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[personal profile] unadrift
You Might, Part Two

Back to Part One

* * *


"So, what do you think?"

"About the music or the steak?" John asked and downed the last of his beer.

"The music, of course. I was able to observe how much you liked the steak."

"If that was a quip about my table manners?" He pointed at a sauce stain on Rodney's shirt. "I'm not taking it seriously."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Your table manners are excellent. No quip intended. Now will you enlighten me on your opinion about the symphony?"

"It was-- really intense. I liked it."

"Intense. That's a good way to describe it, actually, if you need to restrict yourself to one-word sentences."

With that perfect intensity still vibrating in his bones and an excellent meal in his stomach, Rodney didn't expect the evening to get any better. Then the waiter offered them coffee.

"No, thank you," John declined. "Let's take a walk."

"But--"

"Rodney. It's such a nice night, and the fresh air will be good for you."

John made puppy-dog eyes at him, and Rodney was lost. He paid the tab and let himself be steered outside by the elbow. "Do you know where you can shove your fresh air?" he grumbled.

John didn't rise to the bait, just smiled to himself, and shoved his hands in his pockets.

It was a nice night. Rodney could even make out a few stars overhead. John followed his gaze. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Uh, yes? Of course? I've been waiting for you to finally crack and drown me in questions."

"You don't strike me as either the selfless hero-type or the daring adventurer. You knew there was a good chance you'd never come back from Atlantis. Why did you go?"

This wasn't the kind of question Rodney had expected to hear, and not the kind of question he was fully prepared to answer. "Um, to expand human knowledge?"

"Right." John didn't sound convinced. "That's the press-release version. Truth?"

"I used to play the piano," Rodney said after a moment of silence. Strangely, John didn't seem irritated by the sudden change of topic. "Until my teacher informed me that my technical capability would never compensate my lack of soul. I realize now what an irresponsible thing that was to say to a kid, and that this was really just his opinion. But I gave up playing on the same day. Today I wish I hadn't."

"You could take it up again."

"Okay, a) there are no pianos on Atlantis, unless they are still hidden in as yet unexplored parts of the city, which would be plain weird, and b) that's not the point. When I agreed to join the mission, that was me doing something that I wasn't absolutely sure I could do. It was-- an opportunity to be more. If that makes sense to you?"

"Yeah," John said quietly and met his eyes. "It does."

Oh, Rodney thought. John wasn't lying. He did understand. John had probably wanted to step out into the unknown for as long as he had dreamed of flying, had wanted to be more than what was expected of him since the day it had been clear that he could never be.

The sense of connection warmed Rodney from the inside out, and their eye contact wasn't broken until Rodney almost walked into a lamppost. He cleared his throat, looking ahead now. "Plus," he added brightly, "I really want to expand human knowledge."

John chuckled. "Okay, I believe you."

"Really!"

"You're going for a Nobel, admit it."

"Well, isn't that the logical conclusion of trying to expand human knowledge?"

"If you want it to be, of course."

"Quit mocking me. I do more for the progress of science in a month than any researcher here on Earth within a year."

"Did nothing hold you on Earth?"

Rodney had thought about that in Atlantis, whenever they hadn't been one wrong decision away from painful death. About the things he missed, which were mostly food-related, like coffee or chocolate, or pop culture-related, like new TV. About the things he didn't miss, like people, mostly. "Not really."

They walked in comfortable silence for a few minutes, until John asked, "So was it worth it?"

"Considering the things I've seen? Of course! The Ancient technology alone--" Rodney might have drifted off into a rant then, but John didn't seem to mind, throwing in 'Uh-huh's, 'Cool's, and 'But is that even possible?'s in all the right places.

By the time they reached the car, Rodney had explained the general workings of a ZPM to John, and praised the wonder that was the personal shield device. He saved the gateships for the drive. John was as impressed as Rodney had hoped he would be.

It was barely eleven when they reached the house.

With the key already in the lock John turned to Rodney at the front door, eyes twinkling. "So, I'm curious: This was different from a date-- how exactly?"

"I had fun?" Rodney offered after a moment.

"You're kind of pathetic," John observed, but he sounded amused. He unlocked the door.

"That's not exactly a newsflash. But thank you for mentioning it."

"You're welcome. You know what would make this evening perfect?"

"What?" Rodney asked warily, imagining all kinds of x-rated answers.

"Tribbles," John said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"When you're right, you're right," Rodney answered, grinning, and headed for the living room.


* * *


A home shopping channel was flickering over the TV screen when Rodney jerked awake. Something tickled his chin. Oh. John's hair. John was slumped comfortably against Rodney's side, his arm draped around Rodney's waist. Rodney himself had drifted a little to port and was half lying across the sofa. He breathed in deeply and, without meaning to, he tightened his arm around John's shoulder. When had he put it there?

