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Tuesday, December 18th, 2007 04:13 pm
Title: Honor and Country
Author: [personal profile] bluflamingo
Fandom: SGA
Pairing: John/Rodney
Rating: NC-17
Words: ~25,000
Feedback: Yes please. Even if it’s bad. Especially if it’s bad.
Disclaimer: No, I don’t own them. To my profound disappointment.

Summary: When he was in sixth grade, Rodney McKay spent several hours being interrogated by the CIA, who decided they’d rather he was working with them than potentially against them. The same year, John Sheppard realized the Air Force would never let him fly since he was color-blind, and decided he’d join the Army instead, when he was old enough. Unsurprisingly, they managed to meet anyway...

A/N: For [livejournal.com profile] undermistletoe's Day 18 prompt to put the characters in another fandom's universe. This is based on E Ring, which isn't exactly a fandom but was brilliant.

Beta'd by [livejournal.com profile] dracotelitha



Honor and Country

There’s no answer when John buzzes Rodney’s apartment at six in the evening, the key burning a hole in his pocket. He’s not entirely surprised – Rodney knows he’s coming but he’s never been good at letting work go or leaving on time.

Across the street, a gray-haired man steps out of the building, nods at John, and starts clipping plants in a hanging basket with a small pair of scissors. He doesn’t look like he’s paying John any attention, but John’s heard enough rants from Rodney about his nosy neighbors to be worried, even if Rodney is undoubtedly exaggerating. He adjusts his duffel, torn between letting himself in and setting up residence on the front steps. Both will probably attract equal suspicion, but at least with the former he won’t have to listen to Rodney go on about how he gave John a key for a reason. Plus, Washington in February is many things, but warm isn’t one of them, especially compared to Iraq. It’s one of the best things about this new posting that he’s not sure he wants, but he still doesn’t want to stand outside and freeze waiting for Rodney to remember the date and leave work.

Decision made, he tosses a quick wave to the gardener, who confirms John’s suspicions by waving right back, and lets himself into Rodney’s building to trudge up the three flights of stairs to his apartment.

Rodney sent plenty of pictures when he was buying the place, but John’s never actually visited – last time he was stateside, Rodney came to him because he didn’t have time to fly across country. It’s a nice enough place, with decent sized windows and lots of space; enough space for John to wonder if Rodney tidied in advance of his arrival, or if this is just a sign that he’s not spending any more time here than he did in his last place, all claims about not wanting to sleep there because of the drummer living downstairs notwithstanding. John drops his bag inside the door and goes in search of food, which ends up being half a pack of Oreos, since that’s the only thing that doesn’t look like a science experiment gone horribly wrong. John’s not going to ask why the cookies are in the fridge.

He flips through the TV channels, but the only sport being shown is skiing, which is much cooler to do than to watch, and all the other channels seem to be talking about the war in Iraq, the one thing John does not want to think about, not when he can still close his eyes and see body parts, smell burnt flesh like he never left. Not when Ronon and Teyla are still out there without him to watch their backs.

“That was a stupid, reckless stunt,” Anderson says in his memory. “You’re lucky the three of you aren’t being added to the casualty list.”

Leave no man behind, John had thought, eyes front and center with Holland’s blood drying on his hands. He’d taken responsibility, over Teyla’s and Ronon’s protests – his idea, his orders, his stupid, too-late, disaster of a rescue – expecting to be told in no uncertain terms that his country had no use for officers who acted without proper consideration for the chain of command or the risk of their actions, as though Special Forces had ever cared about risks. Instead, he’s been sent back to Washington and the Pentagon and a desk job that feels like a punishment even with Colonel O’Neill’s remarks about being lucky still ringing in his ears.

O’Neill told him, when John finally got him on the phone, that he has a month to decide if he wants to keep the job, no hard feelings at the end, but, sitting on Rodney’s couch eating cookies in the dark, John’s not sure he’ll last out the week.

*

The scrape of a key in the door yanks him out of sleep, breathing hard and trying to get his bearings, the dream already fragmenting. He’s still halfway between asleep and awake when Rodney finally gets the door open and steps inside, turning on a lamp and flicking through his mail.

“Hey,” John offers, finally getting his limbs together to stand, and Rodney gives a very satisfying squeak of alarm, mail flying in several directions, all of which he ignores in favor of glaring at John. Who grins back innocently and says, “You know, it’s things like that which make people doubt you when you tell them you used to be a field agent.”

Rodney glares some more. “First of all, I don’t tell people that, do the words, ‘concealed identity’ mean nothing to you? Second of all, you’re the only person who does things like that to me, because everyone else I know has a mental age above twelve. Third of all, people wouldn’t doubt me if I did tell them I used to be a field agent, and fourth of all, why are you even here? You’re not meant to get here till the seventeenth.”

John turns the TV back to the news, which helpfully shows the date at the bottom of the screen. “Thursday, February seventeenth. Today.”

“Oh,” Rodney says, sounding disappointed. John wonders if he’s arranged a hot date that John’s now crashing, then tells himself to stop being paranoid. "Oh. Well. Welcome home.”

