Despite the fact that Carson was fine, had been able to break free from Lucius' thrall, John isn't really able to relax completely until they return to Atlantis, and the first thing out of Rodney's mouth is, 'Oh my God, I brought him orange juice!' Yes, he has plenty of faith in Carson's abilities, but he needs to see for himself that the people he cares about are really going to be alright.
Of course, once he knows they're fine, he doesn't quite know what to say or how to act. After all, what do you say to someone who spent several days fawning over some loser who hit a stroke of good luck?
"Still feeling any...urges toward Lucius?" It's not exactly what John meant to say, and from the look of it, Rodney's not too pleased, either.
"No, thank you, Colonel. I'm quite clear of any desire to do anything for Lucius other than give him a nice punch in the nose."
John promises himself he's not going to say anything else like that; not to anyone else and not to Rodney. The last thing any of them needs is him teasing them about this. But although he knows that, John can't seem to help himself. He's not trying to be insensitive or anything, but he can't seem to manage to just ask how anyone's doing. He really wishes he were better at the whole communication thing.
So, he keeps making deadpan remarks about urges and desires. Most everyone just seems kind of embarrassed about the whole situation, and after he's prodded enough to make sure lingering embarrassment is all that's left, it's easy enough to cut down on mentioning it. Well, except with Rodney, that is. He's never been able to resist anything that winds Rodney up, and the more he asks, the more irritated Rodney is.
As soon as, 'Not any more smitten than usual, today, are you?' slips out, John realizes he's gone too far. Rodney's mouth tightens into an angry line, which is far worse than his normal frown.
"Yes, Colonel. That's exactly what's going on. I'm so fucking smitten right now, I might just throw myself off the balcony in mourning for my lost love!"
John is grateful, at this point, that they're safely ensconced in Rodney's quarters. "Look, Rodney-"
"No! You have no idea what it's like to have someone fuck with your brain, make you like them and want to do anything for them! And I would have. Pretty much anything he wanted, I would have done it. So just...just go away, Colonel." Rodney's shoulders slump down as he finishes speaking.
"I know, but please, just go. Okay?"
John nods sharply and walks straight out the door, not looking back.
He stays away from Rodney for awhile, and goes to look in on Lucius, who is sulking in his cell. He won't say anything to John, but John doesn't need or want him to. He just wants to see that the guy responsible for messing up his city and almost getting his friends killed is still locked safely away.
Later, John goes down to Rodney's lab with the intention of apologizing, because even though he hates hates hates to apologize, he can tell this is going to be one of those times where he actually needs to.
There's a pile of that crap Ronon and Teyla brought back for Lucius sitting on Rodney's lab bench, and John winces in distaste. "Aren't you going to get rid of that?"
Rodney spins around abruptly, obviously not having heard him come in. The startled look on Rodney's face quickly morphs into an angry frown, and John's chest feels unexpectedly tight. "Thank you for the suggestion, Colonel. I never would have thought of it without your brilliant insight."
John wants to be anywhere else at this moment, but he needs to do this now, before Rodney has the chance to stew in his anger long enough that he won't forgive John. "Look, Rodney." Only, Rodney isn't looking at him at all; he's already turned back to whatever he was working on. John walks over and stands on the other side of the lab bench, waiting for Rodney to actually look at him.
"McKay." Rodney's eyes flicker up almost involuntarily. "Rodney, I'm sorry."
Rodney holds his gaze for a moment before sniffing once and bending back down to his work. John sighs; he has no idea why he thought Rodney might make this a little easier for him.
"Would you just stop for one minute?!"
Rodney looks up again, startled for a second, before his face slides back into a mask of anger.
"Why should I bother? Have you got something to say that's going to make any difference? That's going to make any of this any better? Of course not. All you've been doing is mocking me about something I'm trying to forget!"
"I know!" John takes a quick breath to calm down, because he's trying to apologize here, and Rodney does actually have every right to be angry. "I know. I'm not...good at this. I'm sorry about what I said, but there's nothing I can do to change any of what happened."
