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On MX9-027, they found a feudal society that offered them grain, fire-roasted pig, and dark ale that tasted like peat and smoke. It was a village populated almost entirely by women. Women with open faces, dark braided hair and easy smiles. Women who trailed friendly fingers along Rodney’s bare arms, and filled his mug again and again. Rodney liked it. He thought it was the best planet ever as he licked the grease from his fingers and drank until the whole room was warm and glowing.

"This is the best planet ever," he told Sheppard, and John smiled back in total agreement. Rodney was pretty sure Ronon and Teyla weren’t having nearly as much fun at the village five miles down the road.

Then the magistrate smiled at them and explained he had two daughters. He pointed out that Sheppard was a handsome man, which Rodney already knew, so he nodded vigorously and grinned while he watched John’s smile start to fade. Two daughters in a village with almost no men, and Rodney remembered something about the young men being lost to disease and war, about few sons being born. Rodney looked at Sheppard’s grim face and the magistrate’s pistol and the two daughters smiling like vultures. The magistrate explained in oh-so-polite terms (and with pistols pointed at their heads) that John—being strong and handsome and in good health—was required to stay. With his daughters.

"Both of them?" Rodney asked, still feeling fuzzy from the ale, the room tilting slightly when someone reached behind him to tie his hands. "That kind of seems like overkill, and anyway, what am I, chopped liver?"

"Shut-up, McKay. Don’t make it worse," came back from somewhere beside him.

"It’s a perfectly legitimate question! There are two of us, two of them. Why does he get both and I get nothing?" Rodney was aware it sounded like he was whining, but really, the question was logical and someone had to ask it.

"We're not unreasonable people, Dr. McKay. We only require that one of you remain. It is but a trifling sacrifice for the hospitality we have given you," the magistrate said, and Rodney’s throat tightened slightly at the word "sacrifice," but he was sure they must mean it in a metaphorical way. At least he was hoping.

“Okay,” Rodney replied, ignoring the sudden flurry of movement as Sheppard struggled against the men tying his hands.

“Rodney!”

"Are you volunteering to stay?" The magistrate seemed intrigued; his daughters looked vaguely disappointed, and the one went so far as to say, "But, Father--" before she was shushed. Well, too damn bad, Rodney thought. This wasn’t exactly what he wanted either, but at least if he could get Sheppard released, he figured there was a much better chance of getting rescued than if Rodney was the one trying to do the rescuing. Especially if there was going to be a sacrifice of any kind.

"Maybe."

"Rodney, don’t be —"

Stupid? A hero? An idiot? He had no idea what Sheppard wanted to say because the magistrate waved a hand and a gag was stuffed in Sheppard’s mouth, but it didn’t entirely stop the stream of protest that was coming out. Rodney winced; he didn’t need to know exactly what Sheppard was saying to get the gist of it. The Colonel was not happy.

"Will you let the Colonel go if I agree to stay?" Rodney said, lifting his chin up with resolve and trying to get across "I’m getting you released so you can come back and rescue me, you idiot. I don’t really want to stay here" with his eyes. He’d never been very good at charades, and he didn’t think his eyebrow raises were doing anything except convincing Sheppard the ale had gone to his head. "You’ll let him go? Unharmed?"

"Yes."

"Then I’ll stay." Rodney tried to sound like a man who had just been given two women instead of a man who was fairly certain he was going to be dead as soon as he’d outgrown his relative usefulness. Which, if this went the way of most of his relationships, would be pretty damn soon.

"The deal is made. Colonel Sheppard will be escorted out of the village immediately."

"Okay," Rodney said, only slightly relieved. Sheppard was looking daggers in his direction, and the last thing he heard as they dragged Sheppard outside was a muffled curse that sounded too much like "you fucking idiot" to be anything else. "Good luck to you too," Rodney called after him, and then something hit him in the back of the head and the world went dark.

When he woke up, it took him a few minutes to get his bearings. The room around him was small and simply furnished, and as Rodney pulled himself off the bed, he could feel every muscle in his back screaming in protest.

