Read the story without commentary: Close Only Counts in Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (Please be aware that the story is rated NC-17 and the pairing is McKay/Sheppard.) The story spoilers for SGA Season One and the commentary spoils for SGA Season One, the Season Two episode "Conversion" and the SG-1 Season Five episode "48 Hours."

As with most of my favorite stories, I came up with the title of this one first. The initial concept was much more equitable than the one that actually got written -- John was supposed to have been just as surprised and upset about having slept with Rodney as Rodney was with having slept with John and the "it doesn't count" bits were born of mutual panic. Not over having slept with another guy, but having slept with each other.

But that's not how it turned out and in retrospect, I'm glad it didn't because there are other good stories that go down that path.

Close Only Counts In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

The first time John and Rodney didn't sleep together was a week after the retroactively-named Iratus bug glued itself onto John's neck and held on for dear life. Beckett kept John in the infirmary far too long, because it was Atlantis's first off-world casualty and everyone was kind of waiting for John to mutate into a Wraith or something.

I have ridiculously inappropriate love for that paragraph, especially the last line. I have this image of all the characters, circa season one, breathing a big sigh of relief that John is Just Fine. And, like the jokes in The Wedding Singer, it's only funny if you know what happens later.

It all happened something like this:

"I hear Beckett's finally letting you out," Rodney said, having appeared mysteriously at the doorway of the infirmary as John was about to leave.

"On my way right now," he answered.

"Going back to your quarters?" Rodney asked in a way that was so faux-casual that no one who had ever spoken to another human being would be fooled.

The phrasing on that is a little awkward but I was too stubborn to let go the sentiment. Rodney sounds a little odd sometimes and I firmly believe it's a result of his sitting around thinking up possible conversations and what he could say to elicit a response he wants.

"Thought I'd get something to eat first," John said, curious to see where this was going. Rodney was practically vibrating tension and while this was hardly unusual, something about it seemed different from the everyday panic.

Rodney actually trailed him to the mess hall, went through the line with him, and shoveled down a plate of food while John ate his own dinner. John asked him a couple of questions about what was going on in the lab because what he really wanted to know was whether they had found anything that even approached the level of nifty of the puddlejumpers or the personal shield. (Because it really would have been handy if the Ancients had managed to make more than one of the latter.) Rodney answered with generalized insults and sweeping hands, and even though the answer was ultimately "no," it kept him away from John's Fig Newtons.

I know pudding cups and Jello is standard in the Stargate universe, but when I was on summer cruise with the Navy (which in no way involved shuffleboard or fruity cocktails and hot blonde ship's photographers) the Pop-Tarts and pudding cups were gone by the end of the first week and all we had were the hundreds of individually packaged Fig Newtons. When we did man overboard drills, the air conditioning system sloshed and flooded the Fig Newton cabinet with water, so the people on galley duty that day (ie: me) had to run around with armfuls of Fig Newtons that no one wanted anyway, transferring them to a drier location.

John thought maybe that would be enough, proof that John was doing just fine, thank you. But then Rodney got up and followed him down to the living quarters and when John stopped at his room, Rodney stopped too, and John thought he knew what this was all about. He was too bedsore and restless to give Rodney a good pep talk on why he shouldn't quit the team, but he resolutely began constructing one anyway, because minor freakout or not, Rodney had done everything right. Well, mostly right, and that's as much as John was going to ask of a civilian on his first official mission.

John's not stupid -- he must have known that Rodney had crap for military training but he asked or allowed Rodney on his team anyway and Rodney shut up and did his job when John told him to. That's gotta be a win in his book.

"Can I come in?" Rodney asked before John could launch his speech.

"Sure," John agreed, deciding that it was likely a battle best fought behind closed doors. Rodney's ego was formidable and it's possible that a little denting had occurred. John began to insert key phrases into his argument, phrases like, "essential to the mission" and "most adaptable mind" and "trust my life."

But once the door shut behind them, Rodney seemed oddly without words, twitchy with something and finally John asked, "So what's going on?" and waited for Rodney to announce that he wasn't cut out for field missions.

Instead, Rodney put his hand on the back of John's neck and, before John could flinch and shrug it off, stepped up and kissed him.

And yeah, John knew this, too. The brush with death, the lost, angry energy that circulated and bubbled and had nowhere to go but out, the reaching for someone, anyone, to spill it all into. John had done that with friends, crashed together with other guys who just needed an hour to remember they weren't dead, but more often it had been interchangeable women in bars, pretty brunettes who listened to how he'd almost died with huge eyes and wispy little gasps. They eagerly volunteered for the job, pushing him into bed and climbing on top so all he had to do was lie back and lift his hips until he was far, far away.

Thusly it is established that John 1) is familiar with the man-sex, and 2) still clocked in as a lady's man without having to do any actual work for it. It's my favorite trope for character who have clearly had heterosexual relationships in canon -- I make them bi and suggest that "it was easier" for them to pursue that kind of relationship, so they did.

If he were a good officer, a good team leader, he would ease back, tell Rodney it was understandable but inappropriate and that John couldn't be what Rodney needed him to be.

But John had always been a lousy officer and he absolutely could be what Rodney needed him to be and what's more, he wanted to be.

There is sometimes a gap between a good officer and a good leader. At the Academy, the upperclass loved my roommate -- she was tall and skinny and all leg and played varsity volleyball -- and gave her an A in performance. But the plebe girls thought she was flip and inconsistent and flirted with the boys and otherwise acted inappropriately and actually told one of my friends that they'd rather emulate my leadership style…even though I got a C in performance because I failed the PRT and the upperclass thought I was "meek" because I didn't yell at the plebes.

He needed to be.

So he kissed Rodney back, sliding one hand along Rodney's arm to his shoulder, fisting the other in Rodney's shirt and dragging him in close. He eased back a little and opened his mouth to say something but couldn't find the words so he just took a breath and dove back in, licking and biting and pushing his way into Rodney's mouth.

It stood to reason that Rodney couldn't go long without talking and John was betting the dam would burst sooner, rather than later. He wasn't wrong.

"Oh, my God!" Rodney burst out, his head snapping back when John drifted off his mouth and licked the underside of his jaw. He reached out and grabbed John's face. "You almost -- you were going to -- You died!"

And that was just about all John needed to hear for the last five days of infirmary boredom to fall away and his chest to seize up. He fit his hands to Rodney's hips and slid hard against him, steering him to the bed.

"Rodney," he managed to get out, "I need -- "

"Yes, yes, obviously -- oh, wow, you do." Rodney's eyes widened when his hand curved over the front of John's trousers.

Reccea kept telling me that "trousers" sounded British but I wasn't sure "BDUs" were right because the uniform they all wear isn't one that can actually be found in the military and seemed to be some sort of all-purpose working uniform. Plus we called our military pants "trousers" and nothing beats a good, "drop trou!" order.

"Yeah," John said, and tumbled them both to the mattress.

Rodney ended up on top and he pushed up between John's legs, sliding their bodies together in a way that made John groan and squeeze his eyes closed. This was what he wanted, the push and the rush and a feeling other than pain and numbness and that slipping, fading sensation that was his life leaving him.

Trinityofone wrote a story that I didn't see until some months after I had written this line and titled it, "A Rush and a Push and This Land is Ours." Lilac_Way pointed out the similarity when she beta'd, but there was no actual causality one way or another.

"Oh, wow," Rodney said, which meant John had to open his eyes and lift his head.


"You -- that -- " Rodney surged forward and kissed John hard, and John let his head drop back on the pillow. That worked. He tugged Rodney's shirt up, his hands brushing warm skin.

Rodney got with the program pretty fast, shucking clothes down to his boxers before starting in on John's. Each piece of clothing hitting the floor meant some new part of John was opened to the air and it was like dragging away the smooth, sharp chitin of the ugly blue bug over and over again.

Another line I liked. I think it was about here that I gave up on writing the sex and put, [insert sex here] before skipping to the end of the scene. I had quite a bit of the story written before I went back and started writing the sex scenes in.

The rubber silencers on his tags were warm against his skin, shifting as Rodney pushed at their boxers, tangling his hand in the cotton and finding John's cock. John groaned as Rodney squeezed him and then cupped their cocks together.

I just read an LJ entry…a week ago maybe?...where someone was complaining that dogtags worn against someone's skin were NOT cold unless they had just put them on, so I'm glad I wrote that line as I did. I'm a little bemused by the whole dogtags kink anyway because in my mind, they're for identifying bodies damaged beyond recognition and that's just freaky.

"God, Rodney," John muttered, arching his hips up, pushing himself into Rodney's grip.

"Yeah, yeah," Rodney panted, breathing coffee-spiked breath into John's mouth.

Not totally attractive phrasing there, but I did it to avoid, "Rodney tasted like coffee…and *insert manly adjective probably including the word "musk" and "Rodney himself" in here*."

John closed his eyes and tilted his head back and lifted his hips but Rodney was right there, skin and sweat and endless, endless words slurring into sounds, and John never quite lost that edge of fear that sent him tumbling into bed with stranger after stranger.

It would be taking too much credit to say that I'd thought of this when I was writing it, but John's probably more comfortable sleeping with strangers than people he knows.

Rodney's hand felt good, amazing, and Rodney's stomach and chest and thighs were heavy and solid, drawing John to him, keeping him in the there and now, and before John knew it, he was pushing back, grabbing for Rodney's skin, finding Rodney's collarbone with his mouth, and finally, finally, crumpling the sheets in his fists as he came, shaking, all over Rodney.

"Oh, wow, oh fuck," Rodney said, and John felt the warm slick of a release not his own.

Terribly coy phrasing because at this point I was embarrassed by the range of alternatives. I'm sure I lost all shame by the end of this.

He finally let his head fall back on the pillow and stay there. He drew the deepest breath he could and held it for the count of five. The breath came gushing out of him as he let go and dropped his head to the side to look for Rodney.

"I, um, I guess I -- " Rodney's eyes were wide and uncertain and his hands fluttered pale in the fading sunlight. "I should really get um -- "

"Stay," John said, closing his own eyes. "I'm kind of a crash-right-after guy myself."

"Ah, yes, well, I usually, um, I usually get kind of wired but, I mean with all the stress and all, I think maybe I'll just -- "

After more than a beat of silence, John opened his eyes and lifted his head. Rodney was sound asleep next to him, face strangely open and vulnerable. John quirked a half-smile and laid his head back on the pillow. Rodney's body was warm against his as he went to sleep.

After watching Rodney fall asleep in 3 seconds flat in "Duet" I figured he either got wired and talked for an hour after sex, or dropped off immediately. He's a guy so I went for Option B.

John woke up to find himself lined up precariously on the edge of the mostly-empty bed.

I think I originally assumed Rodney takes up a lot of space when he sleeps, but again with "Duet" as a reference, it's probably safer to say it's just a case of the beds being narrow.

"Rodney?" he asked, pushing himself to one elbow, and blinking the room into focus.

"Ah, hi." Rodney smiled tentatively at him from the middle of the room, where he was trying to get his pants on but was thwarting himself by stepping on the lower legs. "I'm just um, well, I guess it's pretty obvious what I'm doing."

"Looks like you're leaving," John said, scratching his chest. Rodney's graceless exit didn't actually bother him -- he had a meeting at 0900, -- but he'd always been a fan of morning sex and it was still too early even for that.

"Yes, I uh, well, don't worry. It never happened."

John raised both eyebrows at this news. He lifted the sheet and made a show of peeking underneath. "I think maybe it did," he said, glancing back up at Rodney, who was steadily flushing redder.

This was when John started working against me. Because John here obviously is much more comfortable with the gay porn than he let on earlier and he doesn't seem that upset about sleeping with Rodney either. I spent months after I wrote this announcing that I hated the fic and it wasn't doing what I wanted, and by the way, I'd written another 3,000 words, but I hated it and I wanted it to go away. Reccea and Miss Porcupine were very patient with me.

