Chapter 1: Reality Check
John makes another noble sacrifice but Rodney is the one who has to 'pull the trigger' by venting the atmosphere on Midway.
McsSheplets - 243: reality
Lands of magic Round 1 challenge 7: confession
Nothing seemed real. Midway station was about to self-destruct to prevent the Wraith from gaining a foothold on Earth, and John was... John was dead, and Rodney was the one who had killed him. He could not have survived the venting of the atmosphere, and the thought of never seeing him again had left Rodney feeling numb to the core of his being. He wasn't exactly sure what caught his attention in the E.V.A. Prep Room as the survivors moved swiftly towards the Puddlejumper, almost dismissing his gut feeling, but he couldn't resist checking the spacesuits hanging up awkwardly against the wall, eyes widening when he turned on the helmet light and saw John's face.
The Daedalus must have headed out from Earth within a day to reach them so quickly, though John had made an executive decision to lock himself into the cockpit by the second day. Rodney joined him on the third day, needing a break from the idiocy that was Kavanagh and Lee for a few hours. He had to suffer through Johnny Cash until he figured out a way to build a set of earphones for John but to be honest it was less torturous than believing John was dead.
"I-I thought I killed you," he stuttered on the fourth day.
John grimaced. "I'm sorry... but you did good, Rodney."
"Good," Rodney spat out.
If good was killing his best friend then he would rather be bad, but he knew he would do it again if John ordered. He would vent the atmosphere not knowing if John could reach safety in time. He would save the others, save Earth, and afterwards he would run away to grieve the loss of something he never knew he wanted until recently... John. And that was the reality of his life in Pegasus.
Rodney wasn't aware of John moving from his seat until he felt a warm hand cup his face and warmer lips press against his and for once Rodney was not the one to see that coming rather than John. In the confines of a Puddlejumper, with other survivors just beyond the sealed cockpit doors this was as far as they could go. Just kissing and holding on to each other with whispered promises of more once they reached Atlantis.
It was more than he had a few days earlier, and for now it was enough.
Chapter 2: Movie Night
John started up team movie night in the early days on Atlantis.
McSheplets - 245: Invitation
Land of Magic R1C7: movie night
Until he ended up in Atlantis Rodney had never experienced all the social activities that most people considered normal. He had meals with colleagues occasionally, or attended symposiums and conferences with those he could just about tolerate, and he had even been on a date or two. He grimaced because neither were great experiences. After watching John's 'Hail Mary' football game, John declared every Thursday from then onwards was 'movie night' and Rodney had no idea what it meant. The first week he decided to pretend he'd forgotten but Sheppard turned up in his laboratory, grabbed the front of his shirt, and practically frog-marched him all the way to the recreation room where Teyla and Ford were waiting, both of them looking a little uneasy until the movie started.
It was a terrible movie, full of bad science and improbable action scenes but the popcorn was good - when Teyla wasn't hogging the bowl - and he had John by his side for the entire evening as they sat shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip on the small couch. Movie night didn't seem so bad after that, especially as no one seemed to mind him mocking whatever terrible movie one of them had chosen.
The first movie night following Ford's disappearance was a somber occasion even though they had new movies from the Daedalus. It was the first time John pressed up closer to him, as if needing comfort he couldn't ask for at any other time.
Ronon joined them and never said a word about how close they sat together. Then they lost Teyla for months, and for twelve days he lost John too. Ronon had dragged him to movie night during those twelve days and despite his brilliant mind Rodney had no clue what they had watched; the following week he pressed even closer to John, breathing in his living presence beside him.
Bringing Jennifer along just after Atlantis reached Earth was both a huge mistake and an eye opener. He had sat close to her, arms wrapped around her small shoulders, and all he had felt was the coldness along his other side where John should have been pressed against him. It unsettled him so much he had to leave early, and he spent all night going back over his feelings, trying to understand why it had felt so wrong. It came to him in a rush of a distant memory, recalling the way he had told John how much he loved him, over and over, as he slowly lost his mind to a parasite in his brain. That night he broke up with Jennifer.
