No copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred. No money was made from the writing or posting of any content on this fan site.chelle's site is maintained by chelle.
Next Few Lines
Title: Next Few Lines
Author's email: email@example.com
Author's URL: http://chelle.slashcity.org/
Archive: Ask first
Pairing: John/Elizabeth John/Rodney
Rating: NC 17
Notes: Thank you to Grrrl and Danvers for their support and criticisms.
Summary: John does something he doesn't know how to live with, testing both his relationship with Elizabeth and his friendship with Rodney.
Hunger. He still wasn't used to Elizabeth's hunger, to the way she moved against him and pressed her mouth to his. Slowly stroking her back, he slowed their kiss capturing her lower lip and sucking it gently.
She moaned into his mouth and then pushed herself upright, straddling him. She was beautiful like this, the worry lines between her brows chased away by heat and pleasure. Cupping her breast in his hand, he rubbed her nipple with his thumb, making her breath catch. He loved doing that.
Reaching between them, Elizabeth took hold of his cock, giving it a single stroke before raising her hips.
Warm and wet and welcoming, it took effort to hold still, to not thrust up into her, to let her take him.
Elizabeth leaned forward, placing her hands on the bed above him, and began to move, staring down at him with wide eyes. Hands on her sides, he touched her, sliding his hands over smooth skin, feeling her muscles flex as she moved, slowly at first, then faster, seeking the oblivion of orgasm.
She arched back, pressing down onto him. He could feel her coming, feel her muscles contracting around him.
Seeing her let go, stop thinking and just feel, never failed to take his breath away. Hands on her hips, John began thrusting up into her, seeking his own oblivion.
He came too soon and it was over too quickly. Elizabeth collapsed against him. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders. "That was nice," he said softly.
She laughed. Elizabeth had a great laugh. It was too bad she didn't get to laugh more. "You always say that."
"It's always true."
A quick kiss and she lifted herself off of his softening cock, settling against his side. John closed his eyes when she began sliding her fingers through his chest hair. "Are you going to talk about it?"
He wasn't really surprised, but he thought she could have waited until they'd at least had five minutes of post-coital relaxation. "There isn't anything to talk about." Which wasn't, strictly speaking, true. The only problem was that talking wouldn't change anything. All there was to do was live with it, which John could do. He was good at living with things. It was pretty much his specialty, always had been, even before Atlantis.
He covered her hand, stopping the stroking.
"Bottling everything up isn't healthy."
"Neither is obsessing about something you can't change." He kissed her to soften his words. "It's getting late. I should go."
It wouldn't do for people to see him leaving Elizabeth's quarters at too late an hour. Sitting up, he grabbed his boxers from the floor and pulled them on. Standing, he added his pants and shirt before sitting again to put on his socks and boots. "I'll see you in the morning," he said, giving the buckling of his thigh holster more attention than it actually merited.
He kissed her briefly.
Elizabeth simply nodded.
John didn't say anything when Rodney joined him on the balcony. He should have gone back to his room, but he hadn't wanted to face the sheer aloneness of it.
Rodney sat, mirroring John's position with his back against the wall and his knees drawn up in front of him. He didn't say anything either and the silence stretched. John hated it when Rodney was quiet. It meant he was practicing his friendship skills, waiting for John to say something. He was going to have a long wait.
Then again maybe he didn't want to be alone either. "I'm not going to talk about it," John said.
"There's nothing to talk about."
John glared at him. For some reason Rodney being understanding pissed him off. "Is that all you're going to say?"
"Pretty much. Did you want me to say something else?"
John snorted and looked away. "You spend too much time with Heightmeyer."
"I like blondes."
"I'll bet she doesn't get it either."
"Get what?" Rodney asked.
"That some things can't be talked about."
"Like orgasms," Rodney said with a nod, John's peripheral vision picking up the movement. "Have you ever tried to describe an orgasm?"
John felt the corners of his mouth curling. Leave it to Rodney to bring up sex. He wondered for a moment why Rodney had tried to describe an orgasm, but decided that he wasn't up to asking. "Or flying," he said instead. "I've never been able to describe flying."
"Discovery. That moment when everything clicks and you've finally got the answer. I've never been able to describe that either."
John didn't say anything. The word was right there on the tip of his tongue, but he wasn't going to say it. He looked at Rodney, who was looking out at the ocean. The temptation to say it was so strong he could feel the word forming on his lips. Some things shouldn't be spoken aloud, not even to Rodney. Biting his lower lip, he kept the word inside.
Rodney hadn't killed anyone--yet. He'd shot at the Wraith but he hadn't taken a human life, not directly. John wanted it to stay that way, even though every time they stepped through the gate the chances that it would diminished. The power, the rush that came with using it, with ending a life. The revulsion that followed.
John hated himself every time he pulled the trigger.
Not that Rodney didn't have good coping skills, he did. Dead colleagues, being taken hostage, Rodney handled it all. Still, John didn't want him to have to cope with this.
John rarely got what he wanted.
A hand squeezed his shoulder, and John looked up. "When was the last time you got drunk?"
"PX8-745." The planet with the dancing girls. The untouchable dancing girls. Rodney had been really disappointed about the untouchable part.
"Way too long," John agreed. It wouldn't fix anything, but it was hard to think when you were drunk.
Rodney gave his shoulder a final squeeze and stood. "Come on."
Alcohol, John decided, was a good thing--very good. It made everything pleasantly fuzzy. Pleasantly fuzzy was good, too.
Unfortunately they'd finished the alcohol, but the buzz was lingering. Which was good.