"I hate the Pegasus galaxy," Rodney murmured, his throat dry and scratchy. He poured himself a mug of water from the earthen pitcher and drank it down, then poured another handful and splashed his face, trying to make himself wake up. When the door opened, Rodney almost expected to see Colonel Sheppard, mad as hell and armed to the teeth; maybe even Ronon or Teyla although they weren’t scheduled to check in until sundown. Who Rodney didn’t expect to see was the magistrate’s youngest daughter. With a knife in her hand.

"Whoa," Rodney said, holding his hands up and backing away from the door. "Can we talk about this?"

"Talk about what?" The girl was probably about eighteen, long dark hair in a single thick braid that hung down her back.

"Whatever you plan to do with that." He pointed at the knife.

The girl shoved the knife into the belt at her waist, empty hands brushing awkwardly at the skirt she wore. "Sorry. Habit."

"Habit?" Rodney really didn’t want to know what that meant.

"You’d be surprised, but sometimes the suitors father finds aren’t all that happy to be here."

"Imagine that." Rodney hoped his sarcasm wasn’t too subtle to be lost on her. She rolled her eyes and sat down on the edge of his bed. Rodney stayed what he thought was a safe distance away, pressed against the wall on the other side of the room.

"Some of them even try to escape," the girl said, looking at Rodney thoughtfully. "Or they think their friends will come back to rescue them."

Rodney felt a hard lump forming in his throat. "But they don’t?"

The girl shook her head.

"Never?"

"Not so far," the girl said.

"Colonel Sheppard isn’t like most people. He’ll be back."

Rodney had no idea how much time had passed since Sheppard had been escorted out of town, but it was long enough that Rodney was well-past being pissed at John for getting the girl (again) even though he didn’t really want her. Rodney didn’t want her either, and he was more than ready to get the hell off this planet with their staggeringly good ale and tasty roast pig and underhanded schemes to coerce men into sleeping with their daughters..

The girl was still watching Rodney, fingers straying to the hilt of her knife every few seconds. "Your Colonel Sheppard. You believe he would come back for you?"

"I—he’s my friend." It was the simplest answer for something that wasn’t simple at all. The girl narrowed her eyes as if she understood, which Rodney thought was damn unlikely considering he and Sheppard never talked about what was between them. They spent their spare time playing the Ancient equivalent of Civilization when John wasn't teaching Rodney how to fly, and they saved each other's lives a lot. Even if it was only friendship—even if the shoulder pats and teasing and that sudden fierce one-armed hug when John had thought Rodney was dead meant nothing more—Sheppard would never leave him behind. Not voluntarily.

"Father would’ve ordered him killed outside of town. No witnesses, no one to talk."

"No," Rodney said, disbelieving. "No. The Colonel would’ve escaped, gotten away. Even if he hasn’t come back yet, he would’ve gone to get help." The Wraith hadn’t killed him, and despite his best efforts John hadn’t killed himself yet. Rodney refused to believe he could be taken out of the picture by a couple of old men with flint-lock pistols.

"He's dead. Forget him." The girl said it knowingly, as if it had happened a hundred times before, and Rodney was horrified to think that maybe it had happened a hundred times before and he was just fertile stranger number 101.

"He's not dead. You don't know him. He's—" Stupidly lucky, Rodney thought, knowing that half of John Sheppard's plans had no business working and the other half relied on a combination of Rodney's genius and pure dumb luck. "He would've escaped."

Even without his weapons. With his hands tied. After drinking way too much. Rodney swallowed hard and pushed down the doubt threatening to rise into his throat. "He’s alive. You'll see. He’ll come."

The girl shrugged. "I’m just telling you what I know to be true. One to conceive, one to sacrifice. It is the way it has always been."

Rodney felt a chill settle in his bones. He'd assumed—it had seemed likely that the person staying behind would be the one in trouble. Sacrifice. He swallowed hard.

"Wait." Rodney’s brain was slower in the mornings, but that still meant it was a thousand times faster than most people’s. "Why would you get rid of a perfectly good man if you have this much trouble finding men? It doesn't make sense."

"One to keep and one to give away. For the goddess. It is the way—"

"Of your people. Yeah, whatever. This obviously isn't the first time you've done this. But if this isn’t the first time, why—why does your father keep doing it? I mean, what happened to the—um, to the other men?"