The next movie night held no pretence. Ronon and Teyla were away, being shown around Earth by other friends leaving John and Rodney alone. With more courage than he thought he possessed, Rodney pulled John into his arms as the movie played on, and when it ended Rodney let John walk him back to his quarters. Being with Jennifer had shown him how to act on a date, and he used that to his advantage now. When they reached Rodney's quarters he opened the door and invited John in.
Coffee and small talk gave way to touching, to kissing, and when the sun rose the next morning, John was still pressed close beside him, naked in their bed.
Chapter 3: I.Q.
John should have known news traveled on the grapevine faster than the speed of light.
McSheplets 46: Denial
Lands of Magic Round 1 challenge 7: game
If anyone had asked John would deny all knowledge. Not because he was ashamed of joining back in his late Teens but because he'd never hear the end of it from Rodney... who had already mocked him more than once over the years, convinced John's hair had more intelligence than the rest of him. Rodney would demand to know John's I.Q., and he would insist on dragging him along to the weekly Mensa meeting to play mind games with all the other brainiacs. Not that he considered himself a brainiac, and he did play a mean game of Chess. Not up to Zelenka's standard but good enough to outsmart Rodney.
He had hinted at it once or twice over the years just to annoy Rodney. Mocking each other was another game they played and he liked the idea of Rodney believing he was winning by ridiculing his intelligence. It would make it all the sweeter on the day he did reveal his higher than average I.Q. Of course he should have realized it was impossible to keep a secret on Atlantis indefinitely, and once Chuck saw the email from Mensa in the weekly download he knew it wouldn't be long before everyone knew.
He frowned as Rodney stomped towards him, batting away the finger that poked him hard in the chest with a protesting, "Hey!"
"154," Rodney snarled, and John winced.
So the news had filtered through to Rodney on the fast-track. He thought he'd have a few more days but it just went to prove that gossip was the fastest thing in the known universe. Rodney deflated, rolling his eyes at John.
"At least I can tell everyone I not only have the hottest boyfriend but he has brains under that crazy hair too."
"Or you can tell them nothing and feel all smug and superior when they think I'm just another Neanderthal soldier."
Rodney's eyes narrowed. "You're never going to let that go, are you?"
John shrugged nonchalantly as Rodney rolled his eyes again, and he didn't resist when Rodney reeled him in for a kiss.
Chapter 4: Testing The Water
A warm day and hot springs are just what Rodney didn't know he needed.
McSheplets 247: Hot
Lands of Magic Round 1 challenge 7: Test
Rodney dipped his toe to test the heat of the water, convinced from the steam rolling across the surface that this hot spring would be just that - too hot for him. He was still unconvinced it was a good idea to go skinny dipping in a host spring. He'd seen Dante's Peak and it hadn't ended so well for that. While he pondered on whether it might be better to beat a hasty retreat he didn't notice John swimming up beside him. A tug of his arm was all it took to overbalance him, arms flailing wildly as he fell into the water. He pushed up to the surface, spluttering in annoyance.
"Are you insane? There could be monsters lurking beneath the surface, or what if there's an earthquake, even a minor tremor might open a fissure-."
"One, Teyla's people have been swimming here for years and no one has got sick or had even a leech attach to them, and two, the geologists said the area's stable... ish."
"Ish? Ish?" Rodney looked around in horror, trying to figure the easiest and fastest route out of the hot spring.
"They ran some tests," John whined, "And they said it was as stable as any volcanic area can be."
"And you found that reassuring enough to leap into this potential boiler?"
John shrugged, lightly treading water. "Come on, Rodney," he wheedled. "You have to admit the water's great... and it's a lot bigger than your bath tub," he added slyly, angling closer to Rodney until they were treading water face to face.
