"Shut up," he says, spreading his hands over John's chest, and John falls silent. Blood runs off in pale pink streams from the nicks, resisting on the graze on his side until Rodney gently washes the dirt away. He's careful and thorough, studying John's skin with his hands, learning it in long sweeps of his palms over sensitive, bruised flesh. John's still and silent beneath Rodney's touch, and Rodney gets more soap, moving to strong arms, long fingers, narrow hips. John's all sharp bone and too-thin, too fragile flesh--he can count the lines of his ribs, finger the knobs of his vertebrae, slickly wet.

John watches him from beneath water-wet lashes, tongue touching his lips, and Rodney goes on his knees, running his hands down slick thighs, hearing John's catch of breath over the rush of the water. Leaning forward, he brushes an open mouthed kiss against the delicate skin of his inner thigh and gets a soft gasp. "How many were there?" he says into wet flesh, running his tongue to the sharp jut of John's hip, reaching up to slide curious fingers over John's waist.

"Six," John whispers, almost lost in the water. Wet fingers touch his face, and Rodney nuzzles into the hollow of John's hip, trapping water between them. "There were six." John's hand brushes through his hair. "It's nothing I haven't done before."

He's actually counting Teyla here.

When I say those early conversations come back to haunt Rodney, I mean John keeps going over them in his head. He knows Rodney's research can't get out, not now. He knows that Rodney being captured is less acceptable than shooting Rodney himself, especially considering he knows probably better than Rodney the methods they'll employ to get what they need from him. And he knows that Teyla will come after Rodney whether or not she has John unless he can get Rodney so far away and make it so worth Teyla's while to stay that she'll leave it alone. Once Rodney's with Weir and safe in her compound, even Teyla can't get to him.

He knows he can't protect Rodney anymore, and that the failure that pushes him to do it this way. Because when John Sheppard has a choice on what to sacrifice, it will always, always be himself.


"Or me," Rodney whispers into John's stomach, drawing equations with the tip of his tongue. Naqada generator power curves, the entropy rate of a fully charged ZPM, chemical formulas with elements that don't appear on any known periodic chart. John's breath hitches when Rodney uses his teeth, biting just below his navel, pulling back to watch the skin redden in the shape of his mouth. He wants to do that everywhere--lick every bruise, take them, make them his, so when John looks, touches them, he thinks of nothing but Rodney.

John's hand slides to the back of his neck--resting, not urging, nails sweeping slow streaks across sensitized skin. He can feel the press of John's cock against the base of his throat, hot and hard. Sliding his hands up from John's knees, Rodney urges the long legs apart, thumbs resting on the crease of thigh and groin. John's breath catches as Rodney licks down the trail of hair, pulling back just as he reaches the base of John's cock.

John hisses softly, and Rodney reaches for the soap, slippery between fingers that aren't as steady as they were. Lathering his hands, Rodney slides thin suds down each leg, wrapping his fingers around a narrow ankles, working the heel of his hand into John's calves, relaxing each muscle. John's liquid under his hands when he stands up, reaching around to run soapy hands over John's ass, careful and gentle and thorough, biting the back of his shoulder when he turns him around.

His cock's pressing painfully against the zipper of his jeans, sodden and heavy, chafing the delicate skin, but Rodney ignores it, soaping his hands again and gently lathering John's hair.

When he ducks John beneath the spray, John reaches for him, pulling him into a slow kiss, soft lips and softer tongue. Rodney can taste the soap, the faint trace of sulfur on his lips, and wraps an arm around John's waist, sliding the other through wet hair.

John lets him take him to the bed, wrapped in a thin, cheap cotton towel, sitting on the edge while Rodney dries him and applies the peroxide and antibiotic from his case, fingers pressing gently to hold them in place while he bites off the tape and secures each bandage. John's still through it all, eyes fixed on Rodney's face with that addictive focus, like there's nothing else in the world but the two of them.

Part 2


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I just have to say it is really funny to me that you have at least two fics where Rodney denies John playdates with Lorne. This fills me with the gigglies.

well, if you feel gutted reading this, imagine what it's like for us. *glares, but in an admiring way*

Lorne sees pretty girl. Lorne talks to pretty girl. Lorne forgets he's in freaking *Iran*. Lorne realizes he is engaged to pretty girl. Lorne runs, runs, runs like the wind.

That made me laugh like you wouldn't believe.

And then the rest of this, seeing inside John's head and understanding how much of it was planned -- and somehow worse, how much was pure instinct, grasping at whatever he can do for Rodney -- hits a lot harder than I expected.

this is unbelievable. this is...how do u do that? u take characters and a universe and then u twist it a bit and turn it and reshape it and it WORKS! it's them, it's their world, it's...I don't know what to say, the story, the characters, the plot, their reactions, the dialogue, the writing itself, adverbs and adjectives in their slot around nouns and verbs and it's so easy to just read, breeze through it! it's night out i didn't notice when the sun went down! WOW! just...wow!
okay, this is 2006, i'll go around and c if i can find the rest of Panama

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