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14 September 2008 @ 15:14
Hysteresis  
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Title: Hysteresis

Pairings: Rodney McKay/Katie Brown, Rodney McKay/John Sheppard, Rodney McKay/ofc, Rodney McKay/Carson Beckett

Characters: Rodney McKay, Carson Beckett, Katie Brown, John Sheppard, Elizabeth Weir, Radek Zelenka, Jeannie Miller, ofc

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Even though he's supposed to be a genius, Rodney takes years to figure out what - and who - he really wants...

Categories: het, slash, ER, ft, friendship, characterstudy, vignette

Word count: 10456

Disclaimer: Not mine. *sigh* Just borrowed for personal amusement.

lover100 prompt: #036 slow

A/N: I really have to thank inkscribe who lend me the laptop on which this was typed and mice1900 who did a wonderful job with the beta (and any mistakes you find are mine...). You guys sooo rock! *hugs both* Okay, this is um, long, but really, it is a vignette. Somehow. And yeah, I did it. Fulfilling part of my new year's resolutions. *squees*

***


Hysteresis - Greek, 'deficiency' or 'lagging behind'; delayed reaction to a stimulus that has been removed; ~ is well known in ferromagnetic materials. When an external magnetic field is applied to a ferromagnet, the atomic dipoles align themselves with the external field. Even when the external field is removed, part of the alignment will be retained: the material has become magnetized.; see also Hysteresivity, the tendency to react slowly to an outside force or to not return completely to the original state: Source: Wikipedia]

***




Rodney never really understood why his friend left Atlantis.

Carson invited him to join him on this fishing trip one Sunday afternoon. He tried everything to get out of it again, but when Katie suggested that it would be nice if he spent some time with his best friend, he gave in. The emphasis on the word, though he only realised years later. He was flabbergasted when Carson told him about the decision to leave Atlantis.

At first Rodney thought it was a prank. Then he was gobsmacked. His inquiry to find out the reason was not successful. He didn't buy the "I need a change" line, because being in Atlantis was a change every day. Same place, different challenge. A power failure today, an alien invasion tomorrow.

He didn't believe his best friend was serious when Carson walked into the gate room, up the stairs, passing through the control room and into Elizabeth's office while he was sitting with Sgt. Fields to discuss the federal elections in Canada. He didn't believe it when he received the copy of a mail from Elizabeth to the senior officers, informing them about Carson's decision. He still couldn't quite believe it when he watched his friend pack his bags.

Realisation began to dawn upon him when he watched Carson step towards the Stargate with the backpack It was the one Carson had when they first went on this mission and stepped through the gate, arriving in Atlantis, Rodney recognized with a frown. Except for the scratches and dirty blotches, reminders of their common missions. And there was the patch he'd helped Carson to attach to it. Carson stepped through the gate and gave him one last glance over the shoulder.

Rodney caught himself several times, days and weeks later, when he was on the way to Carson's quarters, the force of habit, having himself to remember that his friend was gone. It was around that time he started calling Sheppard "John".

Katie, who had been worried about him and said things like: "You seem distracted, Rodney, maybe you need to spend more time out of your lab. You know, with a friend." seemed pleased when he spent more time with his team leader, hanging out, doing guy stuff.

Until John came on to him one evening. Rodney didn't sleep well that night and didn't tell Katie about it. She didn't ask why it was "Sheppard" again the next day in the mess hall, and he didn't notice the frown she gave the Colonel.

Things got tense between the Colonel and him. Maybe even more tense than after he blew up 5/6ths of a solar system. Teyla and Ronon didn't notice or decided not to comment on it and Rodney felt more alien in his team than he had felt during his first stay in the SGC in the Cheyenne Mountain complex when he was called in to rescue Teal'c.

He broke up with Katie over it, because she didn't understand him. In fact, no one understood him. It was a hard time and he was very close to quitting.

The only things that kept him from doing so was the card Jeannie sent him for his birthday. And the one Carson sent him from Brussels. Rodney told himself, he kept it because it had the Atomium on it.

Then Elizabeth got transferred back to Earth. When he talked to her about that, she was not too pessimistic. "I'm not too old to have kids, Rodney," she told him. "And if I want one, this is the perfect time." Carter took over her position. He flirted a bit with her, half-heartedly and maybe only out of habit, because he had done it every time he'd met her in the past. He wasn't really disappointed when she didn't pick up on it.

And strangely, things got better with Sheppard again. They didn't get back to first names though, and Sheppard didn't try to kiss him again.

During his fifth year on Atlantis, Rodney started getting bored and thought he realised what Carson had meant by "needing a change". Things weren't the same anymore, not like during the first months they had been in the Pegasus galaxy.

When he was on holidays to visit Jeannie - and the moron who unfortunately was the father of his niece, who was quite clever for a kid, Rodney admitted, but never out loud to anyone - he got in contact with some people from the university Jeannie had started teaching evening classes at.

It took him another six months and a totally disastrous mission to come to the decision that the Pegasus galaxy really wasn't a safe place and that Canada was in fact big enough for two McKays. Within two months he was back on Earth and started teaching at the same university as his sister.

Jeannie helped him sorting his stuff and when she asked him about the bundle of postcards from Carson, he couldn't really give her an answer. Annoyed about her grin, Rodney grabbed the bundle and threw them in the waste.

He couldn't explain why he pulled them out again and put them in the top drawer of his desk later when Jeannie had left his apartment. The cards stayed in the drawer and Rodney would add the new cards he received for his birthday, for Canada Day, Christmas and Easter the following years. Cards he never replied to.

It took him a while to get used to teaching. And to being around his sister, and the twit who was her husband, almost all of the time. He stayed in contact with Radek and Elizabeth.

Radek would contact him every so often and bemoan his leave, because it put him in charge of the science department. Rodney was quite convinced that it was just courtesy. He enjoyed their games of chess though, played via video conference. Most of the games he lost, telling Radek every time, he had let him win to make him feel better. Radek of course didn't buy the courtesy act.

With Elizabeth he was talking more or less regularly on the phone. Most of the times it was she who would call him. She invited him for the holidays to meet Simon. He couldn't accept, because he was busy with grading papers and preparing classes. He was busy doing research for a publication in a magazine when she invited him to her wedding. She called him when her daughter was born and only due to Jeannie's nagging he sent her a card. He refused the invitation for her baptism because there was this important conference in Berlin which under no circumstances he could miss.

