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Astaroth (also Ashtaroth, Astarot, and Asteroth) is a Grand Duke of Hell; his main assistants are three demons called Aamon, Pruslas and Barbatos. In art, in the Dictionnaire Infernal, Astaroth is depicted as a nude man with dragon-like wings, hands and feet, a second pair of feathered wings after the main, wearing a crown, holding a serpent in one hand, and riding a wolf or dog. According to Sebastian Michaelis he is a demon of the First Hierarchy, who seduces by means of laziness and vanity, and his adversary is St. Bartholomew, who can protect against him for he has resisted Astaroth’s temptations. To others, he teaches mathematical sciences and handicrafts, can make men invisible and lead them to hidden treasures, and answers every question formulated to him.

According to Francis Barrett, Astaroth is the prince of accusers and inquisitors. According to some demonologists of the 16th century, August is the month during which this demon’s attacks against humans are stronger. His name seems to come from the goddess Ashtart/Astarte which was rendered in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible as Astharthe (singular) and Astharoth (plural), that last form rendered in the King James Version of the Bible as Ashtaroth. It seems this plural form was taken either from the Latin or from some translation or other by those who did not know it was a plural form nor knew that it referred to a goddess, seeing it only as a name applied to some god other than God and therefore the name of a devil.

Lt. Col. John Sheppard, USAF, closed down the page from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia that someone had downloaded in its entirety to the Atlantis expedition’s computer system and snickered. "If they only knew," he murmured, keeping his voice low even though he was alone in his quarters where no one could overhear him. "August indeed." He shook his head in bemusement, but what could one expect from sixteenth century anything? They were all a little crazy in those days. He much preferred the twenty-first century; he didn’t even have to sprout his own wings to fly.

But reading the idiotic description of himself—Goddess indeed! Did he look like a woman?--only amused John for a short time. It was Halloween morning, or it would have been if they’d still been on Earth, and he was bored, bored, bored. And there was only one cure for that, at least one that didn’t involve stealing a jumper and listening to Elizabeth yell at him again or letting anyone see him as he truly was.

Moments later John dropped into a seat at an almost empty table in the messhall and grinned at the only other person sitting there. "McKay."

Rodney looked up from his coffee and datapad, his expression mildly surprised. "Colonel? Was there some meeting that I was unaware of?"

"Nope, just looking for some friendly company over breakfast," John replied easily. "Or at least amusing. And that’s you."

"Hrmmm, what I always wanted out of life: to be the entertainment for the military."

John’s eyebrow shot up, and he nearly choked on his coffee.

Rodney frowned and eyes John suspiciously. "Is there something wrong, Colonel?"

"Not at all," John replied when he could breathe again. "But you really should try thinking before you speak sometimes, Rodney. Do you know how that sounded?"

"How what sounded?" Rodney drank some more coffee, eyeing John oddly. "Honestly, Colonel, you’re beginning to worry me."

"And that’s why you’re the genius," John replied serenely, knowing he was starting to freak the scientist out and enjoying it. "Maybe I’m tired of pretending to be a nice guy, and you should worry about me."

"Pardon me? Maybe you should go see Carson, John, because I’m beginning to worry that you ingested some strange substance that’s affecting your mind."

"Nope, no strange substances. I’ve just decided that for today, for Halloween, I’m going to get to be myself for a change." John gave him a very toothy smile.

"And how is this a change?" Rodney asked, sitting up in his chair, at the same time subconsciously leaning away from John.

"The real me. No more Col. Nice-Guy." Noticing Rodney’s retreat, John leaned closer, crowding him. "In fact, today you can call me Ash."

"Ash. Okay, Colonel, I really think we need to go see Carson now," Rodney said soothingly as he got out of his chair and stood behind it, using the barrier as a shield.

John—Ashtaroth—grinned lazily as he leaned back in his chair. "Go ahead, ask me anything. I’ll give you the first couple for free."

"What the hell are you talking about!" Rodney almost screamed.

"Allow me to introduce myself properly: Ashtaroth, Grand Duke of Hell. I teach mathematical sciences, can make men invisible and lead them to hidden treasures, and answer every question asked of me. For a price, of course."

"Oh, ha ha, John, this is so amusing. I think I’ll go work in the lab now and get away from your so-called Halloween prank." Rodney scowled and grabbed his mug, ready to storm out of the mess hall.

"Oh come now, where’s your scientific curiosity? Don’t tell me I exposed myself to you for nothing? Go ahead, ask me a question."

"So you can tell me the question doesn’t lie within your realm of knowledge? Pull the other one, Colonel."

"What makes you think anything’s outside my realm of knowledge?"

Rodney snorted. "Fine, I’ll humor you; tell me who the first person I slept with was."

"Sally Kendricks, your lab assistant at your first job after university. You were twenty; she was twenty-eight... and not bad once you got the horn rims off her."

Rodney blinked, his mouth hanging agape before he quickly shut it. "Okay, who told you that story?"

John tsked. "What’s it going to take to convince you? Go ahead, ask me something else."

"Okay, if you know everything, why don’t you tell me where the Brotherhood hid that ZPM they took?"

"The last place they thought anyone would look: right back where we found it."

"Right, like I’ll believe that."

"Care to put your money where your mouth is? This would count as leading to hidden treasure as much as answering a question."

"And when we both end up shot by Allina and her friends?"

"It’s night there now. We go in quietly, grab the ZPM and leave again before anyone knows we were there. It’ll be another ten thousand years before they notice it’s gone."

"And let me guess, on the off chance that it’s still there, what do you want from me? My soul?" Rodney snickered at the last.

"Actually, I’d rather have your ass."

Rodney goggled at him again. "Pardon me?"

"You’d think nobody’d ever hit on you before."

"I—you—" Rodney sputtered before glaring at John. "Oh yes, this is quite amusing, Colonel; I thought you were above this kind of juvenile behavior, but apparently I was wrong, so if you’ll excuse me..." He spun and stalked out of the mess.

John sighed and made sure no one was looking before transporting himself directly in front of Rodney. "Do you really need to make everything difficult?"

"What—you were—" Rodney’s eyes were wide pools of shocked blue as he looked back from the now empty mess hall to where John was standing in the hallway in front of him.

"Demon here. Moving myself is nothing. Am I getting through to you yet?"

Composing himself, Rodney sniffed disdainfully. "We all know the city bends over for you; I’m sure it transported you here."

Sighing again and musing that it was good thing demons couldn’t hyperventilate, John grabbed Rodney by both arms and moved them both into a jumper. "Are you going to tell me there’s a transport unit in the jumper?"

"How would I know; they’re Radek’s babies," Rodney snapped, though he stepped as far away from John as the jumper’s width allowed.

"Ah, I’m starting to get through. I wonder what you’d do if I made our clothes disappear?"

"And why would you do that?"

"You do remember my earlier comment about what I wanted for a ZPM, right?"

"All right, let’s say for one minute that I actually believe that you’re some demon with mystical powers; why exactly is it my ass you’re so hot and bothered about?"

John shrugged. "You interest me. And you have the most bitable, fuckable ass I’ve ever seen."

"And you had to come up with this whole demonic persona identity to tell me this—I think the word for this is repression, Colonel."

"The only thing I’ve been repressing is my nature. But guess what, I’m not repressing any more." John leaned back against the wall of the jumper, his uniform suddenly replaced by skin-tight, faded black jeans and a black t-shirt.

Rodney blinked and crossed his arms over his chest. "Well, goody for you, and I should listen you anything you say, why?"

"I think I like your stubbornness better when it’s not directed against me." John eyed Rodney, and the scientist’s uniform abruptly became an old, faded pair of blue jeans and a pale blue, button-down shirt.

Rodney sat down hard in one of the pilot’s seats, absently running a hand over his thigh, feeling the soft denim beneath his palm. "Well then, why don’t I just leave and we pretend this bit of absurdity never happened."

"Because that doesn’t get you your ZPM, and it definitely doesn’t get me what I want. And I’m all about what I want."

"And you want me. Not that I’m not flattered, but wouldn’t you be better off chasing some woman?"

"Women are too easy. You’re more of a challenge. And I’m betting you’ll be a lot more fun in bed."

"Well, of course I would be," Rodney huffed, "not that you’re going to find out."

"Oh, I think I will." John grinned lazily. "Think ZPMs, the answers to every question you can imagine, and I’ll even do the math for your theories, and all I want in return is your cute, sexy little body."

