Title: Five Kisses - posted March 3, 2006
Author: Lacey McBain
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~ 2570
Summary:  Celebration - Silence - Argument - Ritual - Knowing
Notes:  Originally written for pearl_o's Five Kisses meme.

~ celebration ~

The day the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is revoked, Elizabeth asks John and Rodney to stand with her in a show of leadership solidarity when she makes the announcement. The entire population of Atlantis crowds into the gate-room, scientists and soldiers lounging on steps and against pillars. There’s an air of anticipation.

The three of them stand on the balcony John once threw Rodney off, and sometimes it’s hard to remember when they were that naïve. Rodney’s standing beside him, thrumming with the same kind of nervous energy he had then, and John’s grateful not everything’s changed.

Elizabeth calls for attention over the communication system, and with the usual loud shushing and shuffling of feet, the room quiets down. She reads the words of the U.S. Commander-in-Chief from a simple but brief statement. From below, amidst a thundering of whoops and applause, someone shouts, “So what does that mean?”

Sheppard starts to glance over at Elizabeth—the actual implications of the ruling are still being worked out—but Rodney looms large in front of him, smile curving his mouth wide and dangerous. John only has a moment to realize what’s happening before Rodney’s large hand is cupping the back of his neck and he’s being kissed, thoroughly and expertly, Rodney’s lips shattering his protests and pushing him open until all John can feel is warmth and wet, and oh God, somehow he’d known it would be like this.

His hands find Rodney’s face, palms sliding against stubble, and John has to admit he likes the feel, likes the rough rub of Rodney’s face. John pulls him in until they’re sharing much more than breath, and he marvels at the mouth kissing him with fierce resolve. Wide and challenging, and Rodney kisses like he talks—fast and confident with a tremor of fear underneath it all. Then there’s a tongue sliding against his, and John moans and sucks, pleased to hear the minute catch in Rodney’s breathing, although it’s almost lost under the whistles and cat calls, the stomping of marine boots. John starts to step back, flustered and flushed, and Rodney lets him go, still smiling, but it’s more than a tease and much more than making a point, and John wonders how he couldn’t have known this about Rodney. Himself.

“That’s what it means!” Rodney shouts down to the crowd. “Any questions?”

Yes, actually, John thinks as he catches Rodney’s eyes. I’ve got a few.

~ silence ~

It’s all wrong. Rodney’s mouth, silent and cold, crooked lips not moving at all, and John thinks this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Rodney’s lips are pale blue and ice-cold, and John tries to remember ABC. Airway. Breathing. Circulation.

He slips his fingers into Rodney’s mouth, checks for objects obstructing the airway, and he wants Rodney’s lips to suck his finger lewdly, flirt with him with those huge blue eyes. Something. Anything. But Rodney’s tongue lolls in his mouth, heavy and wet, and John tilts Rodney’s neck, presses his lips apart, and takes a breath. Long, steady pull to fill his own lungs, a tight clamp on Rodney’s mouth, and he concentrates on filling Rodney with warm, moist air. Checks for a pulse. Does it again.

And again.

And again.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

~ argument ~

It’s clear to everyone except McKay that the cute librarian girl at the monastery has a serious crush. John isn’t sure whether to be stunned or pleased.

“What should I do?” Rodney asks when it’s finally pointed out.

“You don’t know what to do?” It’s said before John can stop himself, and Rodney’s snappish “of course I know what to do—eventually” is endearing in an odd way. John wonders when he started liking the fact that Rodney’s a little bit oblivious about things. It lets John get away with a casual kind of flirting that doesn’t have to mean anything at all.

When John finds his way to the small monastic room set aside for him, Rodney’s waiting.

“What exactly did you mean by that?” he asks without preamble. John closes the door and moves towards the bed as if this isn’t anything extraordinary. In a way, it isn’t. He unclips his holster, lays out his gun, and sits down to untie his boots.

“By what?” he asks as if McKay’s crossed arms and tense shoulders don’t tell him everything he needs to know.

“Look, I know I’m not exactly a people person, but I’m not completely clueless. I’ve had experience. Lots of experience,” Rodney says pointedly, and John just smiles, pulling his t-shirt over his head and tossing it on the narrow-backed chair in the corner. He knows his silence will infuriate Rodney quicker than anything he could say.

“Major! You implied that—in front of the team—you made it sound like I don’t know what I’m doing.”

