Where I Lay My Head, Extended Version
John wakes up to an impatient hand pulling on his elbow, strongly enough to bring him half-upright before he's even aware he'd fallen asleep. Pushing his elbow more firmly into the lab table, he blinks himself awake, taking in Rodney's frowning face, wet hair flattened against his head, still in the soaked BDUs that are making them both shiver.
"I can't believe you fell asleep," Rodney says bitterly, but John doesn't take it personally. He reaches for his gun automatically, though he's not sure why he needs it. Rodney's hand slaps his away. "None of that. Come on."
"It was a minute, Rodney." He's been awake for forty-two hours, though he's not sure why. There are two Rodney's abruptly looking at him with annoyance, which can't be a good sign, and then Rodney sighs, pulling him off the stool in a single motion.
He always forgets how *strong* Rodney is. "Jesus, McKay."
He stumbles, and that's enough to bring him fully awake, catching himself on the lab table. Rodney mutters in stereo, but at least there's only one of him, hooking John's arm over his shoulder and a thick arm circling his waist, leading him to the door like a drunken lieutenant after his first leave.
"I can walk," John says, annoyed, but his feet keep moving wrong, and he bangs his toes painfully into the doorway when Rodney leads him out of the lab.
"…because of course they're fine with shooting you up for the greater good," Rodney's saying as they emerge into the hallway. "Morons. Just say no my *ass*." John winces from the bright light, turning his face into the closet shelter, and right, he remembers the headache that settled behind his eyes hours ago. They don't pass anyone, but he can hear Rodney's voice waver in and out, like a badly tuned radio in rural Alabama, where he remembers driving for hours stuck between stations and static.
"…not ever happening again, I don't care why--," Rodney's saying to someone who may or may not exist. John tries to remember what they were doing. Repairs--on something? An attack, maybe, and when he looks down, he thinks he can see darker stains on his pants, thicker and heavier than water, and smell gunpowder on his skin. Raising one hand, he draws it across his face, coming back damp with something that's not rain. "Yes, I have him, where do you think he's been the last ten hours, playing hide and seek? No, wait, he *was* doing that!"
Strong fingers loop around his wrist, dragging his hand down and away. "None of that," Rodney says, voice pitched softer than John's ever heard it. The arm around his waist tightens before they make a turn, and John thinks he can see the transporter dead ahead.
"Tell me we've cleared the residential wing," Rodney says to someone, somewhere, and John thinks vaguely he should be handling--something. "Fine, which one and how long?" The silence stretches the length of the corridor, and Rodney punches in the code, knocking John into the doorway with an awkward shuffle that gets him a mumbled apology and a push into the wall. Leaning back, John closes his eyes, taking a clearing breath. His head feels stuffed with cotton and everything feels muffled, like he's deep beneath the ocean, floating with the city stretched out above him, so far he can't imagine how he'll ever surface again.
He wonders if this is how Rodney felt in the jumper and thinks he might be missing something fairly big when he can't even remember what he's supposed to be doing. "Rodney--"
"Just shut up," Rodney snaps. Sharpness is less disconcerting than the softness, righting the world. Nothing could be so wrong that Rodney can't bitch.
Smiling, John makes himself open his eyes, surprised that Rodney's so close and so-- "Are you getting taller?" John says, craning his neck curiously. Rodney makes a sound that crosses between a squawk and a grunt, and John's pressed against bulky warmth that soaks into him so deeply he forgets he was ever cold. Sighing, he leans into it, burying his face against a warm neck, skin smelling of rain and copper and days old sweat.
"Colonel," Rodney breathes, the way people do when they say something you don't want to hear, but a hand curves around the back of his neck, almost hot against his skin, holding him in place. "This is what all those afterschool specials tried to get across. You're crashing."
Mostly, he's falling, and he's got Rodney and a wall the only thing between him and drowning. "Tired," John murmurs, trying to move his arms enough to pull away--this isn't appropriate, though he's not sure why. There's something-- "Did we win?"
Rodney's silent for so long that John almost forgets the question. "We always win," Rodney says, finally, and John wonders why he sounds so bitter. "No matter what."
