This is something that I wrote for 2am_optimism in... *checks date* woah! November 2005! We called it "indulgence fic" for reasons which I'm sure will be almost immediately obvious.
There were many reasons that I never did anything with it, but the main two were that it never had enough structure or interest to maintain as a revised, stand-alone story, and also that around that time, several people came out with much much better stories that followed the theme of this story. To the extend that now I would say the premise is almost one of the SG:A fandom cliches. But, like all good cliches, I suppose it's just really really nice to have something comforting to read occassionally.
So, without any pretense to originality of any kind, completely unbetaed, off the cuff, and over a year old:
The Luxury of Take-out
Even years later, the sound of the ocean reminded him of looking out over those tall spires. Endless miles of ocean, it had seemed to him then. So deep and blue, cool and calm.
They gave him a house by the beach. Whitewashed and gleaming, made of old wood, rubbed soft by the sand. He sat on the porch, sometimes limped down to the shore, and listened to the waves.
At night, he left the fan off, leaving the windows open and the sea breezes to come rushing in.
When he sat on the beach, listening to the sway and rush of the surf, he imagined life on Atlantis after his sudden departure.
Then one day the mailman dropped his letters through the door. There were two bills, an offer on hair-care products and one postmarked Colorado.
I hope this letter finds you well. I can’t explain anything here – security reasons – but I’ll be flying into LAX on Sunday 24th June 2007.
I hope you will be able to meet me, as I have nowhere to stay – and, of course, it will be nice to catch up.
Dr. Rodney McKay
John wore a deep green t-shirt and jeans and drove his car with the hood down.
When he got to the airport, he smoothed down his wind-blown hair absently as he walked through the double-doors and into the bustle of the air-conditioned room.
He was twenty minutes late, and Rodney had already arrived. He had stacked his luggage – three fat suitcases, and was sitting on top of the pile reading a journal intently.
“Hey,” John stood in front of him, hands in his pockets.
Rodney looked up, already folding up his magazine. “Oh, hi, great.” He stood up, sliding the journal deep into the pockets of one of his suitcases, eyeing John sternly out the corner of his eye. “I thought you might not be coming.”
“What would you have done then?” John asked, picking up the top case and turning in the direction of his car.
“Oh, wait, I can—” Rodney grabbed for the case.
John glared. “It’s fine. You can’t carry all those on your own. Come on.” John tried to minimise the limp, aware of Rodney’s assessing eyes.
They stowed Rodney’s luggage in the trunk of John’s car and then stood, looking at one another.
“What, no handshake?” Rodney asked brightly.
John smiled wryly, clapping a hand on Rodney’s shoulder. “So, you’re staying with me, huh?”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “Well, from what I understand you have quite the cushy number going on here Mr. Retired due to injury—” Rodney paused as John looked away briefly. “Ah, anyway, I was told I had to see your place to believe it. And so here I am…”
“Here you are,” said John, unlocking the car.
Rodney hadn’t really aged, although he was thinner and looked tired. His shoulders slumped more when he walked, and as he sat down on John’s couch he seemed to become boneless, slumping back into the white cushions.
“White?” he asked disbelievingly.
“My decorator’s choice – I left all that stuff up to him,” said John, dropping the last case by the couch. “Get comfy, this is where you’re sleeping.”
Rodney looked around, frowning. “I thought this place was supposed to have four bedrooms or something?”
“It did,” John opened the fridge, pulling out two beers. “But I don’t get that many visitors. So now they’re a games room, a gym, a sauna and something my interior decorator called a Zen room, but I never go in there.”
The cold bottle wet his fingers and John sat down in the matching chair, peeling the soft label off distractedly.
“Does this fold out?” Rodney asked, setting his beer on the table without drinking any. “You know I have a bad back—”
John got up and opened the balcony doors, letting the ocean view rush in. The bright sunlight cut across the wooden floors and John pulled back the curtain to let in more light. Rodney squinted and raised a hand to his eyes.
“So,” he said after taking a deep draught of beer. “How’s life been in the Pegasus Galaxy?”
