blue flamingos

Hieroglyphics

Fandom:

Category/Rated: Slash, R

Year/Length: 2007/ ~5400 words

Pairing: McKay/Sheppard

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

Summary: Life in Atlantis feels like a constant stream of either/or decisions, even when John doesn't know they're being made; fight or flight as a metaphor for their lives

Series: sequel to Sign Language).

Author's Notes: SGA flashfic fight or flight challenge

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

hr

The device was the only thing in the obviously abandoned research center that could possibly be giving out the energy reading Rodney'd been picking up since they came through the gate. It looked a little like one of the consoles in the control room, if you ignored the minimal number of buttons, and the lack of crystals and, oh, anything that might do something useful.

On the other hand, the big green button in the center of the panel couldn't have been more obviously the on switch if it had been labeled.

"So what does it do?" Sheppard asked, lounging against the console with one hand on his P-90. Teyla was walking slowly along one of the walls, studying the Ancient notations written on them, in lieu of whiteboards, Rodney assumed, and Ronon was lurking in the doorway, waiting for something to shoot.

"I don't know, Colonel, someone appears to have misplaced the instruction book." Sheppard just raised an eyebrow and waited. It was infuriating the way he did that some days. Rodney tapped the screen of his datapad again, studying the readings. "I think it's been powered down," he offered, though he didn't actually see anything to confirm that. It was a reasonable guess though – the console had to do *something*.

"So turn it on," Sheppard suggested.

"I was getting to that." Rodney scrolled through the readings again. "Fine. Touch that button and think on. Gently!"

"Think gently," Sheppard repeated doubtfully, but he rested his hand on the button anyway.

"Yes, gently. Like the puddlejumper controls." Rodney vividly remembered that from their lessons in the first year, Sheppard's hands hovering over his as they rose from the jumper bay, so close Rodney could feel the heat of his skin. He shook the memory off. "Whenever you're ready."

"Keep your hair on," Sheppard said. Ronon and Teyla both turned to watch him and Sheppard flashed them a grin. "Okay, here goes."

There was a moment's pause, then the readings scrolling across Rodney's screen spiked. "Sheppard, stop –"

"I –" Sheppard said, sounding confused, his arm twitching as though he was trying to draw his hand back, then the console shot a brilliant stream of light towards the ceiling, a low boom of sound following a moment later, sending all four of them sprawling to the floor as though there'd been an explosion.

The silence in the wake of the noise seemed exceptionally quiet and Rodney cleared his voice, just to check he could still hear himself. "Teyla? Ronon? Colonel?"

"We are well, Rodney," Teyla said calmly. Rodney looked up and saw her already pushing herself to her feet, Ronon doing the same behind her.

He didn't need to look towards the console, not really.

When he did, the sight of Sheppard flat out on his back wasn't a surprise at all. Neither was the sudden ominous rumbling that he didn't think was thunder.

hr

"Two *weeks*?" John asks, because, seriously, he was thinking maybe three or four days, max.

Rodney shuffles and looks at John's feet, still trapped under the sheets and John clenches his fists in the edge of the blankets where no-one will see. He's afraid to close his eyes, even to blink, but he doesn't want to look at the rest of his team, at Elizabeth and Beckett and remember how fucking *helpless* he was. It's possible he's not as okay with this as he liked to think while it was happening.

Beckett drums a rapid tattoo on John's chart then clears his throat. "Well, now you've all seen him, and he's seen all of you, I'm sure the Colonel would like to rest. I've an exciting afternoon of sight and hearing tests coming up for you, Colonel."

John offers a weak smile, because it's not like he wasn't expecting the tests, but he can't look up, fascinated with the weave of the blanket tight over his hands. He remembers missing his team, how grateful he was when they were there, and he doesn't want to know how they're looking at him now. He should be more grateful for being fixed and he knows it but –

"Stop freaking out," Rodney says, taking John's hand again and this at least is easy, John's fingers curling over his and holding on. He risks looking up, to find they're alone again, the curtains drawn round the bed.

"I'm not freaking out," John says firmly. He's not, now. If you don't count how he doesn't want to let go off Rodney's hand. Which he totally doesn't.

"Right," Rodney says, giving John the look he gives his most stupid scientists.

"I'm not," John says again. "I just – what the hell happened?"

hr

"Why don't you tell me what happened?" Elizabeth suggested from the top of the briefing room table.