"They were unsatisfactory in one way or another," the girl said, and Rodney noticed her eyes were blue and her lips were thin. There was something in her face he’d mistaken for compassion, but now he could see he’d get no help here. He could only hope Sheppard had gotten out. Gotten away.

"Unsatisfactory how?" Rodney wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know the answer, but he felt compelled to ask anyway.

"We did not conceive sons."

"Well, I hate to point out the obvious, but did you ever think maybe that wasn’t their fault?"

The knife caught him in the shoulder, and he gasped as he looked down and realized it was buried to the hilt. Blood was seeping onto the front of his grey t-shirt, his breath coming in short, shallow gasps. Shit. At this rate, he wasn’t going to last long enough to even get the chance to mate. Not that he had any intention of mingling his genes with people who were both homicidal and insane.

"You stabbed me!" Rodney said, stunned, watching blood ooze out around the hilt. The girl was standing right in front of him now, and Rodney managed not to scream when she pulled the knife out of his shoulder, wiping the blade on her skirt.

"If you want to live, you'll keep those ideas to yourself. It is the men who are wrong. Who are broken inside. It was their fault we could not conceive, and it will be your fault if we do not conceive this time."

"Right, fine, all my fault. Got it," Rodney said breathlessly. The pain in his arm was dull and throbbing, but he figured that was only the endorphins cutting in before he passed out. He grabbed a cloth off the table, and wrapped it around his arm, holding the end in his teeth so he could tighten the knot. He really couldn’t afford to be unconscious—God only knew what they’d do to him then.

The girl came towards him again, her eyes tracing the lines of Rodney’s body as if she were measuring an animal at auction. He pressed closer to the stone wall at his back and wished he’d asked Sheppard how to take somebody’s knife away without getting stabbed with it. It would’ve come in handy. He felt the girl’s hands on his arms, and he had an overwhelming desire to push her away and scream for help.

Then there was the press of lips at his throat, the sharp edge of teeth scraping against the tender skin, and he leaned his head back and put his hands on the girl’s shoulders, the pain in his arm getting worse as he did so. He tried to push her away gently, although he already suspected she wasn’t going to take rejection well.

"Hey, now," he said through gritted teeth. "There’ll be time for that … um, later."

"You don't like me?" A hand pressed against his groin, and dammit, he was a guy, so yes, there was a reaction in spite of the trauma and the blood loss, but not as much as she wanted because the pressure on his cock turned vicious and Rodney could feel her fingernails through the cloth.

He shoved her away, and slipped a little down the wall. "Oh, forgive me for being out of sorts, but no, I don’t generally like women who stab me! Tell me, does that usually work for you? Maybe, could it possibly be that your dating technique needs a little work?"

She glared at him from across the room, face flushed and angry. "You're like all the rest."

And Rodney had a distinctly sinking feeling that wasn’t a compliment at all.

"What do you mean?"

"Like all the rest," she repeated, not even paying attention to him anymore as she walked back and forth in the space in front of the door. "Worse. They pretended to like me at least. Pretended to try. But you won’t even pretend. You care more for your Colonel Sheppard than for me."

She stepped forward, knife in one hand pressing at Rodney’s throat, fingers of her other hand shoving down the front of Rodney’s pants and grasping at his cock. He dug his fingers into her shoulders and decided he was going to have absolutely no problem hitting a girl, but the tip of the blade pressed harder against his Adam’s apple and he struggled not to swallow convulsively.

"Even this betrays you." Her hand was rough against his cock, fingers grabbing, tangling in the hair there. Rodney let out a sharp gasp of pain. Obviously this woman didn’t know anything about handling delicate equipment.

"Listen, just let—"

"You think of him and you stiffen." She punctuated the sentence with a sharp pull to his cock, and God, Rodney was getting hard in spite of the fact he felt nothing for her, because it was a hand on his cock and it had been too long since it had been anyone’s hand but his own, and his body absolutely didn’t care that the hand was attached to an insane women with a knife to his throat. "You think of him, want him, desire him.”

