.notes: the one where John's a supermodel, aka the one with completely self-indulgent porn! If you want to see where John's staying, check out Chateau Marmont, in LA.
eta 3.29: Okay, really late, but still. Would you like to see model!John? THIS is model!John.
In the hills, the wind robs the sun of some of its heat, and for once it doesn’t bring a truckload of Los Angeles smog with it. Birds sing in the trees and the courtyard fountain splashes hypnotically; lulling noise that makes you want to find some quiet corner of garden, or to sack out on the fountain ledge and forget everything that seethes and steams in the pit way down below.
It all makes Rodney hate the world that much more. The marble would kill his back and the garden is infested with pollen and bees, and really, one man's idyll is another man's death trap and couldn't they have met for coffee, at the very least? Then he would have had the satisfaction of charging whole vats of espresso and muffins and cookies to the newspaper's travel account. Also, he would have had caffeine, which would make this ordeal bearable, instead of a nascent sunburn and a weirdly-haired Czech photographer hovering at his elbow.
"Stop sulking." Radek checks his camera for the fiftieth time, and Rodney has to resist the urge – no, the compulsion, the overwhelming need – to seize it and throw it in with the goldfish.
"You have been like this since we got in the car – for that matter, since three weeks ago – and it is unfair to make me suffer for it."
"Have you ever once known me to do something because it’s 'fair'?" Rodney glares at Radek, who ignores him effortlessly.
"There is no reason you cannot start now," Radek says.
"There are plenty of reasons. Now, are we going to do this pointless interview or not?"
"Hey, if it's pointless, you can leave; I'm not going to stop you."
Rodney whirls around, set to give the obnoxious intruder a very generous piece of his mind, but Radek's staring, eyes magnified to bugginess by his glasses, and when Rodney sees what, who he's staring at, he has to stare too.
"I guess you guys are from the paper," John Sheppard says, all lazy, careless drawl made to match the drape of his body in the doorframe, his shoulder resting against one side, thumbs in the pockets of jeans that are too tight yet still have only a precarious hold on his hips, like fingers about to slip away. Careless like his hair, too, the hair that launched a thousand ships and multimillion-dollar ad campaigns.
"I'm Rodney McKay, and this is Radek Zelenka," Rodney says by way of introduction. He straightens and tells himself he refuses to be intimidated by any embodiment of masculine perfection, no matter how lean the chest or disheveled the bedroom hair or rugged the hint of beard. A Johnny Cash t-shirt, threadbare and faded enough for any college student, skims close to the clean lines of Sheppard's torso, close enough to suggest, to say you want. "Is Mr. Sheppard here?"
An amused wince creases Sheppard's face and he rubs at the back of his neck; his mouth (lush lower lip, permanently moist, don't think about it, McKay) moves soundlessly for a moment, before quirking in a smile that, if not quite honest, is at least amused. "Why don't I bring you through and we'll see if he's in?"
Good lord, they're actually going to do this. He is actually going to do this, concede to Elizabeth's demands for a gesture of good faith, and interview a super-mega-hugely famous male model, when just a month ago he was raking executive officers over the coals of righteous anger and indignation. Oh how the mighty hath fallen, Cadman had smirked at him from her perch on Ronon's desk when he'd left the office that morning, and that's an image he doesn't want in his head right now. Rodney grunts something he hopes conveys both agreement and how much he hates this situation, and butts in front of Radek when he tries to go through the door first.
Luxury and air conditioning close around him, wonderfully cold and dark and soft after Los Angeles sun. Sheppard moves through a wilderness of Tiffany and LaLanne and Milano, managing despite jeans and that hair a sleekness that's smoother than curved bronze and glass. He points to a few things here and there, sneakers kicked off by a sofa, guitar, surfboard propped against the wall, and when Rodney looks he doesn't so much look at these things as at the fluid contours of Sheppard's arm, his wrist and fingers, the eloquence of gesture. And he's so focused on the rough lilt of Sheppard's voice, the strange half-reality of following the flesh he's only seen on TV and glossy paper, that he doesn't immediately catch the significance of Sheppard reaching for the hem of his shirt, the sudden blaze of dark bronze skin and a spine Rodney's fingers ache to walk.
"What..." He coughs. "What are you doing?"
"You mind?" Sheppard asks, only he really doesn't, because he's already half-naked, t-shirt stripped off and dropped on a Laviani sofa, whether Rodney minds it or not, and Rodney says as much.
"It's hot out." He glances at Rodney's chest, very sensibly covered in two layers of cotton shielding. "You might want to take that off before you go outside."
"Some of us aren't especially anxious to experience melanoma first-hand, Mr. Sheppard," Rodney sniffs. Or any kind of cancer, for that matter – like, say, leukemia and bone cancer after years of exposure to poorly-contained radiation.
"Call me John," Sheppard suggests, as though Rodney can now call him anything else. Could one address a shirtless man as "mister," in all seriousness? Even assuming he could summon the coherence to address such questions of etiquette, Rodney has no idea what the answer would be.
He has, he realizes uncomfortably as he follows Sheppard – John – back out into blinding light, very little idea of any of this now. And between his newfound uncertainty, which he never feels in the context of an interview, and the bright curve of John's back, Rodney – who is apparently getting all the crappy lifestyle assignments for the next three months because of the whole diplomatic incident thing, which really is absolutely unbelievable for someone who is this close to a Pulitzer – finds it all little, um. Discomfiting.
