kageygirl

Atlantis slash

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Atlantis kageygirl

Verb, Transitive

Title: Verb, Transitive

Author: kageygirl

E-mail: kageygirl@gmail.com

URL: http://www.kageygirl.com

Feedback: LiveJournal

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Pairing: McKay/Sheppard

Rating: NC-17 (just a smidge)

Feedback: Please and thank you.

Sequel to: None. (maching_monkey's convinced that it's a sequel/companion piece to Vigil, which has big spoilers for "Before I Sleep." This one stands alone, and I didn't write it or intend it to be a sequel, but there's nothing precluding it from being so. I leave it up to the reader to decide. *g*)

Beta: Innumerable thanks to maching_monkey, may her tail ever curl, for not letting me take the easy way out. Like, ever. On anything, dammit. Thank you also to wickdzoot, for her encouragement, perspective, and willingness to listen to me whine, then beat the tar out of me. g

Disclaimer: Have they been to the planet where the wearing of clothing is punishable by death? No? Then they ain't mine. No money being made here (though if the producers wanted to run with the "clothing=death" idea, I hereby cede all rights to it).

A/N : This was inspired by a typo I ran across (lose/loose). And then it took on a life of its own. *g*

Summary: "There was no way he could loose Rodney."

From Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, c1987.

Main Entry: loose

Function: verb

Inflected Form(s): loosed; loos·ing

transitive senses

1 a : to let loose : RELEASE
b : to free from restraint
2 : to make loose : UNTIE (loose a knot)
3 : to cast loose : DETACH
4 : to let fly : DISCHARGE
5 : to make less rigid, tight, or strict : RELAX

"There was no way he could loose Rodney."

1 a : to let loose : RELEASE

John barely noticed the heavy thunking of the mechanism as the guards locked the cell door again behind him. He was more concerned with how Rodney was holding up, though he tried not to let it show. Instead, John folded his arms, easing himself into a casual lean against the wall by the door.

Rodney was pacing slowly back and forth, with an air of sullen restraint that John didn't like at all. A passive Rodney was a Rodney who was giving up—conjuring doomsday scenarios because he couldn't stop thinking, even when he couldn't do anything else. John preferred Rodney pissed and vocal, fighting back and not giving an inch. He decided not to waste any time on pleasantries. "There's nothing I can do, Rodney. I can't get you out of here."

Rodney paused in his tracks, pulling his gaze away from the whitewashed walls of the little cell and looking at John sharply. "What? Oh, you can't be serious."

John looked him in the eye. "I'm completely serious. Under no circumstances will they negotiate with me for your release." He kept his face carefully neutral, watching Rodney closely.

Rodney was looking less annoyed now and more anxious, rubbing his thumb distractedly over the pads of his fingers. "Well—you're going to break me out, then, right? Some kind of military extraction?" He lowered his voice. "Ford's planning to blow the cell door, and you're here to tell me when to be ready."

"Nope." John gave him a brisk headshake. "Dr. Weir doesn't want to antagonize these people. They've been perfectly friendly otherwise, and we're kind of short on friends lately." He winced a little, shifting his shoulders against the wall. The unfamiliar bulge under the front of his vest was poking him in the chest.

Rodney opened his mouth, then snapped it shut and looked away. "So you're just going to leave me here, for the sake of interplanetary relations?" He folded his arms and took a deep breath. "This is completely ridiculous—I'm far too valuable to be just a… a pawn, thrown to the wolves for the sake of diplomacy."

There was a touch of desperation in his voice, as if, despite what he'd said, some part of Rodney really believed that they'd just abandon him. John coughed into his hand, and Rodney looked back at him, narrowing his eyes.

"Wait, hold on a minute." Rodney walked over to stare at John up close. "You're remarkably composed about this turn of events, Major. You could show just a little bit of regret about my impending loss."

Busted. Rodney was just getting more pissed and worked up and suspicious by the second, and John couldn't take it any more. "They won't negotiate with me." He grinned at Rodney. "They will, however, negotiate with Teyla. Since they know her better and all."

Rodney shook his head, completely disgusted, and John was pretty damn proud of that. Getting Rodney irritated with him was a good way to keep him distracted from his incarceration—not to mention staving off his claustrophobia. This cell wasn't that big, after all.

Not that John spent a lot of time thinking about that kind of thing. Thinking about Rodney things.

Things like the fact that Rodney glaring at him that way gave him such a crazy sense of satisfaction.

"You think that was funny," Rodney said.

John nodded, still smiling. "I have to admit, I really do."

Rodney's face cleared, and he walked away from John. "It's safer this way, anyway." His voice was oh-so-casual. "Teyla's a lot better at diplomacy than you are."

"She certainly is." Hell, it was true, so he could let Rodney have that point. John uncrossed his arms, careful not to jostle the package tucked into his vest, and put his hands on his hips. "For example, she would never point out that someone who's under arrest for being a Peeping Tom shouldn't really be insulting anyone else's people skills."

Rodney spun around, spreading his hands in an exaggerated shrug. "Explain to me how I was supposed to know that they would take such a dim view of scanning for energy readings."

"Maybe next time you'll be more discreet," John said coyly. He smirked at Rodney's impatient scowl. Rodney had, after all, just been doing exactly what he was supposed to do, what he always did on a new planet. "Anyway, Teyla's talking to their council. Getting you released is pretty much a formality, but apparently their bureaucracy is very—complex. So it could take a while. That's the bad news."