“Gee, Rodney, don’t overwhelm me with your enthusiasm,” John says. He’s starting to think it might be a good thing that he fell asleep before he could take his boots off. “Look, if this is a problem, I’m sure there’s plenty of hotels open at –" Wow, ten thirty, no wonder he’s hungry.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Why would I have sent you a key if I didn’t want you here?” Rodney sounds genuine and he can’t lie for shit off the job, but he’s twitching like he’s got bad news, and it’s not impossible that John misinterpreted the offer of a place to stay till he got sorted out. It’s not like either of them could be particularly explicit on a phone call from the CIA to an army base. “It’s just –" Rodney bends to gather his mail up, avoiding John’s eye. “I thought you weren’t coming for another few days, so I haven’t -. I mean, I don’t know what you were expecting when I sent you the key, but –“

“Rodney,” John interrupts before this can get any more painful, for both of them. “Whatever it is, spit it out before I use all that expensive Special Forces training to get it out of you.”

“Oh please, I’d like to see you try,” Rodney scoffs, but he cuts himself off before he can get started on another rant. “It’s just, I know how things used to be, but maybe they're different now that you’re here permanently, and working for the Pentagon, and I didn’t want to -. Well, anyway, I can take the couch, even though it’s murder on my back, and I’ll have a bed for the spare room by the start of next week. It’s not a problem.”

John looks at Rodney’s ham-strung expression and puts it together with the babble of half-sentences that the last ten minutes have consisted of and finally realizes what Rodney’s trying to say. “You’re, what, worried I’ll think you’re trying to seduce me by only having one bed?” he asks.

“Um. Yes? Which I’m not.”

“Oh,” John says, putting as much disappointment into his voice as he can manage. “Oh, well, if you’re not, I guess I can take the couch. You have your back, after all, and I’ve slept worse places…” Rodney’s face is falling rapidly, and John can’t keep it going any longer. He’s been wanting this since he heard he was coming back – since he and his team caught a transport to Iraq a year and a half ago. “Get over here.”

“What?” Rodney asks, alarmed, even as he takes a step towards John. “Why? Because if you’re going to hit me, I’d really rather –“

And John would be offended by that, but Rodney’s finally, finally close enough for John to grab him by the lapels of his suit jacket, drag him close and kiss him, hard and wet and frantic.

Rodney makes a strangled noise against John’s mouth, then gets with the program and kisses back, tasting of coffee and faintly of gum, the mail ending up on the floor again when his hands come up to wrap round John’s back, pulling him tight against Rodney’s solid, safe body, and for the first time since they burst into that house and found the fourth member of their team blown to pieces, John feels like the world’s holding still.

*

“I’m still buying a spare bed,” Rodney says later, when John’s draped bonelessly over him, contemplating whether he’s hungry enough to get out of bed and order something. Rodney pokes him. “Did you hear what I just said? Are you even listening to me?”

“Mm-hmm,” John says. He is listening, he’s just distracted by Rodney’s fingers stroking through his hair, and the steady thump of Rodney’s heart under his ear. ”Gonna buy another bed. Not that there’s much point.”

“John.” Rodney’s fingers tighten, forcing John to look up at his worried face. ”Be realistic. Even if it wasn’t frowned on since we’re both working with current intelligence now, you’re in the army. If anyone finds out you’re not just my room-mate, you’ll be discharged.”

John tucks away the little bubble of happiness that Rodney’s ‘not just my room-mate’ gives him, to look at later when he’s not in the middle of something that feels a lot like it could turn into a fight. “I know that. I’m not planning on announcing it to the office on my first day. I just want –" He leans up to kiss Rodney softly, hoping that will get across what he’s trying to say,

Rodney smiles at him sadly and tucks John’s head back against his shoulder, hugging John closer to him. John can’t help the shudder that runs through him. They’ve only talked about why he’s back in the barest of words, but he knows Rodney will have found out, and that he’ll have to talk eventually. He just doesn’t want to, not until it hurts a bit less.

“I’m not going to kick you out,” Rodney says quietly. “I just want you to be careful.” There’s a pause, then he says, so quietly John barely hears it, “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to me,” John promises. “I survived ten years deployed with Special Forces, I think I can survive Colonel O’Neill and the Special Operations Division.”

“Wait till you’re spent a few days in the building and see if you’re still saying that,” Rodney says lightly, but his fingers are tracing over the bullet scar on John’s lower back, the one that could have changed everything, very nearly did, and John kisses him just so he’ll stop thinking, stop worrying, because John’s *safe* now, and he can’t bear the way Rodney’s still looking at him.

They kiss for a long time, touching everywhere with the kind of want that comes from eighteen months of stilted phone calls and carefully worded letters. When Rodney finally rolls John onto his back and takes his hard cock into his mouth, John comes embarrassingly fast.

Rodney doesn’t seem to care, crawling back up John’s body to kiss him again and murmuring, “Can I fuck you?” into John’s mouth.

John nods, like the question even needed to be asked. “Just – go slow. Been a while.”

“I’d hope so,” Rodney says, but John hears the insecurity under it.

“No-one but you,” he says, holding Rodney’s gaze until he nods. “Mainly because of lack of other options,” he adds with a grin, and Rodney splutters in protest, poking at John’s shoulders until John’s laughing too hard to breathe, so relaxed he doesn’t realize Rodney’s stopped until a slick finger pushes inside him, and then he’s breathless for a whole different reason.

Rodney takes John’s request entirely to heart, and John’s glad he’s already come twice and won’t be getting more than half-hard again without chemical intervention, because if he hadn’t, Rodney’s slow finger fucking would be driving him crazy. In bed and in the field, the only places Rodney’s ever had any patience; John prefers not to think about what that says about Rodney, or about the two of them.

“All right?” Rodney asks, reaching for the condom. John gets it first, rolling it over Rodney then slicking him slowly, grinning as Rodney twists and gasps and mutters, “Please, John, please,” like he’s right on the edge of coming.

