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Never Have I Asked an August Sky

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"Fuck," Sheppard said flatly when he opened the door, which could have meant practically anything. He blinked, then blinked again, and then said, "Rodney."

That could have meant practically anything, too, but he didn’t sound unhappy.

"Major," Rodney said by way of a greeting, which sucked and was stupid and oh my God, if there was room left for this to get more pathetic, then absolutely the way to get there was to call the man by his military title, as if he’d driven seven hundred and thirty miles through fucking Kansas for some kind of horrifically awkward war-buddy reunion moment.

Sheppard put his hand on the doorframe and said in his most serious voice, the one that always meant mockery, "Rodney, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re in Oklahoma."

"Well, as long as you don’t mean the musical, I think I can manage," Rodney said. But he didn’t want to – he wasn’t here to –

I never thought I would see you again, he wanted to say.

Not that he was here to.... No. Not that, either.

Or that.

Well, apparently Sheppard had found the perfectly appropriate phraseology after all. Fuck.

"Well, come on in," Sheppard said, at the exact moment that Rodney seized control of his own mouth and said,

"It’s really good to see you, John."

Something wary and a little cold showed itself against Sheppard’s fucking impenetrable expression. He should have stuck with "Major," maybe; Rodney was forever figuring out what he should have said the second after he said some other thing entirely. Strangely, having the first conversational blunder out of the way relaxed him somewhat. And anyway Sheppard stepped out of the way and held the door open, so he was apparently still invited inside.

"Yeah, you too," Sheppard said as he nudged the apartment door closed with his foot behind Rodney. "You, uh.... You’ve lost weight."

Rodney glanced down at himself. Had he? The first year he was on Atlantis maybe, but the next two years, too – the two years since Sheppard had seen him? Maybe Sheppard was just trying to be polite. Or maybe he was a lot fatter in Sheppard’s memory than he was in reality. Or maybe he really had lost–

Oh, for the love of God, what did it fucking matter? "You – you look – nice. Good. You look...."

But mercifully, Sheppard didn’t seem to be paying any attention to him. He was pushing newspapers and manila envelopes off the battered couch that was his only living room furniture. "You drove all the way from Cheyenne?" he asked.

"It’s not that far," Rodney said lamely. What’s ten hours between friends? Except they’d never really been friends. Or – no, well – maybe. Maybe they had.

Rodney didn’t think he had a single memory of John Sheppard that he really trusted. Who the hell knew, at this point, what they’d ever been to each other? He’d wanted them to be friends. He knew that much, and that was exactly why he suspected himself of fabricating.... He had a tendency to do that. It had been pointed out to him on multiple occasions, sometimes accompanied by words like stalker and restraining order, which Rodney thought were very out of proportion to events, but that was neither here nor there.

"It’s Oklahoma," John said. "What are you – seriously, Rodney! What are you doing in Oklahoma?"

"Well, what are you doing in Oklahoma?"

"I live here!" Sheppard said, which was...not an unreasonable response. "You live in Atlantis," he said, and then his vague bafflement turned on a dime, sharpening dangerously. "You do, right? They didn’t make you– "

"No," Rodney said quickly. "No, they – no. I still live there."

The last time Rodney had been on Earth, he’d come through the Stargate with Major Sheppard, then gone back to Atlantis by spaceship without him.

They didn’t make you–

No. They hadn’t made anyone but John stay behind.

"Good," Sheppard said. "So how’s...everything?"

There was an early winter sunset outside John’s balcony door and no overhead lighting in his blocky, anonymous apartment and one floor lamp with a yellow shade next to the sofa and all the light in the room seemed to fall at an angle to John, skirting his edges. When Rodney touched his face, his skin was cool, and when Rodney kissed him, it was like a crash course in dark matter. John put one hand against his side, and even that contact – thoroughly voluntary and apparently a sign of reciprocated...something – felt like an absence somehow.

He kissed John for what felt like a long time, and then when he tried to stop, John kissed him instead, brief and sweet. When John pulled back he was smiling just a little bit and running his hand soothingly over Rodney’s ribs and he said, "It’s good to see you, too."

*

Forget this. It can be like it never happened, if that’s what you need.

Keep the fantasy of him, because the fantasy was sleek and ultimately boring, vaguely pretentious art-porn with bad sound editing and stilted camera angles, comfortable in its unreality. Your sexual fantasies have always been a little on the rote side, your creative faculties taken up with the important things, with your work.