"Oh, so just prostitute myself and you’ll give me everything I wanted, how wonderful."

"Well, you’ll also get more sex than you’ve ever imagined. And I’ve been told I’m pretty good at it."

"Just sex, nothing else?"

"I have no interest in your soul, so yes, just sex."

Rodney shook his head. "That’s not what I meant."

John eyed him curiously. "And that’s part of why I like you. You’re about the only person I’ve ever met who can actually surprise me."

"Wonderful, now answer the question."

"I did. All I want from you is sex. Lots and lots of sex."

"And that’s it?"

"Yes! How many times do you want me to say it?"

Rodney stood again. "That was enough, good day, Colonel." With that, he walked out of the jumper.

Growling, John appeared directly in front of him so that Rodney bounced off him with no time to stop. "Okay, this has stopped being amusing. Let’s turn this around, and I’ll ask the questions for a bit. What the hell do you want from me?"

"Perhaps not to be expecting me to fall to my knees in thanks that you’ve offered to have sex with me!" Rodney snapped, drawing himself up.

"Rodney, I just offered you the secrets of the universe to have sex with me!"

"Well, maybe I’d rather find them out myself!"

"You are so damn infuriating!" John grabbed Rodney’s upper arms and yanked him forward into a hard, demanding kiss.

Rodney whimpered as John’s hands dug into his arms, and his mouth opened under the brutal assault as he moaned at the harsh claiming. "I’m still not going to have sex with you," he rasped when John pulled back, glaring at him.

"Oh yes, you will." This kiss was as lazy and seductive as the previous one had been harsh and invasive.

"John..." Rodney groaned, relaxing into the kiss, his hands moving up to rest on John’s narrow hips.

The demon decided he was happy being John, especially if he got to hear Rodney moan his name in that tone. His own hands released their bruising grip on Rodney’s arms, stroking downward almost apologetically before sliding around to his back to hold him close.

"I’m not going to have sex with you," Rodney whispered. "Not if that’s all this is."

John leaned back slightly, his eyes slumberous and his lips puffy from the kiss. "And what would you like it to be? Because you know, I’m open to suggestions... and I’ve been thinking about you for a while now." Or he’d never have told Rodney the truth about himself.

Rodney shook his head again, this time sadly. "Something it never can be, not considering what you’ve said."

John sighed. "Lies would be so much easier. Look, Rodney, I’m not made that way. Demons don’t do emotions. All I can offer you is sex and friendship. And frankly, that’s more than most couples have!"

"Why not? Is there some rule somewhere that says you can’t?"

"Hello, demon here. Positive emotions weren’t exactly among the ingredients they poured into us in the beginning."

"I thought you were all created angels and tossed out of heaven." At John’s incredulous look, Rodney shrugged. "Being an atheist doesn’t mean I don’t know comparative religion."

"I’m fairly sure love and other warm fuzzies were supposed to be burned out of us by the fires of hell."

"I notice you didn’t say ‘were’ just then."

"Rodney, if I wasn’t still capable of something, I’d have shot you months ago!"

Rodney only smiled in response to that.

John sighed. "So what you’re telling me is that I came out of hiding and I’m still not getting sex?"

"No matter how desperate you might think I am to have sex, I’d rather it mean something other than just getting off."

"If it was just about getting off, I’d have transported us to my room naked instead of here," John pointed out.

"So why didn’t you?" Rodney shot back.

"Because rape’s really not my thing. And I never dreamed you’d be this difficult!"

Rodney snorted out a laugh. "Why should this be any different than any other time?"

"Hope springs eternal." John chuckled wryly.

"Only for the optimist."

"Or the perpetually horny who spends most of his time with the object of his lust."

Rodney smirked at that. "In that case, I think it’s something else doing the springing."

"If you only think, I need to make these jeans tighter."

"If you make the jeans tighter, I think you’ll lose feeling in your legs."

John smirked. "Enjoying the view?"

"Contrary to popular belief, I can look but not touch."

"Please, feel free to touch."

Rodney smiled. "Nice try, Colonel, but no."

John backed him against a wall, pressing close as he stole another kiss.

"John," Rodney rasped once he could speak again, "I’m not changing my mind."

"That’s okay, I’ll work on changing it for you."

"My, how magnanimous of you."

"Isn’t it?" John grinned, sliding his hands down to cup Rodney’s ass and lift him so their pelvises rubbed together.

Rodney sucked in a breath and tried to get his balance. "Q-quite, but still no sex."

"How ‘bout I just blow you for now?" John suggested against Rodney’s ear, hot breath teasing the sensitive curves.

"Not that either," Rodney whispered, shivering at the teasing sensation.

"You won’t even let me taste you?" John purred, nibbling on the tendon in Rodney’s neck.

"Sex with emotion only on one side only ends up hurting me, so no."

"Why not take it as a challenge? Maybe you could teach me something." John rocked against him.

Rodney whimpered as he felt John’s hardness rub against his groin, but he shook his head. "By giving everything up in the beginning?"

"Ever heard of the carrot and stick?"

"I think I feel one of them right now."

"Oh good." John grinned, enjoying this as much as he would sex with anyone else.

"But shouldn’t you be the one enticing me with what I want, not the other way around?"

"Rodney, nothing ever goes the way it should with you; why should this be any different?" John laughed. "I’ve run out of things to offer you."

Rodney shrugged, the move sliding his body against John’s. "Maybe things you’re willing to give."

"Things I know how to give." John groaned and humped against him, wondering if he was going to come in his pants for the first time in recorded history.

"Then—then I guess you should start learning other things."

"I’m much better at learning by doing."

Rodney took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. "All right, then why don’t you start doing by telling me why you chose me for all this."

John shrugged. "I told you. I actually like you, which is a rather interesting change for me. And I find you attractive as hell."

"All right, I’m guessing that was honesty, but why are you here? Planning on corrupting an entirely new galaxy?"

"I was bored, and the coin came up tails." John shrugged again.

"And you’ve risked your life so many times because you really can’t die, I take it?"

"It makes it easier," John admitted. "Though I still hate those damn bugs!"

"Hrmmm, I would have thought that demons would have liked bugs; they seem to go along with the whole darkness and plague devouring the world theme."

John pulled a face. "The damn thing was feeding on me, and I couldn’t do anything about it without letting everyone know what I am. I’m seriously tempted to go destroy that whole planet!"

"Be my guest, though the fact that it was there saved you from turning into a bug—or was that a big put on too?"

"No." John shuddered with revulsion at the memory. "Admittedly, I could have stopped it any time, but I rather think Carson would have started asking questions at that point. I’m glad you managed to save me. I’d have hated to have to come back as someone else and start all over."

"You do realize that people died trying to get those eggs for you, don’t you?"

"Uh, Rodney, demon here. Human life is not exactly my number one priority. Though I’ll admit to a surprising fondness for many of the people in Atlantis. There are some rather extraordinary individuals here."

Any arousal Rodney had felt earlier had vanished, and he stood stock still, pinned against the wall by John’s weight. "How thrilling."

John looked at him for a long moment before shrugging and stepping back. "You know, I’ve never put this much effort into anyone in all my millennia of existence. And I’m definitely not going to again! Fine, you win, Dr. McKay." He hoped his disappointment and the surprising unhappiness he felt didn’t show.

"Good, fine!" Rodney snapped, though in truth what he felt was loneliness welling up at the thought that he’d lost his best friend—even if that man had turned out to be something he hadn’t expected.

"I wish..." he began before sinking to the floor and leaning back against the jumper’s side. "I wish that it had been you, just you, not all this..." he waved a hand in the air, "rigmarole."

John let out a roar of frustration, one somewhat louder and deeper than human vocal chords could actually produce. "All this is me! What the hell do you think I’ve been trying to tell you!" He raked a hand through messy dark hair. "The only person I ever tell who I really am, the only one I’ve ever even been tempted to tell, and I’m rigmarole. This really sucks!"

"No, what sucks is that the person who I thought of as a friend, the person who I really care about, the one person I knew I could count on in this fucked up galaxy is a lie and I don’t even know him at all."

Rodney huffed out a sigh and raised his head to study John. "So, what are we going to do about it?"

But John hadn’t heard anything after ‘the person who I really care about,’ as what Rodney had been telling him finally sank in. The hazel eyes widened, and he looked stunned. "You... care about me?"

"I care about my friend John," Rodney said flatly, "who obviously never noticed."

