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Title: Shrapnel in his Skin
Author: moonlettuce
Recipient: dare_darcy
Pairing: McKay/Dex, McKay/Sheppard
Rating: NC-17
Summary: He can't go to Teyla with this. And there's a hundred reasons why it can't be Lorne.

The village is still burning in places when they find him, a few spots of flame surrounded by smoke curling into the sky as he leans back against the puddlejumper to watch it.

"Rodney?" Teyla's voice is soft, as careful as the hand she rests on his arm; too soft to drown out the muttered curse that comes from Lorne.

"I--" But the words trail off as he turns to look at them, stuck in his throat like a ball of ash.

I did this, he doesn't say.

Did it because he needs to wash away the last memory of this place, of Teyla's tears and Ronon's silence and John's blood (so much of it, too much of it, slipping through his fingers and staining his skin while the village elder looks at them and just fucking smiles as he declares the reparations complete). Wash away the look on Carson's face, on Elizabeth's. Wash away John lying in the infirmary (too still, too quiet), Atlantis barely keeping him alive, and a city that's already started mourning. Wash away the fact that he's felt nothing but cold since that day and that maybe, just maybe, a village consumed by flame is enough to warm him.

But he doesn't say any of it. Doesn't say anything and lets Teyla pull him to his feet and towards the back of the jumper.

Lorne doesn't meet his eyes as they pass, but Ronon does. And he thinks the look Ronon gives him is a mixture of understanding and pride, but the smoke in the air is making his eyes water, and he's been wrong before.

Silence reigns in the jumper as Lorne takes the pilot seat, Teyla beside him as Ronon settles in next to Rodney, hand reaching out briefly to touch his arm. And no words are said as the jumper lifts off from the ground and makes its way back to the Stargate, leaving nothing behind to show its presence but a patch of flattened grass and homes still burning.

They don't speak on the trip back to Atlantis, the quiet only broken by Lorne sending through his IDC and requesting the shield be lowered. Don't speak until they're stepping out into the jumper bay with Elizabeth waiting for them.

"How did it go?" Rodney can hear the unspoken question in Elizabeth's voice. It's the first time the team's been off-world since it happened, the first time they've gone out without John.

"Fine, ma'am," Lorne answers without hesitation. Without hesitation and without mention of Rodney's side-trip. He doesn't say how Rodney left them and took the jumper through the gate. Doesn't say how he and Teyla and Ronon followed him, each of them knowing exactly where he'd gone. (Rodney's not sure if he gave it away or if they all just know him that well.) And he doesn't say how they'd found him, watching buildings burn with his back against a jumper that held less drones than it had when it had first left Atlantis.

"Rodney?" He wants to snap at the softness in her tone, tell her he won't break. But he thinks that an empty village and the charred remains of a stone circle that had been crusted red with John's blood would show the words for the falsehood they are.

"I'm fine, Elizabeth." And he doesn't know if she can't hear the lie in his words, or if she's just ignoring it, but she nods at him anyway, dismissing him with a single motion of her head as she turns to Lorne.

His trip to the infirmary is perfunctory, quick and without complaint, even as Carson sticks the needle into his vein to take blood.

"How are you?" Carson asks, and Rodney can hear the same questions in his voice that he heard in Elizabeth's. And Rodney considers telling him. Considers telling him about death raining down in the darkness and how even the fire raging through the village wasn't enough to warm him.

"I--"

But the words stick in his throat as his gaze is drawn to the other end of the room, to tubes and machines and a figure lying too still.

"I'm fine." Almost daring Carson to call him on the lie. And for one brief moment he thinks that Carson's going to, going to proclaim Rodney McKay for the liar he is, before a hand pats his arm and Carson says he can go.

Lorne is coming into the infirmary as Rodney's leaving, and on any other day there'd be words exchanged - acknowledgement, snark, something. But this isn't a normal day, and when Lorne brushes past him without a glance, Rodney lets him.

The corridors bleed into each other after Rodney leaves Carson's domain, stark and sterile and filled with people who aren't stopping him. And he doesn't know if it's because he looks busy or because he looks like he's one step away from breaking into a run and going somewhere, anywhere, to stop the walls from closing in on him. Because his skin is twitching and his heart is pounding and he's spent too many nights watching a man who's too silent and too still and not John to be able to do it even once more without wanting to scream and rail.

He clenches his hands, trying to stop the tremors, nails digging into the soft skin enough to give him some focus, but not enough. Not enough because he needs (John) something different, something harder, something more.

He can't go to Teyla with this. She's too strong to give him what he needs, too strong to let herself break. And there's a hundred reasons why it can't be Lorne. But it has to be someone, because he can't sleep, can't think, and Rodney knows himself well enough to realise that it's going to lead to stupid mistakes that they can't afford right now.

When he's gotten like this in the past (brain too fast, walls too close), John's always been there, steady and solid and knowing exactly what Rodney needs. But it's not John's quarters he's standing outside of (dark and quiet and empty), not John's door that's opening.

He meets Ronon's eyes, meets the gaze that's sharp and knowing and barely surprised, and wonders how long Ronon's been waiting for him to show up like this.

