Rating: Teen (Slash)
Posted at: mckay_sheppard
Spoilers (SGA): None
Note: This follows Thanks for the Memories, an SGA/QAF crossover I did quite some time ago. There are several mentions of the events of that story in this one, and some sly references to QAF. Ideally, TFTM should be read first, but I think this one can squeak by on its own.
Summary: After Pittsburgh, John struggles to figure it all out: how did Rodney hide all this? Who is the real McKay under it all? And most importantly: What does John really want to do about it?
A/N: Thanks to goblie and debris_k for helping me out. It is very appreciated.
"Are we going to talk about this?"
John held his final beer against his chest protectively and stared straight ahead as the cab took them back to their hotel. "Nah," he finally said. "Don't think so." He was distantly proud of the fact that he had, in fact, managed to get quite drunk. Not as drunk as he wanted to be, though. Always good to have something left to strive for.
Rodney watched the side of his face for a moment before shrugging and leaning back in his seat. The cabbie was watching them in the rear-view mirror, plainly curious.
"I'm really drunk," John said suddenly.
Rodney smirked, staring out his window. "I know," he said.
"I don't know what to think, McKay." John's eyes drifted closed. "I just don't."
"Yeah," Rodney said, and John could hear from his voice that the smile was gone. "I know that, too."
It was six days before the urgency of the emergency that called them out of Brian's loft faded, another four before John had any time alone to even consider thinking about the events in Pittsburgh. Then came the next crisis and the one after that, and somehow six weeks went by without either of them being in any kind of a position to talk about it.
John probably should have been relieved.
Instead he was fucking haunted.
John had always considered himself to be pretty flexible, sexually. Leaning heavily towards the hetero side of the spectrum, perhaps, but not at all against a little experimentation. Still, it had been years since he'd been spectator to anything like McKay mastering Brian. He'd been strong, dominant. Powerful. Things John just wasn't used to thinking about in the context of sex and Rodney. Hell, even the concept of "sex and Rodney" at all was new.
Now, he couldn't separate them. Every goddamned time he closed his eyes, he'd see McKay standing clothed under the lights as a naked Brian sucked him off, or he'd see that incredible moment when McKay flexed his fingers against Brian's neck and just dropped him to his knees. Or he'd hear the deep groan of McKay's completion into Brian's exhausted body. Or the feel of ...
So, yeah. Not relieved.
The worst thing was, McKay wasn't any different. Rodney wasn't any different than he had been before, ruling his science team with his combination of tyranny, genius, and rough-edged affection, seemingly completely unaffected by John seeing that other side of him in action. Only John's perception had changed, and now that he was aware of what to look for, the echoes of McKay's underlying tastes were clear as day. If he went back over the last four years (which he had been doing, obsessively, damn it) they always had been. Now that he'd seen that part of McKay unleashed, he knew how careful Rodney had been all this time. How much he'd kept hidden, even from John.
And even though he knew he didn't really want what he'd seen McKay give Brian, he did want to tear away that mask, goad Rodney into not being careful anymore. And yes, he did realise how schizophrenic he sounded, referring to his best friend simultaneously by two different names even if it was only in his own head.
He headed for his room, intent on simply having a hot shower (jerking off optional) and going to bed. It had been almost eight hours since the last crisis, and that meant the next one had to be right around the corner.
He exited the transporter and turned left for his room, walking full force into a solid body.
Ah, there it was: the next crisis.
"Sheppard, perfect. I was looking for you." Rodney grabbed him by the arm and started to drag him towards his quarters. John shook himself free irritably and waved open his door.
"What's wrong now?" He demanded.
"Wrong? Nothing." Rodney frowned at him. "Why would anything be wrong? Other than the obvious reason of something here always being on the verge of catastrophe, that is."
"No, that was it." John unbuttoned his uniform shirt, heading for the mini-fridge. "Beer?"
"What have you got?"
"Budweiser, Ex, and Stella."
"An actual selection. Colour me surprised." Rodney leaned against the wall. He was still dressed from work, in the grey and blue science pants and jacket over black t-shirt. "I'll take a Stella."
"How anti-Canadian of you." John stripped the shirt off and tossed him the can, working his shoulders into looseness under his own black tee. "I was expecting you to go for the Export."
"What can I say? Atlantis has corrupted me." He grinned and popped the top. John pulled out a Bud and followed suit.
"So, what's up?" John made his way back to his bed, sinking down onto it gratefully and unlacing his boots. God, it had been a long day.
"You said you were looking for me." He pulled off the first boot, wriggled his toes, started on the second one.