John plucks a water bottle from a waiting side table, an effortless sidestep and dip that seems choreographed specifically to give Rodney apoplexy. Behind them, Radek's camera starts clicking and beeping, probably recording Rodney's humiliation for posterity and purposes of blackmail.
It's doubly unfair because Elizabeth had been explicit about "maintaining standards of professional behavior" while in the field – like following John around the side of the infinity-edge pool, listening to the waterfall in the background and watching the play of sun and muscle over and under John's skin counts as the "field" – and with Radek as a witness, he can't make any of the cutting comments he wants to make, needs to make in order to cover up how very, very much he wants to lick the patch of sunlight and freckles on John's right shoulder.
None of this is helped by the fact that Radek – whom Rodney knows was deliberately sent by Elizabeth to make sure that he stays in line – is smirking at him just a little. And when people smirk at Rodney, he gets snappy, and when he gets snappy, he's liable to come out with one of those questions that make politicians quail and the writers on The Daily Show rejoice, questions which are a product of his own constant low-grade irritation with the world – questions like "Why the hell would someone with a brain do this for a living?"
John shrugs, light rolling golden down his back.
"It pays pretty good, and I get to travel." He uncaps his water bottle and tilts his head back to drink.
"Oh, excellent reason." Rodney keeps his eyes fixed on the flowers that spills messily out of their borders to drop petals in the water, the ripples from them the only disturbance on the surface of blue clarity. "One might say the same thing about diplomats and airplane pilots."
John goes tense for a moment, but then there's the lazy shrug again and he asks Radek what he wants to shoot next, and really, is it too much to ask that the guy get pissy or incoherent or do something that will make mocking him easier? Apparently not, because John slouches off to the outdoor kitchen, and Rodney follows, grinding his teeth, in his wake.
Rodney's never seen the point of outdoor kitchens, and he says as much, loudly. After all, they're in a private bungalow on the grounds of one of the most obscenely expensive hotels that LA can provide, with a kitchen full of chefs only a phone call away – the kind of chefs that specialise in using half a pound of Kobe beef and three tins of caviar to make a dish that'd fit onto an average sized spoon, let alone a plate; the kind of chef that Rodney can effortlessly brow-beat into making mac and cheese – not to mention the fact that the whole point of having a kitchen inside is to keep nature out.
John shrugs again. "Hey," he says, "you guys wanted this photo shoot. Me doing normal stuff, you know. Normally."
Rodney folds his arms. "You often cook steak outdoors half naked?"
John shrugs. Again. Rodney strongly suspects it's a nervous tic, and tells himself that those aren't supposed to be sexy.
"If it's nice out, sure," John says after a moment that he apparently needs to check the grill temperature and pull a beer out from the refrigerator. Next to the refrigerator is a wine storage unit that costs more than Rodney's car. Rodney scowls at it, and then at John when a beer does not appear to be forthcoming.
"Thought you were on the clock." John points at Rodney's notebook and then at Radek, who's taking shots of the pool, and the Chateau itself in the background.
"I need alcohol to deal with this," Rodney says. "Hand it over." He snaps his fingers impatiently.
John rolls his eyes but, being perhaps a bit more sensible than Rodney originally gave him credit for being, pulls out another bottle and hands it to him, and his fingers are hot and startling against the slick of frost.
"Okay," Rodney says, hopping up to sit out of the way on the edge of the rustic-style dining table. Radek's checking the light levels and getting ready to shoot, fiddling with the settings on the big, expensive digital camera that he's going to use to turn the sight of a guy cooking dinner in his back garden into moody, black-and-white pictures of supermodel John Sheppard being broody and manly with steak.
He sits and drinks his beer until Radek's started snapping, and John's slinking around the kitchen in a variety of poses that don't look studied but that involve far too much hip action to be anything but, to flip open his notebook and start with the questions.
"So, Mr Sheppard," he says, affecting an admirably bland voice, like he's someone from E!, "I have lots of questions here from some of your most admiring fans. Maybe we'll start with them." He's absolutely not imagining the way that the line of John's back stiffens at that, before smoothing out far too quickly to be natural. "Laurie from Boca Raton wants to know what it was like to be picked for the Calvin Klein ad?"
That gets him a look, quick and focused, tossed over John's shoulder; Radek's camera goes click click click. "They went with someone else for that campaign."
"Oh, that's right, so they did," Rodney says airily, flipping to the next page. "What's next?"
"You're the one with the notebook," John says with a lightness that warns Rodney not to push. It's not a voice that belongs with long, loose muscles and bare feet.
"Okay, here's one from me," Rodney says, not because he wants to, really, but because he's compelled by John's complacency and his eloquent spine and he's still pissed enough at the world to turn lust into anger, and anger into impulse, "Why'd you drop out of the Academy?"
John drops the tongs and whirls, no keeping back any kind of reaction to that question. Rodney wants very badly to gloat, finally, finally something other than the nonchalance that's been famed in magazine articles for the last decade, something other than Sheppard's endless laziness and thank Christ someone in this stupid place is as pissed as he is.
"Should I punch you on the record or off?" John takes two stalking steps toward him, feline and dangerous, close enough that Rodney rethinks the wisdom of his question. "I'll give you the choice... that's more than other people have had."
