When the heart monitor stopped beeping and began its jarring screech, John's body started to glow. Rodney sat at John's bedside, gripping his limp hand, trapped viciously between agonizing grief and exhilarated relief.
As the glow intensified, John's body faded, becoming insubstantial, translucent, then transparent. The hand in Rodney's grip lost solidity, slowly, inevitably, until his fist closed on empty air.
Rising above the bed, the brilliant light took shape, a strange, wispy form like living light, mobile and graceful and beautiful. One fluid projection reached out and stroked Rodney's cheek tenderly, a mere brush of air on his skin, sending a frisson of conflicting emotions zinging up his spine. Goosebumps broke out along his arms and Rodney grimly fought back the prickle of tears, gritting his teeth and forcing himself to accept this final gesture. Then, what had been John Sheppard, military commander of Atlantis, flowed upward through the ceiling and disappeared.
Rodney stood frozen, staring blankly upward, muscles cramped into fiendish knots. He thought he might throw up, or scream, but instead he turned on his heel, refusing to meet Elizabeth's or Carson's eyes, and left the infirmary. His balled fists and rapid gait drew some attention. One young marine asked him if he needed help, but he ignored it all and made his way to his quarters, wishing vehemently that he could slam the door right off its non-existent hinges.
His steps didn't slow until he found himself in front of his desk, breath rasping harshly through his nose, jaws clenched and aching. Swinging out his arm with a raw and furious shout, he swept the contents of the desk off onto the floor, uncaring whether the laptop lived or died. His coffee mug shattered and his data pad flew off to thud against the wall.
"Damn you, Sheppard!"
Roaring his rage, he grabbed the chair and lifted it over his head, slamming it down onto the desk, again and again, howling curses as his heart pounded in his chest. Turning, he swept it across his nightstand, relieving it of a pile of physics journals and the picture of his cat, completing the arc by releasing the chair to smash itself against the far wall. He took two steps toward the bed, fully intending to heave the mattress off and upend the frame, but suddenly his fury died. Like a switch had been flipped inside him, he faltered to a stop, heaving for air, shoulders dropping and hands hanging useless at his sides.
"Damn it, John," he grated, his throat closing up. "I could have saved you if you'd just hung on. I was close, I know it! If you'd just given me a little more time! I know you swore you'd come back, but who knows what your priorities are now that you've ascended? With the universe at your beckoning, what would you want with me?" Rodney choked on his words and gasped for breath as his doubts broke loose tears, utterly against his will.
He shuffled the few steps to his bed and fell onto it, rolling onto his back and letting the hated tears fall. The ripping pain in his chest made him feel cold and hot at the same time and he shivered and sweated and swore at Sheppard.
"I told you I'd figure out that stupid, stupid device; find a way to reverse the process. You just needed to hang on, damn it! Just a little more time, you bastard! Why couldn't you wait?"
It hadn't yet been a week since Sheppard had activated the innocuous looking disk-shaped device that the Ancient database claimed was a "cleansing" tool. It had somehow disconnected something inside John, some tenuous mind-body connection that kept him present, kept him in his body, kept him alive. He had started to lose his ability to stay in his body, and every time he passed out he'd return from a little further away. He had tried, god yes, while Rodney and Radek and the whole department scrambled for answers, Sheppard had hung on.
They had fought for a way to rebuild that vital thread that made Sheppard's essential self one with his physical self. But as each day passed, John's grip had weakened, his body failing, until he lost it entirely and slipped away into ascension.
Rodney barely restrained himself from kicking his feet and pounding the mattress in a convulsive surge of bitterness. Goddamn Ancients, leaving things laying around that could disconnect people! No labels, no warning, no descriptions in any intelligible terms in the database. Cleansing tool? What the hell? He'd like to snap a few Ancient swelled heads right off their twiggy little Ancient necks.
Fisting the blankets and clinging to the bed as if it were trying to buck him off, he vented his anguish at the ceiling until his head pounded from his spiking blood pressure.
Eventually, the tears tapered off and the past few days of frantic work and sleepless nights and terror and grief caught up with him. He finally turned out the lights and fell asleep, still muttering curses at Sheppard for rushing off and ascending, for not having enough faith, for abandoning him.
Something was touching his face.
