Julian doesn't think about Atlantis very often anymore. During his last three months at the Court, between making himself indispensable to Chief Justice Brankin, he thinks about it a lot. He thinks about the soaring architecture, the hyper-blue ocean, and about the people he met there - true heroes in the red, white and bluest way possible for an international expedition. He thinks about Rodney, and about Colonel Sheppard - John.
The first week back he spends so much time jerking off in the upstairs men's room that his cock gets raw from friction and Brankin asks him if he's picked up a stomach bug. He limits himself to once or twice a day after that, but spends most of his time half-hard and at least a quarter distracted. Over time, his absurd horniness fades and he thinks about that night a little less each day, pulling the memory out only occasionally after that - only when he really needs it.
September rolls around and his clerkship year is suddenly over. To his great surprise, the other clerks throw him a small party. They even give him gifts - Ellie a tasteful bowtie, Miguel a framed Harvard Crimson basketball jersey in his old number and, best of all, a Mont Blanc pen from Jerry - engraved "Mad Dog." He's touched and he says so completely without irony. He then kisses Ellie on the cheek and exits the Court to stunned silence. Julian smiles fondly as he walks down those majestic steps for the last time.
Chief Justice Brankin writes him a recommendation letter so glowing that he's actually embarrassed, and Julian finds himself with his pick of a slew of prestigious jobs. He decides to join Mayer Brown's Supreme Court and Appellate Practice, in hopes that he'll be arguing in front of the bench not too many years in the future. He settles down to the lot of a first-year associate - eighty hour work weeks and a head full of Lexis and case law and mind-numbing research.
His new coworkers rag him about the bowtie and the peppermill, and he takes a page out of Rodney McKay's playbook - he lets them laugh and then bludgeons them with his brain.
Ten months after Atlantis, Thomas Brankin dies during session. A massive heart attack - he's dead before the paramedics arrive. Julian attends the funeral and finds himself searching the mourners clustered around Arlene Brankin, wondering if he'll see Dr. Elizabeth Weir.
The new administration appoints a liberal justice and the Supreme Court is reborn. Roe v Wade is strengthened, gay marriage bans are struck down, and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" falls. Julian wonders if Rodney and John know, wonders if they're safe. The declassification of Atlantis isn't public yet, so Julian keeps the secret and still sometimes feels like the smuggest man in two galaxies.
One night in a bar near his apartment, Julian meets Emmett.
"Pardon me," Julian says to the man he's inadvertently bumped elbows with at the crowded bar.
"No problem." The man barely turns around, so all Julian sees is the movement of longish, wavy hair and a high forehead.
Julian sits and orders a Tanqueray and tonic, forgoing his usual merlot for something stronger. When it arrives, he takes a long sip and sighs as he sets the glass down, relaxing for the first time since 5:30 a.m., some sixteen hours ago.
"Rough day?" When the guy he bumped into turns to face him fully, Julian glances at him and forgets whatever he was going to say and nods dumbly instead.
"Sorry," Julian says, feeling a blush heat his face. "You...look like someone I know." And he does - he looks a lot like Rodney McKay. Younger, lots more hair, a tighter body, but a similar shape of face and big blue eyes like the ones Julian thought about frequently in the upstairs bathroom in the Supreme Court building.
"Emmett Thompson," the man says, holding out a hand.
Julian takes it and introduces himself, and that's how it begins. Emmett is a herpetologist, and after a couple of drinks he makes a self-effacing joke about showing Julian his snake. Feeling wild and free, Julian accepts, and that's how he winds up in a dirty groping session up against a glass wall that separates Emmett's messy office from the biggest freaking snake Julian's ever seen.
"Go out with me," Emmett gasps, one hand squeezing Julian's cock through his pants.
"Where?" Julian asks around the nipple he's teasing with tongue and teeth.
"Anywhere. Everywhere," Emmett gasps.
Somewhere in there, Julian agrees, and when Emmett drops him back at his car he's got sticky boxers, a medium-sized hickey and a date on Friday night.
Julian's never dated a guy and he has no idea how to go about it. He changes clothes three times, hating the suit, the khakis and oxford, and the jeans and sweater equally. Finally, in pure desperation, he hits on a plan. When Emmett rings the bell he's struck speechless - Julian answers the door in a snug black pullover and charcoal trousers, unshaven and with his hair gelled into unruly spikes and whorls. He calls it his "What Would Colonel Sheppard Do?" look, and judging by Emmett's gobsmacked expression, it works.
"Tell me about the guy I look like," Emmett says, his eyes never leaving Julian as he eats his salad.
"His name is Rodney," Julian says slowly. "He's a scientist, too."
"What kind?" Emmett asks.
"Astrophysicist - high-level government consultant."
Emmett makes a face.
"Do you dislike astrophysics or the government?" Julian asks.
"The government - they nearly killed Betty." He seems highly affronted. "You know," he says, leaning in to smirk at Julian. "That really big snake that watched me jerk you off on Tuesday."
Julian can feel his face flaming, and Emmett just smiles. "Oh, that blush is pretty," he says, his toe tracing a path along Julian's calf. "Do you want ice cream for dessert? I bet they have vanilla."
Julian gives him a dirty look, but moves his own foot to tease at Emmett's ankle. "I'm not that vanilla," he complains.
"Just kind of repressed," Emmett says. "Which is fine with me, by the way. It's a bit of a kink of mine. That's why I liked the bowtie so much."
Julian stabs a forkful of greens and gives him an arch look. "Should I have brought one with me?"
"Hmmm," Emmett says. "Wouldn't go with your outfit. Which I like - very rugged. You look hot."
Julian ducks his head to hide another blush and toys with the stem of his wine glass.
"I'm sorry," Emmett says, his voice softening. "I'm embarrassing you."
"It's okay," Julian says. "I'm just not used to..."
"Being told you're hot?" Emmett looks honestly confused. "Because you are."
"You're only the second person to ever tell me that," Julian says.
"More's the pity." Emmett takes a sip of his Scotch on the rocks and licks the rim of the glass in a blatantly sexual way. "Who was the first?"
"Rodney," Julian says.
"Is he the only other guy you dated?" Emmett doesn't seem mad or jealous, just curious.
"We didn't actually date," Julian says, and manfully suppresses another blush at the thought of what they did do.
Emmett smiles wickedly. "The plot thickens. Was it a one-night stand? A dirty weekend?"
"Somewhere between the two," Julian says.
"Lucky guy," Emmett says. If he plans to say anything else, it's lost forever when the waiter arrives with their entrees.