"All I meant to say," he said quickly, head twitching to the side, "was that there's no reason to have the 'we're not doing this again' discussion or even the associated homophobic freakout, because as far as I'm concerned, this didn't count."

"Didn't count?" John repeated, because it really was kind of difficult to follow Rodney's train of thought before his morning coffee.

I'm not sure if I meant before Rodney's morning coffee or before John's and the pronoun problem makes it difficult to tell now. I think I meant John because for as much attention as Rodney gets as a coffeeholic in fic, I'm pretty sure John was drinking some during a meeting early in the first season. Then again, they used those ugly metal cups for everything so he could have been having Gatorade.

"This was obviously We're Not Dead!Sex," Rodney explained, with the capital letters and Boolean search parameters obvious in his voice, "or at least You're Not Dead!Sex, which is not a basis for...anything, most certainly not for freaking out -- " John hid a smile as Rodney's voice cracked and he wondered who was having the freakout " -- so I'm just going to go and this? Didn't count."

There was a discussion on Nute's journal once about programming languages and how Hot!Snape and Woobie!Nightwing distinctions came about and it turned out to be another language that used the exclamation point to determine parameters (or something) but I couldn't remember what it was and ended up using Boolean because the rhythm was good even if it's largely inaccurate. Sorry.

John was actually feeling pretty damn good for having had sex that didn't count, so he went on a run before his meeting and managed to startle Elizabeth by showing up more than two minutes early.

"What's gotten into you this morning?" she asked, trying to hide the freecell game she'd been playing on her computer.

One of my favorite Elizabeth scenes is the original Courting Sweater scene where she shows Caldwell that she's been playing Solitaire all night.

"Oh, you know," he replied with perfectly calculated casualness. "The sun is shining, the birds are singing…."

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at him and he grinned. "I take it back," she said dryly. "I don't want to know anymore." She sipped her coffee. "Happy to be out of the infirmary?"

"You have no idea," John replied, sliding into his seat as Carson and Bates came into the room, followed by Teyla.

Elizabeth looked around. "Where's -- "

"Right here, I'm right here!" Rodney exclaimed, sliding into the room, checking his watch. "Not late yet!"

John rolled his eyes. He knew it was too much to hope that Rodney would be able to pull off subtle but he'd kind of hoped that Rodney would have had enough time to get caught up in one project or another and be distracted enough from the-night-that-didn't-happen and the sex-they-never-had to act normal -- or as normal as Rodney got -- for the duration of the meeting.

"Now that we're all here," Elizabeth started.

"It wasn't my fault!" Rodney said immediately. "I've been working on the shield problem all night and I barely got any sleep and I would have been here sooner except I had this idea and I had to go to the lab and -- "

"Rodney!" Elizabeth interrupted. "I didn't say it was your fault. I just said we were all here and we could start the meeting. Do you want to go first?"

Rodney always wanted to go first so he could fidget and squirm through everyone else's reports until Elizabeth excused him early to go tend to his very important work, but this time he said, "No, of course not, I'm fine." He paused and blinked. John raised his eyebrows at him, but Rodney wasn't looking at him. In fact, John though curiously, Rodney was very definitely not looking at him. "Carson can go first," Rodney burst out, obviously having realized that he having a different conversation than he thought he was having.

"Okay, then," Elizabeth said with a strange look at Rodney and a bright smile. "Carson?"

Carson launched into an enthusiastic explanation of the partial success of his gene therapy. John used the distraction to try to catch Rodney's eye, but Rodney was having none of it. Finally, when feigning fascination with Carson's discussion of allele frequency, John saw Rodney glance over at him with wounded eyes. John waited a beat and then shifted his attention and lifted one eyebrow. Rodney suddenly developed an interest in quantitative trait loci.

This is how much of a dork I am: I looked up genetics on Wikipedia so I could have terms to throw around for Carson's discussions. I don't actually know what any of them mean now, although I did give it enough attention at the time that I think it should make sense.

Clearly, John's luck in the Pegasus galaxy wasn't getting any better.

John gave Rodney a week to get his act together. Actually, he gave Rodney three days and a mission, because Rodney spent seventeen hours on P3X-292 explaining the intricacies of nuclear fission to Ford and John had to either adjust his timetable or find a new XO. Ford had been getting that crazed look in his eye and his fingers kept curling into fists until Teyla gracefully interrupted and distracted Rodney with questions about Earth food. If it came down to fisticuffs, John's money would be on Ford -- he was a wily kid, even discounting his Marine training -- but in the grand scheme of things, Elizabeth needed Rodney more than John needed Ford and that's what sent John to Rodney's room after what he deemed sufficient showering time.

He deemed wrong.

Atlantis had a way of not waiting for someone to give permission before letting John into their room. He hadn't walked in on anyone naked yet but he tried to think hard about waiting for an answer before just walking into someone's room.

I can never decide how I feel about what exactly John can do in Atlantis. I don't like it when he can run the city by blinking and I don't like that the show dropped the ball on John being "special" somehow. For a while I thought it wasn't that the gene was stronger (which is bunk) but that he was better able to control the technology because the mental component involved trusting and acting on instincts, which he was better able to do as a pilot. And then either Reccea or Miss Porcupine pointed out that Jack had the gene and was a pilot and still couldn't get into the puddlejumper and fly it around on the first go. I have a new theory, but that's another story entirely.

He sort of forgot that when he went looking for Rodney.

"McKay!" he hollered when Rodney failed to answer the chime of the door. "Open up!" The door opened and Rodney wasn't there. John walked in anyway and glanced around. "You're still showering?" he bellowed, without much hope that Rodney would hear him and walked into the steamy bathroom.

"Well, it's not like we have a water shortage or anything," Rodney snapped, leaning around the shower door. "The engineers working on the desalinization tanks are all geniuses, you know."

John looked at him. Rodney had been washing his hair and it stuck up in soapy tufts, suds sliding down his face. "You're talking to me now?" John asked, hopping up on the sink.

I think fondly of Joe's Wedding when I picture Rodney in the shower. If only Rodney had a teapot.

Rodney sniffed and disappeared behind the shower door. John tried not to think that he was naked and that the door would be completely transparent if the hot water hadn't fogged up the glass. He shifted uncomfortably on the counter and glanced over at the vague shape of Rodney visible through the steamy condensation.

"Aw, McKay," John called. "C'moff it. It didn't count, remember? You can't be upset about it if it didn't count. Can you?"

The water ran for a minute longer, then shut off.

"Fine, I suppose if you're going to use logic," Rodney said from behind the door. "Can you pass me the towel?"

John slid off the counter and reached for the towel. Then he paused and kicked his shoes off and worked his shirt over his head.

"Yeah, hold on a sec," he called, unfastening his pants and pushing them and his boxers to the floor.

"It's right on the -- oh." Rodney went blank and wide-eyed when he saw John holding the towel out in front of him.

"All you have to do is take it, Rodney," John said reasonably. He could feel the sticky heat weighing down his hair and clinging to his skin and the hair on his chest and on his legs.

Rodney pushed the door open further with his elbow, reached out, and wrapped his fingers in the towel. John dropped it but Rodney didn't make any movement to pull the towel closer to him. It was still blocking John's body.

It was blocking Rodney's body, too, and for a moment, John thought maybe he'd made a mistake and that Rodney really was upset about the other night. He felt annoyed and angry at himself. He hadn't been trying to pressure Rodney into something he didn't want. He just wanted to make things right between them.

Don't ask me what I thought John was doing there. Being a BOY, clearly.

"Look, Rodney," he started.

Then Rodney brought his hand down and John saw that he was hard too, and wet and warm, heated by the water and the steam filling the small room.

He went to his knees, taking the towel from Rodney and dropping it on the floor under him as he went.

A couple people commented on Rodney kneeling on a pillow in a later part, but almost no one noticed (or mentioned noticing) that John does the same thing here -- puts the towel down to protect his knees.

"Oh, um, wow," Rodney said, looking at him like he wasn't quite sure what John was doing down there.

"Not yet," John said roughly and curved his hands around Rodney's thighs. He exhaled hot, moist air over Rodney's cock and watched it twitch. His first taste, a broad lick up the shaft, tasted mostly of warm water and a little of skin.

Rodney made a sound suspiciously like a whimper -- although John was sure he'd deny it later -- and grabbed for the wall and the door to brace himself. Deciding he was anchored well enough, John nudged Rodney's legs apart and slipped his hand between them. He pressed his thumb to the base of Rodney's cock to steady it and took the head in his mouth.

You know what sucks? Having a clear image in one's head about someone's actions and then trying to make everyone ELSE see that same exact image.

"Oh, wow, that's -- that's really just amazingly obscene looking," Rodney breathed and John glanced up at him, eyebrows lifted in query. "No! I mean, don't stop!" Rodney's face was flushed and he was breathing heavily. The slight swell of his stomach rose and fell just above John's eyelevel. "It's just that, wow, it's really hot when there's a woman doing it in -- in bed or something, but you? On your knees here? In the bathroom?"

Rodney: Master of the Inappropriate Comment.

Jesus, Rodney was turning him on with that description and what kind of narcissist was he becoming anyway? So he just took Rodney deeper into his mouth, closed his eyes as he pressed the head of Rodney's cock between his tongue and the roof of his mouth, and slid his hand back to cradle Rodney's balls in his palm.

"Oh, God, oh God," Rodney babbled. "I'm not usually this easy you know but that's just really -- I mean -- I don't want to be all -- oh."

John got a better grip on the base of Rodney's cock as Rodney was talking and proceeded to blow Rodney until the babble turned formless and Rodney was panting and whining against his own forearm.

This is my time shifting paragraph. I figure there are 3-7 minutes in most every blow job that just doesn't bear describing no matter how hot anyone is, so I was trying to convey that Rodney's not a hair trigger without having to go on and on about…you know.

He was fairly sure that he was working with uncharted territory, so when he stroked one finger behind Rodney's balls, he did so gently and non-invasively. Rodney came as if on cue and John was ready for it, swallowing as Rodney pulsed in his mouth.

When Rodney's face registered the inevitable sensitivity, John pulled off and rocked back on his heels. "Hey," he said, giving Rodney a friendly pat to the thigh. "You okay?"

Rodney's mouth moved for a few seconds before any sound came out. His round blue eyes were fixed on John and John suddenly thought that he knew how that first ZPM in Antarctica had felt under Rodney's scrutiny. Rodney nodded and said, "Yes, of course, I'm okay, I'm great, I'm wow -- "

The expression I was really aiming for was Rodney's expression in "48 Hours" after Sam tells him to go suck a lemon, but John wouldn't have been privy to that scene.

Rodney's brain was fried so John stepped past him into the shower and started to jerk off. Going down on Rodney had gotten him pretty hard and he'd just set up the rhythm that usually worked best for him when Rodney pressed against his back and reached around to take over.

Rodney's strokes were short, fast, more efficient, and that didn't surprise John. What did surprise him was that Rodney slipped his other hand down, behind John's dick and stroked the soft skin of his sac. It wasn't a firm touch so John reached down and covered Rodney's hand with his own. Rodney let him lace their fingers together and John pressed Rodney's palm to his balls and demonstrated how he liked it.

Rodney's genius wasn't earned by just sitting in a classroom -- he was a damned fast learner and had John right up on the edge of release in less time than John usually managed himself.

One of the things I like about how Rodney is portrayed is how he knows a lot of things that don't necessarily have to do with his area of study. Because sure, he could have just been academically inclined and studied hard and done well with what he was taught, but to be as truly brilliant as he thinks he is, he'd probably be a fast learner, he'd probably have a good memory, be good at synthesizing information, and have the kind of curiosity that motivated him to go look up EVERY question he had, rather than restricting his intellectual curiosity to his field. (My sister is like that to a degree -- when she was younger, she had to do a report on Madagascar and we got supplemental information on Madagascar and how it related to current events and our daily lives for probably a year after that.)

