“Storms every seven years, heat waves every four. What the hell kind of planet did we move to?”
Rodney’s grumbling was pretty much a universal constant, so John didn’t even open his eyes, just hummed in vague agreement and reached for his drink; something fruity and pink, and Sara in the kitchen had smiled as she put a little blue umbrella in it.
“And what the hell was Elizabeth thinking, not calling the Daedalus back? At least there would have been air conditioning.” There were the sounds of scraping and bumping and fabric shifting over skin and John almost, almost opened his eyes.
It had been a surprise to everyone that Atlantis didn't have any air conditioning.
"It's a complex air temperature modulation system," Rodney had said, "Using the city's hallways as a-"
"Is it gonna keep the heat below triple digits?" John asked.
Rodney glared, clenched his jaw, and then said, "No," obviously biting back a more scathing remark.
"Let's do what we can, gentlemen," Elizabeth had said, and they all nodded.
The geeks issued mandatory computer shut downs for all non-essential functions so that the computers wouldn’t fry, and Elizabeth had made a citywide announcement regarding the dress code. BDU’s were hacked off to make shorts, and shirts were ripped at the sleeves. During the hottest parts of the day they were on minimum shifts in the control room, which were rotated out every day, and the work day for everyone else was split into morning and evening.
“Like a siesta,” John had said, wiping the sweat from his face with a sleeve.
Elizabeth had smiled and Rodney had scowled, but they’d all agreed, especially after Carson’s vehement recommendation, that nobody should work in the heat of the day.
Everybody had breathed a long sigh of relief, and afternoons had become a time for naps, or to head to the mainland, or to hang out on the piers and lagoons where they could luxuriate in the wisp of breeze coming off the ocean. Gate travel had been suspended, and after John had personally checked to make sure that Atlantis was as secure as he could make it, he had slipped easily into the long afternoons of doing nothing, claiming the northeast pier for his own.
"Yes, of course you would claim your own pier," Rodney said, but John just shrugged.
"It doesn't cool off as much as the others," John said, "meaning it's private." He'd snaked a towel around his neck, saluted Rodney with his book, then headed down the hallway, his flip flops slapping lightly on the smooth floor.
It had taken Rodney a week, but he’d finally come around, trudging down to the pier in the worst of it, and flopping down into a chair. On the first day he’d worn tan science pants with ragged edges around the knees, a t-shirt, a floppy hat, and about eight tons of sunscreen. Day two had seen the pants cut off about two inches higher and sunglasses to replace the floppy hat.
“It makes my head too hot,” he’d said scathingly when John commented. “And we wouldn’t want the most important natural resource in this galaxy to become a useless puddle of stupidity.”
John had smirked and raised his glass.
Day four he was down to his boxer shorts and a tank top and John had become endlessly fascinated with the line of sweat that trailed from Rodney’s neck, down the top of his back and into the collar of his shirt. Rodney had a surprisingly nice back and the only way John could stop himself from staring was to close his eyes and pretend to sleep, often leading to vivid half dreams where Rodney talked him into an orgasm.
Today, John had smelled Rodney's sunscreen before he'd even heard him, and John was half afraid that Rodney had finally decided to forgo the shirt all together. Boxer shorts didn't cover much, discretion was the better part of valor, and John didn't need the temptation.
Taking a nap was easier for everyone involved, but after more grumbling about three more weeks of this, Rodney poked him in the arm and said, "Hey, you asleep?"
John grunted, but didn't open his eyes, and he could practically feel Rodney's scowl.
"Yes, right. Ignore me in my time of need," Rodney said, poking him again.
"What is it, McKay?" he drawled, eyes still shut. He flinched as something landed hard on his stomach, eyes flying open. It was McKay's jar of specially made sunscreen and John got a bad feeling, even as Rodney said in a muffled voice, "I need you to get my back."
John didn't even get a chance to tell himself not to look that time, eyes zeroing in on McKay as he dropped his shirt on the ground and settled on his stomach on the lounger, feet hanging off one end, laptop balanced at the other. Miles and miles of pale milky skin on his back, fading into the darker skin of his neck and arms and ending abruptly at the elastic waistband of his blue swirly boxers.
"You have freckles," John said stupidly.
"Mmm," Rodney hummed vaguely, hands already moving over the keyboard causing all sorts of muscles to flex and ripple. "Yes, moles too," he continued. "The curse of fair skin." Glancing over at John he added, "Which is likely burning as we speak," he said, glaring pointedly at the jar in John's hand.
"Yeah," John said, swinging his legs over the side of his chair. He hesitated before smoothly crossing the space between their chairs and kneeling next to Rodney, dipping his fingers inside the jar, then closing his eyes and taking a quick fortifying breath as he placed his hands on Rodney's back.
It was a nice back. Good, strong, carried a lot of weight on the shoulders, and John's fingers dug into the muscle, cause hell he was there, and what was a bit of a back rub between friends. And then Rodney groaned, deep and low, and John swallow hard.
"So, uh, what's with the spiky hair?" John asked, trying to keep focused on something other than the warm skin beneath his palms, as he streaked his hands down Rodney's spine.
"Sunscreen," he said in clipped tones. "My scalp is very sensitive and not all of us have a carpet on our heads."
It was automatic now. Small retaliations in a war of sarcasm that they'd started since the day they met. It had started with smirks and glares, and then, slowly, slowly, John had worked up to arm pats, light smacks, and head bops. Rodney still hadn't noticed anything and no one had accused John of pulling pigtails so he'd continued to do it.
