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Adventures in an Astrophysicist's Life

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Rodney McKay was torn between embarrassment and arousal, and given the extremely advanced level of his intelligence, couldn't help wondering how he always managed to get himself in these situations.

Well, not this particular situation, but some sort of situation where things weren't working out quite right, generally to his embarrassment. This particular situation was brand spanking new: trapped in a strip joint with three female scientists, two of the secretaries – oops, administrative assistants – and Radek, desperately trying not to ogle young male bodies. He was pretty sure he'd been set up, tricked into this stupid dare by a few carefully chosen taunts and his own big mouth. The only question was whether Radek had been involved in the scheming, or had simply gone along for the entertainment value of watching Rodney squirm.

And squirming he was. Not that he didn't appreciate male bodies. Indeed, he did, though he generally downplayed that fact at the lab, wanting to be known more for his brilliance than his sexuality. His personal life was his own, thank you very much, and no one needed to know it consisted primarily of too much work, a cat that ignored him except at mealtimes, and a sister who called him every birthday and Christmas.

A woman at the table next to theirs leaped up and hooted enthusiastically, and he flinched. The music was already loud enough; the hordes of screaming, whooping women made everything worse. He fumbled for a sip of his beer – god, Bud, he couldn't believe he'd even bothered ordering it – and really wished he could leave. Radek was sitting across the table, not looking uncomfortable at all, more a combination of perplexed and amused, as if he were a social scientist and found this exposure to a different culture fascinating.

Rodney glared at Radek, who simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Oh yes, Radek had no problems. But then Radek was straight, and probably hoping to score with one of these hyperactive harpies in the audience. Rodney slugged back half of his bad beer, and told himself firmly that he could do this. He could handle this farce. Play it like Radek. Look unconcerned and amused.

He leaned back in his chair, turning his attention again to the stage, where a blond with too many rippled muscles, wearing only a g-string, was coming to the end of his dance with some sort of macho flourish, kneeling on the edge of the stage and clenching one fist in the air as people – women – applauded.

Christ, they were all so young, these strippers, good-looking and far too plastic. College-age at the most. They looked like they should be busboys, not strippers. Yes, his dick was half-hard, fascinated by the signals received from the most primitive areas of his brain, but his intelligence screamed that these were puppies, not sex objects.

Puppies, yes, think puppies and kitties, and revoltingly sappy pictures of pets with big eyes, and he could get through this, get out of here without making a fool of himself. He hadn't yet made a fool of himself in this city, and was hoping to avoid it. Blondie ran off the stage, and the crowd was left dangling for a few minutes. Rodney took the opportunity to order another bad overpriced beer from a passing waitress, hoping that a slight buzz would help him survive this night.

Then something that Rodney thought might have been the theme song for "Top Gun," except that he made a concerted effort not to get sucked into banal popular music, began playing, and another puppy came on the stage, dressed in a gray flight suit and a white helmet. This puppy seemed more hesitant, less polished than the previous ones, and the audience quieted in anticipation. He grasped the pole in the middle of the stage with one hand, both feet at the base of the pole and leaning away, swung around it, almost idly, before pulling off the helmet and tossing it backstage.

And at that point, Rodney completely lost awareness of the noisy crowd, his co-workers, or anything except that this puppy was a man, an honest-to-goodness man and he was hot. God, hot. Messy black hair that his hands begged to play with, piercing green eyes that seemed to look straight at him, and a handsome face that showed experience and character.

The man danced, more masculine than the others, like a heroic figure who knew that because he was so freaking hot, he could just strut and didn't really need to work it, and the flight suit started to come off. First the zipper inched slowly down, revealing a strip of golden chest with dark hair. Not a perfectly sculpted chest, but a muscled one nonetheless, the chest of a man who worked hard at life, not in the gym. Rodney couldn't decide what he wanted to touch first, the hair or the chest.

But then the flight suit came off one shoulder, and down one arm, and there was an arm, a luscious arm with biceps that simply needed to be nibbled. The man rolled his shoulder, and women screamed, bringing Rodney to awareness that others shared his sympathies, finding this one equally attractive. It almost made him mad, the thought that anyone else was seeing this unveiling of masculine perfection, except that he was too preoccupied with staring to be distracted by anger.

The dance continued, the flight suit slipping from the other shoulder until the man was strutting on the stage bare-chested, the suit flopping around his waist, threatening to drop off lean hips. Radek shoved a handkerchief into his hand and yelled, "You're drooling!" Rodney looked blankly at him, and then back at the stage, crumpling the handkerchief in his hand. Once again, he could swear that the man was looking directly at him, a connection that he hadn't experienced with any of the other dancers.

The man fell, rolling onto his back, raising one foot in the air to pull off his boot and sock, tossing them offstage, and the extremely small part of Rodney's brain that was still rational had to wonder about the fact that this dancer wasn't well organized. The others all had clothes that were designed for yanking off, but this man was having to work at it, especially the boots. Not that Rodney or the rest of the audience minded, because instead of appearing amateurish, it came off as more manly, more real.

But then the other boot and sock were flung off, and the man rolled back onto his feet – Christ, he might not be a pretty boy dancer, but he was flexible – and shimmied out of the rest of the flight suit. That shimmy should be illegal, and Rodney wanted to be the arresting officer. The man wasn't wearing a g-string like the rest, but white briefs that revealed that he was quite nicely, really extremely nicely endowed, and had incredibly long legs.

Rodney tried to burn every image into his brain, the man's face, the lopsided quirk to his lips, like he was finding the whole experience entertaining, that lean body, those shoulders and hips and oh my god, that underwear and those legs. He wanted to remember everything, every single inch of golden skin, every strand of black hair trailing down that manly chest and coating muscled legs, and he almost moaned in pain when the song ended as the man gave a bow and ran offstage, disappearing from Rodney's sight.

He stared down at the table for the next two numbers, hearing the different songs being played, but not caring to watch. He didn't even see the fake wood top of the table, but only the replay of that dance in his mind, because no other dancer could match the pilot's sexiness. A hand clasped his shoulder and he jumped, startled, glancing up to see the man from the stage looking down at him. The flight suit had been replaced by well-worn jeans that clung to his hips, a white t-shirt, and a black jacket, making him look even more edible to Rodney.

As another song started, the man leaned over, speaking into his ear. "I'm John."

Rodney shuddered at the feel of his breath. "Rodney!"

"You looked like you might like to buy me a beer." Up close, his eyes were hazel rather than green, the brown flecks more apparent.

Rodney nodded dumbly, and stood up, following the man as he walked toward the bar in the next room. He dimly recognized that his co-workers were watching him and making jokes. One of them called something about the car arrangements and he yelled back, "Cab! I'll get a cab!" Oh yes, he was so screwed at work, he'd never live this down, but time with John was worth being eternally tormented by co-workers. And then they were in the other room, where it was quieter, if still not quiet, and John was already standing at the bar.

"Beer, you wanted a beer," Rodney fumbled over his words. "They have crap beer here, but whatever you want."

"What do you want, Rodney?"

He was intelligent, damn it. Probably more intelligent than anyone else in this dive, if not this city or even this state. This country. But English – indeed any form of communication beyond abject staring and drooling – had completely deserted him. How could he answer such a question? I want you? Did he have the nerve? Bluntness wasn't usually a problem for Rodney, but in a sexual situation, his Canadian soul hesitated to be too crass. One of John's hands cupped his cheek, long fingers curling on his stubble, bringing their faces close together, and he seemed to be reading Rodney's mind. "Do you want me?"

Honest, he could do honest. "Oh god, yes."

"What do you want?"

Hearing the question again jerked Rodney's brain into functioning. He thought of everything he wanted, to run his fingers in John's hair, to kiss those smiling lips, to feel that body, to see what was under those white briefs… "I want to suck you."

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"The alley," John said, one hand slipping under Rodney's jacket to curve over his hip, guiding him toward the door.

"I don't – I don't have a condom," Rodney stuttered, as they walked out of the building, the thump of the loud music and the flashiness of spotlights cut off, supplanted by sounds of evening traffic and dim streetlamps.

"I knew you were a bright one." John smiled, and his amusement disturbed Rodney for a second. "Don't worry, I do." Then his hand curved around Rodney's back, pulling Rodney into an embrace, kissing him with a passion that made Rodney's knees as weak as his dick was hard. Rodney moaned and forgot about that quiet amusement.