Julian's steak is perfect, and Emmett makes interesting sex noises over his pasta - he eats like Rodney, too; like the food might escape.
They're just finishing up when Julian hears his name.
"Julian? Is that you?"
He looks up to see Ellie Pearson heading his way, trailed by Miguel Mora. He stands to greet her.
"Julian, you look so different," she exclaims, giving him a quick hug.
Miguel grins and offers his hand to shake. "I haven't seen you since Chief Justice Brankin's funeral," he says.
Julian turns to Emmett, who is also standing.
"Emmett, this is Ellie Pearson and Miguel Mora - we clerked together at the Supreme Court. Ellie, Miguel - this is Dr. Emmett Thompson."
Ellie shakes his hand. "It's - um - Ellie Pearson-Mora now, actually," she says, blushing prettily.
Julian smirks at Miguel. "You sly dog," he says. He turns to Ellie. "And I didn't rate a wedding invitation or anything?
"We eloped," Miguel says. "We both work too much to plan a wedding."
"I hear you," Julian says. "Will you join us for coffee?"
Ellie and Miguel decline, citing previous plans and leave in a flurry of handshaking. Before she goes, Ellie gives Julian another hug. "You look great, really," she whispers in his ear, making him smile as he sits back down across from Emmett.
"You clerked at the Supreme Court?" Emmett asks.
"Senior clerk for Chief Justice Brankin," Julian says, still feeling smug about it. "Miguel and Ellie clerked for Justice Novelli."
"I like Novelli," Emmett says. "He seems to vote his conscience."
"Yeah," Julian says. "That was always a giant pain in the ass - we never knew which way he'd jump. I can't believe the two of them are married - they were constantly at each others' throats."
"UST," Emmett says.
"Unresolved sexual tension; pigtail pulling - whatever you want to call it. I bet he teased her a lot, didn't he?"
"Well, yeah - but he teased me, too, and I don't think the two of us had, uh, unresolved sexual tension."
Emmett grins. "What did he tease you about?"
"Mostly the bowtie - he liked to remind me that Donald Duck wore one."
"Hey - I like Donald Duck," Emmett says. "And, more to the point, I like you. With or without the bowtie. You wanna get out of here?"
"Sure," Julian says, skillfully easing the check out from under Emmett's napkin and slipping his American Express into the folder. "What do you want to do now?"
"I thought we could go back to your place and fuck," Emmett says, reaching across the table to run a calloused fingertip across the inside of Julian's wrist.
And, really, it's just that easy. Emmett slides into Julian's BMW, puts his hand on Julian's knee and moves it about a half an inch higher for each mile they drive. By the time Julian parks in the underground garage, Emmett is touching his balls and he can barely breathe. He's pretty sure that all three people in the elevator are impressed with his massive boner and the fact that Emmett's left hand is welded to his ass, fingertips sliding into the cleft and pushing the cloth of his pants against his asshole hard enough to make Julian break out in a sweat.
Once they get inside the apartment, Emmett strips them both efficiently and pins Julian to the bed.
"I want you to fuck me," Emmett growls.
"Oh, Jesus," Julian moans. "I don't know what to do."
"Do you prefer to be on the bottom, or are we just dealing with a lack of experience, here?" Emmett's eyes sparkle in the low light.
"Lack...of...experience," Julian grits out, shoving his dick hard against Emmett's leg with each word.
"Okay," Emmett says. "I can work with that." He leans forward to rummage in Julian's nightstand drawer, and that brings his chest into range. Julian licks and sucks at Emmett's nipples until he straightens up with a condom and lube in hand.
Emmett slicks up his fingers and reaches behind himself. "Normally, you'd do this part," he says, "but I'm in a big fucking hurry, so we don't have time for on-the-job training." He brings his wet hand to the front and runs it over Julian's cock, making him quake. He opens the condom with his teeth and spits the wrapper away before rolling it down onto Julian, who bucks under him.
"Just a minute," Emmett says, stroking more lube onto Julian's latex-sheathed cock. "Okay," he says, wiping his hand on the comforter and lifting himself up. He grabs Julian's cock and maneuvers them into position, and Julian can feel the press of his fingertips guiding the head to Emmett's slicked ass.
And then, Emmett bends his knees and slides all the way down in a slow, controlled glide. After that, things get crazy. Emmett digs his fingers into Julian's shoulders and gives him a Kentucky Derby-class ride. For his part, Julian mostly provides soundtrack - a litany of moans and curses and improbable strings of words and half-words - and clutches at Emmett's straining thighs.
Emmett manages to peel one of Julian's hands off his leg and guides it to his cock. Julian strokes it hard and fast, wishing he was limber enough to get it into his mouth. Emmett obliges him by coming hard enough to splatter Julian's neck and lips and chin. When Emmett, in an unlikely feat of flexibility, reaches back and shoves a finger up his ass, Julian comes so hard he feels like his head has exploded.
And that's just the beginning. Emmett is a master at fucking. He becomes a master at fucking Julian, and in being fucked by Julian. They don't even leave the apartment at all that first weekend. Julian fucks Emmett again, this time with Emmett face-down on the bed with his knees pulled almost up to his armpits; Emmett fucks Julian flat on his back with his feet in the air and hammers into him until Julian is almost sobbing; they suck each others' cocks like they're dying for it. Emmett rolls Julian onto his side and finger-fucks him into a shuddering, shattering climax; Julian returns the favor with the world's slowest blowjob, finally letting Emmett thrust strongly into his mouth and come down his throat. They trade handjobs in the shower and kisses in the kitchen.
On Sunday night, they order takeout Chinese and Emmett ties Julian to the headboard with two of his silk bowties. Once Julian is securely restrained, Emmett makes him confess everything he's ever done in bed. With anybody. Julian tells him about Sarah in high school and Nancy and Claire and Leslie in college, all about the boring, fumbling sex in dorm rooms and the backseats of cars. He tells Emmett about the infrequent encounters in the bathrooms of seedy bars, about the blowjobs and handjobs that he sought out when the stress and loneliness of law school got to be too much. He even tells Emmett about the half-drunken grope he shared with Jerry Klein in a janitorial closet during the Supreme Court holiday party - the one they never acknowledged.
Emmett has patience down to an art. Throughout the litany of Julian's sexual history, he keeps him balanced on a razor edge with perfectly-timed touches and sucks and nips, with the fleeting press of his fingertips into Julian's ass and the sting of his teeth on Julian's nipples. Finally, he asks Julian to tell him about Rodney, and Julian shocks them both by detailing the threesome with Rodney and John. When he finishes, panting and gasping, Emmett hoists Julian's legs onto his shoulders and fucks them both to a searing orgasm.
