No Quarter

★★Nominated: McShep Fan Awards, 2008★★

Jan. 6th, 2008 12:14 pm

Fandom: SG: Atlantis

Characters: John/Rodney

Rating: R

Warnings: Whump, slash, language

Disclaimer: Not mine!

Beta: ferret_kitty Made of awesome? Yes, she is.

Summary: Rodney's not quite right after he's rescued from the latest crazy aliens. John's surprisingly slow figuring out why this is.

Author's Note: Yeah. I think I'm slightly obsessed with hurting Rodney McKay.

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John's not there when they find Rodney; he's searching in an entirely different part of the Judassin complex. He'd been looking in the cells, in the cramped little four by four boxes of metal, dreading every bit as much as he was praying to find Rodney.

Lorne's team finds Rodney in the science labs, and for a half second, for a beautiful delusional moment, he thinks that everything is fine. That everything must be fine, that Rodney and his scientists must have just gotten caught up in their work. Forgotten to check in for the last week. That was all. That was it.

And then he'd realized that Lorne's voice wasn't relieved, that he was saying, "—a med team, shit, shit, and Zelenka. Colonel Sheppard, do you copy?"

He swallows, hard, "I copy you, Major. I'm sending Teyla back through the 'gate for reinforcements. Ronon and I are coming to your position." Teyla's already moving, nothing but a blur of motion heading out the door, her hair streaming behind her like a banner.

He looks across at Ronon, staring down at him hard, says, "Let's go."

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John is there when Rodney wakes up. God. It's his fault.

It had taken he and Ronon long moments to get to the labs, even with him running full out and Ronon loping along beside him. By the time they'd made it his heart had been pounding dangerously hard against his ribs, and he'd been breathing hard. It hadn't mattered, not when they'd sprinted into the lab Lorne had directed them to, and everything had ground to a complete stop.

His eyes slide away from the scene in the middle of the room, his brain refusing to process it. He takes in Lorne's team, instead, the way they're all bunched together off to the side, P-90s in hand, faces pale and grim. Stares at the machines beeping and blinking around the perimeter of the room, the two dead men in unfamiliar green uniforms lying in one corner.

He says, looking hard at Lorne to the exclusion of looking at anything else at all, "Is he--" and can't make himself continue. His eyes, fighting against all his better sense, cut across to the middle of the room, and his stomach twists, clenches, sours. He takes a half-step towards the chair, before catching himself.

Lorne clears his throat, then does it again, "He's alive. Sir."

And John feels something snap, feels his breath rush out in a whoosh. Because, God, but Rodney doesn't look alive. His face is pale and slack, head tipped back against the chair, skin stained with blood at his temples. Red and angry where the wires have slid up under his skin, where John can see them pressed between skin and bone.

He feels his feet carrying him forward, without thought or intention. Rodney's skin is cold under his fingers, but this close he can see the man's eyes fluttering, see them moving and jerking, like he's dreaming. He slides his hands down, grips the edges of Lorne's jacket, spread across Rodney's chest like a blanket.

Lorne's voice makes him hesitate, tense like a warning, "Sir, you don't--"

He shakes his head, says, "I have to," because he does. Because Rodney is his responsibility, is his team, is his scientist, and he should have never consented to let Rodney be part of this stupid Rent-a-Geek program. Should have never left Rodney go off world for a month, even to these people who should have been their allies.

He tightens his fingers in Lorne's jacket, tugs it off and sucks in a deep breath, jerking his head to the side. Rodney's bare-chested, strapped into the chair with thick leather bonds. His arms are pined palm up to the chair, more wires shoved up into his wrists, lifting his skin like huge, unnatural veins. John can trace one of them, like a snake in his body, all the way up to the juncture of Rodney's shoulder.

He runs his fingers over it, follows it from wrist to shoulder, ignoring the pain aching from his jaw, clenched so tight he's afraid he might shatter his own teeth. Rodney shifts under his touch, and it rustles the tubes hanging around him, hooked to bags of clear fluid, the needles that are stuck in the veins of his neck, the entry points bruised black.

John tries to swallow, but his throat is too tight to manage it. His eyes slide around Rodney's body, unable to linger on one place too long. There's a bigger tube sticking out of Rodney's stomach, low, almost against the juncture of his hip, leading down to a bucket under the chair. John knows the ammonia scent, doesn't have to look to understand.

He says, "Were they the only ones here?" looking at the men in the corner, with their limp bodies, their boneless sprawl. There's blood creeping out across the floor, a slow wet slide that's almost black. He hopes they died slow, hopes they drowned in their own blood as their hearts tried to keep going.

"Yessir." And John nods, because he doesn't exactly know what else to do. Slides his hand up and around to the undamaged side of Rodney's neck, fingers pressing into papery dry skin, looking for a pulse. It's there, faint but distinct against his fingertips, and he drags his hand higher, cups the line of Rodney's jaw, stubble rough against his palm.

And Rodney jerks, pressing hard into his palm, eyes fluttering too fast for a half second before blinking open. Rodney's pupils are tiny, his eyes all blue, fever bright. He stares up at John for one long silent moment, and then his mouth is falling open into a perfect 'o' of surprise.

His voice is rough, sandpaper over gravel, sounds painful, "Oh, so it's come to this, has it? I'm glad it's you."

John jerks to the side, stomach clenching, and manages to swallow instead of throwing up all over his own boots.

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Between Radek and Keller it takes them forty minutes to get Rodney out of the chair. John paces in a slow circle around them, hands on his hips, gaze stuck on Rodney no matter how often he tries to look away.

Rodney's curiously and terribly silent, but John can feel Rodney's eyes on him, following his movement. Even as Radek cuts the wires that tangle under his skin, even as Keller draws them out, painstakingly slowly, because, "—I can't risk doing more damage to him, Colonel, just give me some time."

Rodney shifts, flexing the fingers on his right arm, lying in his lap. He's still strapped to the chair, Keller had been afraid that he'd just slide out of it if his restraints were all loosened, and he's not protesting it nearly enough. In fact, he's not protesting at all. John clears his throat, "How you doing there, buddy?"

Radek flashes him a dark look, working on the machines connected to Rodney's left arm, all that's left of the wires. There's a big drop of blood in the bottom corner of the man's glasses, and he looks haggard, rough, snaps, "Are you blind, Colonel? Should you not be elsewhere, doing your soldier things?"

Rodney waves his hand, flails it so wildly that he almost manages to smack Keller in the side of her head, "I'm fine. Why is this taking so long? I mean, the realism is very nice, but I could do without it. I was kind of hoping for one of those medical miracle things."

Keller's lips thin, she flattens her hand on his forehead, twists and pulls and draws the last of the needles out of Rodney's neck. The man flinches, protestations that he's fine aside, and John feels a muscle in his jaw jump. Says, "Can't you do something about the pain?"

She gives him a dark, impatient, look, "Why are you still here?"

He opens his mouth, because he has every right to be here. He's not letting Rodney out of his sight until he's safely back on Atlantis. He doesn't have to try to explain, because Rodney's blurting, voice suddenly worried, eyes flaring impossibly wider, "Don't go! I don't—I want him to be here. Don't listen to them."

It burns, tears something in his chest, and he says, "I'm not going anywhere, Rodney."

And Rodney's nodding, head jerking up and down too quickly, "Good. Good." He swallows heavily, John can see the bruises working up and down, and Rodney's reaching out, grabbing a handful of Zelenka's shirt, babbling, "Hurry, okay? I have—I have things I need to do."

John can't read the look that Radek shoots him, sharp and contemplative and John shrugs, because he has no idea what Rodney could possibly be going on about. But it doesn't matter, because Radek is patting at Rodney's hand, absent comfort, saying, "Always rushing, McKay. I tell you, some things must be done properly, yes?"

Rodney snaps, "That's just an excuse to be lazy."

And John can't help but smile, can't help but feel some relief creep into his chest.

