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Scenes from a Lesser War

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The news had come in a memo. An official looking memo, with large words and watermark electronic seals, fancy writing and the president's signature. John just stared at it for long minutes, eyes glazing over, losing focus.

He honestly didn't know how he felt about it.

Elizabeth appeared in his office minutes later; they both tended to browse their data bursts as soon as they arrived, to make sure there wasn't anything they needed to take care of right away.

This. This was something that needed taking care of. In a non-traditional sense.

"I see from your stunned look that you've already read it." Elizabeth took his own cue and half sat on his desk, one leg dangling artfully.

John nodded. "Yeah," his own rough voiced surprised him into clearing. "Yes," he tried again, it was only marginally better. "I read it."

She folded her hands carefully on her lap, oddly, examining one fingernail with extreme focus. "We should probably make an announcement; the rumor's are going to start pretty quickly. The memo is nearly a month old; the crew of the Daedelus undoubtedly know."

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make the darks words swimming on his screen come back into focus so he could read them again. "Probably. I'm just not sure--" he shrugged, "of anything actually."

Elizabeth frowned and then just as quickly stopped, the expression gone, muted away into something closer to diplomatic concern. "John, you don't have a problem with this, do you?"

His head shook automatically. "No, I'm just," he stopped, looking at her "Did you know?"

"Rumors," Elizabeth admits, "the usual rumors, it's cyclical. You know how it works."

John nodded, He did, everyone did The uniform code went under cosmetic changes every so often; at least the review board met and discussed and every time someone whispered something a little insane. A little over the edge. John secretly thought it was one side or another's ploy to get something else they really wanted. "Yeah, but you know rumors..."

"That I do," she shared a conspiratorial wink, making a passing reference to an incident a year earlier where both she and John had ended up part of a wild rumor mill. "I've already forwarded it to Rodney," John's chest cramped momentarily until she continued speaking, "and Carson. As department heads, they should be apprised in case of... incidents."

"Good idea," John said, auto pilot finally taking over. "Grand announcement or subtle rumor?"

Elizabeth titled her head. "How about a dance?"

"Dance?" That made John sit up. "What do you mean dance?"

"A party," she went on, "where I will dance with Captain Cadman and Lieutenant Palmer and you can take Lorne out for that spin I know you've always wanted."

John wished he was drinking coffee so he could hide the face he was undoubtedly making. "I'm not organizing it," he choked out.

She smiled brightly. "I hadn't planned on asking you to, don't worry."

Oh God, a dance, and he had it on good authority that Lorne, as well as good number of Marines, had two left feet, and very heavy shoes. "Right okay, but give it a little time to sink in before we start with the visual aides, okay?" Because John had a heavy feeling that *all* department heads were going to have to set an example, and he was going to need time to deal with the thought of dancing with Rodney.

"I figure about a month after the initial announcement." Elizabeth assured him.

"So we're going the announcement route?" John asked, voice cracking. He'd done a lot of announcing in his day. Announcements about hygiene and STDs and smelly socks and used condoms on the floor of one particular storage closet, even one humiliating day he explained sock darning about nine months into their first year on the expedition. This, however, was something completely different. This was something you just didn't talk about. Until now.

This might be thing to finally give him an ulcer.

"I think that's best John," Elizabeth was saying. "I've cleared tomorrow's morning meeting so that we can discuss the nuts and bolts of the next few weeks and months." She peered at him closely. "Do you need some help figuring out what you're going to say?" She leaned forward, looking concerned. "You're looking a bit gray there."

Oh God, there were so many things he had to figure out how to say. "I'm good. This is sort of a fraternity thing, we speak our own language." He offered a weary smile and hoped he didn't look as nauseated as he felt.

Elizabeth took a long hard look at him and then nodded. "Good. Can you have something ready by tonight? I was thinking that the soo-

"Tomorrow," he said tightly.

She wavered. "I'm not sure that's wise--"

"Tomorrow," he said again, more forcefully.

She stared at him, but something must have shown in his eyes, because she just nodded again and said, "Call me if you need me." She slid off the desk and nodded good bye.

Scotch, he needed scotch.

He took a few more minutes to collect himself so that when he walked through the hallways he didn't look like a complete zombie. All things considered, someone might try to issue a quarantine and then he'd have to explain. Deep breathing and pinching his nose worked wonders, and when he was pretty sure he could walk straight, he closed the laptop and put up his well abused 'out of the office' sign. He didn't officially sign off for the day, his radio stayed in his ear, his sidearm well attached. He just couldn't sit there like it was a normal day.

So he didn't.

He took two MRE's and a canteen and he walked. By now most of the city has at least been mapped and certified safe or unsafe. But there were still large chunks that were mostly deserted, their expedition still small in comparison to a city the size of Manhattan.

******

After the Daedlus hyperdrived to the rescue and after Rodney had successfully cloaked the city and the wraith were gone and the city, for all its wounded and rubble. was oddly silent, Rodney came to John's room looking ragged and worn.

He hugged unprompted, his shaking arms drawing around John like a vise. "Don't do that again," Rodney glared and then promptly fainted.

******

The days were short that time of year, and John got to catch the sunset without effort, even after walking around for a couple of hours. He answered a few questions over the radio, but nothing called him back to the main section of the city.

Sitting on the small balcony's floor, back pressed hard against the wall, legs bent casually, the laughter finally broke through. It started with a small twist of lips, smile niggling and wiggling its way to the surface, twitching as he tried to suppress it. But it was a lost cause, and soon his arms were holding his sides through a couple of loud guffaws, trickling off into stupid little giggles that he was ashamed were coming out of his mouth.

It ended with one startling sob that hurt his chest and left him aching.

******

After Ronon and Teyla were comfortably settled into Beckett's care, the end of their withdrawal nearly finished, John found Rodney alone in his lab. He was hunched over a computer typing frenetically, looking two seconds away from flopping over on the keyboard.

He muscled Rodney back to his room, the protests scarily few and far between. However, once back in his room, Rodney's eyes sharpened and narrowed. "You did it again."

"You're not gonna faint, are you?" John joked, but it fell flat.

Rodney glared, stalking forward, one finger out and pointing. "No I'm not going to faint. You however," he poked, "are going to be the death of me." He was loud, louder than normal for Rodney. Sharp and biting with an edge.

"What?" John asked as Rodney advanced further. He let him, figuring the guy had possibly had a very bad week, at least according to Beckett. He got unnerve,d though, when his back hit the wall and Rodney kept pushing.

"What?" Rodney asked back, not really asking at all. "WHAT?"

They were pressed against each other. Rodney was searing heat into his front. John swallowed convulsively, looking into Rodney's flushed face and dilated eyes and suddenly he was just as angry. "What?" he asked again, "what did you want me to do?"

"I--" Rodney stopped, face pinched.

John smiled triumphantly. "Come on Rodney," he taunted. "Give me a better option."

"I don't know!" Rodney spat. "Okay, I don't know, but I can't--" He stopped again, a small choked sound came from his throat. "I can't," he said again, shaking his head, "can't, can't, can't."

Rodney kissed him once, hard and wet, his tongue running along the seam of John's lips before burying his face in John's neck panting quietly.

John moved next, hand finding Rodney's pants, pushing at the material, feeling the hard outline clearly. The heel of his hand rubbed harshly, the panting in his ear changing cadence with every stroke, the body in his arms stiffening and relaxing and tightening in anticipation.

His hand made it into Rodney's boxers by sheer force of will, and Rodney's hard cock practically leapt into his hand, damp and wanting. John formed a tight fist, pulling quickly, roughly; he couldn't make himself slow, especially when Rodney's hand closed around his own needy erection.

It was over quickly, scarily quickly, and they were on their knees, breathing hard, still coming , dicks waving in the wind. Rodney's hand was tight on his shoulder, nearly painfully so, and John gripped Rodney's hips, thumbs making lazy circles, a strange counterpoint to his own tension.

Rodney eventually stood, got a washcloth and cleaned up. Tucked away gently by Rodney's own hands, John couldn't look. Then it was time to leave.

"This wasn't positive reinforcement," Rodney snapped before the door closed in his face.

******

John didn't actually get that scotch he was looking for, but on his way back to the more used corridors of Atlantis, he ran into Caldwell, who slipped him a bottle of Grey Goose.

"I thought you might need it. This'll be interesting enough without being responsible for an entire base cut off from gossip." Caldwell informed him.

John nodded, surprisingly touched by the gesture. "Thanks."

Caldwell nodded and walked off and John found himself doing the same, one hand stroking the bottle thoughtfully. He wandered, aimlessly, unsurprised to find himself in front of a familiar door.

Rodney looked thoroughly bored with his presence and only then did John think he might not have bothered with his 'interoffice' inbox since early that morning. He remembered Rodney's voice talking loud and fast about some new discovery he was dying to try.

"What?" Rodney asked.

John blinked hard and shook his head, pushing past him and into the room, going right for Rodney's laptop and his email program.

"If you break that, I'm taking yours."

John just smirked and swiveled the screen in Rodney's direction. "Read," he said simply, moving off to find the two tumblers he knew Rodney had amongst his personal possessions. John had a good feeling he wasn't going to be drinking alone tonight.

******

Rodney came to him, tired and ragged, and John could still see flecks of mud around the edges. John had only spent a fraction of the time in the same mud and guck and it had taken *him* two very thorough showers to get rid of all of it. Rodney looked liked he'd tried but that his energy had given up in the middle.

"What's up Rodney?" John asked, eyes first catching on the blooming bruise on Rodney's arm, automatically flickering to the butterfly bandages on Rodney's neck, where the knife had dug in repeatedly.

"Can't sleep," Rodney shrugged, stepping inside.

"So you decided I shouldn't sleep either?" John wasn't going to admit that he'd spent the last hour staring up into the dark ceiling.

"Oddly, I could care less." Rodney dropped to his bed, slumping immediately, weariness sort of radiating from him in the same loud way frenetic energy usually did. "That thing you did? Where you stepped in front of the beam? That was monumentally stupid."

John remembered it clearly; the hostages, Rodney pale and bleeding slowly, the strange attachments to the usual crisp flowing lines of Ancient technology. No one sure what Raline would do at any given second, a scientist gone mad, certain he was right and everyone else was wrong.

The beam of light that hurt worse than anything he'd ever felt, and Rodney's face, even paler, struggling away from his captors, screaming and yelling. "We've had this conversation before," and the words were thick in his mouth. He knew what he was saying, offering the only thing he could.

Rodney's head shot up, the whites of eyes large and glowing, even as his irises bled out into his eyes. "Yes," he rasped, "we have."

They reached at the same time, but John sank to his knees before Rodney's hands, hot and hard on his arms, could pull him any closer. Rodney's stomach quivered under his touch, jumping as his fingers slid down and hooked under the edges of his shirt. John skimmed his way around the large bruise on Rodney's right side, stopping himself from anything less perfunctory.

Rodney's cock was already half hard by the time he got to it. and it was probably the worst blow job in the history of recorded time, but Rodney didn't complain. He just gasped and jerked and twitched and came flatteringly fast.

 

******

Rodney was quiet, unnaturally quiet, as he moved to sit next to John on the bed. His hand wrapped around the proffered glass tightly, and he took the alcohol in one swig. John did the same.

It burned nicely, leaving a warm fuzzy feeling in his chest, easing the knot that had taken up residence artificially. Rodney's glass appeared in his visions, shaking minutely and clinking solidly against the bottle. John obliged them both.

They drank in unison and John nearly choked on the symbolism.

"So," Rodney's voice was gravely and high pitched all at once, "I'm assuming you-- I mean that is--" he sighed dramatically. "Now what?"

John poured them each a third drink and shrugged. "I have no idea."

The third they sipped quietly, staring off into space. Rodney broke first, hand reaching out and across John to put his glass down. He then gently took John's own glass from his hands and placed it beside his own on the bedside table.

Rodney's face was open and flushed, his eyes wide and his head titled up, in Deep Thought position. Without thinking, John reached out, index and middle finger tracing a soft line down the curve of Rodney's neck.

The noise Rodney made was small and choked. He grabbed John's hand in his own and stared down at them, John's hand lax in his own. John twisted his wrist until his palm was upright and flat, open and waiting. Rodney's hand shifted slowly until they were pressed together, in a mirror image. Their fingers fell in sequence, shifting slowly until they twined together, holding tightly.

