By Chandri MacLeod

Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Rating: PG-13 for boytouching and general pantslessness
Pairing: John/Rodney
Categories: slash, angst, hurt/comfort, humour
Warnings: none
Summary: "This is stupid," Rodney mutters, mostly to himself.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, alas. I'm just using them for fun.
Author's Note: Written for the mcsmooch community on LJ. Betaed by artemisiabrisol.

"This is stupid," Rodney mutters, mostly to himself.

John turns to look at Rodney, who has taken a break from pacing and is now standing in the middle of the chamber with his arms crossed protectively over his chest, radiating irritable defiance with every line of his body. John's sure of this, because there's a lot more of Rodney on display than usual. The outfit the Zaven gave him to wear covers nothing at all between neck and waist, and not much between waist and knee. Rodney's bare feet look pale and vulnerable against the stone floor, and his toes are curled up against the cold. The least they could have done was offer them some blankets or something, if they were going to leave them waiting in here for close to an hour.

Teyla assured them that the Zaven were peaceful, that the Athosians have had alliances with them for most of a generation, but when they arrived here they discovered that Zaven's old leadership had been passed into new hands, meaning that new relationships had to be formed. Not to mention Teyla Emmagen, Daughter of Tagaan and Ronon Dex, of Fallen Sateda showed up with two aliens with whose people the Zaven have never held either alliances or friendships.

Which is how they ended up agreeing to perform some kind of trust ritual that involves the pair of them wearing what Rodney is stubbornly calling kilts, but look more like beaded beach-towels.

"It'll be fine," John tries to reassure. Despite the distrustful glances they've been getting from the Zaven's new ruling council he's pretty sure nobody's going to turn violent. The "trust ritual" sounds more like a poetry recital than anything else, and John says so, but Rodney's eyes snap up from where he's been looking down at himself with ill-disguised horror, sparking and blue and angry.

"Oh, so you're talking to me, now? Also, it'll be fine?" Rodney says, in what would be a scathing tone if he weren't so obviously trying to cover his nipples with his forearms, and John has to pause and devote two full seconds of all his available brainpower to not thinking about Rodney's nipples, just like he spent several minutes while Rodney was pacing not staring at Rodney's ass. Also he's shivering, more with every moment they're left waiting in the chilly little room. "And exactly what evidence did you use to reach that conclusion?" Rodney's arms jerk, like he wants to make a dramatic, hand-flaily gesture and only remembered at the last second why he's got his arms where they are. Instead, Rodney's right hand flaps vaguely at the end of his arm while his arm stays where it is, indicating himself, John, the room, this entire situation.

It's such a Rodney-like gesture that John can't stop the honk of laughter that escapes him. He chokes it down fast when Rodney glares at him again, though he's pretty sure he's still smiling. Maybe he's just relieved at actually hearing Rodney's voice. Not that that was Rodney's fault, John thinks, feeling guilty.

Rodney's silent for a second or two, mouth twisted up with frustration, but then he just wraps his arms a little tighter around himself, turns half away, the... the skirt (there's really nothing else to call it) swaying a little as he does. "It's not funny," he says, still tight and angry but quieter, with an undertone of...

...oh. Shit.

"Hey, I'm sorry," John says, sincere, this time. He gets up, crosses the room, reaches out and thinks better of it only a second later when he sees the hunched slope of Rodney's shoulders. This isn't just irritation, it's unhappiness, it's embarrassment. Rodney's embarrassed. Which is... actually not that unusual, John knows, it's just that Rodney's usually so good at distracting people with his flailing arms and his loud complaints about other things that sometimes John forgets. John doesn't like being on display, but he's used to it, at least. Knows how to deal with it.

"Hey," John says again. This time he reaches out to touch, his fingers brushing Rodney's bare shoulder as he turns, surprising John into settling his whole palm against the curve of a bicep. Rodney's startled and blinks down at John's hand and then up at him, just for a second, through his lashes.