"I'll do it next time," Rodney was murmuring in his ear. "I owe you, I just -- "

And then John came, seeing images of Rodney with his awesome, mobile mouth wrapped around John's dick, and he completely missed whatever it was Rodney was saying.

When he opened his eyes, Rodney was scrambling out of the shower and pawing through piles of clothes.

"Here, answer this," he demanded, brandishing John's radio earpiece.

"Major Sheppard," Elizabeth's voice chirped distantly. "If you're there, please acknowledge."

This was a retcon after the idea of Elizabeth interrupting their trysts turned into an actual subplot.

John reached for the device and brought it to his mouth as he stepped out of the shower.

"I'm here," he said. "Go ahead."

"We've had an unscheduled off-world activation," Elizabeth reported. "The shield is up and we're receiving radio transmission. If you could report to the control room as soon as possible -- "

"I'll be right there," John promised, hooking the radio in his ear and pulling on his boxers and pants. He tapped the radio off and pulled his shirt over his head.

"Feel better?" he asked, glancing over at Rodney.

"Well," Rodney said, who was hopping around trying to get his socks on, "if it doesn't count, there's no reason to freak out and therefore, sure, feeling great."

John smirked and cocked an eyebrow. "Didn't count?"

"It's a million degrees in here!" Rodney said. He was fully dressed and apparently intending to accompany John to the control room despite the lack of invitation. "Obviously we were overcome by the heat and had release."

"Find release," John repeated, adjusting his sidearm in its holster.

"It was the heat," Rodney said weakly.

John tried not to smile. Winding Rodney up was turning out to be a fairly gratifying hobby. "It wasn't the heat," he said, deadpan, shrugging into his jacket. "It's the humidity."

"It -- what does that even mean?" Rodney asked, crinkling up his face and trying to work his own earpiece around his ear. "That makes no sense."

"It makes as much sense as 'it's the heat,'" John retorted.

P4X-893 had both heat and humidity and yet somehow John managed to restrain himself from jumping Rodney.

Sure, the people were mostly naked and everything was peaceful, the birds were singing, etc. etc., but those things were more likely to make John twitch and hold his P-90 closer than to toss it aside and fling himself at the nearest physicist.

At least until Teyla translated the terms of trade.

"The Makaarans are...concerned with the survival of their people in the wake of the Wraith cullings. They join in groups of three so that the woman can produce children of two men and when she is with child, which is...often, the men provide...companionship for each other. The willingness to demonstrate this companionship is considered -- "

"Yes, yes, we'll do it," Rodney interrupted. "Do we at least get a room or something or will we have to avert the Lieutenant's virgin eyes?"

"Hey!" Ford said on what John suspected was mostly principle.

"Who's this 'we' you're talking about, McKay?" he asked, having a sneaking suspicion that he'd been volunteered for yet another wacky adventure.

"Who do you think, Major?" Rodney asked impatiently. "Now, what's the protocol here?"

"Don't I get a say in this?" John asked, although by the look on his face, the answer was probably no.

"Actually," Teyla began, "it is not necessary -- "

"Look, even a curtain's okay, I'm just not into exhibitionism -- you! What are the accoutrements? Curtain? Room? Mud hut? Seriously, I'm not picky but if there's no bed, I'm going to need at least a pile of grass about three inches thick if I'm going to be able to walk after this -- "

And that's how John found himself in a small hut with a low bed, rubbing off against Rodney.

Rodney's hands were large and too warm on his hips and for some reason that was a real turn-on. John pressed his damp forehead against Rodney's, and paced his breathing to keep himself under control until he felt Rodney shiver and arch under him, slicking both their cocks with his release and then John let go. He pressed his mouth to Rodney's as he rolled off, too sweaty and too sensitive to want to touch anywhere else.

"Damn," he said, because he'd decided 'God' was just too encouraging and Rodney might take 'Fuck' as an invitation.

In retrospect (the John-is-clearly-a-fan-of-the-gents retrospect) that last bit doesn't make much sense unless you look at it as John not wanting to wind up in such a compromising position during their visit. Rubbing off, at least he can get up and run.

I'm such an apologist.

"Ah, yes," Rodney said, sounding like he was fighting a powernap. "Quite the uh -- yes." He struggled to sit up. John didn't bother.

"You didn't have to, you know," he said, turning his head to look at Rodney's arms, bracing him upright.

"Well, I hardly see how that has anything to do with it," Rodney said briskly. "It didn't count of course and thusly the possible repercussions -- "

"This one didn't count either?" John asked, raising an eyebrow and reaching out to poke Rodney in the ribs.

"Of course not," Rodney said, sounding at least a little appalled. "Aliens made us do it. I realize your access to SG-1's mission reports has been limited due to time and opportunity but surely -- "

"I read the mission reports," John interrupted. "I didn't see anything about 'aliens made us do it' and I'm sure I didn't see where 'aliens made them do it' was ever used as an excuse for SG-1 sneaking off for a team orgy or anything."

I occasionally abuse the fourth wall. I may have done it a little much in this fic.

"Yes, well, I suppose your clearance doesn't include everything," Rodney said in what he probably thought was a mild tone but really was just smug. "It's standard operating procedure. Any and all sexual activity done in the name of escaping near-death or establishing good-will with an alien species is automatically exempt from the usual melodramatic declarations of love, heterosexuality, fidelity, etc., etc."

" volunteered," John said stupidly. "It doesn't count if you volunteered! It was completely voluntary! That's what volunteered means!"

It's pretty clear from canon that John likes to wind Rodney up, just to watch him go, and I thought it would be gratifying to see it goes both ways.

"Ah, I believe we're in agreement, then," Rodney said brightly, rolling out of bed and pulling on his pants.

"What?" John gave up on afterglow and hopped out of bed before realizing that he didn't have as far to hop as usual. "Ow." He pulled on his own boxers and trousers and pulled his shirt over his head.

"You said it doesn't count," Rodney pointed out, lacing up his shoes.

"I meant that your exemption doesn't -- why am I arguing with you?" he asked, because really, he should be jumping at the excuse to deny carnal sin with McKay.

"I ask myself that question every day," Rodney said archly and walked out of the tent.

As it turned out, Rodney really didn't have to. Teyla quietly informed John on the way back to the jumper that they could have bypassed the sex and just provided a gift for the most recent newborn.

John considered shooting Rodney but sex had always made him pretty mellow, and Rodney was busy explaining to Ford that if he'd spent more than three months with the SGC before joining the Atlantis expedition, he would have run into these situations all the time.

From the expression on Ford's face and the way he was nodding, John didn't think he'd be needing to have a discussion about the general interpretation of Public Law 103-160 with the Lieutenant -- no, John's bigger problem was getting Ford back in the field ever again.

Public Law 103-160 is Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I modeled the atmosphere of the story after my basic interpretation and experience with it, which is pretty much, "Don't ask, don't tell, don't be an idiot."

The problem of coaxing Ford through the stargate took a backseat to a half dozen other emergencies over the next couple of days. John celebrated six consecutive hours of no explosions, flooding, unscheduled gate activations, or random alarms by sacking out on his rack with War and Peace.

He'd just gotten the book open and found his place when the door chimed. That just figured. He bit his lip and contemplated not answering, but he was never off-duty on Atlantis. With a deep sigh of regret, he put War and Peace aside and rolled off the bed. He crossed the room to the door and activated the door release.

It was Rodney.

"Do you uh, do you have half an hour or so?" he asked, twirling one hand to indicate -- John supposed -- the movement of a clock.

"Maybe," John said cautiously, and then Rodney finally looked him in the eye.

"Can I come in?"

"Yeah." John moved aside and let Rodney into the room. The second the door closed, Rodney's mouth opened.

"As I'm sure you've noticed, circumstances have conspired -- " Rodney closed his mouth and brushed past John to stand by the bed.

John raised his eyebrows and pulled his shirt over his head.

"Yes, exactly," Rodney said, looking only a little surprised. John took a few steps forward and leaned in to kiss Rodney, but found himself held back by Rodney's hands on his shoulders. "I think you should sit down," Rodney said.

John sat down.

Then he did a double take, as Rodney took the pillow from the bed, dropped it on the floor, and went to his knees.

Who needs to suffer physical discomfort when there are perfectly acceptable accoutrement ready and waiting?

"It might be worth noting," Rodney said, his hands deftly unfastening John's pants and sliding inside, "that while I have no actual practical experience in this field, I was considered the world's foremost expert on wormhole physics before I ever had access to an actual stargate, so odds are fairly good that I'll be able to adapt quickly and proficiently to this as well." And then he pushed John's shorts down and took John's dick in his mouth.

Everyone who knows me knows my love of a good extended (to the breaking point) metaphor, and thusly I think Rodney's reasoning here is the funniest thing ever. What Rodney fails to mention, of course, is that once he actually went through the wormhole, he realized it was a whole new ballgame….

"Whoa," John said, his hips twitching upward.

"Oops," Rodney said, coughing and backing up again. "That wasn't quite what I expected."

…and here he remembers that.

"Sorry," John said, his voice lost halfway between a growl and a pant. "Go slower this time." He pushed his pants and boxers lower and made himself comfortable, leaning back on his elbows.

Rodney nodded and leaned forward, hesitating a little before he licked the skin on John's cock and then slipped his mouth over the head.

"Okay," John said, curling his chin to his chest so he could see what Rodney was doing. "Go ahead and suck a little. You can use your hand if you want." He felt a slight pull and tension on the skin as Rodney followed his directions and then the warm pressure of Rodney's palm on his balls. Rodney also never forgot anything he'd learned, John realized, remembering that same touch in the shower. "Take a little more," he suggested, trying not to sound too eager. Rodney's tongue was doing some fantastic things to the head of his cock but…just the head. Rodney slid his hand up, pressing his fingers around the shaft and braced himself on John's hip with his free hand.

Blah, blah, more introspection on Rodney's intelligence.

John tensed and relaxed the muscles in his hips and rear, making a conscious effort not to move too much while Rodney was experimenting with depth and pressure.

"Mm!" Rodney said, his eyebrows lifting in surprise. John wasn't sure what brought that on, but Rodney's exploratory motions suddenly turned enthusiastic and John pushed himself vertical on both hands.

"You've got a hang of it," he said, suddenly finding himself short on breath. Rodney was getting himself into a rhythm between his mouth and his hand. John groaned a little as Rodney hummed pleasantly and reached out to feather his fingers in Rodney's hair. "That feels good," he said huskily, fine tremors chasing down his thighs and tickling the hair on his stomach.

Rodney made a sound that managed to be both pleased and smug without the benefit of actual words and John smiled. Then Rodney did something fantastic with his tongue and John almost couldn't suppress the thrust it provoked. He felt the familiar heat pooling between his legs and drawing up hard. "I'm going to come," he warned, sliding his thumb down to Rodney's jaw, ready to take over with his hand if Rodney drew off.

But Rodney just waved one hand, thumb and index finger touching in the "okay" sign, over his head, and sucked a little harder. He let his hand drop to join the other one and John dropped his head down, groaning with laughter and release. His orgasm was a firm, long rush of sensation spreading from his center to all his extremities and he let his elbows take his weight as he fell backward.

The okay sign is really just my very most favorite part of the entire story. It just seems so Rodney and so funny in David Hewlett's physical humor sort of way. It also makes this part seem less like porn and more like life, to me.

Rodney let go a second before John was really really ready and swallowed one more time, just air, to clear his mouth, John suspected, and turned glassy eyes up to John's face.

"Well?" he demanded.

"A-plus," John told him, kicking his feet back up to the bed and lifting his hips enough to pull his pants and boxers down and off. "You're an exemplary student. Take your pants off and come up here."

This was another favorite line because John there's an element of sarcasm -- John's teasing Rodney -- but it's affectionate and kind of emotionally stunted as well.