“No. It’s not like that.” Rodney pushed at the girl again, but she merely settled her knee against his groin, the blade in her hand pressing into the tender flesh of Rodney’s throat enough that he could feel the sting where it rubbed against his skin. “Please, stop—”

“Ursa, stop this!” The door banged against the stone wall, and as the girl turned her head, Rodney caught a glimpse of her sister standing in the doorway. “Father needs you in the kitchen.”

The girl scowled, but stepped away from Rodney, fingernails scraping along his penis as she pulled her hand out of his pants. “We should’ve kept the other one,” Ursa said as she left the room, and Rodney let out a breath and leaned back against the wall.

“Thank you.”

“Do not thank me, doctor. Just do not disappoint us.”

The door closed with a heavy wooden thunk, and Rodney could hear the sound of a chain being attached on the outside. He let himself slide down the wall, his arm starting to throb dully from the knife wound. He leaned his head against his knees and tried to think of a way out of this mess—one that didn’t rely on Colonel Sheppard riding to the rescue.

Just in case.

***

When they came for him, Rodney was groggy and slightly feverish. He’d washed out the wound as best he could, but it was awkward and he couldn’t get a tight enough bandage around his shoulder. The bread he’d been brought earlier had helped a little with the light-headedness, but he knew the wound needed proper care. Soon. He would have given anything for a bit of Carson’s voodoo about then.

“Where are you taking me?” he asked as the magistrate and another man tied his hands and marched him out of the room.

“It’s time.”

“What does that mean?” Rodney asked, stumbling, the magistrate barely catching him to keep him from falling. Then Rodney was outside, the cool damp air of evening enough to shake off the worst of the haze he’d been fighting all day. He breathed deep and looked around, tried to get his bearings in the shadowy twilight, before being shoved unceremoniously through the doors of what could only have been a small barn. It smelled of damp hay and animals, and in the middle of the small room, Ursa and her sister were waiting for him in loosely-tied robes of homespun cotton.

“We should’ve kept the other one,” the magistrate said disdainfully, and closed the door behind him, leaving Rodney and the two women alone in the shadowy barn.

***

Rodney had had his share of sexual fantasies involving two women. Sometimes they were twins, statuesque and blonde, speaking some language that he didn’t understand, but he always knew enough to tell they were fighting over who would get to satisfy him first. “Ladies, there’s enough of me to go around,” he would murmur magnanimously, and the naked blondes would smile in agreement, and …

As was typical of Rodney’s life, the gap between theory and practice was far greater than he could’ve ever imagined.

Ursa and her sister, whose name sounded remarkably like Uma, pressed him against the rough mattress on the floor of the barn, securing his ankles to shanks in the floor with loose coils of rope. A beam of moonlight hit him through a circular opening cut into the ceiling above.

“Look, it doesn’t have to be like this,” Rodney said, trying to keep his voice out of the higher octaves it hit when he was nervous. “If you had just asked nicely—”

“The goddess shines upon us only rarely.” The girl’s eyes swept heavenward, toward where the planet’s moon was slowly sliding into focus through the hole above.

Rodney looked from the moonlight to the woman who was fastening his already-bound hands over his head. “Are you saying you only try this when the moon is full? Jesus, no wonder nobody’s getting pregnant if that’s the kind of science you’re using. The two things have nothing to do with—”

“This is the way of our people,” Uma replied.

“Then your people deserve what they get. Stupidity is wiping your people out more efficiently than the Wraith ever could.”

A hand struck him across the mouth and he could taste blood when he licked his lips. Ursa and Uma were no frail flowers. They lived in desperate times, where tradition and belief were sometimes the only things that held a people together. Teyla had tried to impress that on him more than once. He wished he'd listened more closely.

He’d imagined what it would be like to be with Teyla. Once. He suspected he would be out of his league in every way, and although she was beautiful, her friendship meant more than anything else possibly could. He thought it was probably a good sign he didn’t think of Teyla like that. She might even have been proud of him.

“The goddess sends her servants to us. Her light shines down upon us and blesses the seed within our bodies. Blessed be the goddess.” Uma said the words like a prayer she’d repeated many times.

