thedeadparrot (thedeadparrot) wrote in parrotfic,
thedeadparrot
thedeadparrot
parrotfic

Open Your Eyes [2/3]


Part 1


8.

Rodney starts showing up at practices for no apparent reason and occasionally spouts off suggestions and insults to everyone's competence and intelligence that John's not really paying attention to, because (a) his comments are frequently subject to Rodney's incredible bias towards Canadian football and (b) Rodney's really distracting, which John had never realized while he'd been hanging out with Rodney, because when he's hanging out with Rodney, he's usually hanging out with Rodney and perfectly content to let Rodney distract him as much as he wants. John can't really let that happen here, because he's got his job to do, and he can't spend the time staring at Rodney's mouth, wondering exactly how he has the lung capacity to say so much so fast.

They hang out together after practice though, relaxing on the bleachers, and it's nice, having Rodney to bookend his day. John likes listening to McKay talk, because McKay can talk about anything and frequently does, about the way his sister is still a brat, even though she's in her thirties and has a kid of her own; about his terrifying brother-in-law, who teaches English at Atlantis University (which is about forty miles away and the reason why they're called the Atlanteans) and likes to inflict all sorts of vegetarian cuisine on Rodney's delicate stomach; and about the idiots at the University of Toronto who pretty much demanded that he take an academic year off on sabbatical; about the way his students piss him off, but not naming specific names because Elizabeth already gave him that lecture; about the piano he used to play, the way he loved it like nothing else; about his parents, who didn't love their children more than they hated each other; about physics, the way it makes the universe fit together, from the smallest neutrinos to the largest galaxies, the way it makes everything make sense, the world expressed in ratios and constants.

It's humbling, for John to know these things about Rodney, for Rodney to give them up so easily. John's not like Rodney. He can't tell people about these parts of himself without it hurting, but out here, where Rodney's open, so open, he almost wants to, because it doesn't feel right, to take so much from Rodney and never give anything back.

---

Greenville wasn't a place he would really call home. It was another town, another football team, good kids, and John had liked it well enough while he was there. He'd never finished unpacking, that first year, and anyone who came over asked him about the brown boxes stacked in his living room. John's excuse to them and himself was that he was being lazy and had just never gotten around to it. But it had never felt true.

Part of him thinks he knew it wasn't permanent, even then.

John had liked the team, and Holland was a good guy and a good player, and when he said he could play, even with his dislocated shoulder, that they could win this thing, John had believed him. He doesn't resent Holland for not being able to pull off the win, because they were down by three anyway, and it was a close thing, in the end. Real close. And besides, John knew what he was doing when he took the chance.

As a town, they were less forgiving than Pegasus, so after the game (the game), the head coach called him into his office, the room decorated with trophies and photos, some of them dull with age, and told John he was fired for overriding his authority.

John had just smirked at him, said, "Sure," and left, because he'd never really liked the coach, and he wasn't actually sorry for losing the game for them, not at all. If he were to go back and do it all over again, he'd still make that same decision without hesitation, because if you can't trust your players, who can you trust?

He was untouchable after that, nobody willing to hire an assistant coach who liked to go behind the head coach's back, so he was surprised to get the call from Principal Weir, saying that there might be a job available, if he wanted it. Coach Sumner's heart attack had been sudden, which had left Pegasus scrambling for a last minute replacement, and John had no illusions about being anything besides bottom of the barrel.

He flipped a coin before accepting the offer, because things that seemed too good to be true usually were, but the quarter came up tails, and John decided that it was okay if he hated it, if the town hated him, because it was a chance to coach again.

It was football.

---


9.

They beat Taranis easily the next week, Ford and Cadman making the necessary touchdowns and Sanchez making some amazing tackles, and they come home happy and excited to be making up for their shitty beginning.

The game after that is Homecoming, and that means the school is decked out in full colors, streamers lining the hallways, a banner hanging over the entrance. Rodney complains for five days straight about the way Principal Weir somehow managed to rope him into chaperoning the dance, and when John goes to Elizabeth and asks her if she still needs people on Friday night, she looks so relieved John's almost afraid that she's going to hug him.