Rodney picked up his beer nervously, twisting it between his palms. “Oh, you know. Same old same old.” He took a tentative sip, grimacing. “Death, destruction, Wraith still as cheerful as ever. Not much has changed…”
“Everyone still alive?”
“Mostly,” Rodney nodded. “You’ve been missed.”
John set his beer on the table with a snap. “And now you’re back?”
“Yes,” Rodney took a deep breath, looking around the room. “I thought I might—see what life is like on earth nowadays. For a while. I’m uncertain of my next step—”
“You aren’t going back to Atlantis?”
Rodney sighed, “No plans to return, no.”
“It’s just not the same without me there, huh?”
Rodney grimaced. “You might say that, yes.”
After his shower, John wandered downstairs in just his shorts, feeling loose and fresh and enjoying the breeze on his body.
Wandering into the living room he saw Rodney had ventured onto the beach. John’s eyes traced the lines of his back, rigid under the fall of his beige shirt. Arms crossed, head lowered.
John wandered out onto the beach, smelling the salt, and placed a hand in between Rodney’s shoulder-blades. His toes sank into the warm sand.
Rodney turned to him and smiled. “It takes a while.”
“To learn how to relax?” John asked, stroking Rodney’s back firmly.
“Yes. And to forget, I suppose,” Rodney pushed his hand into the hair at the nape of John’s neck, and tugged him forward.
They kissed slowly, remembering the feel of their lips pushing together, John’s mouth opening, letting Rodney inside. It was slick and hot, and John felt Rodney’s other hand settle on his waist and pulled back slightly.
Afterwards, they lay in John’s bed together.
“Do I still have to sleep on the couch?” Rodney asked.
“That depends how nice you are to me,” John said, head turned towards the window. “I’m thinking of implementing a rewards system.”
It was warm in the room, but neither of them could find the energy to open the window. Under the sheets their skin was moist and clung together.
Rodney kicked the sheets of him, rising up onto one elbow. His shadow fell across John’s face.
“I didn’t think we were going to do this again.”
John looked at him steadily, then shrugged, one smooth shoulder bunching the sheets further.
Rodney’s hand wandered down, over John’s waist, his hip, onto his thigh, running his nails along its length. “I wasn’t lying before.”
“When?” John asked pulling Rodney down onto him further, feeling the solid heat of him against his length, biting lightly into his shoulder.
“The Pegasus Galaxy,” Rodney said, rolling forward onto his elbows, pushing John into the pillow that had been flung loose and was now trapped uncomfortably under one hip. “I did miss you. We all did.”
John looked down, watching his arm wrap around the dip at the small of Rodney’s back. “You want Chinese tonight?”
Rodney let it go, pushing his nose into John’s shoulder. John tipped his head to one side.
“Wow,” he said against John’s skin. John felt his breath humid against his shoulder. “The luxury of takeout. I’d forgotten.”
They ate directly out of the cartons, naked, John’s sheets bunched around their hips, under their ankles. Rodney spilled hoi-sin sauce on the sheets.
As the sun set, they watched the giant television at the end of John’s bed, some documentary about Mozart, or rather John pretended to watch it while Rodney ducked under the sheets and explored the scars on his leg. Really, he watched the bump of Rodney’s head under the sheet and stroked his hand over it.
Rodney stroked his hand over John’s scars, but John explained that he could barely feel it.
John and Rodney explored his Zen room.
“Huh,” said Rodney, scraping the sand into patterns with the little fork. “I suppose it is quite relaxing.”
“I guess so,” said John, staring at the trickling water of the fountain. “You want to watch some TV?”
“Yeah,” said Rodney.
John leant over his shoulder, smiling into the cotton of Rodney’s T-shirt. He took the little fork and scraped the sand.
“Or?” John said, grinning now.
The sand read: FUCK ME.
They left it like that.
John was glorious when he came.
Rodney watched him, head tipped over the side of the tub, hand working, throat working. Rodney watched John touch himself, the smooth slide of soapy skin, John’s wet hair flopping back against the tiles.
