Fandom: Bourne Trilogy/Stargate:Atlantis/Stargate:SG1
Codes: Jason Bourne/Marie Kreutz, Jason Bourne/John Sheppard, John Sheppard/Other, Jack O'Neill, crossover
Summary: "You could introduce yourself. It's been a week. I've had dates put out faster than this."
Author Notes: For forestgreen, who was manipulative. Thanks to bratfarrar for the beta and chopchica and adannu for reading while in progress.
Original prompt by forestgreen here:
Jason has to lean against a wall at the intensity of the memories assaulting him. The man--John, his mind, strangely cooperative today, hurries to fill in for him--walks past him, talking to his friends and doesn't even notice Jason's gasp of recognition.
John's laugh reaches Jason's ears, a strange echo of the same laugh a younger version of this man used to give Jason when they were along in their room. It hurts to hear it and Jason wants to jerk John around and silence him with a kiss. His mind is flooded with images of the countless occasions when he did just that. Them together, kissing, laughing, killing. John, on his knees, a knowing smirk on his face, looking at Jason with dark eyes full of promises.
Jason's cock jerks and only then does he realize that he's hard with desire. He hadn't been this turned on since Marie's death.
Almost half a decade of piecing together the memories of the man he used to be and it takes a random encounter on a street to make him remember he likes cock. How could he had forgotten that?
Without even being aware of it he starts following John, hungry for the answers the other man can give him. And for other things, too.
Which required this:
They're not all that hard to follow.
The bar's the type he knows from memories he doesn’t have; semi-upscale failing at chintz, with too-polished wood and bartenders a little too young. Lots of Air Force here with all the wrong body language for their age and job descriptions. Jason knows combat from the inside out, and none of these guys have ever worked a desk. With some, he'd be surprised if they ever flew a plane. Relaxation is a thin skin that doesn't hide much, bright slices of habitual paranoia that turns everyone into a potential enemy, with the casual edge of incipient alcoholism that never quite breaks over into the real thing.
John's twenty feet away around the bar, fifteen straight across; Jason watches the way he leans on the bar, takes a drink, offers a smile, observing the patterns as intrinsic as breathing and as indelible as ink on his skin to anyone who knows what they are looking for.
"Memory's a bitch, ain't it?"
Jason keeps drinking, feeling the hair raise along the back of his neck. Setting the glass down, he flickers a glance sideways at the man that takes the stool beside him (Air Force, General, Jack O'Neill, it's like a fucking rolodex sometimes, names and faces without context; he hates that). Across the room, John's taking shots with a copper-haired woman who leans casually into the bar on both elbows, putting herself between Jason and John, adding a second body between them.
Jason tilts his head slightly. "Can I help you?"
O'Neill smiles and wave for a beer; the bartender obliges with surprising speed. "Wondered if you would recognize him."
Four exits, closest ten feet and fewer seconds; the guy's got at least two decades on him, even if Jason recognizes the easy slump of the man's body for what it is. Training only gets you so far; all of them lose to age eventually.
"Poland," O'Neill says, turning the glass slightly before taking another drink, fingers sliding through the condensation. "Probably don't remember. Don't worry, I do."
Jason keeps his face blank.
"Let's say joint mission." O'Neill rolls his neck absently, eyes flickering to Sheppard and the woman. Another man joins them, screaming civilian casualty with every movement, blocking Jason's view. "Heard you're out."
A careful euphemism that covers more ground a Senate hearing or a dissertation. O'Neill's not lying, he knows that, but he's not telling the whole truth either. Like knows like, always does, even when he doesn't know why.
Impulse, Jason thinks, finishing his beer, is a bitch as well. "Sorry, can't help you."
"You can, actually," he answers, leaning forward without menace. Jason marks every vulnerable spot the man leaves open, aware that O'Neill's doing it deliberately. Jason knows the type of cocky that does this shit, but O'Neill doesn't strike him as cocky. "What you're thinking."
Across the bar, John stands up, stumbling slightly; Jason watches him catch himself on the woman's shoulder, grinning. "Been a while," John says, shaking his head.
"We can't take you anywhere," the civilian says disapprovingly, but he's offering his shoulder that John waves away.
"Just send in a rescue team if I don't come back." Jason watches John go to the bathroom, a little unsteady, one hand rubbing absently at the back of his neck.
O'Neill finishes his beer, standing up. "I know what it's like not to know," O'Neill says, voice low, rumbling a warning underneath that Jason can't help but hear. "The thing is, he doesn't. See you around, Bourne."