They'd never done this, the slow touching, the careful movement. Always fast and rough, always running away before the rest of it caught up. Now though, now they had time. John's other hand reached out, cupping Rodney's cheek, thumb brushing the flushed skin carefully.

Their lips brushed softly. Then again. And again. This was freedom. Soft, careful kisses they could take their time with, enjoy and savor. Closed mouthed little flutters that filled John with heat, suffused him happily.

Rodney's hand once again came up to mirror John's, changing the angle, holding tightly, fiercely, a strange counter point to the unbelievably gentle kisses, each one intense and dizzying. John couldn't stop. Didn't want to stop.

Eventually they pushed their shoes off and lay back on the bed. They had to stop kissing for long seconds to do it, but their hands didn't leave each other, they just held more desperately.

Rodney settled next to him, long and firm, pushing gently. Their legs bent and settled, and their lips found each other once again. Something expanded in John's chest, blooming hot and painful, but each brush of Rodney's lips softened it just a little.

Lips raw and puffy eventually stopped kissing; when each one hurt more than it helped they slowed, lips just grazing skin, noses nuzzling quietly.

John's skin buzzed, his head was foggy, and Rodney licked salty tears off his cheeks. Eventually they fell into a drowsy daze wrapped firmly around each other and for the first time ever, they slept together.

******

He slammed Rodney against the wall hard enough to force Rodney's head back with a muted thunk.

"What the hell was that for?" Rodney demanded.

John put a hand over Rodney's mouth; he couldn't go through the entire conversation this time, the need, the fear that thrummed under his skin, heady and arousing. His hand worked into Rodney's pants, fast and efficient, as if he hadn't only done it a handful of times before.

Rodney understood and gave permission in one single back arch and relaxed. Jamming a knee between Rodney's legs, John groaned when they clamped around his thigh, heat searing through his uniform pants. He released Rodney's mouth, hand sliding behind Rodney's head to rest on the back of his neck, holding their temples close, and then braced it on the wall

He waited for Rodney's shaking hand to reach for him, to fumble a caress over cloth, through the sparks of pleasure that caused, making John gasp. Then it was all pleasure pulled from inside of him, Rodney's hot breath on his cheek, and perfunctory release that didn't make him feel any better at all.

******

John woke up missing an arm, three fingers and part of his leg, lost somewhere in the tangle of himself and Rodney. He wiggled a bit and hissed softly at the sharp pins and needles.

Rodney's breathing hitched and he muttered something incoherent into John's shoulder. Enough blood returned for movement more refined than an uncontrolled jerk, so John shifted a bit more and carded carefully through Rodney's hair, using the pleasant sensation to attempt to overpower the not so pleasant sensation starting up in his leg.

A wobbly smile threatened to break over his face as he looked down at Rodney, mouth half open, line of dried spittle ending in a small moist patch on John's shirt, sleep flush highlighting his cheeks. Endearing was the word that appeared in his mind, and it almost made him frown, because Rodney McKay was a whole host of things, but endearing might be pushing the envelope.

He snorted once and inched closer to John, nose pressing against his chest briefly before a reposition and gentle nuzzle, which may or may not have been a nose being scratched. Okay, endearing might work, on a trial basis.

John stretched, as much as the other body pressed against him would allow, feeling Rodney's chest and stomach breathe in and out and his thigh slide back and forth over John's and his fingers brush tantalizing down John's spine. It was a nice feeling.

"Mnguhmorning?" Rodney's sleep rough voice asked. His eyes were still closed and his face soft and relaxed.

"Just about," John answered, relaxing his muscles and curling back around Rodney. Their lips did a strange orbit around each other, circling slowly until they finally touched. It was still chaste and sweet and gentle and really, utterly perfect. Sadly, John didn't think he had the energy in him for much more. Still he went back for another, pulling on Rodney's upper lip, sucking gently.

Rodney hummed quietly, did something quick with his tongue in return and then pulled away to rest on John's shoulder. "I think parts of my back are asleep."

"My leg may never recover," John assured him, letting his chin rest on Rodney's head.

"Yeah well if you limp all day, you can blame it on your own inability to recognize your own limits," Rodney's hand stroked up his torso, "'I hurt it while running' is a sentence that can naturally fall from your lips."

"Tell people you fell asleep in front of your--" John stopped. It was like learning how walk all over again.

"What?" Rodney shifted, his face turning up to look him in the eye. When John didn't answer, Rodney moved more, hand coming up to trace his cheek. "Seriously, what?"

"I just," John frowned, "I just realized that if we wanted to--" he swallowed. Even talking about the possibility felt weird, "If we wanted to, we don't have to make anything up at all."

Rodney pushed up even further, leg now comfortably slung over John's hip. Two hands braced themselves on either side of John's head, and Rodney looked down. "Do we?"

Their bodies were twisted firmly around each other, and John's first impulse was to hold on tight and just sink into Rodney's comfortable heat. Reality, cold and inescapable started creeping inside his chest, a hard knot forming firmly in the center.

"Do we want to?" Rodney asked again, pressing a careful kiss to his lips. "Is that really an option?" There was no hopeful tremor in his voice, just the solid tones of a skeptic. Apparently Rodney had thought further ahead than John was capable of.

"I don't know," John said truthfully. He reached for Rodney's hand and pulled it into his own. Without both arms to support him, Rodney settled back down on his side, still wrapped around John. "Cat's outta the bag either way," John said with a little laugh, letting their fingers braid together.

For once, Rodney didn't question, and John could feel his nod against his chest. Maybe he felt it too, the inescapable fact that once they'd kissed, hell probably even once John had walked into the room, that this choice would be the one they'd have to face. Not the harder more painful choice that they'd lived with for years; all versus none was no longer an option.

The world of some versus more didn't seem all that comfortable either.

******

John came back from the dead. He'd heard that sort of thing was to be expected if you took the sort of field position he had. It had taken the better part of a week to work his way back to Atlantis and another day to try and remember the coordinates of the alpha site, because his transmitter had gone the way of the dodo in the original blast.

Later, hours later, in his room, with the lights low and every single muscle bone weary and aching, Rodney kissed him. Fast and solid and sloppy, tongue fucking him hard and deep.

There was a tube pushed into his hand and Rodney's incredibly serious face staring straight at him, hands unbuckling his own pants. "Bed or desk?" he asked, zipper coming down.

"Desk," John rasped when he was finally able to speak. Desk, because the bed would have hurt too much.

Rodney nodded sharply; he seemed to understand

******

Atlantis seemed to have come to a stunned silence--a loud stunned silence. People talked. There wasn't a discussion that didn't include the latest news in it in some manner or another. John, for the most part, encouraged positive attitudes and discouraged negative attitudes and generally played queer when a joke was needed to defuse an otherwise tense situation. His left wrist was getting sore from all the flopping.

Elizabeth's dance was greeted with laughter and then horrified stares from all parties, who then would turn to John, pleading.

"Sorry guys, this one's outta my hands," he'd say and then walk away jauntily, or pirouette, depending on the audience.

Rumor had it that Rodney had just laughed really hard at anyone who came to him and then told them to leave; he had more important things to worry about than some stupid mixer that would undoubtedly end in lots of food and booze. Why were people complaining?

John and Rodney spent a lot of time locked tightly around each other, kissing heavily. Dragging lips and tongue across each other, taking their time, making small sounds. There was even movie watching with Rodney's legs tangled in his, arms wound tight. They drew the line at feeding each other, though possibly only because it came too close to sex.

A few nights after the amazing revelation that had everyone stunned, they were lying in his bed, drowsy from a long day and dazed from kissing. Rodney's fingers drew lewd equations on his chest, pairing up the oddest symbols. "You're fighting that part of you that wants to set an example, aren't you?" Rodney asked suddenly.

"What?" John asked, taking one lazy finger and adding his own expression to his chest.

"With the whole," he waved his hand expressively, gesturing at the two of them, "thing. With us."

It was a thought John had had repeatedly. No one wanted to be the first, evidenced enough by how everything had remained status quo so far. No alarming declarations in the mess, or in the control room, or in any other public space. Not even the civilians had really come forward to offer support. John had visions of it turning ugly if something didn't break the slowly rising tension. He'd never before asked his men to do something he wasn't willing to do himself.

A change in regulation was one thing; a change in attitude was entirely another. He'd screwed his career before, but now was different, a few years shy of full birds and so many things-- people to worry about. Rodney to worry about.

"I don't know," he answered honestly. "There's a lot to consider."

"I'll let you look at the charts I made on my computer," Rodney offered just before kissing him again. They twisted, John climbing on top, leg pushing between Rodney's. When had charts and graphs become hot?

John peppered small kisses down Rodney's neck, sucking at a random patch of skin here and there. Tasting soap and sweat and *Rodney* way down deep, licking and nibbling.

"Oh!" Rodney gasped. "Speaking of-- oh do that again-- things that are ungodly good, is there a point in time I can schedule on my calendar for when we're going to have sex again?"

John froze, Rodney's skin between his teeth. Slowly he let go and looked up. Rodney looked at him with his head tilted and chin jutted out. John could just hear the mental foot tapping. Beneath him, Rodney stayed relaxed and his hands continued to trace stray patterns. John licked is lips carefully. "In a hurry?"

"I'd just like to know," Rodney said amiably, "I'm not opposed to what we've been doing, it's very reassuring."

"Reassuring?" John raised an eyebrow.

Rodney flushed. "It's everything we never got to do," Rodney said almost shyly and shrugged with his whole body, rolling it against John, "and it's overwhelming in some ways I'll grant you that. But I've never been good with anticipation. It's a good thing I never had to actually wait through school admissions process. I hear those are killers."

He smiled, but he had no answer; how could he talk to Rodney about things he wasn't sure of himself. "Is there a rush?"

Rodney's fingers touched his face carefully. "Not at all," he whispered.

******

Rodney's cast was unnaturally white, even against his pale skin. Sunken, haunted eyes greeted him when he entered the room.

"Don't ever do that again," John bit out angrily, oh god, so angry. It bubbled under his skin, raw and chaffing. "What on earth made you think that was the smart thing to do?"

"Humor the insane man?" Rodney's eyes narrowed. "Gee, where would I have learned that trick?"

John's jaw clenched so hard that his teeth made a grinding noise. "McKay," he growled, stepping forward, taking the man's healthy and whole arm in his hand, squeezing tight. "you told him to break your arm."

"Yes," Rodney nodded tightly, "and I really thought he was going to do it?" His voice cracked. "What did you want to happen Colonel? Did *you* want to volunteer?" Rodney tilted his head inquisitively. "And then who would have shot him, huh? Remember what my aim is like during tense situations?"

Except it's dead on; as long as Rodney's not firing a projectile weapon, he hits the mark when he really wants to. Every time. John felt the anger simmer and sputter and translate into hot rage down his spine ending in an ache in the pit of his belly.

Rodney lunged, teeth clamping around the skin on his neck, wet and hot and sharp, running straight down to his balls. John's other hand went to Rodney's other arm, squeezing, two tight clamps on moving energy.

They both grunted as John hit the wall, and Rodney's teeth reflexively bit down harder. John's hands slid down and around, cupping Rodney's ass, kneading roughly. With one last suck, Rodney pulled away and pushed a chair towards wall.

"Sit," Rodney spat, unbuckling his pants one handed. "I'm afraid the desk is out of the question this time around."

The lube was thrown at him and John found his dick and slicked up roughly, strong violent pulls on his own flesh that made him moan harshly. Then Rodney was there, pushing his hands out of the way, peeling the corners of his pants down as far they'd go, then he spun and sat, easing onto John slowly.

******

Two weeks before The Prom, as it had been nicknamed, flyers went up on the BBS advertising dance lessons. John was pretty positive about the whole idea, it was at the very least a step towards acceptance that The Prom was actually happening and wasn't a mass auditory and visual hallucination like the engineers kept saying.

Then large sections of the science division started wearing sparkly little rainbow jewelry. Some of the women even had little pink triangle earrings. As a show of solidarity, it was pretty subtle for the entire group, but on the other hand, that was probably why John approved.

Rodney couldn't stop fiddling with his necklace; it was long enough to tuck into his shirt if he needed to, with a set of small metallic circles holding the chain taut when Rodney would let go of it long enough for gravity to do its work. For the most part, though, they shifted through his fingers, making dull clacking noises.

Someone rudely questioned the safety of such an object being worn by someone working on the sorts of projects Rodney worked on.

"Nonconductive," Rodney snapped, "the science team made them, it's nice to know you think we're all morons."