He hears things in the locker room as the Coach, even though he does his best to pretend he doesn't. By that Friday, he already knows that Stackhouse has managed to get Norina, one of the cheerleaders, to go to the dance with him, and is crowing about that to anyone who will listen, that Cadman and Ford are going together, just as friends. Bates isn't going at all, because he has to watch his little brother at home, and Lorne apparently has a crush on a quiet Japanese girl named Miko, who apparently has a crush on Rodney. (John asks Rodney about it, later, not that he thinks Rodney would ever sleep with his students or anything like that, but it's very satisfying to see Rodney's face scrunch in confusion and hear him say, "Who?")

---

There's a pep rally that afternoon, outside in the bright afternoon sun, and John gets up to introduce the team. He's always hated the public speaking thing, but it's easy enough to fake his way through it, since it's the same words that every other coach has ever said introducing a team at a pep rally, so they know what he's saying even before he says it.

After he sits back down, he searches for Rodney on the bleachers as the cheerleaders do their routine, since he's always felt a little skeeved out staring at teenage girls in short skirts and besides, he's sure the expression on Rodney's face is priceless. John's wearing sunglasses, the battered aviators he's had since he was twenty-three, so he's pretty sure no one notices that he's not actually paying any attention to the rally itself, which is good, because it's Homecoming, and no one wants the Coach distracted for that game.

Rodney's up at the bottom-left edge of the bleachers, arms crossed over his chest, looking as bored and irritated as John imagined he would be, though there are phases of expressions that pass over his face, small shifting changes that make him look increasingly annoyed as the festivities drag on, and John has to fight down the smirk that's threatening to appear on his face.

Afterwards, they have a game to prepare for, and then a game to win, and John doesn't see Rodney until the actual dance, two hours after they blow by Olesia forty-three to ten and the deafening cheer from the crowd after the final whistle.

The gym looks nice the way it's set up for the dance, sky-blue balloons held down by round plastic discs, silver stars glued on the walls in the shapes of constellations, and more streamers, but it still smells vaguely like old sweat, like too many basketball games on humid days. The music's too loud, something rap. John feels really old wishing for something with less bass. He can feel this stuff in his teeth.

Some of the wooden indoor bleachers are pulled out so that students can sit relax while not actually dancing, and Rodney's at the top with elbows resting on his knees, scowling.

"Oh, god," he says, seeing John. "Why are you here?"

John grins and settles down next to him. "I volunteered."

"You're insane," Rodney says, his eyes wide in horror. "You could be at home, sleeping or watching TV or doing moronic football coach things, and instead, you volunteered to listen to bad music and watch teenagers either sulk anti-socially or dry hump each other. What the hell is wrong with you?"

"I dunno," John says. "I think it's kind of cute."

Rodney looks at John like he's grown another head, and John wants to maybe reach out and -- something, he's not sure what.

---

There's nothing significant about the rest of the night. The kids are mostly well behaved, and when they aren't, Peter and Carson seem to have a handle on it.

John spends most of his time winding Rodney up, which is way too easy, considering how wound up Rodney is already, just from having to be here. John's never going to pass up the chance when he's got one. Rodney wastes a lot of air bitching about the punch (which apparently contains citrus, something Rodney's allergic to), the smell (too many people in too small a space), and the utter stupidity of teenagers (John suspects some sort of adolescent trauma on Rodney's part but doesn't push). John spends a lot of time talking about how he really, really liked high school and watches as Rodney's face does this twitching thing, like his brain can't process the information.

John's not really looking for any of the team, because there's a few things about his players that he'd just rather not know, but he does catch a glimpse of Lorne, shyly holding out a hand to Miko, both of them blushing hard enough that John can see it from where he's sitting. Ford and Cadman try to outdo each other with spazzy dance moves when they play "Safety Dance," a song that John was sincerely hoping to never hear again, while Miller flirts with one of quiet, blonde cheerleaders next to the punch. It's too dark to see much more than that, and besides, Rodney's more interesting anyway.

At the end, they're recruited to help with clean up, and it's so quiet John can hear his ears ringing. Rodney's not so much ranting as he is muttering under his breath. John glances at him out of the corner of his eye, watching the motions of Rodney's hands, quick and impatient but also steady, the slope of Rodney's back as he bends over to pick up a bit of streamer that's fallen to the floor.

---


10.

Their next game is against Genii, Pegasus' longtime arch-rivals, and that means that everyone has to talk a lot about how they've got a game against their arch-rivals coming up. Even though they've got a pretty good winning streak going, John's getting a lot more annoying questions about it from just about everyone, and Kavanaugh seems to be harping on this next game like it's the Superbowl. All of this seems to be an attempt to drive John a little insane, but at least Teyla and Ronon seem to be keeping their cool, and Rodney's just as annoyed by it as John is.

