Hth (hth_the_first) wrote,
Hth
hth_the_first

Atlantis fic: Contagious (deleted scenes from Alpha Centauri)

Contagious
by Hth
NC-17, McKay/Ronon
deleted scenes from Alpha Centauri

Author’s Notes: So clearly I got jossed within the first ten seconds of “Conversion.” For the sake of this series, here’s how it went down, okay? The episode “Instinct” was immediately followed by Alpha Centauri 3 (Conscience). The next morning, Ronon tipped Beckett off that he might want to take a look at Sheppard’s arm; while Sheppard bitched and moaned that he felt perfectly fine, Beckett got him home and ran the blood tests that revealed blah blah blah, followed by the rest of the events of “Conversion," and then of Alpha Centauri 4 (Prime).

As I put together the timelines in a way that didn’t do too much violence to canon, I realized that I had unexpectedly given the retrovirus a few extra hours of incubation time. That got me thinking about this.



Contagious (deleted scenes from Alpha Centauri)
by Hth

“Don’t be a hero,” Rodney advised him less than an hour after the nursing staff changed shifts and Teyla excused herself to go to bed. Rodney sounded as if he almost couldn’t summon the effort necessary to be irritated; Ronon had never heard him sound worn out before. Rodney gestured toward the part in the curtain, with Colonel Sheppard’s feet just visible through it. “He’s out cold, he’s in no shape to appreciate your bizarrely canine loyalty. Get some sleep.”

“Not being a hero.” Or a dog, although what was the point in arguing about that part? Rodney saw him the way he wanted to see him, the way that made sense to him. Ronon had worked on enough teams before this to understand that, one way or another, everyone had to be made to fit into their particular role. He might have chosen a different role for himself than the big, protective animal who always came when called.... Or maybe he wouldn’t have. Didn’t matter now. “I have an appointment with the doctor in about twenty minutes.”

“Well, I should warn you, he’s not very sympathetic about any condition that he doesn’t consider ‘life threatening.’” Rodney made a short, deliberate gesture in the air with his fingers that seemed to express – what? Distrust in Dr. Beckett’s professional judgment, maybe. Ronon wasn’t sure, and he was too tired and edgy to want to think it through just then. “What’s wrong with you? Did you get hurt?”

“Virus goes in the bloodstream, right?” Rodney nodded, and Ronon looked away from him with a little shrug, leaning on the back legs of his chair. He hadn’t thought he’d feel...awkward talking about this. “I just want to get a blood test. In case.”

“Did you come in contact with any of the Colonel’s blood?” Ronon shook his head briefly, but even before he’d gotten that far, the light seemed to go on behind Rodney’s eyes, and he dropped down heavily into the chair beside him. “No,” he said, sounding both sour and a little dazed. He rubbed his unshaven cheek roughly and said, “No, obviously. Not his blood.”

“It’s probably nothing,” Ronon said. “I feel fine. Not too fine,” he specified when he saw Rodney’s nervous look. “Just...okay.”

Rodney sat with him in the infirmary until Dr. Beckett called him into his office, and even then Ronon could see him through the glass wall. Apparently Rodney, unlike Ronon, was good at sitting around waiting. Stubborn.

*

Rodney left the infirmary at the same time he did, but he didn’t say anything about it, or even look at Ronon. Ronon stayed a few paces behind him all the way down the hall to where their corridors split off from one another, and Rodney kept walking toward his own quarters without looking back.

Ronon stood there, around the corner from where he lived, feeling as lost as he’d felt in seven years of running. What was he supposed to do? Usually he could piece together what Rodney expected; usually it was buried somewhere in the middle of whatever Rodney was saying. This time, neither of them were functioning at their best.

Rodney was waiting in the doorway of his quarters – or, Ronon thought he was waiting. He was really just standing there, but why stand in the middle of your open door, looking up at the grooves where it was built to slide, if you weren’t waiting for something? Ronon stopped a few feet away, and his hand was opening and closing on its own as he wondered what it would feel like to hit Rodney McKay, right in the jaw. If that would make him acknowledge Ronon’s existence.

Instead, he said, “Look, I’m sorry, okay?” He wasn’t sure what for, but it felt like the thing to say.

