blue flamingos

A Way Of Holding On

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, NC-17

Year/Length: 2010/~2695 words

Pairing: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay/Ronon Dex

Spoilers: "The Shrine"--one last time before I lose my mind

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: "We still do this, don't we?" Rodney said.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


"We do this, right?" Rodney says, when he breaks off from kissing Ronon, one hand still curled in John's shirt.

Ronon looks at John over Rodney's head, and John's never been able to read Ronon all that well, but he knows exactly what Ronon's saying this time.

"John?" Rodney says, twisting to look at him. It's been two days since John sat next to him on the pier and refused to say goodbye, and Rodney's so much more gone now than he was then. "We still do this, don't we?"

"Yeah," John says, sees Ronon nod a little, approving. "Yeah, Rodney, we still do this." And proves it by letting Rodney pull him into another kiss.

It's not right, none of it is, and it wouldn't be any more right if Rodney was himself, because they're on John's bed, which is too small for three grown men, just sitting there, because it's where Rodney wanted to be, no movie on John's laptop as an excuse. Just John, on his knees so he can turn into Rodney's kiss, Ronon with his hand on John's back, holding on, and John thinks that Rodney doesn't remember him well enough to know that he doesn't usually kiss like this, hold on so hard.

He never thought he'd find anything to be grateful for in all of this, even if it is something that he wouldn't need to be grateful for if this wasn't happening.

He wishes Teyla was here, instead of taking a night off from sitting with Rodney to spend with Torren and Kanaan, and not just because this wouldn't be happening if she was.

"I want to fuck you," Rodney says to John, leaning back into Ronon.

"No," John says, before he thinks about it. He watches Rodney's expression catch, and for a second he thinks it's a triggered memory, but it doesn't tip into recognition, just into hurt that sticks in John's heart. "We can't, I don't have anything," he lies.

Rodney doesn't notice when John wraps his hand around Ronon's wrist, holding onto him. He can't meet Ronon's eyes, not and do this. Ronon's hand tightens against John.

"Maybe I have something in my quarters," Rodney says, like he honestly can't remember. He probably can't.

"It's fine," John says, but the rest of the words get lodged in his throat.

"He'll blow you," Ronon says. He ducks his head, kisses the place where Rodney's neck bends into his shoulder, above the neck of his t-shirt. "And then you can jerk him off while he sucks me."

"Okay," Rodney says, a little doubtful. John forces a smile when Rodney looks at him, and Rodney relaxes. "Okay, take your clothes off."

John's hands tremble on the buttons of his uniform shirt, like the first time, except then it was arousal, it was Ronon hard against him and Rodney looking at him like he was the best thing ever, like they both were, like the whole thing was, and none of them got all the way naked before they had to touch, human knot of hands and cocks and frantic touching, like that would help them forget that Teyla was lost, in Michael's hands.

Now, it's just exhaustion. Rodney doesn't sleep much any more, and even when he doesn't come looking for John, John can't sleep, just lies curled under his blankets, wide awake and desperate for a solution, wishing he was with Ronon.

They make a good faith effort at arranging themselves on the bed, but it's just not going to happen. It barely happens with two people.

"Here," Ronon says finally, pushing Rodney onto his side at the edge of the bed and sliding behind him, wrapping an arm around his waist to hold him there. John, standing naked at the foot of the bed and feeling like an idiot, just looks at them, until Ronon raises an eyebrow and John remembers. He's going to suck Rodney off, because he won't let Rodney fuck him.

He kneels, the floor hard under his knees, but not cold like it should be. God bless Atlantis' under-floor heaters, he thinks, and has to swallow against what he knows will be a hysterical sounding laugh. Rodney's already hard, like just the prospect of sex is enough, and he touches John's hair, the side of his face. "You're hot like that," he says, sounding so much like himself that John has to duck his head for a second, just until he can get his game face back on.

He can feel Ronon watching him, and that makes it easier. He lifts his head, strokes Rodney's thigh, hard enough not to tickle, then leans in and takes Rodney's cock into his mouth.

It's a slightly weird angle, until Rodney shifts a little, leaning back further into Ronon's body. He still remembers the shape of Rodney's dick in his mouth, the weight of his balls in John's hand, exactly how to make it good for him.

Rodney sighs, touches John's hair again, his ear and the back of his neck, scattered touches that make John shiver. "You're really good at that," he says, sounding almost drugged.

