Their first trip back on earth, since...well, you know, was a little strained. I mean, can you count your 'first date' on Atlantis as a meal together in the cafeteria? Because, as a team, they do that anyway.
Or a Puddlejumper ride to the mainland? Because Teyla was with them. Team movie night? Again, it's a team thing.
It's hard enough keeping their growing attraction under wraps in an alien galaxy, but to be able to express themselves on Earth? On their leave? The possibilities were nerve-wracking.
McKay especially was a bundle of "OH SHIT", and he spent his first day back in his labs looking up restaurants and theme parks and movies in Colorado Springs. They only had a week. Would it be too cheesy to go to a movie? They've been so out of the loop with movies.
And Rodney can imagine it: sitting in a dark theater, a bag of buttery popcorn between them. The tension, like a hot wire between them. Rodney's stomach going inside-out.
Rodney shudders. Scratch the movie.
So: restaurant? I mean, they eat together a lot. It would have to be something good, something that is as far from Atlantean food as possible. Greek? Rodney loves a good Feta Salad. Does John even like Greek? What if he hates it? Oh my god, what if John's allergic to Kalamata olives? I mean, it's not a common allergy, but he doesn't want to spend their first date stabbing an Epipen into John's thigh.
Italian? No, garlic bread will make their breath nasty, and what if they kiss? They haven't even kissed!
They've only just declared their attraction for each other a week ago, when John lay bleeding on an alien world with a desparate, pessimistic Rodney figuring he had nothing to lose and blurting out can't lose you, John, I- and John reaching up a bloody hand from his stomach, wincing, resting his hand on the curve of Rodney's cheek and whispering I know, Rodney, I know, me too. And then the Puddlejumper had appeared and the next two hours passed with Rodney pacing a trench in the hallway outside the infirmary (where he was kicked out from shouting at Keller to hurry up and save his life already, damnit!), biting his fingernails and generally having a nervous breakdown.
But John lived and Rodney did, too, though he felt like maybe a part of him died, seeing John like that. So he couldn't visit him in the Infirmary while he was recovering, except at night. He would stand by John in the darkened room, ghost his fingers across John's lips, chin, cheekbones. Remember them pale with loss of blood, remember the bitter regret in John's smile just before the Puddlejumper arrived.
And he would leave just before dawn and stand on the East pier, facing into the early morning salt-water sting of wind and sun and try not to feel, just for once.
When John was better, he resumed active duty alongside Rodney as if nothing had passed between them. There were furtive glances, sure, mostly on Rodney's side, but they never spoke of it again. Which irked Rodney to no end.
Which is why he decided, when they got back to Earth, to ask John out, for real. He's a grown man, with a lifetime of experiences with dating, yet the thought of asking John out still gave him chills. What if what happened that day had been nothing more than a misunderstanding? What if John had meant I like you as a friend and nothing else? What if Rodney's making a huge mistake and the next couple of years together will be strained and awkward?
Shit, shut up you stupid moron. Rodney shook his head and resumed his local restaurant search. American? Ew. Indian? Way too spicy. Chinese? Too easy. Oh god, he's never going to find one that will work!
And then the email from John came.
"hey wanna do something tonight? i know this great bar... -john"
Rodney allowed himself to hyperventilate for three minutes before he closed down his search and ventured a reply.
"Your grammar is phenomenal. Ever heard of capitalization? Anyway, yes, that would be great. Where should I meet you? -Rodney"
The email came back instantly: "meet me at the front gates at 7. leave the grammar lessons at home :D -john"
And then it was a flurry of Oh, shit, where are we going? What should I wear? Are jeans too laid-back? What if he's taking me to a shitty club with crappy beer? Or worse, a bar with nubile young scantily-clad women who press themselves into John? Oh, shit, what if it's a military bar? No, he wouldn't do that. Unless I'm right and I misunderstood and it means he considers me his friend!
