Summary: When John and Rodney find an Ancient device, John makes a discovery that will change his life forever.
Genre: angst, first time, romance
Spoilers: general for season five
Word count: ~11,000
Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fiction. No claims are made on the characters. This is meant solely for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended.
1. For icarusancalion who had 'a yen for John and Rodney explore Atlantis fics.' Happy holidays - I hope you enjoy the story!
2. Heartfelt thanks to my little band of beta elves (to be named after the reveal) for their help and support!
"So what exactly is this thing we're looking for?" John asked, following Rodney out of the transporter. "A long-range sensor?"
"No," Rodney shook his head, checking his pad as they turned into a disused corridor. "Well, maybe? I'm not exactly sure. The Ancient database is being its usual vague and non-existently indexed self but the entry roughly translates to mean 'far reaching visualisation' or something like that. There wasn't any additional information about the device - it was experimental and probably still in the development stage when the Ancients packed their bags - but I thought it sounded promising."
"So it's a long-range sensor," John said, not bothering to hide his grin. Teasing Rodney was a major part of their friendship; he knew that he'd never have the romantic relationship he truly wanted so he took what he could get. Plus Rodney was so much fun to bait.
"What? Oh, alright, Colonel Must Give Everything a Name - it's a long-range sensor," Rodney huffed. "Well, hopefully anyway," he added, bouncing a little.
"Cool," John said. With the rogue Asgard still at large somewhere in the galaxy, not to mention their countless other enemies, more advanced sensors were a definite advantage. "We can always do with a little more of a heads-up when the neighbours decide to call - give us time to lay out the welcome mat and put the lemonade on the porch."
"Don't forget the milk and cookies," Rodney sniffed. "You know how fussy the Wraith can get."
"Exactly." John clicked a finger at Rodney who shook his head and snorted. "So where are we headed?"
Rodney paused and checked the layout of the city on his pad again. "Just up here. The device is listed as being in a lab off this corridor. The structural engineers did a sweep to check the stability of the area but we haven't had time to make any detailed surveys before now."
"Okay," John said, "just let me check it out first. We don't want any nasty surprises."
Rodney nodded and stood to one side as they reached a non-descript door. "Internal scans have come up clean."
"Doesn't hurt to be careful," John said as he unholstered his Beretta and opened the door. He made a quick sweep but the lab was clear of any visible threats and he relaxed and waved Rodney inside.
The room was fairly empty, all of the benches were bare of equipment and the only thing of interest appeared to be a large, semi-circular console over in one corner. It was about five feet long and with the Ancient equivalent of a curved plasma screen hanging above it. There was a glass globe about the size of a soccer ball sunk into the surface at the centre of the console and a wide, raised platform on the floor in front of it. There didn't seem to be any kind of control buttons or crystals.
"Well, looks like this is it," Rodney said, scanning the device. "At least, it matches the description in the database. It's very different to the other Ancient sensor panels we've seen though. Hmmm, it looks like the operator must have to stand on the platform inside the device so the screen curves around them and, in the absence of any obvious controls, I'm assuming they put their hands on the glass dome. There's power to the lab but I'm not picking up any readings - presumably it's ATA linked and will react to the operator's gene."
"I dunno," John said warily. Rodney was right - this really didn't look like any sensor display he'd ever seen. "Maybe this is the Ancient version of some new age meditation tank and 'far reaching visualisation' is really some 'imagine-you're-a-leaf-know-the-inner-yo
"Really?" Rodney shuddered, circling around the console with his scanner. "I'm so hoping for sensors."
"I'm with you there, buddy," John sighed.
"It seems to be dead," Rodney said, tapping at the handheld. "See if you can initialise it while I monitor any output."
"This thing is safe, right?"
"Absolutely! Well, as far as I can tell," Rodney qualified and John rolled his eyes. "Look - I'm not picking up anything on the scans and the database didn't indicate it was dangerous."
"Well, that's reassuring," John muttered and stepped onto the platform. "But if I suddenly develop a thing for tofu and tie-dye, then I'll know who to blame, McKay."
