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As John rounded the last corner before the conference room, Rodney stepped on his heel for the third time.  John stumbled and caught himself on the doorjamb. 

“What the hell, McKay?” John demanded, turning to face him.  The near tripping didn’t upset him, not really.  The way Rodney sometimes acted too familiar was frustrating, not that he let it show.  He’d watched his friend meet, date, and break up with several women on Atlantis, and been there to pick up the pieces.  He wished he could tell Rodney how he really felt, but resisted, figuring he’d rather have some of Rodney than none.  He’d been suppressing his feelings since pushing Rodney off the balcony soon after they arrived.  John considered it his best first date ever, but knew he was the only one who thought of it like that.  So John did what he did best – other than piloting – and shoved his feelings down deep.

John glared at Rodney, whose expression switched from fake innocence to grinning smarm. 

“After you.”

“Like hell,” John said, manhandling Rodney through the doorway.   John flicked his ear for good measure, before donning his own innocent expression for the senior staff already seated.  Rodney rubbed his ear as they took their usual seats.

After discussing recent missions and supply levels, they reviewed recently arrived personnel, including Major Teldy.  Ann Teldy and her team had spent the last two weeks supporting crews with more local experience as Atlantis’ trading partners in Pegasus expanded.  Judging by the reports and her interactions on base, including training with Ronon, Teldy could more than hold her own.

John suppressed an eye-roll when Rodney starting ranting about a group of soft-scientists being allowed on Atlantis with less than a dozen gate missions between them.  When Rodney’s tone devolved into whining, John kicked him under the table while seeming to be completely zoned out.

Elizabeth took advantage of the distraction, and turned the discussion to upcoming missions.  John watched reports flash across Rodney’s datapad faster than most people could register, much less read.  John ignored his own device as an excuse to lean over and breathe in Rodney’s scent.   He tuned back in when Rodney brought up a specific report, saying, “Hey, what about that planet near PTX-R65?”

“Which one is that one?” Elizabeth asked.  Her fingers began dancing over her device, and John watched as most of the others followed suit.

John leaned closer to Rodney, who automatically slanted the datapad in his direction before pulling it back with a devious smile. “Hold on a sec.”

“What the-” Lorne exclaimed.

“You made me lose my place, McKay,” Ronon rumbled.

John glanced at his own datapad and found that the supplies report had been replaced with the PTX-R65 report.  “How the hell did you do that?”

“A simple bit of reprogramming,” Rodney said with a smug look.  “Don’t worry, Conan.  I saved your game.”

Ronon just grunted, but did stop giving Rodney the death glare.

“Anyway,” Rodney said, “PTX-R65 is a space gate above a planet with peculiar energy readings.”

“It’s always strange energy readings,” John said, earning his own kicked ankle. 

As I was saying,” Rodney continued, “There’s not much in the database.  Apparently, the Ancients intended to investigate it themselves, but I can’t find any documentation that they did.  Just the initial report noting small satellites in orbit, and sporadic energy readings on the surface.”

“Are the satellites Ancient in design?” Elizabeth asked.

“I don’t know,” Rodney replied.  “There’s no other information on them, either.”

“What’s on the planet?” John asked.

Rodney typed rapidly on his datapad, sending the information around the table.  “There was a fly-by a few months ago.  The readings show so humanoid population at all.  Actually, there’s really nothing larger than a rat-” 

John deadpanned, “Ugh, rats.”

Rodney sighed and massaged his temples.  “Seriously, you are not allowed to watch Raiders before a mission briefing ever again.  Anyway, the planet’s habitable part of the year, but the winters would kill most biologics.  The rat-thingies only survive because they burrow deep underground, for what we assume is hibernation.”

John felt his brow furrow as multiple questions fought for his attention.  “Long range sensors can detect animal burrows and hibernation?”

“They can detect a great number of things,” Rodney said, the smarmy smile returning.  It made John itch to flick him again.

“Well, what season is it right now?” Elizabeth asked.

Rodney scrolled through a few screens.  “Late spring where one set of readings originates and late fall for the other.  So, we’re likely to see warm days, cool nights in both areas.”

“How long do you need?” Elizabeth asked.

