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In the Interval

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Back in his dissolute youth, Rodney had gone to one of those mall kiosks and sat on a white vinyl covered swivel stool and held up a hand mirror to see the blue ballpoint dot on his left earlobe. "That okay? No going back!" the kiosk girl had said cheerfully. She was maybe two years older than Rodney himself. Rodney had nodded, abruptly nervous. He vividly remembered the long seconds that followed, the weird forever sense of an approaching border that would divide his life into Before and After. Before ill-advised silver earring and After.

A dozen or more vastly more significant Before and After moments had come and gone since that day in a mall in 1987. There was Before and After the Stargate program, Before and After Atlantis, Before and After Carson's death – a long pitted highway stretching back into infinity with line after line demarcating all Rodney's Befores. But now, in this moment, it was that ridiculous white vinyl swivel stool and that plastic hand mirror and that frizzy permed blue-eyeshadowed kiosk girl dominating his thoughts.

John would probably not find the comparison favorable, so Rodney kept his mouth shut and tried to force himself back into the present.

In the present, Rodney was lying prone on his back, knees up and apart, covers rucked messily under him. He was staring down the landscape of his naked body to where John knelt with bowed head, concentrating on his condom application with more focus than kiosk girl had applied to aiming the piercing gun at Rodney's lobe. Rodney bit his lip, seized by the urge to giggle as he imagined John doodling a ballpoint circle around Rodney's asshole, holding up a mirror, saying, "That okay?"

John wasn't feeling giggly or chatty, though, Rodney could tell that much by the stern flicker of anxiety in his jaw. And yes, okay, Rodney was self-aware, he was a psychologically educated kind of guy, he could admit that his own weird rising giddiness came from the same emotion that was overtaking John as John reached for the slick, fumbled the cap, probably overdid it on the amount he squeezed into his palm.

"Okay," said John finally, and kneed a little closer. He reached down, grabbed Rodney by the thighs, tugged him down the mattress a little, bent Rodney's knees up and apart. "Okay."

"Okay," said Rodney, trying not to hold his breath.

"You sure?" said John, and looked up to meet Rodney's eyes. "No going back."

It wasn't really a question. Their own Before, the big one, was long gone by now. To a certain extent, this moment was inevitable, just like the moment on the vinyl stool had been an inevitability since the moment that Rodney's roommate's cute girlfriend's friend had said, casually, "I like guys with earrings."

"I'm sure," said Rodney, and exhaled, forcing his joints to relax.

The real Before for John and Rodney had been two months ago, though it seemed longer. It was after Atlantis had landed back on Earth, after they'd been towed out to the open sea by a flotilla of powerful tugboats, but before the damned IOA had made up their minds about what to do next. It was an unaccustomed feeling to say the least, to be on Atlantis, to be in their regular quarters and have their regular meetings and regular maintenance work but to have so many unfamiliar faces among them, to catch a sudden weird whiff of pizza in the corridors, to see people walking around talking on cell phones like Atlantis was just another military base. The gate was deactivated, had been almost immediately, to prevent interference with the SGC's own gate, so the usual hub of activity in the gateroom was gone, gone, gone. Instead all the action was out on the piers where massive ordinary-looking freighters and military transports were docking alongside surfacing subs and decloaked jumpers doing submersible duty.

Most of the base personnel had taken debriefings as soon as possible and skedaddled home on leave, but the IOA wanted to keep senior staff on base until a decision had been made, in case they felt the need for more questions, more discussions, more meetings. Rodney and Zelenka were the only science staff left, John and Lorne represented the military, and of course Woolsey was in his glory at the epicenter of the bullshit storm that was sweeping over the city. Ronon and Teyla were stuck, too. It was boring and stressful all at once. It was hell.

"Do you want to watch some porn?" asked Rodney out of sheer desperation, sometime in the second week. He and John were each about four beers in and it was – Rodney checked the digital bedside clock – 6:35 p.m.

"Enh," said John, sprawled out on Rodney's bed, half-drunk and listless.

They'd played RC cars until the batteries were all used up. They'd watched full seasons of the shows they'd missed. They'd played epic chess tournaments (best 13 of 25, best 19 of 37, best 52 of 103) and free cell and someone's battered Clue game with all the pencils worn down to nubs and they'd even spent an afternoon playing Ronon's fucking retarded Satedan hazing game where you mixed up Twister with sadomasochism and powder-puff football. They were completely tapped for entertainment.

Except for porn.

But that was usually a solitary activity.

"I've got lots of porn," said Rodney, paging through the files on his laptop. "Pick your poison."

"Shouldn't you be saving it for phone sex with your doctor friend?" John said, staring at the ceiling. Okay, he was probably a little more than half-drunk.

"We're on a break," said Rodney.

"Really?" said John, twisting his head up to look at Rodney. "How long a break?"

Rodney considered this. "How long does it take to complete a post-graduate fellowship in trauma surgery?"

"So, more than a week?" said John, looking torn between sympathy and mockery.

"Yeah," agreed Rodney, and popped another beer. "More than a week." He handed the beer to John, opened one for himself, and double-clicked on the first file that caught his eye.

After a few seconds of music and stilted dialogue, John exerted himself to roll over so he could watch the screen. "That's too bad," John said, probably talking about Rodney and not the porn. "I liked you better when you were getting laid regularly."

"I liked me better too," said Rodney, mournfully. The porn was finally getting started as clothes came off and enthusiastic noises began to take over the painful acting. He and John watched in drunken companionship for a while, Rodney cross-legged at the foot of the bed and John twisted onto his side in a long sprawl over most of the rest.

"Hey, are we drunk enough to – you know. In front of each other?" Rodney asked, about fifteen minutes later. He was only a little hard, but it was weird to be watching porn with his pants done up.