"What's it like--with Elizabeth?"
John wasn't really surprised that Rodney had figured it out. Rodney knew them both pretty well. Working his arm under his end of the pillow, John looked at Rodney, who was looking back at him from the other end. His expression was way too serious for a drunk man. Rodney wasn't usually a serious drunk. "It's good. She's smart and beautiful."
Rodney sort of nodded. "The hero and the heroine riding off into the sunset together."
John sort of nodded back. That was them, riding off into the sunset, only without the horses and with lots of lying. "How come they never show you what happens after the sunset?"
"Because then it would be porn."
That made sense. Of course, John wouldn't object if every movie had a nice explicit scene or two. He didn't think Rodney would either.
"Han and Leia separated," Rodney said.
"Han Solo and Princess Leia. Chewie died. Robert Salvatore dropped a moon on him, and Han was never the same after that."
"A moon? Isn't that overkill?" John was struggling with the idea that Chewie was dead. What kind of author would want to kill Chewbacca?
"I thought so. Anyway, Han was pretty much a mess and things fell apart for him and Leia."
So much for that sunset, John thought. "Did they ever get back together?"
"I don't know. I stopped reading."
John shifted onto his back. He'd have stopped reading if someone had dropped a moon on Chewie, too. "You're such a geek."
"I think you like me because I'm a geek."
"Let me guess, there haven't been enough geeks in my life?" John asked, feeling his slightly numb lips curving into a grin.
"Exactly," Rodney said, poking his shoulder. "And when you're with me you can be your geeky self instead of hiding it."
Rodney had a point, but even drunk John wasn't about to admit it. "I'm a pilot. Pilots can't be geeks."
Rodney snorted and rolled onto his back, pressed against John from shoulder to hip in the narrow bed. Closing his eyes, John listened to Rodney breathe.
Blinking against the sun coming in through the windows, John wondered if he could wear his sunglasses inside without giving himself away. Did the sun have to be so damn bright? He was in a hallway for Christ's sake.
Elizabeth's office wasn't much better. He forced himself to smile at her before taking a seat and glancing around the room. Caldwell was there, looking like he always looked, except for that time John had tasered him, and maybe John had enjoyed that a bit more than he should have. Rodney was there, too, looking like John felt. He gave John a wan smile which John returned.
Elizabeth began speaking and John let the meeting go on around him. He was listening. He just had nothing to add to the discussion of supplies, delivery schedules and mission reports. His requests were in, his reports complete. After all, he hadn't had much else to do for the past week.
The conversation didn't last long, drifting away into silence. Finally, Elizabeth spoke.
"I've spoken with Dr. Heightmeyer." Elizabeth folded her hands in front of her, not looking at any of them. "The memorial service will be the day after tomorrow. I know we should have had it sooner, but it seemed best to wait for the Daedalus."
Right, because there wasn't any point in wasting precious energy shipping corpses back to Earth through the Stargate.
She turned toward Rodney, looking at him with a gentleness John had never seen directed at Rodney before. "I read through your letter, like you asked. It was very good."
Rodney nodded his face filling with loss, and John shifted his gaze to the empty space on Elizabeth's right. It was rare for Rodney to write a letter to the next of kin. Usually Elizabeth took care of the letters for the civilian personnel. But then Simpson hadn't been just another scientist, she'd been in Atlantis since the beginning and Rodney had probably felt that he owed her something more. He wondered what the letter had said. She was a good scientist, almost as good as I am, and a good friend. Even though I can't tell you the details of her work, because then I'd have to kill you, I can tell you that her contributions were invaluable. It's too bad our military commander had to shoot her, but things like that happen when you work where we do.
John closed his eyes, fighting against the sudden tightness in his chest.
Things like that did happen, and John had only been doing his job.
Doing your job shouldn't make your chest hurt.
Despite being more than willing to send his people to Heightmeyer, John hated going himself. Then again, the only person who actually liked therapy was Rodney. An entire hour to talk about himself, Rodney loved that.
It was John's idea of hell. In fact, he was pretty sure that if hell existed it was filled with offices in annoyingly neutral colors, uncomfortable couches and pictures of ink blots, without even a cigar to break up the monotony.
"How are you feeling?"
"Would you like some water?"
Sometimes he made it into a game, trying to see how many questions he could answer with one word. He gave himself bonus points if the word had only one syllable. It wasn't that he disliked Heightmeyer. She was less annoying than any of the other shrinks the Air Force had made him talk to over the years. The problem wasn't her. It was him.
"Did Dr. Weir tell you about the memorial service?"
This time John nodded.
"Are you okay with it?"
A memorial service for people he shot, why wouldn't John be okay with it? "Rituals are important," he answered with a small shrug.
"You should attend."
"I don't think that would be appropriate."
"You were their colleague too."
"No." If he'd been keeping track, he would have awarded himself extra bonus points for that one.
"Colonel." She leaned forward in her chair. "I understand how difficult talking about this is for you, but you need to begin to process this experience."
John had never understood that, how an experience could be processed. As far as John could tell, experiences were either lived or endured. He nodded anyway.
"Hey," Rodney said, jogging up to him as John was leaving the mess after dinner. "The Daedalus brought your birthday present."
"My birthday isn't until next month."
"So what?" Rodney asked with a grin. One of the things John had learned about Rodney early in their friendship was that Rodney's impatience encompassed not only gift receiving, but gift giving as well. "You go on to your quarters. I'll bring it."
There wasn't any point in arguing, and being with Rodney was better than being alone. "All right."