They walked to the alleyway, John's arm still curved around Rodney's back, Rodney just trying to keep from tripping over his feet, because he seemed to have lost all coordination. John stopped in a patch of darkness, sheltered from the streetlights by the building's overhang, and kissed him again.

Rodney kissed him back, desperately, frantically, wanting to know every inch of his mouth, the feel of his tongue, the evenness of his teeth. He slid his hands under John's jacket to caress his back, the cotton under his hands covering muscles that felt as lean and hard as they had appeared on stage.

"Hey," John laughed a little. "We've got time. Take it easy."

"No." Rodney shook his head. "I can't. Do you know how much I want you? Condom, where's the condom?"

John pulled it out of his back pocket, pressing it into Rodney's hand. Rodney grabbed at it gratefully, holding the package in his teeth, and dropped to his knees, his hands working on John's belt, the button and zipper on his faded jeans. He tugged them down to John's thighs, and then let his hands wander over the white briefs. He needed to touch everything, not just the front, but how the soft cotton material curved around his hips and clung to his buttocks.

"You really want me, don't you?"

"Everyone in that club wanted you," Rodney answered, speaking with the condom still in his teeth. "Except maybe not Radek. He's straight." The briefs joined the jeans, and oh…John's cock was just as long and lean and gorgeous as he the rest of his body. Not fully hard yet, but definitely interested.

Okay, now the condom had to go carefully into his jacket pocket, because he wasn't going to risk ending this by losing the package in the dark. Rodney buried his face in the crinkly hair on John's groin, breathing sweat and man and cotton. His hands rested on John's upper thighs, squeezing the lean muscles, wondering if John was a runner. He had the right type of legs, long and sculpted. If not a runner, clearly an athlete of some variety. Rodney rolled John's balls into his mouth, one and then the other, pleased to note that John's cock was definitely getting with the program, filling with blood, and arching out.

Rodney's hands shook with nervousness as he took the condom out of its package and rolled it on, smoothing it carefully, and then oh yes…he had John's cock in his mouth. He loved this, the length and feel of a hard cock in his mouth, the power and passion of the man, all his to explore. John groaned, long and low, the sound pleasing Rodney because there was nothing amused about that groan. He began bobbing his head forward and backward, sucking and releasing John's cock, and John's hips began to thrust, out from the brick wall into Rodney's mouth.

Rodney fumbled to undo his own pants enough to release his cock, stroking himself in time with his sucking. His free hand fondled John's body restlessly, from his thighs to bony hips, up under his white t-shirt to stroke his abdomen, appreciating the softness of his skin and the underlying hard muscle. He spread his fingers wide, the better to touch and absorb every sensation. John's hands were moving too, caressing Rodney's short hair, patting his shoulders, touching his cheek, feeling the edge of Rodney's lips stretched around his cock.

It couldn't last long, certainly not on Rodney's part as he'd been hard since seeing this man, and he moaned painfully, blissfully around John's cock as he came, his come falling to the ground and hopefully not on John's white sneakers. He sucked even harder, no longer releasing, but an intense greedy suction, trying to draw all of John's cock into his mouth. His reward was John's harsh moan and the throbbing in his mouth that said John had come too.

Resting his head on John's thigh, Rodney zipped his pants as he regained his breath, thrilled. The curse of being a workaholic with no personal life was that he'd never managed to do that very often, certainly not as often as he'd have liked, but he was pretty damned sure from John's moans and groans that he'd done it very well.

"Wow," John said, struggling to control his breath while taking care of the condom.

"Did that surprise you?" Rodney said smugly, standing up and rubbing his knees. Next time would be some place with a softer surface, if John would let him have another time.

"You wouldn't believe how much." He put his clothes to rights, his eyes on Rodney's. "Your profile says you're straight."