There's talk of going to the playoffs, too, something Pegasus hasn't managed to get to in the last fifteen years, though the way Kavanaugh goes on about it, you'd think it had been several millenia. Whether they'll make it to the championship game is another thing entirely, and even then, they'll have the Wraith, who are having a slightly terrifying undefeated season, to contend with.

But right now, with their game against Genii just around the corner, tensions are running high on the team, which means that John gets dragged into Elizabeth's office for a meeting with Cowen, Genii's principal, and Kolya, Genii's head coach. John hates both of them on sight. There's something slimy about Cowen that he can't quite put his finger on, and Kolya's glowering silence sets John's teeth on edge. Kolya doesn't take off his cap (ugly Genii brown with GENII REBELS on the front), and John wonders how much effort it takes to be that rude.

"Look," Elizabeth says, completely calm, "I realize that there's an intense rivalry between our two schools, but I think that we have an obligation to keep this from spilling outside the football field."

Cowen smiles, too slick for John's tastes, and says, "Of course, of course."

Elizabeth smiles back, tight-lipped and tense, the smile that says she totally isn't buying this shit. "I'm worried about the teams themselves, which is why I've asked both Coach Kolya and Coach Sheppard here today. I thought it would be best if we had a chance to hammer an agreement out, make sure that we're all on the same page regarding this situation."

Kolya nods. "My boys will not, of course, participate in any such behavior," he says, with the clear implication that John's would. John puts on his most obnoxious smirk and slouches down in his seat, one arm tossed over the back.

"Of course not," John replies. "They just spray painted 'Pegasus sucks' on the side of our high school last year." John's heard the story from Teyla, when she was explaining to him just how big a deal this game was, a whole list of all the things the schools had done to each other over the years.

Kolya doesn't even flinch, but there's something dark in his eyes as he glances at John. Cowen flinches a little, barely perceptible. "We're sorry about that," Cowen says. "Rest assured that it won't happen again."

"How's that investigation going?" John asks. "Strange how you haven't managed to find out anything about who did it."

"John," Elizabeth says, a warning in her voice, before turning back to Cowen. "As long as you manage to keep it from happening again, we can let by-gones be by-gones. I think we can all agree that escalation is not something any of us want." She folds her hands on her desk. "I feel like we should hold a friendly wager as well. Help diffuse tensions a bit." She smiles, warmer this time, but with an edge. "Perhaps the loser's principal should wear the other team's T-shirt for a day?"

Cowen seems to take it in stride. He smiles some more. John doesn't like it this time either. "Of course. Of course. You've got yourself a deal."

They shake on it, and Cowen and Kolya leave. John's not sorry to see them go. Not at all.

When they're finally out the door, Elizabeth fixes John with a level look. "I'm not planning on wearing Genii's T-shirt after this game," she says.

And John's not exactly scared of her, per se. It's just that getting on her bad side is not a priority, well, ever. "Yes, ma'am," he says.

---

There are rumors that fly around a bit, that the Rebels are going to try to destroy their field, or that the Atlanteans are going to retaliate by letting loose a couple goats in Genii's high school during school hours, but John has Teyla give the speech about respecting other schools, and strangely enough, nothing happens on either end.

Preparations for the game are charged, however, and John spends more than one night watching game tapes with either Teyla, Ronon, or both. He even gives a couple to Lorne, who looks a little annoyed, because he apparently has a test on Thursday he needs to study for, and John feels a little bad, but Lorne insists that he can handle it.

Genii's a tough team, from what John's seen. They like their bold, risky plays, arrogant in a way that John can almost respect, if not admire. "They do not always play the... fairest game," Teyla says, her lips a displeased line.

"They like to make penalties," Ronon says, a scowl forming on his face, and John really hates the idea of playing a team the likes to pull that shit, push at the rules just to see how far they can take it.

"I don't like it," John says and grits his teeth, because he's seen guys hauled off the field in stretchers, and it's bad enough when they're complete accidents. They don't need reckless playing to go along with it.