Rodney sighs heavily. "I'm aware. You're just being more insufferable than usual, and it's not making this any easier to deal with. So just go away, or something, and come back when you either know how it feels or can be more civilized."
Talk about being civilized is pretty rich, coming from Rodney, but John knows this isn't the time to mention that. When he turns to leave, the herb pile still sitting on the bench catches his eye. "Take some of it." It's out before John can properly think the idea through, but Rodney just gives him a look of incomprehension. "The plant or drug, or whatever. Take enough of it to make the effects last for a day or two. Then I'll know what it feels like, same as everyone else, and we can get on with forgetting any of it ever happened."
"What? You can't possibly- I mean, that would be a gross misuse of- Why would you want to let me do that?" Rodney sounds unsure about the idea, but strangely, that makes John feel more certain about it.
"You're obviously not willing to just accept my apology, or the matter would be closed already. This way, I'll have the same experience as everyone else, you get back at me enough that we can stop arguing, and then everything can go back to normal."
"You really don't want to do this." Rodney actually sounds worried now, and John doesn't like that one bit.
"Rodney." Rodney finally looks him in the eye. "I trust you with this."
Rodney opens his mouth again, and for a second, John is sure he's about to argue some more, but instead, he just says, "Okay." He walks over to his desk and roots around in one of the drawers for a minute and produces a nearly-empty vial. "This much should do the trick, and if it ends up being too much, we always have the antidote."
Before John can even agree, Rodney's swallowed what's left of the liquid. They stare at each other for a little while, but John can't tell if anything is different. He still feels the same, but he doesn't even know for sure if it should have started working yet or how he'll be able to tell when it has. He doesn't especially want to do anything nice for Rodney, and he's getting kind of bored.
"I don't think it's working, Rodney."
Rodney rolls his eyes and turns away from John. "Of course it wouldn't be. Some useless oaf with nothing whatsoever to contribute to anyone, anywhere, can make hoards of people do whatever he wants, and I, who could actually use people bowing to my whims productively, can't even get one man to feel like doing something for me."
"Maybe I just have a strong constitution."
"Yes, I'm sure that's it, Colonel. If anyone could manage to resist this stuff, I'm sure it'd be you."
"Well," John hops down from the table he'd been sitting on, "if you're done complaining, I think I'll just find something more productive to do. Unless you need some further consolation?"
"If I did, it wouldn't be from you," Rodney mutters.
"Why not?" John asks, more sharply than he'd intended.
"What?" Rodney says absently, already having gone back to whatever he'd been doing before John came to see him.
"Why not me? I'm not good enough for you? Or is there someone else?"
Rodney turns and just gapes at him while John tries not to lose his cool at the thought that Rodney might conceivably know someone who does a better job of cheering him up than John does. All of a sudden, Rodney's mouth snaps shut, and he approaches John cautiously. "Ah, of course not, Colonel."
"You should call me John." John gives Rodney an earnest look, wanting nothing more at that moment than to hear Rodney say his name, consider him a worthy enough friend for the familiarity.
"Alright, John." John's heart thumps stupidly fast. "Everything's just fine. You're perfectly adequate-" Rodney cuts off as John starts to frown. "I mean, you've always been a good friend, and if I needed someone to console me, of course I would come to you."
John smiles, stupidly relieved by Rodney's admission. "Okay."
John continues staring at Rodney, content just to be there with him. Eventually, Rodney speaks again. "Don't you have somewhere else to be?"
John shakes his head. "Not really." It's weird, because he could have sworn that he did have something to do, maybe paperwork, but right now, nothing feels as important as being near Rodney.
"Perhaps you'd like to make yourself useful, then, and help me dispose of the rest of this." Rodney gathers up an armful of the herb, and John eagerly follows suit.
"What are we going to do with it?"
Rodney heads for the nearest waste disposal unit and gets rid of his armload, waiting for John to do the same. Once all of it is taken care of, Rodney goes back to his laptop and resumes working.
