Summary: Rodney's system is already perfect, but it could be better.
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Word Count: 5982
Rating/Warnings: NC-17, language, angst
Pairing: John/Rodney, mentions of Rodney/Katie and Rodney/Keller
A/N: Written for Team War (whooo!) in mcshep_match '09. Betaed by the lovely shadowenangel and arymabeth This is a sector clock; they're very near and dear to my heart, because my father's a clock collector, and he's got a really nice restored one (which is actually pretty much the only thing in his collection that I like). I have a lot to say about this story, but I think I'll save it for the commentary.
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
-W. H. Auden, "September 1, 1939"
All Rodney's life has run on a sector clock.
He was born before the system was invented, obviously; but if someone hadn't beaten him to it, he would have had to invent it himself. Using it has always been as natural as breathing to him, because the system works like he thinks- precise, cross-referenced, tagged to the minute, in and prioritized and out again at lightning speed. He doesn't know another way to be; he doesn't have room for things that don't fit into his already well-established schemes of self-organization.
He likes it that way.
July 1939 is running out too quickly, the English summer too cold and heavy, even for someone who grew up in Toronto. He doesn't much care for Cambridge, but he'll be damned if he's giving up his fellowship to go and live in Bletchley. And besides, now that they've got the bombe, they don't really need him for anything; all he'd be doing would be getting into screaming matches with Zelenka while pointedly ignoring Turing and his pathological desire to go biking all over creation. Honestly, he's going to go flying over the handlebars into a ditch one day, and even Rodney has to admit that it would be a terrible loss to the academic world.
His room at Trinity isn't bad, though. There's a place around the corner that does tea all night long, and most days Rodney can count on badgering someone behind the counter into turning on the dilapidated coffee machine for him. Usually it's swamped with students, and by the time Rodney gets there all the croissants have always gone; but now that it's summer holiday, Rodney can actually stand the place again.
"Coffee," he says, sitting down at the counter and arranging his notebook and pencils in front of him. He's in the middle of a letter detailing to Fermi exactly why he is an idiot who will one day blow up the entire world; he's just got up to the part where he's suggesting a few locations where he can put his precious and ill-gotten Nobel, and he really needs the caffeine to aid his creativity.
"Man after my own heart," an American accent replies; a mug appears in the corner of Rodney's vision, filled to the brim with blessed, steaming, ever-so-black java that Rodney didn't even have to badger anyone for.
"You're not English," he says, eyeing the cup suspiciously.
"What gave it away?" the guy deadpans, and Rodney looks up to see the most improbably gorgeous man he's ever laid eyes on.
It's all he can do not to gape openly. "Sugar?" he finally manages to say.
He raises an eyebrow at Rodney. "That's awfully fresh, isn't it?"
He feels himself blushing. "No, I meant-"
The guy quirks a smile at him. "Right in front of you."
"Oh," Rodney says, chuckling stupidly and feeling like an utter buffoon. "So it is."
"John! Order up!" someone calls from the kitchen, and Rodney feels like he's just been given a gift. He considers writing it down on the corner of his notebook somewhere so he won't forget, tagging it in red for the time, ACTION THIS DAY scrawled above it in big bold letters.
Rodney stumbles out that night after only one cup of coffee; something is making his heart jump and race. It must be too much caffeine.
Rodney starts going to the diner every night, pencilling it in between his bath and the hour where he stares at his notebook and pretends to work while thinking about whether Superman or Slam Bradley would be better at ice hockey. John saves him ham and cheese croissants; other than that, he's really not a very good waiter, frequently dropping glasses and letting Rodney's coffee go cold. It doesn't matter, though, because the times when there's anyone else there besides the two of them and the cook are few and far between.
He honestly doesn't know what to make of John in general. One minute he seems fascinated by Rodney, listening while Rodney expounds on some arcane point of higher mathematics, laughing in all the right places when Rodney tells him some silly story; the next he's keeping his distance, skittish and withdrawn, like they're just strangers in a cafe who don't know each other at all.
