Rodney knew he shouldn’t have been doing this. It was a simple fact he had learned a long time ago: the pretty ones always broke your heart, whether they meant to or not. Because they were too good to be true – at least for people like him, they were. Even if they looked your way, it would be just a passing glance, and it would go away as soon as somebody else entered the picture . . . someone pretty, someone like them. They were looking for someone they could take to parties, clubs, and social events and who wouldn’t embarrass them in front of their friends; someone who could make witty conversation with them, instead of boring them with dull scientific facts they didn’t have any interest in; someone who could make them laugh, who could keep them interested and satisfied in bed after the first fancy had passed. Someone who was not a lab geek; someone who was not him.
Jolene taught him the first lesson in high school. She was cute as a button and telling him how cool and interesting he was, until the math exam passed and the captain of the football team (all smile and muscles, but only one football-shaped neuron) asked her out.
He learned the second lesson in his freshman year in college, from Sean, the roommate who jumped him the first night in and for whom Rodney tried to be the perfect boyfriend, tried to like the clubs and parties he detested (the smoke in his eyes, always making him cry; the rolling lights, giving him headaches). But it was all for nothing, because Sean left him three months later for a handsome, charming sophomore student with a III after his name and six zeros in his bank account.
But it had been Richard who broke his heart: Richard, who joined his college his third year, after transferring from Australia. Richard, with his Australian accent, his muscular body, his tanned, unmarked skin and his long sun-kissed hair. Richard, who had the world at his feet - and who chose Rodney (he didn’t know exactly why, but he wasn’t about to ask much back then); Richard, who played his body like a fine-tuned instrument, who spent hours making him crazy, bringing him almost to completion and then backing down until Rodney was so desperate that he begged to be fucked. Richard, who didn’t seem to mind going to parties and social events alone after the first disastrous attempts or that Rodney had to work extra hours, and who was always waiting in their bed when he got back, ready to get at it. Richard, who listened to Rodney’s ramblings with infinite patience and then proceed to ravage him so thoroughly that he forgot his own name.
It was the same Richard who had been cheating on him since day-one. All his so-called friends knew about it. Those selfish swine were only after his work and laughed at him behind his back. But when Richard begged, he forgave, only to return one day early from a physics conference four months later to find Richard in bed (their bed) with one of the assistant teachers. It was the same Richard that didn’t look back when Rodney kicked him out his home for good (keeping the tears in check, not giving the slimy bastard the pleasure of seeing him cry), who never cared for the pain he left behind, for the heart he broke, for the last remains of innocence he stole. But Rodney had loved him nonetheless.
He learned his lesson, and he learned it well. He took the pieces of his broken heart, taped them together and shielded the sorry refit with many layers of arrogance, sarcasm and snide remarks to make sure no one else would ever want anything more than a one-night stand, a quick stress relief, a wham-bam-thank-you-man-don’t-call-me type of thing. It worked. It was painful and lonely, and he rarely, if ever, remembered the name of the guy whose face he didn’t wake to the morning after, but it worked. It kept his heart together – alone, but in one piece.
He channeled his passion into his work, and it took him to the Stargate program, which gave him the chance of a lifetime: to find a long buried city, the stuff of legends, in another galaxy, filled with technology light-years beyond Earth. And he had stepped through the Gate without looking back.
And that changed his life, in more than one way, because it was more than knowledge that he found there.
Rodney knew Major John Sheppard was definitely one the pretty ones – and not only physically, even if the man was too sexy for words: dark tousled hair that always seemed to do its own thing, hazel eyes that reflected the sunlight in amazing golden hues and a lean but well-toned body that was wreaking havoc on his libido. To make things worse, John Sheppard was also really smart and caring, even if he was sometimes also annoying, hotheaded and impulsive. He kept Rodney on his toes; and just when he thought he had John figured out, John would throw him a curve ball - like the MENSA thing. But John trusted his friends with his life and no one had ever trusted Rodney like that.
