Rating: G, at most a warm and fuzzy PG for extremely casual states of dress
A/N: Written for artword challenge 010: Reversed. Inspired by this lovely, sweet and sleepy piece of art by unamaga! Go and look at it and make embarrassing noises. *shoos*
Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. - Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson
John’s not quite awake yet, but he’s aware of some things. The give of the mattress underneath his shoulder. The body-warmed air between the sheets. The slight chill of the room that tells him he’ll have to move, soon, if only to burrow deeper into the blankets.
The window must be open, some part of his still-sleepy brain suggests. You should get up and close it. Earlier in the day, when he fell into bed, lead-limbed and already nearly asleep, it was warm in the room, humid with the fading heat of a Lantean summer day. He’s seized with the image of yellow light falling on a dark floor, pale curtains blowing in the breeze, and it’s enough to make him move, to lever himself up out of the warm bed with his eyes half-closed, hissing as his bare feet make contact with the cold tile. He’s fast, crossing to the window and sliding it most of the way shut, but not all the way, because he wants to hear the breeze against the city walls, the ocean licking at the pier far below.
When he slides back into the bed, pulling the covers up to his chin, the bed shifts underneath him. Rodney murmurs, half-awake: “S’cold,” and rolls up close, his arm sliding around John’s body. His eyes are still closed. Rodney offers affection like it’s easy, like it’s nothing - reaches for John in his sleep, unaware, like John knows he’s been reaching since they met. But in taking it, at first, he was hesitant, as though he didn’t quite trust it, or didn’t trust himself to treat it gently, keep it whole.
It made John wonder about the why of that, wonder what made Rodney so unsure of himself in this simple human thing when he’s so certain everywhere else. But in time he’s come to understand it doesn’t matter - that this, he can do, without thinking, even if Rodney is better at speaking the words.
“Mmm,” agrees John, already losing his grip on the waking world, curling down into the warmth that is Rodney, folded around him. “Yeah. Window was open.”
“Mmngh,” Rodney answers, muffled, and yawns, and stills, his breath going gradually slow, even. John doesn’t wait long to follow him.
Rodney always wakes slowly, and slower when he needn’t be awake at all. Some days it takes him close to an hour, fighting the pull of day with bitter stubbornness, until the alarm pulls him resignedly up and out. Some days he stumbles through coffee and breakfast and briefings without being fully conscious, sleepwalking until he’s already at work, until he encounters a problem interesting enough to get his neurons firing.
If anything, these days, it’s harder to wake up, to get up. He’s had years of regarding sleep as a waste of time, a luxury unafforded to people with important callings such as he’s always had. His bed has always been something he resorted to when necessary. But these days, when bed means sleep and it means lying tangled up close with John, at rest and peaceful... it’s harder to convince himself that he’s wasting time he could be using to uncover the mysteries of the universe. That this is an unworthy use of his energies.
And yes, he likes it just because it’s him and it’s John. He’s man enough to admit that he likes cuddling, that this part is about comfort and not about sex. He hasn’t often experienced that, comfort so freely offered as John offers it. When they first started this he used to make fun of John for that, because at first it was John who wrapped his long arms and legs around Rodney and kept him there long past the time when he would have been driven out into the city to work, to learn, to fix things, to solve things.
Now, he thinks, it’s usually him, and sometimes he accuses John of making him lazy. John’s the lazy one, he’s said it often enough - John’s the one who likes lassitude, sloth, who epitomizes the whole-body slouch even when he’s awake. John’s the one who pulls Rodney gently back into the bed, whispering “hey,” and “come on,” and “it’s early.” Sometimes he says “five more minutes, Rodney,” with a soft, mischievous grin that promises very nice things and always ends with them both slipping back into sleep, as close together as they can get.
Soft, thinks Rodney, still drifting, and without thinking, he reaches for John, opens his eyes just enough to find him close, face mashed gracelessly into the pillow. Rodney blinks a few times, and then pushes himself up onto one elbow. Rarely does he get to do this, stare at John without being observed in turn, either by other people or by John himself. For someone so attractive, someone so used to scrutiny, John is oddly bashful about his appearance. Rodney’s never seen anyone blush so hard as John did the first time Rodney told him he was beautiful, and it was both endearing and strange, considering Rodney had always thought it was a given. The sky is blue, water is wet, John Sheppard is attractive.
