Pairing/Characters: McKay/Sheppard, side of Lorne/Parish, glimpse of responsible!Cadman
Rating/Warnings: PG13/R-ish; mentions of violent homophobia; angst; vague suggestion of bondage (Happy ending, though, I swear!)
Word count: 2800
Disclaimer: SGA is not an original concept on my part. Derivative funtimes only. (No money made here. Don't sue.)
Author's Notes: Probably darker than reality, toward the end. I don't mean to imply anything that isn't true against the service, but homophobia has been and will remain a bitter fact of life for all of us. Not quite what the recipient had in mind, I think, but hopefully I hit enough of the main points. (There really, really is a happy ending).
Summary: It's just past midnight on 20 September, 2011, in the middle of the northern ocean on New Lantea II.
0215 Atlantis Base Time
20 September, 2011
John's known it's been coming for a while - known the exact date for months, just like everyone else. Part of him wishes he could be on Earth, at a midnight party, watching the countdown, ready to kiss whichever guy is closest to hand as a digital timer on a giant screen reaches zero, and Don't Ask, Don't Tell becomes, officially, a paragraph-long footnote to history.
Most of him is glad, though, that he's back in Pegasus on 20 September, 2011, because he's not actually a party kind of guy, and old habits are hard to break. Maybe if he'd been enlisted (but then he wouldn't have been in the Air Force at all, because the whole point had been to fly), he would have gladly cut loose at midnight, or been separated already long before the UCMJ was amended and egging on the poor bastards who were still in... but he's not enlisted. He's an officer of field rank, a full bird Colonel now, and he has an image to maintain, unorthodox as it is. Field officers do not party.
Someone should tell that to Lorne, John thinks as he watches his 2IC dancing a slow drift across the mess hall floor with David Parrish.
He's known it's been coming for a while, but it's still unreal. Nothing feels different. John did not wake up this morning thinking, It's okay now. It's okay to slip up. It's okay to ignore the pretty women (Not that he always wants to. Some months, women are definitely his thing). It's okay to just be that little bit more of himself now.
John didn't wake up thinking it's okay now, because it isn't. Not really. Not even within SGC. Maybe especially not within SGC.
He's a senior officer, commanding a classified military expedition in another galaxy, and he knows that he's still bound by national politics. Whatever leeway General O'Neill has in granting or influencing assignments, commands, and promotions is hemmed in by a rigid, old-school hierarchy of senior generals and senators, proper Christian gentlemen who see it as their duty to protect the sanctity of the uniform, new rules be damned.
John's already drawn on O'Neill's influence once to protect a gay man under his command, and he's in a precarious position because of it.
He's also, he thinks, had one too many of their dwindling supply of beer. It's not like him to get so bitterly introspective. John sets aside the empty bottle of Pilsner Urquell (thank you, Radek!), levers himself away from the empty table, and makes unobtrusively for the door.
- - -
Rodney's in his lab, because Rodney's always in his lab now, like he wasn't while he and Jennifer were dating. He's trying to forget her, John thinks, or maybe make up for lost time - so many experiments put off in favor of an early dinner and a chick-flick.
He's hunched over one of his laptops, rubbing his temples, and John guesses his eyes are bugging him again.
"Time for those reading glasses yet?" he asks, leaning against the doorframe.
Rodney startles, shoots him a filthy look, and then sighs. "Shut up."
"Shut up, I said." Rodney glances at the screen again, then hits a few keys and slaps the laptop shut. "I have an appointment with the guy, what-his-name, tomorrow," he admits grudgingly. (They have a real optometrist now, not just a junior doc with a couple of extra credits to her name. The eye chart's way cooler, too.) "I hate getting old."
"Never met a person who enjoyed it," John points out. He plops into a chair as Rodney starts shutting down the lab for the night. "So, up for some chess, if you can't stand staring at a screen anymore?"
Rodney pauses briefly. "Actually," he admits, slipping some tools into a drawer, "I was going to head up to the mess hall. I hear there's cake."
"To the repeal party?" John asks, a little startled. "Yeah, there was cake, an hour ago."
"What time is it?" Rodney asks, and looks at his watch before John can answer. "Oh, crap. Well, is there any beer left?"
"Probably," John says. He wants to ask if Rodney's going for a specific reason, or if he's really just after the goodies, but he's not sure he can handle that conversation right now. "Well, I'm gonna check in up at Control, then go to bed. Ronon wants to go swimming in the morning." Ronon's recuperating from a run-in with the Wraith, and is under strict orders by both his doctor and his PT nurse girlfriend to keep the exercise light and low-impact. To him, this means swimming his five miles instead of running them. "If you find me floating face-down in the lagoon tomorrow, you'll know the reason why."
"You know," Rodney says as he pushes in a final chair and nods pointedly at the door, "you could just admit that you're getting older, too. Nobody expects you to keep up with Ronon."
John snorts as he stands and lets himself get shoved into the hall. "Hell, yeah, they do." Especially the new guys. They never seem to show any genuine respect for John until they see him coming back from a circuit of the city with the guy who wipes the floor with them in their 'Introduction to Native Martial Arts' training.