"Yes, yes. Threat duly noted." Rodney waved carelessly, not looking up from his scanner. "Anytime today, thank you, Colonel."
"I'm just sayin'," John groused and cautiously placed both hands on the globe, thinking 'On' and 'Please don't kill me or, you know, make me meditate'.
The effect was immediate; the plasma screen lighting up and showing a high-definition, super close-up image of Rodney. Not the Rodney standing across the room from him but a Rodney wrapped around an equally high-definition John, their eyes closed and mouths locked together in what looked like the kiss to end all kisses. The thing was that not only could John see the image, in a kind of wrap-around, IMAX way, but he could feel it too - as if he was actually there, kissing Rodney, tasting him as they pressed closer and closer...
John ripped his hands from the globe, the glass dimming as the screen went blank. Jesus! What the hell had just happened? It was like a damn peep show, like the device had read his mind. Oh, shit! What if this wasn't a long-range sensor at all but some kind of virtual reality thing - a wish fulfilment device that probed a person's thoughts and gave them a 'visualisation' of what they wanted most? It had to be something like that because it had shown him precisely what he wanted - Rodney.
"What happened?" Rodney asked from the other side of the console. "Could you see anything? Were there star charts or tracking signals?"
"Um, nothing," John said, trying to steady out his breathing and sound normal as his heart thundered in his chest.
"There was power getting through," Rodney said, frowning and tapping at his pad. "The control globe lit up when you touched it and the screen seemed to glow, but it must only be visible to the operator - possibly through some kind of mental interface. Couldn't you see anything at all?"
"Just static," John said quickly. "Probably a fault somewhere or maybe the Ancients never had the time to get it working."
"Oh," Rodney said, his shoulders slumping. "Yeah, probably. Maybe if I tried?" he added hopefully.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," John said. The last thing he needed was the device showing Rodney his own fantasy - presumably one involving large-breasted blondes rolling around on a bed made of chocolate with a Nobel prize - and Rodney figuring out exactly what the device did. Then he'd want to know what John's fantasy had been and why he'd lied - and that could lead to the potential destruction of their friendship, something that John simply wouldn't risk.
"Why not? I have the gene too," Rodney said, his interest clearly piqued, and John knew he had to divert that bloodhound tenacity before Rodney realised that something was wrong.
"Well, if it's not working for me, how's your gene going to do any better, Mickey?"
"I'll have you know that my artificially stimulated gene works perfectly well, thank you," Rodney said primly, before adding with a grin, "and that's Doctor Mouse to you, Colonel! Anyway, who was it that found and initialised the personal shield, hmmm? And what about those things that looked like Ancient shoe horns that we found in storage last year?"
"Oh. You mean those things that turned out to be the Ancient version of shoe horns?" John smirked, smoothly steering Rodney towards the door and away from the thankfully now inactive console.
"Well, yes," Rodney blustered as they headed out into the corridor, "but my point is that they could have been some kind of advanced weaponry giving us a previously unimagined tactical advantage and it was my gene that got them working."
"They were shoe horns, Rodney."
"Oh, alright," Rodney muttered, stomping towards the transporter.
"Hey, maybe they were killer shoe horns?" John suggested, falling gratefully into their regular banter and away from the subject of the device. "Designed to make the enemies' feet ache really, really badly?"
"Very funny," Rodney said but he was clearly trying to hide a smile.
John relaxed, the minefield of the Ancient 'visualisation' device successfully side-stepped, at least for now. "No, just think about it for a minute," he said. "The Wraith wear those fancy leather boots, right? You can bet they get killer bunions and so the Ancients were trying to exploit that weakness and..."
John spent the rest of the day hanging out with Rodney and distracting him with suggestions for improvements to the puddle jumpers - "But a laser cannon would be awesome, Rodney!" - and trying out the latest expansion pack for their video golf game. It had been a close call but by the time they were ready to turn in he was fairly certain he'd managed to convince Rodney that the Ancient device was a bust and to just forget about the whole thing.