But now his face is slack and gentle with sleep, eyelashes fluttering over the cover of some dream. His mouth is slightly open, and his arms are tucked under the pillow like he’s afraid of it getting away. He’s quiet - John doesn’t snore - and the covers have slipped down about his waist, exposing arms and shoulders and a long, lean stretch of back peppered with gooseflesh.
It’s still dark. Rodney pulls the covers up around them both, curls up in the space between John’s limbs, and lets sleep pull him down again.
John wakes up again in the cool grey of dawn, opens his eyes to see Rodney on his back, arms stretched above his head. The room is full of the smell of the ocean, and it takes John a minute to work up the energy to push himself up on his elbows, pull his arms out from underneath the pillow. Rodney’s face is all smooth and calm, quiet the way Rodney never is when he’s awake. At peace like this, he seems unusually young, eyebrows a straight, even line and his eyelashes pale against his cheeks. His mouth slants downward at one corner, as though without the animation of a waking Rodney it can’t be troubled to keep its shape.
John realises that he’s smiling and forces it down, biting his lip instead. Endearing isn’t a word that one often associates with Rodney McKay, but there it is, right in front of him, all pale skin and soft edges and deep, slow breaths. John can feel him radiating heat, a wall of it next to him in the bed. The room’s still chilly though it’s no longer cold, and it provides all the excuse John needs to snake an arm out and around Rodney, to roll him over onto his side and press up behind him. He inches fingers up under the hem of Rodney’s t-shirt, the thin, well-washed white cotton skin-warm, splays his hand against Rodney’s stomach. Rodney makes some sound, a few loosely-connected vowels that don’t make it out with any shape. A noise of half-hearted protest, not vehement enough to bring up into the light.
“Yeah,” he says to Rodney’s shoulder, “I know,” and presses an open-mouthed kiss to the skin just above his collar. This is his favourite place, thinks, his favourite place in all the world, as Rodney, not awake, not aware, covers John’s hand on his belly with one of his own, pushing back into John’s body like it’s natural.
John closes his eyes again. It’s still early. Too early to be anywhere but here, where he wants to be.
Holiday, Rodney thinks, nonsensically, when he wakes again, doesn’t move because there’s a face pressed into the back of his neck. They don’t have to be awake yet, even though the room is full of cool dawn gold, liquid morning light like wine. He’s awake enough to be aware that he’s disinclined to move. To remember that today is a mandatory rest day, as ordained by Keller on threat of unspecified torture. That yesterday was a long, long walk on an empty planet full of waving green grass, a trudge up a hill to stare off into the rain-shaded mid-day and find nothing at all. That barring emergency, disaster, invasion, neither of them has to be anywhere.
That this is the happiest he’s ever been, and that right now, for the first time, the thought inspires no panic, no tumble of what-ifs or maybes or ways that Rodney himself could ruin it. Maybe he’s not awake enough to worry as he always does. Maybe he must be conscious to be sensible, to think about the contingencies and the past and the future. Or maybe, just maybe, John’s presence, John’s touch, John’s warm breath ghosting past his left ear is a calming thing, a grounding influence. Maybe he thinks that this time, this, this right here, is worth risking the million different ways he knows this can end badly.
“John?” he whispers, and he has to swallow, then, because the first try is soundless. “John.”
“Hmm-mm,” John says, an acknowledgement that is no less indecipherable for the way that it’s mumbled into the side of Rodney’s neck. He shifts, twining their legs together, arm tightening about Rodney’s middle as though he is trying to get even closer. Rodney can feel John’s heart beating, a faint but steady thud-thud against his shoulder blade.
Yesterday, they climbed a hill that seemed cut from the sky, looked out over the horizon and found nothing to fear, nothing but warm rain and the breeze and a world with no monsters. Yesterday, John looked at him and smiled, no artifice, no fear of death, with only Ronon and Teyla to see it, and Rodney, seeing everything there in his face and feeling awestruck by the privilege.
“Never mind,” Rodney tells him, and closes his eyes again. “Go back to sleep.”
John makes no response, but Rodney doesn’t need one. He has all the assurance that he needs. The bed is warm and comfortable, and the day is still young and sweet and sleepy, and there is nowhere they need to be but where they are.