[fic] SG:A - How Not To Make A Light Bulb
Sheppard/McKay - NC-17 - 40k
Written before Season 2, AU from Seige II. Thanks to searchyoursoul for the beta.
Sometimes it takes a couple tries to get things right.
How Not To Make A Light Bulb
by leah k
"A little to the left."
John glared up at Rodney over the device, sweat-heavy strands of hair falling in front of his eyes.
"This is as left as it goes," he banged his shoulder against the wall in demonstration. "There is no more left."
"Well then, obviously," Rodney explained slowly, "I meant your other left." Zelenka snorted from where he was elbow-deep in something that looked like an Ancient dishwasher.
"Right," John said, shifting the device back three inches to the right, "you know, this is heavy."
"And breakable! Be more careful," Rodney said and John scowled, his sweat-slick hands slipping against the nearly frictionless casing. "Ok, no, you're good there, set it down."
John carefully set the device down and winced, rubbing at his right shoulder. "Next time, when I say I'll help you out in the lab, I mean I'll hang out and turn things on for you," he said. "This is the last time I help you move."
"Look," Rodney said, "we don't get the Marines down here very often, and most of my people can't move a toaster. We need all the help we can get."
Zelenka, who had scurried into John's personal space while he wasn't looking, shrugged and nodded sadly. "Is true, Rodney is the fittest, and still he runs like a little girl. Heavy things, they are beyond us." Zelenka's voice was muffled by the fact that he had his whole upper body shoved behind the device in order to plug it into one of the generators. There were a series of bangs and metal-crystal grating noises originating from around John's ankles before Zelenka shouted "aha!" and said, "we are done with this now, you can be leaving. We'll call you when you're needed again." John smiled and patted the device, which gave a happy chirp and lit up. Zelenka looked jealous.
"Well, try not to need me too badly," John said, without thinking, and Rodney looked at him like he'd been sucker-punched. John reached out quickly, trying to erase what he'd said, but Rodney was already half-way across the room, shoving a lab tech out of the way and violently punching keys on his laptop.
"As always, Major, it's been a pleasure," Rodney said, spitting out the words, his tone miles away from the easy banter of just minutes ago. "You know your way out."
John winced, his hand dropping back to his side, but Rodney was already ignoring him.
He made up his mind after the nano-virus, and the timing made John feel like a complete jerk. After the nano-virus, when Rodney almost died again without even leaving the city, John decided to break up with him. The decision was more complicated than that, but that's what it came down to: when he'd thought Rodney was about to die, he'd gone nearly crazy with the need to do something and almost got 30 people killed. What they had couldn't be worth the risk.
None of the women John had ever dated returned his phone-calls. Partially, it was because John tended to live in such inaccessible locations as Antarctica and the Pegasus Galaxy, but for the most part it was because John was actually a complete asshole. While things were going well, he was a perfect gentleman: charming, sweet, funny; but as soon as things went south, he forgot to pull his punches. It was never enough just to end a relationship, he always had to smash it into fragments so small you couldn't tell what they'd been in the first place. If the girl wasn't sobbing hysterically at the end, John felt like he hadn't done it right.
Breaking up with Rodney took six days, because at the most intense point in a fight, at the exact moment where John could yell "well if you feel that way, I think we should break up!" they always ended up having sex. They argued all the time when they were getting along, so actually fighting with Rodney was like getting a dressing-down from his commanding officer in Afghanistan for days on end. John would say something awful, and Rodney would snipe back with something worse, but unlike all the girls John had been with, he was honestly afraid that Rodney was just going to pull back and punch him.
Rodney paced when he was working through an idea, when he got confused, and when he got angry. He seemed to be doing all three things at once, and he was stomping so loudly that John was convinced it sounded like an earthquake from even as far away as the control room. Rodney threw up his arms in disgust. "Oh, screw this martyrdom crap, Major, what the hell is this really about? Last week we were fine and now I can't breathe near you without you going insane."
John crossed his arms, stopping himself from reaching out, calming Rodney down. "Well, maybe I'm not sure I can do this anymore. Maybe I'm not that guy."
"What guy," Rodney paused mid-stride and looked at John like he'd started speaking Chinese, "what are you even talking about?"
