Title: Once in a Lifetime (5,400 words)
Betas: kimberlyfdr and rissabby
Rating: NC17, and both a PWP and a domestic kidfic, whee!
Summary: This is not John's beautiful life. . . .
Series notes: If you don't want to read the series, the Need to Know is that this is an AU where Rodney is in the Canadian Air Force, John's an aerospace engineer, and they adopted a daughter, Max, and a son, Sean (also known as Bean). John was injured in the Ori war; Bean is deaf.
A/N: I wanted to try John's POV for once: it's hard for me. Also, I've been trying to finish this fic for ages, but John and Rodney would *not* stop having sex. 'Come on,' I'd say, 'surely you must be done by now?' And then a whole other page would happen.
The six weeks Rodney spent in Cold Lake for "Exercise Maple Flag" were supposed to be hard and lonely for John; he'd been expecting that. Rodney went every year, though not usually for the full duration, and by now John knew how to feign cheer as he boxed up care packages with the kids and called every night at precisely eight-thirty (he made Max finish her homework and Bean take a bath first). John enjoyed the perks of being married to a Canadian (like being allowed to legally marry). He figured he could live with the responsibilities as well. There were times AIRCOM needed Rodney more than John did, being that he was a genius and the best-qualified pilot to run the alien-invasion air war scenarios. John was proud of him.
But. . . this year the two months were an absolute comedy of disasters, and John was literally counting down the minutes until the end of May. He felt like he was on the Biblical curses roller-coaster. The kids had started out with plague (stomach flu making the rounds again). The house had developed pestilence (an outbreak of big black flying cockroaches, and John would never admit to Rodney that he paid Max to kill them for him, two bucks a bug). They'd got their flood when it had rained for fifteen days straight (Really? Rodney had said; It's lovely here, and unseasonably warm), and fire in the form of having to fire the woman who cleaned on Thursdays after she'd preached to the kids (home sick and vomiting) on the sins of their fathers. He and Rodney were casual yet thorough about sex ed, John thought. It wasn't like they were prudes or repressive or uptight. Still, there was something about having his baby girl ask him what sodomy was and why it was a sin that made him cringe.
John stockpiled spaghetti and tinned food after that. If there was famine coming, he'd be ready.
Except that what happened next was that he took the kids out of the city for a weekend of camping, and the car broke down (I swear I put all the pieces back where they came from Max had sobbed, which was how John found out that her addiction to Car Talk was actually an apprenticeship in mayhem). The Exodus jokes in his head stopped being funny after the third mile with no cell phone coverage and Bean whining to be carried. When they finally got to a gas station, it turned out that someone (by which he meant himself) had let their Triple-A membership slide. He bought the kids Cokes and Mr Peanut bars for lunch in apology.
Pretty soon Rodney started answering his phone with, so what went wrong today. John started keeping a mental tally of what Rodney owed him: he started with little things (a backrub, a bubble bath, a new pair of sneakers) and escalated (therapy, a genie, his lost youth).
Max caught a basketball with her face and came home from school with a black eye and a plug of tissue dangling out of her bloody nose.
John went to his usual place to get a haircut and came home with the left side longer than the right and every single cowlick standing straight up. He didn't want to know about the back. Bean took one look and burst out laughing.
The coffee machine broke spectacularly a few days after that, with black smoke and an ominous smell of ozone. John yelled at Max (remembering the car), and then felt so guilty afterwards that when Tanya's mother called to say she had finally found tickets to Max's favourite boy-band, he said hell yes, she'd love to go.
Not realising that the tickets were one hundred and fifty dollars each. Not, of course, realising that this meant he'd have to take her and Bean, on a school night. And not anticipating that Tanya's mother would start throwing up the morning of the show and ring him in desperation. John made Tanya, Max, and Bean all wear bright red t-shirts and taped telephone numbers inside their shoes, and he took two preemptive Advil before seatbelting them into the car.
He remembered enjoying concerts back in university, but this was nothing similar. The kids kept trying to escape to go scream at the boys on stage, and John felt like the world's biggest pervert for finding the seventeen-year-old bass guitarist hot. He got yelled at by a security guard during halftime for letting the kids use the handicapped toilet. He was herding everyone out and congratulating himself for surviving the experience when his knee (which had been aching all evening) gave out, sending him down the stadium stairs in a tangle of humiliation and pain.