Rodney stepped backwards into his quarters, and because he didn’t say anything to stop him, Ronon followed, and the doors slipped shut behind them. “You’re sorry?” Rodney said. “You’re pathetic. I really can’t even tell you how unimpressed I am – infinitely unimpressed, and I am one of the few people in the universe capable of thinking on a large enough scale to have some idea of what infinity means, infinitely unimpressed with you big, dumb Conan the Conqueror types and your– You would have done it, wouldn’t you? You’d have gone wandering into the giant nest of disgusting, parasitic death with a gun and a sharp stick just because you were bored, because men like you don’t hang about waiting for the petty, pedestrian work of, oh, curing disease and designing elegant solutions to complex problems, God, no! You have to be action heroes, you have to risk your life, you have to tromp blithely out in front of everybody else and die, and sometimes scientific discovery takes time, all right? You just have to wait, you have to wait, I’m not ready yet– “ His hand found Ronon’s shoulder and dug in tightly. Ronon slid his arm around Rodney’s waist and pulled him close. “It’s too soon, I’m not ready to lose – any – anyone – God, I hate men like the two of you, I should know better than to get myself tangled up with heroes....”

“You want me to go?” Ronon offered. It didn’t feel like Rodney wanted him to go, not the way he was pressing up against Ronon now, one arm snaked around his neck while the fingers of his other hand hooked into the weave of his sweater where the sleeve would attach if there was one.

“Yes, that’s right,” he said impatiently. The rough bark of his sarcasm lost none of its impact while his voice was muffled against Ronon’s chest. “I want you as far away from me as possible, can’t you tell? I certainly don’t want you to fuck me senseless while my lover is lying in the hospital half-dead and you’re probably carrying the most disturbing case of the space clap known to medical science, I certainly have at least that much dignity left.”

“I’m probably not sick,” he said, and kissed Rodney.

So good. Rodney tasted like nothing familiar; he tasted like finding something edible on a new planet, the relief, the hunger that flared up worse than before at the first sign of a chance to feed it, the sudden knowledge that you weren’t going to die today, not today and not from this. Ronon kissed him harder, leaning in so that Rodney had to stumble backwards under his weight. He put his hand up much too soon, his thick, warm fingers resting alongside Ronon’s mouth and pushing him away gently. “No, can’t,” Rodney croaked. “Fluids.... The virus.”

By now he’d be feeling it, if he’d been infected. Wouldn’t he? How long had it taken Sheppard? Eight hours or so, between the fight and the blood test, and he’d still felt fine. A few more hours – four? – until he’d agreed to be quarantined. When had he started to feel different? What were the first signs?

Had the need to touch Teyla felt like this, like starving for Rodney? No, Ronon didn’t think this was that. This was...old. Older than the virus, whatever he’d been trying to tell himself.

He put his hand around the back of Rodney’s skull and slid the fingers of his other hand inside the collar of Rodney’s shirt, feeling the thunderstorm of blood just underneath his skin. “I’ll be careful,” he said. “You’ll be okay, I promise.”

It took three tries to stumble their way across to Rodney’s bed, and every time he staggered over some piece of clothing on the floor or just over Rodney’s toes, Ronon felt his cock twitch and get harder. Obstacles made everything feel better, Ronon guessed, which would explain how he got here, why he was so intent on fucking up Sheppard and Rodney’s relationship instead of going to the very minimal effort of meeting someone willing and available and, best of all, uncomplicated. He dropped Rodney onto his back and had one knee on the bed and the other digging into Rodney’s thigh when he said through the kisses, “This isn’t the virus. I wanted this way before.”

“I don’t want this,” Rodney gasped. “This is adrenaline.” He pushed his hands up Ronon’s back, underneath his sweater. “This is post-traumatic stress syndrome. I don’t want you, I want John, but I can’t have him, so you’re my shallow substitute. This is because I’m sleep-deprived – hysterical – jealous – masochistic and self-loathing – God, yes, God, yes, I need you – no, don’t touch me, you can’t, we can’t.”

“Hush,” Ronon said shortly. He kissed Rodney’s chin, a soft press of closed lips. No fluids. The shape of Rodney’s erection stood out against the fabric of his pants, and Ronon spread his hand out, letting his fingertips find the edges and the heel of his hand drag up the shaft. It left a faint, invisible burn of not-skin on Ronon’s hand, the weave of smooth cloth that was still not nearly smooth enough to compare to the flesh underneath. He rubbed again, harder. He wanted it to burn.

Rodney clawed at his sweater; that wasn’t good, because it was old and it might rip apart any day now, and Ronon loved that stupid sweater that he’d scavenged from the ruins of some settlement where any survivors there might have been had just abandoned their possessions along with the dessicated bodies of their dead. It had been stored in a cedar chest, and amidst the spoiled food and the smoke and the stale rot of death, it had smelled so healthy and so real, like a forest.

At the same time, though, Rodney’s other hand was rubbing warm and firm against the back of his neck, and as long as he kept doing that, Ronon didn’t really own anything that he wouldn’t have been willing to let Rodney destroy. Stuff was just stuff, after all; he’d pick up more things along the way. There was no substitute, none at all, for the warm static that lapped all over his skin in the pulsing rhythm of that touch.

“Keep doing that,” Ronon said when Rodney’s hand stilled.