Rodney snorted as he sat on the narrow bunk. "What's the good news?"

John shrugged, as if it should be obvious. "They're letting me keep you company in the meantime."

Rodney gave him a skeptical look—one of his better ones, actually—and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands in front of him. "That's the good news?"

John lifted his chin as he looked down at Rodney. "I can leave, you know."

As if he hadn't spoken, Rodney went on. "I think that qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment, actually." Rodney tilted his head and gave John an evaluating glance, his tone light and dismissive.

Yeah, Rodney was definitely going to be all right. John deliberately didn't smile, giving him a solicitous nod in return. "Okay, then. I'm just going to take my sandwiches and go." He patted his vest as he turned away, making the paper rustle.

"Wait, wait, wait." John looked back to see Rodney sitting up straight. "Sandwiches?"

John raised his eyebrows innocently. "Didn't I mention that?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "No, it must have slipped your mind. I'm sure I would have remembered that."

John grinned in triumph. "They let me bring you a snack."

"That's… surprisingly enlightened of them." Rodney looked up at John and gave him that odd smile, part shy and part condescending amusement. "I suppose I can put up with you until Teyla arranges my release." He scooted over on the bunk, and John didn't think too much about how the invitation cheered him up all out of proportion to the gesture.

He settled in next to Rodney as he pulled out the sandwiches. "Your generosity in the face of adversity is an inspiration to us all, McKay."

Nope, no time at all spent thinking about Rodney things. Like the fact that Rodney hadn't moved away when John bumped his knee against Rodney's just now. Or the fact that Rodney's knee was nice and warm, so John left his leg right where it was, resting against Rodney's.

He smiled over at Rodney, and passed him a turkey sandwich.

