R, slash, Daniel/Rodney backstory. One day in Daniel's life in
Oxford, complete with snow.
Oxford, December 1985
Down by the Cherwell, small pieces of ice were shifting from frozen puddles on
the bank and slipping into the darkened water. Daniel paused on the bridge,
peered at Magdalen’s snow-tipped spires, and continued on his way, boots
crunching as he walked. His hands were freezing cold, ice clinging to the wool
of his gloves, but he didn’t think he minded. The austere beauty held his
attention as it was slowly carved out and made soft by the swiftly falling snow.
Each step he took, the world brightened an inch; the sun was rising slowly and
painfully behind the dreaming spires of Oxford, and as Daniel turned into Turl
Street, it was high enough for him to feel the dim warmth across his face.
Inside the college walls, the stonework cast deep, cold shadows. Daniel avoided
them, traced his fingers over the carving – Staircase XVI, always Roman
numerals – and shook his boots clean before entering.
Rodney didn’t wake up until Daniel sat on him, carefully moving as
suggestively as possible with his boots on either side of the bed. “Rodney.
“It is not,” Rodney told his pillow. “It doesn’t snow in England. It
snows in Canada. You’re lying.”
Daniel leaned in, his lips brushing Rodney’s ear. “Rodney, I never lie,”
he whispered breathily, and the snow lingering on his fingertips was carefully,
sensually applied to the back of Rodney’s neck.
Rodney jerked. “Fuck! Daniel!”
Daniel sat back, smiling. “Look out the window.”
Rodney looked, expression sour. “All right. It’s snowing. Get over it.
Didn’t it ever snow when you were a kid?”
Daniel was nonplussed for a moment. “Rodney, I grew up in Egypt. I know you
had this idyllic snow-angel Little House On The Prairie childhood...”
he continued tantalisingly.
Rodney groaned. “Shut up and let me sleep, Daniel. Get your tragically
orphaned ass out into the snow if you like it so much.”
Daniel merely laughed and withdrew. Before he closed the door, he threw the last
of the snow at Rodney’s head.
“I hope you get frostbite and your balls fall off!” Rodney yelled. All the
way down the stairs, Daniel heard people moaning about bloody McKay and his
bloody boyfriend, and carried on smiling.
There was a man leaning against the wall when Daniel came out into the sunlight.
He was wearing torn jeans and a long leather duster, seemingly unaffected by the
weather. Daniel nodded. “You’re up early, Simon.”
Simon shrugged. “Hadn’t gone to bed yet. You wanted something?”
“What? Oh, yes.” Daniel shuffled around in the snow, trying to get warm.
“I didn’t expect it this quick.”
“Don’t get used to it, darling. That’ll be a tenner, if you’ve got
“Not that broke yet.” Daniel rummaged around in his pocket and drew out two
shabby looking five-pound notes. Simon held them up to the light, then uncurled
his fingers. Daniel took the packet without looking it. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Simon held his gaze, then slouched off. Before he
disappeared, he turned for a minute. “Thinking of playing a gig round here
Daniel glanced up. “The tutors won’t like it.”
And then he was gone, and Daniel was alone in the morning and the snow. He
turned and sat himself down on the steps, avoiding the dead branches curling
over the doorway. After a while, the porter came past, jangling keys.
“All right there?” he asked.
Daniel nodded. “I’m waiting for someone.”
The porter nodded. “Don’t get too cold.”
The snow fell. The sun rose. People came and people went. Out in the front quad,
an icicle gave up under its own weight and fell point-first, shuddering like a
javelin in the ground below. Daniel didn’t get cold. The packet in his pocket
opened when he tugged at it, and still without really looking at it, he tossed
some of its contents into his mouth.
When Rodney emerged, Daniel was looking out over the bare trees at the sun,
still low and white-screened by clouds. “Got woken up again,” Rodney
complained. “There’s a gaggle of PPE-ists having a snowball fight in the
Daniel moved to make room for him, and was only mildly surprised as an arm was
slipped around his shoulders. “Gaggle?” he repeated.