He wants to figure it out so badly. There's no color for John, no neat, preexisting space in Rodney's life to slot him into. He breaks up all of Rodney's precise orderings and prioritizations, shooting directly to the top of the list for no reason that Rodney can think of. It's absolutely maddening.
Rodney's one and only hypothesis doesn't work at all.
John is in one of his good moods; he's even remembering to refill Rodney's coffee before it runs out, even though there are far more people around than usual. Rodney's just finished telling him all about how, when he was thirteen and very bored, he covered one whole wall of his room in Pascal's triangle.
"Pages and pages of it," he tells him. "It took a whole summer to finish."
"Get out of town," John says.
"No, really," Rodney protests. "I think I still have some of it in my desk, actually."
"Why, doc," he replies, putting his elbows down on the counter and leaning in. "Did you just ask me up to look at your etchings?"
Rodney can't quite decide if John is having him on or not. "No?"
He waggles his eyebrows suggestively. "That's too bad."
Rodney looks around, leaning over and dropping his voice. "Are you a spy?" It explains everything: the moodiness and the cheerfulness; the attention he lavishes on Rodney, when he deigns to give it; why someone so gorgeous is working in a run-down place like this.
John laughs, so loud and long that people across the restaurant turn and look at him. "No, doc, I'm not a spy."
"Rodney," he insists, surprising himself with his bravery.
Something in John's face goes soft and funny. "No, Rodney, I'm not a spy."
He stares into John's eyes for a moment before he comes back to himself, feeling like a dope; John almost spills coffee on him- twice- but Rodney can't bring himself to care.
And on the day that his whole life changes, he almost misses the boat.
When he comes in for his customary visit, Laura, the day-shifter who Rodney can't stand, is behind the counter; before he can even protest, John walks out from the back, already wearing his coat. Five minutes- two minutes- a little more blue and a little less yellow, and Rodney might have missed him entirely.
"You're leaving?" Rodney asks.
"Time off for good behavior," he says, dropping a chaste goodbye kiss onto Laura's proffered cheek, and Rodney spares a moment to be incredibly, irrationally jealous for no reason whatsoever.
"It's dark," he protests, despite the fact that he just walked there himself. "It might be dangerous."
"Relax, Rodney," John says, in his infuriating Western drawl. "Everything'll be jake."
"Who's Jake?" Rodney asks nervously- because it would just be his luck that John has some big bruiser of a secret boyfriend, waiting in the wings to clean Rodney's clock.
John just shakes his head. "You're too much, you know that?" He plucks Rodney's hat from the counter, tossing it to him. "Come on."
"I could use some company," he says significantly.
Rodney can't even come up with a reply; he just follows John out like a puppy dog, ignoring Laura's laughter behind them.
A funny thing happens. It seems that walking side by side with John in the quiet streets of Cambridge is all it takes for him to get it; he suddenly realizes that he's absolutely dizzy for John, and everything about them clicks neatly into place in Rodney's head. Apparently, John realizes it too, because they don't make it back to John's place that night- or any night, for that matter. It's a wonder that one of them doesn't just push the other into a hedgerow and have at him.
John starts dropping by at all hours of the night, which is just fine by Rodney, because he usually prefers to sleep through the days anyway. Rodney knows that he himself is an open book, his history spilling wildly out of him at every chance; but he never really learns all that much about John's past. His mother was from California and died when he was a teenager; his English father moved him and his brother back to London afterwards, and John doesn't speak to either of them anymore. He read engineering at Sidney-Sussex, he's older than Rodney thought at first, and everybody says that, in the right light, he looks just like Gary Cooper.
And all of that is true, or true enough, but Rodney is far more interested in John's present. There's so much to learn about him in the here and now, so much of him to catalogue and memorize- how he smells, how he thinks, exactly where the knots gather in his back after a long day of work- and everything John becomes top priority for Rodney.
And when they're in bed together, which is honestly most of the time- well. He's been with men before, of course. He went to boarding school, for Pete's sake; he's had his share of furtive, worried encounters, awkward thrusting between spit-slick thighs, always having to pretend that he didn't like it that much, that it's only something to pass the time with until the real thing comes along.