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Rodney seems stubbornly and bizarrely determined to stay conscious. Even as Keller finally agrees to release him, even as Ronon ambles back into the room, stretcher over one shoulder, Rodney keeps his blown eyes wide open.

He's already pale, goes almost translucent when Ronon grabs him under the shoulder and lifts him over to the stretcher. The outline of the chair is graven into Rodney's back, angry red lines across his shoulders, down the line of his spine. John grits his teeth and makes himself look, because he should see, he needs to see.

Rodney gasps, mouth pressed into Ronon's shoulders, legs limp and useless, dead weight in Ronon's arms. His eyes are still open, locked on John, and John manages a quick grin before Ronon is settling their scientist down, strapping him in

Rodney makes a soft sound, his feet pounding briefly against the stretcher, before he finally goes still and lax. John pats the man's thigh, quickly in passing, and he doesn't so much as twitch. He quirks an eyebrow at Ronon, says, "Alright big guy, lets get him home."

Ronon grunts.

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Rodney sleeps for two days, just crashes out, the way he does when he's wounded.

John stops by, every few hours, like he has to, like he needs to make sure Rodney's still there. Keller makes a crack about setting her watch by him after the first day, and so he doesn't come back the second. He's a distracted mess the entire day, and after getting his ass kicked six ways to Sunday by Teyla, he slumps back to his room.

He's all of a step into his room, rubbing at his sweaty hair, when he realizes that all is not as he left it. Mostly, this is due to the fact that Rodney McKay is rearranging his furniture. With intent.

He stares for a long moment, standing in his doorway. Rodney is grunting, dragging his mattress off the bed, laying it out on the floor beside another, unfamiliar mattress. He's already got the nightstand relocated to the other side of the room, got John's clean laundry folded and set beside the dresser.

Finally he manages, "What're you doing?"

Rodney jerks around to face him, face flushed with exertion, eyes shining. He says, "Of course, yes, perfect, you're just in time." And John opens his mouth to ask what, exactly, he's in time for. He never gets the chance, because then Rodney's in front of him, hands in his hair, tugging him down and kissing him.

John makes a soft sound, even to him, it doesn't sound anything like protest. He pushes back into the kiss, arms moving of their own volition, cradling Rodney to him. He's warm, and solid, and his fingers are perfection through John's hair, the soft pads dragging across John's jaw, down his neck.

He grunts, aware that Rodney is walking backwards, leading him with lips and tongue and fingers towards the mattresses. Rodney's murmuring against his mouth, "I want—can I?" His words are sweet, coffee flavored, and John can only groan in answer, hands sliding up Rodney's back, fingers curling over his shoulders.

He pants, "Yeah," wondering what the hell brought this on, not really caring. God. He can't even remember a time that he didn't want Rodney. A time when he hadn't imagined this, coming home from a mission to find him here, warm and willing. "You totally can."

Rodney makes a contented little sound into his mouth, and then his hands are sliding under John's jacket, pushing it down off his shoulders, palms big and broad and warm, separated by John's skin only by the thin layer of his t-shirt.

And then Rodney's toppling himself backwards down onto the mattress, dragging John along. They end up in a tangle of limbs, knees banging hard together, John's teeth closing hard on Rodney's bottom lip. He says, "Jesus, slow down--" pushing himself up on his hands, braced on either side of Rodney's shoulders, leaning in for a kiss as Rodney grabs and tugs at his shirt.

Rodney's laughs against his mouth, momentarily managing to tangle their arms all together in John's shirt before it's sailing somewhere across the room. And then he's spreading his legs, letting John settle into the warm cradle of his thighs, panting, "I want you to fuck me now."

John's whole body tightens at the thought, his hips jerk forward, and Rodney's hands are there, tugging at buttons and zippers. He opens his mouth, not believing that he's actually about to tell Rodney to slow down again, and Rodney kisses him so filthily that he completely forgets how the idea of protesting even works.

Rodney is apparently part octopus, because he's got John's pants around his knees, is bending and grunting and twisting sideways, dragging John's left leg up by grabbing his pants and pulling. Is yanking at his boot while John acquaints himself with the sweet, sweaty skin along his neck, gentle over the black, black bruises.

And then he's naked, and Rodney's bowing up under him, grabbing his own shirt and squirming it off. The thick bandages around his wrists are enough to cut through some of the haze John's swimming in, the press of cloth low on Rodney's gut enough to make him rock back. He hisses, "Shit, shit, Rodney, wait, you're--"

Rodney makes a sharp, negative noise, digs his hands into John's shoulders and pulls him back down hard. Breathes between kisses, whispering the words rough and thick into John's mouth, "It's fine. I'm fine. They're not—just, just fuck me John, okay?"

He groans, and gives up, braces himself on one elbow, puts the other hand to use tracing what parts of Rodney's body aren't damaged. Beneath him, he can feel Rodney shifting, moving, hands caught between them as he wrestles his own pants down. Looking back, John's pretty sure he should have known something was up when he came in and Rodney was barefoot.

And then Rodney's scooting up, bracing his feet on the bed, legs a 'v' on either side of John's hips. He's begging, hands on John's upper arms, squeezing, pulling, tugging, "Now, fuck me now, please, right now, please--"

John can feel a tremor rip from the base of his feet to the nape of his neck, grinds without thought down against Rodney, the curve of his ass, all the heat of his skin. Pants, trying to remember how to breath, "Gimme, Gimme a minute, need to--" he waves his hand, wiggling his fingers, and Rodney makes his little disagreeing noise again.

"Ready. Ready already. Come on, John, please, need--"

He drops his head to Rodney's shoulder, because he's not sure why, but the begging is taking him apart. He rocks against Rodney again, reaches down with a hand that's not shaking at all, really, even a little bit, because he's not sure if Rodney would lie about it or not.

And Jesus Christ, but he's slick, and John slides two fingers into him, gasping at the press of tight heat, at the way Rodney keens under him. He says, "Okay, okay," nodding his head like an idiot, forehead sliding against Rodney's skin, slides his arm under Rodney's leg, shoves his knee over his shoulder and shifts.

Rodney's babbling beneath him, high and desperate and John's not even in him yet. He can't take much more of the pleas, Rodney's voice catching on each please, dancing over his name like a fucking prayer, begging for his cock, please, please, right now.

He pushes in, just the head of his cock, feels his arm braced beside Rodney's shoulder trembling, struggling to stay still. And then Rodney is grunting, leveraging himself up and back and impaling himself with a whine of, "Johnjohnjohnjohnjohn--"

He thinks that Rodney might possibly be hyperventilating, can feel Rodney's hands fluttering over his skin, lightening fast touches like Rodney can't settle on any one place. He tries to get at least some of his brain back on line from the sudden shock of tight, perfect, hot. Of Rodney, clenching around him, shifting his hips in impatient little movements as John tries to wrap his mind around the idea that he can move, too.

He breathes, "Christ," mouthing kisses across Rodney's chest, neck, whatever he can reach.

And Rodney pants, still moving his hips in little circles, somehow, even with all John's weight bearing down on him, "Hard, hard, right now." And John remembers how to move, rocks back and slams back forward because Rodney had asked, had begged, had said hard.

Rodney clenches down around him with each thrust, and it's not fair, it's illegally good, it's going to have his brain pouring out his dick in approximately two minutes. It doesn't matter, because Rodney is making sounds like he might be dying, hands grasping desperately at his arms, shoulders, hair.

He's panting like a bellows, pounding hard into Rodney's ass, anything like finesse completely disregarded. He's lucky that he's managing any kind of rhythm at all, out of his skull as he is, and he wants to get a hand on Rodney's cock, wants to kiss him stupid, wants to stay like this for fucking ever.

Settles for grinding out, "Shit, Rodney, I'm gonna--"

And Rodney's voice is the most utterly debauched thing John's ever heard, "Yes, yes, good, please." And it's not like John particularly needed the motivation, but Rodney's desperate begging pushes him over the edge so hard he worries he might actually pass out.