It was a pity he couldn't do the same for himself.
He tried to get comfortable, thumping at his pillow and rearranging his sheets for the thousandth time. It was nearly three am and he'd been lying in bed for hours, totally failing to fall asleep because all he could see when he closed his eyes was the image of Rodney kissing him. It had been so visceral - like he'd really been able to feel the softness of Rodney's lips and hear the hoarse breathiness of his moans, as if he'd actually tasted the sweetness of his mouth. The whole thing had felt so damn real - every detail just like he'd always imagined it would be - and it was driving him crazy.
He rolled over and beat his pillow into submission again. He'd had this thing for Rodney for a while now - okay, pretty much forever - but he really thought he'd been doing a good job of keeping it hidden; Rodney was his friend and he didn't want to lose that by giving himself away. Of course, Rodney was also straight and thankfully fairly clueless when it came to anything on a personal level; a fact borne out by his really bad track record with women. It hadn't been easy over the years, watching him stumble through his aborted attempts at relationships - first with Katie and then that whole horrific, crash and burn disaster with Keller. It had cut John to the bone to see Rodney getting so badly hurt, making such bad choices, when what he really wanted to do was say, "But look at me - I'm here. We'd be good together. I would never hurt you."
The thing was that he really did believe it - they could be good together - because he liked Rodney for exactly who he was, including his many and varied faults. He didn't want to see a softer, gentler version or one that had to think before he spoke, stifling the caustic wit and spark that made Rodney so perfectly and endearingly 'Rodney'. It would have been laughable, if it didn't hurt so damn much, to stand by and watch Rodney constantly trying to make himself into something he wasn't in the hopes of getting some woman to like him; when John already liked him - loved him - for exactly the person he already was.
John sighed and wiped his hand across his face as his mind replayed the image of the kiss again, almost feeling Rodney's lips ghosting across his own. It was kind of ironic, considering how buttoned up the Ancients had seemed to be, that it was one of their stupid machines that had done this. It had only taken an instant to bring years of carefully repressed longing and want crashing to the surface, stripping away John's defences and taunting him with all the things he could never have.
"Fuck it," he grunted, getting out of bed and hustling into his clothes. He'd tried so hard to keep this thing under control, making do with friendship when he wanted so much more. All of those evenings when he'd clenched his hands to stop himself from just holding on tight and asking Rodney to stay, ignoring the hollow feeling inside him as he smiled goodnight instead. It was like the device had opened the floodgates and now he couldn't force everything back inside. Well, if the damn device couldn't help him to have the real Rodney then at least it could show him his dream Rodney - and right now John really needed that.
The corridors were deserted and he deftly avoided the night security details, quickly arriving at the lab. Everything looked the same as it had earlier and John walked over to the device and stepped onto the raised platform. He took a breath. This was probably really stupid and using an Ancient wish fulfiller to feed his addiction for Rodney was hardly going to help in the long term. He knew that - but it was the middle of the night, he couldn't sleep and he was suddenly feeling more alone than he could pretty much ever remember. He took another breath and placed his hands on the glass globe. The words 'show me' had barely formed in his mind when the screen burst to life and his senses were engulfed.
It was him and Rodney - and they were naked; warm, slick skin pressed together as they lay in bed. They were kissing - John lying on top of Rodney, his hands cradling Rodney's head as their mouths met. Rodney's hands were on John's ass, insistent, pulling him down as their hips moved together, hard cocks trapped between them. The rhythm was frantic and John was overwhelmed, so many sensations rocking him to the core. Rodney was everywhere - swamping him with pleasure until he felt ready to burst. Their movements sped up, becoming jerky and less coordinated, and suddenly John could feel Rodney's body stiffen beneath him, hot come pulsing between them, and John shouted out, his cock spasming as he followed Rodney into happy oblivion.
