John wasn't sure when it had started, but he had his suspicions.
The Daedalus' second run to Atlantis brought a shipment of "home comforts," cargo holds filled with morale boosters for the weary expedition members. They'd been allowed a hundred pounds each for mementoes or special luxuries they hadn't been able to bring the first time. People had requested photographs, their grandmother's quilt, a favorite book, expensive scotch, chocolate, tea. John had ordered up a skateboard, a boogie board and a guitar. He'd always wanted to learn to play the guitar.
That night was one of their regular Game nights, and so John had arrived promptly at eight-thirty only to find Rodney conspicuously absent. Considering Rodney was usually there early, trying to cheat by getting a pre-emptive move in, John was a little worried.
After fifteen minutes of waiting, during which John uploaded the design for a cool new fortress he'd been secretly working on, he finally called McKay. "Hey," he said, casually, when Rodney answered. "You coming or what?"
"Am I –?" Rodney began, sounding at a loss. Before John could get miffed that Rodney had forgotten, he babbled, "Oh, yes, yes, right, sorry, I forgot it was Thursday. I can't tonight, I've got something very important to do."
John sat up, suddenly alert. "Something wrong?"
"No, no, it's nothing like that," Rodney said. "Nothing, uh, work-related. Yet still: important. So if you don't mind..."
"You might have let me know before I came all the way down here," John said, surprised at the petulance in his own voice.
Rodney blew out a breath. "Well, look on the bright side. At least you got to sneak in that new fortress you've been planning," he said, and then the line went dead.
John sat there staring at the screen for a few moments, debating with himself. He really should leave Rodney alone; it wasn't like they were joined at the hip and needed to spend every spare moment together. Hell, it wasn't like he was burning with curiosity over here, even though he'd overheard a couple of the life scientists gossiping about Rodney asking one of them out on a date –
– Okay, fine, maybe he was a little curious. Maybe that was why Rodney had stood him up; he might be combing his hair for his date right now, splashing on a little after shave, or maybe he was still in the shower, the water pouring down over his –
Right, okay, no. He'd told himself a long time ago he wasn't going to think Those Thoughts any more. Not about any guy, and sure as hell not about Rodney.
Of course, that didn't stop him from pausing outside Rodney's door on the way to his quarters, just to see if Rodney was still around, and Christ, he was pathetic. He was just about to move on when he heard the muffled thump, followed by a loud curse.
"Rodney?" John pounded on the door. "You okay?"
When there was no immediate answer, the door opened on John's unspoken command. He strode in to find Rodney standing in the middle of his room, sucking on his thumb and glaring at his wall.
"You regressing?" John asked, folding his arms.
Rodney yanked his thumb from his mouth with a loud pop. "What? No." He waved the other hand at the wall, which was holding a hammer. "I'm trying to hang some things."
John frowned. "So what's the trouble, other than the fact you can't use tools without hurting yourself?"
"That's right, mock my pain," Rodney muttered.
John walked over to the bed, where Rodney had laid out the stuff he was trying to hang. They were mostly diplomas and awards, though there was also a photo of a cat, one of the Canadarm signed by some guy John didn't recognize, and a shot of Rodney holding one of his diplomas. No family photos, no vacation snaps.
"The truth is – I can't decide how they should be arranged," Rodney confessed.
John was still reading the diplomas. A couple of them were in Latin. "You're kidding me."
Rodney's mouth thinned. "No, actually, I'm not. Now, if you don't mind – " He gestured with the hammer, nearly dropping it as he swung.
"Hey, hey," John said, holding his hands palm up and taking a step toward Rodney, "lighten up, all right? And give me that before you fracture your skull. Or worse, mine."
Rodney glared at him for a moment, then sighed and handed over the hammer.
John smiled his best atta-boy smile. "Okay, now, how about I hold some of them up for you where you tell me, and you can step back and get a chance to see which arrangement you like?"
Rodney stared at him. "Oh. Well. That would be – thank you."
"One thing, though," John said, picking up the picture of the cat, "I think this one should go here." He flipped it over, and sure enough, there was a stand on the back. He popped it out and stuck the frame on Rodney's nightstand.
"That's silly," Rodney said, roughly. "I don't need to have it right – beside my bed."