“With two teams?  Couple of days, tops.” Rodney replied.  He looked at John, who considered the amount of area they’d need to cover, likely weather and wildlife, as well as current assignments, before nodding in agreement.

Elizabeth steepled her fingers in contemplation.  John could almost see the thought processes as crossing her diplomat’s brain.  “What about including Major Teldy’s team?  Her team could use some experience in the puddlejumpers, and it’s always good to have more pilots than you think you’ll need.  Three teams, two jumpers.  What do you think, Colonel?”

After a somewhat rocky start, Elizabeth now tended to defer to John on military matters.  Her suggestion to offer Teldy and team more pilot training was a good one, even if it would be a bit of a squeeze in the jumpers. 

John nodded.  “Might be a bit cozy, but we’ll make it work.” 

Anyway, the more people on the mission, the less time he’ll spend focusing on Rodney. 

He hopes.

After the meeting, John and Lorne spent an hour on mission logistics, including how to split up AR-1 to give each team the most experienced personnel.  Lorne’s team had only been together a few months, and though Teldy’s team had gone on a good number of missions on Earth, they’d been in Pegasus for just two weeks.  So, Lorne’s team was going with John and Rodney, and Teldy’s with Teyla and Ronon. 

John knew the IOC would prefer to have McKay head the other team, but the thought of Rodney half a planet away didn’t sit well with him.  Besides, he figured Cadman would keep Rodney on his toes (and was looking forward to watching).  Plus, he might figure out if Lorne really was sleeping with his scientist.  John didn’t care either way, except to be glad that someone on Atlantis was getting some.

~*~*~

They held a quick puddlejumper boot camp the day before the mission:  Lorne went out with Teldy, Sergeant Markham with Captain Vega, and John took Sergeant Mehra up.  Teldy handled it with her usual competence, Vega needed to control her enthusiasm so it didn’t affect the ship, and Dusty Mehra turned out to be a natural.  Her smile during the barrel roll rivaled John’s, and her whoop of glee was way louder.  “Yeah, you’ll do fine,” John laughed as he directed her back to base.

After a good night’s sleep, the teams assembled in the jumper bay where John briefed them on the tactical side of the mission, and Rodney concentrated on the scientific, including his ‘Don’t touch anything!’ speech.  He concluded with, “I still have dreams where Sheppard has weird bug eyes.”  He looked John up and down before continuing, “They’re disturbing.”

Rodney’s look had John’s stomach doing flip-flops like when he strapped into his first F16, or first kissed Nancy.  Clearing his throat, he sincerely hoped that the warmth in his cheeks wasn’t a blush.  He decided to think about the look later, when he was alone in his quarters.  

“Right, load up,” he ordered, and cursed himself for the catch in his voice.

Once through the space gate, John circled the planet a couple of times; the greens and blues of the planet shone through the sparse cloud cover.  These were the experiences he would never tire of.  John opened the comm.  “Sheppard to Teldy.”

“Teldy here, sir.”

John smiled.  Based on the background noise, the crew of the other jumper was as excited as his.  “Major, head down to the southern hemisphere location and begin your investigation.  We’ll be checking out the satellites. I don’t anticipate any issues, so radio checks every eight hours.”

“Roger that.  Teldy out.”

Nodding to no one in particular, John called over his shoulder, “McKay!  Quit bitching and get up here.  Unless you want me to do the readings.”

“Yeah, yeah.  Hold your horses,” Rodney retorted.  John heard footfalls followed by a stumble and muffled laughter.  He didn’t have to turn around to know what was going on, especially when Rodney grumbled, “Real funny, Cadman.  What are you – twelve?”  A few moments later, Rodney grumpily sank into the open seat and rubbed his shin.

~*~*~

The satellites didn’t give up their secrets, and Rodney hypothesized that they were dormant like the Lagrangian Point satellite had been when they found it.  John flashed on a memory of Peter Grodin, which led to a parade of everyone they’d lost since coming to Pegasus.  Unexpected melancholy gripped him and he closed his eyes as face after face played like a slideshow.  When he opened them, he found Rodney looking at him with concern.  John dredged up a small smile.  “You ready to head to the planet?”

