chelle

Atlantis

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Slow Road to Enlightment

chelle

Title: Slow Road to Enlightenment

Author: chelle

Author's email: chelle@chelle.slashcity.org

Author's URL: http://chelle.slashcity.org/

Fandom: Atlantis

Archive: Ask first

Pairing: John/Rodney

Rating: R

Notes: This story begins immediately after "Convergence" and ends after "Sunday."

"It's just me."

The familiar voice and Sheppard's profile in the moonlight stopped the noise that had been about to leave his throat, turning it into a strangled, "Sheppard?"

"Sorry, I couldn't sleep."

Rodney had no trouble believing that. He sat up, the sheets pooling around his waist. "You okay?" It was a stupid thing to ask, because Sheppard had nearly turned into some sort of bug and now he was in Rodney's quarters in the middle of the night so clearly he wasn't okay, but Rodney had no idea what else to say.

"I'm human." He didn't sound entirely sure. "I should go, let you sleep."

Reaching out, Rodney caught his wrist, curling his fingers around it. "I'm awake now." The words came out less grumpy than usual, almost soft. Sheppard didn't say anything, but he didn't move away, the wrist which had been cool to Rodney's touch slowly warming.

"I was… I was scared for you. Terrified," Rodney said, because he had never been good at silence and there wasn't anything else to talk about, at least not anything that mattered.

"Me too." The words were choked, as though saying them was difficult. They wouldn't have been hard for Rodney, but for Sheppard, who flew jumpers into hive ships, Rodney thought they might have been.

Rodney wanted to tell him that being scared was a good thing, that only idiots didn't get scared, but something told him now wasn't the time for that conversation. Lifting a hand, he ran his fingers over Sheppard's cheek where the bumps and ridges had been. Now there was only smooth skin and the rasp of whiskers.

When Sheppard closed his eyes, Rodney repeated the touch. Feeling unaccountably brave, he did it again and again. Then he pressed his entire hand to Sheppard's jaw, the base of his palm on Sheppard's chin, part of his thumb brushing Sheppard's lips.

Sheppard opened his eyes, their gazes locking. He looked alone. Very, very alone. Alone was something Rodney understood. Before he could think better of it, could think at all, he leaned forward and touched his lips to Sheppard's. He started to draw back, but Sheppard cupped the side of Rodney's neck in his hand, stroking Rodney's cheek with his thumb as he brought their lips back together.

It was a soft kiss, questioning, but Rodney could feel the need Sheppard was trying to contain. Men had never been Rodney's thing, but he knew what it was like to need to be touched. No one had ever been there when Rodney had needed, but that didn't mean he couldn't be there for Sheppard. So when Sheppard deepened the kiss he answered in kind, and when kissing wasn't enough he lifted the blankets and whispered "come here," holding them up while Sheppard kicked off his shoes.

And when Sheppard lay down next to him, Rodney touched him. He slid his hands under Sheppard's t-shirt and through soft, curly chest hair, traced the curves of Sheppard's shoulders and arms, the planes of his back. He kissed his way along Sheppard's collar bone and sucked lightly on an earlobe.

He let Sheppard answer Rodney's touches with his own, gasping when Sheppard found that spot on his neck and arching into the stroking of his chest.

His hands were shaking when Rodney finally pushed Sheppard's sweats down and Sheppard kicked them off, leaving them in a bundle somewhere under the blankets.

His own boxers were next, then Sheppard's.

Naked, they pressed together, arms, legs and chins all finding a resting place. It was warm under the blanket, an alive kind of warmth, one that was completely unlike the cave full of bugs. Closing his eyes Rodney savored it, the warmth, the feel of Sheppard in his arms. He'd never expected this, but now that he had it, he liked it. He liked it a great deal.

One of them moved, Rodney wasn't sure who, and Sheppard's lips found his again. Easy kisses, less need, more affection, affection was good. Rodney was feeling awfully affectionate himself, which should have been strange, but wasn’t.

