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Returning to Earth had been a dream long desired, haunting John's fantasies. He'd imagined a dozen variations of finding a ZPM, watching Rodney plug it into Atlantis's systems, seeing the chevrons dialed, and giving a casual, "Hey SGC, how's it going?" through the comm system.

Reality was less attractive, as reality so often tended to be. First the stress and fear of the approaching Wraith hive ships, the initial jubilation of Everett and the marines arriving, before they created tension and divided John's loyalties between military and scientists, the horrific battle and its aftermath, and then finally the moment when he, Rodney, Elizabeth, and Carson stepped through the gate, back to Colorado. He was allowed only moments to be happy about being on Earth soil before being dragged to a lengthy debriefing where his every act in the Pegasus Galaxy had been examined and questioned, circling frequently back to his execution of Colonel Sumner.

Yeah, reality was never as fun as fantasy, John decided, taking his seat at the table in the fancy restaurant that O'Neill had decided they should visit, a real 'welcome home' dinner, better food than anything served in the mess. He'd rather be back in the guest quarters at the SGC, curled up in sweats and eating slop on a tray then having to study a lengthy menu and prepare to socialize, but when a general says, "Let's go eat, I'm buying," John really didn't have any choice but to say, "I'll get my jacket."

The others didn't seem to share his feelings. Rodney was in the proverbial hog heaven, a quarter of his attention on the menu, the other three-fourths fully fixed on Samantha Carter, sharing insights into Ancient technology, his mouth working a mile a minute. Carson seemed excited to sit next to Teal'c and quietly ask probing questions on the medical benefits of carrying a Goa'uld symbiont and then adjusting after the removal. Even Elizabeth was smiling, discussing Ancient culture with Daniel Jackson, who was eager to hear everything about living in Atlantis.

John knew he shouldn't begrudge the others their enjoyment. Elizabeth had suffered more than any of them, having to be the brave leader and set an example of strength and courage, and Carson was oddly cute when happily discussing medical issues, but Rodney… Did Rodney have to revel in his admiration for brainy blonde beauties, particularly when John was so tired and disheartened? He didn't have the strength for this torture, even if it was completely unintentional.

"Drink, sir?"

Fuck, the waiter, and John had barely glanced at the menu, so caught up in staring at Rodney's babbling lips. He picked up the drink menu from the center of the table, glanced at the first item that caught his eye, and said, "Lemon drop."

Rodney made a strangled noise in his throat, his attention apparently not so focused on the gorgeous Sam that he hadn't heard John's order.

John frowned. "Jeez, Rodney, you're across the table from me."

"You drink beer! Bad American beer! You've fantasized about ordering a beer for months!"

John shrugged, stubbornly determined not to change his order. If Rodney was going to drool over Sam for the entire evening, John was going to drink lemon drops. Maybe he'd have some lemon chicken too. He liked lemon. "So? I felt like a lemon drop."

"Death in a glass!"

"For you, not for me."

Rodney glared, but the waiter had taken the other drink orders as they'd bickered and reached him. His lips thinned as he snapped, "Molson's," before determinedly turning his attention to his fellow scientist.

"You guys have been gone so long I almost forgot how touchy he could be. Almost," Jack said, not loud enough for Rodney to hear.

"He's been a good team member," John answered, equally softly. Because yeah, Rodney was a pain in the butt, but he was John's pain in the butt. "He saved our lives more times than I like to remember."

Jack nodded, looking kind of amused that John had defended Rodney, and started talking football. John made himself join in, having to jog his memory for the names of players. Though he'd expected to be tense all night, John found himself relaxing as they talked about the season he'd missed.