"Good," Rodney said, slapping him on the shoulder and ducking into the nearest transporter. "I'll see you in a minute."
It really was almost a minute when Rodney turned up at John's quarters, which meant he'd either run or developed a way to transport from his quarters to John's. "Here you go," he said, holding out a package wrapped in shiny gold paper.
Taking the package, John lifted it to his ear and shook it, because it annoyed Rodney when he didn't immediately open presents. But this time Rodney didn't gripe or offer to open it for him. He simply stood there with his hands behind his back, smiling. So John unwrapped it. "Red Baron," John read the title of the game aloud. "Can I play as Snoopy?"
"Possibly, but I think you'd have a better chance of winning in a plane than on a dog house."
Grinning, John said, "Wanna play?"
"Of course I want to play." Rodney was already moving past him to sit on the edge of the bed. Getting the laptop Rodney had souped up for gaming, John dragged over the small table they used for playing.
Rodney had already gotten out the joysticks and was unraveling the connections. "Remind me to get you wireless joysticks."
It was something Rodney always said, but John never reminded him. He liked things the way they were. Sitting next to Rodney, he put the laptop on the table and opened the game.
He crashed twice before getting a handle on the Sopwith Camel. Those babies had some serious torque. Beside him Rodney gave up and decided to fly a Fokker, even if it did mean being a German.
John won his third dogfight and Rodney grinned at him, the medium-sized grin, the one which said Rodney was pleased with both himself and the world. "Good present?"
John returned the grin. "Great present."
Rodney's grin got even bigger, his eyes practically sparkling, and John was drawn forward. For a brief moment the feel of Rodney's lips brushing his was easy, uncomplicated. Then Rodney pulled away, eyes wider than John had ever seen them.
John's heart was pounding and he could feel his mind racing. "Thank you," he said needing to offer an explanation. When Rodney didn't answer, John pointed at the computer. "For the--"
"Oh, right. You're welcome," Rodney said, his eyes starting to return to their normal width.
"Thanks, that's what the--" John gestured between them.
"Right, right" Rodney said, nodding, catching on. "Just a thank you between friends."
"Between really good friends," John said
"Best friends," Rodney said, his eyes still locked on John's.
"Absolutely. Best friends ever." John sucked in a breath. "So you want to play another game?"
Rodney took a moment to answer, then said, "Can we play something later in the war? The planes had to get better."
"Sure." John turned back toward the game and pulled up the starting menu. "Did you know Packard made a plane for the Americans? It was a two-seater, climbed damn fast for the time. Designed by a French guy."
"The Americans flew something designed by a Frenchman?"
"They were our allies."
When he logged onto his computer, bleary-eyed from a night of game playing, he found the plan for the memorial service in his inbox.
Elizabeth was going to speak first, followed by Rodney and Lorne. He'd known about Lorne, been grateful when Lorne had offered to take his place and say a few words. Richards had been a member of Lorne's team, and he'd known the corporal far better than John had, giving him a convenient excuse for stepping aside.
But Rodney hadn't spoken at a memorial service since Gaul and Abrams'.
Attached to the schedule was a chart showing where the senior staff were to stand. Even though they all knew their places by now, Elizabeth always included it. He was in his usual spot, across from Elizabeth, with Lorne at his left. Rodney was on Elizabeth's right.
John had to tell her that he wouldn't be there. He was sure she'd understand.
"You have to go."
"It's inappropriate," John said for the third time.
"You're the military leader of Atlantis." Elizabeth was standing in front of her desk, but the doors were closed and he was almost certain no one could hear them.
"I know what my job is."
"People need to have faith in you. To do that they need to see that this wasn't your fault. By not going you appear guilty."
John was guilty. "They wouldn't be lying there if it wasn't for me. All my being there will do is remind people of that."
"Your absence will remind them." Walking closer, she lifted a hand as if to touch him. "By being there you move the guilt where it belongs, onto the Ancients who possessed them."
Downloading the brains of criminals into computers, the Ancients had probably considered it compassion. John was pretty sure he'd seen the same thing done in an episode of Star Trek and if Gene Roddenberry had been smart enough to realize it was a bad idea, then the Ancients sure as hell should have been. But the Ancients' arrogance made Rodney look humble, and nothing they did surprised John anymore.
Taking a deep breath, he considered it. Elizabeth was right. She usually was. At least she didn't brag about it. "Okay."
Elizabeth squeezed his arm. "Maybe this will help you, too."
John didn't bother arguing.
He didn't have anywhere to be until 1400 so he went back to his room and picked up the joystick. Rodney had left just after midnight, but John had played until sunlight had started sneaking in the windows. It wasn't as though he was getting any sleep anyhow, and losing to the Red Baron was better than staring into the darkness.
Within minutes he was guiding his Camel into the clouds.
Rodney was already in the mess when John arrived, sitting with Zelenka and another scientist John had only met once. Going through the line, he tried to remember the guy's name, Davis, Davison, Davidson, DaVinci. He was pretty sure it wasn't DaVinci. The guy didn't look Italian.
"Hey," he said, taking the seat across from Zelenka and next to unknown D-guy.
"Colonel," Zelenka said.
Rodney's mouth was full, but he nodded at John. John gave an answering nod and turned his head to smile at the new guy. "Lt. Colonel John Sheppard," he said holding out his hand, hoping he could get away with pretending they hadn't met before.
They guy looked at his hand for a moment before taking it. "Dr. Mark Deluarier." At least he'd been right about the D.