Rodney gave him skeptical look, but went back to his datapad without asking any more questions.  John directed the jumper toward one set of energy readings.

John heard a gasp as the jumper settled to the ground.  “You okay back there, Doctor Gonzales?” 

Janica Gonzales was new to both the Pegasus galaxy and Lorne’s team, and her degree in hydrology complemented David Parrish’s botanical expertise.  She was also green as grass, having had only half a dozen gate missions, none of them in Pegasus.

“It is always this bumpy?” Gonzales asked.

John shut down the engine with a thought and adjusted his sidearm as he walked through the back compartment.  “Well…I’m fine in the air, but landings are sometimes an issue.”

“Sheppard,” Rodney warned.  “Stop teasing the newbie.”

John ignored him and glanced around.  Everyone looked nonchalant except Gonzales, whose expression showed great trepidation.  “It’ll be fine, Janica,” John said with a pat to her shoulder.

Dr. Gonzales took a deep breath and nodded. 

John hit the lever to lower the back hatch, letting in the smell of dew and fallen leaves.  He looked around for possible threats, but there was only dirt, yellow grass, and rust-colored leaves as far as the eye could see.  He glanced back at the others with a smile.

John stepped aside to let Cadman, Lorne, and Parrish pass as he checked the safety on his P90 and then the leather strap on his thigh holster.  He started down the ramp with Gonzales right behind him.

Suddenly, he seized violently as if hit by an unseen blast and crumpled.  “Help!  I need help!” Dr. Gonzales shouted.  “Doctor McKay!”  She was at Sheppard’s side as he limply settled at the bottom of the ramp.

Rodney nonchalantly joined them, wriggled his boot under John’s shoulder, and used it to flip him onto his back.  “Sheppard!”

John opened his eyes and fake-pouted at Rodney.  “What?”  He ignored Gonzales’ scandalized expression. 

Rodney gave him a hand up, only to let go halfway and send him tumbling back into the dirt.  “I told you to stop pranking my scientists, you jackass.”  Rodney walked off, already too intent on his datapad to even laugh.

“But I’m a jackass?” John muttered as he stood up and dusted himself off.  He gave Gonzales a shrug and a boyish grin before rushing to catch up with Rodney.

~*~*~

John listened to Laura Cadman and Rodney sniping at each other, and kept an eye on Lorne and Parrish, who were about thirty meters to the south.  Gonzales was engrossed in her own datapad, her forgiveness bought with a piece of the dark chocolate that John always had in his pack.  Essential for Rodney’s low blood sugar, but just as useful for smoothing ruffled feathers.

“Doctor McKay,” Gonzales said.  “Are you seeing this?”

Rodney tried to take her datapad, but she’d learned a few things in her short time on Atlantis, because she had it in a death grip.  Rodney snorted, but released it and tapped a string of commands on his own.  John, standing between them, saw Rodney’s device began mirroring Gonzales’. 

“Okay, it began thirty-seven seconds ago, and it looks like it’s centered right over-”

“What the hell?!” 

Suddenly all eyes were on David Parrish, or more precisely, on the small, colorful box at Lorne’s feet.  John and Cadman took off running, covering the distance in no time, with Gonzales and Rodney joining them moments later.

They all stared in disbelief for a moment before Rodney reached for it.  John grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“Okay, stop.  Everybody take a step back,” John ordered.  He poked the box with the muzzle of his P90.

“I wouldn’t do that, sir,” Cadman said.  “I’ve got some C-4 in the jumper.”

“We’re not blowing it up, Lieutenant,” John replied, nudging it with his toe this time.  “At least not yet.”  When the cartoonish package didn’t react, John turned to Lorne and Parrish.  “You two were closest.  Where the hell did this thing come from?”

Parrish shrugged.  “I don’t know, Colonel.  One second there was just grass, and then…” He gestured towards the box at their feet.

John looked at Lorne, who, unbelievably, started to blush.  “I, uh,” Lorne stammered, then cleared his throat.  “For some reason, I was reliving a strong memory from my childhood.”

“And that involved a McDonald’s Happy Meal?”  Putting it into words made it seem even more ludicrous.

