Fat My Dust
Author's Note: For the sga_flashfic "Backstory Challenge". Thanks to Lim and Terri for beta.
"Eat!" the kid cried. "It says 'Eat My Dust'!" but it was too late: everyone was hooting and calling out, "Fat My Dust!" like it was the funniest thing they had ever heard. The kid went from red to purple and had a terrible rest-of-the-year, and, for all John knew, a terrible rest-of-his-life what with everyone saying, "Fat My Dust," to him all the time, but John spent three blissfully happy months in Mrs. Stevenson's fifth grade and cried bitterly when his mother told him they were moving again.
It turned out that all of life was pretty much like fifth grade. New town, new unit, all those jaded faces: well, fat my dust, John thought. It was sad and pathetic but it worked: a little sarcasm, a little teasing, and people would decide you were an okay guy and leave you alone, which was all John wanted anyway. Even on Atlantis, the dynamic held, and here's where McKay was invaluable: a guy who wore his "Fat My Dust" t-shirt all the fucking time. Half of Atlantis had bonded together over something McKay had said or done to them, and McKay had bonded with the other half by rolling his eyes and dishing it right back out, mocking John's hair or his posture or his "stupid white guy hobbies."
The two months after Jeanne Miller came to Atlantis were like the teasing motherlode, because she'd told them just enough to make Rodney paranoid. John waggled his eyebrows and made implications, or sometimes he just made stuff up. "You'd better be nice to me, McKay," John said, smirking, "or I'll tell everyone..." and Rodney would stop and jerk around to stare at him, "...that you were president of the Martina Navratilova fan club," or "...about that Flock of Seagulls haircut you had in 1982," or, "...that you saw Roller Boogie--what was it, fourteen times?" McKay would snap back, "Oh, for Christ's sake, Sheppard: bite me," and John would turn to the nearest bystander and say, as seriously as he could manage, "No, really: McKay was the king of roller disco."
Rodney retaliated by torturing him with long and elaborate stories of his obviously-doomed "courtship" of Katie Brown. It didn't matter how many times John used the words "pestering," "stalking," or "restraining order," Rodney would just raise his voice and give him some entirely unwanted detail like the fact that he had gotten to third base with Katie in the arboretum or that she had little pink cupid's hearts on her underwear.
"McKay!" John hollered, on the verge of covering his ears with his hands. "I don't want to know that!" but Rodney just crossed his arms and looked furiously triumphant.
It wasn't until after John said that Rodney used to apply makeup to Jeannie's "Make Me Pretty" Barbie-head that he discovered that he and Rodney hadn't been on the same page, mainly because Rodney hauled off and punched him in the mouth. This was surprising not only because he hadn't seen it coming, but also because Rodney turned out to pack a hell of wallop. John flew backwards, and nearly wrenched his back trying not to fall on the floor. Rodney had some goddamned arm muscles on him, the bastard.
John rubbed at his jaw, feeling quite genuinely shocked. "Rodney, what the--?" but the words died in his throat as Rodney stepped in close and said in a low and tight voice:
"I know we're not really friends, so I won't bother appealing to you on those grounds, but at least consider your own self-interest, hm? What the hell happens to you if I get booted out of here?" and John could only stare, because the words just weren't making sense. "I've saved your bacon more times than you can count," Rodney went on, voice clipped with anger. "You, the team, Atlantis--so I'd like to remind you that, whatever you think of me personally, you sure as hell need me: in fact, I fucking defy you to tell me that there's anyone more valuable to this whole goddamned expedition."
"I--" and seriously, this was a parallel universe, had to be. "Of course. Rodney. Jesus--"
But Rodney didn't seem to hear. "On the other hand, don't worry too much about how you'll survive without me, because I swear, if I lose Atlantis, I'm taking you down, too," and John felt an icy shimmer of fear, because Rodney was threatening him. "Whatever you think you know about me, I've got plenty on you, okay? I'll tell them you're a lousy commander. I'll tell them you woke up the Wraith. I'll tell them any goddamned thing they want to hear, so long as it fucks you over, hard. Am I making myself clear?"
Stung, John stared at Rodney's pale, tight-lipped face, and it was that stocky kid's tormented expression times a million: hate and fear and desperation. Man, he'd gotten it wrong before, but never like this: Rodney looked hunted, like a cornered animal; like someone who'd been pushed way, way too far. Now that he was looking, John could see the fear underneath Rodney's anger, and he understood with a sudden, sick clarity that Rodney hadn't been playing along: Rodney actually had a secret, and he thought that John was torturing him on purpose by threatening to tell.