"A guy in a serious relationship," John said, "the guy that you depend on for everything, that guy. Jesus, Rodney, what are we even doing here?"
Rodney sagged a little, and John realized it wasn't the first time he'd heard those words. For a split-second it made John irrationally angry at whoever had jerked Rodney around before. "Oh, fuck if I know," Rodney said, throwing up his hands, "I thought we were having sex, but now that it doesn't look like that's ever going to happen again, I have no idea."
"It's just that there was sex and then there was responsibility. You need so goddamn much, Rodney, and I can't do it. You need a hell of a lot more than I can give you."
Rodney stopped pacing altogether and sort of slumped onto the bed. The expression on his face reminded John of an open wound and he felt a little like he was going to throw up, because he was lying. Rodney didn't need more than John could give, John needed everything from Rodney and it was stupid and dangerous. People were dying, and every time he turned around, he could see Rodney across a vast dusty space, firing a gun he didn't know how to use at something he couldn't possibly defeat. They were running on borrowed time, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to handle it when it finally ran out. Rodney started to say something, but John held up his hand to cut him off. He could still hear Rodney's voice in his head, reminding him to fly away from the nuclear explosion.
"We're done here, Rodney." John walked out the door and didn't look back.
They left for Proculus the next day.
John left the lab feeling wired and uneasy. Rodney was mad at him, which wasn't new, but this time it was actually John's fault and that made him feel like the world's biggest jackass. He went straight to the workout room, worked the heavy bag until he could barely stand, and then let Teyla kick his ass for an hour after that. It didn't make him feel any better, but he was in enough pain that he didn't notice.
Dinner was some kind of stew, and a custard-like-something that smelled like lemonade that John refused, out of habit, and then felt stupid. Ford waved him over to where he was sitting with Rodney, Beckett, Simpson, and a handful of scientists that John didn't know very well. He picked at his food for half an hour, not saying much and ignoring the way Rodney was looking at everyone but him.
Nights before a mission, John typically went to bed a couple hours early. It took maybe an hour to fall asleep on the best of days; he had too many ghosts to get through the night quickly. He ducked out of dinner, nodding to Ford and slipping out during one of Beckett's drawn-out wacky Scottish medicine stories.
The lights dimmed automatically when he fell into bed, and for once, he had barely kicked off his boots when he fell into sleep.
John opened his eyes, lying in his own bed, and the light was wrong. Everything was too bright, yellow light filtered through California smog, instead of the soft blue of Atlantean stained glass. The whole room was over-exposed, harsh, and when he moved his eyes, everything moved a little too slowly, moments between breaths spread out for eternities. Everything was blurring softly around the edges, and then there was Rodney, dressed in civilian clothes and sitting on the edge of the bed, completely in focus.
"This can't be a dream," Rodney said.
"What?" John sat up, the room spinning dizzily around him. He felt sluggish, like Rodney was ten steps ahead of him instead of the usual two.
"The neural pathways in your brain won't let you know you're dreaming. Ancient genes or not, you're just wired wrong. Even for you, it's impossible." Rodney's voice had a self-satisfied quality to it, and John could feel him bouncing a little on the mattress. "So, therefore, this can't be a dream."
"But you're here," John said, because it suddenly seemed very important, "and you're happy."
Rodney turned around and looked a little sad as he asked, "Well, whose fault is that?"
John looked away and said, "I just miss you, is all." When he looked back up, Rodney was kneeling on the bed in front of him.
"Yeah, well, you still suck," Rodney said. John closed his eyes as Rodney's lips brushed his forehead. "I miss you, too." Rodney settled against him, knees on either sides of his hips.
"The thing is," John said, opening his eyes, "you died, Rodney. You died and you keep on dying and maybe I can stop that." He wiped a trickle of blood away from the corner of Rodney's mouth. "I think it's better this way. I think you should forgive me." If Rodney just said yes for once, things could go back to being okay.
Rodney frowned, exasperated and staring at John like if he just willed it so, John would stop being an idiot and see what was right in front of him. Rodney leaned back, his weight pushing John's legs painfully into the mattress. "I don't know if I can do that," he said. John reached out despite himself.