It's just that he's never known anybody who loved men as much as John does.
John acts like there's no way he can ever get enough of Rodney's hands, his mouth, his body. Sometimes he just rubs his face across Rodney's skin like a cat, like he wants to scent every inch of him. He never seems quite content until he has Rodney inside of him; he likes it best when Rodney takes a very long time in opening him up, sucking him down while he works his wet fingers in and out.
He really loves it when Rodney takes him hard and slow, rough and deep so that he can feel it the next day; he especially seems to like telling Rodney all about how much he likes it, which Rodney has no problem with at all.
July ticks over into August, and Rodney starts to believe that they can make a life out of this. He has to move over, rearrange things, reconsider his system; but he's starting to think that he can do for two just as easily as he's been doing for one. He feels clearer, more precise with John around, possibly because John's there to sharpen his pencils and tidy up and force him to eat when he gets too distracted to remember.
They'll never be able to kiss on the street- not that Rodney is particularly fond of that anyway- or wear wedding rings; and when Rodney wins his Nobel, he won't be able to tell anyone that it's all thanks to John. But John makes him better, something just a bit more than he is; and if he has to struggle to keep that, then Rodney is starting to believe that he might just be willing to fight.
"What will you do when the war starts?" he asks John, one morning when he's feeling maybe a little morbid, letting his fingers trace idly across his naked back.
"What war?" John replies.
"You're cute," he says sarcastically, thumping John on the ear. "I'll have to go away, you know."
John rolls over, throwing an arm across Rodney's chest and whispering in his ear. "I'll come and find you."
"It could be very dangerous," Rodney warns lightly. "I could be kidnapped by beautiful blonde Frauleins who want to interrogate me. At length."
John kisses the side of his neck. "I'll turn up like clockwork, Rodney."
"More like a bad penny."
He can feel John's lips curling into a smile. "That too."
He turns, getting closer. "I was thinking, in September-"
"It already is September," John points out.
"Six of one," he replies, reaching his hand down to curl it around John's prick.
"You have my attention," John says, a little breathlessly.
"I was thinking we could go somewhere," he tells him, sliding his fingers slowly up and down. "Before things get-" He makes a vague gesture. "Brighton, maybe? Or anywhere you want. Makes no difference to me, as long as you're there."
John looks so surprised, blushing all the way to the tips of his ears. "I'd like that," he says, kissing Rodney gently on the lips.
It doesn't take long for their kisses to turn wet and messy, mouths sliding together easily like they've done a hundred times or more. He spends a long time just making love to John, petting him gently, kissing him until they're both breathless and wanting.
He opens him slowly, his fingers slick with the jealously guarded white vaseline he uses for sunscreen, reaching for just the right spot to make John sigh and shudder, relaxing back against Rodney almost despite himself. When they finally do get around to having sex, it's sleepy and lazy, side by side in bed, all of Rodney's body curled up around John's.
He comes with his face pressed against the back of John's neck, buried all the way inside of him, as close as it's physically possible to get; and for the first time in his life, time just stops around him.
When Rodney wakes up that evening, John is sitting up against the headboard, his chest bare, his long legs stretched straight out in front of him. He's smoking a cigarette, the paper so white against his lips, which are reddened and just slightly puffy from too many of Rodney's kisses. The sunset filters through the smoke around his face, the beams from the window catching and shifting around him. Rodney wishes he'd been born a painter, a photographer, a singer, a writer, somebody who could capture this moment, set it down so that it could never be lost, because he can't think of anything that would be a greater waste.
But as it is, Rodney can't do anything but lie there and look at him, transfixed. John catches him watching; for a moment, he looks like he's going to say something, but he just reaches out and cards his hand through the hair at the base of Rodney's neck.
The knocking at the door is obscenely loud, shattering their private little moment into a million tiny pieces.
John snaps into action immediately, jumping out of bed and pulling his vest and shirt back on. He moves around Rodney's room with lightning quickness, sorting their commingled clothing without a thought.
