Kneeling between the long legs, Rodney pushes them apart, running his palms down John's inner thighs, feeing shiver that runs through John's body when he presses his lips against the earlier mark, fitting his teeth against smooth skin.
"Rodney," John says softly, sounding like he can't breathe. Kneeling up, Rodney curves a hand around the back of John's head and kisses him, licking the soft lips open, pressing inside to taste John, reaching for more skin, trying to leave himself everywhere on John's body. He can't erase what John had to do tonight, but that won't stop him from trying. John's hands cup his face, hard and careful all at once, and maybe, John wants that, too.
Rodney could do this all night, kiss John and trace his body out, learn it with his hands all over again. Stretch John slowly out on the worn brown bedcover, wrap John's fingers around the thin headboard, brace his hands on John's hips and go *down*, and feel John twist beneath him.
Feel John's cock in his mouth, John's taste thick on his tongue, John's fingers threaded through his hair. His hips tremble beneath Rodney's hands as Rodney presses fingerprints into his skin, marking the places he's been, the places he wants to go.
"Rodney," John whispers, and John's hand tightens in his hair, pulling him off. He barely has a chance to wonder before John kisses him, pulling back for a breathless second. His eyes are the green of leaves at night, dark and hungry. "Fuck me."
They're getting good at this, so easy that Rodney has him open and twisting in seconds, wet from his mouth, leaving for painfully long seconds to find the lube, coming back to John, panting and flushed and bruised in places that Rodney doesn't know how to touch. Long fingers close over his hips, rolling Rodney on his back. Straddling his hips, taking the lube from Rodney's nerveless fingers, John wets his own fingers with an expression that Rodney can't read.
Then his hand is wrapped around Rodney's cock, slicking him slow and careful. Rodney watches, wide-eyed and breathless as John shifts, bracing a hand on Rodney's thigh. "You need to--" he stops when John looks down, eyes as dark as the night outside.
"I want to feel it." The hand around his cock holds him steady, and Rodney grabs for the sheets at the first tight pressure against the head, breath squeezed out of him as John bites into his own lip. He's not ready enough, Rodney knows that, but he keeps the words trapped behind his teeth, closing eyes against the feeling of John stretching around him by sheer will, too good to fight. Broken breathing above him, but John doesn't make a sound as he takes him as far as he can, ass settling slowly on Rodney's thighs.
When he opens his eyes, John's staring down at him, hand braced by his shoulder, testing angle, shifting against Rodney, hitched breathing, this has *got* to hurt, but it doesn't show on his face. Slowly, Rodney unclenches his fingers, moving a hand to cup John's hip, sweat-slicked and bruised, fitting his fingers over the reddened marks he'd left before, and John finds his balance and *moves*.
"John," he says, and he wants to say, Christ, and yes, and please, and more, but he keeps losing his train of thought with every brutal twist of John's hips. He wouldn't even know it was pleasure if John's cock wasn't brushing his stomach, leaking steadily, leaving wet streaks across his skin. John's all focused concentration and sharp movements, God, it's got to *hurt*, but John rides it easily, and Rodney watches John close one hand on the headboard, improving his leverage, and oh God, yes, *yes*, Rodney tightens his grip and arches up into it, shockwaves washing though him centering on his cock and moving out. John leans down for a brush of lips, too short. Rodney slides his free hand in John's hair, jerking him back down, opening up his mouth with a thrust of his tongue.
John jerks away, both hands on Rodney's shoulders, pinning him down. The dark eyes are glassy, face flushed, and Rodney sees an impression of bloody teeth in John's lower lip. "No."
John moves pushes himself back on Rodney's cock hard and fast, with a twist that steals breath, then pulls back up, settling into a painfully slow, jagged rhythm. Every muscle Rodney touches is drawn tight, and John's cock is flushed dark red, so *close*. John slaps his hand away when he reaches for it, fingers circling Rodney's wrist and pinning it to the bed. "No. I want all of it."
It's got to be killing John's back to bend like that, licking across Rodney's collar, biting sharp and fast on the bone, and Rodney shudders, trying not to come at the shock of sensation. John's eyes close, mouth opening for panted breaths, breathtaking to watch.
Time stretches and compresses--Rodney has no idea how long John rides him like that, ruthless with them both, points of contact John's ass stretching around his cock, John's hand on his wrist, Rodney's on his hip, almost impersonal and too personal all at once. Rodney's never had sex like this before, he'll feel this for days, not enough lube and too much heat, John lost somewhere that Rodney can't touch, and he wants to come and can't quite, John somehow *knowing* every time he comes close, varying the rhythm to keep it hovering tantalizingly out of reach. "John," he finally whispers, his voice cracking and not enough air to fully form the words, but it brings John back, too-vivid and too sharp, pupils swallowing up the iris, no one familiar looking back. Prying his fingers from John's sweat-slick hip, he reaches up, cupping the bruised cheek, feeling John flinch, like fucking isn't as intimate as this touch. "John."
John leans down, watching him with pleasure glazed eyes, clearing for the brief second before John kisses him, soft mouthed and tasting of copper, then pulls Rodney's hand to his cock as he whispers, "Now."
Rodney wraps his fingers instinctively around the hot length--so fucking *close*-- and John's head goes down with a strangled, sharp breath, clenching around him, and Rodney can't stop it, *nothing* can, orgasm scraping down every nerve like a razor, so sharp and vivid it *hurts*. Distantly, he can feel John spurt across his stomach and chest, John's choked breathing against his ear.
Wrapping his arms around John's back, Rodney keeps him there, going soft inside him, riding out the aftershocks from John tight around him, stroking a slow hand up from ass to shoulder, trying to bring them both back. John's breath is hot on his neck, and the hand around his wrist, closed so tightly there'll be bruises he won't be able to hide with any shirt, loosens by slow degrees.