John made a mental note of the Sergeant who'd asked the question. He'd been making a careful list for two weeks. So far it was relatively small and he hoped it remained that way.

The first official coming out happened very soon after that.

A team came in hot, and a good portion of them landed a stay in the infirmary. Barely a half hour later the most calm looking frantic person John had ever seen was pacing outside the curtained off area where Beckett was treating Dr. Fredericks.

When Captain Henderson spotted John, he came to attention so fast that *John* felt something sprain in his own body. "At ease, Captain."

The man's stance relaxed, but he most certainly didn't. When Beckett called him in, John caught a glimpse of one hand holding another and made a note to keep an ear out for anything worrisome.

He ignored the strange feeling in his stomach as he watched the shadow of Captain Henderson hunch closer to the prone Dr. Fredericks. He ran into Rodney outside of the infirmary. "He's going to be fine," John told him and the small frisson of worry he could see in Rodney's eyes eased.

"Good," he sniffed dramatically, "he's working on something that would take weeks to finish if I had to hand it to someone else."

"You big softy." John mock punched Rodney on the arm, only smiling wider when Rodney frowned and covered the spot with his hand, complaining about delicate skin.

They ambled on to lunch together, and John took the time to enjoy being able to just be. To listen to Rodney go on and then to ignore him. It was comforting to just sit there and egg Rodney on.

"--what does it matter?"

And then reality intruded.

The shorter one stood up, chair skidding backward. "It matters because I didn't know!"

"And was it any of your business?" The one with the weasel face stood up, too. "Is it really anyone's business?"

"Public. Showers." Shorty Stupidpants bit out.

The first public argument was between two of Rodney's people, so John hung back, eyeing the crowd and surreptitiously calling a couple of guards to hug the wall. Rodney meanwhile stomped over loudly and angrily.

"We could be eaten by a living cliché, and you let *this* get in the way of saving our asses?" Rodney yelled. "Just go and defect while you're at it, it's quicker and more effective."

They two instigators were remarkably silent.

"Your rooms," Rodney pointed. "Now. We'll talk later, after you've had some private time to reflect."

The two men left slowly, and John imagined their heads were bowed; he still nodded for them to be followed. The room was unnaturally quiet and still. Next to him, he could feel the rage radiating off of Rodney.

"I cannot believe you people," Rodney yelled at the wall, shoulder's held tense, "who you fuck does not affect how well you can do math, or program a computer or even," his teeth clenched further, and John was already taking him by the arm and leading him away, "how well you shoot a gun!"

Rodney was fighting him, pulling to go back. "You want to hate someone, hate the wraith!"

John pulled harder, Rodney practically vibrating under his hand, but Rodney followed, his silence abysmally loud. Finally, John decided just to get someplace private, and a small store room between one lab and another was the closest. Inside, Rodney finally slumped, energy leaving en masse.

"I possibly overacted." Rodney said, sliding down the wall.

"No one'll notice." John shook his head, sliding down next to him.

They hooked hands and arms, leaning into each other easily, breathing together in long pulls of air. "Better?" John asked into the silence.

"No," Rodney answered petulantly. "Today officially sucks worse than the defense of my second thesis."

"Look, it's gonna be really weird, and these incidents are gonna happen," John started carefully, "more and more frequently for a few weeks."

"I know." Rodney said. "I know, and this just drives home the point you haven't been making."

"I want to sign papers," John said suddenly, looking at their entwined fingers.

"What?" Rodney shifted next to him, pulling at his arm so they could face each other. "Papers?"

John shrugged, looking off to the left. "Next of kin, 401k, that stuff." The silence ate away at him, but Henderson's pale face faded over Rodney's.

"What?" Rodney's voice pitched higher than normal. "You- you what?" He swallowed loudly.

"Sorry," John said immediately. "I just," he flailed, literally, his free hand just sort of waved in the air, "that kid this morning?"

"Fredericks is 30." Rodney interrupted absently.

"Kid," John said firmly. "I just-- it was-- we can walk through that gate and --" he waved his hand around, still flailing.

"You did not just ask me to marry you while sitting on a dirty floor in a storage closest." Rodney said, pulling John to him, broad hand stroking up his arm, fingertip tracing an invisible line on his neck. "Because that would be-- so you."

"Marriage?" John gulped. No no. Not marriage. Except, maybe just a little. Because he wanted that security, of knowing he could speak for Rodney. Of knowing *Rodney* could speak for him.

"Okay, not marriage," Rodney agreed, "because that's so-- scary." He brushed their lips together and it was-- better. So much better and that was impossible because kissing Rodney was already scarily good. "Papers, huh?"

"Yeah." John nodded. "Papers."

"Uh," Rodney was suspiciously glassy-eyed. "Okay then. Yes."

"Yes." John agreed, still nodding manically, smile threatening to break out over his face. "Yes, great, that's--" deep breath, the room was a little spinny, "that's great."

"Yeah," Rodney agreed, moving in again, foreheads touching, noses bumping gently, almost nuzzling, "great. Really," they kissed, "great."

"Keep this up," John smiled into another kiss, "and we're gonna need to get you a thesaurus."

Rodney pinched his arm and then rubbed it affectionately. "Keep that up," they kissed again, lips pressing warmly, opening for a quick taste, "and you get to sleep on the couch."

******

The woman, Reena, was Athosian. John's age, maybe a little younger. She was strong, musculature evident even as she walked across the village. Broad shoulders, tall, gorgeous by all definitions of the word.

She knew what she wanted.

John had her against a tree, rough bark digging into his fingers. Hips moving fast and hard against hers, face turned away, buried in the back of her neck, biting hard and muffling his own noises.

With just enough presence of mind to make sure he wasn't a complete asshole, he managed to hold off just long enough to feel her fluttering around him, strong muscles holding him tightly. Duty done, he pushed her more solidly into the trunk and rammed home a dozen times, orgasm ripping through him harshly.

She thanked him and wandered off, knowing look in her eyes, but no venom to be found.

She *thanked him*.

Nausea rolled through his stomach as someone called him back to the jumper.

After two long weeks, Rodney had finally woken up.

******

After the incident in the mess, Kate Heightmeyer stepped forward with some of her plans to help 'integrate the new social situation into the norms of their working environment'.

John left it to the people with the obviously skewed world view but tried to look incredibly earnest when he warned them that not everyone wants to be 'helped' and they were stepping into a very structured 'closed society'. He was mildly upset at how flustered she got when he shot the buzz words right back at her.

The storage closet incident had taken on epic proportions in his mind, a memory with warm and fuzzy edges around it that made him feel alternately light-headed and scared out of his fucking mind. If Rodney's ever-changing emotional state was any indication, he was in a similar boat.

Fredericks and Henderson seemed to be the crack in the dam. After them, two more couples and two or three individuals stood up proud and tall. Kate's readjustment of her schedule, new *more* open door policy and anonymous signups for counseling seemed to help things along; it was better than taking out a flyer at the very least. John made a point of interacting with every person under his command that ended up on his other list. The list of people to be watched out for, instead of just watched.

Late at night, with Rodney's arm tight around his side, softly snoring into John's chest, he would smile and hook his leg behind Rodney's knee. He gave it another week before they had to find a different solution; there muscles being completely reshaped the way they slept now. Even with the moderately larger beds that had been found and then distributed a few years back.

Usually, if someone needed something official changed in their files and they were part of the military, it came down to John or Lorne to take care of it. Being the highest ranking officers on base, it was their signatures that landed on paperwork before it was forwarded on. Rodney and anyone civilian went to Elizabeth for the types of paperwork they were talking about.

Because it was John and because Rodney didn't even resemble an officer on a good day , they both had to go to Elizabeth. That wasn't really something he'd considered when he'd proposed -- oh God, he needed to find another word for that -- the idea. Not that he remembered actively thinking about it very hard before making the suggestion. His thoughts kept circling the drain whenever he thought that far ahead.

One week until P-Day (The Prom), Rodney was arguing with a knot in his laces, and John was staring at the long list of personal papers that could possibly be altered.

"What's that?" Rodney asked.

John looked up, startled; when had *Rodney* learned to move that quietly? "My will."

"Are you dying?" Rodney asked immediately. "Is that why you proposed-- oh god, bad word, bad, bad word." He paled and then straightened, pointing a finger at John. "That doesn't change the fact that you're going to make me a war widow."

"Widower," John corrected without thinking. "I'm not dying." he said immediately, as Rodney overdramatically sat down hard on the bed. "Really, this is part of the whole," he hand waved helplessly, "paperwork thing."

"Oh," Rodney wilted. "Oh! That makes sense, why didn't I think of that?"

Good question. John had no idea. So he shrugged. "I was just thinking that I haven't changed this thing in... ten years. I thought maybe it was time."

Rodney nodded. "Maybe I'll do the same."

They both stared at each other. Because it was huge, really, monumental, despite the fact that their lives had revolved around each other for a very long time. Dotting the I's, crossing the T's, saying it out in concrete terms was-- serious.

Really, really, serious.

"I'm Canadian!" Rodney suddenly announced, going pale again.

"Yes," John said slowly.

"I mean," Rodney snapped, "that we're about one piece of paper away from actual marriage."

They both sucked in a deep breath.

"Yeah," Rodney nodded, "okay, no. Bad idea."

John nodded frantically.

There was a pause for kissing, because kissing made a lot of things focus and come into perspective. Long slow kisses that took away his breath, and the feel of Rodney pressed tightly to him, warming him from the inside out. Hitching breaths and speaking in soft whispers.

Clarity.

Yeah, he wanted this man to speak for him.

They went to Elizabeth in the morning. Actually, they made an appointment with her, asking her to block out some time for when they wouldn't be interrupted. John supposed the unusual nature of the request got them a quick turn around time; usually they just sort of barged in. It also meant that as soon as they entered the room, they were subjected to her intensely curious stare, complete with mouth twitch.

It was like detention in 5th grade.

Awkward shuffling of feet and arranging of hands and uncomfortable silence from both he and Rodney had her raising an expectant eyebrow. "Gentlemen, you look as though you're about to confess to the exploding toilet incident."

John coughed through Rodney's distinctly nervous laugh. "No Elizabeth, not confessing to that." He winced; bad choice of words.

She folded her hands together and leaned in. "Then what are you confessing to?"

Rodney laughed again, a short snicker, and John kicked him in the shin.

"Ow!" Rodney rubbed his leg. "If that bruises..."

John rolled his eyes.

"Gentlemen?" Elizabeth prompted. "You called this meeting."

"Right," John said, running a hand through his hair, "we need to talk to you about something important."

"Yes, important." Rodney echoed.

"Important?" Elizabeth asked, leaning on her clasped hands. There must have been something on their faces, because she straightened up almost immediately. "You're starting to scare me, John? Rodney? What's going on?"

It was easier to just hand over the little USB file transfer thingy. So he did, sitting back next to Rodney nervously while she loaded the file. Rodney meanwhile, was trying his hardest not the hyperventilate, and John in his very first public display, despite that it was in a private office with the walls opaque and hidden between their bodies, gently squeezed Rodney's leg. Rodney's hand, sweaty and warm briefly closed over his, and they shared a quick, nervous smile.

Elizabeth eyes though, had not left her computer screen. They just got wider and wider. Oh boy, was that John's heart trying to beat its way through his chest? Yes, it was.

"Well," she said eventually, voice maybe a little higher pitched than normal, "I *think* I'm surprised."

"What?" John asked.

"Nothing, never mind. Okay." She breathed slowly. "So I guess we need to do some signature swapping."

In the end, the actual act, signing a bunch of electronic signatures, pen passing around, each time getting warmer and sweatier until finally John had to take a moment and wipe it on his shirt, seemed anticlimactic.

Other than the weird echoing door slamming sound John heard in his own head when Elizabeth signed her last signature and saved the whole thing and added it to the 'to be compressed for transfer' queue.

Awkward silence really sucked, and yet John couldn't make himself speak.

Elizabeth cleared her throat and smiled. "So, I take it this is still hush-hush?"

Nodding, more frantic nodding, and he and Rodney had to be making a horrible impression. Rodney stuck his hand out clumsily, "Thank you, Elizabeth."

They shook firmly and she turned to John, offering her hand. John took it and looked at her carefully. She was smiling, but it was hollow and forced. Wonderful.

"Congratulations, gentlemen. If you want time for a honeymoon--" both John and Rodney jumped, "--right, I guess not. Well the offer stands."