John finds that he's still reluctant to leave, though he's pretty hungry, considering that it's late and he hasn't eaten yet.
"You hungry?" he asks after awhile, almost certain that Rodney hasn't eaten yet, either.
"What?" Rodney looks up from what he's doing. "Oh, well. Yes, I guess I am." He looks down at his stomach as it chooses that moment to start grumbling.
"Awesome, let's go, then."
Rodney gives him a funny look, but John doesn't mind too much since Rodney still follows him to the cafeteria. There's almost no one around, and the last of the kitchen staff is finishing clean-up from dinner when they arrive. She doesn't look all that pleased to see them, but a smile crosses her face when John tells her they'll be just fine helping themselves, and he'll make sure everything's cleaned up before they leave.
Rodney is at something of a loss as to what to do, and he just stares into the refrigerator blankly. John starts pulling things out, and within minutes, he's got two piled-high sandwiches sitting on the counter. Rodney boggles a little bit as John slides one of the sandwiches over to him and takes a big bite of the other one.
"Oh my God, how did I not know about your amazing sandwich-making ability?" Rodney asks through a mouthful.
John just shrugs; he has no idea why he's never made a sandwich for Rodney before, especially given how much Rodney is obviously enjoying it. Rodney finishes in no time, though John takes his time, finding it difficult to concentrate on eating while Rodney is making pornographic noises three feet away from him. When Rodney glances in his direction again, John feels himself blushing and quickly shovels the rest of his sandwich into his mouth.
"I, uh, I think I'm going to get some sleep now that the whole thing with Lucius is over." Rodney sounds almost as flustered as John feels. "Because it's tiring doing what someone else wants all the time, especially when they make you do stupid things like bring them orange juice, which could very well have ended very badly for me, and I'll just shut up now. Sleep."
Rodney is out the door before John can even think about following. He wants to go after Rodney immediately, but he wouldn't feel right not cleaning up when he said he would. It doesn't take long to finish, and it's late enough that he probably should go back to his quarters, get to bed soon, but all he wants to do is see Rodney again. Just for a few minutes.
When John gets there, though, Rodney doesn't answer the door. He knocks a couple more times, but still nothing, and he can't help being a little worried. Normally he'd never try to override the locks except in case of an emergency, but five more minutes of this convinces him that something could be really wrong. The second he walks in the door, it's obvious that's not the case, because Rodney is just stepping out of his bathroom, wearing only a towel.
They stare at each other for a long moment, while John tries his level best not to let his eyes wander from Rodney's face. "Colonel, ah, what are you doing here?" Rodney tries to surreptitiously to cross his arms over his chest, but all it does is draw John's gaze straight to his nipples, and then further down because he can't help himself.
John licks his lips. "I just wanted to check in, make sure you didn't need anything before I went to bed."
Rodney glances over at the bed, and suddenly all John can think about is Rodney asking if they can go to bed together. He relaxes his stance and his lips fall into a small smile; this could be the beginning of a very interesting night.
"Well, ah, I'm fine!" Rodney squeaks. "Just fine. Don't need anything. You should probably get back to your room so you can get a good night's sleep before we have to take Lucius back tomorrow."
John can't say he's not disappointed, but Rodney is probably right about getting plenty of sleep before the mission. He really should try to do that more often. "Good night, Rodney." John heads out the door with a little wave, Rodney watching until it shuts behind him.
The next morning, John wakes bright and early, feeling more well-rested than usual; Rodney's suggestion had been a good one, even if he might have enjoyed a different end to the evening more. John looks over at the clock, and wow, it really is early. Early enough to get Rodney some breakfast before checking on him this morning.
John's dressed and out the door within fifteen minutes, and he swings by the mess to pick up some of the weird waffle-like things that Rodney loves before heading over to Rodney's quarters. Rodney is still in bed, but that's not so bad; his alarm should go off soon, and this way, John will have time to eat his oatmeal.