A few long seconds later, Rodney finally shifts John to the bed beside, hating to pull out, lose that tight warmth, lose *John*, depositing him carefully on his stomach, seeing the red scratch of his nails in raised ridges on John's back, fingertip bruises on his ass. A wary check of John comes back damp with speckles of blood mixed in, but not nearly as much as he'd thought. "John," he breathes, chest tight.
"I'm fine." Slowly, like the energy to talk is too much, John moves his head, hair hiding his eyes. "Seriously."
"Seriously," Rodney says, holding up his fingers so John can see the flecks. "You're going to hate me tomorrow."
John's mouth stretches in a slow, exhausted, utterly sated smile. "No. I won't."
It's not like he has the energy to argue. Hell, he barely has the energy to *breathe*. Slowly laying back down, Rodney wonders how much his cock is going to hate him in the morning for this, sensitive skin abraded pink. Fuck underwear. Fuck *pants*. Sarongs sound good. Naked sounds even better.
But. He gets up, stumbling to the bathroom, wetting down a clean washcloth and coming back, grabbing the antibiotic from the beside table, because irony isn't his friend and it would somehow just *work* that a few slices of a knife are fine, but John ends up seriously injured from fucking.
"Stay still," Rodney says when John lifts his head at the first cool touch. When John starts to sit up, Rodney sets a palm in the center of his back, pushing him into the bed. "I said, *stay still*." Nudging John's knees apart, Rodney kneels between them. Not much blood, but then again, Rodney's never fucked anyone to this point, so. John's body works at not flinching from every careful touch, Rodney can read it in every tense muscle when he strokes an extremely slick finger inside. "Breathe."
John shifts once, and Rodney looks up, but the angle and dark hair hide his expression.
After, Rodney collapses beside him, wondering if he should say something. Tentatively, he reaches out to touch John's hair, a mindbending mess that he loses his fingers in, still damp from the shower and sweat. John leans into it, shifting closer with every stroke. It's easy to coax John's head onto his shoulder, smelling of soap and sex and sweat, and Rodney touches now, just to feel him, the length of his back and the curve of his shoulder.
I think this can be correctly interpreted as some serious goodbye sex. And Rodney, if he wasn't in the throes of serious orgasms, would probably have figured this out. Unfortunately, Rodney does not yet know his boyfriend is *nuts* or this entire plan of John's could have been derailed early on.
"John," Rodney says softly, and beneath his hand, he can feel John's back tense. "What happened?"
"I found out who else is following us." John lets out a breath, tilting his head up to give Rodney a disappointed look. "Way to kill post-coital glow there."
"Deal." Rodney rolls slowly onto his side, pulling John closer. "Who is it? Ronon's partner?" John's eyelashes feather down, hiding his eyes, and Rodney runs a slow thumb over his swollen lower lip.
"Partner," John confirms, eyes still closed.
"They were your friends."
Pressed together from head to toe, John's knee between his legs, arm over his waist, John can't hide anything with his body. Rodney strokes slowly up his back, soothing and gentle.
John's eyes open. "We all served together for years."
Two and two equal-- "You were their commander."
He was. They were team.
John smiles, quick and bright and so sharp it hurts. "I knew you were called a genius for some reason. Yeah. We--after I resigned, we drifted a little. Ronon and the others joined up with a private contractor." There's more in his voice than Rodney quite knows what to do with, but Rodney can read the tension, and bites back further questions. John's here, and they're--not. Won't be, if the bruises on his body are any indication.
"His partner? Did you--was he there?"
"Her," John says softly. "And no. They were hers, though. Had a message to deliver." John blows out a breath, rolling Rodney on his back, pulling his arms above his head, trapped in John's hands. When John kisses him, he can taste copper. "Stay like that," John breathes, sitting up in a fluid motion, like less than ten minutes ago he hadn't been boneless in their bed. The bruises are more vivid now, more than there were, darkening purple black, but John moves like he doesn't feel them. Rodney opens his mouth to object--there's no way he's up to this, that either of them are--but John's mouth is soft and sleek on his throat, his hand wrapping around Rodney's cock with a light, teasing touch, and oh. God.
"John," he says, word slurring when John's mouth moves down, tonguing his nipples soft and careful, sensitizing him, matching the light stroke on his cock. He's getting harder, skin stretching tight and sharp, painful and good all at once. Dark hair tangles around his fingers, and he opens his mouth again, thinking he'll say something, with John mouthing his stomach, his hips, leaving the impression of teeth in sharp bones, moving down and nuzzling against his cock. It's over then. "Oh God," he whispers, hard all at once, aching like he hadn't just been fucked through the mattress, and John looks up with a grin, painting his lips glossy wet with the tip of his tongue and holding Rodney's eyes when he swallows his cock.
Rodney forgets what he was going to say.
Teyla was his friend, like Ronon, and a part of him thinks that maybe, it's fair that she ask this of him. Because while he didn't pull the trigger, he would have.
Interesting sidenote on Teyla here. When she gets John, still smelling of sex and covered in fingerprint bruises, teethmarks, it's going to piss her off, and John knows that. He did it like this, because to her this was a personal betrayal, of comrades etc. He wants her to see it on him, because of the two choices, one of which ends him up in Antarctica in the SGCs hands, one of which is his body buried under asphalt, it's no choice at all.
I'll tell you why.
He's seen Rodney's *notes*. He's seen the design. Rodney talked about the fucking thing to him, showed him the formulas, explained the theory--they spent a lot of time in that car and Rodney's a talker, and it's a pretty cool device and John got interested. He doesn't have to be a genius to recite what he's seen, what he's heard, to Samantha Carter and give them a starting point. With what little Kavanagh's managed to pull up, there's a very real possibility they could restart Rodney's work.
And he knows even with his training, he's not sure how long he can stand up to the SGC if they use the right methods.
He was deathly serious to Rodney about the ZPM. This is worth dying for.
John's fully dressed when he wakes Rodney up, still dark outside. "We need to get to Lorne's."
John spent most of the night pacing, watching Rodney sleep, and working off extreme restlessness. He also stole a car. He was busy.