Bad at diplomacy, his ass. John just had a narrower focus than most.

~~~

1 b : to free from restraint

"Major. Please, let me go. You have to let me go." Rodney looked so very reasonable, and a little bit scared. John felt like something inside him was being shredded. But he had to shake his head.

"I'm sorry, Rodney. I can't do that." John clenched his hands into fists where they were folded under his arms, as he stood looking down at Rodney. He was leaning so heavily against the side of Rodney's infirmary bed that the raised edge dug into his hip.

John didn't want to think about what it said about the history of the SGC that the doctors going on the Atlantis expedition had actually thought to bring restraints with them. But seeing them used was worse. Watching Rodney thrash against the padded leather cuffs, earlier, trying desperately to escape the phantoms in his head, it became clear to John that today's events were completely unaffected by what he wanted.

Rodney looked up at him with wide eyes. "Please, Major. It's really—it's not safe here." He stretched out a hand to John, and was brought up far short by the cuff around his wrist. His fingers curled spasmodically around empty air. "We have to get out of here."

Rodney's hands were so expressive, and now they were just as compromised as his formidable intellect. John made himself look away, made himself look into Rodney's eyes, though that was even worse. Rodney should never have had to look so confused and abandoned. So betrayed. "Rodney, there's nothing out there. It's all in your head, I swear." John had to clear his throat, and it hurt.

"No, that's not—John." Rodney shook his head against the pillow. His hair was damp with sweat, curling a little at the ends. "They're making you think that. We have to—why won't you listen to me?" He sounded so tired, like he was at the end of his endurance.

Like he'd run out of hope, but he kept going anyway.

John found himself reaching out to grip Rodney's shoulder. He didn't try to stop himself; he couldn't even pretend he wanted to. "Rodney. I'm sorry. God, I am so sorry." Now his own fingers were curling, twisting into the thin fabric of the scrub top they'd changed Rodney into. He felt the tremors quaking through Rodney's muscles—another side effect, maybe? Or maybe Rodney had just finally worn himself out. "It's not real. Do you hear me? It's not real."

Rodney's eyes were glassy, but he stared at John in burning desperation. "John, for god's sake—we've got to go! They're coming."

John was glad that Beckett and his staff had left. Beckett had told him that there was nothing more they could do for Rodney, except keep watch and wait for him to come out of it. Hope that he came out of it. John didn't know why he was the only one Rodney seemed to actually see, to listen to at all. But John couldn't have left him like this, regardless. "No, Rodney, they're not. No one is. It's just—it's just paranoia." John took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "You're having a bad reaction to the coolant spill in the southwest tower." He forced his fingers to relax and flattened his palm against Rodney's collarbone. His thumb brushed against Rodney's neck, and he could feel what the monitors were already telling him—Rodney's heart was pounding. "Beckett said it'll go away, but you've got to calm down."

Maybe John was glad the medical team had left because he didn't want them to see Rodney like this. Maybe he hadn't wanted Carson to see John himself like this, either, because he felt like he was the one in danger of shaking apart.

Rodney tried to reach out for him again. The thin metallic clink as the strap reached its full extension was very loud in the quiet infirmary. "Calm down? John, they're coming. We have to get away before they get here."

John knew that this wasn't his fault. He believed that. He and Teyla and Ford had been exploring a different floor. There was nothing they could have done to prevent the accident—it was just a fluke that the containment system in the lab had failed then, and Zelenka and Grodin had agreed that nothing the science team had done was responsible for it. Even Ancient technology just malfunctioned, every now and then. What John was feeling wasn't guilt. But he regretted not having been there, nevertheless, as absurd as that was.

He wanted to reassure Rodney, keep him still, but he couldn't bring himself to press down on Rodney's collarbone. He couldn't stand to confine Rodney any more than he already was, even a little bit. He settled for running his thumb across the strip of skin exposed at Rodney's throat. "Rodney. Rodney, listen to me. There's nothing out there. And you have to calm down, okay? Beckett said he can't give you anything, because it could react badly with that—whatever it is, while it's still in your system. But you have to calm down. He's really worried about your blood pressure."

Rodney seemed to be listening, but it was like he couldn't process what John was saying. "We don't have time for this! John, they're coming. We can't be here." He focused on John suddenly, and he started taking shallow, rapid breaths, almost hyperventilating. "You can't be here. I can't watch what they're going to do to you. We have to go. Now."

Rodney's hand started twitching, in a pale imitation of his usual unconscious gestures, and it was just too damn much for John. He wrapped his free hand around Rodney's, palm to palm, fingers clasped around the base of Rodney's thumb.

It was hard to say whose hands were sweating more.

"Okay, Rodney. It's okay. Just tell me who's coming." He squeezed Rodney's hand, and Rodney, thank god, Rodney squeezed back.

Rodney blinked up at him. Something in his eyes cleared a little, and he really seemed to be tracking John this time. He frowned in concentration. "What?"

John leaned over the bed, so that Rodney wouldn't have to strain so much to look at him. He spoke gently. "Just tell me. Who's coming? We can handle them together, but I need to know—who's coming?"

"I don't…" Rodney shook his head again, but now he seemed less frustrated than confused. "John, you know, we have to—"

"Shh, Rodney. It's okay." John slid his hand from Rodney's collarbone to his neck. He felt Rodney's hair, damp and warm against his fingertips. "Who's after us?"

Rodney blinked rapidly. He licked his lips and swallowed hard. "I don't—I don't know. Them, it's—that's all I…"

"Okay. That's okay, Rodney." He stroked his thumb along Rodney's neck, under the ear and over the pulse point in a soothing rhythm. The physical contact seemed to be helping, though he couldn't be sure which of them it was grounding more. "How do you know they're coming?"

"I just, I know, okay?" But Rodney was losing his conviction. He looked so lost.

John smiled down at him, though it felt awkward and fragile. "All right, Rodney. Just think it through. How did you find out? When?"

"It was—it was when…" Rodney shut his eyes and turned his head into the pillow—into John's hand, so that John felt stubble scrape across the inside of his wrist. "God, I don't know…"

"It's okay, Rodney. You don't have to know." Some of the tightness was leaving John's chest. But his breathing still felt shaky, like it took actual concentration for him to do it. "It's not real, okay? You're safe, and you're fine, and I'm fine, and no one's coming after us." He grimaced a little, because he couldn't lie to Rodney, even like this, even a white lie. "Well, not right this second, anyway."

Rodney exhaled heavily, and it tickled across the inside of John's forearm. He opened his eyes and stared up at John's face. "Are you sure?"

John nodded. His neck twinged sharply, and that was how he realized how tense he was. "Yeah, Rodney. I'm sure. It's all right."

Rodney's eyelids fluttered, and he moved restlessly, making the restraints clink in sequence. "God, I can't—I can't think…"

"That's got to be pretty scary for you." John shook Rodney's hand back and forth a little. Rodney was holding on like John was keeping him anchored, not captive. Thank god. "It's all right, Rodney. We're just going to stay here for a little bit, okay? Just a little while longer."

Rodney's hand tightened, almost painfully. "Are you staying?"

For just a second, Rodney seemed like himself—almost incredulous, almost self-conscious, but only if you looked really closely. John felt relief flash over him, shockingly strong, making his breath catch. He grinned at Rodney, for still being Rodney, and at himself, because, dammit, he wanted Rodney to be snarky and arrogant and blithely condescending again. Because he wanted Rodney back the way he should be.

He reached up and brushed Rodney's sweaty hair away from his forehead. He felt dangerously sentimental, but the hell with it—there was no one else around to see him. And he was wrung out, strung out with concern and fear, just plain tired of denying it. Resisting was about as useful as—as trying to run from something he couldn't see.

"Of course I am." He could feel his grin shifting, sliding into something softer. "Where else would I be?"

~~~

3 : to cast loose : DETACH

"Not gonna happen, McKay."

Rodney paused in the middle of rooting around in his backpack to send John a condescending look. "Major, I assure you, I'm perfectly capable of inspecting the hydrodynamic plant without a chaperone."

"I'm aware of that." John had been scanning the streets around them, but he paused to smirk at Rodney. Bright sunshine illuminated the plaza before them, though it didn't cut into the patch of shade they'd found. John leaned his shoulder against the wall of the Barendel municipal building and allowed himself to appreciate Rodney's short-sleeved shirt—distantly, because they were on a mission, after all. "But there's something a little hinky going on around here, and I don't want anyone going off on their own."

Standing up, Rodney slung his backpack over one shoulder and clipped it to his tac vest. "Define 'hinky.'"

"Strange. Unusual. Suspicious." John stepped forward and helped Rodney with the other clip, which had gotten twisted around. He gave Rodney a little pat on the shoulder as he stepped back. "I'm getting a weird vibe from these people, and until I know why, we're on the buddy system."

