Deliberately Gentle

by The Grrrl

Title: Deliberately Gentle

Author: The Grrrl

Author's email: thegrrrl2002@gmail.com

Author's URL: http://thegrrrl2002.slashcity.org

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Pairing: Sheppard/McKay

Summary: A post-Common Ground ficlet.

Notes: A big thank you to laceymcbain for suggesting the title.

John made it through both the debriefing and Carson's thorough examination without incident. He tolerated the wrinkled brows and worried gazes of his team, responding with a smile and a nod, assuring all of them in one way or another that he was just fine, although Elizabeth's deliberately gentle manner set his teeth on edge. He was home, he pointed out. He was alive, he was healthy. As a matter of fact, he felt more alive and healthy than he had when he had set out on the mission that morning.

They didn't look convinced.

John was relieved when Carson finally pronounced him healthy as a horse and released him, shaking his head in disbelief. Bidding everyone a good night, John headed straight to his room and his own private little freakout because he knew what it felt like to be old and dying and to feel his life draining out from him bit by bit and nobody should ever live to know what that feels like.

He wasn't looking forward to reliving it with Heightmeyer, but he suspected Elizabeth wasn't going to let him get out it.

"Colonel, just a minute--"

John walked faster. He didn't have it in him to deal with Rodney freaking out, too.

"John," Rodney said in a harsh whisper as he trotted up behind John. "Wait."

John let Rodney follow him into his room. "Listen, McKay," he said, holding a hand up. He was hanging on by a thread and he was sorry Rodney had to witness his torture but right now he was pretty low on resources.

Rodney watched him for a moment, his gaze calm and steady.

It was unnerving. "What?" John asked.

"I'm getting really tired of watching you die," Rodney said in a conversational tone.

"I'm tired of dying?" John offered in return.

Rodney nodded, as if finding his answer acceptable. He stepped closer, and John held his breath, waiting for it, the blowup but Rodney merely reached out and touched his cheek. John closed his eyes. He couldn't watch anymore. It wasn't right, Rodney being the one to hold it together. John wished he could let go, wished he could flail and rant and rave like Rodney because maybe that would be easier but the horror was so far down inside of him he was pretty sure he could never get it out again.

Rodney pressed his lips to John's forehead, his brow, his cheek, each kiss slow and deliberate. John eased closer, leaning into Rodney's solid bulk.

"You smell like wraith," Rodney murmured, his arms encircling John's waist.

John shuddered--the ghost of a hand on a chest, the searing pain, Kolya's low, mocking voice. "Yeah." He pulled away. "I need to shower."

Predictably, Rodney followed, stripping off his clothes and stepping into the shower with him. John didn't protest, his throat was so tight he could hardly speak and he hated that Rodney washed him with such care, soapy fingers gliding over his body, exploring his chest inch by inch, looking for the scar that wasn't there.

"Rodney," he finally said, tugging Rodney's hands away. "Stop it."

"Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean to--sorry."

Finally. Rodney's worried manner was familiar, soothing. "It's okay," John told him, sliding his hands down Rodney's arms and over his wrists.

"We tried to find you. We thought we could find you before the second feeding."

"I know. You already told me that. Debriefing, remember?"

"Right." Rodney nodded, beginning to look lost.

John stepped under the spray to rinse, pulling Rodney with him. He guided Rodney's hands around to the small of his back. Rodney caught on and held him tightly. Clean hot water pouring down on him, Rodney's strong shoulder beneath his cheek, and wouldn't Kolya laugh to see him now, hanging on one man so desperately.

John was almost dozing when Rodney turned the water off. He allowed Rodney to towel him dry and herd him into bed. " Are you hungry?" Rodney asked. "Do you need anything?"

"Um," John blinked his eyes open. The bed was very comfortable, and somehow his eyes had closed of their own accord. "Freak," he mumbled.

Rodney's expression turned quizzical. "Excuse me?"

"I need to freak out. You interrupted me."

"I'm sorry."

"'s'okay."

"Do you want me to go? I can go."

John lifted the covers. "It can wait."

"Are you sure?"

"Rodney."

Rodney slid into the bed, warm body bumping up against John's. "Come here," he said, as if John were the one being difficult.

John rolled into his embrace, kissing Rodney before settling in with his head pressed against Rodney's chest. "It hurt. A lot."

Rodney tightened his grip. "But you're all right now. Carson said so." He sounded as though he was trying to convince himself.

"Yup." John spread a hand over Rodney's ass, a comfortable, reassuring fit.

"How about tomorrow, we both freak out?"

"First thing in the morning," John agreed, then closed his eyes and slept.

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