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.
Link to part one
He stayed away from the MAW after that, determined to make things go back to normal - to how they'd been before he'd ever found the damn device. He made sure that he kept himself occupied during the day, scheduling extra training sessions for the marines and self-defence and weapons classes for the scientists - anything to fill the hours when they weren't on missions and so distract himself from thoughts of Rodney and the sick emptiness clawing at his gut. Then he'd run for miles at night, huge loops around the perimeter of the city, tiring himself to the point of exhaustion until he could finally fall into a dreamless sleep.
Things were most difficult when he was actually with Rodney, of course. The device had shown him things that he should never have seen and had let him experience Rodney in a way that a friend never would. Okay, it had all just been in his imagination and the device had merely built a virtual Rodney based on that information, but it had looked and felt - and smelled and tasted - so damn real that sometimes it was easy to forget that. The MAW had given him an expectation of shared closeness with Rodney that simply didn't exist in the real world. It was so easy to forget and unthinkingly reach out and touch, to lay more than a friendly hand on a shoulder. That was one of the things that he'd loved about the dreams the device had shown him, that easy acceptance of being in each other's space - a stroke here, a kiss there - and he just wanted to touch in that familiar, intimate way again. It was killing him to know that he couldn't.
It all hit the fan three weeks later.
John hadn't been near the device since the night it had shown him his - their - son and he'd been trying hard to forget everything that it had ever shown him. Unfortunately it was like his body was tuned to Rodney in some way, his subconscious not realising that this wasn't dream Rodney and that John would never get to have Rodney in that way again.
They were in Rodney's quarters for their regular chess night. John had considered cancelling but he'd been ducking out of a lot of the stuff that he and Rodney usually did together and it was a stab to his chest every time Rodney smiled and shrugged, clearly seeing through John's flimsy excuses but letting him get away with it anyway. He hated to see the hurt confusion clouding Rodney's eyes and to know that he was the cause; so he'd gone along for chess.
Things had been a little stilted and forced at first but eventually John had let himself relax enough to begin to enjoy it, and soon the usual mocking banter was flying between them. It was almost like old times and he was beginning to think that maybe he could do this, that he could forget all about what had happened and bury his want for Rodney back down deep like it had been before the MAW had blown everything wide open.
It was their third game of the evening and it was close, as usual, but John finally saw a flaw in Rodney's defence and a series of cunning moves swiftly had him in checkmate.
Rodney looked at the board in stunned disbelief and then grinned, toppling his king with an unusually good-natured chuckle. "Looks like you've got me."
John didn't see it coming, didn't even know he was going to do it until he found himself grabbing Rodney's hand and pulling it towards his mouth, planting a teasing kiss on the palm like he'd done so many times with the dream Rodney in the MAW.
John froze with Rodney's hand in his.
"Um, John?" Rodney asked, looking confused but not pulling his hand away. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," John choked out, dropping Rodney's hand and smiling blandly. He couldn't believe what he'd just done. "Just checking you weren't palming any of the pieces," he added, bluffing desperately.
"With your lips?" Rodney said incredulously, starting to look a little weirded out. John could totally understand that. "Anyway, the game's over. You've already won."
"Yeah, I, uh, I know," John stumbled, not having a clue what to say and just needing to get out before Rodney caught his breath and started to actually think. "Look, it's getting late. I should be going. Early start." He stood hurriedly, knocking the board and scattering some of the pieces on the floor. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Got to go." He pointed over his shoulder at the door.
"John? Are you alright?" Rodney asked, standing and looking like he might come over, like maybe he was getting over the shock and would start putting two and two together any minute. "What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing. I'm fine," John said, forcing a painful smile and edging towards the door. "Everything's fine. See ya later, Rodney." He turned quickly and double-timed it out of the room, ignoring Rodney's concerned voice calling after him.
John had no clue what to do. He couldn't believe that he'd let his guard down and screwed up so badly. He should have known better than to relax, to fall back into the easy camaraderie that he'd always shared with Rodney - in the MAW or not. Christ, he was so fucked. Rodney was scarily smart and although he probably wasn't going to magically conjure up 'virtual-reality-dream-visualiser' as his first explanation for John's behaviour, it wouldn't be long before he figured something out, like that maybe John was gay and had the hots for him.