The hand on his shoulder pulls back, John moving away from the bed while Rodney tries to figure out a way to make sleep-stiff, sex-bruised muscles relax and move, rolling slowly out of bed and barely getting his feet out before he lands in a puddle on the floor. "Oh. God. Never again."
Pressing his palms to the bed, he looks up to see John smirk from across the room. "That's not what you were saying last night."
"You did." John comes up beside him, crouching to look into his face. The still-swollen pink lips widen in a smile. "Come on." Gentle hands coax him up, leading him on the epic journey to the bathroom, where the shower's already on, invitingly warm, the sulfur content almost comforting in its familiarity. "You'll feel better with a shower."
He does, though not by much, coming back out with a threadbare towel wrapped around him, too sore to even bother drying his back as he pulls on the t-shirt and jeans on the bed, comfortably loose, the soft boxers rubbing against his skin uncomfortably, but no way is denim going to be any better without the protective layer. Sitting down, and noting John biting his lip against another smile, he pulls on his crosstrainers, screw socks.
Then John comes over, carrying a religious experience wrapped in a cheap ceramic mug, and Rodney sighs at the smell. "Give me that."
"Mmm. More human now?" John sits beside him with no sign of unease. Rodney tries not to resent it. Much. "Drink up. I want out of here." The green eyes flicker over the walls and door reflexively. "I packed up the car."
"The taxi?" Rodney asks, and John ducks his head. "You didn't get that Porsche. You *promised*."
"Oh God. I knew I shouldn't have fallen asleep."
"--I *didn't*, but no, I got something else. Something *domestic*." John's nose wrinkles on the words. "Drink up, I have thermos for you in the car." Standing up, John moves away but not, Rodney thinks with some comfort, as fluidly as he usually did. Rodney watches him automatically do a weapons check, wondering if John might just deserve a nice bazooka or maybe even one of those zats they'd been developing before his quick departure from the Cheyenne base. He could build him one, given materials and time, and just imagining John light up using one of those makes him grin, makes standing up easier, and he follows John to the door and the predawn gloom outside, wondering what kind of supplies he can get in Brazil.
This hurts me. I hate Rodney thinking this, because it's happy and in like, an hour, everything's going to go to hell. I just--want to strangle John here. Just grab him and shake him and ask him what the fuck was he *thinking*? And then I remember that in another universe, John drove a fucking jumper with a nuke to a hive ship, and I think, right. That's what he's thinking.
Rodney kicks his heels in the hall outside the door, where he and Gary had been regulated when John came in, so subtly that Rodney hadn't realized he was doing it until the door was shut in their faces.
Leaning into the opposite wall, Rodney glares at Gary, who tries not to look panicked and failing utterly. Now that he's seeing him in good light, Rodney vaguely remembers him from the labs, a scurrying presence that tried his best to keep out of Rodney's warpath. "Botanist?" he says, just to see Parrish jump. It's relaxing. He misses having people to bully.
"Y-yeah," Parrish answers, looking at anything but Rodney. From behind the door comes indistinct yelling, something slamming down. Parrish straightens, looking alarmed. "Okay, what the fuck?"
The door slams open, Lorne stomping out, then spinning to glare. "You're fucked, Sheppard. They said you were an asshole, but not crazy."
This entire conversation is mostly John saying, yes, I am going to commit a really gruesome suicide with Teyla's sticks and knives over the next few days. Please take my boyfriend to Brazil.
And it's mostly Lorne saying, are you *insane*?
Lorne here is kind of screwed, in all honesty. He knows as well as John does that this way will get Rodney to Brazil and that's the mission. He gets that. And he even gets why John's doing it this way. What he can't understand yet is why John isn't even trying anything else.
John strolls out, for all the world like Lorne isn't having a slow attack of apoplexy right in front of him. "Then my reputation definitely has been maligned. Just chill. It'll work."
Lorne turns on Rodney, eyes narrowed dangerously. "And he knows?"
"We decided Brazil was the best option," John says easily, slipping between Rodney and Lorne, hooking a finger in Rodney's belt loop to pull him along. "It'll work, don't worry so much." With a bright grin over his shoulder, he leads Rodney to the stairs. "Meet us at the landing strip. I'll talk to our nice little salesguy, okay?"
Talking, as it turns out, is a euphemism for negotiations requiring the show of force and locking him in his own office, windowless and small, while he yells things that are probably filthy if Rodney knew the language at all. Thankfully, he doesn't. "He'll be fine," John says airily, pocketing the keys. Rodney blinks slowly, but honestly, at this point, nothing John does can surprise him. Glancing at his watch, John checks the sky, frowning at full sunrise. "They should be here."
This also avoids the worry that the salesman guy will get stupid and try to collect the award offered by the American government.
Like in answer to John's will, a smoking little Kia Rio drives up, both men spilling out almost as soon as the engine has stopped. "Okay," John says with a bright smile, holding up the keys for Lorne to see. "Leave the money in the outer office. When he gets out, that'll soothe his hurt feelings."
"I knew I shouldn't have left it to you," Lorne says despairingly, but he ushers Parrish and their baggage toward the small private plane, still a nightmare of rust and horrible handling, but Rodney figures he'll just try and drug himself into sleep while they're in the air. Somewhere in his bags he has to have that ambient script. Somewhere. And he will find it.
John's eyes stay on the road into the airfield, like he's searching for something. Rodney follows his gaze, not seeing more than broken asphalt and deserted buildings. "What?"
John shrugs. "Always watch for the unexpected," he says, like that makes any sense. "Go load up," he says gently, pushing Rodney's arm. "I'll keep watch."
Parrish helps him stow everything away. Rodney looks up from kneeling behind the drivers' seat to see Lorne starting up. "Hey, I thought John was flying."
Lorne looks back at him sharply. "There was a change in plans."
A frisson of alarm runs down Rodney's back. Getting to his feet, ignoring the twitch of tense muscles, Rodney goes out the hatch, stumbling backward when he sees John waiting at the bottom of the stairs
Rodney's chest clenches. "You coming?"