John shrugged. "Looks good there."
"Oh, fine," Rodney said, like he was doing John a favor, "if you say so."
John looked up at him and nodded. "I say so. Now," he said, setting down the hammer and gesturing at the frames, "where do you want to start?"
"I can't believe you ordered these," Rodney said.
John frowned at him as he unfolded the curtains he'd commissioned from a seamstress on M3P-874. "What's wrong with them?" And yes, all right, he already knew the answer to that, but he wasn't going to give Rodney the satisfaction. He'd asked for dark curtains, and they were dark. Unfortunately, they were also –
"They're sparkly," Rodney said, lifting one of the panels and holding it up to the light.
"Yeah, so?" John had to concede that was true; there was a definite glint to them, the result of some kind of metallic thread woven among the darker ones.
"So nothing," Rodney said. "I just didn't peg you as the – sparkly-curtain type."
John shot a glance at Rodney, who was sitting beside him on the bed as John unwrapped the package. Rodney's cheeks, John noticed, were tinged with a hint of pink, and suddenly he couldn't help but wonder if this conversation was more important than it seemed to be. "Maybe I like to sparkle every now and then," he murmured, arching an eyebrow. "You mind?"
"Mind?" Rodney squeaked, eyes widening, and okay, those cheeks were now definitely red. "Why would I mind? You can be as – I mean, I'm totally fine with you – sparkling."
Holy crap, thought John, trying not to panic, because this wasn't the conversation he'd been expecting when he asked Rodney to give him a hand putting up his new curtains. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask Rodney if he liked to sparkle too, but the poor guy's face was already glowing like a ZPM set to overload, and John would hate to have to explain why their most valuable scientist's head had suddenly exploded in the middle of a seemingly innocent home decorating project.
Besides, John knew that Rodney would say no.
"Well, that's mighty nice of you, Rodney," John said solemnly as he rose to his feet. "Now, would you mind getting off your ass and giving me a hand?"
The comment had the desired effect: Rodney's eyes narrowed, and John could tell he'd managed to steer the conversation away from dangerous territory.
He wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed.
It occurred to John somewhere in the middle of it all that this must be what it was like to have a friend. Which sounded kind of pathetic, but the truth was, while he'd had buddies, he'd never really had somebody you could call when you needed help putting up Christmas lights around your quarters. The fact that he probably could have done eighty percent of these things by himself didn't seem to bother either of them, especially when Rodney asked John's help with stuff he could've managed alone, too. But then, maybe Rodney'd never had this kind of friend, either, and now that he had it, was trying to make up for lost time the same way John was.
The other part of it was that he'd never really had a place he'd truly considered his. He'd gone straight from his parents' overpriced mausoleum to a college dorm room to the BOQ. When he'd gotten married, they'd moved into her place: a no-brainer considering John didn't even own furniture. Nancy's apartment was one of those swanky modern open-concept condos with white furniture and carpets and tile – white everything, basically. One of the building rules was that you weren't allowed to barbecue on the balconies, because – well, John had no idea why, but he imagined it had something to do with your property value going down the toilet if your neighbor was seen grilling hot dogs with a rusting hibachi. When he found himself getting envious of the guys who lived in the cookie-cutter housing on the base, with their two point five rug rats and the kid-worn, sun-faded swing set in the back yard, because at least they could fucking barbecue whenever they wanted, he knew his marriage was in trouble.
His whole life, home had been something that happened to other people. But now he lived in a ten-thousand-year old city that sang for him, and he had a friend who didn't mind being called for help with asinine projects of dubious merit, and if that didn't sound like anybody else's idea of home, John didn't give a damn, because it sure sounded like it to him.
Things continued on like that, an informal back-and-forth of odd jobs and favors woven in between movie nights and playing chess and taking turns saving one another's lives. When they returned from an expedition to the western section of the city, Rodney enlisted John's help to bring back a really cool chair he'd found in one of the apartments. "It's like an Ancient recliner," he said. "It even has a built-in massage function."
"Rodney, so – do La-z-boys," John puffed, backing toward the transporter – oh, thank God they were almost there. "And they don't weigh a ton."
"Oh, stop whining," Rodney said. "It's not that heavy."
"It's not that heavy for you because I'm carrying most of it," John growled.