When he had a drink in the hotel bar, three days later in Berlin, the first evening because he couldn't sleep, he overheard the name Beckett in a conversation on the table behind him. Turning around he half expected to see Carson, and it took him a few moments to realise that they weren't talking about the Scottish doctor, but about the Irish writer.

Rodney didn't understand why this caught him so off guard. He did not understand it right then, but he did get an idea some years later. He put the blame on the jet lag, because nine hours time difference between Vancouver and Berlin were a bitch. And he put the blame on the annoyingly long introducing speeches at the conference and the lack of sleep. And on the gibberish, the mix of German, English, French and several other languages spoken in the bar.

He couldn't explain why he hooked up with the woman sitting next to him when she hit on him. She wasn't his type. The skirt she wore was a little bit too short and the colour of her blouse a bit too loud. She wasn't speaking a language he understood. The hand in his crotch he did understand, though. He had one drink too many to care about all that. But not enough to forget about protection.

It was a little bit awkward at first, he didn't understand one single word she was murmuring to him, he wasn't sure if it was Portuguese or Czech, and he really didn't care when she pressed against him naked. He was coming way too fast but she kept riding him like a mad cowgirl, his half hard cock still buried inside her. She was screaming when she orgasmed, which he found quite disturbing after being with Katie, who had barely made a sound in bed. Katie had only moaned softly, throwing back her head into the pillows when she came.

He was asleep the moment he fell in bed beside her after pulling off the condom and putting on his boxers again.

Rodney woke with the worst hangover ever and the bed beside him was empty. It took him about three minutes to remember what happened the night before and with a panicky scream he jumped out of bed and checked his luggage, but everything was still in place. His documents, papers for the conference, his wallet with the money.

He was a little bit off kilter after he came back home, and he refused to tell Jeannie about it when she inquired him about it. It was the first time he remembered Carson's birthday, which was about two months later. Rodney was standing in London Drugs in the row with the cards, and he blushed when one of the clerks addressed him. Without really looking he grabbed one card, only to find out later, back at home, that it actually said "You don't get older, you gain experience."



He scribbled "Carson, Happy b'day. Rodney" on it, put it in the envelope and placed it on the kitchen counter, where he intended to pick it up some days later to send it. He made a mental note to ask Elizabeth for Carson's address, because he didn't have it.

The envelope still sat there a few weeks later, about two weeks after Carson's birthday and Rodney decided to call Carson. He forgot to ask Elizabeth when she called him that weekend. She told him about Simon and the kid and they chit-chatted about the expedition and people and Rodney felt a little melancholy when he hung up the phone. When he made some coffee later, his gaze fell on the envelope and he grabbed a sticky note, to make a note to himself to ask Elizabeth for Carson's address and phone number, just in case and to be up-to-date, the next time they would talk on the phone.

It took him two more weeks to actually do that. Rodney stuck the note with Carson's address and email address and phone number to the fridge, deciding to call Carson as soon as possible. Another month later he thought that it wouldn't make a good impression if he called Carson two months too late to wish a belated happy birthday. Maybe sending an email would be the better option anyway, he pondered. He had no idea what he should tell Carson after all these years. Rodney sat down at his desk and powering his laptop he drafted a mail. It took him about two and a half hour to compose a three line mail, saying:

Carson,

I'm sorry, but I was busy and didn't get around to do this sooner. Happy birthday! Hope you're okay.

Rodney

PS: thank you for your cards.


He hesitated for a moment, as he hovered the mouse pointer over the send button, and with a deep sigh he finally did it. After that, he was anxious and nervous. Carson had been his best friend, and he never contacted him in all these years after Carson left Atlantis. Elizabeth had told him about Carson, and so had Radek. But he hadn't talked to the man himself. He had no explanation for that, it just happened.

He was still nervous and had strange dreams that night, of Atlantis, of Carson and the episode when Cadman made him kiss the man while she was caught in his mind.

When he checked his emails the next day, he had an answer from Carson. He sat at his desk, staring at the bold printed subject line and address, and hesitated to open the mail. He got up and got some coffee, then fed his cat. Returning to the desk, he did a few phone calls and deleted some junk mail, before he could bring himself to actually open the reply from Carson.

Hello Rodney,

thank you very much for the belated birthday mail!



>>>Hope you're okay.
Oh, I can't complain. I really enjoy working at the university/hospital here. Especially the fact that there's no Wraith around here makes it a nice place. :-) Elizabeth told me, you're teaching at Vancouver university. I'm still not sure she pulled a prank on me. Is that right? You're actually a teacher for young adults, Rodney?

>>>PS: thank you for your cards.
I wasn't sure if you got them, so I'm glad you liked them.

It would be lovely to read (or hear) from you more regularly. Take care!

Carson



Rodney wore a goofy grin when he picked up Jeannie for breakfast an hour later. She was quiet and watched him with a happy smile. He was all excited, telling her about the upcoming conference in Montreal a month later and shoveling food into his mouth.

"You didn't take any happy pills, did you?" she asked concerned when he got his fourth refill of coffee. Rodney had no idea what she was talking about, and stared at her with wide eyes.

"No, I just got an email from Carson this morning," he said and launched into summarizing some of their adventures back on Atlantis. It took him a while to realise that she sat across the table, giving him a smug grin all the while he was talking about Carson.

"What?" he asked irritably.

"Nothing," she replied and shrugged her shoulders. "The same Carson who sent all these nice cards you threw away when you moved into your apartment?"

Various emotions flittered across his face and Jeannie's grin broadened as Rodney actually blushed, lowering his gaze and picking at his food. "I, um, didn't throw them away," he finally said.

"But I saw you throwing them out."

"I pulled them from the bin later. I," he paused, not knowing what to say. "It's none of your business anyway," he exclaimed fiercely and shoved the rest of the scrambled eggs into his mouth. He was irritable the rest of the day, and for the first time in a long while he regretted having come back to Vancouver to teach kids.

He felt a little better when he came home that night, cuddling with Becky, the cat he'd picked up from the pound, as he sat down to reply to Carson's mail. They exchanged emails for a few days, giving each other updates on their lives.