Lorne picked it up, tracing the bright yellow arches that formed the handle.  “Be careful, sweetheart,” David said. 

“Well, that answers that,” thought John.  But the more pressing issue was why an object from their home galaxy was on this alien planet.

“Trixie!” Lorne exclaimed when he opened the box.  John and Rodney leaned in to get a look and conked heads instead.  They both drew back and rubbed their forehead.

“Trixie?” John held Rodney off and moved in to get a look, which turned out to be unnecessary as Lorne pulled out a blue horse, whose lush white mane spilled over hands John knew to be deadly.  “What the hell is a Trixie?”

Lorne seemed to shake off a daze.  “Trixie Lulamoon,” he said, glancing at his commanding officer and belatedly adding, “sir.  She’s…a part of that memory.  It was a toy I wanted and never got.  When I was a kid, of course.”

John incredulously asked, “You wanted a My Little Pony when you were a kid?”  He quickly added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But–”

“Oh, my god,” Parrish sighed.  John watched the scientist pinch the bridge of his nose.  “I’m in love with a Brony.”

Ignoring the interruption, John pressed on.  “Major, can you please explain to the class?”

Lorne clutched the toy to his chest, even as he flushed.  But it was Rodney who spoke.

“This I cannot wait to hear,” he said, ripping the wrapper off of a PowerBar.

The distraction gave Lorne time to regain his composure.  He addressed Parrish, but loud enough for everyone to hear.  “Boo…  You remember I grew up in a commune north of San Francisco?”

“Sure, but what does that have to do with a Happy Meal?”

“Well, all of the kids were home-schooled, because plenty of educators lived in the commune, mostly hippies who’d taught at Berkeley and SFSU during the sixties.”

“Hah!  I should’ve realized this would involve hippies and psychedelic drugs.  Oof!”  Cadman’s elbow stopped Rodney’s rant in its tracks.

Anyway,” Lorne continued, “we all went to the San Francisco Aquarium one day.  We didn’t go on many field trips ‘cause it was easier to watch us all at the commune.  A local elementary school was there, too, and the tour guide took us all around together.  At lunchtime, we had our homemade sandwiches and veggie sticks, but the school kids got food brought in.”

“Let me guess,” Rodney said.  “McDonald’s.”

“Exactly,” Lorne said.  “Some of the kids mixed in with our group.  I’d never seen a Happy Meal, much less the toys.  For some reason, I was taken very with Trixie here.”

“Well, blue is your favorite color,” Parrish said.

Lorne nodded.  “That’s probably part of it, but also, we didn’t have many impractical toys.  These kids weren’t even playing with them, and a bunch ended up in the garbage.  I convinced one kid to trade my slingshot for a Trixie, but my friend, Fern Windsong-”

John suppressed a laugh, and preemptively elbowed Rodney.

“-heard us and told my mom.  The moms had a strict rule that mass-produced toys weren’t allowed on the compound, so I had to give it back.”  Lorne paused, clearly lost in the bittersweet memory.  “It was the first toy I ever really wanted.”

They closed in around Lorne in silent support.  Rodney broke it by toeing the empty box.  “So that’s it, the dumb toy?  You don’t even get a burger and fries?”

The group turned as one to glare, except for Lorne, who was wistfully considering His Little Pony.

“Hey Rodney, any other readings?” John asked to change the subject.

Rodney checked his datapad.  “Everything’s back to normal.  You two have anything?”

“Nothing,” Gonzales said.  Parrish just shook his head.

“Okay,” Rodney replied.  “So we’ll keep an eye out for odd readings.”

“Great,” John agreed.  “Now, how ‘bout we break for lunch?”  He picked up the Happy Meal container and handed it to Lorne.  “Here you go.”

~*~*~

Two hours later, John was willing to chalk up the My Little Pony incident to random Pegasus weirdness.  After lunch, and much teasing of Lorne, they paired off to survey the meadow.  John was about to call it quits when Gonzales called, “Doctor McKay.”

Rodney focused on his datapad as John jogged over to join her and Cadman, who held her pistol at the ready.  Parrish and Lorne, in roughly in the same spot as before, looked over in interest.