Rodney’s still asleep when he finishes, so John starts tidying up some of the mess that’s scattered all over Rodney’s room. Rodney stumbles out of bed with his eyes still closed when John’s only half done. John waits while he makes a detour to the bathroom and has a cup of coffee ready and waiting. Rodney doesn't even question the appearance of ready-made coffee, just takes the mug and eagerly sucks down a couple of gulps before opening his eyes. John's probably lucky Rodney had swallowed by then because otherwise, he might have ended up with a face full of coffee.
"What are you doing here?"
John tilts the plate of sort-of-waffles in Rodney's direction. "Breakfast."
Rodney takes it with a scowl. "I don't know what you have to be so chipper about. It's far too early for breaking and entering."
John just grins. "It's not breaking and entering if the city lets me in." And she had, obviously realizing that John needed to be there for Rodney this morning. "Besides, you wanted breakfast, didn't you?"
John is suddenly worried, because maybe Rodney didn't want breakfast, doesn't want him here at all, and he obviously should have asked last night instead of just presuming-
"Yes, yes, of course. I'm just not used to dealing with people before my coffee."
John knows this – they've woken up off-world together too many times for it not to be obvious – but it's still comforting to hear. He smiles to himself as he watches Rodney demolish the sort-of-waffles. Everything's going fine until Rodney starts digging out a uniform and giving John his 'get out of my sight, minion' look. John doesn't really want to leave, because Rodney is going to be naked in there, but staying on Rodney's good side is generally for the best, and no way he's risking that.
Rodney meets him in the hallway in another couple of minutes, and John really wishes they could just spend the morning together, even if it's just turning on Ancient objects. It'll be just as well having Lucius out of Atlantis, though; what the guy did to everyone in the city still really pisses John off.
Luckily for everyone, Lucius is sullen and not very talkative on the way back to his village. Ronon already looks like he wants to shoot the guy point blank, and Teyla is wearing her severest frown. Rodney is sort of hovering on the edge of the group, as far away from Lucius as he can get, and John has to consciously keep himself focused on Lucius to keep from drifting over toward Rodney.
The villagers look pretty angry when they arrive with Lucius, but they've agreed not to kill him outright, which is possibly more than he deserves. John's not terribly pleased about it, but he wasn't about to argue with Elizabeth over her reasoning for wanting him to stay alive. In any case, John is glad to be rid of him, not least because that means he can focus on Rodney again.
It's less imperative now, since the absence of Lucius has Rodney acting less skittish, but that doesn't stop John from wanting to make sure he's alright. Only, Rodney keeps giving him looks; looks that say John is hovering too much and that he needs to cut it out before someone notices, but John doesn't care if anyone notices. He cares about Rodney, and it doesn't matter who knows that.
They get back to the Stargate before John can figure out a way to tactfully ask whether or not Rodney is feeling better now that Lucius is gone, which is disappointing. He wants Rodney to know that he can do better than he had with all the teasing. Oh, well; he has confidence that he can make it up to Rodney at some point.
Once they're back through the gate, John’s first thought is that he really needs to finish cleaning Rodney’s room; he hates leaving a job half-finished, and there hadn't been time this morning. He’s almost there when Rodney catches up with him and stops him in the hallway.
“John! God, how is it that you can still run so much faster than me?”
Rodney does sound a bit winded, and John feels bad for getting so far ahead without thinking about the possibility that Rodney may be headed the same place he is. “What’s going on, buddy?”
“I need you to come to my lab with me.”
“But I was going to-”
“Clean my room; yes, I know. This really is more urgent than the cleanliness of my living space.”
John nods. “Alright, let’s go.”
The second John drinks the vial of liquid Rodney hands him, he remembers telling Rodney to do this to him and why he’d thought it was a good idea in the first place. Now, he wants to haul off and punch Rodney for not making him understand exactly what might happen.
Well, no, that’s not really true. What he actually wants to do is finish cleaning Rodney’s room and perhaps straighten up a few things in the lab, as well. The thing is that now he gets why he’s feeling this pull toward Rodney, and he wants nothing more than for it to go away.