John licks his lips, smile fading just a little. "Lorne is flying you straight into the country. Weir's people will be at the rendezvous point to take you to her, and trust me when I say, no one fucks with that lady. In my bag is all our cash and a new ID, just in case. But I don't think that'll be necessary. She'll take care of you."
Rodney's throat closes over as John takes a step back. "What are you doing, John?"
John straightens, grinning, snapping a salute so sharp that Rodney can almost hear it in the air. "So long, Rodney. Lorne. Good flying."
It's too fast. Rodney left his gun in his bag, because John hadn't reminded him to put it on, and he's sprawled on his back, Parrish, terrified and determined, perching on his chest. The hatch door shuts with a finality he can feel in every bone.
John took his gun while he was sleeping. He took Rodney's gun and the things he gave him, everything that would remind Rodney of him. He wanted to make it easy for Rodney later.
"Son of a bitch," Lorne says above him, rolling him sharply onto his side and snapping something around his wrists. "Son of a fucking *bitch*. Don't you fucking *dare*, McKay. We don't have time--he doesn't have time. That bitch is on her way here." Rodney stares up at him as Lorne jerks him into a sitting position. "We gotta get of here. The deal said she'd leave you alone for good if Sheppard stayed. That doesn't mean she won't go after us if you're still *here*."
Lorne's orders are very, very specific. If you have to *hit him*, do it. He may seem a little attached. But he'll get over it. Just get him on that plane and out of the country.
There's a slight chance that John really isn't aware Rodney's kind of in love with him. Or he would have ordered him drugged.
Lorne's good at that.
"We can't leave him." Kicking at Parrish, Rodney tries to find his feet, but the hatch is shut tight and beneath him, the plane's begun to shiver, knocking him off balance. "What the *fuck*, Lorne? What deal? You let Sheppard stay back there? He's your friend, isn't he?"
Lorne's head twists around even as the plane starts to move. "This isn't about friendship, McKay, so shut the fuck up." The plane begins picking up speed, and Rodney gets Parrish off him with a kick, getting over a patched chair to look out the window. Far behind, he thinks he can see John, standing where he left him seconds ago.
And it's not. It's about obeying orders and about doing what you have to, and about the fact that Sheppard at his best can talk anyone into anything at all.
They haven't left the ground. . They can still…. "Go back for him, Lorne. I'm not--"
"You're going," Lorne says grimly. "You're going to shut the fuck up and let me get us out of here so this won't be all for nothing." There's a stomach turning second of vertigo, nausea rising sweet and sharp in the back of his throat. They're in the air, and Parrish behind him makes a sound like a squeezed kitten.
Because if John's going to die anyway, fuck if Lorne's going to have it all be for nothing.
Rodney stares at the ground below, rushing past, getting farther away, then pulls at his hands. "Unfasten these," he says softly. Parrish scrabbles behind him, cold fingers fumbling the handcuffs off, and Rodney turns as soon as his hands are free, punching him hard enough to send him to the deck.
I love that. I do. I want Rodney to *take over the plane*. Which would end in a spectacular crash. But still. My gut says, do it Rodney.
"Fuck, McKay!" Lorne yells from the front, but Rodney's already there, staring at the jumble of the cockpit. He can't wrestle away control. He'd crash them. He has no idea how to fly a plane. "Don't you--"
Basically, they're saved from a fiery aerial death only because Rodney can't figure out what to do with that plane.
"We have to go back," Rodney says, feeling for the gun that isn't against his hip. "We can't leave him, Lorne, we have to--"
Lorne tears his eyes away from the view for a few brief seconds. "It's already over, McKay." His voice shakes, shock or anger, Rodney's not sure. "She was coming up when we left." The dark eyes flicker straight ahead again, but Rodney can see the tell-tale tremble of his hands on the controls. "It's over."
Sinking into the copilot's seat, Rodney stares out the window. "Why?" he hears himself say.
"Getting you out is what he came to do," Lorne says slowly. He doesn't look at Rodney again. "Go--go get some rest. It'll be a while before we get to our first refuel point."
Numbly, Rodney stumbles to his feet, feeling the speed of the plane in every tendon, balance shot, and he lurches into a seat, stomach turning over when he looks out into the clouds.
"McKay?" Parrish's voice is soft with worry, maybe from a broken nose. Rodney ignores him. "Do you need anything?"
"No," Rodney says, remembering John before he stepped away, the sharp salute, and that quicksilver smile. Circling his bruised wrist with light fingers, he closes his eyes. "I don't."
I was going to link to the section I posted before, but I can't find it, and anyway, I made some changes and added quite a bit. The first fifteen pages of Panama.
My thanks for sticking around this long.
Panama, sequel to Arizona, Puerto Vallarta, and Mexico City
They're halfway down the beach, sand soft beneath Rodney's feet, when he realizes this is all a dream.
"Okay, this sucks."
Beside him, John gives him a sideways smile, pulling his sunglasses down briefly to flash too-green, too-amused eyes. "Right. That took you long enough."
The sun is setting in a spectacular pink-gold that never appears in nature, perfect over dark blue, glass-clear water, stunning and absolutely nothing like the Puerto Vallarta they left in the middle of the night. They never even made it to the beach.. But the smells are the same, the sounds of the surf, the soft, salty air.
"I don't have lucid dreams."
"When you piss off Lorne enough to sedate you after trying to take over the plane--and just let me say, *cool*--"
"The son of a bitch *sedated* me?" Coming to a stop, Rodney frowns up at John. "You are so fucking with me."
"In the pudding, Rodney." Pulling the glasses up, John grins. "Didn't I teach you anything about stealth?"
"Didn't I teach you anything about not getting killed?" Rodney watches the smile fade with fierce satisfaction, not unmixed with pain. "So you just can't fucking judge, can you?"