They couldn't kiss forever and eventually Rodney slid his hand between them and wrapped it around Sheppard's cock. "Rodney," Sheppard gasped and buried his face in Rodney's shoulder.

Sheppard's cock was incredibly warm, the skin surprisingly smooth as Rodney stroked him steadily, listening to the way Sheppard's breath caught, wishing they'd done this above the covers so he could look.

Sheppard said his name again just as he came, shuddering against Rodney, his fluid landing on Rodney's hand and stomach. Rodney stroked his back with his free hand until the shudders finally eased. Then Sheppard kissed him again, and ran his fingers over Rodney's stomach, tickling, causing Rodney to suck in his muscles.

Curling his hand around Rodney's cock, Sheppard began to stroke, and Rodney realized why he'd touched Rodney's stomach. He'd gathered his own fluid from Rodney's skin and now he was touching Rodney with it. Sheppard was strong and his touch was steady, a rhythmic pulling that had Rodney close to coming within just a few strokes.

Rodney was clutching Sheppard's shoulder when he came, everything just exploding out of him, leaving him shaken, but Sheppard was there, his arm curving around Rodney's back, pulling him close.

"John," Rodney said, pressing his face into the curve of Sheppard's neck.

"Yeah, Rodney, it's me," was the whispered reply.

Rodney simply nodded and held on.

 

 

When he woke up, Sheppard was gone. For a moment, Rodney thought he might have dreamt the whole thing, except there were dried fluids on his stomach and chest, and he was naked. Rodney only slept naked after sex. Which he had had, with Colonel Sheppard. John.

Closing his yes, Rodney buried his head in his pillow. He'd had sex with John. And he was pretty sure he'd started it.

He took his time in the shower, trying to think things through as he washed the evidence from his skin. The sex had been nice, better than nice, it had been surprisingly good. Apparently Rodney wasn't averse to good sex with another guy. He could live with that, even though it probably meant twice as many chances at rejection.

Sex with another guy wasn't the tricky part. Sex with John, that was the tricky part. They were friends and teammates and Rodney had no idea if that made things better or worse.

Rinsing the soap from his skin, he tilted his head back, wetting his hair, and reminded himself that fear was a good thing.

Anxiety, however, was not.

 

 

Sheppard--John-- Rodney didn't know how to think of him any more-- was in the mess when Rodney got there, sitting with Carson. Cursing himself for banning any food that wasn’t a power bar from the lab, Rodney moved to join them, because he didn't have a good excuse not to.

He sat next to Carson, who smiled brightly at him. Rodney scowled back and reached for his coffee. Normally John would've said something at that, like "rough night, McKay?" Putting his coffee down, he picked up his fork and forced himself to raise his eyes, to look at Sheppard.

John looked back. He was tired. Rodney could see it in the sagging under his eyes, his not-quite-grinny morning grin. There was something else there, too. But Rodney was terrible at reading people and he dropped his eyes back to his plate, began slicing his pancakes.

"I have a meeting with Lorne," he announced, pushing his chair back and picking up his tray.

"See you later, Colonel," Carson said.

John nodded.

Rodney waved his fork at him.

"What happened between you and the Colonel?" Carson asked.

Feeling himself flush, Rodney reached for his coffee, hoping to hide it. "Nothing. What makes you think anything happened?"

"One, you didn't say a single word to each other."

"He was only here for a couple of minutes."

"Two, you exchanged a very odd look. And three, you're blushing."

Rodney wanted to deny it, but he didn't know what any of it meant, and he knew Sheppard well enough to know the man would submit to dental surgery before discussing anything personal. Carson, though, was good at this stuff, well, relatively.

"I can't tell you here."

"Okay," Carson said, picking up his tray. "We can eat in my office."

 

 

"So, what happened?" Carson asked, once they were safely ensconced in his office, the door closed tight.

