blue flamingos

Saturday Afternoon

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Slash, G

Year/Length: 2008/ ~2208 words

Pairing: John/Rodney

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

Summary: Rodney's got to go to work, and John's got too much time to think

Series: Never Going Home

Author's Notes:

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

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"Please tell me you're not planning on falling off that," Rodney says from the porch, and John thinks they're both lucky that his Air Force trained hyper-awareness hasn't gone away yet, or he really would have fallen off the ladder.

Which, given that he's fifteen feet up, doesn't seem like a great idea.

"Not unless I get really bored," he says, dropping the brush back into the half-empty paint can and leaning against the top step of the ladder to look down at Rodney, dressed in khakis and a dark shirt, holding his favorite travel mug. Damn.

Rodney must catch the change in John's expression, because his face twists ruefully. "Bill called," he says. "The Daedalus arrived early, they need me to go in and –"

"It's fine," John says, forcing a smile that he really hopes looks natural. He's all too aware of what Rodney gave up to be here, and John has no right to complain when Rodney has to go to work.

"I'm really sorry," Rodney says. "It won't be more than a couple of hours, three tops..."

"It's fine," John says again, feeling like an asshole, because Rodney sounds *guilty*, and it's not even like they would have seen much of each other for the afternoon, John up a ladder finally getting around to repainting the eaves, Rodney sequestered in his lab with reports and simulations. Somehow, that makes John feel worse, not better. He's gotten used to Rodney being around in the evenings and on the weekends.

He climbs down the ladder, ignoring Rodney's muttered, "Careful, careful, don't –"

"It's fine," he repeats. "Go, do your thing. I expect a full report if you find anything cool."

"It's Ancient technology from Atlantis. Of course there'll be something cool." Rodney's smiling now, which is what John was hoping for, and reaching out to pull John in. John expects a kiss, but he gets a hug instead, held close with Rodney's travel mug bumping against his spine. He closes his eyes and leans in, feeling pathetic and grateful and wishing he could go with. Not that they'd be here if he could.

Rodney does kiss him when he lets go, soft and full on his mouth, smiling faintly. "I promise I won't take too long," he says, releasing John and wandering back into the house. "At least the traffic won't be too bad by now..."

John doesn't watch him leave, but he's high enough up to watch the car wind away from him down their little country road, until it turns and disappears behind the trees. It's suddenly very quiet, and John wishes he'd thought to bring the radio up here.

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The painting doesn't take long, without Rodney to distract him, so everything's cleared away and John's showered and changed by the time his next dose of pills rolls round. It seems like Lam and Keller have finally hit on the right dose, because he's not getting even the faint tremor that used to come at the tail end of a dose any more. It's almost enough to kid himself that he's fine, until he remembers passing out as he came through the gate from Atlantis to Earth, someone shouting to shut the gate down as he faded out.

He washes up the dishes from lunch, puts down food for the cat, who's out prowling the neighborhood and won't want to be let in until ten minutes after John's gone to bed, then makes a pot of coffee. He's fairly sure the last thing he needs is more caffeine, but the smell's become familiar over the last month and a half, and it's almost a good enough substitute. He thinks about calling Mitchell, inviting him over for a beer and TV; since Rodney moved in, John's started to get over the whole no-one-in-my-space-but-me thing, mainly for the amusement value of Mitchell and Rodney in the same room. Chances are Mitchell's at the SGC if the Daedalus is in; pretty much everyone seems to go in for the beam down of people and technology, whether they need to be there or not.

He pokes around the kitchen instead, making a half-hearted shopping list and thinking about heading into Cripple Creek. It'll be busy, though, tourist season just getting started, and Saturday afternoon shoppers, and John's not up to dealing with all the people.

He sticks the list under a fridge magnet of Atlantis – the mythical city, not the real one – and ambles up to the first floor, in and out of the three bedrooms. John still can't quite believe how fast they've turned from mostly-empty place-holders to real rooms. One wall of his and Rodney's room is lined with book cases, shelves already bending under the weight of both their book collections, Rodney's crated up from his apartment, John's dragged out of eight years of storage. The room next to theirs has a double bed half-buried under cushions of a dozen different shapes and sizes, and an ornate silver oil burner that John impulse bought at a craft fair in Cripple Creek, and the room opposite has a DVD player and a pile of classic movies. John drifts up to the attic room on auto-pilot; it's still his favorite place in the house to be, the huge window open to the sky, the weak early spring sun catching the yellow walls, bouncing over the cot, the rocking chair, the mobiles.

He lingers up there for a while, spinning the F-16 hanging from the ceiling, but he can't stay there all day, and eventually he heads downstairs again, digs out the latest pack of training notes Jake's sent him. Brown Acre's branching out into simulated attacks on sites of possible terrorist interest, and John's starting to realize just how much Pegasus taught him about this kind of ground combat. He turns the radio on to a talk station, too low to make out the words, but loud enough to fill in some of the silence, and finds the red pen that Rodney bought him as a joke when he found out what John was doing with his time.

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He starts awake some indeterminate time later to find that he's sitting in the dark, neck bent uncomfortably where his head's fallen against the arm of the couch. It takes him a second to realize what woke him, and then the front door's being shoved open, the hall light flipped on to make him blink.