The drinks arrived and the waiter set the lemon drop it in front of him, a yellow concoction in a martini glass with a slice of lemon floating in the middle and white crystals on the rim. John reached for it, happening to glance at Rodney, who was watching him intently. John picked it up, taking a sip, the tartness of the lemon juice diluted by the sugar around the rim. He licked his lips to get all the sugar off them. The drink was good, but even better was the sharpness of Rodney's eyes as they tracked his every movement. *Him,* not Sam, and crap, he was a moronic fool to be gratified by even this small taste of Rodney's attention, of being able to distract him from bragging about his knowledge and accomplishments to his lust object. He raised his glass in a small salute to Rodney, who sniffed but raised his Molson's, which had the general leading them all in a toast to returning home.

Home. What a joke. Home was Atlantis now, and though John wasn't an especially religious man, he could only pray that they would let him return there with Rodney.

~~~

Reality sucked, Rodney thought viciously, walking through the corridors of the SGC, resolutely smiling at he talked with Sam Carter, hiding his unhappiness. He had such dreams, huge, amazing dreams of being the one to find a ZPM, to install it into Atlantis's systems, to dial the Gate and announce to Earth, "This is Dr. Rodney McKay, reporting from the lost city of Atlantis," and screw protocol that Elizabeth should be the one to establish contact.

But no, instead he had reality, days and nights high on stims, trying to protect Atlantis and her people, until a wormhole had opened, courtesy of a ZPM found by SG-1, curse their lucky hides. The Marines had arrived in the nick of time, but instead of acting like saviors, they'd generally been assholes as they took charge and belittled all the measures taken by those living in Atlantis. Not that there was much reason to continue to be mad at those Marines, Rodney reflected guiltily, since Everett had certainly paid a high price for his folly, drained to old age by a Wraith.

So here they were, back at the SGC, their bellies full after an excellent meal with O'Neill and SG-1. They'd spent the day debriefing, Elizabeth off with reps from the international committee, John with the military, Carson holed up with the medical staff, Rodney happily explaining all his discoveries to the SGC scientists.

Elizabeth seemed to be having a decent time, which she certainly deserved after the stress of being in charge of Atlantis. She and Daniel had chatted throughout dinner about the Ancients. Rodney had mostly blocked out Carson and Teal'c's odd rambling discussion, which had started with symbionts but somehow ended with the Loch Ness monster. John, on the other hand, was being confusing and irritating. He'd seemed to be having a good time, chatting endlessly with O'Neill about sports of all varieties, but he'd broodingly watched Rodney all through dinner, guzzling his death in a glass continuously. He'd even started to order lemon chicken until the general had said, "Jeez, Major, it's the best steakhouse in town. Get a steak." Oh yes, he'd change his order to suck up to his boss, but not for Rodney's comfort.

"Rodney?"

Sam was saying his name, making Rodney realize he'd barely absorbed the last few minutes of their conversation. He glanced around to realize that Teal'c and Carson had disappeared, Daniel and Elizabeth were saying good night at her door, John was slipping into his room, and O'Neill seemed to be waiting. "Oh yes, it's fascinating, we'll talk some more tomorrow, right?"

"Yes, Rodney, I'll see you tomorrow." She walked off with O'Neill and Daniel as Elizabeth went into her room, so Rodney stepped into his guest quarters. He felt restless, antsy, pacing up and down the small confines, remembering John's casual dismissal of his concern about even having lemon on the table. What the hell was up with him? Did he think he needed to follow Everett's example of disparaging the scientists? That tactic hadn't benefited Everett much.

Rodney flung himself back into a chair, groaning as he admitted John's looks bothered him far more than John's attitude. The damn martini glass had sugar on the rim, fine white particles on clear glass, and John had made sure he'd gotten every taste, his tongue flickering over the edge, then over his upper lip and along the fuller bottom one. He'd drunk three lemon drops before the hellish dinner was over, his tongue seemingly in constant motion, his lips wet and shiny. Rodney had craved to lick them, to share the taste of sweet sugar and John's lips. If only there hadn't been lemon in the glass. If only they'd been alone. If only John wasn't so straight, happily bonding with his military king over macho athletic activities.

At least Rodney was pretty sure he'd avoided looking like a lovesick fool, keeping his eyes firmly on Sam. When he'd left for Atlantis, Sam had been such a figure of desire, everything that he'd wanted in a woman - blonde, beautiful, brainy. But after months living in close proximity to John Sheppard, Rodney's tastes had matured for the better. Sam looked and acted like a pretty little Girl Scout next to John's casually sexy leader of the pack, and damn, Rodney ached to play with the bad boy.

Yes, Rodney had thought returning home would be heaven, but now it seemed like purgatory. They were stuck here for several weeks until the Daedelus arrived to take them back, and the time couldn't pass fast enough for him. He wanted to be home in Atlantis with John.

