Rating: PG-13 for swears and allusions to nekkidness
Warnings/Spoilers: Beware the crack AU.
Summary: So there Rodney was, a thirty-six year old pianist with seven unimaginative albums to his 'credit', bitter, lonely and utterly mediocre.
Until the Thing With The Alien.
beet's Notes: Textures and brushes from oxoniensis, elli, and newkidfan. Thanks to lavvyan for partnering with me and for betaing the art!!
lavvyan's Notes: Beta-read by liresius, smuffster and miscellanny - thank you, guys! Also, thanks go to beet for playing with me!
Links to the pictures we used can be found in the text.
Rodney McKay's life was kind of a mess.
When he was a kid, he'd wanted to be a scientist, solving the mysteries of the universe with his math, explaining the stars and earning Nobel Prizes in at least two categories. His mother, however, had had other ideas, pressing him into piano lessons long after one of his teachers had told him that his soul lacked the passion to turn notes into music, thus pretty much taking all the fun out of playing. Not that anyone had cared.
Over the years, he'd gone through thirteen girlfriends, eight boyfriends and five shrinks. He'd lost his father to drunk driving, his three-year-old sister to pneumonia, and his mother to a terminal spitefulness that eventually caused her heart to stop from lack of use. He had no family, no friends, and his only neighbour was an idiot who was constantly under suspicion of cooking up rohypnol in his basement.
So there Rodney was, a thirty-six year old pianist with seven unimaginative albums to his 'credit', bitter, lonely and utterly mediocre.
Until the Thing With The Alien.
The Thing With The Alien had started two weeks earlier, when Rodney had set up his telescope to catch a good look of the Perseids as they showered across the night sky. Instead of dreaming his usual dreams of fame and fortune as a brilliant astrophysicist, he'd just barely avoided instant death by space ship, which, in the split-second he'd seen it, had been flashing past Taurus and Orion and straight toward him, only to crash down barely a mile away.
Against all common sense and the lessons taught by relevant source material such as "Mars Attacks!" and the "Alien" quadrilogy, Rodney had gone to check out the crash site. He'd discovered a surprisingly small crater, a small penne-shaped space craft that he later learned could be cloaked, and an alien.
The alien had been slumped unconscious over the controls of his ship. It had seemed human enough, looking like a regular – if unreasonably attractive – guy. Except for how it – he – had taken Rodney's patting down of his person as a marriage proposal. Marriage proposal. Rodney had only been looking for injuries as he'd carded his fingers through the alien's dark, feather-soft hair, no matter what it might have looked like! But when he'd said as much, the alien's eyes had gone all flinty and he'd pulled out what was undoubtedly a ray gun and asked in an icy tone if Rodney was planning to sully his honour, or something. Rodney had always been inclined to follow a compelling argument, and death or marriage seemed pretty compelling to him.
So he'd taken the alien home and called him John because his real name sounded like a bad case of whooping cough, telling everyone who asked – i.e. his neighbour, repeatedly – that he was Rodney's long-lost love from… Greenland. Yeah. The pointy ears? Oh, definitely a Greenlandic feature. Quite common, in fact.
The downside – apart from the involuntary engagement to an alien thing, which Rodney was surprised to find bothered him less and less – was John's inexplicable fondness for daytime television, as well as the nagging questions – again, Rodney's neighbour – and the surrealist experience of hiding an invisible space ship in his backyard. Not to mention the fact that Rodney was just waiting for the Men in Black to show up and flashthingy him.
The upside was John's insistence on pre-nuptial sex every night.
Apparently, this was Rodney's life now.
It wasn't a bad life, to be honest. John was… surprisingly fun to be around. He had taken to "Star Wars" with a glee that was almost scary, insisting that his blackholejumper – the invisible space ship in Rodney's backyard – would win a race against the Millennium Falcon hands down, yet at the same time granting that lightsabres were pretty cool. He was strangely enthusiastic about "Back to the Future", and claimed that time travel was really just about catching the right solar flare. He told Rodney stories about Atlantis, which was apparently a highly sophisticated alien city his people had discovered a few generations back and turned into their home. And he loved, absolutely loved, Rodney's widescreen plasma TV and all its paraphernalia, especially the Xbox.
