allyndra (allyndra) wrote in fire_fiction,

Title: Sounds Like
Author: Allyndra
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: None, really.
Disclaimer: You know, if the Cold War had gone the other way, we would *all* own them. But it didn't, and we don't. I'm just playing. 
Summary: Hurt and stranded with Rodney McKay ... You would think John would mind that a little more. 

Note: This was written for winter_elf, in gratitude for her generous donation to fire_fic. I hope she likes it.  

ETA: Sorry!! I thought I'd cut it.  Fixed now.


In the beginning, there was John and there was darkness and there was Rodney's voice. John let himself float and listened to the comforting rhythm of disgruntled ranting. "Typical. I tell everyone how lazy you are, but do they believe me? No. Well, I wish they could see you now, Colonel, lying there while I wait on you hand and foot. You know ..." The grumbling went on, like it always did, but the darkness pulled John away.
The next time he woke, it was to blinding light, stabbing pain, and Rodney's voice. "Chosen to rejoin the living, I see. If I'd known that horrible agony was all it took to get you to wake up, I'd have cut your morphine days ago," Rodney said. His voice was curt, almost snide, but his hands were careful, one slipping around the back of John's neck to lift his head and the other bringing a water bottle tentatively to his lips.
John sipped. The water was a miracle, stale and plastic-tasting and beautiful, sliding over his tongue and down his throat like a blessing, like a gift. He remembered watching monsoon rains, thinking they were pounding the parched ground into submission, but maybe it was more like this. Maybe the ground was so grateful to finally, finally feel water that it just surrendered. John gave up trying to squint against the light and let his eyes close, surrendering to the water trickling into his mouth.
"Hey! Hey, hey, no. I’ve given you all the morphine we had in our med kits. No more morphine means no more shots, which means pills. And believe me when I say I don't want to force them down your throat. I had to give my cat a pill once, and he never forgave me. I think I still have the scars. So be a good little invalid and stay awake long enough to take your medicine."
John opened his eyes enough to glare at Rodney, but all that got him was a patronizing, "There! I knew you could do it," and a couple of pills popped into his mouth. Rodney followed the pills with more water, but he pulled the bottle away long before John was ready. He tried to follow it, but apparently his body, which had kept going after knife wounds and gunshots, through broken bones and dislocated joints, couldn't chase the elusive water bottle as it retreated a few inches from his face.
He slumped back, defeated, and let Rodney lower his head. The light was still too bright, and John didn’t see any good reason to struggle against it. His eyes fluttered shut again, but this time Rodney let them. Gentle hands settled him into a more comfortable position and tugged a thin, crinkly blanket up over him.
John fell asleep to the rustle of those hands busy on the blanket and Rodney’s voice in his ears. “Don’t think I’m going to let you forget this. Next time I oversleep for a meeting, I want a free pass. And you have to cover for me with Elizabeth. And bring me coffee. Don’t think I don’t know about the stash you’ve been building. I know how many foolishly infatuated soldiers give you their coffee rations. A good friend would share, but you just ...”
If he hadn’t been hurting so much, John would have smiled as he dropped off.
The first time he came awake – fully awake in both mind and body – he’d already spent hours, days unconsciously cataloging the situation. So he wasn’t surprised to find himself stretched out on a lumpy rug spread over an uneven wood floor. He’d spent countless minutes blinking dazedly at the rough beams on the ceiling and wincing at the glare that came in through the window every afternoon. No, the cabin didn’t surprise him at all. What did surprise him was the silence.
He felt bereft, lost without Rodney yammering on about how this was all John’s fault, anyway, so Rodney didn’t want to hear any complaints about bed sores when this was all over. John clutched his hands in the silver thermal blanket, trying to ground himself. It was ridiculous to feel so adrift, so abandoned, but John was terribly aware that he was hurt and vulnerable and Rodney was *gone*.
