Title: Slow and Steady
Written: Through S1 and 2
Is: John/Rodney - A gradual wearing down of barriers.
Summary: He rolled onto his side and narrowed his eyes. “You do realise I’m armed, don’t you?” he asked.
In Antarctica, the only time Rodney had seen Major Sheppard was when he was in the chair, astounding them all because the Ancient technology just seemed to come alive under him.
Now they were in the gate room, waiting to go through to a new galaxy, Rodney let himself really look.
Rodney took note of the way Sheppard leaned away from people whenever they got close, when everyone else in the room were jostling each other in their excitement. Rodney wasn’t sure how in such a crowd, but Sheppard managed to avoid contact with anyone.
Of course, Rodney thought, of course the almost impossibly handsome and naturally charismatic military second in command doesn’t even like being touched.
He really knew how to pick ‘em.
“Are you alright?”
Sheppard’s head was haloed with the sun behind it and Rodney squinted because the features of his face were blurred with shadow. He’d been knocked into a thick pool of mud by an overenthusiastic child, who had scampered as soon as Rodney was flat on his back and now Sheppard was leaning over him, at the edge of the mire, with an unreadable expression and his hands clasped loosely behind his back.
“Help me up,” Rodney demanded, holding out his hand and he saw Sheppard pause. He made an impatient sound and twirled his hand and Sheppard finally seemed to relent and reached forward to grasp Rodney by the forearm.
At the last moment, Rodney wrenched his arm, using his full weight and taking Sheppard off balance. The Major crashed, belly down, unceremoniously into the mud, his quick reflexes the only thing saving him from a face full of dirt.
He rolled onto his side and narrowed his eyes. “You do realise I’m armed, don’t you?” he asked, but his scowl didn’t reach his eyes and Rodney thought finally.
There might be a human under the stiff Major suit after all.
Rodney adored Atlantis furniture.
Okay, so he could’ve done without having to bring his own prescription mattress and the looks that earned him, but other than that, he loved it.
Mostly because although two people would sit at the very edge of an Ancient version of a couch, the way it curved towards the middle, they’d end up pressed together despite their best intentions.
Sheppard had tried to resolve this dilemma by sitting on the cushioned arm instead of the couch itself, but he’d given in after the third hour of their Star Wars marathon and had slid bonelessly onto the couch itself, rolling into Rodney as soon as he did.
He had tensed and stayed tense for the next forty minutes until Rodney had said “Oh for chrissakes,” and had grabbed both of Sheppard’s legs, wrenching them up and sideways until they were across Rodney’s own and Sheppard was lying full length on the couch with his legs over Rodney’s and his head pillowed by the arm he’d been desperately trying to make a seat.
Sheppard was still painfully tense, but at least his bony elbow was no longer pressed into Rodney’s side.
Rodney felt Sheppard’s eyes on him and he fought the urge to smile.
It was a tiny thing, only lasting a second and had it been anyone else, Rodney wouldn’t even have registered it, but the first time Sheppard touched him of his own volition, Rodney had to squash the urge to do a victory dance.
Sheppard had turned to him in the cafeteria and Rodney, fully ensconced in his lecture to Teyla on just why if they were ever fired upon offworld, she should throw herself in front of him, had taken a second to realise that the hesitant hand on his elbow was actually the man who would almost bash into a wall in his attempt to not brush by someone in a hallway.
When Rodney turned slowly, the material of his sleeve was still caught between Sheppard’s index and middle finger.
“Can you pass the bread?” Sheppard asked, giving the material in his fingers a quick rub before releasing.
A sprained ankle on a research mission.
Sometimes Rodney found himself agreeing with the common misperception that he was ridiculous and clumsy.
Ford had an arm under Rodney’s and was carefully helping him back to the ‘gate when Sheppard jogged up beside them. “I’ll take him,” he offered jovially and Ford looked relieved and thankful, handing Rodney off without further preamble.