"Nice to meet you." Picking up his fork, he asked, "Any exciting news from the labs?"
"Not really," Zelenka said.
"How was the training?" Rodney asked.
John shrugged. "A few bruises."
"Bodies or egos?"
"Colonel Sheppard likes to let Ronon and Teyla beat up the new military personnel," Rodney explained to Deluarier.
"I don't let them. I order them. It establishes the pecking order."
"They're not hens." Rodney turned to Zelenka. "Hey, do pigeons have a pecking order?" He was never going to let the pigeon racing go, not that John blamed him. He wouldn't have either, which might be why Lorne never told him anything even remotely personal.
"Yes, and middle-aged pigeons who are losing feathers are at the bottom of it."
John bit back a laugh.
"Which just goes to show why mammals are superior to birds."
Simpson would have had something to say to that. The thought made John go perfectly still. No one seemed to notice, distracted by Deluarier standing and saying "I'll see you tomorrow."
Zelenka frowned and it took John a moment to realize he was frowning at Deluarier. Rodney simply waved at him, but John frowned, too. Usually new recruits wanted to be around him and Rodney, at least until they realized John and Rodney were just like everyone else. Everyone else in Atlantis, anyway.
Unless Deluarier didn't want to be around the military commander who went around shooting his own people. John couldn't blame him there.
"He's weird," Rodney said as soon as Deluarier was out of earshot.
John told himself to accept that explanation, since it was as good as any. "You ready for a rematch?"
Rodney shook his head. "I have work to do."
"But I thought there wasn't anything exciting happening in the labs?" John winced when he realized how whiny he sounded.
"All the more reason for me to work."
John might have believed him except Rodney almost never chose work over hanging out with him, and when he did he usually pulled John into working with him, or at least joining him in the lab. Zelenka looked as surprised as John was. "Okay," John said, because it wasn't as if he could argue. Besides, he should be spending less time with Rodney not more. He was compromised enough.
Four dog fights and John still hadn't come close to beating the Red Baron. Dropping the joystick onto the bed, he lay on his back and looked up at the ceiling. Losing was a lot more fun when Rodney was offering him useless advice on how to win.
Maybe he just needed to get out of this room. He'd been spent far too much time here the last week, and all the game was giving him was a sore wrist. It wasn't as though he didn't have anywhere else to be.
Elizabeth yelled "come in" when he knocked and he found her sitting on her bed, one leg straight out in front of her, the other bent. She was wearing an oversized t-shirt and nothing else. She smiled at him as he perched on the edge of the bed. "I thought tonight was Rodney night."
"We've decided to start seeing other people," John answered easily. She chuckled, but John winced. "What are you working on?"
"Reading reports. It's easier to follow some of the science reports if I print them out. That way I can scribble in the margins."
John turned his head, trying to read the paper on her lap. "They just put in equations to impress you."
"I know." She was looking at him in a way that reminded him a little too much of Heightmeyer and John stiffened, preparing himself for the questions to come. "How was your day?"
"I let Teyla and Ronon beat up some recruits."
"So it was a good day then."
"Yeah." The air was heavy with all of the things they weren't talking about. He rested a hand on her leg just above her ankle. When she didn't say anything, he began sliding it upward, feeling smooth skin and soft hair. He'd discovered early in their relationship that Elizabeth tended to shave her legs only when she felt like it. John didn't blame her; if he could he'd happily shave only when he felt like it.
Elizabeth placed the report on the table next to her bed and John leaned in to kiss her. She tasted of tea and her familiar lips felt wrong somehow. Drawing back, John tugged on her leg, pulling her flat onto the bed. Then he knelt between her legs and resumed stroking her calf.
She smiled up at him, but he avoided her eyes looking instead at the shadow between her legs. He could get lost in there, at least for a little while. Bending down, he kissed the side of her knee and began working his way upward.
Soft, salty skin, beautifully curving legs, the warm, inviting smell of her, this was just what he needed.
When he held her open with his fingers and licked teasingly at her clit, Elizabeth groaned. A burst of sweetness on his tongue and he had to push closer, get more.
Long licks, teasing touches of his tongue, hints of suction, fingers circling 'round her clit and pressing deep inside, John did everything he knew over and over again. Elizabeth kept coming, and John kept pressing deeper trying to take her higher. His face was covered with her juices and all he could smell was her arousal, her pleasure.
He lapped it up, ignoring the erection trapped inside his briefs and her half-hearted attempts to pull him upward.
This time he stopped.
"Come here." She reached for him and he stretched out over her. Brushing his lips with her fingers, Elizabeth brought them to her own mouth, tasting herself. Then she reached for the fastenings on his pants and John steeled himself for her touch.
She guided him into place and he sank into her, warmth all around him. Closing his eyes, he started to move, his body instinctively seeking release. Her wetness was a slick caress, and he thrust harder, deeper, searching.
He came in a small burst of pleasure. His eyes were still shut when he slipped from inside her and moved to the side.
Elizabeth nestled into his side and John wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "That was nice," she said softly.
"Yeah." With his free hand John buttoned his pants.
Within an hour he was back in his room, joystick in hand.
The service was scheduled for the late afternoon, to be followed by an Irish style wake. Without too much alcohol, because it wouldn't do for the staff of Atlantis to all be incapacitated at the same time. Usually the booze went to whoever seemed to need it the most.
John wondered how many people would try and send it his way.
His dress blues itched. Half the time John was convinced it was psychological, a reaction to the unpleasantness of wearing them, but they'd itched during his promotion ceremony, too. Light Colonel, he'd been happier than he'd expected, but then he'd never really expected to get that far.