“Did you take the pheromone suppressor?”
“No. Is that really necessary if you’ve already taken the cure?”
“Apparently so, if the continued urge to clean your room is anything to go by.”
Rodney’s mouth flattens into a thin line. “Okay.”
He gives himself the injection, and John already feels the pull lessening. He still wants to do nice things for Rodney and be around Rodney, but no more than he had before. If only that actually made any of this easier. “Right, thanks.”
John turns and leaves the lab, not even looking back when Rodney calls his name. Right now, he’s content to head to his office and do the paperwork he'd put off last night.
John doesn’t expect the paperwork to do a damn thing to take his mind off of what just happened, so he’s not really surprised when he sits down with it and can’t even concentrate long enough to fill out a requisition form. Thoughts of what he’d done, what he’d been willing to do, how much he’d just plain adored Rodney for that brief period of time are all wrapped up in embarrassment over the fact that he’d acted like a fucking love-struck teenager over his best friend.
And he knows, realistically, that Rodney had been extremely good about the whole thing. He hadn’t even actually asked John to do anything for him at all, which almost makes it worse. Everything he’d done had been because he had wanted to, because he’d wanted Rodney to be happy and to want to spend time with him. And that’s not even taking into account the not-exactly-stray thoughts Rodney’s near nudity had inspired.
John’s never been immune to the...assets of the male figure, but recognizing that he is sometimes attracted to guys is nothing like suddenly being hot for his best friend, though yes, he’s known all along that Rodney has some admirable features.
John wonders if it was like this for all of them, if everyone on Atlantis had been attracted to Lucius. It’d probably make him feel better to think so, but if he’s being honest with himself, he’s pretty sure anyone that had been had most likely had it suggested to them. And if so, does that mean that he’s really just attracted to Rodney? If he went to see Rodney right now, would he look at his best friend and think, ‘yes, I’m attracted’? He doesn’t think he wants to know.
Unfortunately, avoiding Rodney is never in the cards when he wants it to be, and this time is no exception. It probably hasn’t even been more than an hour since he’d walked out of the lab without allowing either of them a chance to say anything, which is nowhere near enough time for John to have figured out what he should do or how to treat the situation. The one bright spot is that Rodney, as usual, already has something to say, taking some of the pressure off of John.
“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” Rodney starts the second John’s office door shuts behind him. “You were the one who told me to do it, though. I know it sucks, having someone else tell you that you want to do things for them and you basically going along with it whether you actually do or not, but that’s no reason to run away without letting me make sure you’re okay!”
Normally, John wouldn’t touch a conversation like this with a ten foot pole, but Rodney’s being reasonably nice about this, especially considering how John had acted when it had been the other way around.
“I’m fine, Rodney. I didn’t...well, okay, I did mean to avoid this conversation, but not because I’m mad at you or anything. It was...” John pauses, trying to figure out how much he wants to tell Rodney. Rodney still looks worried enough - though he’s obviously trying to hide it - that John doesn’t have it in him to keep it to himself. “You didn’t actually tell me to do anything.”
Of course Rodney wouldn’t make this easy on him; he can almost always half-read John’s mind when John would rather keep something to himself but can’t manage to figure out what John’s trying to say when he was there for it in the first place. “You never even made one suggestion about what you wanted me to do. I did all of it myself.”
Rodney looks thoughtful. “You did, didn’t you? Hmm.” All of a sudden, he gets a certain gleam in his eye that John knows can only mean something very good or something very bad. “And that must mean that subconsciously, you’ve wanted to do things for me all along. It would explain why you’re forever hanging around my lab even when we’re not testing Ancient devices. Who’s the one that's smitten now?”
John probably should have expected that one since Rodney’s always been fond of turning what he says back on him, but it’s too close to the truth to work as the insult Rodney intended. John doesn’t mean to do it, but before he can stop himself, he’s giving Rodney the once-over. He isn’t usually prone to showing embarrassment, but the second he sees Rodney’s confused expression, he can’t help blushing because honestly, he just blatantly checked Rodney out.