“What’ve you got, Janica?”

“The energy seems to be building, coming from all around us,” she said, switching between two screens. 

John called for everyone to join them.  Lorne and Parrish ran over quickly, but Rodney was so engrossed in his data that he was barely moving.  “Rodney,” John snapped.

“Coming, comi-” Rodney started, but then his datapad went flying as he tripped over something brown.

Three weapons were instantly trained on the animal sniffing the fallen scientist.  It took a second for John to understand what he was seeing; it was canine in nature, but with the extended snout of a fox and a tail that was both longer and thicker than normal – sort of like a kangaroo’s.  To top it off, its short, smooth coat was striped, but only on the upper half of the back half.

Rodney stood up and grabbed his datapad.  “Give me that, you little mongrel.”  He checked it for damage before turning his attention to the creature at his feet.  “What the hell are you?” he asked as it wound around his legs.

Cadman piped up.  “I thought you said there was nothing bigger than a rat.  What gives?”

“Yeah, Rodney,” John said, dropping his weapon when the animal showed no signs of aggression.  “It was supposed to be burrowing rats and hibernation and shit.”  He followed the snuffling animal’s progress until it leaned into Lorne’s legs.

“It can’t be,” Parrish said, looking awestruck.  “It’s just not possible.”

Rodney put a hand up.  “Let me guess.  You suddenly remembered the mutant foxdog you had growing up.”  He broke into sneezes, foxdogs apparently being another thing he was allergic to. 

“Actually,” Parrish said as he crouched down, “it’s a thylacine, also called a Tasmanian tiger.”  It came over and tentatively sniffed him, then rubbed against his outstretched hand.  “And this one’s just a baby.”

“A baby?” John demanded.  “We had full-grown bulldogs smaller than this.  How big do they get?”  He touched the striped back, finding the coat far coarser than that of his family’s dogs.

“Seventy pounds or so,” Parrish said.  “But that’s not the problem.  They’re extinct.”

“What have you been smoking?” Rodney demanded.  “Clearly, there’s one gnawing on Lorne’s boot right now.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Doctor McKay.  But you were kinda right before.  When I heard the commotion, the thylacine popped in my head for some reason.  And then this little guy showed up.”

“How do you know it’s a thylacine, Davey?” Cadman asked. 

“Yeah,” Rodney challenged.  “You’re no xenozoologist.”

“Is that even a thing?” Dr. Gonzales wondered.

“I thought you were just a botanist,” Rodney said.  John clearly heard the unspoken ‘soft scientist’ hanging in the air.

Actually, Doctor McKay,” Parrish said, “since this guy is from Earth, it would just be zoology.”

As much as John liked watching Rodney snark, he completely enjoyed seeing the usually mild Dr. Parrish throw it right back at him. 

“So, how do you know what it is, Doc?” John asked.

“My college roommate, Hideo, was fascinated by them.  And as you can see, their coloring is quite unique.  If they hadn’t gone extinct in 1936, I’m sure he’d be on an expedition right now.”  They all watched the animal stretch, then put its front paws on the knees of Rodney’s BDUs.  “That’s weird, though, because they were usually reported to have been pretty shy.”

Rodney wiggled his knee, but it thought he was playing, and dropped down to nip at his shoes.

John pointed one finger at it.  “Don’t make me shoot you.”

As if understanding the threat, no matter how lightly delivered, it backed away and sat down.  It regarded Parrish solemnly for a moment, then jumped into his arms.  Parrish stroked between the animal’s ears and it gave an odd sort of coughing bark.

“So, the no pets policy on Atlantis,” Lorne said, looking at his commanding officer.

John sighed.  “Can be reevaluated on a case-by-case basis.”  He reached out and petted the animal, getting a playful growl in return.

“So,” Dr. Gonzales said, drawing everyone’s attention, “Major Lorne was thinking about a toy that he wanted when he was a kid, and he got it.  Then, Doctor Parrish thought about the thylacine, which he got.”

Rodney consulted his notes.  “At an interval of two hours.  And if I’m not mistaken, you were each standing just about where Sheppard is now.”

Lorne and Parrish looked around to check, then nodded.  John took a step to his left.

