Nothing You Could Do

By Chandri MacLeod

Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Rating: PG
Pairing: John/Rodney
Categories: slash, angst, hurt/comfort, team
Warnings: none
Spoilers: season 4, season 5 up to The Daedelus Variations
Summary: For all that Rodney wears everything he feels right there on his face, he's strangely reticent about things that actually matter, damn him.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, alas. I'm just using them for fun.
Author's Note: For the mcsmooch community's Emergency Smooching Session of August 18/2008. Betaed really, really fast by calantha42. Really.

What John doesn't get is how Rodney is possibly the most annoying person he's ever met, probably the least likely target for an inappropriate crush, and yet it takes him considerably less than four years to realise he's got a thing for the guy. John knows he can be pretty obtuse when it comes to this stuff, but he's not actually a moron.

After the thing with Katie Brown falls apart, John sits up with Rodney and gets him drunk and walks him back to his own room and later, is so horrifyingly weak with relief that he doesn't know how his knees didn't just give out on the way back. He lets himself slide to the floor next to his bed, leans his elbows on the bedspread, tries not to laugh at how completely, utterly, fucked up and ridiculous this whole thing is. Because really, Rodney.

But he pulls himself back together, pushes it down because for all that Rodney wears everything he feels right there on his face, he's strangely reticent about things that actually matter, damn him. John's got absolutely no doubt he matters to Rodney - christ, has absolutely no doubt - but since they lost Elizabeth John's been even more reluctant than usual to risk losing the most important person in his entire fucking life over awkward, stupid bullshit like misjudging whether Rodney's into guys or not. Or just into him. And it's not...'s not.

But things are always happening that he can't control, not even a little, and then they lose Teyla. And they get her back, but there's a lot in between that first moment of heart-stopping terror and him skipping forty-eight thousand years and the end of the world and Rodney sulking over not getting to hold the baby and then, Teyla's placing Torren in his arms while Rodney beams and John makes fun. His head's spinning, and he feels himself making a face, because it feels like he's just fast-forwarded, like he's lived the last several months but they're just hitting him now. So he gets up and away from them as fast as he can, ignoring the hurt look on Rodney's face.

Around the time John's back in his quarters, putting away his DS Lite, he's so mad he can't even think straight, has to step back into the middle of his room, trying to unclench his fists. He's flashing on their dead doubles, up on the ship, on the way the other Rodney had one hand curled around the other John's ankle like holding on for comfort, on the way his own stomach lurched painfully before the laid them out on the deck and covered them over.

He almost goes back to the infirmary right then, but he's still mad. He doesn't want Rodney to think it's at him, even though it is, a little.

Old habits die hard, though, and by lunchtime the next day John finds himself pushing to his feet, leaving his office, thinking Rodney must be going crazy by now, stopping by his quarters to pick up a stack of DVDs and his laptop, and he's halfway there, thinking with uncomfortable sympathy that Ancient medical devices are great, but speed-healing just means that Rodney's arm's starting to itch like a bitch by now - before he remembers there was a reason he was avoiding the infirmary.

But then he's almost there, and turning around in a crowded hallway would just make people stare at him like he was crazy, and he's feeling crazy enough right now without the input of other people. That's why he keeps going. No other reason.

He finds Rodney eating, or more specifically, poking at his tray with a fork while looking dubious and irritated, and tries not to turn around and run when Rodney looks up and sees him and his face actually lights up, like John just made his day. And it must show in John's face, because the light dims a little, abruptly, and then John can't really make himself leave, because eventually, Rodney would make him explain it. The bastard. Rodney's pretty observant for a guy who takes such pride in making his underlings cry.

Instead, John holds up the DVDs, shrugs one shoulder. "Thought you'd be bored. Keller said you weren't allowed to work until your shoulder healed."

Rodney rolls his eyes. "Yes, though you'd think someone with such an advanced education would know typing doesn't involve a lot of heavy lifting-"

"Not for most people," John agrees, smirking, and puts the laptop down on the table Rodney quickly clears, and doesn't say: I think she's worried about all the arm-waving.