"Should I take that as confirmation of the rumours?" Rodney sneers, chin tilting upwards. "Daddy must have paid a hell of a lot of money to keep everything hushed up." It was a calculated risk bringing up the Academy, but Rodney knows it's an even bigger risk to mention Patrick Sheppard. The father and the older brother get column inches in the Wall Street Journal, the prodigal son graces the front cover of Vogue, and it's an open secret that never the twain shall meet.
This close, he can see John's eyes, a thin ring of hazel around dark pupils that are dilated with anger and with something else; he can hear John's breathing, too, a rapid, shallow rasp that's loud enough to be heard over the sound of Radek's camera whirring away. The bastard's still taking photos; Rodney's got no idea what those images are going to show, but he's willing to bet a whole lot of Canadian dollars that they'll be good.
Radek's camera, though, doesn't see what he sees – John's eyes, the fine tension in shoulders more used to Sheppard's trademark sprawl – and Rodney doesn't want it to, and not only because he doesn't want Sheppard decking him saved in Radek's image files. Rodney's always worked from the first principle that pain and arousal – and sudden regret, despite his promise not to feel bad about provoking Sheppard – don't go together, and he tries to remember this.
"Well, McKay?" John's head tilts, eyes narrow and appraising and seemingly studying Rodney's mouth. Rodney swallows and doesn't shift back on the table.
"You said it was an all-access interview," he says. "I'm perfectly within my rights to ask these questions.
"Because shit-stirring is really what a guy who asked the President about abuses of executive power in front of a national audience should be doing with his time." John smiles, thin and cold. "What's that about, McKay?"
"Good journalism," Rodney snaps back.
Both John's eyebrows shoot upwards and his lips shape an incredulous, delicious 'o'. "In a puff piece for the weekend supplement? Last time you guys interviewed me, your most in-depth question was 'just how does your hair do that?'" he says, his tone no less angry for all that there's a thread of irritation to it now. "The stylist wanted more info from me than the reporter, and that's because she didn't know what size pants I wear. And now I'm getting an investigative journalist asking me about what happened back then? Come the fuck on, McKay."
Okay, he has to admit John has a point. Not a lot of people tend to open up around a man who has a reputation for terrifying anxious whistleblowers into telling him everything about their company's questionable financial practices. Not that he's going to tell John that.
"Well, if nothing "happened back then,"" Rodney says, and is sure to use the airquotes, which make John snort, "then you don't need to worry about my asking, and you don't need to stand half on top of me and threaten me with physical violence."
"I don't need to?" And John shifts closer, voice lower, thicker, and Rodney's attention, helplessly (inevitably) zeroes in on the arc of John's collar bone.
"No," Rodney says, struggling for investigative superiority, aware his thighs are slightly open and that if John takes three more steps he'll be between Rodney's knees. "No need at all."
From somewhere to his right, Radek coughs pointedly and mutters something about having to go back into the bungalow to get a spare battery. Rodney's dimly aware that he's in for a world of trouble when he gets back to the office – if he's lucky, just from Elizabeth; if he's not, from Radek and Cadman and their combined powers of Photoshop and a gossip network that would put Joan Rivers to the blush – but he's more aware of the sun slanting obliquely through gaps in the thatched roof to gild the line of John's neck.
Rodney clears his throat; he's painfully aware of how very still he's holding himself, of the way he's got a white knuckled grip on the edge of the table. "So," he says, "you want to start this over from the beginning? Fair deal – I promise to ask no questions about pants size if you promise not to break my nose?"
John straightens, smiles briefly, but the tense, wary edge to his body doesn't soften by much.
"It's the other questions," he says, and fortunately for Rodney's nose he sounds a lot less pissed. "Stay away from them, and you have a deal."
Realistically, Rodney knows, the odds of Sheppard giving himself up (not like that) on the first try was about a billion to one, the same odds Radek puts down when wondering if Rodney will manage not to insult yet another politician or newsmaker. He allows himself some annoyance at the fact that John hadn't let himself be pushed or pissed off into saying anything... Anything what? Rodney turns the question over. Incriminating? He'd been hoping for that, something, anything other than pants size.
He allows himself some disappointment, too, but doesn't examine that too clearly.
"So," he coughs to clear his throat and makes himself loosen his death grip on the table. "What do you like to do besides..." He waves his hand to indicate the general attractiveness of John's body. "That."
John's mouth quirks up into an odd, lopsided grin; Rodney doesn't get the impression he's terrifically amused by anything. "What do you mean, that?" he says, turning back to switch off the grill and throwing the now slightly charred steak into the trash. Rodney feels a slight twinge of regret because, well, steak. "Cook badly?"
"Yes, it's exactly that kind of pretend obliviousness which is going to serve you well in this interview." Rodney rolls his eyes, before hopping off the table and following John away from the kitchen towards a patch of neatly-tended lawn that's bathed in sunlight.
Rodney sits down cross-legged, but John sprawls out on his back, wriggling his shoulders against the grass like he's trying to get more comfortable. John squints up at that peculiarly flat, blue Californian sky, and this close to, Rodney can see the network of tiny, fine lines around his eyes, creasing skin that Rodney's sure would feel soft to the touch.