"You should forgive me," he said, again, his voice falling into a soft, even cadence. Rodney was like a scared animal in his arms, a breath away from running.
"John," he said, John instead of Major instead of Sheppard.
"Please," John said and Rodney nodded, a small movement, and stretched his body out against John's. Finally. John closed his eyes, relaxed into the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the windows, into the rightness of the moment.
John opened his eyes, cold and alone in his own bed, and knew he was awake. He spent long enough in the shower trying to get warm that he ended up being late for the mission briefing. Rodney didn't even look up when he walked into the room.
The mission to M5S-923 was already starting to take on an ominous quality, and they hadn't even stepped through the damn 'gate yet. Rodney had such a strong get the hell out of my way vibe all morning that even Teyla was giving him a wide berth.
While they were gearing up, Ford got halfway into "looks like someone woke up on-" before Rodney turned around and actually snarled at him before stalking out of the room. Ford backed up a good ten feet, right into Sheppard, before he relaxed completely.
"Sir," Ford said, almost under his breath, "do you ever get the feeling that McKay can, you know, kill people with his mind? 'Cause that man is seriously scary sometimes." He gave an exaggerated shudder before hoisting on his backpack.
"Well," John said, "I'm still alive, so he hasn't mastered it yet." John smiled, following Ford towards the control room. "It's gonna be a long day."
John stepped through the 'gate into the greenest place he'd ever seen. Dark green leaves covering the trees, bright green plants carpeting the ground, a sickly yellow sun crawling across a light green sky. M5S-923 really knew how to beat a color scheme to death. "Hey, look, green," John said. Ford laughed, Teyla inclined her head and raised an eyebrow, and Rodney grunted in a way that always meant I'm ignoring you now.
The Stargate was in a clearing surrounded by what looked like a wall of trees. Jungle wasn't quite the right word; the place was so alive it felt like the air was growing.
"The Cli'ok live that way," Teyla said, pointing towards the only clear path through the trees. "It should take no more than one half of your hours." She started walking without looking back, Ford falling in behind her. Rodney followed Ford by sonar, never looking up from scanning for energy signs or, for all John knew, playing Tetris on his scanner.
Ten minutes in, Ford was explaining the infield fly rule to Teyla, who was looking at him with fond confusion, and Rodney was still projecting a sphere of awkward silence. "Rodney," John tried. Rodney ignored him. John fell in step beside him, leaning into Rodney's personal space until he could tell Rodney wasn't actually paying attention to whatever he was looking at.
"Look, Rodney," John said, swatting another mosquito-like-bug-thing, "I'm sorry." Rodney continued to stare blankly at his scanner. "I'm sorry! Ok? Sorry? That mean anything to you?"
Rodney paused and looked up long enough to glare at him. "Does the phrase 'too little, too late' mean anything to you, Major?"
"Jesus, you're still mad about that?" he protested, crossing his arms over his P-90. "That was months ago. We've been having this same fight for a really, really long time. I think you should find it in your black little heart to forgive me."
Rodney snorted. "Right. Does that seem likely to you?"
"Come on! We have to work together! Ford's convinced you're going to kill him with your brain. This isn't working."
"Yeah, well, whose fault is that?" Rodney glared at him again, and John fervently wished that he'd never gotten up that morning. He wished it even harder when the men in loin-cloths jumped out of the trees pointing semi-automatics at them.
"Well, then," John said. "I don't suppose any of you have heard of Ferris Wheels?"
And then everything went black.
"Ferris wheels?" Rodney screeched when John woke up. "Ferris wheels? Scary men pointing guns at us and that's all you can think of? I'm amazed you've made it this far."
John glared up at him from where he was tied to the floor. "What happened? Ford? Teyla?"
"No idea. I just woke up here." Rodney rolled his eyes and rattled the chains that bound his hands to the wall. "This day just keeps on sucking."
"Well, look at it this way - we've got some time to talk now, work some things out." John tried to smile, look amicable, but he was pretty sure he wasn't convincing anyone.
Rodney looked at John blankly before looking pleadingly heavenward and banging his head against the wall. "Just when I'd thought this day couldn't get any worse."
