PG (pants mostly on)
At The End of the Tour
"At the end of the tour, when the road disappears..." -- They Might Be Giants
Near Mount Hood, Oregon
The road wasn't even paved, and the late summer greenery made seeing more than a few yards ahead nearly impossible. Rodney shifted gears again and cursed. People made towns and roads and stoplights for a reason; putting a house all the way out in nowhere was just selfishness. Even the directions he'd gotten in town were preposterous - "three miles past the old Thompson barn, look for the road on the hill to your right." If a person wanted to disappear, he could go to ground somewhere in the heart of a big city just as easily, maybe easier. At least then the GPS on Rodney's rental car would work.
The road curved, and then finally he came to a clearing, and the dark little wooden house at the center of it. He got out of the car and stood there looking at it, taking in the three neat steps up to the porch and the wide window behind it. The door opened, and John Sheppard walked out, squinting against the non-existent sun.
"You can't drive stick, either," he said.
"If there were an actual road, I could drive fine," Rodney snapped.
Sheppard just smiled. It had been so long since Sheppard left Atlantis that Rodney almost couldn't believe he was actually standing there, no more than ten yards away. He was leaner, wiry, and his hair was mostly gray. He had on jeans and boots and a flannel shirt that made him look like an aging cowboy, nothing anything like an Atlantis expeditionary uniform. But the smile Rodney remembered, the one that said the things Sheppard didn't, that was the same.
"Just in the neighborhood, McKay?"
"You didn't come to the declassification events," Rodney said. "Although now that I've been here, I can see how your invitation could've gotten lost."
"Oh, they found me," Sheppard said. He didn't sound pleased.
"So?" Rodney had gone to all of them, even the Air Force memorial service. He'd sat through the whole horrible thing, the singing and the speeches by people who weren't there and the long droning list of names, hoping for a glimpse of a familiar face, but the only ones he saw were the same ones he'd seen every day on Atlantis. He'd told himself he should make sure that Sheppard was OK, since everyone at all the receptions kept asking, but checking up on the man's whereabouts in the SGC database had somehow led to him buying a plane ticket to Portland, renting a car, and driving for another two hours down Oregon back roads. To standing here, talking to Lt. Col. J. Sheppard (Ret.) as he gazed off into the treeline instead of meeting Rodney's eyes.
"Big parties aren't my style," he said.
"Yes, well, how about the thanks of a grateful planet?" Rodney asked. "You deserved that."
Sheppard shrugged and stuck his hands in the back pockets of his jeans.
"Elizabeth was there." It was weirdly difficult to say that, and really, he shouldn't have had to. Of course Elizabeth had been there. She sat on the dais at about five different events, in a different black suit every time, and she looked grave and lovely and strong. Sheppard would have liked it. "You know, she's single again."
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "Is that why you came out here, Rodney?"
Rodney gave him his best meaningful look, the one he'd practiced all the way through grad school.
"Is that why you think I resigned?"
"I think," said Rodney, "that given a choice between your own career and protecting Elizabeth's, you chose hers. Which would suggest to the observant bystander - "
"I wasn't protecting Elizabeth, I was protecting Atlantis," Sheppard said, drawing out the last word like Rodney was dim. "Look, any decent military officer could do my job. The SGC doesn't have another Weir, and if they did, they wouldn't put her in charge."
Rodney stared at him. Of course: he should have known that if Sheppard was going to do something stupid and self-sacrificing, he'd do it for the city. Rodney wasn't sure how he could have gotten that one wrong, but right now, with Sheppard right there, looking so exasperated and fond, Rodney couldn't even mind how stupid he'd been.
"Well," he said, "it's not like we had another Sheppard either, you know. You could have said."
"I knew what I had to do. I didn't want to be talked out of it."
"Talked out of it? No one ever talked you out of anything."
"Probably not," Sheppard said. His look turned mischievous. "But you would have tried."
"Of course I would have tried!" It had taken until Sheppard's third replacement, a career SGC officer named Ericksson who sucked at Katamari, for Rodney to admit to himself that he'd been, well, a little bit in love with John Sheppard. More than a little. "Or, or, did you not want me to try?"
Sheppard met his eyes, really looking at him for the first time since he'd driven up the path. "I wanted it a lot. I couldn't..."
He trailed off, but that was really all Rodney needed to hear. And it would have been worth it to walk all the way from Groom Lake to stumble up the path towards the cabin, his heart pounding loudly in his ears, and put one careful shaking hand on the side of John Sheppard's neck.
"I didn't know," he said, his voice cracking. "But maybe now, we could...?"
John took Rodney's head between his hands, cradling it like Rodney was something precious, and he kissed him, closed-mouth and gentle. Rodney opened his mouth to it, greedy, and John pulled him closer, kissed him deeper. Rodney pulled at John's shirt, fingers itching for the hot skin beneath it.
"Come inside," John said, kissing at Rodney's jawline and distracting him. "I have a house. Right there. And it's got beer. And food. And a bed."
"Perfect," Rodney breathed.
John laughed and kissed him again. "When did you get so easy?"
Rodney made a face and wrapped his fingers around John's. Together, they walked up the porch stairs, into the small neat house that smelled like John, and up into the bedroom, which had a window full of clear blue sky. "Sometimes," John said against Rodney's skin, pulling off Rodney's pants, "the night here is so full of stars, I think I can see Atlantis."
"Show me," Rodney said. He pulled John down onto the bed on top of him, the already familiar weight dizzyingly new. "Tomorrow."