Rodney was surprised how much Carson knew about him and what he'd done since Carson had left Atlantis. It was only when he talked to Elizabeth several days later he found out that Carson had been in contact with her too, and received regular updates. He was confused, and touched, because even though Carson had been a very good, if not his very best friend in Atlantis and sent cards regularly Rodney hadn't thought Carson would talk about him with Elizabeth.

The call he received from Carson only an hour after he talked to Elizabeth was a surprise. It was early morning for Carson and Rodney noticed how tired the man sounded. Carson explained that he was just back from a nightshift. Usually he wouldn't have been on, but there had been a terrible plane crash. All hospitals in London were full and every available person with medical training had been on duty.

Switching on the TV, Rodney noticed the plane crash was on almost every station on cable. It was a little awkward, and they didn't talk for long, since Carson was tired and Rodney didn't really know what to say.

They started calling each other regularly and Rodney noticed the smug grin on Jeannie's face when he talked about Carson. She wouldn't tell him what she found so funny about it, though, and it really bugged him.

Christmas came closer and when he was in chat one morning in the middle of November, Carson asked him about his plans for the holidays.

Labrat, 06:21:35: So, made any plans for the hols already?

Brainiac, 06:22:57: Not really, I think, I'll do the same as usual. Watching some episodes of Dr Who on Christmas Eve. Having breakfast with Jeannie and her family, be back after two hours, because I'm bored of talking to her husband. Watching some more Dr Who and cuddling with the cat. Maybe getting some stuff on Boxing day. Not sure yet. You?

Labrat, 06:26:34 Going to visit Mum for a few days, and my brother Mike. The rest of the family will be in France, visiting Donald and his wife.

Labrat, 06:28:12: Have you ever been to London?

Brainiac, 06:28:17: No.

Brainiac, 06:28:23: why?

Labrat, 06:31:22: I was just wondering if you'd like to come over for a few days.

Labrat, 06:31:31: If you like.

Labrat, 06:41:29: Um, Rodney?? You still there?

Brainiac, 06:42:07: Yes, still here. Just had to take care of the cat. She kept bugging me for food. Um, you sure about me coming to London?

Labrat, 06:42:45: ;) I wouldn't invite you if I wasn't, you know. I heard there's a great exhibition at the Science Museum. Maybe you'd like to see it.

Rodney was a little hesitant, but checked flights before he left for university that morning. He spent all day to ponder going or not going. Jeannie asked him, if he could drop her on his way back. Driving back to her house he beat about the bush, and when she asked what was up, he told her about Carson's invitation. Jeannie gave him that grin again and instantly he regretted to even have brought up the subject. Squeezing his shoulder, she told him to accept Carson's invitation.

Five weeks later Rodney was on the plane from Montreal to London. He was bored to tears, even though he'd brought the notes for his book and his iPod.

He was so bored, he switched on the media set and browsed the films they offered. Only when the film started, he noticed he clicked the wrong one, and instead of picking the cool sci fi adventure chose "When Harry met Sally".

The only reason why he didn't stop watching the film immediately was the hope that it would help him fall asleep instantly. With little interest he watched the story unfold. He actually managed a weak smile when Sally faked the orgasm in the restaurant.

Really, he thought, he'd always know if an orgasm was real or faked.

He started drifting off, but the moment, Harry had this conversation with his buddy about Sally caught his attention again. The other guy told Harry, that men and women never could be just friends and Rodney had an epiphany.

Suddenly everything fit into its place and things he hadn't understood earlier made sense. With frightening clarity Rodney realised that he'd been avoiding Carson for all these years because he'd been in love with him.

"Fuck," he murmured, raising his chin and resting the back of his head against the headrest. The swearword got him a reprimanding glare from the stewardess who was walking up the aisle, taking orders for drinks. The headphones slid from his ears, and the film played along without him paying attention.

When she came back, she sized him up. "Sir, are you alright?"

"No," he said, shaking his head. His stomach revolted and he shot up from his seat. "I think, I need to go see the washroom," he murmured and quickly passed her by to head for the washroom. He barely managed to close the doors behind him and lift the lid of the toilet, when he felt the bitter in his mouth.

Trembling and white as a wall he came out of the washroom, just to find an anxious stewardess stare at him. "Are you alright, sir? Do you need a cup of water? Is there anything I can do for you?"

Rodney shook his head and made a gesture with his hand. "I, I think I'm okay, thank you very much," he said and stumbled back to his seat. His mind and stomach in turmoil, he sat down. Why did he have to come to this conclusion at the least suitable moments of all? On the plane to London, on his way to Carson whom he'd spend the holidays with. It wasn't even the fact that he was in love with a man. The thing about it that was a shock to his system was the fact that it had taken him so long to figure it out when he was supposed to be a genius.

But there was no other explanation.

The kiss Cadman had made him to press on Carson's lips. They'd never talked about it. Carson had tried to bring the subject up, but he'd always refused to talk about it until Carson had given up.

There was Katie -- he'd gotten together with her only a few days after that incident. At times she had given him this sad look he'd never been able to read.

And suddenly it seemed to be crystal clear why Carson had left Atlantis: Carson must have been in love with him. Or at least attracted to him.

Coming to think about it, the day Carson took him to this fishing trip must have been just about a day or two after Rodney told Carson in - even Rodney had to admit that - very harsh words that this was a topic that he'd never wanted to have brought up again.

"When Harry met Sally" still flickered over the tiny screen right in front of him, but he didn't really pay attention to it. Sitting petrified in his seat, his thoughts racing like mad, Rodney spend the next two hours trying to figure things out.

Until the stewardess came and brought dinner. He refused, too upset to actually bring himself to get something down his throat and into his stomach. He was afraid that it wouldn't stay in there very long and rather sooner than later join the snack he'd left in the washroom earlier. He wondered how he would manage to stand Carson's presence. Now that he figured what he felt for Carson. But what if Carson didn't feel the same for him anymore? What if Carson wasn't even gay? Or had someone else?

Maybe Carson had gotten himself a nice girlfriend. But then, he wouldn't invite Rodney to come over to London. Or the girlfriend had other obligations, so Carson was free to spend the time with his old friend. She could be married and had to spend the holidays with her husband and the three kids, Rodney pondered. They had met in hospital, she had been one of Carson's patients and she had fallen for him instantly, coming back again and again to lure Carson... Frantically shaking his head, he pushed aside the thought. No, Carson wouldn't do that. He couldn't explain why, but it wasn't like Carson to do something like this. Something that wasn't right. Like breaking into a marriage.

