» COVER!Learn Something New
You learned something new every day, and today Rodney learned that Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, military commander of Atlantis, liked to sing in the car. Sheppard obviously loved the car he'd rented, a convertible Mustang ("a Carroll Shelby GT-H special edition Mustang," Sheppard corrected, though if this car was so cool, Rodney didn't understand why it was available from Hertz) that they were driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. Sheppard kept noticing that he was nearing 160 km/h and taking his foot off the gas. Less often, Sheppard noticed that he was singing-- weird, inexplicable phrases from one of the terrible songs he seemed to like so much: "...done dirt cheap!" or "...you got me so I can't sleep at niiiiight!"--and shot a quick, embarrassed look at the passenger side of the car. Rodney pretended not to notice, and that was easy enough with the wind whipping his hair and the spectacular views to his right and the surfboards in the back seat maybe about to fly out into traffic and kill people.
"Living after midnight, rockin' to the dawn..."
He wasn't sure how he got here. He supposed that it was all due to Perelman solving the Poincaré, because that allowed the SGC to declassify the most basic, bottom-rung information about wormholes, which was that they existed, because once you had the math for this sort of topology, you knew everything there was to know about black holes (Hawking was having a field day) and wormholes were just a theoretical hop, skip and jump away. But wormholes were Rodney McKay's hop to jump, and he supposed he was lucky that the SGC was willing to let him present his own goddamned work at the MSRI summit at Berkeley.
But Sheppard leaned back in his chair and arched an eyebrow and said, "California, huh?" and then somehow he was spinning the crazy idea of going along--of accompanying Rodney to Berkeley because, after all, it wasn't like he was going to go on any missions with Rodney out of the galaxy, and besides, Rodney would need a bodyguard to protect him from all those physics groupies, right? Elizabeth laughed aloud, but Sheppard just looked innocent and said that, honest to God, hand to his heart, it had nothing to do with how good the surfing was in California that time of year, and when Elizabeth laughed again, Rodney looked from one to the other of them like they were out of their minds. "This isn't a vacation!" Rodney shouted. "This is about declassifying research that's going to change the course of physics!" Sheppard shot him a single, swift look, then turned to Elizabeth and said, "So I'm thinking, we tack a couple of days onto the end, drive down the coast and fly out of L.A.," and Elizabeth suppressed a smile and said, "Yes, all right," and then Sheppard said, "Because it's not like any of us need a vacation or anything," and rolled his eyes.
The SGC agreed to let them come to Earth through the Stargate if they went back home on the Daedalus, and so Rodney McKay went from the South Tower of Atlantis in the Pegasus galaxy to Chern Hall at Berkeley (California, Earth, Milky Way galaxy) literally overnight. He was amazed at how easy it was to slip from one life into the other; the moment he stepped into MSRI's Chern Hall he was instantly surrounded by the same geeks and wonks who always showed up at these things: distracted-looking Germans with their electrocuted white hair, balding Chinese physicists in their terrible plaid jackets, a few hip-looking female grad students in cat-eye glasses and torn cardigans, and of course, a swarm of their male counterparts: intense young men who badly needed haircuts and clearly hadn't slept in weeks, if not years. The SGC had already distributed copies of Rodney's paper, and everyone wanted to talk to him, to question him, to challenge his results. Was it true? Was he sure? Yes it was true, yes he was sure, thanks for asking, and he found himself explaining the same basic principles over and over as people pushed sandwiches and cans of soda into his hands. In a strange way, it was more like being on an away-mission than talking to his peers: Rodney was already used to explaining physics to alien races without giving away any true secrets of Atlantis.
His talk, the keynote, was scheduled for 5:30, and Rodney was standing at the podium in front of the packed audience in the Simons auditorium, explaining how he'd extended Hochberg's proof that violations of the null energy condition were a generic and universal feature of traversable wormholes, when he suddenly caught sight of Sheppard sitting at the end of a row, four rows from the back, and lost track of what he was saying. It was as if everything else dropped away: the hall, the crowd, Berkeley; it all seemed fantastic and unreal, and he was swept by a powerful emotion that he only later identified as homesickness. John Sheppard suddenly seemed like the only real person in the auditorium; everyone else was a cardboard cut-out, a robot, a replicant. Their eyes met, and Sheppard's mouth slowly curved into a grin, and then he tilted his head to the side and said, silently, "Go on,"--and Rodney blinked and looked down at his notes and said, "Right, yes, as I was saying," and finished explaining the negative tension of cosmic strings.
