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Beneath the Wristband

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John Sheppard was a mystery.

For instance, was he physically unable to sit properly in a chair or just unwilling? Rodney had seen him slouch, turn the chair around and sit in it backwards, and prop his feet up on the nearest available surface. Sometimes he wondered if John’s bones were made of rubber.

And while he had the rank and uniform of a colonel, John rarely bothered to lace his boots, and Rodney could expound for hours on the non-regulation haircut and aforementioned lack of good posture. Plus, there was nothing quite like seeing the military leader of the Atlantis expedition sucking on a lollipop.

John was intelligent, but often played at being dumb. He never said a word about his family, and so Rodney had assumed he didn’t have one, and then his father died and Ronon reported back about a brother and an ex-wife. He had a guitar in his room, but Rodney had never seen him play it.

Rodney supposed it didn’t really matter, because what he did know was more important than what he didn’t. John was brave and self-sacrificing, and he never left anyone behind. He was a math genius, a potential member of Mensa (Rodney wasn’t giving up on that one), and he really could fly anything. John assumed responsibility even when there was no need, and he cared about people even if he didn’t get too close to them.

As laid back as he was most of the time, John was an aggressive lover. He liked marking Rodney in places no-one could see, leaving finger-shaped bruises and coming on his belly, his ass, his face. Rodney had never felt so possessed, and he was surprised how much he loved it, needed it. Dreamed about it.

After one such bout of athletic sex they were sprawled on Rodney’s bed, Rodney still trying to catch his breath. John was painting random geometric designs on Rodney’s stomach with the come that had pooled there, which meant there was a shower in their near future.

Rodney eyed the black band on John’s wrist, yet another unsolved mystery.

“You know that’s like keeping your socks on during sex, right?”

“Trust me, no-one wants cold feet on them when they’re trying to suck dick.”

Which was oddly specific, but Rodney decided not to pursue that particular comment. “So is this a cold hands, warm heart scenario?”

John sighed and flattened his hand on Rodney’s stomach. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Who said anything about worried? I’m not worried. I couldn’t be less worried.” Rodney stretched, exaggerating the movements and enjoying the way John’s gaze sharpened, his lust not nearly as spent as his cock. “It’s just…I get all the way naked. And you never do.”

“So next time leave your socks on,” John suggested dryly. He ran his hand over Rodney’s hip.

“Is it some kind of weird good luck charm?” Rodney persisted. He didn’t know why he was pushing the issue, but now he couldn’t stop looking at the damn thing. “Cause I have to tell you, you’ll get lucky with or without it. I promise.”

John dropped his head on Rodney’s collarbone, his breath hot on Rodney’s skin. “You’re not gonna let this go, are you?”

And suddenly it seemed like the wristband might actually be a deal breaker. Rodney knew better than to push John too hard, but once again his mouth had gotten away from him. What if John decided he was too much trouble?

“No! I mean, yes! Letting it go. I don’t care. You do your thing and I’ll…uh…do mine.”

Further proof, if it was needed, that regular orgasms were making him stupider. Rodney covered his eyes with his arm and wished he could take the whole dumb conversation back. John was entitled to his privacy, and just because they were sleeping together now didn’t mean Rodney had the right to know all his secrets.

“You’re a pain in my ass, you know that?”

John moved, and Rodney was certain he was getting up to leave. But instead he hooked his leg over Rodney’s and pressed something into his hand.

The wristband.

Rodney moved his arm and stared at the thing. Just a cuff made of cotton, black and thick and wholly unremarkable except for the fact that John never took it off. He looked at John, whose expression had gone blank and unreadable. No clues to be found there. Only one other place to look.

John’s wrist was pale and oddly naked. Vulnerable, Rodney might say if such a word could be applied to a body part. There was a small scar there, white and just a little raised, and a name tattooed underneath it in equally small, elegant lettering. Grace. Rodney traced it with his fingertip, and John pulled in a quick breath.

Who was Grace? Not John’s ex-wife, Rodney knew her name was Nancy. Just like he knew it must belong to someone important, because John had no other body adornments. No other tattoos, no piercings. He took an educated guess.

“Your mother?”

John turned away, ducked his head. “She died when I was twelve.”

“And this?” Rodney asked, running his thumb nail across the scar.

“I didn’t take it well.”

Rodney gave John a sharp look, but all he could see was one pointy ear. John’s mother had died when he was twelve, and he’d been so distraught he’d tried to take his own life? Where the hell had his father been?

Was it possible a world existed somewhere, a reality where John had been successful? It was hard to imagine the universe being deprived of John’s strength, his heroism. His dry sense of humor and his donkey laugh.

The discovery of what lay beneath the wristband only brought more questions, but Rodney knew better than to ask them. Instead he carefully turned John’s head with his hand and leaned up to kiss him, soft and sweet.

“I’m glad you didn’t do it,” he said.

John looked down at him, affection shining out of his eyes like beacons in the dark. “I’m glad, too.”