Also set in the interim between Siege III [2.01] and Intruder [2.02] with kudos to kaneko and engenda for the help and to the ever wonderful coreopsis for helping me smack it into shape.
The first night back, Rodney is too busy catching up on what he's missed to notice the passing of time.
It's only after he wakes up with the corrugation of computer keys on his cheek and a headache that sends him reaching for the nearest coffee pot, that he realises that it must have been hours ago that he gave Sheppard his keys. His keys and an offhand, "Here. This one's the security door. This is the front door. Don't look at me like that, Major. I have a spare room and you're not stupid enough to want to spend the next month staying on base or in a hotel. Oh, and can you air it out and change the sheets on my bed? They're in hall cupboard. We'll need some groceries, too. There's a 24 hour market two blocks down and around the corner. What? Why are you still here? Don't you have work to do?"
The second night back, Rodney's still fighting a sense of dislocation that has nothing to do with wormhole travel or the echo of Elizabeth's quelling, 'Rodney! Doctor Zelenka can take care of the city while we're gone. Go and pack. Now.' He's not even sure what time it is, all he knows is that everything feels strange, cold, and Rodney can't help rubbing at his arms as he makes his way down the hall to the kitchen.
Barking his toes on the door frame, he realises that it's because nothing is familiar anymore. He could walk through Atlantis blindfolded and not run into anything, but here it feels like he's on some kind of obstacle course.
Reaching for the light, he's stopped by a quiet, "Don't."
Sheppard is nothing more than a darker shadow leaning against the sink and Rodney knows he'd normally be saying something about scaring a person to death, years off his life but part of him is not surprised at all. Part of him welcomes the fact that Sheppard seems to be as uneasy as he is. "Can't sleep?"
"It's too quiet."
Rodney leans against the door and nods. "Yeah."
The third day back, Rodney smiles at the computer display and thinks that Samantha Carter is still his favourite dumb blonde in the world. Not to mention one of the hottest.
"Hello, Colonel Carter. Blow up any planets lately?"
It goes a little downhill from there, but Rodney thinks that she's really beginning to warm to him when she doesn't sever the uplink and they get down to business about five minutes in.
The fifth day back is a Sunday.
Rodney pulls the plug on the phone, puts a sign on the door that says: I will kill you if you wake me up. Death, dismemberment, blowing up your puddlejumper. I mean it, Major!! and ignores the world until late afternoon.
The seventh night back, Rodney's home in time for dinner instead of grabbing something on base in between reports, briefings and pointing out other people's incompetence. It's a change of pace and he's not sure if he likes it. He especially doesn't like the way Sheppard's made himself comfortable.
"You're wearing my clothes."
"Just a t-shirt, Rodney." Sheppard tugs at the front of it as if to demonstrate. "I ran out of clothes and your washing machine's broken."
"It's been broken since before I left for Antarctica." He's not sure why he feels guilty about that, but it's making him feel defensive. "I still don't see how that gives you the right to help yourself to my clothes."
"Unless you want me wandering around in my skivvies, it's how it's got to be." Sheppard looks at him, eyebrows coming together. "You're not really pissed, are you? It was cold and, honestly, I've got nothing left that's, well, anything close to clean anymore."
"Whatever. It's fine. Stop acting like a kicked puppy, it makes you look like an idiot. You're a guest, I suppose you're entitled." Rodney waves his hand and tries for gracious. He's pretty sure he fails. "Did you have to pick my favourite?"
Sheppard looks down at the shirt in question and Rodney can't help but notice the way it hangs straight around his waist, making Sheppard look younger and less dangerous, more like a scruffy kid in hand-me-downs. "Why am I not surprised?"
Rodney doesn't deign to answer and changes the subject. "Did you at least make me dinner? I deserve dinner. I don't let just anyone into my, well, shirts, you know. I do have some standards."
"Really? Cheap but not easy, Rodney? I would never have guessed."
Sheppard's look of blatant disbelief makes Rodney want to smack him, but he settles for crossing his arms. "Oh, shut up."
The tenth day back, Rodney's trying to resist the conflicting urges to pull at his own hair, throw something and bury his head in his hands and howl. Instead, he resorts to his tried and true method of coping.