Rodney had to admit that he was comfortable enough like this to go right back to sleep. Then John stirred and lifted his head. Their faces were only inches apart when he blinked his eyes open, and suddenly Rodney had trouble breathing.

"Are you sure you're straight?" John whispered.

"Um." Rodney licked his lips nervously. "Not so much anymore."

"Thank god," John said and kissed him.

John's lips were soft, but the stubble on his cheek felt weird under Rodney's palm. He was on the verge of deciding whether it was good weird or bad weird, when the sound John made deep in his throat tipped the scales in favor of 'good' faster than Rodney could get his hand under John's shirt.

This was like making out as a teenager had been, with the pleasure times a million. No. No, it had never been like this, never felt that good to have a hand glide up his neck and into his hair (what was left of it), to have a tongue sweep out over his lower lip, to open up and meet it with his own.

He'd never gotten this hard this fast either.

Rodney broke away, in need of air. "Definitely not straight," he mumbled into John's neck and breathed in deeply – really, John had no right to smell this good.

John slid his palm against Rodney's pants. "I noticed."

"Ngnh," Rodney said and almost came there and then.

"This is such a turn-on." John's voice sounded hoarse and strained.

Rodney just had to pull back and see the want on John's face, in his dilated pupils, in the way he reached out for Rodney immediately and moved in to get closer again, covering him, rubbing his cock against Rodney's through layers of clothing. Clothing that Rodney wanted to be gone right now.

"Can we-- can we--" Rodney didn't care about the trouble he suddenly exhibited forming complete sentences, because John was kissing his neck, licking his neck. "Move this to a bed?" he finally managed.

John looked up at him. "Are you sure?"

Rodney was sure he didn't appreciate being fed the virgin-on-her-prom-date line, even though it was kind of considerate. "At the moment I'm about as sure as I can be," he said, rolling his eyes.

For some reason John found either the statement or the eye-rolling incredibly amusing. He pulled Rodney up from the sofa and kissed him again, deep and frantic and messy, with smiling lips.

The trip up the stairs was about as much of an adventure as Rodney's last city exploration expedition had been. Miraculously, they reached the top without having fallen on their asses once. They even lacked some of their clothing already, and Rodney possibly a bit of his sanity, too.

A chest without breasts was weird. But it was the good weird, too, Rodney decided when he licked a nipple and John let out a needy desperate sound.

John groaned, his fingers tightening in Rodney's hair. "Here. Wait. I can't-- Let me--"

Rodney was pushed against a wall-- or a door-- whatever-- who cared? He was too busy enjoying more kissing to notice that John was working his pants open. From one moment to the next, John's mouth was gone, Rodney's pants were tugged down to his knees, and his thoughts got as far as 'Oh my god, he's going to--' and then the feeling of John's mouth on his cock ignited fireworks, naqadah bombs, fucking stars in his head.

Rodney came, and his world whited out.

"Wow," he mumbled and blindly reached out for John, who tasted like come and smugness. Rodney was surprised that this combination turned him on beyond reason.

"Bed," John finally said and tugged him along. Rodney stumbled and cursed. He had to get rid of his pants first. Meanwhile, John got rid of his. By the time they reached the bed, they were both naked. Standing face to face with him, Rodney slid a hand up the side of John's arm, over his shoulder, down to the center of his chest, where he felt John's heart beat like a jack hammer underneath, as fast as Rodney's did. He gave John a shove that sent him tumbling down on the bed and crawled up next to him.

Rodney's eyes were immediately drawn to John's cock. It was the first close look he got. It induced an instant feeling of What do you think you're doing? This is another man's erection! and for a moment Rodney lost his nerve.

John saw the hesitation. Glassy-eyed and breathing hard he said, "You don't have to."

That did it. Determined, Rodney closed his hand around John's cock, prompting a startled gasp. He started to stroke, experimentally at first, then adjusting angle and pressure and speed.

"God, that's so--," John breathed, and his head fell back against the pillow. Rodney supposed that he was doing something right.

"Tell me about--" John pleaded, took hold of Rodney's neck, and pulled him down for a short kiss. "Tell me--"

Rodney got it, even though there wasn't much to go on. "A gateship," he said breathlessly. He was getting breathless from doing this to someone else. "Imagine a gateship. It's small, cylindrical, not really pretty. But it's yours." Rodney licked a spot on John's neck, just below his ear, because it felt like a good idea. John made that desperate sound again. "You're going fast, Mach five fast, into a U-turn. You're pulling a hundred gs and you don't feel a thing," Rodney breathed into his ear, working him faster, harder. "This ship-- It interfaces with your mind."

John arched, eyes squeezed shut tightly, and came. "Jesus," he breathed.

Flushed and panting, with his eyes unfocused, John looked absolutely, frighteningly beautiful. Rodney tore his gaze away and wiped his hand on the edge of the sheet.