Rodney tried not to imagine how many men had been laid out like this, on their backs on a filthy mattress. It wasn’t fantasy when you didn’t want to be there. He struggled to keep Uma from tying him, but she pressed against the wound in his shoulder, and he fell back, panting. When he regained his breath, he couldn’t move either his arms or legs.

“Please. Don’t do this. There have got to be other ways we can—”

The girls stepped away and started to remove their robes. Their faces were serious and determined in the flickering light. They were doing this for the preservation of their people. They didn’t really want to be here either, but they’d already resigned themselves to there being no other way. Rodney could see it in their eyes.

So here he was with two women offering him sex. He knew he should be celebrating, not fighting. Fantasy come to life, but somehow it wasn’t how he’d pictured things. He wasn’t being given a choice in the matter. It felt too much like … he closed his eyes and gathered his breath. Maybe someone would hear him. He’d never imagined he’d be hoping for Sheppard to save him from a threesome.

Rodney had imagined threesomes with Samantha Carter-lookalikes. Blondes in tight blue uniforms. Blondes with big guns and bigger breasts. Blondes who would order him around, tell him what to do, and he would do it, without hesitation, because it would be the hottest thing in the world to wrestle some of that control back by making her—them—shudder with a mind-blowing orgasm under his probing tongue.

Ursa shoved a rough cotton cloth into his mouth, stifling his yell. Rodney thought it must be the tie from her robe, since she was now naked, her small breasts dangling over his face as she secured the gag behind his head. Her eyes were dark with hatred. She started to undo his pants, then seemed to reconsider. She grabbed her sister’s sash and wrapped it around Rodney’s eyes, plunging him into darkness. His breath came in sharp panicky bursts; he’d never felt more frightened in his life, and there was absolutely nothing he could do to save himself.

Rodney felt hands tugging at his clothes, pushing them just far enough aside to allow his cock to push out into the open air. Fingers slid over his bare skin without affection, grasped a nipple and twisted, and he groaned against the cloth in his mouth, face flushed with embarrassment and pain. He tugged futilely against the ropes holding him, but all he received was a wicked laugh and a slap to his exposed belly.

“If he will not stiffen, we will have to coax him,” Uma said, plucking absently at the hairs on Rodney’s thigh.

Her sister laughed, high-pitched and nasty. “He would rather have his Colonel Sheppard than us.”

The hand on Rodney’s thigh stilled momentarily. “Really? I have heard of such men.” Fingernails, rough and uneven, grazed against the underside of his cock. He shifted his hips as far as he could to block the unwelcome touch. “Think of your colonel, then.” Rodney pushed his knees together and tried to protect himself. “Think of him while you give us your seed. It matters not to us.”

Rodney would’ve laughed if he could’ve done so around the gag in his mouth. The irony was killing him, and he thought Sheppard would’ve appreciated it too, if he’d known. Because Rodney had been very careful to keep Sheppard out of his fantasies entirely. He’d taken a good long look at his team leader and put him in the category of completely unattainable things. Rodney was many things, but he wasn’t a masochist, and although he noticed Sheppard’s concern, his friendly touches, Sheppard was either content with how things were or happily oblivious, and Rodney didn’t feel the need to upset the status quo. He was sure it could only end badly.

“Yes, think of your precious dead colonel.” There was a bitter huff of air near his face. Ursa, no doubt, and Rodney didn’t have the heart to protest that it wouldn’t matter who he was thinking of tonight. Anything they got from his body was going to be strictly involuntary reaction. Not him. Not any part of him.

In the darkness, he heard a faint click, and a familiar voice drifted down from somewhere up above: “Not as dead as you might think.”

Rodney’s lips curled up around the gag in his mouth, stupidly grateful to hear Sheppard’s voice.

“Now back away from him. Slowly.”

Outside, Rodney could hear other sounds. Flesh hitting flesh, then something tumbling to the ground heavily. The brief rat-a-tat-tat of a P-90. Obviously, Sheppard had reinforcements with him because Rodney was reasonably certain Sheppard hadn’t moved from his perch on the edge of the circular opening above.

“You don't understand our ways,” Ursa said from near Rodney’s head. “The goddess—”

“Is a little out-of-date.” Rodney could almost see Sheppard moving the barrel of the P-90 between the two women. “In fact, our good friend Teyla had a little chat with the women at the village down the road. Seems you guys skipped a few things in sex ed. class.”

