Summary: Rodney's a man on a mission, and the Texas coast is a long way away.
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Spoilers and/or warnings: none
Title, author, and URL of original story: Boys Gone Wild, by tex
ETA: Deep deep thanks to sihayab and lamardeuse for beta help!
Boys Gone Wild (The Roadtrip Remix)
Rodney pushes wet snow off of his windshield, digs out the back tires, and climbs in. He ought to clean out the car; what kind of idiot leaves on a road trip with a backseat already scattered with Doritos bags and bent Mountain Dew cans? But now that his paralyzing indecision is broken, Rodney doesn't want to waste time on niceties. He sweeps the worst of the detritus off the back seat and yanks his Rabbit into gear, skidding on a patch of slushy snow as he pulls out of the parking lot. Two students with their parka collars turned up glare at him. He ignores them.
On the passenger seat is his Rand McNally, currently open to the Colorado page (as though he needed directions to get himself out of Boulder and onto the interstate.) There's a half-frozen bottle of Coke in the cupholder; it'll thaw as the car warms up. That's perfect, it means he won't have to stop for a drink for at least an hour.
As the Flatiron range recedes behind him, Rodney feels almost okay for the first time in two weeks. Ever since he failed to realize he was falling in love until it was too late.
The call from Dr. Graydon was flattering. Of course there was no better quantum mechanics tutor at the university; that was hardly a surprise to anyone. The surprise came when John showed up for their first session. He was not what Rodney had been expecting. John was...hot.
Not that Rodney made a habit of thinking about men in those terms. But he had eyes, didn't he? And John Sheppard was one of the handsomest men he'd ever met. Tanned face and forearms, which meant he probably spent every weekend snowboarding without adequate sunscreen. Hair that would have made Duran Duran jealous, and big pouty lips. It was almost enough to make Rodney turn tail and walk out. Guys that good-looking weren't generally friendly to geeks like him.
But John was friendly. More importantly, he followed everything Rodney said, that first hour. Took some notes, but mostly sat there listening, nodding, occasionally asking surprisingly incisive questions. By the end of the hour, all thoughts of ditching the new tutoring gig were long gone from Rodney's mind. This guy was smart, and he wanted to learn, which was more than Rodney could say for any of the other undergraduates under his care.
They made a date for Thursday. Bizarrely, Rodney found himself looking forward to it.
Rodney zips through Denver. Colorado Springs. Down toward Amarillo by late afternoon. He can't remember ever having heard anything good about Amarillo. Driving through, as the low overcast sky turns darker grey, he doesn't see any reason to change the record.
Outside of Lubbock he finds a Motel Six with a surly night clerk. He checks in, faceplants, and sleeps like the dead for six hours. But the mattress is too soft, and the bedspread smells faintly like smoke, and by the time the sun rises he's awake again and staggering out to his car. At least here there's no snow to brush away.
By 10am Rodney's beginning to drag, so he pulls into a truck stop for coffee. Parking between two eighteen-wheelers he feels like a midget among giants. No one bats an eye at him when he walks inside, though. The place is full of truckers eating enormous plates of breakfast: pancakes, eggs, chicken fried steak, grits. His stomach grumbles, but he doesn't want to take the time to sit down and eat. The Texas coast is a long way away.
One of the waitresses spots his indecision. "Can I help you, hon?" She looks about fortyish. Her lipstick is bright enough that it ought to look garish, but she makes it kind of charming.
"Do you have a to-go menu?"
"Not exactly, but we can do you up some breakfast tacos or a breakfast sandwich, if you want."
"Thank you," Rodney says fervently. "Egg with sausage and cheese?" Even if the cheese is fake and the sausage comes in a pre-shaped patty, that sounds like heaven. Salt and grease are necessary for any road trip.
"And a large coffee," he calls after her as she disappears into the kitchen. Five minutes later, armed with a foil-wrapped breakfast sandwich and a thermos of coffee large enough to be worth saving (he can use it in the lab once school starts up again) Rodney's on the road.
The radio is terrible. Nothing but country music and the occasional station playing soft rock hits of the sixties and seventies. And the AM band isn't any better: a couple of stations in Spanish (which Rodney doesn't speak), the drone of a preacher (even though it isn't Sunday), and a lot of static and fuzz.
So when Rodney begins to glaze over at the wheel, the inexhaustible supply of coffee long since drained dry, he talks to himself.
"I don't know what he was expecting," Rodney says to the empty car. "He didn't give me any reason to imagine he was interested."
There was a pause.
"Okay, granted, he sought out my company, but I was tutoring him! It was to his advantage to learn as much from me as he possibly could."
Though they transcended the tutoring pretty quickly, didn't they? They still met to learn, but when the lesson was over John would invite him to stick around. Have dinner, drink a few beers. Play a game of chess. Rodney got to know all of John's favorite haunts: the pub with the pool tables, the lousy Mexican place, the one lone Tibetan restaurant at the far side of town.
They stayed up late watching stupid movies, arguing about Star Trek, insulting one another's ability to make paper airplanes.
Maybe John did give him clues. He just wasn't astute enough to read them.