“You’re the linguist, you tell me,” Rodney said sourly. “What is the
collective noun for PPE-ists? An unkindness?”
“That’s crows, I think.”
“Ravens. Corvids. Something.”
“A bore, then.” Rodney leaned back a little, satisfied, but he still held
Daniel close. “A bore of PPE-ists. What, you don’t think so?”
Daniel was thoughtful. “A phalanx,” he said finally. “A phalanx of
PPE-ists. It’s alliterative.”
“No, it isn’t. Besides, mine’s better.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Is. And will you look at them?” Rodney continued. “Do you know, they
actually call themselves scientists?”
“Whereas physicists would never be caught dead talking about spherical
projectiles,” said Daniel affectionately, and Rodney fell silent for a time,
his fingers idly stroking Daniel’s hair. Impulsively, Daniel moved into the
touch, noticing how Rodney’s hands touched the bare skin at the back of his
neck, beneath his hair, and it was cold but it didn’t matter. They had to
shift as someone came down the steps, but the contact, skin-to-skin, didn’t
cease or change.
“Tell me,” Rodney said after a while, “have you actually been to bed
“Was that an invitation?”
Rodney paused, giving Daniel’s hair a sharp tug. “Behave yourself. Answer
“It’s all relative,” Daniel said lazily, “and bed is such a meaningless
term. To go to bed – infinitive verb, idiom, means either to give yourself
over to oblivion or to carnal desire, means nothing, means everything.”
“Sleep-deprived and stoned. Excuse me while I bask in the glow of being
right in every particular.”
“Not stoned,” Daniel said into his shoulder, “not technically.”
Rodney didn’t hear, or pretended not to, and Daniel let himself relax despite
the cold. His head fitted perfectly in the gap between Rodney’s neck and
shoulder, near where the blood bubbled close to the surface. Body heat – a
fittingly wonderful, suggestive two-word phrase to mean something that was
keeping him alive.
Daniel’s voice was low when he felt movement. “Don’t go, not now.”
“I have to work, you know,” Rodney said, but his tone didn’t seem to match
his words somehow. Daniel stayed still and hoped neither of them would speak.
“You’re the one that brought up spherical projectiles,” said Rodney at
last. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t be clingy, Daniel, it doesn’t go with
Daniel smiled and let him move, leave behind a kiss and a line of footprints.
“Who,” he said after Rodney had gone. “Who brought it up.”
He went to bed shortly after that; the night was properly over now and he could
sleep. He dreamed about Rodney, and growing up, and stars in bright skies and
the taste of lemon.
By the time he woke up, it was getting dark. Nightfall, or at least how the
scientists understood the term, was at about three in the afternoon. Darkness
proper kicked in at five or so; that was when the electric lights started
showing as window-frame patterns on the snow.
Rodney came back from lectures at this time, and Daniel went out to meet him. He
was better than Greyfriars Bobby; at least he could talk. But as they walked
Rodney was silent, thinking deeply about something that might not be physics,
and when they reached the quad, he stopped dead and turned Daniel to face him.
“Daniel,” said Rodney carefully, and Daniel felt like the word could shatter
into a thousand pieces if he only breathed. “You’re high, aren’t you.”
The anti-climax made Daniel want to laugh. It wasn’t a question, and it
didn’t deserve an answer; Daniel could fly high enough to lick the drops from
the Milky Way before Rodney would ever stop him.
There was a band setting up on the grass, for a given value of setting up; there
were no trailing wires anywhere to be seen and the sound of acoustic guitars
would be swallowed by the snow.
“So,” Rodney said. “Why’d you do it this time?”
Daniel shrugged. “Just because,” he said, and felt like laughing again. In
the summer, they had both sat here, on this bench under a spreading crown of oak
leaves. They had been friends under this tree, friends who read together and
leaned on each other’s feet and shoulders, friends who kissed and became
lovers in dappled shade.