Forget how his mouth is awkward and lopsided against yours, how his neck is sweaty and his hand grips your knee like he doesn’t know where else to put it. You know too much now.

You’re on a planet, who cares which one, but not your own – not either of your own – and he tastes like the local beverage, part beer and part licorice. The first thing he says when he stops kissing you is, "I’m not drunk." Then he smirks and adds, "Unless you want me to be." His smile is what always undoes you, so forget that first.

"Sadly, neither am I," you say. "If I were, I wouldn’t remember this tomorrow."

Every tomorrow since you met him is supposed to be the day you forget about him. You’ve made and broken that promise to yourself so many times that it has the force of ritual now.

He doesn’t lose his quirked little smile, but it grows brittle. That doesn’t matter: any smile, all of his smiles. His eyes are warm on yours, and he says, "Okay, I get it. Enough said." Done and done – Major Sheppard has made a pass at you, and you rejected him. You now have an understanding: this never happened.

And if it never happened, then the rest of the night can’t have happened, either. He will not crawl into your tent late at night, will not stretch out on top of you with your nylon military-issue all-weather sleeping bag between your bodies, will not put his hand over your mouth and mutter, "How about we *don’t* talk the whole way through, whaddaya say?"

"I hope you realize– " you will not try to say, your voice muffled through his fingers, and he will shut you up – he will not shut you up by kissing you.

Whatever you think you remember – don’t. Just don’t. It’s easier to work with somebody you haven’t seen naked, and it’s easier to lose a friend if you never had a chance to learn that he kisses lopsided, that you can make him laugh – out loud, the way he never, ever laughs – by stroking his lower ribs, that he sighs after sex, his breath warm on your shoulder, like a little apology for what this is, for what it isn’t.

What are his apologies worth to you? You’re sorry, he’s sorry, everyone’s sorry, but you don’t stop. The universe is mostly nothingness, the distance between stars, and the distance between what you wanted and what you got, that’s what’s real. All that vacuum, all that wasted space. Everywhere you look, wherever you are in the universe, what you see is mostly what isn’t there.

It can be like it never happened, if you try hard enough. And that’s what you need.

*

They fucked like they were following a manual of some kind – not too fast and needy, not too slow and self-indulgent. Kiss, kiss, this is my bedroom, obviously, more kissing, less clothing, John’s hand on his dick, then his mouth on John’s. They hadn’t slept together enough to have habits of their own, so instinctively they both stuck to what felt like a solid bet, to nothing that would give too much away.

And as miserable and hollow and sad as that should have been, when Rodney put his face against John’s neck and smelled him for the first time in two years, it wasn’t hollow at all. It was John. He wrapped his hands high on Rodney’s arms and mumbled, "Okay, Rodney, yeah. Hey...yeah." And that was John, too.

When John came in his mouth, Rodney shifted up to press his forehead against John’s stomach. John put both hands lightly on the back of his head and held him there until Rodney could muster the appropriate manly silence.

He propped himself up on his elbow, looking down at John in the dark. "Tell me everything," John said, and if he’d been willing enough to have sex with Rodney, the real hunger was in his voice, not in what his body had just given and taken. "I know it’s classified, but– "

"As if I care about that," Rodney said, too harshly. His anger wasn’t for John. To prove it, he moved his thumb softly against John’s cheekbone and felt the tiny, delicate muscles in his face as they relaxed. "You’re one of us," he clarified.

"Not anymore."

Always, he wanted to say. He wanted to be able to say it because it was true, the way he’d always been able to tell John the absolute truth. But Atlantis was full of strangers now, solidly, soberly professional armed men and women who patrolled the halls like Swiss clockwork, who had never met and didn’t care about Major Sheppard. Rodney didn’t have any real reason to dislike them...except for that.

"What’s Caldwell like?" John asked.

"Picardian," Rodney answered immediately.

"Well, Picard was a better captain than Kirk," John said, trying and not quite managing to suppress a smile. Rodney snorted. "Come on, just because you had a hard-on for Kirk doesn’t– "

"Can we not have this– Can we not do it this way?" Rodney said abruptly. "I mean, in our stupid little code, so we can pretend we’re not actually talking about what we’re talking about? No, he’s not a better commander than you, but he’s different, Atlantis is different now. Yes, I’m attracted to Captain Kirk and yes, I’m attracted to you, for some but not all of the same reasons, and actually, mostly for not at all the same reasons, beginning with the fact that he doesn’t exist and you – I think I came here because I needed to know that you do, all right? I was starting to think I – I don’t know – made you up. No, that – us, that I made us up."

