It was a routine mission. One minute they were walking back towards the gate, then they were taking fire; Ronon had taken a bullet, and John was yelling at Rodney to help him cover them as Kwoju helped Ronon limp back to the gate. John went into that clear, clean space as he bobbed above the rock, fired, ducked down, reloaded, and it took him a few goes to realize that John's was the only gun firing, Rodney wasn't firing, and John spared a panicked look beside him to find Rodney curled up on the ground.
"Rodney!" he yelled, and bobbed up, fired again, hit something and heard a yelp over the ringing in his ears.
Rodney was locked into a tight little ball, and rolled easily when John pushed. There was some kind of dart jutting out of his shoulder, with a tiny darkening patch around it. Rodney's face was sheet-white and his eyes were shut, and John felt his stomach turn to ice. He leapt up, fired twice more, and then there were no more return shots.
"You're clear, Colonel!" yelled Kwoju.
"Dial the gate!" he shouted. "Kwoju, McKay's hurt! Come and give me a hand!"
Between them, they lifted Rodney and carried him to the gate. Halfway there, he started to seize, his head jerking back and forth, and they couldn't carry him anymore; they had to drag him by the shirt across the dirty ground, and they managed to boost him through the gate just before he went limp and heavy again.
"Medical emergency!" yelled John, and people were shouting things back at him, but he couldn't hear them. Keller was already there, coming up the steps.
Then Rodney's eyes snapped open, huge and blue, the pupils almost at nothing, and he looked straight at John.
"Rodney!" John said, his jaw almost locked tight with adrenaline and terror, and grabbed him by the collar and shook him. "Stay with us, Rodney, you're going to be okay –"
"I wish I'd kissed you," Rodney said. Then he passed out.
"He's stable," Keller said, later, coming through the curtain. John sat down abruptly, and Teyla tipped her head back against the wall and let out a breath. Ronon had fallen asleep under the morphine a few hours ago. John's head was still ringing, everything a little echoey, and his legs felt kind of wobbly.
"Colonel, I told you to go and lie down," Keller said. "You're in shock."
"I'm fine," John said, and sat on his stupid, shaking hands. His blanket had fallen off, and was collapsed in a silvery pile behind his chair.
"Colonel, you really have to –"
"He is fine," Teyla said, brittle and short. "Please, Dr. Keller. Rodney."
Keller blinked and flushed, obviously hurt, and John felt like he should probably smile at her or something, but everything seemed to be happening kind of far away.
"It was a dart, some kind of nerve toxin," Keller said. "It came up on the database right away, and we were able to put together and administer an antidote."
"But?" John heard himself say.
Keller swallowed. "He died," she said, "Twice. We had to open him up to keep his heart going. He's stable now, but what with that and the seizures and the toxin, we have no way of knowing how much damage was sustained."
"To his mind, you mean," John said. His feet were really cold.
"Yes," Keller said, almost in a whisper. "I'm sorry. He might – he might be fine. Or he might not wake up."
John looked at the wall. After a moment, he heard Teyla say, quietly, "Very well. Thank you, Dr. Keller. I am sure you have done your best for Rodney. I will care for the Colonel."
"He needs to put the blanket back on," she said, and then said some more stuff that John didn't listen to.
"I want to see him," John said.
There was a silence.
"I, too, would like to see him," Teyla murmured, and Keller nodded. She was smart, John thought. He liked her.
She would only let them look through the observation window. They could barely see him, under the ventilators and tubes and bandages. It didn't seem real.
"John," Teyla said, and shook his shoulder again. He realized she must have said it a few times.
"Yeah," he said, and winced at how loud his own voice was.
"We must go now," she said. Keller was gone.
"Time is it?"
"Well past midnight."
She was touching her round belly absently, tracing small circles around her belly button. She looked grey under the infirmary lights.
"Hey, you should go to bed," John said. She looked at him, hard and level.
"Do not patronise me," she said. "I was not shot at today. Rodney is quite all right for now, and Ronon will be fine. You will go to bed this instant and return in the morning, as will I."
The relief was like a heavy pack being lifted off his shoulders, and John swayed on his feet; for a second he thought he was going to fall asleep right there in the corridor. He followed her obediently out of the infirmary, drank what she gave him to drink, and let her push him towards his quarters. It was only there that he let himself think about it, and only for a couple of seconds as he was falling asleep, or he'd have a heart attack, or something. I wish I'd kissed you. What. He couldn't even. What the fuck.
Rodney was breathing fine on his own, and they took him off the ventilator. He just wouldn't wake up. He was pale under his stubble, still and quiet in the white bed, and had a washed-out, fragile look that made him almost unrecognizable. John could hardly stand looking at him, but they all went in to sit with him on an unspoken, overlapping rota; for the first few days, at least one of them was with him all the time. Then Ronon got out of the infirmary, so he wasn't there nights anymore, and Carter put her foot down about the days. They each got two hours.