Then he's shifted firmly away before the arm circles his waist, and beneath his hand he can feel the curve of Rodney's shoulder, damp and warm, heat along his side that tempts him into sleep, but something scratches the edges of his thoughts, irritation like a bug crawling the surface of his skin. "But--"
"What, you want a dissertation?" Rodney hauls him into the hall, and there's a stretch of worrying blankness that ends with a door sliding open and Rodney saying, "We're *sleeping*. If anyone so much as breathes outside the door, I will personally pay Ronon in pudding cups to gut you like a fish. We're *off* for the next thirty-six hours. McKay out."
It takes John a long second to recognize the quarters as familiar but not his, and even longer to realize there are hands on his jacket, jerking it open with swift, efficient movements, pulling it off and away before John can remember how to use his voice.
"Wait," he says, focusing abruptly on Rodney in front of him wearing an intense expression that he can't interpret. Wet hair and skin greyed from exhaustion, eyes dark-ringed and bloodshot. Angry and tired, John interprets, and tries to think of something to say, but words keep tripping over the edges of his tongue to fall into oblivion. "Rodney."
"Shut *up*. Your last shot was almost ten hours ago. I'm surprised you're still upright." Big, warm hands pull at his shirt, sliding beneath to brush chilled, wet flesh, then the shirt's skimmed away, rough and damp when it slides over John's face, enveloping him in darkness, and he's fighting it even as it pulls free. "Shh, just--give me a second, there's no way you can be comfortable. You'll get pneumonia or something, and then you'll give it to me and the city will explode instantly in horror at losing my brilliance." With that, Rodney's slides his fingers beneath the waist of John's pants with a kind of defiant irritation, and John honestly can't think of a response to that.
When Rodney goes down on his knees, John thinks that maybe he's hallucinating. "Uh, Rodney--"
"Oh please. You *smell*." He can feel Rodney's hand on his inner thigh, working the buckles of his holster loose, checking John's gun with easy familiarity, and John wonders if they were on a mission. His boots are next, and he has to balance against Rodney's shoulder because Rodney won't let him sit down. "I'm not carrying you to the bed, Colonel."
Eventually, boots are tossed aside, wet socks peeled away, and John's aware of a vague ache running the length of both legs, like he's been running and climbing and doing things that are probably a little more energetic than his body really likes to deal with. The BDUs skin down abruptly and he obediently steps out at the nudge against his hip.
When Rodney stands back up, John leans into him automatically, because if Rodney won't let him sit down, at least he'll let him lean. "How long?" he asks, but he's not even sure what he's asking.
"Three hours," Rodney says softly, a hand settling warm on the small of his back. "If I let you sit, you have to stay awake. Are you tracking?"
John nods, but it's a lie, even as something hard and cold in the pit of his stomach loosens, uncoiling into long warm strips that promise rest, finally, rest.
"Never mind." Rodney steps away, one hand on John's shoulder. "Don't move, Colonel."
John feels himself sway, but the sharp edge in Rodney's voice reminds him to keep upright, and Rodney's back, wiping something warm across his face that he leans into with a groan that reaches his toes. When Rodney pulls it away, all he can smell is soap. A quick and dirty drag over his neck, over his hands, and he wonders why Rodney's bothering, but then--God, yes--Rodney's moving him toward the bed.
When John hits cool sheets, strangely slick against his skin, absorbing the heat of his body, he stops caring that he's not in his room and he's not in his bed, luxuriating in the way the mattress takes his weight, every muscle in his body going slowly liquid like hot mercury, and he's fighting the urge to give up because Rodney--
He's supposed to be watching, supposed to be-- "Rodney--" he hears himself say, and it's the hardest thing he's ever done, rolling onto his back with the kind of effort he usually expends on Teyla with the sticks. Opening heavy eyes, John stares up at the blurry ceiling, raising his hand to his radio automatically as he glances at the window. Outside, he can see low-hanging clouds, dark and thick, rolling restlessly over the ocean, heavy rain, but it's still daylight. Elizabeth will wonder where he is.
"Yeah, no, we'll stop that right now." Rodney's fingers brush his ear, sliding to the radio and pulling it away, setting it at the desk on the far side of the room that John couldn't make himself walk to if it was promising him a ZPM and a hyperdrive ship all his own. "Colonel, go to sleep."
