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[ Concussions from Butterflies ]
It’s shocking and remarkable how easily John says "I love you" when they start messing around.
John’s brushing his teeth and Rodney’s still three-quarters asleep – grumbling, cranky, and bumping John out of the way of the mirror – when John laughs and says, “I love you.”
Rodney does that thing with his tongue just when John’s about to do the thing where he shudders and twists his hips; John comes and he says, “I love you.”
When John has to dash off to commit suicide for the five millionth time, he leans over, brushes a kiss over Rodney’s ear like he’s telling him a secret, and he says, “I love you.”
He’s always shocked at how easily it comes out of a man whose arm has to almost literally be viciously twisted before he says yes, his broken ankle maybe – kind of – sort of hurts a little, but he forgot to ask Keller for some Vicodin, and she’s really busy and he hates to bother her. So easily for a man who never, ever wants to talk about emotions, feelings, or anything remotely resembling anything personal.
It all leaves Rodney breathless and stunned and crippled and feeling inadequate because he can’t quite bring himself to say it back. John says, “I love you,” like it’s “Hey, pass the ketchup” or “Can I borrow your pen?” or “Hey, you there, with the penis, best friend of five years whom I’ve recently started fucking around with, can I just blow your mind a little bit with my nonchalance?”
It leaves him bewildered and speechless and John’s gone by the time Rodney can blink and register that yes, he is still alive, and no, the world has not blown up.
But he does. He does love John. Has loved John, for years. As a person, as a friend, as a lover, as everything and anything, as much as anyone can love anyone. Storybook love, overly dramatic, swelling music, movie love, the kind of love that Blake wrote about, and Byron and Keats. The kind of love that made Romeo enough of a moron to kill himself for a woman who wasn’t even properly dead.
Rodney’s never been a man who understood and loved poetry, and the only poem he ever read that he identified with was Wordsworth’s suffering is permanent, obscure and dark, and shares the nature of infinity. That, he understands. That, he gets.
Plato said that at the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet, but Rodney has never been and will never be a poet. Rodney loves John more than he’s loved anyone ever before, so much so that he feels crazy with it, but his idea of poetry is I really like your cock, now give me back my sock. Somehow, he doesn’t think John will be as touched by that as Rodney is when John laughs at Rodney’s latest tirade on the cafeteria’s insistence on using lemons and then kisses him softly and says, “I love you.”
He’s shocked, then, when he stills John’s hands on his torso, screws up his nerve, and says, “So listen, I’m so sorry I haven’t said it before now -- I’m clearly shit at these things -- I mean, you’ve been there through Katie and Jennifer, so really you shouldn’t have expected me to be any better at it with you than I was with them, though, of course, you’re more important to me than they ever were, than anyone’s ever been, really, so I should have been able to say I love you easier with you but I wasn’t, I couldn’t, but I do, obviously, I really, really do.” When John doesn’t say anything, he clarifies. “Love you, that is. And whatnot.”
He’s shocked, but not because he was able to say it; he’s always known he would be able to say it if he was really determined, and drank enough coffee so that his nerves were frayed, and he was vibrating with the need to get it out there. No, he’s shocked because John blinks up at him and instead of looking languid and happy and horny and pliable, he looks stiff and uncomfortable and as if he’s constipated. He says, “Uh, Rodney? We’re not… I mean, we don’t have to… I should… We’re not there, are we? I mean, why would you say that?”
Rodney blinks. “What?”
John pushes up, pushes Rodney back and off of him, and swings his legs over the side of the bed, hanging his head in his hands. “I think we’re getting in too deep too fast. I’m sorry, Rodney, I didn’t know it was going there.”
Rodney opens his mouth and closes it. Three times. He blinks again. “What?”
“Listen, we’re not really in the… professing our feelings for one another phase yet, are we? I mean, it’s been fun, it’s been great, McKay, but--”
“McKay,” Rodney squawks, because John’s called him McKay forever but never in here, never in his bedroom since the first time John leaned over, kissed Rodney’s surprised mouth, and said "I think this could be my best idea ever, Rodney." McKay out there, McKay in front of Woolsey and Landry and O’Neill and everyone else, in the line of duty or out in the field, but not in here, not where they’re allowed to touch and feel and kiss and suck. “Excuse me? Are you really rejecting my heartfelt professions of love?”