What would Rodney do then? He was pretty socially inept - not like that had ever been a problem between them because John could be kind of awkward too - but he'd always seemed to care about John, as friends cared about each other, and so he didn't think he'd get nasty over this. Rodney had a kind heart under all the bluster and sarcasm, and was never deliberately mean - but what if he just kept his distance? What if he didn't want to be around John anymore because he felt uncomfortable? Or worse still, what if he felt sorry for John and tried to carry on as normal out of pity? Christ! Either way John was pretty sure that the friendship he'd known was over.
He continued walking, not really paying attention to where he was going. Rodney radioed him but he didn't answer, he had no clue what to say, and eventually the calls stopped.
Things had been quiet for about an hour when he found himself standing in front of a familiar door. He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. It was the MAW lab - of course. He'd lost Rodney and so his brain had obviously thought that this was the next best thing - a virtual Rodney who would never turn him away or look at him with scorn or pity. Was he really that desperate? Maybe he was blowing things out of proportion? Perhaps Rodney wouldn't make the connection and would just think that John had been goofing around. That was a long shot; even Rodney knew that you didn't kiss another man's hand like that. He must have seen the open affection - the love - in John's face too, and would know that it hadn't just been some joke.
John walked into the lab, approaching the MAW with a mixture of anticipation and loathing. It was like an addiction; the high of being with a Rodney that cared for him - loved him - in the way that he wanted, and the low of knowing that it was all a fake. Plus it had probably just cost him the only real relationship that he was ever likely to have with Rodney. Jesus! He should have taken a wad of C-4 to it that first day and saved himself all the damned trouble.
He lashed out without thinking, smashing his fists down onto the console in fury as anger and hurt bled through him, and in an instant the screen erupted with light.
It was a view of one of the city's balconies at dusk and he couldn't turn away, suddenly too tired to fight anymore. Before him the sun dipped below the horizon in a blaze of red and gold, and he could see Rodney standing by the railing, gazing out across the burning ocean. As he watched he saw himself walk over and stand behind Rodney, wrapping his arms around him and pressing a kiss to the side of his neck. Rodney turned around with a surprised smile. His face was open and happy and he reached up and cupped John's cheeks, leaning in for a kiss.
John heard a sudden loud hiss of breath and became aware of movement at the edges of his vision. He pulled his mind away from the balcony and the warm press of Rodney's lips; to the cold reality of the MAW and a shocked looking Rodney - the real Rodney - standing next to him on the platform, his hands on the control globe.
"Shit!" John gasped and pulled his hands away.
Rodney didn't move, his gaze fixed firmly on the frozen image on the screen - a moment caught in time, the two of them wrapped together in a never-ending kiss.
John stumbled from the platform, his throat closing in panic. "R-Rodney?"
Rodney wouldn't look at him, wouldn't even meet his eyes; he just stood, transfixed, staring at the screen.
John felt a numbing despair spreading through him, an aching cold creeping deep inside and crushing the last of his hope. So that was it. It was over.
For the second time that evening John turned and walked away from Rodney. This time Rodney didn't try to stop him.
John trudged back to his quarters, every step an effort. There was no point in hiding out anywhere - Rodney wasn't going to try and find him, wouldn't want to see him again anyway, and so he might as well go back to his own room.
Two of the planet's moons were full in the sky, pinpoints of starlight scattered around them in the cloudless night, and John stood at the window and let the dark stillness envelop him.
He supposed that he ought to be feeling something - loss or despair or even panic or anger, but he didn't. He couldn't seem to feel much of anything except the lonely cold gnawing deep inside of him.
Christ, this was such a mess. He might, in a pinch, have been able to bluff his way out of that kiss in Rodney's quarters - 'Hey, McKay, it was just a joke - get over yourself, buddy!' - but there was no way that he could explain away what Rodney had just seen. The MAW had given Rodney a front row seat to John's most private fantasies and there was no going back from that, even Rodney couldn't misread the clues for that social situation.