Rodney was a little overwhelmed.
John liked to project an air of casual laidback-ness, but he kept slipping, like when he discovered the remote-controlled cars in the back of Rodney's closet.
"Cool," he'd cooed – Earth slang had been among the first things he'd picked up – and his grin had been so openly delighted that Rodney's heart had stuttered in his chest. And despite his attempts to convince himself it was probably palpitations from the pizza they'd had for lunch, he wasn't quite sure that it was.
Add to that the mind fuck of having an alien in his kitchen, up to the elbows in soap bubbles as he did the dishes, while cheerfully whistling the theme from "I Dream of Jeannie", and it was a wonder Rodney's brain hadn't exploded yet.
Still, he found he had a hard time saying no to John, and not because of the ray gun, either. John was just… he was John, quirky and endearing and, for some reason, convinced that Rodney was the greatest thing in the history of the universe. Not that Rodney was going to argue against that evaluation, he just… didn't quite get it.
Nevertheless, sometimes he just had to put his foot down. As in, no, they were not going to watch "Thelma and Louise" for the seventeenth time.
"But their love is so tragic," John mourned, giving Rodney a head-whack as he reached for the popcorn.
"Hey!" Rodney protested, "May I remind you who pays for all this stuff?"
But Rodney's voice wasn't as harsh as it might have been, and John gave him that lopsided smile, and really, perhaps living with an alien wasn't so bad.
Especially when John demonstrated that pre-nuptial sex wasn't constricted to night-time.
It turned out that John had never heard of blowjobs.
He was a fast learner.
But of course it was too much to ask to allow his budding romance to unfold undisturbed. Which kind of sucked – a lot – because so far, romance hadn't played much of a part in Rodney's life, especially not the teasing sort John seemed so fond of, and damn it all, Rodney found himself wanting this. He wanted to be wooed with strange trinkets that painted pictures of alien night skies on his bedroom ceiling. He wanted John to tell him stories about dream-stealing crystals and sentient mists and about the stupid engines of his stupid ship giving out halfway between Atlantis and Betelgeuse. He wanted to feel like he was worth more than his mediocre life; like John was staying with him not just because his space ship was broken beyond repair, but because he wanted to.
And maybe they would have gotten there. Except they were cruelly interrupted.
Rodney was just doing some aimless composing on his computer while John undertook some more of what he called Basic Earth Training – namely watching soap operas for hours at a time – when there was a knock on the door. Several knocks actually, followed by some banging and finally shouting. John turned around from where he was vegging out on the sofa to raise an eyebrow at Rodney, who shrugged.
"Probably the creep from next door," he said. "Really, you'd think that anyone who calls himself 'Lotsa Lovin' would be too busy to keep pestering me."
"I think his name is Lucius," John said, raising his other eyebrow when Rodney made no motion to get up. "Aren't you going to open the door?"
Outside, a car horn was honking. Rodney sighed.
The creep had brought Radek Zelenka. And Rodney swallowed, because, shit, Radek Zelenka. This was bad; this was very bad.
No one quite knew how, exactly, a Czech investigative journalist had come to work for the local small-town newspaper, but rumours involved Prague, revolutionaries, a beautiful blonde and, weirdly enough, a basketful of blue tulips. Radek Zelenka was serious business. He had a trench coat. He had a hat. He always had a cigarette tucked into his hatband, because Radek Zelenka knew how prison worked.
And right now Radek Zelenka was peering up at him, over the rim of his glasses, and Rodney could feel all the truths he'd omitted over the past few weeks line up behind his teeth, waiting for him to open his mouth so he could blurt them out.
"Hello, my name is Radek Zelenka, I'm with The Morning Herald," Zelenka said.
"Um," Rodney said.
"Do you perhaps have a few minutes to spare? Just a few questions. You are a composer, yes?" Zelenka said.
"He has a space ship in his backyard, but it's invisible," Lucius said.
"Um," Rodney said.