"Fuck," Rodney says, and his voice sounds too-loud in the otherwise silent car.
He wrenches the radio knob back on and hits "scan," but there isn't anything new to hear.
By the time he hits Kerrville, the roadsides are dotted with flowers. The snow of Boulder feels like an ancient memory; now he turns on the car's creaky air-conditioning and rolls down one window until the musty smell fades. The next thing on his map is Boerne, though there doesn't seem to be much to it, other than a sign indicating city limits, some houses, and a couple of barbecue joints which he resolutely drives by.
In San Antonio he turns onto highway 281, heading toward Corpus Christi. What kind of people name a city the Body of Christ? The road flattens out; now he's driving through scrub land dotted with occasional cattle. Here and there an old-fashioned windmill churns. The skies are huge.
Once he turns onto route 77, heading towards Brownsville, a small sign tells him he's entered the King Ranch, "Largest Ranch in the World." It doesn't look like much either: more scrub, more grassland, here and there some cows. When Rodney stops for gasoline now, the Pic'n'Pac stations have enormous jars of beef jerky beside the register, and sometimes rings of hard sausage hanging overhead. The jerky isn't bad, but it makes his Coke taste weird.
Finally he turns off of 77 onto county route 100 toward South Padre Island. After a short drive through windblown palm trees and a stretch of Mexican restaurants and tacky shrimp shacks, the Queen Isabella Causeway ("Built 1974") stretches across the quiet bay. As he drives onto the bridge, Rodney realizes that he is really doing this -- that John is somewhere on the other side -- and he breaks out in a cold sweat.
"Great," he says, to no one. Now he's going to have to change his shirt. Real fucking suave.
"I don't see what the big deal is," John said, pushing his hair back. He hadn't gotten it cut recently, Rodney noted idly, and it was flopping into his eyes. "The possible states of a quantum mechanical system are represented by unit vectors residing in a complex separable Hilbert space."
"Well, right." Rodney coughed. "And the possible states are..."
"Points in the projectivization of the complex projective space." John leaned back and grinned at Rodney.
"You'd be amazed how many people don't grasp that."
John shrugged. "What else have you got?"
"We're already two weeks ahead of your class," Rodney pointed out. "I mean, I'm happy to go on to state space, proton spin, and eigenstates and eigenvalues--"
"Round of minigolf instead?"
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me." Rodney adopted what he hoped was his most horrified expression.
"C'mon, Rodney," John wheedled. "We're ahead of the game. And minigolf is a very scientific sport!"
"It isn't a sport at all," Rodney objected.
"Vectors! Spin! It's practically a physics class requirement." John was mock-serious now, but his eyes were pleading.
"Oh, fine," Rodney relented. John's grin warmed him, like some complex electromagnetic equation he couldn't quite solve.
The minigolf course was a crappy one run by two college dropouts in an old warehouse. They seemed to know John, because one of them clapped him on the shoulder and gave him a big high-five, and they let John and Rodney in without anyone paying a dime.
Not surprisingly, on a Tuesday evening at the end of February the place was almost deserted. Two couples on obvious dates were at the far end of the course, but otherwise, John and Rodney had it to themselves.
Rodney had always been terrible at minigolf. When he faced his first putt, the stupid little plastic ball seemed to be mocking him from the patch of astroturf, and predictably it skewed off in the entirely wrong direction. "I have no idea why I'm doing this," he muttered.
"Because it's fun," John said. "Here -- you were actually really close."
"I meant to send it that way," Rodney bitched.
"Look, here," John said. "Stand like this." Rodney stood beside the ball, looking in the direction of the hole which was now obscured by two raised bumps of fake turf and a little pinwheel. "Just in terms of physics, how do you want to aim?"
"Bounce off of that wall, send it around that corner, and then in," Rodney said. "Obvious."
"That's the part most people have trouble with," John told him. "I think you're putting a little too much spin on the ball -- here, let me," and next thing Rodney knew John was standing right behind him, arms coming around him to frame Rodney's grip on the club.
Rodney took a deep breath. He could smell John's aftershave, could feel the heat of John's body behind him.
"Like this," John said gently, and with a tap the ball went exactly where Rodney wanted it to go.
The Sand Dollar Inn is the third place Rodney comes to along the narrow strip of Padre Boulevard. It looks a little ratty, but Rodney is a graduate student; he prides himself on not minding that kind of thing. Besides, it has a "vacancy" sign, and there's a car with Colorado plates in the parking lot. He doesn't know whether or not it belongs to Mitch, but it sets his heart racing anyway.
But once he's in his room -- bland and a little bit dismal: faded bedspread, aging television, cheesy prints of sand dollars and conch shells on the wall -- Rodney loses the manic energy that got him from Colorado to here. He ventures forth as far as Burger King and then collapses back into his room, pulling the blackout curtains to block the horrifying strength of the Texas sun.
Once he's lying on the bed, idly flipping channels, the temptation to just stay there is strong. Trek's coming on in half an hour...
