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Cross My Heart
Title: Cross My Heart
Author's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's URL: http://chelle.slashcity.org/
Archive: Ask first
Pairings: John/Rodney Rodney/Katie
Rating: NC 17
Summary: John and Rodney aren't the only ones impacted by Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Notes: Thank you to Danvers and lamardeuse for editing.
Katie was sitting on his bed, watching as Rodney stuffed clean clothes into his pack. "There are rumors about you and the colonel and the Helcim."
Rodney went still for a moment, then stood and turned toward the bed, boxers in hand. "Rumors? What rumors?"
She smiled teasingly. "That the two of you have girlfriends stashed on the planet."
"Don't be ridiculous," Rodney said, shaking his head as he stuffed the boxers into his duffel.
Unfolding her legs, she stood next to him, one hand on his arm. "You're always so eager to visit."
Her hand was warm and Rodney wished, not for the first time, that his life was simpler, that he could let one of them go. Dropping his duffle onto the bed, he slid his arms around her, kissing her gently before burying his face in her hair. "That's just a Sheppard thing."
Caelia was waiting for them when they stepped through the gate. "Colonel, Doctor," she said stepping forward. "Welcome back."
"It's good to be back," John said, tolerantly leaning down while she brushed a kiss across his cheek. The Helcim's penchant for displaying affection even for casual friends was something they had both adjusted to during their first visit, although it still took Rodney a little while to get used to it again after stepping through the gate. "How's Dulcea?"
"She's fine. Thinking of retiring."
"She said that the last time we were here," Rodney said, accepting his own kiss with a small smile.
"Hericus is trying to keep her in the Senate, always going on about how these are dark days," Caelia said as they started to walk toward the city center.
"Aren't they all?" John said, resting his hands on his P-90.
"Some are darker than others," Caelia answered with a smile. "After all, you are here, and we are all well."
"True," John said, glancing at Rodney, "very true."
Dinner was pleasant, but then it usually was on Helcima. Ever since they'd gotten stranded here by a busted DHD two years before, it had been Rodney's favorite planet. Katie wasn't wrong about that. Thinking of Katie, her bright smile, her way of making plants, of all things, interesting, made his stomach shift in a way that wasn't exactly pleasant and he glanced across the table at John, who was deep in conversation with Dulcea.
John met his gaze, eyes bright and unguarded, and Rodney's stomach shifted again.
"Did Caelia tell you that we've found a potential geothermal power source?" Paridus asked and Rodney turned to look at him.
"No, she didn't."
"If we can overcome the problem of transferring it across half a continent it could potentially solve our power problems."
Both John and Katie were forgotten as Rodney focused his attention on a problem he could solve.
"Ready to go?" John asked, his hand curling around Rodney's elbow.
Rodney swallowed, hoping it wasn't obvious, but before he could answer, Dulcea waved her hands at them. "Off with you. It's time Caelia and I retired for the evening. We will see you in the morning."
Nodding, Rodney said, "Good-night then." John offered his own farewells and guided Rodney from the still-crowded reception hall. Neither of them spoke as they made their way through the corridors to their room, the room they were given every time they came here. Rodney knew other people had to use it between visits, but it was one of those things he chose not to think about.
They stepped inside and Rodney pulled the door shut behind them, turning the lock. When he turned around John was waiting, standing a mere half-step away. Instead of closing the distance he stood there for a moment, just looking. John looked like he always did--handsome, heroic, a little dorky. Except here, on Helcima, in their room, he wasn't just the handsome hero, he was someone Rodney could touch.
"Rodney?" The corners of John's mouth turned down. It was a terrible look for him and Rodney stepped forward, arms going out and wrapping around John's shoulders, pulling John's mouth to his.
They kissed like lovers who hadn't touched in six months, even though they lived and worked side-by-side.
They kissed like they had to kiss every possible kiss all at once. Easy and gentle, deep and hungry, tender, playful, passionate, Rodney wanted every kiss John had to give, right now.
They kissed like they might never stop. Until John drew back and gazed at Rodney with wide, shining eyes. "Rodney."