John pushed up on his elbows and kissed Rodney’s jaw, slowly and with a scrape of teeth along the bone. "How long can you stay?"

"A...day or two," Rodney hedged. One day, really, was all he had left once SGC had eaten through the lion’s share of his supposed vacation, but he didn’t want to say it so bluntly. He didn’t want it to be quite that true.

"Okay, so we’ll talk more in the morning," John said, gruffly soothing. "Get some sleep now; you’ve had a hell of a drive."

Part of Rodney wanted every minute, felt that sleep was a shameful waste of what could very literally be his last days on Earth. But then he let himself give in to the weight of his exhaustion, and to the even stronger gravitational pull of John Sheppard, with whom Rodney had never spent the night, not once before. He put his head gingerly on John’s shoulder and closed his eyes.

Bone and skin and hair and sweat and the subtle rasp of his breathing and God, oh God, it was so real. He was really here, in Enid, Oklahoma, Planet Earth, pressed naked and terrified and grateful against a man he hadn’t had time to fall in love with until after it was way too late.

*

Remember how you used to want the sleeping weight of him in your arms? But you never had that.

You put your arms around him, though. During. And after, too. After, too.

You haven’t forgotten the way he sat up

Major Sheppard sat up

He sits

The way John Sheppard

John sits up on the edge of your bed, dragging the sheets with him. He stretches, back arched and fingers hooked together and reaching up over his head. You sit up, too. It’s dark and he’s not facing you and you still feel flushed and your chest is sore – overtaxed, you always overextend your heart doing this, you’re hypertensive, you know better, you know – and you touch the brittle bones of his spine as he leans over to find his clothes on your floor.

John. You haven’t forgotten, you can’t, you’ve honestly tried but trying does you no good at all.

He dresses like a soldier. Everything he wears feels like body armor, now that you’ve been underneath it all. You resent the black t-shirt that covers up the pale knots of his spine, but you have a certain affection for it, too. It’s so John. It’s the first thing he always dresses himself in, even before his underwear. You touch the seams over his shoulders. You lean against it, and you want and you hate and you resent and you regret and you adore.

Have you ever adored anyone in your life? Is that a word that even meant anything to you before him, an idea that ever crossed your mind? He’s a hero, your gray and black knight in his cotton armor, but you save him. You do. He knows it, needs you, counts on you and damn few others – in his whole life, you suspect. You adore him, and he trusts you.

Which of those things is harder to forget? Which, in the end, changed you more?

"I’ll help," you say, your voice rough and sore from the silence you keep when you fuck. You press against his back and put your arms around him and buckle the belt he was struggling with in the dark. You can’t see in the dark any more than he can, but you’re good with tools, with blueprints, with how things are built to fit each other.

He puts his foot up on the edge of the bed and lets you stretch your arms around him to tighten his bootlaces, to wrap them and tie them. He leaves old mud and dust from alien worlds on your sheets when he goes, and you leave – what? Maybe a faint bruise from where your chin rests high on his shoulder while you work.

How many times did it happen like this? Three, five? Enough for a pattern, not enough for habit. Three points on a plane is enough to draw a certain line, but what can you build out of one line? Nothing, that’s what.

Remember how you wanted him to stay? How many words did you think of, alone in the dark, how many ways of asking him, and how many of his imaginary arguments did you roundly defeat, safely inside your head?

But you never asked, and now you’ve forgotten why not.

*

They went to sleep so early that John was up at a truly godawful hour, barely past five o’clock. Rodney pretended that John’s squirming around hadn’t woken him up, and then watched him in the dark as he pulled on boxers and a t-shirt. He twisted his fingers up in John’s pillowcase, his hand aching to go out and press on the wayward shocks of John’s mussed hair.

The floor creaked under John’s bare feet as he moved around the kitchen, brewing coffee and doing something with pots and pans, and this was another thing that had never belonged to them. Rodney’s stomach lurched – hunger or regret. In Rodney’s experience, both sensations made his stomach uncomfortably acrobatic.