"Well, why didn't you say so?" Rodney huffed, coming to an abrupt halt. John nearly dropped the damn thing on his toe.
"Okay, could you tell me when you're going to do that?" John snarled.
"Shut up, just give me a second – " Rodney took a deep breath, shifted his grip on the chair and heaved, and then John finally felt the oppressive weight lift from his aching hands. He wasn't paying much attention to the relief of his pain, though, because the movement had drawn John's attention to Rodney's upper arms. Rodney's biceps, which bulged nicely as he gripped the chair, happened to be two of those places on Rodney's body John had promised himself he wouldn't stare at. That list had been growing over time, and now encompassed ninety-five percent of Rodney's surface area. Pretty soon the only spot John would be able to focus on would be the tip of Rodney's nose, although hell, that was pretty cute, too.
"Well? Are we going to start moving again sometime this century?"
John blinked. Rodney was starting to look a little strained there, and John felt a pang of guilt. "Okay, okay," he muttered, starting to inch backwards again. "All I can say is there'd better be beer at the end of this."
Rodney's eyes crinkled and his mouth quirked, as though he were holding back a smile. "Oh, I'll do better than that."
It turned out that Rodney was as good as his word, because when they finished the ancient La-z-Boy death march, he accompanied John back to his quarters, where there was something waiting for him on his balcony.
John stared, open-mouthed. "It's a hibachi." It was a real hibachi, one of the nicer ones with painted enamel sides, complete with barbecue tongs, matches and a pair of thick leather gloves. It was sitting on a table with a bag of Kingsford charcoal and a can of lighter fluid sitting underneath it. There was a small steel barrel set beside the table, which he supposed was for storing the ashes.
Rodney shifted from foot to foot. "I wanted to get you something bigger, and I could have made something, for that matter, out of one of the old steel storage drums, but I wanted something that would fit on your postage stamp of a balcony, plus I had to factor in the charcoal usage. One ten-kilo bag will last you forever with this thing, and you can still get decent steaks out of it. Which I have, by the way," he added, hooking a thumb over his shoulder. "T-bones."
"How did you get all this stuff?" John asked, flabbergasted.
"We had another fifty-pound allowance on the latest Daedalus run, remember?"
John hastily did the math, adding up estimated weights in his head. "Yeah, I know, but this – this had to have used up your whole allowance."
Rodney shrugged. "I really didn't need much of anything this time around."
John knew this was a complete lie, because the Daedalus personal runs were spaced about six months apart, and Rodney always used up most of his allowance on fancy coffee and chocolate, which no matter how carefully he rationed them were always long gone before the next run. "But why did you think I wanted a barbecue?" he asked, still floored.
Rodney's cheeks pinkened. "You mentioned it a while back one night in the mess; said you missed steaks cooked over real charcoal." His face fell suddenly. "I thought – oh, but if you didn't really want one, um, well, I can – " He flapped a hand at the hibachi, then took a step toward it.
"No, hey, hey," John said, and then he looked down to see that his hand had ended up wrapped around Rodney's wrist, which was surprisingly bony. "I love it. I – thanks. This is – really nice." It was more than nice, it was huge, and not only in the thoughtfulness of it. Rodney could survive under adverse conditions, but he didn't like giving up his creature comforts for anyone, and John had no idea what it meant that he was apparently the exception to that rule.
"Well, I thought you might like a little reminder of home," Rodney said simply.
John didn't say what he was thinking, because everything that sprang to mind sounded corny. Instead, he smiled and clapped his hands together and said, "Well, what do you say we get this party started, huh?" and Rodney's unguarded, honest grin twisted something inside him into a knot he wasn't sure would ever come loose again.
A couple of days after Rodney didn't ascend, John invited Rodney to his quarters because he thought there might be something wrong with his air conditioning. After about an hour of poking around in the dusty ventilation shafts, they didn't find anything that might be causing it, but John fired up the hibachi and fed Rodney hot dogs anyway. They sat side by side watching Hellboy, not talking much, and when it was over and Rodney was getting ready to leave, he looked into John's eyes and said, "Thanks."
"Thought that was my line," John said.
