Someday, John realized with all the clarity and suddenness of a lightning strike, someday Rodney was going to fail. Someday there were just going to be too many Wraith, or the Ancient equipment was going to be too broken down. Someday the computer virus was going to be too alien for even Rodney to figure out in the three minutes of life support they had left. And all of John’s Come on, Rodneys and Work faster, McKays and We’re all about to die here, so you might want to get a move ons put together wouldn’t change that.
Because Rodney was--and it was like a punch to the solar plexus--Rodney was only human. And it was so ridiculous that John had to laugh out loud right there in the jumper, because Rodney had said that, had told them over and over that he wasn’t a miracle worker, that there was only so much that ten thousand-year-old machinery could be expected to do. It wasn’t that they hadn’t taken Rodney seriously, because they all knew life in the Pegasus Galaxy was a crapshoot at best. It was just that everyone always ignored Rodney’s ranting and dire predictions. No one ever listened, not really, because immediately after Rodney declared something impossible, he would always, always find a way to do it, and the Ancient warship would fly out of a volcano, or the half-melted DHD would suddenly engage.
Still one day they would run across something that even Rodney couldn’t fix, and they would be lucky if dying was the worst thing that happened to them. But that day was not today.
Today Rodney had waved his arms and sworn that the crashed jumper was damaged beyond repair and is it the word ‘beyond’ or the word ‘repair’ you’re having trouble understanding, Colonel? John had merely raised an eyebrow and made an idle comment speculating about Zelenka’s jumper-repairing abilities and touching on the hope that Rodney could get them in the air before night fell and the space wolves came out. On the Pegasus Galaxy crisis scale, it rated maybe a three; just above killer robots, but below the impending shortage of peanut butter Power Bars.
So why it had suddenly hit him--this unexpected realization of the fragility of their existence--John couldn’t say. He trusted Rodney with his life, and--what was more important--with the lives of his people. But they’d rolled the dice so many times. Surely some day it would come up snake eyes.
“What?” Rodney asked from the co-pilot’s seat.
“Huh?” John blinked, jolted back to reality.
“You’re staring at me. It’s unnerving. Keep your eyes on the road.”
“Okay,” John said and kept staring, all the way back to Atlantis and through the post-mission check-up and dinner in the mess.
It made Rodney fidget, and loudly question his intelligence, and the mental acuity of United States Air Force officers in general, but John couldn’t help it. Because it wasn’t that he’d developed any doubt in Rodney’s abilities; he couldn’t blame Rodney for the fact that he was bound by the laws of physics and probability. John had just suddenly and with overwhelming lucidity realized that his time was limited, that he was on the clock, and he didn’t want regrets when it was over.
So he kept staring, even as he followed Rodney back to his quarters and pushed his way in the door.
“What?” Rodney asked again, this time adding an eye roll.
Your brain is our last line of defense, John didn’t say. Better than Ancient weapons, better than Marines.
“Sheppard?” The annoyance in Rodney’s voice had changed to worry.
We depend on you too much. I depend on you too much. He couldn’t say it, so he stepped forward and took Rodney’s face in his hands.
Rodney’s skin was warmer than he expected, and soft, except for the prickling bristle of a day’s stubble, and John just stood there holding Rodney’s jaw in his palms. Rodney stayed completely still, seeming not even to breathe.
Rodney finally opened his mouth to say something. John didn’t want to hear it; the last thing he wanted right now was words, so he shut Rodney up the quickest way possible, licking his way into his open mouth.
If Rodney’s skin was warm, his mouth was burning, all hot wet heat. There was nothing gentle about the kiss; John’s tongue pushed in brutally, tasting Rodney, needing all of him right now. It was odd because John had intended to be gentle, had wanted to show Rodney how much he was valued, had wanted to have this while there was still time.
Somehow they were against a wall; John must have backed them there, because Rodney was pressed against it, and John’s hands were rushing over Rodney’s body, gripping his arms, his shoulders, the small of his back. Rodney was kissing back frantically, and arching up to meet John, and his hands had found a deathgrip in John’s hair.
John’s senses were swimming with Rodney, with the sharp tang of his sweat, the sour taste of his skin after a mission, the feel of all that hot skin. He felt dangerously out of control, no thoughts in his head but Rodney and finally. He could feel himself talking, whispering into the crook of Rodney’s neck, but he didn’t know what he was saying, couldn’t seem to translate his own words.
Then Rodney suddenly stopped kissing him and gently--much too gently--pulled his head back, staring at him with a puzzled expression. John ran his last words back through his head. Someday you won’t be able to save us. Someday you’ll be right.
Shit. Why would he say that? What the hell was wrong with him? Now Rodney would rant and berate him for doubting his abilities, and worst of all be hurt. He wouldn’t understand.
Rodney looked at him a moment, then leaned forward and touched his lips to John’s, so soft, so gentle, barely a kiss.
“I will always, always save you. And me.” His breath was hot against John’s mouth. “And anyone else in the vicinity.” He tugged at John’s hair, angling him so his mouth was against John’s ear. “And so will you.”
He moved to John's neck, kissing him softly under his jaw. The moist heat made John shiver. And it was a lie, of course it was, and they both knew it. But John believed.