"Can he hear us?" John asked Keller. He didn't know why, though, they'd all played Fun With Comas a few times now. He knew exactly what she was going to say.
"There's no way to know, Colonel. Comas are still very little understood. On the off-chance that he can, though, it would do him good to hear your voice. Goodnight, now. Don't spend too long here, you still need your sleep."
John nodded, and she left him alone. He liked it better that way, anyway. It was weird in the infirmary at night, with just the little desk lamp on in the other room, and the cot where one of the doctors did night duty. In Rodney's room, it was totally silent, apart from the hum of the machines monitoring his vitals, and John's breathing. John had decided to take his hours at night, because Teyla liked to go to bed early, and Ronon did too at the moment, now he was tired from physio.
The first night, John just sat there. He kept thinking Rodney would walk in, like he always did when John was doing nothing late at night. It was like Rodney had some kind of goddamned radar for John's inactivity. John had never thought anything about it before, but now he couldn't sleep for replaying every look Rodney had ever given him, every word, every goddamned smile. He couldn't sit still, and he ended up pacing Rodney's room for the whole two hours, then an extra hour for good measure, because Carter wasn't here to tell him no.
"What the fuck, Rodney," he said. Rodney didn't say anything.
The next night, John read some of Anna Karenina to him. His voice got hoarse and his throat started to ache, after a while. He hadn't slept all that much, the night before, and his eyes were dry from tiredness; he rested his elbows on Rodney's bed for a minute and leaned his face in his hands. Rodney's body listed slightly towards him as the bed dipped, and his warm, bare shoulder pressed against John's biceps through the sheets. John jumped, but Rodney's face was as closed-off and vacant as ever.
"Goddamn it, Rodney," he said. "You scared the crap out of me."
Rodney didn't say anything.
"Fucking wake up," John said, and heard his voice crack.
John forgot to bring something to read on the fifth night, and couldn't be bothered with going back to his quarters to get something, so he told Rodney what had happened that day, in the kind of excruciating detail that Rodney normally talked over or waved his hand at and said, "Yes, yes, get to the point, I have better things to do than hear about the most tedious minutiae of your life, Sheppard."
It wasn't as fun as John thought it'd be. Halfway through listing all the forms he'd filled out that day, John said, "Feel free to stop me anytime."
The silence made him feel nauseous, and when he tried to pick up the thread again, his mind had gone blank. He checked his watch. He still had forty-five minutes to go.
He made Rodney listen to him sing the entire Folsom Prison album, then lost his voice halfway through Green, Green Grass of Home, and found he was half an hour over. He was pretty sure Rodney's left eyelid had twitched during Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart. Or maybe John was going insane.
"You'd better be awake by the morning, McKay," he whispered. Rodney's heartbeat bounced on the monitor, regular as the tides. There was something on his cheek, a speck of fluff or something. John flicked it off, then rubbed his thumb against the grain of Rodney's stubble to feel how long it was. He'd tell them to give the guy a shave, already. Rodney hated getting a beard.
Rodney's cheeks were smooth the next night.
"Don't thank me," John said. Rodney didn't.
Rodney's chest rose and fell slowly. It was kind of hypnotizing. John sat down next to him, and let his forearms rest against Rodney's shoulder again. He told Rodney about his day. Then he told Rodney a funny story Ronon had told him about some new recruit who got lost in the transporter system. It wasn't the same when Rodney didn't interrupt a million times to ask about pointless details, and then to ask when the punchline was coming, and then do that thing where his mouth twisted up and he frowned so he could pretend he wasn't laughing and that the whole thing had been a total waste of his time.
"Rodney," John said desperately, when he'd run out of things to say. "Look, when you wake up, we're going to talk about things, okay?"
He was five minutes early leaving that night, but he had to be up early in the morning.
He felt guilty all the next day, and turned up five minutes early on purpose. To his surprise, Carter was there.
"Colonel," she said, freezing with her hand in Rodney's.
"Colonel," he said.
She looked at him. He stood there, and tapped his fingers on his legs.
"It's late," she said finally. "I should go."
"Hey," John said, trying to smile, "don't hurry on my account."
She disentangled her fingers from Rodney's discreetly, like they just happened to be there, and said, "See you tomorrow, Rodney."
When she'd gone, John sat down beside him in the still-warm seat and said, "She's not into you. Don't get the wrong idea, okay?"
Rodney's eyelashes fanned dark over his cheeks. He was looking whiter and thinner every day.
"Goddamn it, Rodney," John said, and grabbed Rodney's hand and squeezed it. It was warm, too. John pressed his face into the pillow next to Rodney's head and breathed in deeply a few times, then pulled himself together. He told Rodney about his day. It was pretty much the same as the previous day, so he made some stuff up in case Rodney gave up out of sheer boredom. He'd gotten to crocodiles invading the main labs and eating Zelenka when he realized he was still holding Rodney's hand, stroking his thumb along the soft skin of his wrist, and was suddenly hit by a visceral memory of doing the exact same thing with his mother, in the hospital before she died. He let go of Rodney, then, and did a quick circuit of the room, then came back and pinched Rodney's arm viciously. Rodney didn't flinch.