"Oh god, you can't-" Rodney is blathering as he bends down to tug his pants up. "John- what I mean is-"
When he turns back around, the window is open, the breeze making the curtain flutter inwards; all that's left of John is one black sock and his cigarette, still smouldering in the ashtray.
Rodney is still buttoning his trousers when he opens the door. "What do you want?" he asks the officer who answers the door, who he thinks he vaguely recognizes from the GC&CS.
"Your presence is required, Doctor McKay," he says, without introducing himself, and he doesn't even have to mention Station X for Rodney to realize that's where he's headed.
He pulls distractedly at his hair. "What the hell for?"
The man just stares at him for a long moment; Rodney starts to wonder if he's got something on his face. "Forgive me, I assumed you had heard." He offers the Evening Standard he's been holding to Rodney. The headline is screaming about Germany and Poland and everything they've known was coming.
"Fuck," Rodney says, scrubbing tiredly at his face.
To his credit, the officer doesn't even flinch at Rodney's language. "Your escort will be here in an hour."
"An hour?" he demands indignantly, sweeping his hand around at his room. "Have you seen this place?"
"Your belongings will follow you tomorrow," he responds placidly.
"Oh. Well." It's actually sort of nice that they're actually going to pack up his room instead of just leaving his stuff here to dry rot, but Rodney still feels like complaining. "I would have appreciated some warning."
The officer gives him a withering look. "Yes, because this was such a shock to all of us."
Rodney very much wants to ask what the hell it has to do with him, how yanking him out from the middle of his perfectly good tryst is going to stop Hitler in his tracks. But, if there's anything he's learned about the military, it's that they're terribly fond of grand, sweeping gestures; Rodney doesn't have much choice but to just let himself be swept.
He hopes John understands. He can always write when he gets to Bletchley; he'll have to be very careful, of course, but he'll make himself clear somehow.
The officer lets him alone after that. Rodney packs everything that'll fit into his two pathetically small little valises and his briefcase, cramming things in and throwing them around his flat at random. He's ready far too soon, pacing nervously and chain smoking while he waits.
There's a smart knock at the door precisely at the appointed time, and Rodney throws it open.
"I'm Squadron Leader Sheppard," John says, standing there with a crisp RAF uniform and an impersonal, ironic smile that doesn't even begin to touch his eyes. "I'll be your driver."
It's positively amazing that Rodney doesn't react, even though his heart is beating out of his chest and his palms are sweating. "Shouldn't you be off leading a squadron, then?"
"It's a very misleading title, isn't it?" he replies politely, suave and canned like he's said it a million times, like it's something he'd say to anybody.
Rodney hums disapprovingly in response, not trusting himself to reply without screaming. "Just need to get my bags," he says blandly.
"Allow me, doctor," John says, hoisting Rodney's suitcases easily.
His lips are still red.
They are the very picture of decorum, all the way to the car and out of Cambridge; somewhere in the country, Rodney leans over in the back seat and puts his head between his knees.
Everything he loved the best about John- how he's sweet and spontaneous and charming and inexplicably devoted to Rodney- there's no way he'll ever know for certain that it hasn't been a lie. He'll never, ever know if any part of these last few weeks has really been his, or if it was all an elaborate lie. This is to say nothing at all of the fact that he's done things that could easily get him locked up- or worse, castrated- to one of His Majesty's beloved flyboys. Once John spills the beans, they'll be able to hang that over his head forever; they'll always have everything they need to destroy him.
He feels betrayed all the way down to his bones.
It's too much to handle all at once. Hell, it's too much period. He can't remember ever feeling quite so miserable. He's known, he's always known that he never had a chance or a choice. For months and months, the war has always been right there, always ready to swallow him up, take every little piece of bit of him and split it into pieces, code it and prioritize it and apply it to the cause.
He should have known that they'd take his bed, too.
"I can't believe this," he says, lashing out in his misery. "I don't know what you did, Sheppard, but it must have been pretty awful if it got you ordered to make love to me."
"Rodney," John hisses from between clenched teeth. "We don't know if the car's got ears."