John’s eyes widen and he looks positively stricken. “Rodney, really, really, please stop saying that.”
“You said it first,” Rodney shouts, and then smacks John upside the head just as hard as he can, like he can jar some sense into him.
“Ow, McKay, fuck,” John says, and at least that tone is one Rodney knows what to do with. That tone says retreat, retreat now, retreat if you value your life. “Too hard!”
Rodney scrambles off the bed, jerks on his clothes, and storms over to his door, only belatedly realizing that this is, in fact, his room. “No, you know what? You leave!”
John sighs and cradles his head in his hand. “What are you talking about -- I said it first?”
Rodney boggles. “You! You said I love you, like, fifteen trillion times! You said it when you were brushing your teeth and you said it last night after I blew you, and you--”
John grimaces. “Rodney, don’t you know better than to believe a guy when he’s just come his brains out? Jesus, I could say I love you to a clown if one just made me come like you did last night.” Then he closes his eyes and shudders visibly. “Okay, ew, never, no, not happening.”
Rodney preens and then remembers, oh hey, pissed. “And brushing your teeth is orgasmic in what way, Colonel?”
John frowns and strokes the back of his head. “Seriously, Rodney, you hit me way too hard. I think I have a concussion.”
“Really, Colonel, I’m not falling for that,” Rodney says, crossing his arms and glaring. “You deny that you’ve told me you love me?”
John cringes. “Rodney. I think I’d remember if I had.”
Rodney arches an eyebrow. “I think I need to reconsider my assertion that you have not suffered a concussion. In fact, I think you have suffered many. Many, many concussions brought on by things like wind, and butterflies, because clearly you are very feeble brained and have no recall whatsoever. You said it to me not three hours ago when I gave you my pen, for cryin’ out loud!”
John frowns at him and shakes his head. “I think you’re hearing things, McKay.”
“Fine,” Rodney says, and backs toward the door. “Sorry to disturb you by trying to return your many 'I love yous' with one of my own. Won’t happen again.”
“Wait,” John calls as Rodney stomps his way out of the door.
Rodney rounds the corner and nearly runs smack into Lorne. “Whoa there, McKay, you’re like a bull in a China shop.”
Rodney glares at him and points a finger at him. “Just so you know, I think you should be aware your CO is certifiably, irrefutably, clinically insane!”
Lorne holds up his hands and laughs. “Already knew that, Doc.” And then, as apparently John had found the time to get dressed and followed Rodney down the hall, Lorne’s smile fades. “What I meant to say is… That’s just the way we like it. Sir.”
“No!” Rodney's then in the transporter and halfway across the city.
Later, John sneaks into Rodney’s quarters two seconds after Rodney retires to them. Rodney has never understood how John always knows where Rodney is at any given moment but he invariably does. Rodney stands there with his hands on his hips and glares hatred at the man shuffling his feet and kicking imaginary dirt from his shoes.
“I don’t want hear it.”
How a grown man could convincingly pout as heavily as John could, Rodney would never understand.
“It’s not like I relish exposing myself like that,” Rodney says, crossing his arms, blocking John from reaching out to pull him to him. “I’m not a touchy-feely, weepy, namby-pamby feelings confessor, holding my stereo up to your window and singing in the rain kind of guy, John.”
“I know,” John says, quirking an eyebrow. “It’s one of my favorite things about you; you’re as bad at emotions as I am.”
“You said it first.”
John smiles slightly and runs his finger over Rodney’s forearm. “I really didn’t.”
“You really did.”
John chews on his lip and steps closer and Rodney, despite his resolve, knows he’s going to give in. “Do we have to talk about this? Can’t we just be what we are and, ya know, do what we do?”
“Okay,” Rodney says, relenting finally. He points a finger at John. “But you need to make it up to me by doing what you do while I receive what you do, got it?”
John grins and lowers himself down to his knees. Rodney forgives him 100% as John’s tongue wraps around his cock and his cheeks hollow out, and when he’s done getting Rodney’s forgiveness, he slides up Rodney’s body and pushes him down on the bed and asks for it some more.