"You're a real asshole," John said. "You know that, right?"
There was something close and intimate about those nights with Rodney, when everyone else was gone and asleep, and Atlantis shrank to just the two of them and their pool of light. The days were weird; everything was kind of on hold, waiting to see if Rodney got better. Ronon was still out of commission, too, so SGA-1 was grounded for the duration. John did paperwork during the day, and tried to hang out in the labs so he could keep Rodney updated on what was going on, but he took evasive action if anyone tried to talk to him. He found that if he saved his voice during the day, it didn't give out after holding up his end of the conversation for two hours every night.
He didn't bother with the book anymore; he got used to just bullshitting, making stories up for Rodney that got more outrageous every night, even kind of racy. He kept waiting for Rodney's outraged squawk, though, and kept getting distracted when he thought he saw Rodney move out of the corner of his eye. About halfway through, he'd usually find himself playing with Rodney's hands, working the joints of his fingers, rubbing his palm, pushing the cuticles back with his nails. Then he'd switch to the other hand when he was done. It was like physical therapy. Rodney would have a lot of work to do when he woke up; he'd be glad if he could move his hands okay.
On the tenth night, massaging Rodney's wrist, John made himself think about whether Rodney really wanted him, made himself look back and reassess everything: all the weird faces Rodney made at him when he thought John wasn't looking, and the sarcastic little comments about the sexual conquests he imagined for John that John had never bothered to disabuse him of, because he thought Rodney was trying to live vicariously through him, or something, and he didn't want to ruin his fun.
A couple of weeks before the mission where it had all gone to shit, Rodney had come to John's office in the middle of the day, like he never did. John had been busy, and hadn't had time to come by the lab, and he'd had a lunch meeting with Carter one day, then a thing with a new bunch of recruits the next day that had run through to the afternoon, so with one thing and another he hadn't seen Rodney in a few days.
"Oh, there you are," Rodney had said, and wandered in. He had looked over John's shoulder at what he was writing. He had a cold or something, and he kept sniffing.
"Three months overdue. You want to do some?"
"What, are you kidding me? Carter's already on my back for another round of staff assessments! I only just did the last lot!"
"Six months ago."
"What? It was not six months ago, that's –"
"Rodney. I'm kind of busy, here," John had snapped, because he had a headache and he wanted to get the goddamned forms finished and away from his desk. "Did you want something?"
For a second, Rodney had frozen, like John had caught him with his hand in the cookie jar. But, "Oh – no," Rodney had said. "I just – I was passing through. Right. See you later."
At the time, John had thought it was weird, but assumed Rodney was hiding from Zelenka or something. Maybe Rodney had wanted to kiss John then. John could have been seconds away from Rodney planting one on him, if he'd been nicer, or if Rodney hadn't been such a chickenshit. He wondered what he'd have done. Thinking about it made him feel weird and uneasy, not least because he had no idea.
Or maybe, it occurred to John for the first time, he'd just misheard Rodney, and for a moment he couldn't think for relief. Of course Rodney hadn't said that he wished he'd kissed John. That was crazy. Rodney was in the middle of having a cardiac arrest or something, and John had been half deaf from the gunfire anyway. He'd probably said – said - "I'm going to miss you."
Actually, John reflected, swallowing around the taut pain in his throat, that was worse.
So, what if Rodney had kissed him?
If John were Rodney, he'd have grabbed him after a mission when they were all high and could blame it on the adrenaline. Grabbed him, and kissed him on the mouth. Slipped him a bit of tongue, then pulled back to see what kind of reception he'd got.
The idea made uncomfortable heat turn over in John's stomach. He'd had guys come on to him before. Been propositioned openly, even, a few times. He'd traded drunken, adrenaline-fuelled hand-jobs once or twice. But – Rodney. He had a feeling that with Rodney, it would be like being hit with a goddamned monster truck. Rodney wasn't subtle. And Rodney wouldn't take rejection well, either – he'd either go all weird, like with Carter, or he'd mope, like with Katie Brown, or he'd be bitter and cold and go white around the mouth and be as much of an asshole as he could until John lost his temper and punched him in the face and Carter split up the team. Yeah. In retrospect, John could see why Rodney had never said anything.
If it had been John, John was pretty sure he would have said something.
"Night, McKay," John said on the eleventh night, and dropped a kiss on his cheek without thinking about it. Rodney's skin was soft, yielding, and he smelled like soap and that dull, acidy non-smell that all hospitals have. John caught himself as he was pulling away, and froze with his hand still wrapped in Rodney's. He sat down heavily and let Rodney's hand drop, so it hung limply over the side of the mattress. For a second, it was like John was alone in the room, and it felt like plummeting towards the earth with no parachute.