He's never been very good at this kind of interview, truth be told – investigative journalism, yes; digging up evidence about the lies which had hurt and killed so many of his friends and bludgeoning irresponsible, budget-cutting bureaucrats with the force of undeniable fact, yes – but finding that rich seam that lies between personal and public, the place where all the most human stories lie – he's never been much good at that. Rodney looks down at John for a long moment, considering. This is the guy who went from cotillion in Virginia to the Air Force Academy to runways in Milan; the guy whose face looked down at Rodney from no fewer than three billboards when he drove down Santa Monica on the way here; who gained more notoriety from that "College football, ferris wheels and things that go more than two hundred miles" crack than Linda Evangelista ever did with her talk of not getting out of bed for anything under ten grand.
Rodney tosses his notebook over his shoulder, and clears his throat when that makes John tilt his head to look at him, raising an eyebrow. "Okay," he says, "We're going to start from the beginning, I'm going to ask only the questions I need to ask, you're going to answer me honestly. Or," he tilts his head, "as honestly as you can, whichever, and we'll come out of this with an article which'll make the front page and make that publicist of yours faint. What do you say?"
"I say...." John trails off in a huff of breath. "I say you're too goddamn persistent for your own good, McKay."
"I've been told that before," Rodney says, and John laughs, a terrible, unattractive braying laugh that seems startled out of him.
When John recovers, after a hiccoughing har har that grates against Rodney's eardrums, he slants a look at Rodney, eyes squinted against southern Califiornia sun.
"Front page, huh?"
John turns back to the sky, laces his fingers across his belly. Rodney firmly ignores the sudden desire to trace out the grain of the hair on John's torso, run with it down to the border of denim. "Shoot," John says, not looking at him, and Rodney's so caught up in not wanting that he needs a moment to process John's just given him permission.
(Permission to ask questions, not to... to ogle like the billions of fans he's acquired, Rodney tells himself. But John doesn't seem to mind him looking, and the open sprawl of him on the grass seems to invite it.)
"What... after your life, your background, I guess, what made you decide to do this?" It's a standard question and one he knows John's answered before, but he holds his breath as John's forehead furls in consideration. He's poised to mouth along silently with the words as John says them, It looked like fun, and I wanted to try something new, and thought why the hell not?
"I was angry," John says at last. He blinks, quickly closes his eyes again, as though surprised at his response. "I was pretty pissed off at everything. The world in general."
And yeah, Rodney gets that. On the good days, it's irritation; on the bad, it's something else.
"Only pretty pissed off?" Rodney says softly. "I've seen your senior yearbook, you know. You seemed pretty set on the Academy – uno ab alto as your motto and buzz-cut and all that – and everyone in your year seemed sure you'd succeed. Then four years later you turn up out of nowhere and do that photo shoot with Chaya Sar in Milan, and all of a sudden everyone's spouting hyberbole about you as the first male supermodel."
John snorts softly, shrugging his shoulders loosely in a gesture which speaks eloquently of the fact that he's heard all this before and doesn't particularly care to get into it all again.
"Which made me – " Rodney tugs at the grass with one hand, pulling up individual blades one by one, "You know, I looked at your Wikipedia article before I came over here. Some particularly, uh, devoted fan has cited about fifteen different interviews with you where you say that you took up modelling because, and I quote, you kind of like it. You are quite demonstrably not stupid, so I'm not buying an answer that facile. What are you getting out of this?"
"This, for a start." John gestures absently to the opulence of architecture and water.
"You could have had this growing up."
"If I'd stayed in the family business," John corrects. He sits up, a flow of muscle that dries Rodney's mouth, curls his legs under him, mutters something about how lying down felt like being on a fucking psychiatrist's couch. "My dad wanted my brother and me to run the family store, and I didn't want to be tied down. You know?" When he turns to face Rodney again, shadows run across his eyes, obscuring them, but John seems strangely open.
"I've never been good about doing what people tell me to do," Rodney offers, which is true enough.
"That's what they say." John plays with the grass, plucking at a few stems; their little bit of lawn, except for the two of them, is immaculate, the grass so evenly cut Rodney suspects the gardener must have used a laser level. "I read your Wikipedia article too."
"I have one?" Actually he knows this, and is pretty sure Radek and Laura are behind a lot of it, and probably Sam. She's almost as good as walking the libel/sedition line as he is. But, Rodney thinks with pride, she never got banned from the White House press room for the duration of a president's tenure.
"People who tell the President that exile to Elba would be a great way to finish out his term usually do." The smile riding John's lips is playful now; when he lifts his head, Rodney can see that same teasing, uncovered, in hazel. "That's one of my favorite Daily Show clips."
Rodney takes a moment to preen and imagine that John's interest in him isn't purely intellectual before reminding himself they need to get back on track, and really, John hasn't answered him.
"And traveling," John says abruptly, returning to the previous question in a kind of elliptical movement of thought which reminds Rodney oddly of how his own mind works. "It isn't really... Fuck. It's moving, you know. I hate staying still."
"Two hundred miles an hour," Rodney murmurs, and John's smile this time is relief.
There's silence for a moment, before Rodney smirks a little and says in a mock serious voice, "Is this where I ask you if it's the destination or the journey?" He stresses his words in that pseudo-empathic way he's heard Heightmeyer use when she's interviewing the latest C-Lister looking for their fifteen minutes of fame after their five minutes in rehab.