“I know that your friend needs this.” A rough hand seized Rodney’s penis; he thought he could feel the blade of Ursa’s knife pressed against the tender skin at the base, but he hoped that was just paranoia. He tried not to think of Sheppard seeing him like this, of how humiliating it was. He tried not to think of what Ursa could do with her knife, the one that had sunk deep into his shoulder.

“Take your hands off him,” Sheppard said. His voice was quiet, deadly. Rodney was secretly wishing that Sheppard would just shoot her and be done with it.

There was the sound of someone battering at the barn door, and Rodney would’ve bet money on Ronon’s boots kicking against the wood. Then Uma was yelling, “No,” and there was the sound of a single shot echoing in the room. The hand on his cock loosened its grip and slid off. Something cold and metallic landed on his thigh.

“Ronon, get her out of here.” From above, Rodney could hear Sheppard slipping through the hole in the roof, the heavy “oomph” when he landed solidly beside the mattress. The metal object disappeared, as did the sound of Uma screaming, and Rodney found himself blinking up into Sheppard’s face.

“You okay?”

Rodney just nodded, blinking in the sudden moonlight, as Sheppard gently slipped the gag from his mouth, then quickly untied him. Rodney couldn’t meet his eyes as Sheppard helped him to his feet, slipping an arm under Rodney’s shoulders, and trying to steady him. Rodney grabbed awkwardly at his pants and boxers, down around his ankles, and pulled them up quickly, allowing himself a quick glance to reassure himself everything was as it should be. Red and wrinkled and in full retreat, but there nonetheless. Sheppard was politely looking away, and Rodney fastened his pants one-handed.

“Let’s get you home,” Sheppard said with a squeeze to Rodney’s shoulder. They stepped over Ursa's unmoving form, and neither of them said anything as they walked out of the building into the night.

***

Rodney hacked the mission reports from their visit to MX9-027, and wasn’t at all surprised when he found they all said basically the same thing. Miscommunication with the locals resulted in the capture of Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard, who became separated. Colonel Sheppard escaped his captors, rendezvoused with Teyla and Ronon, and rescued Dr. McKay. Two fatalities among the locals.

All in all, not that much different from many of their other mission reports.

Recommendation from Sheppard: Remove the planet from the dialing database. Recommendation from Ronon: What Sheppard said. Recommendation from Teyla: Return and provide the people with appropriate information on health and reproduction.

Elizabeth had okayed Teyla’s suggestion, and a team of female marines and nurses was scheduled to gate out in a week under Teyla’s leadership.

Rodney had wanted to write, Nuke them all, but he figured that might raise a red flag with Elizabeth, and when the others were trying so hard to protect his reputation, it wasn’t worth it. But still, Rodney couldn’t help waiting for the other shoe to drop. He wondered how long it was going to be before Sheppard cracked the first joke. After all, this was a hell of a lot more amusing than Rodney blowing up a planet.

***

It turned out it wasn’t Sheppard after all. It was Major Lorne who arrived in the lab one afternoon looking for Zelenka and asked, “What’s up, doc?” with his usual boyish grin when he saw Rodney.

Rodney flushed red and turned on him. “You think it’s funny?” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see scientists scurrying for the nearest exit. “Every guy’s dream, sure, but—but, then you can’t—you can’t—and—” Rodney was breathing hard, his mind a jumble of pain and shadowy touches, the sound of P-90 fire in the background, and somewhere something warm and wet was spilling across his hand. He was only vaguely aware that Lorne was reaching for his radio, while trying to take the shattered remains of the coffee cup out of Rodney’s hand.

“Don’t call Carson,” Rodney said, wide-eyed and suddenly terrified by the pounding of his own heart. He gripped Lorne’s arm, unable to speak, and was met with an, “Okay, doc. Just hang on,” as Lorne radioed for Colonel Sheppard to come to the lab. Immediately. Double-time.

By the time Sheppard slid through the open door, breathing hard as if he’d run all the way, Rodney was sitting back against the wall, head in his hands, and Lorne was cleaning up the last of the debris. The coffeemaker was just starting to percolate a new pot.