"Rodney," John said slowly, carefully, feeling like he could maybe really throw up, "I didn't mean to--I've just been yanking your chain, I swear," and when Rodney's face didn't change, John added fervently: "I swear to God. I swear on my mother's love." The faintest flicker of doubt crossed Rodney's face, so John barreled onward: "I don't know anything; Jeannie never told me anything. I was just yanking your chain, like I said, because--" because that's what friends do, he thought, except they weren't friends, or at least, Rodney didn't think so. "--because I'm an idiot, okay? You're absolutely the most valuable person on this mission, and I would never do anything to jeopardize --" Another angle suddenly occurred to him. "Geez, your sister: how could you think she would--"
Rodney was beginning to unclench, just a little: he was slowly coming down from Defcon 4. "She wouldn't mean to," came the answer, "but she's a pinko commie subversive, a vegetarian, she lives in the Pacific Northwest, for God's sake: she thinks military rules are stupid." Rodney reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose, like he was trying to stave off a killer headache. "She doesn’Äôt understand that I'm employed by the U. S. Air Force. She thinks I ought to be able to bring a boy to the annual Area 51 dinner-dance," and before John could say anything, like that he thought so, too, Rodney shot him a dirty look and said, "But don't tell me you don't know what they could do to me; you're one of them. They're one of you--"
"I'm telling you, I had no fucking idea that--" but Rodney's expression went stormy, so he took a quick detour and said, "I don't know anything, okay? I was yanking your chain. Teasing you. I would never--" and Rodney was snorting, looking away, and goddamnit, he couldn't stand this, so he stepped forward and grabbed Rodney's arm, hard, clenching his fingers and ignoring Rodney's startled wince, because that wince was a hell of a lot better than the look Rodney'd been wearing, that said John was a bully and a thug.
"I wouldn't do that," John said, trying to hold Rodney's eyes and make him feel the truth of it. Rodney stared back at him, defiant but skeptical. "Rodney," he repeated, really putting it into his voice now. "I wouldn't do that," and then, because it was all he had left, he took a breath and put it all into Rodney's hands. "I'm gay, okay?"
That, finally, cleared the anger from Rodney's face. "Oh. You are?" but the fear was still there, and Rodney tilted his chin up and said, "I'm not. I was experimenting. I'm a scientist, I experiment," and then, even more terrifyingly:
"I'm going to marry Katie Brown."
John rarely slept well, but that night he didn't sleep at all. His brain kept circling around the last few weeks, replaying events, re-slotting them into place. He'd always thought he was good at puzzles, but boy, had he ever misread the clues here.
He'd been so sure that Rodney was going on and on about Katie just to annoy him, just to underline the cruel, cruel irony that he, Dr. Meredith Rodney Ingram McKay, was the only member of Sheppard's team to have even a scintilla of a glimmer of hope for getting laid. And it did annoy him when Rodney mooned over Katie's skin, or the gleaming copper of her hair, or her goddamned underwear, which John knew so well by now he could probably draw it: the little lace edges, the tiny satin bows. Nobody could be that annoying by accident; it had to have been on purpose, aimed at him in retaliation. It hadn't occurred to him that Rodney had been desperately proclaiming his heterosexuality to anyone who would listen.
But Rodney couldn't be serious about marrying Katie Brown: he couldn't be. John's brain circled around again: Rodney's relationship with Katie wasn't all talk: Rodney had been spending a lot of time down in the arboretum, and he had taken to sitting with Katie in the mess, and bringing her plant-samples from off-world, and holding her hand at the movies, and --oh, Christ: he was serious. And why wouldn't he be? John covered his eyes with his arm, deepening the darkness. Rodney had thought that he was going to lose Atlantis, and John knew how far he would go to stop that from happening. Now he knew Rodney's limits, too: "I'll take you down," "I'll fuck you over," and shit, it would have been nice to have seen that bad-ass attitude on mission every once in a while, Rodney, buddy. But Rodney was playing all the angles, making sure the accusation wouldn't stick: for that, Katie Brown was like a "get out of jail free" card.