In the morning, John rolls out of bed, puts on his boots, and looks back at Rodney, who's just blinking and attempting to get up, and says, “I’ll see you later, Rodney. Don’t forget we have a mission today. Love you.”
“Oh, my God, I hate you,” Rodney hollers at his back, even though it’s five am and he’s always tried to keep his voice down so John doesn’t run into anyone on his morning walk of not-really-shame-but-more-not-wanting-to-broadcast-his-business, but for Christ’s sake! Really?
He glares at John four hours later as they dress for their mission. He then pulls John aside, and says, “Were you trying to make a joke? It’s not funny.”
“No,” John says slowly, giving Rodney a weird yet affectionate look. “I wasn’t joking. I really do hope we don’t piss off the natives this time. Last time was really annoying, and I still have that pig-poo crap stuck in the bottom of my favorite combat boots; it won’t come out. Botany and Chemistry are both looking into it and still haven't come up with a solvent.”
Rodney blinks at him. “You don’t remember.”
Rodney throws up his hands. “What are you doing, having blackouts wherein you tell me you love me and then promptly forget? I don’t understand, what is wrong with you? Do you have the recall of a goldfish; do you recycle your memory every thirty seconds?”
John backs away from him slowly. “Are you feeling okay? Maybe you shouldn’t come on this mission. Do you have a fever?”
“I’ll give you a fever,” Rodney says, and he doesn’t even know what the hell that means, but he means it vehemently, whatever it is.
When they get back home, John has found fifteen thousand different ways of calling Rodney delusional and smirked so much that Rodney’s sure his face is gonna stick that way, which is actually kind of fine with him because John looks hot when he’s smirking, but that’s beside the point.
The point is, Rodney is not delusional, thank you very much, and so he barges into Radek’s lab and says, “I’m borrowing this, okay? Okay, thank you, leaving now, shush, busy now, busy,” and walks out with Radek’s voice recorder.
At dinner, Rodney asks John to get him an extra cupcake. John does and Rodney turns on the recorder. “So, good mission, huh?”
“Long day though.”
John sighs and digs into his mashed potatoes. “I’ll say. My feet are killing me. I’m starting to think I’m getting too old for this shit.”
“Nah,” Rodney says, and then goes in for the kill. “You’re too good looking to be too old for anything.”
John grins up at him, his eyes twinkling, and Rodney holds the recorder under the table as close to John as he can get it.
“That’s maybe the nicest thing you’ve said to me all week,” John says, and his foot knocks against Rodney’s under the table, which has always been John’s way of saying ‘we are so doing it later,’ and then he starts in on the meatloaf.
Rodney huffs out a long, exasperated moan and turns off the recorder.
That evening when John is brushing his teeth, Rodney turns on the recorder and says, “So, anything you want to say?”
Rodney scowls and turns off the recorder.
When John is undressing for bed, Rodney turns on the recorder and asks for his notepad. John rolls his eyes and hands it to him. Frowning, he turns it back off.
After they have sex and are settling in for the night, Rodney turns on the recorder and says, “Night, John.”
John snuggles close to him, places a kiss to Rodney’s neck, and says, “Night, Rodney. Love you.”
Rodney grins and grins and grins, turns off the recorder, and grins some more.
He holds onto it for three more days and gets five more "I love yous." Once the next morning when John leaves to go run with Ronon, once when Rodney asks John if he wants his leftover pancake after they’re alone at breakfast, and once after John comes to collect Rodney from his lab and Rodney sneezes. He’s sure John meant to say bless you that time, but he’ll take evidence wherever he can get it.
They sleep apart that night because Rodney winds up working late into the night with Zelenka and John has to wake up for an early Welcome To Hell session with a newly arrived set of marines.
The next night though, John says it twice while they’re having sex, once when Rodney makes him come, and once later when Rodney jams his foot between the mattress and the metal frame and winds up having to push John off of him so he can whine and bitch about it for a minute.
Okay, so maybe Rodney was recording their having sex for a different reason, but the evidence still speaks for itself.
The next morning, John is mussed and blinking blearily up at the ceiling, and Rodney is already dressed with a cup of coffee in his hand.