"A weird vibe."

"Yes."

"The buddy system."

"Yeah."

Rodney looked at him with pity, as if to say how sorry he was about John's debilitating brain damage. "And you're my… buddy." Rolling his eyes—which was really a complicated motion, involving all of his features—Rodney pulled his scanner out of his vest and started fiddling with it.

"I am." John nodded seriously, then raised his eyebrows. "That is, unless you wanted to go with Ford and Teyla to visit those greenhouses. I'm sure they'd love for us to join them…"

A look of distaste crossed Rodney's face. "Oh, right. Because vegetables are so fascinating."

"I thought you'd see things my way."

Rodney heaved a sigh of deep suffering. "Don't let it go to your head, Major. You're only marginally more interesting than a rutabaga."

"I'm touched. Flattered." John grinned, and tipped his head in the direction of the river. "Now, let's get this field trip on the road."

Rodney shook his head and stepped away from the building. John fell in beside him as they headed across the plaza. Rodney squinted against the sunlight. "The buddy system. You're certifiable, do you realize that?"

Maybe so, but since he'd ended up partnering himself with Rodney, John thought that certifiable was working pretty well for him, thank you. He slipped his sunglasses on and shot Rodney a sidelong glance. "Keep it up and I'll make you hold my hand."

~~~

4 : to let fly : DISCHARGE

Teyla and Ford had quickly made themselves scarce, vacating the Jumper almost as soon as John set it down in the bay. John couldn't blame them; Rodney's icy fury had made John wonder if he'd have frostbite by the time they reached Atlantis.

On any given day, Rodney talked a lot. When he was upset, Rodney talked nonstop—often caustically, and in words of many syllables. John had come to rely on Rodney's running narrative as a barometer of his well-being. Rodney, coldly quiet… scared the hell out of John, made him wonder what he'd fucked up so badly, and whether it was beyond repair. But he was alive, Rodney was alive, they were all alive and unhurt, and in John's book, that meant that everything else was fixable.

John stepped carefully past Rodney, who was shoving things around in his backpack with furious impatience. Lingering in the back of the Jumper, John occupied himself checking supplies that didn't need to be checked, until Rodney stood up and tried to exit past him.

"Rodney. Rodney." John placed a hand on Rodney's shoulder. Which turned out to be a mistake.

In one motion, Rodney dropped his backpack, grabbed the front of John's vest, and slammed him against the bulkhead. John's head smacked into the metal wall, and the impact rattled him almost as much as Rodney's rage.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Stunned, John could only stare as Rodney practically snarled at him, his voice tight and rough and harsh. "Do you have any idea how unbelievably idiotic that was?"

The mission. This was about the mission. John gave him a smile, carefully carefree, ignoring the pain in his head. "It worked, didn't it?"

Fuck, the smile was not going to work this time. Rodney tightened his grip on John's vest, shaking him. "That's not the point!"

"I think that's entirely the point." John could feel his eyes narrowing—it wasn't as if he'd had the best day, either, but Rodney's anger had come from nowhere. "We all made it out in one piece."

"Through sheer blind, stupid luck!" Rodney shoved him against the bulkhead again, knuckles digging into John's chest. "By all rights, you should be dead. We should have had to carry your body back through the Stargate. I should be explaining to Elizabeth how you used yourself as bait for the most facile, simplistic trap ever conceived and got yourself killed!"

Rodney's voice wavered on the last word, and occurred to John that there might be something more going on than just anger.

Rodney let go and pushed himself away from John, breathing hard. John met Rodney's eyes steadily, trying not to antagonize him further. His head was still throbbing. "But that didn't happen."

"This time! What about next time?" Rodney started clenching and unclenching one fist, as if he were thinking of taking a swing at John. John watched Rodney's face, because Rodney couldn't hide anything when he was upset. "What happens the next time you get it into your head to do something so, so—idiotically heroic, and fortune decides not to smile on you?" Rodney stepped forward again, though he could hardly get much closer than he already was. "What the fuck am I supposed to do then?"

It was all written on Rodney's face: fierce anger, bitter contempt, and—god, stark fear. That fear made John's stomach lurch in sympathy. He put his hands on Rodney's shoulders, feeling the tension in him, trembling along his muscles. "Rodney! It's fine. See? Fine. Standing right here. We're okay."

He was half-afraid Rodney would shrug him off again, but Rodney just grabbed the front of John's vest again and gave him another hard shake. "Okay? You scared the hell out of me!"

John blinked Rodney back into focus. Damn, he was solid. John realized that if Rodney really did hit him, it was going to hurt like hell. "I'm sorry."

Rodney scowled at him, ramming John back against the bulkhead. "Is that supposed to make me feel better? Your 'plan' was the military equivalent of 'hey, look over here!'"

"Jesus—cut it out, will you?" John took a deep breath. He needed to calm Rodney down—he'd never seen him like this before, and it was badly disturbing John's sense of balance. Not to mention making his head throb. "Rodney, look, I wasn't trying to scare you. I mean, you've been in a lot more danger than that ambush today—"

Rodney cut him off sharply. "I'm not talking about that! I'm talking about your cavalier attitude towards your own life." He glared at John, yanking him forward and shoving him back into the bulkhead again. "You were practically begging them to kill you, you idiot!"