Sheppard stopped short and looked from Rodney to Lorne. “Major?”

“I’ll be right outside if you need me, Colonel.”

Sheppard nodded, and moved to sit beside Rodney. “You want to tell me why your staff is currently hiding in the mess?”

Rodney just shook his head.

“Or why you nearly took off Lorne’s head over a Bugs Bunny line?”

Rodney winced. The last week or so since they’d been back, he’d been preoccupied with his penis. Every time he’d dressed or undressed, every time he had to take a piss, he felt a cold sweat wash over him, the ghost of a phantom hand gripping him uncomfortably. He’d touched himself to make sure it was still there, but he couldn’t get hard, couldn’t get it up, no matter who he thought about, and his fantasies of threesomes only made him start to hyperventilate.

“Rodney.” Sheppard put a hand on Rodney’s knee. “Have you talked to Carson?”

Rodney kept his eyes closed. “No.”

“Or Kate?”

“No.” Heightmeyer was the last person Rodney wanted to talk to about this.

“Do you think maybe you should?” Sheppard’s voice was soft and serious, and Rodney realized Sheppard hadn’t moved his hand. It felt nice there. Solid and comforting.

“I really don’t want to,” Rodney admitted.

“That’s not what I asked.” Sheppard’s eyes caught Rodney’s, held them. The pity Rodney had been so afraid to see wasn’t there. Instead there was anger at the people who had done this to him—to them—and something else, something that made Rodney’s heart beat faster and his breath stutter.

“Easy,” Sheppard murmured, concern knotting an eyebrow. “Why don’t we get out of here?”

Rodney allowed himself to be helped up and led out the door, past a watchful Major Lorne who said something into his radio that must’ve been the all-clear for Rodney’s people to return to the lab. Sheppard nodded at Lorne before guiding Rodney to the transporter, gently, with a hand at the small of his back. He pressed the area closest to the residential wing.

Sheppard’s quarters were small and angular, but they were familiar from late-night strategy sessions and the occasional movie. Rodney dropped awkwardly onto the edge of the small couch, while Sheppard busied himself with digging out cups and popping in a CD. When Johnny started singing about Folsom Prison, Rodney leaned back into the couch, and let out a long, deep breath.

Sheppard didn’t waste a lot of time. “I think you should talk to Heightmeyer.”

“Nothing happened.”

“I know what happened, Rodney, and it wasn’t nothing.” Sheppard was measuring out coffee in a small plastic scoop. “She can help.”

"Nothing happened. It's not like I was …" Rodney's voice trailed off. He'd tried so very hard not to think of it in those terms. "Nothing happened," he repeated more firmly.

"Rodney."

“It was every guy’s fantasy, right?” Rodney figured he’d cut right to the heart of things, get the lurid details out into the open, and maybe, just maybe, the cold feeling in his gut would start to go away.

Sheppard turned so swiftly, Rodney heard the coffee grounds scattering across the counter. Sheppard’s face was pale, but Rodney wasn’t sure if it was shock or fury. “Is that what you think I think?”

Rodney blinked. Sheppard slammed the small bag of coffee down and stalked across the room. “Is it?”

“I—” Rodney shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said honestly.

“Then let me tell you.” Sheppard’s hands clenched at his sides, and Rodney was surprised to see how much effort it was clearly taking for John not to hit something. He was angry—not at Rodney, but for him, and Rodney didn't think anyone had ever cared that much before.

"You were held against your will. Stabbed. Touched." Sheppard's voice shook on the last word. "She had a knife held to your—"

Rodney interrupted. "Thanks for that, by the way. Hallmark doesn't really make a card that says 'thanks for not letting her cut off my dick.'" He stood up. "And hey, honestly, this has been great, walk down memory lane on the Planet of Lorena Bobbitt, but I've really got to—"

Sheppard stepped in front of him and gripped his arms. "I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner."

"It wasn't your fault."

"It wasn't yours either, McKay, and it wasn't anybody's fantasy."

Rodney closed his eyes. He wanted to blame someone, but he didn't know who.