"What the hell does it matter to me?" Rodney spits, sitting up; he's aware that his voice is rising, getting hysterical, and he doesn't even care. "They're the ones who sent you. Everybody knows McKay's bent," he says, mocking himself bitterly. "Toss the poor faggot a bone, and he'll stay in line."
"I was assigned to watch out for you and nothing else," John tells him emphatically. "You needed a bodyguard, Rodney."
"Well, it's just too bad they sent me a whore instead," he sneers.
It's an awful, yellow thing to say, but some dark, secret part of him relishes the way John absolutely crumbles, the intense and overwhelming pain that flashes across his face; Rodney's joy at it lasts for about ten seconds before his grief catches up and overrides it.
John puts on his sunglasses and doesn't say another word all the way to Bletchley. When they get there, he opens Rodney's door and puts his suitcases on the curb, tossing off a crisp, sarcastic salute once he's finished.
And then he just climbs back into the car and drives out of Rodney's life.
Rodney throws himself into his work so hard that he thinks he ought to bounce. There's so much to do, so much space for him to fill, so many messages going in and out, so many things to plan, and Rodney wants to be right in the middle of it, swallowed up in letters and troop movements and code so deep that he can't even see anything else, red-yellow-blue, red-yellow-blue, red-yellow-blue, on and on and on until it all just swirls into grey.
He doesn't sleep for four days; the only reason he does then is that he passes out right in the middle of Hut Eight, and somebody carries him to bed and locks him into his room.
By the time he wakes up, it doesn't hurt quite so much anymore.
There's one crisis after another to fill up his time, always a machine going down or a code that just won't break or a problem to solve; he finds other things to worry about. For months, he waits for the other shoe to drop; he waits for someone to make mention of what he's done, how they know everything about him, how they own him completely. He's certainly screamed and carried on and threatened to quit and been brought to heel enough- but no one, not one person lets on.
It slowly dawns on him that John hasn't told; and Rodney thought he was miserable before, but that was nothing at all compared to this. Nothing is worse than knowing that John took such a risk for him, John cared for him- John loved him- and Rodney threw it in his face.
Sometimes, when he gets drunk or very sad, he writes letters to John, endless, effusive apologies which probably sound far more maudlin than anything should. Sometimes he scratches out all the really fruity parts and sends them, sometimes he burns them; it doesn't matter one way or another, because he never gets a reply. He starts to think maybe John is dead, but certainly he'd know; surely someone would tell him- but then, how would they even figure out that he'd want to know?
He can't even look at another man, not when all he can see is the curve of John's neck, his long fingers, his secretive smiles. There are girls everywhere, though, and he launches himself at them with a vengeance; and surprisingly enough, some of them don't immediately suggest that he go and jump in the nearest lake. Rodney even falls in and out of love- with a pretty telegraph operator named Katie- and back into it again- with one of the nurses. It just seems like the done thing; even Turing has a girlfriend, and everybody knows he's just as queer as a football bat.
Eventually his memories of that summer fade, wearing out around the edges, until all he can remember is John sitting his bed at Trinity, smoke encircling him like a halo; that, and the look on his face when Rodney ruined everything.
Time ticks on.
Turing wins them the war in Europe, and Oppenheimer wins them the war in the Pacific, and McKay still doesn't win a Nobel, partly because he hasn't been able to publish anything he's written since, oh, 1938.
As soon as he can manage, Rodney leaves England. He thinks about going back to Canada; it's never really been his home, though, and Jennifer has her heart set on going back to Wisconsin. She's finally going to school for the MD that she always deserved, and they're talking about getting married when she finishes. Her father's getting on in years, and he wants Rodney to take over his insurance business. It's not what Rodney wants to do, obviously, but now that the war is over, it's time for him to start getting serious about where his life is going. Besides, it'll give him plenty of time to work on his research, maybe even teach a few classes at the college. And, of course, Jennifer's still very young, and this way, he'll have plenty of time for the children that they'll certainly have.
He couldn't ask for anything better, even if all his life sometimes feels a little bit blue.