He was still wearing his brace and using one crutch when Rodney came home on Saturday. Rodney had presents for the kids and sympathy and hungry kisses for John, so John hoped his run of bad luck was over. Still, he was afraid to tempt fate by cooking, so dinner was courtesy of Thai delivery. Max set the table without even being nagged, and Bean dogged Rodney's heels, his hands a flurry of questions and commentary on all the things John had purposefully not mentioned. Rodney sat down in his chair opposite John and gave him a sweet, pleased smile that made John have to duck his head to hide the blush.
"You're awfully quiet," Rodney said, piling a third helping onto his plate. "And you're not eating."
John managed to redirect the conversation back to Bean and his last (surprisingly non-disastrous) soccer game, and watched Rodney's hands until it was time to clean up. With the dishes washed and the leftovers put away, he sent the kids off for their baths (over loud protests of it being too early) and gave Rodney an apologetic smile.
"I'm tired," he said, which was not even much of a lie. "If you don't mind — I'm going to go to bed." Rodney's expression went very quickly lustful, and John thought he should have phrased that better.
"I'll just — " Rodney said, and made a gesture that looked like a blender set to frappé but probably meant hurry the kids up.
"It's cool." John put a hand on Rodney's shoulder and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. He hoped he wasn't acting as awkward towards Rodney as he felt. Rodney tended to misinterpret that as a sign of lack of trust, when it was just that John needed some time to readjust to Rodney being home. He readjusted faster once they were having sex. "It'll take me a while to take a shower, brush my teeth, and sprawl naked across the bed, anyway."
Rodney slapped him on the ass (gently, because John's ass was still stairway-tenderised) and sent him off after extracting a promise that there would be a naked sprawl.
John was curled up naked under the comforter, rereading his favourite Jack Higgins novel, when he heard Rodney's footsteps in the hall. He looked up over his glasses to see Rodney in the doorway, and he raised an eyebrow. Rodney made a vague pass of his hand towards the bathroom, and John made a sarcastic help yourself gesture right back at him.
Rodney locked the bedroom door and went to take a shower. When John heard the water shut off, he put the book back on the nightstand, turned on the (quasi-legally borrowed) Asgard device that muffled sound for a roughly bed-sized area, dropped his glasses in the drawer, and sprawled, feeling ridiculous. Still, when Rodney paused in the bathroom doorway, arms crossed over his naked chest, backlit by the nightlight and wreathed in steam as if they were adding cheesy special effects to their sex life, John couldn't help but feel smug.
"So," Rodney said, crossing the room and crawling into bed with John, "you had it rough, huh?"
John grabbed Rodney and manhandled him down to where he wanted him. Rodney was amenable to a kiss, and another. "I kept thinking, damn it, this isn't the life I planned for myself," he said, transitioning from kissing to nibbling on shower-warm skin.
He expected Rodney to be distractedly sympathetic, but Rodney pulled back as if stung. "What's wrong? You don't want out, do you? You're unhappy?"
John nearly said I'll be happy when you fuck me, but Rodney had been alone all those weeks, without the children or their home, and might possibly be just as needful of John right now as John was of him. So John said of course I'm happy, and Rodney jabbed him hard in the stomach. John twisted away and poked Rodney back.
"I expected to have a cool job and a fast car and a bunch of cool kids and a dog, not — " he waved his hand, all-encompassing.
He wanted to get laid sometime soon, and he wasn't idiot enough to say that he hadn't expected to be crippled or for his child to be deaf or to worry that his husband might be killed by aliens or to have freaking huge flying jungle roaches hiding in the broom closet and to have his other child mercenary enough to charge an extra dollar-fifty to dispose of each flattened insect corpse.
"I never anticipated the details," he added. "That's all." Rodney was still holding himself away warily, which was unacceptable. John yanked Rodney down and rolled on top of him. Rodney oofed in surprise, and John grinned at him. "I'm sure somewhere there's a universe where everything I thought is true and nothing went wrong, but it doesn't keep me up at night. That's your job," he added, trying to purr seductively and nearly cracking up laughing doing it, because what the hell did he know about being seductive.