"Those girls, that whole planet, was so fucked up, Sheppard. It wasn't even their fault. They were as much victims as ... I just want to pretend it didn't happen."

Sheppard gripped him tighter. "I know. You can't do that, though."

"I know."

"Let me help."

Rodney didn't know what to say to that, so he just nodded and let himself be pulled into an awkward hug, Sheppard's arms forming a protective circle around him, holding on as if sheer determination could fix everything that was wrong. Rodney was willing to let him try.

***

Epilogue

Rodney lay in the dark of his room, lazily stroking his cock. It was only half-erect, but that didn't bother him. He knew with a little concentrated effort, it would be at full-mast in seconds.

His thoughts wandered over scantily clad blondes, Heightmeyer in the sky-blue bikini he'd seen her sunning herself in on the south pier, Katie Brown naked in a garden of ferns. He settled on an image of Sheppard in black fatigues, hands tight on the controls of the puddlejumper, face set in concentration. Sheppard explaining to him exactly how to touch the controls to make the jumper respond. Sheppard whispering gently in his ear while his hand stroked …

"McKay, where are you?"

Rodney groaned and tapped the earpiece with his free hand. "What?" he snapped.

"Somebody's touchy," Sheppard replied. "Did I interrupt something?" The smirk was obvious even over the radio.

"Oh, fuck-off."

"Open channel, McKay."

"What do you want, Colonel?"

"Let me in and I'll tell you."

"What?" Rodney sat up hurriedly, pulling up his pants and trying to make it look as if he hadn't just been doing what he'd been doing. He waved his hand at the lights and blinked when the room blazed to life.

"Stop trying to look presentable and just let me in already." He sounded like he was in entirely too good of a mood. Rodney was immediately suspicious, but he opened the door and let a beaming Sheppard push past him.

"This better be good."

Sheppard set a bottle of red wine—a very good bottle of wine—and a bar of dark Swiss chocolate on the desk. "We’re celebrating."

Rodney looked at him quizzically. "What are we celebrating?"

"Three months."

Rodney scowled. Three months of psycho-therapy with Heightmeyer, three months of John hovering with concern, three months of relearning his body. He still wanted to forget it had happened.

"Sheppard, this isn't a good—"

"I want to kiss you."

Rodney stopped with his mouth hanging open, and shook his head. He couldn't possibly have heard that correctly.

"What?"

"I gave myself three months, Rodney. Three months to figure things out before I said anything. I didn't want to mess with your head and I didn't want you to think it was anything it wasn't." Sheppard stepped into Rodney's space and gently cupped his face. It was an odd gesture, unfamiliar, and Rodney leaned back, uncertain.

"I don't understand."

"There's never been a good time for us. We're busy men, saving the galaxy and all that. Things were good between us. Comfortable. Harmless."

"Mostly harmless."

Sheppard smiled a little sadly. "And it was enough because I figured that's all it would ever be."

"And now?"

"I want something more," Sheppard said. "I want to kiss you."

Rodney closed his eyes, willing his heart to slow. "John, you can't fix this by—"

"I'm not trying to." Sheppard's finger brushed lightly across Rodney's lips. "I'm just telling you the God's honest truth. We come close to dying so many times out here, and I'm tired of living with regrets. I want to—"

"Then just do it, already," Rodney said, hands finding their way to Sheppard's slim waist. "Stop treating me with kid gloves. Stop asking permission. You're the only one who's never had to ask, you idiot."

John's mouth closed over Rodney's, less gentle than he'd expected, but it was good, it was very good in fact, and he was grateful neither woman had kissed him on that planet because he didn't need anything else to try to get over. This was pure and perfect, John pulling him closer and winding a hand in his hair.

They stood there for a long time, just kissing like they were kids again, no pressure to move to another level, no hurry. John's lips were soft and warm, his arms comforting, and Rodney could feel his body waking up at being touched by someone who cared.

"It's going to take me some time," Rodney started to say.

"We're not on a schedule, Rodney. Let's just see what happens, okay?"

"Okay." He leaned in and kissed John once more, slow and lingering, grateful. "Thank you," he said, and John just grinned in response, the kind of happy smile he wore when he was flying.

 

THE END