"It is rumoured you may be harbouring an illegal alien. Do you wish to comment on that?" Zelenka said.
"And the alien has really pointy ears. That's how you know it's an alien. It's very obvious," Lucius said.
"Hi, I'm John," John said, and smiled.
Things went downhill from there. Zelenka wanted to know what John's last name was. That creep Lucius kept blathering on about space ships. Zelenka peered inquisitively over the rim of his glasses. John smiled blandly.
"Sheppard," he blurted, causing all three of them to stare at him. He fidgeted. Greenland was all… green, right? With rolling hills, meadows, sheep… shepherds? He'd just snatched the first thing that had come to mind.
Except, shit, that was Ireland, wasn't it? Oh shit, crap, Zelenka would see right through him. Zelenka would unravel his story like a badly knitted sweater. They were doomed!
On the other hand, hmmm, Irish butter.
"That went well," John said dryly as they went back inside.
"Shut up, I don't know what happened." Rodney let himself drop on the sofa and hid his face in his hands. "Usually, I'm a very accomplished liar."
"Sure you are."
Rodney raised his head to glare. John didn't have to sound quite so patronising.
"Hey, I'm sure it'll be cool," John said. He took Rodney's face in his hands and kissed him. He always kissed Rodney like this, and more often than not Rodney's stubble would catch on the black wristband John had taken to wearing after watching a "Riptide" marathon on NBC. Rodney had tried to explain to him that the Eighties were over – several times over – but John usually ignored him about these things.
"Don't worry," John muttered, nipping on Rodney's lower lip, and Rodney closed his eyes and kissed John back, and tried not to worry.
Really, he did.
Except… worrying was in Rodney's nature. John kicked his feet up on the coffee table and soaked up mindless American daytime TV. Rodney worried. John waved cheerfully at Lucius while cleaning up the backyard. Rodney worried. John went for his stay-healthy-keep-your-stamina morning jogs. Rodney worried. John coated Rodney's stomach with chocolate paint because someone somewhere had said it was a good idea. Rodney… well, okay, Rodney didn't worry at all on account of having no functional brain cells left, but otherwise? He so would have worried.
He wasn't even sure what, specifically, he worried about. That the government would take John away to run experiments on him? That John would shoot Zelenka with his ray gun and the police would take him away and hand him over to the government who would then run experiments on him? The government would run experiments on Rodney for having sex with an alien? The government would send him back to Canada? The government would send Rodney back to Canada, take John, and in retaliation John's space-travelling people would blow up Earth in retaliation? John's space-travelling people would show up for a last-minute rescue, take John, and return with him to Atlantis?
John would leave?
Honestly, Rodney wasn't sure what might happen, but somehow, that last one was the scariest idea of them all.
Of course Radek Zelenka showed up again, Lucius in tow. There were no John Sheppards registered in Greenland, he informed Rodney gravely, and also? There was an invisible thing in his backyard, yes?
Rodney blanked completely.
"I, uh, there was… the files were lost?" he hazarded. "In a… fire?"
Zelenka shook his head, Lucius preened and babbled about how he'd be famous and everyone would love him for saving the world from an evil alien invader, and Rodney fumbled for something, anything, to say.
And that was when John showed up and said that either they would let him stay with Rodney, or he would blow up Earth.
"What?!" Rodney said.
"If I overload the blackholejumper's power source, your whole planet's gonna go up," John said.
"Wait, what?!" Rodney said.
"You make a compelling argument," Zelenka said.
"Yes, except for how we would get blown up, too!" Rodney said.
"Exactly. We'd be like Thelma and Louise, or Romeo and Juliet. It'd be epic," John said.
"Perhaps it would be possible to reach an agreement, yes?" Zelenka said.
"I don't want to die, you lunatic!" Rodney said.
"I don't understand what any of you are talking about," Lucius said, and pouted.
Two days later, through channels unknown, John got a stack of papers proving that he was, indeed, from Greenland, but had immigrated to the US several years ago. Rodney whistled at the fake birth certificate, the fake ID, the fake health records and the fake driver's license. For all intents and purposes, John was a legal alien now, and Rodney heard a rumour that Lucius had been arrested for drug possession.