The corner of Rodney's mouth jerked upward. "Right," he said. "Sometimes I get mixed up whose turn it is." His hand rose, and this time it wasn't awkward when he squeezed John's arm briefly before letting go. "Good night."
"'Night," John managed.
He woke that night in a cold sweat, and then it hit him that Rodney was out there, healthy and whole and full of barbecued hot dogs, and he rolled over and went right back to sleep and didn't dream at all.
When the door slid open, John already had the smile plastered to his face. He hoped it looked convincing.
"Hey," he murmured, holding up the six-pack he'd brought. "Thought I'd bring the party to you this time."
Rodney stared at him for a couple of seconds, uncomprehending, and then his face fell. John felt a wave of relief wash over him, and in the next moment felt like the worst kind of asshole.
"Oh," John said, stupidly, then didn't have a clue what to say next.
Rodney made a jerking movement with his head and turned. "Let's not discuss my complete and utter humiliation in the hall, shall we?" Wincing, John edged past him, ripped open the box and handed Rodney a bottle without further delay.
Rodney held it up and read the label. "You have beer from Newfoundland?"
"Chuck had beer from Newfoundland," John corrected, trying to mimic Rodney's pronunciation – up til now, he'd thought you said found in the middle, not fund. "I traded him."
Rodney took a healthy swig. "Must have been some trade," he said when he swallowed. "This is good."
Shrugging, John bit his tongue to hide the smile. He'd heard enough complaints from Rodney over the years about the inadequacy of American beer to know that he couldn't bring a few cans of Coors Light to a celebration of Rodney's engagement, but this wasn't about tooting his own horn. It was enough to know that Rodney was at least getting a little pleasure out of a taste of home.
John'd had exactly two brief conversations with Doctor Brown, both of them unremarkable, and seen her with a painfully courteous Rodney a couple more times, and really, he'd be hard pressed to find someone less suited to fill the role of Meredith Rodney McKay's wife. Either she'd end up being flattened by the steamroller that was Rodney's personality, or she'd end up resenting him for being – well, him, or maybe both. Rodney, John firmly believed, needed somebody who'd seen him at his worst and liked him anyway, who was strong enough to stand up to him and tell him when he was being an asshole. Hell, Teyla was a better match for Rodney than Katie Brown; at least she could snap him like a toothpick if he ever got out of line.
None of which he was going to tell Rodney, of course. Right now, what Rodney needed was a friend who wouldn't make him relive the blow-by-blow of what had probably been a pretty disastrous day, a friend who wouldn't impose his own fucked-up and totally unrequited feelings on him –
Rodney held out his empty bottle to John and looked at him expectantly.
– A friend who'd get him another beer. Grabbing the bottle without comment, John set it aside and popped open a fresh one.
"Oh my god, I haven't been this drunk since Siberia," Rodney groaned, leaning his head back against the sofa and closing his eyes. He immediately opened them and straightened again. "Whoa. No. Stop that."
"What's the matter?" John demanded. Rodney was finishing his fourth bottle, well ahead of John's one and a half; he looked both flushed and bloodless at the same time, and John was still trying to figure out how that was possible, and worse, why he found it so goddamned endearing.
Rodney twirled a finger. "Room was spinning. What's the alcohol content of these puppies?" He held the bottle up in front of his eyes. "Eight percent? Oh, God, I've killed twenty-three million brain cells already."
John frowned. "You know the exact number?"
"No," Rodney said, rubbing his forehead. "I made that up. Just like Fahrenheit 451."
John wasn't all that tipsy, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make heads or tails of that sentence. "What the hell are you talking about?" he demanded.
Rodney stared at him like he'd just sprouted a horn in the middle of his forehead. "The Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451? Bradbury admitted recently that he'd made the number up, that it wasn't actually the temperature at which paper burns – he just liked the number." Rodney snorted. "He just liked the number! Can you imagine that?"
John frowned. "Yeah, I can. It's called literary license, buddy." He blinked. Wow, maybe he was a little drunk, too. It'd been a long time since he'd done any drinking on a mostly empty stomach, or, well, at all, really.
"Oh, no. Please don't tell me you were an English major, because then I will have to reconsider our entire friendship, and I am in no condiss – condishee – state."
"Don't do that," John said, nudging him with a shoulder. "I've kind of gotten used to you."
"What did you major in at college?"
