blue flamingos

Coming Around Again

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2008/ ~2366 words

Pairing: John/Rodney

Spoilers: Minor spoilers up to 4.14 Harmony; major spoilers for 4.15 Outcast.

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

Summary: That was the way it was; the way they were. Until...

Author's Notes: SGA flashfic second verse challenge

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

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They broke it off when they got back to Earth, the first time, by mutual agreement. Well, mutual unspoken agreement, anyway, standing awkwardly outside John's hotel room on their second night back on the planet.

"So I should," Rodney said, gesturing to his room, two doors down.

"Yeah," John said; he was still finding it hard to concentrate, caught up in Ford and the Wraith still, worrying about Atlantis and Teyla and whether he'd be allowed back, but he knew what he was agreeing to. What was okay while they were stranded in another galaxy, cut off from Earth and all that each other had left, was a lot less okay with the Daedalus eighteen days away and enough power to dial Earth if they needed to.

"Right," Rodney said, a little resigned, but not as disappointed as John might have expected, not sounding like he was going to disagree. He gave John a quick, hard hug that John returned before he had chance to process his own surprise – he'd gotten used to responding to Rodney touching him by then, enough to forget that he didn't hug.

"See you later," Rodney said, and let himself into his own room, and that was it – six months of affection and desperation and sex, done.

"Okay then," John said quietly, and went into his own overly fussy hotel room.

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Four weeks after they got back to Atlantis, Rodney started seeing Katie Brown, on and off, and John didn't tell him it was a bad idea, because he wasn't that kind of friend, and he thought it would sound more jealous than concerned.

And that was the way it was. The way they were.

Until Rodney proposed to Katie, sort of, then took it back, mostly, then broke up with her.

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The thing was... the thing was, John knew what he was doing when he first went to Rodney's room, when he first slept with him and stuck around. He knew what he was doing when they broke it off, and he knew what he was doing every time he sought Rodney out to play their game, or hang out, or watch movies, every time he looked too long or tried to keep Rodney from going off to a date with Dr Brown. There was no way he could kid himself that he didn't feel way more than friendship for his best friend, or that he didn't want way more than that.

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He half expected Rodney to come by after the quarantine, or to join them in the mess hall, but he didn't, and in the end, John went looking for him instead. For once, he couldn't predict how Rodney was going to be, and he didn't know which outcome he was hoping for more.

The sickening burst of hope that caught his heart when he found Rodney alone in his lab, hunched defensively over his laptop, made it pretty clear that this was what he'd been hoping for, even if that made him a terrible friend.

He actually hesitated in the doorway, knowing Rodney wouldn't have noticed him there, and thought about slipping away, about letting Rodney come to him when he was less vulnerable, but John had never been good at backing away when he should, so he let the door slide closed with him and Rodney both on the same side.

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It wouldn't be so bad, he told himself a week later, if Rodney had been more upset. Not that he was exactly bouncing around the lab, filled with joy and happiness, but for a guy who'd intended to be engaged by the end of the day and instead found himself still in possession of a ring he couldn't use, and now without a girlfriend, he'd been pretty much okay.

Which meant – John didn't know what it meant. That Rodney hadn't really cared for her all that much, maybe, or at least, not as much as he'd talked himself into believing. That Rodney wasn't broken-hearted and put off relationships for the foreseeable future.

That Rodney was single, and maybe looking, and maybe looking for someone who *got him*, who understood that sympathy and a positive outlook just didn't work sometimes, and that Rodney's tendency to get caught up in all the possible disastrous outcomes wasn't a bad thing, not really.

That Rodney would maybe still want John, even if he'd never given any indication, after, that he thought of John like that, as anything more than a friend, like those six months had never happened.

That was the one John wanted to believe, the one he kept thinking about, peering at city blueprints and emergency plans with Lorne, sparring with Ronon and sitting in mission debriefs with the other teams, and prepping for their next trip to Flora and Mardola's planet. He even had it planned out in his head, the excuse he'd make for stopping by Rodney's room late in the evening, how he'd stand too close and let himself look too long until Rodney noticed and...

And that was where it all derailed, because, Rodney's new-found single status notwithstanding, nothing had actually changed. They were still too close to Earth – closer, with the bridge. The Daedalus and the Apollo still came round too often, there were still too many risks, to John's career and the safety of Atlantis, to Rodney's safety, even, because not everyone they sent to another galaxy was as open-minded as John might like them to be (being one of the top people in your field cut you a lot of slack when your field was one that was really needed in the city).

So there they were, exactly where they'd been for the past two and a half years, except *they* weren't really there at all; John was, going slowly crazy with wanting something that he couldn't have, and not even able to mope about it, because the whole point was that no-one else could know.

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And then John's father died.

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He couldn't remember, later, what he said to Carter, or what she told him about the arrangements. He vaguely remembered, if he pushed it, Ronon saying something, maybe condolences, maybe asking if John wanted company, but whatever it was, the details were gone.

It mattered, he told himself, that Rodney had asked for permission to come with him, had known what it would mean for John to hear that he'd asked, and anyway, the truth was that John wasn't at all sure he could deal with Dave, and the rush of memories that he knew going back to the house would bring, and the confusion of his relationship with Rodney, all at the same time.

The truth was, John's skin remembered what it felt like to fall asleep with Rodney holding him close and safe and warm, and it hurt to be standing in his room alone, watching Rodney's retreating back and unable to find a way to say I'm not fine. Please don't go yet. Not when Rodney had *looked* at him, like John had shown far too much at the wrong moment, like knowing that John was hurting hurt Rodney as well.