"Thinking. Never a good idea," John muttered, and Rodney rolled his eyes again, "But seriously, Rodney, you're killing me here."
"I'm killing you?" Rodney asked, his voice going higher and higher. "You've got to be joking."
"Do I look like I have a sense of humor?" he asked and Rodney half-laughed. "We can keep fighting about this until the Wraith come back, but I'd rather we acted like adults about this."
Rodney laughed humorlessly and said, "if by adult you mean intergalactic slut, you've got that angle covered, Captain."
John winced. "Can't you ever let anything go?"
"Like you can?" Rodney shot him an incredulous look.
"At least I try!" John said, "Unlike some people."
"Oh, right, I forgot," Rodney smiled a small pained smile, "if there's anything you're good at, it's letting things go."
"Only the things I'm better off without," John said, lashing out without thinking, and Rodney got that same sucker-punched look on his face.
"Remember when I told you I loved you? What I really meant to say was bite me," Rodney said, looking so angry the John was sure if they weren't tied up, he'd have hauled over and punched him.
"I didn't mean that," John tried, but Rodney just glared through him at the other wall of the cell. John's mouth opened and closed for a few minutes, his mind searched frantically for something, anything to say, but he had no idea what could possibly be said that would fix things. He never get the chance to try anyway, because the men with guns were back.
Ford looked like a fish out of water, his mouth wide open and gaping. "They want us to, they want us to what?"
Teyla tried for a calming smile, but even she couldn't quite pull it off. "They had hoped to ransom us to our superiors, but I have told them of your people's unwillingness to deal with such force. Instead, they ask for something of equal value in trade, which, for these people is..." she trailed off, looking slightly uncomfortable.
"Porn?" Rodney asked, looking perplexed.
"I am unfamiliar with that term," Teyla said. "These people make their living supplying the Cli'ok with erotic materials."
"Porn," John repeated, nodding.
"We can get them porn, no problem," Rodney said, excitedly, "you wouldn't believe some of the things the biologists brought with them."
Teyla shook her head. "I have tried offering what we could bring from Atlantis, but they have remained firm in their demands." The oh shit look was back on Ford's face, as he scoped out the exits, the armed guards, the anxious-looking dignitaries. Sheppard shook his head; there were just too many of them.
"Right," John nodded. "Rodney, can I talk to you for a minute?" He jerked his head to the left, and walked a few paces away from where Ford and Teyla were standing.
"What?" Rodney glared at him, and John was a little amazed at how he could be scared for his life and still really pissed off at John, all at the same time.
"Ok, so, I think we need to take one for the team." John raised an eyebrow in what he hoped was an insinuating manner.
"Are you crazy? I'm not starring in freaky alien porn."
"Look," John said, "it's our only option, and I don't want to put Ford or Teyla in that kind of situation. It's not like we haven't done it before."
"Ok, putting aside the fact that I hate your guts right now and would never sleep with you again, ever, have you completely lost your mind? We can't make alien porn!" Rodney looked like he was fitting John for a straight-jacket in his head.
John threw his arms up in frustration and all but shouted, "We don't have the manpower to fight our way out of here!" He needed Rodney to get with the program; these people were sleazy and strange, but they didn't deserve to die. "We do it this way, without anyone getting hurt, and after, we never ever talk about it ever again, ok? Just... just close your eyes and think of Atlantis."
Rodney glared at him while John tried his best to look convincing. John managed to get up to the 25th iteration of the Fibonacci series in his head before Rodney finally backed down and nodded. John let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.
"Alright, then. Let's get this show on the road," he said, smirking, and Rodney smacked him in the back of the head.
Right after the storm, Rodney kept walking around like there was something he'd forgotten to do, and John was always on the edge of getting really annoyed. Every time they ran into each other Rodney looked at John like he had something better to do, like somehow John was a walking reminder that he'd left the oven on in Colorado Springs, or his luggage was still waiting for him on the 'gate-ramp at the SGC. Every time John asked him what the hell was up, Rodney looked startled and suddenly had somewhere else to be.
Eventually John figured out that he should ask Rodney when he didn't have a chance to get away, so he asked again over dinner. Rodney looked panicked for a split-second before a look of determination took over his face.