"My profile?" Rodney frowned. "What profile?" It clicked in Rodney's mind that something was wrong, very wrong, but John's fist was swinging fast, connecting with his jaw, and Rodney crumpled, unconscious.

~~~~

He was curled up with his head in someone's lap, and his hair was being stroked. The experience was very nice and relaxing, someone's hand playing in his hair, brushing on his forehead, down the line of his hair to the nape of his neck, starting again, like his lover was exploring his face as he took a nap on a pleasant sunny day after a lunch in the park.

Only there wasn't any sun on his face, and he could feel smooth leather and even smoother motion under him, like he was in a car, being driven to some destination.

Rodney jerked to a sitting position, realizing that his head had been pillowed in John's lap, on John's well-worn jeans, and that he was in the back of some sort of luxurious expensive car. He made a noise of dismay and fear, which he was afraid came out like, "Mwargh!" instead of an intimidating growl.

"Hi," John said easily, as if kidnapping people was an everyday activity for him, which perhaps it was, Rodney thought fearfully.

"Hi? Hi! Who the hell are you? Where am I? I'm a very important scientist. I'll be missed."

"I'm John, and that's Ford," he pointed to the chauffeur, who stuck one dark hand up in acknowledgement, "and you're in a car going to a secret location, so no, I'm not going to answer that second question. We're almost there."

"You knocked me out! You kidnapped me!"

"It seemed easiest."

It was hard to see his expression in the dark, but Rodney rather thought John was smiling genially like that was supposed to be reassuring, and not at all repentant. "What are you going to do with me?" The car's windows were tinted, but there appeared to be forest outside, which meant he'd been unconscious long enough that they'd left the city and suburbs behind. They were on a road, not a freeway, so either John and Ford were planning on killing him and dumping his body where it wouldn't be discovered, or taking him to one of the private residences in this area.

"We're not going to hurt you." There was a crunching noise as the car turned off the road and onto a graveled driveway. "We're here," John said unnecessarily. "Elizabeth will explain everything to you."

So at least he wasn't going to be killed immediately. He'd been kidnapped for some sort of purpose, the brilliance of his mind presumably, as his bank account was woefully deficient. Research for the purity of expanding scientific knowledge never received the funding it deserved. "I'll wait then to talk to the boss, shall I? Since the hired muscle isn't capable of providing explanations." Rodney sneered, furious at this man who'd clearly used Rodney's attraction to him to take advantage. The disappointment was worse than the fear, bitter and strong, like that last half cup of coffee that had been sitting in the pot since morning that he finally drank because he was too wrapped up in an equation to make more. He thought he'd connected with a really hot guy who was interested in him, who truly wanted sex with him, and maybe, just maybe, even a little bit more, only to find himself duped and shanghaied.

"I could explain," John answered, and his tone was less laidback, a little more clipped. Good. Rodney hoped he'd pissed him off. "But Elizabeth prefers to." The car stopped and Ford clicked the locks open.

"You're straight, aren't you?" Rodney accused, flipping open the door and stalking out. The car was parked in the forecourt of a pretentiously large house, almost a mansion, and Rodney kept going toward the front door. Though he'd been brought here under false pretenses, he was going to proceed on his own terms.

"I've been a lot of things in my life," John answered laconically, following as Rodney shoved the mansion's front door open.

"And what is the relevance of that statement? You can't choose to be straight and then choose to be bi or gay. That's not how it works." He stomped into the foyer as he talked. The place was definitely impressive, if one cared about interior decorating. Rodney had a vague impression of an antique side table with a porcelain statue on it, marbled floors, and a Chinese rug, but he'd never paid much attention to such superficialities, and so he focused on searching for the mysterious Elizabeth.

"I thought you were an astrophysicist, not a biologist." John opened a door off the entryway, motioning Rodney to enter.

Rodney stomped past him, coming to a stop in the middle of the room, which matched the elegance of the foyer. "I thought your little profile covered the breadth of my knowledge," he snipped back at John, while studying the dark-haired woman who sat behind a desk in the corner, typing on a laptop.

"Dr. McKay." She rose and crossed the room, offering her hand. Tall and slim, she was dressed in a maroon top and dark blue slacks, appearing refined and dignified, and fortunately not threatening or thuggish. Maybe he'd get out of this with his life and finances intact. "I’m Elizabeth."

Rodney shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers, pointedly ignoring her hand. "I'm tired and angry and what do you want?"

His aggression seemed to startle her, a fact that pleased Rodney. It was true he was tired and angry, but also scared. People in his world simply didn't get kidnapped. More importantly, he was hurt by feeling duped, and wanted someone else to be rattled, since he couldn't seem to make much more than a tiny dent in John's calm. Elizabeth's expression switched to sympathy as she sat down on the couch. "I want to reassure you that no harm will come to you."

Her quiet manner made Rodney relent enough to sit down in the armchair opposite her, which was a tactical mistake he realized as the adrenaline seemed to flood out of his system, leaving him lightheaded. He needed food before his hypoglycemia kicked in. "No harm?" He struggled for his fire. "I've been punched, kidnapped, forced to perform fellatio – "

Elizabeth's eyes went sharp, her face hard as she glanced past Rodney, to where John stood in the doorway. "Forced fellatio?"

John moved with startling speed and stealth. One moment Elizabeth was asking, "Forced fellatio?" and the next, John was looming over him, one hand on the chair's arm, the other on the back, and John glared intently down at Rodney, with a very 'I'm really pissed off and you don't want to fuck with me' expression on his face, proving that he could look other than laidback, amused and sexy. "There was no force involved."

Rodney tightened his lips and gave John his best 'you're an asshole' glare, but he didn't really think it matched up to John's glare.

"There was no force involved," John said again. Angry John was more intimidating than Rodney had imagined. John spaced out his words as if Rodney had hearing problems. "Nothing happened without your consent. And willing participation."

"Fine," Rodney snapped, breaking. "There was no force involved. Just duplicity and deceit."

John's lips quirked in a rueful half-smile, and he gave a nod of resigned acceptance before backing away, returning to a position behind Rodney's chair. Rodney tried to hide his sigh of relief. Elizabeth gave John a look that made Rodney guess the fellatio discussion wasn't over between the two of them, which he found reassuring. Really bad people probably didn't care if their goons molested their victims. Then her attention returned to Rodney. "Dr. McKay, I apologize for whatever unorthodox methods John used to bring you here. From our intelligence reports, we were concerned about your safety, and we had to move quickly."

"Because I am so completely safe here?"

"Trust me, Dr. McKay, that no one here will mistreat you. The people we are protecting you from are known to use brutal methods to get what they want."

She did seem sincere, but Rodney had been in the cutthroat world of academia and scientific research since his teens. He'd learned the hard way that sincerity was frequently a facade used to dig the knife farther into his back. "So I was kidnapped for my own protection? Don't tell me, you're an official of the United States government?"

Elizabeth's face went from polite to neutrally blank. "I'm not at liberty to say who we work for."

"Which means, yes, you do work for the government," he snapped. "Because that is exactly the kind of plan a government bureaucrat would think logical, kidnap someone for their own protection. This is one of the many reasons I will never work for the U.S. government."

"Your disdain for government research isn't the issue here, Dr. McKay. You are in danger from a small group of very dangerous individuals. I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to tell you more than that at this time."

"Terrorists? You're protecting me from terrorists?" He rolled his eyes. "Do you think I'm Dr. Brown or something? That Palestinians with machine guns are going to attack me in a VW van?"

"It was Libyans, not Palestinians. Though you did get the van right," John said suddenly.

Rodney glanced at him, leaning against the wall. He looked good leaning…against walls or stripper poles. The man just looked good, damn it all. "Oh my god, you like that movie? No, of course you do. Why am I asking?"

"That was a good movie. And these people aren't Islamic extremists."

Rodney flung up his hands in exasperation. "No, just dangerous, whoever they are, and I'll take your word for it, because you work for some group that likes to protect people for philanthropic reasons of your own. And do I get to know what the terrorists want me for? I presume they have a specific reason? Or do they randomly collect brilliant scientists?"

"We were hoping you could tell us that," John offered genially. "Our intel only said that they were going to snatch you tonight."

Rodney gaped. "You want me to tell you why the mysterious dangerous terrorists want me? Do you people actually know what you're doing or did you get seconded from middle management?"

"We know it's likely to involve your work in wormhole physics."

"Oh yes? Because the terrorists think I can what – open up a wormhole to swallow America?"

"Terrorism isn't funny," John growled, which perversely sent a shiver down Rodney's spine and into his balls as he envisioned a pissed-off, demanding John, a man who'd shove him against the brick wall of that back alley and take what he'd wanted… Angry John was intimidating, but he also was really hot, perhaps even hotter than laidback John. Not that Rodney needed to be having these kinds of thoughts about this man.

"This farce isn't funny either," he snapped, leaping to his feet, his jaw thrusting out defiantly. That reaction proved to be a mistake as the dizziness walloped his balance, making him grope for the chair and sit back down.

John's tone softened as he asked, "Are you okay?" while Elizabeth parroted, "Dr. McKay? Are you all right?"

"I need food," Rodney lamented, his eyes shutting. He heard the sound of a door closing, and felt Elizabeth's hand gently patting his knee.

"John's gone to get you something to eat."

He nodded back, keeping his eyes closed, too tired for more verbal fencing. They sat in silence though Rodney's brain could have made a cacophony of noise from the speed at which it was cranking. Hurt feelings aside, he trusted John's sincerity. There was just something…all-American about him. Unconventional definitely, but also determined and straightforward, even if he couldn't be completely honest. Elizabeth seemed straightforward too, polite and sincere. So if he accepted they were the good guys, some covert part of American security forces, presumably an actually good part – then who the hell were they protecting him from? Why would 'bad guys' want him? True, his work was important and valuable, but it was theoretical. Nothing he did had weapons potential.

Rodney heard the sound of the door and the clink of glass on wood, and opened his eyes to see a sandwich, a bowl of fruit, and a glass of milk on the side table by him.

Belatedly, he said, "I'm allergic – "

"We know," John cut in. "No citrus."

Picking up the glass, Rodney said, "I don't normally drink milk."

"Somehow I didn't think you wanted a Miller." Rodney shuddered. "It's Ford's choice and we didn't stock the kitchen much. Elizabeth has some diet Pepsi." Rodney shuddered again. Soda wasn't worth drinking unless it was loaded with caffeine and sugar.

"This is fine." He began to eat the sandwich, turkey with mayonnaise on white bread, so wonderfully bland and comforting, realizing the full extent of his hunger. They'd left late from work, and bar snacks didn't cut it as a meal in Rodney's estimation. "I signed a confidentiality clause," he said between bites. "So I couldn't tell you about my research, even if I wanted to. Which I don't and you wouldn't understand it anyway."

John arched an eyebrow. He would make an excellent Spock, with his surprisingly elfish ears, if that hair could be tamed.

"You wouldn't!" Rodney finished off the first half of the sandwich and started on the second. "There are a limited number of people in this world capable of understanding my work and I know all of them. But I can reassure you that my work doesn't have any form of weapons applications for whoever your non-Islamic extremist terrorists are. I built a nuclear bomb once."

John noted wryly, "You still have a CIA file."

"It was a perfect working model," Rodney couldn't help but say with pride. He'd invested hours into that model, making each piece precise and functional, fascinated with the challenge and giving little thought to the consequences. "But the CIA were insane. I was twelve and they grilled me for hours. My parents' attorney had to threaten them with an international incident to get me released. I knew then that weapons research was more trouble than it was worth."

Elizabeth and John seemed content to listen to him talk while he ate, so he continued, picking at the chopped fruit, a lovely combination of apples, grapes, and other non-citrusy fruits. "I swore I'd never have anything to do with the CIA or any branch of the American government." Which was really a shame since John appeared to work for them. Could a grown man be expected to uphold pledges made as a child?

"We appreciate your stand, Dr. McKay. I wish more scientists shared your principles on weapons research. We might live in a safer world." Elizabeth's reassuring words made Rodney squirm, because it wasn't the fault of his fellow scientists that they could be tempted by obscene amounts of money dangled by the military and their contractors. It simply meant that the priorities of politicians were skewed. "But we're afraid that if these people got their hands on you, they might not allow you any choice, either in forcing you to give them the information they want, or forcing –"

Rodney snorted. "I'm not doing anything 'bad guys,'" he mimed little quotes in the air, "would want. And I can't be made to be brilliant on command."

"While your work is theoretical, I understand that you are quite experienced in practical applications. Your second Ph.D. is in engineering." Elizabeth rose and walked around to her laptop, flicking through a file. "The incident in Vancouver –"

"Yes, fine." Rodney cut her off quickly, because he remembered that incident far too vividly. It had definitely been more embarrassing than being trapped at a strip club, thought at least it had only ended with a nasty insurance fight, not a kidnapping, and had precipitated his return to pure research, which was his preference anyway. "Yes, I am a genius at construction and design as well as research. But if terrorists were going to kidnap someone they could badger into making them weapons, well, they'd do better with some clutch-fisted ham like Dickie Kavanagh. Now there's," he pointed at Elizabeth in his excitement, "a scientist who'd sell out."

Something flickered in Elizabeth's eyes – did they have a dossier on Kavanagh too? And oh god, did they know about the Chicago cock-up? – but she said only, "Maybe the terrorists haven't done the proper research to distinguish the difference between you and Kavanagh. They may think you're the right man for them."

Somehow he'd gotten under her skin, because that comment was almost bitchy, and truly, she had a point. "Yes, maybe the terrorists' dossier isn't quite as excellent as your own. Why do you have a dossier on me? Because they do, or were you researching me already?"

Elizabeth smiled, inclining her head to indicate a point scored. "Very perceptive, Dr. McKay. Yes, we were already researching you, for the possibility of hiring you."

"Okay, this?" he waved a hand at her and the entire room, "is not a good recruitment interview."

She smiled again. "No, perhaps not." He liked her honesty, the way she acknowledged his points, even if it wasn't a communication skill he had, or ever intended to develop. She reminded him of the best lab manager he'd worked with, a fellow who could schmooze well with rich people who wanted to leave memorials and corporate execs to get funding but otherwise left the scientists alone to work. She shared that quiet diplomatic manner. "We had intended to call you and request an interview, but our concern for your safety led us to take action."

Rodney sighed. He was tired of this refrain. "The terrorists."

"The terrorists."

"So you don't know if they want me for my current work or because you want me?"

"It's possible that they want you for reasons connected to our project," Elizabeth admitted.

Rodney was disappointed, having started to think that her moments of honesty and caring meant she wasn't capable of that level of deviousness. "Oh you – you would have let me tell you about my work! You would have let me believe it was all my current research!"

Her answer to his accusation was a nod. "Frankly," she said, "I was curious to see if you would violate your confidentiality agreement."

"You were testing my character?"

"I couldn't hire you if you were unable to keep a confidence."

That offended him, because Rodney had never violated anyone's trust. "Like I'm going to work for you now."

"We hadn't actually made the decision whether to approach you."

And that was even more offensive, to think she needed an astrophysicist for a top secret project but wasn't sure if she wanted him. Of course she wanted him. He was the best. The question ought to be whether he wanted to work for her. "Obviously, you weren't interested in guaranteeing the success of your project then," he snapped.

"You know, I think we're all a little tired here," John suggested. "It's been an exciting night. Maybe we should pick this up in the morning."

"I want to go home." He was pretty sure he sounded whiny, but Rodney wanted it clear he wasn't capitulating with this kidnapping.

Squatting next to him, John rested his hands on the arm of Rodney's chair, his face serious and concerned. "Look, those guys are still out there, and believe me, if you find us irritating, you'd find them ten times worse. So why don't you get a good night's sleep here, and we can talk more calmly in the morning?"

His words were oh so reasonable, and Rodney wanted to do what John suggested, but… "My cat needs to be fed."

"Doesn't it have dry food?"

"Of course, but she likes wet food in the evening."

"How about we give her a double helping tomorrow morning? I promise we'll get her taken care of."

John smiled, and either he was a wonderful fellow out to protect Rodney, or the biggest faker in the world. "Oh, very well," Rodney said crossly. "First thing tomorrow."

"First thing tomorrow, we get the cat fed." He crossed his fingers over his heart. "Now let's get you settled in the guest bedroom."

They both stood. John nodded to Elizabeth who said, "Good night, Doctor. We'll talk in the morning."

Rodney inclined his head stiffly and followed John out of the room and up the stairs, feeling weary and drained but unable to stop himself from appreciating John's butt in his snug faded jeans. Anyway, after all this man had put him through, for his own good or not, he deserved to be regarded as a sex object, Rodney decided. Though it was too bad that John probably didn't regard him in the same light…

Quashing that notion, Rodney followed John into a bedroom, as immaculate and nicely decorated as the rest of the mansion. The bed was huge but the mattress was probably crap, since a nice appearance was no guarantee of practical functionality, and he'd wake up with kinks in his back, but Rodney was too exhausted to worry. Once he'd accepted staying the night, he felt dead on his feet.

"Look," John turned to him, "we're short staffed here. I don't want to make Ford stay awake half the night to guard your door. The security system in this house is to stop people getting in, not getting out. I'm sure you could bypass it if you wanted."

"I am a genius." Rodney didn't argue with John's assumption, rather pleased that John acknowledged his intelligence and that his skills lay not just in wormhole physics but also in practical engineering.

"You could probably hotwire the car too, but it's late and we're both tired and you don't know the way back to town."

"Funny, once you get on the freeway, there are these things on the side of the road, they're called road signs. They tell you what direction to go."

Rodney smirked. John looked tightlipped. "I know you can get away. I'm asking that you don't."

"And in return for my promise that I'll be a good little prisoner?"

John stepped closer, his hand resting on the lapel of Rodney's suit jacket, drifting slowly down, stopping around Rodney's waist, just…remaining there. "What would you like?"

Struggling to breathe, Rodney slapped John's hand away from him. He wanted – oh god, how he wanted what John seemed to be offering – but he wasn't going to be used again by a straight boy, even one with delusional visions of being his protector. "What's your last name?"

"Sheppard."

"Like with sheep?"

"No, S-h-e-p-p-a-r-d."

"Very well. You have my promise that I won't escape until I have at least six hours of sleep. More if that mattress is a decent support for my back."

"Thank you, Rodney." John hesitated, like he wanted to say more, but finally just added, "There are new toiletries in the bathroom for you."

Rodney inclined his head grandly, like he was indicating that John's audience was at an end. He waited until John had left the room, closing the door behind him, before he collapsed on the bed.

Never again. Never ever again was he going to let his big mouth talk him into getting dragged out with his co-workers. He'd been in too many fiascoes, and this one was hurting too damned much, and he didn't mean the pain in his jaw.

