by The Grrrl

Title: Precipice

Author: The Grrrl

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Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Pairing: Sheppard/McKay

Summary: Sometimes the edge just grabs you and pulls you over when you least expect it. Written for the sga_flashfic "Dangling" challenge.

With a grand sweep of his arm, John said, "Look, Rodney, you can practically see the entire city from up here."

"Yes, yes, very nice," Rodney acknowledged. He peered over the railing, tentatively. "And very high up."

"Isn't it though? And get this--it wraps all around so that you can get a good view of the ocean, too." John motioned for Rodney to follow. "Come on, you've got to see it."

"Who do you think once lived here, anyway?" Rodney asked. He followed John through the narrow walkway, lined with long-dead plants. "This isn't at all like the other living quarters we've seen. Some high level muckity-mucks?"

"Good question. Maybe the city leaders? It's really cool, isn't it? Tell me that wasn't a Jacuzzi back there in the suite." John nodded. "Very cool."

"Yes, yes, yes, very cool." Rodney broke off a dried leaf and it crumbled to dust in his fingers. "But I think I'd rather have something just a little more in touch with solid ground, myself."

"Really?" John was surprised. "Man, I'd love to live up here."

Who would have thought the north tower would be entirely residential? Private luxury suites, for god's sake. John was already imagining himself nicely ensconced in one. This one, in particular. So many rooms. He could see it now, his Johnny Cash poster hanging over a couch, a great big bed in the middle of the bright, airy bedroom. It would be the best bachelor pad ever, even better than the one he had dreamed up for those damn creepy aliens back when they all thought they had returned to Earth. He'd throw big parties, or even better, he would invite Rodney over just to hang out. They'd drink that Athosian beer and he'd convince Rodney to try out the hot tub with him. Rodney would resist, saying that he hadn't brought a swimsuit, but John would smoothly contend that Rodney didn't need one, he really should just relax, enjoy the hot water, and maybe have another beer while he was at it. One thing would lead to another, and then Rodney would be all warm and wet and wonderful in his arms...

John was smiling as they rounded the turn and strolled out onto the widened balcony area. Beyond the railing was the endless Atlantean ocean, extending far into the distance. John took Rodney's arm and pulled him to the edge, gesturing up at a wide-open sky adorned with wispy cirrus clouds. "Isn't it amazing? Being this high up, feels as though we are flying, doesn't it?"

Rodney gazed out at the sea, squinting a little in the sunlight, the steady ocean breeze ruffling his hair. "Oh yeah. Just like it," Rodney agreed weakly, before backing away.

"Come on Rodney, don't tell me you're acrophobic." John leaned over the edge of the railing, looking down at the tiny whitecaps kicked up by the wind. "Are you sure you don't want to come and look? It's a great view."

"I am not acrophobic, I just happen to have a healthy sense of self-preservation, Major. Being this high up with only a little railing between me and the great beyond leaves me a little queasy."

"Really? Queasy? Are you sure it's not just those weird beans from lunch? Because it looks really great from up here."

Rodney gave him that look, where his mouth was caught halfway between a smirk and a sneer. It was altogether familiar--maybe even affectionate and it warmed John completely. "I'll take your word for it, okay?"

John turned away from the railing. "Well, if this were my place, I would be out here all the time. I'd set up some patio furniture. How about if I put it up near the wall, away from the railing? Would you come and--"

A sharp crack sounded, almost like gunfire, reverberating all around.

"--what the hell?" The surface beneath John's feet shifted, throwing him backward, toward the edge.

"Major!" Rodney shouted. He grabbed John's arm as John fell back. Holding on tightly, John scrambled to his feet. The balcony tilted again with an ominous rumbling and they sprinted to the door, fumbling to get it open and oh shit, it wasn't a door at all, just a tall narrow window. Rodney turned, back pressed against the pane of glass, eyes wild with fear. Another awful sound and he whimpered, "Oh, no".

John glanced over his shoulder and saw the far end of the balcony, railing and all, disappear abruptly from view. In one horrible wrenching instant he realized this was it, there was no place to run to, they were going down with the rest of the structure, they were going to fall to their deaths. "Rodney? I'm sorry," he whispered against the sound of tearing and collapsing material.

Yet the surface they were standing wasn't moving at all.

"Oh god, wait," Rodney gasped, "We're not falling." He clamped an arm around John's waist and pulled John to his chest.

John could feel his body trembling, almost as much as his own. "You're right. Why not?"

"Window frame," Rodney announced breathlessly.

John looked around, and sure enough, they were standing on a foot-wide raised ledge framing the window. He noted loops of decorative metalwork above, and when he reached up to grab one of the loops to steady himself, he found it was solid and firmly attached to the frame. Rodney did the same, holding on with a white-knuckled grasp. John's heels were still hanging over the edge, so he shuffled forward carefully, an inch at a time, working a foot in between Rodney's, one hand firmly gripping the metalwork, the other, Rodney's shoulder.