By the time he'd finished answering all the questions, Sheppard was nowhere to be seen, though Rodney kept looking over people's shoulders for a glimpse of black leather jacket or weird, spiky hair. He half-hoped he might find Sheppard loitering around the bar, but didn't see him either at the cocktail hour or at that night's banquet. Stupidly, he kept touching his ear; he had never missed his radio so much. Still, the evening was a roaring success; he accumulated a bigger entourage than Perelman or even Hawking, and he put a sizable dent into the Cult of Samantha Carter. Once or twice he even caught the whispered words, "Nobel Prize."
He was at the hotel bar afterwards explaining zero point reactions to Yitzak, Franz, Peterson and half a dozen others when Sheppard suddenly materialized with his black leather jacket and his stupid hair.
"Oh, hey," Rodney said, instantly forgetting whatever he'd been saying.
"Hey, yourself," Sheppard replied. Everyone turned to look at him, then looked back at Rodney.
"Uh," Rodney said awkwardly, and then: "This is Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard of the United States Air Force," and everyone looked back at Sheppard, who sort of waggled his fingers: hello! "He's, uh--he and I are--" and Sheppard arched an eyebrow and sent Rodney a look of clear warning. Jesus, what did Sheppard think he was going to say? We work together in another galaxy? "We're very good friends," Rodney said, though something in his stomach lurched when Sheppard rolled his eyes: okay, what? Everyone was looking at Sheppard and then giving Rodney looks of barely-suppressed admiration, and it was only then that Rodney remembered that this was San Francisco and that people here tended to jump to conclusions when men suddenly turned up with attractive friends in the armed services.
Sheppard's smile had gone fixed and glittering, and Rodney knew right then that he was in for it. He coughed into his fist. "So, as I was saying. What was I saying?"
"You were explaining how particle propagators contribute to vacuum fluctuations," Yitzak replied.
"Oh, yes; yes, of course," Rodney said. Sheppard began to slide toward him through the crowd, and he coughed again, nervously. "Well, this of course has its starting point with Feynman, and perturbation theory, but from there we can theorize that particle propagators--" Sheppard reached his side, and Rodney barely had time to glare at him before Sheppard lifted his leather-clad arm and draped it over Rodney's shoulders.
"Rodney," Sheppard said, and his voice dripped like honey. "I'm tired."
"So go to bed," Rodney said between gritted teeth.
"Okay," Sheppard said with a too-bright smile. "But I think you ought to come, too. It's late, and you promised we'd leave tomorrow morning."
Rodney swallowed hard; he didn't know if Sheppard was making or ruining his reputation right now, but one thing was for sure: he was about forty seconds away from being called "snookums" in front of half the Nobel consideration committee. "Right, yes, well, it is late," Rodney said, trying to make it sound like a business decision. He quickly turned to shake the hands of the assembled company. "It's been a pleasure, gentlemen." Sheppard fluttered his eyelashes and waved his fingers again: toodles.
Rodney waited until they were in the elevator to start yelling. "Thank you for outing me in front of all of my peers," he fumed, and Sheppard crossed his arms and said, pointedly, "No, thank you for outing me in front of all of your peers," and all right, fine, it was stupid to argue about who outed whom, especially since they'd both be in another galaxy a week from now--which was maybe just far enough.
Rodney sighed as the elevator binged open onto Sheppard's floor. "What time do you want to leave tomorrow?" he asked.
"Early," Sheppard said menacingly, as the door slid shut between them.
"Early" turned out to be an absolutely ungodly hour, as Rodney learned when he fumbled the phone out of its cradle. "C'mon, McKay; day's a-wasting," and Rodney groaned and said that he'd be right down. He found Sheppard in the lobby reading the LA Times and drinking some kind of foamy coffee out of a paper cup, and when he approached, Sheppard grinned, tucked the newspaper under his arm, and flicked a pair of sunglasses onto his face in a single, practiced move. Rodney rolled his eyes. Sheppard led him out into the bright summer sunlight where a ridiculous-looking red convertible ("a Carroll Shelby GT-H special edition Mustang," "Yeah, whatever," Rodney said) was parked at the curb, two surfboards slung in its tiny back seat.