"Rodney," John said, "Rodney," and slowly, jerkily, bent down and kissed Rodney on the mouth, just a light brush of their lips together. The vertigo feeling got worse, so that John had to grip the sides of the bed to stay upright, and he kissed Rodney's slack, half-open mouth again, cupped Rodney's face in his hands and tried not to breathe in his stale taste. He couldn't stop, he couldn't let go, because then Rodney would still be an empty shell, and John was freaking himself out so much he was getting hysterical. He forced himself to let go, slowly, pressing his forehead to Rodney's for a second before stepping back, not looking at Rodney's face, replacing Rodney's hand gently by his side, and leaving.
"You going to go see Rodney today?" John blurted out, over sandwiches, just to break the silence while they ate.
"I have already been to see him," Teyla said.
"What do you do?"
Teyla shoveled a huge forkful of lentil-and-Pegasus-yam mash into her mouth. She already had two empty sandwich boxes in front of her, and had gone to get the hot meal too. "I tell him we are all very worried about him, and want him to get better, of course. I tell him how poorly the city is functioning in his absence."
"Right," said John, trying to sound bright and cheery. "Yeah, of course. How about you, Ronon?"
"Tell him to stop being such a pussy and get better," Ronon said.
"You do not," Teyla said, quellingly. "I distinctly heard you reciting Llesna and the Fifty Dragons to him yesterday."
Ronon glowered. "Thought he'd like it. You got a problem with that?"
The corners of Teyla's mouth curled upwards as she chewed, and her eyes sparkled. "Of course not."
John felt edgy and shaky, like he was going to throw up, or hit someone; he felt unanchored. Teyla put her hand on his arm, and he jumped.
"John, Rodney is very strong," she said. "We must not give up hope."
"Yeah," John said. "Right. Yeah."
That night, he sat in his office for an hour, bouncing a ball against the wall, before finally heading for the infirmary. He hesitated for a few minutes outside, then, before setting his shoulders and going in. It wasn't Rodney's fault he was going crazy.
"Sorry," he said to Rodney's still form, feeling like an idiot. "I had a, a thing."
Rodney didn't call him on it.
That morning, John woke up with his hand on his cock, still hard from a dream about getting a blowjob from Rodney. Rodney's wide mouth had been hot and wet around John's cock, and John could still feel it, it had been so real. Before he could get fully awake John was jerking off thinking about him, about Rodney. Rodney's big blue eyes looking up at John the way he looked at incredibly cool things, like alien spaceships or new particles, making greedy, impatient noises and grabbing at John with his strong, flexible hands – Jesus –
John came into his hand, stroking the last aftershocks of pleasure out of himself, then woke all the way up. He freaked out for a little bit. Then he got up and went to breakfast.
That night, he made himself look at Rodney, starting from the top of his head where his hair was receding, down over his wide forehead, shadowed eyes, sharp nose, his thin, still mouth, broad shoulders, wide chest, the rest of his body indistinct under the covers. After a second, he pulled the covers back a little way, so he could check on the bandages on Rodney's chest. His belly stuck out a little, still, but he'd lost weight in the coma. His thighs below the hospital gown were hairy and white. John carefully put the sheets back and tucked them around him.
"I'd tap that," John said. His voice sounded too loud, in the bubble of silence that always seemed to fill this room, so he dropped to a whisper. "Just so you know."
He sat there for a while. Rodney's eyelashes were really fucking long.
"I had a sex dream about you," he said. "And I've had them before. But it's not the kind of thing you tell someone you work with, you know?"
John rubbed Rodney's arm, feeling where the muscle was loosening, softening up. He'd had really nice biceps going, before. He stroked his finger up the inside of Rodney's arm, where the skin was incredibly soft, and, after hesitating for a moment, rubbed his thumb up under the sleeve of the gown, kneading the muscle. Just that touch made him feel light-headed, the tiniest bit breathless. He took his hands away from Rodney, with effort.
"I," he began, "I don't –"
He didn't get anywhere with that, and forgot what he was going to try and say; finally, desperate to change the subject, he said, "Did I ever tell you about the time I lived in Canada?"
John knew he hadn't, so, he told Rodney about it now.
John woke up with his cock in his hand and Rodney in his head every day for a week. He could get hard just thinking about Rodney, anytime; in meetings, doing paperwork, hitting the exercise bikes with Teyla, helping Ronon with physio. He knew, objectively, that he should go talk to Dr. Yuen about it. But he didn't remember this being one of the five stages, and anyway, they hadn't lost Rodney. John was pretty sure he hadn't even entered denial yet, so where did wanting to fuck the guy fit in?
He even got hard from holding Rodney's limp hand, from rubbing his fingers and imagining what they'd feel like on him. Every evening with Rodney was like an exercise in some kind of weird, tortuous foreplay, now. He couldn't stop visiting Rodney just because he'd started wanting to jump his bones – or maybe he'd always wanted to have sex with Rodney and just never realized, he was kind of hazy on it, now – but having all of Rodney warm and vulnerable in front of him, his mouth sleep-slack and his arms bare, just did things to John.