John was surprised, which was stupid, because when hadn't Rodney just come out and said something? But still, John was surprised when Rodney stopped eating, actually put down his fork and said, "so, I'm in love with you."
"You're what?" John sputtered, stupidly, a spoonful of soup half-way to his mouth.
"I'm not saying it twice." Rodney looked vulnerable and pissed off at the same time, which was just so him John's throat tightened around what he was going to say, and he sort of choked on nothing for a minute.
"Uh," he stalled, "yeah, me too. With you, that is." Rodney gave him an incredulous look, but John sort of shrugged and muttered, "that's really the best you're going to get," and they went back to eating.
They were taken to a big red room ("oh, subtle" "shut up, Rodney") with a giant silk-covered bed ("I'm surprised it's not heart-shaped" "shut up, Rodney") and a mirror on the ceiling. A search of a bedside table had revealed five kinds of lubricant, restraints, a couple of things that vibrated when John touched them, and a brightly colored something that John didn’t want to think about too hard.
"Tasteful," Rodney said, bouncing on the mattress.
John shrugged. "At least this one's bigger than the beds on Atlantis." Rodney took up so much space when they'd tried sharing a bed, that on the nights one of them stayed over, John had woken up on the floor more often than not.
"I wish I knew where the cameras were," Rodney said, twitching and looking around nervously. John scanned the room, but couldn't find anything out of the ordinary, if you considered 18th century bordello ordinary; the mirror didn't look to be two-way, and there were no visible breaks in the garish wallpaper that covered the room.
Once, when John was thirteen, he'd been crazy in love with this girl, Janet Krystowski, and she'd liked him back and he was moving to Tulsa the next day, so they figured they should maybe, you know, do something. So they'd snuck into her parents bedroom while they were gone and ended up just staring at each other for an hour because neither of them had any idea what to do and then they'd just kinda held hands and kissed once and it was terrible and awkward. It was still John's most painful puberty sucks memory and it was nothing compared to the feeling of sitting down next to Rodney on the giant four-poster and trying to figure out how they were going to pull off becoming porn stars on an alien planet.
"Uh," Rodney said, "we should probably-"
"Yeah," John said and Rodney nodded quickly. A brief look of panic crossed Rodney's face, but was it replaced with one that said ok, let's just get this over with. He leaned in. John had just enough time to notice he was coming in a little fast before they crashed together painfully.
"Ok, ow," Rodney said, holding a hand up to his nose, "I think it's bleeding."
John rubbed at the bridge of his own nose for a minute before batting Rodney's hand out of the way. "It's fine," he said, testing it with his fingertips. He leaned forward this time, using his hand on Rodney's face to guide them on something less than a collision course. He still missed, catching only the corner of Rodney's mouth.
When they finally managed an actual kiss, it was wrong in a way John couldn't explain; Rodney was so out of the moment, John could practically hear him working out equations in his head. Even through the strange wrong feeling, John kept kissing Rodney, kept wanting to kiss him. Rodney tasted like long hours without sleep, like six rations of coffee a day, like power bars and stale chocolate. An acquired taste, but one John had been missing for months.
Rodney's hands had wandered, one on the back of John's head, the other awkwardly resting on John's shoulder, unsure and uncharacteristically tentative. John pulled back, briefly, to pant, "clothes, we should," and Rodney nodded, shoving at John's field jacket, hands unsteady and clumsy. John tried to concentrate on getting Rodney's shirt off, but Rodney was suddenly all elbows, arms getting in the way of wherever John tried to reach.
"Wait, wait, let me," Rodney said, pushing John back onto the bed and crawling on top of him. Rodney tried to lean back, settle his weight on his heels, but he over-balanced, coming down hard on the knee close to John's groin. John's vision grayed-out and he made an embarrassing keening noise in the back of his throat until Rodney realized what was happening and immediately took his weigh off his knees, collapsing fully against John's chest and squishing the air from his lungs.
"Ow," John managed feebly. Rodney had the decency to look sorry.
"So, really," Rodney sighed, "when we were dating, we enjoyed having sex with each other, didn't we? I don't remember it being this bad."