John swigged down the last of his beer, belched quietly, and said, "Now we are."

And that was the beginning of the end for their Before.

Now it was definitely the end of the end. As John sat before Rodney's end, so to speak, and yes. Here came the giddiness again, complete with bad puns.

John had done a good job with his fingers, with lots of lube. At the first slippery round touch, Rodney closed his eyes and told his body to stay calm. He could feel John's nerves, though, shivering into Rodney's body at every point of contact between them: John's hairy thighs, his taut firm palm on the underside of Rodney's right knee as he held him open, the bite of his callused fingertips into Rodney's outer thigh. For the space of two or three shaky breaths, John held position and Rodney couldn't tell if he was actually going to push or if he expected Rodney to relax more or – but then John made a small grunt, like he was telling himself to man up and get on with it, and then. Oh. Well.

Nope. Nope. No way. There was just no way that this was natural or right or possible, this bright twisting slippery press of something that felt wide and round and hot and hard, that went on and on and on and was John seriously going to do this all in one thrust? Rodney realized he was holding his breath again, forced himself to exhale, and that seemed to do something because there was a weird sudden popping feeling and Rodney opened his eyes in time to see John's own gaze widen with surprise, his mouth fall open in a pant.

"Is that it?" asked Rodney. "Are you in?"

John looked down, like he wasn't sure himself. "Um," he said, raspy, "just the tip."

"What?" said Rodney, stunned. "There's no way that's just the tip, that – it's huge."

"Well, like, the head," said John, trying to clarify and sounding strangled. "I was trying to go slow but it just popped in."

Rodney didn't want to push or move or do anything to dislodge John and ruin all their progress, but as the shock faded he could feel that John was telling the truth. As huge as the hard length inside had felt at first, he could now recognize that it wasn't very deep, not even as far as John's fingers went. "How is it?" asked Rodney.

"Uh," said John. A teardrop of sweat snaked down the bridge of his nose. "Tight. Really. Tight."

"Good tight? Or ow tight?" pressed Rodney.

"Both?" said John, sounding uncertain. "How, uh. How is it for you?"

Rodney paused to think this over. "It feels like something is up my ass. It's warmer than I expected. It's not far enough to feel good yet, I don't think."

"Well, then," said John, still obviously struggling for words. "Well, then, we should keep going. Right?"

Rodney nodded, trying to seem cool and relaxed and not at all worried about how he could do this for another minute, let alone another four or five inches.

They just unzipped, pulled underwear out of the way, rearranging themselves a little so that John was sitting against the headboard and Rodney was seated on the edge of the bed, the laptop on the dresser a few feet away. Rodney wasn't sure at first if this was supposed to be a quick jerk or if they were allowed to let it build, but he figured that they were trying to kill time and it would defeat the purpose if he shot within seconds of getting his dick out. John seemed to think so too, at least from the little Rodney could glean by sound alone, not wanting to look back over his shoulder and invade John's privacy. So they watched in silence, and Rodney held himself in hand almost lazily, maintaining his erection with slow occasional strokes or flicking his thumb over the wet head. He wasn't trying to listen for John; in fact, he was kind of trying not to hear John, because it was weird enough, even drunk and bored and knowing each other as well as they did, without Rodney trying to pay attention to what John was doing with his dick back there.

But then there was a good old-fashioned screwing scene, one on one, the girl bent over a piece of furniture and the weird hairless buff guy giving it to her from behind as the camera cut predictably between wide angles of the fucking and close-ups zoomed right in on the action. Rodney was still kind of just messing around with himself, getting nice and wet but taking it slow, when he realized with a rush of embarrassed heat that he was hearing soft regular ticking from behind him, that John was trying to be quiet but failing a little, with soft open-mouthed-sounding breaths and occasional throat clicks that were silent grunts. Rodney was immediately catapulted past casual arousal into something far more urgent. Sex in front of him, sex sounds behind him, pulse pounding in his ears, Rodney was suddenly jerking himself hard and fast and rough, not sure what had turned him on more. And then John, two feet behind him, let out a soft desperate-sounding, "Oh," and it was probably because he was getting the feedback like Rodney now, watching the fucking and seeing Rodney get off on it, if only from the abrupt motion of Rodney's elbow. Too much, too fast, and Rodney came hard even before the money shot on screen.

Nothing like a drunken orgasm to make you unbelievably light-headed. Rodney slumped forward, shaky and dizzy and noodly, and listened to the mingled sounds of the porn and of John climaxing. Rodney fumbled for the box of tissues on the bedside table, grabbed a few and blindly thrust the box behind him towards John.

"I need another beer," said John, voice gritty and slack.

"God, yes," said Rodney, and zipped himself up before going for the last two beers in the box of a dozen.

They watched the rest of the movie in silence, shifting gradually until they were back in each other's peripheral vision and it almost felt normal, like no one had had their cocks out and no one had gotten off on someone else having their cock out.

"Want to watch Dr. Who again?" asked Rodney after the movie was over. "I can warm up some MREs for dinner."

"Sure," said John amenably.

Every now and then for the rest of the evening, Rodney would find himself glancing over at the balled-up tissue on his nightstand.

"Maybe we should have gotten drunk first," said John doubtfully. "We do all our best work when we're drunk."

"Shut up and stop stalling," said Rodney, and shifted so he could pull his left knee back, glad of all the flexibility drills Teyla had put him through. The change in position didn't have the desired effect though: John slipped out with a gasp of shock.

"Hold still, dammit!" hissed John, and wasted no time in lining himself up, pushing back in. "Is it wet enough, you think?" he asked.

"I think you used up about half the bottle," said Rodney. "Should be fine, Colonel Lubes-a-lot."

John rolled his eyes and gave a small thrust. Rodney's eyes watered.