Jason's waiting when they come out, aware O'Neill is watching for him, keeping close to Sheppard's back; Jason has to admire his style. None of them are picking anything up from him at all even when he moves them to surround Sheppard like a shield; they don't know what Jason does, that O'Neill's gun's never more than a inch from his hands.
Both guns, that is; the one he carries openly and the one he doesn't. Inside his jacket, strapped against his side; if Jason's right, he'd go in through the pocket and could fire off a shot before anyone was even aware there was something to shoot.
Training's training, but O'Neill doesn't live it like Jason does; it's not easy to follow them, but it's not hard either.
They check in under their own names, the sleepy staff handing keys out without interest. John's on the third floor, sandwiched between O'Neill and the woman, and that almost makes Jason smile. There's a message in that, clear as printed words on a page.
He leaves O'Neill a note at the desk: an envelope with O'Neill's name.
Inside, the paper's blank; he thinks O'Neill will understand.
O'Neill keeps it up for two days, and while John may not know what's going on, he's starting to feel it. By the end of the second day, his body's knotted tension, and all the lazy smiles don't make up for the way the hazel eyes narrow, focusing on O'Neill, the woman, even the civilian. Jason wonders what O'Neill told them.
They don't worry him, not really; it's the big guy that joins them the third day that does. Interesting, Jason thinks, watching him show late one afternoon, stowing his bag in John's room with easy territoriality. John doesn't bother hiding his surprise, but he does hide the suspicion, so well that even O'Neill doesn't seem to see it.
Three days give Jason a working schedule and a countdown; four gives him a lot more. O'Neill's evening meeting with the Joint Chiefs will go until morning if Jason knows his politicians, and he does. The new guy's an unsubtle replacement as a watcher, and a good one, Jason has to admit. All being equal, Jason might not take the risk quite yet.
All's not equal though; an army of watchers couldn't keep John in sight when he doesn't want to be seen. What he doesn't remember doesn't matter; what his body knows is intact. Jason watches him slip out, in jeans and a t-shirt that's probably seen better decades, wrapped in soft worn leather, losing himself in the faceless bodies in the streets just as the clock strikes eleven.
He's not hard to follow; some patterns remain the same. Another bar, darker, less gloss and more quiet, with men who don't wear their uniforms and no one asks or tells. There's low music that Jason tunes out, feeling out the room as John goes to the bar, ordering a beer as he perches on a stool. Jason settles himself far enough away to be inconspicuous but close enough that he can watch him work through two shots and a second beer. He's less careful without an audience; when he goes to the bathroom, he's steadier than he should be. Jason wonders if he even knows he's doing it.
Jason counts off and finishes his beer, leaving a twenty on the bar beneath the glass before he follows, taking a meandering path by the speakers, pausing for toffee-dark hair and a drunken smile that he fends off with a grin, sliding through the door in time to see John at the urinal holding a gun.
Jason's is in his hand, but neither of them are aiming anywhere but the floor. John's gaze flickers between his hand and his face before rolls his eyes and shoves the gun back into its holster. "You could introduce yourself. It's been a week. I've had dates put out faster than this."
He has; Jason should know. Putting the gun away, Jason slides the catch on the old fashioned lock on the door while John braces both hands on the smooth porcelain and looks back at him.
"I didn't think you recognized me."
"I don't." John pauses, licking his lips. "But I should."
It's a very small club they're in, and the membership is always dropping.
"Want to get out of here?"
Jason flips the lock at John's wary nod, aware of that focused attention that's like standing in the sun. Jason could have found him in any crowd in any city on any continent in the world when he did that.
John's quiet during the drive, turned inward in a way Jason recognizes and once didn't completely understand. It was most often after bad nights, bad missions, assignments that were less success than luck--more rarely, after sex, after sleeping, those breaks that were less vulnerability and more exhaustion.
Jason put it up to their quirks--all of them had them, ranging from undiagnosed OCD to unacknowledged psychotic breaks--but times change, and so have they. He'd seen it in himself when he glanced into a mirror, reflected in Marie's eyes when she would touch his shoulder, ask him what was wrong, read it in her body and the tight circle of her arms that smelled of fear that had nothing to do with who and what he was and everything to do with what followed him to sleep. There was nothing he was that she didn't want to claim, even this; he had never understood it, but he'd never stopped being awed by it.