“So, I think we might have to amputate,” John said, almost conversationally, but Rodney almost missed it because his hip was pressed against Sheppard’s and he had an arm over Sheppard’s shoulder and the man had volunteered.
“Oh, har har,” Rodney grumped, covering the fact that he was, quite honestly, flustered beyond all belief. He made a tiny hurt noise and felt Sheppard’s arm tighten around his waist instinctively, bearing more of his weight.
He turned his head away so he could grin.
There was a burning coil of jealous rage in his belly as he watched Teyla bend Sheppard to his knees, sticks gripped under his chin and a triumphant smile on her face.
“You have not been practicing,” she scolded.
Rodney hesitated in the doorway, but relief washed over him when he saw Sheppard spring away as soon as the contact he had with Teyla was no longer about sparring. He watched as she smiled at Sheppard, her eyes warm, and felt guilty for the momentary flash of jealousy because she got it.
She turned and spotted Rodney in the doorway and her smile grew more radiant and welcoming. “Do you wish to spar, Rodney?” she offered and Rodney’s eyes ticked to Sheppard, who had snorted while leaning over to put his sticks back in his gym bag.
“If you’re talking about bubbles and champagne then I’m in. Big sticks hitting me in my soft parts, not so much.”
Teyla laughed, wiping a forearm across her sweaty brow. Sheppard crossed to her and allowed her to grasp his shoulders and pull him down to touch foreheads.
When Sheppard brushed past Rodney still standing in the doorway, he reached out and squeezed Rodney’s bicep, a fleeting touch and then he was gone.
Teyla was twirling her sticks in lazy arcs. “You have less soft parts than you used to,” she said, simple and observant and not meaning anything by it.
Rodney chose to take it as the simple compliment she had probably meant. He was still buzzing with the knowledge that while Sheppard tolerated Teyla touching him because he liked and respected her, it was a whole other thing to be the one to reach out.
Rodney’s arm still tingled.
Sheppard was struggling against the restraints, cursing and begging in turns. He was slowly recovering from the retrovirus that had been introduced into his body, but Carson had warned them that there would be some bad patches.
His eyes grew wide and panicked when Ronon reached over him and Rodney knocked him aside, knowing that the larger man was only trying to help but achieving the exact opposite.
“Look at me Colonel!” Rodney barked and was rewarded when Sheppard’s eyes seemed to focus a little and attempt to track the sound. He’d responded to his rank and Rodney hoped, the sound of his voice.
Rodney laid a single finger along the inside of Sheppard’s wrist and the thrashing man stilled. Ronon watched on with large, amazed eyes when all tenseness seemed to drain out of Sheppard’s body and he finally slumped, head lolling to the side and eyes closed.
“How did you…?” Rodney understood what Ronon wanted to ask even if he couldn’t finish the question.
How did you know?
Sheppard was laughing so hard that he was almost breathless when Rodney stormed into the ‘gate room and straight through the impromptu game of football that was being played. His eyes narrowed when he noticed what they were using as a ball and he held out his hand.
“Give me that!” he snapped.
“What’s the problem, Doctor McKay?” Major Lorne asked, jogging over to stand by Sheppard’s side.
“Give it to me!” Rodney ordered again and Sheppard looked at the fuzzy blue and slightly egg shaped ball in his hand and Rodney could see the cogs turning in his head, the juvenile part of his brain contemplating a rousing game of keep-away that sadly, Rodney had always been the victim of, never the instigator.
Sheppard surprised him, which should have been unsurprising by now, and mutely handed over the blue ball.
“Aw, c’mon. What the hell?” Bates demanded, looking at Rodney as he jogged over to join the small group. “It’s not an Ancient device or anything, what’s the harm?”
“No, it’s not an Ancient device,” Rodney snapped. He traced one finger over the fuzzy blue ball and it seemed to unfurl in his hand, a tiny head with large black eyes popping out and four tiny legs.
Lorne and Bates jumped back, identical squeaks of surprise issuing forth, totally out of place coming out of hard, military men.