He told himself he wasn't going to take advantage. He developed a technique of talking to Rodney about the least sexy things he could think of, to keep his mind off it, and he gave himself rules. No touching where the gown covered. Nothing that left a mark, or saliva, anywhere. No kissing the same place twice, with five lips-to-skin contacts maximum. He stroked the skin between Rodney's knuckles, so soft John could barely feel it, and found himself telling Rodney about Afghanistan, North Korea, his father, his ex-wife, stuff he'd never told anyone before. It was weird to hear himself say, out loud, things he'd never said to anyone before, maybe not even thought to himself.
It was actually kind of nice, the silence, sometimes.
"… and I was actually pretty relieved when she left me," John told Rodney, and touched the place where his pulse jumped in his throat. John was halfway hard, he could feel his dick pressing against his jeans, and the temptation to shift just a little, get the tiniest bit of friction, was almost overwhelming. One hand in Rodney's, John pressed his other palm against the bulge in his jeans, giving himself a few seconds of lazy heat.
"I'm - I should probably go," he told Rodney, thickly. He had one kiss left. He rubbed the side of his cheek against Rodney's palm, and pressed his mouth to the base of it. Rodney's hand was totally relaxed, fingers curled inward a little, and suddenly John was all the way hard, and all he could think about was those fingers wrapped around his cock. He was fucking desperate for it.
For a wild second, he thought about it. There was nobody here. Rodney would never know. God, John needed it. He wanted to climb on top of him, he wanted to rub off against Rodney's warm, solid body -
He staggered backwards, got out of the infirmary, and made it back to his room before getting his pants open and wrapping his hand around his dick, groaning through his teeth. He started with the fantasy of getting a blowjob from Rodney, the wet heat around his cock, the way Rodney had looked up at him in his dream, but as he started to tense up from pleasure, his mind slipped away from him, he thought about it. Stripping the blanket off Rodney, rolling him over, and fucking him like that, a warm, unconscious weight, fucking him hard – he tightened his grip and sped up without thinking, pushed up against his fist, god, fuck – and Rodney would wake up, and he wouldn't know why he –
John came hard, curling over himself, letting the hot shudders wrack his body. When it subsided, he lay on the floor for about an hour, staring at the ceiling. Fuck.
"Colonel Sheppard," Carter said, "Could I have a word?"
"Can it wait? I've kind of got to -"
"I'm afraid not."
John followed her, distracted. Carter's ponytail was even more perfunctory than usual. He really didn't get what Rodney saw in her.
"John," said Carter, "I need you to start considering a temporary replacement for Rodney in your team."
"Hey," John said, momentarily caught out, "Hey, no. Rodney's going to - it's only been two weeks."
"It's closer to a month, John," Carter said, looking tired and wary. "I'm as hopeful as you about Rodney's prospects, but we can't put the entire expedition on hold while we wait for -" she paused, looking at John, then went on more gently, "I've had several requests from the xenobiology team for field trips back to M7R-523. I want you to put a team together. That's an order, Colonel."
"Yes, ma'am," John said, and got out of there.
John was early that night, and had to wait for Radek to leave; he was patting Rodney's arm, and talking to him in Czech, low and subdued. He looked exhausted. John waited quietly outside the door, and tried not to fidget as the minute hand on the infirmary clock ate into his time.
Finally, Radek came out, rubbing his face. "Colonel," he said. "I cannot take much more of this."
"Yeah," John said. "I know how you feel."
The second Radek was gone, John fell into the chair and pressed his face against Rodney's arm, just above where the needle from the drip went in, and it was like he hadn't breathed at all since the night before.
"Hey, Rodney," he mumbled.
Rodney's chest rose and fell gently, brushing against John's hair.
"Okay, look," John said, something dangerous and frantic clawing at his throat, "I'm going to jerk off. If you're not okay with that, let me know."
He rubbed his hard-on with his knuckles through his pants at first, then fumbled with his fly and wrapped his hand around himself. His groan sounded too loud, and he snapped his mouth shut and bit his lip, but it felt so good, he needed it so much. God. He wrapped his other hand around Rodney's, interlaced their fingers, and stroked himself, shut his eyes, and pretended it was Rodney's hand. It would be so easy to just kneel up on the bed, put Rodney's hand on his dick. Curl his fingers around under John's and thrust into his fist, Jesus -
Rodney twitched his fingers in John's, and John came, lanced through with heat and shock. Muzzy and panting, John stared at Rodney, and Rodney stared back. Then Rodney's eyes fluttered closed again.
In a controlled, ruthless panic, John wiped off his hand, threw the Kleenex in the Biological Hazard waste disposal, did up his pants, then yelled for the night doctor.
Rodney was awake, the next night. They said he'd be sleeping a lot for the next week, but from what they could tell so far, he was okay. He was going to be fine.
"Hey," John croaked, sick to his stomach.