He collapses forward, feels Rodney's cock jerk against his stomach, feels the flood of hot liquid all the way up across his chest. Mostly, though, he's floating on a tingly cloud of perfection. He breathes open mouthed against Rodney's skin, starts to shift to the side, to take his weight off Rodney.

Rodney tenses beneath him, and there are arms around his shoulders, holding him tight, Rodney saying, voice tinged with a different kind of desperation, "Just—just stay. For a minute. Don't move."

He blinks, trying to think through a brain that feels thick with molasses, "I should, I mean, I should clean us up."

Rodney just tightens his hold, and John thinks he might be shaking, feels a sharp jag of worry. Rodney's voice is hoarse, "No. No. Just. Not yet. Stay. Please." And John nods his head, because he doesn't know what else to do, rubs his hands up and down what he can reach of Rodney's arms, until he finally edges back towards relaxed.

He doesn't try to pull away, to pull out, again until Rodney is sleeping.

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Rodney sleeps curled up on his side, and John ends up pressed in tight against him because Rodney is warm and perfect and cuddly. John dares anyone to sleep in the same bed as Rodney and not end up with their head pillowed on his shoulder, an arm or leg or both thrown over him. Rodney, like teddy bears and body pillows, is innately snuggly.

He's also twitchy.

John's slept with people that tended to move a lot when they dreamed. Growing up, he'd had a dog that had jerked and twitched, dreaming it was running after rabbits or cats or whatever the hell dogs dreamt about. He's not entirely unfamiliar with the concept.

But Rodney moves, well, more than every now and then. It's a constant thing, little twitches in his chest, his hands balling up, releasing, his teeth grinding together. It's distracting, but John's exhausted, and fucked out, and it doesn't actually take that long for sleep to drag him under, even with Rodney imagining strangling scientists.

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He wakes up in time to feel Rodney swallow his cock, and his back bows up off the bed. He says something completely unintelligible, grabs at Rodney's hair and ears, his entire body already wound so tight it's nearly painful.

Rodney hums around him, throat working, and John stares down at him with eyes still blurry from sleep. Rodney's sprawled out beside him, one arm flung over John's waist, the other resting on his thigh, thumb rubbing little circles into John's skin.

His eyes are wide open, staring down at what he's doing, little lines of concentration in their corners. John makes a desperate sound, as Rodney's mouth slides up his shaft, as he sucks and licks with intent at the head before swallowing again, like it's the most natural thing in the world for him to do.

He raises one hand to his mouth, ignoring how very, very hard it is to tear it away from the softness of Rodney's hair, gets a knuckle between his teeth and does his best to stop the embarrassing sounds he's making. Rodney's apparently already found a rhythm that suits him, and John wonders how long he'd been at this before John woke up.

Just the thought of it makes his hips lift involuntarily, like he can get himself any farther down Rodney's throat than he already is. And Rodney does the humming thing again and John comes just like that, like a switch being flipped.

And then Rodney's crawling up his body, knocking John's hand away from his mouth and replacing it with lips and tongue. John doesn't even think to complain about the fact that Rodney has cock and morning breath, just groans, runs his hands desperately over the other man's body, vaguely aware through the haze of just-been-laid that Rodney is jacking himself off.

He's just reaching a hand down to help when Rodney trembles against him, and makes a quiet, desperate sound against his mouth.

There's a second where Rodney hovers over him, lips brushing with each breath, and then he flops sideways, sprawls onto his back. And John says, "What time is it?" and feels immediately like an idiot, because what the hell kind of thing is that to say to the man that just woke you up with a blowjob?

If the look Rodney gives him is anything to go by, Rodney agrees. He feels himself flush, and smile goofily, and Rodney rolls his eyes, reaches across John to dig around in the pile of clothes on the floor before he comes up with his watch. Says, "Here? It's four thirty."

John blinks, pauses in the middle of sliding one hand behind his head and the other up over Rodney's shoulder blades. "What does it matter what time it is anywhere else?"

Rodney flashes him another sharp look, before it smoothes out and he shrugs, "Right. I don't—I forgot that we're not--" he cuts himself off by kissing John, and even with Rodney's elbow digging into his chest it's still so thoroughly enjoyable that he lets the subject drop.

When Rodney pulls back his expression is surprisingly solemn, it tightens something in John's gut. He says, "Hey," with every intention of putting something comforting there on the end, but with absolutely no idea what that should be. He settles for craning his neck up and planting another kiss on Rodney's mouth.

But apparently Rodney's distracted, because he's moving on to scowling thoughtfully when John pulls back. Rodney says, eyes sharp and grim, "You know I'm not going to tell them anything, right?"

And John blinks, because, well, really, he hadn't been that worried about it. Rodney seemed to enjoy fucking him, and if John got shipped off Atlantis to a dishonorable discharge then that really wouldn't be happening very often and Rodney could always be counted on to not mess up things he wanted. Still, the other man seems to be looking for some reassuring, and so John smiles, says, "I know. I know you won't."

Rodney sigh of relief seems out of place, and John frowns, wonders if he's somehow misread this conversation. But then Rodney's smiling like the sun, tugging at John, dragging him up, saying, "Lets shower. I need help with these stupid things." He's motioning to the bandages around his wrists, but he's also standing up and walking away and John sort of just stares at his ass.

Rodney catches him, and rolls his eyes, but also blushes, and John almost trips over his feet rushing to get to the bathroom.

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He finds Rodney in his lab later, to make sure that he's changing his bandages per Keller's instructions, of course. It has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to try to find out if Rodney's planning to be in his room again tonight.

Rodney's bent over a half dozen computers, half a powerbar sticking out of his mouth as he types, eyes darting back and forth across the various screens. John feels another little piece of himself relax, tension that he hadn't even realized he'd been carrying around on his shoulders bleeding out. There's something bizarrely comforting about Rodney working.

He swaggers his way over to the desks Rodney has his work arrayed on, leans his hip beside Rodney's hand and settles in to see how long it takes the other man to notice. He's surprised when Rodney's eyes jerk up to him immediately.

Rodney smiles around the powerbar, lips stretched and John's mind falls into the gutter so fast that he worries he might get whiplash from it. He clears his throat, and shifts, looks around the room but none of the other scientists seem to be paying any attention to him or the state of his pants. Rodney snaps fingers in front of his chest, says around the last mouthful of powerbar, "Something you needed?"

John scowls down at Rodney's hand, reaches out and catches him below the wrist, "You're supposed to be changing these every few hours." Blood has managed to work its way almost all the way through the dressings, standing in little dark spots against the white.

He hefts the bag that he'd managed to wheedle out of Keller onto the table, shoving one of the laptops to the side and Rodney makes an indignant sound, tries to jerk his hand free. John tightens his hold, squeezes hard for a second before Rodney huffs and says, "Oh, fine, whatever. Is this some psychological thing?"

John snaps, "Yes, Rodney, it's some psychological thing. It has nothing to do with infection or the fact that you don't seem--" he cuts himself off, aware that he's talking too loud. Rodney's staring at him with wide eyes, and he looks away, concentrates on unwrapping the gauze from Rodney's wrist. Hates that apparently it is some psychological thing, like he's suddenly been overcome by the urge to mother Rodney McKay.

He forgets to be embarrassed at the sight of Rodney's skin. The punctures left bruises, green-yellow across Rodney's wrist, angry holes into his arm where the wires had been inserted. His jaw is clenched up, too tight, and he smears antibacterial lotion everywhere, and then smears some more, because he's willing to bet Rodney's captors hadn't been worrying that much about hygiene.

Rodney stays silent while he rewraps the wounds, only speaks when John grabs for his other arm, his voice keyed low and sad, "John? You know this—you know this isn't actually changing anything, right? I mean—I'm still, well—" He doesn't know what his face must show, but it shuts Rodney's mouth.

He sets the bandages down hard, feels something an awful lot like nausea twist up through his gut. Because, yes, he knows that this doesn't change anything. That this doesn't make what happened alright. That this doesn't absolve him of the guilt of letting it happen. He grinds out, "It's the best we can do."