“Keep doing that,” Rodney said, thrusting his hips up. As if Ronon had any intention of stopping.

Because they couldn’t kiss (it seemed unlikely that the virus would have been dormant this long in his system – unlikely that just kissing could put enough of it into Rodney’s bloodstream to affect him – but on the other hand, whatever the science said, it seemed like something that would happen, this destructive thing spreading between them, Sheppard to Ronon to Rodney, a shared sickness, an ugly bond of spit and come and insanity), they just looked at each other. Ronon had never stared into someone’s eyes in a situation like this before, so he didn’t have anything to compare it to, but it seemed both more and less intimate than kissing. Rodney’s face couldn’t stay still any more than his mouth usually could, and it was mesmerizing, the stuttering switch of expressions, the way he could retreat behind some unbroken seal, alone with his pleasure, and then abruptly be seeing Ronon, seeing right into him, not missing a thing. The way his face could be totally relaxed, soft with self-indulgence, and then in the twitch of a single muscle around his eye, drawn and grim and guilty and angry all at once. Ronon slowed his hand down when that happened, coaxing Rodney’s attention down from his head into his cock, breathing on his ear until he shuddered and tightened his arm around Ronon’s back and murmured, “Don’t tease, I’m so close, I need to come....”

“You will,” Ronon promised. “I just want to watch you a little longer.” Rodney made a long, low sound that sounded like protest, but his body arched up into Ronon’s touch with renewed force, like everything Ronon said or did to make him slow down was only driving him there faster.

They were both still fully dressed when Rodney came. The feel of his cock pulsing against his hand, the spreading dampness that Ronon could feel very faintly, the small, strangled, “Oh, oh, oh, oh,” that Rodney chanted as if startled past words, all combined to undo Ronon’s composure almost entirely. It was all he could do to roll off Rodney onto his back, one arm hanging listlessly off the edge of the bed, dizzy and aware of the too-bright lights and the ache of his own cock. All he wanted in the world was to bury it deep in Rodney’s body and fuck him hard, hard, knock everything out of both of their lives but the feel of it – and thinking made it worse, made the ache spread into his bones. Don’t think about it. Don’t remember that you know exactly how it would feel, and how he’d beg you for more....

Beside him, Rodney sat up slowly. “I – I need a shower,” he said. Ronon looked up at him, and he could see the moment when Rodney managed to blink his way through his confused haze, the moment he looked down at Ronon’s body and really saw him there. “Oh,” he said awkwardly, and put his hand out like he was feeling for waves of heat coming off Ronon’s body. “I can – um, let me – “

His fingers brushed Ronon’s thigh. Ronon grabbed his wrist hard, ignoring the stifled noise of outrage, and pushed it away. “As soon as I get my results back,” Ronon growled, “I’m gonna need that to fuck you with.”

Rodney didn’t seem to be able to find anything to say to that. He didn’t even seem to be able to breathe for a minute there. “So...I’m going to take that shower,” he finally said. “You can – stay here?”

“I’ll be here.”

He listened to the water running and gave himself a headache forbidding himself to picture Rodney naked, his hands sliding through the foam of soap on his own skin. He picked up the headset that he’d discarded beside the bed and looked it over briefly; he was pretty sure he could leave it where it was and still be able to hear its beep when the Doctor called. He sighed deeply, almost a yawn, and rubbed his hands idly up and down his thighs, causing a slight rucking back and forth of his leather pants across his cock that felt – nice, but not more than he could handle. Just nice.

When Rodney came back out, he was wearing his underwear and nothing else. He seemed uncertain about how – whether? – to get back into bed, so Ronon reached out and took him by the elbows, pulling him down. Rodney was warm and still wet from the shower, and the thin fabric of his underwear stuck to his damp ass. It felt perfect when Ronon hauled him close, their knees locking neatly together, the arch of his body enveloping the arch of Rodney’s, that firm ass pressed just tightly enough against his crotch. Ronon ran his hand along Rodney’s chest.

“This feels like high school,” Rodney said abruptly.

“High school.”

“Yes, the – the alleged school they force you to go to in adolescence, which is really more of a dumping ground for everyone’s unwanted teenaged children, which would be all of them, than anything devoted to any kind of learning.”

Ronon had learned plenty in his adolescence. He must have, although at the time he’d felt that he wasn’t gaining any ground. Every week during his initial deployment had felt like a year, and he’d gone to bed every night frustrated at the fact that he was still half a boy, that he didn’t feel strong and competent and cool under fire the way a soldier was supposed to. He’d always been impatient with waiting. “Tell me about high school,” he said.