~~~~

Morning came promptly at 6:00 a.m., because years of a screaming alarm clock had trained his body to accept the inevitable. He woke, aware only that he was comfortable and warm. As he shifted and stretched, yawning, the events of the previous night came crashing back, the hotness of John, the scare of being kidnapped, the obstinate politeness of Elizabeth, who was clearly not cut out to be a ruthless criminal mastermind, though did succeed at concerned government official, if that was her true role.

He rolled out of bed and spent a few minutes undoing the sheets to find the mattress tag, because contrary to expectations, his sleep had been deep and restful. He noted the name, deciding to order one soon. His current mattress was almost five years old, and he didn't like them to get worn before replacing them.

No one had yet poked his head in, and no, Rodney didn't want John to have woken him up and checked out his morning wood, no, he didn't, so he showered, shaved, and dressed in yesterday's shirt and trousers because these people could procure fresh toiletries but were not big on providing clean clothes.

Ford was sitting in a chair in the hallway, reading the newspaper when Rodney stepped out. Because the six hours were up and John didn't trust him? Their little dossier wasn't very complete if they thought Rodney would bounce out of bed and try to escape first thing in the morning before he'd had coffee. Besides, John had promised to take him home to feed his cat, and Rodney was counting on John being a man who kept his word.

"Morning, Doc," Ford said cheerfully, as if polite chitchat was standard with kidnap victims.

"Good morning," Rodney answered cautiously, taking his opportunity for his first good look at his other kidnapper or protector or whatever these people were. Young, perhaps a decade younger than Rodney, good-looking, short hair, close to Rodney's height, but definitely of a slimmer, leanly-muscled build. He didn't seem particularly thuggish, but then Rodney supposed that being apparently good-natured might be a benefit for a kidnapper, encouraging trust in his victims.

"The – John's on breakfast. You hungry?" Rodney's stomach growled, making Ford smile. "I take it that's a yes." Standing, he folded his newspaper, waving it to point downstairs.

John and Elizabeth were talking in the kitchen, looking intent but stopping and smiling when Rodney walked in. He wished the house's insulation wasn't so successful at preventing sound from carrying, as he would have liked to overhear what they were discussing. Part of him was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the supposed protectors to reveal they were incredibly clever criminals, lulling him into helping them by a sophisticated subterfuge.