There were no shadows now; only the flickering patterns of electric lights and
the strange sucking whiteness of the snow. But Daniel could see sunlight and
summer with a sort of enhanced green clarity; he wanted to kiss Rodney on the
grass like in the memory.
“Crap, you’re high,” Rodney groaned as Daniel pulled at his hands.
The band that wasn’t a band was playing a song that wasn’t a song; one boy
on guitar was carelessly strumming Dylan, going from riff to riff with no regard
for completion and looking unexpectedly beautiful in the snow-reflected lights.
Daniel watched hands move over strings and saw every detail, every gleam of
light off a painted fingernail, wondered why he’d never done that, why his
feet weren’t touching the ground, why he was in the snow with Rodney McKay
flailing around on top of him.
Their lips met. Rodney didn’t pull back from a bruising kiss that could melt
the ice all around them, but he jerked when Daniel’s hands began to wander.
“Fuck,” he breathed, and then heaved a deep sigh that made Daniel think of
sandstorms. “Exhibitionist much, Daniel?” He pulled back further, but his
hands were cupped around Daniel’s face, holding him in just that possessive
way that made Daniel want to get high. “Haven’t you ever heard of keeping it
Daniel said nothing. Inside his head, a small voice informed him Rodney probably
had a point, while another one wailed he would if he really loved me
while a third voice, the one that rode the closest to the ground and couldn’t
be dislodged by mere chemicals, said, clear as day: shut up, you’re high.
They slumped back into the snow as Daniel became dead weight. Around them, it
was too dark and cold for anyone to look over their scarves and see them, alone
together in the crowd.
“Al fresco sex,” Rodney continued exasperatedly, as he began the difficult
task of getting to his feet. “You, me, in flagrante delicto. Do I
really have to explain why this is a bad idea?”
Daniel shook his head slowly. “No,” he said, with a voice that was too quiet
and still, and pulled Rodney down into the bushes, into the snow, down deep down
so they were rolling along the cracked old surface of the earth. “Tell me a
story,” Daniel whispered, with the feeling he was on the verge of making
things right. “A love story.”
“Daniel, don’t.” Rodney was maybe possibly getting impatient. “What you
need is a cold shower, a raw egg and something approaching unconsciousness,
maybe not in that order. Get up.”
He was dragged to his feet against his will; Rodney held him and that was okay
but the world spun, not in its usual lazy Nut-Geb-Atlas way but in a scary,
menacing swirl that threatened to flip the ground over and him along with it.
“I’m going to put you in my bed and screw the rules,” Rodney said
determinedly. “Just... be good. Please, Daniel. There’s that word I don’t
use much. Daniel! Wake up.”
“I’m not asleep,” Daniel said. He had been before, always always asleep,
but he was awake now and seeing the world in seven colours against snow.
“No, you’re not, and more’s the pity.” Rodney steered him through the
bare honeysuckle round the doorway. “Can you get up the stairs?” He shifted
Daniel’s weight. “Up you go.”
The heavy door banged shut behind them, and the ice on the doormat immediately
began to melt. The first step was the hardest, then the short length of landing,
then past the door to the JCR office. “Why’s that there?” Daniel asked.
Rodney peered in the direction of Daniel’s index finger. “The big envelope
with ‘condoms’ on it? Because sometimes people have sex. Move,
“I’m moving,” Daniel said. “The whole world’s moving. You told me
Rodney was ignoring him; he seemed more interested in navigating the staircase.
There was the universe to talk about and Rodney wanted to be quiet. Daniel
didn’t understand that, just like he didn’t understand so many things these
days. Not things like the past perfect of invenire which he would
understand eventually, nor the differential integrals and other things
physicists talked about that he would never need to understand, but things like
Rodney himself; Rodney, who was funny and clever and a shining light, so Daniel
could never let the taste of lemon touch his lips for fear of snuffing it. But
at the same time there was the fear, inexplicable and biting, that the lemon he
wasn’t touching would turn and sting him anyway, just because, just because
good things didn’t last forever, and it must be love not money that made the
world go round because everything was revolving around his head.