In the candlelight of the room, there are fine shadows on Rodney’s face, and John can almost see a younger version of McKay, never as confident as he pretends, and John’s suddenly sorry he started this. He never wanted to hurt him, to bring up broken hearts and failed relationships. The awkward steps of love. John knows enough about it to know it’s not fair to judge and it’s not nice to laugh. He’s never been unkind to Rodney before, and he doesn’t want to start now. Not like this.

“I’m sorry,” John says simply, standing to meet Rodney’s glare, and he expects Rodney to lift his chin, stare at him for a moment with an appraising glance, and leave.

He doesn’t expect Rodney to grab his shoulders and shove him against the door, mouth landing on John’s so hard he thinks his lips might bruise. There isn’t time to think because Rodney’s lips are determined to win this argument, and John’s still reeling when he feels the first push of a tongue into his mouth, and he pushes back with his own. McKay’s breath stutters, but John feels teeth on his lips, and hands on his chest, and Rodney’s got a fist wrapped tight around his dog tags so that John can feel every tiny silver ball on the chain pressing into the flesh on his neck. He grabs Rodney’s waistband and pulls him closer, slips his mouth sideways until he tastes the skin of Rodney’s neck, and he sucks until he’s certain there’ll be bruises there tomorrow. Rodney gasps something that can only be “John” and it’s the first time Rodney’s called him that—ever—and suddenly he doesn’t want to fight. Not like this.

He lets his hands soften on McKay’s biceps, closes his eyes, and leans his head back against the door. He licks his lips, surprised there isn’t blood, and when Rodney kisses him again, still hard and unrelenting, he lets Rodney lick the secret corners of his mouth. He doesn’t protest, doesn’t resist, and even McKay has a hard time arguing without an opponent, so it’s only a moment before Rodney’s lips slow their assault, tongue sliding against John’s lips with a soothing wetness. Rodney presses his face against John’s cheek and breathes while John rubs slow circles on his back.

“I’m sorry,” Rodney murmurs, and John just nods. He doesn’t know what Rodney’s apologizing for, and it doesn’t really matter. John understands exactly how he feels.

“I didn’t want you to think—” Rodney stammers awkwardly. “I’m not completely hopeless.” His voice fades to a whisper at the end.

“I know,” John says, and holds him a little tighter.

~ ritual ~

John nods towards the priests watching from the altar. The knife is still poised above Teyla’s heart. Ronon’s not moving, body sprawled across the stone steps, a thin trickle of blood at his temple.

“Priests on our planet get into serious trouble for the kind of thing you’re asking us to do,” Rodney says weakly, but he’s staring at the knife and Teyla’s left breast bared beneath it, and John knows that neither of them wants to be the cause of a mark against perfection.

“The ritual must be performed or blood must be shed,” the priest says, the knife hovering over Teyla’s skin. They can see her breath pushing the knifepoint closer.

“There’s no door number three, Rodney,” John whispers, licking his lips and watching Rodney’s eyes. He nods and doesn’t move away when John reaches out to cup hands against his cheeks and draw him closer. The first brush of lips is tentative, awkward, and John’s aware his palms are sweaty and his black t-shirt’s clinging to his skin. He can smell the sweat and fear rising off McKay, and it’s comforting in a strange way.

John’s never kissed a man before, never wanted to, and isn’t sure he wants to now. But it’s Rodney and even if this isn’t what either of them expected, it could be worse. Rodney’s lips tremble as John kisses him again, and he knows Rodney’s frightened when he kisses back a little hard, a lot desperately. Suddenly John’s got a tongue in his mouth and hands wrapped in his shirt, and there’s a shiver racing up his spine that he isn’t sure what to call.

“Rodney,” John murmurs, and it isn’t anything like soothing, and Rodney just takes it as encouragement and shoves his hands inside John’s shirt. It feels better than it should considering they’re on a strange planet being forced to do this, and somehow John can’t bring himself to be angry or even a little sorry. He’s glad that it’s Rodney. It feels right that it’s him.

John kisses Rodney without reservation, and isn’t even a little surprised when Rodney whispers, “I’ll make it good” against his skin. John closes his eyes and lets himself go.

Rodney’s as good as his word.

~ knowing ~

Oddly enough, it isn’t the first kiss Rodney remembers, or even the second. It’s the third.