"Keep going," he insisted when John looked stricken.

"Jesus," muttered John, and here they were, arguing like always, except yeah. John's cock was up Rodney's ass. "You're such an assho—"

"Oh, very funny. Next you'll be calling me a tight-ass," Rodney grouched. He got a heel onto the small of John's back, dug in, urging John forward. "Let's go, already."

John inhaled, held his breath, shifted on his knees for a little more control, and leaned forward, much more insistent than he'd been at first. They had to stop twice for John to readjust slightly, get in closer, change his grip on Rodney, but the pauses were measured in fractions of seconds, and the onslaught continued. Rodney closed his eyes, let them water and reminded himself to breathe, to relax, to breathe, to relax. It wasn't possible, not physiologically, not anatomically, but he could swear that John's cock was driving up into the muscular underside of his diaphragm, slowly and inexorably stealing his ability to inhale. John's cock was unending, it just kept going and going like the underside of a star cruiser in a sci fi flick, it was going past Rodney's diaphragm now and all the way out his throat, and as it came it forced a strange sound from him, a stuttering breathy "Ha!" like a taunt or a discovery or – or.

"Now I'm in," said John, and yes. Up against the ticklish underside of Rodney's spread ass cheeks, the furry gentle shivery brush of John's balls. Holy Christ.

"Holy Christ," said Rodney, and swallowed around the lump in his throat that logically couldn't actually be John's cock head.

"Are you okay?" asked John. His hands were free now that his hips and thighs were doing the work of holding Rodney open, and his long upper body leaned forward, pushing them tight together even as Rodney could feel the angle change, feel John's cock slip out an inch. "Are you okay?"

Rodney opened his eyes. John was right there, hovering over him, bracing himself on one hand and cupping Rodney's bicep with the other. "No going back now," said Rodney, and reached up to pull John's face down to his.

For the next twenty-four hours it was like nothing had happened. They ate lunch with Woolsey and Teyla, Rodney worked in his lab, John jogged around the city with Ronon, they bumped into each other on the east pier as Rodney oversaw the transport of some new equipment and John greeted some SGC brass on the same ship. They grabbed dinner together and wandered the long way back to Rodney's quarters talking about the IOA and the SGC and the possibilities ahead.

They wound up sitting about two inches apart up against Rodney's headboard, drinking beer and chatting idly, when Rodney finally said, "Are we drunk enough again?" and John said, "Yeah," and then, "Just, stay there. It's gotta be more comfortable."

John was on the right, and they were both right-handed, which meant that Rodney had to be a little careful with his arm once the movie got going and they unzipped. It was one thing to be sort of barely-consciously aware of the other guy in the room, but it was quite another to smack him in the side with your elbow while you masturbated beside him.

Maybe more than barely-consciously aware, Rodney admitted, or things wouldn't be progressing so much faster tonight. They both kept their eyes fixed straight ahead at the screen but it was a lot harder to ignore John when he was – right there. From the corner of his eye, Rodney caught the way John licked the palm of his hand. Dimly over the soundtrack Rodney heard the way John's breath sped up when the sex got going. In the flickering light from the screen, in the darkened room, Rodney felt exposed, with his dick in his fist, pumping his erection with his elbow tucked in, feeling the jostling counterpoint of John's movements transmitted through the mattress under them. He cut a glance – the quickest, most fleeting glance in the history of time – towards John, wanting to feel reassured that John was not glancing at him in the same way.

John's eyes were closed.

Rodney looked back at the screen. Two girls on one guy. Pretty good stuff, he thought.

Back, lightning fast, to John. Eyes closed. Mouth open. Head tilted oh-so-slightly in Rodney's direction. Listening.

Back at the screen, and then Rodney closed his eyes too, to figure out the attraction of watching porn without the watching bit.

With eyes closed, the porn faded to a distant background murmur, and it was much more difficult to ignore what was going on two inches away. It was, actually, much easier to focus on what was going on two inches away. Rodney listened, stroking, to John's soft gasping sounding shaky and excited. He heard the familiar skin-slipping sound of John working his cock, the occasional hitches as John paused to – what? Probably to swipe his thumb through the wetness gathering on his cock head, spread it down, because John had licked his hand, John liked it wet. Rodney grunted louder than he'd intended, weirdly thrilled by this realization, and heard John's answering sigh, his hand speeding up. Rodney was a scientist, and this evidence bore investigation, so Rodney relaxed his constricted nervous-jerking-off-in-front-of-John throat and let himself go a little more with a moan and a loud shaky exhale.

"Yeah," said John, and redoubled his efforts.

"Yeah?" said Rodney, not sure when this had turned into a conversation.

"Oh, fuck. Fuck," said John, desperately, and Rodney turned desperate too. John liked it wet, and he was a little too frantic now to do it himself, the fluid pearling and swelling, pearling and swelling, going to waste when John couldn't stop to collect it into the wet tunnel of his hand, and oh. Rodney was watching, otherwise he couldn't know that. Rodney was watching, and now Rodney was helping, reaching out with his free left hand to help John out, using the flat of his thumb to smooth that slippery hot wetness around John's cock head, massaging it across John's cock hole, around, and John's hips came up and Rodney jumped, startled to find himself doing what he was doing, and then got out of the way just in time as John's own left hand bumped into the picture, cupping over – of course. John was pulsing into his cupped left hand, and how fucking weird was it that Rodney was kind of bummed to miss John's own money shot, only catching glimpses as a stray pulse here and there escaped between John's long slender fingers.

"I didn't think we were that drunk," said John, panting, seconds later, but before Rodney could panic or jump off the bed or complain that John was the one with the – the closed eyes and the tilted head and the – the listening – John was rolling over onto his left hip, closing those two inches between them, and – wow. Using his spit- and spunk-wet hand to bring Rodney off.