He was just trying to determine if he’d be able to get enough leverage to stand when Rodney came staggering in, carrying a wooden bucket like it was the weight of the world. His eyes were on John the second he came through the door, and he froze for a fraction of a second when he saw that John awake. Then he gave a grunt and as much of a shrug as he could manage with his arms weighed down, and lugged the bucket over to the hearth at one end of the room.
It wasn’t until he had the water from the bucket transferred to the blackened pot over the fire that Rodney looked at John again. He dropped down onto the floor beside John’s makeshift bed, running his eyes over John’s body as if checking for new injuries. John wanted to protest that even *he* couldn’t get hurt lying down, but the memory of PLT-6K6 (Planet of the Lava Lamps) stopped him. He still maintained that it hadn’t been his fault that they built shoddy headboards, but he couldn’t deny that he’d gotten a concussion and a sprained wrist before getting up in the morning.
Having Rodney here and silent was even worse than being left alone. John stared up at him, waiting for the tirade to start, but Rodney just reached out a hand and twitched the pack John was using as a pillow into a better position. Finally John couldn’t take it any more.
“You know, Rodney, I gotta say, your bedside manner sucks,” John prodded. “When I think of all the times you’ve been stuck in the infirmary, I expected you have picked up some of the basics. Maybe voodoo witch-doctory is just beyond you.”
Rodney stared at him for a moment longer, then, like a switch had been flipped, his eyes came alive and his mouth flew open. “You have pierced me with your vicious, cruel barbs. Now all my hopes of becoming a pseudo-scientist with no real method have been squashed. Whatever shall I do?” he said, rolling his eyes hard and pulling John’s blanket back. “Please, let me indulge my fantasy long enough to change your thoroughly gross bandage.”
John let him change the bandage, which was just as gross as promised. The sight of it made John realize that, while the situation was familiar, he had no idea how they got here.
“Hey, Rodney,” he said, interrupting a loving description of how much groveling he was owed when they got back to Atlantis. “What the hell happened? The last thing I remember is running for the ‘gate, and then poof! I’m here with you doing your Florence Nightingale impression.”
“I am *not* the Lady with the Lamp,” Rodney said bitingly. He finished taping the bandage down on John’s chest. His voice was sharp and his eyes were hard, but Rodney’s hands were gentle, gentle, gentle on John’s body. “So you remember running for the ‘gate. Do you remember all hell breaking loose, by any chance?” John just waited, and Rodney huffed and continued. “The idiot villagers were still shooting at us, some of them with guns and some with arrows. Ronon and Teyla had just gone through the ‘gate when one of the locals hit the DHD with a gunshot. I went to check out the damage, and you saw someone aiming an arrow at me.”
Rodney stopped to glare at John. It was a good glare, making his blue eyes look like flint – hard and cold and capable of cutting. “You decided sacrificing yourself was a rational and justifiable course of action and jumped in between me and the arrow. There was no way to fix the DHD while we were under attack, and the wormhole was about to close, so I dragged you through it. But thanks to the friendly neighborhood morons back on the planet, the ‘gate had been damaged enough that it didn’t send us home.”
He waved his hands in a gesture that took in the cabin and everything around it. “It could be worse, I suppose,” he said doubtfully. “Of course, since the arrow they shot you with was poisoned, it couldn’t have been *much* worse without both of us being dead. Which I'm rather strongly opposed to.”
“Me, too,” John agreed, wriggling carefully to find the position that would allow him to avoid the worst of the lumps in the rug he was lying on. Rodney huffed disbelievingly, and John frowned at him, silently daring him to comment. A desire to protect his teammates was not equivalent to a death wish, and John was getting tired of Rodney implying that it was.
Rodney didn’t take up his dare, and John let the frown fall away. He pursed his lips, considering. “Didn’t you dial Atlantis once we got here?” he asked.
Rodney’s eyes rounded in a mockery of surprise. “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” he exclaimed. “Why, if my head weren’t screwed on, I’d … still be smarter than you, even with no brains whatsoever.”
