Title: As Wide as the Sky
Codes: Sheppard, McKay, Weir, Sheppard/McKay, AU
Summary: Find yourself.
Author Notes: Beta by cjandre and celli, who went above and beyond to hold my hand through the panic.
John takes the drink Elizabeth hands him with a honey-slow smile, all lazy ease as Rodney tries to breathe into the paper bag Teyla handed him ten minutes ago. His own glass lies forgotten on the floor, staining the carpet brown, but he figures at the price they're paying for this suite, the hotel can damn well afford to replace it.
"Breathe," Teyla says shortly, pushing the bag back to his mouth before he can think of something sufficiently bitter to say regarding too-calm politicians, that the person with the most to lose tonight is acting like this is his own private cocktail party.
But they count on that with John Sheppard; he works a crowd like no one Rodney has ever seen, charming and witty and so comfortable in his skin that Rodney could hate him. Across the room, John is cozying up to two of his biggest campaign contributors, laughing at something a woman in glittering green silk murmurs in his ear, hand on the small of her back, a perfect gentleman in every way.
A politician, Rodney reminds himself half-heartedly as Teyla glares, obediently sucking in another deep breath and somehow managing to control the nausea as someone finally lowers the volume on the fucking TV. John can be as relaxed as he wants to be--Rodney has enough jitters for them both.
A few more minutes, and Teyla nods, smiling as she stands up, straightening her silk pantsuit with one absent hand. "Better, Dr. McKay?" she says, eyes flickering across the room. "Deep breaths. The night is not yet over."
No, it's not, and it won't be for a while, which brings Rodney right back to the bag, glad for once that half the room is too terrified of him to try and comment on the fact that John Sheppard's campaign manager is having a fairly public breakdown in the middle of the room on election night.
Getting up, he takes the glass Ford is already holding out and drinks it in a gulp before leaving it on a side table, trying to decide who to grace with his presence next. If he's going to be this utterly miserable, he really wants someone else to be, too.
Elizabeth's eyes catch his from across the room, though, and Rodney wishes suddenly he hadn't taken that last drink quite so fast. Christ. Grabbing another off a passing waiter, he slowly works his way across the room, taking some comfort in the stretched plastic smiles of those who are forced to cross his path, because in all honesty, this is as close as he's going to get to fun tonight.
"Rodney," she says, smiling over clenched teeth. "Please pretend you think we have some chance of winning. Just for a little while."
Sitting down, Rodney looks at the former president, elegant and professional in dark red, looking as relaxed as a woman in her own home. Politics is her home, though, and Rodney takes a second to appreciate her presence, the way she projects effortless confidence, remembering the first time he saw her at a rally almost ten years ago, brilliant and mesmerizing, their work together in the long year of her campaign, and the eight years of her administration.
But right now, looking into stern brown eyes, he remembers she's the one that got him into this mess.
When John was sixteen years old, his father had told him that a life's ambition was more than saying, "I want to fly." It's also working to do it.
This wasn't John's life's ambition.
Elizabeth leans into his desk, smiling down at him with the kind of calm authority that won her two terms as the first female president of the United States. "We want you to run."
Leaning back, John tries to work out if she's also *insane*. "What?"
Pushing herself up off the desk, Elizabeth circles it, sitting down comfortably on the chair across from him, taking command of the quiet room, where six Congressmen, John's dog, and two members of the state legislature watch with bated breath. It's not like he didn't see this coming--except he hadn't, not really--but that it's happening, here and now, and somehow, no matter what rumors John had heard, no matter what his fellow congressmen had said, it hadn't seemed all that real.
Folding her hands neatly in her lap, she smiled. "Jerry's vulnerable," she says simply.
Beneath the desk, John feels his knees begin to shake, and the room seems to telescope, giving him flashes of this life that he'd never meant to lead, this world that he stumbled into by chance, a flip of a coin that took him from retired Air Force Major to the United States Senate. No matter how many suits he wears, how many votes he casts, how many times they call him Senator Sheppard, it's never been real, not until now. Not until this woman sat down before him and told him that sometimes a life's ambition isn't something you knew you wanted until it was there, glittering and bright. For a second, all John can think is, I don't want this.
I don't *want this*.
"Could you please excuse us?" John hears himself say, voice as calm as always, and somewhere, he pulls up an easy smile. He wonders what they see when they look at him, what they're seeing now as they nod and file out of the room, clutching laptops and folders and polls and papers, *change*. They tell him that he's not playing anymore. That whatever happens now, it won't ever be playing again.
When the door closes, Elizabeth's head tilts, lips curving in a slow smile. "You want it."
John rubs his palms dry on his knees. "Dr. Weir--"
"Senator," she says. Then, "John. Don't tell me you don't want it."
He has to move, has to do *something*, and he stands up, ignoring the ache in his leg, the daily reminder of the helicopter crash that stole his life and deposited him here, in this neat, beige room, a life built of constituents and issues and people who depend on him, trust him, who believe in him in ways he would never have believed possible.
"I think you have the wrong guy," he says slowly, crossing to the window. There's nothing outside--buildings, high-rises, banks and apartments and corporations, the distant sound of a marching band practicing for the fourth of July celebration in the park next door. One hand touches the wooden casing, and he knows, *knows* it's shaking. "I'm not--"
"Retired Air Force officer with an exemplary war record," she says, like this is some kind of explanation. "Two term senator with a moderate voting record. Widower with no children and no hidden scandals. And the single most popular member of Congress in the country--which, granted, isn't saying all that much considering your competition." Her smile turns wry. "Attractive, intelligent with no stain of elitism. A local boy who made good." With one hand, she gestures, taking in the office and the suit that covers him like a false skin; it makes him itch suddenly, wondering what she sees. The slick, photogenic politician makes him wince when he sees himself on TV, plastic smiles stretching his lips; he threw up the first time he saw himself, this false, glittering image that made people believe he could do things that he couldn't possibly do, be something he couldn't possibly be.
It's the *White House*, and somewhere in his head his father is looking at him with disappointment because he'd never made general, his constituents with the same hope they'd had when he'd won his first election, like he alone could change anything at all.
"Elizabeth--" he hears himself say helplessly, but she's said it, and it's his birthday nine years ago, when Ford had said, you should run for Congress, and John had been drunk and said yes.
Said *yes*, and everything changed.
Somehow, Elizabeth is beside him, and he looks at her, this brilliant woman who was the first at so many things, and wonders why in the name of God she's here.
"I think you should run," she says slowly, her hand on his arm, warm and tight. There's something inevitable about this moment, though he never would have guessed it years ago, exhausted and angry as he walked away from the only thing he had ever wanted. "And I think you can win."