"Breakfast?" John asked easily, a charming host caring for a guest.

"Yes," Rodney answered. "And coffee." The kitchen wasn't as elegant as the rest of the house, but serviceable and comfortable, decorated in warm colors with plenty of work surfaces. The appliances on the counters as well as the pots and pans hanging on the wall were definitely top of the line. John snagged the pot out of the coffee maker and poured Rodney a cup, while Elizabeth pushed cream and sugar toward one of the empty places at the table. Ford hovered in the kitchen doors for a moment, then backed out. Having transferred his prisoner to the next jailer? Rodney slid onto a chair, as John began pulling items out of the refrigerator, working at the stove, obviously with a plan in mind, but Rodney never worried about interrupting other people's plans. "I'd like – "

"Two poached eggs, white toast, butter, jam – nothing with citrus – and bacon, soft cooked." John was wearing jeans again, just as snug but slightly less faded, and a green shirt that highlighted the green in his hazel eyes, not that Rodney was noticing such details.

"Yes." Christ, hot on stripper poles and apparently a mind reader in the kitchen, was there no end to the man's irritating perfection? Rodney busied himself with adding sugar and cream to his coffee. At work, he mostly drank it black, dark and intense to make his thinking sharp, but this morning he needed a fortifying dose of sugar and fat.

"Dr. McKay."

Rodney hadn't been paying much attention to Elizabeth – John had a way of crowding other people out of his vision – but something in her tone alarmed him.

"What?"

"Dr. McKay, we've received more intelligence this morning."

"Good, because you do need a healthy dose of that."

The expression on Elizabeth's face didn't even flicker at the insult. Either she was getting accustomed to him or her diplomatic shield was stronger in the morning. "It appears that our initial understanding may have been incorrect."

"The initial understanding that – "

"That you were in danger," she added.

"I wasn’t?" Rodney asked blankly.

"No, our information may have been incorrect. There may never have been any intent to kidnap you. We may have needlessly scared you. And for that, we are very sorry."

"You're sorry?" Rodney asked stupidly, his brain not quite able to grasp the switch from 'the dangerous terrorists are out to get you' to 'oops, never mind.' That wasn't quite the shoe he'd been expecting.

"We are very sorry," John inserted, glancing over long enough to look shamefaced as he moved around the kitchen, continuing to work on breakfast. He was taking the heat for Elizabeth, Rodney realized, which angered him even more than the 'oops.' They fit well as a couple, both tall, slim brunettes, and John clearly respected her opinion and felt protective of her. Was that why John hadn't wanted to set guards? So he could sleep all night with Elizabeth? What would he have done if Rodney had accepted his subtle offer?

And then the full meaning of the 'oops' sunk in…there had been no reason for the stripper dance, the blowjob, the punch to Rodney's jaw… The explosion started, the ceaseless stream of words ripping up both John and Elizabeth's intelligence. Punctuated with pacing, hand waving, and finger pointing, it was monumental, lengthy, and extremely articulate, because Rodney's prowess with words was almost as impressive as his scientific knowledge. The small part of his brain that wasn't involved in the rampage wished Radek were here to watch. Radek would shake his head sadly but secretly enjoy it, so at least someone would. Rodney made damn sure that John and Elizabeth didn't, though they took it well, not trying to argue.

A perfectly cooked breakfast sliding in front of him finally ended the tirade as Rodney's stomach growled again. He sat down and tucked in while John and Elizabeth watched, still appearing repentant. He had to marvel a little bit at their willingness to accept his verbal retribution without protest, which made them both stronger and more self-controlled than anyone else he'd ever met.

"I want to be returned home this morning. My cat will be starving and I'm already late for work." Since they'd carpooled to the strip joint, his car was still at the office, but he didn't want to deal with the speculation of showing up in yesterday's clothes.

Elizabeth nodded, not objecting to the demand. "Ford will drive you, as soon as you're ready."

~~~~

After dishing out enough expensive cat food to appease Precious, quickly changing his clothes and making the cab driver stop at his favorite local coffee bar, Rodney approached work clutching a mocha grande with an extra shot of espresso, and a 'who the hell cares' attitude about what his co-workers might think. So they'd realized he was gay or bi. As far as they knew, he was late because he and John had been exhausted after fucking like rabid bunnies all night. Let them think he'd rated a guy that hot.

Still, he was relieved when he encountered no one from last night in the hallways. One or two people gave him odd looks, but no one said anything that required more than a grumpy grunt, which was pretty much his normal mode of communication before noon anyway.

The reason for the odd looks became clear when he reached his office. Pictures were taped to the door, undoubtedly taken by cell phones belonging to the overactive harpies that were his co-workers. The one in the middle had caught him gazing up with undisguised longing and lust. The one next to it was John as he'd crouched down by Rodney's chair, oh-so-casual and laidback with his tousled hair and sweet pouty lips. The pics around those two were John on stage. John with his flight suit half off, exposing his furry chest, John holding the stripper pole with one hand, leaning away from it, John in those white briefs that Rodney had once curved his hands around, cupping John's tight butt.

Carefully, Rodney took down the pictures, bending the Scotch tape to the back of the picture, keeping each one neat and pristine. He heard a titter from down the hall, confirming that he was being observed, but he didn't dignify the watcher by acknowledging her presence. They'd probably think he wanted souvenirs of his conquest, which was fine. They didn't need to know he wanted a photograph for the police if he got kidnapped again, because he didn't trust that what had happened last night was completely over.

Well…the good facial close-up could go to the police. The rest were going to be ripped to shreds for his humiliation, or added to the stash of porn in his closet. Because damn, straight boy was either deluded or a liar, but he was hot, and definite jack-off material.

Entering his office, Rodney booted up his computer and went looking online for John Sheppard, not sheep-related. He had a feeling that he hadn't heard the last of John or Elizabeth, and this time he wanted to be prepared.

~~~~

By late morning, he emerged to seek fresh coffee, cursing that even with his own brilliant research abilities, John Sheppard was way too common a name. His best guess was a major in the Air Force who'd gotten busted for disobeying a direct order in Afghanistan and undertaking a seriously stupid rescue mission, but there'd been no picture for confirmation. Still, a pilot would make sense and explain the not-easy-to-rip-off flight suit, as well as the fact that John moved and reacted with the alertness and efficiency of a military man. Time to load up on the caffeine before settling down to hacking into the Air Force mainframe to find the pilot's service record. Rodney didn't know much about military records, but presumably there would be at least one good photo for identification purposes.

Radek's office was locked, and Rodney banged on the door. "Come on Radek, I need coffee." The Czech always had the best pot of coffee brewing, which he would begrudgingly share with Rodney.

Receiving no answer, Rodney wandered down the hallway to the secretaries' desks, propping his forearms on the low modular wall, looking to see – damn, John in his white briefs tacked on Lisa's wall. "You have a picture of a half-naked man on your wall? Do the words sexual harassment lawsuit have any meaning in your small brain?"

Lisa gave him a dirty look, but he gave her a harder one back, and she took the picture down, slipping it into a drawer. "Did you need something Dr. McKay?"

"Where's Dr. Zelenka?"

"He hasn't come in yet."

"When is he expected in?" Rodney restrained his impulse to bop her on the head for not giving complete information.

"I don't know. He hasn't called in."

"Radek? Radek hasn't called?" And that was completely and utterly wrong. Radek was always at work before Rodney, coffee brewed, his email read and answered, and working on equations. And on those rare occasions when he called in sick, he left messages of abject apology on the voicemail for both their boss and their secretary.

"No, he didn't call." Lisa's expression was sly, and Rodney braced himself. "We thought he was with you two last night. You and the pilot guy. Since he left with you two."

"Radek didn't leave with us."

Lisa gave him an 'I'm not stupid' look. Or maybe it was 'you're so stupid.' He could never tell with her vapid features. "We saw you leave together, Dr. McKay."

"You saw – what did you see?"

"We were all leaving the club and you called to him. And he went off. That was a nice car. The pilot guy's, huh?"

"You saw me? Me?"

"Well, it was dark. We couldn't see you very well. But we heard your voice."

Heard his voice? Christ, heard his voice, and how easy would that have been to record? He called for Radek every day, several times a day. All the time John was kidnapping him, trying to protect him, and Radek had been the intended target, damn John's bad intel.