John took another swallow of beer. "Math. Minor in Arabic."
Rodney's mouth dropped open. "You – what? You know Arabic?"
John shrugged. "Figured it would be good to have a language." He didn't mention that he'd also gained a working knowledge of French and Spanish thanks to the stick-up-the-ass private school his dad had insisted he attend, though he figured he'd lost most of the French by now.
"My God, you have a Math degree. Why did I not know you have a math degree?"
John shrugged again. "You never asked."
Rodney looked stricken for a moment. "I didn't? That's right, I didn't. Why didn't I?"
John shook his head. "Don't worry about it. There's a lot I don't know about you, too."
"So ask me something," Rodney said.
John barked a laugh. "Just like that?"
"Why not?" Rodney demanded.
"Okay, uh." John searched for a safe topic. "Where were you born?"
Rodney made a face. "Technically? Hamilton, Ontario. And before you say it, no, we didn't live there, thank God. My parents were driving to a conference and Mother went into labor."
"Your mother was about to give birth and your dad was dragging her to a conference?"
Rodney shook his head. "It was her conference, not his – a music symposium, actually – and I was six weeks premature. Apparently they were arguing about which exit to take when her water broke."
John thought that explained a whole hell of a lot about Rodney right there. "Where did you live really?" John asked.
"Toronto. But wait a minute, that's two questions." Rodney frowned. "Three. Now it's my turn."
Rodney's gaze darted to John's face, then away. "Um. Have you – no, never mind." The frown returned. "I can't think of anything." His head flopped against the couch, and he blinked at John blearily.
John propped an elbow on the back of the couch and looked down at Rodney, who was obviously running on fumes. He wasn't the only one; now that the adrenaline of the day had finally left his system, John was feeling his own bed calling to him. Unfortunately, with Rodney gazing up at him like that, face all relaxed and open, mixed with the selfish relief that had coursed through his blood earlier, he was feeling another call, too. And that was where this whole situation had the potential to become dangerous very quickly.
Taking a deep breath, John reached out slowly and touched Rodney's shoulder. Rodney's eyes widened, but he didn't move, didn't pull away, and God, it would be so easy for John to let himself think he could have this. After a few precious moments of absorbing the warmth of Rodney's body under his fingers, he pulled back again.
"Well," John said, clearing his throat, "I guess it's time I was – "
"Say something in Arabic," Rodney blurted.
John stopped dead, but Rodney's eyes never left him, never gave him a chance to escape. He was trapped, pinned, and the truth was he didn't want to go, not yet, not quite yet. And so he said softly in another language, his tongue tripping over the no longer familiar sounds, "I'm sorry," and "She should have said yes," and "I'm glad she didn't," and "I wish – I wish I could – " before he ran out of words.
Rodney's eyes slid shut. "What did you say?"
"I said, 'You are the son of an incontinent camel, but I like you anyway.'"
His eyes still closed, Rodney's mouth curled in a smile. "Dick."
"Okay, Sleeping Beauty," John said, hand closing more firmly around Rodney's arm this time, "it's nap time."
"So let me nap," Rodney whined, shrugging off John's touch now.
"In bed, genius," John admonished. "C'mon."
"I am a genius, aren't I," Rodney said in a smug six-year-old's voice as John hauled him up. He stumbled a little into John as he stood, and John told his body it was completely impossible for him to be aroused by the bump of Rodney's chest against his, and his body answered, oh, yeah?
Rodney's hands went to John's arms to steady himself, and he looked into John's eyes. "Hey," he murmured.
"Yeah?" John grunted. Their faces weren't any more than a few inches apart, and John could feel the soft puff of Rodney's breath against his lips.
"Did you ever read al-Khwarizmi in the original Arabic?"
John stared at him for a moment, then burst out laughing. He laughed so hard that he ended up with his forehead on Rodney's shoulder.
"What?" Rodney demanded, affronted.
"Nothing," John managed, still chuckling. "Yeah, yeah, I did. A long time ago." He lifted his head off Rodney's shoulder, and suddenly stopped laughing, because Rodney was looking at him, his gaze focused and intense in a way he shouldn't have been after four strong beers.
"Will you read to me sometime?" Rodney asked.
John shook his head. "I don't have any of his work."