When Seven O'Clock rolled around, Rodney found himself in a pair of khaki slacks and a blue button-down shirt, walking to the public entrance of Cheyenne Mountain. The guards eyed him suspiciously as he walked past them, and he tried to smile past the knot in his throat. John appeared at ten past seven, hands in his pockets, sauntering up to Rodney. He wore his usual black t-shirt and a pair of fitted jeans. Rodney's mouth went dry because oh my god he looked amazing, and and so relaxed, and...alive.
"Hey, Rodney," he smiled, crookedly, and Rodney's brain stuttered to a halt. Here it is, the moment of truth.
"So where are we going? Military bar?" Rodney shoved his hands into his pockets as he asked. John laughed.
"That's funny, yeah, sure. Take my male date to a hotbed of homophobia, real smart." John looked away, at the street ahead of them, the late-night lights twinkling in his eyes.
Rodney thought he said date and ohmygod and said, voice a little too light for casual, "Haha, yeah. Um. So..."
John turned back to him, said, "It's a short walk. You don't mind, do you?"
"No, no. Walking is what we do, isn't it? Lead the way."
So John turned and Rodney followed in an awkward silence that stretched on and on, for the longest two minutes of Rodney's life, until they reached a nondescript bar. John winked at Rodney and opened the door.
Rodney's jaw dropped, just a little bit. He was vaguely aware of John gently ushering him into the bar, broad hand on the small of Rodney's back. Of John's lips brushing Rodney's ear, breath warm and welcome, sending a flutter of anticipation through Rodney as he whispered, "What do you think?"
He was in a gay bar. That was apparent. There were men everywhere, eying them speculatively, men in dresses and wigs and neon. The music was a deeply throbbing techno beat and some of the men on the dance floor were gyrating to the bass pulse and Rodney had to avert his eyes and think of Siberia.
"Um, wow. Come here often?" He glanced at John, who was standing ridiculously close, hand still on Rodney's back. John smirked a little. Rodney gulped.
"When I need to escape the vast oppression of the Air Force, yeah. Want a drink? Or, a dance?"
"A drink would be nice. Molson's, if they have it." Rodney had to bite his tongue as he watched John walk away to the bar, looking so congruent with his surroundings that Rodney felt like he stood out like a rock in a river.
"Hello," said a voice to Rodney's right. He turned to find some carbon copy of an Abercrombie & Fitch model, eyes darkened with eyeliner and pants too tight. He leaned closely to Rodney, to be heard over the noise of the bar, "Come here often?"
"No, uh, first time," Rodney shouted over the music, his eyes nervously looked over to the bar, where John was ordering, his back to Rodney.
"Ah, I see. There's a first time for everything, blue eyes. If there's anything I can do for you," the man licked his lips and put the hand that wasn't holding a neon green drink on Rodney's hip, "just let Justin know. I live to serve," he smirked, his alcohol-infused voice a promise.
In an instant, John was back beside Rodney, his back boot-camp-straight. He stepped between Rodney and the man, so close Rodney could feel the heat of his body, and slid an arm around Rodney's waist. Rodney may have jumped a little bit.
"Hey, honey, I've got your beer. Want to dance?" Rodney saw him glare twenty years of repressed military rage at the man, who shrunk back, "Can I help you?"
"Whatever," Justin took a long gulp from his drink and, shaking his head, walked away. John didn't move, just pressed the mug of beer into Rodney's hand.
"Um, thanks. Hi?" Rodney's heart was like a rabbit's for a long second while John just looked at him, eyes still a little fierce.
"Was he bothering you?" John's voice was like Teflon. He took a small step away from Rodney's body, so they weren't pressed against each other but still touching, shoulder to ankle. He was still tense.
"No. He was just...aggressive. I'm fine, John. Really. Want to, ah, sit down or something?" John relaxed a little, but kept his hand in its permanent position on Rodney's lower back, just about his pants' waistline. Rodney felt the heat of his skin through the thin fabric, wanted John to drop his hand lower.
"Yeah," John huffed, guiding Rodney to a vacant table in the corner of the room. They sat down opposite each other, eyes on everything except one another.