"Have you seen these?"
"There are no words for the rampant moronic idiocy of these people."
"What did they do? Pull the stupidest people from around the world just to push me into a gibbering psychotic break? I thought we were already past that, I thought I'd made myself clear. This?" Rodney throws the folder in his hand -- Rossiter, Eleanor. BS. MS. PhD. -- across the room. It makes quite the satisfying thump as it bounces off the wall. "Is adding insult to injury. I have a fucking city to rebuild and they give me these incompetents to choose from? This is what happens when the military thinks they know how to run things."
"Now, Rodney --" Sheppard looks up from the open file in his lap. And while Rodney notices that their piles are pretty much equal, if one factors out the added height of Sheppard's bare feet on the stack of military personnel folders piled on the coffee table, it isn't enough to placate him.
"Don't you dare 'Now, Rodney' me, Major!" Rodney jabs a threatening finger at Sheppard. "Don't you dare! A city. An Ancient city. That requires rebuilding and repair and care and they want to send the greenest of post-grads to do it. Are they mad?"
"Do you want me to actually answer that or do you want to rant some more?"
The fifteenth day back, Rodney's trying to find something to say that conveys the gravity of the situation. And doesn't make him sound stupid.
"Oh, my God, you can actually stand up straight." So stupid wasn't out of the question, but he could turn it around. Sarcasm could hide a multitude of sins. "Did you have to strap yourself into a back brace or something?"
Sheppard shoots him a look from the corner of his eye. "Shut up, Rodney. This is a solemn occasion."
"Right." Rodney can't help tugging on the lapels of his jacket. "They're finally recognising the fact that we saved mankind, not to mention the Asgard and our other alien allies, from a fate worse than death."
"Exactly." Sheppard is smirking at him now. "I would've thought you'd be basking in the warm glow of adulation right about now."
"Maybe if the glow came with blondes and sunshine and drinks with those little paper umbrellas in them, I'd be basking." Rodney tugged at his jacket again. "But all this is doing is wasting my time. There's still so much that needs to be done before we can head home. We have to finish the repairs on the last of the battle damage the Daedalus sustained and I have to whittle away at that scientific waste of space list of personnel that Elizabeth wants."
"Or, you know, you could try and enjoy the fact that you're about to be thanked by a grateful nation and its allies." The smirk has disappeared and, if anything, Rodney notices that Sheppard's posture has become even more rigid. Also, blue really was a good colour for him.
"It's kind of rude to ignore the President when he's speaking about you."
The fifteenth night back, Rodney doesn't actually remember much of aside from the taste of something alcoholically fruity and standing, gaping like a fish, with the taste of an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel still lingering on his lips as she walked away with a grin.
The sixteenth morning back, Rodney's too busy trying to deal with the jackhammers attempting to make mince meat of his brain to pay attention to his surroundings. All he cares about is getting the world to stop spinning and the queasy shakiness of his stomach to subside.
"Rodney. Here." He fights -- to no avail -- Sheppard trying to pull the pillow from his head, but the battle is soon forgotten when he cracks open an eye and spies the pills in Sheppard's hand.
Rodney amazes himself with speed that he snatches them up and isn't even fazed with the thought of swallowing them dry when Sheppard saves him the trouble and offers up a full glass. He spills water on his chest in his haste to down the bringers of all things good or, at least, relief from pain, and makes an affirmative gesture with his hand -- doing anything with his head at this point is just asking for trouble -- when Sheppard asks, "That bad, hey?"
The glass drained, he pushes it back into Sheppard's hand and slumps back onto the mattress, pulling the pillow with him and blocking out the world with its folds.
It's only as he's falling into welcome oblivion that he notices the way that Sheppard's fingers are tracing soothing circles on his thigh.
The sixteenth afternoon back, Rodney wakes up feeling better and finally takes note of his surroundings.
It doesn't go well.
The sixteenth night back, Rodney pulls the towel-wrapped bag of peas from his lip and prods at it with his tongue.
"Stop that. You'll just make it bleed again." Sheppard takes the peas and presses them against Rodney's mouth himself, muffling Rodney's initial response.