"Nobody who counts expects you to keep up with Ronon," Rodney persists. He leads the way to the transporter, but pauses before he gets in range of the doors. "So, um, you sure you don't want to hang out at the repeal party for a bit?" He's oddly tentative.
John blinks. There is no way that this is what it sounds like, what he wants it to be, so he shakes his head and says, "Nah, I put in like two hours of face-time already. All the good snacks are gone, and if I have one more beer, I'll be officially drunk. Better if I pack it in now."
"Face-time, huh?" Rodney repeats. He looks surprisingly disappointed. "Okay. Goodnight, then." He turns away. "Tell Cadman if she sets off the alarm next to my quarters again, she'll be taking cold showers for a month."
"Yeah, you bet," John says, and hurries in the other direction, because that was not - NOT - Rodney McKay asking him out to a DADT repeal party just now. No way. He knows Rodney, and Rodney isn't... doesn't. He just doesn't. It's been seven fucking years. John would have noticed by now. Rodney would have told him. Rodney would have let him know.
He's pissed by the time he climbs the stairs to the Control level, at himself, at Rodney, at everything, and Cadman's cheery greeting fizzles out like a wet firecracker. "Something wrong, sir?" she asks instead.
"Everything's fine, Captain," he says curtly. "Status?"
"Nothing to report, sir," she answers smartly.
"Good. I'm done for the day. Goodnight, Captain."
"Good night, sir," Cadman calls after him. She doesn't let herself sound puzzled, like he knows she is. John usually sticks around for a few minutes on his final check-in, gently ribbing whichever of his newest people is stuck on watch with her.
"Think he's pissed about the DADT repeal?" he hears faintly as he rounds the corner, and he has to stop to hear Cadman's answer, because the guy who'd spoken is a civilian, and she'll say things to civilians that she'll never say to anyone in uniform.
"Colonel Sheppard?" Cadman sounds incredulous. "No way. He never agreed with that crap. You have no idea what he went through to keep Colonel Lorne on board when someone tried to out him."
"Was that what all that mess with those generals was about?" the guy asks. "I thought they were gunning for Sheppard."
"Nope, it was Lorne the whole time. Sheppard had to pull so many favors he probably owes his soul to somebody back on Earth."
That somebody is General O'Neill, and it still hasn't been much of a win for Lorne, career-wise. Instead of taking on his own command after his promotion, Lorne got stuck here, running admin for John and watching his opportunities fly away, one by one. Four new ships have been built in the past three years, and Lorne could have had any of them for his own if not for one by-the-book lieutenant who just couldn't stand the idea of a man 'disrespecting' the uniform. Lorne says he's fine with it, happy even, since it lets him stay with Parrish, but John has to wonder.
Cadman and the tech are talking about some betting pool now that John doesn't want to know about - his name in a couple of Chuck's books had not been a point in his favor, when the generals came for that inspection - so he goes on to his quarters and tries to remind himself that nothing's changed here. Not in any way that makes a difference to him.
Which is all well and good until he sees Rodney at his door, pacing. Rodney looks up at John's footsteps and smiles hesitantly. "Um, chess?" he asks.
"I thought you were going to the party?" John asks flatly, crossing his arms. He makes no move to open the door.
"Um, yeah, dropped in. It's kind of dead," Rodney says. "Just a bunch of drunk guys draped all over each other, and some women necking in the corners. Oh, and Lorne and Parrish dancing."
"Still?" John asks, despite himself.
"I guess they're savoring the moment," Rodney says with a shrug.
"Hell of a long moment," John mutters. "Look, Rodney, I'm really tired, so why don't we do chess tomorrow, huh?" He doesn't like that wistful/dejected look on Rodney's face. Rodney wore it for months after Jennifer left him, and it had physically hurt John to see him, some days. Now that look is back, and John's telling himself that it doesn't mean what he wants it to mean, but that's not Rodney's fault, so there's really no reason to be angry with him.
"Tomorrow, right," Rodney mutters, and if anything, that look gets worse. "Well, okay," he says, and starts to trudge away. John puts a hand on his door controls, and suddenly Rodney's turning back to him. "It's just that, now that, I mean... I thought maybe..."
No. No, they are not going there. Wherever it is that Rodney thinks he wants to go, he really doesn't, because as deep in the closet as John's been, if he finds out that Rodney's been holding out on him for seven fucking years, he's going to hit someone, and it's probably going to be Rodney. "Whatever it is, Rodney," he grates, "don't say it. Just don't."
Rodney freezes, eyes wide, face pale, and stands there, staring like John's just committed a murder.
John can't make himself look away.
Rodney's the first to break, looking down, voice cracking as he says, "I'm sorry. I thought - I misread the situation. I apologize, Colonel. I'll just go now."
He turns again, and John lets him walk away, watches him disappear around the corner before he calls, surprisingly desperate, "Rodney!"
John feels shaky, like he's coming apart, little molecules of Sheppard all floating away from each other. At the same time, there's a pressure building in his chest that doesn't ease at all when Rodney comes in view again.