He got up himself, and used John’s bathroom but dithered over whether or not to use John’s toothbrush. How much more intimate could it be than what he’d already had in his mouth since he got here? But on the other hand, he’d been invited to do that (Rodney, you wanna suck – suck my – oh, yeah, just like that), and this.... He settled for rinsing his mouth out under the faucet. John liked his coffee strong, Rodney remembered that much; the coffee would probably exterminate whatever bacteria was left in his mouth as well as any toothpaste could.

He poured himself some coffee and sat down at the kitchen table just as John was ready with the pancakes, setting them in front of Rodney with Bisquick stuck to his cuticles and caught in the fine, dark hairs on the back of his wrist.

"‘S good," Rodney mumbled around his fifth or sixth buttery, syrupy mouthful.

John smirked at him, stirring sugar into his own coffee. "Elizabeth didn’t think you’d go along with militarization," he said in a weirdly diffident tone, like they were talking about some foreign election or the weather.

"I don’t know why not," Rodney said. "I’ve been working for SGC for twelve years; it’s always been military. That wasn’t the part that upset me."

Too much, he guessed, because John frowned and then stared for a while at the sink behind Rodney’s head. "You do the same stuff now?"

"Pretty much," Rodney said. "Our research priorities have...shifted, but you know, it wasn’t so much against anyone’s will. It’s...intimidating. The whole galaxy is intimidating. Nothing turns a theoretical scientist into a pragmatist faster than the Wraith."

"They still send civilians off-world?"

Rodney nodded around the last mouthful of sopping-wet pancakes, then swallowed a little too quickly and burned his tongue chasing it with coffee. John made the best coffee. "We’re only allowed to have one team in the field at any given time, and there’s an application process to get mission approval. Paperwork. Caldwell priortizes the requests. I still go, though. My applications generally get top priority. I blew up a solar system," he added. "Well, five-sixths of one." He didn’t really want John to know that, but on the other hand, he begrudged every tiny thing John didn’t know about the last two years – and that wasn’t exactly a tiny thing.

John raised his eyebrows. "On purpose?"

"Um, no," Rodney admitted. "The experiment looked a lot better on paper. It was uninhabited, though."

"How’s Teyla?"

Rodney stared at his plate, drawing lines in the syrup with his fork. "She’s...." He happened to look up then, and John’s stricken look drop-kicked Rodney’s brain back into motion. "Oh, no, no," he said hurriedly. "She’s not– She’s alive, she’s fine." John sagged against the back of his chair in relief, giving Rodney an eloquent little glare for scaring him like that. "She’s living on the mainland, with the rest of the Athosians," Rodney said. "She didn’t...there were...we just went a certain direction with the Wraith that she wasn’t...comfortable with. She just thought it was better to go."

"Jesus, what did you guys do?"

Rodney shrugged. "Biological warfare. Listen, can we– This is the part – it’s classified, and...." And he frankly really didn’t want to talk about any of it. "I’ll tell her you said hi," he added awkwardly.

John nodded, the calculations visible behind his eyes. "So you have a whole new team," he said.

"Right. Yes. Actually, almost all the teams are completely new...new since you were there. You know how the military works; if you need to show them things are getting done, throw them a reorg. Every team goes out with a medic now – that’s policy. Carson’s not bad. You wouldn’t think – but he’s changed a lot. He’s a better shot than I am."

"That wouldn’t be hard," John said, but Rodney thought he meant it affectionately. "I never would’ve thought anyone could make him join an off-world team, though."

"He’s changed a lot," Rodney said again, a little unhappily. The things that had changed Carson most were a lot of the same things Rodney most wished had never happened. That put an odd element into their friendship.

"Who’s in command?"

"You wouldn’t know him," Rodney said, and then wished he hadn’t said it. "He’s...he’s a Marine. Major Lorne. He’s a bit on the dull side, but he’s...good. He does a good job."

"Are you seeing anyone?" John asked in the exact same businesslike tone he’d used to inquire about policy and command changes. Rodney looked up abruptly, but he couldn’t see the shift in John’s face, either.

His mouth had gone a bit dry, so he took another swig of coffee. "Ah, no," he said. "Not lately. There was a woman...Katie Brown, in botany? Did you know her?"

"Redhead?"

"Yes, right. We.... But we’re not anymore. You?"

"Yeah, I hit all the gay bars in Enid, Oklahoma," John said dryly. "There’s a real scene out here, you’d be surprised."