When John retreats to the privacy of his room, trailing a carefully smiling Teyla and a scarily hyper Ford, Rodney detaches himself from the pretty socialite currently making awkward small talk with him, and he would have resented her obvious relief if he hadn't wanted to get away just as desperately. Taking a tray from a passing waiter, he ducks inside before Ford can close the door, unsurprised to see Elizabeth already seated in state by the desk, calm and quiet, like this is any night and not the single most important night of their lives.
The professional in John is cracking around the edges, and Rodney shuts the door with his shoulder, watching John pace away slick ease like a shed skin, the trademark neat hair growing messier with each pass, the suit grown suddenly rumpled, and something in Rodney relaxes to see it.
"I need a drink," John says jerkily, and Rodney feels himself begin to grin.
Setting down the tray, Rodney gets a glass, watching Teyla melt onto the foot of the bed, head in her hands as Ford sits beside her, hand comforting on her shoulder, setting himself in John's path as John turns around, holding out the glass like an offering, almost amused to see the green eyes brighten. "Christ. Thank you."
"Not too much," Elizabeth says from the desk, but her voice is indulgent, because it's not like they all don't know John has no tolerance for alcohol and two brandies can put him out like a light.
John frowns, shaking his head before he drops down beside Teyla, taking a careful sip with a wince at the taste. "Okay. How are we doing?"
"I thought you didn't want to know," Ford says, and from the look on his face, he doesn't want to tell. Rodney can relate. The last time he'd looked at the numbers, there'd been a paper bag involved, and a stained carpet, and Teyla talking him down from a comforting panic attack, which if nothing else had given John something to focus on besides projecting perfect confidence by covering for his campaign manager's breakdown.
"Maybe I changed my mind," John answers shortly, taking a bigger sip from the glass, and Rodney, who's been monitoring John's alcohol consumption all night, makes a mental note to switch him to coffee as soon as he can get away with it.
It's strange how you get to this point, Rodney thinks, watching John lean against Teyla, eyes closing briefly as her hand covers his, the quick squeeze of trusted friends, the way Ford's tight look eases as he looks between them, these two extraordinary people that had barely met two years ago. With a little sigh, John straightens, taking a more moderate drink before his eyes fix on Rodney, one corner of his mouth tilting upward in an amused smirk. Rodney can almost see him relax as he watches, rumpled and messy and less slick, less frantic, less calm, less controlled, but John Sheppard down to his bones.
Rodney stares at the loosened tie, the messy hair, the warm hazel eyes, and wonders again how in the name of God he managed to fall into this.
John stares at the television screen, locked on an image of Dr. Rodney McKay, tie looped over one shoulder, one tail of his shirt pulled from his pants, the brightest mind in American politics today, consultant and some said kingmaker, punching out a talk show host on national TV.
"You're kidding." Clutching his coffee cup in both hands, John takes another drink and pretends its alcohol.
Elizabeth sighs, setting aside the remote. "He's run campaigns for some of the most influential politicians today--"
"No. Seriously. You're kidding," John says, unable to look away from the screen. Somehow, Elizabeth had managed to capture the moment that Rodney's hand had actually made contact with Geraldo's nose. If John remembers correctly, the next part is security hauling Rodney away, still yelling things that could not be broadcast on national television, though John had gotten a copy of the original taping, and if memory serves, Rodney had *proved* his reputation for being the biggest asshole in politics today.
"John," she says, with another sigh that makes John want to crawl across the couch and strangle her or something, because he'd never known in all the years he'd worked with her how utterly, amazingly *annoying* she could be, and he's including the time that she spent eighteen hours with the democratic caucus to make sure no one voted to overturn her veto. "Ford can't do this one."
John straightens. "Ford's an excellent manager--"
"He's good. He's good despite the fact he doesn't have the experience or the natural talent. But he can't run a national campaign and he knows it." Hitting play, she turns back to the screen, and John finds himself hypnotized by security pulling a fighting, kicking Rodney off the stage, the long bleep that means that Rodney hadn't said a single acceptable-for-television word for a full three minutes, while Geraldo held his nose and looked stunned.
To be honest, it's kind of funny.
Hitting pause again, Elizabeth looks over at him. "He's the best there is. He's brilliant, he's dedicated, and he does what it takes to win." Which you and Ford don't, she isn't saying, except she is. She's right; John's good at speeches and public appearances and smiling for a thousand cameras. He's good at nodding intelligently, dodging questions, and saying what people want to hear. He's good at charming and ordinary and dedicated. And that's the entire secret of his appeal, why his state voted him into Congress and barring any stupidity on his part will keep him there until the day he retires or dies. These are things he knows, about himself, about Ford. "And most importantly, he's willing."
John tears his eyes away from Rodney's feet, the only part of him still onscreen--even his feet look pissed, on pause, which says a lot. "You already spoke to him."
Elizabeth's head tilts, amusement written into every line on her face. "He's the one who pulled you out of the short list. And he's never been wrong yet." Hitting play again, they watch together as Rodney's feet leave the screen. "I've worked with him since my first run for the senate, John. He knows the issues, and he knows how to work them. He's better than anyone I've ever seen at turning a negative into a positive. He runs a tight campaign, he knows how the system works, and he knows exactly how to make it work for you." Tilting her head, she looks over at him, a smile curling up her mouth. He knows he's beat. "He'll be here tomorrow morning to start planning. I suggest stocking up on coffee and cheese Danish."
John leans back into the couch, shaking his head. "Do I get to choose my running mate, or is that already decided?"
Elizabeth grins at him. "I'll email you the short list tomorrow. And John? Rodney likes Kona."
"You know," John says, apropos of nothing, "I miss my dog."
John's dog had just had surgery and was currently living it up at the equivalent of the canine Hilton, with no less than three people watching him breathe. Rodney shuts his eyes, pretending he'd agreed to work on a sane campaign, or that this is actually a hallucination of some kind and he'll wake up safe in his bed in San Francisco, where he would have had some really great sex within the last twelve hours and there's nothing to worry about but convincing his housekeeper to make him pancakes for breakfast.
But no, when he opened his eyes, he's still confronted with Elizabeth Weir, now on her cellphone talking to her husband; John lying back on the bed to stare at the ceiling with a goofy smile because maybe the fact he hadn't eaten since yesterday plus alcohol was a bad idea; and Teyla playing prime-not-prime with Ford. It's the stupidest game he can imagine, but weirdly addictive, and Rodney will never stop blaming Radek for teaching it to them.