And Rodney blinks up at him, all unhappy eyes, says, "Oh. Oh, right, of course. I didn't—don't go, please."

He takes a deep breath, forces his shoulders to relax, reaches back for Rodney's arm, willing down the bitter, ineffectual anger. "I'm not going anywhere." And Rodney just sags, collapses in on himself and John's not sure what to make of all the naked relief on the man's face. He concentrates on his arm, because at least he understands that.

After he's done, though, Rodney still looks small, lost. He crosses his arms, settles back further against the desk, nods at the computers, "How's it coming?"

Rodney shrugs, but settles his hands back onto two different keyboards and looks more stable for it, "It's all ridiculously simple, of course, but it's better than—well, it's better." And John nods, because he can't actually dance around talking about Rodney's captivity anymore, about Rodney in that chair, wired into it like he was another piece of technology.

He says, "See you." And Rodney grunts softly. John thinks he feels the other man's eyes on him all the way out of the room, but he isn't sure.

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Rodney's in his room when he gets back, is unpacking a duffel bag into John's dresser. John blinks, and decides to go to the bathroom to stall for time to come up with the appropriate response to that. Rodney's toothbrush stares up at him accusingly from the sink, and there are extra towels on his shelves and coconut scented soap in his shower.

He thinks about it, and decides what the hell, it would have happened sooner or later anyway. At least this way they don't have to talk about it.

When he steps out of the bathroom Rodney is naked on their makeshift bed. He's on his back, braced up on his elbows, staring at John. And God, John's not sure what to do with how earnest his eyes are when he says, "Fuck me again."

John makes an inarticulate sound, and manages to be mostly naked by the time he's crawling between Rodney's thighs.

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It's odd, how quickly they go from being friends to full on living together. Except that it's not, really, and this is kind of how he'd always figured Rodney would be in a relationship. There aren't any questions and there's minimal talking besides their usual discussions and banter. Things just sort of happen.

Rodney just keeps showing up at his room at night, has his essentials in John's room by the end of the first week. It's not a big deal, they're both always up and working before the rest of the city stirs, and John likes having someone to curl up against, likes the fact that Rodney is a fucking furnace, even if he is having a bit of a problem adjusting to Rodney's complete inability to stay still.

The killer sex kind of makes up for Rodney's restless body syndrome, or whatever. John's not sure he can ever actually remember a time in his life when he was having this much sex, which might just be a sad commentary on his sex life to date. He doesn't think so, though.

Rodney's bound and determined to fuck his brains out at least twice a day, wakes him up with a blowjob or a slow jack every single morning, and they haven't crawled into bed once without orgasm following in short order. John's aware that he's walking around with what must be a permanent aura of just-had-sex, but can't bring himself to care. It's awesome.

And if Rodney's a little...off, well, John can't say he blames him.

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They don't talk much in bed, at least not beyond breathy pleas and choked on promises and sometimes begging loud enough that it always surprises him when the whole city doesn't flood into their room in a panic. They don't talk much, and he hesitates to break the silence, the air of intimacy that settles around them, but there's some things that he can't bring himself to talk about until orgasm has killed some brain cells.

Two weeks after they brought Rodney back, twelve days after Rodney first showed up in his room, he pushes himself up onto an elbow and blurts, "You're not talking to the shrink."

Rodney tenses beside him, lips swollen red from cradling John's cock thinning and whitening out. He's staring hard up at the ceiling, eyes not even shifting in John's direction, snapping, "And what would be the point of that, exactly?" He snorts, and the sound is bitter and exhausted and John shivers.

He wants to let the subject drop, but Carter had called him in to her office earlier, had said that she wanted to get Rodney—get the team—cleared for off-world missions again, but needed to be sure Rodney was in the right headspace. Said that he'd refused to speak with the new psychiatrist, that he'd been vehement about it. Said that if John couldn't get him to talk to someone, and there'd been a sharp, knowing look there, that she would have to make it an order.

And so he clears his throat, stretches an arm across Rodney's broad chest, says, "What happened to Matthews, Kavanaugh, and the others?"

Rodney jerks, spine snapping him into a sitting position, and John lets his arm slide down to Rodney's waist, squeezes. He can feel the jackhammer beat of Rodney's pulse against the new skin low on his gut, the wound that's finally healed. Can hear how ragged Rodney's breathing suddenly is, and wishes he'd never asked.

He should have lied, should have told Carter that Rodney'd spilled his guts a week ago. That he'd told the whole team, God knew that Teyla and Ronon would have picked up his lie and run with it. He opens his mouth, to say that it doesn't matter, that it's not important, and Rodney's talks over him, voice flat and dead and empty, "You know what happened."

He flinches, tugs himself up and stares hard and the side of Rodney's head because the other man won't meet his gaze. And yes, he knows--he can still see the bodies laid out against the insides of his eyelids. Can see their bloody eyes and the holes that had been carved into their temples and at their wrists. Can see them, piled on top each other by the trash. Discarded.

He hadn't realized, exactly, that Rodney knew it, too, and he doesn't know how to say that he's sorry Rodney ever had to see that. Says, instead, "Yeah. I know."

Rodney turns to face him then, eyes cold and so tired that John doesn't know what to do, "Do you really want me to talk about it, John?" And he knows he should say yes, should let Rodney exorcize these demons out of his chest, let the memories be dispersed into words that can be forgotten.

What he says is, "No. No. No point in that."

And Rodney's lopsided smile is just a second too slow to stretch across his face. The way his eyes don't exactly focus, the way he's not really all there, is almost disguised by the way he leans in and licks his way into John's mouth. And he knows he should go back, should tell Rodney that it's okay to talk about it, that it's okay, that they had the funerals a week and a half ago.

Instead, he lets Rodney push him down into the mattress, lets him suck him to hardness and comes down his throat with a helpless, wordless cry. Rodney's licking his lips, smug and satisfied with himself, and John doesn't look him quite in the eye because there's still something off there, something like a hurt animal, scared out of its skull.

Rodney's voice is high and desperate, lips pressed up against the underside of John's jaw as he rubs off against John's thigh, "I can't—I can't last much longer—I—John--"

And he doesn't see why Rodney should have to last any longer at all, flips them and pins Rodney, crawls all over him. Rodney stares at him when John sinks between his knees, when he slides his lips around the head of Rodney's cock and barely has time for a lick before Rodney's bowing up, shooting against the roof of his mouth.

Rodney's still saying his name, pulling and tugging and his hair and his face is so open, so terribly open in the face of orgasm. There's nothing there but hurt and fear and John feels something sick twist in his gut, curls himself around Rodney and holds him hard, grinds out of his tense throat, "Shit, hey, it's okay. I didn't—I shouldn't have brought it up. You're okay, you're going to be okay."

And Rodney laughs, too loud, too desperate, until he's gasping, "I don't want to die."

Every panic alarm in John's body goes off, and he's not sure how he got to be wrapped this tightly around Rodney but he's not sure he'll ever be able to untangle himself. It doesn't matter, he holds him, so hard it's got to be painful, forehead pressed up against Rodney's jaw, promises, "You won't."

And Rodney doesn't say anything. After a while John realizes he's pretending to be asleep, and about the time John's gearing up to call him for it, Rodney starts the jerk and shift and mumble that means he's actually sleeping. He just holds on. He doesn't know what else to do.

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John lies to Carter, and she puts them back on the off-world rotation.

Rodney flashes him a confused look when John brings him the news, sitting on the floor of an isolated lab, an Ancient computer in pieces around him. John thinks that maybe it was a mistake, maybe he still actually does need time, or something, but then Rodney's cocking his head to the side and saying, "Off-world? Really?"

And John ignores the relief in his chest, because that's better than an outright refusal, "Yeah. It'll be good for you." It'll be good for the team. Ronon's so stir crazy he's stalking the Marines around the city, picking fights and baiting the scientists.

He's not prepared for the way Rodney's expression goes still, the way his eyes get steadily wider and wider. Rodney's not even looking at him, is staring at the ceiling, mouth falling open as he whispers, "I'm not—I don't think I remember."