On a small stage next to the DJ, two drag queens were grinding against each other, one's pink miniskirt hiked up high on their thigh, the other's hand underneath. Rodney coughed and glanced at John, who was watching the same thing, legs sprawled out, knees far apart, one hand resting lightly on his left thigh. Rodney looked back at the stage to find the drag queens making out viciously, lips caught in teeth, hands in hair, hips still moving with the pulse of the music (Russian techno. Rodney recognized the song as one that his ice-blond lab assistant in Siberia had been grinding out of her speakers when Rodney had walked in the first day).
John cleared his throat and looked over at Rodney, his fingers tapping out the rhythm of the music onto his inner thigh. Rodney looked at John and saw a drag queen approaching their table over John's shoulder, dressed in neon blue fishnets and what looked like a matching corset and garter belt. He found himself unable to speak.
"Hey, sugar, how about a lap dance, free of charge?" The falsetto was soaked in the rich accent of the deep south. John looked up, surprised, about to protest.
Rodney found himself choking out, "That'd be great, thanks," and John's head turned so quickly in Rodney's direction that it looked like it hurt. His mouth formed words but no sound emerged. Rodney met his eyes, tried to convey to him how much this turned him on. John must have seen it, eyes widening a little bit, slowly turning back to the drag queen (who smiled and straddled him).
John gripped the armrests of his chair as the drag queen began to move above him, rotating their hips in fluid motions, arching their back in feigned pleasure, sighing into John's ear and tracing the contours of John's body with their own, the whole time hovering on the edge of not-touching.
Rodney watched, mesmerized, turned on beyond belief. He was riveted to his chair, eyes locked on John's face. John had his eyes half-closed, lips slightly parted. It looked like he was panting ever so slightly. And then John shifted his gaze to Rodney's and it was like an electric shock, the lust in John's eyes. Rodney felt it, felt his need through every pore in his body, the heat in John's gaze traveling up and down Rodney's body like wildfire. Like the beat of the music pulsating in Rodney's ribcage.
The drag queen turned around to shake their ass just inches from John's crotch, and John held Rodney's gaze, chest rising and falling like he was running a marathon. Rodney held very very still as John watched him, eyes predatory, completely oblivious to whatever body- gyrating the drag queen was doing inches from his lap, attention focused solely on the desire pouring through Rodney.
"My name's Honeybelle, sugar. Let me know if you want somethin' more," the drag queen got off of John's lap and winked at him (who didn't seem to notice) and sauntered away to the next table, heels clicking silently beneath the thrum of the music.
John and Rodney didn't move. Rodney felt like his body would combust if he so much as moved a muscle in the face of John's darkened eyes. For what seemed like centuries, neither moved. Rodney began to wonder the consequences if he were to get out of his chair, walk around the table, and finish what Honeybelle started, only inches closer. He doubted he could move as flexibly as Honeybelle had, but he'd been told he had clever hands...
"Rodney," John croaked out, the sound of his voice sending shivers throughout Rodney's body, "Rodney, if you don't get over here right now, I'll-" And before he could finish, Rodney was there, Rodney had crossed the divide between them and cut off John's words with a fierce kiss, mouth crushing into John's, teeth clattering together. John's hands immediately slid up the back of Rodney's shirt, palms sweaty and hot, nails scratching lightly against Rodney's spine.
And that was all it took to make Rodney reach out and get closer than John had ever let anyone else get: watching someone not touch John.
The bar disappeared, or maybe it already had toward the end of Honeybelle's lap dance, who knows? But all that existed was the bruising ferocity of Rodney's lips on John's, of Rodney's hands on John's face, of their hips like static cling, shocking together from where Rodney sat straddling John's lap. And Rodney's hands in John's hair, fingernails to scalp to ears to neck to collarbone, sliding down down down into the heat between them, fingers spreading across John's stomach where, a week ago, a man with a rusty knife had left a long ragged gash that spilled John's life, bright red and terrible, across dirty ground, and Rodney's secrets from his tongue.
Rodney whimpered at the memory, bit John's lower lip, and pulled away enough to growl, low and desperate, I almost lost you, lost this, and- into John's neck, and John made a sound in the back of his throat that vibrated against Rodney's lips.
"But you didn't," John mumbled into Rodney's hair, "You haven't. You won't.."