To amireal and svmadelyn, for petting.
ETA: God, sorry. Spoilers for The Return Part 1.
In the two weeks and two days since their return to Earth, Rodney's slept his way through three MIT lab assistants, a Northwestern doctorate, and two Berkeley graduate students, one of whom claiming an alarming degree of straightness for someone who pushed Rodney into a closet after a creepily fawning lunch to feverishly murmur the principles of entanglement theory while jerking him off.
This definitely isn't Atlantis.
It's less Atlantis with the respectful silence whenever he speaks, the quiet awe when he enters a room, the way that Dr. Bueller stops short to look at him with wide, adoring eyes when he makes a noise, or that one lab tech that has a disturbing ability to predict to the second when Rodney's coffee cup will be empty for purposes of pouring and staring worshipfully.
Which is why he says, "We could defect to the Ori."
"My team brings me bagels," Sheppard says, in a voice that approaches sick horror. "Every. Morning."
"Blowjobs by naqada generators," Rodney says, watching his office door suspiciously. "The Ori don't do that."
"Three kinds of cream cheese." There's a dull thud, which could be a dart thrown into a picture of Lieutenant Perky, because if Rodney can't be bothered to learn the names of his own staff, he's sure as hell not learning Sheppard's. Perky, however, is memorable, in that he's the first person Rodney's ever met who actually *does* drool at the sight of Sheppard. And here Rodney had always assumed that was a bad metaphor.
God, he wishes it would continue to be a bad metaphor.
"She *knows how I like my coffee*," Rodney whispers as a blonde head pokes through the door. Reaching for his (empty) cup, Rodney cradles it protectively to his chest, glaring at her until her face falls in tragic lines, slumping her way back to the lab to--oh God, he has no idea what she does besides make coffee. "Okay, explain to me again how we're not in some freakish constructed reality."
Sheppard sighs, and something else hits the wall. Rodney fondly imagines a dart in Perky's nose. "Rodney--"
"Because while I am all about endless, stringless hot sex with a large variety of brilliant, beautiful women," (and a lab tech who maybe needs to lay off on the caffeine), "there is something *wrong* here."
"We are not in a constructed reality," Sheppard says grimly. Rodney tries not to remember how the first time Sheppard had told him that, he'd begun to cry. "And since when do you object to sex?"
"I feel like an object," he confesses. "Just this--oh God. We are fourteen year old girls. When did this happen?"
"They call me sir," Sheppard says miserably, and Rodney can almost see him slumping further in his chair. "I have a coffee mug."
"World's Greatest Boss?"
"Ori," Rodney says insistently, setting his coffee mug on the desk and leaning back. If he closes his eyes, he can almost pretend this is some sort of nightmare.
"It's scary how serious you sound."
Rodney opens his eyes just as lab tech jogs in, coffee pot in hand, filling his cup up with an ingratiating smile and more chest than he's seen outside of very, very dirty porn. "You'd be surprised how serious I really am."
The problem isn't Earth, exactly, because there's a McDonalds on every corner, a slurpee at eleven every night, and Rodney really does appreciate knowing his hamburger at some point had some passing acquaintance with an actual cow. Or some variation thereof. But his apartment doesn't sound like the ocean, his ear feels naked without a headset, and his entire life is now circumscribed by an apartment, a car, and Area 51, when it had once been a galaxy.
He thought he'd missed Earth, and he had, in that way that he never wanted to experience it again. "Sheppard?" Rodney stares at the clerk counting out the one dollar and fifty-nine cents in pennies from the floor of his car that Rodney's been reduced to, since he keeps forgetting he lives in a capitalistic society now and has to carry a wallet to exchange money for goods and services. "Okay. New theory. Aliens."
"No constructed reality. They *had my BDUs dry-cleaned*." Sheppard's starting to sound a little more on edge than Rodney's really sure is altogether healthy, with that strain in his voice that used to mean one of three things; Huge Fucking Disaster, Kolya, and sometimes, God, Another Alien Princess and Rodney Will Kill Me If He Sees This.
"Mind control," Rodney says triumphantly. The clerk fumbles, and all Rodney's carefully acquired pennies fall to the floor. God. "Are you an alien?" Rodney demands, shoving the phone toward the clerk. "Tell Sheppard you're an alien, because humans *aren't this stupid*."
"Please take your slurpee and go, sir," the clerk says, staring at him with huge, alien, empty eyes. Or hysterical terror. "I'm s-s-s-sure this is the right amount."
