Oh, The Places You'll Go

Stumble Out of the Dark

Notes: See, this is what happens when I get stuck on the couch with my dumbass screwed-up ears. Originally this was supposed to be a quick PWP to get me going on my smut_bingo card. But then plot happened. I don't know why it does that. But it made my darling airinshaw happy and that's good enough for me. Thank you, hon.

WARNING: Sensory deprivation. Mentions of (non-sexual) child abuse.

John stumbled as they flung him away from them, he assumed into some room, hearing the door hum shut behind him. "Crap," he said.

"Sheppard." An all-too-familiar hint of panic edged the tight whisper. John didn't know whether to be relieved that Rodney was alive and here or concerned about the mental well-being of his chief scientist.

"Sheppard, are you there?"

John tried to locate the source of Rodney's voice. It didn't sound so far away, maybe to the left a little? "Yeah, I'm here, McKay. What's up?"

Operation Distract Rodney McKay was a go.

"What's up? What is up?"

Yup, it was working alright. John allowed himself a small smirk as he used Rodney's stream of babble as a homing beacon, taking slow, careful steps, sweeping the floor with a foot before placing it down. Goddamn these stupid masks. If he'd wanted to empathize with Ray Charles he'd have gouged out his eyes with a spoon during one of the interminable staff briefings. There'd been that dog-like animal on P478-NND, he was sure one of them could have been trained up as a Seeing Eye not-dog.

"What's up, Colonel, is that we are stuck on some alien planet, some hostile alien planet (which, really, aren't they all these days?), probably in some dank dungeon-"

No fair, thought John, it wasn’t particularly dank. In point of fact, he was feeling quite comfortable. In all respects apart from the obvious, that was.

"-wearing their twisted version of a superhero mask (and can I say I was never a fan of the Ninja Turtle look) which won't come off and I can't see and did I mention that they won't come off?"

"I believe you mentioned that, yes." John needed Rodney to talk more, he was getting closer, he was sure, but it was slow-going. "You got any idea why the masks?" He could almost hear Rodney roll his eyes. Which was impressive, given the masks were made of some freakishly tough material.

"Well, clearly it's their form of restraint. Why would you need to tie up your prisoners when you can prevent their escape by depriving them of their sight? Tying up, that's just annoying and knots can be undone or locks picked and some people, you know, bondage kink, so they're quite happy. But this? This is disorientating and cruel and freaking me the fuck out."

"Ow!" said John, as his face collided with one of Rodney's flailing hands. Guess he'd found him then. "Ow!" he said again, as Rodney's other hand punched him worryingly close to the groin. John could feel Rodney's body jerk like a fish on a line. Perhaps he'd been a little too quiet.

"Oh my god, will you tell me you're sneaking up on me? I just said. Freaking. The fuck. Out. The last thing I need is Mr. I Flew A Stealth Bomber creeping up on me and giving me a heart attack. If I die, I'm getting Jeannie to sue."

"First, that's Lieutenant-Colonel I Flew A Stealth Bomber to you, and second, if you die, you can't tell Jeannie to sue and it's kind of hard to get a message out right now, what with us, oh, I don’t know, being in prison and all." John felt his arm grabbed and held in an iron grip.

"We are in prison, aren't we? And you can't come up with an escape plan because we can't see and ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I really am going to die this time."

"Hey," said John, patting Rodney's hand, feeling it tremble a little underneath his, "it'll be okay. They'll come get us, they always do."

"Just once," moaned Rodney, "just once, couldn't it be us that come to get them?" He let go of John's arm and John felt it like an absence of warmth.

There was a plopping sound and John reached out his arm to feel only air. His chest squeezed a little with fear. "Rodney?"

"I needed to sit down," Rodney's voice came from below. "I think I might be going into hypoglycemic shock."

John smiled, relieved. "Rodney, you ate less than three hours ago, quit panicking." He dropped to the ground, surprised when his landing was cushioned. Huh. He put out a hand and felt the floor. It was made of some sort of soft substance that wasn't quite like anything he'd felt before. No wonder it had been springy under his feet.

"I'm not panicking," said Rodney, offended.

John knew exactly what expression he would be pulling right now and he found himself trying to mimic the set of Rodney's mouth which was, okay, weird. Sense deprivation, John thought. Screws with your head.