He wants pancakes. But mostly, he wants to breathe again, and he doesn't think he can do it in this room. Elizabeth, shutting her cell phone, looks up with a thoughtful expression before standing up. "Ronon's on his way over," she says, eyes going to John briefly before focusing on Teyla and Ford. "Teyla, I need you to look over something for me." Her head tilts toward the other door significantly, and from the way that Ford and Teyla both leap to their feet, she might as well have said, let's get out of here, because they follow her to the adjoining bedroom without a murmur, leaving Rodney standing helplessly at the foot of the bed with John still on this side of drunk.
"I'm tired," John says softly, and when Rodney sees the green eyes, they're as clear as the sky at night. Right. Not drunk at all.
Sitting gingerly on the edge of the bed, Rodney wonders what he should do. This isn't his job, keeping John calm--John *is* calm, under questions and allegations and shouting and insinuation, calm and annoyed during stupid car troubles in the middle of rural Alabama and at the center of controversy, calm and a little amused and projecting wry disbelief at every smear against his character, making every accusation seem petty and spiteful. John's calm and cool and able to perform whenever he's told to, on a stage, in front of a camera, standing before Congress in his neat suits with perfect hair and a glittering smile. He's movie-star attractive and sound bite smart, and the man Rodney had first seen on some stupid CNN report, giving a speech on something while Elizabeth told him that their shortlist was getting shorter.
Watching John light up in a two-minute speech, Rodney had forgotten where he was for a moment, who he was with, leaning closer and fumbling the remote to turn up the volume, two minutes that lasted an eternity. Who is that? Rodney had asked.
And Elizabeth had smiled and said, that's him.
"I am, too," Rodney admits. One hand snakes out, catching Rodney's wrist, pulling him back into an awkward sprawl beside John, and Rodney can almost feel the tension in him, thrumming off his skin. He wonders what scares John most--the thought they won't win, or the thought that they could.
They *could*. Rodney can feel it, humming beneath his skin, what he can't admit, even to himself, ever to John.
"Teyla's handling it better," John breathes. "I just--I want to go home."
Home. Rodney mouths the word, turning it over on his tongue. Home, the condo he hasn't seen in months, life lived in hotels and motels and campaign buses, between one city and the next, late nights with pizza or bad Mexican in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, longer nights in New York and Chicago and Seattle with John running on nothing but caffeine and bewilderment and carefully hidden rage, because John had been an Air Force officer and a city council member and a senator, but none of that had prepared him for the horror of a national campaign.
"You're doing fine," Rodney says, rolling onto his side to look at John, the exhaustion in flat green eyes, the tight line of his mouth that hadn't existed when they first met. There are new lines, ones created by the brutal pace Rodney had set, the long, difficult nights of making John read the reports, listen to the speeches, learn everything he could use as a weapon against his opponents, teaching him to be ruthless and brutal and cruel and smile while he did it.
"I know," John says, voice low, almost inaudible in the silence of the room. "I am. That's what scares me."
John waits for Rodney's explosion. He's not disappointed.
"New York congressman--woman," John says as Rodney opens his mouth, already flushing red and unhappy. "She's retired army, popular, and has held her seat for eight consecutive terms with an overwhelming majority."
"And practically unknown," Rodney says, already reaching for the folder. She hadn't been on his short list. John doesn't think she'd even made the long list. "Great, just great--there's no way she can pass as a moderate."
"I don't think she'd want to," John says, leaning back into his chair, wondering when his living room became Rodney's, because while he can sometimes see his furniture beneath the piles of Rodney's papers, laptops, and various terrified minions, mostly he sees Rodney, stamping himself everywhere in John's life, sleeping and waking.
"Have you seen her stances?" Rodney demands, brandishing her voting record like proof. "Abortion rights, gay rights, welfare reform, Jesus Christ, she was an environmental *activist*--"
"She was never linked to the extremist groups," John says comfortably. "And that was in college."
"ATHOS isn't extremist?" Rodney says, looking appalled. "She's practically a walking advertisement for extremist liberalism! I can't sell her to the American people! I can't sell her to other *liberals* outside of New York!"
John almost sighs, but doesn't. He learned early on not to give Rodney any ammunition. "And she's the woman who worked with President Weir on immigration reform and is known outside of New York very well for that very reason. She's extremely intelligent, she's good under pressure, and--"
"She's not sellable."
John frowns. "But I am?"
Rodney waves a hand while flipping pages. "You're a decorated retired military officer, you're white, straight, and give off that entire small-town rural boy vibe that the American people eat up. And you've never been stupid enough to take a public stance on anything very controversial." Rodney gives him a frown. "And let's keep it that way for a little while longer, please. Your blandness is working to our advantage."
John opens his mouth to answer, then stops short, a weird, tight feeling in his chest. "I have stances."
Rodney snorts. "Yes, I'm sure you do. Okay, look at this--an arrest!"
"For misdemeanor vandalism when she was eighteen," John says, the tight feeling increasing. For the first time, Rodney's view of him as the most innocuous candidate ever to grace a stage, half-contemptuous, half-awed ("How on earth have you managed a life in politics without once expressing an actual opinion?") hurts. Getting up, John goes to the coffee station set up where his mother's china cabinet used to be, pouring himself a cup with hands that aren't as steady as they were even five minutes before. "Elizabeth likes her."
"Elizabeth likes her principles," Rodney says disparagingly. Shutting the folder with a snap, he sighs, and John turns around in time to see Rodney rubbing the bridge of his nose with two fingers, looking pained. "There's a short list for a reason, Sheppard. We can't afford for your running mate to look like someone who promotes gay sex and throws spikes at bulldozers while performing abortions on underage girls in her spare time. Especially when people consider that she's only one step away from the presidency. Even you can't offset her."
John stops short, coffee halfway to his mouth. Something extremely stupid takes hold of his tongue; there's no other explanation for what next comes out of his mouth. "I thought you'd like her for her stance on gay rights."
"I do," Rodney says tranquilly, reaching for his laptop while he opens Teyla's file again. "It would certainly make my life easier, not to mention that of millions of Americans. She's brilliant. She'd make a great president. But she's not electable. And you are."
And the insinuation that Rodney never quite lets John forget is dripping from every word. Unlike you. Unlike John Sheppard, the perfect presidential candidate after eight years of the controversial Elizabeth Weir and four years of ultraconservative Jerry Magnum, innocuous, smooth, promising peace and no violent House battles over controversial topics, promising to be the people's mirror, obedient to his party, smiling stupidly and sedate and *quiet*.
It's not that John didn't know that, know exactly why Elizabeth, why his party chose him, over brighter stars in Congress, over brilliant orators and brilliant leaders and brilliant minds.