During practice, he makes the team do tackling drills, teaching them to take bad tackles, getting them to make good tackles. He makes sure they can cut the Genii off, keep them from pulling their usual sort of reckless plays that probably work by stunning the other team with just how stupid they are. But the Atlanteans are doing good; there's an aggressiveness to them right now that John chalks up to the arch-rival thing. Bates' blocks are harder than ever before, Miller blitzes like it's a good idea to go after the QB every time, and Ford even barrels through Stackhouse at one point, plows through him like he's barely even there. Ford's been improving by leaps and bounds lately, stronger and faster than John ever expected him to be.

The Genii have only lost to Dagan and NanoTech so far this season, which means that Pegasus are ahead of them, as far as it goes, but they need to hold onto that lead; they still need to win this.

And besides, Elizabeth would look horrible in brown.

---

He meets Rodney at the field Thursday night, because the thing that used to be just John's thing has sort of become their thing instead, and John can't really say that he regrets it at all, because he finds McKay relaxing, as weird as that is. It's easier to let Rodney be fidgety and nervous for both of them, to let John be calm and put together because Rodney's the one who's good at spouting absurd worst case scenarios at will.

John has never really managed to figure out exactly why Rodney always shows up, but he always does, and John tries not to question it too much. It's good, Rodney on the bleachers, pulling a coat tight around his broad shoulders, and John out in the field, pulling the silence around him like a shield.

Afterward, Rodney just looks at him, the corner of his mouth quirked into a smile, and on some nights, he'll launch into a rant about incompetent morons as they walk back to the parking lot, or he'll confess some horrible thing that happened to him in junior high, but occasionally, on nights like this, he'll look at the sky and talk about the stars, the chemical reactions that fuel them, the time it takes for their light to reach Earth, how long it will be before they collapse and explode. There's just something about the look on Rodney's face when he starts talking about nuclear fusion, something strangely like awe, and it's just something so rare that it makes John ache when he sees it. He stays quiet, listening, because as long as Rodney needs an audience, John's willing to be part of it.

When Rodney starts trailing off, John pulls the door of his truck open, because he really needs to get home to sleep. It's too tempting to just stay out here and listen all night. "Later, McKay," he says.

"Oh, right, yes," Rodney says, snapping back into himself. "Of course." He's still smiling, the orange glow from the streetlights casting shadows on his face, revealing certain features and hiding others, and John wishes he'd smile more; it's a good look on him.

John watches Rodney as he leaves, getting into modest-looking Camry and pulling out of the parking lot, and something feels wrong somehow, like there was something John needed to say but didn't. He stares at the place where Rodney's car was for a moment before turning the ignition.

---


11.

Their game against Genii goes like this:

When they run out onto the field, there's a mixture of cheers and boos, which is to be expected, and he glares across the field at Kolya, who glares back. Teyla's frowning, something John never sees during games. She's usually serene, untouchable, calling the plays with an enviable ease, but here, she's watching one of Kolya's assistant coaches, the reddish-blonde woman who's at his side, occasionally glancing back at Teyla, too.

"Friend of yours?" John asks, because there's definitely history there between them, even though it's probably none of his business.

"I spent some time in Genii, when I was younger," is all Teyla says, and John doesn't push any further. They've got a game to focus on.

It's a windy night, a little chilly but not cold under the bright lights. John worries about it a bit, but then he forces himself to relax. It's out of his hands right now. They just have to deal.

Genii wins the coin toss, and they manage to hold off the first onslaught, Sanchez making that last crucial tackle for the turnover. When they get possession, Genii starts pulling their stupid underhanded crap, and John snarls at the referee when a Genii linebaker grabs Markham's mask, dragging him to the ground, and no one calls it. They lose the ball on a blitz, Lorne fumbling as he takes the tackle, and the Genii defensive back takes it all the way into the endzone. John rubs his face with his hands and grits his teeth.

They do better after that, keeping the Genii from scoring again in the first half. The Atlanteans don't manage to score either, their attempts at field goals going wide, carried off by the wind. Genii starts racking up penalties, both called and uncalled. There's the numerous offsides, a couple false starts, pass interferences on Ford and Griffin, a hold on Cadman, and another facemask, this time to Stackhouse. No one gets hurt, at least, but John still really wishes these refs would get some fucking glasses. From what he hears, it sounds like the crowd agrees with him.

During halftime, they're down seven to zero, and John maybe attempts a speech, but it comes across a little garbled, so he gets Lorne to do it instead, and that works out much better.

They make some headway in the second half, Hermiod pulling off some brilliant field goals, managing to compensate for the wind. Genii manages to hold their ground, though, scoring a couple of field goals as well.