The infirmary is chillier than usual, and John finds himself wishing he's brought his jacket. But they don't get far into the movie before Rodney's getting restless and twitchy, and John dares a glance over at him to find Rodney's face frowning and miserable. He pauses the playback. "What?" he asks, voice more clipped than he meant it to be. Rodney jerks and looks at him.

"You know I don't really hate kids, right?" he says.

"Yes, you do," John returns, smugly, but kind of relieved because fighting is a lot easier than trying not to stare.

Rodney's face undergoes something complicated, and then he scowls. "Okay, yes, I do. They have dirty hands and they aren't very bright and they don't listen - but they, I, I like Madison, and I like Torren, okay? It's, it's different. It freaks me right the fuck out, let me tell you, but it's different."

Usually a McKay rant gets louder and more ruthlessly enunciated as it goes, but this one drops lower and lower in volume along with Rodney's face, until he's glowering at his hands, wound together among the tangle of blankets in his lap. Crazily, John wants to reach out and touch him, to lace his fingers and Rodney's together, but he sighs, more like he's irritated than like he's freaking out, even though he's totally, totally freaking out. "So?"

Rodney glares at him again, this time with more heat and something genuinely injured. "So, you don't have to be such an asshole just because nothing ever gets to you," he says, crossing his arms, and then wincing when it pulls at his stitches. "Ow," he adds, absently, and with a great exhalation of breath suddenly John can no longer control the impulse to touch, reaches out and unwinds Rodney's arms with his hands on Rodney's wrists, strokes one palm down the injured arm and leaves it there.

"You're gonna rip the stitches, quit it," he mutters, not looking at Rodney's face for as long as he can manage it. But Rodney's gone suddenly very still under his hands, and when John knows the moment's come where it would be weirder not to look, he does and finds Rodney staring at him, wide-eyed, thoughtful, and something else.

"John, it's okay," he says, puzzled, and John wants to say that yeah, he knows, to sit back down, to stop being this close, but he can't let go of Rodney's arm, where the skin is warm, almost hot, no matter how hard he tries.

And then Rodney says, "oh," very quietly, and pushes the table out of the way, and touches John's cheek, and just as quietly, says: "I didn't really mean that. I know you don't - I know things get to you."

"Yeah," John agrees, roughly, panicked and tense, and before he can stop himself, he's saying: "You do. You get to me," and holding his breath.

He doesn't remember what he expected - not that he's often allowed his imaginings on this subject to go very far. Maybe Rodney would be angry, maybe he'd be uncomfortable and stutter, maybe he'd smile. He's never imagined Rodney still like this, calm, with a tiny frown twisting at the corner of his mouth, saying "yeah, I know, me too," like it's the most obvious thing in the world.

Rodney huffs out a soft laugh. "What, you didn't know that?"

John tries to glare, but it's half-hearted at best. It's still hard to force the words up into the air, but he manages: "I wasn't sure and I - I didn't want to screw anything up." He looks down. "I usually do."

"Hey," Rodney murmurs, and he's got the fingers of his other hand curled around John's wrist, and John didn't even notice him moving. "You do know there isn't really anything you could do to make me stop - not anything, you know that, right?"

And Rodney's fingertips are cold, but suddenly it's his whole hand, his warm, broad palm cupping John's cheek, and John's terrified of how easily his eyes fall shut, of how he leans into it, of the relief that shivers up his spine when he finds himself being pulled, feels a warm, careful kiss pressed against the corner of his mouth.

He opens his eyes then, lifts the hand Rodney hasn't got captive and presses cool fingers against the hot, hot skin at the side of Rodney's neck, and Rodney flinches, but doesn't pull away. John turns his head just a little, feels Rodney's warm, soft mouth parting just a little under his own, hears the sharp breath Rodney takes through his nose before John pulls back and lets his head fall on Rodney's uninjured shoulder, mumbling "sorry," and meaning it.

The body under him heaves put-upon a sigh he knows as well as his own breath.

"God, you are such a moron," Rodney says fondly, and pulls him back down.