"You’re being sarcastic," Rodney hazarded.

John rolled his eyes. "I’m being sarcastic."

"But you...date women, too. I mean, you could be seeing a woman."

John stood up and took Rodney’s plate away from him. "I’m kinda sick of that, actually," he said, his voice light but not especially pleasant. "I’m not really.... I don’t know. Maybe I never was."

Never was what? Rodney almost asked, but then truthfully, he could guess, and what business was it of his anyway, if John didn’t want to say anything more? "What about you?" he asked instead, though he thought the effort was probably doomed. John hadn’t been easy to get inside of, even when they were...closer than they were now. "What are you doing?"

With his back to Rodney as he rinsed off the plate, John shrugged. "I’m with the 71st Flying Training Wing. Guys who can already fly helicopters, I give them the crash course for the fixed-wing qualifying exams. Preferably without the crashing part."

"That sounds...pretty good," Rodney said. He was still flying, anyway. Maybe that was...all that mattered?

"It’s all right," John said. Rodney couldn’t tell if that was all right as in que sera sera, or all right meaning that he liked it here. "Listen, I have to be back on base this afternoon," he said. "So...."

"So...." He couldn’t honestly expect Rodney to know what came next, could he? He did remember Rodney, after all.

"So if you want to go back to bed, we should do that now."

"Okay. Yes," Rodney said, with hardly the foggiest idea whether he was being offered a nap or sex or – or what he really – wanted, which was....

The answer was still yes, though.

*

Remember this. This is really what happened.

John Sheppard pushes you down on tangled sheets and kisses you slowly. It’s still dark outside. It’s the eighth of December – winter, not summer.

It was summer when you said goodbye to him, but this is winter, and it’s morning, and years have passed and you will never have him back, not the way you had him for the strangest, most chaotic, most beautiful year of your life.

This is now. Remember it.

His tongue is gentle against yours, a touch, a slide. His hands press down on your stomach, your chest. You make low, sad noises into his mouth because he wants you so much. You weren’t sure, you didn’t know, but now you do.

It was more than just convenience, a handful of isolated moments of adrenaline and shock and loneliness. He wants you, he always wanted you – in real life, not just when you hallucinate the friend you wish you had by your side, not just when you can’t keep yourself from dreaming.

Remember this.

He smiles widely and licks at your mouth while his hands jerk your pants down your hips and he rubs your cock. "You really haven’t been with a guy since me?" he asks.

"No," you say. You would not lie to him, but if that weren’t the truth, you would want to lie to him. You want him to hear that, and maybe understand. "Nobody after you," you say.

He doesn’t understand, but maybe he’ll remember it. Maybe someday he’ll know what you meant.

"I’ll fuck you," he offers, a lazy purr against your lips. His thumbs slip under the legs of your boxer shorts and rub the soft, sweaty places high inside your thighs.

"Oh," you say as soon as you remember, because you don’t lie to him, won’t lie to him, never have lied to him. "Yes – one. I forgot." He pulls away to look at you, suspicion and laughter and annoyance, and you try to look contrite. "No, I actually forgot," you explain. "As in, I have no memory of it. P4Z-230 is awfully fond of their hallucinogens, and we had a bit of a weekend."

"Rodney," he says dryly, "you fucked a Marine?"

"God, no," you say, amazed at the idea. As far as you know, Major Lorne’s clothes are molded to him. You had to hack his personnel file to find out his first name. "I fucked Ronon – I think. At least, I definitely woke up naked, and Carson was so angry with me, and he’s oddly protective, Androcles’s lion and all that."

He touches you more intensely then, holding your thighs steady and apart a little, circling his hips against yours. "Lion?" he says, bemused.

"No, human," you say, and it’s only when he laughs that you realize that can’t be what he meant. "Mostly human, anyway," you say in your own defense. "A bit Neanderthal, but definitely on the family tree."

John licks your neck and bites your ear and whispers into it, "I think I’m jealous."

"Don’t be," you say. A part of you wants him to be, but most of you needs him to believe what you say. What you say you always mean. You’re a bad liar, and most of all a bad liar to John. "He’s...he’s much too...tall for me."

"Oh, sure, okay," John says. "The hell with him, then."

"The hell with him," you say. The hell with all of them, with everything, with everything that isn’t John. You shake when you kiss him, and you whimper when he’s inside you, and you love him when your fingers follow the tracks of his sweat down the side of his face and onto his neck..