“Tried that, huh?” John asked mildly.
“Yes, I tried that,” Rodney said, disgusted. “There’s a malfunction on our side. I think I’m going to start including a Stargate and DHD repair kit in the pack for the scientists on every ‘gate team,” he said, hi eyes going soft and unfocused as he considered it. “Of course, the teams with botanists on them wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what to do with it, but it would come in handy for the rest of us.”
Reassured by Rodney’s musings – after all, planning for the future on Atlantis implied there would *be* a future on Atlantis – John managed to loll a little more indolently on his rug. “You mean you’re not enjoying our time here together? I’m hurt,” John pouted. Ordinarily, he’d be aiming that pout at a pretty nurse right about now, but since Rodney was the only one here, he got to be on the receiving end.
Rodney met his pout with a scowl. “Oh, yes,” he said. “Taking urine outside in a bottle brings back memories of a lab partner I used to have in grad school. Unfortunate, really, since I thought I’d repressed all those memories.”
John shuddered at the reminder of just how personally Rodney had been caring for him. His discomfort made Rodney grin in triumph, and the change in expression suddenly threw his features into relief. He looked … tired. Worn.
“Get some rest,” John ordered, pointing at Rodney’s own bedroll, constructed out of another lumpy rug not far away.
Rodney’s brows knit in confusion, like sleep was a foreign concept. Who knew; maybe at this point it was. John reached out a hand and gave Rodney a weak shove toward his bed, and Rodney finally nodded.
”Okay. Okay, just let me ...” Rodney climbed to his feet and went to the hearth, pulling the now boiling pot away from the fire. Then he looked around the cabin helplessly, as though certain there was something else he was supposed to be doing.
“Rodney,” John said warningly. Rodney rolled his eyes at him, but he went to his bedroll and collapsed face first onto it. John watched him for a long moment, waiting for him to complain about the mustiness of the rug or the lack of a prescription mattress, but Rodney gave every indication of having fallen asleep immediately.
Since there was no one else there to see, John kept on watching Rodney’s face, smooshed into the pack that served as his pillow, painted with light and shadow by the flickering fire. Rodney’s breathing was the only sound.
There were Ancient ruins not far from the abandoned village where they were staying. A clear path led to the ruins, defined by hundreds of feet over hundreds of years. Whoever the villagers had been before they’d been culled, they had clearly revered the Ancestors.
Rodney had been itching to visit the ruins ever since he’d realized the DHD was malfunctioning. The fact that he restrained himself until John was mobile enough to accompany him said something truly frightening about how sick John had been.
They took the path at an easy amble that left John sweating and gasping. Anyone else would have given him sympathy and a supporting arm, but he wasn’t with anyone else. He was with Rodney, who submitted to helping him with an aggrieved sigh, slinging John’s arm around his shoulders and wrapping his own arm tightly around John’s waist. He griped the entire trip, accusing John of attempting to give him scoliosis by leaning against him so heavily and claiming that their first order of business shouldn’t be the DHD, but a shower, because John clearly needed one badly.
Rodney’s voice was loud and insistently unhappy in John’s ear, but his hands were warm, one firm against John’s side and the other coming up to grip his wrist whenever he stumbled.
Once they reached the ruins, Rodney parked John on a collapsed section of wall that was just the right height to make a good bench. Then he staked out a likely looking console and started dismantling it. Watching Rodney work was always a surprise. John had done so enough times that he should know what to expect, but every single time it startled him. Part of it was the quiet. Somehow he always expected Rodney to babble to himself while he worked, to keep up a running monologue of his own brilliance and frustration with the Ancients, to describe his progress to himself. But though Rodney talked while he ate, while he watched movies, and while he ran for his life, he worked with a wordless intensity.
