Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes: No beta, just a gut response to the situation in Libya. This is what fandom does to you. You read about two pilots going down in Libya, and before you can question it, you know that John Sheppard won't be able to sleep until he knows that they are safe. And then you realize that John Sheppard is not a real person. But somehow that doesn't matter.

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The mess is their neutral zone. Although Rodney's quarters are now home to a Swiss-made eight-thousand-dollar espresso machine—the first thing he bought when they landed and were allowed off-base—he is sitting in the mess pounding on his laptop and drinking dark sludge that vaguely tastes like it was coffee at some point in the last century. Now the consistency of motor oil, Rodney's breath could probably strip paint by this point, but he doesn't move.

He's waiting for John.

John comes in with Lorne and a bunch of grunts. Neither of them have headed-up the ten-two patrol in years—short of the threat of Replicators or Wraith in the City—but tonight is different. Although these two men are as different as chalk from cheese, they share an identical restlessness when stuff like this comes down. Or maybe it's John's restlessness that keeps Lorne awake. For years Rodney ignored Lorne, assuming the guy was a cross between an idiot military savant and Forrest Gump; no one is that inherently decent. At some point in their fourth year Rodney had to privately admit that he was wrong about Lorne. Now he has no compunction about co-opting Lorne's decency if he needs to. Lorne—being Lorne—is on board with this.

There is a tacit agreement between Lorne, Ronon, and Rodney that in these situations John isn't to be left to his own self-destructive devices. They hand him off to each other until the crisis is averted or comes to an inevitable conclusion. Lorne gives Rodney a minute salute when he walks in, so small that Rodney doubts anyone else sees it.

The group indulges in some harmless free-for-all razzing, accompanied by lots of punching of arms and cuffing of heads—classic bonding ala the U.S. military—but their body language belies the joking with a visible stiffness in their shoulder blades. All of them carry this burden to a certain degree. A bomb explodes near a checkpoint in Fallujah; a sniper picks off vacationing Marines in Oman; a convoy of twenty Marines is wiped out by a strategic placing of UXOs in Qaladiza. They hear of the casualties before it hits the wires, and all of them keep a running total of the number dead in their heads. Tonight it's John's angst, but tomorrow it might be theirs. Despite the inherent rivalries between the different branches of the military, mourning the fallen is a responsibility they all share.

Earlier in the day a U.S. fighter jet went down over the no-fly zone in Libya, so tonight it's John's angst they are sharing.

They tank up on coke while jostling each other to grab snacks hidden behind a pile of coffee cups. Making their way over to the large table in the middle of the room, at this point it's still debatable which way John is going to jump. John hasn't made eye contact with Rodney, but John knows he's there. John always does a recon of any room he enters, and Rodney can tell by the way John refuses to make eye contact that it could be one of those nights. John hesitates and then tells Martinez that for every cookie he stuffs into his face, it's a lap around the city with Ronon. Since they've been back, everyone's gained weight except John. Then he gives them all a salute and moseys on over to Rodney's table.

John's butt isn't in the chair one second before Rodney says, "CNN update as of ten minutes ago. They're safe. Ejected out. Minor injuries. Luckily they landed in rebel territory. Mechanical malfunction. They weren't shot down."

John's right hand slowly unfurls from the coffee cup he's clutching and nods. Rodney shoves a leg in John's direction until he hits an ankle and then gives John's toes a press before pulling back his foot.

"Ow," complains the man who Rodney has witnessed being tortured over and over again without uttering a single sound.

Rodney rolls his eyes. "Colonel Delicate Snowflake, you going to be able to get any shuteye tonight?"

"Maybe, now that, you know…:" he says in a tired rasp.

"They're okay. Yes, I know. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that might knock you out."

"Your sleeve? That doesn't sound like much fun," he pouts, and the knot in Rodney's neck eases a little bit.

"You obviously haven't met my sleeve."

John doesn't reply, but ducks his head to hide what is no doubt a very dirty grin on John's face. If they hadn't been in the mess, John wouldn't have been so sly, but they are in the mess and protocols must be observed.

Rodney's still not sure if John is gay, but he supposes it doesn't matter. One day he and Jennifer have the mother of all fights about eventually leaving Atlantis, which is akin to Rodney eventually agreeing to a lobotomy. The next day she resigns. In one month she's gone. In three months John comes to his door, drunk, and offers to give him a blow job. Rodney is not gay, but he is horny and lonely, so he says yes, thinking it will be on par with playing prime not prime. Something they do when they are bored.

By the time he's come, Rodney has thoroughly embraced his bi-sexuality and returns the favor. Rodney has loved John for years, although not in that way, except that based on the earth-shattering sense of post-orgasmic happy making all his cells dance with joy, apparently he does love John that way. Being a typical Atlantis curve ball, Rodney doesn't question it.

Over two years have passed since that night. He still lies next to John listening to the hum of his sleep and thanks his lucky stars that Jennifer wanted the 1.8 kids and the ranch burger in some Midwest suburb—and Rodney didn't—and that John got drunk enough to proposition Rodney—and that Rodney wasn't fool enough to turn him down. Rodney doesn't think the repeal of DADT will change a thing. He assumes the base knows, but no one mentions it. What is shocking to him is that their relationship hasn't change one iota. They still bicker. Rodney still steals John's jello. John still creams Rodney's ass at chess. They still natter at each other during staff meetings. One of John's jobs has always been to call out Rodney when he's being an asshole, as it is Rodney's job to call out John when he's being a martyr. Nothing has changed.