John laughed with what little breath he had, and Rodney rolled off, and they laid there, side by side, staring up at their reflections. John caught Rodney's eye in the mirror and said, "it's like, god, remember the first time? We were so bad at it."
Rodney smiled, an honest smile. "You had the hickey from hell, you could barely lift your arms, and I still let you talk me into sleeping with you."
"And then Grodin radioed and you were so startled you thought he was in the room." John was laughing for real, caught up in the moment; Rodney had bolted upright, half-naked, and John had panic-though all the lights in the room on before they'd realized it was Rodney's radio, which had fallen off onto the bed, near the pillow.
"We are, officially, the worst porn ever," Rodney said. It was the first thing they'd agreed on all month.
A week after the Athosians moved out of the city, John flew the team out to the mainland for a giant ancestor-honoring bonfire. An hour in, Rodney collapsed against him, completely trashed on Athosian lager and started talking about Canada, how Gordie Howe and John Bardeen had been his childhood heroes, how he'd always wanted to figure out a way to combine physics and hockey, but he never got the time to work it out anymore. They stayed like that all night, John watching drunk marines stumble a little too close to the fire's edge, Rodney leaning against John for support and rambling on about anything and everything.
Rodney fell asleep as the sun came up over the horizon, but John stayed up all morning thinking. He still regretted a lot in his life, but suddenly he didn't want to go back and change things, because every stupid mistake had lead him here. All the bad decisions he had made, and the one thing that went right had been decided by a coin-flip.
He laughed at that hard enough to wake Rodney up, and they stumbled blearily back to the 'jumper, leaning against each other for support.
"We used to be great at this," John said, and immediately regretted saying it, because it was so true. They'd been great at it, from the start, it had been easy. He'd stopped by to see Rodney in the infirmary after his Hail Mary act, and John had leaned in and said, "Do you wanna maybe get some dinner?" without thinking about it too hard. Everything after that had been easy, too, even the little couple-y things that usually drove John crazy. Rodney was good for making decisions about whether to just grab some MREs or take a chance on whatever they were serving in the mess, whether to watch the BC-Miami game for the 100th time or try to bribe Corrigan out of his Wormhole X-treme DVDs. John had woken up in Rodney's quarters without the where-am-I-what-am-I-doing-here vertigo he'd had with every other relationship. They had fit, and that had freaked him out more than even the Wraith.
"I'm sorry," he said, meaning it in a way he hadn't before.
"Yeah?" Rodney said, tilting his head, looking at John straight on.
"Yeah," John said, quietly but with full conviction, and Rodney kissed him. Whatever had been holding Rodney back before, whatever that strange disconnected feeling was, it was gone, and John could read everything they weren't saying in the way Rodney kissed him: I miss you, I love you, I want you. John moaned into Rodney's mouth, helpless and wanting, and Rodney made a sound low in his throat that killed the last of John's resolve.
"I, god, Rodney, I-" John gasped, pulling back. So much he wasn't saying.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up," Rodney said, punctuating each phrase with a nip to John's lower lip. "God, just shut up." Rodney moved with sudden purpose, pulling John's T-shirt out of his pants, shoving it up and over John's head without really breaking the kiss. John's hands were clumsily grabbing at Rodney's belt, torn between the desire to get them off, get him naked, and the irrational desire to never let Rodney go, never stop touching him. He finally got the buckle undone, despite himself, and Rodney managed to shove his pants down and off and then they were naked, John not quite knowing how they'd gotten there.
John's hands remembered Rodney, his body responded to all of Rodney's little tells from muscle-memory. They ended up tangled, pressed together head to heel, Rodney's legs bracketing John's, his hips making small circular thrusts. They were hardly going to make it long at the rate they were going, Rodney making little whimpering noises, breath hot and damp in John's ear, and their captors had been specific.
"Arm wrestle you for it," John said, his voice coming out husky and breathless, like really good porn. Rodney laughed, and John could feel it vibrating in his own chest.
"Next time," Rodney said, reaching for the nightstand. John laid back down, moving up closer to the headboard, grabbing one of the pillows from the headboard and shoving it under his hips. Rodney was back in a second, blanketing him with heat, running his finger's down John's sides, lower. John shivered and bucked against the first finger as it slid in.