“So, what’re you saying, Rodney?” John asked, cursing his suddenly dry mouth.

Rodney stuck out his chin, which John found both comforting and alarming.  “Basically, the focal point is where you, uh, were standing.  The energy seems to give you something you’ve always wanted, but could never have.”

A wave of nausea washed over John.  He swallowed hard, took another step, and muttered, “Crap.”

~*~*~

Ninety minutes later, while the thylacine slept peacefully in the jumper, John was still on edge.  Rodney’s plan had them walking in two concentric circles around the focal point, with the scientists on the inner ring.  This gave the scientists a chance to record the phenomenon for later study, and let the soldiers keep watch – just in case.

Everyone was to think of a book they’d always wanted to read.  It was a safe object to conjure up and, as Rodney said, would give them multiple sets of data (reproducible results being the keystone of the scientific method) before they were due to check in with the others.  Successful or not, John had already decided to call the mission once the test was completed.  They could return with a gaggle of scientists at some later date to try and figure out the exact mechanism behind the phenomenon.

John forced familiar tantalizing thoughts aside to focus on a book about mice escaping from a medical testing facility.  It had been Dave’s favorite, but John’s dignity as the older brother wouldn’t let him admit he’d wanted to read it, too. 

Parrish interrupted his reverie.  “Are you guys seeing this?”  While the scientists drew together to confab, John, Lorne, and Cadman circled with weapons drawn. 

The only sounds were their footsteps and fingers tapping on screens.  John’s teeth were set on edge by the lack of chatter.  He was just now realizing that Rodney’s nonstop monologues were comforting.  “Books, everyone.  Books,” John ordered.  He checked the clearing as the tapping continued behind him – nothing out of the ordinary.  “Talk to me, Rodney.”

“There seems to be a lot more power buildup than the other times,” Rodney said.  John felt a hand on his shoulder, and glanced at his friend.  “It’s like-”

The words evaporated, as did the weight of Rodney’s hand.  “McKay?” John said, spinning to face the scientists.

Gonzales and Parrish were intent on their datapads, but Rodney was nowhere to be seen.  John keyed his radio, but before he could get a word out Lorne yelled, “Over there, sir!”

Everyone stared at the wall twenty-five meters away.  The ‘GODDAMMIT!’ – in what was unmistakably Rodney McKay’s you-are-nearly-too-stupid-to-live bellow – jarred them into action.  They all took off running, with John arriving at the edge of the meadow first.

“Get me the hell outta here!” Rodney yelled from inside what looked for all the world like a freestanding room.

“What the hell?” John said.  He circled the structure, still hearing Rodney bitching along with the sound of splashing water, but found no entrance.  “Hold on, Rodney!”  Between the pissed off scientist inside and the babble of voices outside, he couldn’t think.  “Everybody shut up for a minute!”   Everyone but Rodney fell silent.

John closed his eyes and, as he did with reluctant Ancient tech, concentrated on bending it to his will.  The hiss of a pressurized door unsealing had John opening his eyes to find a crack in the wall, with a handle nearly hidden in the seam.  He pulled the door open-

“McKay?”

“Goddammit, John!  Get me the hell out of here!”

Instead, John gaped.  He was completely unprepared for the sight of Rodney McKay in a bathtub, fully dressed, soaking wet, and covered in bubbles while suds splashed over the sides.  He instinctively offered his hand as McKay struggled to find his footing while keeping his datapad dry.  “Rodney?”

Rodney stepped out of the tub, flinging water and irritation in every direction.  John wanted to laugh at his crown of bubbles, but didn’t dare – mostly because this was entirely his fault.  The moment the scientist had touched his shoulder earlier, all thoughts of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH had fled, replaced by thoughts of having Rodney all to himself.

“This is your fault, Sheppard,” Rodney accused, complete with dramatically pointed finger.  As John wiped sudsy water off his chin, he spotted Lorne herding the others toward the jumper.

“Wha-  What?” John protested, despite knowing that McKay had undoubtedly reached the right conclusion.

“This is my bathtub,” Rodney said.  He looked around, saw the others were gone, and hissed, “You’re the only person who knows my quarters has a tub.”