"John." It was the only answer he could give, the only one he knew. He slid his hands down John's chest, its curves familiar from a handful of memories relived over and over again. Capturing the sides of John's t-shirt in his hands, he began to pull the shirt free from John's pants, gathering the fabric in his hands.
"I still have my jacket on," John said.
"Take it off," Rodney answered and kissed him again.
Instead of taking the jacket off, John slid his hands to the small of Rodney's back and pulled him closer, pressing Rodney against his hard cock. Part of Rodney wanted to let go of John's shirt and wrap his arms around John's neck, pull him as close as they could possibly get, but he held on because it would be better if they were naked.
He wanted John naked so damn badly, wanted to feel the lean strength of him, wanted to taste his skin, feel how smooth he was, how hard. "Naked," he said, somehow managing to get the word out between kisses.
John's answer was "yes" but he didn't stop kissing Rodney long enough for either of them to do anything about it, and Rodney couldn't push him away, not here, not even to strip him.
When John finally pulled his mouth from Rodney's, he buried his face in Rodney's neck, breathing hard. Rodney slowly let the t-shirt drop from his hands and wrapped his arms around John's waist, taking a moment to just hold on.
It hurt to want this much, but Rodney didn't know how to stop it, knew he wouldn't even if he could.
When John finally lifted his head, he took a half-step back and tugged his jacket off, letting it fall to the floor. Rodney copied him, his eyes never leaving John as John pulled his own shirt over his head, then dropped his dog tags onto the floor on top of it.
Rodney's shirt hit the floor while John was unbuckling his thigh holster. Rodney had had some seriously dirty fantasies about that holster. Maybe one day he'd be able to tell John about them. Maybe. He undid his own belt and then bent forward to untie his boots, before toeing them off.
John had stopped undressing and when Rodney looked up, he found John, barefoot but still in his pants, watching him. Eyes on John, he finished undressing, tugging off his socks and then pushing his pants and boxers to the floor. He stepped out of them completely nude, his cock jutting between them like some kind of offering.
John's hand closed around him and Rodney hissed. Taking hold of John's wrist, he stopped him from stroking. "Take off your pants. Please." John's other hand brushed his cheek and Rodney closed his eyes at the sudden ache.
"Okay, okay," John said, and both hands left him. He made quick work of his pants and boxers, even with Rodney standing too close to be anything but in the way.
The kiss that followed was light, almost tentative, as if being naked together had stripped away their lust. But then John's hand slid down his back and Rodney had one hand on John's shoulder, the other caressing his side.
Hand curled around Rodney's upper arm, John led him to the bed.
It should have been desperate and frantic. It never was. Every touch had to be memorized, stored up until they could get back here again. If they got back here again.
That this might never happen again was the thought Rodney tried desperately not to think when he was running a hand along John's lean thighs, when John's teeth grazed his earlobe, when John shuddered against him, his cock pulsing between them.
Rodney had made a rule for himself the second time they'd come here. The first time they hadn't known there'd be a second time, had both believed it would just be that one night. One precious, amazing night, a secret shared between them, a truth they told only to one another.
Then they'd been invited back.
Rodney had been dating Katie by then--he couldn't date John, not now, maybe not ever, and John had told him not to wait, not to spend his time hoping the Americans might come to their senses and change the rules. Before they left Atlantis that second time, he'd told himself that it wouldn't happen again. He was with Katie and John was off-limits.
Except he hadn't been able to keep his hands from John's skin, his lips from John's mouth.
Katie was lovely, kind, gentle, but still smart, not Carter-smart or even John-smart, but smart and Rodney loved her.
But John, John could burn him, lay him open, cut into him, all with a single touch.
So Rodney had vowed to himself that he'd keep the two separate, that he wouldn't think of her here, not in this place that was the only thing he and John had ever had that was wholly and completely theirs. Atlantis certainly wasn't, no matter how much they wanted it to be.
Sometimes the thoughts came anyway, along with the guilt. The only problem was that he didn't know who he was cheating on, how he had gone from being a guy who couldn't get a date to someone who needed a t-shirt that said, "If you think my girlfriend is pretty, you should meet my boyfriend."
He didn't want to hurt Katie, and he didn't know how to give up John. Didn't think he could.