He had no actual proof Carson was gay, now had he? Just because Carson left Atlantis didn't mean, he left Atlantis because Rodney didn't want to talk to him about the kiss. Or repeat the kiss...

His theory had just too many uncertainties and weak points, too many variables he wasn't able to identify. Too many possibilities and too many "if"s.

If Carson was gay and had been after him, then it would make sense for him to be disturbed after the kiss.

If Carson had had deeper feelings for him, had felt more than friendship, it would have made sense for him to leave once he figured that Rodney was with Katie and didn't want to talk about the kiss.

And maybe Carson wouldn't love him like this? The hair at his temples was starting to grow thin and there were a few gray strands. After all he'd gained some pounds during the last few years. He didn't have a regular work out without having to go on missions. Without sparring sessions with Ronon or Teyla. No early morning jogging with Cadman. No running from freaky natives who wanted to spear him. Or shoot him with arrows. Patting his belly, Rodney thought he wasn't in a too bad shape, but he had to admit that he had been better.

Maybe they didn't get along when they met? Found out that it had been a good thing not to see each other in all these years, because too many things had changed. Rodney's nervousness got worse with every mile the plane got closer to Heathrow. When he fastened his seatbelt as the plane was about to touch down, he seriously considered taking the next plane back after passing customs and getting his luggage. Carson hadn't seen him in a few years and he could at least try to sneak past him.

But then, even though he knew he was a scardey cat, Rodney knew he couldn't do this. Chicken out when he'd been flying across the ocean and at an altitude of 33,000 feet so by the way not only realised he loved Carson - but also wanted Carson to love him.

He managed to pass customs, suppressing the need to snark at security or quote Oscar Wilde, and claimed back his luggage. Feeling his heart beating fast in his chest, he wrapped his hand tightly around the grip of the bag and hesitated to step through the huge glass door. What if he and Carson didn't get along and this trip turned out to be an utter and total disaster? Wouldn't that be cruel and unfair?

He stopped dead in his tracks, sizing up the huge door in front of him that suddenly reminded him so much of the Stargate. So many times he'd been stepping through it, never really knowing what would await him on the other side. But most of the times he'd had his team by his side, now he was alone. This wasn't just a "mission", this was -- life altering, he thought, feeling his knees go wobbly.

Someone jostled him, bumping against his shoulder and thus pushing him through the door. "I'm so sorry," he heard someone say as he turned around, but in the stream of people coming out of the door after him couldn't make the person out. He was pushed along the way and even if he'd tried to avoid Carson he wouldn't have had the chance to, because when he raised his gaze and looked ahead, he found Carson staring at him. Standing right behind the bars, smiling. Rodney caught his breath and slowed down his pace. "Oh god," he thought, "I can't do this!"

He could.

The smile on Carson's face didn't falter, and Rodney noticed the fine strands of silver in Carson's hair which he wore like usual, gelled upwards into that sort of Elvis hairdo and that the dimples around his mouth had deepened. Carson had lost some weight. "Skinny," Rodney thought, "Almost skinny."

"Hi," he croaked when he was face to face with Carson and slowly dropped his bag.

"Hello Rodney," Carson drawled with his soft Scottish accent, spread his arms and pulled Rodney against his chest. "Welcome to London."

Rodney shivered as Carson's arms closed around him. Awkwardly he returned the gesture, wrapping his arms around Carson's middle and shifting a little closer. He felt his knees buckle, but Carson kept him upright. Closing his eyes, Rodney rested his cheek against Carson's, dipping his nose into the soft hair of Carson's neck. During all the time he'd been working with Carson in Antarctica and in Atlantis - why hadn't he realised that Carson smelled so good, so tempting and inviting, like he was fresh out of the shower?

Totally overwhelmed by the sensations, he reluctantly let go of Carson when he felt the other man slowly loosen his embrace. Only then he noticed the leather jacket Carson wore, and the blue shirt that matched the blue of his eyes.

"You look a wee bit pale," Carson noticed and with a wink grabbed his luggage. "You still getting airsick, even after all your trips with the jumper?"

For a second Rodney had been afraid, Carson would mention Sheppard, but fortunately he didn't. His expression darkened momentarily, but then he gave Carson a grim grin. "Not really. The food wasn't bad. In fact it was very good. It just didn't stay in for long," he said and followed Carson who headed towards the exit.

Carson closely watched his face. "Are you still feeling sick? What did you have? Did you drink enough?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. At least one thing that hadn't changed since Carson left Atlantis. "No, I'm better now. Just a snack, I think it was a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato. And yes, I did have enough to drink. I see you haven't changed," Rodney returned and instantly regretted his words. He hadn't come here to snark at Carson.

"I, I'm sorry Carson," he said, tentatively reaching out his hand to touch Carson's shoulder. "I, I guess I'm just tired." He really was.

Carson turned his head and gave him one of these brilliant smiles. Only, Rodney hadn't thought of them as brilliant before.

"I guess you are," Carson softly said and opened the door for him. Rodney stopped and looked up at Carson, again noticing how good Carson was looking. Handsome. And when did he start to think of Carson as handsome, he wondered, feeling the blood rush to his face. Carson arched his brow and looked at him with an expectant look, but Rodney only grinned back.

He noticed the curious sideways glances Carson threw at him as they walked to Carson's car in the parking lot near the exit. Neither of them spoke until they were on their way back to London. Carson asked him about the flight and Rodney replied, slowly relaxing and starting to drift off. He fell asleep about four times, and was glad when they finally arrived at Carson's flat in one of the suburbs.

Carson took his luggage inside and laughed as he was toeing off his shoes right behind the front door. Rodney looked at him confused. "What's so funny?" he demanded.

"I was just about to tell you to make yourself at home, but I see you're doing that already," Carson chuckled as he dropped his luggage and hung his jacket into the wardrobe and took Rodney's.

Rodney stared from his feet to Carson's shoes and back to himself. "Well, where I come from it's considered a courtesy not to stomp around with dirty shoes in other people's houses," he said defiantly, for a moment really upset about Carson's laughter.

"You mean," Carson said as he closed the wardrobe and slowly turned back to Rodney. "You can actually be courteous to people?" Carson teased and the dimples around his mouth deepened.