Rodney squinted at him. His eyes were giving him some trouble, but Keller said it would wear off once he got used to light again.
"They said they'll let me –" he broke off to yawn, "eat tomorrow."
"That's great, buddy."
Rodney didn't seem inclined to say anything else, didn't even seem to notice John was there. By increments, the vice around John's chest loosened. Rodney didn't remember. The relief from that seemed to open the floodgates, and John was swamped, suddenly, with all the other kinds of relief John hadn't been feeling when Ronon whooped when they told him the news, when Teyla smiled radiantly and hugged Rodney, tears in her eyes. Rodney was going to be okay. Jesus Christ. Thank god.
"Are you okay?" Rodney mumbled. His face looked different, pinker and rounder. He had his hands on his stomach, and he was scratching at the place where the IV went into his arm. "You have no idea how much I want to get these tubes out of me."
"Yeah," John said, voice messy. "You'll be up and around again soon, Rodney."
Rodney was looking at him with a little frown that seemed to be more than a problem with the light. His mouth was twisted at the corner; John had forgotten that, he'd gotten used to Rodney's mouth relaxed.
"Colonel, I – I seem to remember –"
John's heart thumped and his stomach tightened up with fear. Shit. "Yeah?"
"Did Teyla have the baby yet? She's still pregnant, right?"
"Yeah." John let all his breath out at once, suddenly exhausted. "Yeah, she's still pregnant."
"Oh, good," Rodney yawned, "I just didn't want to ask her this morning – whether – whether she was just still fat…"
The second he fell asleep, John left.
The next night, Rodney was watching a movie someone had rigged up for him, and John sat next to him, and they talked about Cary Grant for a while. When Rodney went quiet and his shoulder rested against John's, rising and falling, John reached for Rodney's hand without thinking.
"What?" said Rodney.
"Um," John said, and turned Rodney's wrist around towards him, then dropped it. "Forgot you don't wear a watch."
"There's a clock on the wall, Sheppard," said Rodney, and John felt him shuffle on the bed to look at him. He didn't turn his head, they were too close.
"So there is," John said. "Gotta go. Night, Rodney."
A couple of nights later, John walked into Rodney's room at the usual time, and his bed was empty and stripped bare. Ice thumped painfully into John's stomach before he forced himself to calm down and remembered that Rodney had been released today. He'd gone home. Before he could think about it, he went to Rodney's quarters.
"Jesus, what?" Rodney yelled from inside.
John went in, and Rodney blinked at him from where he was sitting up on the bed. He could walk now, but not for very long.
"Oh, it's you," Rodney said. He was wearing a t-shirt and boxers. "Well?"
"Nothing, Rodney. Sorry. I just was, um. Passing through. Sorry I woke you."
"Oh, well, I'm awake now," Rodney sighed. "You want to watch a movie or something? I am so unbelievably bored. Can you believe they won't let me even go near the lab for another two weeks? Two weeks!"
John edged across the room and looked around, but there were no chairs or anything. Rodney shuffled up the bed, making room for him. The room smelled like him, not like a hospital, and Rodney looked ruffled and too pale and his hair was clean, and John couldn't deal with it.
"Hey," John blurted out, "Did I tell you about the time I got lost in the Montreal Biodome?"
Rodney stared at him like he was completely insane.
"When I was living in Canada," John said, "my dad took me to -"
"Seriously, I thought I was the one with potential brain damage, here," Rodney snapped, "What the hell are you blathering on about, Colonel?"
John clenched his fists by his sides, and tried to remember where he had been allowed to touch Rodney, before. It seemed like years ago. He couldn't remember.
"I've got to - you should sleep," he said, nearly stumbling over his own feet as he backed towards the door. "Night."
"Right," said Rodney, still staring. "Well. Thanks for waking me up for no good reason."
"Yeah," John said, nearly out of there. "No problem."
"So," Rodney said, around a mouthful in the mess hall, just like normal, just like it always used to be, except John had spent a month attuned to the slightest movement Rodney made, and having him back to normal, waving his hands around and yelling, was like having an AK-47 go off directly next to his ear. Added to that was the fact that John suddenly wanted him more than he'd ever wanted anybody in his life. It was exhausting, and left John rattled and rubbed raw, wincing inwardly at every move Rodney made. "What did you do while I was in a coma?"
"Nothing," John said quickly, "I just sat there."
There was a pause.
"I meant in your life," Rodney said slowly, and John felt himself flush all the way up to his ears.
"Oh, you know," he muttered. "The usual."
John was trying to remember what he and Rodney used to talk about, but Rodney was eating fries, and John kept forgetting to eat, distracted by Rodney's hand going up to his mouth, the way he licked ketchup off the tips of his fingers, his pink tongue darting in and out. Rodney was looking at him very strangely.
"Right," Rodney said finally, pushing his tray away, with a heavy dose of sarcasm that made John wince, "Well, this was fun."
"Yeah," John said, not sure if he was supposed to agree, and was deeply, profoundly relieved when his radio went off.