John's heart thumps painfully for a second but he figures it'd be weirder to jerk his hand away and reaches out to cup the other shoulder too. Rodney's covered in goosebumps and he's still shivering, but his skin is warm in a way that has John mesmerized for a second.


Rodney's voice is uncertain and quiet and makes him jump, his fingers tightening involuntarily for a moment. He looks at Rodney, then, finds Rodney staring at him again, eyes wide and expression contemplative. John doesn't take his hands away.

"I thought we weren't doing this," Rodney says grumpily, but it's a bad cover.

John clears his throat, because well, yes. Sort of. They did have a non-conversation to that effect, not two weeks ago. Today's the first mission since they've been normal with each other again. But Christ, Rodney's skin, and the way he's staring at John. It makes him wonder how he stayed away this long, even though he clearly remembers all the perfectly rational reasons he had at the time. "Didn't say that," he points out. "Just said--"

"You said, 'this was a bad idea.' Then you stormed out and didn't talk to me for a week and a half," Rodney replies, huffily.

Hurt, John realises, seeing the tightness around Rodney's eyes and mouth. Rodney wasn't himself that week either, though; he didn't once track John down and demand to know what the hell his problem was like John kept being afraid he'd do. He just looked tense and miserable every time he caught John's eye, only to watch John turn around and flee whatever room they'd found themselves together in. And yeah, John can admit that that was pretty shitty. Right out of eleventh grade.

"You let me," John says, shrugging, then he winces - that sounds... really stupid.

Rodney obviously thinks so too. "You kissed me, you asshole," he points out, and he's working his way up from confused and hurt to genuinely annoyed, but his arms are still folded tightly across his chest. "And then you didn't even give me a second to think about it - or, I'm sorry, you gave me exactly eight seconds - you just took off. I thought you were pissed at me, which didn't make any sense." He flaps a hand at John again, fingers outspread, agitated.

John lets his head fall forward - almost, but not quite touching Rodney's shoulder. His eyes sag shut. "I wasn't," he says, on a sigh. "Not at you."

"Then what?" John looks up. Rodney hasn't uncrossed his arms and his hands are gripping his elbows so tight that the skin is white around his fingers. He's tense and rigid under John's hands but he isn't pulling away and it makes John remember, with a shock of sudden clarity, exactly what it was that drew him to kiss Rodney in the first place.

But there was also the flood of regret that followed it: Fuck, fuck, you don't DO this, FUCK. And Rodney's shocked, round blue eyes, mouth kissed-open and speechless for... just a moment too long.

It was just long enough for John to lose his nerve, push him away, fucking run away. And Rodney let him.

But Rodney's looking at him now with a different expression entirely, brightly angry and confused and determined and scared all together.

"You didn't say anything," John says.

"You didn't give me a chance!" retorts Rodney, mouth twisting in irritation, "You just went and--" an expressive flick of his fingers, "--accosted me without warning."

Trust Rodney, John thinks, and thinks it's pretty funny for Rodney to need a moment to think, let alone speak. He can't fight his smile. "Accosted?"

Rodney jerks a nod, indignant. "Not everybody's as comfortable with leaping before looking as you are. Some of us need to process first, and by the way if you'd just said something I would have been fine with..."

John ducks his head again because Rodney would probably misinterpret his smile as a mocking one, which it's not. It's just that Rodney is almost always right and Rodney doesn't always need to know that.

"What are you smiling at?" And now Rodney's getting flustered, which just makes John smile wider. "What the hell's so funny? So help me Sheppard, if you're laughing at me after all the crap you've put me through the past week and a half--"

Apparently this could have been easy, which is a realisation that makes his legs go rubbery with panic.

"I didn't think you'd want--" John tries, and almost swallows his tongue when his every instinct suddenly clamps down around the words. He swallows, hard. Huh. All this time he thought he was the calm one in this conversation. "I've never - it always--" And wow, so this is what a panic attack feels like.