John and Rodney left as quickly as humanly possible after that.

******

"So I hear you slept with some woman on the mainland." Rodney was finally up and around and prying into places he had no right to go.

John could practically hear the 'that slut' looming around the sentence, doing little cartwheels around Rodney's head. "I really think that's none of your business."

They were alone in John's room, lighting dark and oppressive. John made half a move to go around Rodney, but he was caught around the arm with surprising strength, shoving him into a wall and holding John there with his entire body. "Was she hot?" Rodney asked, breath hot in ear.

John arched back, feeling Rodney's cock pressing into his ass, hot and hungry. "Yes," he hissed, cheek pressed into the cool wall. "And she fucked like a champion."

Rodney's hips ground into John's. "I bet she was horrible," he shifted again, thrusting hard. "I bet it was all you could do to make yourself come."

His dick pressed painfully into the wall, so hard, harder than he'd been in a long time. "I wish I could do her again right now," John whispered, inching his hips back, needing to feel more of Rodney, *all* of Rodney."

"No you don't," Rodney bit his shoulder through John's t-shirt, reaching around to undo his belt buckle, hands reaching down, leaving hot streaks on his skin. Giving his dick two or three vicious pulls before leaving him cold and aching. The ominous snap-click of a bottle echoed over their labored breathing, and then something slick traced down his ass. "Ever done this before, Colonel?" Rodney whispered, gently but steadily pushing one finger in.

John gasped; it burned and hurt and scratched an itch he didn't even know he had. "No," he ground out, pushing back.

"Good," Rodney said, twisting his fingers, moving and hooking and--

"*Oh*," John shuddered hard, legs liquefying.

Rodney pressed closer. "Stay standing," he ordered. A second finger went in, more twisting and turning.

More hot pleasure pooling, his legs locked, and John buried his face into the crevice of an elbow, his sharp gasps scaring himself.

"It wasn't this good," Rodney twisted, his own cock hard on John's ass, thrusting lazily. "It wasn't this, was it?"

Fuck, Jesus it was good. Rodney was talking in that low, insane voice that John was too out of it to understand anymore. He was inside John, moving in and out, filling and taking and-- "Oh!" He came. Devastatingly and without warning, and Rodney just pressed into him hard, one firm hand on his naked hip holding him tightly.

Then he moved, and his fingers left, and John bit back a harsh whimper. Rodney, however, didn't move far, and soon the scorching hot head of his cock pressed in, burning and hurting and ohgodsogood. Slowly but steadily Rodney went, easing in without reprieve until finally their hips bumped and Rodney whimpered quietly.

Jack hammering thrusts, short and staccato and rough rocked John with pleasure so intense he felt like he was blacking out and coming again. "Yeah, that's right Colonel, this is fucking, this is what you want." Then Rodney bit his shoulder one last time, his entire body stiffening, and heat flooded John's insides.

They both slid to the floor, wrecked.

******

The Prom was-- festive.

Someone had found a way to make rainbow shoelaces, and the jewelry, which had been subtle up until that point, had moved onto, well, spectacular just seemed like the *wrong* word.

John made a special note to get the name of whoever designed the decorations and to never ask them for any similar help. Ever. Blown up rubber gloves, which John bet Carson didn't volunteer too readily, painted with faces and figures and shaped into fairly lewd renditions. Though the he had to admit that the creativity some of them showed was rather remarkable. Someone also figured out how to rig a disco ball in the center of the room. All in all, chintz was in.

The food was also rainbow in color, but sadly, that was not so different than usual, though it had obviously been arranged more... artfully.

Zelenka waved at him from a corner, a strange glittering brush in his hands. As soon as he started walking toward John, he tried to wave him off; when he appeared undeterred, John was tempted to take out his sidearm. However, in the end he decided that being attacked by a mad scientist with body glitter as a reason for shooting someone wasn't going to look good on a report.

So he got glittered. His arms, his face, his *hair*. John Sheppard now *sparkled*.

And thanks to the many makeshift mirrors now gracing the walls of the mess, he could see each and every sparkle. Rodney appeared behind him, suppressing a wide smile. John narrowed his eyes. It just made Rodney's lips press together harder.

That's why he didn't warn Rodney when he saw Radek come up behind him, evil gleam in his eye.

Looking around the room, tapping the beat of the music out with the toe of his boot, Rodney muttering next to him about allergies and sensitive skin, rubbing at the glitter, only succeeding in spreading it further, John saw the great divide.

Military and science, confirmed gay and assumed straight. With a sigh, John elbowed Rodney. "Time to be good little leaders."

"Fine," Rodney's eyes narrowed as he began to stalk off, "but if Radek steps on my feet, someone is paying."

John went to Lorne first, because at least he knew, sort of, the reception he'd get. "Major?" He bowed, on leg forward, arm in front.

He laughed and did an over exaggerated bow, "Delighted, sir."

John would never be able to listen to ABBA with quite the same mindset ever again. But his toes remained unstepped on, and he was pretty sure the gawking and pointing was more about style than anything else.

Elizabeth joined them, as did Rodney and a few others, and soon the dance floor had a respectable number of people wiggling around and sweating. So far so good.

Gay dancing was apparently hard work; either that or the glitter had clogged up a lot of important pores, because he was drenched and half tempted to take off his shirt, like a few others had. He'd caught an episode of Queer as Folk every so often, he knew it might lend to the 'festive' air, but decided against it. All that jewelry and all his chest hair. Bad combination.

The first slow dance sort of cleared the floor a bit so he snagged Rodney's arm, sweating and vital under his fingers and hooked him into a dance. He settled on the more traditional form, instead of the more intimate arms around the waist and neck. Magnanimous, he even let Rodney lead.

It was hard to hold back actually. John's arms were too long for them to keep the usual stiff distance comfortably and his fingers wanted to stroke at the skin near the bottom of Rodney's neck and he could feel the urge to lean closer. For the last few weeks, touching meant *touching*, as much as they wanted. Their hands automatically threaded together at first, before they shifted to something less intimate, and Rodney's warm, slightly shallow breathing was driving him crazy.

"This is... weird," Rodney whispered, "and I think everyone is looking at us."

"No, they're looking at me," John said, "and probably think you're a horrible dance, the way you keep--*ow*--stepping on my feet."

"Well," Rodney said, "you keep moving the wrong way. I'm," he tugged hard at John's waist, moving him to the right, "leading."

"Well, sorry, I'm used to doing this the opposite way," John said, looking down, watching their feet narrowly avoid missing each other.

"Oh for the love of," Rodney dropped his hands and put two sweaty palms on John's waist. "this way I can just push you in the right direction." Rodney looked over his shoulder. "What are you looking at? This is in the name of toe protection. I think he's already broken at least one."

Slowly, John moved his arms so they rested light on Rodney's shoulders, forearms brushing the base of his neck. They moved, yeah, much better like this, Rodney directing him with a firm push and pull. The song ended and they separated, John could see the high flush on Rodney's cheeks and the slight glaze in his eyes. God, he probably looked twice as bad.

A hand tugged gently at his shoulder. Elizabeth was standing next to him looking worried. "Elizabeth?"

"Someone spiked the punch," she said, hands held tightly in front of her. Even the glitter on her face somehow less festive. "A lot."

"I thought there was a 'two drink limit'" Rodney said, inserting himself neatly into the conversation.

"It was more of a," she tilted her head thoughtfully, "okay, fine, yes, two drink limit."

John nodded. "Right. I'll alert a few people to keep an eye out. I've got a list of people who know they're on tonight. there are already patrols scheduled."

They dispersed, moving back to their chaperone roles, making sure no one looked too uncomfortable. There were a few noticeable wall flowers, people standing off to the side with strange, occasionally pained looks on their faces, but otherwise not causing trouble, so John left it.

Then Ronon asked him to dance. With his 'brave little toaster' face firmly in place, John accepted.

He'd never been swung like that before, and he could have sworn the 40's stuff *hadn't* been on before they'd entered the dance floor. He couldn't believe Ronon had actually gone to the dance lessons. Then he was thrown over Ronon's hip, then the other, and there was too much to worry about, he'd plot revenge later.

Out of the corner of his eye, Rodney had Teyla's legs wrapped around his waist, having apparently gone for a lighter partner to swing around. He could forgive. Especially once Radek cut in, taking Rodney's hands artfully.

Dancing with Ronon was an aerobic exercise, one John was glad to be done with, his skin sweat soaked and slick. He took a seat by the side lines, and not too long after, Rodney joined him, looking smug.

"Did you see that toss I did to Radek?" Rodney asked, flushed and excited.

"Yeah," John murmured. "I did," doing a subtle, but slow lick lip.

Rodney sputtered, flushed red, and glared. "Don't *do* that."

John barely had his innocent face on before Carson dragged Rodney out to the dance floor for something vaguely Celtic and rhythmic. He was smiling far too innocently as he danced circles around Rodney.

The official Prom had a four hour time limit so that people who had duties to perform had a set time they could appear, and so that anyone who wished to have smaller parties in more private locales could do so. John eyed a few of the slightly drunker fellows, leaning heavily on each other, and pressed his lips together in worry.

******

John watched Rodney flail verbally with tall, blonde. and verbose. She leaned into Rodney, hand unobtrusively brushing Rodney's arm. Turning on his heel, John found his way to one of the other large bonfires nearby.

******

It was silly, John knew that, but it didn't stop him from digging through his laptop to find something with a nice slow beat.

Rodney frowned. "What are you doing--"

John pulled him close, hands on Rodney's hips, holding him steady. "I wanted a chance to lead."

"Oh, uh okay." Rodney stuttered, head awkwardly coming to a rest next to John's, foreheads just touching.

They shifted in each other's arms, eventually ending up in a standing version of their usual sleep pose, minus the tangled legs. Rodney's ear was tantalizingly close to John's lips, so it was easy just to lean in a little and suck gently.

"Oh," Rodney gasped, moving to give John better access. "That's nice."

John let his teeth scrape against soft skin before letting it go with one last suck. "Mmhm." He moved onto the skin just under it, tasting slowly. Rodney twined his fingers into John's hair, thumbs stroking just at the hairline.

The glitter had a minor taste, smoky and sweet, and it just enhanced the taste of Rodney's skin, crisp and salty. The rasp of stubble rubbing against his cheek and Rodney's small hitching breathes sank into John's skin, leaving him buzzed with heady sensation. There were things he didn't want to think about, thing beyond the walls of his room, beyond Rodney's hands pushing under his shirt, leaving hot, happy trails, beyond the data burst scheduled to go out in the morning with all those papers and signatures.

Rodney pulled at his head, thumbs pushing gently under John's chin, lips skipping over John's face; his chin, his cheek, his nose, his lips. After a few long kisses, John gently untangled them. "There's going to be trouble tonight," he said carefully."

Rodney heaved a huge sigh and thunked his head down onto John's shoulder. "I thought I was the doomsayer in this relati-- erk. Between the two of us."

"We must be rubbing off on each other," John smirked, reaching out to turn the music off.

"Not yet," Rodney groaned.

"Soon," John promised, rubbing an apologetic hand over Rodney's shoulder, passing by him and toeing his shoes off. The removal of his side arm was a nod to Rodney and the fact that they *still* managed to wind their way around each other like weeds. But he left most of his uniform on.

Rodney was in the middle of unbuttoning his pants when he saw John push back into the bed. "You're that sure?"

John made a face, lips twisting. It was hard to separate his own fears with the fears of a commanding officer, there was still a thin trickle of fear running down his spine and keeping his pants on made him feel better. It had all gone too well, too easily. The flare-ups had been small sparks compared to what he'd been expecting.

"Right," Rodney redid his fly.

"Hey, you don't have to." One of them should be comfortable.

"Shut up," Rodney said, moving the blankets out of the way. "This is me being supportive. I'm new at this."

There was a precarious moment when Rodney forgot to empty his pockets and something sharp stabbed John in the thigh. Which led to some frantic flailing, Rodney scrambling around on the bed and a kick in the shin.

"Jesus, Rodney," John said through clenched teeth, rubbing the sore spot on his leg, "If I didn't love you so much I--" Oh. Oh wow. That was enough to stop them both like a brick wall. Also, John really hadn't meant to say that.

"I, oh." Rodney's jaw worked up and down, no sound coming out for a second. "Um. Ditto? I think?"

John laughed nervously, shaking his head. He reached for Rodney, who was kneeling at the foot of the bed. "Eloquent as ever."