Except... and it was this thought that finally pushed John out of bed, to his feet, out the door and to the transporter and through the sleep-silent halls of Atlantis to Rodney's room. When Rodney didn't answer his door the first two times, John was sure he wasn't there, that he'd run straight to Katie Brown's room. His traitorous mind filled with images of Rodney and Katie (kissing; cuddling; doing it fast and furious, his fingers sliding into the legholes of her stupid pink underwear) and he was just about to turn away when the door slid open.
Rodney stood there in a rumpled t-shirt and a pair of bleach-stained boxers and blinked at him. "Oh, Jesus Christ," Rodney said, wearily shoving a hand through his bed-flattened hair. "Haven't we finished this conver-" but John pushed him back into his room, and the door closed behind them.
"You can't marry Katie."
Rodney arched an eyebrow. "Actually, no, I can, I really--"
John interrupted him for the last time, because after this, he had nothing left. "I tried that. It didn't work." Rodney was staring at him blankly, and suddenly John couldn't stand it anymore, being looked at like that, like they weren't really friends. "Fuck it to hell, Rodney," John said with quiet intensity, "would you just fucking trust me on this? It doesn't work: you can't just make things be different. It'll go sour, and you'll come to hate yourself, but believe me: it won't be half as much as she'll hate you."
Rodney sounded uncertain, his voice cracking a little as he said, "I take it you've--"
"Yeah. Almost three years, and you don't need that kind of karma. It jinxes you, it's like a curse--" and his voice was scraping out of his throat, so that he almost couldn't say the rest: "--trying to love someone and failing so badly that they wish you were dead," and then he couldn't help it, he'd cry if he did nothing, so he kissed Rodney instead.
He wasn't sure what to expect, not anymore, but Rodney's hands immediately came up to grab his face, palms rough and a little sweaty. Rodney's kiss was soft, dry, and weirdly genteel, and John thought--This is how he kisses her. This is how he kisses Katie Brown--when Rodney's kiss suddenly stopped being any of those things, and Rodney was groaning and opening his mouth and shoving his whole body forward, like he wanted to climb him. John nearly stumbled as Rodney's weight crashed into him, and then he was driving forward and they were kissing, hot and wet and dirty, Rodney's dick rhythmically nudging his hip. John groaned and tried to get some friction for his own hard-on, but then suddenly Rodney was pulling away, flushed and looking confused.
"Wait. Stop," Rodney said, breathlessly. "You're encouraging my recidivism."
John rolled his eyes and tightened his grip on Rodney's hips. "Is that what you call it? I just want to make you come, Rodney," and that was it, game over, because Rodney's eyes fluttered shut and he groaned and slowly slid down to his knees, hands fumbling at John's belt, at the fly of his gray BDUs. And then Rodney was shoving John's underwear down and tugging John's cock out and fuck, really going at it. John closed his eyes and gasped as Rodney kissed and sucked and stroked him, all hot breath and soft, wet mouth, and if this was what Rodney called "experimenting," well then, Rodney really was a genius.
Finally Rodney let his mouth go slack and John shuddered and pushed into it, shallowly at first but then harder and harder and then he was--he tried to push Rodney away but Rodney held on, fingers digging into his thighs, and it was maybe even this, having Rodney's hands clutching him there, that sent him over the edge. His head rolled back and he came, blindly reaching out to run his hands over Rodney's soft, bed-rumpled hair.
He was still trying to recover when Rodney hauled himself to his feet and kissed him. His mouth was faintly swollen, sweet-smelling, come-sticky. "Come here," Rodney murmured, and put an arm around John's waist, and then John felt Rodney's cock softly brushing his fingertips. John exhaled and curled his hand around it, then bent forward to drop a sloppy kiss on Rodney's mouth as he began to grope and stroke.
Rodney began to gasp and pant, his eyes drifting gratifyingly closed. John couldn't take his eyes off Rodney's pleasure-crossed face. The anger was gone, and the desperation, too, and John wondered when Rodney's unhappiness had started to seem normal to him. Hell, for that matter, when had he gotten used to being lonely and feeling like shit?
John said, "I don't want you to hate me," and Rodney's eyes flew open.
"I don't," Rodney said, his voice going wet as John slid through an upstroke. "I--could never--"
"Because maybe we're not really friends, but we're something. Don't you think you and me are something?" and Rodney was shuddering, and coming, but he was nodding, too, head bobbing up and down as if to say: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.