Still shocked, John didn’t register the tone. "I never thought anyone could actually care about me."

"I’m rather familiar with that feeling myself."

"If I didn’t care about you, we wouldn’t be having this conversation."

"Oh, silly me, I thought it was because you were apparently bored and horny."

John’s eyes narrowed. "You’re the one who never tires of pointing out that I can have pretty much anyone. Except the person I actually want, apparently!"

"Well, forgive me for not getting on my hands and knees and letting you go at me!"

"If that’s issue, I’m just as happy to bottom."

Rodney sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "You just don’t understand, do you?"

"Actually," John said slowly, realizing that what he’d thought a joke when he mentioned love to Rodney earlier was nothing more or less than the truth of what the scientist wanted, "I think maybe I’m starting to. But I don’t know how to give you what you want. I don’t think I’m capable of it," he repeated.

"Then I suppose I should leave." Rodney pushed to his feet, moving like a man twice his age.

"I... could try." John moved to stand in front of Rodney again.

"Try what?"

"To give you what you want. To be what you want. I... don’t want to lose you either."

Rodney looked up, his expression incredulous. "I thought you said you couldn’t have those feelings."

"It’s not like I’ve had much opportunity to find out since... well, in a very long time. But as you yourself said, I didn’t start out as a demon." And just maybe this was sufficient incentive to change.

"Are you serious?"

"Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I told someone I’m Ashtaroth?"

"Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve told someone I cared about them?"

"I’m willing to bet I’ve got several thousand years on you."

"But honestly, did you care?"

"I didn’t really care about anything."

"And now?"

"I care about you, about our friendship."

Rodney looked at him closely. "You’re telling the truth." The statement was part fact, part question.

"Yes, Rodney, I’m telling the truth," John sighed. He just didn’t know what he was going to do about it.

"You don’t sound too happy about it."

"I wasn’t exactly expecting any of this."

Rodney half-shrugged. "And you think I was?"

"Nothing’s ever easy with you."

"I believe the correct phrase is ‘look who’s talking’."

John chuckled and lowered his head to kiss Rodney again. This time he asked, simply licking and nibbling Rodney’s lips until they parted to let him in. Rodney whimpered at the slow, gentle seduction, finding it harder to fight this than the earlier demands. John’s tongue swept into his mouth, burning him from the inside as he moaned, his fingers clenching in the tight black t-shirt and pulling him closer.

John pulled Rodney against him and shifted him higher so their groins rocked together while he explored Rodney’s mouth. He tasted every inch, then retreated with a teasing flicker of his tongue, enticing Rodney’s to follow it back into his mouth.

Unable to resist the seductive invitation, Rodney slid his tongue into John’s mouth, tasting him for the first time. It was spice and heat and everything addictive, and he worried he’d never get enough. He pulled John closer, opening his mouth wider, to devour every bit of him that he could. Moaning, John tried to get even closer, his hands cupping Rodney’s ass and kneading the firm buttocks.

"John," Rodney managed to get out between gasps for breath. He pulled back, and his eyes cleared somewhat, and he became highly aware of John’s erection pressing against his.

"Yeah." When Rodney drew back from the kiss, John simply turned his attention to the sensitive skin along the underside of Rodney’s jaw, licking, nibbling and sucking all along the length and down the tendon in his throat.

"This doesn’t mean we’re having sex today."

"You are a ridiculously stubborn man," John groaned.

"I’ve heard that a few times before." Rodney gave a sad grin.

"It’s a good thing then that I’ve had even more practice at being stubborn."

"And you have lots of practice at patience."

"Not so much. I’m more of an instant gratification kind of demon."

"Then I suppose you’ll learn it."

"And after I do get you into bed, when you wonder why we wasted so much time, I’m so going to say I told you so!"

"I already told you what I want." Rodney lifted a hand and stroked John’s face.

John sighed even as he leaned into the touch. "I’m trying, Rodney. I want to be with you. And not just for the sex."

"I know, and actually, I’m amazed that you’re even willing to try."

"Me too," John admitted wryly. "I think it’s just as well I’m far from others of my kind. I’ve apparently been spending too much time with humans."

"As far as I can tell, that was your choice."

"The more time I spent with humans, the more I wanted to. And then there’s you." John shook his head in bemusement.

"I’m not going to apologize for being who I am."

"I wasn’t asking you to. I kinda like who you are."

Rodney chuckled. "That alone should have told me that you weren’t quite normal."

John looked amused. "I have esoteric tastes."

"Ahh, that’s what they’re calling it now."

"You know what, you deserve me!"

Rodney chuckled. "Well, I certainly can’t let you loose on anyone else knowing what I know about you." He suddenly frowned. "So just how did you keep Chaya from finding out about you?"

John groaned, having hoped Rodney would forget about that, but he should have known better. And lying would just get him in more trouble later. He lowered Rodney back to the floor and let his forehead fall to the scientist’s shoulder. "I didn’t," he admitted. "She knew what I was the moment we met... just like I knew her. We recognize our own species, even after several millennia." And he just knew Rodney wasn’t going to let that go, but he wasn’t volunteering anything unless asked.

Rodney blinked and looked stunned. "You’re an Ancient? But you said you were a demon. You’re an Ancient and a demon, and that means Ancients are the basis of Earthly religions?" He gave an almost hysterical laugh. "I knew I was right being an atheist."

John sighed. "Do you ever read the reports from Earth, or do you just have Radek pull out the science stuff? I’m an Ori. My people and the Alterans are two branches of what you call Ancients. We split apart millennia ago. Both of our people ascended, but we have rather different ideas about how to do things. The Alterans would love Star Trek since they have their own version of the Prime Directive, and the Ori... well, anyone who doesn’t worship us is pretty much obliterated. And we tend to appear as fire." He smiled wryly. "The Alterans kept most of the Ori from knowing about Earth and the rest of the Milky Way, and those of us who did know preferred to keep it to ourselves."

"I know all that!" Rodney replied testily. "What I want to know is if the two groups hate each other so much, why were you so cozy with Miss Alteran Universe?"

"Because after ten thousand years alone, even an Ori looked good to her," John shrugged. "And, um, I was hoping she’d distract me from you."

"Oh, now that makes me feel so much better. Just how many ‘side trips’ have you taken back there to get your itch scratched?"

"None!" John snapped. "It didn’t work. And she was pretty pissed to come in a distant second to a human, let me tell you."

"And how did she find out? No, don’t tell me, the thought of you and her doing whatever is making me ill."

"I’m sorry," John offered uncomfortably.

Rodney looked at him closely, his eyes narrowed. "You really mean that, don’t you?"

"I’m not in the habit of saying things I don’t mean. To you."

"Good. I like that."

"Keep thinking of things you like about me," John suggested. He backed up to the pilot’s chair and sat down, drawing Rodney down to sit straddling his lap.

"Me thinking of things I like about you is still not going to get you laid," Rodney grated out when the move rubbed them together enough to get him hard again.

"Can’t blame a demon for trying." John cupped Rodney’s ass and rocked him slightly.

"I suppose if you stopped, I’d start to worry."

"Well, that’s one worry I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t ever have."

Rodney had to laugh at that. "Yes, I somewhat gathered that was the case."

"Finally! I’m making progress."

"Like this was something I didn’t know before?"

"Well, not before tonight," John pointed out. "And you’re not arguing about it anymore."

"No, and I meant the fact that you were stubborn; that I’ve known as long as we’ve known each other."

"So you should realize that I never give up when I really want something." John flexed his fingers on Rodney’s ass.

Rodney groaned softly but managed an arch look. "And you should realize that I don’t either."

"In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not trying to get away!"

"That wasn’t what I meant and you know it."

John grinned. "So?" He pulled Rodney a fraction closer, the hands on his ass sliding lower and between his spread legs to rub his balls from behind through the taut fabric of his jeans.

"So, you aren’t stupid, so don’t split hairs," Rodney groaned, his hands tightening on John’s shoulders.

"I assure you it’s not hairs I want to split."

"That was bad, John. Very, very bad."

"I’m a demon; I’m supposed to be bad." John leaned in to steal another kiss.

"Oh, ha ha, that’s hilarious."

"I thought it was pretty good." John leaned his forehead against Rodney’s and closed his eyes. "I’ve never wanted anyone like this."

Rodney shivered at the blatant need in John’s voice but managed to hold on to his resolve. "Good," he murmured, brushing a kiss against John’s lips, "it’ll give you incentive."