Rodney slid closer and ran his hands through it, watching the twist of John’s hand, the muscles in his forearm work, the jerk of his hips.
Rodney put a hand on John’s thigh, then down in between them, and John slowed slightly, eyes closed, face turned towards him. Rodney found the place where he could push his fingers inside and did so, curling them up lightly, twisting them deeply, and John gasped and his knee came up out of the water, leg pushing him up, hand lightly clasped on his dick.
Rodney slid down into the water, resting his head on John’s belly, watching as John’s hand tightened once, Rodney pushed his fingers lightly, just right, and John came.
John seemed to open up with Rodney’s presence. He felt like he’d taken a deep breath of air since Rodney had stepped off the plane. Perhaps since he’d gotten Rodney’s letter.
But despite the charming nature of Rodney’s company, John knew it wasn’t just Rodney specifically, but having someone else there to talk to. Instead of silence and peace, which he’d thought he wanted, Rodney bought his own kind of chaos and life to John’s clean white existence.
They walked around the supermarket together. John bought vegetables, bottled water, high-protein foods.
Rodney bought cheese, Italian bread, pasta, rich sauces, chocolates, marshmallows, whipped cream.
“I’m not eating that stuff,” said John wryly.
“Why the hell not?” asked Rodney is surprise, throwing a slab of parmesan into the cart.
“Because I want to live past fifty?” John asked, incredulously watching Rodney shrug and toss in some gorgonzola and gruyere as well.
“Live well, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that,” Rodney shook some mozzarella sticks at him in emphasis.
Later, John was forced to concede that Rodney might be onto something with these rich foods when Rodney turned him over and squirted a line of thick cream along the length of his spine, following it downwards with his tongue.
“Oh, God,” groaned John as Rodney’s tongue trailed over the sensitive skin on the small of his back and then dipped lower, pushing inside him once and then pulling away.
“You can just call me Rodney,” Rodney said, smirking.
“Not now, Rodney,” John said with bite. “Concentrate.”
John said, “Come swim with me.”
Rodney said, “Well, I’ll need the standard protective equipment.”
John led him into the ocean by the hand, John in his swimsuit and mask, Rodney in full scuba gear. He let the ocean swallow them, warm and lulling and deep as they sank down.
Rodney carefully held his mouthpiece out of the water and paddled alongside John, until John got bored of this and pulled them both upright, reaching up and pulling off his mask, and then Rodney’s.
“Hey,” said Rodney, “I need that, sea water can do serious damage to—”
John kissed him to shut him up. They floated together.
Rodney had been an annoyance, and then a friend, and then a close friend, and then one night, arguing, trapped on a cold, wet, boggy planet, sheltering in the burnt-out shell of the puddle-jumper—
“There was no call for that, Rodney,” John had said, furious.
“Look, Colonel, I realise that in military world everything is simple and black and white but for the rest of us human beings—”
“Wait, you’re claiming humanity as your excuse? The quality you show least signs of than anyone else I know?”
“I’m just saying that sometimes people make mistakes—”
“Mistakes?! You’re not kidding! Look!” John flung out and arm to gesture to their surroundings, and Rodney had grabbed his wrist. Everything had been very still for a moment, while John looked at Rodney’s hand gripping him.
“Be careful,” Rodney said. He pointed out the piece of protruding metal John had nearly hit.
“Thanks,” said John jerkily, pulling his arm away. Wanting to hide it behind his back.
They sat in silence for a moment. Eventually, Rodney muttered, “Look, I know it wasn’t my… best decision.”
John rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Me either.”
“We were both at fault.”
“I meant for listening to you,” John said, without rancour.
After a moment, Rodney had twitched with the need to speak, then gone still again. John waited anxiously.
“Listen,” Rodney said eventually, agitatedly playing with his earpiece. “I—”
And then the comm had crackled into life, Ronon’s voice booming out. “Colonel Sheppard? McKay? You hear us?”
Sheppard had sat up straight. “Loud and clear Ronon. What’s your position?”