Sheppard grinned. “Oops.”
“Oops? Doctor Menzies is having a stroke and you say oops?”
Sheppard shrugged, his eyes twinkling. “I thought it was someone’s nerf ball. I didn’t know it was a… squirrel thing.”
“You picked up something blue and fuzzy from Doctor Menzie’s lab. Practically everything in there is alive.”
Sheppard grinned, holding out his hand. Rodney rolled his eyes, fishing in his pocket. “Fine!” he snapped, bringing forth what was actually a small, bright pink nerf football.
“Where did you find that?” Lorne demanded.
“I have my sources,” Rodney snapped, turning on his heel and stalking away. “Plus, I thought it would be the only way to stop you throwing a living thing around the ‘gate room!” he called out behind himself as he left.
His radio clicked just as he rounded the corner of the corridor leading away from the ‘gate room.
“Thanks Rodney,” Sheppard’s voice said in his ear.
It was a bit of an extreme way to get Sheppard to touch him, he supposed.
Sheppard had his hands laced, pressing into the wound on Rodney’s side and watching with wide, horrified eyes as blood welled between his fingers.
“They’ll be here soon,” he promised, his voice barely above a whisper.
Rodney wasn’t sure who Sheppard was trying to convince.
“Damn local… something,” Sheppard hiccupped as they staggered along the road back to the stargate. Ronon was walking with Teyla draped over his shoulder and Rodney was trying to steer a very inebriated Colonel down a winding path that they could barely make out in the dark.
“How could you have both gotten drunk in three minutes?” Rodney asked, exasperated.
“Tesian Firewater. Gets the unsuspecting traveller every time,” Ronon chuckled.
“I am not drunk!” Teyla protested, but considering her voice was muffled because her face was pressed into Ronon’s back, her words didn’t carry much weight.
Rodney looked back at Sheppard and noticed he’d gone distinctly green. “Oh Christ, are you going to-?“ Rodney didn’t get to finish his sentence as John leaned over the side of the road and unceremoniously vomited all over his own boots. Rodney sighed, waiting for it to pass and holding Sheppard up so he wouldn’t pitch forward into his own mess, rubbing his back in soothing circles.
When it seemed the worst of it was over, Rodney, with a scrunched nose and a promise of vengeance, kneeled down and unlaced Sheppard’s boots quickly, pulling them free and pitching them out into the night.
“Ah, I wouldn’t have done that,” Ronon said, kicking a jagged rock with his foot.
Rodney looked about them, remembered it was another good ten minutes back to the gate and Sheppard’s feet would be a bloody mess if he had to walk it in nothing but his socks.
The night was also pitch black and he was pretty sure those boots were now gone.
“Crap,” Rodney sighed, turning his back on Sheppard. “C’mon,” he hunched over a little.
With a giggle, Sheppard clambered on to Rodney’s back, lacing his arms around Rodney’s neck and with his feet dangling almost to the ground.
“Are you going to be able to manage?” Ronon asked incredulously.
“A lot better than trying to carry him like that,” Rodney indicated the shoulder-slung Teyla.
“Do you want to swap?” Ronon asked, jostling Teyla. There was an awful retching noise and then a look of horror crossed over Ronon’s face.
“No, I’m good,” Rodney assured quickly.
Rodney McKay had never been subtle in his whole life.
When Sheppard had come to his room, all big dark eyes and wringing hands, Rodney had merely tugged him forward, thinking the door shut behind them.
He walked them back onto his couch and lay down, tugging Sheppard after him and letting the man curl against his body, shaking and fisting a hand in his shirt.
“I can’t lose anymore,” Sheppard whispered in the darkness and Rodney encircled him in his arms, holding him tighter.
For the first time, Rodney felt him completely relax.
“Do you know how long?” Rodney gasped, exploring with hands, mouthing every inch of the body below him.
“Call me John,” Sheppard’s voice answered in the darkness and something shifted in Rodney’s mind.