They were on the right landing now, and Rodney pushed and pulled and propped
Daniel up while he drew his keys from his pockets. There was the moment of
blessed darkness as they both stumbled into the room, and Daniel was on the bed
before Rodney had found the light switch. Once the room lit up, Rodney’s voice
took on a certain firmness. “Get under the covers. Go on.”
Daniel did and liked it. “You wouldn’t tell me a story,” he said clearly,
“so I’m going to tell you one.”
“Daniel.” Rodney made the noise that meant he was just about to lose his
patience. Not that he’d had any to begin with, Daniel thought, and the
coherence of the thought startled him.
“This is your room,” he pointed out. “You shouldn’t have to leave.
Listen. Just listen. And I promise if you hate it you can leave. Okay?”
“Whatever.” Rodney perched on the edge of the bed. “Just make it quick.”
“Promise,” Daniel persisted. “And if you hate it, leave. Yes?”
“For Christ’s sake, Daniel! All right, all right, I promise.”
“Good. Right then.” He snuggled deeper so the covers came over his chin.
“Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there was a child. Not a native
child, not a holy child, but his name meant peace for Israel and he lived in the
land of sand and stars. Listening?”
“I’m listening! Get on with it.”
“When he was still quite young, he saw a statue. A sculpture, I mean, a woman
in stone, trapped there for everyone to see. Her name was Nefertiti.” He
paused a minute and gazed intensely at his listener. “Nefer. Beautiful.
Rodney looked offended. “Don’t call me that, it makes me sound camp.”
Daniel frowned and rubbed at his eyes, thinking about it. “Right, yes, but
anyway” – and he felt just the slightest bit clearer now, like his sentences
could be longer but the story still had to be told – “the child saw her and
loved the sight of her because she was beautiful. He used to wish that maybe one
day she would come back to life and he would see her coming across the sands,
because, you understand, the place the child lived was a magical place where
things like that could happen. It never did happen, but it didn’t mean the
child stopped loving her and the land she came from.
“Then one day he had to go somewhere else. It was far away and it was a little
bit magical, but in a different way. And there, he saw the statue again. She was
as beautiful as she had been when she saw him last, and he stood there and
looked at her as long as he could.”
Daniel stopped. The world had stopped whirling, but there was an unpleasant sick
feeling inside his head.
“What happened?” Rodney asked, and his voice was gentle now.
“The child turned round to see the rest of the new place. And what I should
have said is that there was a temple there, with pillars and a big stone. The
child had turned around and the chain broke so the stone fell and the sky fell
and his parents were crushed to dust beneath the temple.”
“God.” Rodney’s hand moved forwards until it found Daniel’s, teased it
out from under the sheets and covers, and held it until the warmth leaked into
it just a little.
“After that there was a long time when nothing happened in the story at
all.” Daniel knew dimly that his voice was becoming flatter. “After that the
child didn’t love anyone or anything for a long, long time. Until, you
“Until?” Rodney asked.
“Until I met you,” Daniel said dreamily. “You, with your funny hair and
inappropriate sarcasm and equations on post-it notes stuck to the bathroom
mirror. Just you, here, now.”
“Daniel” – Rodney’s grip on his hand was tight – “you’re not sober
by a long shot. Just, just think about it for a minute.”
“I’m tired.” Daniel looked up through his lashes and held Rodney’s gaze.
“I said you could leave if you didn’t like it. Do you want to leave?”
“No.” Rodney’s grip tightened even further, and he pulled away at the bed
covers and clambered his way in, boots and all.
Daniel shifted. Mud and melted snow smeared over the sheets and the bed creaked
under the added weight, but he didn’t care; his head slipped neatly between
Rodney’s neck and shoulder, and Daniel’s smoke-scented hair weaved around
him, blurring the world again.