"Can I eat first?" Rodney was sitting at Carson's desk, his tray in front of him. Carson was sitting next to the desk.

"Rodney."

Tossing his fork and knife onto the tray, he said, "It's… it's…" He had no idea how to explain this.

"Did you have a fight?"

"No. The opposite actually. He came to my quarters last night, late. In fact, I was asleep. I woke up and there he was, sitting on the edge of my bed in sweats and a t-shirt. And no, I wasn't dreaming."

"Did he say why he was there?"

"He couldn't sleep, at least that's what he said. He looked, I don't know, lost. I've never seen him like that."

"He's had a tough few days," Carson said.

That was a bit of an understatement, but Rodney nodded anyway. "He seemed like he needed something, so I kissed him. I don't know why. I just…"

"What did he do?"

"He kissed me back."

"And then?"

"We, um, we…"

"Did you have sex with Colonel Sheppard?"

"Yes. It was nice. Good." It had been good, not weird at all, even though John didn't have any of the parts Rodney was used to. It had been simple, the least complicated sex Rodney had ever had.

"And?" Carson prompted, leaning forward.

"And when I woke up he was gone."

"So you haven't talked to him?"

"Talked to him?" Rodney repeated. "What would I say? Gee, I'm sorry I seduced you, it won't happen again." Rodney knew he sounded defensive, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.

"Rodney, he came to you."

He had. "Do you think he's into guys? Do you think that's why he came to me?"

"Maybe," Carson said, clearly thinking. "Or maybe he just needed to be with someone he trusted, needed to feel human again."

It made sense, especially when he remembered the way John had touched him, the way he'd touched John in return. It had been very human. "Yeah."

"You should still talk to him."

Rodney sighed. Relationships weren't really his area of expertise, which was why he'd talked to Carson in the first place. If Carson said they should talk, they probably should. "Fine. I'll talk to him."

 

 

He managed to put it off until after dinner. Then it wasn't him who made the first move, it was John who knocked on Rodney's door.

"Hey," he said when the door slid open. "Can I come in?"

Swallowing, Rodney took a step back.

John wasn't looking at him. He wasn't looking at anything really, and Rodney gave him only the briefest of sideways glances. "I thought we should talk, about, you know…" John said.

Even after thinking about it all day, Rodney still had no idea what to say. "We don’t have to. It's okay. I know you just needed somebody, needed to do something human, and I'm actually kind of flattered you…" Rodney pulled in a breath. "But we don't have to talk about it. Ever."

John's eyes flicked to his face. "So you're okay?"

"Yeah, you?"

"Yeah, I'm good. Okay."

"That's good."

"Yeah," John said, leaving them with nothing further to say. After a painful, but thankfully brief silence, he added, "I should go."

"Right, good," Rodney said, following him to the door.

When it slid shut with John safely on the other side, Rodney sagged against it. Thank God that was over.

***

Rodney thought about it sometimes, usually late at night. He wondered why John had come to him and what he'd been expecting when he did. He remembered what it had felt like to have John in his arms.

Things were kind of weird between them at first, like they were both trying to hard, but that went away after they found the Aurora. There was nothing like exploring an Ancient spaceship to put everything to rights again.

Then Rodney nearly died at the bottom of the ocean in another galaxy, saved, he was pretty sure, by John's refusal to give up. Carson kept him for two days, then let him go as long as he agreed to go straight to his quarters and stay there.

Since Rodney's main goal was to sleep in his own bed, he didn't object.

When he woke to find John sitting on the edge of his bed, bathed in moonlight, he thought, just for a moment, that he might've started hallucinating again.

"Sorry," John said, "I didn't mean to wake you. When I got back, Carson said he'd released you. I should've realized you'd be sleeping."

"It's fine," Rodney said, shifting into a sitting position. "How are things at the alpha site?"

"Good, they're good." John was looking down at his hands and he turned his head to look at Rodney. "How are you?"