Rodney looked up from his datapad to find everyone looking at him. "Oh that's right, of course *I'll* be able to explain the mysterious Ancient –"

"Rodney," Teyla said calmly and Rodney took a deep breath. Everything was going to be fine. Carson might be a voodoo practitioner, but he was their voodoo practitioner, and if he could fix the whole turning into a bug thing, he could fix a mild dose of apparent blindness and deafness. It was probably temporary anyway.

Because nothing in Pegasus had ever turned out to be worse than they expected.

"The console emitted a beam of light and a loud noise," Teyla said, apparently assuming that Rodney wasn't intending to answer, rather than that he'd been gathering his thoughts in order to give an incisive summation of the situation. "Which appeared to knock Colonel Sheppard from his feet. When we went to him, his eyes were open, but he did not appear to see or hear us."

"I see," Elizabeth said and winced slightly. "Rodney, what can you tell us about the machine?"

"Not much," Rodney admitted, poking dismally at his datapad, for all the good it was going to do. "We barely got out before the whole place started shaking, and I didn't have time to take any useful readings. It was powered down before Sheppard turned it on, but we were a bit distracted by it trying to *kill him* to get a good look at exactly what it was doing."

"Maybe it was doing what it was meant to," Ronon offered. He shrugged when everyone turned to look at him. "Things round here work strangely for you people."

He had a point, actually. John had the strongest expression of the gene of anyone on Atlantis, but even he wasn't all that genetically close to the Ancients, in real terms. It wouldn't be the first time a machine designed for something harmless to Ancients had turned out to be less so for modern humans. "Hmm. If I could get back and take another look at it, maybe I could figure out what it does, and then we could reverse it."

"I thought the building started to collapse?" Elizabeth asked.

"Well, yes, if you want to be technical about it, it may not be as structurally sound as it was when we got there, but it's not like we don't have plenty of structural engineers around here with nothing else to do. I'm sure they could manage to steady one building so we could get back to look at the device."

"And if the building destabilizes further and buries all of you?" Elizabeth asked. She shook her head. "I want you researching this on Atlantis first. You said the device looked Ancient, start going through the database and see what you can find."

"Elizabeth –"

"Rodney." She gave him that look she had, sympathetic and stern, the one Rodney could never say no to. It was nearly as bad as Sheppard's wouldn't-this-be-so-cool grin. "I want to reverse whatever's been done to John as much as the three of you, but I'm not risking all of your lives." She took a breath, then played her trump card. "You know that's not what he'd want."

hr

Beckett releases John after he proves that he can still read the same letters on the eye chart that he could read before, and hear the same number of bleeps on the hearing test, and John drifts in the general direction of his quarters, running his hands along the walls of the city, listening to the sound of three hundred people going about their day. He's never noticed how loud they are before.

He's pretty sure he should be doing something, now that he's free, and going back on active duty as of 0600 tomorrow. He should find Lorne, catch up on what he's missed while he's been flat on his back for two weeks, except if he does that, Lorne might try to palm some of the paperwork back onto John, and that's definitely something that can wait till he's officially RTD'd.

He should go find his team, figure out where they're going on their next mission, or drop by Elizabeth's office and let her talk to him about Atlantis and everything that's happened. Instead, he keeps drifting down the corridor, thinking vaguely about a shower – sponge baths just aren't the same.

He can't help jerking back when Teyla comes round the corner in front of him – he heard her footsteps, he realizes, he just didn't figure out what it was – and he reaches for her hand.

She looks down at their joined hands, then back up at him with a confused smile. "John," she says, and John finally remembers he doesn't have to do this any more, he can open his mouth and have words come out.

"Sorry," he says, dropping her hand a little too quickly, but she just gives him her understanding smile instead, the one that means she thinks he's kind of an idiot but likes him anyway. It's one of John's favorites.

"I am glad to see you are up and about," she says. "I was intending to visit you in the infirmary, but perhaps you would prefer to spar with me? I believe the gym is free for the next two hours."

Eyesight normal, John reminds himself. He's totally fine. "Sure," he says with a smile.

hr

It took Rodney four and a half days to get Elizabeth's permission to go back to the planet with some of the engineers and take a look at the ruin. Just to see if it could be made stable, not to actually try and do it. Four and a half days of John silent and still in the infirmary, of making up an alphabet of simple symbols so they could at least *communicate* with each other, even if it wasn't much more than his initials yet. Four and a half days of Carson running test after test and shaking his head in helpless confusion.