Marie hurts, though; he can't follow the memory any farther. He wonders if it will ever feel less than raw and brand new, tearing pain that activity can dull but never ease, a restless hunger constantly reaching for someone he'll never have again. He's never believed in fair, but he does believe in debt; her loss can never be repaid in full, and he'll carry that until the day he dies.
So he knows what John's look means, what it hides, but knowing doesn't change a thing.
"How did you find me?"
Jason shrugs, watching for the new guy; O'Neill's still in meetings and it'd be quite a trick for the others to get him on the phone, but that guy's the type to go searching anyway. And it's possible he could find them. "Accident."
John snorts: right. John doesn't believe in accidents. And neither does he. "Not the Air Force."
"No." There's a part of him that wants John to ask, even though so few questions will have an answer. "What do you remember?"
John hesitates, fingers sliding down the handle of the door; at the speed they're going, a jump won't kill him. If John's body remembers enough, he won't even break a bone. Jason waits, letting it synch enough for him to follow the thin line of memory, wound in remembered heat from an impossible summer, pushing away the mission he thinks he'd prefer to forget. "Rome."
Jason's mind stutters as it finds the memory; too bright, like a fever or a dream, so sharply edged it hurts to feel it. "Oh."
It's not a vacation in any normal sense of the word, but then again, Jason's normal isn't anyone else's. John's been drinking steadily while an overdressed Czech businessman holds him captive in the corner. Jason listens to the rise and fall of John's voice, liquid vowels tumbling against harder consonants; he was stripped of the East Coast accent with ruthless efficiency. Even to Jason's trained ear, John could pass for a native by voice; body now--that's something else entirely.
After a few minutes, the man drifts away, called by a colleague; the wife stays. Jason finishes his drink and counts John's, like she's been doing since she walked in the room. As John takes another glass, there's no way to hide the sharp anticipation; John doesn't look anything like what he is, and there's not one in a hundred who know what John projects isn't close to true. Pretty grad student who still looks younger than he should, all angles and corners, awkward in his body. When John fumbles a little when he gets her another glass from a passing waiter, Jason sharpens his attention; that part isn't an act.
Jason trains his eyes on the door, feeling John's gaze flicker to him and away, wondering if he noticed, wondering what will happen if he did. They're like this the first time, always too nervous for their own good, like they think they'll get a bullet in the brain for any break at all. And the thing is, sometimes, that's true. Their superiors don't like mistakes, and Jason likes them even less.
It'll be fifteen minutes before John walks her to the ladies' room after she complains of the heat; twenty before the first shot is fired; thirty before Jason sees him again, tie askew and taking the thanks of the nameless Czech when he brings out the wife like an accidental hero. While she gushes out something about heroism, Jason looks at the unstained cuffs of John's shirt and the long fingers that rub slow lines into the hip of his pants, scratching like he feels imaginary gunpowder beneath clean, manicured fingernails.
They don't talk about it, but it's the first time he sees John look inward, searching for something that he'll spend years trying to find; now, sitting in the car, Jason knows that John was looking for himself.
It's good to hide, but better not to bother; the hotel next to John's has a quiet bar that Jason's used before. The staff doesn't check anything but the limit of your credit card.
John follows him to a booth, angled left and center while keeping the entire room in view. Between the car and the booth John's entire body has been shifting, rusty like something waking up after a long sleep; by the time he sits down, he's familiar all over again. Like always knows like, that thrumming sense of recognition that's something between instinct and body memory.
The waiter pauses at their table, hovering out of the range of low voices; it's that kind of a bar. Jason waves him over while John watches him, ordering for them both just to see what John does.
He doesn’t do anything but lean back, relaxed like he is only the brief seconds before he pulls a trigger or breaks a neck. "We worked together."
John bites his lip and looks away; it would be a victory if Jason had been trying to win. He's quiet until their drinks arrive, long fingers curving elegantly around the stem of the glass, thoughtful with the first drink, waiting Jason out.
Trying anyway. John's only as patient as he wants to be. "Are you going to tell me?" he says finally.
I might if I knew, Jason wants to tell him. I know you, he wants to say. And I don't know why. "It's complicated." And that's not an understatement; without context it's almost a lie.
"I know you're wearing three guns," John says steadily, staring at his glass. "There's a knife on your left thigh; you took a shot in the right and you never admitted it felt unlucky to wear it there again. I know there are four exits, but only three Ronon would know to use, and you're watching all of them. And I know you won't kill me, even though you tried once before." John hesitates. "And then you let me go."
Jason breathes a memory of gunpowder. "I didn't try to kill you."