The first was a complete surprise, Rodney finally having figured out how to recharge a portion of the waning ZPM, and Sheppard had been in the lab when the process actually worked. He’d been ecstatic enough after thirty-six hours of no sleep not to notice Sheppard’s proud grin until he was being grabbed and kissed into stunned speechlessness. Sheppard beamed at him, “You really are a genius, McKay!”, and that had been the end of it. Rodney chalked it up to the adrenaline rush of scientific breakthrough.

The second time, he’d thought Sheppard was more likely to hit him. The Colonel glowered at him all the way to the infirmary where Carson set Rodney’s arm and gave him the drugs that made his brain turn to inarticulate mush. “You could’ve gotten yourself killed,” Sheppard grouched, although Rodney thought he looked kind of like a pissed-off angel with a soft hazy glow around him, and he sounded more worried than angry to Rodney’s morphine-happy brain. Rodney felt a little drunk and he might’ve smiled stupidly at Sheppard then because he saw something in the man’s face change, soften, and a calloused hand stroked Rodney’s cheek.

“Stop trying to save the day, Rodney,” Sheppard murmured, and kissed him solidly on the mouth. It made Rodney feel anchored, as if he’d latched onto the tail of a kite, the string of a balloon trying to carry him away. He was only vaguely aware of Sheppard untangling Rodney’s hands from his shirt—gently—and touching his hair before he left. Rodney sometimes wondered if it was simply a product of too much morphine, but that didn’t explain Sheppard. Adrenaline, Rodney thought, and left it alone.

The third time, Rodney found himself at one end of Sheppard’s couch where they’d been talking about schedules and what interesting items had come in on the last Daedalus run, when Rodney realized Sheppard had stopped talking and was looking at him with the kind of careful intensity he usually reserved for combat situations.

“What?” Rodney asked, his voice more sharp than he’d intended. Sheppard leaned towards him, eyes open, no question what he was about to do, and Rodney had every opportunity to turn away, pretend this wasn’t happening. He closed his eyes and waited.

Fingers stroked down his cheek, and Rodney leaned into the touch, for once in his life letting someone else lead. John’s fingertips were smooth, a little bit dry, and Rodney shivered when John finally cupped his face in his palms and drew him forward.

The first brush of John’s lips was against his cheek, a chaste press high against the bone, and Rodney barely had time to register the shift before there was another light kiss against his chin. The other cheek. Forehead. Eyelids. Nose.

“What are you doing?” he said slowly, not wanting it to sound like “no.”

“I’m kissing you.”

“Why?” It was a legitimate question, and Rodney was honestly curious. There was no way on Earth—or Atlantis—he could chalk this up to adrenaline.

“I like you.” Rodney could hear the smirk in John’s voice, and his lips continued to skip across Rodney’s face leaving fluttering kisses in their wake. It was … nice.

“Oh,” Rodney said, and it seemed to be enough.

When it came, the kiss wasn’t fast or hard or anything Rodney had come to expect from kisses. It was comfortable—like a favourite t-shirt, softened with age and wear, and Rodney let out the breath he’d been holding, and smiled against John’s mouth as he kissed him back, lazy and slow, like they’d done this a thousand times. He realized, with no real surprise, that he knew John’s mouth, the weight of his hand. He knew his scent—dark and familiar, like smoking guns and camouflage, metal and sweat—and he’d known it for a very long time. The shape of John’s ribs under his hands wasn’t new—he’d checked for injuries, applied field dressings, tried to stop John’s insides from spilling out. Rodney knew every scar on his body, the patterns of dark hair whirling across tanned skin like small galaxies. He knew John’s blood-type, the name of his first dog, the real reason he hated tapioca. Rodney figured he was probably the only one that knew why John never sent messages home. Knew and understood.

It didn’t take any effort at all to lean back into his corner of the couch, pulling John with him. Their mouths parted for only a moment, and then went right back to kissing, lips and tongues knowing exactly where to go, how to speak each other’s language. Rodney sighed and wrapped his arms around John, whose body was a perfect fit, and decided this was what it meant to be known. Rodney had never realized how exciting being comfortable with someone could be.

“In case you didn’t realize it, I like you too,” Rodney said finally, lips pleasantly tired.

“Yeah, I figured,” John said sarcastically, and let out something suspiciously close to a giggle when Rodney poked him in the ribs. John rolled off and stretched, and Rodney straightened his clothes and headed for the door.

“Come on, flyboy. They’re serving tapioca tonight.”

Rodney didn’t even have to look back to know John was making a face. Half a second later, he fell into step beside Rodney and they made their way to the mess in comfortable, companionable silence.

As usual.


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