All of it for nothing, because the gate wouldn't lock on the final symbol.

"You have got to be kidding me," Rodney groaned when Chuck tried for the third time and it still didn't work. He handed his P-90 off to Teyla and stomped up the stairs to shove Chuck aside. "Surely you haven't managed to completely forget the gate address in the last three days."

"No," Chuck said sharply, pointing at his screen. "I think I can manage to copy it accurately."

Rodney took a moment to look at him in surprise. Apparently Sheppard's fate was getting to everyone, not just his team. "Let me do it."

He ignored Chuck's brief smug look when the gate failed to lock for him either, and stripped off his tac vest to crawl under the console.

"Uh, McKay," Lorne said from somewhere above his head. "We've got two other teams off world, if you're going to start fiddling ..."

Rodney tapped his ear piece and summoned Radek down to the gate room. "If the gate isn't working, me 'fiddling' with the dialing device isn't going to make them any less trapped, Major."

Lorne sighed. "That's not exactly what I was hoping to hear."

You and me both, Rodney thought, and held out a hand for a datapad.

hr

John isn't quite sure how it happens, but he finds himself in Rodney's lab, his hair still damp from showering after sparring. Rodney's tapping away at his laptop, a mug of coffee steaming by his left hand, and John leans in the doorway, letting himself look while Rodney's distracted.

Rodney looks unfamiliar somehow, like John's memory of him wasn't quite right and he has to get used to this new version of Rodney. He's getting the same feeling with everyone, but it's strongest with Rodney, and he doesn't like it. It makes him feel like he was brought back to the wrong Atlantis, like maybe this isn't really his team at all. Like it might still be a dream, and he has to fight not to look behind himself for a Wraith, half convinced he can see the shadows they project on the edge of his vision.

"Oh," Rodney says, looking up at John. "I didn't – how long have you been there?"

John has no idea. His sense of time hasn't returned properly yet either. "Came to see if you wanted to go for dinner," he says instead, then wishes he hadn't when Rodney blinks at him in surprise. "It's – you know, they –" He shuts his mouth firmly, before he can make even more of a fool of himself. It doesn't mean anything that Rodney was sitting by his bed when he woke up, that Rodney came to see him every day, or what John thought was every day, and held his hand.

Except – except Rodney's surprise has morphed into something else, something warmer, filled with affection, and John thinks maybe it does mean something after all. He shoves his suddenly sweaty hands into his pockets and nods to the door. "You coming?"

Rodney smiles, a flash of amusement that's gone before John can really notice it. "Oh definitely, Colonel."

hr

"I'm not saying we should abandon the research we're doing on Atlantis," Rodney snapped. "But it's been nearly a week and we haven't found anything. Colonel Sheppard knows what's happening to him –" sort of, he added mentally – "And we can't just leave him like that indefinitely."

Not least because Rodney was getting far too used to the way Sheppard's hand curled round his when he thought no-one else was there, or the way Sheppard turned his head to Rodney. He didn't like the warm feeling it gave him, like Sheppard was giving him something precious. As if it wasn't bad enough that he found the man hot beyond all reason, and really, what was it about Air Force Lieutenant Colonels? He'd be wondering if they taught it during officer training if he hadn't met Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell.

"Ten hours by jumper is nothing," he said, shoving away thoughts of Sheppard's hand, warm and trusting in his own as they talked. "You already gave permission for us to go back through the gate, and we've gone further for less before. I can fly it if you don't want Major Lorne out of the city."

"That won't be necessary," Elizabeth said, a little too quickly. "Not least because you won't be going. Not yet, not until you and Dr Beckett have exhausted all possibilities in the city." She held up a hand when Rodney opened his mouth to object. "Just because the gate is working perfectly well for other planets, we can't assume that you'll be able to dial in from M7H 916 if something happens."

"There's no reason to assume anything will happen! And if it does, we'll have the jumper to escape in," Rodney objected. It wasn't fair that she gave in to crazy plans when John smiled at her, but wouldn't agree to something totally reasonable when Rodney suggested it.

"Two more days, Rodney. We'll talk again then."

hr

"Excuse me, sir," a voice says behind John, and he turns to see a guy in uniform, holding a cup of coffee. A second later, it resolves into Major Lorne.

"Major. You want to sit down?"

"No, thanks. I just wanted to say I'm glad you're back with us, and remind you that there's a battalion command meeting tomorrow at 0800."