"Yeah," Ronon says. He slides his fingers between John's where John's hand is still resting on Rodney's thigh, and presses against John's hand. John presses his tongue to the spot behind the head of Rodney's cock that always makes him jerk like he's surprised, which it does this time. "Easier than fucking him, right?"

"I liked it that time he was on top," Rodney says.

John knows: Rodney used to roll onto his back, his cock slick with lube, and shift John's hips until John could slide down onto him, ride him until Rodney came, then roll off and let Ronon fuck him while Rodney was still coming down. He liked it every time, far more than once.

"I know," Ronon says, then he's quiet, and John thinks they're kissing, He doesn't look, just bends his head and sucks Rodney, hard and deep and fast until his hips stutter and he comes in John's mouth.

"You're really good at that," Rodney says again. John wonders if he remembers that's he's already said that, hates that he's wondering. Rodney's not the most imaginative and engaging conversationalist when he's having sex. "Is it..."

He stops, and John, even not knowing what's supposed to come next, feels his stomach tighten, worry and grief and something that feels like fear.

"My turn," Ronon says softly.

"Ronon," Rodney says, like he's checking, then, more confident, "Ronon Dex. From Sateda."

"That's right," Ronon says, and John wants to put his head down on the mattress and cry. This was such a bad idea.

"How do we...?" he says instead. This would be where Rodney starts shoving them around, like a human Tetris game, but that's not going to happen.

Ronon nudges Rodney into sitting up, then slides back until he's leaning against the wall. It's awkward, but John can sort of kneel over him, and Rodney curls behind him, pressed up against John. Ronon's mostly hard, and more than anything else, John wants to kiss him, fall asleep with him.

"It's not nice to keep people waiting, John," Rodney says, pushing John down a little.

"Sorry," John says, and goes, resting his head on Ronon's thigh and taking the head of Ronon's cock into his mouth, half-heartedly sucking him. He's so tired, too tired to get creative. Too tired to do it at all.

Ronon rests one warm hand against John's neck, says, "It's okay," softly, and pushes into John's mouth a little, pulls out and does it again. Rodney kisses John's shoulder, and John closes his eyes.

Which means he doesn't see Rodney's hand curving over his hip, jumps when it closes over his soft cock.

"Oh," Rodney says. "John..."

John's glad that he's got Ronon's dick in his mouth, that he can't answer, because he doesn't have a convenient lie to tell Rodney about that, and he doesn't think, This is the least sexy sex I've ever had, is going to cut it.

Apparently, Rodney isn't hugely bothered by the lack of explanation, or the lack of erection, because he tightens his hand a little and starts stroking John's cock. Oddly, his hand feels weird on John, even though it's just the kind of stroke John likes, a little rough, a little too fast. He rests his hands on Ronon's hip, his stomach, and lets the rest of this drift away.

The second of the six days between John getting cleared for duty after Michael's compound fell on them and Keller starting to turn into a Wraith ship, and they'd finally convinced Rodney that John wouldn't break if they touched him. John wanted to be on his knees, wanted Rodney to fuck his ass while Ronon fucked his mouth, but Rodney refused, and no-one wanted the argument. And so they were in Rodney's bed, since it was bigger than John's, big enough for three people, Rodney rubbing his cock against the small of John's back, while John sucked Ronon off, rubbed his own dick against the mattress, and it had been really good. Hot and sweaty, and they'd sprawled together after, trading kisses and touching until Ronon got hard again, and John only felt a little like he was hopelessly middle-aged next to him...

"Sheppard," Ronon says in warning, then, when John doesn't lift his head away, thrusts into his mouth a couple more times and comes.

Rodney's still stroking John's mostly hard cock, and John just wants to be done. He licks the head of Ronon's cock, feels him shudder, remembers the morning before the mission that started this, in the shower with Ronon, halfway to being late, and comes, too relieved to feel anything else.

"Thanks for the warning," Rodney says, more actually upset than he usually is by that, and wipes his hand on John's bedspread in retaliation.

"Sorry," John says. He shifts a little, butts his head against Ronon's stomach like a cat, and Ronon rubs his fingers through John's hair, which is better.

It's very quiet – Rodney's always been the one to provide the post-coital chatter, but he's lying quietly behind John, one arm round John's waist, his forehead against the back of John's neck. It takes John what feels like a long time to realize that Rodney's asleep, making the same weird, snuffling snoring noises that he always has.

"We should put him to bed," Ronon says, then, when John nods against his stomach, hooks an arm under John and pushes him upright.