The threesome becomes a favorite bedtime story.
When they've been dating for six months, Julian asks Emmett to move in. Books about snakes nestle next to legal texts on the bookshelves, and Emmett insists on bringing Daisy, a ball python, to live with them. Julian adjusts, but can't stomach the live feedings. Emmett says he identifies too strongly with the mice, which gets him put on blowjob restriction for a week, which he claims is cruel and unusual punishment, but he takes to feeding Daisy while Julian is at work.
Their first fight is stupid, and they have to stop in the middle when neither of them can recall what they were fighting about. They both work too much and lose track of time and miss dinner reservations and forget birthdays. They're both guys, so they never have clean socks and the dishes sometimes grow mold. Emmett mocks Julian's pepper and his obsession with Harvard basketball, and Julian gives Emmett hell for watching too much Learning Channel and for trimming his toenails in the living room.
The sex stays great, and Julian finds himself relaxing a little, drifting a bit even on his busiest days, bolstered by thoughts of Emmett and his sure touch and strong hands. They have dinner with Ellie and Miguel at the couple's new house, and Julian only blushes a little when they get caught making out on the back deck. He blushes a lot when Ellie keeps grinning maniacally at him for the rest of the night.
One Friday night, in their eleventh month together, Emmett slips into bed and takes a case file out of Julian's hands and gently removes his reading glasses, placing them on the night stand.
"Tell me a story," he says.
Julian winds up propped against the pillows, on his back with his knees bent, telling the threesome story as Emmett rests his head on Julian's flat belly and works well-lubed fingers into his ass. When he gets to the good part, Emmett does something that hurts - a sharp flare of pain followed by an equally sharp bolt of pleasure.
"Christ, Julian - that's four. Pretty soon I'll get my whole hand inside you."
Julian comes so hard he forgets his last name and his Bar scores. He's only half-aware when Emmett eases his fingers out and ruts himself to an orgasm against Julian's hairy shin.
The next morning, Rodney McKay rings their doorbell.
Julian answers the door in his oldest sweatpants and a wash-worn Harvard tee, accessorized with bedhead and bare feet. Rodney just stands there with a suitcase at his feet.
"Rodney?" Julian whispers, pulling him into a tight hug. Rodney stays stiff for a long moment, then wraps his arms around Julian's back and squeezes so hard that Julian squeaks. Julian feels Rodney's lips move against his neck, but he can't tell what he's saying. Rodney lets go of him abruptly, then takes Julian's face in his hands and kisses him like Julian's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
"Stick, who's at the door?" Emmett calls out lazily from the living room.
Julian pulls away from Rodney's mouth, but finds himself unable to answer. Instead, he grabs Rodney's suitcase and brings it inside, shutting the door. "E? You might not believe this one," he finally hollers over his shoulder.
Emmett strolls into the foyer and looks at them both curiously. "You must be Rodney," he says. "You do look like me."
Except that he doesn't, really. He's thinner and paler than Julian remembers, and he looks exhausted and haunted and lost. His eyes are dull, his hair is trimmed ruthlessly short, and he's got new scars - most noticeably one that runs along his jaw line and down into the collar of his sweater.
Emmett slides and arm around Julian's waist and holds the other hand out to shake. "Emmett Thompson," he says.
Rodney shakes his head like he's discouraging a buzzing insect, then shakes Emmett's hand. "Rodney McKay," he says, and his voice is rusty, as if from disuse. He looks sharply at Julian. "Stick?"
"Yeah," Emmett says. "Sometimes he's got a real stick up his ass. I tried calling him "Priss," but that caused the Great Sex Embargo of the Third Week of February."
"Wow, Emmett," Julian says in a flat tone. "Why didn't you just stalk out here and pee on me? I think Rodney gets the point that we're involved."
Rodney nods and cracks a small smile. "I get it. Nice to meet you, Emmett." He runs a hand through his hair, exposing another scar, this one small and round and on his head. Rodney turns back to Julian. "I'm sorry I didn't call. I should have called."
"Nonsense," Julian says. "You're always welcome here. How long are you in town?"
"Ten days," Rodney says. "Enforced leave of absence. Recovery, whatever you want to call it."
"Well," Julian says, picking up Rodney's suitcase. "We have a spare bedroom." He gives Emmett a pleading look and gets a slow nod in answer. "You can stay with us," he assures Rodney.
"I can get a hotel," Rodney says. "There's lots of back pay, combat pay..."
Julian ignores him and carries the suitcase into the hall, opening the door to a small bedroom.
Rodney looks at Emmett. "I looked like you when I was younger and not so fucked up." Emmett nods and steps aside to let Rodney follow Julian, then he retires to the living room on quiet feet.
In the bedroom, Julian helps Rodney out of his coat, hanging it on a hook on the back of the door. Rodney sits heavily on the edge of the bed and drops his head into his hands. Julian squats down in front of him and lays one hand on the back of his neck. Rodney's skin is warm - he remembers how Rodney radiates heat.
"Do you want to tell me about it?" he asks.
"No," Rodney says, keeping his head down. "Not right now."
Julian nods, then starts untying Rodney's shoes. "Here, take a nap. We can talk later."
Rodney lets himself be manhandled onto the bed, lets Julian tuck a quilt around his legs and turn out the light. Just as Julian shuts the door, he hears a quiet, "Thank you." He stops for a second, then opens the door again. "Rodney," he says quietly. "You don't have to tell me anything, but is John okay?"
In the shaft of light from the hallway, Rodney blinks owlishly, then he smiles, and Julian thinks that he looks a tiny bit like the Rodney he left in the Atlantis gate room. "He's okay," Rodney says.
Julian nods and shuts the door. Emmett is waiting in the living room, pretending to watch television. He scoots close when Julian sits next to him on the sofa.
"So, we're 'involved,'" he says, and Julian can hear the air quotes.
"What's the difference?" Julian asks, rubbing a hand over his stubbled jaw.
"Eggs and bacon," Emmett replies. "Chickens are involved; pigs are committed."
Julian laughs and leans over to kiss Emmett's uneven mouth. "I love you, moron," he says.
"Yes," Emmett says, kissing back. "But, are you committed?"
When he replies with, "I probably should be - to a loony bin," Emmett tries to smother him with a pillow.
Rodney wakes up all at once, sitting bolt upright in the strange bed, his fingers touching the scar on his jaw. He's utterly surprised that he doesn't feel the slick wetness of blood. In his dreams, there's always blood there. It had run down his jaw in a constant sluggish stream, soaking his collar and down the arm of his shirt. He turns on the bedside lamp and eases himself to the edge of the bed. His body is still sore, but the headache that's been his constant companion for six weeks is receding.