But he drags himself out of bed, puts on a clean shirt, and marches out of the room. There's a party on the ground floor: he can already hear the babble of high-pitched conversation and the music (some twangy country singer he's distressed to think he might, thanks to John's influence, be able to identify as Johnny Cash.) He walks toward the noise with all the enthusiasm one would expect from a man heading out to face a firing squad. Parties like this one -- involving kegs, dancing, and probably a lot of airheaded co-eds -- are not exactly his natural habitat.
But they're probably John's. Steeling himself for whatever might lie within, Rodney yanks open the door and strides inside.
He knew it was churlish to grouse about a 98 -- it was obviously a respectable test score, especially in a quantum physics class -- but still: Rodney wanted to see what one question John had gotten wrong! But John yanked the test back from Rodney and stuffed it into his backpack before Rodney could page all the way through it.
"Shut up, genius, and take the beer while I'm still in a good mood," John said, pulling open his mini-fridge and handing Rodney a cold one.
If Rodney felt a tingle when John passed him the bottle, it was only static electricity. Perfectly normal forces at work.
They collapsed on the couch and Rodney took a long deep swig. For a brief moment he closed his eyes, savoring the taste, the way it felt going down. The absurdity of this moment in his life washed over him. How the hell had he wound up here, spending most of his spare time with a jock like John Sheppard...who turned out to be far more of a geek deep down than Rodney ever would have guessed? He wasn't Samantha Carter, but he was pretty close.
Actually, if push came to shove, Rodney wasn't sure he wouldn't prefer spending time with John, even though it didn't involve getting laid. If he were honest with himself, Sam wasn't exactly likely to plant one on him.
The thought filled him with a weird kind of adrenaline, though, and he started babbling as if that would drive it away.
"Now, we've got another month before Spring Break. You aren't going anywhere, are you, because the Feynmann stuff is coming up right after that and we should start working on that now. Unless, of course, that bastard Kavanaugh deviated from the syllabus again. You should check on that --"
Rodney glanced over and the sight of John took his breath away. He was leaning back on the couch, his neck exposed, one arm outstretched across the top of the sofa in what would be a classic date-move if Rodney were a girl. And John was looking at him...
Something about the way John was looking at him made his heart pound and his head spin. As though John -- but he couldn't be -- he wasn't --
"Thanks a lot, buddy," John said softly. "I couldn't have done it without you."
Right. Of course. The physics. What else could John have been talking about? Rodney felt a pang of inexplicable disappointment.
"John, no, that's the thing," Rodney scooted closer, wanting to make him understand, "you could have done it without me. I never expected you to be so -– really, I took one look at you and thought 'pretty face, empty head.'" Rodney felt his own face heating up; he hadn't actually meant to admit that until it came out of his mouth. But he ploughed onward. "I had planned to quit after our first session. And then, I knew, I could tell after the first few minutes that you are brilliant. It was exciting, actually. Like discovering a new moon." God: was that too lame?
But John was staring at him as though Rodney's voice, Rodney's face, held the key to something important. It was dizzying.
"That's why I hate to think of you joining the military. You just can’t do it, it will be such a waste." The thought caused a weird tightness in Rodney's chest.
"It's just part of the contingency. It's not my first choice," John said, but he sounded distracted. By what? Rodney tipped back his beer and drank until it was gone.
"Hey Rodney," John murmured, and while Rodney had been finishing his beer John had moved closer. Rodney could hardly breathe. He had to be misreading this. Didn't he? "I think you're pretty, too," John said, and then John's mouth was pressing gently against his.
John's lips were gentle and he tasted like beer. Rodney didn't mean to deepen the kiss, but it was a kiss; his body kind of took over, and he licked into John's mouth. John made a tiny sound of desire and without volition Rodney's hands moved to cradle John's head, sliding through his hair to hold him steady, and for a long lush moment it was perfect.
And then Rodney's brain caught up with him and the panic short-circuited everything. He'd worked hard to convince his so-called peer group in adolescence that he wasn't gay. That had resulted in two of his borrowed high school textbooks being defaced and Rodney himself being pushed into the mud. (The damage to the textbooks still smarted more than the insult to his person. He'd told his mother he'd fallen down, but there had been no good excuse he could offer to the physics teacher.) Could it be that those assholes had seen something in him that he hadn't been aware of, himself?
No. He wasn't gay. He couldn't do this. Rodney pushed back, horrified with himself. "What made you think--"
There was a swirl of words that he couldn't even remember afterward, and John's face shut down completely (that, he wouldn't be able to forget), and then John was gone.
The party is every bit as awful as he imagined it would be. It's a press of sandy, sweaty bodies. Girls in bikinis with snug t-shirts stretched tight over their breasts. Boys wearing baggy swim shorts and appalling innuendo-laden t-shirts ("I Eat Sushi," "Do You Expect It To Suck Itself?") Some dancing, some making out in the corner, some staggering drunkenly even though it's barely 8pm.
But he catches sight of the world's ugliest Hawaiian shirt, which he knows belongs to Mitch, and the ensuing adrenaline pushes Rodney through the crowd.
Mitch, unfortunately, is not happy to see him. "What the fuck?" His voice is loud and angry. "I don't fucking believe this. Who invited you?"