Rodney struggled out of his shirt first, tossing it somewhere over his head, and then kicked off his shoes. John watched as he worked off the pants and shorts. He was hard and flushed and when he hopped onto the bed, John rolled to his side and closed his hand over Rodney's dick. Rodney gasped and John didn't even do anything fancy -- just a couple of strokes and Rodney was pushing his own hips up and coming over the back of John's hand.

"Okay," he said, eyes still closed as John brought his hand to his mouth and sucked it clean. "That was pretty fantastic."

And he was out like a light.

John reached over, rubbed his thumb over Rodney's mouth, and wondered what the hell they were doing.

Aaand, John has lost count of the number of times they actually had sex and Rodney hasn't come up with a reason why it didn't count. It might be panic time but orgasm = sleep so he'll worry about it later.

When John opened his eyes again, Rodney was looking for his clothes.

"So why didn't it count this time?" he asked, sitting up with some effort. "Your shirt's on the desk."

Bowing to the inevitable but the awkwardness is gone. (I promise the interesting stories pick up again in a scene or two.)

"I was merely, ah -- " Rodney cleared his throat. "We're even now. For that time before that time with the, you know, aliens."

"The time before you volunteered us to do it for the aliens?" John asked, lifting one eyebrow. "You mean because I gave you a blowjob in the shower?"

"A blowjob that didn't count because you were overcome with heat. And humidity," Rodney said quickly.

"If it didn't count, why do you need to make it even?" John asked reasonably.

Rodney stared at him.

"Yeah, okay, good point," John said quickly, because obviously a blowjob that didn't count was vastly superior to no blowjob at all. "Well…thank you. I'm glad we're even."

The bit about "a blowjob that didn't count was vastly superior to no blowjob at all" is probably the most popular line pulled out as a description which surprises me. It didn't sound that funny in my head when I was writing it.

"Most people find it rather difficult to argue with a genius," Rodney agreed, and sat down to tie his shoes.

They had been even for a week when John traded Grodin for a bottle of Jim Beam and went to Rodney's room.

Someone pointed out that the construct of that sentence makes it sound like John actually bartered away Peter Grodin to someone in exchange for a bottle of whiskey. Once I stopped laughing, I decided not to change it because that reading is hilarious and if Elizabeth had to go trade some Powers Bars to get Grodin back, all the better. Someone else can write that story.

"So here's the thing," he said when Rodney opened the door, walking by him, straight into Rodney's quarters and setting the bottle on the desk. "I'm pretty sure our tolerance is shot all to hell. I mean we've been here how long? And had exactly one drink since stepping through the gate?"

"Apparently you are not on the very long list of people who know about the still on the lowest level," Rodney said dryly. "And also, you seem to be discounting that very potent grog on M7R - something."

"My point," John said, ignoring Rodney even though he did know about the still and was purposely turning a blind eye and the grog was foul and barely made him tipsy, "is that it's only going to take us a shot or two to get skunked and everyone knows that nothing you do when you're drunk -- " He stepped into Rodney's personal space and pitched his voice low. "Ever. Counts."

"I think it'll take more than -- " Rodney started and then his brain -- that one -- kicked into gear and his eyes widened comically. "I'll get the glasses," he said.

John worked the bottle open as Rodney dumped the dregs of two coffee mugs into a dead Ancient plant. He rinsed out both cups, but John could still smell coffee when he splashed whiskey into the metal mugs.

Coffee-flavored whiskey sounds ultimately nasty but it's getting John laid, so he's probably not too worried about it.

"What are we toasting to?" he asked as they lifted the cups.

Rodney opened his mouth and closed it again, and finally said, "To things that never happened."

They're so STUPID. They're acknowledging not only that they did sleep together but that they're pretending they never did. What's more, I think they know they're stupid but don't want to be the first to say so.

"To things that never happened," John agreed, clearing his throat of an odd catch. They clinked mugs and tossed back the whiskey. John felt it burn down his throat to his stomach and straight into his groin. His dick had just been waiting for an invitation and that seemed to be it.

"Maybe we should do two," Rodney said, but when John glanced over at him, his face was flushed and his eyes were bright. "Just for good measure."

John poured a second slug, his hands hurried and clumsy, and they banged the mugs together a little breathlessly before downing the drink. Burning on adrenaline, alcohol, and testosterone, he set the mug carelessly on the table and reached for Rodney with both hands. Rodney was right there, just as pushy, just as grabby, just as hungry. They ground against each other, mouths meeting, desperate and sure. Rodney's hands tugged John's shirt over his head and they had to stop kissing long enough for him to get it off. John stripped off Rodney's shirt, and they tumbled down together on Rodney's bed, pants open and hands reaching.

"Okay, okay, hold up," Rodney panted. He slid off the bed and shoved his pants and boxers to the floor. Rodney wobbled a little getting out of his boots and socks but he didn't fall down and then he crawled up the bed and straddled John's legs. He tugged on John's waistband in what John hazily decided was the sexiest move ever. John lifted his hips and let Rodney draw the rest of his clothes down in the same jumbled heap. The cooler air of the room hit his already hard dick and made him shiver. Rodney's warm mouth took care of the chill and right when he'd gotten a good rhythm going with the sucking, he made it even better by stroking one curiously slick finger back behind John's balls.

"Yeah, Rodney," John groaned, bringing his feet up on the bed and letting his knees fall apart.

And here is where I stopped writing for another two weeks because I had something else entirely planned for this scene, or suddenly Rodney wanted to fuck John. I spent a lot of time screaming about this fic.

Rodney made a pleased little humming noise that felt fantastic around John's cock and then he stroked further back, searching out John's opening and skating his finger around the edge.

"Geez, Rodney," John grated out. "Would you just -- ?"

"Hm. Oh." And then Rodney was sinking his finger in, all the way until John could feel the rest of his hand tucked up against the bottom curve of John's ass.

John rocked his hips, riding high on the feel of Rodney everywhere. "Use two," he said suddenly, not full enough and unable to resist just that little bit more before he came. They were getting into stuff he didn't get from those desperate comfort encounters with guys who had almost turned into flaming balls of wreckage with him or women who wanted to pet him and make him better. This was stuff he did before any of that, stuff he hadn't realized he'd missed.

Part two of: John Sheppard is bi and figured it was easier to sleep with girls. But he does like men and Atlantis (and Rodney) are about as safe an environment as he's going to get.

Rodney obliged eagerly, hands going elsewhere but his mouth inexorable on John's cock, and then he was touching John again, one hand holding his sac out of the way and two fingers fitting snugly inside.

"Rodney," John said, voice choking high in his throat. Rodney nodded, inadvertently banging the head of John's cock against his soft palate. John groaned and came in Rodney's mouth, tremors shuddering through all his limbs. Rodney pulled his fingers out a little too quickly -- John was going to have to teach him to slow down -- but at the moment, John was too boneless and satisfied to be discomfited by it.

The first thing he realized when he opened his eyes was that Rodney was jerking himself off. "Hey, let me do that," he said, rolling to his side and reaching for Rodney's wrist.

"I just -- " Rodney started, letting John pull his hand away and take Rodney's cock in his mouth. "Oh, wow, yeah. It was just that watching you, and feeling you, it was really hot and -- "

"I know," John said, pulling off Rodney's cock just enough to talk. He used his tongue to trace gate glyphs on the sensitive skin and stroked two damp fingers behind Rodney's balls. Rodney jerked at the touch, thrusting up against John's cheek. "Hey," he said, moving his fingers back, between the curves of Rodney's ass. "You want to know what it feels like?"

It's always kind of hot when Rodney's doing math on John with a pen or his tongue, but to go the other way seemed…too decompartmentalized for John, so gate glyphs. Mostly because I like the word "glyphs."

Rodney lifted his head. "I've been doing some experimenting on my own," he said. "Might as well be prepared, eh? So no need to be shy. I uh, I know what it feels like, but not what it feels like when you do it."

A hot weight dropped low in John's stomach and it would have meant an instant erection if he hadn't just come spectacularly in Rodney's mouth. He really had nothing to say to that so he dropped his mouth down over Rodney's dick, taking him in deep, and pushed one finger up. Rodney was dry and tight and hot inside, but John's finger slid in easily enough. It only took a moment to find the raised bump and then Rodney was coming in his mouth instantly and without warning.

"Oh, oh, wow," Rodney said as John swallowed and stroked his finger out and flopped over to the side. "That was, now I see why men are gay. I mean, not that what we've been doing hasn't been reason enough, but yeah, that would totally have done it years ago if you know what I mean."

Sometimes Rodney just makes me want to cover my ears and put my head down on the table. I find those lines hardest to write but since he persists in doing it, I persist in writing it. *wince*

John had no fucking clue what he meant, but he wasn't going to say so. Instead, he ran his fingers through Rodney's sweaty hair and kissed him on the mouth. The bonelessness hadn't gone away with blowing Rodney and John was more than ready to crash.

"Ah. Um. Maj -- John?" Rodney asked.

This is the first time Rodney tries to address John directly and he almost calls him Major, then realizes that's weird and tries for John. Since I wrote the story entirely from John's POV and only concentrated on Rodney's reactions, that line was actually written just so John could say his line about it not counting because they were drunk. But six months later, I think Rodney was flailing around for some way to say it counted.

"I know," John murmured sleepily. "It doesn't count because we were drunk. I planned this one, r'member? Now shut up and go to sleep."

And against all odds, Rodney did.

"Didn't you used to be shorter?" Rodney asked, not looking up from his laptop. "Also, longer hair and --" He absently made an underhand grabbing gesture. "-- a much better rack."

"Didn't you used to be shorter" is horrible grammar and exactly the kind of colloquial mistake I think Rodney would use when he's in casual conversation. (I'm not sure if he ever has or not.) He's kind of being deliberately incorrect here. And the motion of cupping invisible breasts is another section I had the worse time describing.

"I'll let Teyla know you miss her," John said, tossing his bag in the corner and unhooking his radio from his ear. "Lose the laptop. You're not going to convince me Teyla lets you get away with that."

Rodney rolled his eyes and huffed but shut down the computer and sat it on the window seat by his own bag. "Where is Teyla, anyway?"

"Some sort of thing with the Athosians on the mainland," John said, because he wasn't quite clear on the details. "Elizabeth wanted to do some sort of trade deal in writing and Halling protested because -- you know, I don't even know why. Maybe he thought Elizabeth didn't trust him or something. Anyway, they needed Teyla to grease the wheels a little. So you're stuck with me."

Rodney shrugged a little. "I suppose it will be less humiliating to have my ass kicked by the military commander, but considering Teyla kicks your ass on a regular basis -- " John raised one eyebrow. "Er, what was I saying again?"

"Something about getting your ass kicked," John said dryly. "Do you give Teyla this much lip?"

"No!" Rodney said with as much horror as John could imagine. "She'd kick my ass!"

"Right. Okay, let's get started." John was seriously starting to regret his own order that Rodney be taught some sort of self-defense to eliminate his status as Giant Bullseye in the field. "I'm going to teach you to block grabs. They can't hurt you if they can't get a hand on you."

I think Rodney is only subject to training when it occurs to John and Rodney has no (real OR manufactured) emergency to excuse him.

"I think you're forgetting, or possibly ignoring, the possibility of projectile weapons ranging from sticks and stones to those energy weapons the Genii use." Rodney started to put his hands on his hips, then seemed to change his mind and just let them hover aimlessly in the air as if he didn't know what to do with them.

"Right, well, we'll start with angry villagers, move up to pointy stick people, and when you're really good, I'll teach you to slow down bullets with your mind," John offered. "In the meantime, let's get this show on the road. I hear we're having tava beans for dinner."

The tava bean bit came up purely by accident and assumes other planets have the equivalent of tava beans or else are willing to trade the expedition tava beans they got from the Genii in exchange for something better. I have an almost irresistible urge to mock tava beans.