"Tired."

"I should--"

"No," Rodney said, reaching out to curl a hand around John's arm before he could finish that sentence. He didn't want to be alone. He'd spent enough time alone.

"Okay." John covered Rodney's hand with his own. It was warm and Rodney closed his eyes, focusing on the feel of it.

When he opened them John was closer. He lifted his free hand to Rodney's cheek. "You sure you're okay?"

He really wasn't, even though he wasn't the one lying in a wrecked jumper at the bottom of the ocean. But he would be, because there wasn't a choice. He tried to nod, but all he managed to do was press his cheek into John's hand. John leaned closer still and Rodney moved to meet him.

John stroked Rodney's cheek with his thumb as they kissed, slow and uncomplicated.

Rodney reached for him, and John moved with him, down into the covers. Into warmth and touch and life.

When Rodney drifted to sleep it was with John still stretched out on top of him, his face pressed into the curve of Rodney's neck, his breath hot on Rodney's skin.

When he woke, he was alone.

This time they didn't talk about it.

***

"I'm surprised you don't like her," Carson said.

Rodney looked up from his salad, fork halfway to his mouth. "Who?"

"Norina. Isn't she exactly your type? Blonde, beautiful, a scientist."

He snorted. "If you could call what the Taranans do science."

"She seemed quite taken with you."

"Not as taken as she was with Sheppard," Rodney said, taking a bite of his salad.

"So that's it," Carson said, shining an apple on his sleeve.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "I am not jealous of Sheppard."

"Of course not," Carson said. "You're jealous of Norina."

"Don’t be stupid," Rodney answered, looking around before leaning forward. "It was just twice, and it was a comfort thing between friends, not, not true love forever." He'd kept his voice low but he still glanced around again before sitting back.

"Twice?"

He'd never told Carson about the second time. And he wasn't sure he wanted to. "Can we not talk about this here?"

"Finish your salad, Rodney, and then we can go to my office."

Fortunately, he was paged to the lab when there were still two bites of his salad left. The last thing Rodney wanted to talk about was John, and what it felt like to be naked with him, or the way his gut had clenched when Norina had aimed that perfect smile at John.

***

Over the next few months they teased and bickered their way through one crisis after another, playing their game, sharing jokes that went over Ronon and Teyla's heads, which was okay because Ronon and Teyla did the same thing to them.

Everyone else may have been appalled when Rodney used Lucius's serum on John, but John laughed, poked Rodney in the middle of dinner, and said, "I can't believe you wasted an opportunity like that on cleaning."

Rodney flushed and muttered something about wanting to preserve John's innocence.

John laughed again, and Rodney was tempted to poke him just to stop him, because John's laugh was loud and honking and Rodney kind of liked it.

Carson caught Rodney's eye and smiled.

Then Kolya captured John and the bottom fell out of Rodney's world.

It still felt bottomless even after John was home, safe, and practically glowing with youthful vitality.

Rodney had known from the moment they found him what he was going to do, and as soon as it was late enough for John to be asleep he did it. He let himself into John's room and sat on the edge of his bed. John was awake, either he hadn't fallen asleep yet or he'd woken when Rodney had come in, but Rodney simply sat there looking at him anyway.

When John sat up and opened his arms, Rodney moved into them.

He kissed John like he could drink the life from John's lips, not because he wanted it, but because he needed to know John still had it to give.

He lingered long after John was asleep, resting a hand on John's chest, feeling it rise and fall, finally tearing himself from John's bed just as the sun started to sneak through the windows.

***

They still didn't talk about it, not even when John snuck into Rodney's room and traced the bandages covering the place where John had shot him with his fingers until Rodney pushed him onto his back and kissed him.

John was restless that night, his hands tracing patterns on Rodney's back and shoulders as they rocked together, one kiss bleeding into another.

Rodney held onto him long after they finished, resting his head on John's chest, listening to his heartbeat. "I'm fine," he said.