"Oh, yeah, like you need an engraved invitation to get in here," Rodney blusters. It's ridiculous; there wasn't even anybody posted at the door checking ID. If you're more-or-less college-aged -- or high-school-aged but cute, let's face facts -- you can just walk in. Of course, he hasn't been an undergraduate in years, and even when he was he didn't go to parties like this, but they don't know that. He's college-aged; that means he belongs.
Mitch shoves him, surprisingly hard. "Ow," Rodney whines. "It's a free country, or have they not covered that in your remedial American History class yet?" That turns out to be the wrong thing to say; Mitch grabs his arm and yanks it, which hurts. "Also, ow. I'm going to need that arm later."
Half of Rodney's mind is occupied with Mitch and his unexpected belligerence. The rest of him is frantically scanning the room. If Mitch is here, John couldn't be far, could he?
Then he spots John, lunging forward through the mass of bodies to reach them, and that's when Rodney realizes he has absolutely no idea what he's going to say.
John's hands land on Mitch's shoulders, pulling him back, for which Rodney is absurdly grateful. For a brief fleeting second there he'd wondered whether John might let Mitch deck him. Whether that would serve him right, given the way he treated John.
"Mitch," John says, and his voice sends a thrill through Rodney even though it's not pitched for his ears. "Stop."
Next thing Rodney knows, John's grabbing Mitch's fist and holding it back. Rodney knows his feelings are probably written all over his face -- anxious hope, a kind of giddy relief, longing -- but he can't bring himself to care.
"McKay," John hisses then, "what the hell are you doing here?"
That's a very good question, Rodney is about to say, but Mitch chimes in, yanking his fist out of John's grasp. "Can you believe it? The geek followed us here, all the way from school."
"Oh, shut up, you –- you Tom Cruise wannabe!" It's a dorky response but it's the best thing Rodney can come up with on short notice. Gratifyingly, several of the girls in the crowd giggle, so it must not be that bad a line. Not that he's remotely interested in this bevy of beach-blonde babes. Sam Carter could be standing here in a yellow polka-dot bikini and he doesn't think he would care.
Mitch interrupts his reverie, grabbing the front of his "I'm With Genius" t-shirt and pulling, hard. Suddenly it's a melée: the crowd's involved, pushing at both of them. Rodney sucks in air through his nose and tries not to hyperventilate. This is really not going according to plan.
"Damn it, Mitch, let him go," John yells.
"Don't worry, Shep, I'll take care of this loser for you." Mitch is slurring his words a little bit; he's drunk, Rodney realizes, and he's glaring at Rodney with a malevolence that actually makes Rodney panic. This isn't anything like the panic he felt when John kissed him. This is sheer animal terror, nothing psychological about it at all.
Rodney loses his footing in the scrum and slips toward the floor, bracing himself frantically. Over the din of the crowd and the music (which has gotten louder -- someone turned it up to accompany the fight?) he hears John yell, "I said, let him go!"
By the time Rodney scrambles to his feet, Mitch has gone down, John is staring at his own fist as though he can't believe he just decked his best friend, and then John and Rodney run like hell.
The night it happened, Rodney was in a fog. He made it back to his room somehow, stared at his computer screen for untold hours, put himself to bed.
The next morning he woke with his heart pounding. From sleep to full-blown panic attack in 2.3 seconds.
What had given John the idea that Rodney was interested in...that?
How had Rodney not known that John did guys?
Or did John do guys? What if it was just him?
That was ridiculous, he told himself; no way was he the exception who would turn an otherwise straight guy gay. Which meant that John had been gay -- at least occasionally -- before. And Rodney hadn't had any clue.
The mental image of John's face shutting down when Rodney had pulled away burned white-hot in his memory. It almost physically hurt him to remember it. But what was he supposed to do about that? He couldn't -- he wasn't -- he liked girls, damn it. He'd always liked girls. What the hell had John been thinking?
That thought was supposed to be indignant, but on the inside it felt more like regret.
After two wasted days trying to do dissertation work and failing entirely, Rodney dragged himself to the library -- the social science floor, which was embarrassing; he couldn't help skulking around the stacks, though it wasn't as if he was going to see anyone he knew in here anyway -- and checked out books. When he slammed the pile of hardbound volumes in front of the library clerk he stiffened his spine and raised his chin, as if daring her to say something, but she didn't even seem to register the titles as she scanned them and then handed them over.
He didn't sleep that night, reading everything Alfred Kinsey ever wrote. The man was certifiable, but it was quantifiable research, and that was what Rodney needed. Theorems and statistics he could struggle with, maybe eventually wrap his mind around.
The next day he went back for Klein. Klein seemed more credible than Kinsey -- at least, no one seemed to be hinting between the lines of any published papers that he was a perv -- but none of it really helped. The only conclusion Rodney could come to was that he was basically heterosexual. He liked women; he fantasized about women; breasts were obviously the greatest thing since the opposable thumb.