He was a surprised by the extent to which he was not freaking out about this. He'd just received a blowjob from a man, then he'd given said man a spectacular orgasm in return, and instead of running off screaming he let himself be pulled down for a slow-deep-lazy kiss that emptied his mind of the overflow of thoughts that usually cluttered it up. Nothing else, no one else had been able to achieve that in years.

With John's arm around him and his breath warm on Rodney's neck, it was the easiest thing to drift into a dreamless sleep.


* * *


John's muffled voice woke Rodney far too early in the morning. He blinked his eyes open to find Johnny Cash staring down at him. It was a good thing that he hadn't noticed the guy on the wall last night – that would have been creepy.

Last night. Rodney rolled onto his back, arms spread wide, and smiled at the ceiling.

Somewhere on the other side of the bedroom door John's voice rose. "--was he thinking? We banned the supplier from the system for a reason. How did he even manage to place the order? How did he plan to get it paid through official company channels?" There was a pause. "Really? That would actually be clever, if he had purchased something that wasn't total crap. I'm going to fire him." Another pause. "Okay, so I'm not going to fire him. Nancy-- Nancy, I'll be there in an hour."

"Trouble?" Rodney asked when John tried to sneak back into the room.

"You're awake." John sat down on the side of the bed, leaned over, and kissed him lightly. "I was going to surprise you with morning sex, but unfortunately--" He sighed an rested his forehead against Rodney's for a moment. "I've got to go to work."

"It's Saturday," Rodney said, as if he usually cared about such things.

"Stupidity doesn't take weekends off."

"Don't I know that. My staff is the living proof."

John grinned at him and vanished into the bathroom.

Rodney drifted in and out of sleep to the sounds of the toilet flushing, the shower running, and John singing 'Do you think I'm sexy' slightly off-key. Rodney muffled his laughter in the pillow. Then he took a keen pleasure in watching John as he crossed the room naked and stopped in front of the wardrobe to select a suit, shirt, and tie.

"You're really gorgeous," Rodney blurted out to his back.

John turned around, looking surprised and pleased. "Thanks," he said. "You're not bad yourself."

Rodney snorted. "Right."

"Rodney," John said. Just that, with an intensity in his voice, and a smouldering look in his eyes that made Rodney want to walk over and--

Except that John started to get dressed, put on his clothes piece by piece, and when he was finished fixing his tie, Rodney could have sworn there was a different person standing in front of him, like he'd just observed a man putting on a mask.

"I'll to leave a key on the kitchen table for you," John said. "I'll be back sometime in the afternoon."

"Okay," Rodney said, because he couldn't very well answer, 'But I want you to take off that suit, right now.' Which he really did, for more than one reason.

When John was gone, Rodney pondered his choices: going back to sleep or getting up and taking a trip into DC. He must have fallen asleep in the middle of the process, because suddenly it was ten o'clock.

Rodney got up, left the bed messy as it was, and went through the morning routine. In addition to the promised key, John had left coffee for him. He called a cab and poured himself some coffee. Cup in hand, he went in search of John's list. It wasn't lying folded on the mantlepiece anymore where John had left it the day before. It wasn't anywhere else in the living room or the kitchen, either. John had probably taken it to add more questions. Rodney sat down at the kitchen table and weighed the key in his hand until the driver honked outside.


* * *


God, Rodney hated shopping. It had seemed like a good idea in the morning, since he hadn't gotten any opportunity to buy new stuff for a year. Earth stuff. Hardware. To compensate for Zelenka, who cheerfully cluttered up the official disk space with massive amounts of useless data.

But Rodney had forgotten how much he hated crowds, and stupid salesmen, and the fact that he had to carry everything until he could grab a taxi for the way back.

He wasn't in the best of moods until he saw John's Mercedes in the driveway when the driver halted the taxi. He found John sitting in the living room, with planets floating over his head, and the Ancient hologram device clutched in his hand.

Rodney just watched him for a while and finally said, "I'm back."

John started, and the hologram winked out of existence. "Oh, hey."

"Business problem solved?" Rodney asked, staring at him. John was still in his suit, and damn.

"More or less," John answered, staring back. "Went shopping, did you?" He rose from the sofa and slowly moved towards Rodney.

"It's not like I get much chance to do so in Atlantis." Rodney licked his lips, eyes never leaving John's. "Hardware doesn't grow on trees."

"Shouldn't Uncle Sam pay for this?" John's voice was low.

Rodney let John take the shopping bags from him and drop them to the floor. "Actually, the expedition is funded by a number of countries, each of which tries to-- Why are we having this pointless conversation?"

"Beats me," John said.

Rodney took his face in both hands and kissed him, deeply, and for as long as he could manage without reaching dangerously low oxygen levels in his brain. "Come on," he said urgently. "Come on. Get out of this-- this--" He tugged John to the bedroom by his sleeve.