"I know."

"It wasn't your fault."

"I know."

"Yeah, but do you believe it?" Rodney asked, poking him in the side.

"I will. Eventually."

***

A week later they were ordered back to Earth. Kicked out of Atlantis. By Ancients.

Rodney was sitting on the edge of the bed, glaring at the pile of boxes containing his personal items, when his door slid open and John stepped inside. Rodney stood.

They met in the middle of the room.

These kisses were different, care replaced with passion, tenderness with desperation. Who knew what would happen when they stepped through the wormhole in the morning, where the SGC would send them, whether they'd be together.

They were naked by the time they made it to the bed, lights shining on bare skin as they stretched out on top of the covers. John was gorgeous clothed, but lying naked in the bed that was no longer Rodney's he made Rodney's breath hitch. Rodney had tried not to imagine John like this, tried not to connect what he'd felt when they were together with the shapes hidden beneath John's clothes. Now it was all here, where he could look, the perfectly formed chest, with its covering of soft, almost comforting, hair; the curving muscles of John's arms; the long, graceful line of his thighs.

The almost perfect cylinder of John's cock, with its gently sloping head, that dipped a little lower on the underside.

It was a new experience, touching and looking at the same time, and he stared at his own hands as they molded themselves to John's skin, following the curve of John's shoulders, his calves, the arch of his foot.

John touched, too, every place he could reach. Rodney loved the way John touched him, firm but questioning, like being able to touch Rodney was some kind of gift he needed permission to open.

When he felt like one more touch might break him open, he slipped from John's arms, sliding down to kneel between John's legs.

John's cock was right there in front of him, waiting for him, so Rodney wrapped a hand around the base. Holding it upright, he studied it from this new angle for a moment, before licking the head. Liking the feel of firm, smooth skin on his tongue, he did it again, and again, swirling his tongue and tracing the slit. John whimpered and Rodney closed his mouth around it, sucking gently.

John spread his legs wider, feet flat on the bed, he pulled them upward, bending his knees, giving Rodney as much room as he wanted as he lifted himself up, resting his weight on one hand and sliding the other along Rodney's cheek.

Rodney started to move, sliding his mouth up and down the top half of John's cock, stroking the base with his hand. John kept touching him, his fingers gliding over Rodney's cheek, and down along his jaw, lightly caressing the back of Rodney's hand before tracing the curve of his ear, the arch of his eyebrow. It was distracting, but Rodney didn't complain.

Instead, he sucked and licked and tasted, because this might be his last chance and there was no way this was ending without his having had John in his mouth.

John gasped Rodney's name, his hand stilling, a moment before his cock spurted into Rodney's mouth. John's fluid was salty and warm and Rodney hadn't quite managed to swallow it when the second one arrived. Unable to keep up, Rodney pulled back, stroking John with his hand and watching him come, his own cock throbbing at the sight.

He stopped stroking when John placed his hand over Rodney's and raised his eyes from John's cock to his face. There was a heat in John's eyes, in his face, that kept Rodney looking at him as John came closer.

His mouth claimed Rodney's.

John pulled Rodney to him, and rolled him onto his back. Rodney stared up at him as John brushed Rodney's other cheek, the one he hadn't touched while Rodney was blowing him, with the back of his hand.

Then John kissed him again. It was over too soon, and Rodney would have complained, but John was sliding down between his legs, taking Rodney into his mouth. The last time Rodney had gotten a blowjob he'd been in Siberia.

And the person who'd sucked him hadn't been John Sheppard.

Copying John he lifted himself onto his elbows, spread his legs and watched. John had one of the softest mouths Rodney had ever kissed, and the feel of those lips brushing the head of his cock made him gasp. Then John was sliding down again, taking Rodney in.

He was using his hand, just like Rodney had, and his eyes were closed, as if concentrating.

John was concentrating on him, on his cock, on making him feel so damn good.