~~~

John was brushing his teeth when someone knocked on the door. Crossing the room, he opened it to see Rodney. "What's up?" he mumbled around the brush.

"Finish brushing," Rodney instructed, happy to see John eliminating any lingering particles of lemon. "And gargle too."

Shrugging, John returned to the bathroom, not disturbed when Rodney leaned against the doorway and watched him finish brushing. They'd gone through enough missions together to have lost any sense of modesty, and John had learned to make his dick ignore the intimacy of dressing or undressing around each other. "What's up?" he asked again, looking at Rodney's reflection in the mirror.

"What was wrong with you?" Rodney asked, cursing his bluntness. He hadn't meant to attack John when he'd come here. He hadn't made any particular plan when he'd left his room and knocked on John's, just given in to a need to talk with the other man.

"Wrong with me? Jeez, are you still being touchy about the lemon? It wasn't going to leap across the table at you." Oh, lovely. A fight with Rodney would be the perfect topper to the evening.

"Yes, and a loaded gun doesn't leap up and shoot people, but there are still a lot of people who don't like being around them."

John sighed before taking a healthy swig of mouthwash, gargling and spitting in the sink, giving himself time to think how to reply. He'd known he was antagonizing Rodney and that he should have ordered a different drink next but somehow he couldn't stop himself. At least Rodney's honesty and aggressiveness had felt more comfortable than chit chatting with a freaking general while wondering if the dinner invitation had meant he wasn't going to be court martialled. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? This hasn't been my best day. I didn't mean to piss you off."

"What was wrong with it?" Rodney was surprised by both John's apology and admission that he hadn't had a good time. He'd thought John had seemed perfectly at ease with the macho bonding. "You and the general seemed to be having fun."

"Yeah, great fun." John picked up the soap and started lathering it, wondering if he was imagining the note of jealousy in Rodney's voice.

Rodney frowned in exasperation. He wasn't the most sensitive man, but even he could tell when John was being pissy out of frustration. "Seriously, what?"

"Yeah, the general seems to like me okay but he's leaving tomorrow and I'm waiting to see if I'm going to be court martialled, so cut me some slack, okay?"

"Court martialled?" Had John been dwelling on some absurd possibility? Was that the reason for his antagonism? "Why would they – crap, Sumner? That was an act of mercy."

John lathered up his face, finding it oddly relaxing to talk to Rodney. "They've only got my word on that."

Rodney snorted. "And the word of every member of Atlantis who's had to face the Wraith. You know Elizabeth and I will back you, and I don't like to be immodest, but I am Head of Science. I carry a lot of clout around the SGC. Possibly even more than Elizabeth, because she's a diplomat and diplomats drive the SGC insane."

As he splashed water on his face, washing off the lather, John was both amused and warmed at Rodney's arrogance and the sight of him in the mirror, bobbing on his feet as he pledged his support. He'd thought the others would be in his corner, but Rodney's instant reassurance was heartening. "Thanks," he said sincerely, his words muffled a bit as he used a washcloth to wipe the stray traces of foam from his face. He dropped the cloth over the faucet and turned around, leaning against the sink, and flashing a small smile. "All delemonified now. You could even kiss me if you wanted to." Christ, why the hell had he taunted Rodney with a kiss? Like Rodney had ever wanted to make out with him.