Finally they settled, nervous energy crackling between them. John could feel Rodney's fingers tapping out what was probably some complex pattern on his chest.

"I uh, don't really mind you know," Rodney said tentatively into the quiet darkness, "about the sex."

John took the tapping finger in hand, threading their fingers together. "Oh yes you do."

"Okay fine," Rodney said, "the case of blue balls I have would make Guinness. I still don't *mind*."

Maybe it was love after all.

The strange feeling in his chest kept him awake even as Rodney became lax against his side, breathing deeply. He was getting too old to stay up nights mooning. Against him, Rodney muttered something in his sleep, snuffling quietly. The moonlight cut strange diamond paths across the room, the edges soft and feathering into the darkness. One small corner highlighted their entwined hands, not enough light to tell whose fingers were whose.

******

John had been told that the large number on the screen was the ancient equivalent of three.

The sneaky bastard had lied to him, told him he had ten whole minutes when he'd sent John off to take care of the last of the evacuees.

Rodney had sent him off with barely two minutes and only a slim hope of a prayer. and John was going to give him a piece of his mind. The doors opened. and Rodney was curled around his pillow, dirty, sweaty uniform still on his body. Something about the way he was clutching the dirty pillow case made him look bruised and fragile.

Anger short circuited, it was like a sudden drop, the strange surge of electricity under his skin that made him antsy.

Rodney twitched heavily in his sleep, and the door closed quietly behind John as he walked out.

******

The call, when it came, woke John out of a surprisingly sound sleep.

"Wha?? What?" Rodney sat up straight, twitched and then fell off the side of the bed. "Ow," he commented pathetically.

"Sheppard here," John answered his radio, easing away from Rodney's increasingly loud litany of complaints, limping to the other side of the room while a single muscle in his lower back regained blood flow.

"John," Elizabeth said tensely, "you should come to the infirmary."

Shit. Double shit. "Be there in five."

The straps to his holster kept slipping through his fingers, the little clip thingy popping out at odd angles and pinching the pad of his thumb. In the background he could hear Rodney taking a similar call on his own radio. Great, civilians in the mix this was going be a huge mess and-- "Ow! Damnit!"

Rodney appeared in front of him and silently smacked his hands out of the way, sinking to his knees with surprising grace. "Rodney we don't have time to--"

Two quiet snicks shut him up.

"Oh please," Rodney rolled his eyes, standing back up with a few grunts, "and you thought *I* had blue balls." Rodney smiled at him, crooked and a little bit shy. "It wouldn't do for the very together military commander of this base to show up without his gun."

That was just so, he didn't want to say sweet, because, well-- no. John wrapped his hand around the back of Rodney's neck and kissed him, tongue peeking out to taste. Pulling back, Rodney looked dazed. John ruffled his hair.

"Hey!" Rodney called, surprised enough that John nearly made it out of the room before he started catching up.

Outside the infirmary, a small crowd had gathered, and John wasn't comforted by the few scrapes and bruises he could already see. Conversations hushed as they walked past, the lack of sound louder than the original quiet murmurs.

Elizabeth was pacing in tight little circles just on the other side of the door. "John," she acknowledged, "Rodney. Carson will be out in a moment."

"What happened?" John asked quietly, voice low.

"There was... a brawl."

"A what?" Rodney asked. "A brawl? What are they, infants?"

"It was broken up quickly." Elizabeth said quickly. "Your men were on high alert."

"They damn well better have been." John snapped. "Who got hurt?"

"Yes," Rodney nodded, "since you called me, which of my people am I going to have to talk out of some civil action?"

Elizabeth looked at them both so earnestly John nearly went looking for a chair to sit down in. "Radek has two broken ribs," she said carefully.

"What?" Rodney's face went pale, eyes dark with anger. "What the hell happened?"

"According to the reports, one side says there was unwanted propositioning, the other side says they were just being friendly, there were threats volleyed back and forth."

"Radek," Rodney said, disbelief evident in his voice, "gave someone unwanted attention? That's practically," his hands waved around in the air, "well, that's pretty inconceivable."

Elizabeth shook her head. "'No, you're right, he wasn't even there when it started. He tried to talk to them down."

"Moron." Rodney pinched the bridge of his nose and went to find a place to sit down.

John's eyes tracked him as he went, mentally tracing the stiff tilt of his shoulders and still pale skin.

"It must be hard," Elizabeth said softly, putting one hand on John's arm, leading him to another chair, "not to do the things that must want to come naturally."

"What?" John blinked slowly.

She sat next to him, legs slinging over the side of another armless chair. "I saw you following him as clearly as if you actually had," She ducked her head. "I think the part that weirds me out the most is how unsurprised I actually was."

John's head snapped up. "You weren't surprised?"

"Well no," She smiled awkwardly, "I was. Really. But at the same time?" Elizabeth's brow furrowed just a little, and she tilted her head in the same way she usually did when John and Rodney tried to outflank her. "No."

Oh great, wonderful, that was-- okay, no longer *officially* career ending, but it was still-- it made his heart beat really fast.

"John, don't make me get a paper bag," Elizabeth joked, patting his shoulder. "It's fine, I have no idea when or where or how, so whatever you've been doing is working."

"Right," John ran a hand through his hair, hoping the heat on his cheeks wasn't actually visible. "Yeah, thanks."

"No problem," Elizabeth's smile changed so abruptly that John was worried until he turned his head and saw that Carson had finally made his way into the main ward.

The four of them gathered off in a corner. Carson looked serious but not grave. "He'll be fine, just nothing too active for a few weeks. The rest are all minor scrapes and bruises."

"I want a list of everyone treated here tonight," John said tightly. "I want to know exactly what happened."

"Aye, me too." Carson nodded. "But I've seen worse, so it's a horrible thing to say, but we were lucky."

Elizabeth nodded in agreement. "This might be enough to shock the worst of them and weed out the ones we want to transfer."

"I hope so," Carson nodded. "Oh Colonel," he turned to John, "Captain Henderson will be staying with Stephen in the same ward, he doesn't really need observation, but I thought it would be a good idea anyway."

"Stephen?" John asked.

"Dr. Fredericks." Rodney informed him, lips tight and eyes flashing. "I should visit him, threaten his livelihood and blame him for our decreased productivity or something."

John raised an eyebrow. "It's good to show your people you care."

Rodney smiled and bounced on the balls of his feet. "I know."

Elizabeth took a deep breath. "Okay, we should deal with the rest of this in the morning."

"I'll talk to Lorne," John said, "find out who needs guards on their doors tonight."

All that was missing from their nod and scatter was a some sort of group high five. John did his own thing, meeting with the security detail, giving out orders, taking names. Mostly though, it was on autopilot until Carson pulled him over to the side.

"Colonel? Can I speak to you for a moment in private?"

"Sure," John nodded and he found himself following Carson into his private office.

"You know that any change in status regarding patient care comes to my inbox right?" Carson began tentatively.

John nodded; it made sense, Carson needed to know things like DNR's and-- oh. He sat hard.

"Hey now, no reason to worry. I just wanted to let you know the paperwork has all come through fine. Everything's filed in its proper place." Carson leaned casually on his desk. "Now I'm going to assume that it's pretty serious based on those papers," he leaned in, lowering his voice, "but if you hurt the lad, you'll be finding yourself in a heap of trouble." He leaned back. "That being said, I'll be telling Rodney the same thing. Isn't that always the trouble when two friends start dating?"

John wanted to sink into the ground. "Um, sure?"

Carson smiled at him in a supportive way, and John just had visions of supportive smiles for years to come, dancing around his head like demented butterflies.

John returned to his room alone; Rodney was off somewhere doing Rodney things, and John just didn't have the energy to be casual about checking up on him, he didn't have the energy to take his pants off even though this time he was pretty sure he wouldn't be interrupted before morning. The only reason his sidearm made it off was because it would have dug into his thigh.

Sometime later someone was carefully rolling him to the side. John blinked several times, trying to focus. "Rodney?"

"Move over, I'm tired from just watching Radek breathe." Rodney slipped under the covers, warm and comfortable next to John.

"How is he?" John asked, letting Rodney settle them down.

"He has two broken ribs," Rodney said, "and Carson threatened me with a goat or something if I leave you a broken woman."

"Me too," John moved Rodney's arm so it wasn't hard to breath. It was like hearing about people with lice; your scalp automatically started itching. Beside him, Rodney's body remained tense, his breath rough and uneven against John's neck. "How're you doing over there?"

"Wishing my biggest problem was still blue balls."

******

Rodney came back from the dead talking so fast it took a good thirty seconds to realize impending doom was imminent, despite the wild hand waving and loud yelling.

There were hours of frantic working and preparing and negotiating and ten long. tense seconds where Rodney's hands kept missing keystrokes they were shaking so badly. Afterwards, when the all clear sounded and everyone broke into spontaneous cheering, Rodney stood, walked three feet and fell over in a dead faint.

John caught him, his temple inches from a dangerous corner on a nearby panel.

Later, when Rodney was comfortably ensconced in his own room, had nearly a day to recover and eat and sleep, and rumor had it that he had to be woken to eat just about each time, John went to him.

Asleep in his bed, Rodney still looked exhausted. John sat down in the small hollow Rodney's hips made when his legs bent forward.

Rodney twitched, his fingers brushing against John's thigh, the disturbance apparently enough to prompt Rodney to crack his eyes open. "Sheppard?"

"Hey," John said, not sure why he was even there. "How're you feeling?"

"Like I slept for an entire day," Rodney said, voice dry and croaking. He rubbed his eyes, digging the heal of his palm in roughly. "What day *is* it anyway?" He pushed himself up, working his way into a sitting position.

"It's still Wednesday, relatively speaking," John said, attempting to avoid the usual semantic argument about time and space and the meaninglessness of imposing a 24x7x365 calendar to a planet that had a drastically different period and revolution.

Rodney nodded, still rubbing his eyes, squinting every so often. "So, what's wrong?" He was already sliding out of bed.

"Nothing," John reached out, fingertips catching on Rodney's shoulder. "I just wanted to let you know that I'm, um, glad you're alive and stuff."

Rodney regarded him with a closed look, lips pressed crookedly together. "Yeah, me too."

"I uh--" John fidgeted, unable to remove his fingers from Rodney's shoulder, palm moving in and pressing down, feeling the sleep warmed skin through his shirt. "I was pretty worried there for a minute."

"Me too," Rodney shifted under John's hand, the side of John's palm skimming over the skin at Rodney's neckline. "Sheppard," he stopped suddenly, mouth closing with a sharp clack. "Jo--"

Hand over lips, faster than lightening, covering quickly. John's palm felt the warm and humid breath seep into it. Rodney sucked on the closest patch of skin, cracked lips giving way to a wet tongue, licking gently. John's hand went slack, the hot limber lick surprising him with how good it felt.

Rodney lunged, hands clamping onto John's shoulders and John's arms automatically locked, holding him back even as his hands cupped Rodney's face. He couldn't make himself let go, and he let his arms go slack and let Rodney finally connect.

They made little grunting noises, a near comical rendition of sex sounds until finally Rodney's struggles slowed and then stopped. Which was worse, because now John was stuck staring into Rodney's eyes, dark and getting darker, his lips at the quick flick of a tongue that peeked out to wet them, and that made it worse.

Rodney reached out, pulled a bottle from some hidden recess of a drawer and handed it to John, giving him the choice. John gave it back.

It happened too slowly for John's liking, the slide of skin, the glow of the light coming from the window, Rodney's lips at the back of his neck. The unhurried burn as Rodney pushed in, the heat of hands on his hips, holding tight, the deep pleasure from each movement. Rodney pressed close, going painfully slow, and it hurt so good. and John couldn't do anything but gasp into the pillow and push back.

******

Things settled down, the tension returned to a slow simmer, and John managed to walk around without looking like the entire galaxy had just proved him wrong, leaving him sourly disappointed.

Life, for all intents and purposes, returned to normal, the current Wraith super queen (as John liked to call her) made a move on the chessboard that needed to be responded to with great urgency. It was the sort of lingering threat that meant long hours, desperate measures, and last minute count downs. Through the years, the only thing that had changed were the size of the guns they pointed at each other.

John's team, which had taken some time off, for the duration of the 'social change' assembled once more in front of the Stargate and prepared to take the plunge, so to speak.

Later, carrying Rodney back through the event horizon, John wondered how they'd been lucky enough not to see anaphylaxis shock before now. Still breathing hard, his face puffy, Rodney's eyes looked horribly panicked, even once Carson got his hands on him.