"Remember what, Rodney?" He tries to ignore the ice in his gut, settles down on his haunches, absently palming a piece of tech and twirling it between his fingers. He can't take his eyes off Rodney's face, and so he sees it when Rodney blinks, like he's waking up from a dream, swallows hard.

Rodney turns to face him slowly, reaching out and taking the machine from John's hands without even looking, "What it looks like. Out there." There's an unspoken 'stupid', tacked on to the end, and he flinches. Thinks he should have lied earlier, gotten Rodney back out, doing what they were good at.

He says, "Well, we'll just have to help you remember, won't we?"

Rodney stares at him for a long, still moment, and then shrugs, "If you think it's a good idea."

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Part Two

Two days later they get back from RX3-287, after hours spent helping with the harvest, and John will be happy if he never sees anything even vaguely resembling an ear of corn again. Rodney's got flax stuck in his hair, little seeds stuck to his sweaty skin. He's grinning like a fool. And John thinks yes, yes, this is good.

Ronon's carrying a burlap sack full of the fruit of their labors over his shoulder, and John's hands and shoulders ache from swinging the scythe for hours. Rodney's got sunburn all over the back of his neck, his arms scratched from stuffing the stalks into sacks.

Teyla's waiting for them in the 'gate room, smiling softly, one arm draped over the swell of her midriff. She meets them halfway across the floor, hands trailing across them like she's making sure they're the same as they were, picking grass out of John's hair, dragging her thumb over the line of Rodney's brow, cupping Ronon's cheek.

She says, "Everything went as it should have?"

Ronon grunts, hefts the bag impossibly above his head, before resettling it against his shoulder. John grins, stuffs his hands deeper into his pockets so she can't see the fresh blisters all over his palms, "We cleared more rows of kepshaw grain than any other team."

There'd been a lot of surprise over that, among the populace. But it had seemed important, to push harder than he would have ever dreamed of pushing. He and Ronon swinging their scythes and Rodney following behind, gathering up the felled stalks, separating and bagging and working in a kind of focused calm that John only rarely saw outside the labs.

They'd fallen into a perfect flow, somehow, into a pattern no one could touch. It had been two days of grace, out of a dream. And at the end of it, standing with Rodney at the edge of the empty field that they'd harvested, it had been okay to lean closer and pick grass off the front of Rodney's sweat-sodden shirt. To ask, "Do you remember?"

And it had been good, to feel Rodney lean into the pressure of his fingers. There had been no reason, somehow, not to slide his hands up to Rodney's neck, even with everyone standing around, even with Ronon right there, watching.

Rodney had blinked, had reached up, circled one of John's wrists with his fingers, and said out of nowhere, "P98-73R. And some of M44-R45, I think."

John had blinked at the randomness, but then he had laughed, because it was a golden moment, and it didn't really matter. It had been easier to lean in, to kiss Rodney, even though he knew he shouldn't. It had been everything, it had been a dream of summer and sweetness and Rodney here with him, as far away from that chair as John could get him.

It's still good now, Rodney's warmth radiating against his skin, all of them smelling like sweat and dirt. He blames the sadness he can read in the corners of Rodney's smile on sore muscles and allergies, and decides it's simpler to ignore the other man when he says, out of the blue, "The only thing I don't understand is why I still have to do manual labor."

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It's still easy, that night, laying scrubbed clean in the bed that has been anointed theirs, time after time, to break away from Rodney's kiss long enough to say, "I want you in me tonight." And that's the end of easy.

Rodney is twisting before John even realizes what's happening, legs tangling in the blankets as he throws his upper body off the edge of the mattress. John has time to see the other man bracing his palms on the ground, and then Rodney's shoulders are quaking, back arching in one violent motion as he gags.

John says, "Shit!" and barely hears himself, even though it's almost a yell, scrambling to disentangle himself, lunging for Rodney. Rodney, who is staring sightlessly down at his hands, the foul smelling mess spread between and over them. Rodney, who is tense as a flattened spring when John grabs at his shoulders, trying to drag him up, towards the bathroom. He repeats, "Shit."

Rodney's still staring at the floor, but he moves with John's touches, says with a rough voice, "I threw up on your floor," like it's something he just realized.

John huffs out a laugh, steering Rodney, "You sure did." Atlantis has the bathroom door open for him by the time he gets there, he can already hear his shower running. He feels a brief burst of gratitude, between the worry and confusion. He manages to manhandle Rodney into the stall, ignores that they're both still mostly clothed.

Rodney blinks up at him from beneath the drops, face almost white, "But there's nothing in my stomach. How can it feel--" he cuts himself off with a frustrated shake of his head. He's fidgeting, as John scrubs his hands and the corners of his mouth.

John says, "Not anymore," only half paying attention, trying to decide if Rodney still smells like vomit or if the stench is just stuck in his nose. He squeezes another generous helping of soap into his hands to be on the safe side, scrubs at Rodney's skin, since Rodney seems incapable of moving himself.

When Rodney makes a small sound, it gets his attention, he looks up in time to see the fleeting, haunted expression that races across Rodney's face when he says, "No. Not anymore."

He'd say anything to take that expression away, but ends up blurting out the first thing that pops into his head, "My ass isn't that bony, Rodney." He even tries on a smile for size, but it doesn't last in the face of Rodney's grimace, the way he jerks, like his stomach is seizing again.

And then Rodney's twisting away from him, shoving out of the shower and almost tripping within steps on the wet tile. John reaches out a steadying hand and Rodney bats at him, snapping, "I should go. I have to go. I can't stay here."

By the time John realizes that this is probably where he's supposed to say something like 'No' or 'Stay', Rodney is gone. It echoes oddly off the shower walls when he curses, and he rips his sodden shirt over his head, leaves it lying in a pile on the tiles and struggles out of his pants before snagging a towel.

He's rubbing viciously at his hair, no plan beyond grabbing some pants and chasing Rodney down, when he shoves through the door into his bedroom again. He's almost to his dresser, still against the far wall where Rodney had relocated it, when he realizes he doesn't exactly have to look very far.

Rodney is curled up on their bed, twitching and jerking and asleep. He's still sopping wet, and John stares hard and wonders what the fuck is going on.

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When he wakes up in the morning it's to Rodney's voice, low and pleading and right below his ear, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry--"

He can feel Rodney's hands, one petting back through his hair, one resting on his chest, palm flat over his heart. He can feel Rodney's body, stretched out alongside his, held so tense that it can't be anything but painful, "—sorry, I'm--"

The words are so low as to be almost inaudible, a whisper of warm breath around the curl of his ear. He's not sure what woke him, but it wasn't them, it wasn't Rodney's barely-there touch and the ghost of his voice, "--so sorry--". This, he could sleep through. He wonders, suddenly, if he has. If Rodney's done this every morning, lay beside him and whispered apologies for whatever sins he's imagined he committed.

He thinks about twisting, about pushing up onto his side and kissing Rodney, telling him to hush. "—I'm--" But there's a part of him that thinks maybe now isn't the best time to push things. That doesn't want Rodney to run away again.

He stays still, he leaves his eyes closed. Only stirs when Rodney touches become more ardent, when the apologies fade to nothing. To a final, broken, "Sorry," right before Rodney slides down his body, hands, lips, mouth stirring John past awake and into an arousal that he feels ridiculously guilty about.

That doesn't stop him from coming down Rodney's throat approximately five minutes later.

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Rodney's unusually quiet in bed a week later, safely cocooned in John after a mission they'd spent mostly running around and trying to train Teyla's newest replacement. Their temporary teammates keep injuring themselves. Not a one of them has even lasted all the way through one mission, and John's beginning to think that his only option at this point is to convince Carter to let them operate as a three person team until Teyla pops out her kid.

He can still hear Coleman's screams, high pitched and panicked as the man stared down at the arrow shaft buried in his thigh dangerously close to his groin. Mostly, though, he's seeing Rodney, bending over the man and snapping, "Shut up, it's not that bad." He's seeing Rodney's bloody hands around the shaft of the arrow, snapping it a few inches about Coleman's skin and scowling when the man's screams had tapered down to whimpers.