“Please what?”

“Please don’t tease.” Rodney closes his hand over John’s. “Please let me fuck you now.”

“Yeah,” John says, breathless all over again. “Yeah, please.”

Rodney kisses him the whole time, moving slowly inside him, and it feels incredible, even without the prospect of an orgasm at the end; Rodney comes pressed deep inside him, his low groan sounding more like pain than pleasure, and this time it’s John pulling Rodney close, holding him and trying to transmit reassurance through his skin.

*

Rodney, it turns out, actually remembered to arrange to take Friday off, despite forgetting right after that John was coming. They stay in bed until John’s stomach demands food, then binge on Chinese take-out, which John only realizes he missed when he has it. Since they can’t live on take-out, whatever Rodney says, being up means a run to the grocery store. They buy enough food to feed them for weeks, none of which gets eaten that day, because the adrenaline rush that’s carried John through the last few days comes to an end ten minutes after they get home, and he falls asleep on Rodney’s bed, still wearing his boots.

Saturday’s better, mainly because John’s conscious and aware for all of it, and he starts feeling like there’s actually a chance of this not being the unmitigated horror he’s been expecting.

It’s a feeling that lasts right up until Rodney’s secure line rings at 0517 on Sunday morning with Colonel O’Neill demanding John's presence in the E Ring.

“You don’t even start for another week,” Rodney grumbles, snuggling back up against John when John flops back down with an arm over his eyes. The one advantage of this job was supposed to be the lack of early morning emergency call outs. At least no-one’s likely to be shooting at him.

Somehow, that’s not as much consolation as he would have expected.

“Let me use your car?” he asks, pushing Rodney away and sitting up, reaching for his tags.

“Hmm, let me think about it,” Rodney says. ”Top secret relationship, high chance of you being fired if someone finds out, level of suspicion aroused by you arriving in my car… I’m going to go with no. Or possibly, hell, no, I haven’t decided.”

“Some days,” John says, heading for the closet. “I really dislike you.”

When he turns back around, buttoning his shirt, Rodney’s grinning, smug and lazy, his arm disappearing beneath the sheet, moving with an unmistakable rhythm that turns John’s pants a little too tight.

Even knowing it’s a bad idea and likely to make him late, he goes back over to kiss Rodney, breathless when he finally pulls back, Rodney’s hand still sliding over his own dick. ”Really, really dislike you,” John says, and Rodney’s laugh follows him out of the apartment.

*

He’s greeted on the other side of security by a young marine, who grins at him like John’s the best thing to happen to him yet in a day that’s already been filled with great things. “Major Sheppard?” John nods and the grin brightens even further. “Lieutenant Ford, sir, Colonel O’Neill’s junior aide. Welcome to the Pentagon.”

“Thanks,” John says, and wonders where he can get his hands on some coffee. He’s definitely not caffeinated enough to deal with this much enthusiasm when it’s barely light outside.

“You want to come this way, sir?” Ford asks. “The Colonel’s expecting us in five minutes.”

John’s been to the Pentagon a handful of times before, mainly to be berated by superior officers, but the corridors here are the same as everywhere else in the building.

“Any idea what we’ve been called in for?” John asks, trying to remember which corridors they turn down, but his sense of direction’s never been anything to write home about when he’s not using it to avoid being captured.

“Yes, sir,” Ford says, tapping in a door code that John memorizes over his shoulder. Being able to open every door in the building is occasionally a useful trick if he needs to impress a civilian and doesn’t have much to work with. “One of our assets in China just activated his extraction plan.” He leads John down another corridor, this one lined with plastic sheeting and large 'Danger: Asbestos' signs. So much for this being safer. He makes a mental note not to mention this to Rodney unless he really needs to derail the conversation.

“Asset?”

“Yes, sir,” For says again, and that’s going to get old fast; he’s used to Teyla and Ronon, who address him as 'boss' if they’re feeling exceptionally formal. “He’s been passing intelligence to us for a couple of years now, since the CIA turned him.”

The CIA. Just when John thought the day couldn’t get any worse, it is, and he’ll just bet Rodney’s involved in this somewhere; he runs his current intelligence team with more micromanaging than a newly-minted lieutenant, fingers in every pie going.

Ford knocks the door to a room made of what look a lot like portable notice boards. “Temporary, till the asbestos is out of our usual office,” he explains, and knocks again.

“What?” demands O’Neill’s voice.

Ford offers John another grin and opens the door, allowing John to enter first.

O’Neill’s sat behind a large desk covered in papers, in front of a wall-mounted map of China and another of Uzbekistan that John pulls his eyes from with difficulty – his team was headed out there when he was sent back. Even walled in by notice boards, the office looks exactly as John would have imagined, right down to the red phone in the corner of the desk, like O’Neill’s keeping it as far from himself as he can.

The Colonel opens his arms expansively and grins in a way that makes John very, very nervous. He’s seen the guy in pictures before, of course, but usually in full army dress uniform, not like this, with his sleeves rolled up and his jacket slung over the back of his chair, grinning at John like he’s trying to prove the dental work in his back teeth is still good.

“Major Sheppard, at last. Welcome to the E Ring.”

“Thank you, sir,” John says. He’s already itching to open the top button of his green uniform after months in desert cammies and t-shirts, but Ford looks like he was starched into his uniform, and John’s not sure how much leeway O’Neill’s going to give him.

“Sunday mornings at the Pentagon,” O’Neill says, leaning forward to hand John an envelope marked 'Top Secret: Confidential'. ”Can’t you just feel the love?”