John looks at him now, eyebrow raised. "And you didn't exactly let me go."
The problem is, John's not good at this.
Not in execution; he's perfect because he can't be anything else, just like they all are. He's fast and ruthless and efficient, and he could do this for twenty years and never make a single mistake.
Psychological exams aren't any more reliable than the man who makes the call, Jason thinks as he clears the room, wiping down fingerprints by habit, letting the familiar routine soothe frustration with no hope of relief. He might not ever say that aloud, but he can think it, knows in his gut that somehow, this time, they failed. He's never known the statistics, how many operatives they don't admit they lose, but that doesn't change the fact that they do. It's a type that Jason's seen before, weeks, months before they vanish off the radar and out of the world; they plan their own death like they plan their missions, set up with the precision of a chess match and mark time until they're ready to break.
Getting his bag, he goes out, leaving the key card on the bed and turning off his phone. He won't call; John knows how much he likes a challenge.
It's been eighteen hours; at full night, heat wrapped around them like a wet blanket, it's no challenge at all. There's only one place John will go.
John picks up the check with a wad of cash on the table; despite the faded t-shirt and jeans, he looks like what he was born, enough that the waiter smiles and hopes for their return. John follows Jason to the elevator without comment, eyes fixed on a point somewhere between here and nowhere in this world.
"Not Antarctica," Jason says; reaching out, he pulls the collar from John's throat, pressing a finger against the faded scar, tracing down the sharp curve of his collarbone. John's hand wraps abruptly around his wrist, but he doesn't try to stop him; the hazel eyes are dilated, pupils blown wide, vulnerable in that way that John had never stopped being even at the end. "Combat." Not Iraq; not Afghanistan, not for a while. He's too wired for someone riding a desk, and all the edges Jason almost remembers are still as raw as the last time they met.
Abruptly, John steps closer, personal space gone. They're close enough in height that Jason doesn’t have to tilt his head; John kisses him, short and dry, like a remembered duty; then he stops.
John opens his eyes, and the recognition is like a punch in the gut. "Jason."
The only people that have ever known him are dead, buried in water, beneath pavement, under six feet of dirt that he still feels beneath his hands and thinks he always will.
Jason takes a breath. "Yeah."
He's in a bar, so painfully out of place it's not even funny, but it's not hard to see why. Airman and soldiers seem to fill the place like ants, swarming through the room while John drinks and watches them around him like a play he can't quite understand, but his body's what they always notice. The easy slump against the bar, loose limbed and relaxed, hazel eyes finding his target and pulling him in with nothing more than a smile.
John is not, and never has been, a subtle guy. Jesus.
After a while, one of them comes up; it's always the same type, cocky and arrogant and a little too sure, taking in the image John projects so easily it's like fish in a barrel. Dark hair, dark eyes, hard body; John has a type in this so specific that Jason wonders if he thinks he's hiding anything at all. He watches John get picked up with a lack of finesse that's embarrassing to watch; then again, John's a sure thing tonight.
Jason watches the guy's head tilt, knowing already what's being said; here, they're blatant because they can be. There's a proprietary hand on John's elbow, his arm, and Jason can count by the clock John's so fucking predictable. Watching them leave, he circles the bar, gesturing for another beer as he glances down at the napkin beneath John's empty glass, recognizing the line of symbols before he slides it into his pocket. Five minutes later he goes out the front, a sharp left to the narrow alley between buildings older than his country, following the protocol he knows like the shape of his hands.
John's slumped against the rough stone wall, fingers twisted in the airman's dark hair, murmuring words that Jason doesn't really want to hear. The unbuttoned jeans rest just below his hips, peeled back like the ripe skin of a peach, revealing inches of pale gold flesh with no other layer between soft denim and hard cock.
The guy goes down with a single nudge, wrapping his mouth around John's cock like he's never wanted anything else. John tilts his head back, eyes half-closed, melting into the stone with his free hand resting on the hilt of the gun beneath his shirt.
Jason waits out the three minutes it takes for the guy to get him off, two more for him to go away, and watches John lazily straighten, refastening the buttons of his jeans one-handed. "I didn't know you liked watching."
"Wouldn't say like." Jason could push him into a fight, but over what, he has no idea. No one cares what they do; they built them and programmed them, and the bugs that don't affect the work are left alone.
So he's surprised when John walks toward him, loose-hipped and wound too tight; it says something even sex doesn't change the running tension. Unstable, Jason's mind offers warily, remembering the reports. Erratic. Dangerously unpredictable.