"Holy Christ," said Rodney, electrified, hard and terrified and turned on past all rationality.

"Come on, Rodney," said John, almost sounding irritated, "come on."

Rodney pushed his hips up, straining, rushing towards a bright line on the horizon, a huge flashing sheet of light that he needed to push into, push up against, break through. "Okay," said Rodney, and in some faraway part of his mind, he was amazed how normal he sounded. "Okay, okay, I'm coming."

And he was.

When John drew back, he actually touched his lips, looking stunned. "Did you just kiss me?" he asked, blinking back sweat.

"And that's, what, grossing you out?" Rodney returned, defensive. "Senor Butt-Spelunker?"

"Jesus, I didn't say that," John answered, scowling. "I'm just – huh." The scowl smoothed away, replaced by an expression of ardent curiosity. He leaned down, pressed his mouth to Rodney's, the chastest possible kiss Rodney could imagine coming from a guy who was, well, inside him. This time when John pulled back, he looked intrigued. "Bookmark that," said John. "Later. Right now, I – I need to –" and his hips stuttered back and up and Rodney's vision went spotty and John pushed in again, and it was almost a relief to have him back.

"Keep going," said Rodney, and kissed John's chin.

John got his other hand down on the mattress, helping to brace himself, give him leverage, and he began to fuck. Slow, shallow thrusts at first, like Rodney was a prom queen giving it up for her boyfriend, and that was annoying as hell, but then John seemed to lose a little of his careful control; slow and shallow became slow and deep, John shuddering as he drew back almost all his length, then sighing and grunting as he glided home again. Rodney stared up at John, the dark fan of his lashes on his hectic red cheeks, the wild mess of his sweaty hair, the way his collarbone stood out in relief against his lean muscled shoulders.

It – it wasn't good. That is, it wasn't good the way other kinds of sex with John were good. Rodney wasn't feeling driven and horny and desperate; he wasn't even sure how hard he was — but not very. But it wasn't even close to bad. It was – it was John, braced over him, clearly luxuriating in Rodney, glorying in Rodney's body, John happy and pleasured and taking his time as he teased himself with Rodney's ass. Rodney figured this could be okay, this could be a worthy way of showing John that Rodney – well. That Rodney cared. About John's orgasms, of course.

It was a routine after that: dinner together, a few beers (fewer and fewer each night, if Rodney was paying attention, but he mostly wasn't), and then Rodney would put on a movie, they'd unzip, and at some point they'd – they'd just provide a helping hand for each other. Jerking off to porn was great and all, a good release, but really, what was the point of having someone else there if you didn't take advantage of the possibilities? Someone else's hand – anyone else's hand – was far more satisfying, more exciting, than anything you could do to yourself. It was so exciting that the first few nights they only lasted a few minutes each after the first reach-over. But once the novelty wore off, there was a little more time. Rodney tried licking his hand before taking John's cock into it, and John liked that. John played with Rodney's foreskin, moving it back to expose the sensitive head before spending some nice quality time with the trigger callus of his right hand's index finger rubbing oh-so-gently over that sensitive spot just on the underside of the head.

"You like that?" asked John, breathless still, the first time Rodney forced John's hand aside so Rodney could watch John coming.

"I did all the work, I should get to – to gauge the results," Rodney said. "Hey, look, you came all the way up here," and he brushed over John's nipple and John shivered, and Rodney thought, insanely, next time. Next time he'd check that out.

John had his own weird ideas about how this thing should go, anyway. It was his idea to take their shirts off – it was neater, he said – but Rodney noticed right away that John liked the press of their bare skin together when they were jerking each other off. "Here," said Rodney, one time, and pushed John's shoulders up off the headboard, wriggled in behind him so his chest was pressed against John's back, and John arched his hips and said, "Oh, yeah, yeah," and dropped his head back onto Rodney's bare shoulder as he came.

John was the one who straddled Rodney's lap the next time and did him from that angle, backwards grip and leaning in close so Rodney's cockhead sort-of-almost-accidentally rubbed against John's bare flat hairy belly now and then. That gave Rodney a great idea, and the next night he pulled John on top of him again, got their pants down around their hips, pulled them together at the waist. Rodney's cock sort of nestled into the line of John's hip, and John's slipped up against Rodney's belly, and it was great because they could get off together, it was more efficient or something, and besides Rodney had to hold on to John's ass through his pants to keep them in contact, it wasn't like he was getting anything out of it except that maybe it was kind of hot to feel the twinned flexing under his palms, the hard muscled concave on either side of John's skinny ass as he thrust against Rodney, harder and faster, as he rutted, yeah, that was the word, rutting like a male animal, rutting selfishly and hard using Rodney as his warm surface, something soft and breathing to come against, and so did he, so did Rodney. Rodney came, and came, and came.

John was definitely having a good time, because it took him minutes and minutes of long grunting happy thrusts before he opened his eyes and said, "Uh, um, how is it. For you?"

Rodney lifted his hips in answer, not wanting to admit that it was. Well, it was just okay. It didn't hurt, which was an unlooked-for blessing.

"You want me to slow down? Be more careful?" John asked.

Enough with the prom treatment already. Rodney reached down, took hold of John's familiar skinny ass in his hands, and said, "I want you to fuck me harder."

"Okay," said John, stunned, happy. "Okay, I can do that, just let me," and he backed off, got up on his knees again, pushed Rodney's thighs up a little higher so Rodney was approaching being folded in half, hooked one of Rodney's knees up over John's shoulder. "Better leverage," he explained, shifting a little more. Rodney reached down, now that he could, and ringed his cock with his hand, pumping it into a fuller erection before John could notice and comment. Then John drew back, looking down between them to where they were joined, and –

"Oh, fuck," said Rodney, squeezing the base of his cock for all he was worth.