Rodney stopped by John's office later the next day. John had been kind of avoiding him.
"Hey," he said briskly, "Just thought I'd say, um, don't come by tonight, if you were thinking of, you know, playing chess or something."
"Um," said John, a little poleaxed behind his desk with the way Rodney was waving his arms around, his mouth crooked and shirt hanging off him a little.
"Because," Rodney was going on, "I haven't been sleeping too well, if you can believe that, and Keller gave me these pills that should knock me out –" he shook a little bottle in John's direction like a maraca – "so, you know, I won't wake up if you come knocking."
"Okay," John said, still totally bewildered. He watched Rodney's ass on his way out, then put his face in his hands.
It wasn't even until a few hours after that that it ambushed him, the idea, and then he couldn't believe he'd thought it, and also was too turned on to concentrate on whatever the hell Lorne was saying and probably agreed to talk at a training seminar, or something.
Rodney. Knocked out. John could – he could just go and have a look at him. Check on him. It was hard to get a measure of how well Rodney really was, when he wouldn't sit still for five seconds, even when he was confined to a wheelchair for half the day. It wasn't a big deal. Rodney wouldn't even know. John repeated that over and over to himself until the moment he was standing outside Rodney's door, his breath coming too fast and his heart racing. He felt like he hadn't seen Rodney for weeks, he just wanted – he missed him.
But all that went out of the window the second he saw Rodney there, spread out on the bed, sprawled in his t-shirt and boxers without even any sheets over him. Letting the inside of his head go quiet, quieter than the room, John stripped off his boots and pants (heavy with stuff in his pockets and zippers that jangled), and crept closer to the bed. He sat down next to Rodney, and then, because there were no tubes and wires and the bed was bigger and he could, he lay down beside Rodney. Slowly, he shuffled close enough that they were just pressed together, and John could feel the warmth radiating off him, feel him breathing. Yeah. Christ, this was what he'd wanted. God, Rodney was – Rodney was so –
John stroked his thumb along Rodney's lower lip, then pressed his forehead to Rodney's out of habit and breathed, "Hey, Rodney." He already felt better. He'd just. He'd just do this for a second. Christ, Rodney felt so good, warm and solid against him, and John was hard, had been since he'd walked into the room. He wriggled a little so that his cock brushed against Rodney's belly through his boxers, and just the light pressure on the head through two layers of cotton was enough to make his hips jerk forward. He shut his eyes and tried to breathe. Rodney's face was smoothed-out, peaceful, and the room was quiet.
"I'd kiss back," John blurted. "I'd kiss you back, Rodney."
Saying it out loud, letting go of it, was like having something cut free that had been tight around his throat. Then suddenly it was all crushing down on him, and he couldn't. Rodney had died. Rodney had nearly died again. He might have never fucking seen him again, never spoken to him. He might have stayed a vegetable forever, just a pile of bones and skin lying on a bed, and John wanted anything but that, wanted his weird, quirked-up mouth and his hands waving and his yelling.
"Rodney," he croaked, and shook him, pinched his shoulder, "wake up, wake up, Rodney, Rodney –"
Rodney's eyes snapped open. "Ha!" he said, and John nearly jumped out of his goddamned skin. He tried to get off the bed, but Rodney grabbed him, wrapped both his arms around him and rolled them off the bed, then landed heavily on top of him, knocking John's head on the floor.
"I knew it," Rodney crowed, right into his face, "I knew you had some kind of weird sleep fetish thing! You were jerking off over my unconscious body! I was in a coma, you sick bastard!"
Rodney was still really weak, and John easily flipped them and pinned him down, his blood thrumming white-hot.
"That would have been the last thing you'd ever said to me," John snarled without realizing he was going to, right into Rodney's face, as Rodney pushed up ineffectually against John's hands. John was so fucking angry, he wanted to kill him, and it had come from nowhere, rushing over John like a freak tsunami; he had no defense against it at all. "You died, McKay, what the fuck was I supposed to – why did you do that?"
"What the - hell are you - talking about?" Rodney panted, still trying to roll them over, rubbing his whole solid, mobile body against John's in the process.
"You said," John said, slowly and clearly, "that you wished you'd kissed me."
Rodney's eyes went huge, and he stopped shoving. "Oh my god, I said that? When did I say that?"
"Just before you went into a fucking coma for a month, Rodney, do you want to kiss me or not?"
"You don't need to shout!"
"I'm not shouting!" John yelled. "Jesus Christ, Rodney!"
"Okay, okay, fine, yes, I want to kiss you! Who the hell doesn't?"
For a second John thought Rodney was shoving at him again, and tightened his hold on Rodney's arms, but Rodney was rubbing John's shoulders, was looking worriedly up at John and saying, "Hey, calm down, look, I swear I was going to tell you. I'm sorry, okay?"
"Yeah, well," John said, suddenly aware of how warm Rodney was, the way his thighs were pressed against John's. His mouth was dry, and he felt stupid. "You should have said something."