John's smile broadens a little, and next thing Rodney knows, John's throwing a handful of plucked grass at his head. Blades of grass catch in his hair and go into his mouth and one even, improbably, flies up his nostril. Rodney spits, gracelessly, and mumbles "Oh, because that's mature." John squints over at a red bougainvillea nearby and then says, out of nowhere, "Bit of both, actually.
"The travelling or the destination thing," he says, when he sees the raised eyebrow Rodney shoots at him. "I like moving. Love it. But with this, I get to see all kinds of places I'd never have time to see if I'd stayed. That shoot in New Zealand... but that Snake River Canyon one, that one was awesome. You know I got to ride one of Knievel's actual bikes for that one?" John looks back over at Rodney, and his expression is strangely youthful, lit-up at the edges, and for a moment it's like looking back in time at that boy with the mess of dark hair and the open-guarded expression that had caught the world's imagination.
"Awesome," Rodney replies softly, but his tone is nowhere near as sarcastic as it could be.
"Yeah." John's leaning toward him, one hand planted on the grass to support his weight. "It was pretty great," and in those words there's nothing of the polished confidence that had greeted Rodney and Radek at the door.
Rodney fights not to lean in, but John is brilliant and magnetic, the expression on his face nothing like the one that had gazed down on Rodney from thirty feet above the highway. It's something that hasn't seen a photo shoot or a runway, something new, not for you, not for you, he reminds himself, except that he wants it to be.
His hand is right there, he could reach out and touch John's hand, except there's touching and then there's touching, like looking and looking, and he really has no idea where the line is between those things, between being the guy who stares at and gropes something pretty and the guy who, unsure, can't look away, and when he does touch, doesn't know what to do.
"I..." He licks his lips, so sexy, McKay, and thinks about saying something about how it really isn't ethical for journalists to kiss/have intimate relations with the people they're interviewing, and he has a slight grass allergy, instead of, "You're... I want..."
John shifts closer, looking up at Rodney from underneath the heavy fringe of dark hair, and Rodney's allergies must be flaring up, because all of a sudden it's perilously hard to breathe.
"Off the record, McKay?" John says conversationally.
"Uh huh," Rodney replies thickly, hoping against hope that he's not staring at the curve of John's lower lip and despairingly realising that that's what he's doing anyway. "What?"
And John reaches up with one grass-stained hand to cup Rodney's cheek, and then he's pulling him closer and kissing him. His mouth is intimate and warm, and when his tongue curls around Rodney's, Rodney moans. The breath of John's soft laughter is warm too, and the fingers stroking, pressing Rodney's cheek are silent agreement, and Rodney chases his own breath back into John's mouth, a nip to the damp curve of his lower lip. Leaning in he needs balance, and finds it in threading his fingers through John's, so they press firmly into soft dirt. The skin under his fingers is rougher than he expected, faint calluses, strength when John twines their fingers together like there's never going to be any letting go.
John licks the questions from Rodney's mouth, and the sudden assertion of muscle against his chest, the curve of John's body into his, are answers that are so, so far beyond words. Rodney hiccups softly when John pulls back just a little, an unexpected exhalation of breath that's matched by John's soft shhh against his mouth. "Okay," Rodney whispers, and kisses him again; slower this time, and inexorable, because his eyelids feel heavy, his limbs leaden, all of him feeling as if he's being pulled by a strange new gravity into John Sheppard's bright orbit.
John slides his free hand around to curl at the nape of Rodney's neck, calluses snagging in the fine hair there, rough against soft skin, and Rodney shivers. Against him, he can feel John tremble in response, once and hard, before he's being pressed back against the manicured lawn and John's propping himself up over head him, a dark shape silhouetted by the sun and outlined by the cloudless sky.
Rodney lies there and squints up at him. "Can I ask you a question?" he says, even now urged on by the curiosity which has been a blessing and a curse for him in equal measure. "Off the record." John shudders again, not precisely arousal but not precisely fear, and it's a bit late, Rodney thinks for either of them to back off now.
"Is this..." It's the question that will probably send John running back inside, or will make John punch him. It's the question no one's asked but everyone's speculated about, the one he can't write down. "Is this why you left?"
"Old history," John says, shadow of bitterness and regret in his voice, but his hand stays, stays, stays on Rodney's neck. "But yeah."
"Okay then," Rodney says. "For the record? I highly approve of your decision-making abilities." Which is true, absolutely true, if it that is the kind of decision which led John here, to Rodney.
John huffs out a laugh, but doesn't look like he's about to get back to the kissing right away, and that is the kind of shoddy prioritising that Rodney just doesn't hold with. "Approve of your decision making, but not your time management. C'mere." He wraps both arms around John's back, sliding his palms along warm skin that's slick with summer sun and arousal, and presses him closer. "Okay then," John says softly, near-sarcastically, and comes, smooth smooth under Rodney's hands, a slow settling of muscle and weight between Rodney's legs and along his chest.
John kisses him, kisses like he isn't sure this is happening, something not done in so long – that kind of desperation, this complete giving-over that makes Rodney go dizzy and breathless, and his heart thump weirdly in his chest. Beautiful people aren't supposed to go without this – being able to smell the humid curve of neck, explore what lies hidden by clothing – they're supposed to have it all the time, and Rodney's had years to get used to this fact.