Rodney had continued, dragging Coleman to his feet as Ronon and John laid down cover fire, "Think about the pain as a figment of my imagination." John had been about to point out that Rodney had misspoken, and then the angry natives had shown up with tanks, and they'd all been more preoccupied with running until Ronon demonstrated a heretofore unrevealed ability to produce Molotov cocktails out of thin air.

He hadn't had a chance to mention it until now, and he pushes himself up, rests his chin on Rodney's shoulder, "You must have one hell of an imagination."

Rodney shrugs, the movement a stretch of warm skin against warm skin, "Well. Obviously." Rodney lifts an arm, swings it up towards the ceiling in a gesture that John doesn't understand. He thinks maybe it's just general flailing, and grins smugly because he's certain that he's responsible for Rodney being unable to gesture in his usual eloquent manner.

He feels the smile die when Rodney sighs, heavy, and says, "You know, I wish we could have had this before." The sudden heavy, possessive weight of his hand on John's hip pretty much guarantees that John understands what this, at least, is about.

It helps that he's thought the same thing himself, more often than can possibly be healthy. He shifts closer, buries his face up against the side of Rodney's neck, breaths in the smell of him, "Better late than never, right?"

Rodney's silent for so long that John thinks he might be pretending to be asleep again, pushes himself up to look at the man's face. Rodney's expression is still, not calm, just contained. And sad. No, beyond sad. This is some emotion that John's not sure he's ever seen reflected on Rodney's face before. He looks away, grunts, "Maybe you should go see--" he grasps for the new psychiatrists name, "—Dietrich."

But Rodney's already shaking his head, the expression blurred for all that it doesn't actually disappear. Saying, "No. No. If I'm going to be forced to talk to someone, it's going to be you." And he sounds stubborn, like he drawing a line, like he's reached his limit, and John doesn't understand.

He turns away again, stares at the ceiling, wondering if he's looking at the same spot Rodney is, says, "Later."

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He's still dreading 'later' two weeks later, walking around what had turned out to be a giant outdoor alien bazaar, when Rodney jerks to a stop beside him. The other man had been in the middle of smacking at the gnats that were constantly buzzing around their head, had been complaining, "—and goat shearing. I demand to speak to whoever decided that goats needed shearing--"

Rodney's voice cuts off as abruptly as a record being interrupted, he freezes in midstep. Michaels, Teyla's newest replacement, runs into Rodney's back, and John barely manages to get a hand out in time to stop Rodney from toppling forward. He's saying, "Walking and talking at the same time getting the better of you there?" when he notices the expression on Rodney's face.

He looks confused, yes. Mostly, though, he looks angry.

And then Rodney's shoving him off, a burst of sudden violent motion that sends John stumbling back a half step. John has time to realize that Rodney's drawn his side arm, and by that point Rodney's swinging it up, bellowing something inarticulate and furious over the low-grade roar of the hundred different conversations going on around them.

The whole world has gone surreal, watching Rodney shoot some guy in the middle of a flea market. John's own weapon is in his hand, because this is usually how mob scenes start, but the locals here seem more concerned with screaming and scrambling to get out of the line of fire than deciding to retaliate.

Michaels is yelping, "What the hell!" And John ignores the poor bastard in favor of sprinting after Rodney, who is crossing the distance to the man he just shot, gun extended and trained on the writhing man. He's vaguely aware of Ronon grabbing the panicking newcomer and dragging him along by the scruff of his neck.

Rodney reaches the man he shot a half step before John catches him. The man's gut shot, bleeding almost black blood all over the hard packed dirt, clawing at the holster strapped to his hip. He's jerking and twisting, making a sound like a wounded animal, and Rodney kicks him hard in the ribs.

And then Rodney's going to his knees, bracing the barrel of his gun against the man's left eye socket, his free hand wrapping around the man's throat. Rodney's expression has bypassed anger, now, segued into a fury so blind John's not even sure if he's seeing anything besides the man dying beneath him. He starts to reach for Rodney's shoulder and Ronon catches his arm, twists on his wrist hard with an exasperated expression on his face.

Rodney grinds out, "You—you can't be here."

The man's arms and legs are jerking, John thinks he's trying to get away, but his voice is something calm and cool, "You surely did not think we would not find you, Doctor McKay?" The man's got the soft, lilting accent that John remembers from the Judassin.

And then John stops thinking, because the anger has swallowed up all his cognitive functions.

He's vaguely aware of his own voice, low and tight, "—kill you--" and Ronon snagging him around the shoulders, lifting him off his feet as he tries to reach the bastard that hurt Rodney. Which, well, two seconds later becomes completely unnecessary.

The second gunshot that morning is louder than the first, is blood spraying up across Rodney's face, a fan of huge crimson drops over his cheeks. And then Rodney's rocking to his feet, shaking his head as he scrambles away from the corpse at his feet. John spares only a look for the dead man, the ruin of his face, and then Ronon's letting him go, and he's lunging for Rodney.

Rodney's not tracking, blue eyes unfocused, and John grabs him by the shoulders, shakes him hard. Rodney doesn't so much as blink, and calling his name is met with a similar lack of response and John's only aware he's moving his hand after his palm is stinging and Rodney's cheek is staining red.

Rodney's indignant, "Ow!" comes a half-second before he blinks and refocuses his eyes. He says, "John? John. He wasn't supposed to be here." And then he is twisting, pushing closer to John, getting his arms around him and clinging.

John flashes a look at Ronon, who grunts and has Michaels spun around and walking away before John can blink. He can feel Rodney's face pressed up against his neck, can feel the hot wet of the stranger's blood smearing between their skin. Can feel the tremble in Rodney's arms, wrapped around his ribs, squeezing so tightly that it hurts, that John almost can't breathe.

He says, "Hey, hey, he's not here now."

Rodney hiccups against him, and John rubs his hand up and down Rodney's back. They end up lingering a few minutes too long, and the local law shows up to escort them to prison, and Rodney's still curled against him hours later when Carter shows up to bail them out.

She doesn't comment on the dried blood on Rodney's skin, or John's arm around Rodney's shoulders, but the next day there are orders for Rodney to start seeing Dietrich.

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Rodney's tense and quiet for days after the first session with the psychiatrist, and John hates it. He's not sure how to get the other man to relax again, to let him know that the orders didn't come from him, and that he'd argued against them. He settles for, his tongue loosened after Rodney finishes sucking his brains out through his cock, "So, sometimes a cigar isn't a cigar, huh?"

Rodney snorts, a warm puff of breath across John's stomach where he's rested his forehead. John can feel the slow spread of Rodney's smile across his skin, and the relief of it makes his hand, brushing back through Rodney's hair, go momentarily still. He resumes immediately, because Rodney butts back into his palm.

They lay in silence, but at least it's the comfortable, familiar silence John's used to. When Rodney finally does speak he sounds drowsy, voice sweetly slow, "Why didn't Kavanaugh and the others come back, John?"

It's the first time Rodney's brought up the others that went with him to the Judassin. The ones that came back in body bags, and John wonders if it's a good sign or a bad one. God. He just wants them to be past this, already. Says, "They're dead."

Rodney snorts again, but this time John can't feel an accompanying smile. His tone says, 'duh', "I know that." And then he's raising his head, elbows braced on either side of John's hips, staring up at him with tired, questioning eyes, "That hardly means anything, does it?"

John shrugs, because, well, "It means they're not coming back."

Rodney stares at him for a long moment, like he's weighing the truth of John's words. Finally he just sighs, "Fine. If you say so." And then he's smiling, huge and bright, bending to press promising kisses across John's chest, completely jumping subjects with, "I like that you're hairy. But don't ever let Mackenzie down in genetics find out. She's gunning for finding a missing link again."