"Been awhile," he said, trying for funny and charming, coming out closer to desperate.
Rodney got an odd unreadable look on his face, and muttered "it had better," but John wasn't sure he was supposed to have heard.
"it's, I, just you," he gasped, and Rodney said "shut up" again, but fondly.
Rodney, when he slid in, did it with agonizing slowness, and John arched up into it, cursing and muttering under his breath. John had just enough mental capacity to think ok, now we must look really hot before his brain focused in on oh god yes there and then whited out completely.
Rodney followed, a few ragged thrusts later, chanting "John John John John."
When John was able to string together enough brain cells to move, he poked Rodney in the back and said "yeah?"
Rodney turned towards him, looking blissed-out and blearily confused. "What?"
"You want something?" John asked, trying to look innocent, "'cause you were calling my name back there, and I thought maybe you wanted something." Rodney laughed, a little whuff of air, and tried to smother John with a pillow.
A creepy-looking guy in a long brown dress opened a door in the wall that John hadn't seen before, and said, "It is done."
The door lead to a little bathroom with the nicest shower John had ever used ("oh, we so have to trade for this technology") and terrycloth robes with the M5S-923 equivalent of "his" and "his" embroidered on the back. Eventually, another loin-cloth clad man ushered them into a smaller bedroom and told them they would be released in the morning.
John stripped down to his boxers and dog tags and crawled into bed, determined to sleep for a year. Rodney followed a beat later, muttering the whole time about stupid backwards porn-centric cultures. John was tired, beat down to his socks exhausted, but he couldn't make himself close his eyes, couldn't relax at all. Things between him and Rodney were still up in the air, and he was faced with the most strange and awkward situation he'd ever been in. What did you say to your ex after you'd just been forced to have sex by alien pornographers? They didn't make a greeting card for that one.
There were so many things about Rodney that still surprised John, floored him time after time. He had thought, after Afghanistan, after Antarctica, after the Wraith, that nothing would surprise him anymore, but he'd been wrong.
"I should have gotten over you," Rodney said, suddenly, "it would have been a lot better for me than just being bitter and miserable and, oh yeah, poised on the edge of utter annihilation for-fucking-ever. But I just didn't want to. Ok? I'd never been in love like that before and I didn't want it to stop."
Rodney didn't move, but John could feel him tense up, could hear the gears in his brain grinding together. "This isn't what I wanted," he said, "you know I never wanted this. It was all you! You were angry and you wouldn't stop, and suddenly you were this completely different person. What was I supposed to do? You'd turned into someone I didn't want to be with anymore, was I supposed to fight for that?"
"Rodney," John said, afraid of where Rodney was going.
"I thought fine, I could get over you when you were stomping on my heart and then immediately going after the first evil alien priestess you saw, but now, christ. After Chaya it was like it hadn't happened, you were so nice and then Mensa. Mensa! What was that? It wasn't bad enough? You had to be smart and gorgeous and not in love with me?" Rodney sighed.
John felt that sick lying feeling again, and said, quickly, "I'm not, I mean, I'm still-"
Rodney sat up suddenly, elbowing John in the stomach on the way up. "We did what you wanted, we did it your way, with the not being together to avoid being hurt. But guess what, we got hurt anyway! The Wraith still came, you still tried to nuke yourself. Again! So, you know what? We're not doing that anymore, I'm not letting you get away with it anymore." Rodney poked him in the chest, right over his heart, over and over again as punctuation.
"Rodney," John said, his voice sounding scared and far away.
Rodney awkwardly covered John's mouth with his hand, balancing with one hand pressing down on John's shoulder. "I don't care what you have to say right now." Rodney looked at him, pinning John down with his gaze as much as his body. "Right now, I'm going to go to sleep, and when I wake up, we're going to go home, and I'm going to forget that whole month and a half where you were a dick. Ok? Ok. Goodnight."
Rodney, true to his word, laid back down and tried to sleep.
"Wait," John said, sitting up.
"No waiting," Rodney mumbled into his pillow. "Sleeeeep."