"Yes, right, like I'm one of your legions of adoring fans," Rodney sniped to keep his voice from betraying his interest in John's casual offer. The other man looked even more handsome than normal, eyelashes and the front of his hair damp, lips curving in a quirky smile, black t-shirt and dark gray slacks accentuating his slenderness.

"Maybe they'll send Carter to Atlantis. She's your type. You two certainly had a great time at dinner."

Rodney chided himself for being a fool to imagine that John's voice held a note of jealousy. Like John would ever care if he and Sam got romantic together. "What do you mean, send Sam to Atlantis? Why would they send her to Atlantis? They've got you and she – she outranks you. She'd have to be military commander. You don't think they're going to let you stay as military commander?"

The sheer horror in Rodney's voice was surprisingly comforting. Rodney certainly hadn't been anticipating a future with Carter in command. "Rodney…" John sighed, discomforted at having to explain military protocol to the scientist. Rodney was fast at putting the right pieces together, but he never had understood the military mind. John straightened up and stepped forward, and Rodney backed out of the doorway to let him pass. John kicked off his shoes, and flopped on the bed, shoving the pillows under his back. "I'm not going back to Atlantis as military commander. I'm a major. They'll send someone of a higher rank to take over. I just hope they do send me back." The admission was hard to make and left him feeling vulnerable, but he wanted to see Rodney's reaction, to see if he'd be disappointed at John's loss.

Rodney dropped to sit on the edge of the bed, mouth flapping open. "Not send you back?" Could Landry and O'Neill be that stupid? He wouldn't have expected it of them, but they were Air Force generals. "Where would they send you if they didn't send you back?"

"Antarctica," John answered promptly. "They'd put me on milk runs again, so I'd be close to operate the chair if Earth is ever attacked. With Carson's gene therapy, I'm no longer essential to Atlantis." Rodney just stared, his blue eyes stricken, apparently at a loss for words, a very unusual instance. "Don't you think about military strategy at all?" John asked curiously.

"Of course I don't waste my brain on military strategy! Well, unless we're about to be attacked. And then I'm brilliant. But…" Rodney's hands waved, "No, seriously, you think they'd be insane enough to banish you to Antarctica again?"

John shrugged. He'd hated today, constantly justifying his actions, trying to stay calm and not defensive, wondering when the hammer would fall, smashing his life into small pieces, but Rodney's concern made the worries sorta…worthwhile. It had been a long time since anyone so obviously cared what happened to him.

"We have to do something! We have to talk to the general! O'Neill may play one, but he's not completely an idiot. I'll get Elizabeth…" Rodney started to leap up, but John leaned forward and grabbed his hands, making him stay on the bed.

"Hey, it's okay. They messed up with Everett, but they'll send someone decent this time." John would damn well do everything he could to make sure they did. At least Carter was supposed to be an excellent officer, even if John hated her guts for being Rodney's ideal of perfection.

"Is that what you think this is about? Protecting my own skin?" Rodney knew that his emotions could be volatile, that the intensity of his reactions could get him into trouble, but he'd never felt his feelings escalate so quickly from worry to anger. "You may be occasionally brilliant and capable of higher mathematics, but right now you do not have two brain cells firing at the same time, do you realize that? How much vodka was in those glasses of death?"

"You don't have to be offensive," John pouted, liking Rodney's care and the backhanded compliment better than the insult.

"I don't have to be offensive! What do you mean, I don't have to be offensive! You started this, with the lemons and the lips and…"

John quirked an eyebrow. "The lips?"

Rodney flushed, uncomfortably aware that he'd revealed his interest, and that John's hands were still resting on top of his. John's fingers were longer than his own, but his grip wasn't tight, easily allowing Rodney to free his hands, to reach out and seize John's face in his palms, to tip his head slightly to one side. Rodney pressed his lips to John's, to those delectable soft lips that had ruined his evening. Rodney anticipated that John might very well deck him, but if he was going to disappear to the bleakness of Antarctica, what did Rodney have to lose? A punch would be worth knowing if John's lips were as sweet as they appeared.