"John," Rodney gasped, trying to warn him, but John swallowed. Then he sat back and stroked Rodney through it, touching all the right places, dragging it out until Rodney fell back against the bed, panting.

Stretching alongside him, John kissed him, light and sweet, which was good because there was no way Rodney had the energy for anything more ambitious. Then John grinned down at him, annoyingly smug, and poked him until Rodney joined him under the covers.

It didn't take long for them to get tangled up in one another all over again.

This time Rodney watched when John slipped from his bed, watched him dress, and lean over for a kiss. When John started to speak, Rodney covered his hips with fingers, and whispered, "Good-night, John," before John had a chance to say good-bye.

 

 

"I can't believe you don't like frozen dinners," Rodney said.

"Too much like MREs."

"That's the point."

"I like cooking, Rodney." John spoke so slowly it was almost a whine.

"So what are you making?" Rodney asked, trying to hold his phone against his ear, which was hard to do with these stupid little cell phones. Rodney had never liked talking on the phone. Only now he did it all time. He talked to Jeannie at least twice a week, trying to make up for all the time he'd missed, and cajole her into helping with some of his projects. He left messages for Elizabeth weekly, sometimes more than weekly.

He called Zelenka in Germany nearly every workday. He told himself it was because he missed having someone to talk to who could keep up with him, follow his logic so well that sometimes he got there ahead of Rodney. But he suspected that as much as he missed Radek's brains, he missed Radek even more.

Carson called Rodney almost as often as Rodney called him.

Then there was John. Closing his freezer, Rodney opened a box of frozen fried chicken and mashed potatoes. "What are you making?"

"Tacos."

Rodney sighed.

"I'll make them for you the next time you're in town," John said.

"Really?"

"Sure."

"Okay." Rodney immediately started flipping through possible excuses to go to Colorado while shoving his dinner into the oven.

"I've got to go or I'm going to burn this."

"Talk to you later," Rodney said and closed his phone. They would talk later. They talked at least once a day when John wasn't off-world, usually more. It wasn't as much talking as they'd done on Atlantis. He hadn't realized how much time they spent together on Atlantis, until he'd been back on Earth with free time and no one to spend it with.

He missed their game, and sharing meals, and trying to explain the differences between DC and Marvel to Ronon, who seemed to share Rodney's view that Batman was cooler than both Spiderman and Superman.

Of course, that had been before John brought up Wolverine.

Two days later, he was on the phone with John when the doorbell rang. He opened it to a delivery guy with a box full of groceries.

"I'm sorry, but I didn't order any groceries," Rodney said to the guy.

"I did," John said.

"You did?"

The delivery guy gave Rodney a weird look and he pointed at the phone. The guy nodded and Rodney held the door open for him.

"I thought you needed to try something new," John said.

"I don't cook," Rodney said, pulling out his wallet and pressing a ten into the hand of the delivery guy.

"You won't have to."

Closing the door, Rodney went to his kitchen table and peeked into the box. "Frozen dinners."

"Yup," John said, sounding so pleased with himself that Rodney had to chuckle. "And some fruit and vegetables you won't have to cook."

Tearing open a bag of baby carrots, Rodney bit into one and said, "Thanks."

 

 

"He bought you groceries and had them delivered," Carson said.

"That's what I just said," Rodney answered, a little belligerently, because Carson had made it sound weird or something. "Frozen dinners, although about half of them are vegetarian."

"Whatever will you do?" Carson asked.

"I eat vegetables." Rodney was half tempted to get the baby carrots back out and eat one while Carson was on the other end of the phone where he could hear every crunch. "I've had two so far; they were good."

"Give me the names. I'll serve them when you visit next week."

"No. We are going out to dinner, like people with lives. You think we can get Elizabeth to come?" Rodney asked, pulling a frozen curry from the freezer and opening the box.

"I don't know. I'll work on it. Have you asked Colonel Sheppard?"

"I thought you were going to ask him."