John takes the envelope, a little afraid it’s going to bite him, and wonders, again, how the hell he managed to get himself into this.

*

“So,” Rodney says, when John wheels his bicycle in at ten past midnight that night, so exhausted he only just avoids walking into the doorframe. The TV’s on, some show about space, possibly, or maybe vampires, if the pictures are anything to go by, but the volume’s muted and Rodney, clad in sweatpants, t-shirt and tube socks, is twisted round in the pile of files on the couch to look at John. “What happened to Shen Li?”

John would ask how Rodney knows that’s who he’s been dealing with, except he already knows – fingers in every pie – and he wants a shower, food, and as much sleep as he can get before he has to be back in the E Ring at 0600.

“John? Hello? Anybody home?” Rodney comes up on his knees and actually taps John’s forehead like he’s knocking. “Shen Li? Extraction plan? I assume that’s what kept you in the Pentagon until the dead of night, unless the Enquirer’s right and aliens really are about to invade the planet.”

John grabs Rodney’s shoulders, pushing him down so John can drape himself over him and kiss him, which shuts Rodney up, gets John horizontal before he falls over, and also just feels really... nice.

“That was an I-want-to-ravish-you-in-my-moment-of-victory kiss, right?” Rodney asks, pulling away before John’s quite done with him. “Not a help-me-forget-my-disastrous-day-that-ended-with-the-capture-and-probably-death-of-our-asset kiss?”

“Yeah, Rodney,” John says, and he can’t help the laugh that breaks out, because, sure, the Pentagon brass are about as keen on him as any other brass, and yeah, this job’s clearly going to involve as much tension and stress as his last one, without the release of shooting something at the end of it, but… but O’Neill backed him up, and they listened, in the end, and now they have Shen Li, and China’s plans for a nuclear sub, and John feels good, better than he’s felt in ages, since before the explosion, before Holland, like a tiny corner of the black space inside him just got filled.

Rodney’s looking at him with an indulgent, fond smile, and he reaches up to trace the side of John’s face and down his neck. “You look happy,” he says, and John kisses him again, meaning, I am, and, thank you,, and, it’s good.

*

Of course, it doesn’t last.

“Eighty percent facial recognition,” O’Neill says, handing John a folder when he walks into their now-asbestos-free office one Thursday morning. John opens the folder to a photo of a thin, narrow-faced man, eyeing something just to the side of the camera with a predatory gleam in his eye and a slight smirk.

“Who is he?”

“His name's Ba'al. He’s been working with the Goa’uld organization for years, one of their most senior leaders. He’s responsible for most of their major bombings in the last few years, and he’s completely ruthless. We’ve been chasing him for years, Major,” O’Neill says, and this John remembers, the intense glare from a CO who finally sees a personal crusade coming together.

“Yes, sir.”

The problem is, John’s used to the glare being followed up with instructions on where to go, who to take, how they’ll get there and what they’ll do when they arrive. What he’s not used to is being the focus of a look that demands he put together all these details and present them in a neat package to the Chiefs of Staff.

O’Neill smiles at him, like he knows *exactly* what John’s thinking and is happy to let him stew. “Briefing in three hours, Major. Come see me with a mission proposal in two. Ford will help you with the paperwork.”

“Sure, sir,” Ford says brightly, as though he’d like nothing better than to put John’s stumbling attempts at mission justification into a language the civilian oversight will understand.

“Great,” John says, and sneaks off to call the CIA.

*

“I can’t do this,” he says when Rodney answers his phone.

“What?” Rodney asks, sounding distracted, then, “Wait, what are you doing calling me here? Do you realize that the CIA routinely tapes a sample of all calls made into and out of the offices?”

“Yeah, Rodney, you might have mentioned it,” John agrees, even though he’d forgotten until Rodney said it.

“So get off the phone and go back to work,” Rodney says. John expects to hear the click of a disconnecting line, but he gets a crackle of static instead as Rodney sighs. “We can have lunch, if you really need me to be around for this freak-out.”

“Can’t,” John says. Someone’s moved the model F-16 on his desk, and he straightens it absently. “Mission briefing.”

Rodney huffs exasperatedly. “Then get back to work and stop bothering me.” He drops his voice, even though they both know it won’t help if they are being recorded. “I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah,” John says. Maybe the warm rush he gets from those words will be enough to get him through this after all. “Later, Rodney.”

When he hangs up, O’Neill’s leaning on his cubicle wall, looking at him. “CIA helping with the mission?” he asks.

“No, sir.” John really hopes he’s not blushing. “Personal call.”

“Right.” O’Neill nods. “You’re living with Dr McKay?”

“Staying with him,” John corrects without blinking. “Just while I find somewhere to live.”

“Not easy finding a place in Washington on a Pentagon salary,” O’Neill agrees. He taps John’s cubicle wall twice. ”Mission proposal to me in a couple of hours?”

“Yes, sir,” John says, and feels like he doesn’t breathe until O’Neill’s office door closes behind him.

*

“Looks good, Major,” O’Neill says two hours later, as John wraps up his proposal: grab Ba’al, get him out of town, and let the Air Force scoop him up and out of the country. Job done, and one more terror cell without their leader. “Though I admit I was thinking of something a bit more permanent.”

John offers his most innocent smile. “This way we’ve got a chance at him and any intelligence he has.” Plus, given the choice, he’d rather not start off his Pentagon career by killing someone, even someone like Ba’al.

O’Neill gives him a long look, then turns it on Ford. “Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Who’s counsel attached to this?”