John's hands were shaking as he dragged them off the globe, the screen slowly fading to darkness around him. His legs were weak and he was breathing hard as he staggered away from the device. He grimaced as he realised that his shorts were damp and clammy, and he felt a flash of shame. Christ, he'd just come in his pants in some VR fantasy world dreaming about Rodney. What the hell had he been thinking?
"Good move, John," he muttered and pulled his shirt down. Hopefully he'd make it back to his quarters without seeing anyone. Then once he got there he'd take a shower, go to bed and come up with a way of getting this whole Rodney-Pandora's box thing closed up tight again. He had to.
Things were a little dicey when the team sat down for breakfast together the next morning but John smiled and laughed - and tried really hard not to remember the feel of Rodney's naked skin - and pretty soon it was business as usual. Okay, he may have let himself snatch more than his regular quota of glances at Rodney and he did lose himself a couple of times watching Rodney's mouth and hands - but in the main it all went fairly well. He and Rodney were just friends, the best of friends, and he could handle it; the Ancient MAW - Make a Wish - device had simply been a temporary blip on the radar and he was just going to forget all about it.
That lasted for about a week - well, not counting the three times John had jerked off to the memory of Rodney's hands on his ass and the four times in the shower when he'd shot all over himself picturing Rodney's kiss-swollen mouth. Apart from that though, Mission Just Forget About It was going pretty well.
Then there was the thing with the Amarians and their cutesy idea that maybe they'd just keep Rodney for themselves and sacrifice the rest of the team for shits and giggles. They'd escaped, of course, and had probably been crossed off the remaining Amari's Christmas list, but at least they were all safe. Unfortunately John had got a twisted knee and a couple of bruised ribs in the process, and was feeling pretty sorry for himself by the time he left the infirmary and limped back to his quarters. So it probably wasn't that much of a surprise that after two hours of painful tossing and turning he found himself back at the MAW, just wanting to escape for a little while.
He stepped onto the platform. It was okay to do this - just this once more. It wasn't like he was hurting Rodney, Rodney didn't even know about it. That was actually kind of an uncomfortable thought - like he was using Rodney or something. But he hurt, damn it, and he just wanted Rodney so bad right now.
John sighed and put his hands on the rippled glass of the globe...
It was morning and the first pale rays of sunlight were just creeping through the windows near John's bed. He was warm and comfortable under the covers, Rodney's chest pressed up against his back and their legs entwined. Rodney had an arm wrapped around John's waist and was snoring softly in his ear. John sighed happily, relaxing into the solid warmth at his back and tracing Rodney's fingers as they lay against his belly. It was still early and they could sleep in a while longer. Rodney snuffled in his sleep and pulled John closer, mumbling something incomprehensible into his neck. John smiled and drifted back to sleep.
John stepped off the platform smiling, his body suddenly warmer. He touched a hand to his neck, the memory of Rodney's breath making his fingers tingle, and headed back to his quarters, finally ready to sleep.
The next day John decided that he definitely wasn't going to use the device again. The previous night had just been a moment of weakness because he hadn't been feeling too great.
They didn't have a mission and he was restricted to light duties because of his injuries, so he threw himself into the routine of a day in the city. He tried really hard to forget about Rodney, the way his lips felt and the snuffling sounds he made in his sleep, and for the most part he succeeded - Atlantis could always be relied on to provide plenty of distractions. Unfortunately things were different once he was alone, and in the end it was the nighttime quiet of his quarters that finally drove him down to the MAW lab again.
He paused in the doorway, looking across at the device in the corner. It wasn't like he was hurting Rodney by doing this, in fact Rodney would never even know. Okay, that still felt wrong but he just couldn't seem to stop himself - the device had shown him exactly what he wanted to see and now he didn't want to lose that. This was the only chance he'd ever have to be with Rodney in the way that he truly wanted, so maybe it was okay to let himself have this.
He walked over to the console. He hadn't come with any firm idea of what he wanted the device to show him, but smiled as the screen lit up around him, displaying Rodney bent over his laptop, typing furiously...