He gets up and unpacks his meager belongings, stowing the case in the closet. He gathers his toiletries kit and clean clothes, then walks across the hall to the bathroom. The shower is nice and hot, and it melts more of the tension out of his muscles. After his shower, he shaves carefully, trying to only look at the parts of his face that he has to in the mirror. The scar requires careful attention - it has uneven spots, and he doesn't want to cut himself there. He brushes his hair to cover the round scar, still tiredly furious at Carson for drilling a hole in his head, even if it was necessary at the time.
When he goes into the living room, Julian is alone on the couch, and he motions for Rodney to sit beside him.
"Feel better?" Julian asks.
Rodney nods. "A little. Where's Emmett?"
"Kitchen," Julian says. "Getting dinner ready. Steaks on the grill work for you?"
Rodney nods again. His appetite hasn't been good for a while, but a steak does sound pretty nice. "I...I was sorry to hear about Brankin," Rodney says. "He was a good guy."
Julian gives him a small smile. "He was a cranky old pain in the ass," he says. "But he was a good Chief Justice. I guess you're up to speed on the new Court?"
"Not really," Rodney says. "I mean I know about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and all that, but we've been a little busy."
"Do you want to tell me about it?" Julian turns to Rodney and lays a gentle hand on his knee. "Do you want to tell me what happened to you?"
Rodney laughs harshly. "Not much, just another near-death experience." He brings one hand up to touch the scar on his jaw. "Captured, tortured, beaten, starved, hypoglycemic coma, subdural hematoma. Then, as a bonus, my whole team nearly got killed coming to save me. It was a banner fucking day."
Julian's hand comes up to cover his, his fingertips cool and smooth against the twist of scar tissue. "Everybody's okay?"
"John got shot in the back, Teyla nearly lost her arm and Ronon has about fifty new scars from shrapnel. Didn't stop the behemoth, though - he still managed to haul me to the gate. He didn't even drop me on my head once." Rodney's voice is strained and bitter.
"Jesus, Rodney," Julian says. "It wasn't your fault. You would have done the same for them."
"Would I?" Rodney asks, his eyes searching Julian's face. "I don't know. I wish I did, but I don't know if I would have gone back."
"You would have," Julian says, lifting Rodney's chin so their eyes meet. "You would have, especially for John."
Rodney leans forward and touches his forehead to Julian's, the way he had when they parted in his bedroom on Atlantis. "Okay," he says. "Okay, I believe you."
"Why did they send you home, Rodney?" Julian asks, and Rodney can feel the soft puff of his breath against his face.
"My kidneys were failing, and there was nothing Carson could do. They have a...healing device at Cheyenne Mountain, and one person who can make it work. She used it on me."
"Did it work?" Julian's voice crackles with concern.
"Yeah." Rodney closes his eyes for a second, then opens them. "Yeah, it worked. If it hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to go back. I would have stayed here and gotten a transplant, but that's a disqualifier for the mission."
Julian sighs in relief. "I'm glad," he says. "Really glad."
They're still leaning together when they hear a soft cough from the doorway, and they part slowly and turn to face Emmett.
"How do you want your steak, Rodney?" Emmett asks.
"Uh, medium's fine," Rodney says, turning away to swipe at his damp eyes.
Emmett nods. "Raw like usual, Julian?"
"Sure," Julian says. "You need any help?"
"You can do the wine," Emmett says. "Everything else is under control."
Rodney hears the back door open and shut as Emmett goes out onto the deck. "Is he really okay with me being here?" he asks.
"Yes," Julian says. "He knows all about us, Rodney."
"Really?" Rodney can't quite believe that Julian's so casual about having his - what? boyfriend and his former lover? one-night stand? in the same house.
"He likes for me to tell him the threesome story in bed," Julian confides with a wink. "Gets him off like crazy."
Rodney shakes his head. "Look at you...so...relaxed. I created a monster."
"Yeah," Julian smirks. "Did I ever thank you for that?"
Rodney just shakes his head some more, but he can't stop his smile. "I'm glad you're happy."
Julian ducks his head. "I'm going to get the wine. Why don't you go out back? We have a great view."
The view is nice - all of DC spread out beneath the terrace, full of twinkling lights coming on in the gathering twilight. Emmett's back is to Rodney as he tends to the huge stainless steel grill. Rodney takes the time to really look at him - longish hair, faded tee, snug cargo pants and bare feet; Emmett looks comfortable - easy in his own skin. In contrast, Rodney feels like his skin is ill-fitting; too tight, too raw, too...everything.
"Julian says you're an astrophysicist," Emmett says, turning around.
"Yeah, mostly theoretical," Rodney says. "What do you do?"
"Herpetologist," Emmett replies. "Snakes - mostly constrictors, with a side of pythons on occasion. I'm working on a universal anti-venom at the moment, so I have the occasional vipers and rattlers in the lab, but don't tell Julian, he worries."
Rodney nods. "He told me you know about...us," he says hesitantly.
Emmett smiles. "Oh, yeah. Nice work, by the way - he's something else."
Rodney feels his face stretching into a grin - the feeling is foreign, but welcome. "That he is. He's the reason I have...well..."
"John?" Emmett says.
Rodney nods. "I owe him, big time."
"John didn't come with you?"
"No," Rodney says, shaking his head. "He was needed on base. He usually is."
Emmett frowns. "I'm, uh, not a big fan of the government," he says. "There was an incident a few years ago, and I almost lost Betty."
"Largest boa in captivity, and sort of a pet, really. If you can call a seventy-foot snake a pet."
"Seventy feet?" Rodney asks, wide-eyed. "Fuck, that's a big snake."
Julian steps out onto the terrace, a bottle of wine and two glasses in one hand and a beer in the other. He hands the beer to Emmett, who takes it with a smile, and hands one of the wine glasses to Rodney.
"You guys okay?" he asks, carefully filling Rodney's glass.
"Yeah," Rodney says, "he was just telling me about his snake."
Julian laughs. "That's how he picked me up, too." He laughs harder when Emmett splutters on a mouthful of his beer.
Rodney takes a sip of his wine and watches as Julian playfully whacks Emmett on the back. They look good together - easy and happy, and it makes Rodney think about John in a quiet and soothing way, without worry for once in a very long time. He knows that Sam sent a message back through the gate after the Tok'ra healing device worked. He knows that John knows he's coming back, with functioning kidneys and no more migraines, and he hopes that things can be like they were before. He hopes that he never has to leave John again, not knowing if he'd be allowed back. It's crazy, but he'd rather die in Pegasus with John than to come back here where things feel so wrong.