"Let's get out of here," Jason says, making his fingers unwind from his gun; vaguely, he wonders when he reached for it. John smirks back, close enough to touch. He's unreal, like a fever dream, lying with every breath he takes. "And take a shower. You smell like shit."
"You just wish I smelled like you," John murmurs, almost too quiet to hear. Jason doesn’t flinch as John brushes by him. "Your place or mine?"
John pushes him against the door before he can get it closed, fingers digging into his shoulders, so close Jason can smell the remains of aftershave and a long night that will get longer. Cupping John's face, he licks open his lips and locks the door, opening his phone before dropping it on the table by the door.
"Huh," John says, a reluctant smile tugging up one corner of his mouth and filling his eyes; Jason doesn’t remember if John ever smiled before and meant it. "I never, ever see this coming."
"It's a risk." Jason hears himself saying, slumped in a chair while John stares at him from the other side of the room. He thinks he should be more tired than he is, but John's a bundled mass of raw energy that never seems to rest, crawling beneath Jason's skin to rub sensitized nerves already too raw. From here, he can see John's bag against the wall, the notebook filled with the lines of equations that Jason sometimes thinks define John's sanity.
His mind flips through the file; erratic, impulsive, prone to unprovoked violence; risky sexual behavior; obsessive-compulsive. Nothing unique except in combination. He shouldn't be this unstable this soon.
"But you knew who goes there." Maybe from the past he doesn't have, maybe just research, but it's not an accident, not a bar packed with Air Force officers who are there for cock. There's always the faint possibility of recognition, always the possibility of meeting someone from your past, and John's upping the odds every time he does this.
John's mouth tightens but he doesn't answer.
"Or was that the point?" If the only way out is with a bullet, John might just take it. "What do you want?"
John swallow, and Jason feels something drop in his stomach; you shouldn't ask a question you don't want answered.
And John's the type to answer whether you ask or not.
Jason pushes his jacket off, trying to get more skin, biting John's lip before pushing inside, trying to get more of his taste. There's a voice in the back of his mind that won't shut up, asking if he wants John or wants what he represents; he can't be sure. John's an anchor in time, fact in a world of maybe; a *name* that connects him to the person he was and the person he's become.
I know you, he breathes against John's skin, and he does, and he knows the anger and the parts that are lost when you do what they did, lived like they lived. He knows like he didn't then what sends you to drink yourself into offering your body like a piece of meat, how little it means when nothing, nothing lets you escape what you've become because they don't leave anything else for you to keep.
"I hated it," John whispers against his mouth. "And I don't even know what it was." John scrapes his teeth down Jason's jaw, pushing up his shirt, and it shouldn't be this hot to be this desperate.
He *wants* him, wants John for the memory he is and for the body he remembers, but mostly, he wants him for everything he managed to stay. Cupping John's face, he looks into the wide hazel eyes. "You didn't break."
John takes out his gun, so slowly that Jason has a millennia to get his own; he doesn't bother.
"You said it yourself," John says, voice as calm and quiet as the evening outside. "Unstable."
Jason watches him pull the safety, finger hovering on the trigger. It wouldn't even take a breath before the bullet would be in Jason's head.
"If you were going to shoot me," Jason answers, reading invisible tremors in John's stillness, "you wouldn't warn me."
He hears the shot and doesn't flinch as the bullet buries itself in the wall two inches to the right of his head. Standing up, he crosses the room, giving John all the time in the world to try again. It takes only a second to disarm him, warm butt sliding into his hand as he sets the safety and throws it behind him. John watches him take out his own, so familiar it's like an extension of his hand. He draws the barrel lazily up John's chest, letting it rest in the hollow of his throat before he pulls the safety.
John doesn't flinch. "If you were going to shoot me," he says, voice so low that Jason can barely hear him, "you'd do it in my back."
The thing about that is, it's true.
John's knees buckle the second they hit the mattress; Jason catches himself on one hand, the other pushing up the thin t-shirt as John arches unself-consciously at every touch. He gets John's shirt off, hearing something rip and John say, "Glad I wore the jacket," before John pulls him down, kissing him with slow, focused intensity while warm hands slide up beneath his shirt, tracing his body with easy familiarity.
And there's no one, no one left that can do that; Jason sucks in a breath at the shot of pain that follows and pushes it away. John shifts his weight, foot on the bed, pushing Jason onto his back and stripping off his shirt at the same time. For a second, Jason almost fights it; then John cups his face and he forgets why he would ever want to.