"Yes, now there's a reason to hustle along," Rodney agreed with all due sarcasm, but he stepped into the middle of the room and shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Bates couldn't have found a planet willing to trade Big Macs?"

"Bates is one of those guys who lived on egg whites and protein powder back on Earth," John said. "I'm going to show you how to block grabs. I want you to mirror my moves for a while." He counted a beat and then brought his forearm up vertically in a swift, sure move, hand closed.

I totally knew the guys who only ate egg whites and protein powder. Most of them thought girls didn't belong at the Academy and tended to bark motivational slogans while working out. Or sometimes, just bark.

"Bates is a jerk," Rodney agreed, copying John's arm movement awkwardly. "But everyone misses Big Macs." He moved his arm again, mirroring John almost exactly. "I think I got it. Time for dinner?"

"Nice try," John said, repeating the movement calmly and steadily. "This needs to be second nature. Someone makes a grab, you shouldn't even have to think about this. You know," he added conversationally, "I knew guys who could break someone's arm blocking. It's all in the timing."

The guy who ran the motorcycle store my dad frequented had broken someone's arm blocking once and Dad was very impressed. I heard about it a lot.

"I feel like Daniel LaRusso," Rodney complained. "Wax on, wax off, very nice, yes. Can we move on to something useful or should I start thinking about all the ways the chefs can ruin tava beans?"

"Patience, grasshopper," John said, throwing another empty block and gauging Rodney's attention span.

"That was Kung-Fu, not The Karate Kid," Rodney panted and John decided that he was sufficiently distracted.

And I take potshots at the fourth wall again -- David Hewlett had a guest role in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.

He made a quick snatch for Rodney's collar, counting on Rodney to be too wound up in old media and preoccupied with his arm movements to duck the attack. As he'd planned, Rodney snapped his arm up and knocked John's swing away.

"Hey!" Rodney said, eyes lighting up. "Did you see that?"

"Yes, I did," John said, flexing his fingers. Rodney was a little more solid than John had thought and tingles ran down his forearm.

"I was totally awesome," Rodney enthused.

John rolled his eyes. "Congratulations, David Carradine. Now, let's talk about what you do when you've deflected the grab and pissed off your attacker."

"Wait, you just taught me something that is going to piss people off?" Rodney asked, but he cooperated when John taught him the followup grab and how to decide whether to use a palm strike or an elbow strike.

It didn't take long to realize that Rodney was hopeless and John would be bargaining for his safe return for maybe the rest of their natural lives. On the plus side, if Rodney kept this up, their natural lives were going to be pretty short.

For some reason I like that bit because it's John being grumpy and doomsaying -- usually Rodney's role. Also, he's totally misusing "natural lives" as a concept.

"All right," John said, catching a palm strike that should have been an elbow strike before he got all his teeth knocked out. He dug his thumb into the soft spot on the inside of Rodney's wrist and levered his arm down and out of range. "Let's try something else before you do me permanent damage," he suggested dryly. He shifted his weight from foot to foot and considered Rodney as he tried to think up something. He didn't want to frustrate Rodney completely and besides, the more inept Rodney was at a maneuver, the more John was at risk from flailing limbs. It was hard to believe this was the same guy who had figured out blowjobs in under an hour and could reduce John to an exhausted mess in half that time -- but, John amended, that didn't count.

All the self-defense moves came from a book I got in Toronto a couple years back. It was written by an ex-SAS guy. I was going to use it to write Queen & Country fic.

Maybe, though, that was the trick. Rodney reacted to certain death, as he put it, a certain way, and while that eventually meant 'pulling a brilliant solution out of his ass' most of time, there was also a fair amount of panic and distress along the way. John didn't have any way to replicate certain death in the east pier gym, but he could make it not count.

"I'm wearing you down, aren't I?" Rodney asked smugly. "You're beginning to see the futility of this exercise."

John rolled his eyes and rolled his neck, getting the cricks out. "Okay, let's do something fun," he said instead.

Rodney lifted his chin. "Fun as in, dinner, or fun as in, let's beat up the poor scientist who already spends too much of his life being tied up and poked at?"

"Fun as in I'm going to teach you what to do when someone comes at you from behind."

"It's times like this that make your choice of personal item not so baffling," Rodney remarked, and gamely adopted a stance that was probably supposed to look relaxed, yet watchful, and really just looked spastic.

John walked him through the individual steps; how to drop his shoulder and grab the shirt at the shoulder and the waistband, and how to twist and shift his weight one hip to rotate the attacker around his center of gravity.

And then he let Rodney throw him.

"Oof," John said as Rodney sat on his stomach.

"Okay, you were right, that was fun," Rodney said. He shifted his weight off John and made like he was going to stand up. "Now we -- "

John swung his leg up, catching his knee against Rodney's shoulder and knocking him sideways. In seconds, he was on top, his weight divided evenly across Rodney's thighs, hands pinning his biceps to the floor.

"Hello, my back," Rodney said in horror, craning his head up to look at John. "What is it with you that you need to be on top all the time?"

John didn't answer, just leaned forward and caught Rodney's mouth against his own. It opened immediately, obligingly, and John dropped his weight forward for a deep, dirty kiss, a slow trace through Rodney's mouth. Rodney made a low sound and struggled a little, but John just tightened his hold.

"Kinky," he mumbled as John pulled back. John raised an eyebrow and rolled his hips so Rodney could feel him, already hard, and yeah, Rodney was keeping up with this. John reached down and tugged open Rodney's fly before ripping open his own.

Rodney hooked his free hand around the back of John's neck and dragged him back down for another kiss. John dragged away their pants and pushed together, skin to skin. He decided he liked the feel of Rodney's hand on the back of his neck, so he didn't pin that arm again. Instead, he wrapped his hand around both their dicks and guided them together, hot friction and growing slickness against his palm.

"Did you lock the door?" Rodney asked against his mouth.

"We're all the way out on the east pier," John said, nudging Rodney's chin up with his cheek and rubbing his five o'clock shadow (which had been a five o'clock shadow three hours before and was now an embryonic beard) against the underside of Rodney's jaw as he kissed Rodney's neck.

I love the phrase, "embryonic beard."

"Are you crazy?" Rodney yelped. "Anyone could walk in on us!"

John rolled his eyes and stared pointedly at the door. "There, locked," he said.

Someone asked if John really locked it or if he just did that to make Rodney shut up. I wrote it to be deliberately ambiguous so I didn't have to run up against the John/Atlantis question.

"Are you sure?" Rodney asked.

John kissed him instead of answering, grinding down and pushing everything right up to the breaking point as he dipped in and out of Rodney's mouth. He came first, embarrassingly enough, shuddering against Rodney's shoulder, but Rodney was pretty polite about it and thrust into his hand for less than a minute before coming with a surprised gasp.

John rolled off to the side and panted at the ceiling for a few minutes before struggling up and going over to the window to dig his towel out of his bag. He blotted himself dry, zipped up, and tossed the towel onto Rodney's stomach. "Almost time for dinner," he said, bracing for the inevitable.

"Oh, excellent," Rodney said, wiping himself off and doing up his pants without getting off the floor. "I've been looking forward to tava beans all day. Tava bean soup, you think? Salad? Or straight up with rice pilaf? I have to admit, though," he added with less sarcasm. "All this 'exercise' -- " and God, yes, he did the air quotes, " -- makes me terribly hungry."

"Exercise, huh?" John asked as his headset beeped.

"Major Sheppard?" Elizabeth's voice came distantly through the headset he'd stuffed in his bag.

He raised his eyebrow at Rodney and fished the little device out.

"Sheppard here," he said.

"Major. We could use you in the control room," Elizabeth said. "It's not an emergency but -- "

"I'll be there as soon as I can," John said. "I'm out on the east pier."

"Thank you," Elizabeth said and clicked off.

"So that's the party line?" John asked, fixing the radio back in his ear. "It didn't count because it was exercise?"

"Unless you have something better," Rodney sniffed. Before John could think of an answer, Rodney made a face.

"I should grab a shower on the way, huh?" John asked.

"It was very strenuous exercise," Rodney said.

Originally, when I wrote "Rodney sniffed" I just meant that he was speaking snottily but Miss Porcupine suggested Rodney complain about the smell or something, so the end bit is compliments of her.

John stirred and stretched as well as he could with Rodney's arm pinning him to the bed.

"Mmph," Rodney replied, waking halfway up. John was just happy he didn't spring to attention like usual.

"Why didn't we do it this time?" he asked around a yawn, pushing back against Rodney's solid body.

"My toothbrush is here," Rodney said, shoving at him. "The real question is, why is there no room on this bed?"

"It doesn't count because your toothbrush is here?" John asked, thinking that was the lamest excuse ever, and ignoring the elbow Rodney was pushing against his ribs.

"Well, where else was I supposed to sleep?" Rodney demanded.

"Right," John said, deciding not to mention that Rodney had brandished the toothbrush when he walked in the door the night before.

I actually thought this was one of the weaker parts so I'm surprised at how many people commented on it. It was written in an early draft, before a lot of the other set-up scenes got plugged in.

John poked Rodney in the side.


"Yeah," John said, pulling a face at Rodney's prone form, which still hadn't moved as if in accordance with the declaration. "So why doesn't it count this time?"

"Huh?" Rodney opened both eyes and glared up at John.

"The sex," John said, palming the curve of Rodney's ass. He leaned closer, putting his lips next to Rodney's ear. "Why didn't it count?"

"Oh, um." Rodney looked flummoxed and also a bit glazed. "It's your turn to make something up."

"Really?" For some reason he didn't want to examine too closely, this pleased him. "Okay, let's see...."

Rodney rolled his eye and flopped over.

"We had mushrooms from PX4-893 for dinner last night," John decided. "Maybe they were, you know, wacky."

"Wacky?" Rodney lifted his head. "We had them two nights ago. Try again."

"Delayed reaction?"

Rodney's head hit the pillow with the force of a bowling ball dropped from a great height.

"All right, if that's not good enough," John said, stretching out his legs. "How about you were just overwhelmed by my manly aura and couldn't help yourself?"

"How about your hair poked me in the eye and I blind to what I was doing?" Rodney suggested into the pillow.

John shrugged. "Whatever works for you."

"Hm?" Rodney asked, snuggling in and breathing warm air into John's hair.

"Why didn't it count this time?" John mumbled, feeling Rodney half-hard against his ass.

"Oh. Um." Rodney yawned, too. "We haven't had breakfast yet?"

John considered this. "We still haven't had breakfast yet."

Rodney stirred behind him, definitely interested. "That's a brilliant observation, Major," he said, reaching around and cupping his hand around John's dick.

"I coulda been in MENSA," John said smugly as he rolled Rodney over.

This was an early bit, too, and I still love it, but when I decided I needed more sections where it didn't count, I didn't move this one where it should have, so it has John bragging about MENSA before the events of "Brotherhood." I should probably find someplace more appropriate for it and might, if I ever archive it, but I usually don't change stories after I post them, except to fix an obvious typo or dropped word.

When Rodney showed up at John's door, drawn and hollow-eyed after Gall and Abrams had died down on the horrible desert planet, John moved aside silently and didn't even take advantage of the opportunity to tease him.

Rodney asked after his arm, so John stripped off his shirt to show him that it was bandaged and fine, and then he stripped off Rodney's shirt, and then Rodney's pants and shorts and shoes, and steered him to the bed.

He kissed Rodney, long and slow and deep, and touched him in sweeping, confident strokes. Rodney opened up under him more willingly that he ever would have imagined or wanted to.

When he opened his eyes the next morning, Rodney was awake and staring at the ceiling. John's face hurt like hell from where the Wraith had smacked him and he kept the bruised side turned into the pillow so Rodney couldn't see.

John, of course, didn't bruise on the show, but he did go flying after that hit, so I'm going to assume that two hours later, he was a lovely shade of purple on that side of his face. I get all mushy at the thought of him not wanting Rodney to see it and feel worse.