"I did, didn't I." Rodney wasn't looking at him. Instead, he started pacing the outside of the room, staring intently at the walls. John had some pictures up, including an abstract his brother had sent him. Some rising star in New York. Dave had said it would be worth a lot of money, eventually. John just liked the colours. It was... soothing. Rodney paused at it and read the signature, barking out a laugh.
"What?" He demanded defensively.
"This is a Justin Taylor," Rodney said, amused.
"Nothing, nevermind. I just ... I met him once. Nice kid." Rodney kept grinning but hid it behind taking a long swallow of his beer.
"Really. Art circles, Rodney? Doesn't sound much like you." John finally got the stubborn knot loose on his second boot and yanked it off.
"It was brief." Rodney chugged the rest of his beer, making John's eyebrows rise. Rodney headed back to the bar fridge. "Want another?"
"Haven't had any of this one, yet."
"Slacker." Rodney opened the refrigerator door, bent over to look inside. His pants pulled tight and John turned to arranging his boots with assiduous care beside the bed. Rodney dropped to one knee to rummage.
"You never answered me. What's up?" John stretched, feeling the bones in his spine click.
Rodney had stilled, one hand in the fridge. He turned to look at John over his shoulder, face unreadable, then slowly drew out his hand, showing what he held. It was a bottle of beer, a Canadian.
John's heart stopped in his chest.
Rodney stood slowly, shutting the fridge door absently with his foot. The beer dangled from his fingers. "What do you think is up?" He asked in a low, intent voice.
John tried a grin. "I see you found my secret stash," he said.
"Hmmm." Rodney's lashes swept down to hide his eyes. When they lifted, he'd managed to guard his expression. "You kept it."
"Wouldn't want to waste good beer."
Rodney huffed his impatience, slammed the bottle onto the top of his desk. "John."
"Geeze, Rodney! Don't break it!" The set expression on Rodney's face told him there was no point in playing dense. "Look. I still don't know what to think, ok?" John threw himself back on the bed, staring up at his ceiling sulkily.
"Well take a minute and concentrate, then." Rodney sounded irritated. "I'm sick of being avoided."
John sat up fast at that. "I have not been avoiding you!"
"Yes, you have." Rodney glared at him. "So stop it."
"Oh, for Christ sake." John flumped back on the bed again. "Fine. I'll think about it."
"Good," Rodney said, running his fingers along the beer bottle briefly before letting his hand drop. "Tell me when you come to some kind of conclusion."
Leaving the beer on the desk, he left.
Rodney walked him to his room, let them both inside, and pushed him into the bathroom for a cold shower. "You'll need to sober up a bit before we call Daedalus to pick you up," he said curtly. "I'll throw your stuff back in your bag, then hit my room for a quick shower, too."
John nodded silently, the spinning room making it very difficult for him to focus. Rodney gave him a glare, then reluctantly smiled. "You are such a pain in the ass," he muttered before quickly and expertly shucking John out of his clothes and shoving him under the water. Despite his threat the water was warm enough to not actually hurt. "Stand up!" was the parting command before he disappeared into the darkness to pack John's bag.
John closed his eyes and leaned against the tile, concentrating on standing. Instantly the image of McKay's strong fingers against Brian's throat popped into his mind, McKay's wrists flexing just so, dropping Brian to his knees. Brian's mouth, opened in a gasp, begging for more...
Deliberately John reached down and turned off the hot water, welcoming the icy blast that brought his mind back to the need to be clear-headed. Rodney came back into the bathroom, looking at him searchingly.
"You look more there, that's good. I left out some clothes. Be back in ten minutes."
"Better make it twenty," John replied without thinking. "You smell like sex." He regretted the words immediately.
Rodney bit his lip and nodded slowly, eyes never leaving John's. "Yeah," he said. "I bet I do."
For the tenth time in as many days he was hiding in his room.
John really, truly, had no idea what his problem was. He was avoiding Rodney. Hell, he was avoiding Rodney so effectively that he hadn't even seen his shadow or heard his voice for over ten days. The big question in his head was why?
The worst part was, he missed Rodney. A lot. Way more than simple, or even complicated friendship could easily explain. And still, he was getting those fucking instant replays behind his eyes. What if ... what if he actually went for it, and Rodney could only want that? The signals he'd been given were pretty unmistakable, but what if he was wrong and Rodney said no? What if the simple act of giving it a shot fucked them up? The thought of being like this, avoiding Rodney, without his company forever, well...
John swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat, rubbed a hand over the swirling nausea in his stomach. At the same time, the thought of Rodney under his hands, laid out for him, that made his stomach twist for all different reasons.