John felt his eyes go wide, and he sucked in air, trying to control his suddenly unsteady breathing.

He'd scared Rodney so damn badly that Rodney was pissed as hell at him. But John hadn't put Rodney's life in jeopardy.

Just his own.

Something bloomed in his chest, hard, bright, making him almost giddy. He had to fight down an urge to hug Rodney. Because John felt so bad about scaring him. Because Rodney had been so damn scared, for John. He flattened his palms against Rodney's shoulders to control it.

Right now, if he tried to hug Rodney, he'd probably end up with a cracked skull. Assuming that it wasn't already.

He settled for sliding his hands down to Rodney's biceps, squeezing lightly. "Look—I don't have a death wish, Rodney, I swear. I just…"

Rodney stared hard at him, eyes narrowed. "What? What could possibly explain your utter disregard for your own safety?"

John shrugged—awkwardly, because Rodney was still holding his vest. John thought they must have made quite the tableau—too tense to get closer than arm's length, and too keyed up to let go. And wasn't that kind of a stupid stalemate?

John made a decision and dropped his hands to his sides, trying to make his body language as noncombative as possible. He dropped his guard, too, just letting himself look at Rodney, the way he looked at him when Rodney's attention was elsewhere. The way he looked at him whenever he'd seen Rodney asleep.

It shouldn't have been that difficult. It was only fair, because Rodney was always so open with him. But it still burned, leaving him feeling raw and exposed. He swallowed hard, but his voice came out thickly anyway. "You guys are more important."

Rodney shook his head in confusion. "What?"

John couldn't maintain eye contact, and he felt guilty even as he dropped his gaze to somewhere in the middle of Rodney's chest. "You, Ford, Teyla." He spoke quietly, and Rodney leaned in a little to hear him better. "You guys are more important. I had to get you all out safely."

Rodney shook John's vest again, gently, no more than nudging John in the chest. "Major." John looked up again, meeting Rodney's eyes, because not doing it seemed ridiculously petulant.

"That's not going to work for me." Rodney was looking at him seriously. There was such finality in his expression that John felt his heart sink.

Shit, maybe he'd been mistaken. Maybe he really had fucked up too badly to fix it. Maybe Rodney had decided that John was a bad risk, and that he wasn't willing to go through again what he'd gone through today. Maybe he wanted to quit the team. "Rodney?"

Rodney shook his head, never breaking eye contact, and his hands held John utterly still. "I said, that's not going to work for me. I can't accept that." He frowned at John again. "Our safety is not more important than yours, okay?"

John took a shaky breath. The moment still felt delicate and precarious, but he risked reaching out to wrap his fingers around Rodney's wrists. "It is to me."

Rodney squeezed his eyes tightly shut. When he opened them, he glared at John, but without the ugly potential violence of earlier. "Well, you're just—wrong." There was something complicated going on behind that expression, but he relaxed his hands, placing his palms against John's chest.

Rodney was looking at him like he was both infinitely precious and the biggest moron in the galaxy. And like both of those facts were making him seriously uncomfortable. The intensity of it was unsettling John, too, and he tried to deflect it. "Wait a minute, Rodney. I didn't just hear you say you're not the most important person in the room, did I?"

Rodney was instantly tense again, and John realized his anger wasn't entirely gone. "Just—just stop it, okay? Stop being so damn glib." He gave John another shake. "We almost lost you out there, and I'm having a really hard time dealing with that right now."

"I know." John nodded soberly. "I really am sorry about that."

"Good. That's good." And Rodney pulled him into a hug, hard, arms tight across John's back.

John felt Rodney shaking a little with something he was clearly trying to suppress. He wrapped his arms around Rodney's waist and closed his eyes, pressing his mouth against Rodney's shoulder and breathing through his nose. Just feeling the moment, letting it soothe the tightness still lodged in his chest.

Rodney turned his head and muttered into John's ear, "If you ever—I mean ever—do something like that again? Whether you're dead or not, I'm going to kick your ass. No, better yet, I'll have Teyla do it."

John chuckled, though it might have been faint with relief. "Deal."

Rodney finally pushed him away, stiffly but not harshly, and bent to pick up his backpack. He spoke without looking at John. "We'd better go see Elizabeth, before she sends out the dogs after us. Or the Marines—she actually has Marines, so that's more of a danger, I'd say."

John put a hand on Rodney's shoulder as he straightened—gently, because his head was still aching from what had happened the last time he tried that. "Rodney?"

Rodney glanced at him, reluctantly, with something like embarrassment. "What?"

John clenched his fingers, gripping the fabric of Rodney's shirt tightly. "You scare me, too, sometimes."

~~~

2 : to make loose : UNTIE (loose a knot)

John lounged in the doorway to Rodney's lab, watching him stare intently at his laptop. He had a good view of the side of Rodney's face from this angle, and the succession and variety of disgusted expressions Rodney was making were almost comical.

Ordinarily, John kind of liked watching Rodney without interruption. But he'd been here for several minutes already, and he wasn't even sure Rodney had noticed him. Which meant whatever Rodney was working on had him really absorbed. Rodney, John had figured out, wasn't actually oblivious to his surroundings when he was concentrating. On the contrary, he noticed a lot. He just dismissed most of it as irrelevant input if it wasn't immediately useful.