So he didn't even think about digging his fingers in Rodney's side—not hard enough to hurt, not light enough to tickle.
But Rodney was apparently more ticklish than he'd given him credit for, because suddenly Rodney was warm and wiggling beneath his hands, squirming away with little breathless gasps, of, "Hey, hey!"
And John said, "Oh, Rodney," deep and low like the best discoveries in the world. The ones that were just a little bit dangerous.
Rodney flipped over; face flushed and hands raised. "Don't you dare, Colonel," he said, and John's slow grin spread wickedly across his face.
Because the sun was beating down on their heads and John was maybe a little drunk and slightly delirious, but mostly because Rodney was smiling even though he was trying not to, and he had giggled, which was a sound that John rarely heard.
"But Rodney," John said, and his fingers twitched again at Rodney's sides.
Rodney yelped and protested, "Hey, wait, what are you, five?" his voice going high pitched at the end, and his hands pushing back at John, swatting him away with quick movements. "Don’t you have anything better to do?"
John thought about it for a half a second before shaking his head. "No," he said simply, and then made his move.
Rodney was pretty strong, but John was quick, hands sneaking through Rodney's guard every time to find ticklish spots on his ribs, the backs of his knees, the pale skin under his arms. Careful, careful, careful, a single word running through his head like a mantra. Careful of his strength, and that Rodney could still breathe, and that his touch didn't linger inappropriately.
And Rodney was giggling and laughing and a little breathless, spitting insults at John through a face splitting grin, eyes dancing as he went from defensive to offensive, succeeding only in tumbling them both off the makeshift lawn chair and onto the deck.
John landed on his back with a thump, ever grateful that while the floor looked like metal it didn't retain nearly as much heat. Smooth and just a bit warm against his back, and Rodney piled on his front, all elbows and knees and uncoordinated limbs. And it didn’t mean anything, John was certain of this, his mantra still running on an endless loop in his head. It didn't mean anything except friendship and laughter and fun, and it wouldn't have changed except that Rodney was grinning wickedly even as he straddled John, easily pinning his legs, and clasped John's wrists above his head with one large hand.
"Ha!" Rodney said, exultant. "What do you think of that?"
And John's mind wasn't thinking anything at all actually, having whited out for a second at the all the possibilities, but John's body was pretty damn eloquent at filling in all the gaps.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rodney's mouth drop open, his eyes as wide and blue as the sky John was looking at.
"Oh," Rodney said, his voice small with surprise. "Oh wow."
Time stretched thin and fragile between them and John thought, careful, careful, careful. But this time it was careful not to move anything, careful not to say anything, careful not to ruin anything, even though he was sure it was too late.
"This is," Rodney was saying next, voice as uncertain as John had ever heard it, and John wanted to close his eyes, take off down the pier and dive into the ocean where it was deep and dark and cold, because the only time Rodney sounded uncertain was when things were bad. Not bad with the mission or Atlantis or the galaxy, but bad between them and John didn't know how to fix it any more than he had the last time.
But it was his turn to try, and so he opened his mouth and said, "I think maybe we should-" but he didn't get any farther, because Rodney was saying, "Shut up, shut up, shut up," against John's lips, sliding down until he was pressed full length against John's body, hands still clenched around John's wrists like he was afraid that John might try to get away.
"Shut up and kiss me," Rodney said, and John could only open his mouth and oblige.
"You know this only comes every four years," Rodney said, several hours later. The sun was getting low in the sky and they'd be expected to report back to duty soon, but neither of them was moving.
"Mmm," John hummed, vaguely interrogative, but mostly just enjoying the feel of Rodney tracing vague lines and shapes into the skin of John's chest, his fingers brushing almost accidentally against the chain on John's dogtags.
"I'm just saying that we should make the most of it while we can," Rodney insisted, raising up on one elbow so that he could look down at John.
John blinked a bit as he looked up at him then said, "Rodney if we take any more advantage of it, neither of us is going to be able to walk."
Rodney smacked him in the chest, even though John had been totally serious. He knew Rodney was in better shape these days, but he'd still never expected him to be that…athletic.
"Ow," he said belatedly, but Rodney wasn't paying any attention.
"I'm saying," he continued with a distinct lack of patience, "that since our duties are decreased for the next three weeks that we should," he waved a hand, "You know."
"Listen, Colonel, I'm just saying that—whatever it is that made you finally find me irresistible: the heat, the alcohol, the uncontrollable lust you have for coconut sunscreen—we should-"
"Make the most of it," John filled in, finally seeing where this was going.
"Yes exactly," Rodney said relieved, face as wide open as usual, a smile hovering at the corners of his mouth.
"Because after the heat wave is over, we, what," John started, shifting and sitting up, "just go back to the way we were?"
"Well yes, of course," Rodney said, looking confused, "Isn't that what you-"
And John couldn't listen to the end of that sentence, just grabbed Rodney's head in his hands and yanked him forwards, kissing him hard and reckless. "It's not the Mai Tai's and the damn sunscreen, McKay," he said when he pulled back.
Wide eyed, Rodney nodded and said, "Okay." Then he beamed as if it just occurred to him what that meant, and said, "Hey, that's great!"
John snorted, nuzzling at Rodney's neck and biting at his collarbone, as Rodney moaned and said, "I mean, well obviously I knew that sooner or later you'd—oh God, do that again—come to your senses and recognize that—Jesus, you're really good at that—but I didn't think that-"
And John just closed his eyes and smiled, letting Rodney talk him to orgasm.