Maybe he knew what his problem was, after all.
"I should have known better than to think you'd actually ever do it," Rodney said directly into John's ear. "You're the definition of non-communicative, you know that?"
He startled violently, knocking his bottle of Bud off the table. Luckily it was empty. "Jesus, Rodney!"
Rodney's snort was loud enough to actually echo. He strode to John's windows and pushed at one until it opened, letting in the warm wind and night air. John picked up the beer bottle and set it back on the table. "I talk to people all the time," he muttered. "People love how much I talk."
"I referred to 'communication'," Rodney retorted over his shoulder in that combination of humour and irritation that was so utterly Rodney that John smiled involuntarily. He stopped as soon as he realised it. "You said you'd stop avoiding me more than a week ago."
"I... uh." John scrubbed a hand through his hair, decided casual was his best bet. "I've just been busy with the new guys," he lied. "It wasn't intentional." Now, that was almost the truth. If it was subconscious it didn't count as intentional, right? John decided to skip the whole argument. "Want a beer?"
Rodney turned and pinned him with a glare. John looked at the mulish set of his mouth and sighed. "Fair enough." He carried his empty into the kitchenette and dropped it into the case.
"Is it really that big a problem?" Rodney asked suddenly, from right beside him. John jumped again.
"Will you stop doing that?" He sidled away, moved back into the middle of his room to get some space. Rodney watched him intently. "Is what a problem?"
"My... sexual inclinations. Towards men."
Jesus. John closed his eyes for one long face-saving moment. "I have no issues with your liking men," he said easily, lips twisting into an empty smile.
"So, it's the dominance thing then."
John stepped over to the bed, sat down and started to take off his boots to buy himself time. God, why couldn't Rodney just let this go? "Why can't you just let this go?"
"Because." Rodney's voice was so flat, so expressionless, that John looked up in surprise. "Because I need to know I haven't wrecked the best friendship I ever had." He waved a hand in dismissal, as if he were shooing away the thought. "I... uh. I'm not willing to let it go, no."
John stared at him, speechless.
"So." Rodney took a deep breath. "We're talking about this." His eyes narrowed briefly in concentration, and John's door crystals flashed red. "Now."
It only took Rodney about fifteen minutes to return from his room, hair wet, bag packed. John waved at him languidly from the desk chair, stretching a little to find that remaining iota of slouch. Rodney looked him over with a critical eye.
"You look..." His gaze met John's and skittered away. "Awake. Good. Are you ready to go?"
"Not yet." John lifted one of the tiny bottles of whiskey he'd liberated from the mini-fridge and knocked it back. It took a second for the bottle to empty, and he gave it a little shake to get the last drop. It fell with a sweet tingle onto his tongue. Rodney's eyes widened in utter shock.
"We've got to go! What are you..."
"They called back." John tilted his head back to study the ceiling, enjoying the burn as the whiskey went down. "Daedalus has been called away for another emergency. They'll pick us up tomorrow at noon." He twisted the cap off another tiny bottle without looking, fumbling a little. "So, I am going to take advantage of the reprieve and finish what I started."
Rodney blinked at him, processing. After a long moment of silence, during which John finished a third shot, he started to grin. He dropped his duffle on the floor and unzipped it, withdrawing a human-sized bottle of scotch. "In that case, we might as well do it properly," he said and cracked the seal before handing it to John. He stepped past him and picked up the phone. "Room service? We're in the process of getting very drunk, and we need something to eat so it doesn't actually kill us." He paused to hear the response. "One of each of that, then. Room 1221. And ... Yes, no citrus. That's right. Thanks." He hung up, swiped the bottle back from John and tipped it towards him in salute. "Cheers," he said, and drank.
John watched Rodney's throat work as he swallowed, saw a bead of sweat run down his temple, and could all but taste the salt on his tongue. As Rodney's head came back up and his eyes opened, John turned away.
"Ok. Fine." John dropped his boot and started on the other. "Talk."
Rodney made a sound of pure frustration. "Ask me something."
John looked at him in complete disbelief. "Like what? Who shot J.R.? What's the meaning of life? What?"
"Oh, yes, cause that's the direction I was aiming for with the breaking into your room and forcing you into rational thought; I secretly wanted to initiate a discussion on vastly outdated pop culture and existentialism." Rodney was charging right past irritated into infuriated. "How about, 'how long have you been into men, Rodney?', or 'So are you gay, or just bi?'"
John stared at him, then shrugged. "Well?"
Rodney's lips flattened into a compressed line, his eyes narrowed into an outright glare. "From the beginning. Bi."