And maybe the worst part isn’t that Rodney saw him do it, but that John feels exactly the same way he had when he’d done so while being affected by the drug – a little bit like he wants to rip Rodney’s clothes off and a lot like if he did, things could get very interesting. After a moment, Rodney seems to pick up on what just happened, and John decides that maybe the worst part is that Rodney knows what's going on.
“Wait, does that mean...you really are smitten?!” Rodney looks more flustered than John feels, but somehow, that doesn’t actually alleviate the sudden mad flipping in his stomach.
“I wouldn’t say smitten, precisely,” John hedges.
“But you’re attracted, aren’t you? You’re attracted to me.”
“Maybe a little.”
“Well, yes, okay. We’d better get you another dose of the cure before you decide I want you to do something about that attraction or whatever other asinine thing you think would make me happy. Right.”
Rodney turns to leave, and it would be so easy for John to let him go, to let this be written off as some fluke due to being under an outside influence, but John knows that things like this tend to fester rather than disappear, and if he actually puts it out there now, shows Rodney that he knows what he's saying, he can bypass all the time he'd probably spend pining and move on.
“I don’t need it, Rodney. Stuff’s all out of my system already.”
“Okay, sure, but why don’t you just come with me anyway and we can make sure.”
“You know what, fine. Let’s go get that second dose.”
They get to the lab and John tips back the vial Rodney hands him, setting it on the lab bench when he’s done. Rodney’s obviously waiting for a reaction, so John steps right into his space, cups his jaws with both hands, and presses their lips together.
For a moment, they stand frozen like that, with Rodney not reciprocating and John wondering what possessed him to be so reckless in the first place. Then, John stops worrying about it and Rodney gets with the program, which is when things really take off. They’re kissing like there’s no tomorrow, like they might never get to do it again, and John’s having trouble breathing and keeping up with Rodney at the same time.
Eventually, he pulls back and lets go, though Rodney’s still got a firm grip on his waist. Rodney seems like he might be as shocked as John is, because while John had imagined it would be decent, he’d never have guessed that their chemistry would be that good.
“So, yes, that was new.”
“No shit, Sherlock.” Rodney frowns slightly, and whoops, John hadn’t meant to be hurtful about it, but sarcasm has always been a familiar friend in uncertain situations. “Sorry. It’s just...that went better than expected.”
“Yes, thank you, I am aware. You can seduce anything with legs, and apparently I’m no exception. Well done, Colonel.”
“You were the one who thought I was still being influenced by your desires.”
“Not my desires! Your desires! To make me happy.”
“By trying to get into your pants?”
“Possibly not my most well-thought-out theory.”
“Not really, no.” John doesn’t really know where this conversation is going, and apparently neither does Rodney, because they stand there for long seconds, sort-of-but-not-really looking at each other. “Right, so I’ll just leave you to your...work.”
“That’s it, then? You just kiss me and run off, and we never speak of it again, but everything gets progressively more awkward until we can’t even be friends anymore?”
That’s a lot of jumping to conclusions, even for Rodney. “I just thought you might want some time to think things over, is all.”
“Are you kidding? I haven’t had chemistry like that with someone since, well, ever. Why would I pass that up?” Rodney pauses. “Unless that was your tactful way of telling me it’s never going to happen again.”
John sighs; Rodney never, ever makes things easy for him. “That’s not what I was saying at all. I think we should give it a go; I just figured you wouldn't want to jump right into a…thing.” John almost can’t believe how surprised Rodney looks at hearing that, except he knows how insecure Rodney can be about his interpersonal relationships. “Seriously, we’ve been friends for how long? We can manage to make a relationship work.”
“Right, of course we can. It’ll be just like this,” Rodney gives John a quick, hard kiss, “only better and more ongoing.”
John can’t help watching Rodney’s mouth as he continues on - something about the benefits of being friends before starting a relationship - and wonders how quickly he can shut Rodney up. He’s betting it won’t take long. Yeah, this is gonna be great.