But right now, in this room, Rodney saying openly what everyone thought privately--it hurts.
"I have your speech notes," Rodney says, sticking a pencil between his teeth. "Miko's got the latest polls--"
"Teyla," John says, setting his cup aside before he breaks the fragile handle. Even so, he can't stop the quiet shake that spills hot coffee across his hand. "I'm asking her."
Rodney stops short, mouth opening, and any other time, watching a pencil fall from Rodney's mouth would be enough to make John's *day*. But any other time isn't today, and John stares back into the blue eyes and waits.
"Teyla," he says firmly, and God, even his voice seems different, lower and stronger, like someone else altogether is speaking through him. "Now, while I contact Representative Emagen with the happy news, you start figuring out how to sell her. Because you will be."
Leaving Rodney to sputter behind him, John goes up the stairs, into the only part of the house that Rodney hasn't claimed, slamming his bedroom door closed hard enough to hopefully freak out Rodney's minions downstairs. Leaning back against it, he remembers Elizabeth in his office--and God, it feels like yesterday--telling him he'd be perfect, perfect for the job, perfect for the party.
Looking up, John sees his reflection in the window, the perfect candidate for the party, in his new suits that Rodney chose, his new haircut that Rodney approved, the glossy, painted caricature of a person, a politician that Rodney built. He wonders if it's been so easy for Rodney because there's nothing else there.
Rodney sits up at the discreet knock on the door, feeling as guilty as if he'd been caught shoving his hand down John's pants. Straightening his suit, he waits as the adjoining door opens, Ford peering through like he expected a Roman orgy to be in progress.
"Elizabeth says we need to get out there soon. Not look worried." Ford's not worried, but Ford thinks John walks on water, an opinion strengthened into bedrock over the last few months of the campaign, an unspoken certainty that Rodney envies and hates both. "Just checking to make sure John's okay," he said: not, making sure you aren't trying to crawl into the pants of the tired man or playing prime-not-prime with vodka shots at stake.
Rodney thinks he'll probably never live that night down.
"Just getting ready," John says, not moving a muscle.
"Teyla and I are going back out for a bit to circulate and get the new numbers," Ford says, because the candidate and his partner couldn’t be invisible all night, even if Rodney thinks that there should be some kind of traditional seclusion for candidates. "Elizabeth says take your time. She'll come get you if you're needed."
"Right," Rodney says, when John doesn't seem inclined to answer. Checking his watch, he feels his stomach turning over. "Well. One, maybe two hours left before we know."
John nods, eyes closing, and Rodney fights the urge to touch, reach out and smooth the lines from his forehead that have seemed to take permanent residence in his skin, draw a thumb down John's cheek, make him smile--really smile. Not that glossy stretch of lips that Rodney's depended on and despised, the smile that makes people believe in him and trust him, want to elect him, but the other one, lopsided and weird and amused, the one that Rodney's seen for Teyla, for Ford, for his fucking *dog*, all easy, all bright, the John Sheppard that lives beneath the public figure Rodney created.
"You think too much," Rodney says, hearing his own voice soften, rich with indulgence, nothing like himself at all. "Come on. Let's get some coffee and see if I can time my next panic attack to coincide with the next time Thrum's wife tries to grab your ass."
He gets a weak smile for that, then John sits up, shaking himself a little before the lines smooth from his face, the professional emerging by inches. Standing up, John looks down at him, and now Rodney can touch, standing up to smooth the suit across John's chest, his back, dusting away invisible lint from his shoulders and nape, gently fixing the messy hair back into carefully gelled control, losing John beneath layers of politician and symbol and television gloss, until an attractive, well-groomed, charming image looks back at him from flat hazel eyes.
"Perfect," Rodney says, feeling a strange sense of loss, and it's odd, because this used to be all he saw, all he could see, hard and glossy and sellable, and it hurts a little as John's mouth curves in a carefully bland smile.
"Yeah," John says, and even his voice has changed, low and warmly impersonal. "Perfect."
Despite Rodney's misgivings, or maybe because of them, Teyla becomes Rodney's primary assistant in political strategy, integrating her ideas so flawlessly that their campaign might have always had her there, and suddenly their Issues, capital I, are moderate environmentalism and equal rights, which John had thought they were all along. Rodney looks at him like he's the biggest idiot in creation when he says it, though, and John shuts up, because Rodney's been fairly clear he doesn't give a good shit what John thinks about anything at all.
He can feel Teyla watch him, though, thoughtful as she and Rodney and Elizabeth work together, creating an agenda and a platform that John could reflect for them.
And maybe he got too used to being relegated to spokesmodel for the party, because when Rodney calls Teyla over to help him work through some part of their stand, Teyla's sudden, "Perhaps we should ask John what he thinks?" is as much a shock to him as it is to Rodney.
John looks up from his crossword puzzle, feeling the entire room trying to look anywhere else while all ears turn their way, because Rodney's never hid his opinion that John's a pretty, photogenic, politically valuable idiot, and--at least inside the campaign--doesn't care who knows it.
Even Elizabeth looks startled, but she covers for it. "We've gone over this with John," she says smoothly, and it's not even a lie, because Rodney snapped out what John was supposed to say and think hours ago. "I think--"
"I think John's input would be valuable," Teyla says firmly, still looking directly at John. "John?"
Setting down the newspaper and ballpoint pen (John still gets a small, sick thrill at the fact that Rodney does double-takes every time he sees a completed New York Times crossword puzzle done in blue ink; John keeps them around the house for just that purpose), John tries to look like he could possibly care, or for that matter, exactly which issue they're discussing this time. "I think--"
"That we went over this already," Rodney says impatiently, looking at his laptop screen, not even bothering to look at John. "If he had problems, he would have said something earlier."
John leans back, watching Rodney type, and wonders, not for the first time, why Rodney's never asked him why he'd never remarried after he retired from the Air Force. "I don't have problems, per se," he says, voice as even and as bland as a television infomercial. "But I was thinking that we could add in some support for the measures Representative Miller is trying to implement in Wisconsin." Rodney's fingers stumble on the keys; John makes himself relax more, almost sprawling in the chair. "And I think more public awareness of her fight would be useful."
Rodney looks up then; John counts it as a victory. He has so few of them. "The last thing you need to be embroiled in is a debate regarding gay marriage." Snorting, he goes back to his laptop, already forgetting John's in the room.
"Do you support it?" Teyla says suddenly, sounding curious. John wonders what it means that his own running-mate has no idea how he feels about anything in his own campaign. "I know that Representative Miller has had something of a struggle even getting it to the floor of her state legislature."