“Oh. Well, I didn’t really – I was speaking metaphorically. It feels like somebody’s high school, feels like...one would think high school.... I didn’t have the ordinary high school experiences. I graduated early, I was always ahead – I was young, and I didn’t have – I did have friends, I’m not entirely – but the ordinary social experiences, pep rallies and keg parties and whatnot that you see in the movies.... I was in college by sixteen, and that was – college. I did go to one high school keg party, but I was in college when I went to it, so it might not count. On the other hand, I was sixteen and it was out of town, no one knew I was in college, so for all intents and purposes it counts, I think. I drank four mudslides in an hour and broke a lawn gnome dancing in someone’s petunia garden in the house next door, and then I threw up in my cousin Charlotte’s Dodge. I’m sure it counts.”

“What’s a mudslide?”

“Chocolate alcohol,” Rodney sighed dreamily. “I never did confess to breaking the lawn gnome. I think that was when I realized that the criminal life couldn’t be as hard as one might think, if I could be that drunk and still make a clean getaway. It sparked a solid year of intense soul-searching, while I tried to decide whether to use my abilities for good or for evil.” After a pause he added, “I chose for good,” as if Ronon might be worried.

“What’s a– ?”

“God, please shut up,” Rodney said wearily. Somehow, it didn’t offend him. He smiled against Rodney’s neck and felt him shiver.

“When you want to join the Infantry, back home,” Ronon said, and it was surprisingly easy to say back home, easier and easier every day to remember the parts he loved, “there’s a ninety-day examination period. It’s strict: no sex, no alcohol, you hardly eat anything but protein and supplements. Everything you do is monitored, and you work eighteen-hour days, no days off. At the end, if you haven’t broken, you can enlist. And the night you get your assignments, everyone in your exam grade has a party. They used to say that if you weren’t nine-tenths dead the morning after your grade party, you hadn’t really enlisted.”

“I suppose your enlistment went off without a hitch,” Rodney said. He sounded disdainful and amused at the same time. He sounded almost – affectionate.

Ronon chuckled into his neck. “I was still drunk the next night, when I lost my virginity.”

After a moment, Rodney said, “And you were how old, on Pledge Week?”

He didn’t bother to ask what Pledge Week was. “Fifteen. How old were you?”

“What – when?” Rodney squeaked. He knew what Ronon meant, so he didn’t bother to repeat himself. “That’s personal,” Rodney said. “And anyway, I told you, I wasn’t – I barely went to high school, and then I was younger than everyone else in college and – focused! Very focused on my studies.”

“So, old,” Ronon translated. He’d never imagined he could find himself smiling this much while he was still almost dizzy from thwarted arousal. “John wasn’t your first, was he?”

What? No! No, I was – no! Jesus. I was...twenty-two.”

“That’s not so old,” Ronon said. The lie made Rodney relax a little in his arms, though, so it was fine. Then Rodney started to wriggle around, turning against him until he was facing Ronon, sharing the pillow with their foreheads almost touching, and Ronon was even more glad that he’d had the sense to lie. He still couldn’t seem to quit smiling.

Rodney put his hand up and stroked Ronon’s cheek, then traced the curve of his spine between his shoulderblades, seeming to notice the way he was stressing his back and neck to fit around Rodney’s much shorter frame. Rodney’s mouth twitched and he said, “Lie back, for God’s sake. You’ll slip a disk.”

He didn’t quite like disentangling his arms from around Rodney, but he did have to admit that once he was stretched out flat on his back again, he was a lot more comfortable. He laced his fingers together and turned his palms out, stretching his arms into the air above him until his shoulders popped. He was a little surprised when he felt Rodney tugging on his sweater, but he shifted his shoulders so Rodney could pull it off of him and felt justly rewarded for his effort when Rodney smoothed his hand across Ronon’s chest. Rodney had surprisingly big hands for his size, thick and broad and dextrous. All those teenagers hadn’t known what they were missing.

“God, you’re....” Rodney said roughly, and there was something a little crazy glittering in his eyes; Ronon just caught a glimpse of it before Rodney lowered his mouth to Ronon’s chest. “I never– “ he mumbled between kisses, “made it with – guys like you – in college. High school. Ever.”

“You hate men like me,” Ronon reminded him, and Rodney half-laughed and half-groaned against his skin. “Hey, stop,” he said when Rodney began to kiss somewhere lower than his chest, though still somewhere higher than his waistband. He stumbled a little over the words, as if his tongue was putting up a fight against his brain, but he pushed ahead and said, “Can’t – yet. Remember?” The ache of his cock, which had subsided to an almost pleasant thrum of awareness while they’d talked, was real pain now, deep and relentless and oppressive. He almost couldn’t think through it – through wanting Rodney’s mouth on him now, now, now.