And he knows that John had the right idea, sending him to Julian with a whispered "let him take care of you" and a sweet, hopeful smile "Do you mean..." Rodney had said, bewildered. "Whatever you need, Rodney." John had brushed his lips over Rodney's cheekbone, traced gentle fingertips over the scar. "Let him give you what you need."
He jumps when Julian slides an arm around his shoulders and pulls him close for a second. "Dinner soon," he says. "How are you holding up?"
"Tired, but that was expected. The doctors said I'd feel better every day." Rodney puts his hand on Julian's hip. "God, I hope that's true."
"Thinking about John?" he asks.
"Always," Rodney says with a sigh and a smile.
"Get the door," Emmett says behind them. "Dinner's ready."
Julian opens the door to the apartment and ushers Emmett through with the platter of steaks. Rodney follows his nose.
After dinner, Rodney pleads exhaustion and goes back to bed. Julian comes into the kitchen and slips his arms around Emmett's waist as he loads the dishwasher.
"Thank you," he says, kissing the back of Emmett's neck.
"Letting Rodney stay," Julian says, working his way to the side of Emmett's neck and under the hinge of his jaw. "Not being jealous."
"I've never been jealous of him before," Emmett says. "Why would I start now?" Closing the dishwasher, he braces his hands on the counter and tilts his head, giving Julian better access.
Julian slides one hand down to cup Emmett's cock, and it responds like it always does - eagerly. Emmett moans and shifts his hips forward. "Bedroom?" he gasps.
"Too far," Julian says, turning Emmett in his arms and unbuttoning and unzipping his pants. "Hop up on the counter."
As Emmett hoists himself up, Julian strips his pants down to his knees. "Mmmm, commando," he says, smirking. Emmett grins, then groans out loud when Julian lowers his mouth down to lick the head of his cock.
Julian never thought that he'd love this so much, feeling another man's cock slipping into his mouth, pressing his tongue down with a heavy, salty weight. He never thought about it much at all, really. Most of his encounters before Rodney and John were rushed, quick handjobs or blowjobs in bathrooms, where it was okay to refuse to go down sometimes and just use his hand instead.
Before Rodney, he only ever let one man fuck him, and he didn't even know his name - it was a drunken night in a no-name bar way the hell out in Virginia, where, after getting his blowjob, he let the guy push him hard against a sink. Julian watched himself blearily in the mirror while the guy roughly stretched him and pressed his latex-covered cock inside. He wasn't able to look away from his own eyes, pupils blown, open wide and shocked. The guy hadn't taken long, and he pulled out with a muttered "thanks" and left. Julian stared into the mirror for a while, wondering if that's what being queer looked like.
And then there was Rodney - careful and confident and determined, and Julian got his safe little world turned around. It made him think - really think - about things, and it had an immediate dampening effect on his sex life - with anything other than his hand; at least, until Emmett.
Emmett, who holds Julian's head in his hands and fucks up into his mouth with careful strokes, all the while whispering "please" and "Julian" and quiet curses and prayers. Julian bobs his head harder, opening his throat and letting Emmett's cock push in further, as far as he can take it and then just a little bit more. He knows Emmett, knows the sounds he makes when he's close, knows the tightening in his thighs just before he comes. Julian pushes down and swallows, bracing himself for the uncontrolled thrust as Emmett comes hard in his mouth, his body folding over Julian's back.
"Jesus," Emmett swears. "Bed, Julian. Right now. I want you in me."
"I can do that," Julian says, and helps him off the counter.
Rodney sleeps a lot the first week, but he gets stronger every day. His head doesn't hurt, and the dull ache across his lower back fades. When Julian and Emmett go to work, he starts taking walks around the neighborhood, letting the fall sun shine down on his face and bring some color back to his cheeks. He goes to the farmer's market and brings back apples, enthralled with their crisp juiciness, not realizing how much he'd missed them. He goes to afternoon movies and catches up on all the physics journals, occasionally scribbling notes in the margins. He checks in with Sam every few days, hungry for news of Atlantis. She tells him that everything's fine and that he's missed, and promises to pass along his greetings at the weekly dial-in.
But mostly, he misses John. Being a spectator to Julian and Emmett's happy domesticity makes him ache for home, for the movie nights and stolen hours in his bed or John's. He even misses the missions, misses walking on unknown planets, snarking with John, teasing Teyla and Ronon. He misses doing five impossible things before breakfast.
One morning, he wakes up early and can't go back to sleep, so he goes into the kitchen and finds the coffee already made and Julian at the table eating cereal and reading the paper. He gets himself a cup and sits, taking in Julian, sitting there in his shirtsleeves and suit pants, his face freshly shaved. He looks young and beautiful, and Rodney's heart aches for John.
"Hey," Julian says, looking up from his paper.
Rodney smiles. "Hey." He sips his coffee, savoring the expensive brew.
Julian gets up and puts his bowl in the sink, then goes into his and Emmett's bedroom. He comes out with his vest, jacket and tie in his hand. He hangs the jacket over the back of his chair and hands the rest to Rodney. Rodney's mouth goes dry, but he accepts the vest and tie and stands up, moving behind Julian.
He slips the vest over Julian's arms and moves to the front to button it, keeping his eyes on the motion of his fingers on the buttons. Julian's breath catches when Rodney flips his collar up and threads the tie around his neck. Rodney ties the tie in a perfect bow, then folds the collar down, tugging at the points. He moves behind Julian again, holding the jacket by the collar. Once it's in place, he reaches around Julian's waist to button the middle button. Julian leans into him, and Rodney holds him close for a minute. Just before he lets him go, Rodney brushes a soft kiss over the back of Julian's neck. Julian shudders, then steps away, picking up his briefcase.
At the kitchen door, he turns to look at Rodney. Rodney stares at him for a moment, then nods. Julian nods back and leaves, and Rodney finds that he has to sit down at the table again to catch his breath.
Later, he watches Emmett feed Daisy, and he doesn't even flinch as the mouse goes down her throat.
Emmett isn't sure what to do. He wants to go to his lab - there are reports to be run and snakes to be fed, but he feels bad leaving Rodney alone on the next-to-last day of his visit. Emmett knows he's not the one Rodney has come to see, but he also knows there's no way in hell he can step aside. He's just not that good. The attraction between Rodney and Julian, like the history between them, is no secret. He has a lot to thank Rodney for.