John straddles his hips, staring down at him hungrily, and Jason wonders what he's seeing, if it matches his memories, if he even has enough memory to compare. Jesus, he wants him to, needs him to, closing his eyes when John's hands slide down his chest, slowing at scars that weren't there almost a decade ago, hearing himself make a soft sound when John's mouth follows, tracing the changes with his tongue like looking will never be enough. Slow and warm and slick, mouth hovering over a nipple before he licks the tip, pulling it into his mouth, nipping gently before he pulls back to breathe over wet flesh, then doing it again with the other. Jason digs his fingers into the blankets beneath him and breathes so he doesn't groan as John takes his time and reminds them both.
John's hard against his thigh, rubbing mindlessly while John unbuttons his jeans, face rubbing slowly over his belly, stubble rough against the sensitive skin. He has to touch him, has to, prying his fingers loose to slide his fingers through John's hair, stroking gently over the back of his neck--
--pushing the gun up under his chin. It might be kinder to kill him, but Jason's not kind.
"You're not an objective," he says, and for a second, he thinks he's going to walk away. Then John closes his eyes, a fan of dark lashes against tanned skin, and leans into the barrel for a breathless second.
"When did you get used to it?"
Jason looks into the clear hazel eyes and tells him the truth. "I never needed to."
John murmurs Italian into his hip, French against his belly, filthy words he drawls into incomprehensibility against Jason's skin, like he's marking places they've been, and Jason has brief images of wide, airy rooms and dark alleys and high rise apartments where he spread John out and gave John back to himself, taking him apart until he couldn't think and couldn't breathe and couldn't remember anything but Jason's name.
"I just," John stops, breathing harshly against the damp skin just above his cock, aching in the confines of boxers and jeans, "I want to know."
Jason pulls him up, rolling him onto his back, rubbing off slowly against John's thigh, licking the soft hollow of his throat where a gun rested once upon a time, tasting the memory of metal and sweat, knowing that John would break one day, another name that vanished until he was nothing but a memory that no one cared enough to recall.
It's so easy to erase them like they were never there. Even then, he could do a lot of things, but he couldn't quite do that. And all the reasons in the world don't change the truth; he never needed to get used to what he did. Meaningless names and faces follows him in shadows he'll stand witness to for the rest of his life.
That's him, what he was and what he's chosen not to be. Sliding his hands up John's arms, he twines their fingers, pinning them above his head. "I'll tell you," he lies, and kisses him quiet.
John kisses him with the gun still pressed to his throat; Jason can taste the adrenaline on his tongue, trembling through him like an electric current when he cups John's face. Jason's never done this before, not with one of their own; he's cataloging John's body from habit, the vulnerabilities that John offers like a challenge.
"I taught math," John whispers against his ear. "They called me sir. Last time. I sat at a desk and taught them the language that describes the universe and wrote equations on the board that I don’t remember how I learned. I wrote a recommendation letter for a kid whose father would be dead in their basement before he got off the bus." John pauses, teeth sinking into the fragile skin below Jason's ear. "You know what? I mailed the letter anyway."
You said yes, Jason wants to tell him; you knew. It's too late to back out now; it was too late the day he signed himself away, too late the day they brought him in. "Shut up," he says, not sure he means it when John licks down his throat.
John lets go, backing off toward the bed. Jason watches him strip off his shirt with slow, deliberate movements, the knife below one arm that he discards on the floor. Pants next, sliding down narrow hips and long legs, gun holster puddling with socks and shoes. He's thinner than Jason remembers from before, bones sharp under winter-paled skin and hard muscle.
He doesn't look anything like what he is; he could be a model on vacation, a professional socialite, a businessman, a grad student. He could walk into any room in the world and no one would see anything else. Jason can remember him putting a bullet in the head of a forgettable objective and letting the widow cry on his shoulder with her husband's blood staining his shirt beneath his coat.
When Jason touches him, he's almost surprised that he's real at all; watching John drop to his knees, hands sliding slowly up his thighs with practiced ease, breath catching in his throat, he wonders if he'll be the one they'll call to dispose of John when he finally breaks.
A part of him hopes so; it should be someone who will remember him.
"Don't move," Jason says, getting on his knees and sliding down the bed, pulling John's jeans with him. Memories of Marie push to the surface of his mind; there hasn't been anyone since her, and a part of him wonders if there ever will be. She contained the breadth of his world in herself; he can't imagine wanting to touch another woman without Marie's skin and scars, the tattoos he learned with his fingers and his tongue until he could draw them from body memory, her smile, her laugh, Jesus *fuck*.