Rodney grabs Sheppard's wrist and pushes it away. "Well, if you hadn't --"
"Rodney. Don't start." Sheppard's tone is one of warning, which Rodney blissfully ignores.
"-- smacked me in the face --"
"Haven't we done this already?"
"-- making me bleed like a stuck pig --"
"It was an accident." Sheppard mutters and pushes the peas back against Rodney's lip. "And if you want to assign blame, why don't you start with you screaming like a girl and scaring the hell out of me. We've been in a war zone, Rodney, I can't help the way I react to perceived danger before I'm fully awake."
"By smacking me in the mouth? How very manly of you, Major."
"Lieutenant Colonel, thank you very much." Rodney is unable to do anything but smile in response to the goofy grin that crosses Sheppard's face. "I can't believe they did that."
Rodney liberates the peas and tosses them to the side. "It's going to take some getting used to. Lieutenant Colonel. Colonel Sheppard. It just doesn't have the same ring."
Sheppard's grin dims a little, changes to something a little darker. "You could just call me John and then it wouldn't be a problem."
"And why would I want to even consider doing that?" Rodney shivers as Sheppard's cool fingers trace along his jaw and Sheppard's thumb brushes gently over his abused lip.
"Because if you're good, Rodney, I might be persuaded to kiss it better."
In the early hours of the seventeenth morning back, Rodney fists his hands in the sheets and buries his head against his arm, trying to muffle his moans. The hands on his hips, that tongue --
His words are nothing more than a ragged breath of sound. "I don't think -- oh God, John --"
The only answer is a muffled laugh.
Their seventeenth morning back, Rodney is rudely awakened by an elbow in the ribs. A pointy one, followed by a shove that dislodges him from his comfortable spot. "Wha?"
"You weigh a ton, Rodney." John's voice is husky with sleep and Rodney can forgive a lot just for the way it curls down his spine. "Plus, you drool. It's really unattractive."
But not that much.
Applying a bit of elbow himself as he rolls back, Rodney jabbed a finger in the vicinity of John's chest. "You. Get me coffee. Now."
John's giving him the eyebrow, but Rodney just knuckles down and blurrily glares back. If he's going to be treated like this, at the very least he should get some coffee out of it. Besides, at this distance, the glare should be doubly effective. Maybe even working on an exponential curve.
John's exaggerated sigh huffs across his face. "Are you going to act like a normal human being if I get you coffee? Hold on, what am I thinking? You never act like a normal human being."
"Ha ha. You're quite the comedian this morning, aren't you?" Rodney puts some extra bite into the words, but softens it by pressing a kiss to John's shoulder. "Get me coffee and I might even think about making it worth your while."
"You? Playing nice?" John's grinning as he runs a hand down Rodney's side.
"I'll have you know I can play nice when I want to." Rodney squirms a little under that touch, but pushes John away when he tries to take it further. "Coffee."
Another exaggerated sigh as John rolls onto his back with a disgruntled look on his face. "Nice to know where I stand in your priorities there, Rodney."
Rodney smirked, running his fingers absently through the hair on John's chest. "Get me the damn coffee, John."
John's a blur and Rodney is on his back wondering whether he's supposed to be able to feel anything but the heat and press of John's mouth. Unfortunately, it doesn't last long and Rodney's left blinking and licking his lips as John looks down at him, muttering, "Just this once, McKay. You get your own damn coffee from now on and you better be really fucking nice to me when I get back."
And then he's gone, leaving Rodney with a dazed but unobstructed view of his ass as John walks out of the room.
Rodney thinks he'll play very nice.
Their seventeenth afternoon back, Rodney wraps John's dog tags around his fist and pulls John down into a kiss. It's hot and wet and just the right side of lewd as their tongues mimic the slick slide of their bodies. And later, when they swing with each rolling thrust of John's hips, Rodney watches and groans and comes apart as the metal catches the light.
Their eighteenth morning back, Rodney plays dot to dot with the freckles on John's back, tracing imaginary constellations until John wakes up and smiles sleepily at him.
Their eighteenth night back, Rodney pulls his telescope out of storage and sets it up on the roof.