The other thing about a working Rodney that always surprised John was how *happy* he was. One of the first conclusions he’d ever made about Rodney was that he was not a cheerful man. The harsh slant of his mouth when he was confronted with other people’s stupidity; the utter betrayal in his eyes whenever they discovered a new danger; the bitter, biting words that poured out of him in all contexts and situations – they all added up, John had thought, to a deeply unhappy individual. Except they didn’t.
Rodney wasn’t any angrier or more disillusioned than the rest people on the expedition. He just had no scruples about sharing those feelings, while most people learned to tactfully filter what they said. And some of the time (like right now) when he knew exactly what he was doing, Rodney was downright jolly. Puttering around, cannibalizing a millennia-old relic, Rodney was so happy he was humming, the sound echoing oddly when he stuck his head under the console.
It made John feel happier by proxy, as though Rodney’s good mood was contagious. For a while – longer than John would care to admit – he just watched Rodney working, tracing Rodney’s hands as they took the console apart with precise movements, noting the muscles in his back and arms that flexed and bunched whenever he had to exert himself. That sent a glow of pride through John, because he was pretty sure Rodney hadn’t had muscles like that before he’d joined John’s ‘gate team.
When watching Rodney stopped being soothing and started feeling creepy, John stooped down, wincing as his wound pulled, and grabbed a stick from the ground. The end was covered in dirt, and John used it as a pencil, scraping pictures over the surface of the collapsed wall he was sitting on. They weren’t very good; John would never have the ability to make art that someone like Lorne possessed. But they were fun. He drew the towers of Atlantis (which came out looking like a forest of spikes), a sky full of Puddlejumpers (which closely resembled flying Coke cans), and portraits of his friends. The fact that they were stick figures in no way detracted from their entertainment value.
He sketched out a little Teyla figure in a long skirt with bantos in her hands and next to her a bigger figure with long, ropey hair and a knife so large, most cultures would consider it a sword. John though for a minute, then drew a Carson figure holding a needle nearly as big as Ronon’s knife. Elizabeth was harder, but finally he put her behind a desk, with her little stick-figure hands steepled in front of her. Rodney was a grumpy stick figure with a rectangle in one hand that was supposed to look like a computer but ended up looking more like a cereal box.
“Where are you?” Rodney asked, peering over his shoulder. John suppressed the urge to hide his ridiculous little drawings from Rodney’s inevitable mockery. Instead, he pointed to a smiling face peering out of a Puddlejumper high over the city.
“Well, that’s no good,” Rodney said, shaking his head.
This time John did cover his work, spreading his hand wide to block the pictures and considering rubbing them away. “They’re not supposed to be good, Rodney,” he said defensively. “Haven’t you ever heard of a doodle before?”
Rodney rolled his eyes at John. “That’s not what I meant.” He grabbed the stick John had been drawing with and batted John’s hands away from the pictures. “You drew yourself up there alone, which is stupid. Hello! We’re a team. So either we’re up in the ‘jumper with you, or you’re down here with us.” He quickly added a stick figure to John’s collection. This one had sticky-uppy hair and a little smile on his face. He was standing right in the middle of the group, and John felt his chest tighten in a way that had nothing to do with poisoned arrows.
Rodney looked at his contribution critically, then shrugged and gave John his stick back. “I think I’ve got most of the usable crystals out of this thing. Are you capable of keeping yourself occupied and out of trouble while I check another console?” he asked, gesturing at a device set against a wall a few yards further down.
John waved away his concern. “I’m fine,” he said. Rodney gave him a long skeptical look, as though John was going to break down and admit to horrible, crushing pain if he just waited long enough. When John did nothing of the sort, Rodney gave a huff of acceptance and set off toward his new target.
John picked his stick back up and twirled it in his fingers, listening to Rodney stamping across the ground and groaning as he settled to his knees to open up the Ancient device. John knew the moment Rodney became absorbed in his work; he started humming again, surprisingly on-key. John smiled and decided the sky above his stick people needed a sun.