"But--" He's supposed to be doing something. It's a blur of rain and angry voices and gunshots, hazy and blank in spots that it shouldn't be. It's loud, and then it's dangerously quiet, and he knows, *knows* he's supposed to be--he has to-- "If they come back."
"Where we sent them, they're never coming back," Rodney answers cryptically, and the mattress bends as Rodney drops carelessly beside him, rolling John a few inches that he's too slow to stop. Blankets are pulled up around him, heavy and thick, so soft he thinks he'll never leave. "It's over. We're safe." A tentative hand rests on the side of his face.
Safe. John can go with that. Rodney wouldn't lie. Letting his eyes fall closed, John leans into the touch before it's withdrawn, feeling cold where Rodney's hand had rested.
Time blanks briefly, and then he opens his eyes on Rodney making some sort of pallet on the floor, grumbling softly beneath his breath, the soundtrack of John's life. Blinking slowly, John forces his shivering body to turn, shift, a spike of pain shooting from instep to groin like the stab of a knife, and he hisses before he can think better of it.
He wonders if he'll ever be warm again, shivers crawling his skin like tiny fire ants, stinging with every step.
"How are you still awake?" Rodney looks as crappy as he did earlier, but in boxers and a t-shirt, hair wet and skin scrubbed clean, almost flushed from the heat of a shower. He's warm, John thinks muzzily, and he reaches, fumbling with arms that don't want to move as they should, fingers brushing the cotton edges of Rodney's boxers. He doesn't have enough motor control to hold on. "What?"
"Cold," John says, voice scratchy. He tries again, almost able to close his fingers over cloth. Rodney bats his hand away, staring down at him impatiently.
"You need another blanket," Rodney says, turning away with a low voiced commentary, probably involving John's likely intelligence and anorexic body weight. John's heard it before. Smiling, John turns his face into the pillow as another blanket is dumped on top of him, this time ready, and Rodney's close enough for John to get a grip, pull sharply, just enough to get Rodney toppling over across his legs, sending sharp pain up John's spine that he ignores with gritted teeth. "Jesus *Christ*, Sheppard, what the hell--"
"Cold," John says, unable to find another word that fits. He fumbles for Rodney's free hand, pulling, and Rodney levers himself up, staring at him with wide, uncomprehending eyes.
Rodney's eyes flicker to the pallet on the floor, then John again. "I can sleep on the floor."
"No." It was John's first word, his parents once told him. He's inclined to believe they were right.
Another long moment passes--or John blanks again, he has no idea--but finally, Rodney gets up, and John opens his mouth to protest, but he can't find the words. He doesn't need them anyway; Rodney pulls back the covers, climbing in, the bed dipping and shifting John a full two inches until he's flat against Rodney's side and he was right. Rodney's warm.
He knows he's burrowing, seeking more skin, pressing his palms flat to Rodney's back, ducking until he can press his face against a warm throat that smells only of clean soap. Rodney makes a noise above him, but he's pliant at John's touch, letting him get as close as he wants, as close as he can, legs tangled carelessly, warm *everywhere*, heating John from the skin in and somewhere deep inside that's been cold for too long. A few seconds pass, then Rodney's arms go around him, protective and gentle, like John's fragile and could so easily break.
It's the best John's felt in longer than he can remember. He can feel sleep dragging, body going heavy and thick, and he can't make himself open his eyes again. But. "Elizabeth--I need to--"
"Colonel." Then, softer. "John. It's over. Everyone's fine." What that means, John has no idea, but his body knows, responds, and he gives up on moving, even thinking of it. "Everyone's safe." The arms tighten abruptly. "Even you."
John wants to wonder what that means, but he's drifting, and Rodney's hand's running slowly up and down his back, the other gentle and heavy on the back of his neck. He breathes out and lets the weight pull him under, floating beneath a flying city in a world that's more his than the one he was born into.
Home, he thinks, finally warm, but he doesn't mean the city.
"Go to sleep," Rodney says, and John can feel his chin rest gingerly on the top of his head. "Let someone else take care of things for a while. Me. Let me--" Another long stroke, so good that John arches into it like a cat, even as the words fade. "--of *you*."
John falls asleep.