Of course Teyla did. Teyla keeps up on everything, like Rodney does.
"It's going to be close," John says, watching Rodney continue to type. From the corner of his eye he can see Elizabeth watching him, curious and surprised. "Even her own party is giving her space on this one. So it might help if--"
"No." Rodney's fingers had slipped again. "Equal rights. Your platform is equal rights. It covers all the bases and it keeps us out of entanglements in debates we can't win--"
"And the party in Wisconsin, seeing how we are backing off the issue, is backing off too." John takes a breath, chest tight in an entirely new way. Rodney's fingers slip again.
"They can't win. They need a majority and she doesn't have it."
"She could if her party would stop pussyfooting around the issue," John says, and this time he doesn't sound smooth at all. Rodney snorts something, but John notes his hands are still on the keyboard. "Rodney--"
"In any case, that has nothing to do with us," Rodney says shortly. Waving a hand, he points at the laptop screen. "Now can we get back to issues we can actually work with here? Realistic ones? I don't know about you, but I'd like to be able to get to bed at a reasonable hour for once."
Elizabeth, looking relieved, goes back to reading her hard copy, offering suggestions in a voice slightly too loud. Teyla, however, never stops watching him, and John, feeling exposed, picks up the newspaper and pen again, traveling down the page until he finds where he left off.
When the three of them go back out, Elizabeth's arm looped casually through John's, both of them immaculate representatives of political power, Rodney pauses at the door, snagging his fourth drink of the night. It is, he supposes, good that his tolerance was excellent.
Ronon sidles up a few minutes later, eyes leaving his wife as she leads John to a group of supporters in the far corner. "McKay."
Rodney rolls his eyes. "Dex." From here, they have the best view of the room, but Ronon obviously is working his way toward the food, and Rodney goes along because someone brought more quiches and tiny duck salads. "Where've you been?"
Ronon smiles, all teeth. Not for the first time Rodney wonders how two people so different had managed to *meet*, let alone marry. "Out. Come on. Elizabeth said to get some food in you to calm you down." Getting a plate, Ronon loads it with enough appetizers for an army of starving journalists, leading Rodney to one of the abandoned sofas. Apparently, that earlier panic attack had done wonders; everyone's avoiding them. Or maybe it was Ronon, who could be better than a bodyguard at projecting 'Go away, now, fucker', with his body alone. It's an exceedingly useful skill.
They watch John and Elizabeth work the room, so smoothly it's impossible to tell it's not perfectly natural. John had always been good at that, charming and attentive and utterly amazing at fundraisers and speaking engagements alike, the one thing that John had never had to be taught. Rodney dressed him and built the image, but John delivered the goods like no one Rodney had ever seen, ever heard of, and Rodney's seen them all.
John's a first, in ways that he's only beginning to understand. "They're good together," Rodney says around a mouthful of quiche, then dares a glance at Ronon who at one time maybe got the mistaken impression, totally not Rodney's fault, that Elizabeth and John were sleeping together. Ronon only smirks, picking up two stuffed mushrooms with one big hand, eyes on his wife with a look that's almost embarrassing to witness, a private look that speaks of years of friendship above and beyond their marriage. It couldn't have been easy to be the husband of the first female president, but then their marriage wasn't built on the give and take of politics, either.
His fond look at Sheppard's just as inexplicable, and Rodney feels a little shot of jealousy, remembering John's ease with Ronon, former military himself. John's easy with everyone, everyone but Rodney, and the truth is, Rodney knows he has no one to blame for that but himself.
The applause is deafening, surrounding John in shimmering, living sound, stretching beyond the polite recognition at fundraisers and lectures, turning into something new, something he's never had, even in his home state. He's so high he can barely breathe. Only the hand on his arm reminds him he has to leave, and he goes down the stairs like he's walking on air.
Rodney's shaking when John comes off the stage. Large hands clenched, he motions jerkily to Secret Service, stomping back to the cleared stairs that lead up to their suite.
John feels--different. Something. Shaken and wired and exhausted and high, like he's breathing pure oxygen, lightheaded with the sound of the applause that's still going on behind them, the way they said his name.
There's energy pulsing through him in waves, and he's sparkling with it, the touch of every hand he shakes like electricity, pushing him higher, farther, and he remembers Elizabeth's eyes, huge and shocked, Teyla's smile like the heat of the sun, Ford 's startlement. He remembers Representative Miller staring up at him with rapt attention, something in her eyes flaring to brilliant life.
But mostly, he remembers Rodney, who looked at him like he'd never seen him before that night.
"Senator Sheppard," someone says, and he's clasping another hand, looking into another pair of awestruck eyes, and he smiles like he hasn't in months, feeling it in every muscle of his body. Another hand after, more wide eyes, and he could live on this, like this, feeling this.
He remembers sweating beneath the heat of the lights that framed him, the huge speakers set on either side of the stage that deafened him, and the way words slipped between his lips that were noncommittal and innocuous and promised change without ever saying what change could be.
He remembers stopping, staring into that faceless audience, and that tightness again, the words he's locked behind his teeth and deep in his mind for more years than he can count welling up behind his teeth, waiting, asking, if he could ever say them.
And he remembers telling them what he'll change.
He's still high when he goes into the suite, thrumming with the feel of the crowd that rested in the palms of his hands, so completely different from anything he had ever done, something that reached into parts of him that had been asleep for years, decades, all his life. It's like flying, the sky opening wide around him, freefall at seven hundred miles an hour. He wants to laugh and dance and maybe cry a little, because all this time he'd been sleeping and now he's awake, finally, awake, completely, and he never wants to stop.
He can do this, he realizes, and now he *wants* it, wants it like flight and like air and like water.
Rodney, nailed to the center of his living room floor, spoiling for a fight, however, he can live without.
"What was that?" Rodney's beyond angry--the clenched hands are white-knuckled with suppressed rage, face washed of all color, mouth an angry slash that hurts to look at. John can see Elizabeth eclipsed behind him, looking grave, and Teyla, perched on the edge of the sofa, somber everywhere but behind her eyes, something fierce in them that he can match.
"*What was that*?" Rodney shouts, and John meets the enraged blue eyes. "Were you bored, Sheppard? Tired of having to deal with the pressures of campaigning so you *divebombed the fucking election?*"
Elizabeth stands up, maybe to defend John, maybe just to get Rodney down before he strokes out in the middle of the floor.
"All these weeks, I only asked you to do three things. Say what I tell you, wear what I tell you, and look good on camera. Three. Things. All things you're good at. The only things you're actually good at, since apparently both thinking and analyzing aren't your strong suits. Jesus Christ," Rodney says, staggering slightly and going even paler. "I think I'm going to be sick."