"Of course not, McKay," he managed to reply, only a beat too late.

"Sheppard?" asked Rodney with an edge to his voice.

It appeared he'd caught the hesitation. Dammit. Under everyday conditions the same sort of thing seemed to usually sail right over Rodney's head. Maybe loss of vision gave him sight in other directions, like in.

"What are you thinking?" Rodney demanded.

Make something up, make something up, make something up. "I. Er. I was thinking about checking out the room." Yeah, that was good and also? Something he really should have done first. Bad airman, bad. "You know, get a sense of the dimensions, see if there's anything in here but you and me. Figure out where the door is, that kind of thing."

"Oh," said Rodney. And then in a smaller voice, "oh."

John frowned. "What is it?"

There was silence that stretched for a long moment.

"I really don't like the dark." The edge of panic was back in Rodney's voice.

"Ah, come on, Rodney. I'll still be in the room, it's not like I can go anywhere."

"John," said Rodney and his hand touched John's knee, trembling for sure this time. "I really, really don't like the dark."

John knew he should feel exasperated, he had a job to do, he shouldn’t have to factor in a phobic civilian but he only felt a flood of affection, because this wasn't any phobic civilian, this was Rodney McKay. He wasn't a touchy-feely kind of guy but he found himself covering Rodney's hand with his own, curling his fingers between Rodney's and squeezing. Something else for which to blame the sight deprivation. That and the fact that Rodney's very definitely man-sized hand felt good in his own. Yeah. Time to stop that now. He withdrew and tried not to consider the fact that it had taken serious conscious effort to do so.

"Look, Rodney," he said. "I need to do this. It could help us."

Rodney's fingers dug into John's knee and John hardened his heart against the silent plea.

"This is what we're going to do, McKay. We're going to crawl until we hit something, preferably wall-like. And then you are going to stay in that exact spot while I check out the room. That way I know where to find you. Okay?"

There was a silence. And if silences could be miserable, thought John, this one was it. "I can't hear you nodding, Rodney," he said, smiling.

"Okay," said Rodney.

"That's my brave boy," John replied with a wry drawl, patting Rodney on the hand before turning to get on his hands and knees. "I need you to get behind me." He stopped short, suddenly really, truly grateful that Rodney couldn't see because there was no way that sentence plus his ass in the air wasn't suggestive. Oh god, and there was more. "You have to grab my ankles, that way you won't lose me."

It was definitely getting hotter in here.

Rodney, to John's eternal amazement and gratitude, said nothing, merely getting into position as ordered. This, more than anything, made John realize just how deep Rodney's fear must run.

"Ready?" he asked.

"Ready," Rodney's voice cracked a little. He cleared his throat. "Ready, Sheppard" he repeated and this time he sounded like he meant it.

They moved forward slowly, John sweeping the ground with his hands, finding nothing but the oddly smooth floor-covering, aware all the time of Rodney's hands gripping above his boots and the way his fingers slipped slightly up John's shin with every forward movement. He did not think about the way his hairs ruffled under Rodney's touch or the slide of Rodney's thumb on the smoothness of his calf. So busy was John in not thinking about this that he head-butted the wall.

"Ow," he said on reflex. It didn't really hurt, though. John put up a hand and felt along the wall, finding it to be made of the same material as the floor. Well, at least Rodney couldn't complain about it being hard and uncomfortable. Probably wouldn't stop him, though. He straightened up on to his knees, bringing Rodney with him. "There you go," he said triumphantly, as if he'd just discovered America. "The wall."

"Wonderful," said Rodney and John could hear the thud of his back and the scrape of the tac vest against the soft wall as he slumped against it. "Now go, leave me here, alone in the dark and starving to death." He was obviously striving for sarcastic but John caught the plaintive undercurrents.

John patted at his pockets until his fingers found a familiar shape. Fumbling it out, he tried to figure out how to open it without the 'Tear Here' marker. He went with 'Tear Anywhere', it seemed to work. The air was immediately filled with a sweet, synthetic smell that cloyed his nostrils and a little happy sound emanating somewhere to his left.

"Chocolate!" Rodney said.

