kageygirl

Atlantis slash

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Atlantis kageygirl

Undertow

Title: Undertow

Author: kageygirl

E-mail: kageygirl@gmail.com

URL: http://www.kageygirl.com

Feedback: LiveJournal

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Pairing: McKay/Sheppard

Rating: PG

Beta: Thanks to Leah (maching_monkey) for beta-whapping.

Summary: "You're lost, aren't you?" Even up close and personal, Rodney's not afraid to be gleefully scathing. "Utterly and completely lost."

A/N: Written for the sga_flashfic "Swimming/Water" Challenge.

If John smiles, Rodney's probably going to kill him.

He might also get a mouthful of the pretty grungy-looking water that's streaming into this big cistern from those drains up there, but it's mostly the risk of getting killed by Rodney that's keeping John on his best behavior. When they were back in the tunnels, it was fairly dark, but now there's sunlight filtering down from above, and Rodney can see him a lot better here.

And since the water they've been slogging through comes up to their chests, it wouldn't take all that much effort for Rodney to just drown him, so John's decided that "not smiling" is really the safest course of action.

Though he might not be pulling it off that well, judging by the looks he's been getting. Every time he's looked back at Rodney, Rodney's been glaring at him anyway. Even in the near-dark of the tunnels, he could tell, because Rodney doesn't just glare with his eyes—he gives off a whole-body aura of irritation, and John can feel it like he can feel Rodney's body heat soaking into the water around him.

Like he can feel Rodney's fingers wrapped around his wrist, feel Rodney's wrist under his own fingers. They're gripping each other to keep them both on their feet, and to avoid being swept apart by the unpredictable currents.

It's close enough to holding hands that one of them should making a joke about it, but John's just trying to avoid the drowning thing, and Rodney's—well, he's pretty unhappy.

He's still doing all that glaring.

Which is not helping, because even glaring, a soaked and bedraggled McKay is weirdly kind of cute. And John may know better than to say that out loud, but apparently even thinking it is getting him into trouble, so he'd better just focus on the problem at hand, now.

Aqueducts. More specifically, getting out of the damn aqueducts before most of his skin get permanently wrinkled. That's just not all that attractive.

And before the angry townspeople find them. Okay, make that problems, plural.

Oh, and also before Rodney figures out that with several different tunnels leading out of here, John isn't entirely, one-hundred-percent sure which direction they should be—

"Major, wait." The hand on his wrist tightens suddenly, and John stops moving forward, thinking Rodney's in trouble. He turns, but no, Rodney's just planted his feet, and he's giving John a narrow-eyed look.

John has to lean in to talk to Rodney without shouting, because all the rushing water's making a pretty good racket. Shouting could be bad, what with the angry townspeople and all.

He probably doesn't have to lean that far in, but they're both soaked and the water's uncomfortably cool and he'll take what little good he can get out of this. So he gets to brush his cheek against Rodney's on the way to his ear, and he can pretend it was an accident if he has to. "What is it, McKay?"

"You're lost, aren't you?" Gee, even up close and personal, Rodney's not afraid to be gleefully scathing. "Utterly and completely lost."

John pulls back a little, enough to see the look of cheerful exasperation on Rodney's face. "I'm not—lost. I'm just considering our options before moving on."

"Why can't you just admit it? You've got no idea which way to go." Oh, Jesus, now Rodney's giving him that really smug smile, which from up close is… damn. Still way more interesting than it has any right to be.

"I'm not lost, Rodney."

"I'm sorry, my mistake." Rodney gestures up and around with his free hand. "Fumbling around in an alien sewer system is just your idea of an interesting excursion."

John blinks. "You think they're sewers?" Okay, that makes the whole thing a lot more disgusting than he wanted to think about. "I thought they were storm drains." Especially with all the vegetation, the run-off from the mountains…

Rodney snorts. "I think they're dark and wet and beyond that, I don't really feel the need to contemplate them further."

"You know, you weren't really coming up with any better ideas."

"Than getting lost in the sewers?" Rodney gives him a disbelieving laugh, but John can tell that he's actually a little less pissed than he was when he was glaring. "If I'd known that was the extent of your plan, I certainly wouldn't have followed you down here."

Getting to vent every now and then helps keep Rodney on an even keel, and John's usually up for it, but right now the 'lost' thing is starting to bug him, on top of 'underground' and 'nearly submerged.' "For the last time, we are not—"

"You're just constitutionally incapable of admitting it, aren't you? What the hell do you think is going to happen if you admit that you're lost?"

"Nothing!" John snaps, too harshly. Rodney's eyes widen a little, and he tilts his head while he looks at John.

And that's really the problem, right there.

Rodney might find it funny, but John can't afford the luxury of being lost. He has to have an answer, some kind of answer, all the time, because he's the team leader and the ranking military officer and if he doesn't make the call, there's nobody else who can. And nothing will get done. Nothing will ever get done, because his people will have lost faith in him.