Rodney wasn't sure what he'd rather do. Kiss Carson or strangle him. The insult, implied in the teasing comment made him tend towards the second. The smile itself though, made him want to do the first.

He swallowed as he raised his eyes, catching Carson look at him. "Um, yes, I can do courtesy," he said. Carson just smiled and took his bag. "Come on, let's drop this off in the guestroom and I'll give you the grand tour." He toed off his sneakers and showed Rodney around, dropping Rodney's bag in front of the bed of the guestroom.

Everything was kept in light colours, and each room had his own sort of theme. The colour of the living room was light orange, red and brown; the kitchen soft yellow, the counter and the other furniture light brown; the bathroom was blue and green. Rodney was curious for Carson's bedroom, but didn't dare to ask for it.

"I guess, you're quite tired," Carson said as they were standing in front of the guestroom. "I've put some towels and a bathrobe for you in the shelf by the shower. Shall we call it a night, so you can have a shower and go to bed?"

"I'm not that tired," Rodney said. He didn't feel like going to bed yet. Physically, he was exhausted, he'd been on the trip for about eighteen hours. But his mind was still racing and he knew if he went to bed, he'd lie awake for hours.

So Carson made tea for himself and decaf from a new box for him, as Rodney noticed and they sat down on the sofa in Carson's living room.

For a while they just sat in silence, Rodney letting his eyes wander over the shelves, taking in the CD and DVD collection, the books and pictures Carson had on display. Carson rested on arm on the backrest of the sofa, and Rodney felt a little nervous when he caught Carson watching him taking in his surroundings.

He'd seen Carson's quarters in Atlantis, and they had been pretty spartan, just like everybody else’s, so to see a place Carson had given his personal touch was something new. But unlike his own apartment, Carson's had style and class. His own wasn't untidy, well, not all the time. Rodney couldn't quite put his finger on it, what exactly the difference was, but he liked Carson's place. It was warm and cozy and very Carson.

"Carson," he asked suddenly, turning the mug in his hands. "Are you gay?"

Carson slowly put down his mug on the table and Rodney instantly regretted having asked. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked that. Just forget that I ever mentioned it, okay?"

He nervously shifted on the sofa, suddenly becoming aware of how close Carson sat to him. But Carson held his gaze and almost nonchalantly leaned into the backrest of the sofa.

"In fact, I am, Rodney," Carson said. "Or had you preferred not knowing? Does it make a difference for you?"

Rodney blushed at Carson's almost defiant reply. It made a hell of a difference, he thought. Maybe not in the way Carson thought it did. Carson was still Carson, somehow, but then again not.

He still had that dimples around his mouth, even when he didn't flash a smile. He still wore the hair in this funny ducktail sort of way. He still had the most brilliant blue eyes Rodney'd ever seen. Still spoke with that accent.

Only that all these things about Carson he never noticed all the time in Atlantic had become meaningful somehow. The smile, the eyes. Maybe not the hairdo, though.

"Um, no?" Rodney hesitated. He couldn’t tell Carson that it made a difference for him. Not in the bad way.

"You sure?" Carson asked. "You don’t feel uncomfortable around me, knowing that?"

Rodney felt more blood rushing to his face. He knew one of his weak traits was that he’d never been able to hide his feelings. People around him always knew whether he was happy or annoyed. Carson would notice that something about his behaviour was odd and start asking questions. And Rodney knew he was a bad liar.

"I, I, I think so," Rodney stammered, feeling his heart beat faster in his chest. Carson was so close, his elbow on the backrest of the sofa only a few inches away from his own. He suddenly had the irresistible urge to reach out his hand and just touch Carson. It was so incredible to be next to him after all these years. With a frown he placed the mug on the table, right next to Carson’s.

"Why did you really leave Atlantis?" he asked with a low voice, cutting right down to the matter that had bothered him all these years. "I never bought the "I need a change thing", so what was it?"

Carson sighed. "I’m not sure you’re ready to listen and I’m not sure I’m ready to tell," he said slowly, his eyes never leaving Rodney’s face. There was a touch of sadness in his eyes, like in Katie’s whenever he spoke of Carson.

"Maybe we should call it a night, you had a tiring day after all," Carson said and slowly rose >from the sofa. Rodney was confused for a moment, but got up, too. He couldn’t tell what tipped the scales as they stood in the hallway in front of the guest room. Carson was about to walk over to his own bedroom, but suddenly they were face to face, pressing against each other and kissing tentatively.

Carson's lips were warm and supple against his and Rodney moaned softly when Carson slowly parted them to allow him to slide his tongue into his mouth. His body instantly reacted to the kiss and he felt himself hardening against Carson's thigh as the kiss deepened.

But as unexpectedly as the kiss started, it ended. Carson pulled away abruptly from him, and it took Rodney a moment to register what happened.

"It's not working like that," Carson whispered as he stepped back. "You can't ignore me for five bloody years and then kiss me like that."

"But I, I," Rodney stammered desperately. Carson was too far away, and he wanted him back against his body. Warm and firm and strong. I love you, Rodney wanted to tell Carson but didn't dare. He took a step towards Carson, reaching out his hand, but Carson raised his hand, blocking him off in advance. Collecting all his courage, he whispered, "I love you, Carson."

"Please, Rodney, don't."

Pulling back his hand, Rodney stared at Carson, hurt, confused and aroused. He wasn't sure what happened and what he was supposed to do or say. "I'm sorry," he whispered, stepping back and nervously rubbing his hands together. Carson looked exhausted and sad and Rodney felt the strong urge to just hug him.

"You can't do this, Rodney," Carson said with a shaky voice. "Ignore all my cards and show up at my place five years later to tell me out of the blue you love me."

"But it's true," Rodney whispered. It was. He couldn't explain why he suddenly felt this way about Carson. It hurt deep down in his chest, and if he'd been more of the romantic type, he might have described it as "broken heart", but he wasn't and so he just felt this inexplicable pain at Carson's reaction. And he certainly never felt that way about Katie.

"We're not going to discuss this now," Carson said firmly. "You're tired and so am I."

"Carson," Rodney interrupted pleadingly, but Carson cut him off, "Tomorrow, Rodney. Please."

Carson looked at him for a long moment. Holding his gaze, Rodney nodded. "Okay."

"Good. Good night, Rodney."

"Good night, Carson."