John could hear the smile and he smiled back, despite knowing Rodney couldn't see it. "Powerbar fake chocolate," he said, passing the bar over and rubbing his nose to try to get rid of the smell. How come he hadn't noticed how overpowering and just plain wrong it was before? He waited until he could hear the sounds of chewing. "Okay, now, safe in the knowledge that you're not going to starve before I get back, I'm going to explore."

John stood, leaning his right shoulder against the wall. There was a weird sensation at the back of his leg, like a touch that wasn't and he more than half-expected Rodney to beg him not to go. But the sensation disappeared and Rodney stayed quiet. John set off.

He hadn't even gotten to the first corner when Rodney started talking.

"See, it's not the dark per se, I mean, obviously the dark can be quite alluring. Lying on a blanket out in the desert on starlit nights, tracking the moons across the sky from their reflections in the ocean, even some of those crazy torch-lit festivals in those planets you always seem to land us on. But you see, there's light still, it's never really dark."

John reached the corner. About ten feet and no door. Nothing else either. Rodney seemed to have come to a stop, be waiting for something.

"No," he said, "I know what you mean. Even when we're in a cave-in-" (and how weird was his life that being in a cave-in was a regular occurrence?) "- we have flashlights and usually some outside light source that should be improbable but somehow isn't."

"Exactly," said Rodney and John was inexplicably pleased at having said the right thing.

"I wasn't a happy kid," Rodney continued. "Honestly, apart from when I was playing piano, I can't remember a single happy memory before I was, I don't know, ten at least. And I'm not saying that to get your sympathy," he rushed on, "it's just the way it was."

No switches, no door, no nothing. It must be the worry about how the hell they were getting out of here that was causing John's stomach to clench.

"I was eight when Jeannie was born. They wouldn't let me play the piano if she was sleeping because it might wake her and they wouldn't let me play when she was crying because it might stop her going to sleep. I didn't hate her. I just wanted to play. You have to understand that I just wanted to play. So I took her from her crib and I put her in the garden. We had this huge garden with a lawn that stretched right down to a stream, so I put her in the middle of the lawn and I left her there. She couldn't even crawl, she was asleep, what harm could it do, right?"

John had rounded the third corner now, still nothing, only his heart pounding heavy in his chest.

"And I wanted to play. So I did and then there was screaming and my mother shaking me and my father yelled and hit me and then ..." Rodney's voice trailed off.

Oh honey, thought John and then mentally slapped himself. Seriously if being deprived of one sense made him this loopy then he was never ever getting into one of those flotation tank things. "It's okay, Rodney," he said.

"Then he grabbed my wrist and yanked me to the study and he was paranoid about people taking his research so he'd had this vault built. Only small. Just big enough for a kid." Rodney stopped again.

John was filled with a murderous rage against Rodney's father. How the hell could he do such a thing? Where the fuck were Child Services in Canada or were they all too polite to think they needed them? Jesus. He heard Rodney draw a deep breath and it seemed like the air had been sucked from the room. John tried to move faster, to get back to him, the poor kid lost in the dark, but it seemed suddenly hard, like he had to carve his way through the distance that remained.

"Rodney," he said, not caring how raw his voice sounded.

"It's okay, Sheppard, really." Rodney's fake-brightness would have convinced most people, but not John. "Mum made him let me out after a couple of hours and he never did it again. I was fine. I am fine. It's just ..." And the fake-brightness sputtered and went out. "No light ... no light at all ... I can't-"

And this time Rodney didn't need to push himself to finish because John was there, finally, falling to his knees and tugging Rodney into a hug, personal space and manliness issues be damned. He cupped Rodney's neck with one hand, the other rubbing his back the way John remembered his mom doing when he was sick.

"You're okay, Rodney, I've got you," he muttered over and over into Rodney's hair until he felt the rigid muscles under his hand begin to relax and Rodney's limp arms coming up to grip him in a tight bear-hug.

He didn't know how long they stayed like that. Long enough for the friction of the rough nylon of Rodney's tac vest against John's hand to become a little uncomfortable, long enough for John to become hyperaware of Rodney's smell, sweat and something sharp with a layer of something sweeter, muskier underneath, long enough for him to be able to distinguish the hammering of Rodney's heart from his own, to feel Rodney's relaxation in the slowing of his breaths.