Only there's nothing smooth about John, not much practiced, no perfection beyond neglected stubble and a soft, needy sound to answer Rodney's palm against his chest. Rodney shifts up, shudders as John's breath drops a notch into a groan that comes up from somwhere deep.
Rodney's button-down, and the worn green shirt beneath it, come up and off, tangling briefly around his wrists before John flings them away to land somewhere in a distant patch of shrubbery. "Hotel," Rodney protests briefly, suddenly, shockingly aware that he's half-naked with the hottest human being he's ever seen; that they're rutting up against one another, John's denim-clad thigh pressed in between his own, right out where anyone can see them.
John's grin is wicked, and he presses it against Rodney's mouth, the line of his jaw, scrapes his teeth against Rodney's stubble. "The agency's paying these guys five grand a day, Rodney. The concierge could stumble across me doing coke from a Russian hooker's bare ass, and he'd just blink and ask me if I wanted a higher denomination bank note to snort with."
Rodney stares at him. "That's, uh..." "Not what you're used to?" The question, and John's tongue, is slick and sly against Rodney's earlobe.
"That's one way of putting it." In some things, John might as well be from another galaxy. He knows about Russian hookers, he maybe knows one or two, about coke (Rodney still can't think of his one joint without shuddering, or thinking queasily of the entire loaf of Wonderbread he'd consumed dry thanks to the ensuing munchies), about how exactly, wonderfully perfect it is when he rolls his hips hard against Rodney's, trapping both their cocks in hot, overwhelming pressure, the grind up sending shocks up Rodney's spine.
"Fuck," he whispers, tells himself to get over it, this isn't anything new, it's sex. Only it is, and it isn't, as he gets a hand between them, under John's jeans, the edge of denim harsh on his wrist. A moan catches, breaks in John's throat when Rodney works a palm against him, so so hot, hard, eyes shut and god.
"Is, is this a modelling thing?" Rodney asks, grunting as John bites down hard on the soft skin of his shoulder, coaxes a mark to the surface with sharp teeth and sharper tongue.
"Hmm?" John says, pulling back to inspect his handiwork. He mustn't be quite happy with what he sees, because he drops his head and rubs his stubble against the reddening skin. Rodney's hips buck up helplessly, because this, this--
"The not wearing of underpants," Rodney continues when he's got enough air in his lungs to form words, though he's not so sure about higher brain function just now. "Don't get me wrong, I'm seriously not objecting here, but doesn't that – I mean, right now, with the chafing?"
John sits back on his heels, his weight balanced right over Rodney's thighs, and the look he's got on his face now is close kin to the expression he wore in that ad campaign which got banned in several Middle Eastern countries. "You might have a point," John says, "I suppose there'll have to be a physical exam, make sure there's no real damage?" He flicks open the top button of his jeans, oh so slowly, revealing another stretch of flat stomach, the first crisp curls of pubic hair.
Rodney lets his head drop back against the grass once, hard, just so that he doesn't come from the promise held in that flick of the finger alone. The sky spins dizzily above him, clouds, sun, John's unruly shadow.
Distantly, Rodney supposes that in this case maybe the button-up fly is a good thing, but the thought, almost everything, seems distant, pushed far away by John straddling him, sliding a considering finger under the new opening of his jeans. Rodney's pulse pounds in the fresh mark on his shoulder, throbs hard and low in his belly, his cock.
"Seems okay," John says, "but just to be sure..." and pops another button, fine shudders running all up and down his body, soft and ardent fuck when he manages the third and fourth and pushes the jeans down sinuous hips. One long stroke of John's palm up his cock and it has them both gasping, that experimental curl of John's fingers around the head.
"Feels okay," John mutters, voice sex-thick, quicksand reaching out to pull Rodney's hand to him, "but maybe you should see."
Rodney strokes him slowly, helpless to do anything other than look down at the sight of John's cock pushing itself in and out of his fist, making his grip just loose enough that he knows that John's pleasure's still got to be coming more from anticipation of what's to come than anything else. He's getting off on the thoughts of what they could to together, on the thoughts of Rodney working him harder and faster; and when John's head drops back on his shoulders, when he moans, low and guttural, Rodney does too.
"You know," he says, trying to make his tone as casual as it can be for all that his throat is dry and his voice is hoarse, "If this was going to be a proper investigation – uh, in-depth, as it were – an oral examination is probably required."
And whatever Rodney's doing to him has pushed John past anything more than a grunt and a hard thrust that takes him past the hand Rodney has on his hip to steady him. Fuck yes John manages, and Rodney's fingers slip on flesh and denim, falling into place on the curve of John's ass to pull, pull, pull like John doesn't get the idea.
Which he does, he so does, touching his cock, then Rodney's face with sticky fingertips, helps Rodney up, helps him focus, and when Rodney licks across the head it's salt-heat-over-fucking-whelming, the weight and taste and feel of him. The one drag of breath he manages smells like John, surrounds Rodney with him. John's hand cups the back of his head, his neck, absent and encouraging when he rubs circles at the base of Rodney's skull.