John followed them all the way back to the infirmary, and all John could think was that at least this solved his worry about the sleeping arrangements. Rodney was treated to oxygen and a few other things that didn't seem all that threatening, monitors were hooked up, and by the time Carson said the word stable Elizabeth had joined him.

"It was the tea," John told her. "It had to have been. I brought back samples."

Elizabeth nodded. "Is everyone else alright?"

"Well, none of us fell to the floor gasping thirty seconds after taking our first sips," John snapped angrily before stopping and taking a deep breath. "Not that I can tell. Doc hasn't had a chance to poke and prod us yet."

She stared at him, lips pursed. "Keep me informed. I'm sending Major Lorne's team back out to finish the mission," she said, "with extra rations, just in case."

"Come on, Colonel," Carson said to him, patting the next bed over, "Upsie daisy."

The exam was the usual post mission tap dance with a few extra bodily fluids thrown into the mix. Carson smiled and patted him, and John could have sworn he took extra care with the needles. It was unnerving. "You're just happy I remembered the sample," John said.

"Aye," Carson nodded, "that's it." He patted John on the shoulder. "He'll be fine."

Oh god, he was the wife in the waiting room, and that was utterly disturbing and really kind of scary. He was shown to Rodney's bed and shoved in a chair. "What happened to my own discretion?"

"When you find it, let me know." Carson waved and moved on.

John frowned and turned to Rodney, whose eyes looked like they'd been taped open. "Hey Rodney." His voice did that soft wobbily thing he hated.

"My heart is beating so fast I think I can see it through my chest," Rodney greeted him. "I love this part, I really do."

The urge to say 'fuck it' and crawl into bed with the man, to weigh him down with his own body and soothe the nonexistent vibrations, was alarming in its intensity. Somehow, John managed to resist. "You been gaining weight?" John asked instead. "Because I swear that walk to the gate seemed awfully long."

"You're just middle aged," Rodney snapped, frowning, poking his stomach gently. "Am I... doughy?"

John poked gently, laughing when Rodney's jittering hand took a swipe. "More gingerbread than Pillsbury."

"So," Rodney blinked, "flat but with give?"

"Sure," John agreed, anything to get them off the subject.

"Because I really do have a moderately sedentary lifestyle despite random intervals of mind-bending fear running for my life." Rodney was talking really, really fast. "And it's tough to tone up. Also, extra exercise tends to hurt my back."

John nearly said 'unless there's an orgasm at the end' because oh no, he'd rather have the slightly gay 'am I fat?' conversation than the completely inappropriate public talk about their sex lives.

"What?" Rodney asked. "You're staring."

"Just," John stopped and then sighed. "Just happy you're alive, okay?"

"Well I'm happy I'm alive, too," Rodney said. "Though your happiness does add to my happiness."

John grimaced. "Good to know."

Rodney was kept company for several hours, but as he as doing generally fine, John didn't really have a good reason to stick around and not get things done. He slipped in to visit at the end of the day, but Rodney was finally fast asleep. John took only a few minutes for himself and then slipped back out.

Wednesday was the worst night's sleep he'd had in a long time.

******

The blood covering their uniforms wasn't theirs. It wasn't anyone's on Atlantis. That didn't make it any better.

Ronon and Teyla had been sent back at knife point. Rodney and John as usual were stuck in a hut tied up tightly.

The knives hadn't come out until later, and by then, the choice had been taken out of their hands. It was pure luck that the head butt had taken and the knife had fallen somewhere near him. Pure luck he'd loosened enough ropes for him to roll and Rodney to scramble out of the way.

The rest was only going to be thought about for his mission report and filed away under 'do not touch'.

The gateroom had gone quiet, muted gasps all around. Rodney just walked out, stone silent. John answered a few perfunctory questions and then said the word "Shower," with such conviction that Elizabeth stopped the next question from coming out of her mouth and nodded.

Rodney was already standing under the spray, steam wafting up from his skin in strange pink curls. He opened his eyes when John opened the door, lashes clumped together in uneven bundles and the whites of his eyes red lined. John stepped in, pushed under the water, and Rodney's skin, slick and artificially red from the heat, was warm against his. They shared, letting it wash over both of them, clean away the dirt and grime, and John pulled Rodney to him, arms folding around him, savoring the feeling.

A mouth, hot and wet and careful, kissed John's shoulder, sucking at his skin. Rodney trailed a path to his chin, small nips that made John's skin thrum with more than the heat of the water. The last one, just at his pulse point, pulled a small, broken sound from his throat. Rodney kissed the spot again, echoing the noise, arms pulling tight, hands reaching for his ass and thumbs stroking in great circles.

This time, it was John who moved in, tilted his head just so until they were kissing, hot wet suction on his lips and tongue, deep and openmouthed and wonderful. One kiss, he was allowed after that. After watching Rodney stick an eight inch knife into someone's gut, face pale and eyes wide with fear and horror. They got one kiss, deserved one amazing kiss to go on, to savor and whimper into and steal their breaths away.

It was Rodney who turned away first, and John hated him just a little for it, but miraculously, there was a tube in his hands, and John wondered if Rodney had known or if it always lived in the shower. It was intense, sliding into Rodney, tight heat surrounding him. Rodney's back arched so that his head rested on John's shoulder, eyes closed tightly.

He couldn't do slow, not like Rodney, couldn't draw it out into long pleasure-filled strokes, making time stop. Instead, he pressed Rodney forward, putting his hands on the wall and thrusting hard and fast, Rodney's low gasps only fueling him further.

******

Rodney was fine, John knew that, knew it would be that way, but he couldn't help the small release of breath when Rodney stumbled out of the infirmary yelling strange and incomprehensible things back through the doors. It was more than comforting, actually, and John got in one smart remark just for extra credit.

"Hey Rodney, staging a jail break?" John swung a friendly arm over his shoulder, doing a full body squeeze.

"Hey!" Rodney pushed him off, but not before leaning in for a second.

John considered it a win. His side tingled pleasantly from where Rodney had fit against it, and it helped ease some of the ache of a bad night's sleep.

"I have been assaulted enough for one twenty four hour period," Rodney sniffed, straightening his jacket. The corners of his mouth were tilted up, making his cheeks puff out.

Score two. John smiled back, lips spreading wide, teeth out in the open air. It was a ridiculous smile, it was a teenage smile too full of hormones and not enough brains and it seemed to create a feedback loop with Rodney, who actually shook his head before ducking it shyly.

"I have work to do," Rodney told him, attempting to straighten up. "And you have to go somewhere and slouch. God, how did you get out of basic or beginners torture or whatever they call it?"

John didn't press, because any longer, and they'd be doing incredible impressions of sixteen year olds. "You're supposed to be resting, so don't spend too much time down there. One insult apiece and then go."

The tension on Atlantis had segued nicely in to a nice bland everything is going to suck a lot real soon tension. John actually found it comforting in a sick and twisted way and resolved not to tell Rodney because that would probably result in a series of questions about his mental health, that while on a normal day might be fun, wasn't something he was really looking for at the moment.

Major Lorne's team returned halfway through the morning, a few interesting trinkets in hand, stuff that should keep Rodney busy for at least an hour, and few interesting prospects for food and trade. It seemed that watching Rodney collapse and turn red then blue had made their hosts feel bad enough to throw in some good will for free.

"They offered us a place to stay, sir," Lorne informed him. "They feel it's the least they could do for us not coming back and flattening their cute little city for nearly killing one of our people."

"Good will, huh?" John asked. "That's a new one." Even after all these years.

"What about that planet with the that ceremony that--"

"Ah!" John interrupted. "We don't speak of that planet."

"But--"

"Ever."

"Yes sir."

John nodded decisively. "Dismissed."

The day was looking up, the prospect of a decent night's sleep looming on the horizon, and a serious plan was starting to form, one that might not leave himself or someone else in serious peril during its execution.

Sometime around lunch, the hairs on the back of John's neck startled to prickle. There had been no personnel moves after the first tussle, John had spoken with them all, drink and some frayed tempers had been blamed. No one wanted to be taken away from their assignment on Atlantis; it was an amazing opportunity and important work. You had to want to come in the first place.

So John had let them be.

'Sheppard, this is McKay, get down to the east pier now!'

Running wasn't the right word for the sort of movement he employed. On the way he called security and Beckett, but he told them to hold back and wait for the all clear.

Skidding around a corner, John found Rodney, another blue clad scientist, and four solid looking Marines who looked mighty pissed.

"What's going on here?" His voice nearly cracked, he bellowed so loud.

"Nothing sir," one of them said, not even turning around.

"These morons," Rodney spoke over anything else that was going to be said, "decided it'd be fun to harass the members of my staff who happen to be in relationships with other people who happen to be of the grunting and scratching persuasion."

Oh Jesus, how could he have been so stupid not to have expected the subtle approach. He'd braced for a full frontal attack, but this? This had to have been going on for weeks. Not to mention Rodney standing there looking pale and tired and just out of the infirmary.

"And right this very moment you decided to hold an intervention?" John asked, unhappy that the soldiers hadn't moved.

"Right this very moment," Rodney said, looking terrified but pissed, "I decided to make sure someone remotely valuable to my department and you know, a decent human being, didn't get hurt."

"Why Rodney, you've grown."

"I have, haven't I?"

"That," jarhead number one said, "pipsqueak turned off our hot water."

"And stole our shoelaces," number two piped up.

"And glued our lockers shut!" There was number three.

John nodded. "Innovative, and I'm sure you deserved it." That, at least, stunned them. "Anything else?" When they shook their heads, John saw the man in blue straighten a bit, a smile briefly flittering over his scared face. So there was more. Nice. "Okay gentlemen, and really, I'm usually not one for formality, but in this instance I'm going to have to insist that you all look at me."

They turned, but didn't come to attention. John let it go because he hadn't specifically asked. He could always hold it against them later. "You know what? I'm going to let the guards behind me take you four someplace where we can separate you and question you while McKay makes sure someone short sheets your beds."

They sputtered and actually fought off the first press of hands wrangling them in, but they went without too much comment. John turned to the scientist, trying to look kind instead of pissed that none of the harassment had been reported. "So, you want to give me the quick explanation--" he looked at Rodney silently asking for a name.

Rodney shrugged.

"Call me Johann, Colonel." The man said, his accent very faint.

"Johann, okay. Now what happened?"

"They took it upon themselves to be offended on behalf of your armed forces that I was seeing Lieutenant Peterson." Johann said simply. "They were subtle, for Marines."

John frowned, first because you had to earn the right to mock Marines, and second, because no one had told him. There hadn't been a hint of--well, anything. Other than the generalized anxiety. "So you handled it on your own?"

Johann at least looked a little ashamed. "I have not been here long, neither has Greg. There are many good stories about, about how you're a really nice guy, but then again, I was being taunted by men under your command."

"Why didn't you go to Rodney?" John pressed and then shook his head. "Never mind."

"Hey!"

Ignoring Rodney's cry, John looked serious. "You can tell me, tell them all you can tell me." The words spilled off his tongue, and he could have just stopped there, he probably should have, and his heart hammered through it, making him jittery. "I--" he started but couldn't, so he just changed sentences. "You can tell me," he said again.

"You can tell me too," Rodney said, his eyes on John, waiting for his subtle nod. John gave it. "Not like I'm going to be prejudiced against something I've been known to dabble in now and again myself."

That was it. The small crack in the wall from which all his secrets were going to be spilled.

Johann looked between them, and then looked again and then stopped, like the roadrunner had just gone through the painting of a tunnel on the rock wall. "Oh."

Yeah. Oh. John thought he might just sit down carefully and have an aneurism. Rodney sent Johann off--they'd call him when they needed him--and told him to send Beckett's team off too if they were still waiting. Then, when they were alone, Rodney pulled him close and kissed him like they were running out of oxygen.

"What was that for?" John asked, when he was allowed to breathe again. They shouldn't have this conversation here, on duty, out in the open, a nearly critical incident not five minutes behind them. In fact Rodney shouldn't really be doing anything other than resting some more.

"You look hot running down the hallway like that, being aggressive." Rodney said.

"Right." John looked at him. "No really, why?" Because it just seemed so normal and strange, like everyone else. Though really, they needed to set some ground rules if they were going to do stuff like this on a regular basis. The fear came back at the edges of the thought, fast and sharp, nearly physical in sensation.