"Colonel?" he asks, sounding confused, and hopeful, and just a little bit bitter, himself.
There's fifty feet of corridor between them, and all John can do is fling words into the chasm and listen to them fall. "Seven years, Rodney. Seven years!"
Rodney flinches, but he takes a step forward all the same. Forty-seven feet. "I've worked for or with the US government for twenty-five, John," he says. "Side by side with the military, all that time."
"You've got me by a few years," John allows, when Rodney doesn't offer anything more. "In the service, though. I've been in it the whole time."
"I know," Rodney says gently. "I know. I always knew, that you couldn't, or wouldn't. Because it would have been your career. Might still be your career. I get that. I respect that." He takes another step. Forty-four feet. "I've always tried to respect that."
John's pretty sure he's just lost all right to be angry, and he knows that Rodney hasn't gotten to his point yet.
"Do you know," Rodney asks, indignant now, "what happens to enlisted guys who people think are queer?"
It's a rhetorical question. John knows. He's seen it. He's broken it up.
"Can you guess, maybe," Rodney continues, taking two sudden, angry steps forward, "what happens to queer civilians? Geeky, queer civilians who nobody ever liked in the first place?" Thirty-eight feet. Rodney's scowling, furious, ashamed. "Can you guess how often, over twenty-five years?"
John counts Rodney's steps as Rodney comes closer, whispering, "Do you get why I couldn't? Why I didn't?"
Eight feet left between them, and seven years, but John thinks he can bridge that distance. He has to. "Things are different now." He's still not sure he believes it, not totally, but he needs Rodney to. "Have been for a while. Especially here." They are and they aren't, and he's lost in the dichotomy of it. "You never got hurt like that here." This, he knows. This, he's sure of.
"Not here," Rodney agrees. "But..." He looks down, shame the only thing left on his features.
"But old habits die hard, huh?" John says gently. He moves across those eight feet and puts a hand to Rodney's cheek. He tries to ignore the fact that it's shaking.
Rodney leans into the touch, leans toward John, who runs his hand to the back of Rodney's head and slowly, awkwardly tugs him close. He puts his other arm around Rodney's back, and holds on so hard he leaves himself breathless.
It's the first time he's willingly given a hug in years.
Rodney's arms wrap around him, and they cling to each other in the middle of the empty corridor for a long, long minute before Rodney ruins the moment by gasping, "Okay, can't breathe!"
"Me neither," John grates out, and clenches his fists in Rodney's shirt before he lets go. He doesn't step away.
"I'm sorry," Rodney says, still not meeting John's eyes. "I should have-"
John stops him. "Forget it. It's past. Let's just... start here. Now."
Rodney glances up at last. "Are you sure, John?" His fingers twitch against John's arms. "I mean, they'll find something on you-"
"Maybe," John says, "but I figure that if they haven't managed to throw me out by now, they're probably not going to. I'm actually good at this job, now. The biggest thing they could have genuinely held over me got crossed off the list three hours ago. We'll just..." he shrugs. "Not advertise when we're Earthside, okay?"
Rodney gives a strangled chuckle. "Fine by me," he huffs.
"Okay," John says. "Good." Then he's at a loss, because he's actually gotten what he's wanted for so long, and it's starting to sink in. He flails a little, mentally, and then says, "So, um..." and winces, because that was not what he'd been aiming for, there.
"Inarticulate as ever, I see," Rodney says, bolder now. "You have no idea what to do next, do you?"
John shrugs. "It'll come to me." He's actually kind of okay like this, standing so close to Rodney, and he wants more of that. "So, wanna come in?"
Rodney smirks. "Obviously. But first..." he leans in, pulls John to him, and licks his way into John's mouth like he's been doing it for years. John parts for him with a groan, and lets himself be taken for a ride. Rodney kissing is like Rodney yelling: right there, large as life, heat and fury, no quarter, no mercy, it's all about him until he runs out of breath. Then he's panting for breath, and John jumps in like it's an argument, quick and fierce, nipping and tugging at Rodney's lower lip - Rodney's sharp whine goes straight to his cock - but Rodney's fighting back with that wicked tongue, fingers clawing at John's shoulders, and the only reason that John doesn't drop to his knees right there in the corridor is that Rodney's legs buckle first.
They almost collapse as John scrambles to catch Rodney's weight, and John has enough presence of mind to snap, "God damn it, not out here!" even as Rodney starts mouthing at his collarbone. It startles Rodney enough to pull away, though, and he blinks like he's coming out of a daze.
"Oh my god, that was incredible," he groans. "I always knew you'd be a great kisser."
John snags Rodney's sleeve and tugs him toward the door, which slides open so fast that he hears the motor whine. "I'm great at lots of things."
That makes Rodney grab at him, broad hands closing around John's wrists, and oh, god, there's a kink he hasn't indulged in forever, so John gives in, falls to his knees. "Anything you want, Rodney," he pants. "Everything you fucking want."
Turns out, Rodney wants a lot.