A part of him strongly registered offense because yes, if a brilliant scientist were going to be kidnapped, he was more brilliant than Radek and it should have been him. But most of his mind was occupied with the need to check Radek's place, hoping that his fears were unfounded.

~~~~

Rodney knocked cautiously on Radek's apartment door, still hoping that he was sick. Yes, that was it, Radek was so sick he'd gone back to sleep without calling in. He'd be miserable, runny nosed and blotchy face even more stubbled than normal, lanky hair a total rat's nest, and Rodney would stay well away from him to avoid contamination. Rodney hated being sick.

The door swung open at Rodney's light tap, sending his heart plummeting. Radek not calling in and leaving his door unlocked? That was unlikely as…someone like Dickie Kavanagh having an original idea.

Feeling uneasy, Rodney stepped into Radek's living room. Rats, no Radek hunched and shivering on the couch. He walked through the apartment, finding no one in the kitchen, the bedroom, the second bedroom/den or the bathroom. Nothing but lots of bookcases, plain furniture, interesting touches of decoration from the Czech Republic, and extreme tidiness. How did Radek live in such absolute cleanliness? And where the hell was he?

"Rodney?"

The voice saying his name made Rodney jerk and jump around to see John standing in the apartment doorway. "Is something wrong? You shot out of work like there was an emergency."

"Are you following me? Tailing me?"

"I’m keeping an eye on you for a few days. Frankly, our intel seemed a little unreliable. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Unreliable? Unreliable? You chucklehead! They were after someone – Radek!"

"Chucklehead?" John repeated with a quizzical smile, as if he found Rodney's choice of epithets amusing, making Rodney want to wipe the smirk off his face.

"Radek was kidnapped outside the club while you were 'protecting' me." Rodney waved his hands, miming little quotes. "You were wrong, get that? Wrong. There was a target. It just wasn't me."

John frowned, throwing a 'You sure?' at Rodney before he started prowling the apartment, unknowingly duplicating Rodney's path.

"I’m sure," Rodney snapped, throwing himself down in the armchair.

John came back to the living room, glaring at Rodney as if he'd kidnapped Radek himself out of contrariness. "This isn't good. We need to get him back."

"That's the understatement of the year, straight boy!"

John glared harder and started to pull up his sleeve, before suddenly jerking, his body twitching. Perhaps if Rodney had ever watched reality shows dealing with criminals, he wouldn't have been so horrified. But Rodney made avoiding such television a matter of principle, and had never seen a body shudder as electricity coursed through it.

Leaping out of the armchair, Rodney rushed to John, alarmed at the paleness of his skin, the wildness of his eyes, the spasms in his limbs. He reached out to John as he toppled forward. Rodney wasn't expecting John's sudden collapse, wasn't braced for it, and both of them crashed to the floor.

"John? John? What's wrong with you?"

"He's been tasered," an amused voice said. "You should watch more crime shows."

Rodney cradled John's still twitching body in his arms, glaring at the man. He looked like one of those puppies at the strip club, blond with a muscled form that filled out his suit undoubtedly better than his brains filled his skull, and a bad goatee, as if he were one of those men who couldn't grow facial hair. "Who the hell are you?"

"I work for the people that you were warned about. You should have listened. Bring the major," he snapped at a second man, an even bigger guy with brown hair and eyes, and the build of a moronic football player. John's limp body was lifted out of Rodney's arms like he was a little child and flung over the second guy's shoulder.

Feeling vulnerable, Rodney scrambled to his feet. "Where are you taking him?"

"Scientists do like to ask questions, don't they? The other one did too. And we're taking him the same place we're taking you." Now threatening and not-quite-so-amused bad goatee goon waved the taser in his hand, and Rodney obeyed the implicit instruction, following the goon carrying John out of Radek's apartment.

'The major,' the goon had said. Score one for Rodney's research ability and a big fat zero for his ability to avoid trouble. How did he keep getting into bad situations?

~~~~

As far as kidnappings went, and Rodney didn't relish the thought that he was becoming an expert on them, the first one had been infinitely classier. The limo had been an elegant touch, much preferable to sitting on the floor of a paneled van, an arrangement destined to create problems with his back.

Still, there were definite similarities, in terms of not knowing where he was being taken and a head on a lap, only now it was John resting on Rodney. A semi-conscious John, his striking hazel eyes wide and unfocused. Rodney took the same opportunity that John had, stroking his messy hair, hoping that John would find his touch reassuring.

John's lips moved, muttering quietly, and Rodney bent down, straining to hear. John seemed to be saying a series of numbers, which Rodney automatically memorized. "873451487345148734514."

"Hey!" Bad goatee goon had noticed John was talking and half-lunged out of the passenger seat in the front to kick him in the ribs. "No talking."

John's muttering subsided. Rodney touched him where he'd been kicked, lightly stroking. "You didn't need to do that," he said tightly. "He's not even making sense."

"I don't care if he's reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. No talking."

Rodney settled for a glare as a response, running the numbers through his head. A seven-digit number, repeated continuously – oh, of course, a phone number. The 'chauffeur' Ford or some other back up presumably. John must hope that Rodney would be able to get to a phone and call for help.