* * *


"I've been thinking," Rodney said, with his arm around John and John's head resting on his shoulder. "Well, admittedly not for the last hour or so," he amended. Rodney couldn't very well have been expected to think with John's body covering his, skin on skin all over, creating sparks of friction that had slowly driven Rodney crazy, until he'd gone over the edge with his tongue still battling John's for control.

The possibility of coherent thought? Asymptotically approaching zero.

John snickered, breathing gusts of air against Rodney's neck. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"You do that," Rodney said graciously. "What I've been meaning to say is, we could fly in to Colorado tomorrow, and go to the SGC on Monday morning."

John's back tensed beneath his hand.

"What?" Rodney asked. "What is it?"

"Rodney." John disentangled himself, sitting up. "I don't think I--" He stopped, looking lost and sad and apologetic.

"No. Don't tell me you-- No." Rodney felt the bottom drop out from under him. "Is this why you didn't want to talk about it before? You never even considered going to Atlantis?"

"Not never," John said, running a hand through his hair. "It's just that-- I can't."

"You can't? You can't? You can't miss this opportunity, that's what you can't!"

Like someone had flicked a switch somewhere, anger broke through. "Rodney, what the hell do you expect? That I just drop everything and jump at the chance to die horribly in another galaxy? I do have a life here, and responsibilities that I can't just abandon!"

Rodney threw the sheets off himself and jumped from the bed. John's suit jacket was lying on the floor, crumpled. He picked it up. "I know that we met barely three days ago," Rodney said as reasonably as he could manage, "but let me go out on a limb here and say that this," he waved the jacket, then threw it in John's face, "isn't you. Tell me that you're happy running your father's business, that it isn't the accident from twenty years ago and a shit load of guilt that keeps your life in this shape. Tell me that, and I'll be gone faster than you can say 'So long, Rodney'."

"You're damn right," John growled. "You don't know me. You don't understand a single--"

"Oh, but I do! I understand far too well. I know family and expectations and guilt. I know how they can ruin your life! Nancy, is she any good? Give her a huge raise, a part of the business, whatever, and let her run things!"

"Who are you to--" John advanced on him then, still very naked, but somehow he managed to look threatening as hell.

But Rodney refused to let instinct take over and shrink back. "You-- you goddamn idiot!" he yelled and stabbed a finger to John's chest. "You could be flying spaceships! If you let me walk out your door and take this opportunity with me, you'll never forgive yourself. No one is ever going to repeat this offer. I went over everyones' heads as it is!"

John's eyes, which had been burning hot with anger a moment before, suddenly turned cold and clear. "You-- what?"

Damn, Rodney thought. Damn. "I didn't--"

"So if I had decided to go, I might not have been allowed to join your mission anyway? And it didn't occur to you to mention this before?"

Rodney did take a step back then. Two steps. "Once they've seen you, they--"

"You can't be one hundred per cent sure about that!" John yelled. "I really don't need my family to ruin my life, Rodney, you're managing just fine!"

"But I never-- It's the Pegasus galaxy!" Rodney said, defensively. "The City of the Ancients! How can you not want to--"

"Not everyone has to prove to themselves that they're alive!" John spat, and looked shocked an instant later. "Wait, Rodney. I didn't mean to--"

"Right," Rodney said through clenched teeth, his brain far too busy organizing the effects of white hot anger to find appropriate words to express his deep frustration. "There's just one thing I want to know: What was this?" He gestured between himself and John with the crumpled t-shirt in his hand. "A golden opportunity, because I'll be gone in two weeks anyway?"

"No!" Sheppard moved closer, reaching out for him. "Don't think that I would--"

"Too late," Rodney said, and with his clothes clutched to his chest he stormed out, across the hall, and slammed the door of the guest room behind him.

It took Rodney a while to pull himself together and get dressed. He stuffed everything that was his into the backpack that he found lying in the corner where he'd left it the day before. Finally, he ran out of steam and sank down on the bed. Who was he kidding? He didn't want to go.

Rodney had no idea how long he'd been sitting there staring down at his own hands before John knocked on the door lightly.

"Rodney? Can I come in?" When Rodney didn't answer, he tried again, voice rising, "Rodney, are you still there?"

"Yes. Fine. Come in. Suit yourself," Rodney said and told himself that it wasn't because he couldn't bear to hear John upset like this.

John pushed the door open. He looked about as wrenched as Rodney felt. His eyes fell on the backpack. "Don't go now," he said. "I know that you're going to have to in two weeks time. I'm not going to ask you to stay then."

It should have been a ridiculous statement – he'd known John for three days. How could that ever add up to him not going back to Atlantis? Except that Rodney tried the thought out in his head for a moment, what it would be like to have this, to have John there, every day of his life. Even if it was only on Earth. His stomach twisted.