"If I get much more incentive, it may kill me."

"Guess I’d better move then." Rodney slid back off John’s lap, wobbling for a moment as his legs threatened to give out.

"Hey, where do you think you’re going?" John protested, grabbing for Rodney with a pout on his face.

"Saving you from yourself."

"But I don’t want to be saved!"

Rodney leaned in and kissed him again. "Tough."

"More like hard," John grumbled.

"It won’t kill you."

"I might wish it would. Fine, fine, we both know I’m not going to rape you. Have lunch with me?"

"Is it lunch time already?" Rodney glanced down at his watch in confusion. "Didn’t we just eat breakfast, or have you put us in some strange space-time continuum?"

"No, it’s still a couple hours away. But we could do something till then. Explore the city, sit out on a balcony, something."

"You mean, like a date?"

John nodded, deciding that this was something he’d make sure his fellow demons never found out about. But, oddly, he was enjoying himself.

Rodney was silent for a moment, then he nodded, his lips curving into a boyish smile. "I like that idea."

John returned the smile, finally standing up as well and stretching lazily, his black t-shirt pulling up from his jeans, baring his midriff. "I do too, actually. Any ideas what you’d like to do?" He grinned wickedly. "Anything goes. A quick trip to Fiji? Lunch in Paris? McDonald’s?"

"John..." Rodney warned though his gaze dropped to John’s stomach and stayed there. "No. We can take a walk around the city and bring some MREs for lunch."

John shrugged, hiding his smile as he watched Rodney’s eyes. "Well, the offer’s open. But I have to admit that I like it here, which surprises me. I never expected to."

"So why did you come?" Rodney finally dragged his gaze upward again. "Were you just looking forward to seeing everyone die horribly?"

"I... was curious," John admitted finally, his gaze turned inward. "This is the city of my ancestors. Actually, my grandparents lived here." He smiled crookedly. "Would you like to see where they lived?"

Rodney nodded. "I’d love to; can you tell me about them?"

"They were the last members of my family to live in Atlantis. Our people were already investigating ascension, and they were getting close, but the two groups were splitting on how they should deal with the seeded humans throughout the galaxy. My grandparents and those who believed as they did that the lesser races should worship them left Atlantis. They continued their research into ascension on the journey and after they arrived in what would become our home, and obviously we succeeded during my lifetime."

John smiled wryly as he leaned back against a wall of the jumper. "After a while I got bored with the planets in that galaxy—also seeded with human life by us, in case you were wondering—and started exploring more and more of the universe, along with some others who had been my friends before we ascended. We avoided the Pegasus galaxy for obvious reasons, so imagine our surprise when one day we decided to visit the original home of our ancestors and discovered that human life had re-evolved there and had no idea who or what we were.

"We decided that it would be fun to stick around and teach them to worship us." John sighed. "It was fun for a while, but then we discovered that some of the Alterans were still around, and well, you know how well that went for demons. But we reached an agreement not to tell the other Ori about Earth; none of us wanted that to happen, for various reasons.

"So here we are, a few thousand years later."

"Still slumming with humans." Rodney rubbed his forehead as if he was feeling a headache coming on.

"I’ve come to realize that at least some humans are worthwhile in their own right. What everyone here has faced, knowing that they could be killed at any time has given me renewed respect for humans. And rather more for some."

"The redemption of John Sheppard?" Rodney asked, tilting his head to the side and smiling slightly.

"More like becoming John Sheppard. I don’t think Ashtaroth is quite so redeemable. But I’m starting to like being Col. Sheppard."

Rodney had to smile at that. "It sounds like dissociative psychosis, but if it works, that’s fine."

"It does. Some days I don’t even think about who... what I am."

"And then when you do? How do you feel then?"

"Like I’ve lost myself and found part I didn’t even know existed all at the same time." John shrugged. "I’m comfortable with who I am, Rodney. And I’m not ready to be just John Sheppard."

Rodney nodded. "I can understand that, I suppose. I wouldn’t like having to change who I was either."

Smiling wryly, John pulled Rodney into a quick hug and let go while he was still sputtering in surprise. "If you changed, that would be a sign of the coming end times."

"Ha ha, I’m just so amused with your attempt at humor, Colonel. You would think that in millennia of life, you’d have developed a better one."

"I happen to think I have a great sense of humor."

"For a twelve-year-old!"

"I can assure you that I only want to play grown-up games with you."

"Now there’s something I never would have guessed."

"I’d be happy to demonstrate if you like," John offered, trying for a virtuous, self-sacrificing expression.

"Why does that not surprise me?"

"Because I’m a nice guy." John lost the battle and started chuckling. "Come on, if we’re going to explore the old areas of the city, we’d better go now or I’ll spirit you away someplace and seduce you."

"You tried that already, and it didn’t work," Rodney reminded him as they began to walk out of the jumper.

John gave him a wry look. "Do you really think that’s the best I can do?"

"Do you really want me to stay here with you?"

"Being good now!"

"Good boy," Rodney laughed. "And no getting me lost here, got it?"

"I’ll leave a trail of breadcrumbs."

"So does that make you Hansel or Gretel?"

"I thought I was cast as the Wicked Witch?"

"Are you planning on tossing me into an oven and eating me?"

"Well, no oven but I’d love to eat you."

Rodney sighed. "I walked right into that one."

"Yup." John smirked at him. "So I get a kiss as forfeit." Not giving Rodney a chance to protest, he pulled the scientist into his arms and nibbled gently on his lower lip.

"Greedy," Rodney chuckled, finally pulling back before he gave in to more. He only had a moment to see John’s widening smile before John’s tongue took advantage of his parted lips and swept into his mouth, exploring him hungrily.

Rodney finally pulled back, panting, his dazed blue eyes meeting John’s gaze and seeing the same need he felt reflected in them. "Tour," he said, proud of the fact that his voice was fairly steady even though his legs definitely weren’t.

"One of these times you’re going to ask me for what we both want, and it’s going to be explosive," John said in a rough, needy tone. He smiled with satisfaction at the surge of heat he saw reflected in Rodney’s eyes and started walking again, taking them to a transporter and then to an unexplored section of the city.

"Sounds dangerous," Rodney commented, looking around the quiet, dusty hallway. "All right, and you can start with the tour spiel right now."

"Sounds like fun," John corrected before straightening up, hands clasped behind his back, and giving Rodney what he should have known better than to ask for. "And here we have the main thoroughfare of this section of the city. In its heyday better than a hundred families and individuals traveled these halls and lived on each level. This area was predominantly residential and recreational, with shops further out toward one edge."

"Asshole," Rodney sighed, "you know what I meant."

"Precision, Dr. McKay." John grinned as he relaxed and slung an arm around Rodney’s shoulders. "My grandparents’ home was just down this corridor. I don’t imagine it’ll be much more than empty rooms though."

"Then tell me about them; I take it they’re part of the group currently terrorizing the Milky Way?"

"Well, if you want to put it that way... pretty much, yeah. The Alterans, which at that time still included the Ori, had spent generations researching ascension, so they were all pretty fixated on leaving behind their mortal forms. I’m actually surprised they paid enough attention to their bodies to have a child, and the same for my parents. But they did, so here I am. I was one of the last children born before my people ascended."

"Baby of the family, eh? So how, if you’re ascended, do you have a body?"

"I created it for myself, though this is how I looked before I ascended. But if I was going to do that, I wanted to experience everything. I could have done without that damn bug though!"

"My heart bleeds for you."

"Does this mean you’re not going to worry about me anymore?" John widened his eyes and looked mournful.

"Agh! Enough with the pouting!" Rodney groaned. "Of course I’m going to worry about you—and the fact that if you get pissed, you could blow all of us up!"

"I don’t want to blow you up; I just want to blow you."

"Colonel, remember my intellect; I believe I’ve gotten that point by now."

"It bears repeating. And I keep hoping this time your answer will change."

"Pressure never made me change my mind, and let’s get back to the topic on hand; tell me more about the area."

John sighed. "I had to fall for a stubborn man. Fine, fine. Apparently this—which was the closest equivalent to a cafe that existed in Atlantis—was where my grandparents decided to pair in order to procreate. And yes, that’s the way they described it when they told me about it."

"And Beth Hartford told me I wasn’t romantic," Rodney murmured, shaking his head.

"No offense, Rodney, but you’re not. I heard the story of your ‘date’ with Katie Brown. My advice? Stick to guys."