When he was well and uninjured, John always forgot how amazing it felt to recover, to finally be able to move again. It was an incredible rush it could be just to stretch and bend. They’d been living in the abandoned village for more than two weeks before John got to that point. He was still a little sore, and his wound was red and tender, but it had never been deep. It had been the poison more than the puncture that had been keeping him down, and now that it was flushed from his system, he felt great.
Rodney had been working on the ‘gate for days, harvesting crystals and components from the ruins and using them to rebuild the damaged DHD. It was slow work, and Rodney refused to make any predictions about when it would be completed, but John could tell it was going well. Rodney’s mood had been steadily improving, and though he still complained about the lack of indoor plumbing, the chill in the air, and the evil, evil technology that refused to bow to his will, his rants lacked the heat of a frustrated Rodney.
 As he recovered, John had taken on more of the chores around the cabin. He still couldn’t chop firewood, but he could carry in light loads of it, tend the fire, and cook the meals, adding root vegetables and dried meat from the cabin’s cellar to their diet of MREs and power bars. When John reminded him of Teyla’s cooking, Rodney didn’t even complain about the meals. Every morning John hung their rugs over a branch outside to air, which had improved sleeping conditions immensely, and he swept out the dirt and leaves that blew into the cabin whenever they left the door open too long. Still, his day wasn’t what anyone would call “busy,” and he was starting to get bored.
After his sweeping was done, the wood stocked, and their beds made for the day, John wandered around the little cabin, looking for something to entertain him. Unfortunately, no video games or toy planes jumped out at him. John stopped at the window and drummed his fingers against the pane. It was bright afternoon outside, and the sky was a vivid blue that made him think of football and cider. The pine-like trees around the village stood out against the sky like they’d been painted by Bob Ross, and John couldn’t just stand here indoors, fingers tapping on the cold glass when all of that was waiting for him.
He was out the door in a heartbeat, stopping only to grab his P-90. (He might be bored, but he wasn’t stupid.) The air outside was sweet, just cold enough that his breath showed in little puffs, but not cold enough for it to sting his throat. It lacked the wet, salty smell of the sea that always hung over Atlantis, and John breathed it deep, reveling in the ability to do so without his chest protesting the stretch.
He walked. The Stargate was on the outskirts of town, and John could see Rodney hunched over the DHD as he took the path out of the village and into the woods. He considered calling out, but he took in the intent arch of Rodney’s back and decided against it. If he was really close to getting them home, Rodney wouldn’t appreciate being interrupted.
Though the forest was mostly made up of those pine-y trees, there were a few deciduous ones as well, and John took a childish delight in stomping on the leaves they’d dropped onto the path. The need to get back to Atlantis – back to his people – was an ache in his gut, but he could almost imagine staying here through the winter, tramping through the snow and snuggling down in front of a high fire back at the cabin. Maybe once Rodney got the ‘gate fixed up, they could bring Ronon and Teyla back here for a team vacation some day. He would pay good money to see the two of them embroiled in a snowball fight.
The forest was quiet and still around him, and John was so caught up in his idyllic plans that it took him several minutes to remember that that was a bad sign. He was in the middle of a clearing when the silence caught his attention, pressing in so tightly around him that it made him hold his breath. He scanned the trees and the undergrowth, adjusting his grip on his weapon minutely. Memories of ambushes and Wraith attacks crashed over him, spinning through his mind in a whirlwind of possibilities. When he heard the growl behind him, it was almost anticlimactic. He turned, moving as slowly as he could force himself to move. Even when he was certain he was facing the source of the noise, it took several long moments to find it. There, crouched under the trees, was an animal the size of a large dog. It was faintly striped in shades of grays and browns that allowed it to blend perfectly with the mast of pine needles on the forest floor.
John took a careful step backward, away from the creature. Fierce, bright eyes followed him, and as he slid his foot back for another step, the animal surged to its feet with a snarl. John was shooting before it had moved an inch, nailing it to the ground with round after round of hot bullets. When the creature lay motionless and bleeding, John stopped, breathing hard and feeling alive.