Rodney not having noticed him bothered John a little. John was feeling honest enough that he could admit—to himself, anyway—that he really, really liked it when Rodney noticed him. Particularly since John spent so much time noticing Rodney. Oh, hell—he tried to make Rodney notice him. Sometimes. Most of the time.

Okay, whenever they were in the same room. And often when they weren't, as long as Rodney was in his line of sight.

John lifted his chin and spoke loudly enough to retrieve Rodney from whatever problem he'd mired himself in. "All right, McKay. Time for you to go out and play with the other boys and girls."

Rodney started, raising his head sharply before turning towards John. He stopped suddenly, gripping the back of his neck with one hand and wincing. "Oh—ow, ow, ow. Yeah, that's pain."

John frowned as he walked into the lab, weaving around the tables and workbenches. "What the hell did you do to yourself?"

"Nothing interesting, I assure you." Rodney gingerly sat up straight, grimacing as he spun his seat to follow John without moving his head too much. "I've just spent far too many hours trying to decipher the reports from the science section heads. Some of them bear only a passing resemblance to English—regardless of the author's native language." He started to shake his head, and sucked in a pained breath. "Ow."

John crossed his arms as he regarded Rodney. The surge of affection he felt was treacherously addictive.

He hoped he never got used to it.

Putting on a stern expression, he said, "That's it. You're done here."

"What?" Rodney blinked, then dismissed John with an imperious little wave. "Don't be ridiculous. I have an incredible amount of work to do."

"Not today." John reached across him and closed the laptop screen with a gentle click. Not without glancing at the screen to make sure Rodney had saved his work, mind you, but he wasn't going to tell Rodney that, since it sort of undermined his decisive gesture.

Rodney stared at him in a kind of appalled astonishment. "My god. I knew you had control issues, but I had no concept of the magnitude of your megalomania."

John smirked at him. "You're right, Rodney. It's terrible how I keep trying to stop you from working yourself into an early grave."

He placed a hand on the back of Rodney's chair and spun him around again, so that he could settle his hands on Rodney's broad shoulders. He dug his thumbs into Rodney's trapezius muscles and listened as Rodney's breath hitched.

Rodney twitched his shoulders a little, as if he wanted to shrug John's hands off but couldn't quite commit to it. "What—what are you doing?"

John smiled down at the top of Rodney's head, because he couldn't help it. "Trying to loosen you up a little."

"Well, stop it." Rodney's voice wavered as John kneaded the base of his neck. "I'm better at being tense."

He certainly was—John felt his own shoulders stiffening in sympathy. Rodney had really managed to tie himself up; no wonder he looked pained. He had to have a hell of a headache. "Maybe it's time for you to grow as a person."

"Oh, please." Rodney's sarcasm was only half-hearted.

John leaned over to breathe cheerfully into Rodney's ear, "It's all right, you know. You can admit you're enjoying this." He smoothed his thumbs upward, making furrows in the muscles along Rodney's spine, and watched Rodney lift his head in response, almost against his will.

"I'm not. Not even a little. I'm just waiting for you to recognize the futility of your efforts and leave me alone."

Right. That's why Rodney was taking slow, deep breaths and unwinding under John's hands. "That's fine, Rodney. You do that. Whatever makes you happy."

Rodney made a noncommittal noise in his throat, which turned into a surprised little groan as John hit a particularly tight spot.

John liked that little groan. And he liked that, despite his objections, Rodney was letting him do this, was letting this moment of casual intimacy happen.

Something else that John had figured out about Rodney was that what Rodney did was a lot more important than what he said.

John worked his thumbs in under the base of Rodney's skull, and Rodney tipped his head forward, subtly leaning back into John's fingers at the same time.

The temptation was too great, and John gave in, pressing his lips against the nape of Rodney's neck, just below his hairline. Rodney went still, but John kept his hands moving, stroking the tension away.

"Whatever makes you happy, Rodney," he murmured, though his pulse was suddenly pounding in his ears. His fingertips tingled where they brushed against warm skin.

After a long moment, Rodney finally moved—back into John's hands, turning his head to give him a better angle. He sighed. "I'm not very good at happy, either." His voice was quiet, almost restrained.

"I know you're not, Rodney." John gentled his hands, just running them soothingly over Rodney's shoulders and down his arms, leaning into him from behind. He kissed the top of his head, letting Rodney's hair tickle his nose. John snuffled out a breath against his scalp, surprising a chuckle out of Rodney.

Rodney glanced up at him, and even from above, at a strange angle, John recognized it—it was his "What am I supposed to do with you, you freak?" look.

A look that, now that John thought about it, Rodney didn't give to anyone else. Considering how he'd been watching Rodney, he would have noticed.

Maybe John really was a freak, but he was pretty excited that he had his very own Rodney look.

