They've been back on Earth for three days, and either Rodney's sleeping in his clothes or not sleeping at all because every time John sees him he's in the same pair of khakis. It isn't until the fourth day that John comes out of his bedroom and finds Rodney sitting at the suite's kitchen table in the most disgusting bathrobe of all time.
"Ugh," John says. "What is that?"
"It's my robe," Rodney says, drawing it protectively around himself.
It was white once, maybe, but it's a dingy brown now, stained with coffee and grease. The cuffs are streaked blue with ink and the hem's ragged and torn. Rodney's bare feet poke out the bottom, toes curled up against the cold tile floor, and John wonders if he's wearing anything underneath it.
"There are robes in the bathrooms," John says. "Clean ones."
"Look," Rodney snaps. "You have your mental breakdown and I'll have mine."
"I'm not having a --"
"You go running every morning for two hours. Then you come back and go to the gym, after that you shower, eat two fried egg sandwiches and a Diet Pepsi and go to bed. Then you wake up and do it again, and again, and again."
Put together like that it did sound kind of mental.
"At least I leave the hotel," John mutters.
After that, Rodney's in the bathrobe full time. John gets used to it.
On the sixth day, Colonel Carter calls. She says the IOA's still dicking around Atlantis. They've spoken to Elizabeth and Carson, Lorne and Zelenka. Caldwell. Now they're trying to subpoena Hermiod; it's going about as well as expected. She can't tell him anything else. John thanks her and hangs up.
Rodney's on the couch, watching Regis and Kelly. John sits down next to him and discovers Rodney's definitely not wearing anything under his robe. It gapes open at the chest, the legs. John can see Rodney's ankles, his hairy shins, his knees, the big muscles of his thighs.
John says, "What if they don't let us go back?"
"They have to. The city won't run without me and you're useful enough." Rodney gathers his robe around him. "They're just trying to scare us."
"I think it's working," John says.
"Shh," Rodney says, "Holly Hunter's on next."
John stays in. They order pizza for lunch, watch six hours of Star Trek. For dinner they eat cold pizza and watch Traci Lords' E! True Hollywood Story. They don't say much, and as the day goes on their silences stretch longer and longer. John knew Rodney could be quiet, but it's eerie to be so close to him, to hear him breathe and chew and not say a word.
At midnight, John leaves Rodney to Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and goes to bed.
He's tired but can't sleep. He rolls onto his back, his side. He wakes up from a dream, heart pounding, and lies there in the dark, thinking of all the ways this can end badly for them. He can't lose Atlantis. Not again.
He gets up. Rodney's still in front of the television, head tilted back against the couch, mouth open, robe open, one hand thumbing a nipple, the other fisted around his cock. John watches him from the doorway, watches his hips move as he fucks his fist, watches him bite his lip to stay silent. Even after all these years, Rodney is still a mystery. John purposely kept him that way.
On the muted television, the 4077 fights the Korean War. They'll fight it for eleven years. The war itself only lasted three. John feels like that sometimes, like he's fighting a war that's already over.
He circles around the couch.
Rodney gives himself a long stroke and then his eyes flicker open and he sees John.
"Sheppard!" Rodney says, cradling his dick to his belly like John might try to take it away from him. "What is wrong with you? Whatever happened to the concept of personal space?"
"Please tell me you're not jerking off to Alan Alda," John says.
Rodney blinks. "What?"
"MASH," John says, nodding at the television.
"I wasn't watching," Rodney says. "It has a laugh track. It's not funny anymore."
John sits down next to him.
Rodney belatedly covers himself up. "Do you mind?"
"Do you?" John asks.
"You didn't used to," John says.
"I thought you decided we weren't going to do this anymore."
John looks at Rodney's hands clutching at his robe. "Why shouldn't we, if it's all we've got?"
"You make it sound so attractive," Rodney sneers.
"No, I mean -- each other."
Rodney's expression goes flat. "And once we're back in Atlantis?"
"If the IOA drops the charges, we'll be untouchable."
"You mean when," Rodney says, but he sounds scared instead of arrogant.
John doesn't answer, just peels back the robe so he can look at Rodney again. They used to do this, be naked together. It was good, but John's never trusted anything that didn't hurt a little. It hurts now, knowing he gave Rodney up to fight a war he'd already lost.