Rocking back on his heels, John tilts his head to the side. "Okay. Obviously, we're going about this all wrong. Hi, Rodney. I'm your subconscious. We're here to talk before you do something stupid like, say, crash the fucking *plane*. Dead or not, you're alive, and if I'm alive, you wouldn't *believe* how pissed I'll be if that happens."
Oh. Right. Frowning, Rodney crosses his arms. "You have suggestions?"
"Not making Lorne toss you out the airlock would be a good start. He was following orders. And you need him."
I need you, Rodney says, but lets his narrowed eyes speak for themselves. Sighing, John ducks his head, rubbing the back of his neck before dropping to a crouch and picking up a conveniently located stick. "Okay, again. You need Lorne. He's former Air Force, he has no love of the military, and hey, he and I have a history. You're perfectly capable of getting to him psychologically, so cut the physical attacks out, okay?" John draws the stick through the sand, craning his head up to pin Rodney with a raised eyebrow. "You need a plan."
"I need a plan," Rodney echoes. Frowning, he stares at the random lines in the sand, slowly condensing into something that--wait. Wait. "What is that?"
"This? Nothing." John wipes it out, but not before Rodney thinks he recognizes two of the equations. "Why do you think Lorne wanted to stop in Panama?"
Rodney watches John trace another set, entranced. "I--don't know. Is that--"
"Focus." John wipes out the second set. "You worked for the military. What's here?"
"A--Fort Howard." Rodney freezes at the third set. "Those are the ZPM--"
"Yeah. Used to be American until 1999. What are the chances that our boy Lorne was stationed here?"
Rodney blinks and drops to kneel on the sand, watching the equations form. "How the fuck would I know?"
"Common sense. You have the facts. Lorne wanted a safe place to refuel. And he was awfully friendly with the nice man filling up the tanks, wasn't he?" The fourth set is the first power projections. The rudimentary beginnings of the bomb he'd never finished.
Reaching out, Rodney stops his hand at the last line. "I stopped here."
"No, you didn't." John keeps going, faster, too fast, and Rodney closes his eyes against it, but that doesn't change what he sees. "That was only what you showed them."
Sitting flat, Rodney kicks at the neat lines, but nothing erases them, sand falling away to leave every symbol clear. "Stop it."
John ignores him, starting another line, neat, precise block letters spelling out the language of the end of the world. "Stop it!"
John stops, letting the stick drop. "That's what we were both willing to die to protect."
Rodney nods, mouth dry, tasting of sand and salt. "I--"
"Got your attention? Because if you're going to do this, you're going to need help. We both know there's no way in hell you can do it alone. You need Lorne. Cooperation at very least. Active assistance if possible. He's the one that knows the Air Force well enough to get information. Especially if he has retired buddies here with connections."
Huh. Rodney watches John start to erase the equations, line by line. "What--why would they--"
John tilts his head, eyes narrow and bright. "Maybe Lorne wasn't the only one stationed here."
Lorne's sitting up when Rodney comes out of the room, gun obvious on one hip. He took Rodney's, an action Rodney can't quite forgive yet.
"Do you really think I'm going to run away in *Panama City*?" Rodney asks, leaning back against the doorframe. "Hello, no Spanish? I'm going to--"
"Stay in your room," Lorne says easily, shifting on the chair. The night's too warm, sweat already breaking out beneath Rodney's shirt. "Until we leave. Tomorrow."
Fuck. "I thought you said we'd be here a couple of days."
"We were," Lorne says genially. "Then I found out you were fucking *nuts*."
Rodney frowns. "I'm not--"
"You tried to take over my plane. Viva la revolucion, Rodney, so not my thing. Get your ass back to bed. We're leaving as early in the morning as I can get that plane up in the air, and you'll be Weir's responsibility." And thank God, he doesn't say, but he's thinking it. Loudly. Right at Rodney.
"Fine." Think. Think, think, think. "That guy that's doing the refueling? He a friend of yours?"
"Wouldn't be helping a fugitive if he wasn't," Lorne says promptly, but he looks suspicious. "McKay--"
"Just curious if I was going to die a grisly Central American death instead of a grisly Northern American one." Rubbing his sweaty palms against his thighs, Rodney wishes to God he knew how to do casual, trying a visualization of John in various cantinas, which doesn't do much for anything but Rodney's libido. Fuck. "I want--"
"No." Lorne takes out a knife and starts to clean his nails. Rodney rolls his eyes.
"You haven't heard what I'm asking."
"What are you asking?"
"Ask your buddy about unexpected transfers of materials from Colorado."
Lorne's knife stills. "What?"
"I was base security," Lorne says harshly. "The Project--"
"Yeah," Rodney says breathlessly. "Colorado to Antarctica, where they were going to do the testing. A good place to keep a hostage for blackmail, too."
Lorne stares at him. "You think Sheppard's alive."
Rodney breathes out. "Show me a body. Until then, he's alive. Unless this Teyla is the stupidest person ever born, she turned him over for--how much for him, anyway?"
"Five million. Fifty for both of you."
Christ. "She took a five million guarantee. Five million. Do not tell me anyone, even a bitch feeling the need to avenge her boyfriend or whatever, is going to sneeze at that."
Lorne's mouth turns down. "Go to bed, McKay--"
"Go. To. Fucking. Bed." Standing up, he tries looming, but Rodney's not too impressed. "Even if he's alive--"
"--his orders were to get you the fuck out. Not to wait around and--"
"--and he's in the hands of the Air Force--"
"--do something so monumentally stupid as to try to rescue--"
"He knows," Rodney says quietly, and Lorne stops, blinking. "He knows where we're going and who we are going to. He's seen the schematics of the ZPM. I'm pretty sure he can remember enough to give them a pretty good start."
Lorne stares at him for a second. "How do you--"
Rodney closes his eyes. "They'll lock him in a cell. They'll starve him, or freeze him, or--or hurt him. And he'll--he'll try--"
"--try and hold out and he can probably do it for a while. But they trained him, didn't they? They know how to break him. Eventually, he won't remember why it's supposed to be a secret. And he'll tell. Or he'll kill himself somehow, after God only knows how long--"
"McKay, stop it--"
"It could be a while." Rodney opens his eyes. "I can try on my own. And I will, here if I can, Rio if you make it too fucking hard. You can't watch me every second for the rest of your life, and frankly, I'm a lot smarter than you. I can find a way to get the information I need, and I'll go do it myself."