"I need--"

But he doesn't finish the sentence, doesn't finish because Ronon's already pulling him inside, towards the middle of the room as the door slides shut behind him.

"I know what you need, McKay." Ronon's hand wraps around the back of his neck, heavy and warm and there. And Rodney shudders, relief running through his body in a palpable wave.

"You need to stop thinking." The words aren't a question but Rodney nods anyway. Needs to stop thinking, to stop seeing, because his mind's been filled with nothing but blood and stone and fire, and it's edging everything else out.

"Go shower."

The words take a moment to filter through to Rodney's brain, because he'd expected to be on his knees by now, not being ordered into the shower. And the question must show in his eyes, because the hand tightens on the back of his neck slightly.

"I said shower, McKay. You stink of smoke."

Of smoke and death and a thousand other scents the fire carried to him that he hasn't even noticed until now.

He looks at Ronon before heading into the bathroom, clothes dropping in a pile once he's in there. The water is hot and steady over his body and it washes away the tension in his shoulders along with the ash and sweat on his skin. Rodney's not too sure how long he's in there for, but when he finally emerges there's no sign of his clothes, the pile in the corner where they were replaced by a pair of jeans he recognises as his and a shirt that's definitely Ronon's.

He dries himself quickly, shirt catching on his still-damp skin when he pulls it on, and rubs a towel over his hair before stepping back into the bedroom.

Ronon's next to him instantly, hand back at his neck and thumb rubbing along his hairline. "You sure you want this?"

Rodney's nodding before the words are finished. Because the shower may have taken away some of the tension, but it hasn't taken anything else. Hasn't taken the need crawling under his skin like a million ants, or the sound of people screaming in his head.

The grip on his neck tightens, fingers pressing into flesh as Ronon leans forward. "Kneel." The word is soft, quieter than Rodney's heard Ronon be.

And Rodney hesitates. Hesitates because even though this isn't the first time he's been in this room with Ronon, in this position with Ronon, John had always been with them.

"McKay." Ronon's grip gets even tighter, pushing him down. Letting Ronon's hand guide him, Rodney sinks to his knees, ignoring the slight jar as he hits the floor, and lifts his hands to Ronon's trousers.

The bulge behind the leather is unmistakable, and it takes Rodney barely seconds to free Ronon's cock from its confines, barely seconds before his lips are wrapping around the hard flesh in front of him. Ronon's cock is heavy on his tongue, hot and familiar as Rodney scrapes his teeth along the shaft, wincing as Ronon responds with fingers in Rodney's hair, pulling sharply. Moving into the touch, Rodney swallows Ronon down until his nose is touching coarse hair before he pulls back, cock slick with saliva as it slides out of his mouth when he sits back and looks up at Ronon.

"Fuck me." Rodney's voice is raw, like his lips have been stretched around so much more than Ronon's cock, like he's only finally started to breathe again.

Ronon pauses, and Rodney wonders if the voice he's hearing is Rodney's or John's, but then hands are on him, tangling in his shirt and pulling him to his feet. Their clothes are lost on the way to the bed, scattered pieces of fabric dropped at will.

Rodney arches up as Ronon presses him into the bed, skin against skin and Ronon's hard cock against his.

"Please--" he begs shamelessly, moving into the touch when Ronon's fingers grip his wrist, signing Ronon's name into his flesh in colours of red and blue, signing Ronon's name just underneath John's.

Ronon murmurs words, soft and nonsensical, and Rodney thinks he should understand them but he can't, can't understand anything beyond yes and now and please. Rodney's pretty sure he's saying the words out loud because there's a rumbling of laughter before Ronon shifts, before there's a rush of cold air where Ronon's body should be. And he wants to complain, but Ronon's back before the words can make it past Rodney's throat; back, with his hand snaking down to Rodney's ass and fingers pressing inside, slick and easy.

It's too soon before the fingers are gone and Ronon's sliding into him with something bigger, harder, more insistent. It burns as it pushes into him, thick and heavy and it's too much and not enough.

"Please--" Entire vocabulary reduced to one word, world reduced to the cock cleaving into him. He needs this, needs to be taken out of himself. And Ronon obliges, thrusts in to him, sharp and hard, lips covering Rodney's to swallow the gasp.

Ronon's hand, still slick with lube, wraps around Rodney's cock, jerking it in time with the thrusts into his body.

"Oh god, yes--" Because Ronon's grip is tight and hot and perfect, and Rodney can feel it curling in his belly, this mixture of need and relief that's trying to break out of him.

Ronon's hips snap forward, balls slapping against Rodney's, as his hand pulls and twists and Rodney's orgasm crashes down on him, skin tight and body clenching and every nerve screaming. And through it, Ronon keeps fucking him, driving deep into Rodney's body as Rodney comes apart around him until he stills, coming into Rodney with a silent cry.

After long moments, Ronon slides out of Rodney, carefully collapsing next to him and reaching out to pull Rodney back against his chest.

"Stopped thinking yet, McKay?" Ronon asks, voice quiet and sated in the darkness.