Elizabeth, with a single startled look at John, reaches for Rodney's arm. "Teyla, would you get me some water, please?" Elizabeth says. Rodney shakes off her hand, eyes never leaving John.
"You fucked us," Rodney says, speaking slowly. "You fucked the election. You just went out in front of the entire fucking state of Wisconsin, the national press, the entire fucking *world*, and said that if you were elected, you'd make it a point to see that every state in *America* passes similar legislation to assure equal rights for homosexual couples. Are you fucking *nuts*? Did all those bright lights give you some kind of *brain cancer*?"
"Rodney," Elizabeth says repressively, shooting a look at John that means she's about as pissed at him as Rodney but is too classy to say so. At least, not at this volume.
"Say something," Rodney demands, coming up in John's face. This close, John can see the grey beneath the pallor, knows that Rodney's running on caffeine pills and pure temper right now, knows that he should leave, go to his room and go to sleep, let Rodney calm down before they talk again. "Tell me. What. The. Hell. Happened. That made you think. You could pull shit like that. Who the fuck were you trying to impress? Miller seemed taken with you already--if you wanted into her panties that badly--"
John doesn't even realize he's moved, but suddenly, he's slamming Rodney into the wall, and it feels--good, too, a different kind. The kind that comes with freedom, with laying a card on the table and knowing he has more to add, that he has more to say--to Rodney, to his party, to the *country*. Behind him he can hear Teyla and Weir, but they're dull white noise, nothing compared to Rodney under his hands, startled silent for a wonderful second that stretches, their breath synching up, pants that seem to fill the room.
"I'm going to bed," John says, enunciating each word with care. "I have two appearances tomorrow, and as you so often remind me, I'm not needed during strategy sessions. So figure out how you're going to work this, because there's no going back. But after this, we'd better have a talk, because you know what? I think I have some ideas for this campaign that I'd like to get out there." Dropping his hands, he backs off a step. Turning to Teyla and Weir, he nods shortly, still charged with that manic energy that needs an outlet, and he may pace his room tonight and wonder if he lost his mind, wonder if he just fucked up his one big chance--but he'll be in his skin when he does it. And nothing's ever been this good, not for so long that John forgot how it could feel, to be this alive. "I'll see you in the morning."
Teyla moves, coming up and reaching for his shoulders, drawing him down. Leaning up, she rests her forehead against his, warmth and bone deep approval wrapped up in gentle hands and an even more gentle smile. "Thank you," she says, voice soft and just for him. "Sleep well, John."
When he goes to his room, shutting the door quietly behind him just as Rodney erupts, he leans back against it, feeling every rough spot of wood as he slides down, head in his hands, because Rodney's right, he's *right*, and still John wouldn't change a goddamn thing.
When Thrum's wife makes another pass at John's ass Rodney abandons his plate of smoked salmon, making his way across the room as John, backed into a corner, starts to get that look of thoughtful stubbornness, green eyes filling with light, in that way that Rodney's learned always precedes the skin of John the presidential candidate slipping away like a badly fitting suit, and he could say anything.
Anything, and Thrum donates a lot of money to them.
"John--Anna, excuse me," Rodney says, reaching for John's sleeve. "We need to go over some notes." Sliding away, he leads John to the room that Elizabeth retreated to only minutes before, Ronon behind her. Pulling John inside, he slams the door closed. Teyla and Ford are perfectly capable of controlling the crowd.
Turning around, Rodney backs into the door hard enough to see stars. "Oh God, I'm blind."
Elizabeth jerks away from her husband, but the hastily straightened neckline of her dress and Ronon's rumpled suit are enough. "What the hell, Rodney?" Elizabeth snaps, but Rodney's already averted his eyes, closing a fist around John's wrist and pulling as John starts to snicker beside him. Pushing open the adjoining door, Rodney pushes John inside before the real thing starts, closing it just as John collapses against a chair, laughing like he's going to die of it. "Jesus, Sheppard," Rodney snaps, but John just keeps laughing, and he's John, definitely John, looking too young and too free to be anything but a kid, a goofy kid with a really juvenile sense of humor.
But Rodney's smiling when he pushes off the door, and John looks at him with grinning eyes, and God, this is why Rodney's still here, and he wonders how he missed it for so long, this extraordinary man who is nothing and everything like the candidate Rodney's worked so hard to build.
"We need to go downstairs soon," Rodney says. "You haven't been down in almost two hours. They need to see you confident."
"I'm confident," John says, grinning as he slumps into the chair, long legs slightly spread, lazy and elegant and Rodney feels his mouth go dry just looking at him. John's--John. There's never been anyone like him. "I'm very confident."
John smirks, raising one hand to show finger and thumb very close together. Then another grin. "Just a bit. To take the edge off."
Rodney sighs. "Like you need fewer edges. Just don't say something stupid to the press. Come on, let's go down for a little while. Smile at your constituents. Pretend like you're not about to throw up. No, wait, that's *me*."
John snickers again, coming up off the chair with careless grace, and Rodney has a split second to admire the long lines of his body before he realizes John's coming right at him. Backing off a step, Rodney slams up against the wall, John a fingertip away, and this close Rodney can feel the heat of his body.
"You know what else we could do?" John says, voice husky and low, and God, if they could only put that on the radio, the television, that rough voice and those smoky eyes, sex-drenched and heavy, they'd riot if John told them to. They'd do anything for him. Anything at all.
"John," Rodney says as the hazel eyes flicker to his mouth, stay there, and Rodney can feel it like a touch, licking his lip, almost surprised he doesn't taste John's skin. John's hand comes up, a ghost of a touch against the side of Rodney's face, and he's warm, God, so warm, Rodney wants to nuzzle his palm, offer up his mouth, reach out and touch, and it would be so easy, just a deep breath and they'd touch, they'd--
"California hasn't reported," Rodney whispers, voice cracking. "Six states are still--and the south wasn't--"
"I know." John does know. He listens, even if he pretends he doesn't hear a thing. "It'll be okay."
"You're that sure?" Rodney answers, voice high, no idea what he's even *saying*. John's close enough to breathe and he's supposed to be able to *think*?
"Yeah," John breathes, and Rodney can feel it against his skin. "I am."
Apparently, stress does weird things to people. John had learned that in the Air Force, but his campaign team is a whole new level of bizarre.