The realization that semi-conscious John thought that Rodney, sedentary lab geek Rodney, was going to have a chance at reaching a phone rather than John counting on himself to be the one to call the cavalry – well, that was more unnerving than being kidnapped in the first place.

~~~~

The one benefit of reaching the end of the drive was that John seemed to be finally recovering, struggling to sit up as the van stopped and the goons leapt out. Whatever was coming, Rodney was certain he'd feel better with a functioning John at his side.

He helped John into a sitting position, his arm around John's shoulders, and felt soft lips brush his ear. His dick twitched at the touch, which seemed ridiculously absurd given the precariousness of the situation and the fact that he should be impervious to straight boy's charm. Then he realized John was whispering again. "Don't give in. Don't worry about me. Humanity is at stake."

Huh. Humanity indeed. So straight boy had a fine sense of exaggeration. Rodney didn't have time to react or ask questions, as the goons were grabbing John and then Rodney out of the van, hauling Rodney toward the front of a house even more mansion-like than the one Elizabeth used. Only the goon with John started dragging him in a different direction, more like toward the back of the house, which had Rodney giving a loud, "Hey!" as he tried to jerk himself free.

That noble effort earned him an arm twisted behind his back by bad goatee goon, and with a sound that Rodney would always deny was a pained whimper, he was forced to walk up the path to the front door and through the house, before being shoved into a room. Bad goatee goon shut the door and leaned against it.

"What am I doing here?" The question received only a smirk, an unpleasant 'I'm laughing at you, you feeble ass' smirk, not a charming 'Isn't life amusing?' smirk like John's.

Nervous, Rodney began pacing, trying to ignore the goon's watching eyes. Physically, he had no chance at overpowering and escaping bad goatee goon, which meant he had to use his brains. No phone in the room, so no way to make a call, even if he was left alone. Why had he gotten rid of his cell phone after that incident in Orlando? He could see the fine wires that signaled that there were alarms on the windows, so out, across the lawn and into the forest wasn't a viable escape route.

The room had furnishings as nice as Elizabeth's only with an overblown Egyptian motif. Paintings of people walking sideways adorned the walls, statues of thin black cats stared straight ahead on the side tables, and a cabinet held an impressive if somewhat weird collection of scarabs, carved from many types of stone, as well as a few that even appeared to be preserved dead insects, and one that – huh. One that didn't look like a scarab at all, just a green multi-faceted piece of plastic.

"I need food," Rodney said finally, abruptly, tired of pacing and studying the furniture. Who knew kidnapping could lead to occasional moments of boredom? He'd always thought all knowledge was good, but he was beginning to revise that opinion. "I'm hypoglycemic." He had to wonder if these people would know that fact too, and it was creepy, to think of rival organizations having dossiers on him. He'd always known he was important, but this was insane.

"Did you hear me?" he asked sharply when the bad goatee goon didn't respond. "I won't be useful to your boss if I go into hypoglycemic shock."

"And we do want you to be useful to us, Doctor. We want you to be very useful."

Rodney jerked around, seeing a man enter the room from a door that blended into the wall, and kicked himself for missing the thin outline. "Who the hell are you? Where's Zelenka? And Sheppard?" Rodney thrust his hands into his pockets to avoid twisting them nervously, but he pressed on, hearing John's whispered, 'Don't give in' in his mind. "I demand that you release us immediately. You have no right to kidnap us."

"I have the right of power," the man said intently. "In the end, it's the only right that matters."

A small part of Rodney had hoped that this man might be as conciliatory as Elizabeth, and that the most unpleasant outcome would be similar to another night's good sleep in a strange bed. But no, clearly not.

The man smiled as Rodney stared, and it was a nasty smile. He was an innocuous looking man, Rodney's height or perhaps an inch or two taller, his forehead enlarged by a receding hairline even worse than Rodney's and his features were unremarkable, long nose, thin lips, small mouth. In his dark blue suit, he might have passed for a normal everyday businessman, or perhaps a bureaucrat, except those cold pale eyes would have given him away, the disturbing shadows that said he was a man who understood power and enjoyed using his to abuse others.

"I am Shu."

Shoe? That unusual name had to be some sort of alias, because no woman named her son after a piece of clothing, or – "Isn't that an Egyptian God? The God of Air?"

The recognition seemed to please Shu. "You know your history."

"I was forced to attend a boring class on mythology to earn my undergraduate degree. It's completely absurd, what people have believed in. What they still do believe in. Wasn't Shu created from semen or mucus or some other unpleasant bodily fluid? Seriously, shouldn't a god be created in a more divine manner?"

"You mock the Gods?"

"I don't care enough about the Egyptian Gods to mock them."

"You will learn better," Shu promised, and Rodney shivered. Elizabeth and John had declared the terrorists to be non-Islamic, but clearly he was a religious fanatic of some variety. Rodney understood being fanatical about science, and perhaps even hockey, but not religion.

"Sit down, Doctor."

Rodney did as directed, even though he thought he should probably be contrary, but his legs were wobbly, and it seemed better to hide that fact. "What do you want of me? I have very little money, so I presume that doesn't interest you, though certainly you can have it all, if you'd agree to release me. And Radek."

"And Major Sheppard? I understand you were cuddling with him in the van." Shu sat facing Rodney, his fingers lacing together, and Rodney noticed he had some sort of jewelry on his right hand, long gold caps covering his fingers.

"I know I'm not considered a sympathetic man, but I do like to think I can show a bit of humanity from time to time," Rodney said stiffly. "Sheppard means nothing to me. But you should release him too. All of us. I promise we won't report you, if you let us go now."

"Just someone whose dick you like to suck."

"So he's hot," Rodney snapped, because damn, now his co-workers and the evil men knew about his sex life, and he wasn't sure which was worse. Hopefully his interaction with the evil man would end quickly, but his co-workers could be around for months or years. "That doesn't make him important to me."

"No, Major Sheppard isn't important. He's merely a small man trying to be heroic. They have so many of that type in the American military." Shu shrugged dismissively, and Rodney hoped that was a good attitude for him to have. He wouldn't want John to be regarded as disposable, but he also didn't want John used as a hostage for his cooperation.

"The military will be searching for him. If you – "

"But you, Dr. McKay, are brilliant. I've read your papers. You display an instinctive understanding of theoretical physics. Even better, I've heard that your mechanical skills are excellent and I sense that you are grappling toward practical applications of your hypotheses."

Rodney relaxed a little. At least, if he had to keep getting kidnapped, it was by people who appreciated that he was a genius. Still, he'd rather just not be kidnapped. An invitation to lunch would have been much better. "Thank you," he said cautiously.

"It is unfortunate that your brilliance is limited by your inadequate scientific knowledge."

Rodney's spine stiffened. "Pardon me?"

"When you are in a group of children, and know only childish things, it is easy to seem superior. And you, Dr. McKay, are a teenager in a world of children, a teenager who hasn't even realized adults exist."

"I am one of the foremost experts – "

"Yes, yes." The man drummed the gold-covered fingers over the back of his other hand. "An expert. A genius. So knowledgeable with your precious advanced degrees. Don't you yearn for more? Don't you wish to be one of the adults?"

"I don't think you appreciate the value of my research. I am setting – "

"You are setting nothing, Dr. McKay." Rodney wasn't quite sure how the evil man managed to keep slicing through his sentences, but he did, a feat few people managed. "You could be stepping inside a wormhole instead of merely writing about them."

Unable to stop himself from sneering at the man who hired goons with guns and tasers, Rodney rolled his eyes. "Like that bad television show? Wormhole X-treme? Is this a reality show? If I'm on some macabre version of Candid Camera, I am not giving permission for this footage to be used, and I will be suing the studio and – " Rodney's head snapped to one side, the tang of blood in his mouth, as the back of Shu's hand viciously connected with his jaw, the gold caps dragging over his cheek.

"This is not a joke, Dr. McKay. Do not make me rethink my estimation of your intelligence. You would not like to experience what happens to those who are not useful to me."

Rodney touched his face, feeling his jaw. Twice in two days, though at least this one hadn't knocked him out. Shame, really. It would have been nice to wake up after John saved the day. "Tell me what you want of me."

"You need more information before I explain your purpose. Take him to the other one." Bad goatee goon curled an arm around Rodney's biceps, hauling him out of the chair and to his feet, yanking him out of the room, down the hallway and up a floor. Getting hit and dragged around would be getting really old if it wasn't so damned frightening.

Bad goatee goon thrust Rodney into a room, yet another sitting room but with less elegant furnishings, Rodney noted as he staggered to get his feet under him. "Hey!" he yelled at the closing door, "I'm a genius! Your boss said so! You need to be nice to me!"

Rodney's assertion didn't seem to make bad goatee goon inclined to come back and apologize for the rough treatment. The door lock clicked as a voice said, "Rodney!"

"Radek!" He turned to hug the Czech, who was dressed in yesterday's clothes of brown trousers and a blue shirt, and looking a little disheveled. But then Radek always appeared unkempt, so Rodney couldn't tell whether he'd been roughed up. "Are you okay?"

"Pushed around, but not hurt. You?"

"Yes, the same. And John too, they've got John."

"John?"

"John Sheppard, the…um…stripper from last night."

Radek blinked in surprise, a few strands of dangling hair obscuring his eyes. "You spent the night with him? The Top Gun man, yes?"

"No! Well…um…" It occurred to Rodney that this room was very likely bugged and also that he did not want to discuss the nature of his relationship, whatever that relationship actually was, with anyone. Not even Radek, who was his best colleague and probably his closest friend. "Look, it's a long story," he said dismissively, "and our host is clearly insane. We need to escape from here."

"Unfortunately there are alarms on the windows and the door is locked. We can bypass the alarm on the windows –"

But then they'd be crawling onto the roof of a mansion in the middle of nowhere, trying to sneak away from the men with tasers and guns, and neither one of them was suited to tramping through the forest. "Phone?" Maybe he could use the number John gave him.