"Jason," he hears John say, and Jason realizes he's shaking, forehead pressed to John's hip, panting against warm, damp skin. God, he's tired, so fucking tired of losing, tired of discovering every day just how much more he's lost.
He's tired of *thinking*.
He feels John sit up, thinks about reacting, but he can't quite care. He's not the person who would have killed John those years ago, but the man who was Marie's husband in all but name is slipping away more every day.
"They said it was a head injury," John whispers somewhere above him. "An unauthorized rescue of a teammate. His name was Holland. They said he died before we were found. That it was fast."
It was fast, Jason knows; with rogue assets, it has to be. John kissed him and put a bullet into his brain before he walked away. Jason thinks that's when John had started marking time.
"Antarctica was quiet," John whispers. Jason doesn't even feel him move; the bed's suddenly soft beneath his back and John wraps a surprisingly gentle hand around his cock. "I thought I could--I could have stayed there forever and watched the world from the sky."
Jason closes his eyes as John strokes, slow and easy, like he likes it, an aching twist near the end as John's eyes fix on a place that's not anywhere in this room. "I wondered why O'Neill wanted me to go--to join the mission."
"It's the reason you set your phone to block the subdermal transmitter you recognized from the scar," John says, voice low. "How you knew where I carry my gun and what wine I drink. How you knew where I'd go tonight when I didn't know until I got there. Like knows like."
John jerks his hand away and goes down, sucking Jason's cock into his mouth before Jason can give him the answer he already knows; a weapon is still a weapon, even after it's been broken. How O'Neill found him, Jason doesn't know; the why, he does.
"You could fuck me," John whispers, looking up at Jason from the floor, pupils blown wide, cock flushed and hard as he strokes himself lazily. Jason's mouth goes dry as John stands up, draping himself across the bed, hips tilted. "You've been thinking about it since the day we met."
"I haven't--" he cuts himself off before he can say it; John's eyebrow quirks in amusement as he reaches over, pulling the lube from the beside table, languidly working himself open on his own fingers.
Jason crawls up the bed as John comes to his knees, surprised that his hands start to shake when John straddles his lap, looking down at him mockingly when he sits on his cock.
"Thought so. I have."
"I haven't--" John says, letting Jason arrange him on the bed; he's a mess of dark hair and flushed skin, and Jason can see every new scar. The grayish blue skin on his forearm, flesh thicker than it should be; the faintest outline on his chest in the shape of a hand; a bullet, the faint lines of knives and surgery that shouldn't be so perfectly healed. A faint weakness in one knee that Jason catalogued watching him walk tonight; there are more tells that Jason reads by instinct. He kisses John while he finds the lube beneath the pillow under John's head.
The John he remembers wouldn't lie this still, watch him as he slicks his fingers like another man did once upon a time, offer up his body with open want, let Jason slide his fingers into him with a startled gasp.
Jason kisses him as he pushes inside, feeling himself tremble at the slick, tight heat around him, breathing John's groans before he pulls back, forehead pressed to John's.
"I know. I have."
Then, he knows John left first, dressing with silent efficiency at the ring of the phone. Then, he'd wondered if the next time he saw him, he'd be the one to kill him.
Now, as John gasps into his mouth, arching off the bed in surprise as he comes wet and hard against Jason's belly, going limp and sated; as Jason feels orgasm build at the base of his spine, sparking his vision in flares of light; he thinks that maybe in the end, John had killed himself.
He wakes up to John getting up in the hazy pre-dawn gloom.
Bending over, John picks up his jeans, dropping them on the bed and getting his cell from the front pocket. Turning it on, he closes his eyes briefly, then looks at Jason. "Ronon's threatening the clerk downstairs."
John bites his lip, turning away to hide the smile.
A minute of silence as John dresses, checking his gun as he slides it back into the hidden holster, clothing himself in another person's skin as effortlessly as he breathes, sliding into Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard between one breath and the next.
Jason doesn't know if he liked him before (for whatever value of like there could be), but he think he likes this man, a little clumsy when he sits down to put on his boots, the deliberate effort to be nothing but an officer.
When John stands up, Jason watches him glance at the phone, mouth curving up in a reluctant smile. Shoving it into his pocket, he looks at Jason. "You're nothing like him," John says slowly, smile fading into something else.