Sucking in a breath, he entered the gate room. Rodney was already there, standing near the podium in front of the gate, a sheaf of papers in his hand. "Hey," John said quietly, coming to stand next to him.
Rodney looked up at him, his mouth in that slack, disheartened position John hated. "Hey."
"You all set?"
Rodney waved his notes at no one John could see. "I hate these things."
"Me too." Not knowing what else to say, John patted his back and went to stand in his assigned place. Lorne joined him.
Elizabeth moved up to the podium.
John stared ahead, letting her words move around him. She always spoke about the same things, courage and discovery, the drive to explore. Never the exact same words, of course, and with stories added that were specific to the deceased, but the sentiment was the same.
She stepped back and Rodney took her place. He fumbled with his papers, then cleared his throat before finally speaking. "I don't have Elizabeth's eloquence, but I wanted to say a few words about Simpson, Dr. Simpson, because she had an extraordinary mind. Her work on statistical mechanics was top rate and absolutely central to solving our power problems."
As if sensing that maybe her work wasn't what others cared most about, Rodney dropped his gaze to the podium. When he looked back up his eyes were shiny. "But what was truly extraordinary about her was, well, everything. For those of you who didn't have the pleasure of working beside her, she had a twisted sense of humor. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was one of her favorite targets. I always claimed her jokes weren't funny, but really they were."
John ducked his head. He'd shared more than one laugh with Simpson at Rodney's expense, but it had been okay because he'd known Rodney had found her quips as funny as John did.
"She could be kind, and she had an unfortunate tendency to hum power ballads when she was completely focused on something. Of course, it just gave the rest of us something to tease her with. If later you're wondering why you're hearing 'Sister Christian' that would be why."
"What I'm trying to say is that working with her was a privilege. She will be missed, she is missed, and not just for her mind but for who she was. It seems to me that that is the best kind of mark to leave on the world."
Having apparently run out of words, Rodney took an awkward step back from the podium and Lorne moved immediately to replace him.
John watched Rodney return to Elizabeth's side, watched her squeeze his arm and lean close to say something in his ear that made Rodney's mouth twist a little. It was probably just as well he was over here, because he wouldn't have known what to say.
Lorne's remarks were brief. There was saluting and flag folding, the ritual firing of seven guns, the caskets were beamed to the Daedalus, and everyone made their way to the mess.
As promised there were power ballads. There was something off about hearing Guns n Roses at a wake, but Simpson would have loved it. John filled a small plate with food and engaged in the required small talk, keeping one eye out for Rodney who was on the far side of the room, doing the same thing.
When the toasts began, John left.
He was only a quarter of the way into the bottle when the knock came. Going to his own quarters hadn't been his brightest idea. It couldn't be Elizabeth, not yet; it was too early for her to leave. Which left Rodney. Elizabeth would go away if he didn't answer, but Rodney was stubborn. He'd stay out there the whole damn night. Sleeping on the floor and setting the alarm in his watch so that it woke him, and he woke John, at least once an hour.
Sighing, John went to the door.
Rodney brushed past him, arms waving.
"You're not saying anything," John said, resting his hands on his hips.
Deflating slightly, Rodney crossed his arms. "I didn't know what to say. How are you seemed kind of stupid."
Rodney didn't grin. "What are we drinking?"
Retrieving the bottle, John held it out to him. Accepting it, Rodney took a drink, made a face. "It doesn't really help," he said, offering the bottle back to John.
"Nothing does." He drank deeply before turning and putting the bottle back on the stand next to his bed.
"It's not just you, you know. You're not in this alone."
Now Rodney was being stupid. "I pulled the trigger."
"I sent them to that lab. Yelled at Simpson for not getting results faster, pressured her."
John snorted. "She ignored you when you yelled."
"Right. Of course. The only one responsible for anything is the great John Sheppard."
"Shut up, Rodney." On anyone else the tone would have worked, but Rodney was only intimidated when he chose to be.
"She was possessed. Richards was possessed. You didn't have a choice."
Fighting the urge to curl his hands into fists because once they were fists he might use them, John turned away. "You don't know what you're talking about, which is why you should shut the fuck up."
"I was there."
"I killed them."
Rodney walked around him until he was almost in front of John again. "Hello, guns, hostage, Ancient criminals, is any of this ringing a bell?"
"Go away, Rodney."
"No." Rodney took hold of John's wrist. "Tell me what the hell is going on."
"You." John whirled on him, pulling his wrist free of Rodney's grasp. "You're what's going on."
Rodney took a step back. "What?"
"I did it for you. If it had been anyone else, anyone, I would have waited. There was a gun aimed at you and I…" He stumbled to halt.
"Saved my life."
"No." John shook his head. "No. I could have waited for Ronon. I could have shot to wound. I could have--"
"Could have what? Let them shoot me?"
"Ronon would have stunned them."
"Nice trick, stunning them from the other side of the city."
It was just like Rodney to twist things around like this. "I could have--" John insisted.
"No, you couldn't have." He hadn't noticed Rodney moving closer, but apparently he should have, because Rodney was reaching for him, pulling John into his arms. "You are not responsible for everything that happens."
"Rodney." His own arms closed around Rodney's shoulders, apparently they didn't follow orders either.
"No, listen." Rodney stroked his back with a single hand. "What happened to Simpson and Richards was horrible and wrong. We all want it not to have happened. But it wasn't your fault."
John shook his head, still holding on, feeling himself start to shake.