Rodney wakes up like breaking the surface of the ocean, on a sharp gasp that catches in his throat. Somewhere is the memory of floating in freezing cold, the city far above, and swimming forever toward something he could never touch.
He's cold and wet--no, warm and dry--no, warm and sweating through his thin t-shirt, three blankets pulled up around him--no, around *them*, around him and around Sheppard, warm and silent in this quiet city, this quiet room with only thin cotton between them.
He looks to make sure Sheppard's still asleep, a boneless, pliable ball of lieutenant colonel wrapped around him like a second skin: better than a blanket. He can't help moving his hands, just a little (he's allowed, just a little), palming the length of his spine to feel the coiled muscle beneath smooth skin, learn the slope of his shoulders, soft hair tickling his chin, chaste except in all the ways it's not.
He's hard beneath boxers and blankets, pressed against Sheppard's thigh, shivering pleasure from each shift of their bodies. Sheppard's so far down it's as if he might never come back up. Rodney remembers how it feels to crash, hours of heavy, dreamless sleep that didn't seem to ease the ache of exhaustion, days after half-awake and half-alive, running through life by rote. Turning his head, he can see the track marks on Sheppard's arm, from IV and needle both, bruising dark against the fair skin of his elbow. Four injections in twenty-eight hours, the look on Sheppard's face at the first hit, the twitch of his fingers, stillness abandoned for sudden movement, restless energy, and Rodney remembers that, too.
It's been sixteen hours, a glance at the clock tells him, and he's still tired, exhaustion pulling him down, into a soft mattress and warm blankets, pillows. And Sheppard.
Carefully, he disentangles himself, Sheppard puddling into the mattress with a thick sigh before curling tighter around a pillow, and Rodney climbs out of bed, already in withdrawal from the feel of Sheppard's skin. Grabbing his radio, he finds his uniform pants and goes into the bathroom, catching a glance into the mirror that makes him wince away before he can see too much.
Pushing the radio in his ear, he takes a breath, thinking of the mess in his lab with a feeling of sick dread, the ruins of one of the towers, thinks of the brig and the residential quarters and the rain that pounded down like it would never end.
Mostly, though, he remembers Sheppard in his lab, wired and blood-stained, guarding the door while Rodney worked, the last injection when Rodney shot him up because John's hands shook too much to do it himself.
"McKay to Dr. Weir," he says, closing his eyes as he leans into the bathroom door. A few crackled seconds pass before she comes on, voice low. "Rodney?"
"How are you?"
Rodney can't think of a way to answer that in less than a dissertation. He closes his eyes. "Not yet."
Her voice lowers. "John?"
Rodney lets out a slow breath. "Sleeping."
A few long seconds pass, and Rodney can feel every one of them. "Everyone's on short shifts. Tell the Colonel seventy-two hours or I'll order him into the infirmary." The unspoken request hovers beneath: make sure it doesn’t come to that. "That goes for you, too, if you so much as stick a finger outside your door. Get some rest. You did good work today."
Rodney lets himself breathe. "McKay out."
When he goes back in, John's restless, frowning in his sleep, and Rodney catches one reaching hand, something deep inside warming as John stills, eyes not quite slitting open. "Morning?" he murmurs, like he wakes up in Rodney's bed every day, asks this question by rote.
"Not even close," Rodney whispers, feeling strange and off-balance, like the city's shifting beneath him. "Go back to sleep."
Green eyes slit open, pupil blown wide and endless black, ringed in pale brown and paler green. "'m cold."
Rodney stares at the three blankets for a second, but his mind won't quite work enough yet to decide where else to get some. "The environmentals are still offline," he says, feeling thick and distant, and tries not to think of the patch job in environmental controls, the hasty program he wrote to hold the city until enough people were conscious to fix it. He tries not to think of anything right now--not guns against his head and shaking hands and three days not knowing who had lived or died. Not of needles and speed and shooting up John when he went too long and couldn't do it for himself.
Not the blood on the floor of his lab and the reason it was there, and not of watching John jitter himself apart as he slowly crashed down.
Sleep is good for that.