It comes down to the final quarter, Genii with the possession, and they do that thing, that stupid, reckless thing, attempting to run the ball on their fourth down, but their fakeout doesn't work, and Sherman takes out the Rebels' running back, who fumbles the ball, and they make it all the way down to the thirty before Genii's offensive line manages to stop them.

The Atlanteans seem to wake up after that, and their next play is a beautifully executed double handoff which gets Cadman into the endzone and the rest of the team on their feet. The crowd's roar is almost deafening.

This still leaves them behind, thirteen to twelve, with thirty seconds on the clock, and John calls a time out, gathering their offense together with Teyla.

"Should we go for it?" he asks, and everyone knows exactly what it he's referring to. John's feeling it already, the high of that one perfect long-shot play, but he needs to keep a cool head. In the end, it's his call.

Lorne's face is set and determined. "We can do this, Coach," he says. "This close to the endzone, they like to play deep. I can fake a pass, and Ford can run it in."

Ford nods, and there's a fire in his eyes that John's not used to seeing. "I can do this," he says, and there's no doubt in his voice.

That's all John needs. "Go for it," he says, because he trusts them, and if they say they can do this, he believes them.

Watching it unfold feels like slow motion, from the moment Lorne pulls the ball away from Hermiod's fake kick, stepping back once, twice, his helmet turning as if looking for open receivers, his arm in the air, waiting to throw, but then Ford coming through, taking the handoff, running toward the Genii defensive line, who aren't ready, but they're coming at him, fast, so fast. Ford's faster, though, pushing forward, landing inches past the line. The ref raises his arms, and John's mouth is still hanging open as the world around them explodes into chaos.

---

It's a fucking rush after the game.

He's still riding on the adrenaline of the last play, faking his way through the post-game handshakes, and there's always something after a win, a spark under his skin, but it's rarely ever like this, everything hinging on that one final moment.

The crowd's beginning to clear out, taking the chatter and rumble of people with him, and over John's shoulder, he catches a glimpse of Elizabeth and Cowen meeting on the field, Cowen looking tight-lipped and displeased, Elizabeth looking slightly smug. She hands over the Pegasus T-shirt, which gets some hollers from a few straggling players and fans.

John's still feeling giddy, like that one time he drove 140 on that empty stretch of highway in Colorado, like there's nothing between him and the entire universe, and he stays on the field, trying to keep that feeling for as long as he can.

He stays until they shut the lights off, until he's the only one left, so he nearly jumps when someone taps his shoulder. It's Rodney, smiling, warm and happy, and John says, "We won."

Rodney says, "Yeah, you did."

He's so close, only inches away. John reaches out, presses his hand against Rodney's cheek. Rodney's eyes go wide, and John's not sure what he's doing until he feels his lips fitted against Rodney's, warm and sweet and perfect. The kiss is soft and close-mouthed, and when John pulls back, he says, "We won," again, because part of him still doesn't believe that the last hour has happened.

Rodney blinks at him, looking a little stunned before his eyes narrow. "Shut up," he says, fisting a hand in John's shirt, dragging him closer. This kiss is wet and dirty, Rodney's arms winding their way around John's neck, John's hands coming to rest on Rodney's hips, Rodney's tongue pushing into John's mouth, and John doesn't know why or how, but here, it feels like everything's coming together, like everything's falling into place.

---


12.

John's first kiss was Angela Lanskin when he was ten and she was twelve. She had freckles on her nose and wore too-sweet cherry lip gloss that John didn't like very much, but he still remembers the way his heart had beat in his chest when she'd done it, like he'd just run around the neighborhood, and when she started going out with Bruce Clarke, who was fourteen, it had felt a little like getting kicked in the chest.

John's first kiss with a guy was Kevin Michaelson when he was sixteen and Kevin was seventeen. They were in the locker room after practice -- Coach had kept them late to run a few more drills -- and pretty much alone, and John had just pulled off his sweaty shoulder pads when Kevin had spun him around, leaned in and kissed him, pressing him back against the lockers.

John doesn't remember much about the kiss itself. It'd been too much, too fast. But he does remember the way he felt when Kevin pulled back, strung out, tense, and he remembers the way he bolted, leaving as soon as he could, avoiding Kevin's eyes.

They never talked about it again, never acknowledged it, but there were a couple times when he caught Kevin watching him, right before Kevin would turn away.