"It wasn't. You did what you had to do to. And you would have done it regardless of who it was. If anyone is to blame here, it's the Ancients with--"
Burying his face in Rodney's neck, John let the words wash over him. He was shaking everywhere, and he was pretty sure he was going to come apart, except Rodney was holding him and Rodney was an expert at keeping things together--cities, spaceships, John. So John held on and let Rodney stroke his back and babble in his ear until Rodney ran out of words and John could breathe again.
He had no idea how long they stayed like that. John was willing to stay that way for a while longer, but Rodney asked, his voice oddly subdued, if John had beaten the Red Baron yet. John shook his head.
"Well come on then," Rodney said, loosening his hold on John, forcing John to let go, too.
The computer was all set up. It wasn't as though John had been doing much of anything else. Turning it on, he picked up a joystick and sat, giving Rodney just enough room to sit next to him. Their shoulders brushed, but after a few minutes John was too busy trying to stay in the air to notice.
Rodney was shot down about thirty minutes into the game, and he lay on his side on the bed behind John. At first he offered advice which John clearly didn't need, but eventually he fell silent. Then he started to snore. They were soft, snuffling little snores, the kind that made John smile.
Turning off the game, he went over to the light panel and turned the lights off as well. He'd gotten out of his dress blues as soon as he'd gotten back from the service, changing into sweats and a t-shirt. He should probably brush his teeth, but he didn't want to risk waking Rodney. Figuring his teeth could survive the night as they were, he climbed carefully onto the bed.
The moonlight did odd things to Rodney's face, creating shadows where there usually weren't any. Rodney was always so still in his sleep, as though all that energy just magically disappeared, or maybe it was just that Rodney slept like he did everything else, with absolute focus.
Lifting his hand, John traced the side of Rodney's face from temple to jaw. Smooth skin, then the rasp of whiskers, John wasn't sure what he'd been expecting to feel. He dropped his hand to the mattress between them.
"Stop thinking and go to sleep," Rodney muttered.
John should have realized he was awake, the snores had stopped.
"Seriously." Rodney opened one eye. "Thinking is my job. You might hurt yourself."
"And my job?"
"To look pretty."
"As long as I have a function," John said, the words creating an odd tightness in his chest. He rolled onto his back. "I'll never know, will I?"
"Know what?" Rodney asked softly.
"What I would have done if it had been anyone but you."
"I thought we'd agreed you would have done the exact same thing."
"John." Rodney moved closer and wrapped an arm around John's waist, pressing himself lightly to John's side. "You have a job that is by definition undoable. You realize that, right? You're supposed to keep us all safe, when our job is to get in harm's way, to explore, experiment and find things out, which is also something you're supposed to do while keeping us safe. It's not doable. The only thing you can do is, as cliché as it sounds, your best, and your best is better than anyone else's."
He'd never thought of it quite that way before. He rested a hand on Rodney's arm, feeling the warmth seeping through the sleeve of Rodney's dress shirt, somewhere along the line he'd tossed his jacket and tie over a chair.
"Give yourself a break for once. Please."
Rodney only said please when he was asking for something for someone else. "I'll try."
"Good." Rodney squeezed him with a barely there tightening of his arm muscles. "Good."
John shifted, moving closer to Rodney's warmth, and stared into the semi-darkness until sleep overcame him.
Rodney was still there when he woke up. That was the thing about spending the night with Rodney. He never slunk away while you were asleep. Of course it wasn't like he had reason to. John edged his way out from under the arm that was still stretched across him and went into the bathroom. Piss, brush his teeth, shower, shave, by the time he was done he should feel pretty close to normal.
Chin scraped clean, John forced himself to smile at his reflection and stepped back into his room.
Elizabeth was standing there, holding a tray of food. "Rodney left. I'm sorry. I didn't realize you wouldn't be alone."
"It's fine," John said, taking the tray from her, wishing he was wearing more than a towel, which was ridiculous considering the number of times Elizabeth had seen him naked.
Her eyes went to the bed, still made, but wrinkled from where he and Rodney had slept on top of the covers. He expected her to say something. She was the diplomat, after all, but Elizabeth seemed to be as much at a loss as he was.
The plate in the center of the tray was covered. John lifted it. "Pancakes."
"You asked for them, didn't you?"
"I may have."
"Thank you." John kissed her cheek. "No second plate?"
"I can't stay. I just wanted to be sure you had a good breakfast."
"Thanks," John said again, unable to think of anything else.
"You're welcome." Elizabeth kissed him quickly. "I have to go. I'll see you later."
John nodded. "Yup."
She left and John sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the plate for a full minute before picking up his fork.
That evening he went to Elizabeth's quarters. He hadn't seen her since breakfast and he had this nagging feeling that they should talk. A feeling which made him want to run in the opposite direction, but he went anyway because this was Elizabeth.
"Hi," he said when the door slid open.
"Hi." She sounded surprised to see him, but it was hard to tell with Elizabeth.
When she stepped back to let him in, he moved past her, looking around as though her quarters were something he'd never seen before. "How was your day?"
"Routine, yet still moderately awful. Yours?" She glanced at him and then away.
"About the same." That topic exhausted, John tried to think of something else to say.
"Did you talk to Rodney?" There was a note of resentment in her voice. It made him stiffen.
He shrugged, casual as could be. "I always talk to Rodney."
"Yes, you do."
His instincts screaming 'Danger, Will Robinson,' John smiled a little, tried for disarming. "He's entertaining."