John grinned down at Rodney, leaning in close to his ear again. He brushed his lips over Rodney's neck and was delighted to see Rodney shiver in response. "That's okay. I think that's a failing we can work around."

~~~

5 : to make less rigid, tight, or strict : RELAX

"—and then that triggered the cascading failures—" Rodney gestured pointedly with his left hand, the one John wasn't cradling in his lap.

John nodded his understanding. "One thing led to another?"

"Precisely. Now the whole thing's depolarized." Rodney rolled his eyes and dropped his free hand back onto his thigh in exasperation. "It'll take a week to discharge and realign all those relays, and that's after we repair the damage."

They were sitting together on Rodney's bed. John looked up from the bandage on the back of Rodney's hand. "That's how you got burned?"

"Mmm. Current arced off the control panel." Rodney lifted his hand away from John to stare at the bandage. "Which hurts just as much as you'd think it would, oddly enough."

John grinned at Rodney's expression—he seemed almost offended by his injury. "I'm just glad you're okay."

"Relatively speaking." Rodney rolled his wrist a little, wincing when he hit the apparent limits of his range of motion.

John took hold of Rodney's forearm to stop him. "Hey. It could have been a lot worse."

He'd been in the control room with Elizabeth, discussing something incredibly prosaic—Athosian crop yields on the mainland, that was it—when the lights had flickered. And Grodin had sat bolt upright, announcing that there'd been an explosion in one of the power control rooms.

And John had remembered Rodney talking about trying to reconfigure the power system to make more efficient use of the naquadah generators, based on some schematics they'd found in the Ancient database.

He'd just stared as Elizabeth crossed over to Grodin's console and demanded a report over the comm system. He knew, intellectually, that if it had been a naquadah generator that had blown, none of them would have been around to give or receive reports. But he still felt like someone had punched him in the chest. He'd wanted to haul ass down there himself, but he couldn't move. Couldn't do anything, except watch the taut line of Elizabeth's back as she waited with Grodin. John needed to hear someone, anyone, respond, and he couldn't risk missing it while he was en route.

And then Rodney had reported in, pissed as hell, but assuring them that there'd been only minor injuries. His tone had convinced John more than the words, because Rodney had been too vocally scathing to be seriously hurt. Elizabeth had bowed her head for a moment, before turning to look back at John. He had no idea what she'd seen on his face, but she just nodded when he told her he was heading to the infirmary to find out what had happened.

Like she wouldn't get full reports from everyone involved. John suspected she could read him like a book, sometimes. Beckett, too, since the doctor hadn't even blinked when John had shown up at Rodney's bedside, and his ubiquitous "get some rest" admonition had essentially been delivered to both of them, though Beckett had seemed to be addressing Rodney's medical chart at the time.

"Am I boring you?"

John glanced up from the bandage again to see Rodney looking at him a little oddly. "Sorry. What were you saying?"

"Nothing, actually. And neither were you, which is admittedly out of character for both of us." Rodney started to pull his arm away again, but John wouldn't let go.

Rodney opened his mouth, to protest or question him, probably. John cut him off by kissing him. It ended up a little wilder, a little more desperate than he'd intended, but Rodney just let him take the lead, rubbing John's chest soothingly.

When John pulled away, kind of embarrassed, Rodney hooked his fingers around John's shoulder, kneading the muscle with his fingertips. "What was that for?" His voice was quiet, not demanding, but John ducked his head to avoid looking him in the eye.

"For being here." John leaned in and nuzzled along Rodney's neck. Rodney smelled like sweat and ozone, and John opened his mouth to scrape his teeth over Rodney's skin. He closed his eyes to better taste Rodney, to feel the heat of Rodney's skin against his lips.

He heard Rodney sigh. "Mmm. I'll have to keep doing that."

"Yeah." John opened his eyes, then pushed Rodney flat on the bed with a hand on his chest, still holding onto Rodney's injured arm. He straddled Rodney's hips, and spent a moment just looking down at him.

Rodney smirked up at him and rolled his hips to knock John off balance. "You just going to stare at me?"

"Maybe," John said, but he couldn't help grinning back. He let go of Rodney's arm long enough to strip Rodney's shirt off, then pinned his arm gently to the bed. "Don't move."

Rodney lifted his head and narrowed his eyes at John. "Why not?"

"Beckett told you to get some rest," John murmured, leaning over him. He nipped Rodney's earlobe, and Rodney dropped his head back to the bed and chuckled.

"Somehow, I don't think he meant 'be more passive when you have sex.'" He ran his free hand up John's thigh.

John snorted as he remembered Beckett's studied boredom in the infirmary. "The hell he didn't." He snagged Rodney's wandering hand and pinned that one to the bed, too. "Rodney, would you just—do me a damn favor and promise not to move?"

Rodney gave him a hard look. John recognized that Rodney could throw him off pretty much whenever he wanted, and was just humoring John—but that it might not last long. "I'll ask again—why?"

"I just—" John let go of Rodney's arms and sat upright. "I just want to touch you. I need to touch you." He ran his hands up Rodney's chest, tangling his thumbs in Rodney's chest hair along the way. "I need to do this for you." He made himself meet Rodney's eyes, though it was difficult. He felt Rodney's chest rising and falling with his breathing, and that made him feel a little better. "So, can you promise to keep your hands to yourself?"

Rodney watched him for a long moment, then shook his head. "No."

"No?" John stilled his hands.

"No." Rodney propped himself up on his elbows, and John slid backwards, so that he was sitting on Rodney's thighs. "You need me to spell it out? Fine. I'm not into bondage games. No, I can't promise not to move. You drive me insane. I'd—" Rodney flopped back onto the bed with a tired sigh. "I'd have to touch you. You win, okay?" He covered his eyes with a forearm.

