Original Story: Colonel Magpie, by bluflamingo
Fandom/Pairing: SGA, John/Rodney
Notes: I read bluflamingo's wonderful fic a couple of months ago, before getting this assignment, and I absolutely loved it. This fic is very much intended to be a companion to the original, so I would recommend reading this first, and then the original, but you can do it the other way too if you'd like. Many thanks to cold_poet and phineasjones for their wonderful betas! *hugs*
Summary: John laughs and starts to eat his own and Rodney has to grip his fork tightly to keep from wiping away the syrup collected at the corner of John's mouth with his thumb.
a bird that you must not miss
one for sorrow…
Rodney hears about the stasis chambers something like fourth hand. At first he's angry, because he's the Head of Science for this expedition, and he should be more clued in. But, now that they have five ZPMs and they can turn on things that have been dormant for 10,000 years, there are over ten parties of Marines and scientists out in various parts of the city every single day. Rodney finally has to accept that he’s not going to be the first one to discover every little thing.
But he wants to see the stasis pods for himself.
Martin from anthropology tells him where the room is, far from the labs and the residential sections of the city. Rodney finally finds a free afternoon to take the transporters and walk twenty minutes to get to the room. He waves his hand over the crystal outside of the door, and starts, because the room isn't empty.
John is standing there, staring at the wall - row upon row of pods with Ancients presumably inside, though the glass is opaque. John's hand is against the glass, his fingertips tracing over the writing underneath each pod.
"They're graves," John says softly, not turning his head.
Rodney opens his mouth to answer, to protest, but he can read Ancient too. He knows that John is right. They stay there, for a while, until John finally pulls his hand away from the glass and turns to leave the room.
He doesn’t think about the room again, but the first time John disappears, just for a few hours, Rodney knows. John usually doesn't answer the radio for anything that's not urgent during those times he slips away, every few weeks, but Rodney knows exactly where he is. He thinks that maybe John goes there out of some sense of kinship. Not just because he shares their genetic code that can bring the whole city to life, but perhaps because he thinks, with what they face every single day out there, he will join them, sooner rather than later.
two for joy…
Rodney loves to watch John in the labs. He strides in not long after being summoned most of the time, like he has nothing better to do than turn things on for the geeks. It almost seems that he is more at home in the labs than almost anywhere else in the city, with the possible exception of the jumpers.
Maybe in another life, in some parallel universe where John might not have wanted to fly so desperately, he could have been one of them - a brilliant mathematician with hair askew, hibernating in the dark caverns of the labs with the rest of them.
John loves to turn on the devices, too. He never says so, not out loud, but his face lights up like it did when they first discovered the jumpers every time he picks up something and it hums to life for him, in the palms of his hands.
Rodney walks in the door and sees John smiling and tossing something purple that looks suspiciously like a Koosh ball at Zelenka. John's giggling - a sound so unfamiliar and ridiculous that Rodney doesn't know what to do with it, and then Zelenka's joining him, along with the rest of the scientists in the lab, as they throw the glowing purple Koosh ball around the room.
Rodney smiles to himself as he turns and leaves. He doesn't need to touch the ball to catch the feeling in the room. John's smile leaves him feeling the same way.
three for a girl…
Teyla's wearing a new necklace. Rodney notices it hanging around her neck during a sparring session. He is, after all, a trained scientist; he's spent his whole life observing things, cataloging them. The pendant is large and made of a light alloy with a slightly purple tinge to it, and it dangles just above the upper curve of Teyla's breasts. He rips his eyes from it when he finds himself staring, because he still remembers what happened the last time Teyla thought he was checking out her tits (and he remembers exactly how much it hurt).
Rodney suspects that John has something to do with it. "Did you notice that Teyla has some new jewelry?" Rodney says, staring at John intently while eating a large forkful of macaroni and cheese.
"Really?" John replies nonchalantly, looking quickly back down at his own, untouched plate. Rodney can see the flush climbing up above the collar of John's t-shirt, coloring his neck. Busted.