"Perhaps I should try that. Take up juggling? Or maybe just wave my hands around and go flying off to look at whales."
"You want to fill me in here? Because I'm clearly missing something."
"You're trying to miss it. Come on, don't tell me you really don't see it?"
"Rodney. You talk to him, John. You don't talk to Kate. You don't talk to me. You talk to him."
"Is that what they're calling it these days?"
"What are you trying to say?"
She folded her arms across her chest. "This isn't working. We both know that. You won't let me in. I push and you back away. I don't push and you back away anyway."
He wanted to argue with her, but it was hard to argue with the truth. He thought maybe he should apologize but he wasn't sorry.
"Just go. Go find Rodney and do whatever it is the two of you do."
"Elizabeth." He didn't want to leave her like this. Didn't want it to end like this, but if he was completely honest with himself, he had to admit that he wanted it to end.
He went to Rodney.
Usually Rodney came to him. He had this way of turning up, a chessboard or a laptop under his arm, at precisely those times when John needed someone around but couldn't admit it.
But the last ten days had been more than he could handle, losing Simpson and Richards.
Shooting Simpson and Richards.
And now Elizabeth.
He found Rodney in his quarters. They sat side-by-side, both looking down at their hands. The layers they kept piled over whatever this thing was between them had been pulled back somehow, exposing something John wasn't sure he could look at, but didn't know how to look away from.
Why wasn't Rodney saying anything? Didn't he know that was his job, to fill up the silences? To make noise so John could stay silent. "I don't know what to say."
"Me either," Rodney said. "This is--"
Terrifying. Crazy. The best thing ever. There were at least a dozen ways Rodney could have finished that sentence. "Yeah," John said, lifting an arm and squeezing the place where Rodney's neck and shoulder met. He left his arm there, almost around Rodney's shoulders. "It's over with Elizabeth."
"Is she okay?"
"I think so."
Finally lifting his eyes from the floor, Rodney looked directly at him. His face was full of all the things John didn't know how to express--fear, exhilaration, and an affection that went so deep John wasn't even sure where it started.
At least he wasn't alone.
Rodney's kiss was tentative, almost shy. "This isn't friendship," he whispered when they parted.
John swallowed. It didn't ease the dryness in his throat even slightly. "I know."
"Okay." Rodney leaned in again. "Okay."
This kiss was easy, so easy it made the knot inside him loosen a little. He slid the arm on Rodney's shoulder to his waist, pressing closer. Rodney's taste was achingly familiar and John couldn't get enough of it.
Rodney drew back. "This isn't just a reaction to everything, is it?"
"No." John shook his head. "No. This is…" He fought for it, for the word that would tell Rodney what this was. "This is us."
It must have been the right word because Rodney kissed him again. John tightened his hold on Rodney's waist, guiding them both back onto the bed. They traded light, simple, 'getting to know you' kisses, which was crazy because if anyone knew him it was Rodney. He rested a hand on the small curve of Rodney's belly, the heat in Rodney's hand burning through his shirt where it rested on John's side.
He wanted more of that heat and he deepened the kiss. Rodney let him in and John rolled on top of him, trying to get closer. When Rodney cupped the back of John's head in his hand, holding him in place, John groaned.
Generous kisses, Rodney letting him have whatever he wanted. John wanted everything.
He could feel Rodney's erection, and if he moved his hips just right he could rub his own against it. The thought alone made his head spin and he buried his face in the space between Rodney's neck and shoulder and just breathed him in, letting the familiar scent halt the spinning.
Rodney slid his hands under the back of John's shirt. They were wide, warm, and Rodney moved them over John's skin like he was determined to find every bump and indentation. John wanted him to. He wanted Rodney to know all of him, not just the good parts.
He pushed his hips forward, sliding his cock along Rodney's, feeling him even with the layers of cloth between them.
He wanted to push himself into Rodney's hands, get more of Rodney's touch. He wanted to move his hips again. He wanted to cover Rodney's mouth with his, as if he could somehow drink the warmth from it. "Please."
"Anything," Rodney said quietly, his breath ghosting along John's cheek. "You can have anything."
"I want--" He wanted so damn much it was all jumbled inside him. Pressing his face into the crook of Rodney's neck he whispered, "I want you to touch me."
"I can do that. I'd like to do that. Here." Rodney took hold of John shoulders and eased him back until he was straddling Rodney's thighs. Then he took hold of John's shirt. John lifted his arms, helping Rodney to pull it off.
Rodney immediately pressed both hands to John's chest. John stared at them, watching as Rodney began to explore, tracing the curve of a pectoral with his fingers while brushing the thumb of his other hand across a nipple. Even when he closed his eyes, it was obvious they were Rodney's hands, curious and capable, just like Rodney.
He opened his eyes because he wanted to touch too, wanted to see more of Rodney than just his face and arms. John pulled on Rodney's shirt. "You need to take his off."
Rodney didn't argue. He just sat up, forcing John to inch back a bit, and yanked it over his head, causing the hair in the back to stand up a little, making John smile.
"I love you." Instinctively raising his hand to cover his mouth, John forced it down again.
Rodney frowned at him. "That's good, right?"
"You could sound a little more sure."
"Sorry. I don't usually say stuff like that." Rodney was getting his studying look and John hastily added, "So soon."
"So this was a form of verbal premature ejaculation?"
John shoved him back on to the bed. "How about we stop talking and go back to what we were doing?"
Rodney grinned up at him, looking more like himself than he had since John had arrived. Holding up his hands, he wiggled his fingers. "I'm all ready to start touching."