Rodney's hands were still on John's arms, fingers digging into his biceps. "I'll get you something. Will you?"
"Okay, yeah, sure," John managed. "You won't understand any of it, though."
"Are you kidding? I practically memorized the English translation of Algebra in Grade Eight. You tell me the chapter, I'll know what you're saying."
And that was crazy enough and dorky enough and sweet enough that John finally snapped like a dry twig and leaned forward and kissed Rodney, softly, on the lips. Rodney's fingers froze, then squeezed John's shoulders as hard as they could. John pulled back just he began to feel Rodney respond, because this wasn't the right time, not after everything that Rodney had been through today. He didn't know when or if there would be a right time, but he knew this wasn't it.
"Oh," Rodney said simply, eyes wide.
John took a step back, and Rodney's hands fell from his shoulders. "Good night," he murmured, nodding at Rodney before turning and walking out. As he headed down the corridor to his own quarters, he tried not to think about the confused look on Rodney's face as John pulled away, the slight pout of lips that hadn't yet realized the kissing had stopped.
And he wished, more than anything, that Rodney would wake up in the morning with no memory that John had kissed him at all.
John really hated offworld missions where even the weather seemed to conspire against them. The torrential downpour hit just as they started running flat out for the gate, and John slipped and went down hard in the mud, his back twisting as he fell. Ronon and Rodney hauled him up and dragged his limping ass through the Gate just in time, but their escape was way too close for comfort: John could have sworn he felt the heat of the Genii bullets whizzing past his head as the puddle closed around him.
Back in Atlantis, Teyla was waiting for them, and walked with them up to the medlab, a silent presence at their side. Keller checked him over thoroughly, handed him a heating pad and told him to take the next couple of days off. As he exited the medlab, Rodney fell into step beside him without comment. Before John could get away, Rodney took his arm, supporting John under the elbow with a strong hand. Rodney's other arm went around his shoulders to grip his opposite arm.
John tried to ignore the surprisingly comforting feeling of being surrounded by Rodney's warmth. It had been over a week since the kiss, and Rodney'd given no indication he remembered it. John kept telling himself it was better that way, even though he replayed it in his head at regular intervals.
"I can walk on my own," John pointed out, trying not to sound choked.
"You've injured your back," Rodney countered, grip tightening. "Pardon me if I prefer to err on the side of caution here."
"Look, just humor me, all right? It's not very far to your quarters. You'll survive the humiliation."
John sighed and started walking with Rodney's arm still wrapped snugly around him.
You have no idea, he thought.
"All right, take off your clothes."
John whirled around, feeling some tendon in his back twang unpleasantly at the sudden move. "Excuse me?"
Rodney gestured at him. "You need a hot shower. I heard Jennifer say so."
"Yeah," John drawled, unimpressed, "and I'll get one. As soon as you leave."
"Oh, no," Rodney said, shaking his head decisively. "Do you know how many accidents happen in the shower? I am not leaving you alone so you can slip and fall again. The next time, you'll probably crack a vertebra. Maybe even break a hip."
"Jesus, Rodney," John muttered. "I'm not a complete klutz."
"No comment," Rodney said, folding his arms and glaring, and man, that was not fair. John had no defense against the folded arms. Giving in, he sighed and lifted his t-shirt over his head. Rodney grinned and bounced on the balls of his feet, and John hated him, just a little.
When he reached his belt buckle, he tried again. "This is stupid."
Rodney glared even harder than before.
"Well, what are you going to do?" John demanded, gesturing at him. The Ancient showers were huge, with heads protruding from the walls at various heights. There was no way that Rodney could be close enough to keep him from falling and not get drenched himself.
"What do you – oh," Rodney said, deflating. "Actually, I hadn't – thought that far ahead."
John's jaw clenched. The truth was that he had thought that far ahead, and then some, on several occasions, usually late at night after a long mission when he was exhausted and wanted some easy jerk-off material. Just the thought of sliding against Rodney's impossibly smooth, slick skin in the shower was guaranteed to get him hard, and as soon as he moved on to the kissing and the stroking and the rubbing, he was going, going, gone.
"Like I said, I'll be fine," John insisted, pressing his advantage, because Jesus, he really needed Rodney to be gone now.