"Shit, did that hurt you?" asked John, freezing right in the critical spot.

"Keep moving," gritted Rodney. "Please. Ah, fuck." John still didn't move, so Rodney gritted out, "It's. Ah. It's good."

"Oh," said John, and pulled back further, away from that place that made Rodney want to howl at the moon. "Right there?" And John, that clever bastard, drove right back into the place, drove in perfect and hard and smooth and fast. Rodney threw his head back and did his best not to howl.

From then on it didn't seem to make sense to be prudish about pants, and it became normal to just be naked together, naked and stretched out on Rodney's bed, rubbing against each other. Rodney thumbed John's nipples because he liked that and John always made sure Rodney could watch when one of them came and once it was all over every night they'd get dressed and eat popcorn and watch a movie until it felt normal for John to stretch and yawn and say something about heading back to his quarters.

In the daytime, out in the weird suspended animation version of Atlantis that was floating around the Pacific, nothing really changed. Some personnel started coming back from leave, and the city started to look more familiar, but still the IOA sat with their thumbs up their asses and the SGC asked Rodney to write up another proposal about the wormhole drive, another report about the Atlantis weapons platform, about the star drive, about the ZPM ports.

Woolsey called the senior staff to dinner in his quarters about a month in (two weeks into whatever Rodney and John were doing). They were all hoping for answers or for a strategy but Woolsey went on and on about this cut of beef and this fennel-glazed ham and these steamed green beans until John got that weird dangerous look on his face and said, "Do you have any goddamn idea what they're going to do with us or not?" Woolsey dabbed his lips with his napkin and said, "Gentlemen, I must admit, it looks like we may be here to stay." And then he said a whole bunch of stuff about how it was just his opinion and how none of this could leave these four walls and how he was continuing to work all the angles and– All Rodney could think of was how he was going to throw the next cell phone he saw right off the east pier and into the bloody fucking Pacific Ocean.

A scant hour later, drunk on maybe a glass each of Woolsey's pinot something with oaky earth tones and blueberry tannins or some other bullshit, Rodney held John down on his mattress with a hand on John's skinny hip, wrapped his other hand around John's cock, and stuck his tongue into the little perfect oblong hole at the tip of John's plump plummy cock head.

"What are you doing?" gasped John. "Rodney, you're not – we're not –"

"Shut up," said Rodney, and popped the whole swollen head into his mouth. It felt hot and tasted like salty skin. Rodney felt – he felt pretty much exactly like what John said he wasn't. He stroked John's length, his fist bumping up into his lips a little too hard, and hollowed his cheeks.

"Oh my fucking god," exhaled John, and his head thudded back against the headboard. Rodney thought, "We forgot to turn on the porn," and then he thought, "Huh, we haven't had the porn on for a few days now," and then he thought, "Uh oh," because right at the outside of his palm, close to where his wrist joined his hand, he felt a bump bump bump under the skin at the base of John's cock, hard and insistent and rhythmic, and sure enough, John went tense and still and Rodney moved just in time, got hit in the chin before he could aim John's cock up his belly and away.

"Seriously?" said John. "Did you seriously just do that?"

"Do you mean pulling off?" asked Rodney.

"I mean sucking my dick, you asshole," said John.

"You're fucking welcome, Colonel Manners."

"I was going to say thank you," John responded, because he was always weirdly touchy when you called him out on his etiquette.

Speaking of etiquette, Rodney realized he was more than a little hard himself, and knowing John he'd feel a fucked-up obligation to reciprocate and it was more than clear that he didn't particularly want to, so Rodney hastily got up on his knees and pulled John's hand to his cock. "Jerk me off and we'll call it even," he offered brusquely, hoping John would take the bait.

"You're such a pain in the ass," bitched John, but his mouth was twitching and his hand was eager enough. He paused, scrunching up his face in thought. "It was good, though. You know. What you did just now."

"Can we save the hugging and weeping until after I come?" asked Rodney.

John grinned and started moving his hand again.

It was good. Oh, Christ, was it good. It was sex, it was real full-on sex complete with those weird squishing wet sounds, and the irresistible need to shake and gasp and grunt, and the pounding escalating movement, except of course Rodney was on the – well, the wrong side of it, or what he'd thought of as the wrong side until now. Rodney was being pushed into, wrested open, driven asunder, and it was riding the edge of pain but it was perfect and good and John, that goddamn playing-dumb but secretly brilliant fucktard of a guy, he was giving it to Rodney smooth and athletic and hard, the sort of expert sweet fucking that Rodney always aspired to provide when he was the one on top, which had been, well, always, always, always, up until now, until John pushed him in and bent him in half and made him want to receive, to take, to pull.

"Jesus, is it really that good?" Rodney heard John say, and okay, he must not be doing too well at stoic silent enjoyment but why the hell should he bother when John was doing this to him. "It's so good," Rodney managed, and then he remembered he had something in his hand, something hard and warm, and oh. Yes. Of course. Rodney had his dick in his hand. He'd actually completely forgotten. Had he come yet? Rodney couldn't quite figure it out. He moved his hand up a little, found the head wet but not in the way that followed orgasm, and so he slid his fist back down and began to jerk himself. The pleasure was almost secondary to what John was doing to him, but it was still good, and probably what he needed if he was going to come after all.

"Hang on," said John, and settled back a little.

"Don't, don't, don't stop," Rodney said, panicked.

"Not stopping," promised John. "Just, my thighs were killing me. Here." And he hauled on Rodney's hips and started in again. "Tell me when I hit it." Another two thrusts. "Or, you know, make that noise." John was laughing, and Rodney was pretty sure he was crying or something, and it was all a little blurry and too-bright and Rodney got in about three more strokes of his cock before he was –

"Oh, that feels so fucking weird," marveled John as Rodney arched his back and came. "Good weird," he amended, with a little groan. "Do I need to stop?"