Rodney's face went from pale and a little smug to pale and a lot worried. "What? You just went really gray. It'd be cool if it wasn't so," he waved his hands around, "unnatural and disconcerting."

"Nothing, just," John shrugged, "I guess I'm just really used to doing things a certain way."

"Well the military is nothing if efficient in hammering in limited thinking based on a known structure."

"They are at that."

******

It hurt, like a thousand stabbing knives just under his shoulder blade. "Pull," John whispered, voice rough, "now rotate," he instructed, voice getting lower. Providing counter traction on his own really sucked.

A pop felt through his entire body, and muscles everywhere relaxed in the euphoria of lack of pain. It lasted a wonderful thirty seconds before the throbbing started. Dislocated shoulders just got worse on you for hours after they were fixed. John bet that pretty soon the entire arm would be useless. Probably just when he'd really need it, too.

Next to him, Rodney looked about as green as he felt. He reached for the bucket of water their captors had so kindly left them. A few drops of relatively cool liquid actually calmed his stomach enough to think about sitting up. John pushed with his left arm, keeping his right as close to his chest and as unmoving as possibly. Rodney lent a helping hand, all the while babbling about permanent injury and possible future dexterity problems and how he wasn't certified in any of what they just did, so was John sure that all his fingers still worked?

John showed him that at least one was working quite well, thank you very much.

"Next time you can slam it against a wall like they do in the movies," Rodney snapped.

"Duly noted," John eased back against the wall, shivering.

Rodney's hand was tentative against his uninjured arm, asking permission, John stared at it for a long time before nodding. Rodney carefully scooted up next to him, pressing his side into John's injured one. Supporting the arm at the elbow, letting John find the optimal position and then moving closer, Rodney took most of John's weight. Heat suffused the injury, warming the worst of the ache and making the muscles surrounding it relax minutely. Rodney's body was warm, hot even, throwing off unimaginable heat, making John's eyes heavy.

John passed out to the soft *thump thump* of Rodney's heart beat in his ear.

******

They had enough shit to deal with in the Pegasus galaxy without unnecessarily terrorizing the people who helped save their asses just about every other week in a dull month. The offenders were labeled to be shipped out; let some commanding officer on some post without the life sucking aliens worry about their attitude adjustment.

News on other fronts remained well away from John's ears, and he wasn't sure if he was relieved or brewing stroke. Then the really good coffee started showing up in his office.

At first he thought it was Rodney, but the jealous and hungry look he favored the coffee maker with pretty much negated that idea. It also made John wonder if it was worth being jealous of an inanimate object. He shrugged it off though; at worst, he'd figure out a way to ship coffee ice cream to the Pegasus galaxy and cover himself with it if things got too out of hand.

Somehow, he got pushed up in the DVD pool so he got his hands on newest Star Wars movie months before he'd expected to. Rodney smugly told him that he'd never believed Lucas when he'd assured everyone the prequels were going to be the last.

"Money is a powerful motivator," Rodney said to him, stealing the popcorn.

Mostly it was the little things: his favorite food never running out, not matter how late he ended up in the mess, there was always one last portion. Warm too. Beer, good beer, found its way into his possession, but it was the really awesome down blanket that truly made him paranoid.

"What's going on here?" John asked Rodney.

Rodney regarded him with an amused look. "I think someone, or someones, are welcoming you to the family."

"If I get a toaster, I quit." John said. "Also, I'm not changing my name to Vinnie."

"You're more a Tony anyway, Also, you don't get a toaster, I do. You make my quota."

Either way, it was beginning to make John nervous. It was one of the reasons he didn't like being in charge. It was harder to keep a hand in the pie if you were where the buck stopped. He was forced to rely on other people to keep an eye out and inform him of anything he needed to know. The problem was, other people's opinions didn't always match his own.

His investigation was derailed only a day in when Rodney hauled two of his own into Elizabeth's office so angry he was almost purple. He actually couldn't complete whole sentences and resorted to typing it all into a computer, fingers flying so fast they almost blurred.

Apparently, they'd decided it was a fine idea to harass the military back; the twist was that it was still somehow aimed at the gay officers. John lost the train of logic when Rodney threw the computer across the room. He was fairly sure it wasn't actually logical anyway.

It was subtle, so subtle in fact, that the persons in question hadn't even known until just before Rodney had. All together it could have been chalked up to string of bad luck on the private and seargent's parts, but they'd gotten suspicious and investigated. Apparently part of Rodney's anger stemmed from the incredibly poor job the morons had done in covering their tracks.

"You only get to be arrogant if you're actually that smart." Rodney had muttered.

John was upset because the two instigators hadn't been on his list, but he let it go. They were being shipped back and someone had found that the Planet of the Poisonous Tea had held a mostly charged ZPM deep in its cave systems.

Within minutes of the confirmation of a charge, party announcements were made, subtly of course, rumors and word of mouth mostly. Except botany, who had a banner. John made a note to inspect the new plants again, just in case.

Life wasn't secure, it never really was, but they'd learned to pick their moments. It was rumored Rodney had a probability chart hidden somewhere, with all the possible reasons to celebrate, from extra chocolate in the mess, to all the wraith spontaneously bursting into flame.

It was disturbing that Rodney might be the end authority on party night, but since Rodney was never one to pass up an opportunity, John was at least assured that it was likely they weren't going to be attacked or blow up in the time it took to celebrate and recover. At least, that was, if the rumors were true.

Dinner had *cake*, which somehow balanced out the universe within the confines of chocolate and icing. There wasn't the frenetic energy The Prom had riled up; it was a more subdued joy. Warm and fuzzy all through the corridors of Atlantis, a mellow high that hugged you for hours on end.

Rumor had it that the geologists were holding a bad science movie marathon, and he'd snagged Rodney from the jello shot competition to take a peek. It would be enough to fuel him for weeks of really great rants that John could shut up in various creative ways.

"Colonel Sheppard? Dr. McKay?" Johann found them on the way. "I wanted to invite you over to the light lab."

"With the lasers?" John asked, interested.

"They're not lasers," Rodney corrected, frowning.

"They're beam-like and they make really cool holes in sturdy materials." John smiled sweetly. "Lasers."

"Why do I bother?" Rodney threw up his hands.

"Because sometimes, that's half the fun," Johann smiled. "You don't have to come now, we just wanted to invite you."

"We?" John blinked.

Johann bowed his head. "I believe the American colloquialism is the local LGBTA chapter has issued you and Dr. McKay an open invitation."

Well that was, um, interesting. "There isn't a toaster involved in this somewhere, is there?" John asked dumbly and didn't even complain when Rodney elbowed him in the side.

"Well," Johann said seriously, "we thought it was time you learned the secret handshake." He looked up and somehow became more serious, loosing any thread of mirth he'd had before. "If you want to."

"That's very nice of you," John said carefully, keeping his eyes firmly ahead. "We'll think about that, thanks."

Rodney's hand skimmed his arm on its way up to speaking position. "Is there food?"

"Rodney!" John snapped out of whatever haze he'd fallen into, only the lingering echo of a fast heartbeat remaining.

"What?" Rodney looked at him, eyes as wide and as guileless as Rodney could get. "It doesn't hurt to ask."

Johann looked between the two of them and raised a curious eyebrow. "I'll leave you to your evening, gentlemen. Join us if you have time."

He left, and John's jaw was hanging open.

"Stepping out on me already?" Rodney asked, walking again.

John took a few quick steps to catch up, shaking his head. "Remember that sleeping on the couch thing we talked about a few weeks ago?" He smiled when Rodney narrowed his eyes.

"Then what is it?"

"Nothing," John shook his head. "It's just--" It's just that he was given an out. Johann had thrown it in so easily, so *understanding*. A lifeline so casually and freely given was almost hurtful in its consideration. "The invitation," he finally said with a shrug.

"We don't have to go," Rodney said reasonably. "There's plenty of places we can lose track of time."

There were and they could. It would be easy, and they'd never know if it had just happened or if John had been a big chicken. Jesus, why were the Wraith less scary? That certainly put a whole new spin on the term Wraith Queen.

They were about half a corridor away from Geology when John reached out, grabbing Rodney's wrist -- possibly it was the alcohol already fortifying him from rational decisions -- and pulled him in the other direction. When he felt Rodney stop fighting, he let go, walking silently but determinedly towards the light lab, comforted that Rodney didn't press for reasons.

John didn't know what was expecting; lots of colorful decorations, gaudy music and clothes, or maybe the complete opposite, extra class everywhere, some snuck-in bottles of champagne and hor d'ouvres, but not for it to look like just about every other party thrown by the civilians. Playstation tournament in one corner, drinks in another, maybe a few more wine coolers than in the military shindigs, but that happened with most of the scientists, either they were hardcore drinkers or cheap dates, a bunch of scrounged together couch like things and tables in another corner. All in all, a nice party.

Other than everyone in the room turning to look at them when they walked in.

John waved weakly and it was like the room sped back up to normal speed, Rodney snagged some food and John took one of the premade shot glasses and wandered over to the Playstation. He got into a pretty good position in the rankings; pod racer was a lot like flying a jumper under less than ideal conditions and with shittier stick control.

"...no I think we *all* deserve to know!"

The argument didn't filter into his concentration right away, since he was too busy trying not to fall into a nearby lava pit.

"I think," Rodney's voice rose up above the crowd, "that in the middle of this I think 'we all'," and John could hear the sneer in the repetition of the phrase and possibly Rodney doing over exaggerated quote marks with his fingers, "have forgotten about things like privacy and 'none of our business'."

"What is *he* doing here?" John finally paused the game and looked up to find one accusing finger pointed at him, attached to an unhappy looking scientist. Tall and skinny and angry looking. "Who invited him?" John could tell from the extra lean in his stance and the slight wobble in the finger that the alcohol had been running freely for a long time. Not good.

"I did," Johann stepped up, "on behalf of all of us. Someone has to make a peace offering; we cannot segregate and hold our heads under the sand."

John blinked. It wasn't common knowledge? But then how-- He must have only told a select number of people the entire truth. "He's right," John said, working hard to remember the angry man's name, "and this is a kicking party, so whaddya say Donald, let's all relax and have some fun."

"You expect me to believe," Donald said, "that we're supposed to be okay with you just walking in here like it wasn't your men who harassed some of us?"

"We're not so amazing ourselves," Rodney spit out. "Or did you think Erikson and Gianelli transferred out of here of their own free will?"

"And," Radek Zelenka's voice called out clearly from one part of the crowd as it parted to let him through, "if you are going to be simple minded as to limit your social interactions, I believe I will be leaving now. Because I do not like prejudice, but in your case I am willing to make an exception." John and Rodney both looked at him in shock. Radek just shrugged. "They throw a good party."

"Repressed!" someone from the crowd called, and Radek rolled his eyes.

"Apologies," Johann whispered to him. "It was not my place to tell, especially when you turned such a lovely shade of green about it all"

Ah, that explained it. But what about, "--the gifts?"

"Expressions of gratitude towards a fair and impartial police captain only," Johann smiled.

John tipped his head.

"He's military!" Donald yelled.

"And you're just as moronic as those idiots who were harassing Johann!"

A really stupid idea was forming in John's head, softened by the fact that he'd already spent weeks thinking this moment had come and gone. "Hey, I think I know a way we can solve this," he stepped fully into the circle that had cleared around Donald. "Rodney?" He asked, eyebrow raised, a hint of a smile curving his mouth, heart pounding so fast that his hands were shaking.

"John?" Rodney asked, surprised, lips parting in shock.

He could feel their audience change as some of them were already getting it, possibly that surprised nonsurprise Elizabeth had talked about. "Rodney?" He asked again, adrenaline and alcohol making him giddy. One step, two steps, three and he was inside Rodney's personal space, sliding his hand up his neck, pulling him in gently. Rodney smiled against his lips and then melted into the embrace. Kissing like old lovers, slow and easy and inside each other's skin.

Someone wolf whistled in the background.

Really, other than their hands falling into place with practiced ease, the entire thing was pretty chaste. They pulled apart, and John was immediately a bit dizzy, the alcohol making him flushed and queasy. "We all cool now?"

Donald had a very satisfyingly shocked look on his face.

"We are definitely cool," Radek announced. "Now, Colonel, if I may lead you to your doom at the Playstation?"

"Delighted." John reached for a bottle of water and followed.

Rodney followed too, claiming a spot next to John and looking pretty damn smug and just a little bit proud.