"So much for getting my beauty sleep," Rodney said, sounding pissy. John risked his balance and his prospects for getting out of the brace by Tuesday as he rolled his hips, sliding a little so that his dick lined up with Rodney's and God was it good. Rodney made one of the noises John loved, the kind usually accompanied by a brilliant new idea.
Rodney had figured out right at the start that John being crap at talking and good at sex were just two sides of the same thing. John's body said things his mouth never could. How scared or lonely or worried or happy he was; how much he loved Rodney, his body said that a lot. With Rodney John could be absolutely ridiculous in bed; they had fun (the last time they'd attempted role-playing it had turned into you're the barista, okay, I'll be the latte, which had been surprisingly kinky).
But the downside was that sometimes John needed sex. The worst time had been when he was first home from the hospital after the accident, a mess of casts and stitches and bolts and pins and on drugs that left him terrifyingly impotent. He'd been desperate to reconnect with Rodney, and Rodney had been unable to hurt him — not so good when every position they tried was painful. John had pretty much begged, in the end, and had been horrified to find himself thinking, as petty, mean, and unfair as it was: if you really loved me, you'd just shut up and fuck me.
He suspected Rodney knew how shattered he'd felt at the time. Rodney had made sure that John's skateboard wasn't in the front hall when he came home from the hospital and had taken down the pictures from their last skiing trip. But even just sleeping in the same bed with Rodney reminded John of what he'd lost and made him afraid that he'd lose everything else as well: job, home, family (he still blamed the drugs for the paranoia, and thanked God that he'd never been stupid enough to say any of that to Rodney). Rodney had finally rolled out of bed one night, stomped down the hall, and returned with a large box full of sex toys (I was saving them for Christmas, there was a sale, he'd said, and pathetic lies like that were another thing John loved about him).
John still couldn't manage some of his formerly favourite sexual positions and probably never would, but he'd developed several new kinks by the time he was cleared for off-world duty again. Everything balanced out in the end, which was why he didn't want Rodney thinking that John was pining for the perfection of his fantasy life, sexual or otherwise.
"I missed you," John said, his mouth sliding down from jaw to neck, tasting soap and water. He licked until he found the taste of Rodney, and then he sucked. Just a little. Not enough to leave a mark. At least, not a large mark.
Rodney pushed at his shoulders and called him a vampire, slid his hands down to finger John's nipples. John's breath caught, his mouth slipped, and Rodney laughed at him. John licked the clean taste of soap away from the hollow at the base of Rodney's throat and then slid down.
"If I wanted a tongue bath, I'd get another cat," Rodney said, and scratched John above the ear. "Seriously, feeling territorial much?"
John growled. Rodney pushed his head down, hint hint. John took his time getting to Rodney's dick, detouring to explore Rodney's stomach (harder and more defined after weeks of keeping up with kids half his age) and nibble on insistent fingers. Rodney made idle threats, but he stopped talking the very second John's tongue flicked over the head of his dick, swirling up the pre-come there. John played with Rodney for a bit, because he'd missed the weight of Rodney's dick and Rodney's balls and the high of absolute power that he got from giving blowjobs (he knew it was selfish, but since usually it was a win/win situation, he could live with that). Still, John wanted everything tonight. Rodney protested when John pulled back, and John grinned up at his grumpy face as he moved back up.
"In a perfect world, you could come in my mouth and come in my ass and come in my hair if you wanted. But in real life, if we've only got one shot at this — " Rodney swore and John licked at Rodney's mouth until he let him in — "I really, really want to be fucked."
"Well, let's make this all about you, then," Rodney grumbled, but he had one hand already stroking down from the small of John's back. John let himself be shifted over and didn't even bitch when Rodney took way too much time preparing him. Rodney said it was for John's comfort and in the next breath commented on how much lube John'd gone through all by his lonesome (talk about a dry spell, Rodney said, amused, but John couldn't reply coherently with Rodney's fingers inside him).