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John would like to be able to say that things went back to normal after that, but they didn't. Or, well, not to the normal they were before Rodney became the first human super computer. They're still fucking like bunnies, and Rodney's seeing Dietrich twice a week, and Carter's making reluctant faces about sending them off-world, but doing it anyway.

It's so close to okay that sometimes John forgets that there's something wrong. And then Rodney will say something that's just on the wrong side of making sense. Or his expression will go distant and hurting when John says something, touches him a certain way. And John's reminded, viscerally, that all is not well in the city of the Ancients.

But there's nothing he can do about it that he isn't already doing, and so mostly, he just ignores it and waits for it to go away. He's not worried, anymore, about Rodney having a breakdown. Not worried about him losing his shit. It's just...he needs time. Anyone would.

And so, he thinks that things are okay but not good, walking through the heavy forests on P09-999. Rodney's a half step behind him, Teyla-Replacement-Number-Ten behind him, Ronon on their six. They're on a recon mission, and Rodney's lowered his complaints to whispers, which John is about to point out are still painfully audible, when a bunch of angry people step out of the trees all around them.

He decides that they probably say it for him.

And really, even then, things might not have gone all to shit if Number Ten hadn't gotten a bit trigger happy and accidentally shot one of the angry soldiers in the knee. After that, well, there's not much chance of things going well, and Ronon's already hauling Number Ten back towards the 'gate. John curses, and ducks when bullets start spitting towards him.

He's surprised when Rodney grabs him, manhandling him back towards the 'gate. Rodney's not typically the grabbing type in firefight situations, unless it's to snag a human shield. But Rodney's pushing him, broader body pressed tight against him, between John and all the hot pieces of lead flying around.

He says, "What the hell?" almost tripping over a tree root and Rodney's catching handfuls of his shirt and actually lifting him for a step and a half before settling him back on the ground. Around them the air is heavy with the smell of gunpowder and sap, the trees bleeding as pieces of bark and small branches go flying.

Rodney snaps back, "Really, you want to talk about this now?" and shoves him harder.

And John opens his mouth to point out that really, he'd rather not talk about this ever. That not talking is working out well for them. That, in fact, not talking might be the solution to every problem he's ever had. He never gets the chance, because that's when one of the enemy soldiers steps out from behind a tree and hits him in the jaw so hard that he goes down seeing spots, senses scrambled.

Rodney curses, loud, too loud, like he's okay with drawing everyone in the goddamn forest to them. And then there are arms snagging around John's chest, and he's vaguely aware that he's being dragged along, that the flashes he catches between spots of black is the forest floor and Rodney's legs.

Hearing comes back first, Rodney's voice, breathing hard, "No, no, no, they don't get to have you. I can't lose you again. I can't. I can't. It'll kill me." And he wants to say that it's okay, that he's not going anywhere and, also, he never went anywhere to begin with.

What he manages is, "Lemme go, I can walk," which is probably the truth, and which Rodney ignores.

He wonders what happened to the guy that hit him, and only realizes he asked out loud when Rodney huffs, "I shot him, not that it's important right now. Stop struggling, you're just making this harder." He realizes, somewhere around there, that Rodney is running backwards, dragging him, grip painfully tight as Rodney tries to prevent him from slipping.

He blurts, watching the crunch of Rodney's shoes in leafs and sticks, "You're shooting a lot of people lately."

Rodney grunts, and John can hear the retort of Ronon's blaster now, figures they must be close to the 'gate, hopes that Ronon managed to keep Number Ten alive. Honestly, they're getting a reputation for all the wounds their new team members keep getting. John's starting to think he's going to have to take Ronon off babysitter duty.

He barely catches it went Rodney hisses, "Well, I'm allowed, aren't I?" And John thinks about pointing out that allowed and encouraged aren't exactly the same things and maybe Rodney's sudden acceptance of taking lives is freaking him out, just a little bit.

He forgets, because then their bursting out of the forest, and there's the 'gate, and there's Ronon, and Number Ten, lying on the ground screaming. John twists and jerks and Rodney finally seems to get the picture, lets him stand on his own. He ignores the fact that he's still swaying kind of dangerously as they sprint across the field.

Rodney's screaming in his ear, "Dial the 'gate! Dial the 'gate, you big stupid oaf!" And John only starts to worry that perhaps he's been hit harder than he realized when he's momentarily tempted to add, 'so simple a caveman can do it'. He figures that it's probably best for his own continued health that he trips over his own feet and forgets to open his mouth.

He's hanging on to Rodney, counting on him to get them to the 'gate, vaguely aware that Ronon is dragging Number Ten through the event horizon. And then they're tripping their way up to home, and John can hear the scream of gunfire all around them, but none of it matters, because they're there, they're through, they're safe.

He almost doesn't notice the way Rodney jerks, full body, against him the second before they fall into the wormhole.

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He knows he doesn't have the best grasp on wormhole science, but he thinks he understands it fairly well. He's pretty sure it should be impossible for Rodney to be fine on one side, and a bloody mess collapsing to the floor on the other, though. God, he's pretty sure that he shouldn't be soaked through to his skin with Rodney's blood, that it shouldn't be possible.

Which isn't stopping it from happening.

Rodney's in a heap on the floor, his blood going everywhere, blue eyes staring up at John. John curses, goes to his knees, trying to find the wound. Rodney's impeding his progress, trying to catch his hands, skin sliding blood slick over skin. John can hear himself, voice desperate, "Jesus, Jesus, Rodney. Where is it—where--"

Rodney shrugs, and the movement drags a terrible sound out of his throat. John slaps a hand over Rodney's mouth, like if he can keep the sound in it won't really be happening. He can feel Rodney's lips moving against his palm, Rodney's tongue licking up against his skin.

It's so completely bizarre that John jerks his hand back, leaves behind a bloody handprint over the bottom half of Rodney's face. He curses, licks his own thumb without thinking and tries to rub the blood off, aware somewhere that he's panicking.

Rodney says, "What do you think is going to happen if I die here?"

It's not something John ever considered Rodney thinking about. He'd, well, he'd been under the impression that Rodney was an atheist. He can't imagine Rodney believing in a heaven or a hell, in a greater power than his own brain.

He says, "You're not going to die."

"It's okay." And John chokes on a protest, because this is so far from okay that it's actually on another planet from okay. Planet bad and wrong. Planet his worst nightmare. Rodney manages to grab him, squeezes slick shaky fingers around his wrist, "It's okay, John. I knew I was going to die when they killed you. I'm glad it's here. In here, I mean. I'm glad I got to see you again before--"

His brain is ignoring half of what Rodney's saying, can't handle it, can't deal with it right now. He grits his teeth, orders, "No dying. No ones dying." And Rodney laughs at him, eyes crinkling up in the corners, little bubbles of blood in the corners of his mouth. Rodney's not focusing on him anymore, eyes going soft and distant, "Rodney, buddy, buddy look at me, hey, c'mon--"

And then Keller's shoving him out of the way, or rather having Ronon shove him out of the way for her.

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John's staring at his bedroom wall, sitting in the middle of his mattress, blankets that still smell like Rodney and sex bunched around his hips. He's very determinedly not thinking about Rodney, down in the infirmary. He's, in fact, doing his best to not think about anything.

Seagulls keep creeping into the back of his mind, but other than that he's doing a damn good job.

Carter's voice is a surprise, loud in his ear, tense and aggravated and he wonders if she's been calling him for a while, "Colonel Sheppard, we're waiting for you in the briefing room."

His voice doesn't sound like his own when he says, "On my way."

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Teyla has him a seat saved when he gets there, right between her and Ronon, her dark eyes wide and worried. But no one is wringing their hands, and no one looks like their dog just got shot, and he thinks Rodney must be alive. He settles into his chair, throws an arm over the back, drawls, "Sorry I'm late."

And for a half-second he worries that he must be wrong, that maybe Rodney's laying in a morgue somewhere, because Carter looks at him with nothing but worry. He feels his hand twitch in his lap, almost curls it up into a fist, stops himself at the last moment. Continues when no one else speaks into the silence, "What'd I miss?"