He stared down at the animal with a wild smile on his face. Taking down a threat was like a validation, proof that a stray arrow wasn’t enough to keep John Sheppard down and not nearly enough to make him harmless. Throwing his head back, he yelled up at the sky, a wordless shout of triumph that was half laugh. As the echo of his shout died in the air, the crash of feet pounding down the path reached him and spun him around.
When Rodney burst into the clearing, pale and tense, John lowered his weapon, and the grin overtook his face again. “Guess what I found,” he said brightly, gesturing at the fallen creature with his gun. “I say we make a rug out of it and give it to Elizabeth for Christmas.”
But after one horrified glance, Rodney wasn’t even looking at the animal, and he certainly wasn’t sharing in John’s enthusiasm. He advanced on John, his mouth tight and his eyes flicking over John’s body.
“Hey, it was nothing,” John assured him. “Man with a gun, one; stupid animal, zero.” He smiled winningly, the smile that always made Teyla give him a resigned but indulgent look as she shook her head at his antics.
Rodney did not look indulgent. He stepped right up to John, still checking him over as though new and life threatening injuries were going to spring up spontaneously all over his body. As soon as he was close enough, his hands came up to run over John’s arms and shoulders, down his chest and across his stomach.
“Rodney,” John said. “I’m fine, buddy.” He didn’t know what to do about the lost look in Rodney’s eyes. It was the look he wore after the battles were over and the Ancient devices disabled, when he was calculating losses to energy and personnel. He’d seen it aimed at himself before, but never when he was *fine.*
“I heard the gun,” Rodney said, bewildered. “I heard the gun and you were gone.” His hands stopped checking John for damage and started clinging, catching on his vest, tangling in his shirt. “I just got done losing you. We’re almost home. You can’t – You can’t -” He stumbled over his words, staring up into John’s face with wide blue eyes, still frantically looking for evidence that John was okay.
“No. Rodney, no. I just went for a walk. I had my P-90 with me when I needed it.” John brought his right hand up to wrap around Rodney’s where it twisted in his shirt. “It’s no big deal.” And as far as John was concerned, it wasn’t. He’d faced worse than one alien dog practically every day he’d lived in the Pegasus galaxy. But Rodney used his grip on John’s clothes to pull him close and pressed his face against John’s neck, gasping in a way that told him *something* here was a big deal.
After a long moment Rodney raised his head. “You can’t just leave me,” he explained in measured, reasoned tones completely at odds with the fingers wound through the straps of John’s tac vest. “When you have a mission or we’re under attack or, God help you, you’ve touched some alien doohickey, I’m prepared for it. But you were supposed to be safe. I just got you safe, and you can’t just leave me like that.”
John felt helpless in the face of the naked emotion in Rodney’s eyes. He’d always thought Rodney showed all of his feelings on his face, but if this was what had been going on under the grumbling about bandages and plumbing, then Rodney was clearly a gifted bluffer. “I didn’t leave you,” John told him. “I’m right here.” And that must have been the right thing to say, because the panic drained out of Rodney’s eyes, leaving a fervid relief. One of Rodney’s hands released its grip on John’s clothes and ghosted upward to cup the back of his neck.
“Yeah,” Rodney said. He leaned forward, leaned up, and then he was kissing John. Maybe it should have been desperate and fearful, but it wasn’t. Rodney’s mouth was slow and warm and reassuring, telling John over and over ‘You’re still here,’ like it was a promise.
John had thought about this – of course he had thought about this. He’d probably imagined having sex with every person on Atlantis at one time or another – but he’d never thought it would feel this right. This natural. He’d imagined that kissing Rodney would be hot and dirty, in a forbidden way, or it might be strange and uncomfortable, trying to force their friendship down a new path. But he hadn’t guessed that kissing Rodney could feel comfortable and intense at the same time, hadn’t known it could swamp him in a desire so deep he could drown in it.