Emmett comes out of his bedroom to find Rodney on the couch with a physics journal in his lap. He's not reading it. Instead, he's staring at the framed photo of Emmett and Julian that sits on the end table - they're both wearing tuxedos, standing with their arms around each other. In the photo, Emmett is looking at the camera and Julian is looking at Emmett. He loves that picture, because everything is right there in Julian's face - all the affection, respect and love that Julian feels for him; every gift they share.
"That was last New Year's," Emmett says softly, and he's oddly pleased that Rodney doesn't jump like he would have at the beginning of the week.
"You clean up nice," Rodney says, looking at Emmett's cargo pants and tee shirt.
"Yeah." Emmett feels a smile stretch across his face as he remembers getting ready for the party. He sits down next to Rodney and picks up the photo, running a finger down Julian's profile. "He picked out the tux," he says. "I don't know anything about that stuff. I would have just rented one, but he wouldn't hear of it. It's some designer something and he made me get it tailored."
"Looks good," Rodney says.
"He was a real little bitch about it," Emmett says, smiling. "But he made it up to me. When we were getting ready for the party, he put that goddamn tuxedo on me, piece by piece. He did it so slow and careful and he wouldn't let me stop him or even talk. Who knew putting clothes on could be so sexy?"
Emmett takes in Rodney's little secretive smile and hides one of his own. "In the car, while I'm sitting there completely stirred up, he told me about you putting his suit on him when he visited you." He smiles when Rodney's eyes go wide.
"He - he told you that?"
"Oh, yeah. In that cool, collected lawyer voice while driving that overpriced status car down the fucking Beltway, and he tells me about the mirror and the way you touched him - how your hands felt on his hips and on his stomach, how you tied his bowtie and then took him to breakfast." Emmett laughs. "I thought I was going to have a stroke."
"Jesus," Rodney says, his face flushing.
"That was the night I realized that I was in love with him and that I was going to be in love with him for the rest of my life," Emmett says quietly. "He's the most important thing I've got."
"Are you warning me off?" Rodney says, "Because I'm not that good with subtlety."
"No," Emmett says. "Not warning you off at all. I'm just saying that no matter what happens between you and Julian, or you and Julian and me, it's not going to change the way I feel about him."
"Oh," Rodney says. "That's good." He stills, thinking hard. "Did you just say 'you and Julian and me'?"
Emmett nods, then replaces the framed photo on the table and stands up. "You want to go to the lab with me?"
"Uh, sure," Rodney says, and Emmett goes back to the bedroom for shoes.
Emmett's car turns out to be a battered SUV, and Rodney has to move a small aquarium - thankfully empty - off the front seat before he slides in. As they pull out of the underground parking deck, Rodney squints in the bright sun until Emmett hands him a pair of sunglasses. He slips them on, then takes in the city scenery as Emmett heads toward Northern Virginia and his lab, his hair blowing in the cool breeze from the open window.
Once they arrive at the lab, Rodney doesn't say anything, just looks at Betty through the glass of her enclosure. Emmett notes that there's not a bit of fear in Rodney's face - he's just a little curious.
"You want to go in and meet her?" Emmett asks; he expects the quick refusal that he's always gotten from Julian.
Rodney shrugs. "Okay."
"Keep a little distance from me," Emmett advises. "She'll want to check me out before meeting new people." Rodney nods. Once inside the enclosure, Betty turns her head toward Emmett, her tongue flicking out to taste the air around him. Satisfied, she moves closer and allows Emmett to lay a hand on the top of her head.
"Come on in," Emmett says, gesturing to Rodney.
Rodney steps in, and the door closes automatically. Emmett notes that Rodney doesn't even flinch. Betty's head snaps over to Rodney and stops just in front of his face. Again, Rodney doesn't flinch. Emmett is impressed. As Betty's tongue flicks around him, Rodney holds his ground. Eventually, she moves her head in even closer, and Rodney places his hand atop her head, just as Emmett had done. She looks at him for a few long seconds, then shifts her coils and moves her head away: the snake equivalent of a shrug.
Emmett walks over to the door and keys in a code. "She's done with us," he says, gesturing for Rodney to step out the door. Once the vault is secured, Emmett looks at Rodney. "Is this where you make a remark about getting weirder things with your breakfast cereal?"
Rodney smiles - it's a small smile, but it's bigger than the ones he shown so far in his tenure at their place. "Something like that," he says. "Go do your stuff. Have you got an Internet connection I can use? I need to correct the most egregious errors in the world of physics before I go back."
Emmett nods and points to a computer in the corner; the one next to the seven others. "You make it sound like you don't have access at home."
Rodney hesitates for a second. "It's a remote base. A really remote base. It's also really classified."
"Okay," Emmett says, tamping down his curiosity. He knows that this is a secret that both Rodney and Julian know, and that he may never know, and it grates a little. But, he understood that there were a few things that Julian had to keep to himself after his clerkship year, and this is just one of them. Doesn't make him like secrets between them, though.
Rodney sits down in front of the computer and starts typing at a speed that Emmett's never seen before, so he starts several of the other machines cranking out reports and feeds some of the smaller snakes.
"What do they eat?" Rodney's still typing, he barely looks up.
"Some eat live food, some eat dead food, some eat other snakes - it just depends," Emmett is releasing large white rats into one of the aquariums as he speaks.
"What does Betty eat?" Rodney's actually looked away from the computer for this question.
Emmett snorts. "Sides of beef. Don't worry; she had one a few days ago."
Rodney nods and goes back to his rapid-fire typing.
Three hours later, Emmett looks up from his reports. "We'd better head out if we want to miss traffic."
Rodney nods and shuts down the computer, and he goes to stand at the window to Betty's enclosure while Emmett sets reports running again and checks heat lamps. When he joins Rodney at the window, he sees that Betty's looking out at Rodney, who has his hand pressed against the glass.
"Stick owes me ten bucks," Emmett says. "He said you wouldn't go in there."
"A couple of years ago, I probably wouldn't have." Rodney puts his hands in his pockets and follows Emmett out to the car.
"You owe me ten bucks."
It's not Julian's preferred way to have someone answer the phone, but it works. "Oh, my god. You fed him to Betty." He's only half worried that it's true.
"Did not," Emmett says, laughing. "She liked him."
"Friendly liked him or Big Mac liked him?" Julian can't help teasing Emmett a little; it's really fun.
"When are you coming home?" Emmett asks.
"Early. And I'm bringing food from the not-crappy Chinese place."
"But I like the crappy place," Emmett whines, and Julian hates to admit he finds it a little sexy. "You'll get over it; I'll talk to you later." He hangs up the phone, but the smile stays with him.