God, he wished he could see Rodney now, that Rodney could see him, that he could tell him with his face what he couldn’t tell him with words. I'd kill him if you asked me to, I'd rip his life apart, whatever you want from me, you can have. God, he wanted to see! Abruptly, John let Rodney go and began to tear at the mask on his face. It wouldn't budge. There was no clasp, no knots, no end and no beginning, only slippery, smooth material just like the room they were in. No doors, no way out, no way in, no escape. John smashed his hand into the wall.

"Crap, crap, crap," he chanted, cradling his sore knuckles. Guess the softness of the surface only went so far.

"Sheppard?" asked Rodney, concerned. "Sheppard? Are you okay? This is supposed to be my nervous breakdown, remember?"

John let out a harsh laugh. "Shit, McKay, I'm sorry. It's just. I wanted." Yeah. No. Bad idea, Sheppard. Just shut the hell up.

"Wanted what?" Rodney's tone seemed somehow different, infused with a kind of molasses warmth that John had never heard before. Or maybe he had, but he'd been distracted by visual cues and hadn't listened. Hadn't ever really listened.

John licked his lips, a nervous habit that got him through way more chapsticks than a regular flyboy like himself should. He pushed the words through his teeth, guardians of his sanity. "I want to see you, Rodney. I want to look at you and know you're okay."

"John," said Rodney and his voice was barely a whisper.

John felt Rodney's fingers exploring, finding him and then his wrists were grasped, then lifted and he was touching Rodney's face, the skin dry and soft and warm under his fingertips.

"See?" said Rodney and John knew he meant look, no tears and he swept his thumbs along the curve of Rodney's cheekbones, making sure, fingers pushing into Rodney's hair, ignoring the claxons and alarms and flashing lights going off in his head screaming at him to stop, back it up, make a joke, before it was too late.

But it was already too late because Rodney's hands had slid up John's forearms leaving a trail of charged skin in their wake and John shuffled on his knees, closer, closer, nudging Rodney's legs apart, finding his way in. He dragged his thumb down along Rodney's jaw-line, using it to guide him towards Rodney's mouth, the mouth that John didn't need eyes to see as clearly as if it were daylight. He traced Rodney's lips, moistened with saliva, the smooth ridges gliding under his thumb. It wasn't enough, though, to touch; John needed to taste. And this was why John was a great pilot; he could always, always find his target. Leaving his thumb where it was until the last moment, John leaned in and touched his lips to Rodney's. A gentle kiss. A question.

John couldn't help but grin as Rodney's mouth opened under his own, hands looping around John's neck and using his whole body weight to pull John in and down until they fell to the floor, the 'oof' of Rodney's breath from the impact a warm gust against John's chin. "I'll take that as a yes," he said.

And it didn't matter any more that John couldn't see Rodney, because this here and now, kissing him and touching him, tasting and smelling, hearing the quiet, needy noises from Rodney's throat and the susurration of skin on skin, this was the stumble out of the dark that John had long given up hoping for.

The sharp rasp of the zipper as John removed first their tac vests and then their jackets was almost too much for his ears to bear it was so harsh. John thought the only harsh sound in the room should be Rodney panting in his ear, his voice begging John to be closer, closer. He bent back down, finding Rodney's mouth again, sucking in his lower lip and biting it just a little. He wanted Rodney to feel the blood pulsing there, rising to meet John, responding to his touch, to his ... to him, the way Atlantis had responded that first day, so far away now.

He pulled Rodney's shirt out from his pants, shoving it up. The tiny bit of John's brain that hadn't been turned into an alligator, or whatever lizard lurked in his reptilian brain knew that naked was a bad idea. A very bad idea. Who knew when rescue would come or their captors would return? Even this much was too far. But John wanted skin, he wanted it so badly, had been wanting it for so much longer than he dared to admit to himself, and so he let himself stroke Rodney's belly, let his fingers feel the patterned ridges of Rodney's nipples, his palm passing over the nub back and forth, drawing a crazy maze of sensation on delicate skin and making Rodney thrust up against him. Fuck, thought John, never gladder than now that his regulation pants always hung on the loose side. Fuck, Rodney, Jesus.

He might have said that last bit out loud.