It wasn't funny. It wasn't even amusing, but the laughter welled up anyway and John found himself leaning forward, laughing into Rodney's neck, his body shaking with it.
Wrapping his arms around John, Rodney said, "If you hadn't just said you love me, I'd be finding this incredibly insulting." When John only laughed harder, he added, "You're the one who asked to be touched."
Laughter easing, John relaxed into him. "I did. And I think you should get on with it."
Rodney rolled them, and John went with him, smiling up at Rodney who looked amazing, hair still disheveled, eyes bright, his own smile curving the edges of his mouth. He ran one hand over the side of John's chest, bending down to kiss the other. Light suction, a brief touch from Rodney's tongue, all on a place John had thought completely innocuous, but the sensation seemed to go all the way through him. Maybe that meant that when Rodney was done with him all of John would be primed for this, for touching and sex and Rodney. He liked that idea.
Sliding his free hand along John's side, Rodney worked his way upward, kissing the entire way. John tilted his head back when Rodney reached his neck, and then raised it again when Rodney finally got to his mouth.
"I love you, too," Rodney muttered, his words broken apart by kisses.
"I know." John had one arm around Rodney's waist, holding Rodney down on top of him, because he liked the feel of Rodney's weight on him. With his free hand he was stroking Rodney's back, unable to get enough of Rodney's smooth skin against his palm. There was so much of it. John liked that too.
"You do not get to be Han."
"Do so. I'm the pilot."
"When you get yourself frozen in carbonite I am not getting you out." Rodney moved his hips, rubbing their cocks together, and John gasped.
Lifting his own hips, he rubbed back, pleasure moving from his cock to everywhere. "If I'm frozen we can't do this." The words were panted, but John was sure he'd made his point.
"We need to get our pants off."
Rodney had the best ideas. John rubbed against him again.
"John. Pants." Rodney pulled back and after a moment's resistance John let him go. Backing off the foot of the bed, Rodney stood and began pushing his sweats and boxers down.
Lifting himself on to his elbows, John watched as Rodney's cock sprang into view, followed by thick thighs and nice calves. Rodney looked good naked. John wanted to start touching and never stop. There was so much of him maybe he wouldn't have to.
"Hey." Rodney tugged on John's pants.
Unbuttoning them with one hand, John lifted his hips and pushed his pants down. His cock was sticking half out of his boxers, and he was about to tuck himself in when Rodney took hold of his foot and began untying his shoe. He expected Rodney to make a smart remark about that, but he seemed to be too distracted by the sight of John's cock to say much. At least that's where John thought he was staring.
Shoes removed, Rodney tugged off his socks, then his pants. "Those too," he said, and John shimmied out of his boxers, dropping them to the floor.
Lying back, he watched as Rodney crawled over him. Lifting his hands, John slid them along Rodney's sides.
"Promise me you'll be naked whenever possible."
John nodded, the idea that Rodney wanted to see him like this an unexpected thrill. Sliding his hands into Rodney's hair, John pulled him into a kiss.
Rodney's body covered his, and John rubbed himself against it, delighting in the friction of bellies and chests and legs. But Rodney shifted, insinuating himself between John's legs, and John tilted his hips, wrapping his legs around Rodney, pressing them together. Rodney's weight holding him down, John lifted himself up. The underside of his cock was rubbing against Rodney. John couldn't tell where and he didn't really care, because what was making him move was the feel of Rodney's cock against his lower stomach, down below his navel.
Rodney gasped and tightened his hold on John, burying his face in John's neck. John held him and moved with him.
When Rodney tried to still them, John resisted. "I thought you wanted me to touch you," Rodney said, his voice rough in a way John had never heard before.
"I do. Later." Rodney moved just right and John lost track of what he was trying to say for a moment.
He remembered now. "I want you to touch me everywhere, to just lay me down, and spread me open and do whatever you want."
Rodney groaned, the movement of hips a little harsher this time. "I'll do it. I'll do everything. I'll invent new things just so I can do them to you."
"I know." John was clutching at him now, holding on in a way that should have been embarrassing except this was Rodney and he was going to come. They both were.
John came first, his whole body shuddering as the pleasure that had been building inside him peaked. Rodney groaned his name and stopped moving, holding still as John convulsed in his arms. Then his hips moved once and John felt him come, felt his cock pulse and his fluid release, his entire body bucking against John's.
"Oh God," Rodney groaned when they'd both stilled.
"Yeah," John agreed, lowering his legs from Rodney's waist to the bed because his hips were starting to feel strained.
"That was the best first time sex ever."
"Yeah." John stroked Rodney's back again, just because he could.
"It reduced you to monosyllables. Oh wait, you always talk like that." Rodney eased off him and onto the bed. John immediately rolled onto his side, sliding a hand through the fluid on Rodney's stomach as he draped an arm over him.
He really had nothing to say to that, so he nestled against Rodney and closed his eyes. His body was practically begging for a good night's sleep. There was just one thing he wanted to tell Rodney. "I thought about Simpson this afternoon."
"One of the new Marines was bragging about his success with women, especially blondes."
"Remember how she put Peterson in his place?" Rodney said.
That was exactly what John had been thinking of. "Yup."
"I keep thinking about what it must have been like for her, having someone else take over like that, try to attack Atlantis using her body."
That had happened to John once, but he hadn't even thought about what it had been like for her. He should have. "She would have hated feeling helpless."
"Yeah." Rodney kissed his hair.
Closing his eyes, John took a deep breath and let himself drift toward sleep.