Rodney groaned as if he– It wasn’t possible, but almost as if it was just as hard for him to keep his mouth off Ronon’s cock. “I won’t, I won’t,” he said, as if that was supposed to make Ronon feel better. “I just have to – your skin – Jesus Christ, your body.” His fingers dug hard into Ronon’s waist, and every muscle in Ronon’s body seemed to jump at the first light touch of Rodney’s tongue at the edge of his navel, and that was just too much to take.

Hooking his hands under Rodney’s arms, he physically dragged Rodney back up and pressed a hard kiss to his mouth with nearly closed lips. Rodney made a muffled sound, but it didn’t sound like protest. “Just hold still,” Ronon growled against his mouth. He felt himself smile, just slightly, and said, “Why can’t you geniuses ever wait?”

“Okay, all right,” Rodney gasped. “High school. Dumb, terrified groping in the dark with all our clothes on. Pretend it never happened on Monday. Got it.”

“It’s not dark,” Ronon said, and Rodney made the lights go out with his brain. Ronon truly envied that skill. He ran his mouth over the stubble underneath Rodney’s jaw and murmured, “We pretend it never happened?”

“Don’t we?” Rodney returned.

Ronon thought about that. Sheppard didn’t seem like the kind of person who would make an issue out of it but...Rodney did. Yes, it was Rodney doing it, but Ronon had a feeling that wouldn’t stop him from being the one who took it personally. Somehow. He’d find a way. “Pretend whatever you want, I guess,” Ronon said, and Rodney kissed him again, lips parted just that much more this time, sweet, wet kisses with no tongue, spiced with all their unspoken questions – how far? too far? what next? how much longer?

“This is so warped,” Rodney said against his cheek, while Ronon slid his hand firmly up his spine. His skin was almost dry now, except at his hairline and the back of his neck, which Ronon thought was beading sweat instead of water from the shower. “I was so mad I could have strangled you this time yesterday, I mean, assuming I were capable of strangling you or anyone else, but for the sake of argument I could have strangled you, and now....”

Yesterday was before he’d offered to go into the nest.... He’d known Rodney wasn’t yelling at him about that, but he’d kind of figured he was just yelling for no reason. “You were mad at me?”

“I could hear you, you know. I could hear him. In the caves.”

“Sorry,” Ronon said, and this time he meant it.

Rodney snorted. “Oh, don’t bother, really. It’s none of my business, he’s made that excruciatingly clear, and anyway my moral high-ground is somewhere below sea-level. I was just...feeling sorry for myself, and then – when Elizabeth said he might die, that he probably would die.... I don’t know, oddly, that cleared things up. I suppose I was – disappointed. I suppose I would have liked to be the last.... But I wasn’t angry anymore. It started to feel like an utter waste of time and energy. After all, I can work myself into fits, but he’s John, he’ll always be John. And I can try to make you into the other woman in my head, but it doesn’t...work. Quite. You’re still sort of damnably likeable. I’d be sleeping with you too, if I were him. Actually, I’m not him, and I’m sleeping with you anyway, so there you have it.”

“Yeah,” Ronon said, even though he didn’t know exactly what to make of any of that. Damnably likeable? Was that like ridiculously handsome? Rodney seemed to be perpetually annoyed over the fact that he liked Ronon, which took some of the ego-stroking out of the whole situation. It wasn’t as much fun as Ronon had always imagined it would be, this business of having sex appeal. “So...you do like me?”

Rodney opened his mouth, but apparently not to say anything. He just gaped at Ronon until he recovered, rolling his eyes and then pressing kisses all over Ronon’s face. Ronon sighed and spread his hands over Rodney’s back.

They both went still when Ronon’s headset beeped. It beeped a second time, and Ronon twitched involuntarily toward it, then couldn’t quite let go of Rodney. Rodney kissed the corner of his eye and whispered, “I like you a lot, I’ve never liked anyone this much this soon, and not that many people like it when I like them, so thank you. Answer it.”

“I’ve got your bloodwork back,” Dr. Beckett said in his ear, and Ronon slumped deeper into the mattress. The tone of his voice would be completely different if the news were bad. Ronon hadn’t been too worried, but it was still more of a relief than he had expected it to be. “Would you like to come up to the infirmary and have a chat?”

“Any reason I should be in a hurry?”

“Well, there’s policy against giving out medical data over a comlink. But no, I can’t think of any reason you should change your schedule. Just pop along whenever it’s convenient and you can have a look, if you like.”

“Thanks, Doc,” he said, and shoved the headset into the drawer beside Rodney’s bed. He rolled back toward Rodney and said, “So, good news,” before he pulled Rodney’s head to his and gave him the wettest, sloppiest, sexiest kiss he knew how to give.