"Ok." John went back to his boot.
"You're the stubbornest man in two goddamned galaxies."
"I just... I don't know what you want from me." John buried his face in his hands, scrubbing them hard over his cheeks to try and have an excuse for the heat he could feel spreading under his skin. Christ, a cranky Rodney was a hot Rodney.
"I want you, you idiot!" Rodney said back intensely. "Almost any way I can get you. But not, not like this. Avoiding me is driving me nuts!"
"Like you had far to go," John retorted automatically, before his brain caught up with Rodney's words. "You want what?"
"You." Rodney had backed up, arms crossed and chin lifted defiantly. "And I thought, maybe, you felt the same way. I let you come along with Brian because. Well." Uncertainty flickered through his eyes. "I needed it. I knew there was no way you'd stay behind. And I figured, if you knew, then it would make it easier somehow." His arms tightened, and now he looked like he was hugging himself. "I didn't really expect that it would make it harder."
"I, I..." John's throat had tightened to the point he literally couldn't force the words out.
"But it seems to me, over the last few weeks, that this has all really," he waved a hand wildly beside his ear, "freaked you out. So I want you to forget about it. All of it. You asked me what I wanted from you? I want my friend back."
All of John's breath whooshed out of him, and his other boot fell from his hand with a thump. He rubbed a hand across his forehead. "Rodney," he managed to get out before realising he needed to breathe. He sucked in a gulp of air. "I can't forget it ever happened. I can't do that."
"Oh." Rodney's face was devastated, but he covered it quickly with a surprisingly good blank look. He looked around as though searching for a plausible reason to escape.
This was so going sideways. John felt like he was in a helicopter with a faulty tail rotor - starting to spin and going down fast. "No, no," he said rapidly, jolting back to his feet. "Not like that. Like, I want to remember."
Rodney's eyes lit up and he smiled. "Oh, well. That's excellent." He took a step towards John.
"No, wait." Jesus, he sucked at this. "I don't want ... I don't want that."
"Ok." Rodney crossed his arms again, back to irritated. "Now I'm just confused."
"Serves you right," John shot back. "Ok, look. I just don't want ... with Brian you..." He covered his forehead with his hand and squeezed like it would help him get the words out. "I don't like being tied up," he finally said in a rush. "I don't want to call anyone master, and I don't want to be... "
"Dominated." Rodney finished for him. John nodded, face hot. "I've never asked anyone to call me master," Rodney said slowly. "And I never humiliated anyone. It's not..." He looked like he was struggling to find the right words. "It's not about that."
"Did you... did you ever..." He asked tentatively, uncertain of how to even phrase the question.
Rodney got it though. "I was never any good at taking orders," he replied.
"You take mine," John said, surprised.
Rodney gave him the patented 'idiot' look. "I didn't mean in the field."
"Neither did I."
Rodney stared at him so intently that John could almost feel the cogs turning in his head, as he went over all the experiences in the last several years, all the times he'd obeyed John even on Atlantis. His chin lifted and his eyes hardened a little, and John didn't know what he expected, but it absolutely wasn't that Rodney would slowly and deliberately sink to his knees in front of him and close his eyes, waiting.
The bottle of Canadian fit perfectly in his hand.
John rubbed his eyes with shaking fingers that he blamed on the alcohol. He'd gone well past his usual drinking cut off point and was appreciably into 'tomorrow is going to be a living hell' territory. He could probably head part of the hangover off if he went and threw up now, followed by a couple of abuprofen and a few litres of electrolytes, but that would mean: A. moving, and B. getting rid of the excellent meal Rodney'd bullied him into eating. He'd somehow managed it while mostly avoiding looking at Rodney. Every time he did lift his eyes, saw Rodney watching him, all he could see was Brian's loft, fingers digging into flushed pale skin, sweat soaked hair.
Once he'd concentrated hard enough to actually think about it, he could admit that he'd managed to eat as much as he had at least partly because he'd been filling his mouth to keep it from running away from him. He looked up, expecting to see Rodney still watching him.
Instead, he was standing at the window, staring out into the city. John took the opportunity to take a long look.
Rodney was mostly in darkness, only the outlines of his face gilded by the gold of the streetlights. His face was unguarded, more relaxed than John could remember seeing it ever. He smiled slightly at something remembered, and his lashes swept down to cover his eyes, spreading in dark fans over his cheekbones. John was struck again by how long they were. Rodney turned from the window, catching John looking.
John blinked. He had no idea whatsoever what to say. Rodney waited for a long moment for him to speak, then his mouth twisted wryly and he stepped past John towards the door. "Been a long day," he said. "We should both try to get some sleep before the wake up call."