Rodney quickly forgot all about his fears as John's slippery, wet skin pressed up close to his, legs entwining as they kissed momentarily, disentangling before they both went under. John was right though. The water was wonderful, easing the strains and stress of a long night and day bent over his laptop while working on problems in Atlantis. He could feel those aches melting away as he floated next to John, relaxing enough to flick water at John and start a water fight that had him laughing for the first time in weeks. Eventually he felt as if his skin would get waterlogged if he stayed in another minute so they both climbed out to stretch out on some blankets John had placed down earlier. The sun was warm and the sound of the bubbling water lulled him into a light doze, waking to the gentlest of kisses.
Reaching for John, he sighed as their bodies came together, feeling the slow building arousal shatter into bright shards of pleasure as he came with a soft gasp against John's damp neck. They kissed languidly, and when John suggested they go back into the hot spring to clean up, Rodney didn't stop to test the water but jumped straight in.
Chapter 5: Separation Anxiety
A mission goes wrong... but not all is as it seems.
McSheplets 248: separate
Lands of Magic Round 1 challenge 7: survivor's guilt
After so many close calls and intention acts of sacrifice for the greater good John had never anticipated being the one left behind. The only survivor of a mission that headed south the moment they stepped through the gate onto this terrible world. The attack had come out of nowhere with a hail of arrows and spears. Ronon had gone down in a blaze of fire, his blaster taking out six or seven of their attackers. John had seen Teyla fall soon after beneath a hailstorm of spears and arrows as he dragged a screaming Rodney to the meager cover of the DHD, holding him tight to his chest as he emptied his P90 into anyone daring to come within firing range. The natives seemed to fade back into the tree line and he looked down as Rodney clutched his arm harder. Blood bubbled on Rodney's pale lips, his blue eyes holding John's so desperately until they glazed over, the light of that brilliant mind fading forever.
John choked back on a scream of pure grief.
It was all his fault. He should have been better prepared and brought the Puddlejumper just as Rodney had asked. He should have protected them, he should have protected Rodney, and not allowed them to be so distracted as they went through the Stargate, bantering with each other rather than paying attention to what waited for them on the other side. Now he was all alone, separated from his team, from his family, separated from Rodney by death. There was so much he had never got around to telling him after Katie, and after Jennifer, stupidly believing they would have more time once Atlantis re-settled in Pegasus, no matter how often they had faced danger in the past. He started shaking with grief, eyes stinging from the bitter tears he tried to hodl back, and the shaking grew more violent.
John's eyes snapped open and he blinked in shock when he realized the face filling his vision was Rodney's, alive and well but looking anxious and afraid.
He swallowed hard, his thoat dry and his face wet. "Rodney? What happened?"
Rodney sat back, eyes closing for a moment as if in relief.
"We were attacked as we came through the gate. Poison arrow... I think. Just a tiny graze but still enough to... You were hallucinating. Calling my name."
The nightmare had not yet faded and those blue eyes were still holding his so desperately. Poisoned. It explained everything but the half-remembered nightmare of losing Rodney without ever telling him how much he meant to him overwhelmed John and he dragged him in, kissing him hard, knowing he could always blame his actions on the poison if Rodney pulled back in alarm. He need not have worried for when they finally separated, Rodney's eyes were shining all the brighter, filled with love in return for him.
"About time, Sheppard," Rodney murmured, and John wished he hadn't waited for this nightmare before he took a chance on Rodney, and on love.
Chapter 6: Leather Jacket
John has an Epiphany when he sees his brilliant scientist in leather.
- Game of Cards R11 challenge 05
- McSheplets 261: cliche
When John first saw Rodney he wasn't really sure what to think of him but then his mind had been on a different problem at the time, that of the holographic image of the solar system swirling above his head at just a thought. Like most kids he had always dreamed of being special and all of a sudden he was the new 'miracle' with a strong expression of the ATA gene, able to get Ancient technology to react and even talk to him. The man in the burnt orange fleece, with the sour expression turned out to be a brilliant scientist tasked with leading the scientific part of an expedition to another galaxy and to Atlantis. If John hadn't seen and experienced it as he reclined on the control chair in Antarctica then he was never have believed it. Yet here he was years later acting as the military head of the same expedition, and Rodney McKay, brilliant scientist, was one of his off-world team members.