"Let's make a deal," John said, obviously getting back into more comfortable territory at that point. Rodney managed not to make a face. "I get your two weeks on Earth and you get to drag me to the SGC for a tour."

"I-- What? Really? This-- Really?" Rodney needed a moment to wrap his mind around the fact that John was offering him the textbook example of a win-win deal. No way was John still going to want to stay on Earth once he'd seen. "You're coming with me to Colorado?"

"I'm coming with you to Colorado. But beyond that I'm not promising anything."

John's face was unreadable – Rodney couldn't decide whether he'd gotten John thinking before, or whether John really just wanted to spend all the time he could get with Rodney.

He couldn't decide which answer he more desperately wanted to be true, either.

"Okay," Rodney said.

"Okay," John echoed.

When John took his hand and pulled him up from the bed, when he put his arms around Rodney and buried his face in Rodney's neck, it seemed that they really were sort of okay, for the moment.


* * *


The flights Rodney booked on his laptop for the next day were hideously expensive, but why should he care? He hadn't spent any money in over a year. Well, okay, he had paid the rent for his apartment in Colorado Springs, but that wasn't much compared to his salary. The apartment would be dusty and cluttered like it had always been. Rodney liked the thought that no matter what, there was a place waiting for him – a place where nothing was ever going to change. Even when he was in another galaxy, he had liked the thought.

"Tomorrow afternoon," Rodney informed John who nodded silently. John went upstairs to make a call, probably to Nancy.

Rodney's vibrant certainty about John's final choice had lost a lot of its momentum. John had seen the hologram device, had mentally connected to it, and still wasn't convinced by the awe-inducing perfection that was Ancient technology. Rodney couldn't be sure that the rest was going to change his mind. If Rodney had learned one thing in the Pegasus galaxy, it was that you couldn't be sure of anything.

"How about Chinese for a late dinner?" John asked when he came down the stairs, the phone still in his hand.

"Chinese sounds good," Rodney agreed.

They laid curled around each other on the sofa and watched more Classic Trek, until the delivery guy rang. The food wasn't good, but they abandoned it soon enough, anyway.

This thing between them, it wasn't the same anymore, wasn't as easy as it had been before. Rodney clutched John a little tighter that night, kissed him more urgently, squeezed his shoulder hard enough to leave bruises when John went down on him. And John – John made these desperate noises around his cock, like he wanted to do more but couldn't, like it just wasn't enough, and suddenly he stopped, looked up at Rodney and said, "I want you to fuck me."

Rodney felt his eyes widen. Theoretically, he had known that they were headed this way sometime in the near future, but hearing John say it now sent shivers of anticipation and fear alike down his spine. "I'm-- I don't know. God, yes."

John reached for the nightstand drawer.

Rodney had never been good at following other people's instructions, but in this case it worked out fine. Better than fine. When John said, "Oh, yes, there again," or, "Add another one, I can take it," Rodney did as told, working to evoke more of those needy sounds from John, to make him arch that way again. Rodney couldn't get enough of this, it would never be enough, and when John breathed, "Rodney, stop. I'm going to-- I want--" he didn't think about it, just leaned down, closed his mouth around the head of John's cock, and sucked. With a sound that was close to a wail John arched off the bed and came.

"Rodney," he said, his voice part wonder, part reprimand. "I wanted you to be--"

"Getting there, getting there." Rodney wiped his mouth with one shaking hand and grabbed for a condom with the other.

He watched John heave himself on his hands and knees. Slow, he thought, slow and careful, but then John pushed back, and everything blurred together into tight and hot and John and too much. It was sensory overload, data overflow, not going to last, and Rodney shut down, surrendered, and came harder than ever before in his life.

He blinked his eyes open again when John had just finished cleaning them up. "Ngnn," Rodney said.

"That good, huh?" John asked, sliding between the covers next to him, not quite touching.

"I'd have a witty comeback for that, except that my brain is still off-line."

They laid in a slightly uncomfortable silence for long minutes.

"Look, Rodney," John finally said to the ceiling, then he seemed at a loss for words.

"Yes, yes," Rodney answered, because he wasn't suited for awkward in-depth conversation about feelings either, especially after mind-blowing sex. "We're okay." He moved closer to John's warmth and was met halfway.

For a few minutes, Rodney had almost forgotten that they were on a deadline. Then again, he'd almost forgotten his own name. Still, Rodney slept well that night, and this time John did wake him with morning sex that stretched into an entire morning of lazing around in bed.

"I haven't done this in years," John said, coffee cup in hand. "The breakfast-in-bed thing, I mean."

"For a moment there I was worried," Rodney said around a mouthful of toast. "What hope is there for the rest of us if you can't get laid?"