John closed his eyes and leaned into the kiss, parting his lips to let Rodney in, allowing the desire to wash over him. His body was singing with Rodney’s nearness, and he let himself sway closer. It wasn’t until he tried to wrap his arms around Rodney and realized he was still holding his gun that he remembered where they were.
“Hey,” he whispered against Rodney’s mouth. “You think we could take this back to the cabin?”
John pulled back just enough to watch Rodney’s eyes flick open and scan the clearing around them. They darkened the moment they touched the dead animal on the ground, and Rodney said, “Yes, yes. Brilliant plan. I can see why they put you in charge of the military.” Then he was hurrying back down the path, using the hand still gripping John’s vest to tow him along.
The sky was still blue and the trees tall and majestic, but John was more interested in the flush that was staining Rodney’s cheeks, the way his lips were reddened and shiny, the way his shoulders were tight with anticipation. They had barely cleared the door of the cabin before Rodney spun around, scrabbling at the fastenings to John’s clothes.
“I love this vest,” he said conversationally. “It almost certainly saved your life when the people from Planet Stupid shot you with that arrow, and it’s a handy place to keep power bars and spare pens. But could you please take it off now?”
John put down his gun and quickly unbuckled his vest, shrugging out of it and dropping it to the floor. Rodney immediately started attacking his shirt, and John wanted to laugh. He felt giddy with the sheer joy of this, of Rodney wanting him and caring about him and touching him, God yes, right there. He kept the laughter inside, but he thought he must be practically glowing from it. And when his clothes were finally off, Rodney looked at him like the glow was visible, like it was making John into something more than human, more than perfect.
Then Rodney’s lips quirked into a crooked smile, and he said, “I’m never calling Ronon a Yeti again. He might be as tall as one, but you’ve got the pelt.” And the laughter came bubbling out of him, loud and honest, and Rodney grinned back at him.
“Rule number one,” John said, lifting a finger. “Never compare me to Ronon when I’m naked.”
Rodney’s eyes were bright with amusement, even as they swept over John’s body appreciatively. “I suppose he is a little intimidating,” he admitted. He ran his fingers through John’s chest hair, gently enough to tickle, careful to skirt his wound. “It wasn’t a complaint, though.”
“That’s good,” John said, arching into his touch. “I think you need to take your clothes off now. It’s only fair.”
“And I care so much about fairness,” Rodney scoffed. But he was yanking his shirt over his head as he said it, so John ignored it. In a matter of seconds, Rodney was as bare as John. His body was pale and broad, and John wanted all of it.
He fit his hands over Rodney’s hips, stroking his thumbs over the delicate skin and pulling Rodney closer. When he had Rodney in precisely the right place, John dipped his head and kissed his way across Rodney’s wide shoulders, up his throat which had never looked graceful before, but somehow achieved grace now, stretched back in a glorious curve to allow John access.
Rodney’s hands were on him, stroking over his spine, resting on the curve of his ass. When John had been hurt, those hands had always been gentle and careful and caring, but now they were teasing and passionate and curious. But still caring. The caring was exactly the same, and John wondered how he’d missed it for so long.
John pressed himself close, close, closer to Rodney, kissing and touching and all but rubbing himself against Rodney’s body. Rodney helped, one hand at the small of John’s back and one at the nape of his neck, holding him near. He was no longer clutching like he had out in the forest, but the intent was the same. His lips were silent under John’s, against John’s skin, but his hands shouted, ‘Stay with me, stay with me, stay with me.”
John stayed.
He tried to guide Rodney toward the bedrolls, but they were tangled too tightly around each other. John’s foot ended up behind Rodney’s ankle, and they nearly went down in a heap on the rough wood floor. John got his balance back enough to catch Rodney, but instead of saying thank you, Rodney glared up at him.