"You'll get yourself killed."
Rodney crosses his arms. "We have a habit of saving each other's lives, me and John. I thought I'd go ahead and catch up now."
Lorne doesn't move, knife forgotten in one hand. "You're crazy." There's honest shock in his voice. Rodney thinks of John in the Mexican sun and smiles a little.
"You have no idea."
"I wanted to see the Mayan ruins," Rodney says, trying to keep from sliding on the sand. "You were all, drive, drive, drive, and we could have done some tourist stuff. That wouldn't have been so much to ask. And this beach--I would have liked to actually walk on this beach."
"Easy, McKay," John says, hand closing over his elbow. It feels so real he actually has to stop, catch his breath, and John stops with him, lowering his sunglasses to give him a curious look. "Something up?"
"We're going to see that buddy of Lorne's." It's not real, Rodney's mind says, but John feels right, long, graceful fingers pressing fingerprints into his skin. Tanned from all these dreams in the sun. "We're--Christ, I have no idea what I'm doing."
"Sure you do," John says genially, and Rodney looks down, aching a little to see small bare toes digging into the sand. It's all too vivid. "You need to relax."
"Just incipient insanity," Rodney answers, and John's hand drops away. "I'll relax when I can kick your ass for pulling this shit."
John smirks. "You're hot when you're bitching, McKay."
Oh, for the love of.... "I miss you."
John's head tilts in a slow, teasing smile, hotter than the sun above them, the sand beneath his feet, dark hair a mess. Feeling daring, Rodney reaches to touch it, soft and salt-stiff, bending beneath his fingers. He even smells real, salt and sand and sunscreen and sweat. John leans into the touch, lashes sweeping down, hiding the vivid green of his eyes "I miss you, too."
"When I think--" Think of all the things they'll do to him. John's seen the schematics. He knows where Rodney will go. He-- "I can't--" And a part of him wants John to tell. Whatever will keep him alive.
"Hey." The long, narrow fingers close over his jaw, gently insistent. "Everything's good, okay? We're going to do this. We got away from them once."
Rodney moves closer--here, he can feel the warmth of John's body. If he touches, he'll feel smooth skin, coiled muscle beneath, rough hair, John, with fingers that have memorized that body, knows every bump of spine, the curve of his shoulder, all the places he hides his guns. He *knows*. "I just--"
"The mission," John whispers, breath against Rodney's lips. *John*. "Keep your focus. First, information." John's fingers stoke slowly up his cheek, lingering at his temple. "You know, it's not like there'll be records saying, moved John Sheppard to Antarctica."
"I know *that*, Rodney shoots back, eyes closing under the steady touch, long strokes that turn every nerve alight.
"And there's no guarantees that they won't kill me if they think I don't know anything. After all, they don't know they have a hostage, do they?"
Point. The thought chills him, even in the bright Caribbean sun. "I have to hurry."
"You just have to get it right," John says, covering the space between them until they touch. Rodney's blind reach brings bare skin wherever he touches, soft and slick and real. So fucking *real*. "But you have to get me before they take me to Antarctica."
Rodney opens his eyes, breathing John in. "It's been three days. They can't have moved him out of the country yet." Assuming Teyla dragged him straight to her employer. After--after whatever she would do with him. At least a day or two for that, to get the money. There's a chance he's still with Teyla, if she--extended her negotiations. Rodney shuts his eyes against the thought.
"You can do this," John murmurs against his ear, warm and too-real, too vivid; John's sex and safety, warmth and belonging. Rodney doesn't know how not to respond, even if this is only his head. John taught him to shoot a gun and drive a get-away car, and then he left and left Rodney to learn how not to give up. But he didn't teach him how not to want.
Rodney closes his eyes. "I'm going to find you."
"This is so stupid," Lorne says for the fifth time, perched on a rickety Panama stool, in a terribly dilapidated Panama bar that makes Concepcion's look like the Four Seasons. The dark helps, letting Rodney pretend that there aren't old blood stains on the bar and that the bartender doesn't scare him to death. Too curious, looking at them in their nice American clothes, and Rodney's hand keeps fidgeting toward his gun without even meaning to. There's a better than average chance he'll have to use it. There's a better than average chance that he might not mind too much, either. "This is insane."
"Will you shut up and look dangerous?" Rodney hisses. "If I wanted a running commentary, I'd have asked Parrish, and the two of you can moan together about the horror of your lives."
Lorne shoots him a scorching look of disgust and bends sullenly over his truly horrifying beer. He's no John Sheppard, Rodney thinks uncharitably. John would have the bartender bringing them the good beer, slouched over a table with lithe unconcern, and projected danger like a airborne designer drug. Or maybe Rodney's just that turned on by violence these days. Lorne just doesn't pull off inconspicuous scary like John.
He'd also be up for sex after adventures in dangerous slumming, which just makes this entire thing that much more annoying.
The bartender refills Rodney's glass while staring at his watch, apparently trying to judge price by name. Have fun with Timex, Rodney thinks savagely, taking a long drink and trying not to watch the room.
"Even if we can get the information," Lorne murmurs, taking a sip of beer and grimacing absently, like he has after each drink--also freakishly annoying. "Even if we get it, how do you think we'll get him out of wherever they're holding him?"
That part, he hasn't gotten to. "I'll think of something."
"Do the words 'General Custer' mean anything to you? Or does Canada skip things like, outnumbered, outgunned, and incredibly stupid moments in history?"
Rodney rolls his eyes. "Whatever. Is this guy going to show or what?"