"Yeah," he replies, "I think I have." He's not sure if it's the irony or the lie that carries him to sleep.

~

It's Teyla who wakes them the next morning, standing at Ronon's door as they dress.

Infirmary, was all she'd said before Rodney had been out of bed, pulling on jeans and shirt, with Ronon only a second behind him.

There are few people in the corridors that early, no one to stop them, to ask inane questions on power distribution and a thousand other things that have been pushed from Rodney's mind by the mantra of johnhjohnjohn running through him.

He pauses at the infirmary door, and Teyla's hand on his arm makes him look at her, concern in her eyes.

"Are you--" She doesn't end the sentence, doesn't need to.

"I'm fine, Teyla." And Rodney is almost surprised to find he's not lying.

It's Ronon's hand at his back that moves him forward, urges him through the doors. His gaze goes automatically to the end bed, to dark eyes looking back at him, tired and heavy and awake.

Oh.

John.

And the sound of burning and the scent of blood finally, finally, fades around him as he closes his eyes.

Fin

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
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sheafrotherdon
Dec. 15th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, oh, oh, this is beautiful! There's such tension and need and affection - so many different kinds - running through this story, and the ending is just perfect. God, so lovely.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
I worried so much over this one - mainly about whether I wasn't saying enough and leaving people to fill in too many blanks, so it's great to know it worked :D
tarlanx
Dec. 15th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
So much angst! Poor Rodney! So glad Ronon could help ground him.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
They're team, and it's what they do :D Glad you enjoyed!
incidental_fire
Dec. 16th, 2008 12:22 am (UTC)
Nicely done. Ouchie, but nicely done.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
::grin:: Thank you!
cathalin
Dec. 16th, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
Whoa. Wow, beautifully written, and the fact so much is left unsaid makes it even more powerful. The dynamic with Ronon is gorgeous, and the way the Team closeness is evident is just perfect. Very awesome story.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I was rather worried about how much I was leaving unsaid and if it was too much white-space in the story, but when I added in more, it just didn't work. So yay! that the unspoken parts worked :D
xela_fic
Dec. 16th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Oh Rodney! Poor, poor Rodney.

I love how the team is characterized here, with Teyla's strength and Ronon giving McKay what he needs. And how John is there, even when he's not.

Lovely.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
One of the things I was aiming for, even though it's explicitly a Rodney/Ronon pairing in the story, was a sense of team and how they're all there for each other, so yay that that came through :D
skieswideopen
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:00 am (UTC)
Oh, painful and lovely. Beautiful, beautiful writing.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed :D
(Deleted comment)
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks; glad you enjoyed :D
skinscript
Dec. 16th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
I always like Rodney losing it a little, cause on the show, even when he does lose it - his temper, his composure, his sense of humour - he never really loses himself.

I like all the subtext here - all the things the story hints at but doesn't say.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks :D I was nervous about the amount of unsaid undertones in the story, so I'm really pleased that they worked :D
(Deleted comment)
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
The original start of it had John dead, but as I was writing it that just didn't work (and I felt really guilty ::grin::), so I changed it to John being alive. I guess, although I'm an angst-puppy, I still need the happy/hopeful ending ;)

Glad you enjoyed that story :D

(Also: Thomas ftw! I'm so glad that Jim Butcher's done a Thomas pov book - although not best impressed by the price of it...)
krysalys
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)
Damn. Perfect.
-----}-@
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks :D
dare_darcy
Dec. 17th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Fabulous
So it's my story and I'm WAAAY down the line... xD Stupid no internet at home.

Anyway, this was fabulous. I absolutely loved it. I love the implication that John and Rodney do things with Ronon and that's why he's the only person Rodney can trust with his pain...

I love so much about this. You did a fabulous job. I really really like it. :)
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Fabulous
Yay that you liked it! I was so nervous about how this one would turn out and whether or not I leaving too much 'white-space' to be filled in by readers.

It's such a relief that you enjoyed it :D
kassrachel
Dec. 17th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, wow. This is painful and sharp and beautiful. I love that Rodney went for vengeance; that Ronon and Teyla knew him well enough to know where he had gone; the way he goes to Ronon, and the way you show us that he and John and Ronon have done this before; the way John is the invisible partner all through the (incredibly hot and tender) sex -- and the ending, which left me sighing with relief.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
I felt far too guilty to actually have John die (which had been the original plan). I'm so glad the sense of team came across, because that's one of the things I was aiming for :D
silverraven
Dec. 18th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
Brilliantly done! Dark and painful but oh so good. Great fic.
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :D
xparrot
Dec. 20th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
Ow and oh and ouch and wow. Love how Ronon knew what he needed, and it wasn't the first time...
moonlettuce
Jan. 10th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
When it comes down to it, they're team and know exactly what each other need :D
dragojustine
Dec. 23rd, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
I love how much is left unsaid and implied in this. It's amazingly powerful.
beachlass
Jan. 1st, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Yes. Exactly. *nods*
(no subject) - moonlettuce - Jan. 10th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - moonlettuce - Jan. 10th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
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