Before he actually fucked him, Rodney arranged John like some kind of still life, like he was planning on sitting around and being aesthetically pleased by the bend of a knee or the tilt of John's ass. It drove John nuts and made him want to break position out of sheer perversity. But he appreciated Rodney's genius when Rodney knelt up behind him, held John's hips perfectly, absolutely still, and pushed into him so easy and slow that John simply couldn't catch his breath for the feeling of falling (and knowing he'd be caught), of being turned inside out (and that being okay), of needing to fight or scream or cry (and knowing that he could).
John made strangled noises. He trusted Rodney to figure out what he wanted.
"If there's some other you living your perfect life, I don't think he's happier," Rodney said, matching the roll of his hips to his words. John groaned and tried to push up. "Do you?"
And damn it, Rodney stopped altogether, like he was fine with waiting.
"No?" John hoped that was the right answer. "Can we — later?"
"The thing about you," Rodney went on, shifting, covering John, pressing his mouth right over the base of John's neck where John had a freakish stealthy erogenous spot. And God John had forgotten how sensitive he was there: it was like a circuit completed with current running straight to his dick. "Happiness doesn't happen to you. It's not like you're lucky."
"Not right now," John muttered. "Fuck me. Just. Please."
Rodney bit him instead, the hard pressure of his teeth sending shocks the other way, right into the pleasure centre of John's brain. Rodney moved in him, and John felt so good in so many ways and places that he couldn't keep up. He might have writhed, though he'd never admit it later. When he wasn't undone by sex, he had his pride.
"You work for your happiness," Rodney said, and John didn't know how he managed complete sentences and sex at the same time. He was barely able to listen by now. "You fight for it. And you never stop."
Rodney grabbed John's hips again, holding him still. John felt caught out for concentrating more on pushing back against Rodney's thrusts than on whatever Rodney was saying.
"Don't you stop," John muttered, trying to sound threatening instead of desperate. "I need, okay, I."
"You fight for me," and Rodney emphasised the me with a slow pull out and fast shove in that had John grabbing hold of the edge of the mattress. "And you don't stop, and that's — I never thought I'd fall in love, I never, but it's you."
"Always," John said, reaching up with his free hand to touch Rodney's hair, his face, the line of his mouth. Rodney kissed the palm of his hand, and John felt like he was on that great cosmic wheel revolving, an endless cycle of love and need and falling on his ass and getting up again. "Love you so much, you don't know — "
"God," Rodney said, and then, "don't come, not yet," and pressed down. Even before John could voice his outrage (what do you mean don't come?) Rodney was fucking him fast and hard and greedy. John was kind of glad that he had the bruises from the damn staircase. That way any marks Rodney left would be hidden and Rodney won't feel guilty after.
John did plan to make Rodney feel guilty as hell for coming first, though. He heard the change in Rodney's breathing, Rodney's movements becoming franticly scattershot, and then Rodney jerked John back onto his dick and John could feel him shaking, muscles contracting, chest heaving against John's back. Rodney kept saying John like a mantra, and his voice was as raw as if he'd shouted himself hoarse.
John whimpered; he couldn't help it. He tried to get a hand down where he could take care of his own self, except that the only hand he could get free was the bad one.
"Nrgh," Rodney said, not intelligible but obviously a negation. He tugged at John's shoulder.
"I need," John said, feeling like he'd been left hanging and also whiny and out of sorts. Rodney rubbed his forehead against John's spine and said I know, which really. Unfair, John thought.
Then Rodney pulled out, and even before John could protest at the feeling of bruised emptiness, Rodney's tongue was in him. John practically hit the ceiling.
"Do not let me come," he said (hoped he said, because even if his grasp on language was totally gone, the need to ride this pleasure out until it killed him was overwhelming).
Rodney laughed at him, his tongue flicking over sensitive flesh and his hands spreading John open, making John helpless to do anything but skim along the edge of release, which curled around him like a bright wave.
John lost track of time. It was long enough for him to shed the last of his control. His vision was all sparking darkness and both his hands were too limp to do more than scrabble ineffectively at the sheets, and he knew he'd practically reached the top when his hearing went. Everything sounded both distant and crystal clear and slow, as if every second was ten times longer than it should have been. John was so desperate he could have screamed.
He might have screamed.