"Pardon me? If I had been alone in my head, it would have turned out much better, thank you!"

"Uh huh." John nodded sagely. "Of course it would."

"So you can see the future on top of everything else?"

"Naw, that’d be boring. But you’re not exactly suave."

"Excuse me?!"

"Rodney, I like you, but your social skills are virtually non-existent."

Rodney glowered. "That’s because I have better things to think about than stroking people’s egos."

"Apparently you don’t like to stroke much of anything," John grumbled. He motioned to a door just ahead. "That’s it."

"Oh, you’re just so deprived," Rodney sighed before looking at the door and trying to open it, only to have nothing happen.

John glanced at the door, and it opened. In response to Rodney’s glare, he shrugged. "Only someone from my family could open it. My grandparents sealed it when they left Atlantis. Just because they were leaving the city didn’t mean they wanted people using quarters that had belonged to us for generations." John had seen the rooms in his grandparents’ memories many times, but he was curious to see them for himself now that he was here, and he stepped forward, for the moment almost ignoring Rodney.

"So?" Rodney asked after several minutes, sounding annoyed at more than just not being able to open the door. "Is it like you remembered?"

"Hmm?" John looked almost startled by the reminder of Rodney’s presence. "Oh. Yes. And no." He smiled crookedly. "It’s much more vivid than their memories. It’s... strange to be here."

"Deja vu strange or spooky strange?" Rodney walked farther into the room, studying blank walls as if they would tell him more about who John really was.

"Both. I guess that’s why I’ve never come here before." John looked around. "On that wall there should be a sort of mosaic depicting Atlantis as it was on Earth ten million years ago, before the Plague made my ancestors come to the Pegasus galaxy. And by the balcony should be plants of all kinds." He shook his head. "Suddenly the whole city seems very barren."

Rodney moved closer and, after a moment, rested his hand on John’s shoulder. "Are you okay?"

"I... wish I hadn’t come here," John said quietly, eyes still moving over the bare room. "I didn’t expect it to bother me this much."

"Missing your family?" Rodney tightened his fingers around John’s shoulder and moved closer to him.

"Realizing that I don’t really have a family to miss." John looked at Rodney, but his gaze was distant. "And being here has made me finally know what I’ve been missing." He half turned away.

"But at least you had them." Rodney moved with John, not allowing him to distance himself. "Even if they are trying to take control of the galaxies, at least they cared about you, I would hope."

"Maybe before we ascended. It was so long ago and so distant that I can’t really remember. But after ascension?" John laughed bitterly. "You wouldn’t think a being who chooses to appear as a fire could be cold and distant, would you?"

"Everyone was like that?"

John nodded. "It’s as if emotions got left behind when we ascended."

"I hate to contradict you, but I’ve seen quite a few situations where you could have been called emotional; care for me to list them?"

About to argue, John stopped and stared at him, frowning. "I... guess you’re right. It seems being in this form again is bringing back more than old memories."

Rodney smiled at that. "Good."

John smiled faintly in response. "Don’t get your hopes up. I can’t make any promises about the final results."

"But at least you’re admitting that you do have emotions; Kate would say that’s the first step."

"I am so not going to start sessions with Heightmeyer!"

"Was I telling you to do that? It was only a comment that obviously you do have some emotions, even if you don’t want them."

"You’re not easily distracted from your goals, are you?"

"Says the man who has done everything humanly possible and some things beyond that to get into my pants."

"Without any noticeable success, I might add," John grumbled. "Just remember that this is all your fault when Valentine’s Day rolls around."

"That’s four months away; who knows what might happen by then."

"Oh, I promise you you’ll have more romance than you know what to do with!" John smiled evilly, imagining mounds of pink and red satin and velvet.

"And you in a French maid’s outfit?" Rodney chuckled.

"Naw, I don’t have the legs for fishnets."

"The fact that you know that terrifies me."

"I extrapolated from available data. I have hairy legs. Ergo, not meant for fishnets." John walked farther into the rooms, his eyes still dark despite his joking tone.

"Well, you could shave..." Rodney followed John through the rooms, falling silent as the other man seemed lost in memory again.

John looked around, and suddenly the empty rooms were filled with furniture and decorations odd to human eyes and yet strangely appropriate to their surroundings. "This is the way I ‘remember’ it."

"What about the people, your grandparents?"

He let out a bark of laughter. "I can’t even remember what they looked like. How crazy is that?"

"Well, it was a long time ago," Rodney said carefully, not having any idea how John was going to react next.

John turned to face him, allowing everything to fade away again. "This is why I don’t think I can give you what you want, Rodney. My grandparents could remember the way the morning light reflected off the glossy leaves of a plant next to the window, but not each other’s faces. Not exactly a lot of emotional depth there to build on."

"Do you remember how Col. Sumner looked before he died?"

John flinched. "I don’t think I’ll ever forget."

"Then I’d say you were light-years ahead of your grandparents in emotional development right there—or do you want me to continue giving you examples?"

"Have I mentioned that you can be annoyingly smug?" John was smiling faintly as he leaned back against a wall and watched Rodney, his attention firmly on the here and now.

"Not smug, just determined."

"How come you’re so sure I won’t just say it to get what I want?" John asked, honestly curious.

"Because if that was the case, you would have said it already, wouldn’t you."

"Smart man. And one who’s getting to know me better than I know myself," John sighed. "This could be trouble."

"I believe this is a classic case of the pot and the kettle, wouldn’t you agree?"

"Are you calling me trouble?"

"You got it in one," Rodney chuckled quietly.

"Then I guess we really are made for each other," John retorted.

"I’m not sure if this should make me pleased or borderline psychotic."

"Ha ha." John eyed him. "I hate to point this out, but most people would say that you’re long past the border."

Rodney sniffed. "I don’t hear anyone complaining when my particular brand of psychosis saves their asses."

"And I doubt you ever will. People are pretty fond of staying alive. Though I have to admit that I’m waiting for the day when Zelenka duct tapes your mouth shut or Carson drugs you into unconsciousness."

"If that comment is supposed to endear you more to me, it failed miserably!"

"Rodney, if I started being all sweetly sentimental, you’d be looking for pods in the lower levels," John snorted.

"At this time I wouldn’t be surprised to find them!"

Chuckling, John crossed the room to pull the surprised scientist into a hug. "’Fraid not, this is all me."

"I’m not sure if that scares me more or less."

"Aw, you know you love me," John snickered.

Rodney chuckled at that. "Now I just have to convince you that you can and do love me."

The lack of denial stunned John, and his eyes widened. "I think I need a drink."

"I told you that before; obviously you didn’t pay any attention."

"You didn’t just say it out like that; besides I find it really hard to believe," John mumbled. "I mean, you know what I am now. And you can still say that?"

Rodney sighed. "I know, but you’re the same person you were when I met you; your actions dictate how I feel about you, not your past."

"Oh." John paced restlessly around the room, never getting too far from Rodney. "So how do you know the difference between love and lust?"

"Lust vanishes at the first sign of trouble; I’ve learned that the hard way. Love, it stays around; though that’s just my theory."

John stared, suddenly very still. "That’s your definition of love?" he asked slowly.

Rodney shrugged. "It may not be conventional, but it seems to be truthful."

"I think I need to sit down," John said even as he abruptly dropped to the floor.

"Why?" Rodney looked at him sharply. "Is it something in the air, another virus? Are we dying?"

John laughed. "Leave it you. No, we’re not about to die. It’s just that... Well, by your definition, I am in love with you. Have been for months. Or in case you haven’t noticed, we’re long past the first trouble, and I’m still here and still trying to get you."

"And you had no idea."

John glared at him. "Love’s not exactly the first thing I consider when thinking about my own motivations. Which I don’t, anyway."

"You don’t love, or you don’t think about your own motivations?"

"Think about my motivations." John shrugged. "I just do what I want."

"Okay," Rodney nodded, "so, what do you want to do now?"

John gave him a wry look.

Rodney sighed. "I meant, how do you feel about that? You sound pissed."

"I’m... confused. I never expected this."

"And you think I did? Until I met you, I preferred blond and leggy—and female!"

John chuckled. "So maybe we’ll muddle through this together."

"I like that idea," Rodney said quietly.

"Strangely, I think I do too."

"Are you saying that because it’s eventually going to get you laid?"

"Well, that’s certainly part of it. But I happen to like spending time with you regardless."