John looks at him. “Why are you up so early? You’re never up before me.”
“Didn’t really sleep last night,” Rodney says, shrugging.
John sits up and gives him a worried look. “What’s wrong? Was there a problem? Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“No, no, no problem,” Rodney says, grinning. “Just had a file I needed to edit, that’s all.”
John arches an eyebrow at him. “A file you needed to edit?”
“Yep,” Rodney says. “Also, just wanted to say… I love you. I’ve loved you for five years. I loved you for the first year as a person, as a good man, and then for three and a half as one of the best friends I've ever had, and for the past six months, I’ve grown to realize I was in love with you. I just wanted you to know that.”
John swallows and backs up on the bed. “Rodney, I thought we talked about this.”
Rodney presses play on his laptop. John’s eyes go impressively wide and wider with each instance of him saying those three words, over and over and over, six times in four days.
He stands and looks at Rodney, pole-axed, face ashen, and points at the computer screen. “That’s not me. Who is that? Who did that? Did they come up with some kind of voice modulator thing and learn how to copy my voice? That’s a massive security risk, Rodney. You shouldn’t have allowed them to do that. Oh, my god, you asked them to do that, didn’t you?”
“That is all you, John,” Rodney says, grinning and sitting down at his desk, laughing as John stares slack-jawed back at him. “And before you ask, no, there is no duplicate John Sheppard running around Atlantis, no parallel or alternate universe Sheppards, no cute cats with your voice running around, no nothing. Just you. Saying you love me. Over and over.”
“I.” John points at him. “I don’t.” He blinks and sinks down onto the bed. “I don’t remember doing that.”
Rodney laughs. “Concussions brought on by butterflies, John, seriously.”
John blinks a few more times and looks at Rodney. “I… I really said it that many times?”
“And that’s just on tape,” Rodney says. “You’ve been doing it for weeks, for no particular reason, in no particular order. There’s no common thread. Sometimes, it’s when I do something that makes you laugh, and sometimes, when I do something that pisses you off. Sometimes, it's when I bitch about something, and sometimes, just because you, I don’t know, look at me. I don’t know. I can’t figure it out.”
John looks like he’s about to pass out. “I can’t believe I did that.”
Rodney nods. “You’re kind of an idiot.”
John lets out a surprised laugh and lies back down. “God, I love you.” Rodney grins as John freezes and then shoots back up in the bed. He points at himself, his mouth working open wordlessly for a moment. “I just… I just did it again! I just, just now, I just did it, I just said it just now, didn’t I?”
Rodney raises an eyebrow. “Wanna say ‘just’ one more time?”
John blinks at him. “I…” He clenches his fists by his side. “l… God damn it. I can’t say it, Rodney. I can’t. I’ve tried. How can I say it and not know I’ve said it, but when I want to say it, I can’t!”
Rodney laughs. “Because you’re emotionally stunted and have apparently developed some sort of coping mechanism that allows you to say things you want to say but can’t, and then allows you to forget that you’ve said it so you don’t want to crawl into a hole afterwards?”
John shakes his head. “I didn’t know I was saying it.”
Rodney’s laugh dies away. “So you do then,” he says, and somehow, he’s uncertain because having John say it without knowing it is one thing but having John admit it is quite another. “Do you?”
John nods. “So much.”
Rodney rolls his eyes. “So why, then, did you balk when I said it when you didn’t remember having said it a gazillion times!”
“I don’t know,” John says, grimacing and looking away. “I’m not good at this shit, Rodney.”
“Feeble,” Rodney says, reaching over to poke at John’s head. He turns his poke into a caress and kisses John, soft and sweet. “You’re really quite ridiculous.”
“Hey, Rodney,” John says as he heads into Rodney’s bathroom to shower and start the day. “You kind of suck for that, by the way. You couldn’t just let me keep living in my fantasy world where I’m not embarrassed?”
Rodney laughs and laughs and laughs.
He leaves a hastily scribbled, yellow post-it note on the mirror for John to find when he gets out of the shower and heads to the lab.
Roses red, violets are blue
John, who actually does love poetry, decides it’s better than Wordsworth, Keats, Blake, and Shakespeare combined.