Rodney twitched his arm up to brush it away but didn't wake all the way up. The next touch was on his lips, a buzzy tickle that startled him from sleep with visions of bees and wasps landing on him. Adrenalin jolted him awake with a panicked whimper. Eyes tightly closed and lying stock-still, he inched a hand up his stomach toward his face. The buzz disappeared.
Another light touch, more solid this time, like the caress of a finger on the back of his hand, and he opened his eyes, squinting into the bright light hovering over his bed. Slowly his eyes adjusted and he began to make out a shape, tenuous and flowing, appendages fluttering in a non-existent breeze. His heart clenched in his chest, a hard knot formed in his stomach and he held his breath, choking out a whisper, "John?"
The being wrapped one of its limbs around his wrist and drew his hand up to place his palm over his pounding heart while its gentle warmth soothed some of his anxiety. He felt the solidity of it down to his bones. Another limb stroked through his hair and down his cheek, soft and delicate, making him shudder under the pleasant touch, warmth flooding his insides, and he began to breathe again. It was John, he knew it beyond doubt. His rigid muscles began to relax.
Rodney reached out his hand, half expecting it to pass right through the brilliant light, but it was like holding compacted air, giving the glow contour and density, a physical reality that he could touch and feel. John. A softly shining tentacle nudged its way under the hem of his shirt and he gasped with surprise and pleasure when it reached his nipple and caressed it to a hard nub. Another of the gleaming filaments moved up on the other side, tip flicking back and forth over the bud there, drawing a deep sigh from Rodney, pleasant little zings of heat zipping between his chest and his groin.
The appendages rubbing themselves over his nipples moved to the hem of his shirt and pushed it up, and Rodney realized that John had further plans. He had no problem with that idea, approved heartily, in fact. He blushed suddenly. Oh god, could John see into his private fantasies now? Did he know what a kinky bastard he could be? Atlantis' black market hentai trade was brisk and vicious, and tentacle porn was worth the good coffee. Rodney had lots of good coffee.
For a moment he wished John would take on his human appearance if he wanted to be physical, but Rodney wasn't going to turn any part of John away, in any form. He just couldn't help wanting to see John's face, look into his eyes while they touched and clung to each other. After the past few days, Rodney thought they deserved some serious clinging time.
He stroked his hand down the torso of John's luminous squid-like shape, an image compounded by gentle, continuous undulations beneath his fingertips, as though drifting under water. Wherever Rodney touched John, soft beams refracted from the surface of the light, flaring around his hand. Rainbows! Pretty! Surely that meant it felt good to John, right?
Rodney mentally dope-slapped himself. Rainbows – pretty! Next he'd be gamboling off chasing butterflies through flower-dotted meadows and looking for bunnies in cloud formations. Clearly grief killed a lot of brain cells. It was obviously John's fault, the ascended, rainbow-making freak. He could feel himself smiling, skin crinkling under the leftover tightness of dried tears.
Sitting up, he quickly shucked his t-shirt and tossed it aside, but he hesitated, uncertain, at the button of his pants, not sure if he was being presumptuous. In answer to his unspoken question, a tentacle reached down and tapped the button. It laid a line of pressure over the bulge of his hardening cock, wrapping itself into a circle of warmth covering his groin, pressing softly. Did this mean John could hear his thoughts? John? Can you hear me? More pressure, with a delicious pulsing ripple thrown in.
He hurriedly removed his pants and boxers with a quiet moan, kicked off his shoes and socks without touching them, and laid back on the bed, heart racing and stomach fluttering. Thrilling as it was to know John was here with him, touching and pleasuring him, Rodney couldn't understand why John wasn't descending. What if this was some kind of final farewell? His mouth went dry at the thought and he grasped a pair of John's limbs and drew them up to his chest, placing them back on his nipples. If this was to be a last hurrah, he was going for the gold.
Already more than half hard in anticipation, Rodney's cock lay against his belly, growing fully erect when a glowing tentacle curled around it in a loose grip, moving slowly up and down the shaft. The firm, smooth sensation was more exciting than he had even imagined and dragged a low groan from his throat as his cock throbbed, his pulse thudding hard against the curl of bright light.
And suddenly he was being touched everywhere.