It took Rodney a long while to fall asleep. He was still aroused when he slipped into bed, but he didn't dare get rid of his condition. It didn't feel right to do this in a strange room. With Carson sleeping in the room next to him.

He woke up late the next day, having jet lag, but felt a little better after having a shower. Dressing up, he smelled food and when he went down to the kitchen, he found Carson making breakfast, pancakes eggs and sausages. But instead of getting back to the evening's conversation, Carson suggested they visited the Science Museum after they had breakfast.

Rodney was thrilled on one hand, he'd heard about the exhibitions there. He was relieved, Carson didn't seem to be resentful about his confession. And he was glad he could have food before they had "the talk", which he expected to follow. Some time.

Carson was his charming self during breakfast, which was rich and tasted fantastic, and on the way to the museum, entertaining him with funny stories he caught at work or on the net. Apart from being massively relieved that Carson wasn't upset about the confession of the night before, Rodney also was nervous, because Carson didn't breach the subject again.

With open rejection he could have dealt, could have tried to persuade Carson if the man had been hesitant. Getting no reply, no kind of feedback left him helpless and uncertain. And he hated feeling that way.

Because of the holidays, it was only a day to Christmas eve, the museum was quite crowded. From time to time Carson would lean against his shoulder or brush their hands together. It took Rodney about an hour to realise that these accidental touches weren't so innocent at all, but well calculated. He trembled and stammered his answer as Carson whispered to him, asking about an experiment on display, breathing warm against his neck. When he looked up, confused, Carson only gave him one of these brilliant smiles and wandered off to the next display.

Ironically, in the mechanics section, Rodney couldn't stand it any longer and had to go to the washroom, which fortunately wasn't busy, to give himself some relief. He had no idea whether Carson realised what he'd been up to or not, at least he didn't comment on it. Trying to stay away from Carson proved to be impossible, and he was a shivering bundle of nerves, all want and need, when they got back to the car.

And Rodney, who rarely picked up subtle, realised that this was Carson actually flirting with him in the car after they left the museum. Every so often, when he changed gears, Carson would touch Rodney's knee.

"Carson?" Rodney asked breathlessly, when they were stopping at a traffic light and Carson's fingers brushed his knees for just a moment too long.

Intently staring at the traffic light, Carson obviously deliberately ignored him. Only when he addressed him again, Carson slightly turned his head and made a thoughtful "hmm".

"Your hand," Rodney carefully said, gesturing down to the hand still touching his knee.

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Carson, except he didn't sound as if he was, and getting the car into gear again, slowly pulled away his hand.

The sun was already setting as Carson took him to a tiny pub where they had a late lunch - or early dinner - depending on one's point of view. Their knees touched under the table and Rodney was too nervous to enjoy the food. Having Carson this close, feeling the man touch him all the time and not knowing how to deal with that, was a first. Never had he wanted someone who made him feel this helpless. And the worst was, Carson didn't seem to notice what he was doing to him. He sat across the table, digging into his club sandwich and giving him another one of these brilliant smiles.

Somehow he managed to make it through the meal. Back in the car, he yawned and Carson suggested they go back to his place to call it an early night, which Rodney gladly accepted. He still wasn't used to local time, and though he hated not knowing where Carson stood, he felt too tired to bring up the subject again.

Standing in front of the guest room, Rodney had a moment of déjà-vu. He held his breath as Carson came closer, leaned into him and feathered a soft kiss on his cheek.

"Night Rodney," he whispered against Rodney's neck and gently squeezed his shoulder. "Sleep well and have pleasant dreams."

With closed eyes and his heart hammering in his chest, Rodney blindly grasped for Carson's hip to give himself support. He didn't dare move or breathe, afraid that any sudden movement would drive Carson away. He wanted to drag out the moment, wanted Carson's arms around his shoulders and to explore his mouth with unknown intensity.

"Please," he whispered when Carson slowly pulled away from him, not knowing how to express what he wanted, needed.

"You should go to bed," Carson softly said, giving his shoulder a last squeeze, then Rodney felt him slowly pulling away.

"I don't want to go to bed alone," Rodney murmured and blinked open his eyes. "You can't do this, Carson," he started, then paused, looking for words.

"Do what?"

"Touch me," Rodney finally said, holding Carson's gaze. "And then send me to bed all alone," he added accusingly.

Leaning closer again, Carson grabbed the front of Rodney's pullover and pulled him against his chest. "Like this?" he whispered and passionately claimed Rodney's mouth. Without finesse he was ravaging Rodney, forcefully pushing his tongue deep inside his friend's mouth and thrusting against Rodney's hips. Surprised by the sudden move and too starved for the contact, Rodney didn't resist as Carson pressed him back against the doorframe and plundered his mouth.

He whimpered as Carson slid his knee between his thighs, but willingly followed the motion and wrapped his arms around Carson's shoulders for support. He gasped, when Carson let go of him and gently nipped his chin.

"You think I was cruel today, to tease you like that, don't you?'

"Yes," Rodney whispered, grinding down against Carson's thigh. "You were."

Leaning back and stemming his hands into the wall beside Rodney's head, Carson looked at Rodney. "This is how I felt for the better part of a year," he whispered. "Ever since you kissed me. I know that it was Cadman who made you do it, but I couldn't help it, Rodney. Lord, I wanted you so much it hurt."

"I'm sorry," Rodney whispered and raised his hand to touch Carson's cheek. "I, I, I had no idea."

"I tried to talk to you, but you wouldn't listen. Every time I brought up the subject, you got angry at me and shut me down."

Oh god, Rodney thought, I was right, he was in love with me all the time and I never noticed, never realised.

"That was why you left Atlantis," Rodney said. The thought that something he did had hurt Carson, without him realising he did, was just too painful. If only he had listened to Carson, given him the chance to talk. Maybe things would have gone differently. Carson wouldn't have been hurt. He probably wouldn't have dated Katie and surely Sheppard wouldn't have dared to kiss him.

Carson slowly nodded and, after a moment's hesitation Rodney leaned in and wrapped his arms around Carson. Tears stung the corners of his eyes as he tried to imagine how Carson must have felt. He couldn't.

"God, I'm so sorry, Carson," he whispered again and again and petted Carson's back, hot tears streaming down his face. "Forgive me, please."

Carson sobbed and Rodney felt wet warmth seep into his neck. He didn't even try to hide his tears as Carson slowly turned his head to look up at him.