"So, um," Rodney said.

"Yeah," John said, reaching out and pulling him in. "I know."

John and his team returned from M4X-P29 with one wounded (Ford), twelve crates of fruit (might have been kiwi-esque but who knew for sure?), 47 refugees (sent to the mainland), and six Genii spies. Weeding out the spies from the refugees took another twenty hours (four of which John spent taxiing actual refugees to the mainland), three more wounded (all Marines), and a complete shutdown of the base, which had something technical to do with their naquadah generators and resulted in a nearly constant running commentary in his ear until he shouted at Rodney to turn his radio transmitter off.

I don't usually use parentheses for asides in stories -- I usually prefer hyphens for that -- but for some reason I found several places in this story where they worked better.

He walked into his room and collapsed into his bed to find Rodney already hogging the pillow. He raised an eyebrow, but that was the only thing going up that night, so he just crawled in next to Rodney, turned his back, and bid consciousness a less-than-fond adieu.

When he opened his eyes, Rodney was sprawled in his personal space and he just didn't have the energy to be mad anymore. "Hey," he said, pushing at Rodney's arm. "Get on your own side of the bed."

"Huh, what?" Rodney asked, sitting, the hand on John's stomach using him as leverage.

John grunted and shoved Rodney's arm harder. "You stink," he said, and Rodney did. He'd performed half a dozen minor miracles over the course of the emergency and had streaks of coolant, grease and what was possibly naquadah residue on his face and hands. He smelled like dried sweat, fuel, and ozone.

"So do you," Rodney said, making a face. "Didn't you shower before coming to bed?"

"Didn't you?" John retorted.

"I was practically dead on my feet," Rodney said. "Hey! We can use this! It didn't count because we were too tired. Or too stinky. Or -- "

"It didn't count because it didn't happen," John said, rolling his eyes.

It's not that Rodney has NO common sense. It's that he gets so into the game (or his research, or whatever) that he gets overexcited and misses the obvious.

"Oh." Rodney considered this. "I suppose you're right."

"Of course I'm right," John said, casting a glance across the room at the door to the bathroom. "So. Since we both stink? Shower? It totally doesn't count if you drop the soap, you know."

"I'll be sure to forward the memo to prison," Rodney said sarcastically but he was out of bed and into the bathroom before John could even sit up. "Are you coming or not?"

John grinned and kicked the covers aside. "On my way," he said.

"I need to see you," Rodney said, falling back several paces as John followed him and Beckett out of Weir's office.

"Yeah," John said because he knew what that was all about. In fact, he'd been on his way to Rodney's room when Elizabeth had held him back for that earnest and yet completely futile lecture on the chain of command.

It's not apparent until later in the scene, but this is post "Hot Zone." Rodney as King of the Scientists in the beginning is one of my favorite parts of first season, and later, there's a great camera approach when John is getting ready to detonate the naquadah generator and Rodney's talking to him on the radio. I didn't rewatch it before I wrote this part, but I did watch it a few weeks after, and I was pleased at how well this works with the end -- John actually does tell Elizabeth that he's going to bed.

Rodney's room was closer and John had his hand on Rodney's shoulder before the door was completely closed. When he heard the click of the panels, he dragged Rodney close, kissing him hard and walking him back toward the bed.

Rodney was making deep, whimpering noises that sounded like they were meant to be words, had John's tongue not been in the way of Rodney's teeth and lips.

John slid his hands up Rodney's stomach, over his chest, around his shoulders, fingers curling around Rodney's arms. Rodney's body was warm, his heart was beating double-time in his chest, and his arms were soft. John knew, could tell from months of comparison, that the layer of fat padding the muscle had been pared down by desperate runs for the gate and the target practice Rodney hadn't actually been shirking. He kissed the corner of Rodney's mouth and line of his jaw and moved down to nuzzle his neck before moving to his collarbone.

Rodney's hands landed on John's arms and slid up under the short sleeves of his t-shirt, and then Rodney stuttered out, "Not that I particularly want you to stop or anything but I think -- I mean, I meant to -- "

John centered a kiss at the top of Rodney's chest and drew back. "What is it?" he asked.

"I just." Rodney pulled a scanner out of his pocket and pointed it at John, adjusting the dials.

"What is that?" John asked, frowning as he stepped back into Rodney's personal space.

"The shielding on the puddlejumper should have protected you from any radiation from the naquadah generator," Rodney explained quickly, "but I've been keeping track of my own personal lifetime radiation exposure and I thought maybe I should start keeping track of yours, too, especially if you're going to be doing things like that. I realize that I've missed some key exposures, I think you mentioned -- "

I am firmly convinced and have been since I got into the fandom (which was around "Trinity") that John Sheppard is never going to father babies. Not with all the nuclear explosions he's witnessed, set off, or flown into.

"Rodney," John interrupted, taking the scanner away and tossing it on the table next to Rodney's bed. "Shut up. Carson checked me. I'm fine." And then he kissed Rodney again because goddamnit, Rodney had almost died, was supposed to have died and there was nothing John could have done in time. He rubbed himself against Rodney's leg, a little too hard, a punishment, and slid his open mouth over Rodney's cheek.

"Bed," Rodney said, pushing at John and deftly unfastening his pants.

John pulled Rodney's shirt over his head and pressed artless kisses over his shoulders and chest before letting Rodney push him onto the bed. He dragged Rodney down with him and rolled them so he was on top again, shucking his own shirt before going to work on Rodney's pants.

Rodney's shoes were in the way so John yanked them off before hauling Rodney's pants down his legs. He knelt on the bed and stroked his thumb up the smooth white strip of skin on the inside of Rodney's thigh, sweeping it just under the hem of the yellow boxer shorts. (Oxygen molecules were printed in blue all over it and one of them was looking John very obviously in the face.)

"I want to fuck you," he said and was surprised at his own voice. "Is that okay? Tell me it's okay."

"Yes, yes," Rodney said, lifting his hips toward John. "I can't believe you waited -- just do it already."

"Do you have -- " John started but Rodney was already reaching blindly for the drawer in the beside table. He moved up, straddling Rodney's legs, and reached past Rodney's flailing hand to the drawer. A tube of gel was in the front, the top dented a little, and it fit completely in John's hand. "Lift up," he said, slipping his fingers between the elastic of Rodney's boxers and his skin.

Rodney didn't usually follow orders in bed any better than he did in the field, but this time he did, thank goodness, and John had him naked in seconds. His own dick was rubbing up uncomfortably against his boxers, even with his fly down, so he got out of his pants and shoes and knelt up on the bed.

"I, um -- " He glanced around, everywhere but Rodney. "Maybe we should have done this in my room."

"Oh, for -- " Rodney reached under the pillow and tossed the square condom packet at him. "I swiped it from Carson. He puts a jar of them out so people can take them if they need them but he puts it out in the middle of everything so it's not like everyone can't see you -- "

John had never seen this jar of condoms and he was plenty familiar with the infirmary layout but he didn't say so. If Rodney wanted to talk, John wasn't about to stop him. Instead, he smoothed just a drop of Rodney's lubricant over his dick and rolled on the condom, tight against his skin. Then he slicked it up and reached between Rodney's legs.

"Remember this?" he asked as Rodney tensed up in surprise. He stroked further back, and braced himself, planting one hand on the bed next to Rodney's hip. "You like this, don't you?" he went on, teasing around the hot, dark opening high between Rodney's buttocks.

Rodney made a strangled noise and nodded frantically so John rewarded him by sliding one finger up inside. Rodney responded with a heartfelt grunt that slid straight down to John's dick. He leaned down and mouthed the incongruously soft skin at the inside of Rodney's thigh as he moved his finger. Rodney wasn't quite as tight as he'd expected and he remembered the flushed admission that brought forth an image of Rodney riding his own fingers. John shuddered and moved back, working his finger out carefully.

"Ready?" he asked. He might have given Rodney more time, more warning, but his nerves were still singing with raw, chafed feeling of having almost lost Rodney to some freaky nanovirus.

"Uh-huh." Rodney lifted his head and nodded, then made to turn over.

"No," John said, putting his other hand on the inside of Rodney's knee. "We can do it this way. Lift up a little."

I did this in Rave Atlantis, too -- had them fuck face to face. I don't think it's a kink…it just seemed to fit in both stories. They'd been working up to full-on fucking in both stories and it was an emotional crescendo as well as a physical one. Great, I'm probably going to get a reputation now.

Rodney lifted his hips and let John slide his knees underneath. The alignment was pretty good so John pulled Rodney's knee up and counted on him to mirror with the other one. He glanced up at Rodney's face and bit his lower lip as he pushed in, going slow because he'd been a little lazy about opening Rodney up.

I was trying to avoid the slash adage of "one finger, two fingers, three fingers, cock," but then I felt kind of bad for Rodney, because ow.

He and Rodney made the same sound when he was all the way in. Rodney was hot, so hot, like a sweaty day in summer, when the perspiration clung to John's skin and slicked everything he touched. "Wait a minute," Rodney said when John went to move, and so John braced himself on both arms, suspended over Rodney's body as Rodney shifted experimentally. He shifted his hips around John, sending violent shivers up through John's body as he tried to hold still. Finally Rodney seemed to have wriggled into some position that pushed the head of John's cock right up against his prostate because his eyes went round and his mouth opened, but nothing came out.

John grinned at Rodney, then moved his hips back and pushed them forward again.

Rodney squeaked.

John licked his lips and moved again, working them both into a pace, sparing Rodney nothing. He wanted to get lost in Rodney, forget about the whole damn day, forget about the anger and the fear and the feeling that he was spiraling out of control. John just kept pushing for center and after a few thrusts, Rodney picked up the rhythm and started to move with him. John went with it, pushing forward and up, lifting Rodney's thighs with his own, breath coming in rough pants. Rodney's hands scrabbled at, then closed around his forearms, the tight grip anchoring them both.

Rodney's face was red, his breath coming harder than John's, and he tried to say something, something John couldn't focus enough to catch, and then he was coming, the fluid from his dick hitting high on John's stomach and on his own.

John licked his lower lip and watched Rodney gasp through his orgasm as his body clenched around John's cock, pulling at the last vestiges of John's self-control. He rolled his hips, not pushing in or out, just sliding inside Rodney as Rodney caught his breath and then looked right at John and gave him a brilliant smile. Everything crashed over him then, and he came hard into Rodney's body, a groan dragged from his throat and his peripheral vision sparking.

"Ah," he said, when his body was limp, fingers cramped in the sheets under them.

"Wow," Rodney said with that lilt that meant he was gearing up for some big thing. "I had read articles and of course seen, on the odd occasion, pornography that indicated anal intercourse could be extremely pleasurable but I had no idea -- ow," he added, as John pulled out. "Anyway, that was fantastic and wow, I'm really kind of not ready to crash yet. I wonder if that is an effect of an orgasm by prostate stimulation instead of -- "

There's the hyper vs. dead-asleep debate again, and I tried to imply an explanation for a the change when the real reason was that I needed Rodney to want to talk and John not to.

"Rodney," John interrupted, lethargy setting in as the day caught up with him, making his muscles heavy and his responses delayed. He started to tell Rodney to go to sleep, but changed his mind. "You okay? I didn't hurt you?"

"Oh. Well, there was a bit of discomfort at the beginning, I'll admit, not quite to the level of pain I'd expected but more distinct than what I'd experienced in my experiments -- "

TMI, Rodney! TMI!

"Good," John interrupted, and rolled to his side.

"So," Rodney said, when John was clearly trying to go to sleep without closing his eyes to avoid seeing images of Rodney dying horrible deaths by brain aneurysm on the insides of his eyelids. "I don't suppose you heard my last words and what I wanted everyone to tell my sister when she was informed of my untimely death."

That doesn't actually seem to be something Rodney would say, but I needed it or something like it in order to get to the rest of the discussion because John hadn't heard Rodney talk about his sister. I sort of imagine this as one of those awkward, rehearsed statements I was talking about earlier.