On PX5-786, Teyla, in a very uncharacteristic move, knocks herself out on a protruding tree branch. She's lying unconscious on the ground, and Ronon's holding her head as John runs his hands gently over her face, her cheeks. Rodney doesn't know what to do, so he reaches out and puts his hand on Teyla's knee. When he looks back up, Teyla's pendant is glowing - purple and green and gold - under John's fingertips, and Teyla's eyes are blinking open. She smiles at John, and Rodney lets out a breath he didn't even know he was holding.
The necklace looks good on her, and Rodney doesn't say anything else to John about it, even after Teyla has it ripped from her neck by Genii spies a few weeks later.
four for a boy…
Waffles. The goddamn thing that wouldn't turn on for Rodney, that demanded John and looked like a waffle iron actually does make waffles, and John smiles and sprints, with the device in his hands, to the mess as soon as Rodney and Zelenka figure it out. Rodney sighs, and follows him.
John calls Teyla and Ronon over the team channel, then leaves Rodney sitting at a table while he charms a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, and the ingredients out of one of the cooks.
"We," John says, pouring flour into the bowl, "are going to show Teyla and Ronon about some of the finer points of life on Earth."
Rodney wants to argue that waffles are not the best in cuisine that Earth has to offer, but the smell is making his mouth water and one of those bottles looks like maple syrup - Canadian - so he just nods and holds out one of the plates.
He ends up being very sorry that he has a mouthful of (hot, crispy on the outside, smothered in butter and syrup oh my god) waffles when John tries to explain why they are so awesome. John waxes poetic for several minutes about the little chambers that catch all the syrup and butter, and Rodney snorts.
Teyla and Ronon don't get it, clearly, until John sets down a stack in front of each of them. Rodney and John watch while Ronon downs five of them scarily fast, licking his fingers. "S'good," he mumbles around a huge bite. Teyla nods in agreement, making significant headway on her three.
John laughs and starts to eat his own and Rodney has to grip his fork tightly to keep from wiping away the syrup collected at the corner of John's mouth with his thumb.
five for silver…
Rodney misses Carson every single day. Ronon says it will get easier - each day will be easier than the one before it - but sometimes, it feels worse. Harder. He still feels horribly guilty, and every time someone ends up in the infirmary, he wonders if that will be the day that they realize how much they need Carson there.
He’s definitely not being melancholy, bent over some schematics for power generators in the east wing of the city, when he hears John's voice in his ear. "Hey, Rodney, got a few minutes?"
"Yes, of course I do. I have nothing but free time between groundbreaking scientific discovery and saving your asses."
John laughs. "I'll come get you."
He leads Rodney through hallways and into transporters, until Rodney groans. "Are you taking me out somewhere to leave me for dead?" he says.
"No, I wanted to show you something. I think you'll like it." John waves his hand and the door slides open.
It's not like anything Rodney has ever seen. The surfaces shine, like they’ve just been polished, and Rodney sort of can't breathe. He sees what look like full-body scanners, like the ones in the infirmary, among other things. Medicine might be voodoo, and barely science at all, but this place is incredible.
"We're going to call it the Beckett Ward," John says softly, and Rodney can feel the heat of John’s body, almost close enough to touch, against Rodney's back. "He would have lost it if he could have seen this stuff. One of the medical staff said that they think some of these might regenerate limbs."
"That's - " It's amazing, but he can't get out the words. Carson would be cooing like the machines were his first-born if he were there. "Yes, I think he'd have liked that." John's hand comes to rest, gentle and warm, on Rodney's shoulder, and he lets himself push up into the touch as the machines hum to life around them.
six for gold…
Atlantis was always intended to be a mission of scientific discovery, but upon their arrival rapidly became about survival and war and impossible choices. The Wraith, the Genii, the Asurans – just when they think they've figured the enemy out, another one makes its presence known. It's not what Rodney had expected, and he's not sure that the person he was before this would have come anyway, had he known. Now, there’s no question. The Pegasus galaxy is incredible, and Atlantis is everything.
Despite the constant state of alert and the never-ending undercurrent of fear that runs through all the military and civilian personnel in the city, they've done a remarkable job of getting back to the essence of why they came here. Elizabeth gives permission for team after team to go on exploratory, non-trade missions, and John makes sure that there are Marines free to accompany them, because John knows better than anyone that missions almost never go how you intend them.