It wasn't right, he knew, to be relieved when Ava Dixon gave him an excuse to leave, but Dave was the good son, the one people knew – half the people there didn't even recognize John, and probably most of those wouldn't know who he was if he told them. It was easier to think about Replicators and crazed scientists. Easier not to think about how much he wanted to be able to pick up a phone and hear Rodney's voice.

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"I'll wait for you," Ronon said when John told him he had a few things to take care of, and refused to be persuaded that John could handle one visit to his brother without back-up sitting on the Daedalus, so John had company going back to Atlantis as well.

They walked through the gate in the late evening, the gate-room empty but for security and the gate technicians. Since no-one knew when to expect them back – Carter had granted John a week's compassionate leave, which didn't run out for another couple of days – there was no-one to greet them when they stepped back into the city, which, for some reason, struck John as the oddest thing about the whole weird week. He couldn't remember ever coming back and not having the first thing he saw be Elizabeth or Carter looking down at him from the conference room balcony.

Ronon took in the security patrol and the empty room and raised an eyebrow at John, who shrugged.

"Guess they've all got more exciting things to do," he offered.

"I give it five minutes before McKay finds out we're back and tracks you down," Ronon said, his tone giving nothing away, as usual, and patted John on the shoulder and headed off who knew where.

It actually took closer to ten minutes, but John figured that was mostly his own fault for not getting back to his quarters fast enough, since Rodney was standing outside when he got there, his hand on the door chime.

"No-one's home," John offered, stepping round Rodney to touch the door sensor.

"Apparently," Rodney said, and hovered in the doorway till John nodded for him to come in, ignoring the part of himself that was loudly pointing out how much of a bad idea this was. Since it was mostly drowned out by the much larger part of himself that was blissfully drinking in Rodney's proximity, ignoring it wasn't difficult. "So," Rodney started as John dropped his bag and started unpacking. "How was it?"

There were way too many answers to that for John to start in on them. "It was, you know..." he started, and then couldn't think of an end to the sentence.

Rodney grimaced like he knew what it ought to be anyway. "We heard about the Replicator. Replicators. You should have – the SGC have people to deal with that kind of thing, you know. It didn't have to be you."

"I know, Rodney." John bit down on the urge to point out that they had people to deal with kidnapped sisters as well, but that hadn't stopped Rodney from accepting his and Ronon's offer to go with him. "But she came to me."

"And you can never resist a pretty woman in distress," Rodney said. He sounded much gentler than he usually did when he was saying things like that, but that didn't stop the hurt that washed through John.

If anyone had asked, he would have blamed that for the way he turned to look at Rodney then, for the way he forgot all the things he wasn't supposed to show, and for the way his voice sounded, hoarse and broken, when he said, "Rodney."

And Rodney blinked, once, like he did when he needed a second to process, and then said, "Oh," sounding kind of stunned. "You -. John -. Oh."

"Yeah," John agreed. It was too late to try and take it back, if it was even possible to take back a facial expression, and anyway, he didn't want to, not really.

"Why didn't you say something?" Rodney asked, getting through his surprise as fast as he always did. "What were you – how long? Not that I mind if this is just a reaction to – well, no, I suppose I would mind, but honestly, it's not like I wouldn't -. Seriously, you agreed, when we re-established contact with Earth, you can't have – not since then."

John wanted to close his eyes and just let the sound of Rodney's voice wash over him. He wanted to say something smart and ironic about Rodney not getting a big head. He wanted to wind the day forwards by half an hour, to the point where this would be over.

More than all of those things, he wanted Rodney to stop hovering in the doorway, and come and put his arms round John. "Rodney," he said stupidly. "Please."

And John never begged, ever, because it never worked, not on anyone; except for Rodney, apparently, because Rodney looked at him for a second, calculating, then nodded and – finally – took the two steps he needed to get right into John's personal space and, telegraphing it very clearly, the way he always did when he first touched John, put his arms round John's shoulders and pulled him close, till John could press his face against Rodney's neck and his hands on Rodney's warm, familiar body, and just breathe.

Even allowing for how the last week had been unusually crappy, it was the best thing John had felt in ages.

"John?" Rodney said after a while, and John said, "Yeah," into his skin, not caring what he was agreeing to.

"This isn't just because of your dad, is it?" Rodney asked.

"No," John said, suppressing the shudder that wanted to run down his spine at the thought of his father. Dad regretted what happened between you two. Right up to the end and John wasn't ready to think about that yet, wasn't sure he'd ever be ready to think about what it meant, what might have been.

"How long?" Rodney asked again. John shook his head, closing his eyes. That was another question that was too complicated to answer. "You agreed," Rodney said quietly. His left hand moved, tracing a random pattern over John's back. "We both did, that it's not a good idea. What changed?"

Me. The word stuck in John's throat when he tried to force it out, refusing to be spoken. He shook his head again, helplessly.

"Okay," Rodney said gently. "It's okay, you don't have to answer."

John thought about Dave asking what his level of expectation was. It kind of sounded like Rodney was headed to the same place and he wasn't any more eager to go there now, in this context, than he had been with Dave.

"Are you tired?" Rodney asked eventually. "I should let you get some sleep."

This, though, this was easy, the one part that had become easier since the first time. John tightened his grip on Rodney and said, "Stay with me," and Rodney did.


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