He was there, wind in his face, catching the perfect wave, convulsed around the uncontainable pleasure that flooded him and ran electric through him; and everything was light all around him.
Rodney carried him through right to the end, helping him land when he floated back down. John's chest ached like he'd been running, his face was wet and throat scratchy (because who didn't cry when shown the gates of heaven?), his body hurt like he'd been beaten despite being so relaxed he couldn't even move.
John was partly aware of being flipped over onto his back and cleaned up, and he drank the glass of water Rodney brought him. He even managed to have most of a conversation with Rodney, even though he didn't understand what Rodney was saying or care that much about anything except getting his arms around Rodney and falling asleep. He hovered there in his not-asleep state until Rodney settled beside him and pulled the blanket up.
Rodney said good night, and John said something (good night or I love you or peanut butter, for all he knew). He fell asleep to the sound of Rodney's drowsy laughter.
He didn't dream at all, just opened his eyes after what felt like a minute and saw the sunlight dancing through the blinds. He could hear music and kitchen noises, so he rolled out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. He took a few practice steps to see if he could get by without his stuff, which he could if he ignored how much it hurt. But his doctor had told him that idiocy was unattractive, so he'd be good.
Rodney was just taking a pizza out of the oven (he had odd notions about breakfast) when John appeared, and John could tell by the pained way his eyes widened that Rodney was going to try to blame himself for the way John was limping. John waited until the baking sheet was set down on the stove top and then grabbed Rodney into a loud, wet good morning kiss. Rodney kissed him back for a moment before shoving him away and ordering him to go pour the kids' milk and get the coffee and otherwise make himself useful.
The kids had Rodney's MP3 player hooked up to speakers and were playing the mixtape of home music videos that they'd put together one rainy Saturday. Bean was watching himself singing on the tiny screen, fascinated, and Max was dancing around in her pajamas as she belted out the chorus to the song: rock me, mama, like a wagon wheel. John grinned, wondering how long it would take for Rodney to go nuts.
He got the drinks on the table at the same time Rodney started passing out plates, and herded the kids to their seats with a bit of impromptu choreography that involved a couple of spins, a dip, and a near-miss with Max's science experiment about beans.
"You're chipper," Rodney said, with a twist to his mouth that implied both superiority to John's goofiness and a bone-deep smugness for being responsible for his good mood.
"Hell, yeah." John kissed Rodney again just because he could, and then sang along with the song rock me, Rodney, just like a wagon wheel, making Rodney sway with him.
"What does that even mean?" Rodney asked, pushing John off and groping his ass at the same time as he signed the question for Bean, who was laughing at them. Rodney was all about the multitasking.
John sat down and started moving his pizza toppings around with his fork. He liked to eat the mushrooms first and then the green peppers and then the olives. It just tasted better that way. "It's a Buddhist thing," he said, ignoring the pointed way Rodney picked up his pizza and ate it as-is. "A symbol of enlightenment."
"It's country music," Rodney stated flatly. "It's about cars and women."
"And sex," Max added. Bean signed the words right back at her, and both of them snorted laughter as Max started going into detail.
John coughed and changed the subject. "Speaking of cars," he said, finally satisfied with the arrangement of his toppings. "I think it's time I got the kids a beater."
Rodney looked narrow-eyed at Max, who blinked back, the picture of guileless innocence. "Your father and I speak the same language, but still somehow I don't understand him."
"There's this one that we have to go look at the timing belt," Max said, picking off the stringy bits of cheese and dangling them into her mouth. "And the carbonator."
"Carburetor," John corrected. "Like a family bonding thing, only up on cement blocks in the front yard leaking brake fluid."
"I thought you wanted a dog," Rodney said, and John flinched, eyeing the kids.
"Couldn't take care of one," he said, trying to keep his voice bland. They'd had a similar conversation back when Bean was a toddler, except then John'd had to say that he couldn't take care of another kid, even though he hated for Max to be the only girl and he'd really had his heart set on a big family. "I think I could handle a Honda. It's a charity thing," he added, because Rodney still looked stricken, torn between making everyone happy and visions of becoming the neighbourhood eyesore. "These people give us the car, we get it running, they give it to someone in need."