John laughs at him while Rodney mutters and curses and crows as he calibrates the ascension and declination and, though the air has a bite to it this late, neither of them care as they lean against each other for warmth.
When Rodney sets the lens to magnify Pegasus to more than a barely visible speck, Rodney's sure that John's smile is as bright as his own.
Their twentieth evening back, Rodney's startled into looking up from his paperwork when the couch dips and a pair of sock-clad feet land in his lap.
Making a point of glaring as he traces the length of the offending feet to knobbly knees, to thighs, abdomen and chest, before meeting the gleefully unrepentant look on John's face, Rodney snaps, "I'm not your personal foot rest, you know, get your disgusting feet off me -- and those are the ugliest boxers I've ever seen."
"You're a bit snippy there, Rodney." Rodney grabs the toe that John is trying to poke him with. "Bad day?"
"Yes." Rodney sighs, shifting his hand to John's ankle and brushing his fingertips along the meeting of sock and skin. "Why do I do this again?"
"Because you're the only one that can. The best of the best, the brightest of the bright."
"If I'm the only one who can do this, the best and brightest as you say and I well know, why can't I stop you from wearing my clothes?" Rodney makes a point to tug on the t-shirt that John is wearing. Again.
"Because you don't want to." John grins back at him, unrepentant sliding into smug. "I make this look good."
"No, you really don't." Rodney argues, pulling at a couple of leg hairs just to watch John flinch. "Not with those boxers."
"Ow." John's retaliation is a swift kick accompanied by a confused wrinkle of his eyebrows. "When did you become so obsessed with my boxers?"
"And here I thought you were smart. I might just cry now that my illusions have been so completely shattered."
Rodney doesn't get to say much more because John's hand is gripping the front of his shirt, John's hips and legs are doing things that the Air Force must have taught him -- but Rodney thinks would probably count as illegal in more than a few states in the US -- and then Rodney's not thinking much at all as he's being made to suffer the indignity of John's lips and tongue and hands.
He's such a martyr to his genius.
Their twenty-third day back, Rodney is so sick and tired of paper, of briefings, of reports, that he wishes that someone would launch an attack just to liven things up. Not even the indignity of having to share a lab with the intellectual giants that the SGC has recruited since Carter left is enough to raise his blood pressure above normal.
But then, like a godsend it comes. Only this one is wrapped in an air force uniform and wearing a smirk. "Hey, Rodney. Wanna blow this joint?"
It's only later in the shower, when John points out the bruise, that Rodney remembers how he jammed his thigh against the table in his haste to escape.
Their twenty-fifth morning back, Rodney wakes up to two mugs of coffee steaming on the bedside table and the heat of John's mouth wrapped around his cock.
Their twenty-ninth day back, Rodney forgets what he's doing when John kisses him. He's out of chocolate but the hint of Godiva's finest in John's mouth makes him laugh.
Their last night back, Rodney looks up to see John leaning against the door frame watching him pack. There's a conflict of emotion on John's face that Rodney understands for once. He's feeling it himself. Part of him wants to stay here and never leave, but the other part -- the bigger part -- wants to just shove everything into his duffle and run for the door. Atlantis is calling.
It really is amazing how things change when you're not paying attention. And, also, how some things don't.
It's nothing more than a moment, a couple of steps, and Rodney has John pressed against the door. There's no intent, just reaction, and Rodney imagines that he can feel the rapid beat of John's heart against his chest. His hands are tight on John's hips, his mouth brushing the short hair behind John's ear as he whispers, "No. No way." Mine.
Their last day back, Rodney can do nothing to hide the smile that keeps spreading across his face. Not even the annoyances of incompetent morons, last minute equipment additions or the way Elizabeth keeps asking if he's ready yet, can do anything to dim it. The smile escapes no matter what.
When he's finally assembled everything -- people and materiel -- ready for transport to the Daedelus, he looks up to see John across the room, his own troops assembling in such an orderly fashion that Rodney almost wishes he could get the scientists to work like that. When John catches his eye, Rodney mouths the word, "Home".
And as the Asgard transporter beam momentarily turns everything to white, Rodney still sees the answering smile on John's face.