John put his hands on Rodney's shoulders and squeezed lightly, leaning forward and nuzzling at the soft skin behind his ear. "It's late - come to bed, buddy."
Rodney looked up distractedly. "Hmmm? What time is it?" he yawned, leaning back against John and rolling his neck with an audible crack.
John kneaded his thumbs into the tight muscles at Rodney's nape, smiling as Rodney moaned in appreciation. "It's time to call it a night. You done here?"
Rodney nodded, pushing his head back into John's hands. "I am now. Bed sounds good." He turned and grinned. "Assuming that you're included in that offer, of course?"
John laughed and pulled Rodney to his feet, pressing a kiss to his temple as they walked to the door. "Oh, I think that can definitely be arranged."
They went to John's quarters, scientific journals and odd pieces of tech nestling up against his guitar and comic books, Rodney's spare laptop perched on his skateboard.
"How about a shower first?" John asked, stripping off his clothes.
"Sounds good," Rodney nodded, toeing off his boots and getting undressed. "Shared showers reduce water consumption and you know how I'm all about helping the environment."
John was heading into the bathroom and turned around, quirking an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Really," Rodney grinned, palming John's ass as he walked by, and stepped into the shower.
"Yeah, right," John laughed and got in, crowding up against Rodney, hot water splashing between them. "We live on a planet with only a ten percent land mass and you're worried about saving water."
"I could be," Rodney moaned as their bodies pressed together.
John cut him off with a kiss, things quickly getting hot and dirty as Rodney sucked on his tongue and pushed their cocks together, water sluicing over them.
John dropped to his knees and pressed his face into the wet curls of Rodney's groin, breathing in the heady scent with a satisfied sigh. He rubbed his stubble gently against the thick silk of Rodney's cock and then licked and sucked at the head, savouring the salt tang exploding across his tongue.
Rodney widened his stance and clutched at John's shoulders, moaning loudly as John opened his mouth and swallowed his cock down. He worked the hard flesh, senses alive with the taste and feel of Rodney in his mouth, and reached a hand to cup and roll Rodney's balls. Rodney shuddered, his hips shaking as he clearly tried to hold back. John grabbed his ass, stroking the plump, perfect handfuls, and then pulled Rodney forward, letting him know it was okay to move, that he wanted him to. Rodney cried out, coming almost instantly as he bucked forward, and John swallowed greedily, the taste of Rodney filling his mouth.
"Oh my god," Rodney groaned, stroking John's hair with uncoordinated movements as he swayed slightly under the stream of water. "Up... now. I want..."
John stood, sliding up against the warm press of Rodney's wet skin and rubbing his aching cock against the blessed firmness of his hipbone.
"Come here," Rodney said, obviously regaining motor control as he snaked one arm around John's waist to pull him closer and fisted John's cock with his other hand.
"Oh, yeah," John sighed and dropped his head drunkenly to the curve of Rodney's neck. He mouthed nonsense into the slick skin as Rodney expertly jerked him off, a wicked little hand twist finally sealing his fate and sending him fountaining over the edge with a hoarse shout.
Things got a little bit fuzzy after that but they somehow managed to stumble from the shower without breaking their necks and then dried off, tumbling into bed with one last kiss before falling asleep.
John couldn't seem to stop himself from using the device after that - and if he was honest, he didn't really want to. He learned to push away the uncomfortable thoughts and guilty feelings that crept into his mind every time he found himself stepping onto the platform, rationalising his actions with only a momentary pang of shame.
There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the things the device showed him and he had no control beyond turning it on or off. The events appeared to be random and not all of them were set in the present, some showing a clearly much older John and Rodney - still together and happy as a couple - and others as they were now. It was as if the device was allowing John to experience scenes from a lifetime with Rodney - a scattered collection of snapshots, like photographs tumbling haphazardly from an album. The device must have mined his thoughts and fantasies to give him what he really wanted - he and Rodney sharing their lives together.