"My God, you are such a cliché." Rodney threw his bag into the back seat alongside the surfboards, and added: "And there's no way I'm going surfing, so--"
"They're both mine," Sheppard said, and he was grinning like a maniac.
Rodney spent most of his first hour in the convertible applying sunblock and complaining, and so he was surprised when Sheppard suddenly pulled off the highway. They headed down a narrow road that wound down the cliff to the shore, and found a perfect crescent of deserted beach at the bottom. Sheppard jerked the car into park, hit the emergency brake, and turned to Rodney. "What do you say, McKay? Are you game?"
Rodney shook his head. "I'll watch," he replied, by which he meant, I'll sit and read, thanks--but in fact, he did watch, damn near riveted, from the moment Sheppard pulled his surfboard from the car. Sheppard shucked his shirt, kicked off his sneakers, and skimmed off his jeans, revealing a pair of blue-striped swim trunks underneath, and then headed down to the water, board tucked under his arm. Rodney trailed behind, then sat down on the sand and watched Sheppard paddle out into the Pacific. Within minutes, he had caught his first wave, and then he was up and gracefully cresting over the surface of the water, arms outstretched below his mop of dark hair. Rodney had brought a notebook with him but he didn't so much as glance down at it, his eyes helplessly following Sheppard as he rode the curling wave of white water, laughed and flailed, fell in, surfaced, paddled, caught another, again and again.
There was one bad moment when Sheppard's surfboard flew out from under him and shot up into the sky before crashing down on top of him in the surf, and Rodney sat up sharply and scanned the water for the first sign of Sheppard: a flailing arm, his dark, slick head breaking through the waves. But there was nothing, and there was nothing, and then Rodney was on his feet, heart pounding like in a nightmare. He began to move slowly toward the water's edge, still frantically scanning the surface, absolutely sure that this couldn't be happening. And then he was running, and holy shit, this was a really terrible idea, because he and Sheppard were alone on this tiny piece of California beach, and if something happened to Sheppard--if he got concussed by the flying board, or caught in the undertow or, Jesus, attacked by a shark (there were sharks out here, weren't there? it could happen)--then it would be up to Rodney to...and just then, Rodney turned his head and saw Sheppard swimming through the water about a hundred feet south of where he'd expected him to surface, and Sheppard must have seen him coming because he waved his arm wildly: I'm okay! I'm okay, I'm fine! and Rodney took a deep, deep breath and tried to suppress the urge to kill him.
He had his "You are the most inconsiderate bastard on the face of the planet" speech pretty well rehearsed and ready when Sheppard finally stumbled up and out of the water with his board, but it died in his throat as Sheppard collapsed beside him, his red-scraped chest heaving as he laughed and panted for breath.
"Oh my God," Sheppard said to the sky, arms and legs sprawled out on the sand, "that was great. That was so great, Rodney," and Sheppard was dripping and scratched up, pink skin goose-pimpling with the cold, and he looked happier than Rodney had ever seen him; in fact, Rodney would have bet money that John Sheppard couldn't ever have looked like that, so genuinely and sincerely happy with no irony to it or anything.
"Good," Rodney said in a strangled-sounding voice. "I'm glad," and then he had to look away fast, because Sheppard's striped blue shorts were wet and clinging to his muscular thighs. When he was able to look back again, he found that Sheppard had dozed off, loose-limbed and relaxed, in the warm summer sun. Rodney blindly reached for his notebook, but didn't open it; instead, he watched Sheppard's head loll slowly to one side, watched the worry lines gradually smooth out of his face. Rodney watched him sleep for a long time, then lay down in the sand beside him, opening his notebook and propping it over his face as a sunshade.
He woke with a start as Sheppard pushed at his shoulder. "Food," Sheppard said, snatching the notebook off his face. "Food right now," and Rodney McKay understood that kind of urgency, having had a hypoglycemic reaction or two in his time. They headed for the car, brushing off their sandy arms and legs, and Sheppard didn't even bother to put his shirt on before starting the engine and driving them straight to the nearest restaurant, which turned out to be a diner just south of Pescadero.