That was pretty much the closest John's ever been to being gay. He's had plenty of girlfriends, though none of them really stuck. He'd even been married for a while, because Melanie had been smart and pretty and everything John wanted, except that wasn't enough, not enough to keep them together, not enough to make them work.

---

They go back to John's place, because he doesn't live with any four-year-olds. Once they step through the door, Rodney grabs him by the face and kisses him, fierce, urgent kisses that leave John panting and wanting things he can't really express.

Rodney's big and warm, and John thinks that maybe he should be freaking out more, because Rodney's a guy, and John's never been gay before. He's not sixteen, though, and Rodney's not Kevin Michaelson, and somehow, now it's okay. There's the scrape of stubble against John's lips, and he doesn't have the urge to run this time, because even though this is big, this is scary, it's still Rodney, and John, as weird as it is, trusts him.

They tumble into bed, John on his back, looking up as Rodney straddles his legs, before leaning down for another kiss. Rodney pulls back and starts stripping off their clothes. "Off, off, off," he mutters under his breath as he slides John's shirt over his head.

His hands still over John's fly, and John absolutely does not whimper, even though Rodney's hands are right there and not touching him. "Have you--" Rodney stutters out, "with a guy before?" John almost wants to lie, so that they don't have to have this conversation, but Rodney's eyes are big, and his face is so fucking open.

"No," John says, and he wishes he could look away from Rodney's face as he says it. Rodney's eyes go wider, and then he's kissing John again, quick and gentle.

He smiles, confident with a tint of smug. "It's okay," he says, the corner of his mouth quirking upwards. "I'll make it good. Not that you had any doubts, I hope." And then he's biting at John's neck, running his big hands over John's body, and everything about this feels like it's almost too much, too everything. Rodney still smells faintly of coffee, of sweat, of the autumn wind. John buries his nose in Rodney's hair and breathes it in.

He hisses and grabs at Rodney's shoulders when Rodney cups him through his jeans, just enough pressure to feel fucking amazing, but not enough to get off. He pulls at Rodney's shirt next, wanting skin, and when he does, he takes a moment to stare at the wide chest, the light dusting of hair, the softness of his stomach. It's so strange, so undeniably male, but John just wants. He kisses Rodney's collarbone as Rodney's hands undo John's fly and slide inside his boxers, wrapping fingers around John's cock.

"Jesus," he says, gasping, because Rodney's got big hands and one of them beginning to stroke, slow and firm.

Rodney's smile only gets more smug, and he speeds up, squeezes just a bit tighter, and then John's coming all over Rodney's hand, all over his stomach. He feels spent, tired, and it takes him a moment to catch his breath, but it doesn't feel as weird as it could be, to have another guy jack him off.

Rodney's still wearing his pants, the bulge of his erection obvious through the denim. John wants to go after it, but Rodney's licking John's come off his fingers, and Jesus, that's hot. It's like porn, and John's leaning in to get a taste himself. It's salty and weird, but it's totally worth it for the stutter of Rodney's breath and the spark of lust in Rodney's eyes.

From there, it's a rush to get Rodney's pants off, John's hands colliding with Rodney's at the buckle of Rodney's belt, and when John manages to get hold of Rodney's dick, Rodney's eyes slide closed.

It's new and strange and a little freaky, holding another guy's cock, but it's Rodney's, and that somehow makes it okay. He uses his free hand to guide Rodney's head down to his, bring their lips together as John tries to do this from a different angle than he's used to. It's a little awkward, everything's upside-down and backwards, but he gets used to the rhythm, and Rodney gasps out a, "John," right as he comes.

Afterward, when they've both cleaned up, Rodney stands there, uncomfortably, in the middle of John's bedroom with his shirt off and his belt unbuckled and says, "I could, uh, go. If you want."

John doesn't want that at all, so he says, "Stay." He shifts over to make room on the bed.

And Rodney stays.

---

John wakes up with a heavy arm tossed over his torso and a face smushed against his shoulder. He rubs his eyes and waits for the freakout to happen.

But it doesn't. There's no rising need to panic, to get out of here as soon as possible, to push Rodney away and never speak to him again. Instead, he feels warm, comfortable, like he could stay here all day. It's midmorning, as far as he can tell from the light spilling in from the bedroom window, a spot of sunlight on the floor.