It's sensory overload. Dimly, Rodney's aware of his body, his mind, parsing each thing individually so that it's bearable, comprehensible – the clean lines of John's hips under his palms, moving with the thrusts of him; the breeze carrying the scent of fresh sweat and grass and flowering bougainvillea; sun heating his shoulderblades and the nape of his neck as he bends to his task; the distant sound of traffic and the low, bitten-off moans that John is making; salt taste and raw-silk feel of him on Rodney's tongue; the sight of him seen this close, fine-grained skin, blurred and too-sharp, distinct, his own thing.
The one thing he can't parse is whatever's in John's eyes, way too much in them for Rodney to figure out for all they're blown black and glassy and staring straight down into him. That's John's own, maybe, for all he's given his body to Rodney's hands. But Rodney tries, tries as he grips John's ass, fingers snaking around, down, in, playing the tight heat of his entrance, the slick-sensitive skin behind his balls, press up with an index finger, enough of a promise that John shudders and snaps, surges forward with a broken cry.
"Oh, Jesus," John gasps, "Oh god," his eyes widening in something like surprise, and he pushes back against Rodney's finger. Something sparks off inside Rodney in sympathy at that – he knows the kind of raw burn that brings, how good it has to feel – and he presses in, deeper; crooks his finger; backs off from John's cock and takes his mouth in a messy kiss and drinks in all the small cries of John's pleasure as he comes.
It's almost enough, at the border of being too much, John a shaking heat around Rodney's finger and his come all over Rodney's chest. John places a hand over Rodney's racketing heart, to brace himself as his thighs give way and ease him back to earth, to Rodney, who whimpers.
"You got..." John lifts his hand and inspects it, sticky white strands tangled around his fingertips.
"You got," Rodney manages, and almost breaks when John licks his fingers, offers them to Rodney, a teasing slide in and out over Rodney's tongue.
Rodney swirls his tongue around John's fingertips once, lightly, and feels John move as if to pull away, to slither bonelessly down Rodney's body. But Rodney doesn't want him to move, wants this – the taste and feel of John in his mouth – any way he can get it, and he tugs John's hand back, sucks hard and rhythmically on John's fingers. The taste is salt-bitter harsh on his tongue and Rodney moans, wanting more of it; wants to go back down on John again and suck him mindlessly, wants the head of John's cock bumping gracelessly against the back of his throat while he looks up at John from beneath lashes that he's fighting to keep open.
"Rodney," John whispers, breathless, and the shocky pleasure in John's voice is enough to have Rodney's hips canting upwards as he comes and comes, wet and hot inside his jeans. Some tight thing in his spine unwinds, curls again in the hand John has pressed against his cock, pushing, encouraging the last of his orgasm from him. He pulls his fingers from Rodney's mouth, circles them wetly around a nipple, bends his head to blow across it so pleasure stretches out thick and heavy like the air that carries high desert heat and flowers.
Rodney shudders back to himself and John's weight on top of him, John licking lazily up his chest, his neck, licking back into his mouth again so there's nothing else to breathe and taste but John, and nothing to think but John fuck, oh god, this is perfect. And when John pulls back satisfaction lids his eyes and pulls a slow smile from him, one Rodney answers hesitantly.
"So," he says. "Um."
He's suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he's lying on his back on a lawn with a gorgeous, half-naked man lying on top of him and his own come growing sticky and cold inside his boxers. None of this feels as uncomfortable as it should – not with John's hand stroking warm along his side, curving to meet the still-stuttering rise and fall of his ribs; not with his thighs pressed tight against the poke of John's hips – but it's awkward in a way Rodney's never felt before. Even through his satiation, he's conscious of the desire to roll John over, press him down onto the sweet grass and to kiss him and kiss him just for the sake of the sweet heat of John's mouth against his own.
He blinks. John's still smiling down at him, but even as Rodney watches him, there's a hint of wariness creeping into that expression. He's hesitated too long. "Rodney?" "
Um, yes," Rodney manages, knowing there's a question there that he doesn't quite understand. "Yes, that's my name."
Amusement doesn't wash away that wariness; instead, it only sharpens the dark, hesitant mistrust in John's eyes. The sudden skip in Rodney's heart has nothing to do with extremely satisfying, athletic sex – no, recognition's put it there, the realization that he's broken his own speed record for post-sex repulsion. When John rocks back on his heels, body brushing warm and tense inside the brackets of Rodney's thighs, his knees, Rodney wants to reach out; when John looks away, mouth thin and forbidding, Rodney, for the first time ever, has no idea what to say.
"I'm not," he mutters, licks lips that are inexplicably dry.
"Rodney?" John makes an exasperated noise.
"Used to this," Rodney finishes lamely. This earns him a you've-got-to-be-shitting-me look, something that shouldn't look so hot, disbelieving twist of lips that are still kiss-swollen and damp. "To really hot sex. In the daylight. With someone – someone..." He waves a hand and hopes John gets the idea.
"...You're supposed to be interviewing?"
"Yeah," Rodney says, relieved, because that, that covers a whole multitude of sins – says that he's had sex with someone he was supposed to be purely professional with; says that he was supposed to be coaxing out John's secrets, when all he did was show the qualities of his own vulnerabilities, the form of his own need – without saying anything at all. "Well, no, I mean – with anyone. But with you, you're – " He reaches out to John with the fingers of one hand, almost but not quite touching all that bare, Indian-summer skin. "I'm not used to feeling like the hostile interview would have been the safer option," he finishes eventually, lamely, hoping that he's saying what he means because he's swiftly finding that with John, all his words turn to clichés.