"Wow," Rodney said, reaching across the table to grab John's coffee instead of getting up to refill his own mug. "You're pretty, you're great with kids, you're civic-minded, and you're smart. Sounds perfect to me." His lips had gone flat, like he was having a hard time getting the words out, like he was saying condolences instead of compliments. John wondered what had shaken Rodney so bad. "I think you've made yourself a pretty good life."
John spread his hands, not even needing to pretend to look annoyed. "What the fuck?" he mouthed, though he really didn't need to. Max knew most of the bad words, anyway, and Bean was busy cutting the leftover half of his pizza into little pieces and building a kind of tower. John took a bite of his (cold by now, kind of rubbery) pizza and washed it down with some of Bean's milk. "Don't think I don't know I'm damn lucky that I have you," he added out loud.
Rodney's answering smile was weak, but some of the tension around his eyes dissolved. "It's true, you are," he said, and snatched up John's plate over his protests that he wasn't done yet, stacking it with his own, pushing back from the table, and heading for the sink. "What would you do without me?"
John knew the answer to that one. "I wouldn't be half so happy," he said to Rodney's back. "It's weird, but I kind of like having you around."
"You and your way with words," Rodney said, which he always said, and John said what he always replied (come here and let me show you my way with words), and Rodney flicked soapy dishwater at him.
The kids, sensing parental distraction, ran away without clearing the table: John heard the back door bang against the wall and shouted, "Don't forget your shoes" (he was beyond being embarrassed by them running around the neighbourhood in pyjamas, but he'd grown up with the family story of the great-grandfather who'd got blood poisoning from a rusty nail through the foot).
John got up to clean up, and between scraping the kids' leftovers onto one plate for later (anything, no matter how disgusting, got eaten sooner or later) and reaching for a plastic cover he suddenly realised that probably this wasn't Rodney's fantasy life, either. In fact, it most definitely wasn't, because he knew that Rodney'd laid out his future in terms of planes that he'd fly and breathtaking manoeuvres that he'd invent and places he'd go, promotions, commendations. . . . John had never asked Rodney to change his priorities, because that shit always screwed things up in the end, but here Rodney was, in their kitchen with a sponge in one hand and a plastic Dora the Explorer plate in the other.
"Are you happy?" John asked, leaning back against the counter and trying not to sound like he didn't want to know the truth. "Because you know, this isn't what you wanted at all."
Rodney finished rinsing things off and dried his hands carefully on the dishtowel, and John patted the counter next to him, inviting Rodney to pull up a hip. Rodney snorted but settled in, snug against John's side with one arm around his back.
"I was thinking we should go up to that place Jeannie's always talking about," Rodney said. "Take a family vacation. And maybe Jeannie could watch the kids for a day or two."
"That'd be cool," John said, keeping his voice in neutral.
"You're right, of course," Rodney said, obviously weighing his words so they'd have as little impact as possible. John put his head on Rodney's shoulder to hide his grin. "But I don't think in a world where I'd got what I planned I'd be better off. If some poor bastard's got that life, I feel sorry for him. I like," and Rodney waved a hand around, "knowing I'm missed. I really got off on all the stuff that went wrong for you, because every time you called I could hear how much you wanted me here, even if it was only to squash bugs for free. And I love being home." Rodney shrugged. "Part of me expects you to reconsider when I'm away," he added, his tone flattening. "To finally realise I'm not cut out for this, or that you're better off — "
"Not happening." John slid his hand up Rodney's back, squeezing his shoulder, curling at his neck, threading his fingers up into Rodney's hair. "Never happening."
"And that amazes me," Rodney said, and let John pull him around and into a kiss that went from sweet and reassuring to filthy in no time at all. When Rodney pulled back, his mouth was wet and John couldn't help staring and touching. "Now that we're done with the autopsy of emotional stupidity, I need to do something satisfying yet mindless, preferably involving lethal moving parts."
"Blowjob before or after you mow the lawn?" John asked, because he was all about the least common denominator and no good at the talking stuff.
"The kids are outside," Rodney said, and let John push him towards the bedroom. "So we're good then?"
"Oh, yeah," John said, and shut the door.