Lorne snorts, taking another drink of beer and making the exact same grimace. "Probably." Finishing the glass, Lorne stares at the empty bottom, then takes a deep breath, sliding it across the counter to the bartender for a refill. "Look, this is as far as I'm going on your wild goose chase. You want to get yourself caught and killed? Fine. Be as stupid as you want. But--"
Rodney snorts. "One, not a wild goose chase. Two, it's not like you've come up with a brilliant plan here."
"Because this is *stupid*!"
God, he misses John. "I just want information. If they're moving anything. That's not too much to ask, is it?"
Lorne makes a dissatisfied noise into his glass, but Rodney chooses to blame it on the incredibly poor quality of the beer. Picking up his own glass, Rodney starts to take a drink when a figure at the door catches his eye.
No different from the other locals, really, old jeans and loose shirt, sandaled feet and dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. He doesn't act different either, but Rodney watches the straight line of his shoulders, the perfect broomstick back, and the way the wide blue eyes take in the room.
"Lorne?" Rodney murmurs, and Lorne nods, still staring at his beer, but there's a tightness to his mouth that Rodney doesn’t' recognize. "Is that--"
"Yeah." Drinking the rest of the beer in a gulp, Lorne sighs. "That's him."
They speak in military, which is better than a foreign language if you're civilian, even if you've worked for the military for years. But Rodney had had John, and while it's gibberish, he can follow the gist of it, which seems to be, this will never, ever work.
"Look," Rodney says finally, getting tired of the way they pretend he isn't there, annoyed by Lorne's tight mouth, and fucking *pissed* that they seem to be talking themselves right out of doing anything at all. "I'm not asking for launch codes here. I just need information that anyone with a userid and some free time can look up. Hell, I could do it myself if I had a few days to hack the system, but I *don't*. If they move John, it's going to be within the next three days, and I need to know where he is and where they're taking him."
The guy--Bates, Rodney learned during the introduction period of the show, leans back, rubbing the back of his neck with an annoyed look on his face. "If it was that easy--"
"It's that easy if you know what you're looking at. It's the *military*. You were part of it, right? Someone saw him, someone's guarding him, and someone knows where he is. We just have to find out who knows and where we can find him.
Bates frowns. "That doesn't narrow it down much."
It doesn't; they're looking for a needle in a haystack. Lorne leans forward, looking disapproving, but unexpectedly useful. "It can't be one of the regular bases. It'll be Air Force, because they're the ones controlling the project. They'll need scientists there--Carter, probably Kavanagh--to interpret whatever they think he might tell them."
Bates' head tilts. "Nevada?"
Lorne's head tilts thoughtfully. "Maybe."
Bates and Lorne share a look that makes Rodney grind his teeth, but finally Bates nods, standing up. "Right. Give me a day to call in some favors." The dark eyes fix on Rodney, unfriendly. "Even if you know where they're taking him, you can't just go in and get him out. You get that, right?"
Rodney stares back. "Recently, I've been absolutely *amazed* at what I can do when I put my mind to it. Just get me the information. I'll take care of the rest."
"What was that last bit? Code for humor the crazy man? Because I am so beyond crazy, you have *no idea*--"
Lorne rolls his eyes. "McKay. Even if we can find him--"
"Oh my God," Rodney says, hating the universe. "Oh my God, if you give me that speech again, I swear I'll figure out a way to fly that plane without you. I don’t' care if it crashes, I don't even care if I die, as long as it gets you to *shut the fuck up*."
Lorne snorts but stays silent, radiating generalized disapproval and instinctive military discipline in his too straight back and too even steps, making Rodney ache for Sheppard's lazy gait and messy hair and too bright smiles. Everything makes him ache, walking in pale moonlight in a place that doesn't speak English, leaving a cantina to return to a shitty hotel and going into his room to curl up on top of the blankets and want John so badly it hurts him.
It's not fair, he thinks, staring straight ahead, it's not *fair* that after all this time, all these years--Christ, none of it's fair. He wants his apartment, with normal overheads, and his cat, curled up on his lap, and his lab, bright and open, his computer simulations and even his colleagues to annoy him, wants the acclaim of his peers and the envy of his enemies, and he wants, God, he wants his own quiet, normal bed, his routine, his *life*.
If he'd known it would be like this--if he'd known that epiphany came like this, came *with* this, if this was what he had to pay: not just in fear and the loss of his world, but in the blood of colleagues, the destruction of a base, the lives he's taken, watched taken, destroyed, the man who killed seven people for him and took showers like he'd never be clean again--
If he'd *known* what he'd be risking, who he'd be risking, what he'd be giving up, for the sake of a possibility, a probability, a weapon that no one could stop, no one could stand against….
"Hey," Lorne says, and Rodney realizes he's stopped in the middle of the street, staring into the sky like invisible constellations could guide him like a sailor going home. A gentle hand touches his arm, careful and curious. "McKay?"
Turning his head, Rodney stares at Lorne, feeling the weight of it, huge and pressing down on him, pushing air out of his lungs like he's underwater and will never be able to surface again.
"McKay!" Ungently, he's pushed into a wall, sun-warmed stone against his back, Lorne trying to tower over him but doing it badly, eyes swimming in worried shadows.
"Did you know Parrish that well?" Rodney hears himself say, voice high and fragile. "Hang out together, shoot the shit, whatever you guys do? Watch movies?"
Lorne frowns, dropping his hands. "McKay, what--"
"What made him worth the risk?"
Lorne starts, taking a wobbly step back, that tight military discipline eroding away beneath Rodney's stare, head turning to stare down the road to their hotel. Even in the dark, Rodney can see his hands clench. "Look, I--"
"Just fucking tell me. You gave up everything you knew to get him out. Your career and your life and you know, a place that speaks English as their native tongue. He's a botanist with a background in radiation damage. But you picked him up and ran with him and never looked back. Why? What made him worth it?"