Ford grins. “I think it’s Dr Weir, sir.”

“Excellent,” O’Neill says, grinning at John. “Major, you can present this to her.”

*

John’s never met Dr Weir, but he knows her by reputation, and by Rodney’s account; she’s one of the few – very few – people Rodney talks about with unqualified respect, even admiration, and not just because she helped get him back from a dodgy field assignment in Siberia.

She looks pretty much like he would have imagined – the kind of thin that comes from a healthy diet and yoga, neat brown hair and a smart gray suit, though the bright red blouse under her jacket is a bit of a surprise, as is her warm smile when she takes his hand.

“Major Sheppard, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Colonel O’Neill’s been telling me all about you.”

“All good, I hope,” John says, smiling. ‘All about him’ doesn’t actually sound all that good, not if it includes how he wound up at the Pentagon.

“Of course,” Weir says with a laugh, and O’Neill gives him a wry smile and says, “Don’t let it go to your head.”

“No, sir,” John agrees. There’s not much chance of that.

“So.” Weir gestures for them to be seated round the small conference table and nods for Ford to close the door. They’re in a glass office, so it’s not exactly private, but John’s beginning to realize nothing really is in the Pentagon. “You’re putting this to the Joint Chiefs?”

“Yes, ma’am.” O’Neill watches her flick through John’s paperwork, neatly typed up by Ford. John’s keeping quiet about the fact that he learned to touch type during a college computing class. “And knowing how much they all like you, I thought I’d get your approval on it first.”

“I see,” Weir says, sounding amused. ”Eighty percent facial recognition? I’ve seen higher.”

“Ba’al isn't an easy man to catch on film,” O’Neill points out. “We’ve had enough reported sightings of him for me to start believing in human cloning, but this is the best we’ve had yet.”

“And if it’s not him and you grab the wrong person?” Weir asks, all the amusement gone from her voice, and John would rather be anywhere else. He’s not good at this part, even in the field, where he mostly left it to Teyla; he squashes the part of himself that wants to push and charm until she gives in, because this is the Pentagon and he understands the need to be different.

“It’s at eighty percent, Elizabeth,” O’Neill says intently, doing the pushing for John. “We’ll never get another chance like this, and who knows what he could have on him?”

Weir nods slowly, flipping through the papers again. “I notice there’s nothing in there about how you’ll get him out of the country.”

O’Neill looks at John. ”I believe Major Sheppard here has some ideas.”

*

Early on in his career, not long after he met Teyla and Ronon, John spent a year down at Bragg, training alongside the Air Force. He still doesn’t know if it was the best or the worst year of his life, being so close to what he’d always wanted and never quite getting it.

The one thing he does remember is playing with the pilots, the tricks they did.

*

“It’s called the Fulton Recovery System,” he offers, then, when Weir continues to look blank, “From ‘The Green Berets’? With John Wayne?”

Weir’s eyes go wide, and she covers her mouth in horror. “Stop right there,” she says, but she’s laughing, and John figures maybe Rodney’s right about her, even if she is a lawyer. “Oh my God, I can’t know that.”

She approves the mission, legally, anyway, eyes still bright with humor and horror.

*

The meeting with the Joint Chiefs goes well, apart from John being ready to tear off his own skin just to shake the crawling impatience he can feel as they talk around the subject with no indication of an intention to make a decision. O’Neill impressed on him before he went in that he was not, under any circumstances, to open his mouth for anything other than a sip of coffee – a moot point since he doesn’t have any – and the enforced silence is almost enough to crack his Special Forces’ trained stillness. It’s bad enough that his uniform is still too new and stiff to allow him to do anything other than sit very straight in his chair.

He’s half-zoned out, absorbing the tone rather than the content of the speeches when General Landry asks, “Which unit are you proposing to undertake this?” and O’Neill says, “Atlantis Unit, sir,” with a sideways look at John like he knows exactly what John is thinking.

He keeps quiet, barely, while they wrap up the meeting, just registering that they’ve approved the mission, and follows O’Neill out, practically vibrating with the need to speak, to complain or refuse or somehow stop this.

What he actually says is, “They’re flying back tomorrow.”

“Not any more. There’ll be another transport.”

“They’ve already been delayed, sir,” John protests. These are his people, and they’ve been out there risking their lives for the last year and a half without a break. They’re supposed to be coming back – Ronon and Teyla are supposed to be coming back, so he can see them and make sure they’re okay. “There’s other units out there.” And how did he end up saying this anyway, when he was always the one pushing for his unit to be given the best, toughest, most dangerous missions? He’s suddenly got a lot more sympathy for Rodney, left behind waiting for phone calls.

“Major, believe me, I know what it’s like when they’re your buddies,” O’Neill says. “But they’re the best unit for the job.” He takes a couple of steps away, then turns back. “I’m sure the news would be better coming from you.”

*

Teyla’s voice is brusque on the field line as she bites out a greeting, but it warms when John says hello. “John. It has been many days. Are you enjoying the Pentagon?”

“Oh, sure, more fun than a Ferris wheel in football season,” he says, just to hear her laugh. He can’t believe how much he’s missed the two of them, how much it still aches.

“I am sure you will come to enjoy it,” Teyla says serenely. John can hear Ronon’s voice in the background, too muffled to make out the words, and a jeep rattling by.

“Yeah. So, listen, I’m really sorry but –“

He can picture Teyla nodding, understanding him without the need to finish. “We are to remain here a little longer?”