"Which means you do love me or you’re totally insane."

"Frankly, I think it’s both."

Rodney chuckled at that. "Well, I knew the second was true, but it’s good that you’re admitting it."

John glared at him for a moment before surging to his feet and yanking Rodney against him to kiss him. Startled, Rodney tensed, then relaxed against John’s body, sliding his arms around John’s waist as their tongues slid together. John slid his hands down over Rodney’s back to cup his ass and draw him closer, and Rodney shuddered, sucking on John’s tongue while they moved together.

"You taste so damn good," John groaned, rocking against him.

"Mmm, so do you," Rodney whispered, groping for John’s ass.

"Don’t tease if you’re going to stop me again," John warned throatily.

Instantly, Rodney stilled. "I’m sorry, John," he whispered.

John sighed, closing his eyes as he let his forehead rest on Rodney’s. "I was hoping your response would not be to stop this time."

"It’s just that, I’d rather it was in one of our rooms, not here." Rodney gave a small smile. "The floor would ruin my back."

John’s head shot up, and he stared almost wildly at Rodney. An instant later, they were in John’s room. "Less likely to be interruptions here. People always come looking for you in your room."

"Your brain is just one of the things I love about you."

"Likewise." John smiled, reaching for Rodney’s shirt to pull it off.

"Wait," Rodney said, catching John’s hands and moving them. "Let me do you first."

John chuckled. "You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to hear you say that."

Rodney chuckled even as he caught the hem of John’s shirt and tugged it upward. "Well, it can’t be longer than a year."

"Which is longer than I’ve ever waited for anything in my life," John pointed out.

"It’s a wonder you didn’t combust." Rodney smirked and pulled John’s shirt the rest of the way off, tossing it away so that he could run his hands over the bare chest.

"I’m working my way up to an explosion."

"I hope you’ll wait for me."

"If not, I’m sure I can recharge. Once is not going to be enough tonight."

"Considering it’s been too long to contemplate since I’ve been with anyone, I’m not complaining about that situation." Rodney dragged his fingers through John’s chest hair. Shuddering, John pressed closer, his fingers gripping Rodney’s hips.

"Finally," he rasped, leaning in to kiss Rodney.

"Almost," Rodney whispered, sliding his hands down to the waistband of John’s jeans and working at the button fly.

"A lot closer than I was starting to think I would ever get." John watched Rodney’s hands on him. "But worth waiting for."

Rodney nodded and flipped the rest of the buttons open, rubbing his thumb against the bulge of John’s erection.

John moaned, arching his hips. "Please," he begged.

"John," Rodney whispered, twisting his hand into John’s jeans and stroking his cock, the sensation making his own shaft throb.

"Oh fuck, that’s good." John fought his instinct to make their clothes disappear instantly, trying to let this move at Rodney’s pace.

"It’d be better if you were touching me too."

John’s hands nearly flew to the waist of Rodney’s pants, tugging them open to curl his fist around the hard shaft, stroking him eagerly.

"Christ, I feel like a teenager again," Rodney muttered, leaning his forehead against John’s shoulder as they both bucked into each other’s hands.

John chuckled. "Complete with recovery powers, I hope."

Rodney gave a gasping laugh as John’s hand tightened around him. "Somehow I don’t think that will be the case, but not from lack of desire."

"I think we’ll manage just fine." John started moving toward the bed, drawing Rodney with him. "I need to taste you."

"Wait, wait, pants!" Rodney protested, trying not to stumble over the jeans bunched around his knees. John slowed down but didn’t stop, too eager to finally get Rodney in his bed.

Rodney managed to kick out of the garment, then almost tackled John to the bed, kissing him frantically. Equally desperate, John rolled to his back, pulling Rodney on top of him. Losing patience, he made the remainder of their clothes disappear and drew Rodney closer, gasping with pleasure at the sensation of skin on skin.

"Okay, not arguing about the parlor tricks right now," Rodney groaned, reaching to touch John everywhere he could.

"I was kind of hoping you’d think that." John writhed under him, spreading his legs so Rodney settled between them.

Rodney gave a gasping laugh. "And now I’m hoping you’re going to continue with the tasting me idea."

"Your wish is my command." John flipped them over and slid downward, nipping at Rodney’s belly.

"And I want to taste you too!"

"I do like a demanding man." John turned around so he was kneeling over Rodney on all fours, and he took Rodney’s cock into his mouth, suckling lightly on the tip.

"Just not a stubborn, oh, fuck, one," Rodney gasped, reaching for John’s cock and drawing it toward his mouth so he could taste him.

John let go of him and lowered his head to peer at Rodney between their bodies. "I think I’ve proven that I do like a stubborn man. The most stubborn man in two galaxies to be precise."

Rodney let go of John’s cock to give a breathless laugh. "And most brilliant."

"Well, you like me now, so I’ll have to agree with that one."

"Oh, now that’s hilarious." Rodney turned his head and bit at John’s thigh.

"Oh yeah, do that again!" John groaned, lowering his head again to lap at Rodney.

"You liked that?" Rodney gasped before deciding that was obvious, and so he did it again.

John whimpered, pulling his mouth off Rodney before he could bite him accidentally. He turned his head, dragging his tongue over Rodney’s shaft. Rodney whimpered and reached for John’s cock again, sucking strongly on it as he arched up into John’s mouth. John lightly dragged his teeth over the sensitive flesh, then licked him, groaning his pleasure at the taste.

Rodney gasped again, and his whole body shivered. John suckled hungrily on Rodney, tensing as his climax approached. The sensation shot through Rodney like a bullet, and he came, groaning against the firm flesh in his mouth. John drank down every drop Rodney had to offer, staving off his own climax until the last spasm passed, and then he groaned and came as well.

After he’d swallowed down John’s come, Rodney lay there, panting, before chuckling. "Well, you taste human enough."

Starting to laugh, John turned himself around and dropped down at Rodney’s side, drawing him close. "Not much difference when I’m physical," he admitted.

"Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but I really don’t want to blow a being made of fire."

"That’s okay, I much prefer being physical for sex."

Rodney chuckled and shifted around until he was half-draped over John’s body. "Glad to hear it; you’re much cuddlier that way as well."

"My life is now complete. I’m cuddly. Oh yay."

"Would you rather I thought you were untouchable?

"NO! No," John repeated without yelling the second time. "Cuddly is fine."

"Easy, easy, I need those eardrums," Rodney laughed, petting John’s chest as they settled again.

"Sorry," John apologized. "But I guess it’s okay if I’m cuddly since you’re cute."

"We sound like a fucking pair of rabbits," Rodney groaned.

"Well, rabbits do fuck a lot..."

"John, if you turn us into rabbits so that we can fuck more, I will kill you."

John’s laughter echoed in the room. When the howls trailed off to chuckles, he finally managed to gasp out, "I’m not about to change either of us into anything."

"Thank goodness, because I really would kill you if you did." Rodney grinned at the last even as he elbowed John in the side.

"How exactly would you manage that as a bunny?" John asked with interest, starting to laugh again.

"Does being an all-powerful Ori include knowing Monty Python films?"

John snickered. "Oh shut up, Rodney." He leaned over to kiss him, deciding that it was the best way to get that silence.

Rodney smirked into the kiss, and the expression changed to a smile by the time John released his lips. "No bunnies."

"Good choice." John propped his head up on one hand and grinned down at him. "I like this."

"You like us sniping about bunnies?" Rodney laughed.

"I like us doing anything together in bed, sweaty and post-coital."

"Yeah, it is pretty nice."

"Told ya so." John laid his head on Rodney’s shoulder.

"You’re going to keep saying that, aren’t you?"

"What do you think, genius?"

"That I might have been better off keeping you at arm’s length."

"Ah, but then I wouldn’t be able to do this," John murmured, reaching down to run a finger gently between Rodney’s cheeks.

Rodney shivered and pressed back. "All right, all right, closer is good as well."

"I knew you’d see it my way." John brought the hand to his mouth and sucked on his finger briefly, then slipped it back down and pressed it inside Rodney.

"Christ, John," Rodney gasped, drawing a knee up as he dug his fingers into John’s side.

"Just John is fine. I never actually knew that other guy." John smirked as he rubbed Rodney’s prostate, a constant, light touch that he knew would drive the other man wild.

"Ass." Even with the grousing, Rodney couldn’t help the almost spastic twitches his hips were giving.