"For heaven's sake," Rodney snapped, starting almost viciously on his own belt. "We're both adults here – " and without ceremony, he shoved down his pants to reveal his underwear.
John stared. He couldn't help it.
Rodney's face reddened, and then his eyes slammed shut. "Oh, crap. I'm wearing my Marvin the Martian boxers, aren't I?"
John nodded. "'Fraid so." He scratched at the back of his neck. "Kind of shoots your whole argument straight to hell."
"Yes. I know. Thank you."
John grinned and started on his own belt buckle.
This was fine. He could do this. As long as he kept his eyes closed and his mind off the fact that Rodney was naked and wet and about a foot away.
Rodney naked naked Rodney naked naked naked RODNEY –
"Fuck," John gusted under his breath.
He jumped at the sensation of a hand on his shoulder. "Are you all right?"
John took a deep breath, let it out. "Fine," he gritted. "Never better."
"Why don't you turn around and let the water pound at your lower back? That's what I do when I've pulled a muscle."
And oh, there was an image John didn't need right now: Rodney with his eyes closed, arching his back and groaning in pleasure at the rhythmic caress of the heated water against his flesh. "I don't think that's a good idea," he said, jaw clenching so hard he could barely get the words out.
"Why not? Are you that sore?" The hand left his shoulder, and John breathed a sigh of relief that ended on a yelp when Rodney touched his back just above his ass.
"What? What? Does that hurt?" Rodney prodded at the area experimentally with his fingers when John was too slow in responding.
"No, but why don't you poke at it for a while to see if you can make it hurt?" John growled.
"Oh, sorry, sorry," Rodney said, and the prodding abruptly stopped.
"S'okay," John managed, bracing his hands against the wall and letting his head hang down. "Rodney, really, I'll be fine. Just – "
"Please," Rodney said, his voice so soft that John could barely hear him over the sound of the water, "don't kick me out. I – I know it sounds stupid, but I need to know you're going to be okay."
John's head rose and he risked a glance over his shoulder at Rodney, who looked stricken. "When you went down like that," Rodney continued, voice still hushed, "I thought – for a moment – that this was it, this was the time your crazy-assed luck had finally run out, and I – " Rodney's eyes squeezed shut and he blew out a breath.
"Hey," John murmured. After a moment's hesitation, he turned to face Rodney, then reached up and gripped his shoulders. Rodney's eyes snapped open again at the contact, and his gaze searched John's face. "I had good friends looking out for me," John said. "That's the best kind of luck."
Rodney's expression turned oddly determined, like that of a kid attempting his first ill-considered flight off the garage roof on wings made from tissue paper and popsicle sticks. Then he stepped forward into John's space, took John's face between his hands and kissed him. It wasn't a hard kiss, but it wasn't a tentative one, either, and John realized Rodney had probably been thinking about doing that all week, and he groaned and tilted his head and let Rodney in. His hands glided down Rodney's back, then bracketed his hips.
"Oh my God," Rodney breathed against John's mouth, "I didn't dream it." He kissed John again, sucking on John's lower lip before letting it go. "It wasn't some – " another kiss " – drunken hallucination."
John tried to speak, but between the kissing and the feel of Rodney's impossibly smooth water-slick skin under his hands, his brain was completely short-circuited. Rodney dealt with the problem by kissing him again, which really only made things worse, but hey, talking was highly overrated anyway. John tugged at Rodney's hips until they were plastered against each other, chest to groin. Rodney broke away, buried his head in John's neck and groaned, and John felt what had to be a pretty impressive erection snug against his thigh.
And then Rodney's hips bucked, and John stumbled backward and nearly lost his balance.
"Oh, Jesus, no, no, no," Rodney said, clutching at John and steadying him. He thumbed off the shower controls, then began leading John toward the door.
"Hey," John said, trying not to pout. He'd really been looking forward to shower sex.
"Hey nothing," Rodney said. "I'll be damned if I'm going to be the cause of your premature demise now that we're naked and touching one another." Once outside the shower stall, Rodney grabbed a towel and started drying John's chest and arms. "When your back is fully functional again, we can consider something more acrobatic. But for now..." Rodney trailed off as the towel swept lower, and John looked up to see that Rodney was staring down at John's cock like it was some kind of new scientific discovery.