Rodney didn’t let it go on very long, though, which started to seem pretty smart when Ronon realized he was only pulling away to wrestle with the fastenings on Ronon’s pants while he kissed and bit, light but sharp-toothed, against the tender skin on his stomach. Ronon flung his arm out blindly and pulled the drawer open, searching for something that felt like Rodney’s bottle of lube. “No, forget it, we don’t have time for that,” Rodney said as he worked the pants partway down Ronon’s hips. “This, I just want to do this.”

“No,” Ronon said, even though that sounded like the worst possible decision he’d ever made. Discipline, discipline. Discipline. Ronon drew a deep, shaky breath and said, “No, you want me to – that’s what you said you wanted – “

It was too much, he shouldn’t have said that. Rodney’s head came up like it was spring-loaded, and he fixed Ronon with those clear, intent eyes and the exact expression he used when the jumper scanners turned up something that nobody expected to find. “That’s what I– ?” He cocked his head and stared harder, while Ronon wondered how insulting it would be just to grab his head and push it back down. “Do you always do what your partner wants to do in bed?”

“Nothing wrong with wanting to make it good, is there?”

Rodney’s fingers traced down the ridges of muscle on Ronon’s abdomen. “Nothing at all.” He leaned in and kissed the hollow at the base of Ronon’s throat lingeringly, and then said, “My turn to make it good, all right?” Ronon nodded, not that Rodney could see that when he’d already straddled Ronon’s legs and started kissing his way down his chest.

It was good. He was a little bit in love with Rodney by the time he came, and he had to roll over on his side facing away from Rodney to catch his breath, knotting his hand in Rodney’s sheets and waiting for the feeling to slow down along with his heartbeat. Rodney got out of bed and opened a drink from his refrigeration unit. He didn’t offer Ronon anything, for which Ronon was grateful, because he couldn’t have answered any questions at that moment.

Rodney sighed comfortably when he burrowed back into bed. He ran his hand lightly up Ronon’s arm and then moved his fingers back to press beside his scar. “Does this hurt?”

“No.” The scar tissue itself was more sensitive than the rest of his skin, and sometimes it did hurt, if he got shoved to his back or if he stretched too hard during a workout. He assumed it was more sensitive to pleasure, too, but he’d never had anyone he could ask – that he would ask to experiment on it. “Don’t touch it,” he said dully.

“Why?” Damn Rodney. What kind of a question was why? Because I said not to. Because I don’t like you thinking about what happened, what I used to be. Who asked why? And he didn’t even move his fingers, just kept drawing shapes around the scar. “Dex, would you look at me?” he said impatiently when Ronon didn’t answer him.

“Stop it,” he said shortly. It would’ve been easier to put up a fight if he’d been in his own bed, but he’d have to make do. “Just stop talking to me like I’m your...like you want it to be like this.”

“Like what?”

He flipped over and kept rolling until he was on top of Rodney with Rodney’s wrists in his hands, kissing him over and over until Rodney was whimpering desperately into his mouth. He gentled his kisses then, softening just enough to let Rodney lean up into it. Ronon kept kissing him until he found that moment, the second when their heartbeats entrained perfectly, when they were breathing together, when everything else fell away. When he let go of Rodney’s wrists, Rodney pushed both his hands up into Ronon’s hair, and Ronon had known he would do that. At that moment, they knew everything about each other. Ronon drew his hands up Rodney’s arms from shoulders to elbows and kissed Rodney’s lower lip.

When he pulled away, it took a moment for the fog to clear from Rodney’s brain. Ronon watched his eyelids flutter open. “Oh,” he said faintly. “Like that.”

That would have been the right moment to leave, except that he couldn’t leave. Damn, already he couldn’t leave. Ronon laid down at Rodney’s side and drew him close. “We can start pretending on Monday, okay?” he said against Rodney’s shoulder.

“Oh, God,” Rodney said. “This is a whole new and terrible way to fuck up my life. This is– People say I’m paranoid, you know, but the strange thing is that hardly any of the things I panic about ever happen, and yet there’s always some perfectly awful thing that never occurred to me, just waiting until I least suspect– “

“On behalf of all the perfectly awful fuck-ups in your life,” Ronon said, “you don’t mind shutting up, do you?”

Rodney moved his free arm across his body to stroke Ronon’s hair gently. “God, if I’d only met you a year ago.”

That was a year Ronon would have been happy to skip over, too. Although this year was shaping up to have challenges of its own.

*

He avoided Rodney for three days after that, which wasn’t hard, with the team grounded and Rodney spending all his time in the labs. It felt like at least thirteen. He even went to the infirmary to look in on Sheppard only when he knew Rodney would be somewhere else. He never stayed long, because they were keeping Sheppard knocked out almost all the time, and for a while it was interesting to sit around and watch his scales turn dusty-looking and start to curl up at the edges, but not for very long.