He buries his head in research until 5:00, knowing that it's the earliest he can leave without looking like a slacker, and it's probably actually two hours earlier than that. Fuck 'em; he'll make it up later.
He takes the Metro and gets off one stop early to go to the not-crappy Chinese place. He called the order in before he left the office, asking about citrus twice. He grabs a cab to their building. Normally, he'd walk the mile and a half, but he wants to get home. When he gets to the door, Emmett is waiting with a quick kiss before he snatches the bags.
"Go wake Rodney," he says on his way to the kitchen, but Julian goes to their room to change into sweats and a tee shirt first. He slips into the guest room and looks at Rodney, asleep on the bed.
He looks good - better than when he showed up at the door. He's gained a few pounds, and the tired lines around his eyes and mouth have faded. He sleeps soundly, instead of the tossing that Julian had watched from the door a few times.
Julian can see that Rodney's starting to wake up, so he slips into bed behind him, sliding gently under the covers. He's not surprised when Rodney turns toward him in his sleep and presses his face to Julian's chest. One warm arm steals around Julian's hips and one of Rodney's legs pushes between his knees.
"John," Rodney whispers, and Julian doesn't say anything, he just holds Rodney with an arm across his shoulders and kisses the top of his head. He stays there, waiting and watching in the half-light as Rodney eases from sleep to wakefulness, much more gently than the muffled shouts Julian's heard through the wall.
"Hey," Julian says softly when Rodney's eyes flutter open, his fingers flexing against Rodney's back.
"Not John." Rodney's voice is sure, but he doesn't let go. "Julian."
"Yes." Julian rubs his cheek against Rodney's hair.
Rodney lifts his head from Julian's chest, the arm from around his waist moving up slowly, stopping when his hand cups the side of Julian's face.
"Julian," Rodney says again, then lifts his head further and pulls their mouths together. Julian realizes that he's forgotten the way Rodney kisses, so different from Emmett, so different even than John. Rodney's kisses are focused and confident, and Julian opens his mouth to take in Rodney's tongue, groans lightly when the hand on his face slips back into his hair and scratches against his scalp.
Rodney moves them around with the thigh between Julian's, and he finds himself on his back, blanketed in Rodney's heat. Rodney takes his mouth away for a second, but before Julian can give voice to his displeasure, Rodney's lips and teeth have his neck, his throat. The hand in Julian's hair tightens, pulls back, and Julian can't stop the sounds he's making. He's rock-hard inside his sweatpants, and Rodney's hard, too; he's keeping their hips tight together. Rodney doesn't thrust or rub; he simply presses them together from neck to knees.
"You're beautiful," Rodney says into his neck, and Julian can feel the heat in his face. "I missed you."
"Missed you, too," Julian says. "I'm glad you're here."
Rodney eases off then and Julian has to admit he's a little disappointed, but he'll let Rodney lead, let Rodney take what he wants - what he needs - at his own pace.
Julian leans up, bracing his chin in his hand. "I heard you met Betty," he says. "Weren't you afraid?"
Rodney laughs and ruffles Julian's hair. "I've got six words for you - 'fashion victim cross-dressing space vampires' - snakes are easy. Do I smell Chinese?"
Julian laughs. "It's even from the not-crappy place. And, yes, I asked about citrus - we're cool."
"Good," Rodney says. He looks down at Julian's sweatpants. "I take it we're not dressing for dinner?"
"Whatever you want," Julian says, and he's a little amused when Rodney slips out of bed in a sweatshirt and blue-striped pajama pants reminiscent of John's boxers on Atlantis.
"Let's go," he says; he pulls Julian off the bed and heads, barefoot, for the door. Rodney doesn't even make an effort to smooth his hair or hide the fact that he's still hard, so Julian doesn't bother, either. Rodney links their fingers together as they walk out of the bedroom.
"There you guys are," Emmett says, putting the last carton on the table and smiling at them.
Julian keeps his grip on Rodney's hand as he walks around the table to kiss Emmett, and Emmett doesn't seem bothered about it. In fact, he puts one hand gently on the front of Rodney's shoulder as he kisses Julian. He even strokes a hand over Julian's throat and quietly says, "Beard burn."
They break apart to eat, sharing the food and playing a three-way game of footsie under the table. Julian snares the last wonton, and Emmett fights him for it in a battle of forks. While they're distracted, Rodney gets the last eggroll. The wonton becomes a casualty of war, and Julian and Emmett pick up the pieces with their fingers and dip them into sweet-and-sour sauce. Julian moans when Emmett and Rodney each grab one of his hands and lick and suck the traces of red sauce off his fingers.
By mutual, silent consent, they leave the leftovers where they are and all flop down on the huge couch, rubbing their stomachs and swearing they're going to die. Julian's in the middle, and he thinks he wants to stay there, no matter what happens. He wonders what Rodney's got planned; or if Rodney's got anything planned at all. He's talked it over with Emmett. They decided together to do whatever Rodney wants. Emmett even said, unprompted, that he'd stay back, but he wouldn't leave the room, and Julian shuddered at the thought of Emmett watching, and pinned him down and fucked his mouth, coming in record time before falling back on the bed to let Emmett fuck him roughly.
Eventually, Emmett's hand falls naturally onto Julian's thigh, and Rodney slides down a bit on the couch to drop his head to Julian's shoulder, rubbing his cheek against the softness of his tee shirt. Julian puts one hand on Rodney's thigh and uses the other to pull Emmett into a soft kiss. He breaks it to turn to the other side and kiss Rodney, rubbing his hand up the soft thin cotton of pajama pants.
Emmett gets himself sideways on the couch with one knee tucked under him, then reaches across to touch Rodney before kissing and licking Julian's neck. He knows every single hot spot; has mapped them with teeth and lips and tongue. He knows exactly how high Julian's collars come up, so he knows exactly where he can mark, and Julian makes a needy sound and closes his eyes as Emmett bites the spot where neck and shoulder meet.
When he looks up, Rodney is standing and Emmett is in the process of getting up. They each hold out a hand, and Julian lets himself be pulled up. He's already well on his way to being blissed-out, and he leans heavily against Rodney's chest and moans when Emmett traces the outline of his cock against the soft fleece of his sweat pants. Rodney holds his shoulders as Julian shifts his hips forward into the touch.
"Bedroom," Emmett says. "Bedroom, naked, bed."
Rodney snuffles at the back of Julian's neck, then lifts his head. "You have good ideas, Emmett. Are you sure you're not a genius?"
Emmett doesn't answer; he just leads them into the bedroom.