He had kind of noticed Rodney as more than the Chief Scientist, and more than a team member on a few occasions - a flash of interest when Rodney's eyes were bright with excitement over a new discovery. Over the years they had become good friends, sharing a liking for superheroes and old science fiction TV shows and movies. They played chess together, and that Ancient world-building game that neither of them mentioned after discovering it was for real, affecting real lives on a world light years away. They often sat together at meal times discussing anything that came to mind - or rather, Rodney talked and John nodded now and then, sometimes paying attention but mostly just letting the words flow around him. Unlike most people John didn't have a problem with Rodney talking too much, knowing when and how to silence him when needed on a mission.
The Epiphany came with the Daedalus and its re-supply of uniforms for the expedition members. Rodney walked into John's quarters, mouth moving a mile a minute as he whined about the latest disaster in the laboratories, but instead of tuning him out as he continued reading the latest batch of comics while stretched out on his bed, propped up against a pillow, John stared slack-jawed at the sight of Rodney pacing around his quarters in a leather jacket. The soft leather was a perfect fit, emphasising broad shoulders, arms, and chest. Rodney's hair was all mussed too, likely from fingers pulling through it in frustration, putting a 'bad boy' image into John's head that flew straight to his groin. His mouth felt dry as he watched Rodney pace, seeing how the leather moved with him, the jacket length at the back falling just below his waist framing Rodney's ass.
John blinked when he realized Rodney had turned back but John was still staring below the jacket... at Rodney's groin. Rodney's cheeks were flush and his eyes bright and wide, pupils darkening.
"Are you checking me out? You are!" Rodney crowed triumphantly.
John flushed with embarrassment at getting caught. "No," he exclaimed but he could tell from Rodney's expression that he didn't believe him for one second.
Rodney smiled crookedly, taking a few steps towards John, his brilliant mind quickly figuring it out. He straightened the leather jacket's collar, smile widening when John was unable to stop himself from watching, unconsciously licking his dry lips. He knew he had lost when Rodney leaned right into his personal space, the scent of new leather almost overpowering.
The first time was amazing, and even years later, John only had to see Rodney in his leather jacket for him to get so hot and bothered he could barely think straight.
Rodney was never allowed to wear his jacket on missions.
Chapter 7: Third Time's the Charm
Everybody had to take the Jumper test. Even Rodney.
- mcsheplets 272: third time's the charm
- trope_bingo R11: celebratory kiss
"Everybody had to take the test, Rodney," John insisted while sucking on a boiled sweet he'd stolen from Carson's domain; a green one. Rodney's favorite. "And you don't get to fly solo until you pass it."
Rodney huffed in annoyance. No one had cared he'd flown solo when John was dying in the back of the jumper after being shot by some religious zealots for making their religious artifact light up and start sucking dust from the floors and surfaces. Yes, it was embarrassing to realize they'd been worshiping a hoover for thousands of years, but that didn't mean they had to go 'kill the messenger'. Or try. Rodney was tempted to remind John of his solo flight... again... but refrained when he looked across in annoyance and caught John studying him.
"Temper," he stated. "You know you can't fly straight when you're annoyed."
Rodney turned his thoughts back to the jumper controls, trying not to think too hard as that was almost as bad as not thinking at all. It was half his problem, and the reason why he had already failed this test twice before. He over complicated things, or let his mind go too far off on a tangent, at one time taking the Jumper with him when they ended up turned around and heading for Earth instead of Atlantis. It all came so naturally to John; the swooping and turning, the take off and landing. Atlantis handled those when in the city, taking over control of the Jumper once it re-entered through either the Stargate or the Jumper Bay, but outside of the city it was the pilot who was mostly in control.
Personally Rodney thought his landing and take off from New Athos was pretty good this time around, and they had gone through the Stargate to the space gate above some other world without a hitch. He had made a perfect slingshot around the planet and re-entered the space gate to the Alpha site without incident. He hadn't hit any mountains despite flying at a low altitude, or crashed into the sea - though that was so not his fault. Radek had checked over all the Jumpers after that incident.