"Rodney," John murmured.
Rodney shook his head as if to clear it, and then proceeded to carefully dry John's belly and sides and upper thighs, avoiding the place John wanted him to touch most. He raised the towel to scrub at John's hair, then walked around him to dry his back. Sweeping the towel almost impersonally over John's ass, he then dried his legs all the way to his ankles. Despite the fact that Rodney hadn't touched any of John's erogenous zones with anything more than brusque efficiency, John's skin was still tingling when Rodney walked back around to face him.
"Now is it my turn to do you?" John asked, placing his hands on Rodney's shoulders and cocking his head.
Rodney closed his eyes for a moment before answering. "Not yet," he rasped, cheeks flaming, "I, uh, I still need to dry your feet," and before John knew what was happening, Rodney had slid to his knees in front of him.
"Christ," John swore, because he'd fantasized about this about half a million times, and he never thought it would actually happen: Rodney here, kneeling in front of him, aroused puffs of breath gusting over John's still-damp cock. Rodney seemed have forgotten all about John's feet, because he wrapped one hand around the base of John's erection and then his tongue darted out and touched the head and John groaned and bucked his hips and –
"Ow," he gasped, when his lower back protested even that much activity.
Rodney cursed under his breath, then let go of John's dick and hauled himself to his feet. "Bed. Now," he ordered, pointing, and John sighed and went, his head hanging down because goddammit, it just wasn't fair that he finally had the chance for sex with Rodney and his body was too broken to cooperate.
He lay down on the bed flat on his back, arms folded on his chest and manner petulant, and closed his eyes. He could hear the muffled sounds of Rodney drying himself, and shifted all his attention to hating the Genii, because maybe that might make his hard-on go away by next Tuesday.
And then he felt the bed dip, and opened his eyes to see Rodney gingerly kneeing his way between John's thighs. Rodney had that determined look on his face again, and John's erection showed a renewed and healthy interest in the proceedings.
And then Rodney leaned down and braced his strong right forearm across John's hips. He ducked his head, lips stopping a hairsbreadth from the head of John's cock. "You move a muscle and I stop," he threatened, and John gripped the sheets and closed his eyes and whimpered as Rodney opened his mouth and engulfed John's aching erection.
Six Months Later
"Oh, fuck," Rodney groaned, resting his head on his folded forearms where they were propped against the shower wall. "You have – God – magic hands."
"Why, thank you, Rodney," John said sweetly, planting a kiss on Rodney's shoulder blade as a reward.
"No, I mean that, I do, I've never had – oooh, right there, yeah – I've never had it like this before."
John reached up with his free hand and squeezed out another dollop of liquid soap, then went back to work. "Glad to hear it."
Rodney let out a sound that wasn't quite human, pushing back into John's ministrations. "Okay, okay, that's – that's enough, really, any more and I'll be a puddle of goo."
John bit the nape of Rodney's neck. "I like you gooey. Kinda like a roasted marshmallow."
Rodney snorted. "Dick," he muttered, then turned and kissed John hard, heedless of the water pouring over them both. "Come on, fess up. Where did you learn to give back massages like that?"
"Officer's training school," John said, kissing back, his still soapy hands finally sliding to Rodney's ass.
"You're not going to tell me, are you?" Rodney said, nipping at John's lip. He reached down, his hand unerringly finding John's dick, and gripped it with not quite enough pressure. John's hips snapped and he groaned in frustration.
"Now who's the dick?" he growled, shoving Rodney back against the tile and grinding their cocks together.
"Nnnggghh," Rodney said, eyes squeezed shut against the water, "I guess I am. But I'm good with that, I'm really, really, ohfuck – " because John had swiveled his hips " – yes, oh, please John."
John leaned down and licked at Rodney's collarbone, then slid his tongue up Rodney's neck. "Please what?"
"P-please anything," Rodney stammered, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. "Anything, anything, just do something, pl –"
John stopped Rodney's babbling with another kiss, then started mouthing his way slowly down Rodney's body.
"Oh, yes," Rodney moaned, when John's tongue curled around a nipple. "Thank you, seriously, thank you."
No problem, John thought, hiding a smile against Rodney's skin. After all, it was my turn.