John whacked Rodney upside the head, Rodney gave John a shove that made him spill half his coffee, one thing led to another, and they almost didn't make it to the airport in time.

All Rodney could think about during the flight was the feel of John's skin under his. John's hand lying – just lying – on the arm rest next to his turned out to be the worst kind of temptation. Rodney had never ever contemplated joining the mile-high club before, but he seriously did now. It was a blessing, in a way, because otherwise Rodney would have needed to worry about time ticking by, and about choices that possibly weren't going to be in his favor.

John jumped him as soon as the front door of Rodney's apartment closed behind them.

"You, too? Thank god," Rodney mumbled against his mouth. It was good to know that he hadn't been the only one with a one track mind that day.


* * *


"Is there anything else you want to tell me about the SGC?" John asked from the passenger seat, his foot tapping restlessly.

Rodney glanced at him from the corner of his eye. "No. They're going to take one look at you and you'll be hired."

Predictably, John didn't answer. He followed Rodney from the car silently a few minutes later.

The guards at the security gate made a phone call, and then John and Rodney were led into an interrogation room. A guard positioned himself in the corner and watched them grimly for the next ten minutes.

Elizabeth hadn't even closed the door behind her when she started yelling, "Rodney, tell me you didn't! How much did you tell him?" with an impressive amount of anger coloring her tone – impressive in the sense that Rodney had never seen her this angry before.

"Everything, of course. Watch this," Rodney said and gestured at John, who sighed and pulled the Ancient image projector from his pocket.

"Oh," Elizabeth said. "Wow."

Rodney noted gleefully how her anger evaporated on the trail of the word. "When he used it the first time, it worked just as well. He didn't even need training! Do you see? Do you see?"

"Yes," she said, tearing her gaze away from the hologram. "Yes. Let me speak to General Landry."

John put the projector down and cleared his throat. "Just for the record: I haven't actually agreed to join your mission yet."

"Really?" she asked incredulously, then added, "Sorry. It's just-- You simply cannot grasp the impact this is going to have. But of course it will be your own decision whether you join us or not."

Rodney crossed his arms. "Personally, I think anyone who doesn't want to go to the Pegasus galaxy is a brain-damaged moron."

"Yes, you've made that quite clear before," John said dryly.

"Oh, Elizabeth. Tell the general that John is really good with numbers, too," Rodney added brightly. "Observe. Twenty-two thousand and twenty-seven?"

"Prime," John said dutifully. "You do realize that this looks kind of rehearsed?"

"Right." Rodney pointed a finger at Elizabeth. "You try it."

"I-- I don't know any--" At Rodney's impatient gesture, she offered, "Um, seven thousand seven hundred and one?"

"Not prime," the guard in the corner said. At Rodney's incredulous look he added, "Divisible by three," with a shrug.

If John's muffled noises were actually disguised laughter, Rodney might just have to kill him later.

"I'll be sure to include 'good with numbers' in my talk with the general," Elizabeth said, smiling encouragingly at John, and left.

Half an hour later the math-whiz guard led them to the elevator, down into the mountain, and through the corridors to Landry's office, where Elizabeth and Landry were waiting.

The general stood and shook John's hand. "Mister Sheppard," he said and, "Doctor McKay, you're dismissed."

"But I--"

"Get out of my office. Now."

Rodney recognized the tone as the one that took no prisoners, exchanged a glance with John, and went in search for the mess. No matter how often he came here, Rodney would never get a hang of the layout of this place.

Three agonizingly long hours later Rodney was desperately in need of a distraction. Landry's assistant-slash-gate tech, the one with a name so common that Rodney had never been able to remember it, was likely to deck Rodney if he asked for the status of the meeting one more time. What the hell were they talking about? Was the general going to scare John off for good? Knowing Landry, it was entirely possible that he would.

The staff in the mess refused to give him any more coffee. Because Rodney really didn't have anywhere else to go, he went for a tour around the labs. He could get few good laughs out of that, at least. His former colleagues (didn't the former have a nice ring here) were as stupid as Rodney remembered and still as frightened of him as they should be.

Well, not all of them. Rodney found Sam Carter in one of the smaller labs on the lower level.

"Colonel Carter," he greeted. "Hiding from me?"

"Hey, McKay," she answered, not looking up. "Why would I?"

"Habit?" Rodney guessed with a superior smile.

"I hear you picked up an ATA gene carrier off the street," Sam said, entirely focused on the circuit board that she was poking inexpertly with tweezers under a giant magnifying glass. "And that he's quite the looker, too."

"Oh, don't get your hopes up," Rodney blurted out.

Sam looked up at him, eyebrows raised.

"Uh, never mind," Rodney said, flushing.

If Sam hadn't put two and two together before, she did with the blush. "This is weird," she said. "I heard that the guy was smart."

"Oh, ha ha." Rodney couldn't believe that he had ever found Sam endearing. "He's rich, too," he pointed out.