Remember this. You don’t know when you’ll be here again, and someday you’ll be tempted to doubt.

This is how it happened. It was in the morning, during winter. He looked down at you with blown pupils, dazed and a little bit broken, and you touched the crow’s-feet by his eyes and told yourself to remember, remember, believe.

*

They walked down to their cars together, the steps slick with half-melted frost under the noon sun, and for no real reason that Rodney could see, John opened his car door for him. They stood like that for what felt like a long time, with the door between them, Rodney’s fingers skittering nervously across the hood. "I could probably write if you want," Rodney finally said. "E-mail, I mean."

"And say what? Anything you send would have to be cleared anyway." The disappointment must have shown on Rodney’s face, because John softened around the eyes a little and added, "But I’m glad you came. It was nice to...hear from home."

There was no one in the parking lot of John’s complex, not at noon on a weekday, but still Rodney found himself saying, "Everybody misses you," because apparently they were going to do it this way.

"Tell Elizabeth hi for me. And Teyla, when you see her. And...everybody."

"I will," Rodney promised. Overcome with the kind of recklessness that he usually only felt in moments of mortal peril, he added, "You’ll come back to Atlantis eventually. They can’t keep– It is your home."

"I don’t have a lot of friends at SGC right now," John said with a little shrug that implied it didn’t matter much. There was a time when Rodney probably would’ve believed that.

"It’s not right," Rodney said.

John shrugged again, encompassing approximately twenty million things that weren’t right, but were true anyway. "Drive safe."

"I want to kiss you goodbye." He didn’t think he’d be able to, but he did want it. That seemed important to say.

He only hesitated for a second, but it was longer than John usually hesitated before he thought of the cool thing to say, the best possible line. "I know you do," he said softly, and it was the best possible line because it was true. He did know. "Next time, huh?"

"Yes, next time," Rodney said, unable to keep the sourness out of his voice. "I’ll be sure to look you up again when I’m in the neighborhood."

"Do that," John said, not sourly at all. Gently.

Rodney took his hand off the hood and moved it to the car door, brushing his fingers over the back of John’s fingers before settling them beside John’s. "If I die– "

"Rodney. Jesus."

"No. If I do.... Then you were the love of my life. I mean, if I live to be a hundred, that’s over sixty years and I might meet – well, I might, you never know, I mean, you never do know, do you? But if something should – happen, if this is all or, or most of my– "

"Rodney, come on," John said. He sounded annoyed, but there was something else, too, something taut and...frightened, maybe. Rodney wasn’t really sure what John sounded like when he was frightened. Maybe like this.

"No, then I want you to know, even if nobody else does. You were the love of my life. And I’m sorry if there isn’t time to say goodbye."

John looked away, scowling at the gunmetal Explorer parked next to Rodney’s rental car as if everything that had gone wrong were somehow connected to SUVs. His fingers moved – just a twitch, Rodney thought at first, but then he wrapped his pinky around Rodney’s index finger and left it there. "You have to go," John said. "They’ll be waiting for you."

"I know you feel something, too," Rodney said, unable to shut up, desperate not to let go of this thin thread of connection and pissed off at the same time, because if John would just say, if he could drop the damn here’s-looking-at-you-kid routine for just a second and say something real–

"It was easier to think I didn’t before you came here," John said, sounding tired and sad.

"I’m sorry." He was, suddenly. He hadn’t thought about.... He’d only thought about what he needed.

Unexpectedly, John looked up, straight into his eyes. "Don’t be," he said. "I’m not. Not about any of it, Rodney, okay?"

"Someday," Rodney tried one last time, "if– "

"Even if we don’t. I’m still not sorry."

"Don’t forget me," Rodney said. Seven hundred and thirty miles from Cheyenne Mountain to Enid, Oklahoma, and Rodney thought he’d traveled it just to say...that.

Their hands unlocked and slid apart. "You, either," John said.

Remember this, Rodney ordered himself. John’s eyes with the gray shadows underneath, the shape of his mouth, his hair ruffling in the cold wind, the faint dark stubble on his sun-starved skin. He had to remember all of it, at least until he could replace the memory with something better than this one.

Something in a summer evening, and a long kiss hello.

 

Many a light lad may kiss and fly
A kiss gone by is bygone
Never have I asked an August sky,
"Where has last July gone?"

– Rogers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!