A pair of tentacles reached up, tickling across his ears and neck and back down along his shoulders, leaving fever-heated skin behind. The tentacles on his chest were squeezing and pinching and petting, smoothing heat along his ribs and belly. Sweat beading on his body made the touches slip and slide over him, trails of shivers following them and muscles twitching with rising tension. More joined in, long firm strokes across his torso and short light ones over his nipples, piling stroke upon caress, until his whole body felt hot, swollen, and the mix of random and unpredictable sensations drove his mind to a stuttering halt. It was amazing, his kinkiest, craziest fantasy made real. His hands were wrapped around a tentacle each, petting and rubbing, stroking first gently and then roughly, slow and then fast, beyond his conscious control, rainbows like sea spray wherever he touched. And they in turn clung to his wrists and arms, warm and solid.
A gentle tap at his mouth, a soft rub across his lips, and he opened, let the tentacle press in, soft and flexible. It writhed on his tongue, against his cheeks and teeth while Rodney sucked and licked, devoured and moaned as it became slick with saliva. Then it retracted, disappearing abruptly and he whined with the loss of it, lips puffy and wet, until another took its place.
Golden coils of light held his thighs apart, splayed and available, his muscles tensing and relaxing, hips thrusting mindlessly. The tip of the saliva-slick limb touched the crease of his ass, rubbing, circling his hole, breaching him with a gentle press. The tentacle pushed in slowly and steadily, a mercury-bright pool of pleasure at the base of his spine spreading up and down, through his body like liquid lightning licking at his flesh.
Rodney thrashed, tossing his head and thrusting helplessly, overwhelmed by the sensations building in thrilling, electric layers all over his body, between his legs, the palms of his hands, the small of his back. Groaning around the tentacle in his mouth, he bucked his hips into the tentacle coiled around his cock, filled near to bursting with pleasure and rapidly closing in on a devastating orgasm. The one in his ass pressed against his prostate rhythmically, ratcheting his pleasure up and up and up, not a single thought in his head except yes, god, John.
He came in an explosion of white light, searing his body and cleansing his mind of the last shreds of grief, ecstasy sizzling along his nerves and filling his pounding heart as he spurted over his chest and belly. John continued to touch and stroke and thrust until Rodney was a wasted, limp puddle of serenity in the middle of the bed.
One by one the tentacles withdrew, resumed their graceful fluttering. Rodney slowly came down from his orgasm high to a sleepy, floaty place, barely able to pry his eyes half-open. He smiled, sated and spacey, up at John. "You're still coming back, right?"
A tentacle reached out and caressed his lips and cheek softly.
"Okay, then. Just know... know that I'm waiting." The tentacle tip brushed delicately over his eyelids, encouraging them to close, and he tumbled gently into sleep.
Rodney woke more relaxed and refreshed than he had thought he would ever be again. Opening his eyes, he blushed at the sight of the mess he had made the night before. Temper tantrums were for liberal arts majors, better he save his wrath for the brain-damaged monkeys in the labs pretending to be scientists.
There was an unexpected warmth at his back and without thinking he turned, adrenalin spiking into his system, making his breath catch. He stared.
Lying naked atop the blankets, curled into a ball, shivering slightly, was John, green eyes blinking slowly. Rodney had never seen anything more beautiful in his life. He scrambled out of bed and threw open a drawer, grabbing a blanket and tossing it over John's goosebump-covered body. John turned his head and met Rodney's eyes and Rodney reached out and cupped his cheek gently.
John smiled softly. "Hey." He turned his head and kissed Rodney's palm and Rodney's heart soared. John was back! His John. The idiot who had managed to get himself non-consensually ascended. Who had broken Rodney into little tiny pieces but had promised to return to him. John, who still wanted him, had wanted him even while ascended, and here he was, gorgeous and whole in Rodney's bed!
Leaning down, Rodney drifted a kiss across John's lips, light and sweet and full of joy. Dizzy with relief, and possibly glowing just a little himself, Rodney shook his head, blinking rapidly.
He brushed his hand across his eyes and frowned, "No. You do not get to make me cry twice. Absolutely not. Not that there was crying, necessarily. But there might have been... leakage. Due to extreme stress, which can cause irritation which often results in over-lubrication of the eyes, which was completely and utterly your fault, and... just no."
John snorted and pulled the blanket tighter.
Smiling goofily as he clicked his radio, Rodney would always and forever deny that his voice broke, just a little. "Elizabeth, Carson, good news..."