She sounds like she went to finishing school, never using contractions, John thinks inanely. “I’m sorry,” he says again. “We’ve got a sighting on Ba’al of the Goa’uld, and they want you guys to pick him up.”

“I see,” Teyla says, unruffled as ever. “I am sure we will be briefed on the details shortly.”

“Sure,” John agrees. He doesn’t know the guy who’s gone in to replace him, doesn’t want to – he’ll only end up getting Rodney to hack the guy’s file, and there’s nothing he could find out that wouldn’t make him worry more or get jealous.

“John, I must ask you one favor,” Teyla says. “Halling and Jinto are expecting me home very soon. I would prefer they did not learn of this from Family Services, but from a friend.”

“Of course, “John agrees. Like he can do anything else. He’s never been entirely clear on Teyla’s relationship to her housemate and his son – they’re some kind of distant cousins from her father’s native country, but that’s as far as he’s ever get. “I promise.”

“Thank you, John,” Teyla says, and breaks the connection, leaving John feeling more guilty, more worried, than he would have if she’d yelled.

*

Halling is as calm and understanding as Teyla, though John’s glad he managed to phone on a night when Jinto's out; the boy hero-worships Teyla, and John’s not up to dealing with his disappointment. Not that it really makes any difference in the end. When O’Neill finally kicks him out at a little past midnight, pointing out that nothing will be happening till the next day, and that he’ll be no use passed out from exhaustion, he’s so tense that he drops the keys to his bike lock twice.

The apartment’s dark when John lets himself in, only the glow of one of Rodney’s laptop screensavers giving any indication that someone’s home. He goes to shut it down, but there’s a password required; it must be from work.

John hangs his jacket and cover behind the door, toes off his shoes and pads into the kitchen. He can’t remember when he last ate, but there’s nothing that looks appetizing. He’s pretty sure he’s not hungry for food anyway.

He thinks about taking a shower, but Rodney’s pipes are old and noisy, and none of the neighbors will thank him for waking them at 0100. He’s actually a little surprised that Rodney’s asleep already, but he supposes even workaholic intelligence geniuses have to crash occasionally. Maybe he assumed John would be pulling an all-nighter on mission prep.

He contemplates, briefly, opening out the futon Rodney bought for appearances’ sake and actually using it, but that just reminds him of his very brief, very misguided marriage, and he doesn’t want his relationship with Rodney to end up like that.

Rodney’s got the covers thrown back, even though it’s March and still freezing, sprawled on his back in his favorite I’m With Genius t-shirt and boxers patterned with limes, or more likely kiwis, his mouth slightly open as he snores faintly. He half-wakes when John strips down to his own boxers and climbs in, rearranging the covers over them both.

“Okay?” he asks blearily, flopping over to wrap an arm round John’s waist and drag the covers askew all over again.

John rests his head automatically against Rodney’s, trying to absorb the comfortable domesticity he’s gotten so used to lately, trying to let Rodney’s presence and warmth relax him and ease the tension skittering under skin like something alien in his blood.

“Not really,” he says quietly into Rodney’s hair, but Rodney’s already gone back to sleep.

*

He knows it’s a dream the moment he looks round and sees sand – he’s always been good at distinguishing fantasy from reality, just not good enough to stop it. He’s back in Iraq, and it’s no surprise to turn and see the smoking wreck of the house at the end of the dirt track. He walks toward it anyway, feeling the familiar weight of his weapon in his hand, the slight tug of the sand at his boots every time he lifts his foot. He knows both of those come from memory, like the tiny black dot of a bird floating in slow circles high above him, but he’s alone in silence, and that part’s pure dream-state. He’s used to it, like he’s used to dreaming of gunfire and screams.

He wraps a cloth round his left hand before reaching for the door handle, because even in a dream there’s some training he can’t shake; it means he’s left with nothing to cover his face, and the smell of burning flesh makes him gag as he gets the door open, wanting to step back.

He goes in anyway, weapon up, light on, scanning the corners for shadows that shouldn’t be there, and when he steps into a hallway and finds bodies in charred US Army uniforms, the shock is a distant, muffled memory.

He crouches next to the first body, trying not to see the empty space where limbs should be, reaching to turn it over and at least find the tags, find out whose funeral he’ll be attending now, and it was a man’s body, Holland’s body, he’d swear to it, but when he turns it now, Teyla’s eyes are looking up at him, Teyla’s face is burnt and bloodied, and he wakes himself up, gasping for breath, Rodney’s hands on his shoulders holding him down, his face close and worried in the lamplight.

“John?” he says. “It’s a dream, you’re dreaming.”

And John knows this, he knows, but Teyla’s face is *right there* and he can’t breathe, feels physically sick with it. He pushes up against Rodney’s hold, breaking it and swinging his legs over the side of the bed to sit up, his shaking, clenched hands between his knees, his head bent.

“John,” Rodney says. He doesn’t touch, but John can feel him there, sitting close enough behind John that all he’d need to do is lean back. “Breathe.”

John takes a shuddery breath and wonders when Rodney became the calm one. At least when he was deployed he could call up Rodney when he got blind-sided by memories and dreams and Rodney’s empty eyes staring at him. He never really thought about what it would be like to have them when he can’t check on his people with just a phone call.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Rodney asks awkwardly.

John thinks distantly that it’s his silence, not his nightmares, that are unnerving Rodney, but the last thing he wants to do is talk.