"You have a very fine one," John agreed, leaning down to bite one of Rodney’s nipples, adding to the sensations.

"John!" Rodney cried out, whimpering as his body hardened painfully under the intense stimulation.

"Right here," John whispered, laving the nipple he’d bitten and then suckling gently.

"Noticed that," Rodney whispered, squirming on the sheets, his fingers falling from John’s waist to claw at the bedding.

"So much for not being able," John teased gently, his eyes hot as he watched Rodney. "You’re going to come for me, and then I’m going to fuck you till you come again."

"And then I’m going to be dead!"

"Oh, I promise you’re going to have many more years now that I’ve got you in my bed."

"Is that supposed to sound threatening or reassuring?"

"I was hoping for hot, actually."

Rodney squirmed when John twisted his fingers and gave a breathless laugh. "That goes without saying."

"Good to know I haven’t lost my touch." John leaned down to bite a nipple again, and he groaned his delight at the sound Rodney made.

"You could seduce people in your sleep, and you know it," Rodney hissed, squirming on John’s fingers.

"Aww, you do appreciate me." John moved to kneel between Rodney’s legs, his eyes falling half-closed when Rodney groaned as the movement jerked John’s fingers inside him. His other hand now free, he reached down to trail one finger lightly from Rodney’s anus, over the soft skin leading to the heavy sac, and up and over until he traced a path to the tip of the hardening cock.

"Which will be such consolation for you when you kill me!"

"I’m not going to kill you; I’m going to fuck you." John cupped his palm under Rodney’s cock and balls, lightly teasing the sensitive flesh.

Rodney opened his mouth to make a snide comeback, but what emerged was a low moan instead. John leaned down to capture the sound, kissing Rodney deeply before straightening up again. He watched from eyes that held actual flames in their depths, wanting to see Rodney come again.

Rodney’s eyes widened at the sight above him, and he shuddered, writhing under his touch, feeling as if he was caught in the fires in John’s eyes. With a low cry that bordered on pain he came, whimpering when John continued to play with him.

John kissed him again, his fingers gentling though not stopping as he drank in Rodney’s cries. "Fuck, you’re hot," he breathed, the fires growing bigger in his eyes. "Can you take it, or do you need a break?"

Though he was panting for breath, Rodney’s upper lip curled. "Of course I can take it; just because I’m careful of my health doesn’t mean I’m fragile!"

"I never thought you were. I just meant that you might need a little time to... recharge." John leaned down to nibble Rodney’s lip, unable to resist. "I want to do that every time you sneer at someone."

"I wouldn’t suggest you do it in a staff meeting, and if you think I’m recharging any time in the next decade, you’re insane."

"Oh, another challenge. You know how I love those." Suddenly John’s fingers were gone from Rodney’s ass, only to be replaced by his tongue.

"Christ, John!" Rodney shrieked, feeling like he levitated off the bed.

"I keep telling you I didn’t know him. And you did say you could take it." John’s head rose briefly between Rodney’s legs, flames still visible in his eyes, if banked for the moment.

"I’m beginning to think I was delusional when I said that."

"Only one way to find out."

Rodney gave a weak laugh and collapsed back on the bed. "Feel free."

"I plan to make free—with you." John smirked down at him before lowering his head again and swirling the tip of his tongue around Rodney’s opening.

Rodney shivered and whimpered, his fingers digging into the sheets. John hummed his pleasure in Rodney’s reactions, which only made Rodney squirm more, and he reached up with one hand to trail one finger over Rodney’s soft cock with a feather-light touch that was barely perceptible.

"John..." Rodney moaned, twisting upwards and closing his eyes.

John knelt up between Rodney’s legs, his eyes on the scientist’s face as he slowly pushed inside him, groaning with the sheer pleasure of it.

"So, so hot," Rodney whispered, arching his back off the bed and pulling his legs back against his chest.

"You sure are," John agreed, arching over him as he sank deeper and lowered his head to kiss Rodney hungrily. Rodney moaned into the kiss, letting go of his legs to wrap his arms around John’s shoulders, his fingers digging into the taut muscles of John’s back. John braced himself with one elbow on the bed next to Rodney’s head, and his other hand worked between them to play with Rodney’s balls and the soft, sensitive skin behind them.

Rodney let out a soft sigh of pleasure and pulled John in for another kiss, exploring his mouth as they moved together.

"I wish we could stay like this forever," John rasped against Rodney’s lips. He suddenly rolled to his back, bringing Rodney with him, and looked up with a challenge sparkling in the hazel eyes.

"What are you planning?" Rodney asked, swaying as he tried to get his balance in this new position.

"How do you feel about riding?" John ran his hands over Rodney, enjoying the access afforded by the change in position.

"Why? Are you going to change into a horse?"

John stared up at him. "Either you’re much better at joking with a straight face than I ever suspected or your sex life has been terrifyingly vanilla."

"Compared to you, I’d say Ron Jeremy’s sex life was terrifyingly vanilla!"

"Aren’t you lucky to get to reap the benefits of my experience?"

"I can only hope you won’t get bored with me."

"That is so improbable as not to be worth discussing. You’re more interesting than any other human being I’ve ever met."

"That’s because I’m more brilliant than any other human being you’ve ever met," Rodney countered, having recovered enough to take a more active part as he rocked back and forth.

"And totally lacking in anything remotely resembling humility. Good thing I happen to like that about you." John lightly scratched Rodney’s chest, drawing his nails over the rigid buds of his nipples, making the scientist shudder atop him.

"I suppose I should be glad too, or you might do something to fundamentally change my personality." Rodney groaned and tightened down on John’s cock, reaching behind himself to play with John’s balls as they moved together.

"Never happen," John promised, gasping and twisting under him. "And I’m not sure anything could anyway." He panted, his hands clenching on Rodney’s hips before continuing their exploration of his body.

Rodney had to smirk in response to that though he leaned in and kissed John tenderly. When their lips finally parted, both of them were panting for air, and John raised a hand to cup Rodney’s cheek. "I love to look at you," he breathed, the fire in the center of his eyes spilling out into the colored ring.

Rodney shuddered but didn’t look away, almost defiantly holding John’s gaze, acknowledging what the other man was.

"I’ll never let you go now," John whispered, promising and warning in one breath.

"I probably should be terrified by that comment, but actually I’m reassured by it."

John curled his hand around the nape of Rodney’s neck and drew him into a voracious kiss. "And that’s why we’re perfect for each other," he murmured some time later.

Rodney’s eyebrows rose. "Because I’m perverse enough to appreciate you?"

"Exactly!" John grinned up at him while petting him. "That and you happen to want me as much as I want you"

"Does the fact that I held out in the face of your seductive attack for all of several hours have anything to do it?"

"I already knew you were stubborn," John chuckled, then groaned at the way that felt when he was buried inside Rodney.

"And innovative, don’t forget that." Rodney rested his hands on John’s chest, rubbing his thumbs over John’s nipples.

"I wouldn’t dream of it," John gasped. "I’m coming to appreciate it. A lot."

"You didn’t before? I’ll have to yell at you for that—later."

"Appreciate it more," John corrected himself. "On a much more personal level."

"Good save." Rodney began to move a little faster, wanting to feel John come.

"My specialty," John panted, groaning as he arched up into Rodney, matching the more rapid rhythm. He stared into Rodney’s blue eyes, seeing everything that Rodney felt, and he yelled, his body tightening before he came. Rodney sucked in a quick breath when John bucked upward underneath him, and he shivered in sympathetic reaction as he rode out John’s climax.

John shuddered, pleasure racing through his body as he stared up at Rodney. He caught hold of Rodney’s hands, lacing their fingers together to keep himself grounded in the here and now. "Incredible," he breathed, the flames in his eyes slowly dying down as he regained control of himself.

"Of course I am," Rodney murmured though he was smiling tenderly as he leaned in to kiss John.

John was chuckling as they kissed, and when Rodney drew back again, the colonel gave him a fond look. "So now we figure out how we want to handle this. I don’t want to sneak around pretending not to be interested in you now that I’ve got you, but that’s going to raise those stupid military issues. Which could be easily ended if I let Elizabeth know what I really am, but how would you feel about that?"

Rodney pursed his lips together and frowned. "No, no, I don’t think that’s a good idea for now."

"It’s not as if they could do anything to me, you know. I can take care of myself. But I’ll wait if you want. We’re in this together."