John grabbed his pillow and smacked Rodney in the back of the head with it. "No sleep," he said when Rodney lifted his head up to glare at him. "It's not that I'm not in love with you," John said, "it's not anything like that at all. It was just stupid. I was freaking out and I handled things badly and we're all in agreement here that I suck. But, now, as I'm still, you know, and you haven't gotten over me, apparently…" he trailed off, his mind running off 10 miles ahead of his mouth. There were dozens of things he wanted to say: take me back, I miss you, you should make that sound again, but Rodney made the decision for him by shoving John's shoulders back down against the mattress.
"I got that part already," Rodney said, smiling smugly. "Now, I'm saying that as the much smarter and apparently more emotionally stable half of this couple, I get to make all the decisions from now on. You're terrible at it. Also, you're a needy little bitch, but I think I can handle it." Rodney heaved up and kissed John before collapsing back to the bed, half-on-half-off John. "Seriously, going to sleep now." John closed his eyes.
By the time they made it to the Cli'ok village, he and Rodney were already minor celebrities. Most of the women they passed on the street smiled at them and blushed and giggled behind their hands. Rodney kept muttering "oh my god, oh my god, they've seen us have sex, oh my god" under his breath and John had to kick him repeatedly to get him to stop during the trade negotiations.
The Cli'ok high council believed in sleeping on all major decisions, and put them up for the night in what John could only assume was a hotel. Teyla and Ford both had rooms down the hall, but he and Rodney had been put up in the honeymoon suite, together.
John was washing his face in the bathroom, when he heard Rodney's voice saying "shut up, shut up, shut up," followed by a loud crashing noise. He rushed out of the bathroom, reaching for his side-arm, only to find Rodney sitting on the bed, staring at a Jesus! 2-foot-high 3D hologram of the two of them having sex.
"Uh," he said, and Rodney shoved a little black box into his hand and said, panicked, "think this off, think this off now." John grabbed it, frantically thinking off, stop, cease, desist, before the hologram disappeared and the box blinked red once and then went out.
"That was awkward," Rodney said, about a minute later, after John's heart-rate had gone back to almost-normal.
"Uh-huh," John said, his mind running over the image again and again, "But also? Kinda hot." Rodney nodded quickly, and this time, when they kissed, it was like they'd rehearsed the whole thing in advance.
John woke up in the middle of the night to Rodney pacing, rolling the black box between his hands.
"What if it still doesn't work?" he asked, not bothering to check if John was actually awake.
He stopped, staring at something John couldn't see in the dark, and said, "I mean, think about it. Is getting back together because aliens made us have sex the most stable foundation for a relationship? Oh god, what if that rumor about 'gate travel causing insanity is true and we just think this is a good idea because we've gone nuts?"
"Rodney," John said, "Sit down." Rodney sat down. The bed dipped, and John felt himself sliding towards the edge and Rodney, just a little.
Rodney was looking down at his hands, the walls, anywhere but John. "I mean, ok, we suck apart, we suck being apart, obviously, but... it's a relationship based on porn!"
"Rodney, breathe, ok?" John reached out, resting his hand against the back of Rodney's neck. "Look, um, most couples or whatever do things and they fight and stay together and they figure out they want to be together by being together and you and I found the same thing out by being apart. I'm not saying that right. It's like most people, they get to 20 by adding 10 plus 10, you know? But we started out at negative 5 and subtracted negative 25 and got to the same place anyway. You and me, we're subtracting negative numbers, but it still works."
At the very least, it made Rodney look at him and say, "That's the stupidest metaphor I've ever heard."
"But it works, right?" John grinned, trying for charming and probably hitting stupid man in love, and Rodney just stared at him blankly. "It so works."
Rodney fell back, collapsing onto the bed with a muted whump and a squeal of old mattress springs. He rolled over, suddenly, tucking his whole body in along John's side, and John could feel the little black remote still clutched in his hand.
John smiled, closed his eyes, and dreamt of nothing.
You know, Thomas Edison tried and failed nearly two thousand times to develop the carbonized cotton filament for the incandescent light bulb... And when asked about it, he said, "I didn't fail, I found out two thousand ways how not to make a light bulb," but he only needed to find one way to make it work. - National Treasure