He half turns to find his prediction was right – Rodney is sitting right behind him, frowning worriedly, close enough to kiss, so John does, fast and dirty, the kind of kiss that’s guaranteed to get Rodney going. This time is no exception, Rodney’s hands fisting in John’s t-shirt and pulling him down to the bed. John’s not really in the mood, the adrenaline of his nightmare slowly draining away, leaving him exhausted and shaky, but Rodney turns into the kiss, solid and present under John, still warm with sleep, and John thinks maybe he can get into the mood, especially if it will distract Rodney from his questions.

Especially when Rodney rolls John onto his back, shoves down John’s boxers and sucks John’s half-hard cock into his mouth.

Rodney gives the best blow-jobs of anyone John’s ever had sex with, all intense concentration and wicked flicks of his tongue round all the spots that make John gasp. He doesn’t try to hold John down or do anything really fancy, just strokes his thumbs over John’s hips and sucks his cock till it’s all John can think about, till he’s clutching the bed clothes so tightly his hands hurt, till he’s gasping and cursing and coming before he can say anything to warn Rodney.

Rodney holds him in his mouth till John’s finished shuddering through the aftershocks, then drapes himself over John to kiss him gently. John reaches for Rodney, intending to return the favor, and it’s only then that he realizes he’s been had in more ways than the obvious, made the mistake, once again, of forgetting that Rodney’s been trained in making people talk and learned along the way to get creative with it.

“Thanks a lot,” he says darkly, shifting his leg until he can feel his boxers with his foot. He feels like an idiot, and weirdly cheated, considering he got to come and Rodney barely got hard; like Rodney was servicing him, like he was a mark for a field trained agent not… not whatever he’s supposed to be to Rodney these days.

“You talk more when you’re relaxed, and that was the quickest way to relax you,” Rodney says, slightly defiant.

“Didn’t last,” John tells him. He pulls out of Rodney’s embrace and gets his boxers back on; he’s humiliated enough, without lying around half-naked as well. “I’m thinking it’s time I tried out that futon you bought.”

“John –“ Rodney’s fingers brush John’s arm as John climbs out of bed. He might as well get up, really – he knows he’s not going to sleep any more now. “John, come back to bed. I’m sorry, okay, I was trying to help.”

“You didn’t,” John says.

He doesn’t bother with the futon, just lies on the couch and stares at the darkened ceiling, until it’s light enough out that he can get up and go for a run.

When he gets back, there’s a dirty coffee mug in the sink and the house feels empty. He checks, but Rodney hasn’t left a note, and he doesn’t have time, now, to call his cell and try to make things better. He reminds himself to call when he gets to the office.

*

Except that when he gets to the office, Ba’al has changed his plans, moved his meeting up, and the Atlantis team is on their way to his meeting place. O’Neill grabs John before he’s even turned his computer on and drags him into the situation room, a mass of video screens showing everything but the one thing he really wants to see.

It’ll be a big coup if they pull this off, so the Joint Chiefs are all there, polished and starched and looking at John like he’s got his spotty history tattooed on his forehead, till he’s itchy just from the eyes on him.

He lasts an hour and forty minutes before he has to excuse himself to go walk up and down the corridor. He’s got his cell in his hand before he really registers his own intention, and his fingers seem to dial Rodney’s number on their own.

“This is Dr Rodney McKay,” Rodney’s recorded voice says, the message just long enough for John to take a deep breath.

“Ronon and Teyla are going up against a terror leader this afternoon,” he says quickly. “It’s my mission, I planned it, and I just –” He stops, not sure what to say, or how to say it to Rodney’s voicemail. “I wanted to tell you I’ll be late tonight.”

It’s the closest he can get to apologizing, to saying that he isn’t going anywhere, but Rodney knows him well enough to read between the lines, and anyway, Ford’s looking up and down the corridor for him, and he hasn’t got time to say anything else.

*

He feels better when Atlantis is in position and their comms are patched through so he can hear what’s going on, even if he can’t see it.

“Three guards,” Teyla reports.

“Sniper on the roof,” Ronon adds. “Kind of crowded for him to start something.”

“Unless he’s pretty confident he’ll hit the right target,” John points out, getting himself a small grin from O’Neill. You can take the soldier out of the field…

“Do not worry, Major,” Teyla says. ”Ronon will deal with him before he can attempt anything.” She sounds like she’s laughing at him in her own subtle Teyla way.

“Great,” he says, and shuts up. She doesn’t need him back-seat leading; she has it under control.

Right up until Ba’al walks out with a guard they didn’t know he had, and everything goes to hell, a chaotic babble of gun fire and shouting that ends in Teyla’s voice saying, very calmly, “Ronon has been shot. He is bleeding badly. Request medical transportation immediately.”

Just for a second, John thinks he’s still dreaming, that he never woke up from the nightmare, but his mouth’s moving on auto-pilot, saying, where? and, how badly? and, med evac won’t make it in time. He’s barely aware of O’Neill and the others in the background as he tells Teyla to flexi-cuff Ronon and Ba’al together, hook them both up to the line and get the target balloon up.

On the screen in front of him, the green dot of their extraction plane is moving rapidly towards their position, and the pilot isn’t designated to stop, can’t land even if he wants to. He’ll hook the line and reel it in whether Ronon and Ba’al are on the other end or not. John tries not to think about Teyla, when he explained their extraction plan earlier, saying, “People are more easily broken than mannequins, John, are you sure this is wise?” It’s too late to worry about it now.

“The balloon is up. I see the plane now.” Teyla’s voice drops, too low for John to make out words intended only for Ronon, and then there’s nothing, echoing silence as John strains to hear the plane approaching hundreds of miles away.