"Why did you send this mail after all these years?" Carson asked, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.

Memories of the hotel bar came back to Rodney, words of the conversation flowing in his ears. With them came the more vivid recollections of sensations of the night that followed that evening. Of a firm body against his. Small, knowing hands on his heated skin, sliding under his clothes and tearing them away. The feel of his cock buried in a tight, wet and willing body. Rodney felt the blood rush to his face, and to his crotch and cleared his throat.

"I was at a conference and caught your name one evening in the bar," Rodney said and explained that it took him some time to figure they were talking about the author and not about the former doctor in Atlantis. He hesitated for a moment, but then it poured out of him.

How much hearing Carson's name had affected him. The drinks he'd drowned, too many in too little of time. Her hand in his crotch and how she rode him until he came.

Carson rocked against him, just as hard as Rodney was, moaning softly. But instead of being upset about the story, he seemed to be turned on. "I bet she was so tight, wasn't she?" Carson whispered against Rodney's ear.

Rodney couldn't remember. He wasn't sure he wanted to, especially right now, with Carson hard against his hip. "I, I don't remember," he replied, arching up against Carson.

"I want to fuck you, Rodney," Carson murmured and nibbled his ear. "Wanted to fuck you ever since that kiss, and knew I never would."

"Oh, god," Rodney moaned, overwhelmed by the confession. He wasn't able to think straight, he only wanted to feel. Carson. Naked skin. He didn't want to think about the implications of letting Carson fuck him. He wanted, needed this. Needed Carson. And Carson wanted him too. "Yes."

Somehow they managed to stumble to Carson's bedroom, shedding their clothes on the way. Rodney didn't care where they fell, and sighed as he felt naked skin against his. Willingly he fell back into the mattress as Carson pressed him down on the bed. Spreading his legs, he pulled the other man tight against his chest.

"So wanton," Carson whispered and Rodney was amazed by the awe in his voice and eyes. "So needy."

Carson's hands and lips danced over his body, leaving wet traces and making his skin tingle and his nerves sing. Unable to keep still, Rodney shifted on the bed, moving under Carson's sensual assault. He moaned loudly when he felt two slick fingers breach him unexpectedly.

"So tight, Lord, you're so tight," Carson murmured as he twisted and scissored his fingers. Before Rodney was able to reply, Carson's lips sealed his mouth with a slow, passionate kiss. He pulled back his fingers, swallowing Rodney's soft moan. Still amazed by the intensity of the sensation, it took Rodney a moment to realise what Carson was doing as the other man slowly pulled away from him and rolled on his side, facing away from him. Rodney shifted closer, molding himself against Carson's back, sliding his hand around the hip and almost shyly took hold of his engorged member. Carson moaned softly and pressed back against him.

"I need to have you right now," Carson whispered. There was the sound of a plastic package being torn open, as Rodney tentatively started moving his fingers on Carson's hard shaft, keeping his mouth busy with nibbling at the junction of shoulder and neck, exploring the soft warm skin with his lips.

Why had he never realised how soft the hair on Carson's neck was, Rodney wondered when he felt Carson's arm move against his, as Carson put on the condom. Why had he never wanted to do this? Why had he kissed Katie instead of talking about the kiss with Carson?

Puzzled, he looked at Carson, who shifted in his arms, pressing him back into the pillows. "I need you," Carson whispered again, holding his gaze.

"Yes," Rodney whispered back, feeling a little nervous. He wasn't sure what he was expected to do, but he trusted Carson, who seemed to know the ropes - and what he wanted.

Carson shifted closer and Rodney cried out in pain when Carson pushed into him. He tensed, hot tears stinging the corners of his eyes. It hurt. Carson's cock felt bigger up his arse than it had felt in his hand and it just hurt.

"Hurts," he managed to pant.

Carson instantly stilled, his hand brushing over Rodney's belly, enveloping his cock. "You're very tight," he softly whispered as he slowly stroked. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"

Closing his eyes, Rodney tilted his head, feeling ashamed in face of his lack of experience Carson obviously expected him to have. "I've never," he whispered. "Never like this..."

Only when he felt Carson stilling his motions could he bring himself to open his eyes to look up at Carson. There was genuine surprise in Carson's eyes.

"Never?" he whispered, clearly shocked by the news, and holding himself still, poised above and his dick halfway in Rodney's body. "But I thought you and John..."

"Not that he didn't try," Rodney said defensively, not wanting to talk about the incident. "Can we not talk about Sheppard right now, please?"

He wrapped his arms tighter around Carson's middle, pulling him down for a kiss. He didn't know what he was supposed to do or feel, and having Carson in him that way hurt. But he felt more intimately connected with him than with any other lover before. Maybe in gay sex the guy taking it up his ass wasn't supposed to enjoy it as much as the guy who did the fucking? And he was more than willing to accept that. At least for the moment.

Carson willingly fell into the kiss, carefully gyrating his hips. It took Rodney a few minutes to get accustomed to the feeling and to relax. Carson whispered softly to him, caressing his belly and the insides of his thighs, brushing his fingertips against his softened cock, then started rocking forth and back, pulling out and sliding back in again, merely centimeters each time.

They traded gentle kisses, and Rodney gasped in surprise (pleasant this time) when the tip of Carson's cock bumped against his prostate. Rodney murmured in protest when he felt Carson pull out of him, but Carson only chuckled. And did it again.

Even though Carson let the tension build slowly, taking Rodney slow and deep, pausing every so often to caress him, Rodney was too tight-wound from the teasing throughout the day to be able to last long. He countered Carson's thrusts, lifting his hips from the bed to push back against Carson, panting with the effort to clutch at his lover's hips for leverage. He wasn't able to hold back, when Carson shifted his weight, reaching between their bodies to wrap his hand around Rodney's cock. He was coming like a freight train, when Carson told him to, throwing back his head into the pillow as Carson kept thrusting into him vigorously.

He stared up at Carson, eyes full of love and wonder as he slowly came down from the high. Watched his friend throw back his head with a moan of pleasure and felt Carson come deep inside of him.

"Oh, Rodney, that was brilliant," Carson murmured softly against his neck, and Rodney agreed with a nod. He couldn't speak, didn't want to ruin the moment, so he buried his nose into Carson's neck and made only a contented "hmmm".