Radek Zelenka was good. Too bad no one on Earth would ever know how he'd saved them from getting their asses blown to pieces.
"Look," John said, holding the driver's license under Rodney's nose, "I can drive your car. Can I drive your car?"
"Considering how you crashed your space ship," Rodney said, "that would be a no."
John pouted, and Rodney had to suppress a relieved smile. He still couldn't believe that John was staying, here, with him. He'd been there for only a few weeks and Rodney hadn't wanted to take him in initially, but now he wasn't sure what he'd do without him. It was hard to admit, but he might be kind of, maybe, a little bit in love with John.
The idea was a little frightening and a lot exhilarating, but as long as John was there, grinning softly as he was doing right now, everything would be-
Rodney dropped the papers, gaping at the spot where, moments before, John had been standing. He squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to get rid of the bright dots dancing across his retinas from the bright light that had taken John away, like a bad special effect from Star Trek. He took a deep breath, opened his eyes, and looked again.
"John?" he called. The sound seemed to echo in the silent house. Rodney imagined he could hear piano chords twang in the living room.
He was alone.
John was gone.
He didn't come back.
In the tradition of truly great musicians everywhere, Rodney poured his feelings of loss and abandonment into his music.
The album "Crashed into My Heart" was an instant hit. Critics and casual listeners alike praised the quiet heartbreak of titles like "My Soul is Headed for Betelgeuse" and "Stuck Here on Earth Without You". They gushed over the intricate melodies of "My Brightest Star" and "Space Fairies Took You Away", and had a collective orgasm over Rodney's thirty-minute epic that was the title track. "You Crashed into My Heart" started with a bang and ended on heartbreak, which Rodney thought described his love-life just fine.
Suddenly, Rodney was as rich and famous as he could have wished for, but the only thing all that money seemed good for was the discovery that drowning one's sorrows in champagne didn't work any better than doing it on cheap booze.
And the hangover headache was nasty.
Rodney sat on the piano bench, plucking aimlessly at the keys, every now and then taking a swig from the whisky bottle that sat on the floor next to him. Discords, hollow half-tones and flat triads tumbled through the living room, as heavy as Rodney's heart.
Behind him, John said, "Hey, Rodney."
Rodney fell off the bench in his haste to turn around, knocking over the whisky and spilling it in a wide arc across the floor. He wobbled to his feet, staring, mouth opening and closing like a landed fish. John stood there, right next to the kitchen counter, as if he'd never been gone. He looked… god, he looked good.
"Miss me?" John asked, and his boyish grin took Rodney's breath away even further.
"Not one bit," he managed, even as he felt his cheeks heat up.
John's face fell. Then he spotted Rodney's album lying on the coffee table, and before Rodney could stop him, he picked it up. His eyebrows rose as he read through the titles on the back, his expression lighting up at first, then darkening as he glared at Rodney's embarrassment. Rodney fidgeted, but he raised his chin and glared right back, daring John to say something. John scowled.
"You know what?" he said, and carefully put the album down on the coffee table before he stalked over to Rodney and yanked him close. "Let's do this my way."
Rodney opened his mouth to protest – or at least demand to know if John was staying for good this time, or what – but then John's hands were on his face and John's body pressed against him and John was kissing and kissing and kissing him.
He was still wearing that stupid wristband.
They still had some of that chocolate paint.
"Yeah," John said, scratching the back of his neck and studying the wall beside the bed, "I thought I'd maybe hang around. For a while."
"How long is a while?" Rodney demanded, his eyes narrowed. He was not going to go through this, this torture, again.
"As long as you want it to be?" John's stupid pointy ears were bright red, and oh. Oh, okay.
"Okay," Rodney said, and he was barely able to breathe past the sheer warmth expanding in his chest. He cleared his throat. "So, uh. Blowjob?"
"Yeah, okay," John said, sounding relieved, and that was that.
"Crashed into My Heart (Again)" came out six months later. This album was a lot more uplifting; just like last time, Rodney didn't care if it was successful or not.
This time, though, he was happy.