******

Bent over his computer, arm strapped firmly to his body, John pecked at the keys listlessly, gritting his teeth.

"How's the arm?"

John's head snapped up, and he winced as it pulled on the tendons. "Didn't hear you knock."

"That's because I didn't," Rodney said, unapologetic. "How's the arm?"

"The arm," John said tiredly, "really fucking hurts."

Rodney came around to his back, hand pressing against the injured shoulder firmly.

"Rodney, what--" Thumbs, steady and sure, dug into the cramped muscles, massaging away the stiffness with slow and careful intent. John grunted into it, his entire body flushing with pleasure.

"I bet you're not taking the good stuff Carson prescribed," Rodney continued, working the muscle, edging around the shoulder blade, finding the knot in the center, painful and sharp, suddenly surrounded with the warmth radiating from his hands.

It felt incredibly good, tingles all the way down his arm as repressed blood flow slowly swelled back to its usual nourishing amounts, awaking nerves that John hadn't known were half asleep. John let his head slump forward and to the left, giving Rodney plenty of room to work.

Eventually Rodney worked all the way around the shoulder blade, rolling the tight muscles back and forth. Then he pressed carefully where neck met shoulder, pushing up with the pads of his thumb, small rolls of muscle, little pebbles under the skin making noises inside John's head as each one was rubbed under the skin. It was when Rodney started working down his arm, pushing at his bicep, warming it further, relaxing the whole arm into one drooping noodle that he started thinking again. "What are we doing?"

"I don't know." When Rodney answered, he pressed closer, the back of John's head pillowed in Rodney's stomach when he looked up. The screen of his laptop had gone black, making an inky reflective surface.

John looked straight into it, catching Rodney's eyes. "We should stop."

"And I can't wait to hear the wonderful argument you have for that statement." Rodney's hands moved to John's shoulders and rested there comfortably. "No really, because I can't decide if you're abysmally wrong or," he breathed deeply, voice lowering, "or horribly right."

"I--" but he didn't continue, because he had nothing. "Rodney, this is," he reached up with his left hand, crossing over to his right shoulder, touching the top of Rodney's hand lightly, "*this* is so dangerous."

"I eat danger for breakfast," Rodney said dryly. "That's not a very well reasoned excuse."

"But it is." It slipped out before he had a chance to stop it.

Rodney's fingers moved, pushing up and towards John's hand, weaving between John's fingers easily. "Maybe, and I get to say that because in this room, I think I'm the expert on fear based responses."

Their hands fitted together seamlessly, sitting comfortably on his shoulder. Rodney's thumb stroked aimlessly on his skin. It was all so far past what John had allowed himself in his head. There was a place and a space and they'd never talked about it, but John needed it. He'd just started really caring about his career again in the last few years, he had something to hang onto, and now he was just getting greedy.

"We have to stop," John said again, moving his head, turning away from Rodney's knowing gaze in his computer.

"Not really," Rodney said, "but maybe we should stop."

"Semantics," John said, tugging Rodney closer, feeling his arms fold around John's chest, the right one settling just under the sling.

"Not really," Rodney whispered in his ear.

******

John felt like an idiot. First, because, oh god, drunken public displays of affection, and Rodney looking hungover and not really giving a shit about his own run to the porcelain god. Second, because people's reactions now that John knew with absolute certainty that they knew, were very distinct. The women kept congregating in corners and giggling madly, and then when they noticed him they'd make moon eyes and sigh deeply. Even the soldiers were starting to creep him out.

"Rumor has it," Rodney told him at lunch, "we've been pining away for each other since that big storm we had the first year we were here, and that when the military finally saw fit to remove that 'horrible and offensive and oppressive law'," and John could tell he was actually quoting, "we could finally consummate our undying true love'."

John was speechless.

"Little do they know, huh?" Rodney elbowed him gently. "Also my rep has gone through the roof."

Chewing and swallowing carefully, John regarded Rodney warily. "Your rep?"

"Oh please," Rodney rolled his eyes. "You really need me to explain why the geek getting the football jock gets me cool points?"

That was-- disturbing, on a number of levels. "You made a chart, didn't you?"

"Histogram," Rodney corrected, putting his hands behind his head and leaning back. "I can't wait for my reunion. I might actually want to go. You can be my trophy wife."

"I'm honored," John said. He was so honored, in fact, that he gave Rodney a friendly head smack. "What if I want you to be my trophy wife?" He had more to say, but the room went deathly silent.

"Oh my God," Rodney said loudly, "have you people missed the fact that this is how we communicate?" He glared at the room in general. "Also?" He flicked John's ear soundly. "Ow."

The noise ramped back up with startling suddenness.

"That was weird," John said, rubbing his ear.

"That was probably the tip of the iceberg."

"I'm laughing at you if they try and stage an intervention."

Rodney laughed. "Same here."

Elizabeth gave him a look when they finally crossed paths that day, a look mixed with amusement and tired resignation. Odd, but not too creepy. Lorne was amazingly normal, discussing status reports, crew redistribution, and supply requests. John tensed up for a few seconds when he moved onto the after effects of last night's party, but he just went on, going over the usual items.

Of course just as Lorne was about to leave his office he turned on his heel and asked when the honeymoon was.

John threw a pen at him.

That night, Rodney showed up at John 's quarters with a really good bottle of cognac and two glasses. "Apparently," he said dryly, "wedding gifts are all the rage."

"They do know we're not actually married, right?" John asked, taking the bottle and nodding in appreciation. "Good stuff."

"I tried to explain," Rodney said, "it just made most of them smile wider. Or cry."

They opened the bottle and took enough to sip, lounging lazily on bed, boots having been kicked off to get comfortable. "This is nice." John said quietly, still surprised he could enjoy Rodney just laying next to him this much.

"Yeah," Rodney's breath was hot on his neck, lips moving softly. It was like electricity across his skin. John put his glass down and took Rodney's and did the same before rolling onto his side and kissing Rodney soundly. Licking his way into Rodney's mouth, his hand found the small of Rodney's back, digging under his shirt.

Rodney hummed happily, flinging a leg over John and burrowing closer, something warm and hard rubbing into his hip. Suddenly, John's body remembered he hadn't gotten any in *months*. It was like a switch had been flipped, and his hips jutted forward, thrusting sharply against Rodney's warmth.

"Oh!" Rodney's mouth ripped away, panting slightly. "Now? Really?" His eyes were bright, pupils wide and dark. "Because that would be," his hips pushed back against John's, who shuddered into the move, "*wonderful*." Said with such breathlessness it was almost catching.

"Now," John said, also out of breath, pushing forward, hips stuttering uncontrollably. It felt so good to remember what this felt like. To feel it again. John shuddered uncontrollably as they kissed again, filled to the brim with pleasure and almost overloading already.

"Really?" Rodney said when they broke apart to frantically tug their shirts off. "Because I'd understand if you didn't want to, I'm okay with--"

John kissed him quiet. "I'm good, really." Then he kissed him again, glad that the babble had slid past asking him if he was okay like John was some sixteen year old virgin. John licked and nibbled his way across Rodney's jaw, tasting, sucking at skin, enjoying Rodney's hitched breathes and addicting little noises. Down his neck and chest to one perfect nipple, already erect. It was so different, this with the time and the foreplay, touching and kissing and stroking. The lube wasn't even out yet, and it just made John hornier, dick pressing heavily at the seam of his pants and into Rodney's heat.

At the first tentative lick of nipple, Rodney gasped, back arching, hands clenching at John's shoulders hard enough to leave bruises. He licked once more and then closed his lips around it, sucking gently, tongue running over the nub inside his mouth.

"Oh! Oh god!": Rodney was trembling around him, leg coming up and curling over his waist. A few more seconds, and his whole body followed, wrapping around John, rocking urgently against his thigh. "Oh, John that's, I--" he gasped loudly, hands threading through John's hair, holding him in place. '"I'm-- can't!"

Rodney froze and then thrust against him in three rough jerks before freezing again and melting into the mattress. Did he just? John let go of the nipple with a wet pop, looking up at Rodney's wrecked face in wonder. Wow, he couldn't decide if that was really pathetic of them, or just really, really hot. Inside John's pants, his dick throbbed helplessly. Hot then.

"Oh my god," Rodney breathed. "I cannot believe I just--" he stopped and swallowed roughly. "Did you?"

John shook his head frantically, rubbing his hips pleadingly.

"Right, okay then," Rodney pushed up and rolled them over onto their sides, propping himself up on his elbow, "let me just--" he moved his leg just enough to work a hand in between them, undoing John's fly and stuffing it inside. John was already wet and waiting, thrusting into Rodney's hand before he could get a proper grip. It was too late anyway, the head of his cock pushed against Rodney's palm one, two, three times before he came hard enough to sprain something.

"Oh, okay," Rodney said, still breathless, lowering them to the bed, "that was really hot."

John nodded in agreement, hands petting any available patch of skin on Rodney he could find. "I think I lost feeling in my toes," he murmured into Rodney's neck.

"I think I lost feeling in my *brain*."

Eventually they got up and stumbled into the shower, neither really wanting to fall asleep and let their clothes glue to their skin. Clean and relaxed, they stumbled back into bed wearing just boxers, Rodney using a pair of John's after making a face that told him exactly how unsanitary Rodney found the whole idea.

"You know," Rodney said once the lights were out, "we didn't actually have sex."

"I think we're going to have to save that for when neither of us is going to need to use our brains any time soon." John kissed Rodney's shoulder, yawning quietly. "Now shut up and go to sleep."

They woke up a few hours later, wrapped around each other, already hard and aching. It was easy to shove their boxers down just far enough for access. The lube was pressed into his hand; Rodney must have snagged it while John was fighting with their clothes. Rodney was still relaxed from sleep, warm and lethargic, and John's fingers popped inside him with ease. Slow preparation, an apology for all the times they didn't slow down, fingers easing in and out until finally Rodney reached back and stopped him.

With an almost steady hand, John coated his cock and guided it to Rodney's entrance, pressing in. They both gasped when he made it past the ring of muscle so easily, and then John braced a lube slick hand on Rodney's hip and pushed, slow and steady until they were flush.

They breathed together, hands moving until they were threaded together. Slow, John went ungodly slow, in and out, nose buried in Rodney's shoulder, kissing and mouth the skin.

Pleasure weaved around them, hot and tight around John's cock, the slick push pull driving him slowly insane. Rodney rippled and held, each push releasing a small stuttering breath. They rocked together, their hands closing over Rodney's cock, letting their shifting hips push it into and out of their welcome grip.

John could feel it, could feel Rodney get close, in the way he breathed and moved and shuddered and closed his fist tighter.

Rodney came with an "Oh, oh, oh!" Long and hard, rippling over John unbearably good. When Rodney had nothing left to give, John pulled out, letting Rodney flop onto his back.

"Rodney," he said roughly, "I need--"

"Yes," he said, already spreading his legs, his boxers having worked their way off sometime earlier, "yes, go."

John moved between them, hooking Rodney's calves over his shoulders and leaning forward, one hand guiding himself, the other braced on the mattress. He was back inside the hot, tight place, he was home and whole, and perfection surrounded until the last threads of his control flew away.

It was wild and insane and God help him, so unbelievably good, thrusting hard into Rodney, looking into his eyes. Pleasure flushed from head to toe, orgasm started at the base of his spine and exploded outwards, intense waves taking over his movements until he was spent.

John fell to the side, dazed. "Happy now?"

"We can never get married, this sex is too good," Rodney said, wiping himself off and then moving to John. "It'd be like, depriving the universe."

"You better not be doing this with anyone in the universe but me," John curled around Rodney, lax and already half asleep.

"Now that's not fair, you up my cool points and now I can't use it?"

"Life's a bitch," John said, yawning again, "now shut up and go to sleep."

"I want a divorce."

******

"So," Rodney asked, "are we stopping?"

John sighed, leaning back one last time, taking a moment to enjoy the heat of another body. "I think so."

Rodney peeled away, standing slowly. "All right," he said carefully. "Just stop almost dying."

"Goodbye, Rodney," John said, not looking up.

"Goodbye."

John didn't turn until he heard the whisper of the door closing. "Goodbye," he said again. It was the right decision, he knew that. He turned back to his computer, opening the file back up. He was hopelessly behind, and the next databurst was due soon and the Daedelus visit was only a week away, meaning he had to be more on the ball than usual. John sighed as he started the hunt and peck again; maybe the Daedelus would bring good news when they arrived.

THE END