John raises an eyebrow at him, betrayed. "I'm not even back on full duty, and you're already dragging me off to these things."

"Yes sir," Lorne says cheerfully. "Wouldn't want you to feel like we weren't happy to have you back."

"Some days, Lorne, I have no idea why I like you," John says dryly.

Lorne grins. "Me either. See you at 0800."

"Can't wait."

Lorne walks off, and John turns back to Rodney, who's glaring at his pasta like it personally insulted his intelligence and his manliness. "Rodney?"

"What?" Rodney looks up, then around. "Oh, he's gone."

John frowns. He knows Lorne and Rodney are never going to be best of friends, but they've always seemed to get on reasonably well in the past. "You wanna tell me what's going on?" he asks apprehensively.

"Nothing, Colonel. What makes you say that?" John looks at him until he meets John's eye and sighs. "Everything's fine. We just – disagreed about how risky going back to the planet would be."

"You and Lorne?" Lorne's far more level headed than anyone's ever going to accuse John of being, but he's never seemed particularly hesitant about doing whatever's necessary.

"Yes, me and the Major, is that so –" Rodney trails off and sighs again, unhappily. John wants to put his hand over Rodney's and remind him that everything is fine now. "Well, me and Elizabeth, really. But Major Lorne took her side!"

John remembers this part of Rodney's account, the on-going debate about whether it was safe to risk going back or not, and, although he hated the experience when he was having it, he's kind of proud of Elizabeth for sticking to her guns. He wouldn't have wanted anything to happen to his team trying to fix him, and he knows she knows this.

"Hey, it's not like you didn't work it out in the end," he offers, but Rodney's face falls even further, and his, "true," is worn and dispirited.

hr

They found the console at the very end of the second day, right where the database said it would be, in a lab on the third sublevel that they hadn't made it to yet, an almost identical replica to the one on M7H 916.

"Okay, this is good." Rodney pulled up the energy readings from the planet and compared them to the ones he was getting from the machine. Radek was already unscrewing the main panel to get at the crystals inside. "Or maybe not so good."

"Bad news?" Radek asked.

"Not exactly. The energy readings don't match up. At all, actually. These are much weaker." And really, wasn't that so completely predictable. Some days, he suspected Pegasus hated them.

The rest of the time, he was sure of it.

"Well, no," Radek said, his voice muffled as he leaned further into the open console. "They would not be."

Rodney waited approximately a second and a half for an answer. It was as much patience as he could muster, after a week and a half, and he'd seen Elizabeth trying to teach John new symbols for common items that morning, John's face turned away from her and towards the open door, his tightly closed eyes telegraphing how much he didn't want to be doing that. Rodney would never understand why Elizabeth wouldn't let them go back yet.

"Well? Why won't it work?"

Radek pulled his head back with a sigh. "Main power crystal is missing."

hr

John drags out dinner for as long as he can, but even with people coming over to say they're glad he's better, there's only so long he can drag out a plate of pasta and a cup of coffee, and eventually he has to put his tray back together and follow Rodney out into the corridors.

"So, are you going back to the labs?" he asks.

"Um..." Rodney looks across at him, but John can't read his expression. "Not exactly. Well, not yet, anyway, I have the notes I need on the laptop in my room."

"Right," John says stupidly. Rodney's still looking at him and God, when did Rodney McKay get good at hiding what he's feeling? The one time John could really use that whole heart-on-his-sleeve thing, and Rodney's finally learned to stop doing it.

Rodney nods, bouncing slightly as he walks. At least the misery has faded. "Well, since I have to walk right past your quarters, I might as well walk with you," he says, like it's not obviously what they were doing anyway. "Unless you have something else to be doing."

John's list of things he could be doing hasn't changed since this afternoon, but the restless energy an infirmary stay usually leaves him with is absent this time, and bed sounds like a very attractive proposition. "No. Sure. Fine."

They make the walk in near silence, because John can't think of a thing to say and Rodney, for once, doesn't seem inclined to fill up the silence with chatter. It's not exactly uncomfortable, but John can't stop focusing on the little sounds the city always makes, checking that he really is just being quiet, that he hasn't lost his hearing again.

By unspoken agreement, they walk the whole way, instead of taking the transporters, but it still doesn't take long to get to John's room, and all too soon he's leaning in his open doorway, saying goodnight and biting down the urge to invite Rodney in, to reach for his hand and say, 'please don't leave.' He doesn't want to be alone in silence again.