The whole thing made his head hurt, but he blundered on because he didn't know how to do anything else.
"Are you well, my friend?" Paridus asked and Rodney looked up at him.
"Fine. I'm fine."
"You seem distracted."
There was an openness in Paridus' smile that reminded him of Carson and for a moment Rodney was tempted to confide in him, to pour out the tale of his confusing life. Instead, he said, "Show me the model you're using to calculate the heat loss during conduction."
That night John fucked him, deep and hard and perfect. Rodney clung to him, silently pleading for John to take him harder. He wanted to feel it when he stepped through the gate, when he sat on his stool in the lab, when he was lying in his own bed tracing his opening with his fingers and remembering.
"Glancing at your watch won't make the time go faster," Parrish said.
Looking up at him, Katie smiled. "Sure it will."
"So that's the kind of physics McKay has been teaching you."
Katie let her smile turn a little dirty, just because she could. "It is."
Parrish shook his head and went back to his cuttings. Katie glanced at her watch. In less than an hour, Rodney would be home.
It was another hour after that before he turned up at her lab.
"Welcome home," she said, putting aside her clippers to wrap her arms around his neck.
He hugged her tightly for a moment before letting go. "Thank you." Shifting his attention to her lab bench, he asked, "What are you working on?"
"The wheat Major Lorne's team brought back from PN8-439. We're attempting to cross it with several Earth strains."
Rodney nodded. "That's the one that can survive in damper climates than Earth wheat."
"Yes." She picked up a stalk. "How was your trip?"
He shrugged. "Same as always. Look, I'll see you at dinner. I've got to check in at the lab." He jerked his thumb in the direction of the door.
"Sure. See you then." With that he turned and walked rapidly toward the door, leaving Katie to frown after him. He was always so strange when he got back from Helcima. She was beginning to think there was something in the water on that planet.
The rest of Rodney's team was already in the mess when they arrived, but Rodney led them to a small table, sitting with his back to his teammates. Team dynamics were one of those things Katie just didn't get, especially Sheppard's team. They poked and prodded and teased one another, but were intensely loyal. If it came to a choice between her and one of his teammates, Katie wasn't sure which of them Rodney would choose. She was okay with that; it was something she understood, at least theoretically. What she didn't quite understand was the ebb and flow of their camaraderie, how they couldn't spend enough time together one day and yet couldn't seem to bear one another's company the next, especially Rodney and the colonel.
"Didn't they feed you?" she asked, watching Rodney jab two pieces of ham with his fork.
"They fed us. I'm just hungry, that's all." He paused to drink of his water. "How did it go with the wheat?"
"The cross-pollination is done. Now we just have to wait and see if anything comes of it."
Rodney nodded, resuming his double-ham eating.
Looking over his shoulder, Katie saw the colonel staring at Rodney's hunched back, his expression unreadable. Catching sight of her, he smiled, except it was more like a grimace.
She smiled back.
"Unauthorized gate activation." Katie changed direction as soon as she heard the words, hurrying toward the gate room. Rodney's team was off-world.
"Colonel Sheppard's IDC," Chuck was saying as she entered.
Dr. Weir was already starting down the steps. "Lower the shield," she called. Knowing she shouldn't, Katie started after her.
Colonel Sheppard and Ronon stepped through the gate carrying Rodney between them.
"What happened?" Dr. Weir asked. Rodney looked puffy. He was flushed and his breathing was off, faster and shallower than usual.
"Allergic reaction," Sheppard answered. "Bad one. We used the epi-pen, but he's still having trouble breathing."
Someone must've called a medical team because two men arrived at a run, pushing a stretcher between them, Dr. Keller following.
Ronon and Colonel Sheppard lowered Rodney to the stretcher. "Allergic reaction," Sheppard told the doctor, not moving from his place near Rodney's head. "We think it was an insect bite."
"Epi-pen?" Dr. Keller already had a stethoscope pressed to Rodney's chest.
"One," Sheppard said. "I jabbed it into him as soon as his breathing changed."
She nodded. "Let's go," she said to the medics.