He came in once by pure chance when Sheppard was conscious; Rodney was there, too, which he shouldn’t have been. If he would stick to his own schedule, it would be a lot easier for both of them to pretend the other didn’t exist. Ronon couldn’t even sit in the other chair, because Rodney was using it for a footrest while he worked on his datapad, and Ronon wasn’t about to ask for it.

“Heyyyy,” Sheppard said. They had raised his bed so he was propped up, the IV tubes still in his arms and most of the scales still sticking to his body, but his eyes had gone back to normal and he was smiling the same broad, vague smile that he smiled when he was tired or a little drunk, the one that made him look somewhat simple-minded, if still unfortunately attractive. “You!”

“Colonel,” he said. “You’re awake.”

“Space. Red. Kinda sticky....”

“If not terribly lucid,” Rodney agreed. “He’s on enough painkillers to override being boiled in oil, but that’s Carson for you, he’s never met a pill he didn’t like. I keep trying to convince him to investigate more holistic approaches to health, but no, it’s just pour this beaker of bat wings or God knows what down your throat and call me in the morning, if it didn’t make your head fall off. Nothing against Carson, you know, but if we could get our mad scientist quotient supplemented by a decent chiropractor around here, I feel it would be excellent for morale, and I for one would enjoy occasionally seeing a doctor I don’t suspect of fabricating reasons to alter my DNA.”

“Rodney is uncomfortable.” Sheppard pronounced the word slowly, as if he knew it was going to take extra effort on his part. “Oh! Do that thing. Rodney, he does a thing. You’ll love it.”

Rodney’s mouth twisted up and his eyes flashed, but he didn’t look up from his typing. “I very much doubt I will.” Ronon cut a fuck you, too look in his direction, which Rodney didn’t even seem to notice. Sometimes he wondered why everyone didn’t like Rodney as much as his own team did, but most of the time the reasons were pretty clear.

“No, no. No, no, no. It’s great. Backrub – blowjob – bye, bye, Miss American Pie– “ The last part, before Rodney could lean over and clamp his hand over Sheppard’s mouth, was distinctly louder and sounded like it was meant to have some kind of tune. He hoped that was the fault of the drugs, and not how Sheppard actually sang.

“Okay, two rules. No come-ons, and no singing.”

“You said one rule,” Sheppard whined when Rodney moved his hand away.

“Well, now it’s two.”

Sheppard reached out and put his hand – the more human one, Ronon was grateful to see – in Ronon’s hand. “Hail Mary!” he said intently. “Catch. Handoff. Teamwork, right? The Dukes of Hazzard, Mulder and Scully, Han and Chewie!”

“Abbott and Costello,” Rodney grumbled. “Shaggy and Scooby.”

For a moment, Sheppard sounded eerily competent when he said, “I’m for shit like this. You take care of things for me til I get back, okay?”

“I don’t have the rank– “

“No, the personal things. Do the. Tend, right? Just be good, I don’t wanna worry. He used to drive me fucking crazy, all uptight, everything’s a big disaster, I thought I’d have to kill him. I was gonna make it look like an accident. Fucked him instead, he’s a lot nicer now. Do all that stuff, make him happy, it’s good for him.”

“I– “

“That’s an order, soldier!”

Ronon dropped his hand, just as Rodney slammed his datapad down on the arm of the chair and said, “All right, that’s quite enough. Would you get out of here? He was perfectly calm until you came in.”

He resisted the urge to say I’ll leave, but not because you tell me to. If he hadn’t still been feeling sorry for Rodney he might have said it, but he’d been watching Rodney’s face go bloodless and pale at fucked him instead. So he just left.

*

He haunted Rodney’s quarters until an absolutely indecent hour, and then he went up to his office. It wasn’t his job, no matter what Sheppard said while he was on drugs, to take care of Rodney, but somebody obviously had to keep him from....

Well, he would have done it anyway, probably.

“Nobody said you could come in here,” Rodney said without looking up from his computer. “This is my office, I need mental and physical privacy, and oh, by the way, I am absolutely not going to have sex with you because Colonel Sheppard ordered you to make sure I got my regular servicing, the whole idea is completely insulting, and it’s all in his head anyway, because yes, fine, I’m a moody person, it comes from being complex and passionate, beneath my cool exterior, but I assure you the quality of my mood is dependent on a whole lot more than how recently I’ve– “

He’d missed the sound of Rodney’s ranting. He was so fucked. “I’m not here to have sex with you, McKay.”

Rodney looked up, startled. “You’re not?”

No. Maybe you think I fetch whenever he throws a stick, but I don’t.”