"So, I should get on," Rodney offers, shuffling his feet but not moving away. His eyes flicker up to John then away again. "Things to do, incompetent minions to check up on."

"Sure," John says. "Don't let them blow anything up."

"I'll try," Rodney says with a smirk. "And don't, you know, touch anything you shouldn't while you're sleeping."

"I'll do my best," John promises. He should let go of the doorframe, take a step back and let Rodney go, but he can't. He thinks he should say something else about touching things he shouldn't, because that's exactly what he wants to do, what he has been doing, leaving behind a trace between the two of them that he can't shake off. "I –" he starts, everything he wants to say rushing up to choke him and cut him off, but Rodney picks it all up anyway, and then his hands are on John's waist, pushing him inside so the door can slide closed behind them and they can kiss, desperate and wet in the middle of John's dark room.

hr

It took another day and a half, after they got to the planet, to make the building safe, then to get in and look at the console, which, miraculously, was still in one piece, and the whole time, Rodney couldn't shake the memory of John's face as he tried to understand what Rodney was telling him, the panic that tightened his expression and how hard he held onto Rodney's hand, vulnerable in a way he never was.

He shook it off and pulled open the access panel on the console, checking crystals against the diagram they'd pulled from the database.

"From your explanation to Doctor Weir, I assume this device was not supposed to do as it did," Teyla said from above him. If he turned, he could just see her boots and the lower half of her legs as she stood guard over him.

"No, not exactly," he agreed, wondering why she hadn't asked during the lengthy jumper trip. Teyla's timing was sometimes odd though. "It's supposed to reverse problems with people's hearing and vision. Except it seems to have thought that Sheppard's hearing and vision would be better off gone." Because Pegasus *always* thought that.

"But the machine you found in Atlantis will reverse the process?" Teyla pressed.

"Of course. It just needs –" Rodney reached as far back as his arm would go and pulled, feeling the power crystal come loose. The faint hum he hadn't noticed before cut off as the machine shut down completely. "This. It just needs this, and the right combination of buttons, which Zelenka should have figured out by now."

"Good," Teyla said brightly.

Of course the gate refused to dial Atlantis, or any other gate in the system – Rodney's best theory, which Radek agreed with, for once, was that the sound wave had knocked something out of alignment in the dialing device. Since there was now nothing on the planet worth coming back for, and it was clearly uninhabited, that wasn't particularly high on his list of concerns.

The downside was, he now had a ten hour puddlejumper ride back to Atlantis in which to contemplate the fact that Sheppard would soon be up and walking around independently again, and wouldn't need Rodney to hold his hand and tell him what was happening. Which was, obviously, a good thing, a great thing, the thing they'd been trying to effect for nearly two weeks, something to be grateful for.

And if he kept telling himself that, he might even end up believing it.

hr

"Turn the light on before you fall and break your neck," Rodney gasps, tearing his mouth away from John's to breathe hot across John's neck.

"No." John tightens his hold on Rodney, curling his fingers close in his shirt. "No, like this." It feels unreal, kissing and touching in the dim moonlight coming through his window, unreal and exactly right, the same half-there world they lived the last two weeks in. He runs a hand under Rodney's shirt, up his spine, and sucks on the hinge of his jaw until Rodney groans and drags his head round for another bruising kiss.

"Take your shirt off," Rodney says, the words catching on John's lips. "Take your clothes off, I want to –"

"Okay, okay," John says, but he can't let go of Rodney's solid, safe body, afraid he's going to tip and fall. He covers for it by taking Rodney's shirt off instead, running his hands over all the exposed skin and rubbing Rodney's left nipple between his fingers.

"Mm, yeah," Rodney says, low, then, "You're not very good at doing as you're told are you?" startling a laugh from John.

"Took you three years?" he asks, his hands tight on Rodney's shoulders, pressing their bodies close together so Rodney can run his hands over John's ass, his touch warm even through the layers of clothing.

"It's never been this annoying before," Rodney says. "You need help?"

"I do," John says solemnly, and carefully removes his hands from Rodney's body, surprised when he doesn't fall. Then Rodney's hands are on him again, carefully, slowly removing his clothes, kissing and touching every bit of skin as he reveals it, from the point of John's shoulder to the scar on his thigh, his knobbly knees and the top of his right foot. When he finally stands again, creeping up John's body to kiss him, John's shaking and achingly hard, his skin buzzing and his head dizzy.