Rodney made a noise and Katie was about to step forward, but Rodney reached for Sheppard who caught Rodney's hand in his. Sheppard leaned over him. "I know, okay. I know," he said quietly. This must've made sense to Rodney because he closed his eyes and released the colonel's hand.
The medics began wheeling Rodney from the room, Sheppard and the rest of the team following.
"Katie?" Dr. Weir asked, touching her arm.
"I heard the activation," she answered, still looking at the door the stretcher had gone through.
Dr. Weir squeezed her arm. "You should go with them."
Katie nodded, but she didn't follow.
It's a Sheppard thing.
The way Sheppard--a man notorious for his charm--had barely been able to hide his dislike for her.
The devotion she had put down to friendship.
I know, okay. I know.
And now she knew. Rodney didn't have a girlfriend on Helcima. He had Colonel Sheppard.
Katie checked on Rodney because she couldn't not check on him. She peeked through a space in the curtains surrounding his bed. Rodney was sleeping, oxygen still attached. One of his hands was resting on top of the sheet, and she stared at it for a moment, remembering the way he touched her, strong and gentle. She wasn't surprised to see Sheppard sitting near the bed, a worn paperback in his hand. The last time Rodney had been injured Sheppard had spent the night at his bedside, sleeping in a chair after insisting that Katie should go get some rest. She should have seen it then.
He wasn't reading, just staring off into space. She wondered if he was thinking about Rodney, about her.
"Katie," Sheppard said, sounding, as always, like he wanted to say "Dr. Brown." Closing his book, he rose from his seat. "I was wondering when you'd come by. Dr. Keller says he's going to be fine."
"I know. I spoke with her." Looking at him, it was easy to see what Rodney saw in him, what half of Atlantis saw in him. He was good-looking, gorgeous, some might even say beautiful, and he was Rodney's friend. Rodney's hero. It made so much sense now, the way Rodney talked about him. She wished it didn't.
"They're going to let him go in the morning," Sheppard said.
Katie knew that too. There was no point in her being here. There never was. Sheppard always kept vigil, or Ronon, or Teyla. Never her. No matter how much she loved him. No matter that he'd said he loved her in return.
She wanted to scream at him, ask him why, demand answers, apologies, something. "Tell Rodney I'll see him in the morning."
He gave her a close-lipped smile. "Will do."
Katie turned away without wishing him a good-night. Pausing between the curtains that served as the doorway, she looked at him. He had returned to his seat, but the paperback was unopened in his hand. "I know."
That got his attention. He looked up at her, eyes suddenly sharp and appraising.
She left without another word.
Drawing in a deep breath, Katie squared her shoulders and knocked.
"Come in," Rodney called and the door slid open. He was sitting up in bed, pillows piled behind him and a laptop resting on his thighs. "Hi," he said with a smile.
"Hi." She didn't return the smile and Rodney frowned at her. "How are you feeling?" she asked, perching on the edge of the bed, pushing away all thoughts of the things they had done in that bed.
"Fine. Keller was just being cautious."
"It's not so bad, really. Gives me an excuse to stay in bed."
Another nod and Katie dropped her gaze to the blanket between them. "Have you talked to Colonel Sheppard?"
"He and Ronon brought me breakfast. He said you had come by last night and that you said to tell me I'd see you in the morning." He placed his hand over hers, rubbing the back with his thumb.
For just a moment, a crazy, wild moment, she considered not saying anything. But, no, she wasn't the doormat a lot of people seemed to think she was. "I know."
She lifted her gaze to his face. She needed to see his reaction. "About you and him."
Shock and astonishment crossed his wide features before he schooled them into something closer to neutral. When they'd first met he hadn't had that kind of control. "What about us?"
"You--" She wouldn't say lovers and she couldn't quite bring herself to say 'fuck.' "Have sex."
He opened his mouth, then closed it again without saying a word.
"I saw you when you came through the gate. Seeing you together, it all made sense. The way you talk about him. The way he looks at you. All of it."
"I--" She could see him struggling to find something to say. "I can explain. With the regs, we can't-- Oh, god, you can't tell anyone. He'll be discharged."