"I have two doctorates," Rodney says threateningly. "I know kinds of math that you can't even imagine." Turning toward the door, Rodney jerks the phone back to his ear. "Did you hear that? He practically admitted it!"
From the other side, Sheppard sighs. "They asked me to teach them to stick fight."
Rodney pauses, pushing open the door, teeth gritted against the unholy sound of the bell tinkling above him. "Are they still alive?"
He can almost see Sheppard's smile. "Mostly."
The third week passes with impromptu sex on his desk, another terrifyingly repressed closet hand-job, and the résumés of countless breathless ingénue astrophysicists offering him first born children and sex acts requiring *extra equipment*. Rodney finds himself under his desk clutching his laptop as the lab tech, armed with a coffee pot, ducks poutingly out of his office. Rodney really wonders what her actual job is supposed to be.
"We're in stasis pods," Rodney says urgently. "Hallucination."
"They cleaned my office," Sheppard says, sounding like someone just coming off a night of smoking, or maybe, a fairly intense crying fit. "Everything smells like lemon." Sheppard's voice drops--shame or terror, Rodney's not sure. "I think they're polishing my sticks."
Rodney shuts his eyes. "Stasis pods."
Sheppard is silent for a second. "Tell me about the Ori again."
When it comes right down to it, Rodney misses things he never knew it was possible to miss.
The marines are all respectful, obedient, and inhumanly silent, a massive, armed, inhuman presence that looks at him with blank attention and never mocks him for any reason. He never thought he'd miss marine poker night and losing all his coffee rations, but oh my God, he does.
Mystery Meat Monday and purple vegetables and food roulette, where anything could and would clash on his plate no matter the combination, with the fun possibility of allergic reaction around every corner.
Thursday night laundry, one of Sheppard's accidental team events, because for some reason, nothing ever happened on Thursday and they all ended up with a pile of BDUs on the floor drinking Athosian ale and eating Skittles after a Daedalus supply run.
Zelenka's mumbling Czech obscenities and Miko's footrubs and staff meetings and long nights in the lab.
Ronon. Teyla. Weekly combat training. Missions on worlds with new and exciting allergens. The jumper breaching atmosphere, emerging into space stretching around them for eternity.
"I want to defect now," Rodney tells Sheppard as he throws himself bodily against the bathroom door.
"I think they're using my cologne," Sheppard says with a kind of pathetic calm that usually comes right before he a.) does something suicidal or b.) starts divebombing his career. Oh God. Rodney thinks of Perky and grits his teeth.
"I need your address," Rodney says, bracing himself against the door. Outside, meandering scientists breathlessly await his next order, which might be, figure out what this thing does, or could be, throw yourself on the nearest naqada generator. It's a toss-up, really.
On very bad nights, after fending off the advances of the worlds' best and brightest, Rodney thinks that he'd like to test that jumping off a bridge theory.
"What?" Sheppard sounds--tense. Rodney hears a tentative knock against the door and brutally kicks back against it.
"Address," he says. "Leave a key under the door, make sure and have the sheets washed in hypoallergenic detergent, and bring home sesame chicken."
Sheppard snickers, which is the best sound Rodney's heard all day.
Rodney closes his eyes and kicks the door again. Someone makes a satisfying yelping noise. Second best sound. "We could be in the wrong dimension," he says hopefully.
Across hundreds of miles, Rodney can feel Sheppard's smirk. "Maybe. What time is your flight?"
Sheppard's apartment is about what Rodney expected, in that it's nothing like Atlantis. Straight walls and box-like rooms, perfect geometric corners and less personality than the average physics graduate student. The windows have blinds, each room has a light switch, and there's as little furniture as Sheppard could get away with and not have someone worriedly asking him about his feelings.
There is, however, a TV worthy of the name, so Rodney dumps his bag on the floor, stretches out on the couch, and finds nirvana in five million channels of nothing to watch.
He falls asleep early, but that's only because he's reasonably sure no aspiring physicists are going to jump him from behind the couch. Sometime in the night, Rodney wakes up to Japanese news, Sheppard slumped against the couch, soft hair brushing Rodney's fingers. The green eyes open blearily, focusing for a second that's like coming home, and Rodney lets himself touch, just a little. "Not an alternate dimension," Rodney murmurs, chest loosening as Sheppard's mouth quirks. "Go back to sleep."
*corrected dark to dart, compliments of rensreality