AR-1 isn't exempt from the exploratory missions - in fact, Rodney has a list of some missions he'd like to undertake when they have the opportunity. But their team still does the bulk of first contact and trade, and Rodney can't help but feel a little excluded from the annoying giddiness that has infected the labs.
It's actually on one of the first contact missions, to a world that Teyla's people used to trade on, when they accidentally make one of the best discoveries so far. Rodney feels kind of smug as they come through the gate with it, glowing soft and gold in John's careful hands. Rodney plucks it from him and takes it straight to the labs, where he and Zelenka spend three sleepless, contraband-stimulant-enhanced days integrating it with the existing technology, and watching in awe as thousands of years of Ancient knowledge unravels in front of them. Where it has been all along.
John stops by with coffee on the second night, and Zelenka tries to explain to him what it is - the true impact of finding something like the key to all the Atlantis databases - but John looks a little disappointed. Rodney makes it a point, once the database is up and running, to find something to help John get it. He finds plans for Wraith-vaporizing weapons and pimped-out jumpers, and John squeals like a girl.
seven for a secret that's never been told…
Rodney's never been good about holding things in. He pretty much says what he means all the time, and he's found it to be a pretty effective technique thus far in life. And yet, he's been part of a confidential government space program for a number of years, so he must have it in him to keep quiet. About the important things.
John's not something he's ever wanted to share. It's not that he's ashamed - to the contrary, he's amazed most days that John ever looked at him twice, let alone gave him this - but it seems like something that should be guarded and kept close. They have tents and guest rooms on offworld missions, side-by-side seats in the jumper, a table in the conference room to spar across with each other, and the quiet space of their quarters at the end of the day. They're not trying to be deceptive; this is just theirs.
Rodney can't even remember how it started, but he honestly doesn't care. He gets John, broken and bloody, after a hard mission or a siege, and John happy and bouncing, high on the adrenaline of flight or the power of genetic destiny. He gets all of John's whispered secrets, late at night and early in the morning. He gets to put the pieces of John's life together, one by one, until Rodney's sure he knows John better than anyone in the world.
He tells John things he can't remember ever saying to anyone, and even though it takes an embarrassingly long time, he manages, one night after a long and grueling mission to a not-so-friendly planet, to tell John the most important secret, the one he's been holding for longer than he'd care to admit.
John smiles, and Rodney thinks he still might have the best-kept secret in the city.
eight's a wish…
Some days, Rodney wishes he could take John back to Earth - retire somewhere warm, maybe a beach. Where John could try to kill himself doing something normal like surfing for a change.
See, the thing is, Rodney loves Atlantis. He loves everything about it, even if death seems way too inevitable at times. He's never had anything like this place and these people before, and he's willing to fight for them, even when he's scared.
But John takes too many risks, and if Rodney weren’t so relieved when he comes back, bruised and battered but still there, he'd have killed him by now.
He wants John sleepy and sated, relaxed and happy. He wants him a million light years away from anything and anyone who can hurt him. He wants him warm in the sand, the salt of the ocean clinging to his skin. He wants things that he knows he can never have, because Atlantis is in John's blood, and Rodney knows that John's not leaving, not again, not ever if he can help it.
John spends five days in captivity on P7A-998 after a mission gone terribly, horribly wrong, and comes back through the gate with two broken arms, five broken ribs, and a collapsed lung. He’s barely conscious as they load him up onto the stretcher. Rodney takes up residence next to the bed in the infirmary, and glares at any of the doctors or nurses who try to shoo him away when they come close.
On the second day, Rodney wakes face down on John’s bed to fingers in his hair, and John's rough, "Hey."
Rodney is absurdly grateful to hear his voice. "John," he says, his own voice cracking. "I wish - " I wish I could take you away. I wish I could keep you safe. I wish no one could hurt you. He chokes on the words.
"I know," John says, his fingers moving gently on Rodney's scalp. Rodney stays, past when John's breathing evens out again and he’s swept away by sleep. Watching John’s slack face, Rodney wishes that he can keep him, for a little while longer.
nine's a kiss…
It takes months before they let their guards down enough to stay the whole night in each other's quarters. John's still a little on edge about someone, namely Caldwell, finding out, even though Rodney's pretty sure they all know and are choosing to look the other way.