“Oh. Well...good for you. You’re not good for him, you know, he was bossy enough before you came along, and soon he’s going to be expecting all of us to– “

“Could you just stop talking for a second?” Rodney opened his mouth, and then closed it. Ronon waited, and then it dawned on him that he’d won. That was so intriguing that he had trouble remembering what he had come here to say. Right. “He’s going to be there for weeks, maybe months, and as they ease off the medication, he’s going to be bored a lot. I thought we should – work something out. So there’s somebody up there to sit with him, but – but only one of us. Just to make it...not so awkward.”

“You’re really not here to have sex with me?” Rodney blurted.

And no, he really wasn’t, he really hadn’t come here for that and actually for the opposite of that, he’d wanted to keep Rodney as far from him as possible until things stopped being so....

He could never remember quite how he got on his knees in front of Rodney’s chair on wheels, his face tilted up so Rodney could lean down and kiss him with his fingers in his hair and Ronon’s fingers pressing into Rodney’s thighs, but the good news was that Rodney had thought to order the blinds scrolled shut first, in case of insomniac lab techs outside.

“I missed you,” Rodney breathed.

At least Rodney had work to fall back on; Ronon hadn’t realized until it was gone that the team was all he really had on Atlantis, so that missing Sheppard and Rodney had the force of being in suspended animation – like his time in the Wraith cryo-chamber, except with more to hope for than an agonizing death. Hoping for something made it worse, almost. He could hardly say any of that, though, so instead he said, “If we do this– “ Rodney cut him off with more kisses, and Ronon had to grab his arms under the elbows and push him back. “If we do this, it’s just until the Colonel comes back.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you’re in love with him. Do you really think sleeping with me is going to do anything but delay what you’re hoping he’ll roll over and say to you someday?”

It was only an instinct, but Rodney’s eyes went wide and he stopped breathing, so Ronon knew it was a clean shot. Rodney cleared his throat and said, “He might – he might never – I don’t think he feels that way about me.”

“Doesn’t matter. That’s what you want.”

“I want you,” Rodney said, and the strain in his voice, the quiet rising note of desperation – so perfect, it sounded exactly....

So fucked. Why was he always attracted to the ones who could almost feel the same way back? “No, you don’t,” Ronon said gently. “You’re sleep-deprived, self-loathing, and whatever else, and you’re in love with him. I can’t be your shallow– “

“Shut up, don’t say it! I can’t believe I ever said those things to you, I didn’t mean it, what the fuck are you doing listening to me? Dex, you know, you have to know I never meant....”

“I know. Look, it’s okay. I like you both, okay? I’ve – I’ve been missing both of you.”

“Come home with me.”

“Listen, I’m trying to tell you something. I don’t want anything. I never...had a lot of stuff, and I don’t need it. All I really want is.... I want to stay here. In Atlantis, on the team.”

“Of course you’re staying!”

“Will you listen? I’ve been – I’ve been stupid lately. I tended him, which I never should have done, and I let – I talked myself into – thinking things about you and me that.... I’m saying, that part has to be over now. If we do this, it has to be just...to get us through– You’re lonely without him, I’m bored without a mission to go on. Those are good reasons. We’re part of the same squadron, so we look out for each other, we fix each other’s problems. That has to be why.”

Rodney narrowed his eyes at him. “I thought you said it was too complicated to sleep with someone on your– “

“Forget that.” Damn, count on Rodney to remember more than he was supposed to. “This is the deal. You want it or not?”

“Well, I don’t like the deal. I think when John’s up to it again, we should all– “

“This is the deal. I don’t care if you like it.”

“Well, I don’t. And it’s insane to ask me to make binding decisions about my future while you’re on your knees. It’s duress! Nothing I say right now counts anyway, because all I can think of is that we can’t break up before you’ve ever gone down on me. If you want me to be at all rational about this, I’m going to have to get you out of my system first, so the faster we get to the sex, the sooner we have a chance of sorting all this out to your satisfaction. How’s that deal grab you?”

Ronon wasn’t stupid. Rodney was playing for time, thinking he could talk Ronon out of this with sex and insults and deep, sweet kisses and babble and maybe some more of that Kraft Dinner. That kind of thing probably worked on Sheppard, but if there was one thing Ronon knew how to do, it was keep his eye on a target. “I’m not going to change my mind,” he said, because with an enemy you respected, you gave fair warning.

“Yes, yes, I know, you’re only my interim boyfriend, I promise I won’t get attached. I’ve barely even named you, all right? Hmph, it might even be fun. Who hasn’t fantasized about dumping the center on prom night?”

“Nobody,” Ronon said, beginning to smile. “Who’s the center?”

“We have the rest of our natural lives, however admittedly short those are likely to be, to discuss hockey. Sex now, all right?”

Get you out of my system, Ronon thought as he eased the zipper down on Rodney’s pants. That sounded scientific. Sweated out, like a bad fever. Like something had gotten in your bloodstream that was too dangerous to ignore.
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