Pairing/Rating: Sheppard/Parrish, NC17
Summary: In and out of the closet.
A/N: bunny from Countess7, a loooong time ago.... Follows on from The Lost Language of Flowers but can be read as a stand-alone.
Within and without, in and out, round as a ball,
With hither and thither, as straight as a line,
With lily, germander, and sops-in-wine,
With sweet briar
And strawberry wire
John stops by David's lab to drop off some hanging balls of insectivorous lichen that he picked up on an offworld trip to a swamp planet.
"Nice," David says, suspending them in one of the sample tubes. John gives him the bag with the samples of native insects, only flinching a little when they buzz and rattle angrily. "Did you grab them because they're useful, or because they're hanging balls?"
"Oh, crap," John says, looking a little startled and then laughing, eyes dropping as if he's embarrassed. "I didn't even think of that."
"Great, I guess that means I'm the one with a dirty mind," David says.
John says, "Yeah," looking up, and then leans over the corner of the lab table and kisses David on the cheek. David steps around the table quick and returns the kiss, this time on the mouth. John's never easy. David's pretty sure John wants this -- they're dating in absolute secrecy, stopping would be as easy as John just not coming around anymore. But John acts shy, all the time, and David can't figure out when this means John's being paranoid because he can be fired just on suspicion, and when it means he's ignorant and inexpereinced and hoping David knows what to do, and when he just really is shy.
The one time David asked, John stared at him, eyes narrowed and opaque, and said he wasn't shy at all.
A week later, John pushed David back on the sofa in his office and blew him for the first time. David thought it might have been the first time John had ever had a dick in his mouth, which would have been cool, except that the whole point had seemed to be to prove that John was -- gay enough, or something.
David wants to tell John that he doesn't need to try so hard, but there's no way to say that without it sounding like rejection.
He doesn't know if John ever kissed a guy before, either. John gets more turned on by kissing than anyone David's ever known, and pretty soon John's rubbing himself off on David's leg, his breathing fractured by little needy gasps. David asks door locked? and let me?, and unbuttons the fly on John's trousers and slides down. John comes in his mouth about a minute later, smothering a shout with the back of his hand.
"Your turn," John says, pulling David up for a sloppy kiss. He doesn't ask what David wants, not until he's got David's dick in his hands, and then he's all is this okay? like David might break, like he's amazed that he's allowed to touch and taste. David takes longer to come; he shuts his eyes and imagines fucking John's ass. He imagines John as one of those virgins like in porn, who just can't get enough. He doesn't really think John would be like that; in real life it would be disturbing. But the uninhibited fantasy John in his head gets him off.
After, David gets them both coffee from the lounge machine, and John produces a bag of M&Ms candies, only slightly crushed.
"I told Ronon about us," John says. David blinks, and John looks down at where he's lining his candy up into single-color rows. "Well. More like, if he's looking for me, he should check here."
"What did he say?" David asks. He's pretty sure John's never had coming-out drama, because John's not out. He hopes Ronon wasn't a dick.
John shrugs. "Said I should just get him another headset. Like I would after he broke the last four."
Oh, David thinks, and watches the way the late afternoon sun lights up John's hair.
"Dr. Parrish," Teyla says, stepping into the lab and shutting the door.
David turns fully around, wiping potting soil off his hands onto a towel. He's spoken to her, oh, maybe five times total over the years. They move in different circles. He knows from his friends the anthropologists that the Athosians think of homosexuality as a failing, a lack of discipline. Their family units are complex, and after there are children sometimes a child's mothers or fathers will sleep together. But the idea of a gay couple, he's heard, is alien to them. He's never been all that eager to find out personally what sort of opinions they hold.
"Teyla Emmagen," he says, and smiles, raising his eyebrows and trying to look helpful.
"John told me I should inform you if anything happened," Teyla says. Her voice is flat and her posture is stiffly straight, as if delivering a report. David's knees go weak and shaky. He wants to sit down, but he doesn't want to appear undisciplined.
"Is he -- " David starts, but he's suddenly too superstitous to finish the sentence.
Teyla shakes her head. "He was taken. We will get him back."
"Taken," David repeats. He can't help that his hands have gone cold and numb; he presses one down hard on the workbench, just to feel something and be anchored.
"We will bring him home," Teyla promises.
"Thank you," David says. "I wouldn't have, nobody would have told me." She nods, gives him a considering look, and leaves.
David feels disconnected for the next two days, out of phase with his own panic and anger and fear. John's been taken, and everything looks unreal, and there's no one he can talk to.
John's team do find him, and he's whisked off to the infirmary. David's aware of both these facts almost immediately, but he doesn't know what to do.
Teyla appears perhaps an hour later, still wearing BDUs, still smelling like gunfire. She looks around the lab past David, her eyes settling on the purple bamboo-like grass from P4R-MC7. She points. "Is that unlucky?" David shakes his head (how would he know?), and Teyla walks past him, picks the pot up, and plunks it into his hands. "Come with me."
They take the transporter to the corridor that goes to the infirmary, and suddenly David's on the clue bus. "You're supposed to bring flowers, not botanists."