John frowned down at him. "It's not a contest, Rodney."

Rodney shifted his arm a little to look at John, but his eyes were left in shadow. "Isn't it? You want to watch me break."

John felt his eyes go wide as his whole body went motionless. "God, no. I'm just trying to make you feel good, Rodney. I just want you to—let go. To let me do this for you."

Rodney was still watching him darkly. "It's the same thing."

John just shook his head slowly, trying to find the words, but he had to force them past the hollow pit that had opened up somewhere inside him. "No, Rodney. It's not. I swear it's not."

John withdrew his hands and shifted his weight so that he could get off Rodney, but Rodney sat up suddenly, sliding his hands over John's hips to hold him in place. "John—wait."

John settled back down on his knees, in Rodney's lap. From this close, he could see the conflict playing out on Rodney's face, and in his eyes. He couldn't keep from tracing his fingers gently over Rodney's forehead, down his temple and across his cheek, under his jaw. Just to remind Rodney that John was there with him, for him. "What is it?"

Rodney pressed his lips together, breathing harshly through his nose. He lifted his chin in challenge. "Prove it. You say this isn't about control? Show me the difference."

God. Rodney was so damn brave, and he didn't even know it. And he was so smart, but he had this completely ass-backwards.

John had to kiss him, cupping his face and leaning forward to press himself right up against Rodney's bare chest, trusting Rodney's hands on his hips to keep them from overbalancing. It was artless and messy, but John had to connect to him, right fucking now. Rodney was making his chest hurt.

When John pulled back, he was breathing hard, and he shook his head, brushing his forehead against Rodney's. "It's not, Rodney. It's not about control. It never has been." He closed his eyes, laughing without sound, just a shuddering exhalation of air.

When he opened his eyes again, Rodney was frowning in confusion, and John had to press a kiss against his forehead, for being so completely oblivious. "Jesus, can't you tell? I've got nothing, Rodney. It's all you. You're the one with the power, here."

He really hadn't thought about it in those terms before, but even as he said it, it felt right. True. Like the last piece of a puzzle, slotting neatly into place. Like both sides of the equation balancing out.

For John, it really had been all about Rodney. And John was just realizing that he had absolutely no problem with that.

Rodney stared at him with wide, wide eyes, but John barely noticed the scrutiny. He felt Rodney's fingers flexing around his sides, thumbs pressing in over his hipbones. Rodney's hands occupying themselves while he thought. "You're crazy," he said at last, with absolute certainty.

John folded his arms around Rodney's neck in a quick hug. "And you're an idiot. I think we deserve each other." He sat back, and took a few deep, even breaths, running his hands over Rodney's shoulders. He had to focus to keep from holding on to Rodney painfully tight.

He stared at the back of one of his hands. His tanned skin contrasted with Rodney's, and he could just make out his tendons moving beneath the surface as he shifted his fingers. "When the accident happened, for a minute there, I thought you were gone." He watched his hand tighten, and loosened it with an effort. With an even greater effort, he looked Rodney in the eye. "And I almost lost it, right there in the control room, in front of everyone." Rodney blinked, and John smiled, though it felt a little watery. "So don't tell me I'm in control, okay?"

Rodney touched his face, fingertips grazing over his stubble. "I'm fine."

John nodded under Rodney's fingers. "I know."

Then Rodney smiled, and pulled John into another kiss, and John went willingly, because dammit, he needed this, needed to feel Rodney warm and playfully combative. Needed to see Rodney grin smugly at John's embarrassing whine, when Rodney pushed him away just long enough to strip John's shirt over his head.

He fumbled Rodney's pants open, let Rodney unfasten his own. He gasped when Rodney wrapped his good hand around both their cocks, and reached a hand down to help him. They were both hindered by the bunched-up fabric of their pants—they even had their boots on, for god's sake—but John couldn't tear himself away long enough to struggle out of the rest of his clothes. He needed this now, rocking into their joined hands, leaning on Rodney's solid warmth. When he buried his head against Rodney's shoulder and came over both their hands, he made a godawful mess.

But Rodney breathed out John's name as he came, panting into John's neck, so it was okay.

Later, they'd finally shucked their clothes and cleaned up a little, and John was drifting towards sleep. Rodney was fingering apart strands of John's hair and brushing them back, and he murmured something that dragged John back to wakefulness.

John blinked his eyes open. "What'd you say?"

Rodney drew his hand away. "Nothing. Go back to sleep." His voice was quiet, but his eyes were very serious. He seemed to be studying John.

John reached out and found Rodney's hand, tangling their fingers together. "Rodney?"

Rodney huffed out a sigh and rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, but he didn't take his hand back. "I said, 'Likewise.'"

"Oh." John squeezed his eyes shut to clear away the sleep fog. Then he inhaled sharply and opened his eyes. "Oh." He grinned hugely at Rodney, who was still staring at the ceiling. "Really?"

"Yes, really," Rodney said to the ceiling.

John watched Rodney's profile, still grinning. Rodney continued to pointedly ignore him, but John didn't mind. "Cool."

Without looking back at John, Rodney stretched out and turned off the light. "Good night, John."

"Night, Rodney."

John heard the sheets rustle, then Rodney abruptly stopped moving. "You're still giving me that ridiculous grin, aren't you?"

"Maybe." John couldn't keep the laughter out of his voice.

"Freak."

John squeezed Rodney's hand, the one Rodney still hadn't reclaimed, and let himself sink back into the pillow. "Likewise."