Teyla's hand on his arm is a comfort, as is Ronon's foot, bumping against his under the table. And then Keller's clearing her throat, fiddling with the laptop in front of her before finally speaking, "I was--" another throat clear, and she absently tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear, "—Rodney's stable. From the gunshot. I mean."

And John can feel his shoulders tensing up despite his best efforts to not let it happen, "There's something else?"

Keller flashes him a look that's absurdly guilty. He wishes she'd grow out of the assumption that every time someone's hurt it's her fault. But then she's spinning the laptop around, and there are lots of jagged lines all over the screen that mean absolutely jack shit to him. He raises his eyebrows at her, and she flushes.

"Oh! Oh, right! I noticed a surprising amount of neural activity from Doctor McKay under the anesthesia, His brain is far more active than it should be, really, really, active." She pauses to demonstrate how big with her hands, and Ronon snorts fondly beside John. For a half second the pair get distracted looking at each other, and Teyla clears her throat loudly on John's other side.

Keller's almost red when she continues, "So I ran some tests." She bends over the screen, points at the upper line, so jagged that it's impossible to distinguish the individual up and downs, "This is Rodney's brain's electric activity right now. Sleeping. Drugged, okay?"

John wants desperately to hurry her along, scowls at her meaningfully. She drops her finger to the next lower line, identical to the top, "This is mine. Awake."

And for a long moment there's silence, as everyone stares at the laptop. Ronon rumbles to his left, "What?" But John barely hears him. He's pushing his way to his feet, shoving his chair back hard enough that it topples, heading for the door. He has a horrible feeling, low in his gut, that he knows exactly where Rodney's brain is right now.

Behind him Carter is saying, "Sheppard, where are you--"

He calls over his shoulder, "I have to wake him up. Get Zelenka down to the Infirmary."

hr

It's not as simple as just waking Rodney up, of course. They won't give Rodney anything to wake him up, no matter how much John orders them to. And so he's doomed to linger over Rodney's bed, watching him twitch, in the clutches of monsters John can't fight.

He jumps all over Zelenka when he gets there, grabs the man by his shoulder and a handful of his shirt and drags him over to Rodney's bedside. To his credit, Radek gives him a dirty look until he lets him go, tugs his uniform straight and orders, "Go away. I have been apprised of situation."

And John means to walk away and let him work. He does. Can't stop saying, "You'll--"

Zelenka cuts him off, shooing him, already whipping out laptops and getting them set up around Rodney's bedside, "He will be himself in no time. And when he is driving you all crazy do not come to complain to me, yes? Now. Out."

John goes. Out to the hallway, anyway.

hr

It takes Radek ten minutes to find the problem, which John listens to over the radio, "The programming that Judassin used, we did not consider that it would cause any problems because Rodney is organic, yes? But! The subdermal transmitter is not, and it was corrupted. I cannot say that if it was intentional or not, not until I look closer at the code."

He's surprised to hear himself replying, "Take it out first."

Radek makes a disgusted sound over the radio, "Is like having to deal with McKay without his redeeming qualities. Do you have any other suggestions, Colonel Sheppard, or shall I get back to my very important work now?"

John grits his teeth and keeps his mouth shut, resumes passing back and forth in front of the infirmary doors. He's surprised a moment later when Zelenka says, "You are outside, I know. Come in. At least you can hold him still. He is not cooperating."

And John can't help but laugh, dry and without amusement, "When does he ever?" even as he trips over his own feet to get back into the infirmary.

hr

John's there, when Zelenka deactivates the transmitter, there when Keller removes it—just in case. He's there when Rodney's brain waves go from active to sleep state in one huge drop, when Rodney sighs softly and settles into stillness against his bed.

There's a part of him that expects Rodney to wake up immediately, to open his eyes and look at him and smile crookedly. But Rodney's drooling on his pillow, hands flat on the sheets, and John has to reach out and touch him to make sure he's still alive.

Keller says by his elbow, "I can call you when he wakes up."

John's shaking his head before she even opens her mouth, says, "That won't be—you don't have to. Just call me if anything goes wrong." And it shouldn't be as easy as it is to turn around and walk away, but he needs to think, needs to have his freak out in private.

He ignores Keller's judging eyes all the way out of the infirmary.

hr

Rodney spends weeks in the infirmary, recovering from the bullet he took in the back. And John keeps telling himself he needs to go see him, and keeps finding excellent reasons to avoid it. He gets all his paperwork done, requisitions some of Lorne's, and lets Ronon beat the shit out of him any time the big guy wants.

Carter drops hints that Rodney's asking to see him, Teyla frowns disapprovingly at him every time he sees her. He starts avoiding the two of them as well, out of self defense. It's surprisingly easy to hide, really, when the city is on his side.

He feels like an ass, like the world's biggest bastard, but he can't get himself back in the infirmary. Guilt and anger and all these complicated emotions he's not equipped to deal with well up every time he even thinks about it.

Because he should have known that something was wrong months ago. Rodney had dropped every hint in the world that all was not well, had said enough things to let John know that there was something going on in his head that wasn't exactly kosher.

So, yes, guilt. And the only way to avoid it is to avoid thinking about Rodney, which is probably why he doesn't realize that Rodney's due to be released from the Infirmary until he walks into his room to find Rodney sitting in the middle of their bed. He freezes in the doorway, something in his hindbrain insisting that he turn and run right now, and Rodney doesn't even look up to say, "You didn't change anything."

It's not the accusations that John expected, and it's enough to surprise him all the way into the room and have him blurt, "What?"

Rodney's still not looking at him, is picking at the sheets, "The room. You didn't change it back." He waves a hand at the dresser, "My clothes are still in there. Did you know that our socks are all mixed together?" He doesn't sound particularly aggrieved over it.

John says, "Um," because he's not sure what else he's supposed to say. He's starting to think that of course he should have moved Rodney's stuff back to his room. Rodney would have, of course, wanted his toothbrush, and making him come here, where they'd had sex, where he'd clung to John in the face of a nightmare that wouldn't end, was probably cruel. The knife of guilt twists his guts up some more.

Rodney makes an impatient sound, "I saw you die. I tried to get to you, but they had me, well. You know how they had me." He spits the words like they burn in his throat, "That's not an excuse, but I think that you should factor that in before you decide to start hating me for--" Rodney waves a hand, looks up at John for the first time. "—for whatever."

He opens his mouth, but Rodney's not done, "And this wasn't exactly the first hallucination, you know. They started days before you found me. I liked the one where we were at the beach best. The sand didn't itch and the sun didn't burn there, you know. I should have guessed that this wasn't all an elaborate set up by my subconscious when things still hurt me here."

Rodney makes a helpless face, knuckles white in the sheets, "We always fucked. I wasn't—I didn't mean to take advantage of you. Your memory. Whatever. I--"

And somehow it's only then that he realizes Rodney's apologizing. He snaps, "Shut up," and is more than a little surprised when Rodney actually does. Rodney gapes up at him, and then John's kicking his boots off, dropping down to the mattresses and lunging for Rodney, toppling him back onto the pillows. "You idiot. You idiot. I didn't change it back."

Rodney is warm and solid and familiar under him, and only winces a little at the pressure on his still-healing wound. His mouth is there, open and welcoming and John kisses him hard, blankets Rodney with his body and feels something like relief hot down his spine when Rodney's hands settle on his shoulders, holding on tight.

They kiss for what might be hours, John loses track because it isn't important at all. And when Rodney yawns against his mouth, when he finally becomes aware of the fact that Rodney's hands are shaking in his hair, he rolls to the side, curls around him. Rodney says, voice thick and tired and rough, "John?"

"What?" He slings an arm over Rodney's chest, head on Rodney's shoulder because it hadn't taken more than a few nights together to realize that the other man was a huge pillow hog. Besides, Rodney makes a better pillow than anything else ever could.

And Rodney sighs, melts against him, "Nothing."

It's the first time they sleep together. Rodney still wakes him up in the morning with a blow job.

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