"Cold," John says again, frowning, and fingers pull his, tugging until Rodney has to catch himself on one hand, braced above John. John stares at him for a second, eyes slowly focusing until Rodney can almost feel it. Lifting a hand, John's fingers curl clumsily around the back of his neck, jerking him down, and Rodney barely misses slamming into John's nose. "Rodney. I'm *cold*."
John's not, though. He's warm lips and warm tongue, soft and a little lazy and a little clumsy. Rodney's three quarters of the way into a kiss before he even realizes what it is John's doing, and it's far too late to stop.
John pulls him in, beneath warm blankets and touching a warm body, the room contracting into a tight, soft space that's all blankets and skin and slow, lazy touch like muted electricity. John's still exhausted, muscles trembling beneath every touch, but he kisses like he can't get enough, and Rodney's helpless against the warmth. It's wet and messy, stubble scraping bright against his cheek, his lips. John eases him onto his back, collapsing on top of him like a living blanket. Rodney pulls the blankets up around them, running a hand up John's bare back, feeling the shiver that has nothing to do with cold.
John's clumsy, teeth scraping when they shouldn't, and Rodney can't make himself do more than stroke, slow and heavy, breathing when they pull apart in muted gasps, sliding his fingers through John's hair to pull him back. They're too tired to do more than shift, but Rodney can feel John through his boxers, a single point of heat like a beacon against his thigh as John rubs slowly against him.
John pulls back, staring down at him for a drugged moment, and Rodney wonders if he's supposed to say something here, but he couldn't form words even if he knew what they were. He lets himself say it in touch, stroking through John's hair, rubbing his fingers into the back of his neck, breathing in the smell of him, of them, sleep-scent and sweat and soap from Rodney's shower, the tang of invisible blood and the city they took back last night. The warmth of their bodies together, musky and thick. The rain outside that comes down like it will never stop.
John ducks his head, stubble tickling Rodney's collar as John's lips skim his neck, tickling heat that skims the surface of his skin, pooling thickly in his cock. Rodney closes his eyes at teeth closing beneath his ear, the wet warmth of John's tongue soothing after, John's palms skimming slowly down his sides, stealing warmth and giving it back in each touch.
It's all so good, so easy, so impossibly soft, feathery kisses over his jaw, thumb stroking slowly over his cheek, the feel of his cock rubbing slowly against John's hip through his boxers. Rodney skims down, pushing them slowly lower, enough to stroke slow, wondering fingers over the curve of John's ass, enough for John to reach down and pull them down farther, giving Rodney all the access he could want. He can feel John fumbling at his hip, reaches to help while mapping skin, smooth and soft. This body he's seen in locker rooms and the infirmary and weird kinky rituals on alien planets.
When John grinds down, they both breathe out at the feeling of cock against cock, John lifting his head, eyes wide and dark as the storm outside. When he looks down, Rodney sees something in them like wonder, bright as lightning and gone just as quickly, but the touch after lingers, John cupping his jaw with a shaking hand.
"You're safe," John whispers, thumb brushing against Rodney's lip. Rodney thinks of John and his gun, standing between Rodney and the world, and nods slowly. So are you, he wants to say, but he just wraps his arm tighter around John's waist and draws him back down, losing himself in John's soft, soft mouth, his skin.
It grows so slowly that Rodney barely notices the change, the slow slickening of skin from sweat, the way they shift their hips for a better angle, the muscles in John's back slowly tensing as he gets closer, dragging Rodney closer too, slow movement getting jerky, until John's panting against his cheek, and Rodney's leaving his fingerprints on John's back, his ass, his hips, trying to get more, better, harder, now, *now*….
"Yeah," John whispers, voice breaking as he stiffens, going still, and Rodney can feel him come, wet and slick between their bellies, and Rodney sucks in a breath as he watches John's wide eyes go half-lidded, pleasure-heavy, and comes too, surprised by it, moan buried in John's mouth.
They don't bother cleaning up; Rodney uses the bottom blanket to wipe them both off and tosses it on the floor, curling the first two around them as John goes pliant beside him, letting Rodney pull him closer with a soft sound of satisfaction. They fit together like leggos, a shift and a click into a comfortable tangle of arms and legs. John buries his face against Rodney's neck and drifts off, heavy and perfect, and Rodney shuts his eyes, chin lost in soft hair, and follows.