But he’d known it was only a matter of time.
In the army hospital in Colorado he’d laid on his back for weeks, looking up at that ceiling. At night, the lights low, he’d count the cracks in the polystyrene ceiling tiles. There were no windows by his bed, and he didn’t see the sky. He didn’t see the seasons change. Hell, he didn’t even know what month it was.
John’s one request about his house was that above his bed he have a skylight.
When he’d first got there, he’d lie awake at night, leg cramping, shoulders tense, feeling the urge to be back there, to be helping, to be fighting. He’d count the planes as they went overhead, watching their trajectory, deciding where they were headed, imagining piloting them.
He’d fall asleep and dream about the responsive controls of the puddlejumper under him.
Sometimes, when he didn’t feel like getting out of bed, he’d watch them go over his head, leaving thick ribbons of white exhaust across the sky. Then, when they’d passed over, he’d watch the lines fade.
On cloudy days he watched the birds spin and wheel above.
Rodney’s stuff was all over his house. He’d even hung his diplomas on the wall over the TV in the living room. John hadn’t mentioned it.
“Think we should paint in here?” Rodney asked, looking around the room with dissatisfaction, hands on hips.
John, reading, ignored him for a moment. Then said, “Why?”
“It’s just so… white. It feels like heaven or something.”
John looked over the back of the sofa at him in bemusement.
“Not in the good way,” Rodney snapped impatiently.
Rodney covered the furniture with sheets, crowding it into the centre of the room, and revealed a tin of jade-green paint.
“I’m not sure about this,” John said, looking at the colour askance.
Later, when they were both speckled from head-to-toe and the sun had set, Rodney laid John down on the ground and pulled off John’s old, crumpled work-clothes. John felt a splodge of paint smear beneath his right shoulder.
Rodney wielding the paintbrush threateningly.
“This is your heart,” he said, drawing a green heart on John’s chest. “And here is your stomach, leading, of course, to the upper and lower intestines,” a swirling river of paint led down his body.
Rodney pulled off his t-shirt and leant over John, smearing the paint over his chest as well. As they kissed, John tipped them over, straddling Rodney and picking up the brush.
Now, some brief meta thoughts on this story and fandom as a whole.i warn you, the below is rambly and disjointed. More a splurge than proper thoughts!
A friend and I have a theory. People get into fandom from one or more of two routes:
Science Fiction vs. Romance
Personally, I most defintely went the romance route. I'm a fiend for romance novels - especially of the bodice-ripper persuasion - and although I do harbour love for the main genre-crossing staples of sci fi (Star Wars, for instance) I don't have that passion for the genre that some people cherish.
Then there are the Sci Fi fans. I obviously can't talk with as much authority about their point of view, with the exception that my friend is in fandom and is a die hard sci fi nut. She will read anything - no matter how poor the writing/characterisation etc., as long as it has a good, solid science fiction premise. For that reason she is also completely open to gen stories, or those catagorised as pre-slash, etc.
For me, that just don't kick it. She is in almost constant wonderment that I will not really love a piece of fanfiction unless it satisfies what she laughingly terms my romantic fiction criteria. And I am equally baffled that she can read 100,000 words of angsty holding hands, or whatever, because the science fiction is good.
SG:A seems to be that rare kind of fandom that has possiblities to satisfy both these types of people. The fanfiction backs me up. We have as many sci fi/gen writers as we do AU/romance writers, and the canon itself is so malleable as to be completely at our disposal in a way that someone watching it can't help but want to mould and shape into their perfect story.
Improbable sci fi scenario complete with million-dollar special effects and gay sex? Check!
Self-indulgent, earth-bound historical porny AU? Check!
To bring this back to the story above, I think that is my main reason for the fact that all of my SG:A fics (the public ones, at least!) are set on Earth. The romantic in me wants a Harlequin, not a Star Trek, and so turns canon into that. And I would say that this is why stories like this - indulgent earth-fics - are so popular in a fandom whose canon is, after all, science fiction!