The trouble was, now he couldn't stop thinking about John. Who didn't have breasts -- at least, not ones you could cup and squeeze. But that kiss hadn't been like anything else in Rodney's (brief and distressingly devoid of datapoints) sexual life. It had terrified him. And he wanted it to happen again. So what did that make him?
Rodney's answering machine never blinked when he walked in the door, which meant John hadn't called. He stared at his phone as though it might hold answers, but he couldn't bring himself to pick up the receiver and call. For one thing, John probably hated him now. And for another, what exactly did he think he was going to say? He didn't have any idea.
Kneeling at John's feet in a crummy motel room with a towel full of ice in one hand is not exactly the most romantic setting for a declaration of intent, but it looks like this is the only chance Rodney's going to get. John hasn't fled yet, but Rodney's pretty sure that if he doesn't say something now, he's going to lose his chance. So when John quips that he didn't expect Rodney to be such a caretaker, Rodney takes a deep breath and starts talking.
He tells John that he's been doing a lot of thinking, not to mention research, and that having read all of the available literature, there's really only one conclusion that can be drawn. Rodney drops the ice pack and lets his hands rest on John's thighs, which tremble a little beneath his touch. (Is that good? He can't tell.)
"You're my incident, I'm gay for you, John, and I'm sorry about what happened, but no one's ever told me that they cared for me, not like that." Rodney knows he's babbling, but he can't seem to stop. "I just didn't have sufficient data to know how I'd react." To the kiss. To the way you looked at me. To any of it.
"No shit," John retorts. There's hurt in his voice and in his face, and it's so heartbreakingly appealing that Rodney can't resist making a move. If John were going to tell him to go fuck himself, he would have already done it, right? Rodney pushes John onto his back on the bed and straddles him. He feels magnetized, as though John's body were an irresistible force pulling him downward. Out of words, finally, Rodney bends to kiss him.
And oh, thank you Jesus, John is kissing him back. Deeply, enthusiastically, their bodies slotting together as if they were made for this. Which, Rodney thinks wildly, it's possible they might have been.
They're grinding together without finesse, which under other circumstances might be mildly embarrassing, but John's grabbing fistfuls of his shirt and pushing up and Rodney can't help the little moan that rises up in the back of his throat. John's strong, his body is hard (not just there -- everywhere), and he seems as into this as Rodney is.
Desperate for skin, Rodney pushes one hand beneath John's shirt and skates it up his belly to his chest. He finds one nipple and gives it a little pinch, just to see what that will do. John grabs his ass and shudders up, his head tipping back, and oh, fuck, John's coming right now, his whole body stiffening. Rodney pulls back a bit to watch, mesmerized. It's the hottest thing he's ever seen in his life. He's pretty sure he'll never jerk off thinking of anything else ever again.
And then in some kind of ninja move Rodney is seriously going to have to learn, John flips them so that Rodney's the one on his back. "Don't come yet," John snaps. "You got that, McKay? You come now and I never touch your dick again."
And Jesus fuck, who knew Rodney had a thing for being ordered around? Or maybe it's hearing those words in John's raspy post-orgasmic voice. One way or another, Rodney's holding on to his self-control by an act of sheer will. John is looking down at him like a man on a mission and Rodney's never been so hot for anyone in his life.
"It's a beach," Rodney says, squinting in the hot Texas sun.
"Your grasp of the obvious never ceases to amaze me," John says dryly, and Rodney snorts.
"Y'know, the sun and the surf aren't really my usual métier. I did mention I come from Canada, right?"
"Shut up," John says amiably, and toes off his sandals and walks right into where the water is rushing toward the shore.
"I'm supposed to follow you, is that it?"
John's waist-deep now, and with a whoop he dives into the next wave, coming up wet and sputtering.
"Oh, all right," Rodney says, aware that there was never really any question, and he leaves his sneakers and t-shirt on the sand and follows John in.
The first shock of water is cold (especially when the first wave soaks his nuts) but once he's immersed it feels pretty good. Respite from the heat. (How can this place be so hot already? It's only March. Unnatural.) And John's bobbing up and down in the water. Rodney swims out to him and discovers that his feet can touch bottom; he's standing on a sandbar.
"Hi," John says.
"I'd really like to kiss you," Rodney blurts. The desire is almost palpable. He can taste the salt on his own lips and he wants to lick it off of John's skin.
"Probably not the best idea," John says regretfully. "We're a ways out from shore..."
"But people can still see us. I know." Being gay kind of sucks sometimes.
"But we can do this," John says, swimming closer, and Rodney yelps as something unexpected (John's foot?) grazes his belly.
"Shhh," John says, grinning, his eyes crinkling in the sun, and he hooks his left leg around Rodney and pulls him closer. John pillows his head on his folded arms, floating on his back, though his legs are beneath the surface of the water and the left one is crooked snugly now behind one of Rodney's.
"This doesn't look suspicious?" Rodney asks, and then bites back a gasp as John's right foot presses gently against his erection. John's expression is nonchalant, but the foot that's teasing Rodney is moving insistently against him.
"Live a little," John says, and rubs the fabric of Rodney's baggy swim trunks against him. The pressure is almost too much, but Rodney jerks into it helplessly.