He had no idea what would happen next but all the things he'd thought Rodney might do an hour ago - ignoring him, pitying him, hating him - seemed infinitely more possible now that Rodney had hard proof to back up whatever theory had already been percolating in his genius-sized brain.
John pressed his forehead to the cool of the window and closed his eyes.
Whatever happened, he'd just lost their true friendship and with it the little part of the real Rodney that had been his.
John had no idea how long he'd been standing at the window, numb inside and staring sightlessly out into the night, when there was a knock at the door. He couldn't help a momentary flare of hope that it was Rodney. Not that he was under any illusions and he knew things would never be the same between them again - but this had to be a good sign, right? If Rodney had sought him out like this? Maybe he could try to explain things and then perhaps they could salvage something of their friendship.
John opened the door, relief rushing through him as he saw Rodney standing there. "Look, buddy - I know that -"
Rodney barged in, clutching a data pad and looking a little wild around the eyes - definitely not what John was expecting - and spoke straight over him. "Where the hell have you been for the last four hours?"
"Um, here?" John gaped, a little thrown. He'd expected recriminations or awkwardness, not this.
"Why haven't you been answering your radio and why did you run off like that?"
"I turned it off," John said, off balance and defensive. "And I'd think it was obvious why I left, McKay."
A strange look flashed across Rodney's face - too fast for John to make sense of - and then he was tapping at his pad and waving the screen at John. "Look, the device - you got it working."
"Yeah," John snapped, suddenly irritated by Rodney's obtuseness. "I know - and that's the problem, isn't it?"
"What problem?" Rodney asked, and there was that quicksilver flash of something in his eyes again.
John was starting to get angry. It was one thing for Rodney to have a heterosexual hissy fit and to hate him or pity him or whatever, but he couldn't believe that Rodney was just ignoring the whole thing - like it wasn't important. Christ, he'd never thought that Rodney would just flat out not care and act like this didn't even matter - just casually dismissing John's feelings and his dreams. Fuck, but that hurt.
"Well, I don't know, McKay," John ground out, hurt and resentful at the same time, "maybe the problem of how that device is a virtual reality, fantasy machine and the fact that I've been using it for the last two months to get -"
"What? No - you're wrong," Rodney interrupted, pointing at his pad again. "I've been analysing the energy readings and after a lot of cross-referencing - which is what I've been doing for the last four hours, thank you very much - I found some additional information in the database. It looks like the device was another attempt at an Ascension aid, well, more of a cheat-sheet, learn-from-your-mistakes thing really, and thankfully one that didn't have a high probability of grisly and painful death - unlike the one I got caught in. Anyway, I found a more complete entry for the device amongst all the spirituality and Ascension mumbo-jumbo."
"Wait," John said, his head spinning. "So this isn't a Make-a-Wish machine that reads your mind and shows you what you want to see?"
"What? Where the hell did you get that idea and what's with the stupid name anyway? It sounds like a telethon," Rodney snorted. "No, it was a prototype designed to let the subject see glimpses of their own future - ah, just their emotional future, so to speak," he added, stumbling a little at the end.
"What?" John spluttered. "You're saying it's some kind of crystal ball?"
Rodney rolled his eyes. "I know, I know - I've been sceptical of this type of psychic voodoo myself in the past but it seems the Ancients were actually experimenting with what they called a 'Mirror to the Future'." His hands shaped flourishingly mocking quotes in the air. "That's what they meant by 'far reaching visualisation'. They were researching certain latent genes that could be selectively triggered - kind of like what Davos had but his were the result of a natural mutation and were fully expressed."
Rodney quickly scrolled through some schematics on his pad. "It's all fairly complicated and there's a lot more that I need to translate, but it looks like they'd figured out a way for ATA gene carriers who had the appropriate recessive characteristics to have momentary views, or visions if you like, into their future. The idea being that it would 'hold a mirror to their actions'," the flying quotes were back, "and so help their emotional growth and guide them on the path to Ascension - or some such touchy-feely nonsense."