"Yeah," John managed somehow to say. Strangely, he wasn't feeling anywhere near as drunk as he knew he was. He turned the bottle of beer over and over in his hands, fingers skittering over the glass, searching for... He didn't know. "Yeah, that wake up call is going to be a bitch." As the door opened, he spoke to Rodney's back, "Good night, Rodney."
"You too." Rodney replied over his shoulder, not looking back. The set of his body was stiff, uncomfortable. Just before the door shut all the way, John heard a softly rueful, "Sweet dreams." The latch clicked into place.
"Sweet?" John muttered, easing onto the bed and swallowing thickly against the sensation of the room spinning around him. He kept his eyes determinedly open to avoid seeing all those unsettling (hot) images from Brian's loft, but couldn't help but hear the deep groans and slap of flesh replaying itself through his head. Helplessly he reached for his cock, aching after hours of unwilling arousal. "Unlikely."
John found himself swaying a little as all the blood in his head rushed straight to his dick. Rodney looked... he looked fucking incredible there and for a moment he was so fucking tempted he could taste it. He stepped forward before he could stop, found his hand lifting to Rodney's face without him telling it to. "Rodney," he choked out helplessly. "Not this, either."
Rodney opened his eyes, and the look in them was so nakedly heated that John's stomach dropped and he forgot to breathe. Rodney reached up and took hold of his waistband. John's chest hitched and any thought he might have had was driven completely out of his mind by the sensation of those strong fingers curling against the skin of his stomach.
Rodney licked his lips, then tugged, hard.
John dropped to his knees automatically, mirroring Rodney. They were so close that their shirts brushed as they breathed. "How about this?" Rodney asked breathlessly. His eyes were fixed on John's mouth so intently that John imagined he could feel what Rodney was thinking about doing with it. "How about if we're like this?" John leaned in a little, pressing their knees together, and Rodney groaned but put a restraining hand on his chest. "John, is this ok?"
It stopped him long enough for him to think through the haze of lust, about how they were. Both of them, on their knees. Equal, both wanting, both taking. Whatever the hesitation had been that kept him from reaching for this started to crumble deep in his chest.
"Jesus, John. Please say yes."
"Yeah," John managed to find enough breath to croak it out. "Yeah, I want this."
"Oh, thank god!" Rodney's fingers tightened on his waist and dragged him forward that last inch, plastering them together from knees to shoulders. He let go with one hand, to cup it behind John's head, raking his fingers into his hair. John swallowed, heat flooding him at the sensation of Rodney's body pressed so closely against his own. He could feel every motion, every shift. He could feel Rodney's heartbeat, thudding fast and hard against his chest. He'd expected Rodney to go for a kiss, had even parted his lips in anticipation of it, but Rodney surprised him by burying his face in John's neck and licking a stripe up his throat.
John stepped into the lab, carefully checking all the corners to make sure that everyone else had left. It was empty except for Rodney staring mournfully into the bottom of his coffee cup. He smiled to himself, closed the door and concentrated. The crystals flashed red.
He strode over to Rodney, and set the bottle of Canadian firmly on the tabletop in front of him. Rodney leaned back in surprise, turned his head to raise his eyebrows at John.
"I think I'd like to try it," John said.
"Really." Rodney reached forward, picked up the beer bottle and turned it over, his face a mask of polite interest. His eyelids lowered to help hide the expression in his eyes. "Are you sure?"
Rodney twisted the top off the beer and handed it to John. He lifted his head to look directly into John's eyes, his own dark and hot. "Go ahead, then."
John took a long drink, licked his lips and handed the bottle back to Rodney. "I don't really know what to do," he admitted softly. Rodney closed his eyes briefly, his body tightening in response, and when he opened them it was McKay looking out.
"Kneel," he said, placing a hand on John's shoulder and pressing down. Rodney's fingers bit in just above John's collarbone and had his knees buckling more efficiently than the Wraith queens ever had. Rodney's eyes bore into his, and for all the darkness in them there was also an expression that was all for John, just for him. It made him want to see it there all the time, made him want to just stay there on his knees for as long as he could last. It made him want.
John looked up Rodney's body. The angle highlighted his breadth and muscle, making him look more imposing. Still it was the look on his face that had John painfully hard in his pants. "Rodney," he said, on the edge of begging already.
Rodney leaned over him, nuzzled his nose against John's neck and breathed a hot puff over his ear. John shuddered and leaned into him. "John," he said, voice dangerous and hot, promising dark things that John wanted to learn all about right now.
"I didn't say you could talk."