When John felt sufficiently steadied he looked over his shoulder, trying to assess the balcony situation while Rodney breathed fast and heavy on his neck. More than half the structure had broken away and the rest of it dangled precariously toward the sea below. Far below. "We're okay," he breathed. "Thank god."

"Okay? We're *okay*?" Rodney sputtered. "Just exactly what kind of *okay* could this possibly be?"

"The kind of okay where we're not dead," John pointed out sharply.

"Major, there is nothing except a tiny little ledge between us and a 250 meter plunge into the sea. That is not okay. There are no words to describe how not okay that is."

A panicking Rodney, okay, that oddly soothing, the kind of thing John knew how to deal with. Rodney was staring out past him, right at the sheer drop and John was sure the view was dizzying. Already John could feel Rodney's body begin to sway. "Rodney, look at me," John ordered, putting everything commanding that he had into his tone.

It worked, because Rodney jerked his eyes away and looked at John. The panic in Rodney's face hit him like a physical force, but John forced himself to stare back with a steady gaze, trying his best to appear reassuring even though his heart beat wildly and his armpits prickled with sweat. "Again, Rodney, we're *alive*. We just need to get someone here to come and rescue us." The wind gusted, and his carefully sanguine expression faltered as he heard grinding of the cement-like material.

Rodney, however, brightened. "Did you feel that?"

"Feel what?" John asked.

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The tower itself, upon which we are actually standing, seems to be stable." Rodney nodded to himself. "The balcony must be supported separately. Okay." He took a deep breath.

Thank god, John thought with relief. "Good. See know, that's good to know. What do you think happened? Did the balcony get weakened by that storm?"

"Actually, this might have been one of the areas that got flooded when we first arrived and the shields began to fail. Didn't we scan all these areas for structural integrity?" Rodney frowned, his brows drawing together. "I thought we scanned."

John could practically see Rodney's great big brain working, which was always a good thing. "Maybe it was a combination of both the flooding and the storm?"

"Maybe. But it doesn't really matter now, does it? Because we on the edge of a precipice here, and have I mentioned how much I don't like precipices?"

"Yes, you may have mentioned that. Once or twice. I'm going to call for help now. I have to move my arm, okay?" He didn't want to startle Rodney, whose body was wire-tight and tense against his.

Rodney nodded, swallowing.

"Don't look away," John said, as Rodney turned his head, peering past John's shoulder. "Just keep looking at me, all right?"

"Looking." Rodney met his eyes again, staring into them intently.

Their faces were only inches apart, and John had never really seen Rodney's eyes this close--such a clear, bright blue, framed by thick lashes. Ridiculously thick lashes. He had never noticed them before. He watched as Rodney blinked, then narrowed his eyes in a curious expression. "What?" John asked.

"Is there any color your eyes *aren't*?"

John shrugged. Carefully. "They're *hazel* Rodney," was all he could think to say.

"I know, I know, it's just that they're sort of..." Rodney tilted his head forward, so close now that John could barely focus on him. "...fascinating."

"Really?" John smiled, pleased. Inordinately so. "You have nice eyelashes," he blurted out.

Rodney drew back, surprised. "I do?"

John nodded, gratified to see a shy little half-smile lurking on Rodney's face. Rodney had a surprisingly sweet smile, the kind of smile that seemed surprised to be there, or maybe it was just that John was always surprised to see it instead of Rodney's habitual scowl.

The wind blew harder, the dying balcony groaned, and abruptly, Rodney lost his smile. "I think maybe I should call for help," John said, remembering the 'about to plummet to their deaths' situation.

"Good idea."

Lifting his hand from Rodney's shoulder, John activated his earpiece. "Dr. Weir?"

"Major Sheppard, how goes the expedition?"

"Not so good." As he explained the situation to an increasingly concerned Weir, he was aware of Rodney watching him intently, and he never let his own eyes leave Rodney's. It was an odd situation, almost intimate. "Now we're fine, perfectly safe for the moment," he said. "But the sooner you can get a jumper here to pick us up, the better."

Rodney's eyes widened even further. "Jumper?" he mouthed silently, and John mouthed "Yes, Jumper," back to him.

"All right," Weir replied. "I'll get a team there as soon as I can. But it might be tricky. Is there any chance we can get the window open instead? Cut through the glass?"

"Hold on," with a jerk of his chin, John addressed Rodney. "Any way to cut through this glass?"

Rodney shook his head, small, quick movements. "No, no, we tested it out previously--it's impossible to break this stuff with the equipment we have on hand."

"That's a negative," John told Weir.

"Then we'll go with the jumper. Hang in there, John" she said, worry permeating her voice. "I'll be in touch."

"They're sending a jumper?" Rodney asked. "Oh, great. You do know that aerial acrobatics are not my thing?"

"Well, it's not like we can just open the window." Rodney frowned contemplatively and John's heart skipped a beat. "Right? Or can we?" John asked.

"I don't know, and I really don't think you want me to turn around and look, okay?"