Teyla's campaigning in the Southwest, Elizabeth at her side, which left John the total focus of Rodney's unrelenting, unending attention, like having a spotlight focused on him for weeks without turning off. Attention like that can be addictive; John knows that. Since Wisconsin, something's changed, and John's not sure what it is. Rodney watches his speeches and his commercials, watches him get up in the morning and go to bed at night, and there's something there that scares John and makes him high all at once. John's found himself doing stupid shit like hiding Rodney's coffee and going out of his way to make Rodney sputter to redirect him, get the annoyance back, because the other he can't handle, not now.
Stress, he tells himself as he comes out on the hotel roof, nodding to the Secret Service. Coping mechanisms. They all have them. Right now, though, takes the cake, because Rodney's currently perched on the roof of their hotel, *smoking*. Or trying to.
"McKay?" John says warily, and Rodney makes a come here motion while coughing through a cigarette, looking at it as if it personally betrayed him and all of humanity. "You okay?"
"Obviously not," Rodney says testily, twisting around to glare at John. "Sit down."
This ranks up with the time that John caught Rodney up at three in the morning wrapping his entire suite in toilet paper while wearing nothing but his boxers and a tie. "You don't smoke," he says conversationally, sitting upwind and watching Rodney awkwardly tap out the ashes before making a determined face and puffing again.
Two eye-watering minutes later, as Rodney finishes coughing, John picks up the pack. "Where did you get this?"
"One of the guys," Rodney answers, waving toward the Secret Service, currently staking out the only door to the roof and looking disturbingly like they could whip out their weapons at the least sign of trouble. Which John usually finds comforting, but they also gave Rodney McKay cigarettes, like he needed any other drugs in his body. "Thought it would calm me down."
John watches Rodney try again and sighs, reaching out to take the cigarette and crushing it before Rodney turns any redder. "Okay, I'm intervening," John says, watching Rodney cough out a few words that probably aren't polite. "And you know. It could have been worse."
Rodney's mouth clamps into a tight line that is Rodney avoiding admitting any blame of any kind. "It wasn't my fault."
"It's New Mexico's fault," John says soothingly, reaching out to rub gently between Rodney's shoulder blades. It's stupid, he knows, touching Rodney at all, but he can't help it, and Rodney leans into the touch, making it just that much harder to stop. "Provoking you like that."
John takes a second to flash on CNN and Rodney on the podium as Teyla and Elizabeth look on in unconcealed horror; Rodney shouting down a crowd of protestors at Teyla's Albuquerque appearance, and because he was Rodney McKay, he did it, too, while Teyla's opponent tried not to look as utterly terrified as he had to be. "I think you made him cry," John says comfortingly.
"I did," Rodney says, reaching for his coffee and taking a quick drink. "It was on every channel."
"Yes, it was," John says, pulling his hand from Rodney's back with reluctance. The blue eyes come up in startled attention, and John belatedly remembers why he's been avoiding Rodney pretty much all day. "So look--"
"I can be an asshole," Rodney says conversationally, and John has a second to realize that the blue eyes aren't focusing, and that someone's been giving Rodney something that definitely isn't coffee. "You know that, right?"
"Yeah, sometimes." Most of the time. But then again, most of the time, John's learned not to mind all that much.
"I just--I want you to win," Rodney says, and he looks surprised for a second. Then the expression clears, folding into something determined and certain. "I mean, I *want* you to win."
John nods warily. "I want that too."
"No." Rodney's hand lands like a brick on his knee, and John spares a quick glance behind him, seeing Secret Service carefully looking anywhere but at them. "You don't understand. *I want you to win*. Not just win. I want you to win and put that asshole Jerry in the dust. I want--I want you to give that speech again. And I want to enjoy it this time when you do."
John looks between the hand closed in a death grip on his leg and the sincere, and completely wasted, blue eyes. "What speech?"
"The Wisconsin one," Rodney says, like John's an idiot who isn't keeping up just to annoy the shit out of him. "All that--" he waves a hand. "I was--it wasn't. I forgot what you were supposed to say when you started talking. I forgot that it was political suicide. You just--you're amazing when you're behind a microphone. You just--you lit up, and I just--you were amazing. You know that someone put it on some blog out there and people *quote it*? I'll vote for you. I've never voted for any candidate I've worked for. They all kind of sucked. But I'll vote for you."
"Um. Thanks." John thinks he should maybe think about getting Rodney's hand off his leg, but Rodney's shifted onto his knees, and John can't make himself look away from those eyes.
"You're not what I thought you were," Rodney says, voice husky, like *sex*, which is the worst thing John could be thinking of right now with Rodney this close and this warm. "It was like--it was like I could see you. You just--" And suddenly, both hands reach out, sweaty, smoky palms framing his face. "You have to win, John. You have to. I can't accept anything else."
Then Rodney leans forward, and John shivers at the touch of Rodney's lips against his.
John's last thought is *disaster* before he reaches for Rodney and kisses back.
"John," Rodney whispers, eyes trying to close despite himself, wanting John so much he aches with it. "You said--"
"I say a lot of things," John says, and Rodney has to flatten his palm against the door to keep from touching John's skin. Hazel eyes flare incandescent, like the man who stood on the stage in Wisconsin, the man who can light up a room when he says what he means. "Smart things," and his voice drops even lower, thickening into something unintelligible. "Stupid things, too."
The thing is--
The thing is, Rodney knows what John tastes like, feels like, unshaven cheek scraping his palm, his lips. He knows the sounds John makes when he's kissed, when he's touched, the feel of the smooth, soft skin at the nape of his neck. He knows John gets hard for teeth beneath his ear and he knows that tonight John's reckless enough, contrary enough, to do exactly what he shouldn't do.
Rodney pulls back with a startled sound, staring at John like he's never seen him before. "John, I--" then stops, blue eyes clearing slowly in belated comprehension. "You're--"
"Yeah." Licking his lips, John waits as Rodney pulls the pieces together, the one secret that John's never had to tell, never needed to. Then Rodney's hands tighten, leaning forward to kiss an apology onto his mouth from a fight that John remembers every time he looks at the polls.
"Rodney," John breathes as soft lips travel down his jaw, skate across this throat. Fingers in Rodney's hair, John fights the urge to lose himself in this, close his eyes and go with it, touch and taste and feel everything, here on this roof with nothing but the sky wide above them.
He's been alone so long, longer than he can remember, and Rodney's waking up that part, too, bringing it to surprising life. He's hard with the first touch of teeth, the hands on his waist, Rodney shifting into his lap, tasting of smoke and cheap alcohol, but he feels amazing, like something that John's been missing all his life and finally, finally found.