She tips her head to the side. "I am bringing both. We will call it a cultural misunderstanding. I find your ways so confusing." She puts a hand on his elbow. "Jennifer Keller did not tell anyone that I was pregnant, even though she must have known that Colonel Carter -- and John -- would have wanted to know."
"I can't tell you how much I -- " David starts, and Teyla waves the words away, looking up at him with something like amused indulgence.
Whatever she says to Jennifer gets David ten minutes alone with John, who's wearing a scrub top and sleeping with his mouth open. David sets the pot of grass down on a table and goes to sit next to him. Jennifer says John will be fine. He's bruised, a little, around his mouth. David takes John's hand between both of his and leans over to kiss John's forehead and wonders what the hell he's doing.
"Why are you here?" Rodney McKay shouts, pushing his way through the disarray of the greenhouse until he reaches the foot of the ladder. He glares up at David, arms akimbo; David stares down, holding the saw he was using to remove branches that had broken when Atlantis fell through the atmosphere and splashed down.
"Doing my job?" David snaps. "Do you have any idea how hard it was to bring back mature orchard trees in the jumper and get them to stay healthy and productive? We may be back in the land of the Stop and Shop, but that doesn't mean I can just let our food production capabilities go to hell."
"Blah, blah, blah," Rodney says, and twists his head as if his neck's kinking up. "Delegate the job to minions. You do have minions, don't you?" he adds, frowning.
"We have a rotation schedule," David says. "I try not to run my department like a dictatorship."
"Ooh," Rodney says, and grins wide, apparently pleased by the insult. He slaps the ladder so it wobbles. "Stop staring at the top of my head, Parrish."
"I thought you were in conference with the President and the IOA," David says, giving in and climbing down.
"We were, and now we are not. I'm going to take my lovely girlfriend out to dinner. Maybe even a movie. This is San Francisco," he says, emphasiszing the name with a raise of his eyebrows and airquotes. "And here you are hiding with the not-really-fig trees. San Francisco," he sing-songs, and David wants to shake him.
"Ah." David wipes the sawblade down, hangs it back up, and pulls the ladder back over to the corner. "We have a decent working relationship. Don't start now with the gay jokes or the stereotypes or whatever this thing is."
Rodney's eyes actually bug out comically, and he swallows air down in a gulp, and then he turns red. "It's a Sheppard thing," he says after a few deep breaths that make his nostrils flare. "How stupid do you think I am?"
"I'm not sure," David says, and he realizes that he can't even impress on Rodney the need for secrecy without revealing that there's something to be kept secret.
Rodney's watching him. "He's my best friend," he says after a moment. "I wasn't really looking forward to him growing old all bitter and alone, although bitter and alone beats out tragically dead at a young age. And I can't really say bad things about botanists, because, hello, Katie Brown?" He shrugs. "It's a big city, I'm sure the two of you can manage to get lost there for a few hours. Try and be normal people, for once. I'm really," Rodney says, mouth slanted and looking wistful, "really really looking forward to just being a regular guy and not having to save the universe. Today." He whips up a finger and jabs it in David's direction. "And tell Sheppard. . . tell him thanks a lot for being a dick and not ever mentioning the gay thing in five whole years of best friendship."
David grins. "He never actually told me, either."
Rodney waves this away. "You collected empirical evidence, you don't count."
"I can't believe he said that," John says. He's drunk himself into boneless relaxation and is leaning back into David, who likes having a pliable weight of boyfriend but is also glad that the headboard of the bed in their hotel room is padded. "No, wait, Rodney. I can believe he said that."
"They're all fine with us," David says. "Your friends. I was worried -- "
"You were worried?" John interrupts. "I. . . ." He drops his head back onto David's shoulder. "It fucks with your head," he says after a moment, "knowing that you aren't welcome home as a son, or seeing good people lose their careers. You always have to be careful, and it's just. I couldn't risk -- "
"Saying you're gay?" David suggests, when John goes silent.
"Saying I'm gay," John agrees, his voice abraded.
David wishes that he could show John that it would be all right, but he doesn't even know that himself. He kisses John instead, turning into it so that John goes down beneath him into the great soft nest of pillows and comforter. He kisses John and pushes away this and that until John is spread out naked, skin warm against David's, John's hands almost hot where they slide along his back. David thinks of the men they walked past to come here tonight, men holding hands or walking close enough to bump hips, and having John means never having that. Having John will mean being afraid, and for John, having David will never mean being free. David would have run from that proposition ten years ago.
But John's not a theoretical. David can read the evidence of what kind of man he is in his scars and the grey hair that's creeping in, in the muscles and bruises from constant training, in the lines on his face from worry and humor. John, he thinks, is worth it.
"So, are we going to. . . ?" John asks, sliding his hands even lower.
David rolls his hips, sliding his dick alongside John's, and John shudders, full-body shudder, right down to curling his toes around David's feet to hold on.
"I want," John says, and then stops and bites his lips in like he's trying to unsay the words.
"What," David says, and then he looks at John's eyes and everything's there, fragile and enormous and unspeakable. "Oh," David says, "Oh," and John says, "Yeah."