And then, one warm spring day in 1946, there is a knock at his door. Rodney has only just gotten his apartment organized; his possessions are still arriving from too many different places, and he's been up and down letting in delivery men and errand boys all day long.
But this time, when he opens the door, it's John.
He's wearing a well-cut black suit, a red carnation and a tight smile, and he is exactly as breathtaking as the day that Rodney met him. Except for the cane he's leaning on, it's like the last seven years haven't touched him at all; Rodney has no idea how that can possibly be.
"You're not an easy man to find, Doctor McKay," he drawls, and his voice sounds exactly like Rodney didn't even know he remembered.
"And what can I do for you, Squadron Leader?" Rodney says, trying to sound cold and professional and failing utterly at it.
"It's Wing Commander, now. Retired," he adds. "I," he pauses for a moment, looking like he might be as uncomfortable as Rodney feels. "I got your letters."
Rodney can feel a blush start to creep up him. "That's. Well. Good. I certainly sent them, didn't I."
A shadow passes over John's face. "I said I'd come back."
Rodney's heart leaps. He doesn't know how to respond; he shows John into the sitting room, lost for words. John doesn't move the way he used to, his easy, swingy gait replaced with something slower, more deliberate; it makes him look so different, even when everything else about him his just the same.
John doesn't sit; he leans back against the arm of the couch and picks up the frame from the end table, studying the picture of him and Jennifer at Niagara Falls.
"My- Jennifer," Rodney explains, fisting his hands in his pockets. "I would've invited you to the wedding, but I didn't know your address." John swallows hard and nods. "Not that we've had the wedding yet," Rodney blathers, desperate to clarify. "Or sent the invitations. I haven't actually proposed, come to that. I guess, if you gave me your address-"
"I don't think that's such a good idea," John says, his voice getting a little high and snide like it does when he's upset. "Look, Rodney, I only came here because I needed you to know that-" John is deeply uncomfortable, rubbing at the back of his neck with one hand and gripping his cane tightly with the other. "My mission wasn't to- it didn't entail anything that wasn't- I really meant-"
"I know. I mean, I didn't know, obviously, but I figured it out. Eventually."
"They told me they were sending me to babysit some professor," he says, staring at the carpet like it holds the secrets of the universe. "They didn't tell me it would be someone like you."
It's Rodney's turn to look away; his eyes feel a little funny, all of a sudden. "There's one thing that's always bothered me," he says, needing to push the conversation towards anything else. "Why were you in Cambridge in the first place?"
"I can't talk about it," John says, his face hardening; Rodney starts to protest before he remembers that he doesn't actually have security clearance anymore. "But right after-" he pauses, swallowing audibly, "after the war started, I went back to flying."
"That's how you got hurt."
He looks old, suddenly, crow's feet appearing at the corners of his eyes as his lips twist into a mirthless smile. "Can't talk about that either. I'm fine, though, honestly I am."
"That's good," Rodney says, feeling rather stupidly inarticulate and bland. "Well, everything here is, y'know."
"Perfect?" John supplies.
"Pretty much," he agrees, because isn't that true? Isn't his life exactly as it should be? He clears his throat, which feels unusually thick, for some reason. "It's nice to see you again." He doesn't mean for it to sound as final as it comes out, but he supposes it's just as well; what could they possibly have to talk about, after all these years?
John smiles with only one side of his face. "Yeah. See you around, McKay."
The door shouldn't sound as loud as it does when it closes behind him.
He picks up the picture frame, suddenly needing a distraction, studying his face and Jennifer's. Ten minutes after it was taken, they'd started arguing; she suggested they get married, just for a laugh, and he'd ruined the moment by taking it too seriously. The ride back had been unbearably silent, no matter how hard he tried to make her happy again.
He wasn't lying; it is nice to see John. But now, his heart is racing and his head is spinning, and there isn't any reason that should be; because John isn't really anyone to him. He's just some man that he hasn't seen since the thirties, just someone he shared a couple of good weeks with once upon a time, someone he got separated from by the war and his own stupid mouth.