"So it doesn't show a person's fantasies?" John said slowly, hardly daring to believe what Rodney was saying because it was too crazy to be real, it had to be. "It actually shows you the future? Like the 'future' future?"
"Yes! The 'future' future," Rodney huffed, though he wouldn't quite meet John's eyes. "Isn't that what I've just been telling you, Colonel?"
Jesus, John couldn't believe it. It hadn't been a fantasy - he really had been seeing the future? Seeing glimpses of a life - a real life - with Rodney?
"I really don't understand what the problem is," Rodney muttered, "you're normally much brighter than this - the hair and proclivity for ridiculously dangerous board-related sports notwithstanding, of course."
John smiled, just a little. Maybe Rodney wasn't quite as oblivious as he was pretending; he must have figured at least some of it out by now and he didn't seem repulsed or horrified. John allowed himself that hope anyway. "Rodney? You did see the images the device - the mirror - was showing me before?"
"Well, of course I did! In fact, I must have the latent gene myself," Rodney smirked proudly, "because the device stayed active even after you'd taken your hands away and I was touching it and I saw, well, um..."
John watched as a tumble of intermingled emotions flitted across Rodney's face; there was shock and surprise but also a flickering glimmer of excitement. John's chest tightened and he hoped he wasn't reading Rodney wrong.
"So, I was thinking," Rodney said, his cheeks pinking a little. "Back at the device? That thing on the balcony - with you and me? It seems obvious that we're going to end up, um, doing that - with the lips and the holding and kissing. But you're not gay and so I don't see how that can work and - wait!" He interrupted himself and looked sharply at John. "Did you just say that you've been using the device for two months? Seeing the same kinds of things? Involving us?"
"And so, what? You're gay?"
John nodded again, his heart beating faster.
"You are?" Rodney gulped, eyes wide and very blue. "So you and me? Really?" He looked a little freaked but also kind of intrigued and eager.
John smiled, looking at Rodney from under his lashes. "Yeah, if you want." He didn't want to push.
Rodney stared at John, still looking like he was trying to work something out, and then his face cleared. "Oh, wow! You didn't know what the device did, did you? Before? You thought it was some Ancient version of Second Life that played out your fantasies! So," he paused, sounding a little awe-struck and just a tiny bit smug, "I was your fantasy? I was what you wanted?"
"Yeah," John said, "You were - you are, Rodney. You're what I want." He was really bad at this but Rodney deserved the truth and he was starting to hope that this thing between them could actually be real.
"Oh," Rodney said. "That's really flattering, you know. I mean you're the hottest guy on Atlantis - well, probably in the galaxy - and to think that you've been wanting me and -"
"Rodney," John said, because it was okay being honest but there was no need to feed Rodney's ego. Though he couldn't stop himself crowing just a little inside - Rodney thought he was hot! This was actually kind of serious though and there were things that they needed to talk about.
"The thing is, you said that you don't really know how the device works, right? So what if it shows a range of possible futures?" John hated to think that - he really wanted to believe that what the device had shown him was definitely going to happen - but who knew? He didn't want Rodney to feel trapped or pressured into something. This would only work if they both wanted it. It sucked but he had to do the right thing and give Rodney an out here. "It might not ever happen, probably won't. I know you're not gay, Rodney and if you don't want this - want me - then that's okay. I understand."
"Oh my god! Not want you? Are you completely insane?" Rodney cried, looking at John with a mixture of fondness and exasperation. "You're you. You're... John." He waved his hands at John as if that made everything clear.
"And I'm a man, Rodney," John said flatly. "Not exactly your usual choice." He knew that he could be sabotaging himself here but he had to make sure that Rodney had thought this through.
"For goodness sake! Have you ever known me to be that narrow-minded?" Rodney said, all stubbornly twisted mouth and tilted chin. "Just because a theory is new doesn't mean it's not worthy of further consideration and exploration."
Jeez. "So now I'm some new theory to be tested?" John sniped, but the affection in Rodney's eyes made him smile a little.