John studied his boots, dreading the end of their friendship.  “Yeah, so?”

The silence stretched out so long he had to look up, despite the anger he expected to see.  Instead, Rodney wore his ‘A-ha!’ expression, with more than a hint of smug.  John stood frozen and watched wet fingers reach out and grasp his sleeve. 

“I take it there’s something you’d like to tell me?” Rodney said.  Before John could think of an explanation, he added, “Because there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, too.”

John’s heart plunged when Rodney let his hand drop, until he saw his smile.  Rodney cocked his head and smirked.  “You’re lucky I brought a change of clothes, or you’d be sleeping on the couch for a week.  Come on.”

Rodney strode off towards the jumper and John followed in a daze.

~*~*~

When they got back to the jumper, Rodney kicked everyone out so he could dry off and bitch at John some more.  “You could’ve told me, you know,” Rodney said as he pulled a dry pair of BDUs out of his pack.  John turned away to give Rodney a little privacy.  “And what’s with the prudishness?” Rodney asked, moving into John’s space.  “It’s not like you’re not going to see me naked.  Soon, I hope.”

John felt a smile start, but as always, it was smothered by the words of a man long dead.  “I couldn’t,” he said, still refusing to turn around.

“Couldn’t?  The military brainwashing can control what you say?”  That made John laugh, and finally look at Rodney.  “Would I have ever found out if this weren’t some sort of wish planet?” 

John couldn’t help the bitter laugh.  “That’s just it, Rodney.  A wish.  My dad’s favorite saying was ‘Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which ones fills up first’.” 

John watched Rodney’s face cycle through surprise, disgust, and land on anger.

Rodney reached out, brushing down John’s arm until their fingers tangled.  “Your father,” Rodney whispered, “was a complete idiot.”  He squeezed John’s hand, making his heart pinch, then let go to tuck in his shirt.  “A world class idiot.  Shit in one hand – was he a chimpanzee?  That’s so very unhygienic!”

John rolled his eyes.  “That’s not the point, Rodney!”  He sighed, missing Rodney’s touch.  “I just learned early on not to wish for stuff.”

Rodney reached out and took John’s hand, as if he knew.  “You don’t have to be that way with me.  In fact, since I don’t have a lot of practice at this, you should just tell me what you wish for, and I’ll work on it.”

John glanced at their hands before meeting Rodney’s eyes and finding desire there. But when Rodney leaned in to kiss him, John pulled back.  “Wait.”

“Jesus Christ, Sheppard,” Rodney bit out.  “What now?”

“What if…  What if this is just what I want, and whatever this planet does is making you have feelings for me?”

Rodney tugged John down and stared him in the eye.  “Do I look like I’m being forced?” Rodney whispered, ghosting cherry soft lips against John’s.  John inhaled as Rodney’s tongue brushed against his lips.  John found himself convinced; Rodney kissed like he drank coffee – greedily and accepting no substitutes.

The comm startled them just as his hands slipped into the back pockets of Rodney’s BDUs.  They separated just far enough for John to activate his radio.  “Sheppard here.  Report,” he said in a husky voice.

“Sorry, sir, but we’ve got an inbound jumper,” Lorne reported.  “It looks like the other team is returning early.”

“Thanks.  Sheppard out,” John said.  He adjusted himself in his BDUs and smiled when he realized Rodney was in the same predicament.  “Second team’s back.”

Rodney went from blissed out to professional in no time.  John hit the button, and followed Rodney down the ramp.  They joined Lorne’s team as other jumper settled right next to theirs.

“Wonder how they made out,” Rodney said, as the back ramp started dropping.  The double entendre made John snicker, and he bumped their shoulders as Teyla came into view.

Suddenly, Ronon caught their eye as he walked out with a crate full of weapons and a grin that could light up Times Square.

“Colonel.  It is good to see you all,” Teyla said.  “We have much to discuss.”  Before she could elaborate, Captain Alicia Vega breezed down the ramp accompanied by a Las Vegas showgirl – complete with feathered headdress and rhinestones that cast prisms in the setting sun – each with a smile to rival Ronon’s.

Rodney elbowed John, then rocked back on his heels.  “Let me guess…”