Rodney sagged back into the pillows, dizzy and disoriented and, he was sure, smiling like a moron. "No," he said, with a magnanimous handwave. "Go on with your – ow, oh. Okay, but maybe now avoid that spot?"

"Oh, right," said John, swiping a hand over his brow. "Sorry, of course." He settled in at a different angle, starting off a little slower and softer again. "It really didn't hurt? It felt good?"

"John," said Rodney. "There is come on my chin. You do the math."

"Oh yeah," said John, beaming, and dove down to lick Rodney's chin for himself. Rodney squeezed around John, feeling lax and slippery and used and amazing, and John – John bucked — and wow, it was kind of awesome being on the other side of that move, to be the one causing it, so Rodney squeezed again and John made an awesome high-pitched sound and started going fast, hard, faster, harder.

Woolsey's stupid dinner changed everything. Teyla and Ronon started formally lobbying for transport back to Pegasus on the Daedalus. Department heads who had returned from leave began to make plans to stay – either fitting out their labs with more Earth-compatible equipment or requesting transfers to other Earth bases. Woolsey oversaw the networking of Atlantis with the rest of the Earth-based SGC intranet, and suddenly they had Google and YouTube and Farmville and Rodney spent large parts of his day yelling at subordinates to stop building virtual barns and forwarding each other links to the trololo song.

Also, John overcame whatever objections he had to Rodney's mouth on his cock, and that became the new normal. Rodney tackled cocksucking like it was a new field of research, building his skill set as he gathered data. John tasted sweet like the Hawaiian pineapple he was eating at breakfast each morning, and Rodney taught himself to swallow. Sometimes John would jerk Rodney off first but mostly it was after, John's hand sweaty and relaxed and playful and Rodney increasingly urgent and decreasingly tolerant of John's happy post-coital teasing.

"Because," Rodney said through gritted teeth, "I don't want you to play with my balls, I want you to rub my dick until I shoot my load."

"I like playing with your balls, they're different than mine," said John, unconcerned and insistent. "And you like it when I press up behind them, too." He moved a finger back to prove his point, and Rodney shot his load. He'd sort of only been aiming for John's face a little.

"Rodney, gross," said John, but then he pushed Rodney down against the mattress and used his come to slip his fingertip around Rodney's hole, which was new and weird and besides, since when did they keep fucking around after they'd already come? But John was cackling and enjoying Rodney's helpless wordless half-protests and then John was gently gently nipping at the inside of Rodney's thighs and then he pushed his fingertip inside and asked, breathless and playful, "How does it feel?"

"It feels like you have your finger in my ass," Rodney said, honestly.

"Hmm," said John, and pulled it out. Then he crawled up beside Rodney and said, "Do you want to go get lunch?"

That was the other difference since Woolsey's dinner. They weren't limiting themselves to night and to Rodney's quarters. Today it was 11 a.m. at John's place and yesterday it was 4 p.m. in that weird annex off Rodney's lab with the thing that was like a counter with no sink and the locked door and Rodney sucking John's cock while John said, "Zelenka is right outside," like he couldn't decide if he was scandalized or turned on.

"I'm going to visit Jeannie," Rodney told John at breakfast the next day. "Woolsey said I can take a week. Or whatever."

John chewed his pineapple spear and kept his eyes on his tray. "Have fun," he said, then waved Ronon over to sit with them.

"It's not like a zip-tie," said Rodney, blinking sweat out of his eyes. "It's not like it's closed up forever once you leave."

"Jesus, did I say that?" returned John in a long-suffering tone. "I meant, will it feel okay if I pull out and we try a different position?"

"How should I know?" asked Rodney, and John rolled his eyes and reached down to hold the rim of the condom as he slowly pulled out, which felt disconcertingly like a private bathroom moment and also weirdly like being a tube sock that was being turned the right way out, fresh from the dryer. Rodney clenched his teeth and hoped that nothing weird or embarrassing was about to happen with his ass, but mostly it just felt – wet. Open.

"Here, turn over," said John, levering Rodney onto his side, onto his knees. "Just – hug the pillow, or hold yourself up on your elbows if you want, just –"

"I have actually done this position before," Rodney pointed out. "Not from this angle, mind you, but I remember the basics."

"Then move your fucking knees apart, you're not doing downward facing dog or whatever," John said, and nudged Rodney's thighs. "Okay, I'm going in."

"I'd say something about having your six but I think you've got mine," said Rodney, and John chuckled as he pressed inside, steadier and more certain this time, still giving that weird feeling like being winded, breathless and terrifying.

"Oh, yeah," said John, and got a hold of Rodney's hips. "Oh, fuck."

Rodney dropped his head down to the pillow, panting in spite of himself. He wasn't aroused, not exactly; he wasn't even hard. But Rodney felt electric nonetheless, nothing like the usual post-orgasmic languor that overtook him. He let John ride him for a minute or so, steady and deep and moderately fast, and then he said, "Can you – can you lean forward? Can you just, for a minute, can you do me like that?" And John draped his chest down, got one arm around Rodney's chest so they were pressed together front to back, and John bit the nape of Rodney's neck as he shifted into a faster shallower fuck that pressed against Rodney's sweet spot almost accidentally, made him sigh and shiver and made his arms shake.

"Good?" said John, and Rodney nodded, eyes shut, and John moved back again, this time taking Rodney with him a little so that Rodney was almost in John's lap, and John – oh, fuck. John was in so deep now, the lump was back in Rodney's throat, and John drove up and in, his fingers scratching into Rodney's chest, Rodney's belly. "Okay," said John, and, "Yeah," and then, "Rodney," and lastly, "Oh…"

Rodney reached back with one hand to cup the back of John's head, pulling him in close as he came, wanting to anchor him, vaguely moved to do so by the weird unfamiliarity of John's orgasm noises, all soft gasps and almost-hurting sounds.