She rolled her eyes, but there was a smile tugging on the corners of her mouth. "Only you, McKay."

The phone on her desk rang. "Carter. Yes, sir, he's here-- Yes, right away." She hung up. "General Landry wants to see you immediately."

"Oh, joy," Rodney said. "I can't wait."

"Have fun," Sam wished heartlessly. "By the way, when am I going to get my AHP back?"

"Your what?"

"Ancient Hologram Projector?"

"Later. Maybe," Rodney said dismissively over his shoulder and walked out.

It turned out the general wasn't pleased with Rodney going against his orders. What a surprise. Rodney watched John through the observation window while the general was going on about 'unauthorized removal of restricted technology from a military base', and even mentioned jail at some point.

John was talking to assistant-slash-gate tech, or rather he was talked at by the guy. The tech was gesturing animatedly, and John looked a little like he needed rescue. Which arrived on cue in the form of Cameron Mitchell. Even when Rodney hadn't been gay yet, strictly speaking, he had noticed that Mitchell was really sort of hot. After what looked like a far too friendly introduction, Mitchell grabbed John by the elbow to lead him away from the tech, and out of Rodney's line of sight. Unexpectedly, Rodney felt the burning desire to follow them, punch Mitchell in the face, and snatch John back.

While Landry was elaborating about the 'violation of the non-disclosure agreement' and serious cases of treason, Rodney subtly tried to roll his chair a little closer to the window to get John back in sight. Finally, the general congratulated Rodney on the good job he'd done.

"What?" Rodney said, totally thrown for a loop.

Landry smiled one of his smiles that wasn't cheerful at all. "He might very well be the person who is going to tip the scale in our favor in the Pegasus galaxy. You were right, we need him."

"I-- Uh. Yes, of course," Rodney said, collecting himself.

"You're free to show him everything, just convince him to join us. You're dismissed. Oh, and return these to Colonel Carter's lab, will you?"

The general piled up several pieces of Ancient technology on Rodney's arms. "Okay," Rodney said. Landry had a certain way of ensuring that 'no' just wasn't an answer you could consider. Thankfully, the effect only had a limited range.

Rodney dropped the Ancient technology in the protesting gate tech's lap and went after John and Mitchell. When Rodney found them in the mess, they were talking about some sports thing over coffee – it involved linebackers and blitz-defense, so it was probably football.

"Did I ever mention that we brought a gateship with us to Earth?" Rodney said without preamble.

John put his cup down so quickly that coffee spilled onto the table. "What? Really? Can we--"

"Right now, yes."

John rose faster than Rodney could say, "Let's go."

"It was good meeting you, Sheppard," Mitchell said, looking amused, and mock-saluted Rodney. "McKay."

"Yeah, whatever," Rodney said, waved back half-heartedly, and steered John towards the exit.


* * *


The small hangar that held the gateship was buzzing with activity.

John froze in the doorway, staring at the ship in awe. Rodney immediately spotted three good reasons to shout at two scientists for their exceptional stupidity.

"Alright," Rodney yelled. "Everybody get away from the ship."

Fortunately the people of the SGC knew Rodney, or they were pulled along by someone who did. The area was clear within a minute.

John laid a hand on the hull. "How old is it again?"

"Ten thousand years, give or take a few hundred."

Rodney could see John swallow hard at that.

As soon as they stepped inside, the ship lit up like a Christmas tree. John hadn't even made an effort to activate it. This was Rodney's cue to swallow hard.

"Oh. Oh my--" John breathed and made a beeline for the pilot's seat. He sat down and closed his eyes. The holographic screens lit up immediately, displaying information about engine status, energy levels, scan results of their surroundings including life signs, and a number of other things Rodney had never seen before.

Through the front window eight scientists were staring at John, three of them with their mouths open. Rodney suspected that their expressions were mirrored on his face.

"Oh," John said and opened his eyes. "We're invisible now," he said, grinning like a loon. Then he grabbed Rodney by the shirt, pulled him down and kissed him, complete with tongue and everything.

"Hmph," Rodney said in protest.

"We're invisible," John pointed out, and Rodney couldn't really argue with that.

"Do you know how long it's taken us to find the cloak? A month! And only because we were looking for it after we found a reference in the--"

John kissed him again. "She speaks to me," he said delightedly.

Rodney couldn't help but laugh and feel a little giddy. "There is a lot more than just spaceships waiting in the Pegasus galaxy."

John laughed. "The words just and spaceship should never be uttered so closely together."


* * *


On their way back to the apartment John was eerily quiet. He stared out the window for most of the drive, and in a herculean effort Rodney managed not to push him. He still didn't push when John jumped out of the car before it had even come to a full stop in the driveway. In the end, Rodney didn't need to push. John started pacing the living room like a caged animal. He was still a bit wild eyed, high-strung, riding on endorphins, it seemed.