"John," Rodney murmurs against his collar, leaving the imprint of his teeth behind. "You're going to be amazing. We've--we needed you and didn't even know it. You're going to do amazing things, and I get to see it, I get to be the one to put you there. Jesus, John--" And there's a hand pressed against his cock, hot and so close that John hears himself whine something intelligible but that's probably "please".
Please, he murmurs against Rodney's mouth when Rodney kisses him again, please, when Rodney works open the button of his pants, pushing the zipper down, big hand brushing against his cock through his boxers. Please, he says when Rodney's hand gets inside his boxers, wrapped around his cock, clumsy but so good John gasps from it.
Please, he says, head tilting back as Rodney's mouth licks into his, hands scrabbling up strong thighs, thumb just brushing the bulge in Rodney's pants. Rodney whimpers against his lips, biting his tongue when John gives firmer pressure, and God, yes.
Reaching around, John gets a hand on Rodney's ass, pulling him in closer, getting Rodney's pants open and his hand inside, and oh God, *Rodney goes commando*.
"Christ," John whispers thickly, wondering how many times Rodney's sat beside him on the bus, in a hotel room, stood beside him while he answered questions with only a thin layer of material between him and the world.
Logic says Rodney wears underwear to debates, but John knows he'll never step foot on a stage again, look at Rodney, and not think of this moment.
Rodney grins against his mouth, jerking John rougher, too dry, and so perfect that John's whimpering with it, wanting it, needing it, and he wants--God, he wants--
Wants to push Rodney over on his back on the cool concrete, spread him out, strip him bare, touch all of him, taste, kiss, lick, use his tongue and his mouth and his hands on every inch of flesh. He wants to be worthy of how Rodney looked at him tonight, the awe and amazement and what Rodney sees--what Rodney *sees* in him, he wants to be that. He *can* be that.
He can't--they can't do this, but they are, and this is as close as they'll get. Shoving his hand deeper in Rodney's pants, he jerks him off, matching the rhythm Rodney's set, forehead pressed to Rodney's shoulder, turned inside out by the thick fingers that pull pleasure from every nerve, and he's murmuring into Rodney's skin, words jagged-edged and truer than anything he's ever said in any speech in any city in the country. "I want you. Rodney. Please."
He feels Rodney come with a shudder, wet spilling over his hand, and the smell, the feel is enough, he's coming too, choking off his voice in Rodney's flesh, shuddering through the aftershocks as they sit there, beneath the dark sky, breathless and boneless and so utterly fucked.
"John," Rodney breathes against his neck, and John knows. God, does he know.
"We can't do this again."
Rodney goes limp in his arms. "I know."
"John," Rodney whispers, "we can't."
John bends his head, lips just brushing his, a gossamer touch that makes Rodney shiver, breath warm on his cheek.
For a second, John hovers there, breathing heat and want into Rodney's skin, and then he pulls away, green eyes alight with something Rodney's never seen before.
"Rodney," he says thickly, and no one would refuse that voice. No one.
The knocking on the door interrupts them, and Rodney jerks away from it, knocking into John, and for a brief, brilliant moment, John's pressed against every inch of his body. Then John pulls away, taking a step back, and Rodney turns jerkily toward the door.
"John. Rodney--" It's Elizabeth, pushing the door open without waiting, which is unusual enough for Rodney to blink--she's flushed and shaky and she reaches out, grabbing Rodney's arm. "They--the last poll closed. Come on."
A single backward glance at John, and then Rodney moves, stumbling after Elizabeth as the sound of CNN penetrates the sex haze in his mind, reminding him why they're here, what they've been waiting for, and he emerges to see the big screen TV alight with a nameless anchor who stares at them as a ticker goes by the bottom of the screen.
For a second, Rodney can't hear anything but the sound of his own heart beating a staccato rhythm in his chest, and he thinks he just might be having a stroke, body numb and breath stuck in his throat as he reads what he can't hear. It takes forever to understand what he's seeing, words squiggling into meaningless scrawls that coalesce too slowly, and when he finally understands, he turns numbly, Elizabeth dropping into a chair beside him, but there's no John.
"John," he says, or whispers, or yells; he has no idea. Retracing his steps, he goes back into the room, finding the door between locked. Oh Jesus. "Sheppard!" Rodney yells, fighting the urge to chew through the thick wood, who the fuck *cares* what the Hilton thinks, he'll send them a check to cover. "Open the fucking door, Sheppard!"
There's a horrible second where Rodney flashbacks to every time John's locked himself in his room and sulked, which is so ridiculous and *him* that Rodney can't even be all that mad. Behind him, he thinks he hears Elizabeth call a question, but he can't quite bring himself to care, raising a sore hand to slam against the door again--he'll break both hands and his fucking *feet* if he has to, but John's coming the fuck out *right now*.
A long second passes before Rodney hears the door unlock, and John stands there, and it's John, not Senator Sheppard, not a politician running for the highest office in the land, but the man that Rodney voted for and hoped for and fell in love with all at once. John stares at him with naked eyes that don't hide a damn thing.
"I--" Rodney swallows, voice drying up as John searches his face, looking for a clue. "I have to--you need to go out there." Rodney gestures vaguely at the open door behind them, where Elizabeth is probably watching and wondering if they've finally given up and lost their minds. "They need to congratulate the next president of the United States."
Time moves like taffy, and he sees every second of it--John's shock, bone deep, the chase of disbelief, and then understanding like the sun rising after a long, dark night. John doesn't move, staring down at him with eyes gone incandescent, green flaring to life like they had on that Wisconsin stage, filled with all the light in the world.
"Rodney," he says, and John's arms close around him, squeezing away air and thought and leaving only feeling, warmth and hope and relief so acute it could be pain. "Jesus. *Rodney*. You did it."
"We did." Behind them, Rodney can hear Elizabeth and Teyla, Ford and Ronon at the far doorway, excited voices in the background, and downstairs there's probably a orgy of sheer joy as the results are announced, but for now, Rodney has John to himself before he has to give him back to the world that they've won. "Eight years," Rodney murmurs, because there's no way that John won't win a second term.
He can feel John's smile against his neck. "I can get my bill passed in three," he whispers, pulling away, not even bothering to straighten his suit as he passes Rodney to the door, snagging the edge of Rodney's sleeve on his way to pull him behind. When he emerges into the room, the cheers are almost physically painful, and John lights up for it, absorbs it like a plant in the sun.
John's going to do amazing things, Rodney thinks, catching himself against the doorway before he does something stupid like pass out or cry.
John tosses a single look over his shoulder, eyes sparkling. "Make it two," he says with a wink, and Rodney feels himself grin as Elizabeth puts her arms around him.