More nights than not, they stay at Rodney's, because his mattress is better, and the mornings that follow are maybe Rodney's favorite thing ever; John just coming awake, turning his face from the pillow toward Rodney, the sun streaming in the windows. The corners of his mouth turned up just a little, like he's already happy even though the day has just started.
On those mornings, John smiles, says, "hey, 'morning," and rolls over, draping his arms and legs over Rodney's body. John's warm from sleep, and he shimmies until his face is buried in Rodney's neck, and Rodney can feel John's breath hot on his skin. Rodney reaches out and tips John's chin up with his fingers, leaning into to press their mouths together.
Rodney has always thought this was gross - he had always run to the bathroom to brush his teeth first thing in the morning when he had the occasion to the spend the night with someone before (which, frankly, wasn't all that often) - but he can't bear the idea of pulling away from the slide of John's tongue against his lips, the clutch of John's hands at the waistband of his boxers, the small sounds John makes in the back of his throat as he bears Rodney down into the mattress. John's weight, holding him down, as John slides his body into the cradle of Rodney's hips, is as close to perfect as Rodney has ever had, and he wouldn't miss it for anything.
Some mornings, they stay that way, kissing lazily until the sun creeps high enough in the Lantean sky to warm their bodies through the window. Some mornings, John wakes up enough to smile wickedly and pull Rodney's boxers down until there's nothing but skin on skin, and John kissing him like he'll never stop.
ten is a bird that you must not miss…
They manage to get two weeks of Earthside leave together, which they haven't been able to do once in the whole seven years they've been in the Pegasus galaxy. It's not that either one of them actually wants to leave the city, but the allure of two weeks to do nothing but eat and sleep and fuck and be safe is too much, so they go.
Rodney rents a house in Malibu, right on the water.
One day, instead of heading to the beach first thing like on all the other days since they got there, Rodney prods John to the car. He dangles the keys to the rented convertible in front of John’s face until he gives in, and gives him directions until they're pulling up to a small airport. "What's going on?" John says, pulling the car to a stop and putting it in park next to a hangar.
"Come on," Rodney says, and they walk across the runway until the Cessna Turbo Stationair T206H comes into sight. John had walked around with the brochure for a whole week a few months back, flipping through it wistfully between meetings.
John whistles. "Wow, that's gorgeous," he says softly, and Rodney knows instantly that this is maybe his best idea ever, and that's saying a lot.
"Well, good," Rodney says, grabbing his hand. "Because it's yours."
John's laugh never stops being startling, but it's so good to hear it. "Yeah, okay. Sure. Whose plane is this?"
"Yours, asshole. Now, take me for a spin before I change my mind." John's mouth gapes open. Rodney walks ahead of him and opens the door to the cockpit. "Well?"
Rodney feels a little nauseous, and thank god John catches a clue and gets in the plane, fast, before Rodney tells him that he'll keep his feet on the ground, thanks. He's never been a good flyer, whether in jumpers or commercial jets, and even though he trusts John - what they have goes way beyond trust - he grips the side of the door to keep his hands from shaking.
John slides into the seat like it was made for him, like he was born for this, which Rodney supposes he was. He runs the checks on all the systems, and then runs them again after he glances over at Rodney.
It only takes a few minutes, once they're airborne, for Rodney to forget that he's scared, because John's face is lit up like someone's just given him everything he ever wanted, like it’s that simple. He knows that John loves to fly the jumpers - Rodney sees that almost every day - but that he secretly longs for real planes without inertial dampeners, and the blue sky and clouds around him instead of the inky black and the stars.
Rodney chances a look out of his window, and he can see the California coastline and the waves of the Pacific lapping against it, looking small and gentle from this high up. They're moving farther out, and if Rodney doesn't pay too close attention, they could be in Atlantis, surrounded by miles of glittering sea.
Rodney's lost in watching, not scared, god, not scared anymore at all, of any of it, and when John's hand comes to rest on Rodney's thigh, Rodney grips it, holds on, and goes along for the ride.