“Not now, not ever,” Rodney said firmly. “I will not leave you, Daniel
Jackson. Especially not when you’re apparently incapable of lying on the floor
without holding on.”
Daniel held on, to Rodney’s warm hands, to the bedsheets clutched in clenched
fists, and gave in to the spin of the world. The last thing was Rodney, kissing
the top of his head, and the words, “Goodnight, sweet prince,” laced with
heavy irony, and in the moment before sleep everything, just about everything,
Eight hours later it was still the middle of the night.
Daniel awoke all at once, with no transition between asleep and brutally
conscious. He breathed in once before the cold and the dark made themselves
known from beyond the immediate warmth of the bed. They were compelling; the
heat surrounding him seemed suffocating somehow, and as Rodney stirred, the
sense of unease only grew. He had fallen asleep fully dressed and sprawled, and
his breathing was the only sound. Daniel extricated himself carefully, moving
Rodney’s limbs with as much gentleness as possible, and his lover was still
sleeping soundly when Daniel’s quiet footsteps reached the door. He’d said, you
don’t have to leave, and Rodney hadn’t left.
Not today, at least. Another day accounted for upon which Rodney had not left,
but there were still days stretching out into the future, each one a day Rodney
could leave. And, well, life gave him lemons. It happened.
Very well. Daniel nodded to himself. There was a logical solution to it, a
pre-emptive strike that would solve the whole thing in one fell swoop.
The door closed quietly behind him and he padded down the stairs, across
landings and round corners, out into the snow-strewn quad. He stayed there a
minute, comforted by its peace, then moved on into the front quad, describing a
circle around the grass and slipping through the unlocked main door into the
It was the in-between time, when the owls had gone to bed and the larks had yet
to rise, and it stayed quiet as Daniel walked through the streets. Above him,
the skies were clear. More than once, he had stayed awake long enough to see the
stars make their silent circles around Polaris, sweeping him to sleep as he
watched them from light years below. Not tonight, though. He would keep on
walking and never fall asleep out here in the spinning world.
Down by the Cherwell, under Magdalen Bridge, the punts moved and clanked
woodenly together in the wind-shifted shallows. Small pieces of ice slipped into
the water gleaming blackly by his feet, and he thought for a heavy moment what
it would be like to follow them, falling, falling down deep, into the coldness
and the blackness and the oblivion below the surface. Melodrama, cut in
that little voice again. You’re still high.
But he knew he wasn’t. Not any more.
Looking out over the water, he noticed the ice didn’t sink but bobbed gently
in the ripples. Something to do with density and expansion, he remembered; no
doubt there would be equations involved. Still, he wouldn’t like to test that
theory, step out on it and test his weight on what could never bear him. It
would be worse than wanting to fall.
Rodney would know how to make ice bear his weight. He would know if clear skies
meant more snow tomorrow, and he was there at home in bed to ask, he hadn’t
Maybe he would never know if Daniel went back, now. Remembered each step and
made it backwards, back to college and snowy quad and bed still warm from the
heat of two bodies. Maybe in the morning Daniel could make a promise never to
take anything again, and break it, and take back what he’d said and say it
again, and love and try not to love, again and again.
He would go in a minute, when the waters stilled and all was quiet again. Clunk,
clunk – the punts came together on their ropes, and came apart again. He
started walking when the sounds had quite died away, and the sky was no longer
clear when he crossed the quad. Rodney was upstairs, and in the morning Daniel
could sit on him again.
He climbed the stairs and stood in the doorway of the little study bedroom,
sodium-yellow light falling in through the window from the streetlights outside.
Rodney was awake, looking up at him with eyes that were wide and blue. He
didn’t speak, but he must have known Daniel had gone. He was clever like that.
Daniel walked deliberately through the room and lay down beside him with no
words. He ran, but he came back. That was the way of the world.
When the stars came round in a circle, he was asleep again, and Rodney shifted
to hold him, shifted back again, forwards and backwards and under the sky until