"God, I could eat a house," Sheppard muttered, and he wasn't kidding: Rodney, no delicate flower in the appetite department, watched almost in admiration as Sheppard, normally a turkey sandwich and a salad kind of guy, ate not only a large salad but two cheeseburgers, French fries, onion rings, and a large vanilla milkshake and then looked up when the waiter approached and asked for ice cream.
"You bet," the waiter said with a grin. "Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, butter pecan or sorbet?" and it was only because Rodney looked up at the waiter's recitation of flavors that he saw the other, unspoken conversation the waiter was having with Sheppard, where the waiter said, by means of a single, sharp appreciative glance, that he thought Sheppard was smokin' hot, and Sheppard replied, with a modest tilt of the head, very kind of you to say, and you're not so bad yourself. The waiter arched an eyebrow ("Any chance?") and Sheppard quickly shook his head ("Nah, sorry,") and jerked his chin toward Rodney, ("I'm with somebody,") and while Rodney was processing that, Sheppard looked briefly, thoughtfully, up at the ceiling and then said, "Vanilla. And coffee, black, two sugars--Rodney, you want coffee?" and Rodney recovered himself long enough to reply, "You know--that's really a ridiculous question."
Afterwards, Rodney drove for a while and Sheppard slouched happily in the passenger seat, the victim of a post-prandial carbohydrate coma. This seemed as good a time as any to have a serious conversation, so Rodney cleared his throat and said, "So if you're surfing, and you get caught in the undertow--"
Sheppard turned to look at him, though Rodney couldn't see his eyes behind the sunglasses. "Uh-huh?"
"--or you just, I don't know, start to drown for some reason, or maybe a shark gets you--"
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "Are you fantasizing about my death again?"
"Seriously, Sheppard. What the hell am I supposed to--"
"Plant a tree for me," Sheppard said with a shrug. "Or wait, no--I think I'd like a ceremonial folk song," he said, sitting up. "That you would compose and sing for me. Also, if it's a shark that gets me, I'd like a bi-annual showing of Jaws in my honor. You could open it with the folk song--"
"It's a serious question!" Rodney shouted.
"Nothing's going to happen, Rodney," Sheppard said in a reassuring voice. "I'm a good surfer, I'm a strong swimmer, and I've got you for backup just in case I have a heart attack or something--"
Rodney nearly crashed the car. "You have a heart condition?" he yelped.
"Yeah, I have a heart condition. Because they let me fly planes and fight vampires in another galaxy with a heart condition," Sheppard said, and Rodney felt so stupid that he shut up for a while.
Still, Sheppard must have processed some of what he said, because when they next stopped, it was at the beach just south of Monterey, and there were tons of people around, and even a lifeguard. Sheppard grabbed a board and headed straight down to the surf; Rodney, on the other hand, stopped in a nearby beach shop and bought a hat, a pair of sunglasses, a beach chair, and two large towels. By the time he'd lugged all of this down to the beach and set up camp, Sheppard was up on the waves, and Rodney found that he had no trouble picking him out of all the other surfers--something about his body, how he stood, how he moved.
Sheppard was nearly the last person out of the water when the sun went down. "Let's stay here tonight, what do you say?" he asked, throwing down his board and plopping down onto the sand. Rodney threw a towel at his head, and Sheppard grinned and began roughly toweling his hair, correctly taking that as a yes.
The hotels nearest the beach were full of tourists, so they drove a little off the beaten path to the Monterey Motor Inn. Sheppard surprised him by booking only one room for the both of them, and Rodney convinced himself that this made perfect sense even though he felt something hot fluttering somewhere down low. The room was a far cry from their accommodations at Berkeley, the threadbare carpet and scratchy orange bedspread suggesting that there would be no turn-down service and no chocolates on the pillow. But Sheppard just tossed his dufflebag onto the bed nearer the window and went into the bathroom for a shower.
He came out with a towel wrapped around his waist, pulled a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt out of his bag, and went back into the bathroom again. Rodney busied himself with studying the menus tucked into the cheap paper folder of hotel information: the Monterey Motor Inn had no room service. Pizza. Submarine sandwiches. Sushi. "What do you think about ordering a pizza?" he called to Sheppard, and Sheppard called back, "Yeah, that sounds great; anything you want on it is fine, just get me a Coke."