"Oooo-kay," John drawls. He stays where he is, hands resting on Rodney's knees, peering Rodney in a way that makes him wonder if this is how politicians and CEOs feel when faced with Rodney McKay and his battery of painful questions. And Rodney knows John's smart – anyone who's lasted this long in the spotlight without giving up any of his secrets has to be – but it's in what way he's smart that decides how he's going to read what Rodney can't even begin to understand himself.
It occurs to him that John might have used this – them, sex – to keep his own secrets back, on the theory that giving up something else would be better than telling Rodney anything. "Why don't you speak?" Rodney blurts out. "Speak up, I mean – speak out. You could, if you wanted to. I'd listen."
John cocks his head to one side. "Thought that's what you were doing, McKay. Interview?"
"Yes, well, that," Rodney says expansively, rolling his eyes. "That is entirely different, because that's me asking for the sake of my job and within the limits of what the paper's legal department will allow me to ask. This is me asking for you."
John blinks down at him, and then quickly runs the tip of his tongue across his lower lip. There's a quality to the way he's holding himself which makes Rodney think he's nervous, skittish. It's not like he isn't skittish himself, and when John pins him with eyes that wear somberness as well as they wear passion, something very like anxiety skips up and down his nerves. Rodney shifts, aware he's still on his back, spine riding soft curves of soil, and John's still between his legs, thumbs pressed hard to the inside of his knees.
"Whatever you don't want out there... whatever you want to just keep here, that's your choice." Rodney swallows. "You've never told anyone, have you?" The quick shake of John's head is really only confirmation. "I'll talk," John says at last, reluctant but firm. "To you." "Okay," Rodney says, pushing himself up off the ground so that he's sitting, John balanced on his lap.
"Okay," he says to the soft curve of John's throat, the sharp line of his collarbone, "okay, I can listen." He swats very gently at John's shoulder when he hears the huff of laughter that earns him, because he can so listen when he wants to – Jeannie's told him as much on at least one occasion – and he's finding that he's strangely invested in this, in this man whose outline he knew before they ever met, this person he'd never known before today.
And John tells him in awkwardly measured breath, the words themselves facts only, pain and anger buried so deep they might as well be on display.
"They dumped the other guy too, obviously," he says, pitching the words low, as though the flowers and long, slow day will overhear. "And the Academy kept it quiet because of my dad. He thought the best way for me to repay him would be to marry and at least pretend to be straight. It didn't work."
The question But all those women rises and dies on Rodney's lips. He's seen pictures of John with an endless procession of women, a list long as Rodney's arm... only, different women, never the same one twice.
"It's easy to keep people quiet if nothing happens," John says out of nowhere. "And that's really what I want."
"For people to shut the fuck up?" Rodney noses at the base of John's neck, a nexus of bone and firm muscle and soft skin.
"Yeah," John says, and his laughter vibrates against Rodney's mouth. "Yeah, pretty much."
"You do realise," Rodney says between haphazard kisses, lazy strokes of John's tongue, "that no one has managed to shut me up since about 1971? There is actually a court-sworn affidavit to that effect. And I – "
"Rodney," John says, cupping Rodney's face in his hands; and all the breath catches in Rodney's throat, proves Judge Robson's words a lie. Rodney stares up at him, wide-eyed, at the five o' clock shadow that's gracing John's jaw at one in the afternoon, and exhales. "That's what I wanted. What I want. But trust me, if I ever want to make the front page..."
"Yeah." Rodney nods to back it up, doesn't look away from the stripped-bare question in John's face. He's angry for John already, being robbed like that, and while he's used to this sort of anger, there's a new quality to it, something he can't examine and can't define – because he has the feeling he could make headlines with this man, write a story he's never had a chance to tell before. "Yeah."
They sit there for a while, not even the hovering spectre of melanoma and sunburn quite enough to chase Rodney back inside. At last, though, a wandering hand brushes his shoulder and it's like John's fingertips are needles, and Rodney yelps.
"Okay, okay, ow okay, seriously, it's inside time now, before the pain immobilizes me," he grumbles, and John laughs, and Rodney wonders if John's outline will be silhouetted on his skin, a pale and lingering shadow cast against him.
Rodney coaxes John off his lap, pulls them both to their feet with hands still pleasure-clumsy; tugs back on his shirt, wincing a little at fabric clinging to him in new and clammy ways, and carefully tucks John back into his pants, fumbles with the buttons before John's fingers chase his away and finish. "C'mon," he says carefully, "in no set order, I need to go inside and shower, acquire new underwear, send Zelenka back to the office, write an article, find a bed so that we can have more fantastic sex that is at least semi-comfortable and marginally athletic, and eat a sandwich approximately the size of my head."
He's not quite looking John in the eye, because he doesn't know just how those suggestions are going to go down--suggestions that take the two of them forward in time, that keep them together. But John's eyebrows quirk upwards in a manner that's a little goofy and a lot fond. "You sound like a man with a plan, McKay."
Rodney grins, smugness tilting the corners of his mouth just so, because he's always had the ability to calculate new positions on the fly, to factor in the new and the strange, a structure to his life that he can make and remake with the words he uses and how he uses them. "But of course," he says, and he takes John by the hand, and tugs him back up the gently sloping hill.