Because they have the technology, Rodney’s rebuilding him.
In the half-light that comes before dawn, John pushes his thigh against Rodney’s hands, warm hard palms rubbing against the new skin, the finely calibrated hairs, massaging the bio-metal that makes up the bones and muscles of John’s leg. Rodney’s fingertips skate over nerve endings that he made himself, and it makes John dizzy every goddamned time, dizzy, to feel Rodney’s touch on this skin, this new part of him, the sensation artificial and disorienting and precious.
“You like it when I do this,” Rodney says quietly, no judgment in his voice as he gets his dick up against John’s thigh, his own creation, the parts of John that he built with his hands.
“Yeah,” John replies, finally, getting his mouth on Rodney’s shoulder and squeezing his eyes shut and hanging on, on, as he comes against hot human skin.
The experimental med lab that they discovered made it possible; the lives they led made it necessary; Rodney made it happen.
Sergeant Bradshaw lost all the fingers on her right hand; the new ones are a little faster, a little more efficient (but she doesn’t shake hands anymore).
Ronon’s replacement is the most famous, is the one that all the new recruits hear about when they arrive on base: the man with the bionic heart, like in a touching scifi romantic comedy. Teyla once told John that, in the quiet moments when the city is still, she can hear the soft whirring noises of Ronon’s internal organs as they perform the daily work of life: heart, yes, but also liver, and pancreas, and one of his lungs, after that virus from M1K-2C6 ate away his insides.
Sometimes John finds himself staring at the shell of Dr. Parrish’s ear, the line of trauma almost indistinguishable now, his abduction and the bloody pieces of his body that they’d received from the kidnappers almost forgotten. John himself can no longer recall which parts Parrish lost – the ear, and his tongue, of course, and maybe a finger – he remembers holding a severed fingertip, but looking at Parrish’s hands as he quietly coaxes the greenhouse plants into life, John isn’t sure which finger it was.
John spends a lot of time in the greenhouses now; Parrish doesn’t speak much, still getting used to the technology that he holds in his mouth. Knowing how . . . different . . . his leg feels, even pressing harmlessly and mundanely against the fabric of his uniform pants, John sympathizes; it can’t be easy to have those strange new nerves sliding constantly against teeth and lips. But Parrish doesn’t seem to mind John hanging out in the greenhouses sometimes, even if he doesn’t say so, and John can’t help but feel some kind of desperate joy as he sits amid the growing plants, his fingers pushing against the worn-out fabric of his BDUs, against the shivery line of scar tissue underneath, where his new leg begins. He breathes in slowly, the air made fresh and oxygen-rich by the new life that surrounds him.
The explosion took Rodney’s right eye, but by then they were all old hands at this; Ronon stood by Rodney’s bedside and Parrish spoke words of encouragement as Radek and Keller collaborated on this new project. John watched the surgeries, and saw the globe of white pus that they took from the eye socket; it seemed impossible that such a thing had ever been a part of Rodney’s body, that John had pressed his lips against Rodney’s eyelid and felt the flutter of that little organ against his own skin.
The healing process is fast now, aided by nanobots and too much experience on the part of the doctors and nurses. Less than a week after the explosion, the only visible sign is the slight redness of Rodney’s skin where there were second-degree burns and the silvery sheen of his new eye, the slight metallic glint that covers over the new blue iris.
“I can see in the dark,” Rodney told him. “And infrared, and ultraviolet, when I want.” But it’s not quite right; Rodney gets headaches from the juxtaposition of those two modes of seeing, from trying to use his new eye concurrently with his old one.
John presses his lips against Rodney’s left eyelid, then moves to kiss his right, the veil of warm, artificial skin covering his new eye. Rodney shudders.
“You’re going to have to replace this one as well,” John says, finally, his fingers hesitating above Rodney’s left eyebrow.
“I know,” Rodney whispers. He keeps his eyes closed, his face buried against John’s body as John fucks him slowly. Rodney’s spread over John’s lap, his thighs bracketing John’s waist as they thrust together, and John begins to forget, too, where his body ends and where Rodney’s begins.
When Radek and Keller repeat the procedure on Rodney’s other eye, it’s the first nonessential bioreplacement surgery in Atlantis. It’s nowhere near the last.
It’s getting harder to get new personnel to acclimate to Atlantis. John wonders how they must seem from the outside, from the perspective of people who are pure flesh and bone and blood. Five years after they first discovered the med lab, almost everyone in Atlantis has some piece of the city inside of them, due to illness or accident or improvement. Many people followed McKay in getting eye-upgrades, their change discernable by the telltale glint of silver that flashes behind their pupils; others replaced arthritic joints, or torn muscles, or burned skin, their bodies a roadmap telling the story of their time here.
With every change – his other knee, his collarbone, the skin of his left palm – John feels himself closer to the city, more aware of its rhythms and needs somehow, connected by the biotech alive and breathing inside him. The tides of Atlantis rush in his blood and in the blood of all of its people, its technology penetrating them all easily, bringing them together. Sometimes, John runs his hand – always his left hand – over his body and breathes and breathes to the sound of Atlantis beneath his skin.
They have the technology, so they’re rebuilding themselves.
In the morning, under the first rush of light that floods the room as the sun pushes past the horizon, John slides his lips against Rodney’s, slow and warm and wet. Rodney keeps his eyes open while they kiss.
So does John.