"Oh, for Christ's sake," Rodney mutters suddenly, and Rodney's finally moving, reaching out and seizing John by the elbows and steering him over to the stone blocks that are supposed to serve as benches, pushing him down to sit. "Sometimes I forget how much of a freak you are. Will you please start breathing again? John?" He sounds both pissed and worried, and John squeezes his eyes shut and obediently takes a breath. When he looks again Rodney's watching him anxiously, hands fluttering uncertainly near his face. He drops them quickly when he sees John staring.

"Sorry," John croaks. "I just..." This time he takes a moment to sort himself out a little before speaking. Maybe if he keeps it brief he can say it without freaking out completely. Unfortunately, what comes out is: "We're friends."

Rodney blinks at him helplessly. It's a yes, and? sort of face. "What the hell does that have to do with anything?" he asks, eyebrows drawn together.

"So I just," John says, "I didn't think about it, and then afterwards, I thought--"

"What?" Rodney demands, exasperatedly.

"So," John says, "It's never been, I mean, I always," he says, trying to convey the unmitigated, explosive disaster his life has become the one or two times he's ever ventured towards a serious relationship with anyone. "And you... it matters, and it would have been worse than never..." I would have fucked it up and lost you, is what he means, but he can't seem to say it.

He lets out a noise of enormous frustration, scrubs at his face with both hands, and more quietly he says, "It wouldn't have just been a kiss." Hopelessly, as though that explains everything. "It wouldn't just have been..."

But Rodney's not a genius for nothing, because the line between his eyebrows disappears, and then his eyes get huge and his mouth works for a second before he manages: "You - oh."

"Yeah," John agrees tiredly. "Exactly. You--"

Rodney smacks him on the arm, hard enough that the sound echoes around the little stone room. "Ow!" John protests, but whatever he was about to say flies right out of his head, because that's when Rodney takes his face firmly in both hands and kisses him so sweetly that something that's been snarled and knotted in John's chest for a week and a half eases loose with a speed that leaves him dizzy. Rodney pulls back just long enough to glance at John's face, then he leans in again, this time easing John's lips apart with his own, thumbs stroking gently against the grain of John's stubble in the hollow of his jaw, long eyelashes tickling John's cheek. When he pulls back again he doesn't go far, just far enough to look at John.

"You moron," he murmurs, "I just wanted a minute to think about it. Is that really so much to ask?" Rodney's eyes are half-open, warm with affection and annoyance and everything that made John kiss him in the first place. John rubs a thumb across Rodney's damp lower lip, watches his mouth fall just a little more open as though he can't help himself; Rodney's cheeks are stained a glowing pink, and as John watches the blush spreads down over his chest.

"No," he says, weak with relief, a little drunk with it, "it's not. I'm--"

"Oh, shut up, you're insane," Rodney grumbles, leaning in to kiss him again, knocking their bare knees together.

Which is of course the moment that someone knocks on the door.

"Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay? We are ready to receive you now." The voice of the young priest is muffled by the door, but it's enough to make John and Rodney break apart, hearts pounding. John knows this to be true of both of them because he can still feel Rodney's pulse hammering under his palm.

Rodney stutters out a nervous laugh, glancing at the door and self-consciously adjusting his Zaven beach-towel. "I guess this is going to have to wait," he says, eyes returning uncertainly to John's face. John is suddenly about sixty percent more aware than before that both of them are mostly naked, and that if they don't get themselves under control this is going to get embarrassing in a minute. "I mean, it can wait, right?"

"Yeah," John says, standing and pulling Rodney up with him. He can't resist one last, quick kiss before they turn towards the door, adding sincerely, "it's not going anywhere." He stares at Rodney until Rodney turns pink again.

"Moron," Rodney says happily, preceding him out the door.

This time, John lets himself stare at Rodney's ass, just for a minute, before following.