They get dressed, John swapping out his uniform shirt for his panda t-shirt – it's good for a laugh from Lorne at least, who seems more bothered by how worried John and Ronon and Teyla are than he is about Rodney's condition, which John finds bizarre but also incredibly touching – and manhandle Rodney under John's covers. He doesn't even stir, just sprawls on his back, throwing one arm out so his hand dangles over the edge of the bed.

John folds it carefully back over Rodney's chest, and adjusts the covers over him. "Guess we're not sleeping here tonight," he says.

Ronon makes a little negative noise, and doesn't suggest they go to his quarters. There's been someone there for Rodney if he needs them every night, since he came pounding on John's door, terrified. "Come on," he says.

John looks over, confused, and Ronon nods in the direction of John's balcony.

It feels colder than it did when he and Rodney sat on the pier. John wishes he'd brought a sweatshirt, or at least put on his shoes, but then Ronon steps up behind him, pulls him close. John wraps his arms round Ronon's, traces the pattern of the tattoo he got when he thought he'd found his old team, and tries to imagine doing this without Ronon. Without Teyla.

"If we'd come looking for you," he says, "Would you have come back for this?"

"What?" Ronon asks.

"If you'd left with your old team, for real," John explains, not sure what he's asking. They don't talk about that.

"Yeah," Ronon says. "If you'd found me in time."

And now John's thinking about that – what if they hadn't found Teyla? What if Ronon had been gone a year, roaming the galaxy with his old team? Maybe everything would have been different, but maybe it would all have worked out like this, Rodney losing his mind, and two strangers on John's team...

He presses closer to Ronon, knowing Ronon will feel the shiver under his skin. "I'm sorry," he says quietly.

"For what?" Ronon asks.

"For tonight." John looks out over the water, a single light on in the next tower over. He doesn't know who that can be – it's one of the military offices, not Lorne's. "We should have..."

"He doesn't remember ending it," Ronon says. John feels him shrug. "He won't remember this in the morning."

"I know," John says, but it comes out a whisper. He used to think of it as that weird interlude in his and Ronon's relationship, the handful of months between Teyla going missing and Keller turning into a Wraith ship where Rodney was part of it. And then, after, how much more serious he and Ronon had gotten about each other while John hadn't noticed, the shift from mostly casual while John was never sure Ronon wasn't going to end it to be with Keller, to this, where he knows Ronon's still attracted to her, but that it's not going to go anywhere.

Not like her and Rodney. John's not blind to how they've been looking at each other since this started, and he should feel guilty about helping Rodney to do something he thinks they'll both consider cheating, but Rodney doesn't remember right now that he's in love with her, doesn't remember that he's not in love with Ronon and John.

In a few days, he won't even remember who any of them are. What can it possibly matter?

"John," Ronon says quietly.

"Woolsey's talking to the SGC about arranging care for him on Earth," John says, the words choking him. It's the first time he's let them get as far as conscious thought, let alone spoken out loud. He wishes he hadn't.

"We can visit," Ronon says, He sounds completely matter of fact, but John watched him spar with Lorne that morning, until Lorne called uncle because he couldn't stand up. Ronon respects people's limits more than anyone John knows, and he'd like to blame Lorne for not stopping it, but Lorne and Ronon are good friends, and Lorne's just a good friend anyway.

"Yeah," John says. He tries to imagine it, then remembers he doesn't want to. "Maybe Keller will come up with something."

"Maybe," Ronon agrees.

"He said he'd rather someone put him out of his misery than fade away like this," John says into the darkness.

Ronon tenses. "When?"

"When the Pythians took us captive and kept us locked up for three days while Elizabeth negotiated our release," John says. "His grandmother had dementia. She was..." They'd talked because it had been dark most of the time and there hadn't been anything else to do. John had been happy to talk about anything if it meant he didn't have to talk about Ford, left behind on an exploding Wraith ship less than a week ago. "I don't know if he remembers now."

There's a long, long silence, and John doesn't know why he told Ronon that. There's nothing they can do about it. Maybe he just doesn't want to be the only person who knows that, even more than he doesn't want to be sick and losing his mind, Rodney doesn't want to be dying like this, in agonising inches that he can almost understand, won't want to live like that if it doesn't kill him.

"If Keller doesn't come up with anything," Ronon says. "There's something – there might be a way to do that."

And then he tells John about the Shrine of Talus, one day of clarity and a dignified end.

An end.

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