"I don't think it was on city-wide," John said because he'd heard murmurings from the Marines who were down in the lab with Rodney and Carson and he hadn't even known Rodney had a sister until then he'd heard someone say something to someone else. "Rodney, go to sleep."

"Right, of course," Rodney said. "Well, it still stands, in any event of my early demise, since you can't exactly tell her about this highly classified scientific mission, I'd like you to tell her I died saving kids. Lots of kids. Okay?"

John closed his eyes and sighed. Savings lots of kids. As if saving his teammates' collective asses on the lost city of Atlantis in another galaxy wasn't enough.

Rodney poked John in the side. "Okay?"

"Yes," John said, opening his eyes. "I will tell her you died saving an entire school bus full of kids. Kids and nuns. All right? Now go to sleep."

This was um…homage?...stolen?...from a comic book (maybe an issue of Robin? Or Young Justice?) when Tim Drake is all, "Oh no! A bomb! On a school bus full of orphans and nuns!" HI-larious.

"All right," Rodney said and managed to be quiet for maybe fifteen seconds. "What do you want me to say? Just in case, I mean."

John rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to tell Rodney to shut up and go to sleep again, but then he closed it. "Tell them I died saving my people," he said finally, and he didn't tell Rodney that there was no one to notify. "Tell them I died saving people I -- people who were important to me."

The thing about this exchange is that Rodney is thinking about how he wants people to think he died (because "killed by nanovirus" fails on some level) and John is thinking about how he would like to die.

"Yeah," Rodney said, curling one arm around John's waist and kissing his shoulder. "I can do that."

John slept like a dead thing for ten hours and when he finally lifted his head, it felt like lead. He groaned and rolled over, crashing into Rodney. "Hey," he said, eyes still closed. "I gotta get going." He didn't move.

"What time is it?" Rodney mumbled back.

"I dunno." With effort, John turned his head to the side and squinted at the clock. "It's after six. The Marines are going to eat all the dinner."

"I think maybe they'll save some for you," Rodney mumbled. "On account of you saving all our asses and all."

"Yeah," John said, struggling into a sitting position. He rubbed the heel of his hand against his eyes and looked down at Rodney, who was still supine with his head tilted back, eyes closed and mouth open. "Okay," he said, and leaned forward, kissing the corner of Rodney's mouth and drawing back quickly before throwing his legs over the side of the bed. "I'm going back to my room to get a shower and change."

"'Kay," Rodney agreed without opening his eyes. "Why didn't it count this time?"

John stopped and stared at him. Even after all that talk about what to tell the people on Earth -- he shook his head and found the pile of his boxers, pants and shoes, and began to untangle them. "The near-death thing always works," he said shortly when the silence stretched just a little too long.

John was already losing patience with the game before. Now that he's told Rodney something true, something that was a secret (how he wants to die) the whole thing is just ridiculous to him.

"Eh, we used it already," Rodney said. "Let's come up with something better."

John rolled his eyes and stepped into his boxer shorts. He pressed his palm against the side of his cock and remembered how tight Rodney's body had been around him that morning and how hard Rodney had gripped his forearms. "I think it's your turn to pick," he said, dropping his hand and shaking out his pants.

"Really?" Rodney rolled to his side and pushed himself up a little. He tilted his head appreciatively at John. "Well, Ford hugged me. Clearly I needed to uh -- " He waved a hand. "Overwrite that experience?"

Worst. Excuse. Ever.

"Ford hugged you?" John asked in disbelief. He stepped into his pants and did them up.

John is easily distracted. Because some things just override his emotional indignation.

"Yeah," Rodney said. "Apparently escaping certain death makes him affectionate."

"He's not the only one," John muttered, as he pulled on his shirt and boots, tucking the laces inside.

"Huh?" Rodney asked, sitting up a little straighter.

"Forget it," John said. "See you later." He made it all the way back to his room before he realized that his shirt was inside out.

This is actually the second time John's a clutz in this story. It's another thing I didn't actually do on purpose but 1) the scene in Rising where he falls down the hill is one of my favorites in the series (and then he walks right into an Iratus bug web two episodes later) and 2) his situational awareness is shot to hell by Rodney making him mad.

John slept lightly when he was on duty and despite the fact that they'd been living in the Pegasus galaxy for more than six months, he never quite got over the feeling that he was in the field.

John is occasionally very full of shit -- in the last section he slept like the dead for 10 hours, and yet I cannot make myself call that inconsistent.

So when his radio chirped at five in the morning, John rolled off Rodney and scooped up the headset from the bedside table.

"Sheppard," he said, pitching his voice low to keep from waking Rodney.

"John," Elizabeth's voice came from the speaker. "I need you in the gateroom and if you wouldn't mind stopping by Rodney's room, he's not answering his radio."

"We'll be right there," John said, knowing full well that it sounded exactly like it was. Elizabeth was the last person who would start an investigation on him and it seemed that whether this thing with Rodney counted or not, it was around to stay.

Under DADT, only your superior officer can choose to begin an investigation and it is his or her prerogative whether to investigate or not. Elizabeth Weir, who spent her early career lobbying against the military, surely isn't going to start that kind of investigation and it would make more sense to have her on their side than ignorant. (Which gives her argument in "Intruder" to keep John as military head of Atlantis an entirely different spin.)

There was silence on the other end as Elizabeth weighed John's words. He didn't clarify. She would draw the right conclusions or she wouldn't.

"I'll see you both in a few minutes," she said and he heard the click of her radio disengaging.

"Hey," he said, reaching over and thumping Rodney's shoulder with his fist. "Wake up. Elizabeth needs us in the gateroom.

Rodney woke up all at once, sitting straight up in bed. John was surprised he hadn't pulled something doing that yet. "What, what's wrong, where's the coffee?" he asked immediately.

"Elizabeth needs us in the gateroom," John said, pulling on his boxers and the black shirt he'd worn the day before. Whatever had caused the tension in Elizabeth's voice was bound to be messy and would likely require sweating to fix. He'd shower later.

"Elizabeth?" Rodney said. "Needs us? Did she call on the radio? Where's my radio?" He rolled over and started feeling along the floor where he'd thrown all his clothes the night before.

"I told her we'd be there ASAP," John said, hopping into his pants. "Get a move on."

"You told her we'd be there?" Rodney babbled, trying to work his boxers on under the covers as if John hadn't seen the real estate the night before. And earlier that week. And half a dozen times before that. "Are you crazy? She's going to think -- "

Rodney, of course, is taking the policy at face value and panicking over what his perception of John "telling."

"Rodney," John snapped, pulling on his boots and tossing Rodney's shirt on the bed. "If she asks, I'll just tell her it didn't count."

The resultant silence threw him. There should have been a smart comment and instead, nothing. He looked at Rodney and saw that his eyes had gone round and his chin had gone up stubbornly.

"C'mon," John said, feeling inexplicably rotten. It wasn't like he was the one insisting that it didn't count for months. "If it doesn't count because we all blow up in half an hour or something, I'm going to be pissed. Get a move on so we can save the world and think of an excuse to have sex again." He cupped the back of Rodney's head in his hand and kissed him.

Rodney didn't kiss him back.

"Gateroom," John said, backing off. "I'll see you there."

He made it out of the room and even heard the door zip shut behind him before he tripped on his untied shoelaces and took a header into the wall.

And John is a clutz again. Mostly because I finished the scene and realized he never tied his shoes, but mostly because he's being a jerk and taking headers into walls makes him lovable again.

"Sensors are picking up a spacecraft on approach," Elizabeth said when he arrived in the control tower, laces tied (finally), fly zipped (he'd double-checked) and P-90 clipped to his vest (he'd stopped by the armory.)

Oh, hey, return of the parentheses!


"No," Zelenka answered from the console where he was huddled with Peter Grodin. "This is a design we have not yet seen. Possibly Genii?"

"Oh, please," Rodney said, walking into the room and taking a bite out of a Power Bar. "The Genii never got around to developing atmospheric flight capabilities, there's no way they'd be tooling around the galaxy in spaceships. Move." He shouldered Zelenka aside and leaned over the readout.

I am totally impressed with my own bullshit here. Atmospheric flight capabilities? What?

"Why would they bother with atmospheric craft?" John asked. "There's no way to hide that from the Wraith."

"Major Sheppard has a point," Elizabeth said, crossing her arms over her stomach and walking quickly over to stand next to Zelenka. Rodney was typing a million miles a minute and suddenly the view on the console shifted and a diagram of the ship's approach to the planet appeared.

"Aha!" Rodney crowed.

"What?" Elizabeth asked anxiously.

"Steep angle of attack," John observed. "The construction suggests that any armaments -- here and here," he added, pointing to what appeared to be gun pods on either side of the wings, "would launch vertically in that position and well, they'd blow themselves up."

Seriously, my level of bullshit in this section is fantastic. Actually, I just wanted to have John say, "Angle of attack."

"They want to land," Rodney said. "Also, probably invade us."

"That would be a fairly small invasion force," Grodin said doubtfully. "We're not reading any life signs." Something beeped on his usual console and he crossed the room to check. "We have an incoming radio transmission," he reported. "Shall I put it on speaker?"

"Please," Elizabeth said.

"City of the Ancestors," a tinny, male voice piped into the control room. "This is Information Transport Five of the Star Cruiser Delphinia. Request permission to eject data pod."

The Delphinia is actually a ship I invented for Phoebus's people for a follow-up story to "The Long Goodbye." Sadly, that story is still unfinished. It had space battles!

"Oh, no, no, no, no, no," Rodney said quickly. "This is a very bad idea. Eject sounds very bad."

"Data pod sounds like intel," John said. "That sounds like a very good idea."

"And where do you think this data pod is going to land?" Rodney demanded. "And at what velocity? And more importantly, is it going to explode or shoot off laser beams when we go to pick it up?"

John rolled his eyes and looked to Elizabeth.

"What do you think the danger is in authorizing release of the pod?" she asked Zelenka.

"Likely very slim," he answered, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Rodney is right to be concerned about where it might land, but I do not believe the pod itself presents a threat."

"Very well," Elizabeth said, nodding to Grodin. "Information Transport Five, this is Atlantis. You have permission to eject your pod." She glanced over her shoulder at Rodney and Radek. "Can we get a visual?"

Rodney's fingers flew over the screen and the scene shifted to where the Information Transport was breaking through the atmosphere. Its rate of descent flattened out and one of the side casings John had identified as gun pods detached and fell toward one of the outer docks.

"It's going into the water," John said.

"I do not think so." Zelenka leaned over Rodney's shoulder and did something to the console that caused a red extrapolation line to appear. The data pod fell along the curve obediently. "I believe it will fall just inside the city -- here." He enlarged the part of the map where the extrapolation line ended.

"What's the transport doing?" John asked.

"Flying away from the city," Zelenka answered, switching up the view to show the transport zooming away. "I do not know if it will return to its -- "

As Zelenka spoke, the transport broke apart and incinerated itself in a contained explosion, the remaining pieces tumbling down into the sea.

"Oh," Zelenka said softly. "I suppose instead it will explode."

"You said it was unmanned, right?" John said to Grodin.

"Quite so," Grodin confirmed. "No energy readings beyond the power output by its engine."

"Which we could have studied to determine the power source and perhaps reverse engineered if it used anything close to the vacuum energy like the ZPM," Rodney said with a sigh, "but no. It had to go blow up instead."

"At least it didn't blow up on us," John said. "I'm going down there to retrieve the pod."

"It might be dangerous," Rodney said, spinning around in his chair. "Or weren't you listening?"

"That's why I'm going alone," John growled. "Besides, Doctor Zelenka doesn't seem too worried."