"This... why you wanted a...beach vacation, huh?" Rodney manages. It's not much, as banter goes, but it's the best he can do, and it keeps him from groaning loud enough for the swimmers fifty yards away to hear him.
A wave lifts Rodney off the ground. John was already floating; Rodney's feet leave the sandbar, and John tugs him closer, and some combination of John's agile toes and the feeling of being momentarily weightless sends Rodney over the edge. He bites his lip and gasps and John releases him.
"My turn?" John says hopefully after a moment has passed.
"Here's the thing," Rodney says thoughtfully. "I'd really like to try sucking you off, but I don't think I can hold my breath that long..."
He's barely completed the thought when John starts swimming for shore as fast as he can. Rodney can't help laughing as he follows.
Mitch isn't exactly gracious when they have breakfast together, but he doesn't scowl at Rodney much, and they manage something resembling polite conversation. Rodney figures they're both doing it for John's sake; that's something they have in common, at least.
And then Mitch loads up his car and drives away, and John carries his small duffel over to Rodney's Rabbit.
"I'm sorry it's a pit," Rodney says, realizing again that he probably should have cleaned the thing out before driving down here.
But John doesn't seem to care. "Can I drive?"
"This car doesn't go very fast," Rodney warns him, but John just grins.
"Not for you, maybe."
"Not for anyone! You can drive a stick, can't you?" Rodney asks, suspiciously.
John rolls his eyes. "I'm going to pretend you didn't just ask me that."
"I can't believe I offered to drive all the way back to Colorado with you," Rodney bitches. He's not sure he's ever been happier in his life.
They stop for barbecue at a place called Van's somewhere on highway 281. The portions are enormous and the barbecue sauce is hot and tangy and ridiculously good. Rodney orders ribs, which there is just no way to eat delicately. Midway through lunch he notices John staring at him.
"What," Rodney says. "Do I have barbecue sauce on my nose?"
"Your mouth," John bites out.
"Of course I have barbecue sauce on my mouth; I've been eating ribs, in case you haven't noticed," Rodney retorts. But then John licks his own lips, staring at Rodney's intently, and Rodney realizes that what he's seeing in John's eyes is hunger.
"Oh," Rodney says, and fumbles for a napkin to wipe himself off. "I didn't realize--"
"Tell me we're stopping at a motel tonight," John says, and the family eating at the next table probably thinks they're just planning their route, but Rodney's skin prickles all over with anticipation.
"Of course we are; you think I'd rather drive straight through?"
"Good," John says, and looks away, and swallows hard.
It's ridiculous, being this horny all the time. It's heady knowing that John wants this as badly as he does. Rodney manages to eat the rest of his lunch, but he doesn't really taste it. He's already thinking about nightfall and how soon they can respectably pull off the road.
The Comfort Inn in Amarillo is bland and boring, but Rodney isn't sure he'd notice if there were a ten-piece band perched on the other queen-sized bed. The minute they get their bags inside he's pinning John to the mattress, kissing him with desperation borne of a long day in close quarters, desire simmering just beneath the surface all the time.
John gives as good as he gets, and Rodney is breathless by the time they break apart, foreheads pressing together for a long moment as they each struggle for self-control.
"I, ah, I got condoms," John says at last, and Rodney's dick twitches.
"What, at the gas station?" Rodney pulls back, sits up, straddling John -- an echo of their first kiss; he may find motel rooms erotic for the rest of his natural life -- and John grinds up a little, grinning.
"The guy didn't even blink."
"I'm sure he thought they were for your girlfriend," Rodney points out.
"Do you really want to talk about what the gas station clerk probably thought?"
"Not exactly, no," Rodney admits, and reaches up to pull his shirt off over his head. John's hands settle on his chest, forefinger and thumb brushing his nipples, and Rodney hisses an inbreath, sensitized already.
"Would you fuck me?" John asks, and Rodney stares at him.
"It's not rocket science," John points out. His face is pink but he doesn't break eye contact.
Some part of Rodney can't believe what he's hearing. To the extent that he's thought about it (which he has -- furtively -- in between their entirely incredible assignations over the last few days) he's assumed things would go the other way. "You want me to--" He can't bring himself to finish the sentence.
"Yes," John says instantly. "I mean, unless you don't--"
There's shame in his voice then, and Rodney realizes that the flip tone of John's proposition was carefully-calculated. Asking for this cost John something, and Rodney can't stand the thought of saying no.
"No! I mean, yes -- I want to," Rodney says hastily.
"You sure about that?" Some of the studied nonchalance is back, but Rodney is a genius, after all; he isn't fooled.
"Shut up," Rodney says, and bends to kiss him again.
Rodney gets the condom on, though it's not easy; the damn thing is greased and his fingers are shaking a little. John is lying on his stomach already, face pillowed on folded arms. "Come on," John says, his voice muffled.
"I don't want to hurt you," Rodney says inanely.
"They're lubed, it's fine," John says, but Rodney looks at John's ass and he knows it isn't enough.