Rodney follows Julian, looking at his gorgeous ass. A little bigger than John's; just a little more to hold onto. When they pause at the door to the bedroom, he presses his hard cock against it and Julian pushes back. They stay there in the doorway while Emmett drags the comforter off the bed and pushes all the pillows up against the headboard. By the time he's rummaged in the bed table for an economy size bottle of lube and a handful of condoms, Julian is moaning out loud from Rodney's thrusts.
Emmett strips quickly, tight shirt and cargo pants thrown to the corner. Rodney pushes Julian into his arms and works on his own clothes, while Emmett pulls Julian's sweatpants and tee shirt off.
Julian comes back to his senses long enough to crawl onto the bed, leaving Rodney facing Emmett. "Kiss him." Julian's voice is breathless. Rodney and Emmett exchange a look and a shrug, then kiss, gently at first - unsure, then deeper.
A groan from Julian makes them both look at the bed, where he's propped up against the pillows, his hand around his cock. Rodney gives him a hard look, which stops Julian's hand, then moves onto the bed between Julian's legs and sucks his cock in without hesitation. He hears another moan, and he's not sure if it's Emmett or Julian. He peers up through his lashes and sees that they're kissing, and it looks like he imagines it looks like when he and John kiss.
When Emmett hands him the lube, Rodney takes it. He gets the bottle open and wets his fingers, still sucking Julian, but lightly, gently - nowhere near hard enough to get him off. He touches Julian gently, then starts to slide a finger inside. Julian's body takes it easily, and Rodney is surprised for a minute. He remembers how tight Julian had been on Atlantis. Then he thinks about it, realizing that Emmett and Julian fuck a lot. So, he slips a second finger in alongside the first, pulling back to watch them slide into Julian. The third goes in just as easily, and he can hear Julian moaning into Emmett's mouth. He has to look up again, has to see them.
And, suddenly, Rodney realizes exactly what he's looking at. Julian and Emmett are in love, the way he and John are now. When Julian had been with them, he and John weren't. Sure, Rodney'd had a tremendous crush on John, but actual love came much later for them. They don't talk about it, and almost never say the words, but Rodney gets it.
Rodney pulls off Julian's cock, sliding his fingers out at the same time. He grabs Emmett by the hips and maneuvers him between Julian's legs. Rodney helps Julian drape one leg over Emmett's shoulder and watches them kiss as Emmett pushes inside. They're together, just like he and John are together, and it's not his place to be with them, not this way.
Once they really get going, Rodney slips off the bed and into the armchair a few feet away. Watching them fuck - Emmett driving into Julian, Julian raising his hips to meet him - is plenty for him to get off to. The polite thing would probably be to leave the room, but it's not like Rodney's ever been polite in his life. He wraps his hand, still wet with lube, around his cock and strokes, matching the rhythm of the two on the bed. When Julian throws his head back and reaches for his own cock, Rodney comes hard over his hand and belly.
Julian and Emmett aren't too far behind, and Rodney hears the sounds they make as they come, the endearments whispered between them. Emmett rolls off of Julian's body and looks toward Rodney in the armchair. Rodney nods at him, and Emmett nods back - they get each other; they think alike. Rodney walks to the bathroom on unsteady legs and he and Emmett clean up, Emmett taking care of Julian, who's still star-fished out on the bed, half out of his mind, one forearm over his eyes. Emmett pulls up the sheets, and motions to Rodney. Dragging the comforter, Rodney crawls into the bed, sliding under the sheets and curling up against Julian, dropping his cheek to sweaty shoulder. Emmett takes a similar position on the other side. They each rest a hand across Julian's belly and lightly clasp their fingertips together.
Rodney wakes early, his internal clock set to 6:00 am Atlantis time, which - oddly - translates roughly to 8:15 am Earth time. The three of them are spooned up together, and when Rodney tries to slip away he wakes Julian. They wait for a moment to make sure Emmett is sleeping soundly, then Rodney gathers his pajama pants and tee shirt and goes to the guest room.
"I wish you didn't have to go," Julian says, sitting naked on the edge of the bed, watching Rodney get dressed in jeans and a pullover before quickly packing his suitcase.
"I know," Rodney says. "But you've got a good thing here..."
"And you miss John," Julian finishes.
"More than you'd believe." And Rodney knows it's true. He wants to go home. "The car will be here at 9:30," he says, and Julian catches him by the hem of his shirt and pulls Rodney between his knees, resting his head on Rodney's hip.
"I know what you did last night," Julian says.
"It seemed right." Rodney bends over far enough to kiss the top of Julian's head. "Go get dressed so you can see me out."
Julian nods, then slips into the bedroom, coming out in worn, faded jeans and a threadbare black tee shirt. He carries Rodney's suitcase into the living room and puts it carefully next to the couch, just as the door buzzer goes off. Julian answers it, then turns to Rodney, his mouth opening to say...something.
Rodney simply grabs him lightly by the shoulders and presses their foreheads together for a long minute. When they break apart, Julian picks up the bag and walks with Rodney to the elevator. They don't speak on the way down, and they walk out to the lobby, and Rodney sees his car waiting at the curb. He cups Julian's chin in his hand and kisses him lightly on the mouth, before walking out to the sidewalk where the driver takes his suitcase and hands him a large coffee. He looks out the back window long enough to see Julian turn back toward home.
The flight to Denver isn't that bad, and the ride to Colorado Springs isn't either. Rodney goes through the security process and down the elevator. When the doors open, Sam Carter is waiting for him.
"You made it," she says, her smile bright and white and sincere.
He deliberately misunderstands. "Yeah, thanks to you."
She hugs him and takes his suitcase, and he pulls it away before finally letting her have it. General Landry meets them in the gate room and shakes Rodney's hand. Sam gives him his suitcase and a kiss on the cheek, and that guy who's SGC's version of Chuck starts the dialing sequence. Rodney watches as the gate whooshes, and he walks up the ramp alone - it feels weird to do it without his team. He stops just before the event horizon and turns back to wave at Sam and Landry.
When he steps through in Atlantis, his team is waiting for him. He drops his suitcase, hearing it thump on the floor, staring at the familiar faces. Teyla's arm is in a sling and both John and Ronon have visible bandages on their backs and necks, but their smiles are a mile wide. The others stay back and let John hug him first, whispering in his ear, "I missed you."
A second later, he's wrapped up by Ronon's long arms, and Teyla's good arm - she's happy enough to dispense with her usual Athosian detachment. A minute after that, Elizabeth and Radek join the group, and Rodney starts complaining about being crushed and wondering who the hell is running Atlantis if everyone's in the gate room accosting him, but he takes advantage of the crush of bodies to plant a gentle kiss on John's cheek.