And now Rodney was scrabbling at John's shirt and his hands moved across John's back up and up until they spanned the broadest part of it, moving as his shoulder blades shifted and re-aligned, fingers fluttering against skin. Like wings, John thought. He let himself be drawn down until he lay on top of Rodney, legs between Rodney's parted thighs, one hand by Rodney's head, sinking into the soft floor, bracing him.

Rodney's head came up, lips pressing against John's throat and John didn't know if it was on purpose or just a wild stab in the dark but either way he didn't care because Rodney licked him. Licked up his neck, tongue rasping on John's stubble but not stopping until he got to John's mouth where he kissed him, wet and hot and demanding and god, so good, so very good. John couldn't help but grind himself against Rodney, feeling Rodney's answering hardness as he matched the thrust. John's heart stuttered a little knowing that Rodney was hard for him, that he could forget he was frightened, forget he was indefinitely blinded, locked in a world of darkness, because he wanted John that much.

John kissed the mask, the places where Rodney's eyes should be and hoped that he understood. Rodney's hands spasmed on John's back and he whimpered low in his throat, shifting a little under John so that their dicks lay snug next to each other. John thrust again; he couldn't help himself, didn't want to. Again Rodney matched him. Too many clothes, John thought.

"Rodney," he said, the word disappearing into the dark. "I know we're not fifteen any more but ..."

"Yes, yes, yes, Colonel," said Rodney, his hands sliding down John's back to grab at his ass. "Other circumstances blah blah blah, of course I'd rather be naked, make do and mend, your country needs you, can we just do it now?" John laughed and was startled at the loud honk that came out. Seriously? That was his laugh? Why hadn't anyone ever said anything? He could do without the Daredevil super-hearing, thanks very much. And then Rodney pulled him in at the same time as thrusting up, finding John's lips again through what John presumed was some sort of inbuilt radar facility and John stopped thinking.

Somehow he was gripping Rodney's hands above his head, flexing and curling his fingers in time with the rocking motion they'd established. There was sweat between them and sweat pooling around his dick and John slipped and slid with salt in his nose and salt on his tongue, the rough friction from his shorts a strange kind of pleasure. Rodney was panting now, harsh short breaths like John had wanted and his movements were getting more and more ragged. John pushed and pushed again, urging them both on. He could feel his own arousal coiled down low behind his balls, he could almost see it, an incandescent spiral of pure energy. John had never been so aware of it before and almost lost himself in it when Rodney choked off a cry, stilling briefly under him before thrusting up three, four, five more times and then coming to rest.

"God," said John. "I can smell it." The air was scented with come immediately, earthy and bitter and distinct. "Christ, Rodney, I can smell you. That's so fucking hot." And he thrust against Rodney twice more before the spiral behind his eyes uncoiled in a flash as he came, startling and fierce, the white noise in his ears, white light in his head dissipating as he rode the after-shocks, Rodney's hand in his hair, Rodney's voice talking him down.

"So," said Rodney, as they lay tangled together, in the Sex Recovery position as John liked to call it, "There's pretty much no lengths you won't go to to distract me from impending death and other doom-type scenarios."

"That's me," said John brightly. "Best team leader you'll ever have."

Rodney's hand stilled from its roaming mission in John's hair. "You know, it's perfectly understandable if ... that is to say I ... Um."

John didn't even have to think now to recognize all the harmonics in Rodney's voice, all the things he wasn't saying. He wondered if that ability would disappear when he got his sight back. He kinda hoped it wouldn't.


Shit. There he was, internal monologuing again and scaring his scientist. Bad team leader, bad. No. Wrong choice of words.



"Shut up."

There was another brief silence, and then, "Message received and understood." Rodney resumed his exploration of John's hair.

John grinned. That's my boy, he thought.

It wasn't long then until they were rescued, just long enough for them to try to straighten up as best they could given that they couldn't see and for John to develop an urgent need to go to the bathroom ("Bladder of steel," stated Rodney smugly). When the masks were finally removed using a technique which, from John's hampered perspective, appeared to involve a terrifying combination of voodoo, guesswork and powertools, John blinked in the stark light, raising a forearm in front of his eyes to make it more manageable. But then there was a gentle touch on his elbow and he turned, dropping his arm and opening his eyes, to find Rodney there with his crooked smile, looking exactly the same and completely different and John found that he could easily bear the light after all.

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