The calm Air Force officer standing at the foot of Jason's bed is a world away from the razor-edged man that in a different life, Jason might have regretted killing. "Neither are you."
O'Neill doesn't look particularly surprised to see him waiting in his office. "That was faster than I expected," he says with a sigh, closing his laptop mid-game; by the time, his sudoku score wouldn't have been anything to brag about. "Got it from John's transmitter?"
Jason drops the copied chip on the desk in answer. Jack picks it up, turning it between his fingers before he shakes his head. "What are you looking for?"
"How many did they give you?"
O'Neill squints at him. "Give is such a loaded term. That implies there was a choice involved."
"It implies they thought they'd get them back."
"Good luck with that," O'Neill snorts, leaning back in his chair. Jason watches him try to decide whether going for the gun in his desk is worth the probability of being shot. "Five. Three Marines, one Air Force, one diplomat."
"Serving their country."
O'Neill closes his eyes for a second, regret chasing itself across his face before he opens his eyes. "You're all loaded guns without a safety," he says finally; for a second, he looks every day of his age. "I made a deal before they could be eliminated. If their handlers thought it was temporary..." O'Neill shrugs.
"I read his file."
Standing up, O'Neill glances at the badge Jason holds up between two fingers that got him entry to the base. "Of course you have one." Shaking his head, he goes to the door, turning his back on Jason without hesitation, which tells Jason more than anything words could. "Got his file the same way? Don't tell me. I like to let security keep thinking they're effective. Less paperwork and fewer visits to the base shrink."
Surveillance hadn't given Jason more than a working knowledge of layout, and he marks off the labs and barracks and offices as they go. Scientists and Marines pass them without a glance while Jason catalogues their faces; some he recognizes from the files, some from DC, some from submerged memory he prefers not to explore. Going down two levels, Jason thinks of Antarctica and the way John had said he flew there. "He was the only pilot recruited," Jason says finally, feeling O'Neill tensing with every level they descend. "They used it. He learned to hate flying."
O'Neill cocks his head. "Yeah. I thought maybe that part, he might want to forget."
When they emerge, Jason hears raised voices, loud cheers, and suddenly they're standing above a basket ball court beneath a mountain. Jason can't help grinning; somehow, this is where he has to stop and think about what he's learned. About O'Neill, about John, about this secret world buried beneath the surface of earth, and the fact the universe stretches out from here through a metal ring he watched light up a room.
It takes him a few seconds to sort out the bodies in khaki and black BDUs, recognizing the big guy (Specialist Ronon Dex, Satedan refugee), the smaller woman (Teyla Emagen, Athosian leader), and the third that a part of his mind recognizes and slots into place, sharpening on Dr. Rodney McKay (double doctorate, physics, engineering, former employee of the CIA).
"Everyone has a past," O'Neill says evenly, following Jason's gaze. "Even if we regret it. Just watch."
He does; he watches John miss three shots, watches Ronon pick him up when the game goes from basketball to a free for all. He marks out the men he worked with one by one, slotting them into place by name and face. But mostly, he watches John finally limp back to the bench while the Marines mock with easy affection, sitting in a circle of people who never need to know that once upon a time, John had been a man who killed without thought or regret.
"It took us six months." O'Neill glances at him. "They had to want it for it to work. They did." He pauses as Ronon makes a shot and John laughs as three Marines tackle him to the ground. "He did."
Watching McKay shove John over on the bench, handing him a bottle of water while heckling a man Jason had once watched strangle a woman to death in an alley, he thinks of John that first night in the bar. "He has a safety," Jason says as John takes the bottle with a frown. "What will you do when he remembers?"
Not if, not the file that Jason read, not with the pattern that spells out a warning. O'Neill's got to know that.
"We're ready for that," O'Neill answers. Teyla takes John's bottle, slapping his hands away with a laugh and leaning into his shoulder. "He knows who he wanted to be. He chose him." O'Neill pauses for a second, eyes fixed on the floor with something like affection. "I won't give them back."
Jason thinks of a galaxy on the other side of the universe. It's a long way to run, but maybe it's far enough.
Like knows like. Jason leaves the badge on O'Neill's desk, beside a blood test he ran in the lab with a pretty tech who called him Captain Webb, and a metal box he picked up from McKay's lab. It's new, found on a world that Jason can't pronounce, inscribed in a language Jason can't read. He doesn't need to.
Beside it he leaves seven words on Athosian stationary: *Tell McKay it's just a jewelry box.*