"Rodney, you talk to him more than I do and I work in the same building."

"I know." Rodney didn't know how to explain the weirdness that was his friendship with John. Asking John to dinner would feel like asking him on a date, even though they were going out as a group.

"Did you two ever talk?"

"We talk all the time."

"About your relationship."

Rodney had kind of hoped that Carson had forgotten about the whole sex thing. Even though he knew the Wraith spontaneously turning back into humans was more likely. "We don't have a relationship. We're just friends who have sex sometimes."

"Sometimes?" Carson repeated. "How many times is sometimes?"

"Five. Maybe six, depending on how you want to count the night we did it twice."

"Rodney, six times is a relationship."

"It was spread out over months, almost a year, in fact."

"When was the last time?"

"The night before we left Atlantis."

There was a long pause before Carson answered and Rodney busied himself washing out his favorite coffee mug while he waited. "So why are you staying with me next week?"

"I can't just invite myself to his apartment. Sucking a man's cock doesn’t give you sleep over privileges." He didn't mention John's offer to cook for him, because it was just tacos. They weren’t dating and they weren't in a relationship. They were just friends.

"Maybe you should ask him."

"No."

"Rod--"

"No. I can't. It'll be enough to see him at dinner."

Carson sighed. "It's your relationship."

"Yes, yes, it is. Not that it's a relationship."

"Sure it is, a relationship between idiots."

"Oh, very funny."

Rodney didn't tell Carson that he'd thought about it, what it would be like to stay at John's, to have sex and then wake up together and do it all over again. To maybe jerk off in the shower with John instead of alone.

He couldn't tell Carson that sometimes when he talked to John he'd find himself lying on his couch or bed practically curled around his phone.

He couldn't tell Carson that when he touched himself he imagined either his cock or his hand were John's, or that sometimes they both were.

He couldn't tell Carson and there was no way in hell he was telling John.

 

 

In the end it didn't matter, because the night he arrived in Colorado was the night they went back to Atlantis.

***

There were a lot of people Rodney disliked and even more he couldn't be bothered with, but there was only one person in the galaxy he truly hated. Kolya. Their luck being what it was, the team ran into him on one of their first missions after returning to Pegasus.

John killed him, and Rodney kind of, almost, wished he'd been the one to pull the trigger. Except he didn't want to use a gun, he wanted to strangle the bastard with his bare hands. So it was probably just as well that John had been the one to kill him.

They didn't talk about it, but that night they played chess until the sun came up.

Maybe it was lack of sleep that made Rodney careless enough to get caught in an Ancient device, although he was pretty sure Radek would claim it was arrogance and a desire to impress a pretty woman.

Having superpowers was cool, although not quite as cool as inventing a whole new math, and why the hell hadn't he thought to build them some new ZPMs while he was on the path to ascension?

"Did you have sex with Colonel Sheppard?" Carson asked, cutting into his hot turkey sandwich with neat, precise movements. They were having lunch in Carson's office because Carson had an experiment running and didn't want to leave it.

"What?" Rodney said, the realization of what Carson had said chasing all thoughts of ZPMs from his mind.

"I'd have thought, that facing death as you were, you'd..." Catching sight of Rodney's face, Carson flushed. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked."

Rodney sighed. "I thought about it, but it took a lot of concentration not to read minds and I don't think I would have been able to stay out of his if we were…"

"Wouldn't that make it better? Being able to know exactly what the other person wants."

Rodney considered pointing out that they were guys. They were supposed to be jocular or something when they talked about sex, not ask questions that the other guy didn't want to answer. "I don't know. Maybe," Rodney said and stuffed a forkful of gravy-coated turkey into his mouth.

"Were you respecting his privacy or was it something else?" Carson asked.

For a voodoo practitioner, the man was annoyingly smart or maybe he just knew Rodney really well. "I can be respectful," Rodney said.

Carson just looked at him.