But he's watched his share of porn, so he has an idea. "Deep breath," Rodney says, and his thumbs part John's cheeks. John's back tightens; he's expecting penetration. Maybe expecting pain. Rodney feels a flash of fury at whoever John's been with before, that John doesn't seem to think he needs -- deserves? -- careful treatment.
The way John shudders and jerks beneath Rodney's hands when Rodney bends to lick is a pretty sure sign that he wasn't expecting this.
"Fuck," John grits out, squirming.
"Hold still," Rodney chides, and licks again.
"Oh my God," John groans, and Rodney can't help his smug smile. "Rodney, you didn't have to --"
Rodney tries something new with his tongue and John chokes out a gasp beneath him. This is nothing like what Rodney expected. He feels powerful. He can do anything. John is coming apart under his mouth and his hands. When he slides one wet finger in, John pushes back against him. When he licks around the knuckle, John gasps some more. Rodney thinks he could do this all damn night.
Until John stops him. "Rodney..." There's a catch in his voice.
"Hm?" Rodney's working his finger into and out of John, amazed by how John's body opens for him. Rodney's own cock throbs dully, an ache of arousal.
"I can't wait." John pushes himself up on hands and knees, hissing a little, and Rodney can see his hard cock hanging down.
He's not sure John's open enough, but what does he know? Rodney positions himself and -- oh, God -- slides inside. John's body is taut beneath his and Rodney has never felt anything like this in his life.
It doesn't take long to find a rhythm. Every stroke threatens to send Rodney over the top: he's been so hard for so long, and John is so spectacularly beautiful beneath him, arching his back and making little keening sounds when Rodney tries angling up a little bit. Rodney wishes, greedily, for a mirror mounted on the headboard so he could see John's face.
"Come on," Rodney murmurs, slowing his stroke. John pushes back, squirming against him, but the pull and drag of doing it nice and slow is so good that Rodney doesn't want to stop. He pulls almost all the way out and then slides home again and John gasps, his head falling forward. "Come for me," Rodney asks, his voice breaking, and John does. Rodney's own orgasm bowls him over like an unexpected wave in the ocean, the undertow pulling him deliciously out to sea.
The casual comfort of their road trip banter shifts once they're north of Denver. Rodney's at the wheel and he can feel his shoulders tightening up. It's cold outside; he hunches against the way he knows it's going to feel when they open the car doors.
Once they hit the Boulder town limits, there's no escaping it. "You want me to drop you off?" Rodney says abruptly.
John turns to look at him. "Huh?"
"You probably want some time to yourself." Rodney's paying attention to the traffic, that's all. He's not avoiding looking at John.
"I thought we'd order pizza," John says. "Y'know. Hang out for a while."
"Oh." Rodney's surprised. Pleasantly. "I didn't want to...impose."
"You don't strike me as the kind of guy who worries about imposing," John points out. "You drove halfway across the country to barge in on my spring break trip."
"It worked, didn't it?"
"I'm just saying, if I wanted you to go home, I'd tell you. But if it's all the same to you, I'd rather have a pizza and fool around some more."
Rodney can feel his cheeks turning pink. "If you insist."
John snorts and turns to look back out the front of the car, but the tension has dissipated.
Rodney calls for pizza while John drops their bags in his room. Turns on the TV, plunks himself down on the couch. The same couch where John kissed him, a million years ago.
When John comes out of the bedroom, Rodney's sitting there staring at the television, but he has no idea what he's watching. John sits next to him and it's as if he tripped some kind of switch: Rodney's half-hard already. Some kind of proximity-based reflex.
"Hey," John says quietly, and Rodney turns his head, and then they're kissing again. It feels more intimate here, somehow, now that they're not in some anonymous motel room on the road. They're in John's apartment, here in Boulder where their lives actually are, and John still wants to kiss him. Will wonders never cease?
They've moved from kissing to necking when the doorbell rings. Rodney curses. John adjusts himself, wincing a little, and goes to pay the pizza guy. When he comes back the pizza smells amazing, but Rodney wants John more than he wants the pizza.
"You wanna eat?" John asks.
"On the one hand, if we eat, we get our strength up," Rodney muses. "I'm hypoglycemic; it would suck to run out of energy at a critical moment."
"On the other hand," John prompts, having apparently intuited where this train of thought is going.
"On the other hand, I'd really like for you to fuck me," Rodney says. He's been practicing the words in his head all day. John drops the pizza on the coffee table with a cardboard clatter and grabs Rodney's wrist, making a beeline for the bedroom.
John's bedroom is small but he has a queen-sized futon. Rodney pushes down his trousers (which were chosen with the beach in mind; they're too thin for Colorado spring anyway) and yanks his shirt off and by the time he flops down on the bed John is naked too. The sheets and pillows smell like John's aftershave and shampoo, which is dizzying.
When John's hand skims down Rodney's side Rodney feels unaccountably nervous. "You remember the part where I've never done this before, right?"
"Take it easy," John murmurs, his voice soothing. "I'm not in any rush."
"I am," Rodney retorts. "I'm hard and I'm anxious and I want to get this over with!"