Someone who, years and years ago, promised to come back for him, no matter what. Someone who's been on his mind for every single second of every single day since then.
Maybe, just maybe, the only person who could rescue him from himself.
"Oh my God, I'm a fucking idiot," Rodney says to his picture and his books and his papers and his fancy clock and his new television.
What he's only just realized is that John hasn't ever fit because he supercedes and outclasses everything that Rodney's ever been, everything he's always told himself that he wanted. It's like he's been living his whole life in algebra, and John is differential equations; John is a big band playing hot and fast, and Rodney's still picking out Chopsticks and fussing over parallel fifths. If Rodney is clockwork, then John is an atomic bomb; all Rodney will ever do is tick away forever just the way he's supposed to, while John could level his entire world without any fuss at all. And Rodney doesn't know how to deal with him; he has no manual for this, no precise and transparent instructions, no idea how all the things that are John come together to make him tick.
But God, how he wants to learn.
He tears his front door open; he has absolutely no idea where John has gone, but Rodney will find him, no matter how long-
It's then that he realizes that John is standing on the lawn, smoking a cigarette and looking at his watch.
Rodney stumbles forward, catching himself on the door frame with one hand, his mind working furiously. "You knew I would-"
"Nobody ever said you weren't predictable, McKay," John says.
Rodney's heart leaps. "Get in here before the neighbors see you," he mutters, turning his face away to hide his burning cheeks.
"Chrissake, Rodney, I wasn't going to ravish you on the doorstep or anything," John protests, letting Rodney shuffle him in.
"I might," he says, and the door hasn't even shut all the way before he pulls John's face down to his.
They don't make it to Rodney's bed, not when the sofa is so much closer. Rodney's backside barely hits it before John is on top of him, pushing him down and kissing him senseless. Rodney can't even decide where he wants to touch first; he settles for rucking John's shirt up so that he can slide his hands up his back, feel the warmth of his skin.
"I don't want to be perfect," Rodney tells him, when he remembers how to breathe again. "I want to be with you."
John looks him dead in the eye and says, "You never wanted to be perfect. You wanted to be amazing."
Rodney sort of wants to cry; he wants to jump up and shout; he wants to tell John that there's never been anybody in his entire life who ever got him right, who could place him and categorize him and subsume him like John, and nobody else he'd even consider letting try.
"I still have your sock," is what comes out of his mouth instead.
John squints at him in confusion. "What?"
"You left it when, you know," he explains. "They brought it along when they packed up my place, and I just never got rid of it."
He frowns. "I'm honestly not sure if that's creepy or sweet."
Rodney waves a hand dismissively. "Don't worry. Neither am I."
John lifts up, bracing himself on one arm and looking down at him, his face tense and serious. "What about Jennifer?"
Rodney blinks. "I don't have any of her socks."
He rolls his eyes in fond exasperation. "Do you love her?"
He frowns. "Of course I love her. But, I mean, you, first. More." He sighs. "So much more, John."
The tips of John's ears turn pink; Rodney really wants to press his lips to them, see if they'd be as warm and fragile as they look. "Is she- will she-" John breaks off, making complicated and totally opaque hand gestures in the air between them. "Does she need you to support her?"
"Do I look like Daddy Warbucks to you?" Rodney says sarcastically. "Everybody knows we were going to live on her money." It's sort of distressing when he thinks how much better off she'll be without him, but he's so dizzy he can't even care. "This may surprise you, but I'm not what you'd call a catch."
John actually looks offended. "Who the hell told you that?"
Rodney just has to kiss him for that, and again for all the times that John was never around to say it before, and again and again and again for a million other moments that they would have had. And at this rate, he'll run out of breath before he makes up for all of them, but he really doesn't think that John will mind.
Rodney is certain that all this is crazy, that he's absolutely insane for abjuring everything he could have been; but he's even more certain that he's going to do it anyway. It won't be easy- it'll never be easy- but then, nothing in his life has ever been easy.
But if that's what it takes to be everything he should have been, Rodney's going to fight.
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