"You knew," he accused and took Rodney by the shoulders, shaking him a little. "You knew that once I set foot on a gateship, I'd be hooked. And you. I can't just let you-- Not without me. You knew!"

John kissed him, and kissed him, and kissed him. For the first time in his life Rodney understood why people cried from happiness. He almost felt like crying now.

The next day Nancy gave her agreement to take over Sheppard Utilities. Rodney could hear her voice rise over the phone, even from the other end of the room. She fired questions at John that he couldn't answer truthfully, and John tried to remind her that he still had to work out the details with his father.

That night, John boarded a plane to Hawaii.

Rodney spent the next three days on edge. Landry didn't even try to send him off on vacation again, which was probably meant as a punishment. The general kept him busy with countless files on utterly moronic scientists who were applying for positions on Atlantis. It was amazing how many of them left their interview crying into the sleeve of their lab coat. Landry insisted that Rodney hire three people, but in all practicality, it was the choice between orange juice and lemonade.

Finally, after a long three days, Rodney collected John at the airport. There were shadows under John's eyes, but he looked relaxed. Possibly more relaxed than Rodney had ever seen him. Admittedly, 'ever' still consisted of only a week in total, if he counted generously.

"I'm not going to pack a single damn suit," John said against Rodney's temple.

"I-- um, I missed you." It was good to say it out loud, because Rodney really had.

Maybe he imagined John's very quiet, "Me, too," but he was pretty sure that he didn't.

During the negotiations and briefings at the SGC that followed, John gave several conditions for his joining the mission. For one, he requested military training so that he could join one of the offworld teams. "I'm not going to be your glorified on/off switch for Ancient technology," he said. Which was a) a very smart move, and b) a pity, because Rodney wasn't going to get to keep John around the labs and in relative safety.

Landry and Elizabeth were all too happy to meet all of John's demands. Well, except for the one that involved the Ferris Wheel.

For five days John stayed with Rodney at his old apartment, and Rodney suddenly had an incentive to finish work at reasonable hours. When John's last meeting of the day was over, he swung by the lab, and they went home together, stopping on the way for take-out food, which never got eaten while it was still hot.

Carson was more than freaked out by Rodney's cheerful mood and occasional dreamy smiles. It was an enjoyable side order to the even more enjoyable main course.

Finally, John boarded another plane and spent seven days in company meetings, wrapping up the take-over, or at home packing boxes for storage. Apparently he'd had some really useful help with organizing everything. When John turned up on Rodney's doorstep one day early with three duffel bags and a wide grin, and Rodney asked him, "Everything sorted out?" John stepped close to hug him and answered, "I kissed Gladys goodbye. I really did."

Rodney grinned and kissed him hello.


* * *


John settled down in the pilot's seat of the gateship under Rodney's supposedly watchful eye. By official agreement the ship was John's to take up.

"So, this is it," John said with an air of finality.

"Yep, going to the Pegasus galaxy." Rodney looked up from the tablet he was calculating the ship's energy output on. "You're not regretting your decision, are you?"

John held Rodney's gaze for a long moment, with a smile lurking around the corners of mouth. He laid his hands on the ship's controls. They lit up obediently. "Are you kidding me?"

Rodney turned back to the tablet, smiling to himself.

"Gateship one, this is flight. The Daedalus has cleared its hangar for you. You have a go."

"Flight, this is--" John stopped and deactivated the comm. "These ships usually go through the stargate, right?"

"Yes!" Rodney sighed. Sometimes John had the attention span of a five year old. "How many times do I have to explain it to you? We can't gate the ship back! Surely you--"

John activated the comm again. "Flight, this is-- Puddlejumper one. Understood. We're off."

There was a slight pause. "Puddlejumper one, have fun."

"Let's see what else you've named in the Pegasus galaxy," John said and fired up the engines.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Rodney asked indignantly. "It's a ship that goes through the gate. Gateship. Perfectly logical choice of a name."

The ship lifted off the ground. John's eyes lit up the same way they had when he'd first set foot on it.

"Screw logical choices," John said and flashed Rodney a genuine smile.

Stun him and drag him with you if you must, the McKay from the alternate universe had said, and, You really, really need him.

Rodney supposed that he did.


- end -




Off to face the world again
Past the bedroom mirror
Ignorance is bliss, they say
It couldn't be much clearer

Imagining what might have been
Thinking it could still be
All the lost years in between
Still a sucker for a dream

You might be an oil tycoon
You might be a Cobb cartoon
You might be a Gershwin tune
You might be, but you're not

You might be an eagle's call
You might be a nation's fall
You might be the Albert hall

You might be, but you're not






















from Nik Kershaw's "You Might"



What About Everything (missing scene from 5x03) // Transforming Water (tag for 5x05)

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