“We have the target,” an unfamiliar voice says suddenly on the comm, making John jump. “I repeat, we have the target. Medics are treating Sergeant Dex, first reports highly positive.”

The room erupts into congratulations, startling John all over again, and O’Neill grins at him. “Nice work, Major.”

“Thank you, sir,” John says. He excuses himself and walks perfectly calmly to the men’s room down the hall, where he sits on the floor and throws up. He was completely wrong when he thought this was going to be all right; there’s no way he can keep doing this, sitting safe in Washington while his people risk their lives, and he decides right there that he’s getting back into the field as soon as humanly possible.

*

Rodney’s waiting for him again when he gets home, and he grabs John almost before the door’s closed behind him. ”Well? Well? What's the matter with you, I’ve been calling your cell all day, why didn’t you answer?”

“What?” John asks stupidly, pulling it out to check. 32 missed calls, 12 new messages. Huh. “Why?”

“Oh, let’s see, maybe because you told my *voicemail* that Ronon and Teyla were out risking their lives and I was worried, you asshole.” Rodney actually shakes him. ”Are they okay?”

“Teyla’s fine. Ronon was hit, but he’s in the hospital, he’s going to be fine.” He’s in surgery, actually, removing the bullet and stitching the holes it left, but Rodney doesn’t need to know that, not when he’s looking at John like that, like John’s the one who was bleeding out in the middle of the desert, and John’s on the floor abruptly, leaning against the door, and he doesn’t remember how he got there.

“Did you eat anything today?” Rodney asks in clear exasperation, then, when John takes too long to think about the answer, “No, of course you didn’t, that would require you to actually use your brain for more than just deciding what to shoot.”

John thinks about pointing out that he’s the one responsible for the daring rescue plan, but Rodney’s on a roll and John’s not up to fighting for control of the conversation, so he just lets it go, drinks the milk and eats the soup, then the cookies, that Rodney puts in front of him, so that he’s actually feeling human again when Rodney winds down and just looks at him, mouth twisted in worry.

John still doesn't want to talk, but he understands the need to put other people above what he wants sometimes, so he opens his mouth and says, “Holland got captured when we were in Afghanistan. We went back for him against orders…”

*

Teyla calls him two days before Ronon’s due back from the hospital in Germany and invites him to the unit’s postponed welcome home party at her house that weekend.

John’s weirdly touched, though he can’t really explain why. “Are you sure?” he says.

“Of course,” Teyla says, in the voice that means she thinks he’s being an idiot, but respects the chain of command too much to say it out loud. “You do not cease to be part of Atlantis simply because you no longer go on missions with us.” She pauses so he can absorb exactly how much of an idiot he’s being, then adds, “You should bring Dr McKay with you. Since we have worked with him, and you are staying with him now.”

“Sure,” John says. “Sounds great.”

*

Rodney, predictably, disagrees. “Seriously, are you trying to get yourself court martialed? It’s a military welcome home party and you want to go with your – with your –“

“Friend I’ve known for years?” John suggests with a raised eyebrow. He hates that Rodney’s so paranoid about this, especially when he’s the one who’ll be losing his job if anyone finds out. It’s kind of sweet, but John’s been doing this for years, he knows how not to get caught, and he doesn’t know when Rodney stopped trusting him on that. “Person I’m staying with who worked with this unit before and knows half of them already?”

“Person you’re sleeping with in violation of the army’s homophobic rules about your sex life,” Rodney says, hands flailing in clear agitation. “*You* don’t even know everyone who’ll be there, you can’t possibly know if you can trust them all.”

This is getting way out of hand. “Rodney, unless you’re planning on jumping me on Teyla’s dinner table, which I suspect she’d object to strongly, I think we can probably keep our relationship secret for a couple of hours while we have dinner with some friends.” Dinner with a friend who came much closer to dying than John likes to think about, who he needs to see with his own eyes.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Rodney says, which is a problem since he doesn’t *know* how he’s looking at Rodney. “I’m thinking of your career here. One of us has to.”

John knows this already, has had it explained to him more times than he can count, including once just after he got back, when Rodney agreed to a blind date with a friend of one of his colleagues. John gets the point of that, but he’d really rather not relive the argument.

“Just don’t mention that I like your dick in my ass,” he says sweetly, “And we’ll be fine.”

*

They are fine – no-one appears to notice that Rodney and John are an undefined something-more-than-room-mates, Halling cooks, to everyone but Teyla’s relief, Jinto grins the whole time, and Ronon, even still obviously recuperating, looks healthy and whole. They take a cab home, too buzzed to drive, and fall into bed to fuck all night.

It’s the last really good night John will have for a while.



Part 2

Part 3
Sunday, January 6th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
This is so fantastic. ::flails::
Sunday, January 6th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Sunday, January 6th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
And when you made Oberoth the CIA director? ::shivers:: I was all "of course!!!"

God, if Oberoth was the head of the CIA, I would be living in Brazil or something right now. ::shivers again::
Sunday, January 6th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
It's a scary thought, isn't it? On the other hand, he's totally the kind of person who'd orchestrate something like that.
Saturday, December 13th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed your story. :)
Sunday, December 14th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Sunday, December 14th, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, I've so thoroughly enjoyed this first part! This story is like a big juicy burger that you want to gobble, yet also slow down and savor to make it last all day.

Interesting AU, good pacing, characterisation, voice, plot all wrapped up in a bow. Very nice!

Now on to the second chapter as my reward for paperwork.
Sunday, December 14th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you!