Rodney nodded and called the pizza place, then went in for his own shower when Sheppard came out in his t-shirt and sweats. The bathroom mirrors were already steamy, and it seemed strangely intimate to slip out of his clothes and get into the already wet tub, to stand where Sheppard had just stood, to pick up the soap Sheppard had just used. Rodney'd been half-hard all day, and now he turned on the shower, soaped up his hand, and began to jerk off with quick, efficient strokes. He was grateful for the opportunity--he didn't see how he was going to survive a week of sleeping three feet from John Sheppard otherwise. He closed his eyes, pictured Sheppard sprawled out on the sand in his wet bathing trunks, and came with a suppressed gasp.
Rodney felt much calmer when he finally stepped out of the tub. He, too, had come into the bathroom without clean clothes, and so he decided to follow Sheppard's example and wrap a towel around his waist. The room was darker now, lit only by the bedside lamp, and Sheppard was lying on his bed with his eyes closed and a pillow folded in half under his head. Rodney sighed as his cock stirred again; so much for jerking off. He went silently to his bed, pulled his bag over, and unzipped it--and then Sheppard's eyes opened. Sheppard was wearing an obvious "come hither" look on his face, and so after a moment of hesitation, Rodney went hither.
"Yeah," Sheppard murmured, and surged up to grab Rodney and pull him down onto the bed.
After that, they both seemed to lose their minds a little. Sheppard's hands moved hungrily over his body, down his arms (appreciatively skimming muscles he didn't quite remember), across his chest, curving along his ribcage. Rodney hadn't been touched with that kind of sexual intent for a long time, and he found himself shivering and blindly shoving his hand down into Sheppard's sweatpants. "Oh, God. Yeah," Sheppard gasped again, and then he was pushing his cock into Rodney's fist, and Rodney cupped the back of Sheppard's crazy head with his other hand and pulled their mouths together so he could kiss him, so he could deepen the kiss, and Jesus, Sheppard was moaning softly and steadily as Rodney coaxed his mouth open, slid his tongue into--
There was a sudden, harsh knocking at the door, and they broke apart, gasping. "Pizza," Sheppard blurted, sitting up fast; he looked flushed and wild and really kind of confused. "You," Sheppard whispered, jabbing a finger at Rodney like he was a dog or something, "Don't move!" like maybe Rodney was going to grab his towel and go running off into the California night. Sheppard rolled off the bed and scrabbled to his feet, absently tugging his sweatpants back up and his t-shirt back down; Rodney had made a good first assault on both. "Hang on!" Sheppard yelled, fumbling for his wallet and pulling out a wad of bills, and Rodney just had the presence of mind to flip the terrible orange bedspread up over his dick when Sheppard yanked the motel door open, shoved a bunch of bills at the startled-looking kid who was standing there, grabbed the pizza box and bag of soda, and practically shoved the kid out the door by his face.
"Jesus Christ, Sheppard," Rodney said breathlessly. "Get back here," and Sheppard dropped the pizza onto the table and practically vaulted over the other bed, stumbling and landing heavily on top of Rodney with a surprised ooof. The shade on the bedside lamp had been knocked askew, and Sheppard winced and flailed toward the blinding orange light like he could turn it off with his mind. "That won't--no, wait," Rodney said, shoving Sheppard's hand aside and finding the switch himself, and when the lights went off, they fumbled Sheppard out of his clothes and explored each other's mouths and bodies in the dark. Rodney rubbed his face against Sheppard's rough cheek, felt Sheppard's callused hand gently rasping along his own stubbled jaw, and then Sheppard was kissing him again, and he smelled like soap and sweat and hair gel and Jesus, yes, like horniness incarnate. Rodney gripped Sheppard's smooth hip and began to tease himself by rubbing his cockhead against the soft hair on Sheppard's belly, and then Sheppard took him in hand and began to squeeze and caress him, sensually groping him from root to tip. "Yeah, yes, right," Rodney gasped. "God, just like--" and then Sheppard pulled their cocks together in his fist and Rodney just lost it, the feel of his hardness against Sheppard's almost unendurably intimate in the dark.