"I can't believe you!" Rodney said, tossing his data pad onto the desk. "Are you seriously arguing with me on this? I know that I may only have very limited experience - well, just the few kisses and whatnot that the device showed me earlier - but I know how that made me feel. I've also had four hours to think about this - and let's not forget that I am a genius and so that means an awful lot of thinking - and... oh, look - just let me..."
And suddenly Rodney was kissing him - soft, warm lips moulding to his own and stealing his breath and ability to think.
John pulled away for a moment in shock - Rodney's eyes were wide and defiant and so he dived back in, teasing Rodney's lips open and sucking on his tongue. He really hadn't expected Rodney to just go for it like that - but then Rodney had always had a knack for doing unexpectedly brave things.
Rodney groaned and fisted his hands into John's hair.
"Are you sure about this?" John asked between kisses, praying that Rodney was but having to be certain. "You're not even gay."
Rodney paused, breathing hard. "Okay, that's true - or well, it certainly appeared to be until a few hours ago anyway. But then I saw that image of us on the balcony and it was like something slotted into place inside me and I thought, 'Oh, of course'. Obviously it was a surprise because it's not something I've ever given any real thought to but seeing us like that - the kissing, the intimacy - somehow it just felt right."
"Okay, I get that," John nodded, resting his forehead on Rodney's temple and pressing a kiss to his hair. "I just don't want you doing this because some Ancient machine says you have to. I guess I want you to do this because you want to - because you want me... like I want you."
"You really are an idiot sometimes," Rodney said, softening the words with a kiss. "I know this has all happened very quickly and that I don't have much idea what I'm doing here, but believe me when I say that this is what I want." Rodney cupped John's face and looked him in the eye, a little nervous but determined. "You're what I want."
John smiled. Rodney meant it, he really meant it. "Okay."
"Thank god," Rodney sighed. "You know I had to test the device out - purely for experimental and calibration purposes," he grinned, looking a little flushed, "and I was hoping that we could make a start on some of the things it was showing me."
"Yeah?" John laughed, relief and joy making him suddenly dizzy. "So where do you want to start?" he asked, wrapping his arms around Rodney's waist and pulling him closer.
"Well, that kissing we were just doing," Rodney said, and John could practically hear the unspoken 'before some idiot stopped us', "was really good - really, really good. So, how about we take it from there?"
"Oh, yeah. We can do that," John said and took Rodney's face in his hands and pressed their mouths together. He groaned as Rodney's lips parted instantly, welcoming his tongue inside. He could hardly believe that this was real - that it wasn't some fantasy - and that finally Rodney wanted him too. It felt like he'd been waiting his whole life for this to happen and it was kind of overwhelming.
Rodney rubbed his body against him and John groaned again as he felt the hard length of Rodney's cock pushing against his thigh. His own cock was stiff inside his pants but he didn't want to rush Rodney.
"Maybe we should slow things down," John gasped as Rodney's hips shifted and their cocks slid against each other, the heat a shock even through their clothes.
"Maybe we shouldn't," Rodney moaned, pulling John's shirt free and sliding his hands up John's back.
"Rodney," John protested and slid his hands to Rodney's shoulders to hold him steady for a minute.
"What?" Rodney asked, sounding irritated and almost resigned. "Don't you want this now? Is the reality not matching up to the fantasy?" He looked away and in that moment John could see all the people that had hurt Rodney like this before.
"No! God, no!" John said, turning Rodney's chin and making their eyes meet. "I just know this is new to you and," he swallowed and felt himself blush, "well, I want it to be good for you. You know? It's our first time."
Rodney's face lit up in relief and John had to kiss him. "Of course I want you, Rodney - I'll always want you," he whispered against soft lips.
"You're a total romantic under all that drawl and hair, aren't you?" Rodney smiled and kissed him back.
"Yeah, well. This is kind of a big thing for me too, you know." John felt himself blush even brighter but grinned as Rodney laughed in delight.
"I know," Rodney said. "But I'm a big boy, John and I know what I want. You don't have to protect me."