"Well," Zelenka admitted. "I did not take into account the idea of any possible radiation or that it may simply just be hot to the touch due to friction of acceleration gained when entering atmosphere. I measured its velocity at approximately seventeen point six two meters per second which indicates that it may be fairly heavy. I was not able to analyze the type of metal used in construction."

"Take Rodney with you," Elizabeth suggested.

"Oh, I don't think that's a good idea," John said.

"Don't be stupid," Rodney snapped, standing up and scooping a laptop under his arm. "If there's a problem, you won't know until you walk up and poke it with your gun."

"Rifle," John said.

This is hilarious if you know the old military ditty,

This is my rifle;
And this is my gun;
This one's for killing;
And this one's for fun.

There are hand motions that go along with it.

("Rifle" is the correct military term for what soldiers and Marines carry in the field. "Gun" in the ditty is referring to the penis. Rodney obviously has never heard this and John is having a little deadpan fun to absolutely no effect.)

"Rodney should go to detect dangerous emissions," Elizabeth said. "And if you can't move it, maybe he can extract the information from there. But I expect you both to stay in radio contact."

"No problem," John said through his teeth and walked out of the control room, leaving Rodney to catch up.

"Oh, that was very mature," Rodney hissed as they got in the transporter.

"You're the one who thinks that thing's going to kill us all," John snapped.

"Excuse me if I think it's unwise to place two of the most vital people on this expedition in a position that will probably kill them."

Everything Rodney McKay learned about life, he learned from watching Star Trek. He just forgets to apply those things to his own life.

"I don't see you balking at going through the stargate," John shot back. "But thank you. I'm flattered that you think I'm one of the most vital people on this expedition."

"Yes, but I'm the other one, and it makes me nervous how cavalier you are with my life." Rodney hiked up the laptop under his arm and walked out of the transporter. "How far away is this thing?"

"Hey, I offered to let you stay behind," John said, purposely extending his stride more than usual. "You're the one who went all protective about his turf."

"Maybe because you have no sense of self-preservation," Rodney snapped back.

"What's that have to do with anything?" John asked incredulously. The stepped out onto a wide platform with steps that made a wide spiral down to an open plaza.

"It means," Rodney said, craning his neck to look at the silvery pod lying in the middle of the plaza and leading the way down the stairs, "that you're utterly clueless!"

"I'm clueless?" John asked, raising his P-90 as they hit the bottom step. "You're the one who doesn't think we've been having sex for the past six months!"

"Hello, of course we've been having sex for the past six months," Rodney said in a hushed voice as if there was anyone within hearing distance. "But it doesn't count."

"Yeah," John said. "That's just exactly what I meant." He squinted down at the pod, which was a little bigger than a watermelon and round, with a flat bottom. He suspected it was weighted to roll upright on impact because there was a screen and keypad sunk into the top of the pod.

"Huh?" Rodney asked.

John shook his head. He extended his P-90 and nudged the tip of the barrel against the pod. It rocked easily and slid right back into position, confirming John's theory about the weighting.

"Wait, what are you doing?" Rodney asked, shoulder-checking him out of the way.

"I was just testing -- " John started, but cut himself off as soon as he saw the red symbols appear in the sunken screen. "Rodney?" he asked. The symbols blinked, changing and John recognized a couple of them from the puddlejumpers. They were numbers and if his Ancient wasn't completely off, they were getting smaller instead of bigger.

"That doesn't look good," Rodney said.

A pleasant female voice said something in Ancient, something John didn't recognize at all and then started counting down the numbers with the red display.

"That doesn't sound good," John said. "What's it saying?"

"It's ah, it's counting down numbers," Rodney said, kneeling in front of the pod, hands already flying. "Oh, this is so not good."

"Is it going to explode?" John demanded.

"I don't know, shut up," Rodney said. "I have to figure out -- "

"Well hurry up and figure out!" John shouted at him, because really, something that size could pack a lot of C4 or worse, a lot of naquadah or much worse, a lot of something they didn't even know about that made a much bigger boom than naquadah.

"I think," Rodney said, "I think maybe it's asking for a code, or maybe confirmation that we're the Ancients and it got to the right place or maybe -- "

"Would you stop talking about it and start stopping it?" John paced a few yards away and then turned back to stand behind Rodney. "What would happen if I shot it?"

"Bad things!" Rodney said, sounding horrified. "Don't even think about it."

I have a lot of love for Sean Connery talking about his nuclear submarine in "The Hunt for Red October" and how "some things in here don't react well to bullets." And even more love for Alec Baldwin's character mocking the line later.

"Okay, fine! Do you think maybe we should get it out of here? Get it over the side, into the water maybe? Or maybe we should get out of here? What kind of explosion are we looking at here?"

"I have no idea!" Rodney shouted. "We don't even know that it's going to explode!"

"It's got a countdown timer!" John replied. "How do we know that it's not?"

"Just...just shut up and let me work," Rodney said, going a little tight around the mouth and typing rapidly on the keypad. "This is very important and distracting me right now is going to get us both killed."

John blew out all the air in his lungs and turned on his heel to pace the a perimeter around the device and around Rodney, kneeling in front of it. His vote, right now, would be to cut their losses and make a run for it, but Rodney seemed to think he could stop whatever it was the thing was doing.

And that was Rodney -- bending the universe by the force of his will.

John wondered what would have happened if he'd woken up that first morning with Rodney huddled up against him in bed. Oh, sure, it would have been fine then, and maybe it would have been fine the next time, but sooner or later, he would have started to get that sick, claustrophobic feeling and one day when Rodney stayed an hour too long, or squeezed John's toothpaste in the middle once too often, John would have snapped out something short-tempered and nasty, and within a week, he and Rodney wouldn't be able to be in the same room without that roiling feeling of discontent.

This was something I was trying to get across through most of the fic -- that Rodney's little game was actually working in unintended ways by circumventing John's commitment phobia until it was too late and he was already in love with Rodney. But I didn't feel that was obvious so I wedged that paragraph in there for better or for worse.

But they were past all that now and the only thing that really mattered was that if the data pod blew Rodney into confetti, John would miss him. And for some reason, that pissed off John more than anything else Rodney could possibly do.

"I just think you should know -- " Rodney said, pausing and looking up at John.

"I think I really don't!" John said, his voice rising with the combination of near-death panic and the creepy feeling that maybe Rodney knew exactly what he had been thinking. "I think you should get back to work before this thing blows us both up!"

"I'm working, I'm working!" Rodney shouted, looking back down at the device. "I just think that maybe I should tell you, before we both die a horrible death -- "

"If you would shut up and get to work, we wouldn't have to die a horrible death!" John snapped back. "So quit your yapping and get a move on, McKay!"

Rodney set his mouth and frowned. His fingers flew over the tiny set of keys and then he reached into his vest pocket for something.

John blew out air through his teeth and paced back and forth. He wished he could just shoot the damn thing, but he doubted that would be very helpful. "How much time?" he asked when he couldn't stand it any longer.

"Working!" Rodney barked back.

John rolled his eyes and picked up his pace. He counted out seven laps when Rodney went very still and turned his face upward. "What?" John asked instantly.

"I don't think I can stop it," Rodney said, his eyes big and scared.

John grabbed Rodney's vest and pulled him to his feet. There was no cover so John dragged Rodney as far as he could in the time he believed they had left, a mental clock ticking down in his head, and then he acted.

It's so cute when John manhandles Rodney. He should do it more in canon.

"It counted!" Rodney shouted as John pushed him to the ground, positioned himself over Rodney as a shield, and braced for impact.

John paused, Rodney's words sinking in. "Which time?" he asked, hoping Rodney could blurt out an answer before everything went black and smoky.

"All of them!" Rodney replied, high-pitched and panicky. "Every single one of them from the very beginning -- well, possibly only about eight-eight percent because there was that one where we really didn't have sex and there was that one that wasn't very -- well, never mind now. And it's totally not my fault that I expected a less than positive -- "

Yes, Rodney is implying that there was one time that wasn't very good, but either John didn't realize it, or Rodney doesn't know he realized it. You can't hit 'em out of the ballpark every time.

John grinned and opened his mouth, but before he had time to respond, he heard a concussive crack and saw a white flash, then the back of his eyelids.

The bit about the white flash and the back of his eyelids is a paraphrase from the Wallflowers', "See You When I Get There." It's the line of the song that catches my attention every single time it's on and I don't remember if I put that in on purpose or because of some subconscious motivation. Seriously, the Red Letter Days album is my John Sheppard soundtrack forever and ever and you should all go out and buy it.

Then the world went black.

By that time, gate team injuries in general and John's in particular were old hat and Beckett kicked John unceremoniously out of the infirmary as soon as he showed signs of consciousness.

"Beckett's letting you out, huh?" Rodney asked, lurking outside the door.

"Kicking me to the curb is more like it," John muttered, rubbing the back of his head and making a beeline for the mess. "I'm starving. The man wouldn't even give me any jello."

Life in the Pegasus Galaxy changes everything and I thought maybe showing a shift of attitude between the beginning of the fic and the end would show the progress of…okay, by now you should all realize that I never do anything intentionally literary and if it works, yay! Go me!

If it doesn't work, pretend I didn't say anything.

"You might be interested to know," Rodney volunteered as they went through the line, "that once the protective cover popped off and whacked you in the head, the data pod contained a crystal. It fit into one of the Ancient database mainframe computers, sort of like a flash drive, and we managed to download whatever was in it to the network."

"Whatever was in it?" John repeated, sticking one Fig Newton into his mouth and offering Rodney the other one. "You didn't stop to look?" He checked his watch. He'd been in the infirmary for an hour, at least.

"It's, ah, it's all in Ancient," Rodney said with his mouth full. "I could make out a few words, it's about some kind of battle, but it's a few thousand years old and it's kind of in this dialect, so we're leaving it up to Elizabeth and the linguists to deal with."

"Huh," John said, finishing up. "Ancient history."

"Yes, and I'm sure -- oh, very funny. The pun is the lowest form of humor, you know."

I bet John LOVES puns. I bet he read the Tom Swift books as a kid and ate up every ridiculous, tacked-on, adjective.

"Unless you're the one making it," John countered, standing up and waiting for Rodney to leave his tray at the repository.

"Rest assured, Major," Rodney said with a smug little chuckle, "if I'm making a pun, it will undoubtedly be quite clever."

"Oh, undoubtedly," John agreed.

It wasn't far to his quarters and just for old time's sake, he waited at the door until Rodney said, "Can I come in?"

"Sure." John smiled when he said it and activated the door. "So what's going on?" he asked when it had shut behind them.

Rodney stepped forward and put his hand on the back of John's neck. "It's possible," he said, breath warm on John's lips, "that I was maybe expecting you to have an adverse reaction to that thing where you were sleeping with a man."

"It really hurts inside to say you were wrong, doesn't it?" John asked.

Yes. Yes, it does. And I just realized I use a line like this in the narrative of another fic I'm working on.

"In my defense -- " Rodney said.

"Rodney," John said. "Shut up."

Rodney rolled his eyes and then he kissed John and things were right back on track, the way they should be.

John woke to the sound of Elizabeth's voice in his headset. He reached blindly at the night table in hopes of snagging it and had almost succeeded when a large, warm hand closed over his and pulled him back.

"Rodney," John protested, rolling onto his back. "I need to -- oh."

Rodney was sitting up in bed, holding John's headset to his mouth. "Elizabeth," he said, "it's McKay." He glanced over at John and the corner of his mouth turned up. "Yeah, he's with me. We'll be there in a few minutes."

THE END. Not at all the story I set out to write but John's issues were dealt with (quietly and without acknowledgement) and Rodney's issues were dealt with (loudly and with much attention, sulking, and witty wordplay) and now they can go back to sexing each other up happily ever after.

In a way, it was a relief to write this story, which was so heavy on Atlantis and canon, after working on a total AU. (AR, whatever.) I really do love the show and if I have any regrets about this story, it's that I didn't use more of the characters, to a stronger effect. Maybe next time.

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