"Right." John leaned, trying not to put too much weight onto the scrollwork he was holding onto, even though it remained reassuringly secure. He eyed the edges of the window, but it was all of a piece, as far as he could tell, and, like all the others, incapable of being opened. "Nope, looks pretty well sealed and Rodney? Stop looking down, right now."

Rodney jerked his head up again. "Right Good idea. Very good idea, because when I look down, I can see how very high up we are, and how long a fall it would be, and--"


"Right," Rodney said, focusing his gaze. "Hazel. Green, sort of, with a little gray. Ringed with brown right around the pupil."

"Very good. They'll be here any minute. So just try and think happy thoughts while we wait."

"Happy thoughts?" A huff of incredulous laughter, but still, Rodney relaxed slightly. "You're insane, aren't you."

"Um, it's entirely possible," John said. He just might be, because now that the initial panic was fading, he was rapidly becoming aware of Rodney, of Rodney's big sturdy body, warm and solid, and Rodney's arm wrapped around him, hand curled around his waist as if it belonged there. He could smell Rodney's sweat, and Rodney's face was mere inches away from his. John shifted nervously, spreading his legs to stabilize himself better.

Rodney's grip on his waist tightened. His thigh eased between John's and that didn't help at all. Maybe John really was insane, because it had to be crazy to be thinking about how well their bodies fit together. But he had never been pressed up against Rodney like this before, and his body reacted by thinking it's own happy thoughts.

And now a particularly happy part of him was poking into Rodney's thigh.

Maybe Rodney wouldn't notice.

"Major?" Rodney asked, drawing the word out.

Of course, Rodney was nothing if not observant. "Um?" John replied, watching realization dawn on Rodney's face. Rodney blinked once, twice. Thick lashes, sweeping up and down. "It's just, uh," John started again, but he had nothing, there was no excuse and no place for him to go. "It's just--

"Adrenaline?" Rodney finished for him.

John leapt on the suggestion. "Right. Adrenaline. All that excitement, almost dying, and you know--"

"Of course. The excitement."

"Absolutely. Things, er, happen."

"Things. Like--" Rodney briefly dropped his gaze. "That."

"Yes, exactly," John nodded. "That kind of thing. Just a purely physical response to not dying."

"Right. Not dying, because not dying is a good thing, a very good thing. Although--" Rodney said, hesitantly.

"Although?" John asked.

"Theoretically? If it was something else--"

"It could very well be something else." John nodded again. "Theoretically."

"Of course, theoretically." Rodney agreed. "It wouldn't be such a bad thing if maybe it was something other than not dying."

"Really?" A quiver of excitement ran through John. "It wouldn't be a bad thing?"

"Yes. I mean, no." Rodney looked confused. "Not bad, not bad at all. Good, even."

"Are we talking about what I think we're talking about?"

"I have no idea," Rodney stared at John's lips. "Can we kiss now? Please?"

Rodney wanted to kiss him, and that was maybe the most amazing thing John had ever heard him say. "Okay. We can do that." John leaned into him, hand sliding across Rodney's shoulder to touch the bare skin of his neck. He pressed his lips to Rodney's mouth. Warm, gentle kisses across his lips, and god, he had no idea kissing Rodney would be this breathtakingly sweet, or that Rodney would start to smile halfway through.

"This is nuts," Rodney whispered, bumping his nose against John's.

"But nice," John said. "Really, really nice. Isn't it?"

With a little laugh Rodney slid his hand down over John's hip and kissed him again, the tip of his tongue skimming delicately over John's lips. "Very nice."

"Major Sheppard," Weir's voice came over his earpiece, startling John.

"Uh, yeah, Dr. Weir?"

"The rescue jumper should be in sight any minute now."

"Rescue? Oh right." God, Rodney's lips--he was smiling again, the funny little lopsided smile and John wanted to see him in that and nothing else.

"Are you and Rodney all right?"

"I think we're just fine," John told her, and Rodney nodded eagerly, his smile broadening.

In the end, their rescue seemed ridiculously simple; all they had to do was step onto open walkway of the puddlejumper as Stackhouse expertly hovered beside them. The safety harnesses might have been overkill, yet John was thankful for them, he had had enough of precarious for one day, thank you very much. The ride back to the jumper bay took less than a minute, and he spent it sitting next to Rodney, their legs touching surreptitiously, while he assured everyone they were all right. When they landed, John indicated he would join them in the meeting in just moment, after he and Rodney had a moment to catch their breath. No, he assured them desperately, no need for Dr. Beckett, they were fine, really fine, just a little shaken and could they just please have a minute?

And then they were alone in the bay. "Rodney," he said, hesitantly. "Listen--"

Rodney took hold of his head and kissed him, an entirely different kind of kissing than before--not delicate and sweet at all, but wet and wild and whole lot like going over the edge of a precipice.

"Oh, um, okay," John said, when Rodney finally released him. "Are we good?"

"We're very good. And after this meeting? We're going to be even better," Rodney promised.

John grinned. "Cool." He leaned back, pulled Rodney into another kiss and enjoyed the freefall.

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