It was funny that his first thoughts about the man had been less than charitable. Yeah, John was attractive (Rodney had a perfectly working pair of eyes, thank you), but, hell, did everyone have to have the ATA gene but him? And John not only had it, but, unlike Beckett or anyone else, the man was a natural at it. Envy colored Rodney’s opinion green, automatically classifying John as “grunt - don’t bother.”
It was after they’d settled in Atlantis that Rodney started to see the man behind the cocky Major Flyboy. A man almost crushed by the guilt of awakening the Wraith and putting a whole galaxy at danger, but too proud to let his feelings show. A man who cried bitterly only when he thought nobody was watching him (and Rodney made no noise, just stood there in the shadows . . . to make sure John was ok); a man ready to give up his life to save others, even if he didn’t like them or they didn’t like him. And he was still beating himself up for killing Colonel Sumner, and nothing Rodney said changed anything. John was a man who was irreverent and carefree one second (One of those days, Rodney would strangle him, really, he would.) and deadly serious the next. He was also a man who attracted people like flies, (didn’t they have a life of their own?) but was a something of a loner at the same time – secluded on that balcony on the left tower only Rodney knew about.
But, most importantly, he was a man who took Rodney under his wing and made him his friend.
And John was a friend: a friend who saw to it that Rodney didn’t overwork himself too often, who dragged him out of his lab to watch a silly movie someone smuggled in and made sure there was something more than coffee and Power Bars in his diet. He was a friend who taunted him and bickered with him just for the fun of it - and the annoyance of everyone else; a friend who conspired with him to get Elizabeth to agree to try out his latest theories against her better judgment. (And it always worked, that pout never failed.) John was a friend who listened to Rodney’s rants about the stupidity of everything and everyone (and their neighbor two galaxies down) with an amused, but not condescending smile and then said something witty to take his mind off it (And this, too, worked every damn time, whether he wanted it or not.) He was the kind of friend who reamed you real good when you messed up or risked his life foolhardily because, for some reason, he cared.
It was when he almost lost John to that damn bug that Rodney realized he had fallen in love with the man. Rodney didn’t sleep that night, caught between fear and relief, the unwanted knowledge of his own feelings and a full panic attack. It was scary how far John had slipped into his heart without his noticing, how his resolution to never fall in love again went down the drain when he wasn’t looking, how John held in his hand, without knowing, the power to hurt Rodney far worse that Richard ever had. The logical part of his mind was kicking him about it, calling him all the names under the sun, urging him to break it off as quickly as possible. But the other part of his mind, the one that was directly connected to his heart, didn’t give a damn. That was what scared him shitless because, if there was something that Rodney McKay hated, it was feeling vulnerable.
The first time John came into his room and, without saying a word, kissed him within an inch of his life, Rodney was too stunned for words. There had never been the smallest signal, the tiniest clue, nothing that suggested, even remotely, that John Sheppard wasn’t the hot-blooded heterosexual every USAF Major was expected to be. And that had been fine with Rodney, because it had helped him keep his own feelings at bay. But, with that one kiss, John had thrown his world into a spin. Rodney wanted to know the why, how and what. He needed answers to questions he wasn’t sure how to ask.
But then John peeled their clothes away, pushed him back to his bed and proceeded to make love to him, and all Rodney’s questions flew out the window. John didn’t utter a word, just caressed him (warm hands that seemed to be everywhere at same time) and looked at him intently with eyes shining with an indescribable feeling that touched him at his very core. The pupils of John’s eyes were so dilated the iris was just a tiny crown of hazel and Rodney spread his legs, giving him silent permission. And John prepared him so carefully and entered him with such tenderness and moved inside him with such a passion (oh, yes, faster) that Rodney forgot there were more things in the world than the two of them. And when their pleasure exploded, just for one moment, the world stood still, physics be damned.
Rodney’s questions were never answered, for they never spoke about it. What happened at night stayed with the night and the few times Rodney tried to speak, John silenced him with a kiss and the most tender lovemaking he’d ever experienced.