Sheppard kissed him as he came, and whispered, "That's it," and "Come on," and then: "Help me," and Rodney held on to Sheppard's hip with one hand and reached down to grip the hot, hard length of him with the other. Sheppard's breath was ragged in Rodney's ear as he stroked, faster and faster, gritting his teeth, until Sheppard was shuddering violently and gasping with wet-sounding sobs. "Rodney," Sheppard said, in a broken-sounding voice, "Rodney, please," and Rodney bent to take Sheppard's earlobe in his mouth, put a finger into him, and felt him convulse. Sheppard's cock was jerking hotly in his hand, but Rodney pushed in deeper and crooked his finger a little, and felt a second wave of orgasm rocket through Sheppard's body. Sheppard buried his face in Rodney's neck and shook for a long time.
"Jesus," Sheppard managed, when he could speak again, and then he moved his mouth to Rodney's ear and murmured, "I'll turn over; do you want me to turn over?"
Rodney could have sworn that no force on earth could have made him get hard a third time, but-- "Yes," he said breathlessly, hands instinctively clutching at Sheppard's waist, Sheppard's ass, just in case he tried to make a break for it. "God. That's such a ridiculous--"
Sheppard was already way ahead of him. "--a ridiculous question; yeah, I got it," and then Sheppard licked into Rodney's mouth and said, in a low, amused voice, "Things Rodney always wants: coffee, sex--"
"You," Rodney said in a strangled voice.
Sheppard went still for a moment, and then he leaned in and kissed Rodney hotly, over and over, one hand clutching roughly at Rodney's head. "Jesus, McKay," Sheppard said in a hoarse-sounding voice, and then he turned over and spread his knees, his back pale and gleaming in the dim light. Rodney groaned softly and pushed in as slowly as he could stand to, gasping at the effort and the nearly unbearable tightness. And then they were moving together, and oh, God, Rodney would have sold his soul to hear the cacophony of sounds--grunts and groans and sobs and the occasional breathless curse--that were John Sheppard's sex noises, and then Sheppard was shuddering and coming and collapsing beneath him, and Rodney threw his arms around him and fell asleep on top of him, face buried against the back of Sheppard's stupid hair.
Rodney woke up first, though he nearly ripped his pubic hair off when he finally rolled off Sheppard's back. Still, it was worth it when Sheppard lifted his sleep-rumpled head and said, "...hey, Rodney." Rodney closed his eyes and marked this as the moment he realized he was doomed to have a hard-on for Sheppard the whole rest of his life.
"Geez, it's almost nine." Sheppard quickly hauled himself out of bed, but then he stopped and bent to kiss Rodney, almost sweetly, on his way into the shower. He was still talking to Rodney, or maybe just to himself, when the water went on in the bathroom: "--and if we haul ass, we can maybe get to Big Sur by eleven..."
Rodney stared at the ceiling, trying to stop himself from panicking. He didn't deal with happiness well. Having something, he found, was just the precursor to losing it. It happened over and over.
"Lovin' til the morning, then I'm gone, I'm gone..."
It wasn't until they were packed up in the red Mustang and speeding down the California coast that Rodney realized that John Sheppard was singing--off-key, under his breath, bobbing his head along with the radio. Sheppard was singing along with these terrible heavy metal songs that Rodney vaguely remembered from his childhood, songs by AC/DC and KISS and Van Halen. He was--happy, Rodney realized with a start; John Sheppard was stupid happy, bird-happy, happy as a clam, driving down the highway with Rodney in the warm summer sun. Except every so often, Sheppard abruptly realized that he was driving too fast and singing too loud, and he slowed down and looked nervously across the car. Rodney pretended not to notice, and that was easy enough with the wind whipping his hair and the spectacular views of the ocean and the surfboards maybe about to fly out into traffic and kill people. But when Sheppard suddenly went silent--"I was made for loving you, baby; you were made for--"--Rodney suddenly turned to him and blurted, "Don't stop."
"It's a dumb song," Sheppard said.
Rodney shook his head. "It's a good song," he insisted. "The harmonics are..." but there was no way he could finish that sentence credibly, so he said, instead, "Give me a surfing lesson," and that worked, that sent Sheppard's head whipping around to stare at him. "When we get to Big Sur," Rodney added. "Teach me something--basic," and basic was better than nothing. Basic was taking a chance.
Sheppard stared at him for a long second before turning back to the road, and he was grinning like a loon behind his sunglasses. "Sure, Rodney," Sheppard said. "Whatever you want," and Rodney looked back out at the wide blue ocean and thought that maybe he wasn't too old to learn something new, after all.