"Yeah, well - that's kinda what I do."
"Not here, not now," Rodney said, and then pushed their hips together again and swallowed John's moans with a kiss.
John panted brokenly into Rodney's mouth as Rodney sucked on his tongue and rubbed against him. Christ, it felt good but there was no way that they were going to have their first time standing fully dressed in the middle of the room and coming in their pants. He manoeuvred them over to the bed as they continued to kiss, Rodney mewling in complaint until he realised where they were heading and then hustling John along even faster. John tried to take things slowly but Rodney began to tear at John's shirt, dragging it down to hang from his arms as he grabbed at John's fly.
"Jeez!" The first touch of Rodney's big, warm hand on John's bare cock was electric and he hurried to undress Rodney before his legs buckled.
Somehow they managed to lose their clothes and suddenly they were lying naked on the bed - facing each other and breathing hard, both of them just staring. Rodney was gorgeous; all that pale, soft skin and tiny pink nipples that made John's mouth water - and a big, smooth cock curving up hard against his belly. John wanted to taste him, to swallow his cock and then sink down onto it, riding him until Rodney filled him with his come. That was for another time though, right now he just wanted to touch and make Rodney feel good.
"Oh my god," Rodney gasped and John looked up. Rodney was staring, his eyes big and so very blue, and he was looking at John with such heat and want that John felt himself flush. "You're beautiful," Rodney murmured, reaching out a hesitant hand but stopping just short of John's chest. "I just never thought - I had no idea."
With that Rodney seemed to snap out of his daze and was pushing John over onto his back, pressing against him from chest to knee - a wonderfully solid weight pinning John down. Christ, but Rodney felt amazing, heat sizzling through him like a shockwave wherever their skin touched.
"I just need to... I have to," Rodney was babbling into John's neck, warm breath teasing his ear, and he dragged his hips against John's, forcing their cocks together, the hard flesh slipping and sliding and making John moan.
"Yeah, yeah, anything!" John ran his hands down the sturdy length of Rodney's back to cup his ass.
Rodney groaned loudly as John squeezed the luscious, ripe cheeks and began to guide the rhythm of their thrusts.
John caught Rodney's mouth and kissed him again as their movements sped up, drugged on the sweet taste. He'd wanted to take things slowly, to savour it, but Rodney was swamping his senses and driving his body into overload. Rodney was perfect - they were perfect together - and John couldn't stop himself. Rodney was moaning constantly now, panting into John's mouth and thrusting against his body, his cock finding the sweet spot under the head of John's cock with every powerful thrusting slide. White heat pooled low in his belly and John pulled Rodney even closer, bucking up into him as he shouted and came in a chaotic explosion of noise and heat. John felt Rodney stiffen above him and then jerk in his arms as he cried out, his hot come mixing with John's and covering their bellies.
Things were quiet for a moment, just the sound of harsh breaths and the slick glide of skin as Rodney collapsed over to lie at John's side, one leg across John's thigh.
"Yeah," John panted and forced his eyelids to open.
Rodney was propped on one elbow and grinning down at him like a madman. "That was amazing!"
John nodded and grinned, still a little loopy from probably the best sex of his entire life.
"We should do that again," Rodney beamed. "A lot!"
"No arguments here, buddy," John laughed and pulled Rodney in for a kiss. "So, you're okay with this? Really?" He had to ask.
Rodney rolled his eyes and smacked John's arm. "Am I okay with the incredibly hot, gay sex?" He made a point of rubbing his softened cock against John's hip with a lush moan and then grinned. "Oh, I think we can say that's a definite yes."
"Rod-ney!" John complained, though it was kind of half-hearted when he had the warm, lax weight of Rodney draped over him. It was just that he needed to know and if there was a part of him that was worried about this being a one-time thing or something, then that was entirely reasonable considering the freaky circumstances that had got them here in the first place.
"And am I okay with us doing this for the rest of our lives?" Rodney smiled, gently cupping John's cheek with his palm. "And not doing this too? Maybe just doing other stuff - non-sex stuff - with you?" he added, his gaze shrewd and seeming to see straight through John. "Yes, I think we can say that I'm more than okay with that."