"Can you get off me, before I suffocate and lose even more brain cells than I've already sacrificed for the sake of Atlantis?"
John rolled off Rodney, nearly kneeing him in the stomach in the process, and Rodney hauled himself up onto the bed with an effort it hurt John to see. When Rodney opened his mouth to say something else, John dropped to his knees at the side of the bed and kissed Rodney's mouth. Their teeth clacked together, and John's mouth was kind of wet, and John jumped out of his skin when Rodney's hands came up to cup his face. When Rodney stroked his thumb over the arch of John's ear, shivers racheted down John's spine with such unexpected force that John kind of fell over.
"Um," Rodney said, his mouth red, two spots of pink high on his cheeks, and his eyes kind of glazed. "Wow. I should be shot with hideously dangerous nerve toxins more often, it's obviously a huge turn-on for you."
"What," gasped John, feeling like all the breath had been knocked out of him. "No, it's just –"
"I was joking, Sheppard, Jesus," Rodney snapped. "Kiss me again."
John kissed him again, pulled like a magnet to iron.
"Okay," Rodney groaned finally, pulling away, "much as I would like to pursue this, I've been wearing a catheter for nearly a month and, well, no."
"I could," John panted, "I could stay, I won't do anything, Rodney, I swear –"
He licked Rodney's neck and bit it a little, frantic for no reason he could think of.
"Ow, you maniac," snapped Rodney, slapping the side of John's head, and it made John crazy.
"I really want to fuck you," John blurted out. "I couldn't stop – I can't stop thinking about it. Jesus, McKay, please."
"Oh, well, if you put it like that," Rodney said, and groped at him, startling a groan from John as he eased John's cock through the gap in his boxers and stroked it, rubbing the length with a pleased noise. He licked his palm and looked up with a smirk, and John shuddered, propped himself up onto his knees and elbows over Rodney to make room for his hand, and kissed him, licked right into Rodney's mouth, wet and messy and deep. Rodney was amazing, Rodney knew exactly what he needed, just went for it, jerking John's cock fast, and John was close, was there, moaning into Rodney's mouth and coming on his stomach, as Rodney grabbed his shoulders hard enough to bruise and made a desperate noise which made it even better.
"I missed you," John panted, "I missed you so fucking much. I want to have sex with you every day."
Rodney grabbed his hand and tugged it down to his boxers, which were, hey, not there anymore, and said, his voice going high, "Yes, okay, can you start now, please? I'm sensitive, so be careful."
John felt a grin spread across his face, and it ached in his cheeks and chest; he'd gotten out of practice. "I'll be gentle, McKay."
"Bite me," Rodney said, and wriggled and groaned when John did, noisy and alive and John's favorite person in the entire, whole world.
"You did at least check that there were no cameras in that room, right?" Rodney mumbled, later, when John had given his first ever blowjob, which he felt had gone surprisingly well, although his jaw kind of ached, now. He liked it, though.
"Come on, McKay."
"You practically admitted yourself that my absence made you unhinged! Anyone could have seen you molesting my comatose –"
"Look, I didn't actually molest you," John said, through gritted teeth, "and can we please not talk about this anymore?"
"Okay," Rodney said, and sighed happily. John blinked, and then decided getting laid was good for Rodney. Then Rodney said, "Look, I just wanted to say - I mean, obviously I don't remember any of it, but Teyla said you came by every night. So, well, thank you. For staying. And if our situations had been reversed, I would have missed you a lot too, and maybe gone slightly crazy. So. We'll say no more about it, as long as you don't show any more disturbingly necrophiliac-like – okay, ow! Shutting up."
John shuffled closer against Rodney. He found that if he didn't think about it and just did it, Rodney took it in his stride, just made room and tightened his hold around John again when he was settled, the way he just rolled his eyes and went when John yanked him around by the tac-vest. Now John thought about it, it had always been kind of obvious.
"What did you do?" Rodney said quietly. "I mean, the other times?"
"Held your hand, read you some Tolstoy. Told you about my day. Sang you some Johnny Cash."
"Oh my god, what if I'd been able to hear you? What were you thinking? You could have shattered my will to live!"
John tightened his grip on Rodney's hand involuntarily, and Rodney stopped. Then said, "You really were frightened."
John shut his eyes. "Just try not to get shot anymore, okay, Rodney?"
Rodney kissed him on the forehead, probably because it was the only part he could reach without moving, but it made John feel weak and shaky, put him back in that hospital room again, just for a second. But then Rodney huffed a sigh and tugged John's arm into a different position around him, and brought John back. "Yeah, okay. I suppose I can do that."
"I lived in Canada for a year, once," John said, and it was easy, easier than he'd thought. Rodney didn't interrupt. "In Ottawa. After my mom died."
"Oh," Rodney said, after a minute. "I didn't know that."
There was a pause.
"You want to, ah, talk about it?" Rodney said, sounding dubious.
"Yeah, maybe," John said. "Some time."