The vision experiences weren't all based around sex either, in fact many were simple, almost domestic scenes, rich with intimacy and companionship - the two of them in shared quarters playing chess or reading on the couch, or in the mess having a meal, or sometimes just sleeping, wrapped around each other. There were other times when they were with their friends - a birthday party for Torren or ice-skating on the frozen pool near the pier, Rodney taking John's hand as they skated side by side.
Things weren't always perfect either, there were times when they were hurt, one or other, or even both of them laid up in the infirmary, but even then there was a comfort in knowing that they had each other. There were arguments too - times when they drove each other crazy and yelled and cursed. Of course, because it was a dream, John was able to shut Rodney up with a kiss - something he always longed to do whenever he and Rodney fought in the real world - and they'd eventually make up with hot sex.
Some of the events were things that John had no idea he even wanted - until the device showed them to him. Like having Rodney at his side when he was promoted to General, Rodney smiling proudly as he touched the silver stars on John's epaulets, the shining wedding band on his finger a match for the one on John's own. Or being with Rodney when he collected his Nobel and clapping so hard his hands hurt as Rodney stepped up to the podium, his heart almost melting as Rodney caught his eye and dedicated the award to him.
So time passed and John continued to use the device, leading a bittersweet kind of double life where he carried on as normal during the day but got to spend his nights in a dream world with Rodney.
It wasn't real but it was all he had.
It had been a really shitty day. The team had been on a mission to visit one of their trading partners. Just routine and no one had tried to kill or torture them, which was always a bonus, but there must have been something in the water on BUD-247 because every other woman they saw was blonde and pretty. Meaning that John had been forced to spend the entire day watching Rodney alternately drooling and mooning over something that was very clearly the antithesis of John. It had underlined - three times, in heavy black marker - just how hopeless this thing he had for Rodney really was. There was no way that the real life Rodney was ever going to give him the time of day in terms of a relationship.
So he went to the lab that night feeling tired and low and just wanting the MAW to make him feel better.
He activated the device to be met with the familiar scene of he and Rodney curled together in bed. His hair had a sprinkling of salt and pepper and Rodney's was a little thinner than in real life, and they just looked so comfortable and at ease with each other - like they'd been doing this for years.
He felt the lab dissolving away around the periphery of his vision and relaxed gratefully back into the warmth of Rodney's arms.
He lay there for a while, drowsing happily, when the quiet was suddenly disturbed by the sound of scampering feet. A small boy, perhaps three or four years old, ran into the room and climbed straight up onto the bed, wriggling his way under the covers and settling in between them.
Rodney snuffled sleepily, making room and wrapping an arm around them both.
"I was cold, Daddy," the little boy whispered in John's ear, snuggling down with a contented sigh, "and you and Dada are so warm."
"S'okay, baby," John mumbled and kissed his son's hair...
John stood frozen at the device, his hands barely touching the control globe as he stared at the image paused on the screen. It was the child, his son - and Rodney's son too - he could see it, could recognise his own pointed ears and shock of dark cowlicks, and Rodney's wide blue gaze and crooked smile. Oh, god. Is this what he really wanted? To dream up a son, a family for him and Rodney? No doubt his subconscious had been busily inventing some whacked out Ancient gestation device that could extract DNA and do just that. Had the MAW seen his loneliness and need and extrapolated it into this?
What the hell was he doing? It was painfully obvious that he was never going to have Rodney - and okay, maybe it had been fun to act out this little fantasy life, like some elaborate role playing game for one, but this was different. Christ! He'd never even realised, he hadn't known that this was what he wanted - him and Rodney having a family together. Jesus - he actually wanted the white picket fence and there was no way in hell that it was ever going to happen. Seeing it like this - experiencing his pathetic dreams in all of their 3-D, Technicolor, surround-sound glory - only made him realise just how hopeless this whole fucking thing was; and how pointless it was to keep torturing himself with what could never be.
John pulled his hands from the device - the image of a blue-eyed, tousle-haired little boy slowly fading before his eyes - and then turned on his heel and strode quickly from the room.
He couldn't do this anymore.
Link to part two