His first thought wasn't for her; it was for him. Katie swallowed against the hurt in her chest. "Which is why you needed me. To be your beard. His beard."
"No," Rodney shook his head. "No, it wasn't like that."
"So what was it like?"
"I never meant-- It wasn't supposed to be like this."
"How was it supposed to be, Rodney? Tell me, because I'd really like to know."
"You, we thought…"
"Thought what? That I was too stupid to figure it out?"
"No, no. Listen, just let me explain." His hand tightened on hers and she yanked it free. "The first time was long before you and I." He waved his hand between them. "We-- Sheppard--John and I… We thought it would be the only time."
"But it wasn't."
"No. It wasn't. I started dating you, and then we went back to Helcima. That's where we'd… It's the only place we've ever been together. I wasn't planning for it to happen again, but it did. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."
She believed him, believed he was sorry, believed he hadn't meant for this to happen. Rodney was many, many things, not all of them nice, but he wasn't cruel. "And you kept doing it, every time you went there."
Rodney nodded, looking so hurt she could feel herself starting to feel sorry for him. As if he'd been wronged instead of her. "I can't share." She locked her eyes on his. "I won't share, not like that. You have to choose."
"I thought about it. John and I even argued about it. He wanted me to be with you if it made me happy, didn't want me wasting time I might not have waiting for the stupid U.S. government to join the Twenty-first Century."
John Sheppard, selfless hero. She didn't think she'd ever hated him more. There wasn't any way she could compete. There never had been. Dropping her gaze, she tried to force air into constricting lungs. She stood. "I won't tell anyone." She wouldn't. She might not be a hero, but she was better than that.
"Katie," Rodney said, reaching for her.
Shaking her head, she took another step back.
"I'm sorry." He was looking up at her, his expression pleading. "I really do care about you."
"Not as much as you care about him." She knew she sounded bitter, jealous, hurt. But she had a right to.
"It's different," Rodney said quietly.
"I'm sure it is." She turned to leave, wanting to get away from him as quickly as she could, to lick her wounds in private. The door slid open and she hesitated. Turning to look back at him she said, "Take care of yourself."
"You too," Rodney answered. He looked alone, hurt, almost lost, but she couldn't shake the feeling that if it was the colonel walking out the door he'd do more than sit on the bed and watch.
The words didn't make any more sense than they had the first time he read them. Leaning his head against the wall behind his bed, he let the book close.
It wasn't hard to figure out what Katie Brown knew. By now she'd talked to Rodney.
And now he had to talk to Rodney. There wasn't any avoiding it. All putting it off was doing was prolonging the agony. Better to do it quick, like ripping off a band-aid.
Shoving his feet into his boots, he tied them and started for Rodney's quarters.
Rodney yelled, "Come in," before John was done knocking. "I was hoping it was you," he said when John stepped into the room, putting aside his laptop.
"Sorry. I, uh, had stuff to do." He approached Rodney's bed slowly then perched on the edge, angled so that he wasn't looking directly at Rodney.
"I talked to Katie. She figured it out. Us. I'm still not sure how, but she did." He reached for John, but let his hand drop to the mattress between them without making contact. "She won't tell anyone."
John nodded. He hadn't thought she would. He could feel Rodney looking at him but he kept his eyes on the window next to Rodney's bed. Rodney really needed to dust.
"She told me I had to choose."
John wasn't surprised. He stood and went over to the window, running his hand along the bottom pane and brushing off the dust.
Throwing off the covers, Rodney came to stand next to him wearing only boxers and a t-shirt. "I chose you."
John turned to look at him. It made no sense. Why would Rodney choose a relationship he had to keep secret? A relationship that only existed on another planet a couple of days a year. Some of his thoughts must've shown on his face because Rodney said, "Did you actually think I wouldn't?"
Shrugging a single shoulder, John tried not to look like the fool Rodney obviously thought he was.
"I'll always choose you," Rodney whispered, and John did something he'd never done on Atlantis, he reached for Rodney.
Rodney's arms tightened around his waist, and John buried his face in the curve of Rodney's neck, drinking in his smell. Eventually he was going to need to let go, go back to keeping just the right amount of space between them. But for right now he was going to hold on.