"Okay?" Rodney asks between careful, chaste kisses.

"Okay," John agrees, but he's not, not really, and he wraps his arms round Rodney, holding him close.

"All right," Rodney says softly. "Here, lie down."

He carefully lowers John onto his bed, and Rodney's got the right idea, as usual, because everything seems better now he's horizontal, especially when Rodney finishes stripping his own clothes and climbs on top of him, weighting him down so he can't slide away.

Rodney's hard against John's thigh, and John wants to thrust up against him, but he can't really move, and Rodney's hands, stroking down his neck and over his shoulders, distract him. He turns half-blindly to kiss Rodney instead, sucking on his lower lip and tracing his teeth with his tongue, running his own hands up and down Rodney's spine like he's a cat.

"John," Rodney says quietly. "God, John, I want –"

John waits for him to finish and only barely realizes that he's tracing question marks down Rodney's back. "What?" he asks, struggling to find the word. "You want what?"

"To fuck you," Rodney whispers into his neck. "John, please."

"Yes," John says, tightening his hands on Rodney. "Yes."

Rodney kisses him again, triumphant and smug and familiar, and John kisses back just as hard, fighting the weird, bubbling feeling rising up in his chest. He's not sure if it would come out in laughter or tears and he doesn't want to find out.

Rodney's slow and careful as he slides lube-slick fingers into John, and normally John would protest, because he doesn't need anyone taking care of him, he can look after himself, but it's been a long time since he's done this, and he's starting to think that it might be nice, occasionally, to let someone else be in control. Just occasionally.

"You ready?" Rodney asks, straddling John's hips and leaning in to kiss him again. The sensation of his cock, covered by the condom, bumping John's thigh is familiarly weird, but John feels like he's been waiting months, years, for this.

"Yeah," he says, his voice coming out hoarse.

"All right." Rodney's voice is all confidence, but the quick kiss he presses to John's lips tastes of nerves. John takes a deep breath and produces a smile that he hopes looks reassuring. He's not scared of the sex, and he knows Rodney isn't either. He's scared of the intensity, of how badly he wants this, not just tonight but for weeks and months to come.

"Do it," he says, reaching up to stroke every part of Rodney he can reach.

Rodney nods, pushing John's knees up and keeping hold of him, and when he slides in on one long, smooth stroke, John groans, dropping his head back against the pillow and giving up everything.

Rodney fucks him slow and deep, stroking John's cock in time with his thrusts, leaning over to kiss John as John runs his hands over Rodney's thighs, his nipples and his stomach and the bend at his elbows. Rodney watches him like he thinks John's going to break, like he's something amazing and precious, spilling John's own name all over his skin, written on every part of him, a secret code between the two of them to go with the one they'd shared with the rest of Atlantis.

It feels like it goes on forever, like it could go on forever, until Rodney's thrusts get shorter, sharper, and he comes with a groan that sounds like pain, his eyes closed tight.

It takes Rodney a surprisingly short time to stop shuddering, his soft cock slipping out of John as he moves to lie next to him, his hand moving on John's cock again, his mouth soft against John's neck, his ears, the edge of his hair, and John's orgasm washes over him in a wave of pure pleasure that leaves him shaking, clutching at Rodney.

Rodney wraps his arms round John and pulls him close, letting John rest his head on Rodney's shoulder and hide his face. He has no idea what it's showing right now, and he feels too open, too exposed, still trembling and glad for the semi-dark.

"I've got you," Rodney says softly, stroking a hand through John's hair. "I've got you, it's all right." He sounds a little confused, and John doesn't blame him. *He's* a little confused, because sex, even really great sex, doesn't usually leave him feeling like this. Sensory overload, maybe, too much after two weeks of nothing.

Rodney lifts one arm to reach for his discarded shirt and wipe them both clean, which John appreciates, distantly. He's hovering on the edge of sleep, ready to crash out. "You're staying, right?" he asks quietly.

Rodney tucks his arm back round John again. "Yeah. As if I could leave with you draped all over me anyway."

John kisses his shoulder, the only part within easy reach. Rodney's not really complaining, but the familiar tone is comforting in a way he'd rather not think about too much. Rodney runs his hand through John's hair again, then leaves the hand resting lightly on the back of John's neck.

Right before he tips over into sleep, John finds his own fingers drawing a heart, over and over, on Rodney's chest. 'I trust you,' he thinks, and slips away, safe.


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