Cold air wafted over his hot, sweaty skin and Rodney shivered as Carson's lips moved against the tender skin of his neck as Carson slowly raised his hips. He felt the back of Carson's hand brush against his own spent penis as Carson reached down between them.

Curiously Rodney watched Carson pulling out of him, making sure the condom didn't get lost. He couldn't help remembering doing the same. Katie hadn't been on the pill, for several reasons, so they'd used condoms. It had always been an awkward moment, she'd turned away almost shy and he'd almost always felt a little guilty when he'd cleaned away the mess.

Carson caught him watching and smiled. "Are you okay?"

Rodney hesitated a moment, wondering if he was. He was tired, drained. But he got laid. By his best friend he hadn't seen in five years. He felt a little sore, loose, which was very weird. Because it made him feel open and vulnerable, having Carson kneeling between his spread legs, gently caressing his thigh and hip. It was odd, but not bad.

He nodded. "I think so," he said and hesitantly reached for Carson's hand on his hip. "It feels weird."

"I'm sorry," Carson said, giving him an apologetic smile. "I should have asked first. Usually I don't make assumptions about my partner's experiences. But I was sure you and," he paused for a moment, his expression darkening. "That you were... I saw how he sized you up, Rodney. You seemed to get along with him so well, and didn't want to talk about that kiss. I honestly assumed..."

Rodney shifted on the bed. Sitting up he leaned closer and captured Carson's face in both hands. "He tried. Once. I refused." Suddenly he realised why he hadn't been able to give into Sheppard's advances. He must have been in love with Carson all the time! It hadn't been the situation or the fact that it was Sheppard who wanted to kiss him that had turned him off. It had been the fact that Sheppard had mentioned Carson. And that Rodney should forget him.

"He told me to forget you." It had felt wrong then and now he knew why.

Carson frowned as Rodney looked at him with a shocked expression. "Rodney?"

"I must have been in love with you all the time. And I didn't even notice it."

The blatant statement, so very Rodney, made Carson laugh.

"What?" Rodney demanded and let go of Carson. Carson only smiled and leaned in, cupping his cheek and gently kissed him.

"Maybe you're not such a big genius as you want to make everyone believe?" he said with a wink.

"I built a nuclear weapon in grade six, of course I'm a genius," Rodney protested.

"Aye, and it only took you five years to figure you're in love?" Carson asked, visibly unimpressed. "I'm quite impressed."

"Some things need to be thoroughly thought through," Rodney said defiantly, giving Carson a reprimanding glare. Carson laughed and shifted on the bed, moving up against Rodney and pressed him back into the mattress again.

"There are other things that need to be done thoroughly, too," Carson gave back with a wink and leaned in to kiss him. Unable to come up with a witty reply, Rodney willingly parted his lips and hummed softly his approval as Carson gently explored his mouth.

After a while Carson slowly ended the kiss and ushered Rodney into the shower. Too tired and satisfied to put up serious protest, Rodney followed Carson into the bathroom. Watching his friend's naked back he wondered if they would do that again. And if Carson would allow him to return the favour, or if that was how they would do it again. Rodney couldn't even say it was a bad experience. It had hurt like hell at first, but later it hadn't been too bad. Carson caught him dreamily staring at his back and asked Rodney what was up.

When Rodney told him what he'd been thinking of, Carson smiled and pulled him under the spray. "There's a lot of things we can do we haven't done, Rodney," he promised and kissed him. "Maybe not tonight though."

Later, when they lay in bed after the shower, tightly wrapped around each other, Carson told him some of the fantasies he'd been having. Rodney wasn't sure they had been actual fantasies, or if Carson just wanted to continue teasing him like he had all day. When he mumbled something unintelligible in reply, Carson laughed and kissed his cheek, telling him to go to sleep.

It was dark when he woke again, feeling Carson nibble his neck, moaning and rhythmically grinding against him, pressing his erection against the soft swell of Rodney's arse. He moaned softly in reply, reaching back for Carson's hip to pull him closer. He wasn't awake enough to think, but acting instead on instinct.

"Need you," he murmured, arching back against Carson's strong, sleep-warmed chest. It felt good and warm and Carson's hand slowly wandered down along his chest, and he was hard before slick fingers slid into him. He moaned in surprise, and opened his legs to give Carson better access. Carson took his sweet time to prepare him, and Rodney was more than ready this time, when Carson carefully entered him. He had no idea how long they lay like this, back to chest, hip to hip, and the orgasm he had didn't feel like ripped out of him. It was more like a slow tidal wave, flowing over him and washing it ever so gently out of him.

To tired to move a single bone, he lay still as Carson cleaned them both and put away the condom. He nearly wept with sheer joy when Carson murmured "I love you" and whispered back, that he also loved Carson. Mere seconds later he was fast asleep, snuggled tightly into Carson's arms.

On Christmas eve it was Carson who had watery eyes when Rodney shyly handed him a rumpled envelope with no address, containing a birthday card.


Epilogue

"Ah, the Carson with the cards?" Jeannie asked with a huge grin as Carson sat down on the bench across her in the booth.

"Cards?" he asked with a frown and looked up to Rodney, who was about to sit down.

"Um, nothing," he said with a menacing glare to his sister, feeling the blood rush to his face. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to bring Carson for breakfast with Jeannie?

"Well, when Rodney moved back to Vancouver he asked me to help him with his apartment," Jeannie started and smiled at Carson.

"Ah, yes, that was very, very, very kind of you, Jeannie, thank you very much again," Rodney hastened to interrupt her and grabbed the menu. "You should try the pancakes, Carson, they're downright delicious here," he told Carson and handed him the card.

Confused Carson looked from the menu to Jeannie and back to Rodney.

Unimpressed by her brother's behaviour, Jeannie just shook her head and continued. "I found this bundle of postcards, they were from you and he just threw them away."

"No, I did not," Rodney turned to Carson to explain.

"You threw them in the garbage!"

"I pulled them out again," Rodney snapped back. "Could we not talk about embarrassing stuff about me?" He was having a strange sense of déjà-vu. He had had this conversation before. Jeannie had been grinning like a loon when he had mentioned Carson but she had refused to tell him what she found so funny.

"Embarrassing?" Jeannie asked and grinned at Carson. "Is he always that moody these days?"

"Och, he's much better most days," Carson said, giving Rodney's thigh a firm squeeze under the table. "But you should have seen him when he had this arrow in his bum."

Finis