Rodney knew he was setting himself up for a painful heartbreak. Because the ones like John never stayed - the pretty, charming, witty and fun ones. And if, but some fluke, they did, it wasn’t with geeks like Rodney, who would unavoidably say the wrong thing, piss the wrong someone off, bore them once he couldn’t give them anything new in bed. If love was a science, there was no doubt that he would keep John, because he was the best in his work, bar none. He was one of the few people in Earth that could really understand how a Stargate worked – the physics hidden under the deceivingly calm surface, the intricacy of the subtle woven forces that made the wormhole possible. But the same qualities that made him a genius always prevented him for grasping the subtle nuances of human feelings, from understanding the things that could not be coded in hard equations. With the same certainty that he knew love couldn’t be coded into an equation, he knew John would eventually leave him. He just didn’t know when.
Rodney tried, really tried, to stop it before it was too late. But whatever careful, logical excuses he had prepared to turn John down, crumbled to dust at the sight of him. Several times he convinced himself to end it before it was too late, just to have the words dissolve in his brain when John’s lips touched his.
He needed to feel John’s fingers on his skin, leaving trails of fire. He craved John’s lips mapping his body, detouring to work on each of his hot spots (John had found them all, damn him.) before taking him into his mouth. Nothing mattered when John slid into him and thrust into his body, bringing him, sometimes slow and tender, sometimes fast and rough, to a place outside time and space, where for the instant their orgasm lasted, everything was possible.
He was addicted to John Sheppard, body and soul. Nobody needed to tell him all the reasons why addictions were bad; he knew them all. But addictions are, by nature, unreasonable. They don’t obey logic. And he didn’t want to be weaned of this one. It just felt too good, too perfect. Even if he knew that when everything would end (because it would, no doubt about that), the withdrawal would hurt like hell, inside and out, he was going to keep using.
So each day he fought, argued, and bantered with John, in what he long ago admitted was their own twisted form of foreplay. He explored worlds at John’s side (and never, ever, did John touch him off world), ate with him in the mess hall - bickering all the time - and sometimes even watched videos or played chess – a game of which, to Rodney’s chagrin, John turned out to be a master. In everyone else’s eyes, they were just best friends, nothing ever out of place, nothing that anybody could misinterpret.
And each night when John came, (for he always came and always chimed, too, like there was any doubt Rodney would allow him in) Rodney let him in his quarters, in his bed and in his body. Each night he let John make love to him, possess him in more than body, in more than his soul, in everything he was. And each night he fell deeper in love. He kept falling and falling every time those hands touched him, each time that tongue possessed his mouth, with every thrust of that cock into his body. And, in those long, marvelous moments, Rodney’s world was perfect.
Never a word broke the stillness of the night, only sounds of pleasure. Their bodies spoke for them, loud and clear, but words were never exchanged. It was a spell woven by John’s hands on him, John’s lips in his skin, John’s cock in his body, a fragile spell that would be broken if a single word was uttered, a carefully laid ritual, drawn onto his skin by John’s lips and fingers, made real only by in the long moment between dusk and dawn when everything was possible. And the silence, a black hole surrounding them both, was one Rodney never dared break, because if he made John think about it, he might realize it was a mistake, a temporary madness, a moment too soon. Because this thing with John may have a due-date, but that didn’t mean he wanted it to end just now. It was all he would ever have, and he would do his best to make it last as long as possible, to the last second he could get, to the last kiss he could steal.
And always, afterwards, with John sleeping sated in his arms, with his warmth seeping into Rodney’s body and his weight half on top pressing him to the mattress, Rodney spent hours awake, savoring the feeling, basking in the moment, storing memories away to last a lifetime. For he knew instinctively that this time there would be nothing left of his heart to give away – John could take all of it. So Rodney took the meager trappings with which he might decorate the emptiness where his heart would no longer be: kisses to warm him up in cold nights alone, careful touches to conjure up when he would have only his hand for company, and, most importantly, the feeling of perfection, of being filled when he’d feel so empty. The memory of these things, and simple rightness of John’s warmth and weight in his arms, would be all Rodney had when he was alone in his bed in the long years to come.
He stored them all away and no, it wasn’t a tear that was rolling off his cheek. He just hugged John tighter and drowned in the moment . . .
. . . waiting for the heartbreak to happen.