Madison was in a weird macabre phase, reading Neil Gaiman and Lewis Carroll and obsessed with death and injury. Jeannie said the less Rodney remarked on it, the better, that Madison was just a precocious seven-year-old and she would be onto something entirely different the next time Rodney saw her. But Rodney found her in the back yard on his last day, dripping a straw of rainwater down on the head of a hapless daddy long-legs until the arachnid was drowning in a small puddle, struggling to move but being overcome with Madison's torture. The sight sent a shiver of unwilling revulsion through Rodney, and he pulled his niece up by the arm a little more sharply than he'd meant to before lecturing her on serial killers and sociopaths and the likelihood of her becoming both if she continued to torment creatures like that.

It wasn't until later that Rodney connected his shiver of disgust with its real cause, as his jumper shuttle circled in for a landing and Rodney got the aerial view of Atlantis, trapped like a sticky alien insect on the heated surface of the Pacific, inert and functionless and ringed with Earth vessels like so much junky flotsam.

And then there was John, who seemed completely bored by Rodney's reappearance, who could report no news good or bad on the city's situation, and who washed up that night onto the centre of Rodney's mattress, like yet another becalmed alien entity. He lay sprawled out like Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, limbs and head echoing Atlantis's piers, and that meant, Rodney supposed, that he was currently fellating the main spire of the city (in effigy, anyhow) which made Rodney think of unfortunate drones-as-sperm analogies, which made him lift his head and say, "I really think the Ancients were huge sexual deviants."

John lifted his head from the mattress to look down at Rodney, frowning. "This coming from the guy with the epic porn collection."

Rodney got up onto his knees and moved until he could flop down beside John. For so long, they'd yearned for exactly this: days and weeks of nothing, the city quiet and secure. "Did you hear about this new project at the SGC? Icarus?"

"Yeah, I heard about it," said John. He reached over, pulled Rodney's hand back down to his dick, grunted with satisfaction when Rodney started moving his fist. "Some asshole named Rush is in charge, or thinks he is." John bit his lower lip, made a small sound in his throat. "They could use you, I bet."

Rodney fixed his gaze on the ceiling. "I don't think I could start over," he admitted.

"Me neither," said John. "Oh, god, I'm close."

Rodney was familiar with feelings of dread and anxiety; they'd dogged his every step since he'd been as small as Madison, watching living creatures struggle and die. This wash of emotion was different, though, calmer and more certain though still awesomely horrible. With perfect clarity, Rodney suddenly knew that their days – John's and his, as in the two of them doing this thing – their days were numbered.

So this was their new After, thought Rodney. "I can't tell if I actually have to, you know, use the bathroom, or if it's just the – feeling."

"Maybe you should go and check that out," John mumbled into his arm, draped over his face. His whole-body flush was fading in patches. His shoulders weren't red anymore. The tips of his ears were, still.

Rodney shifted a little, testing. He was most definitely sore, but it wasn't too bad. "Be back in a minute."

John snored in response.

Rodney knew it was narrow-minded and chauvinist and everything, but he really did feel like the girl in the situation as he perched on the toilet, listening to John snore the snores of a fucked-out male. There was definitely something happening, bowel-wise, and that probably had more to do with the metric ton of lube John had used than anything else, but it was over soon enough, and there wasn't anything alarming about it.

Rodney felt sticky and covered in dried sweat, so he stepped into the shower next. Fucking tiny annoying soaps and shampoo bottles, and then the final indignity of the world's smallest bath towel that barely went around his waist. As the mirror defogged, Rodney caught glimpses of himself, naked and damp and undeniably a man despite how he may have felt earlier.

John was sacked out on the bed, having rolled onto his stomach now. The bedside clock read 9:34 p.m., which was really far too early for John to be down for the count. And John must have staggered out of bed while Rodney was in the bathroom, because the condom was gone and so was the balled-up tissue Rodney had used to give himself a cursory wipe-down, after. Rodney found the remote, was about to turn the television on and try to locate CNN, when he noticed the message light on his cell phone was blinking.


"Dr. McKay, you probably heard the news from Colonel Sheppard by now, I spoke to him earlier today, but it looks like you boys will be getting your wish. We're just not too sure yet how we'll do it, but we want Atlantis back in Pegasus, and we're sending an advance team to establish a temporary base there. We'd sure like it if you'd consider joining them, at least until we need your help with the city here at home. Listen, son, give me a call when you have a chance. I'll be at Cheyenne for another few hours yet today."

Rodney hung up, blinking. Earlier today, Landry had spoken to John, and it sounded like he'd gotten John's assent. Earlier today, John had known that he would be returning to Pegasus soon.

But earlier today, John had suggested they take a transport to Maui, John had checked them into a hotel, John had pulled Rodney into the room by the collar of his shirt and said, "I've been thinking – we should try something new." Earlier today, John had had a weird desperation around the eyes that had made Rodney think, "Here it is, here come the final hours of Atlantis, of John Sheppard in my life."

"That Landry?" said John, behind Rodney, still sounding sleepy and lazy.

"Yeah, he wants me in Pegasus," said Rodney, though John knew that. Had known that. It was disorienting, revising the history of this day.

There was a long pause in which Rodney could hear John stretching, hear his small sighs, the rustling of his skin against the starchy hotel sheets. Rodney wanted to look over his shoulder, to make eye contact, but he held position, staring down at his phone, trying to make sense of everything.