As much as he wants to just stay there, John does itch to go on his usual morning run, so he quietly pulls out from Rodney's arms somewhat reluctantly and heads out. The weather's nice, clear and dry and brisk with bright sun overhead. He waves to Dr. Biro, who lives two houses down and is outside to pick up the morning newspaper, as he passes by and doesn't freak out about the whole 'sleeping with a guy who just may be his best friend' some more.

He's feeling awake and still not freaked out when he gets back to his house to find Rodney in his kitchen, raiding his cabinets. He's looking half-asleep and caffeine-deprived, grouchy in such a familiar way that John can't help but feel amused.

"How the hell do you not have any coffee in this house?" Rodney demands, his voice verging on panicky, and John finds that weirdly cute.

He shrugs. "Don't really need it on weekends, and on weekdays, I get it from the teacher's lounge."

There's a growing look of horror on Rodney's face, and that's familiar, too. It's almost like nothing's changed between them, and while John's glad Rodney's not going to be weird about it (or, at least, any more weird about it than he usually is), he kind of wants to make sure last night meant something, so John leans over and kisses him. Rodney's mouth tastes like morning breath, and his lips are dry and gummy, but John still likes it, still isn't freaking out.

Rodney blinks at him. "So, um. Everything's good? I mean, between us?" He looks a little scared, and John sometimes really hates that Rodney wears everything so obviously on his face.

"Yeah," he says and smiles in a way that means, Yeah, everything's good, everything's better than good, hoping Rodney can read him.

Rodney smiles back, almost tentative. "Good. Uh, that's good."

---

Somehow, Rodney ends up staying for the day, and they camp out in front of the television. John microwaves some popcorn, while Rodney claims the remote control. There's a Star Trek marathon on the SciFi channel, which leads to an argument over whether or not "The Trouble With Tribbles" is a better episode than "The City On The Edge Of Forever", and to Rodney's annoyed glare as he says, "Did you just out yourself as a geek to me?"

They end up making out on the couch before Rodney can pick apart just how bad John's taste in science fiction is, and it feels almost weird, being allowed to reach out and touch the spot just behind Rodney's ear with his tongue, to run his hands over Rodney's broad shoulders, to feel Rodney's quick, mobile mouth against his own.

---


13.

John really needs to stop underestimating Teyla, because he's really not prepared for her when she comes into his office before practice on Monday and says, "I think it would be helpful for morale if we had some sort of team dinner."

He's really more focused on watching the tape of them kicking Genii's ass for the twentieth time, because seriously, that game was awesome, so he doesn't quite manage to register what she's said before he says, "Sure, yeah. Sounds great," and apparently volunteers his house for the occasion.

He kind of freaks out about it to Rodney after practice, because now he's got to cook and clean and actually host dinner for a bunch of teenagers by himself. If there's anything in the world that can get John to freak out, it's that.

Rodney just rolls his eyes and huffs out a breath, and John kind of stares at the way the wind ruffles his hair, making it stick up at odd angles. They're still keeping their relationship a secret (though Jeannie probably suspects), mostly because John's not sure how people will take it, and he's still trying to figure out how he feels about the whole thing beyond the fact that he hasn't freaked out about it for three whole days. Rodney hasn't said anything to anyone, as far as John can tell, and it's weird, because John's never thought of Rodney as the kind of guy who can keep secrets.

"Fine, fine. I'll take care of it as long as you make yourself useful and actually do what I tell you," Rodney says, and John once again has that feeling of missing out on half of a conversation.

"Um, okay?" he says, even though this was pretty much the sort of thing that got him into this sort of mess in the first place.

---

Rodney drags him to the supermarket the next night and shoves him a shopping cart, glancing down at the list in his hands. John realizes early in that all he's expected to do is push the cart as Rodney tosses stuff into it, and every time he tries to make some sort of contribution, Rodney glares in a way that means that if he keeps this up he'll never get laid again, which John thinks would be something of a travesty.

They get a few odd looks from various people, and John's wondering if they've figured anything out, but he tries to look as confused as possible to throw people off their scent. When he runs into Cadman's mother, they make small talk until Rodney starts making impatient noises. John shrugs and says, apologetically, "He's helping me with the team dinner this Thursday."

Cadman's mother smiles and looks like she buys it, so John waves a goodbye and chases after Rodney's snapping fingers as he disappears down an aisle.