John smiled, happy and relieved. "Sounds good to me."
Rodney looked pleased and just a little bit shy as he pressed a kiss to John's cheek, and then settled down with John's chest as a pillow. "Good."
John pulled Rodney to him and stroked a hand through the soft strands of his hair. He still felt overwhelmed - he'd gone from thinking that he'd lost Rodney for good to pretty much having his dreams come true, all in the space of an evening. That Ancient device might actually be designed to show the future but it had kind of given him his wish too. He chuckled quietly. Maybe the name he'd given it hadn't been so stupid after all.
"What?" Rodney snuffled, his warm breath tickling John's chest.
"Nothin'," John murmured. "Just thinking about that device."
"It's a pity it won't be of any tactical use," Rodney yawned. "It's only designed to show a person's 'emotional journey', nothing else."
John could hear the sleepily disgusted air quotes and grinned. "Doesn't matter. "
"So, y' planning on using it 'gain?" Rodney asked, clearly on the verge of sleep.
"No," John whispered, dropping a soft kiss to Rodney's hair. "No need." He had Rodney - the real Rodney - in his arms and he was happy to just let their life unfold; they didn't need a cheat-sheet. If Rodney decided to ask what the device had shown him then he wouldn't lie - but he hoped that Rodney wouldn't. The events he'd seen might just be a glimpse of any number of possible outcomes - who knew if the future was written in stone and if those events would come to pass? Anyway, he figured it would be more fun if they just stumbled along and found their way together.
Rodney shifted a little, snoring softly, and John held him close. They were here, together, and that was all he'd ever wanted. He smiled and felt himself sliding comfortably towards sleep.
There had been one particular vision that he hoped would come true though...
Epilogue - ten years later
John pulled the comforter a little higher and relaxed into Rodney's warmth. Slow, even breaths gusted across his neck and he could feel the little swell of Rodney's belly through his boxers, nestling gently against the small of his back.
He lay there for a while, drowsing happily, when the quiet was suddenly disturbed by the sound of small, scampering feet. A shock of tousled cowlicks appeared over the edge of the bed and Henry climbed up, quickly wriggling his way under the covers - all pointy little elbows and knees - to settle in between them.
Rodney snuffled sleepily, automatically making room and draping an arm over them both.
"I was cold, Daddy," Henry 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 sweet-smelling hair.
"Can I have a story please?" Henry asked, blue eyes wide and hopeful. "Just until I fall asleep?"
"I suppose so," John smiled, as powerless to resist those eyes as he was the identical pair now stirring blearily next to him. "Okay then - a story. There was once a little boy who lived in a magical, flying city and his name was Henry."
Rodney snorted from the other side of the bed, muttering a familiar, "after a fictional archaeologist, I ask you," but he was grinning as he snuggled closer.
Henry laughed in delight and John continued. "Henry lived in the flying city with his two dads. One was -"
"The smartest man in the galaxy!" Henry cried and Rodney smiled dopily.
"And the other was -"
"A crazy, daredevil flyboy with more hair than brains," Rodney smirked.
"No, Dada!" Henry said, tilting his chin stubbornly. "You always get that part wrong. Daddy is a brave and heroic space cowboy." He said the words carefully, beaming proudly as he finished.
"Sorry, my mistake," Rodney chuckled, winking at John.
"Now be quiet and listen, Dada," Henry instructed as he reached and held one of Rodney's hands and then slipped his other hand into John's palm, "while Daddy tells us the story."
"I'm listening," Rodney nodded, settling down with a contented smile.
John looked at his family, warm inside as happiness and gratitude swelled his chest. He had everything he could ever have wished for - had wished for - right here next to him. He squeezed the little hand in his own. "So, if there are no more interruptions?" he grinned.
Rodney rolled his eyes but smiled impishly and Henry gave a serious nod, eyelids already beginning to droop.
"Alright then. So there was once a little boy who lived in a magical, flying city and his name was Henry..."