Rodney squirms. "What do you want to do?"
"I want you to finish what you were doing before," John says into Rodney's ear.
"But don't you, wouldn't you rather --"
"I'm going to watch, and then I'm going to fuck you. How's that sound?"
"Good," Rodney says, shaky, spreading open his robe and taking himself in hand.
"Good, like that," John says as Rodney squeezes himself once, then goes into the quick pulls that have his hips snapping up to meet his fist. John licks his thumb and rubs little circles over Rodney's nipple. Rodney's head falls back and they kiss for the first time in months, wet and messy. Hungry. They're both so hungry.
Rodney bends his knee and brings one foot up onto the couch. He gets out a little bottle of lube from the pocket of his robe and slicks the fingers of his left hand.
"Yeah, finger yourself," John says, because he knows Rodney likes that when he's alone, and John hates that Rodney's been alone all this time, hates more the thought that maybe he hasn't.
Rodney slides his hand down, down, down, and John watches, kisses Rodney's throat, presses his entire hand to Rodney's chest, no longer teasing his nipple, just holding him, feeling his heartbeat, the rise and fall of his breath. Rodney slides a finger in, two, makes one of those noises that John missed so much. John kisses him, fast, hard kisses so that he can pull away and watch Rodney touch himself, watch the round wet head of his cock poke in and out of his fist.
"You look so good," John whispers in his ear. "Just like I remember. I can't believe I gave you up."
Rodney makes a noise that sounds like it hurts, turns his face blindly towards John's, and comes all over his chest and thighs. "John," he says.
John kisses him, slow, slow, Rodney soft and easy against him, just like it used to be.
Rodney wipes his fingers on the robe and takes a condom out of the pocket. Earlier he pulled a twenty out of there for the pizza boy.
"What else you got in there?" John asks.
Rodney just smiles at him. "Wouldn't you like to know."
They fuck in front of the television, the light flickering over Rodney's face as he stares up at John, who moves inside him so carefully, because it's the only way John knows how to apologize, and John owes him, owes him all the things he can't say, like I never should have left you and you make me feel less broken and I was afraid I'd love you too much and but it was already too late.
Afterwards, they lie on the floor and watch Hawkeye and BJ laugh silently over the dying.
John wakes up early the next day, Rodney wrapped around him like an eel. Sometime during the night they'd stumbled into Rodney's bedroom and fallen asleep, Rodney's disgusting robe finally thrown to the floor where it belonged.
John's feeling pretty disgusting himself, sticky and sweaty, but he wants a run so he wiggles out of Rodney's four-limbed embrace and gets changed in his room. As he warms up, running through the streets of Colorado Springs, he can smell himself, and Rodney, and the scent of them together, and he starts thinking about what he'll do to Rodney when he gets back to the room. Rodney will still be asleep because without John there, no one will bring him coffee in bed, and John can worm his way under the covers and wake Rodney up with a nice slow blowjob. Rodney had once said to him, very pointedly, that it was his preferred way to wake up, bonus points if there was a cup of coffee waiting for him on the nightstand. John never got the chance to try it out, since he so rarely spent the night. Today, though, is a different story.
He finishes his run, just a short one today, and stops by the hotel coffee shop on his way in. He's struggling with the door lock and the keycard and the coffees when the door opens underneath his hands.
Rodney's up and fully dressed.
"General O'Neill called while you were gone," he says, face a complete blank, something Rodney was incapable of until John said he couldn't do this anymore and they stopped sharing a bed. "He said the IOA found no evidence of us working counter to the mission of Atlantis. We can go home."
It takes a second for John's mind to flip over from sex to home, but it finally slots in with a click. "Atlantis?"
"Yes," Rodney says.
John feels something huge uncoiling inside him. He's afraid it might be happiness. His hands shake.
"Sheppard?" Rodney says. He takes the coffee from John and sets it down. "John?"
"We're going home," John says, and he doesn't know he's going to do it until he's doing it, but he grabs Rodney and pulls him in for a hug, tight and fierce. Because if denied Atlantis, John would have taken Rodney and made the best of it, but this is the best of both worlds, of both galaxies. Rodney and Atlantis.