Except that now Rodney can't imagine not being John Sheppard's lover.

It's always John's room at John's tacit invite (usually a hike of John's eyebrow is enough). One night Rodney made an issue out of it and John said, "Look, Rodney, some nights you don't want to be around me. This is one of those nights. Now get your ass out of my room before I deck you."

Rodney stomped out furious, determined to never darken John's door again (which even as he mentally uttered it knew this was a big fat lie), until he realized that John was protecting Rodney from John, not rejecting him. By now Rodney knows that if John can't look him in the face, then he needs to leave it and go back to his room.

Rodney gives John's ankle another kick and John looks up. The smile has now morphed into its typical smirk. John's eyes have turned a muddy green, a sure-fire giveaway that he's exhausted, but he's not avoiding Rodney's gaze.

Tonight was not one of those nights.




Once they are in the transporter, John allows himself a sigh of exhaustion. As Rodney's renowned for his endless grousing and complaining, John is renowned for his stoicism. When John relaxes like this in front of him, Rodney can't help but privately gloat.

As they are walking down the corridor to John's room, Rodney says in a casual voice, "We have to go to Cheyenne. Flying out on Thursday."

Rodney's convinced that at this point there's a seamless interface between John and Atlantis, doubting that John even thinks his commands any more. John waits until the door swooshes open and they are inside his room before he swears his frustration.

"Fuck. Why?"

John and the Brass based in Cheyenne have a testy relationship at best. Rodney's relationship with them is no better, but it's not like they can take away his PhDs if he doesn't jump in response to their irrational whims masquerading as commands.

Based on the phenomenal respect accorded John here on Atlantis—that in itself a jurisdictional WTF because when does an Air Force colonel order around a bunch of Marines without getting shit for it?—it's obvious that anyone who's got an ounce of military training knows that John is the real deal. Possibly the best deal. He's also phenomenally ill-suited to traditional military settings. This is why Atlantis has been so perfect for him. A remote military base where the rules that matter are followed to the letter and the rules that don't matter are treated like the bullshit they are. Atlantis has been John's military oasis. Although both of them have often borne the brunt of the stupidity of four-star generals sitting around conference tables and treating Atlantis as if it were nothing more than a board game, Rodney has learned to keep his mouth shut around John.

One night shortly after John's invitational cock-sucking fest, Rodney had been ranting about how he hated the American military complex. With the exception of Sam Carter, their scientific sophistication was such that even simple hydraulics were beyond them.

Much to Rodney's shock, John had rolled out of bed and began to get dressed.

"What? What did I say?" Rodney's screeds against the U.S. military aren't anything new.

"When you say you hate the American military, you're saying you hate me. Because that's what I am, McKay."

At that John had stormed out, so angry he hadn't even bothered to shove his feet into his boots.

Rodney had waited for an hour and then went hunting for him.

John was sat on the pier. Rodney sat down next to him, leaving a safe six inches between them.

"Sorry."

John didn't answer for a bit, and then had said in a belligerent snarl, "It's what and who I am, and if you can't handle it—"

"I can handle it."

Rodney had covered John's balled up fist with his own hand and squeezed. Because if John could forgive Rodney for indulging his arrogance and blowing up a solar system, then Rodney could forgive John's deep-rooted sense of duty, honor, and love of his country, even if in service of an organization that pillaged, murdered, and ran roughshod over anything and anyone in their path. They didn't deserve John, but Rodney was going to stop bitching about it.

Like the good little soldier he is, John always lines up his clothes and boots so that in the event of an emergency call on his mike, he can be dressed in less than forty-five seconds, his boots on and laced in less than twenty. Rodney strips down to his skivies and climbs into bed. Despite all the mutual leering, nothing is happening tonight. Rodney knows that.

"Why?"

"Radiation spikes in Pegasus. Someone is getting up close and personal with some sort of massive weapon system. Either they are still in the testing stage, hoping to annihilate their enemies, or they've passed go and are already annihilating."

"Genii?"

"Who knows. Those Hoff bastards are certainly capable of it."

John pauses before getting in.

"We going back?"

"I don't know. Maybe just a reconnaissance team through the Gate."

John climbs in and the lights go out.

John is a stomach sleeper and Rodney starts out a back sleeper. Per the usual, John moves his hand up Rodney's chest and then cups his palm around the width of Rodney's shoulder blade.

"Dangerous up there, but it's not like we have any choice."

No, we don't, Rodney says to himself. "Woolsey will probably have more intel to share by the morning staffing meeting. We can worry about it then. Get some sleep, John," Rodney orders and turns his head to give John's fingers a kiss.

Rodney forces himself to stay awake until John's breathing deepens. Rodney isn't the least bit religious, but he's gotten into the habit of treating Atlantis as a stand-in God-like or more to the point Goddess-like being (there is no doubt as to her gender—if one can assign gender to a city—based on the way she woos John), because sometimes he needs to talk to someone or some thing who loves the man snoring next to him as much as he does.

Thank you he says to her, as if she had saved those pilots' lives. Which was impossible, Rodney knows, but sometimes the randomness of this all becomes so overwhelming that he takes comfort in the utterly irrational. The scientist in him snorts in utter scorn. The lover in him understands.

He turns over and swears a finger touches the tip of his ear before murmuring, "Get some sleep, Rodney."




Fin