"Yes, we are, aren’t we." Rodney smiled and stretched out on top of John. "I’m glad you told me who you are."

John lazily stroked his back. "Even leaving aside the fact that I doubt I’d be able to hide it from you in bed, I wanted to. And someday I might even get you to call me by my real name."

"You wanted to shock me is what you wanted," Rodney murmured, relaxing under John’s touch. "And maybe one day I will; right now I need to have that anchor of John Sheppard, not Asgard or whatever you said your name was."

"Ashtaroth! I’m not a naked grey rat!" John exclaimed indignantly.

Rodney had to chuckle at that. "Well, you are naked."

"I’m not grey. Or bald. Or bug-eyed," John grumbled.

"And your head is of relatively normal size—if we leave out the hair."

"You like my hair, admit it!"

"It looks as if it would make a very good hand-hold," Rodney allowed.

The hazel eyes narrowed as John stared at him. "I’m really starting to miss the days when I was feared and worshipped."

"Boo hoo, poor baby."

John bit his shoulder.


"Be nice."

"Me be nice? You bit me! Am I bleeding?" Rodney pushed up to his elbows to look at his shoulder.

John rolled his eyes. "No, you’re not bleeding. You’re fine. Here, I’ll kiss it better." He pushed Rodney flat on his back and slowly licked the injured spot.

"Thank you so much," Rodney said dryly though he couldn’t help the shudder that wracked him as John’s hot tongue ran over his skin.

"Any time," John murmured, forgetting what they’d been talking about as the salty taste of Rodney’s sweaty skin filled his mouth, making him want more.

Rodney groaned and lifted his head enough to stare at John. "What are you doing?"

John looked up at him without raising his head. "Tasting you," he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"I never realized I was a delicacy."

"See? Even you can learn something new." John was tracing delicate patterns on Rodney’s chest with his tongue.

"Just so you know, there is absolutely no chance in hell that I’m going to get it up again today."

"You keep making these challenges," John chuckled.

"I really don’t want to end up in the infirmary!"

"No, that would be lost time. Oh fine, rest if you must." John laid his head on Rodney’s shoulder and lazily petted his chest and belly.

"Thank you so much for permission," Rodney snorted though he did wrap an arm around John’s waist to pull him closer.

"We’re going to have to figure out how we’re doing this. If I’m not letting them know what I am, then I’m still military, and there’s an issue with cohabitating with a man. And anything that involves us not sharing a bed is not an option!"

"I suppose that we could talk to Elizabeth about; perhaps she’d have some ideas as to how to best approach the situation." Rodney paused and twisted his head to look at John. "You want us to live together?"

"Of course I want us to live together! Do you think I’d have gone to the trouble of convincing you who I really am if I didn’t want something permanent? Even if I didn’t quite realize it at first," John admitted less acerbically than he’d started.

Rodney only raised his eyebrows.

"Oh be quiet," John grumbled.

"Be quiet? I didn’t say a word!"

"You thought it."

"Are you saying you can read my thoughts?"

"No, just your expression."

"And what was it saying?"

"That you thought I was an idiot, and if I couldn’t figure out how I felt, how were you supposed to."

Rodney cleared his throat. "Well..."

"Like I said, be quiet." But John’s lips were twitching.

"Have you ever known me to be quiet about anything?"

"Only on the verge of death, so on second thought, forget that. Let’s get back to the point here. I want us to live together. You haven’t weighed in with an opinion as of yet."

"I’m not the one who has to hide both their sexual orientation from the military and their entire true self from everyone; does it seem like I would have a problem with this?"

"Rodney, stop dodging the issue! Do you want to live with me?" John enunciated each word slowly and carefully.

Rodney sighed and collapsed back on the bed. "John, you know how I feel about you; if I didn’t want to be with you—to live with you—do you think your come would be dripping out of my ass?"

"You’re so romantic." John chuckled as he shook his head. "Then we just need to figure out how we’re going to do this. Elizabeth might have some ideas, since I’m not leaving, and I’m not pretending we’re not together. You sure I can’t just tell them what I am?"

"Do you really want to?" Rodney asked.

John shrugged. "As long as they don’t try to stick me in a cage, which they couldn’t in case you were worried, why not? I consider many of the people here friends, and I’d like to think that they’d realize I’m still me. Besides, just think of all the questions the anthropologists and linguists could ask me."

"I’m more worried about them sending you back to Earth to help in their problems with the Ori there."

"Rodney, I wasn’t really good at following orders when I was pretending to be human and military. Do you really think anything in the universe could make me leave now?"

"I don’t know, and I hate it when I don’t know," Rodney murmured.

"The answer is no. I’m staying right here, with you, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Right now, I’m sort of an ally, though I don’t dare attract the attention of the rest of the Ori. If they piss me off, I won’t be."

Rodney frowned. "You’d hurt our friends?"

"No, but there are a lot of people on Earth who aren’t my friends and who I have absolutely no incentive to help. I’m not suddenly a great savior, Rodney. I care about the people here in Atlantis, and I’m rather fond of Earth in general, but I’m not about to take on my whole race for people I don’t like."

"So as long as you like us, we’re fine?"

John shrugged, well aware that this wasn’t what Rodney wanted to hear but not about to start lying to him again. "To a certain extent. I can’t do anything out of the ordinary or someone will notice, either the Ori or the Alterans. Just look at Ford," he added bitterly. "Although I doubt I’d give a damn if you were really about to die."

Rodney frowned. "You wouldn’t care if I was going to die?"

"Huh? Oh, no, I meant that I wouldn’t give a damn who noticed if you were about to die. If the only way to save you is to go Ori, that’s what’s going to happen and to hell with the consequences."

"Oh, well, that makes me feel better—at least as in a ‘going to live a bit longer’ idea, but I don’t want you to put yourself in danger, which is why I’d rather you kept the other you under wraps for now."

"Which brings us back to how we can openly live together." John sighed as he stared up at the ceiling, absently filling it with an accurate representation of the Pegasus Galaxy, complete with novas, black holes, gas clouds, and other assorted phenomena.

Rodney watched, fascinated, until he realized that John was awaiting his response. "Talk to Elizabeth; if anyone can find away to get around antiquated American regulations, she can."

"Do we tell her the truth?"

"Do you want to?"

"I’m not sure," John said slowly. "I’d like to, but is it fair to dump that on her when she can’t tell anyone?"

"And it’s fair to me, of course." Rodney chuckled as he stroked a hand over John’s back.

"You’re special," John grinned.

"And brilliant, what does that have to do with the current situation?"

"You can handle it. Though maybe it might help, might give her more incentive to help us find a solution."

"My being brilliant?" Rodney shook his head in confusion. "You’re losing me here, Colonel."

John eyed him. "I think sex slows your processor down. Telling her might give her incentive. Keep up, Rodney."

"Well, pardon me for not being up on the etiquette involved in being the lover of someone who is both a military officer and an alien being!" Rodney snapped.

"You’re cute when you’re cranky. Have a power bar." John tried to hand him one, realizing that Rodney’s blood sugar was probably getting low.

"I’m not hungry."

John shrugged. "Okay. But if you faint, I’m going to assume it’s because of my manly virility."

Rodney glowered. "Oh shut up and give me the damn power bar."

There was a cascade of shooting stars above them as John handed it over, clearly caused by his swallowed laughter.

"Your amusement is not helping my mood," Rodney growled before taking a bite of his power bar.

"What would? Help your mood, that is."

"Deciding what we’re going to do!"

"We’re going to go tell Elizabeth that we’re moving in together and we need a bigger room, and then we’re going to go clean up my ancestral home and start moving our stuff in."

All the tension left Rodney at that, and he smiled. "And start making you some new memories there."

John nodded. "Some better ones. And then maybe we can talk about some of the labs you haven’t found yet."

"Damn you; you wear me out then tempt me with things I need to see!"

"They’ve been waiting for ten thousand years; I’m pretty sure they’ll still be there in the morning."


"You know you love it."

"At times," Rodney sniffed.

"Not even a full day and already I’m being taken for granted and dumped. That’s got to be some kind of record."

"Dumped? Who said anything about dumping you?"

"You don’t love me any more," John sniffed melodramatically.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "You say this as we’re lying here together, naked, planning on moving in together."

"Hey, a guy likes to hear the words, you know."

"Which words would those be?"

The hazel eyes rose to meet Rodney’s as John said, "I love you."

Rodney drew in a deep breath and smiled slowly. "I love you too, John."