And even if John makes the wrong call, he still has to make it. Because he pulled the trigger, and now he's the guy. And the orders he's disobeyed in the past are nothing when counted next to all the ones he's followed, and he knows that sometimes, trusting your CO is the only thing that gets you through the day, and not just physically.

But John can't dump all that shit on Rodney just now, even when Rodney's standing so close and feels closer. Can't dump it on anyone, actually, unless and until they get back in touch with Earth. So he packs it back away and smiles thinly at Rodney, and says, "Nothing's gonna happen. Because I'm not lost."

"Oh, please," Rodney says, and he lets go of John's wrist in order to grab his vest with both hands, hauling him in close, and—whoa.

Rodney's breath is falling on John's face, close enough to kiss him. And this is not something John really thought would happen between them if he weren't in the lead, if he's being perfectly honest. Not that Rodney's not the kind of guy who'd take direct action; Rodney just—gets bogged down in the details, sometimes. And he needs a little push to get with the program.

But now that Rodney's pulled him in close, John can see that the water's made his eyelashes all wet and spiky, and there's a superior gleam in his eyes, and he's…

… pulling the life signs detector out of John's vest.

Right.

Okay.

Problem at hand.

John swipes a wrist over his forehead, not so much because he thinks he'll get the water off with an equally wet sleeve, but because it keeps Rodney from seeing his face for a couple of seconds, while John gets out of his own head. It also gives him something to do while Rodney waves the detector around, waiting for it to settle into its pattern of little glowing dots.

"Okay, so, big bunch of people—that way?" Rodney points a finger, and John's kind of relieved that it's roughly in the opposite direction from the way they were already headed. "Means we go this way." And Rodney starts trudging past John, towards the tunnel John was—probably—going to head for anyway, but not without a little smirk at his own cleverness.

John stifles a sigh and turns to follow Rodney. "I said we weren't lost," he mutters, and it comes out sullenly enough that he's glad Rodney won't hear it over the noise. Rodney looks back at him suddenly, and John quickly lifts his head, trying for a neutral expression.

"Major?" Rodney reaches back for him, and John lifts his arm, so that they can clasp each other's wrists again.

Instead, though, Rodney actually takes his hand. John raises his eyebrows, but when Rodney tugs him gently forward, he doesn't resist.

"Why don't I take the lead, just this once?" Rodney asks, and John starts to squint at him. But Rodney squeezes his hand, and leans in close, closer than he needs to. His lips brush against John's cheek, and he says lightly, "Don't worry. I won't tell anyone."

John sucks in a sharp breath, but when Rodney leans away, he's got a look on his face—yeah, it's a little bit teasing. But it's mostly serious, and kind of worried, and just—shit. Damn it, John shouldn't have snapped at him earlier. When Rodney's got nothing else to occupy his brain, John's supposed to watch himself better than that, because Rodney's too damn perceptive when he wants to be, even if he'll deny it all the way.

And now John's taking too long to answer him. Rodney straightens up and lifts his chin, and the look of concern is gone so completely that John might have almost imagined it. But Rodney squeezes his hand again and says, "Come on, Major. I promise to protect your fine upstanding military reputation."

John finally shakes his head, gives him a shrug, and squeezes back. He has to clear his throat before he says anything, and Rodney pretends not to notice. "Yeah, okay. Lead on, McKay."

Rodney rolls his eyes. "Oh, how terribly droll. No one's ever made that joke before," he says, and John doesn't point out that it's a misquote, anyway.

But Rodney holds his hand, and leads them through shallowing water, until they hit a grate where the water pours out into a bright sunlit culvert.

John radios Teyla and Ford, who'd been elsewhere in the city and taken the overland route when things got hairy, and they show up with C4 to blow the grate (helpful) and matching grins at his and Rodney's waterlogged state (not so much).

On the way back to the Jumper, John sends Ford and Teyla ahead on point, mostly because he gets the impression that they're trying not to laugh at how pitiful he and Rodney look. John keeps shooting Rodney glances, and he can't quite stop himself, but Rodney's acting like nothing happened back there.

Which, it didn't, really, so… there's nothing to worry about.

Rodney finally catches the tail end of one of those looks. Crossing his arms over his chest as they hike, he asks, "So, what was it—you saw Star Wars too many times as a kid?"

John raises his eyebrows, and Rodney waves back at the way they came. "Garbage chute?"

"Oh." John shakes his head. "No, Stalag 17. William Holden in the water tower."

"Except—not really a tower."

"Not so much, no." John shrugs. "I was improvising."

"Mmm. Good movie, though."

"I thought so."

Rodney bumps his shoulder in passing, and John looks over to see Rodney giving him a steady look. Rodney brushes his knuckles across the back of John's hand, then folds his arms again and looks away. "Although I could really do without the water in my boots, personally."

"Yeah, that's a bitch," John says, and he smiles to himself, and bumps Rodney's shoulder in return.