in the 2005
SGA Santa Challenge.
The first time John thinks
about home, he's on a cold chair on a cold base in Antarctica, which is as
close as anything else. He goes along partially because he's curious,
partially because he's really got nothing better to do, and partially because
underneath this Doctor McKay's narrow, laser-beam gaze, John sees something
else, too: a barely-restrained excitement, a flush of lust that has nothing to
do with sex. John gets that, he understands it in a way he can't really
explain but it makes him want to show McKay whatever it is he's hoping to see.
John's never been too sure of his place in the universe to begin with, either
concretely or in the abstract, but he does his best, thinking of the way the
earth looks from the sky, and when the room lights up like a planetarium, he
thinks, "Cool," and figures he got it right.
The second time, he's barely aware that he's thinking at all. There are
images, some vague and some crystal-clear: pine trees and Corvettes and white
clouds in a summer sky, clothes swinging from a clothesline, the dark sway of
his mother's hair. In some part of his functioning brain he knows none of it
is real, that it's just the effects of the thing that's digging into his neck,
sucking the life slowly out of him, and he forces his eyes open one more time,
one more time. McKay is beside him, clutching his arm, looking scared, and
that's real, John thinks, sighing, and he closes his eyes once more.
The third time, he's surrounded by the mist on M5S-224. Later, when it's all
over and everything's right again, he wonders when Atlantis became more real
to him than Earth was, because somehow he knew, he always knew, the whole
The fourth time it happens it hits John unexpectedly, like a hollow-point
bullet slamming into him, exploding in his vitals. Hours of playing cat and
mouse with Kolya, of tiptoeing around the city while visions of McKay dying a
grisly death perform a dance macabre in his head; John thinks of all of the
friends he's watched die, time and time again, but nothing has prepared him
for the way his lungs constrict when he sees McKay with a gun to his back, or
the way they expand again, in great hitching hiccups of relief, when Rodney
turns up with nothing more than a flesh wound on his arm, his eyes round and
wide and amazed as he turns to show it to John.
The fifth time, it's a little different.
"I put that gun in his hand," Rodney says.
"And I told you to. Do you blame me for his death?"
"What? No, of course not."
"He said I've changed," Rodney says, softly. "And he's right. I have." His
voice is as quiet as John's ever heard it, and that says more than any of
those big words he loves to use. "And you know what? It's because of you."
For a moment, John clenches the jumper's controls, staring fixedly ahead, and
says nothing. And then, just: "Let's go home."
He tells himself he shouldn't
be all that surprised. After all, he's been crazy in love with Atlantis since
he first stepped through the event horizon and found the city waiting for him,
waking for him, and Rodney has already saved it more times than John can
count; John's no psychiatrist, but he knows enough about human nature to
recognize transference when he sees it.
But it's more than that, more than gratitude, more than respect; his feelings
for McKay are tied, inextricably, into the city itself, one exists in tandem
with the existence of the other, just as he himself exists for both of them,
now. He spends a long, sleepless night in his room, reminding himself that
Rodney is arrogant, obnoxious, impatient, irritating, socially stunted, and
generally an all-around poster boy for the dangers of a Type-A personality. In
fact, he's the polar opposite of John in every way but one, and John shouldn't
have to remind himself that the two of them sharing a gender in common should
really be more of a con than a pro, but somehow he ends up doing it anyway.
Finally, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, he gives up and jacks off
to a mental image of Rodney, comes so hard he briefly forgets his own name,
and then falls into the first uninterrupted sleep he's experienced in months.
He doesn't let himself think about it for a long time, after that.
As they walk into the
Gateroom at Stargate Command, John feels the loss of Atlantis like a severed
limb. He has to fight to resist the urge to radio the city, quickly while the
gate is still open, just to make sure it still exists -- to make sure it ever
existed at all.
He glances over at Rodney, who crooks his mouth in a sympathetic smile, as if
he's feeling it too.
Later, after four mind-numbing debriefing sessions, one meeting with a
grim-faced Colonel Caldwell -- who curtly informs him that he's been promoted
to Lieutenant Colonel -- and an impromptu after-party which leaves John
feeling slightly sick but still disgustingly sober, he suddenly finds himself
alone, at home without a home, and nothing left to do but go to bed. Elizabeth
and Carson have already turned in for the night on the base; Rodney left hours
ago, heading back to his apartment, muttering something about a long-standing
date with his orthopedic mattress.
John stands just inside the door to his temporary quarters, already missing
the sound of the ocean, his people, the way Atlantis feels like home to him in
a way no place on this planet ever has. They aren't scheduled to return for at
least a week, plus another two to get back, and John feels his lungs
constricting again, knows there's no way he'll able to make it, no way he'll
be able to keep breathing that long.
Twenty-five minutes later, he's standing in the hall outside Rodney's
apartment, his heart beating a staccato rhythm in his chest. Rodney opens the
door and stands stock-still in the center of the doorway, his eyes narrowed in
something like bemusement, his mouth a determined line, as if he's been
searching for something and still isn't sure where it is.
John thinks that maybe he knows.
He takes the single step that separates them, his hands coming to rest lightly
on either side of Rodney's neck. It feels so good; Rodney is just the right
height and hardness to press against John in all the right places, all of
those places that haven't been pressed against in a long time, and never like
Rodney says, "What are you -- Oh."
"Yeah," John whispers, and leans forward, covering Rodney's mouth with his
It's as innocent a kiss as John's ever given, more devastating than any of
them. There's something thick and heavy and slow weighting down his limbs, as
if every movement he makes, every response Rodney gives, is somehow being
drawn forth by something far beyond his control. It's like Atlantis, John
thinks; and that fits, that works, it's *right*, because he can't imagine
living anywhere but Atlantis now, and can't imagine Atlantis without Rodney.
He wants Rodney to see, wants to show him, and he knows he got it right when
Rodney drops his hands down to John's hips and pulls him closer, until they're
tight, hip-to-hip. And John breathes, because Rodney feels so perfect, so much
like a place John finally found and never, ever wants to leave.
After that, whenever John thinks of home it's because he knows, finally, that
he's already there.