"I didn't want to know, okay. How he feels, it's not really any of my business."

"You're sleeping together. I think that makes it your business," Carson said, but then his voice softened and he added, "The two of you still haven’t talked, have you?"

"We're not girls."

"Or adults, apparently."

"It's not that easy."

"You love him."

"Of course I love him," Rodney said, dropping his fork onto his tray. "He's the best friend I've ever had." Realizing how that sounded, Rodney added, "Except for..." and waved his hand in Carson's direction.

"You should tell him."

"I'll think about it," Rodney said, just to end the conversation.

 

 

It was Carson's damn fault for putting the thought in his head.

Back in his head.

What it would have been like to feel what John was feeling, to feel John's pleasure at his touch.

Even staying out of John's mind, he'd been able to feel John's fear, the anxiety that had radiated off of him in waves. More than once Rodney had almost reached out, but he wouldn't have been able to stay out of John's mind if they had touched, if John had been naked and warm against him.

He wondered if John thought about it, too, what it would have been like if they'd had sex while Rodney was SuperRodney.

John came to him that night, slipped into Rodney's bed in the dark, slipped back out again before it was light.

It had taken every bit of self-control Rodney had not to hold onto him.

***

The night he returned to Atlantis, Rodney knocked on John's door, didn't sneak in the way he had when John had rode that damned shuttle into a planet.

The door slid open, revealing John in jeans and a loose button down shirt. "Hey."

"Hey," Rodney said, stepping inside.

"How was it?" John asked. He'd been in the gate room when Rodney had gotten back, but they hadn't talked then beyond a "welcome back, McKay" and a shoulder squeeze.

"Awful." Three days with Carson's family, watching them grieve, bearing his own grief alone. He looked away from John, at the window covered by those ridiculously lacy curtains. Three days with time to think about all those things he was usually too busy to consider. The things he made sure he was too busy to consider. "I never told him that he was a good doctor, or that I respected him. I never told him that I valued his friendship."

"He knew, Rodney."

Rodney looked back at him, saw his own loss mirrored in John's face. Everything in him wanted to close the distance between them, but he stayed where he was. He owed it to Carson, to himself, to do this. "Maybe." Rodney looked away again. "There was one thing he was always after me to do something, and I never did it. Now I think maybe I should."

"That sounds like a good idea."

"You haven't heard what it is, yet." Realizing that he was twisting his hands together, Rodney forced them to his sides. "He wanted me to talk to you, to tell you…"

John took a step toward him.

Rodney swallowed, drew in a breath, gathered his courage. "I loved him, Carson, I mean, like a friend loves a friend." John was standing right in front of him now, within touching distance. "I never told him, but you're here, and I can… I love you, not like Carson, with you it's more a 'I really like it when you're naked' kind of love, which strictly speaking isn't the way a friend loves a friend, unless it's a really special kind of friendship."

"Yeah," John said, sounding as if his throat was as tight as Rodney's.

Rodney nodded, because his throat was still tight and there was no way he was saying that again.

John reached for the top button on his shirt. Rodney watched, confused, as John undid one button after another, until the shirt was hanging open, framing the chest Rodney never got to see enough of.

He shrugged the shirt from his shoulders and reached for the fastenings on his jeans. Pushing his jeans off over bare feet, he took hold of his briefs. Then he was standing there, naked, hands loose at his sides.

Rodney's heart was pounding. He didn't know if he should reach out or stay still, so instead he looked. Looked, and looked, and looked, until John cupped Rodney's cheek in his hand and Rodney's eyes fell closed.

"I love you, too," John whispered, "in an 'especially when you're naked' kind of way."

Rodney opened his eyes, his gaze locking with John's. He wished he'd read John's mind when he had the chance, because there was more in John's face than he'd ever understand.

Then John kissed him and everything untangled, became simple again.

Became warmth and touch and life.

This time Rodney held on until the sun came up.

And for a long time after that.