John froze as Rodney's lips met his, moving gently, no tongue trying to force its way in, just thin lips delicately tasting his own. Jesus, Rodney was kissing him, and Rodney had been watching his lips during dinner, thinking about the lemon on his mouth.

Realizing that John wasn't responding, Rodney released his lips, satisfied that yes, they were very sweet indeed. He waited for indignance or anger, but John only looked dazed. Then his tongue flicked out, over his top lip then his bottom, and fuck, if John wasn't going to protest, Rodney wasn't going to be foolish enough to waste his chance for a second taste. He scooted a little closer and pressed their lips together again.

Damn, Rodney was kissing him again, not apparently deterred by his lack of response and why the hell was he letting shock hold him back? John reached out, hands landing on Rodney's broad shoulders, caressing them, gliding to touch the sides of his face, feeling the stubble on his cheeks, sliding around to coast through fine hair.

Rodney breathed deeply, his tongue licking at John's lips, not smelling lemons or steak but salty ocean air, like John still carried the scent of Atlantis with him. "This is…ah…okay?" he asked tentatively.

"We're not back on the mist planet, are we?" John laughed a little wildly. "Because I would have skipped the rest of this sucky day and gone straight here."

Rodney grinned. "No mist planet. This is reality."

"Reality's good. I like reality," John said, and gave into the urge to clasp his arms around Rodney's waist, to haul him closer while twisting. Rodney gave a little "oomph!" of surprise to find himself laid out on the bed, John on top of him, but he didn't protest. "This is okay?" John asked happily.

"This is great." A little unbelievable that John had gone from being a dick to pressing his hardening dick against Rodney's, but Rodney lived in a galaxy with life-sucking vampires. He could handle unbelievable, especially when it verged on miraculous. "And this? Is this good?" he asked, his hands gliding under John's shirt, up his lean sides, bringing the shirt with him. John's skin felt so good under his hands, warm and smooth, as golden as the sun.

"This is great, fucking great," John replied, rising up enough to pull his shirt over his head, exposing his chest, hoping it wasn't too hairy for Rodney's taste. "And you? Can I see you?" He grabbed the bottom of Rodney's shirt, eager to explore his naked skin.

"Oh yes, of course." Rodney took his shirt off too, hoping John didn't think his skin was too pale. From the look on John's face, it was perfectly acceptable. "You can see and – touch. Touching is good."

John lay back down on Rodney, their lips happily meeting in long, deep kisses, as his hands wandered over Rodney's skin, as pale and fine as silk. His fingers found Rodney's pert nipples, flicking and then squeezing them, as Rodney gasped into his mouth. "You like that?" he asked, his voice dark to his own ears.

Rodney was trying to take advantage of this surprising development, wanting to know every inch of John's body, but he could only shake when John pinched his nipples, the pleasure shooting straight down to his dick. His hips arched as he gasped.

John did it again, half-teasing the scientist, half needing reassurance. "Come on, Rodney, tell me. You like that?" He couldn't believe that Rodney was so hot for *his* touch, *his* lips. Not Sam's.

"As if you can't tell," he grumbled. John just grinned, and bent his head, covering Rodney's nipples with his mouth, licking and sucking. Rodney really wanted to relax and enjoy this, to let John spend hours touching and caressing him, but the other man had grinned, that smirky little grin that he'd flashed too often in the face of danger, and Rodney's dick and tightening balls suddenly made it very clear that the luxury of time was not an option. "John, Jesus, you need to – " he pushed with one hand at John's shoulders as he fumbled at his belt with the other.

"You want to be sucked, Rodney? You want to fuck my face?"

"Dirty talk is not helping!" he squeaked, breath embarrassingly shaky. "Please – here," he said, shoving more at John, who grinned and wiggled down to sprawl between Rodney's legs, helping Rodney open his trousers, tugging them down his hips. Rodney batted John's hands away to take his dick in his own hand. It was already hard and leaking. He threaded his fingers into John's thick hair, tilting his head back, rubbing his dick over John's lips.