"See, that's exactly not how this is going to go," John says, and kisses him again. Soon they're tangled together again like they were on the couch. Only this time, lying down and without any clothes in the way. Their kisses are long and slow and John is hard against Rodney's hip, rubbing against him a little bit as though he can't help himself. Rodney clutches John's ass and pulls him closer, which feels amazing. John breaks the kiss and pushes Rodney onto his back, licking at one nipple and then moving down to Rodney's dick.
And oh, wow, John is good at this. Rodney groans and lets his legs fall further apart, thrusting up, and one of John's hands cradles Rodney's balls and rubs a little. The other hand is flailing around somewhere at the edge of the mattress, which Rodney can't bring himself to pay any attention to because this feels so goddamned good. He hears the pop of a lid and an obscene squirting sound and before he's even had time to process what that has to mean, one of John's fingers is gliding inside of him.
Lube makes all the difference in the world. There's no drag, no pull the way there was when he first fingered John: just the slick slide and press of feeling John in him. Rodney stutters up into John's mouth and down onto his finger and thinks he might die of pleasure.
And then John pulls his mouth away, but his finger's still there, moving insistently.
"This okay?" John asks.
"Oh, fuck," Rodney manages, because John just twisted his finger and hit what has to be his prostate -- he's done his reading, thank you, but the books didn't prepare him for this -- and he pushes shamelessly back, wanting more. "Please."
"I'm gonna take care of you," John promises, and now there are two fingers inside him. There's an ache, a stretch, but it isn't enough.
John's looking at him with an expression of open hunger. "You are so hot like this," John murmurs, driving his fingers in and twisting, and Rodney gasps and squirms, feeling open and exposed. His dick is hot and aching on his belly. If he touches it, he might come right now.
"Can you fuck me like this?" Rodney asks. The thought of seeing John like this, moving over him --
"It's not the easiest position, for your first time." There's regret in John's voice. "Rain check?"
"As long as you actually fuck me sometime soon," Rodney snaps, tartly. John laughs.
"Here," John says, and helps him scramble to turn over. For an instant, on hands and knees, Rodney feels the thrum of anxiety again. But then John's fingers return and Rodney remembers why they're doing this.
"Now," Rodney demands, and John obliges. The first press of him is terrifying -- too big, too much -- but somehow Rodney's body lets him inside. And then, after a long moment, John is moving in him, and his little sighs of pleasure are almost enough to distract Rodney from the discomfort.
And then John pulls back and fucks back into him and this time Rodney sees sparks.
"Oh," Rodney groans, startled. Apparently that's all the encouragement John needs; John keeps fucking him, with just that rhythm. Rodney's cock aches, but he can't lift a finger to touch himself; he's braced against John's hard thrusts. And oh, God, he's close. "John," Rodney pleads, "I can't--"
"Yes you can," John grits out, "C'mon, I want to feel it--"
The memory of how it felt last night when John clenched around him rises up and bowls Rodney over. Or maybe it's John's insistent cock nudging his prostate again and again. He's not ready for it to be over; he wants to hold on; but with a gasp Rodney comes all over John's sheets, collapsing onto his forearms. The shift in position jars John even deeper, and John moans as he comes too.
Rodney wakes up disoriented. The futon is nice and solid against his back but he's in it alone. John's room is dark, the shades drawn, though sunlight peeks in around the edges of the Venetian blinds.
Rodney inhales the scent of coffee and crawls out of bed, tugging on his boxer shorts when he finds them on the floor in the corner. John's standing in the kitchenette, eating a slice of cold pizza as the coffee maker slowly drips the elixir of life into the pot.
No wonder he's so hungry: they never ate dinner. "Pizza," Rodney says, and falls on it like a starving man.
John grins. "Breakfast of champions."
"Mmm, yes." Rodney flaps a hand at him absently. The one that's not holding the slice of pizza that's already halfway into his mouth.
It's Sunday. Classes start back up tomorrow, which isn't really an issue for Rodney because he's not TA'ing this semester. "Did you have work you had to do today?"
John shrugs. "Not a lot of homework over spring break. Did a couple of problem sets in the car on the way down, so I'd better track Mitch down and hope he didn't throw them out."
"How often does he clean his car?" Rodney has finished his second slice of pizza and is already feeling more human.
"About as often as you do, so I'm probably safe." John reaches for a pair of mugs and hands Rodney coffee, which Rodney inhales. "And you?"
"Laundry, I guess," Rodney says. "Everything I took to South Padre is mysteriously covered with sand."
John snorts. "You're going to blame me for that, aren't you?"
"I would not have wasted my spring break driving back and forth to the Texas coast if it weren't for you, so yes, of course I'm blaming you!"
"Aw, c'mon, what else were you going to do?" John's put down his coffee cup now, and he's leaning against the counter as though he knows exactly how hot he looks even unshaven and with his hair rumpled from sleep.
"It did result in getting laid," Rodney admits, "so I guess it was worth it."
"That's big of you," John drawls, and Rodney can't seem to resist setting down his own mug and moving closer.
"What can I say -- I'm just that kind of guy." The kiss tastes like pizza and coffee. Two things that shouldn't work well together, but somehow they do.