home :: fanfiction :: links :: livejournal :: recs :: about

Love Story
pegasus b
by Raven

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’s snowing.”

“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 it.”

“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 tonight.”

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 front quad.”

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.”

“A murder?”

“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 yet?”

“Was that an invitation?”

Rodney paused, giving Daniel’s hair a sharp tug. “Behave yourself. Answer the question.”

“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 those pants.”

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 vanilla?”

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, Daniel.”

“I’m moving,” Daniel said. “The whole world’s moving. You told me that.”

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. Like you.”

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 know.”

“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, was okay.

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 street.

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 left yet.

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 morning.

comments, compliments, rotten tomatoes...