“If you think I’m getting splinters in my ass just so you can have a turn playing doctor, you are sadly mistaken,” he said acidly. John stared at him, hard and naked and scowling in John’s arms, and he had to laugh. Because that was so Rodney, and he couldn’t imagine being here with anyone else. Rodney wriggled out of John’s grasp and led him, still laughing, to Rodney’s bedroll, which was marginally cleaner than John’s as it hadn’t been used as a sickbed. Still glaring, Rodney pushed John down onto it.
John sprawled back on the old rug, and Rodney dropped down to his hands and knees, hovering over him with a considering expression on his face, like he was deciding what to do first. John looked up at him, at the thoughtful tilt of his chin, and it was then that the reality of it all rushed through him. The rug under his back had different lumps than his own and there was a streak of dirt on one side of Rodney’s nose, and the fact that this was really happening made John feel weak with gratitude. It was probably a good thing he was already lying down. 
He pulled Rodney down to him, tugging until he settled, heavy and solid, against John’s body. He wanted (Hell, yes, he wanted!) to thrust against Rodney’s skin, to suck Rodney’s nipples until they were hard and red, to slide a hand between their bodies and pull their erections together in a hot, tight, slippery grip. But if this had been just about sex, it would have happened years ago. John twined his arms around Rodney’s neck and kissed him instead, kissed him until he was dizzy with it. Kissed him until, despite all the want, the only thing John could think about was Rodney’s mouth on his, breathing little moans against John’s lips and tasting the sounds John made in return.
It was almost a shock when Rodney gasped and writhed against him, grinding his hips down on John’s until John was melting. Despite the floor beneath his back, he felt like he was falling, and he wrapped himself around Rodney like he was clinging to a lifeline. John was panting now, thrusting against the sweat-slicked skin of Rodney’s belly, feeling Rodney’s hard cock dragging against his own. The friction was intense, and when he wrapped his legs around Rodney’s it was close to perfect. Then Rodney went still and tense above him, staring down at John with something like awe in his eyes as his cock pulsed, wet and sudden between them.
“John,” he said, like it was a revelation instead of a common fact. John rocked his hips against Rodney’s again, and this time it was perfect. It was slicker and hotter and Rodney was looking at him like he’d invented physics, and John wanted it to never end. Except he needed to come so badly he was whining, high and tight at the back of his throat, and he knew his face was screwing up in a grimace that looked like pain, but it wasn’t because this felt so. damned. good.
He came with a grunt and kept thrusting through it, desperate to hold onto this connection, this perfection as long as he could. His body stuttered to a stop, and John lay breathless, still wrapped fiercely around Rodney. Who was still gazing at him with that look of wonder and discovery. John blinked slowly and felt his lips curving into a smile.
Rodney grinned down at him. “You know,” he said cheerfully. “This is great. This way, you can lie on the lumpy, smelly rug, and I can lie on you.” He wiggled happily in illustration.
“That hardly seems fair,” John protested. And despite the fact that John’s hands were spread wide on Rodney’s back, holding him close, Rodney tensed to roll off of him. John rolled his eyes and tightened his hold. “I think you should have to be on the bottom at least half the time,” he concluded, nodding to himself.
Rodney relaxed. His head came down to settle on John’s shoulder. “Half the time, huh?” Rodney said, his breath tickling John’s neck. “If you’d been contributing equally up till now, I would agree, but you haven’t. I’ve been doing my own job, plus playing nursemaid – it hasn’t been an equitable division of labor.”
John smiled and buried a hand in Rodney’s hair, listening to Rodney’s mumbled arguments as they ghosted over John’s skin, pressed against his throat like hundreds of tiny kisses.
“And you scared a good five years off my life today, which should count for something,” Rodney continued. “In fact, if you go back and count the number of times I’ve saved your life versus you saving mine, I think you’ll find …”
But John didn’t know what he would find, because that’s when he fell asleep, with Rodney all around him.

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