"Sheppard?" Rodney calls. "I swear to God, if you've fallen off the ladder and broken your neck..."

"If I'd fallen off the ladder and broken my neck, you'd have seen my battered corpse in the front yard," John points out. He uncurls his legs, wincing at the rush of returning sensation.

Rodney wanders in, scarf still draped round his neck, nudges the light on with his shoulder and drops a three inch pile of files on the corner of John's desk. He always does this, despite having an office of his own, and John can't figure out if it's because he's too lazy to cross the hall to get to it, or because he knows that John likes to look at the reports from Atlantis, the only connection he's still got to the technology that brought him everything he ever wanted, then took it all away.

"Hey," Rodney says, shifting John's papers so he can sit next to John. He runs one hand through John's hair, curls it round the back of his neck and pulls John in to kiss him hello. It's one of a great list of things about living with Rodney which John thinks will never get old, like the way he pulls John close when they get into bed, and the way he wraps his arms round John while John's washing up, bumps his nose against the short hair on John's neck. "Why are you sitting in the dark?"

"Fell asleep," John admits. He feels groggy with it, now the shock of being woken up is wearing off, and he has no idea what time it is.

"That's because this stuff is enough to send anyone to sleep," Rodney tells him, poking at John's training notes like they might get up and start dancing the polka. "A year ago you were the military commander of Atlantis, and now you're helping plan training for bored stockbrokers on their weekends..."

John lets Rodney keep going, doesn't bother pointing out that the people taking the training he helps develop probably haven't worn a suit since graduation, police officers and security staff and the closest thing to marines without enlisting. It's a familiar rant – John's wasting his brain, he's wasting his training, he could be doing something so much *better* - and the truth is, John agrees. This was a stop-gap, while he figured out how to live on Earth again, but the one thing he hasn't figured out yet is what he wants to do with his life as it is now. Rodney wants him to decide now, today, preferably yesterday, but John's not in a hurry. He's got plenty of other things to keep him occupied, like the ranting astro-physicist sitting next to him and filling up all the silences with his own noise. John finds it hard to remember that he lived alone for months before Rodney came back as well; the house doesn't really feel like home when he's the only person in it.

"Are you even listening to me?" Rodney demands. John thinks that he probably knows the answer to this; his hand is still in John's hair, gentle against his scalp, and there's no way that Rodney's really pissed off at him.

"Do you want to move?" he says.

Rodney blinks, surprised, and John wants to do the same, because he was not expecting that to come out of his mouth. Sure, it's been in the back of his mind for a while, that they're an hour's drive from the mountain, from Colorado Springs with restaurants and a concert hall and life as Rodney knows it from before Atlantis. Cripple Creek isn't anyone's idea of a dream location, full of tourists and casinos and nowhere to buy Rodney's favorite blend of coffee.

"Do I want to – what?" Rodney looks genuinely puzzled. "Move where? Why?"

"Closer to the mountain." John looks away, down at his hands. "Closer to the city, so you don't have so far to drive."

"Is this because I'm back late?" Rodney asks. "Look, I'm sorry, I know I said I'd only be a couple of hours, but, really, I like my life as much as the next person, and the only way to preserve it is to make sure that –"

"It's not because of that," John says firmly, speaking over Rodney until he shuts up. "I just thought – it wouldn't be hard to sell this place..."

"Okay, seriously." Rodney drags John round till they're face to face, and starts running his hands over John's head. "You'd tell me if you'd fallen off the ladder, wouldn't you? Because, really, a head injury is the only explanation for why you've suddenly gone insane."

"I haven't suddenly gone insane." John nudges Rodney's hands away and stands up, filled with sudden irritation. He knows Rodney, knows that, given the choice, he wouldn't live here. It's why he still has his apartment, even though most of the contents have migrated out to this house.

"John?" Rodney comes up behind him where he's watching the grass in the front yard. "What's going on?" He steps close into John's personal space and puts his arms carefully round John, like he's afraid of being shrugged off. John's irritation melts into uneasy guilt and he sighs, leaning back into Rodney and closing his eyes. He wishes someone had warned him that *this* would be the hard part.

"It's not fair," he says quietly.

"What's not?"

"I know you don't like it here," John says, feeling like an idiot and trying not to care. He owes Rodney – God, so much more than this, but this will do for a start. "It's not fair that you have to – to live here, just because I –"

"Shut up," Rodney says fondly, and hugs John harder. "You're an idiot, you know that?" When John doesn't answer, he sighs, turning John in his arms. John can't remember when he got so malleable. "I'm not staying here because I have to. I'm staying here because I *want* to. You bought this place for us, for our family, without even knowing if any of us would come. Why would I want to leave?"

Put like that, John's worries make him sound kind of stupid. "You gave up Atlantis," he says helplessly. God, he hates feeling like this.

"And you're the only one in this relationship who can make sacrifices, yes, I know." Rodney smiles, amused and affectionate and a little bit cynical. "But just this once, you're going to have to fight your natural urge to do something self-sacrificing and accept that you get to have what you want." John tilts his head to rest his forehead on Rodney's shoulder, feeling his face burn, and Rodney whispers in his ear, "I already told you, you're worth it."

Next: After All


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