They were supposed to be walking away after this, Rodney thought. Except John didn't think so, hadn't thought so. Or maybe he had thought of this as a weird celebration of the end of their time adrift on Earth. Because John couldn't possibly think that they could do – that this could keep happening. Not living in each other's back pockets, not in a base camp where they were sleeping in tents with walls as thin as onion skins, not even back in Atlantis where someone always wanted them dead. It was their becalming, their earthbound stasis, that had allowed this – this weird thing to spring up between them in the first place. It couldn't continue, it couldn't…

"Hey," said John, from behind Rodney, on the bed. "Are you coming or not?"

Rodney pressed the little key with a house on it, taking his phone back to its main screen. Home. "Of course I'm coming," said Rodney, irritably, though he didn't even know if John meant the bed or Pegasus. Either way it was the truth. Rodney put the phone down, turned around, tugged his towel free, made his way onto the bed.

"You smell like a roasted turkey," observed John, but with more curiosity than distaste.

"The fucking hotel shampoo is rosemary-mint or something," said Rodney. He lay back beside John.

"I like roasted turkey," John said, and smiled.

They lay like that – face to face, a few inches apart, not touching – for a while as they talked about Pegasus, about how happy Teyla and Ronon would be, about where they'd make camp and how they'd get the city back, and what movies they'd have to take with them, and how great it would be when they were finally out of the cellular service area again and they didn't have to install firewalls to keep everyone from spending hours on MySpace and tech blogs. By the time John closed the gap between them and kissed Rodney's mouth, everything felt normal again between them, and weirdly, so did the kiss.

"We might not get much of a chance," said John, and his eyes were regretful and steady on Rodney's as he pulled back.

"That's an understatement," said Rodney, his heart suddenly pounding, his pulse throbbing in his neck and his wrists and behind his eyes.

John kissed him again, and Rodney's hand came up to grip the back of Sheppard's head, the soft short thick hair that grew warm and damp at the nape of his neck. "There's always a little down time," said John, staying in close this time, speaking against Rodney's mouth. "There're always a few days or hours here and there. We can figure it out, we practically run the joint between the two of us, after all."

"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul," said Rodney, because he felt squishy and romantic and idealistic when John was kissing him, and John promptly ruined the moment by blowing a raspberry onto Rodney's cheek, and Rodney began ranting about how John was a dickhead and John laughed his horrible honking laugh until Rodney smothered him with a pillow.

He'd probably had too many beers, but as John said, they did their best work when they were drunk.

"On his bicep," John was saying authoritatively, rolling up Rodney's t-shirt sleeve already.

"Ugh, I hate my arms," said Rodney, fighting him.

"Shut up, you have good arms," said John, winning. "Right here, right here," and he was poking his stupid pointy finger into the meat of Rodney's upper arm.

And Ronon settled in close, holding the crude (though, thankfully, sterilized) Satedan tattoo pen and tilting his head, considering.

"Don't you do a sketch first?" asked Rodney, beginning to panic. "Just, something with a ballpoint so I can see what it'll look like?" Suddenly, his half-drunk fireside tattoo idea was starting to seem a little insane.

"It's Ronon," said John, like he was saying, It's Michaelangelo. "Have a little faith in your friends."

"Especially when they're holding a needle," added Ronon with a sharp grin, and smoothed his thumb over Rodney's skin, and began to work.

"Why is there never a Wraith attack at the right moment?" lamented Rodney, and Teyla laughed and ran her fingers through his hair and told him it was normal that his eyes were watering at the sting.

Ronon's tattoo design wasn't small and it wasn't over quickly, but John kept giving Rodney cups of Athosian rus wine, and Teyla kept rubbing his hair, and it was over soon enough. John was the one who smoothed a square of cling wrap over the fresh ink and helped Rodney heave onto unsteady feet. "Wait, what does it say?" asked Rodney, shocked that this had only now occurred to him. The design was in the beautiful angled Satedan calligraphic script but it was completely unintelligible to Rodney, especially in the dim firelight and obscured by the shallow shine of the plastic bandage.

"It says 'man who cowers before his enemies'," said Ronon, amused.

"It says 'property of Sheppard'," John added in a half-whisper, grinning.

"It says nothing," Teyla told him, rolling her eyes at Ronon and John. "It is – only beautiful."

"So it doesn't mean anything?" Rodney said, following along a little slowly, head sloshing full of rus wine. "It's just because it looks nice?"

"You look like a real bad-ass," said John, slapping Rodney on the back. "Come on, I'll get you back to your tent."

Some minutes later, Rodney was staring up at the fabric apex of his tent, head spinning. "Oh, god, I'm so not a tattoo guy. I can't believe I let him do that to me. I look like an idiot."

John looked up from where he was unbuckling Rodney's pants, kneeling astride Rodney's knees. "You could be a tattoo guy," he said. "And it looks hot."

"Yeah?" said Rodney, optimistic, because John didn't usually do the fake consolation thing.

"Yeah," said John, and tugged Rodney's pants down, got his hand around Rodney and started working him into an erection. "Hey, get the light, will you?"

And in the darkness, John bent his head down and took Rodney in, and here was another moment Rodney would always remember, the burn of his arm, the suck of John's tongue, the way they both tried to be quiet when they heard the night patrol marine crunch past them just a few feet away. The silence after, the curl of John's body around his for a few stolen minutes, and then the cool night air breezing in through the tent flap when John rose and left.

Rodney's tablet chirped a minute later. He was waiting for it, holding the screen up so he could read the message John had sent: "See you in the morning, tattoo guy."

Rodney typed back: "Next we're getting you a tramp stamp."

And John wrote: "Nice. I always wanted a dolphin."

And Rodney hesitated, and typed, and backspaced, and finally just sent it.

"Until next time?"

There was an answering beep after a long thirty seconds had ticked by.

"Can't wait. Good night."