John opened his mouth, willing to accept Rodney's stiff cock, to drink him dry. He'd pictured lots of different ways they might first have sex, and fellatio was a perfectly good beginning to his mind. A fabulous one. But curiously, for all Rodney's desperation, he didn't seem interested in getting in, just in coating John's lips with his pre-come.

"That's a better look for you," Rodney proclaimed, voice low and throaty, straining to hold on for a few more seconds.

John's tongue flicked out of his mouth to lick his lips, first the upper and then the lower, tasting the sweet bitterness of Rodney. "Better than what?"

"Jesus, I'll – " explain later Rodney wanted to say, but John had done the tongue flick thing again, and Rodney's hips were bucking out of control, and John must have understood, because he pushed Rodney's hand away from his dick, covering the stiff erection with his mouth. Rodney grabbed onto John's head with both his hands, petting his thick hair as John bobbed over his dick, his mouth slurping noisily, hot and wet. Rodney's orgasm roared through him, fast and powerful, igniting every nerve in his body, from his clenching toes to his eyes as they rolled back into his head, and then muscles melted into a puddle on the bed.

Grinning at how absolutely hot that had been, John gave Rodney a gentle kiss, and swung out of bed, finishing his undressing before pulling the crumpled clothes off Rodney's legs, straightening them and putting them on a chair. Rodney needed to look semi-presentable when he returned to his room. The scientist didn't move, other than to blink his eyes and breathe, and tuck one arm around John's shoulders when he curled next to him. "So better look?" John prompted, his dick strongly suggesting that it was time to get Rodney functioning.

"My come on your lips," Rodney responded, his voice lazily satisfied. "Better than watching you lick at sugar and lemon. You're never drinking lemon drops again. Key lime pie is banned from your life. And don't even think about eating an orange or a grapefruit."

"Not even a clementine," John promised. "So – um – " He pressed his dick against Rodney's hip, jerking a little to make his point.

"You could fuck me," Rodney offered. "Guest quarters are stocked with toiletries. There should be lotion of some sort." Apparently John liked that suggestion, because he was off the bed and rummaging in the bathroom before Rodney finished talking.

"You sure?" John asked as he returned with a bottle of lotion, knowing it was a stupid question but needing to check.

Rodney rolled his eyes and spread his legs, too satiated to participate, but willing to allow John to take, wanting to feel him inside.

The eye roll was all he needed. John propped himself on his side, kissing and stroking Rodney, slow and leisurely, keeping him occupied while he patiently stretched him open. He placed one of Rodney's legs around his waist, spreading him wider, and shifted to lie on him, thrusting carefully.

Rodney wondered if he'd be able to come again, because John's fingers were so very clever, and then John's dick was in him, sparking little shivers of pleasure across his prostate, but no, his dick said it was quite done, that John's mouth had been more than enough. Still, there was satisfaction in holding John, caressing the lean muscles of his back, squeezing the tight ass, and rocking with him gently. Best of all was watching the pleasure sweeping over John's face, his sweet lips rounded open as he breathed heavily while his hazel eyes went wide and unfocused.

Coming in Rodney was a little like drinking the lemon drop, was John's last rational thought before ecstasy flooded through his mind. The pressure of Rodney's muscles squeezing his dick was more tart and powerful than the lemon; Rodney's kisses sweeter than the sugar; the sheer ecstasy of coming in him more intoxicating than the vodka. He sagged onto Rodney, his dick slipping free as Rodney's arms folded around him, and didn't think he'd ever dare to make that comparison aloud.

Exhausted, they cuddled for a long time, exchanging little kisses and touches to keep the connection, nothing designed to rouse their passions again. Rodney nuzzled at John's temple, thinking he looked better and more relaxed than he had since the news of the Wraith hiveships. "You have to come back to Atlantis."

"I know." He didn't know how to make it happen, but it had to. "This is a reality I can't give up."

Rodney snuggled against him, agreeing completely.

~ end ~