There's a small mountain of food stacked on the cart by the time they're ready to go, and the kid at the cash register ("Chuck" in block letters on the name tag pinned to his apron) raises his eyes at it before he starts pulling things off and scanning them. Rodney's muttering to himself, which is never good, and John decides that he'll just start bagging things so he'll feel less entirely useless.

He does his best not to smirk at Rodney's confused expression when Chuck says, "Have a nice night, Dr. McKay," and John kind of wants to maybe slide an arm around Rodney's neck, maybe press a kiss to his hair.

But they're in public. So he doesn't.

---

Ronon shows up to the dinner three hours early, even before Rodney gets there, and John blinks as he opens the door. "Um," he says.

"McKay says I'm in charge of the barbecue," Ronon replies.

"Barbecue?" John asks. The weather's surprisingly nice this week, a sudden wave of warm, clear days, and a barbecue isn't out of the question. Plus, Ronon makes some killer brownies. There is no bad there.

"Yeah," Ronon says.

Ronon does his thing with the grill and the meat for a while before Rodney shows up and starts making him chop vegetables and tear lettuce and other stuff that John's not really paying attention to, because he's more fascinated watching Rodney in full on 'I am on a mission' mode. Rodney's mind works so fast and in so many directions, it's rare to see him so focused on one thing, and to be quite honest, it's kind of hot.

They're pretty much good to go by the time Teyla shows up and offers to help, but she brings paper plates, napkins, and drinks, so even though John may still be a little resentful about being tricked into the dinner thing in the first place, he's willing to forgive.

When the team starts showing up, they're ready. Rodney is still barking out orders to Ronon and Teyla, who look more amused than offended, and he seems really tense.

"It'll be fine," John tells him, letting himself run a hand down Rodney's back. "You're a genius, remember?"

Rodney glares. "At astrophysics and mechanical engineering. It's not like I have any degrees in party planning," he says, but he looks calmer, and John risks a peck on the cheek before going out to do his hosting duties.

John's in charge of the front door, greeting everyone, inviting them in. He doesn't have a giant backyard, but it'll fit pretty much everyone, and there's plenty of room inside the house as well.

Everything runs smoothly, for the most part. John has to admit that Ronon grills a mean burger, and they disappear almost instantly after he finishes a batch. John gets roped into more than one conversation about football and their chances of making the playoffs and a couple conversations about whether or not he thinks they've got a shot against Wraith, who have been undefeated so far this season and are most definitely going to the playoffs, if not the final match. He gets a couple compliments about the food, though he mostly directs those to Rodney, who seems to be avoiding everyone. John figures it's just because he's not a people person.

Ford's the undeniable king of the party after that amazing last play against Genii, a crowd surrounding him as he retells the story in detail. He's become the star of the team with the way he's been playing lately, and John resolves to make sure his head doesn't get to big because of it. Stackhouse and Markham decide that tossing a football over people's heads is a brilliant idea, and while they're pretty good, they still manage to hit someone once out of every five tries. Until Teyla takes their ball away, at least. Someone else digs John's aged boombox out of storage (and once he figures out who it was, they're going to have a conversation about invading other people's space), so there's some music and eventually, Kavanaugh's dulcet tones. At one point, Lorne asks if Coach Emmagen made the chili, and he looks so relieved when John says no that John's left wondering over just how bad Teyla's cooking really is.

By the time the party's over, John's beat enough to put off clean up for another day, and Rodney looks inclined to agree. He waves off offers to help from Teyla and Ronon, because they'd helped enough as it was. Rodney whines a bit about clean up as they leave, poking a bit at the trash strewn across John's porch.

"Football players are disgusting," he declares. "And I'm saying that as someone who's lived with grad students."

John just laughs, because it's Rodney being Rodney.

Rodney snorts. "I'll have you know that there are far better ways I could spend my time than feeding overdeveloped athletes with entitlement complexes. See if I ever help you again."

John smirks at him and says, "Aw, McKay, you'd never do that to me," even though what he really means is, Thank you.

---

Life is pretty good after that.

Their game against Hoff is another tally in the win column. Kavanaugh stops talking about how utterly incompetent John is and starts speculating about all the horrible ways the Atlanteans could possibly crash and burn in the playoffs. Rodney stays over somewhat irregularly and teaches John all about the art of blow jobs, both giving and receiving, which John thinks it one of the best things ever.

But then things go a little crazy.


Part 3
Tags: open your eyes
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