"Dialling Atlantis," John stated, his steady hands hitting the correct sequence unerringly.
The ground was rushing beneath them as Rodney lined up the Jumper without conscious thought, the inertial dampeners kicking in as they entered the city, bringing them to a halt momentarily before Atlantis took over and the Jumper rose upwards into the Jumper bay above the control center. As it locked into its parking bay to be recharged by some mechanism in the city, John tapped on his tablet, then looked across at Rodney and smiled.
"I guess third time really is the charm. Congratulations, Rodney. You passed... finally."
For a moment Rodney was stunned, and in the next moment he was pulling back from John in horror. He had only meant to hug him but Rodney could still taste the sugary sweetness of John's lips.
"I-I'm..." he started to stutter out only to feel the press of John's sweet lips against his once more.
The third kiss shared much later in Rodney's quarters was even better.
Chapter 8: Harsh Words
Sometimes Rodney let his mouth run ahead of his brain.
- mcsheplets 273: unsaid
- trope_bingo R11: trust and vows
- hc_bingo R09: orphans
Rodney was not the most tolerant of people, or the most sensitive, and there were times when he let his mouth run ahead of his brain, saying things in the heat of the moment that probably should have remained left unsaid. He had lost more than one girlfriend that way, and now he was worried he had lost a boyfriend too. Not just any boyfriend. John Sheppard, the love of his life.
It had all started innocently enough. It always did, but then all hell broke loose when a Wraith dart came through the Stargate on this latest world they were checking out. The villagers had gone into a panic, running in all directions, though mostly towards the foothills where there were deep caves to hide inside. Unfortunately they had cut down most of the trees between them and the foothills, a stupid oversight on behalf of a people too lazy or too stupid to go a little further afield for building materials, leaving them with no cover as they ran. The dart swept across the frightened people, picking up ten or fifteen in a single pass, and now it was swooping round for a second run of those still too stupid to hide.
The first pass had swept up a family but somehow their little girl was left behind, dropped from her mother's arms at the last moment; now orphaned and alone, with no one left to take her to safety, she was in a direct line for the next pass.
John spotted her. Before Rodney could even blink John was running out of the open hatch of the cloaked Jumper towards her.
Rodney watched in horror as the culling beam swept across the ground, heart clenching in his chest when John grabbed the girl and threw himself sideways at the last seconds, the beam scraping past him.
He could recall every word he said to John when he got back to the Jumper, heedless of the terrified child still clinging to John, and now the fear had passed he wanted to smack himself so hard and find another time machine so he could rewind the last hour and un-say those words. He had seen the hurt and anger in John's eyes, so quickly concealed, reminding of the last tme John had looked at him that way. It was after the disaster at Doranda. It had taken months to regain John's trust following that incident and he had vowed never to let that happen again.
So much for that.
The door to his quarters chimed. Rodney steeled himself as the door opened to reveal John standing just beyond the threshold when normally he would have come straight in without any invitation. He looked quiet and pensive, lips a thin, drawn line, and eyes almost refusing to meet Rodney's. Eventually he took a few stiff steps forward and let the door close behind him.
"I'm sorry," John stated softly, firmly, eyes downcast.
Rodney's heart broke at the thought of what he had just lost. He rushed in before John could say the words that would end their relationship, knowing he was begging and knowing he should feel ashamed of that, but desperate to change John's mind.
"Please. Give me another chance." John's eyes rose to meet his, widened in shock. "I never meant to say... I was so scared. I thought I'd-."
His words were stifled by the sudden press of John's lips over his, and Rodney had never wanted anything so badly than to stay like this forever but John pulled back.
"You told me you couldn't handle losing me again." A statement but his eyes were questioning. He added softly, "I thought you meant we were over."
"What?! No! I thought you wouldn't want... us after what I said."
"I'd never not want you," John insisted.
Rodney slumped against John, drained by the fear and misery of the past hour. Where others heard the words rather than the fear behind them John had understood and wanted no apology. Rodney still wished he had left those harsh words unsaid as a little girl was alive because of John's selfless act, but at least for now he could forgive himself.