In the moonlight, Rodney can see Lorne's mouth tighten, eyes darting away. "I worked at Cheyenne Mountain for three years," Lorne says slowly. "I was assigned to lead the team that watched over the life sciences. We guarded the labs and followed them home, we tapped their phones and checked their visitors. We were everywhere they were. You--most of you treat us like shit, McKay. The scientists." Lorne's eyes narrow slightly, and Rodney has sudden, uncomfortable flashbacks to dealing with his own security. "Like we're not worth the effort to breathe the same rarified air you do, because of the job we chose. We had to be willing to take a bullet for people who didn't even bother to learn our names."
Extremely accurate, uncomfortable flashbacks.
"Parrish--he was different." Lorne's mouth softens into a wistful smile. "We didn't hang out, McKay. We didn't watch movies. He'd carry his own equipment and get his own coffee and didn't act like we were there for his personal convenience. He was a good guy, doing a shitty job, with too many hours and not enough sleep, and he knew we didn't have it any better.
"So one day, we get new orders. And I'm having to follow this guy practically to the fucking bathroom and they're asking questions about who he's seen and where, and how often, and I'm sent to search his fucking *apartment* while he's killing himself with you screaming down the place for new projections, better projections. He's--he wasn't like you. He was just this botanist who was dragged into this and set to work. The fuckers were giving him *amphetamines* to keep him going when he'd fall over, you believe that shit?"
Lorne's eyes half-close, mouth hardening. "And one night, I'm still there because he is, and he's staring at his laptop for like a fucking hour and not doing a damn thing. So I go in to check on him, and he's so spaced I'm not sure he even knew who I was, and I was going to shake him out of it when I saw what they were making him do.
"They were telling him that he had to figure out how to clean up high level radiation the size of a *country*, and it must have--I guess it hit him then, what they were saying. This wasn't theory anymore. It wasn't a what-if. They don't get you hooked on uppers and burn you out for what-if. They were saying *when*."
Lorne's voice cracks. "I did it because what they were doing was wrong. I knew it was wrong when I volunteered for the project. I knew it was wrong, what I was ordered to do to those scientists. I knew it was wrong when I'd turn away so they could shoot him up and make him keep going. But I didn't know how wrong until I saw him crying over his keyboard because they were telling him they were going to fuck up the world and he was going to be responsible for fixing it. I'm military, McKay. My job's to protect people like him. So I did. I took his laptop and led him to my car, sent his security to his apartment, and drove us straight across the border, got us to Rio and Elizabeth Weir. And I never looked back."
Rodney leans against the wall, turning it over in his head.
"I blew up Cheyenne Mountain," he says, testing the words for the same razor-edge of pain. It's still there, and it still cuts. He thinks that maybe, it always will. "Do you know why?"
Lorne's silent. That's okay. Rodney's not sure he knows either.
"I left five colleagues to die, and that's just--well, that's just how it *started*. And I met this guy. You may know him. He's stupid and wears a lot of black and has shitty taste in motels. He said he'd protect me and he did. And I told him--I *told him* that he had to make sure that no one got me. They don't need my laptop or my notes. They need what I've got in my head, the stuff I never wrote down, the stuff I was too--that I couldn't. I *told* him that and the asshole took it literally. He let me get on a plane and stayed behind and I don't get it. I just--" Rodney hears his voice shake, flattening his palms against the wall. "I don't *get* it, and I don't--I want to go back and tell him that--that I never meant it. That--"
"McKay." Lorne's voice is gentle, too gentle. "Sheppard's military, same as I am. The uniform doesn't matter; whether we're wearing it or not, this is what we are. We protect."
Rodney shakes his head. Lorne doesn't get it. "You don't understand. I killed *six people* to--to keep this secret. And right now--right now--I'd tell them anything they want, everything they want, I'll build the fucking ZPM right here and right now if they'd give me John back."
Lorne's hands clench. "You can't. Sheppard--"
"He could hate me, but he'd be alive, wouldn't he?" Rodney feels lightheaded, oddly weightless, like he could float away if he breathes out. "That's--that's the thing. I'm getting him back, Lorne. We can do it this way, get him ourselves, or I can find a phone and make a call to that convenient military base nearby. Do you get it now? I don't *care* anymore. I gave up--Christ, I gave up everything, I lost my fucking *country*, I don't even have a name anymore. I'm not giving up anything else. I can't. You can help me or I can make the trade for John and build a fallout shelter for the *thousand years* worth of poisoned atmosphere ahead of us when they use my bomb. Because we both know they will. And you can't watch me every second."
Lorne breathes out. "I could kill you."
Rodney doesn't know when his reflexes got this good, but the gun's in his hand and pointed at Lorne's head. He remembers Ronon's surprised face, the feel of Kolya's blood, the way John looked in the shower, hollowed out and shaking beneath Rodney's hands, hot water pouring over them both.
He remembers dry-heaving in the tiny bathroom of the plane that took him out of Mexico and most of all, he remembers John's last smile, the feel of a slow fuck on a bed in Mexico City that told him goodbye.
Lorne stares at the gun, and Rodney watches the steady muzzle, the way his finger sits on the trigger, and thinks, I could. I *could*.
"Right." Lorne sighs, reaching out and grabbing the gun, jerking Rodney's hand down. "Pull that again and be prepared to use it." With a twist, ,he jerks, and the gun clatters to the ground. "And unlock the safety while you're at it." Shaking his head, Lorne waits restlessly as Rodney picks it up, sliding it back into the holster. "You want him back that badly."
"What clued you in?"
Lorne shakes his head. "You get he'll kill us both, right? If we try this?"
Rodney shrugs. "What's one more person out for us?"
"Right." Pinching the bridge of his nose in a gesture eerily reminiscent of John, Lorne sighs again. "Right. You know, this shouldn't even surprise me. He always gets the crazy ones."
Rodney frowns but doesn't bother to answer, feeling Lorne's eyes flicker to him as they walk. The motel is just out of sight of the road. "So," Lorne says easily, "you have a plan yet?"
God, a *plan*. "Not yet," he says, sounding more confident than he feels. On the other hand, it's not like Lorne's been Mr. Great Plan so far either, so really, they're pretty even. "But I will."