"No phone." Radek drew a deep breath, and Rodney recognized that particular expression of doom and gloom. He saw it the times – the extremely few times – that Radek had to point out a critical error in Rodney's calculations. "I think you should read this," he said, handing Rodney a sheaf of papers. "Our host may not be quite so insane as you think."

Rodney took the papers and glanced at the cover, noting that it appeared to be a paper on wormholes by Dr. Samantha Carter, who was…who was… "Who's Carter?"

"The Air Force colonel at the symposium last fall. You remember, she –"

"Yes, yes," Rodney snapped, because now he remembered her perfectly. She'd been blonde and really hot and shot him down ruthlessly as if she'd had a machine gun in her hands when he'd tried to pick her up in the hotel bar after his lecture. His groin still remembered the shock of ice water in his lap. "We've been kidnapped by a madman and you want me to read a school paper by a blonde bimbo?"

"Rodney, trust me, you want to read this."

And Rodney didn't trust people easily, certainly not as far as judgments on intellectual activities, but he did trust Radek. They'd worked together at the lab for three years, and even though Radek could be wrong on occasion, he was never stupid. "Fine, I'll read it."

"It's not like we have a lot of options for killing time anyway, yes?"

"No," Rodney sighed, plunking down in an armchair that, after some fussing with a pillow to provide support for his back, proved to be reasonably comfortable. He hoped that John, wherever he was, was comfortable. Perhaps if Shu did regard John as a hostage for Rodney's good behavior they'd leave him alone for now. To the air, he said loudly, "Coffee would be good. And a sandwich. I'm hypoglycemic."

Radek dropped into the chair next to his, waiting patiently as he focused his attention on the paper and began reading. After a while, the door opened and bad goatee goon pushed in a serving cart, but Rodney was too absorbed to pay attention. Radek puttered with the contents of the cart, putting a cup of coffee by Rodney, who sipped it while reading. The noise of crunching disturbed his reading, and he glanced at Radek, who was eating a salad. "Mandarin oranges," Radek said sympathetically.

Rodney rose up enough to see the cart and yes, there was another plate of Chinese chicken salad, liberally covered with mandarin oranges. Even if he could pick them all off, it wasn't a risk Rodney wanted to take. So evil man knew John had sucked his dick but not that he was allergic to citrus? "Ass," Rodney said tightly. Evil man was making a point about power and control. He sat back down, returning to the paper and coffee. When he finished, he looked at Radek, sitting in the other chair, drinking his own cup of coffee. "She – it –"

"Yes," Radek nodded.

Rodney put his head back down and started reading again, slower this time. Radek continued to sit, waiting patiently, an ability Rodney wondered if he'd developed during his early childhood behind the Iron Curtain when being too impatient or loud could get a person labeled as a troublemaker and even cause him to disappear. Or if it was just a skill he'd developed to work with Rodney.

Finishing the second time, Rodney stared out the window, trying to process it all as Radek poured him another cup of coffee.

"That bitch!" he finally yelled, unable to think of anything more articulate or creative.

"Bitch is perhaps harsh," Radek suggested in his conciliatory manner.

"Bitch! There's no way, no way she thought of all this herself."

"It is unlikely, yes. They have found something, yes?"

"They have found –" Rodney took a moment to rub his chest, afraid that he was going to hyperventilate. "This is a how-to manual for wormhole travel. A how-to manual. Every detail. There's no way that this is all theoretical guesswork."

The door opened abruptly, with timing so coincidental it confirmed Rodney's suspicion that the room was wiretapped, and bad goatee goon walked in. "Boss wants to see you. Both of you."

Rodney stood, the paper still clenched in his hand. "Yes. I'm ready to see him." The world was being lied to – lied to – and Rodney was ready to rip someone a new one. Might as well start with the evil guy. They were escorted down the stairs and through the hall. Bad goatee goon didn't pull out his gun and Rodney momentarily considered shoving him, seeing if they could run away. But even if Rodney could catch bad goatee goon by surprise, linebacker guy and who knew how many others were somewhere in the house and he'd probably pop up firing before Rodney could find a phone and call the number for John's cavalry. And John was somewhere, hopefully not being whipped or tortured in one of the outbuildings. Rodney didn't want to try to escape without learning John's whereabouts.

Bad goatee goon led them back to the original room, and Rodney walked in to see evil guy sitting in the same chair. John was in the chair Rodney had used and didn't appear any worse for wear, Rodney was relieved to note. Hopefully he hadn't been harmed more. "This –" Rodney waved the paper.

"Yes, Dr. McKay?"

The asshole was smirking at him, smirking, and though not normally a man given to violence, outbursts of temper perhaps, but not physical violence, Rodney dearly wanted to smack his face. He'd hurt John, he'd kidnapped both of them, and now he was gloating over his superior knowledge of wormhole physics. John being tasered had been scary. The kidnapping had been frightening. But being gloated at because of Rodney's insufficient knowledge was simply unbearable.

"The Air Force" – because John was presumably the Major Sheppard of the botched rescue and therefore Air Force – "found a device to travel through wormholes. A Stargate, as Carter suggests it might be called. Or they didn't find it, but somehow they acquired it. It must have been buried somewhere" – lost in time, then dug up, where would that have happened – "somewhere in Egypt" – because the guy was imitating an Egyptian God and the statues in the case had an Egyptian look. "They've been running a top-secret project, exploring other planets." Because the military wouldn't have been doing something like this out of pure scientific curiosity, there had to be a strategic value, some weapon potential they hoped to find… "And you're trying to crash on their findings," he said triumphantly, glancing at John for confirmation, but the major seemed to be trying to look cool and uncaring.

"You have a good ability to put facts together."

"Good ability? Good? Hello!" Rodney pointed at himself. "Brilliant scientist. This is my life." He glared again at John. He had a thousand, no a million questions he wanted answered, but foremost he blurted out was, "Why wasn't I asked to be involved?"

Shu intercepted the question. "The Americans are selfish. They do not want other nations involved."

Rodney responded to him, though he kept glaring at John, because his smirky innocence was reassuring, saying they would escape, that somehow it would be okay. "Are they insane? They need the best minds in the world on a project of this importance."

John shrugged casually. "I don't know what you're talking about. It sounds like a bad TV show. Wasn't it cancelled after two shows or something?"

"Oh my god, you cretins created an entire TV show for disinformation! Is there no end to your ability to lie to the public? Your determination to hide information? You're almost as absurd as fake god here."

John's eyes looked suddenly worried, flicking to Shu who rose from his chair, his voice deepening to an unnatural register. "I have tolerated your disrespect long enough. You dare to call me fake? Bow down before your God!" His eyes flashed with white light. Weird glowy eyes and not a special effect in a movie but a real thing, right in front of Rodney. His assumption that this was some random bad guy, trying to infiltrate the American military to steal technology, was clearly fallacious.

"Who the hell are you? What are you? What do you want with us?"

"I told you. I am Shu. I am your God."

"I don't even recognize the Christian God as God. I don't see why I should recognize you as one," Rodney sneered, which earned him another backhanded slap across the face, one that hurt just as much as the first one. John tried to lunge out of the chair, but bad goatee goon shoved him back down.

"Perhaps we should know what you want, yes?" Radek suggested reasonably, his hand twitching, tense but staying in his seat, unmoving.

Hitting Rodney seemed to have calmed Shu. Not a good thought, that violence was calming. Rodney preferred chocolate and a good Doctor Who DVD for releasing tension. "You are mostly correct, Dr. McKay. However, I am not some pathetic scavenger out to crash their research. They have stolen our technology. Ours. Yes, the Americans have embroiled your world in an intergalactic war with another species. There are a few of us on your planet – what would you call us, the advance guard? The Americans have proved amazingly resilient at defending themselves. We need someone who can think at their level, who knows their technology. Someone who can anticipate their counterattacks."

Rodney gaped. "You what?"

"You and Dr. Zelenka will be my scientific advisors. Your knowledge of wormhole physics can be advanced to the necessary level, and your practical skills are reported to be excellent for your species."

"You want to pit me against Carter?" Of all the reasons he could have been kidnapped, this was possibly the most offensive. Not wanted for himself, but because the blonde bimbo and her cohorts were a thorn in a bad guy's side? "Don't you have your own scientists? Can't they learn to think outside the box? There are lots of courses in it."

"My own scientists have failed me recently and therefore suffered the consequences."

The tone was chilling. Clearly, failure came with permanent consequences. "What makes you think Radek and I will help you?"

"You hate the Americans."

"There is a difference between disliking America's foreign policy and hating Americans. I wouldn't live here if I hated America." Rodney swallowed heavily, wondering if he should back down, pretend to cooperate until they could find a way to escape. But John didn't seem to be trying to silence him, and Rodney knew his own flaws, one of which was never being able to go with the flow. "You kidnapped me for my intelligence. You can't expect me to be stupid now. Even if we help you defeat the military, break into NORAD or whatever you're trying to do, you're not going to stop with America. You won't stop until you take over the world. You're asking us to be traitors to our own race."

"I am not asking, Dr. McKay."

"Fine, demanding. Your choice of verb doesn't matter. We're not cooperating." Rodney crossed his arms over his chest, giving Shu his most obstinate stare, chin thrust defiantly forward. He clearly remembered the first time he gave that attitude to a stranger, a mother who insisted that he was a rude, disobedient little boy who had to eat a slice of cake with lemon frosting. He'd caused so much trouble that the entire class party had been disrupted and his mother had been called. Her arrival changed everything, as she'd given the mother and his teacher pure hell, and Rodney had felt victoriously vindicated.

He was rather hoping that this defiance turned out as well, and not in the death he'd avoided that day.

"You will not defy me!"

Radek was like a coiled spring, undecided on whether he should hunch further in the chair or leap to Rodney's side. John, on the other hand, looked positively bored, except for his eyes.

Anger and fear drove Rodney to recklessness. He was petrified at the thought of being held captive by a delusional madman. Even more, he was frightened by what would happen if he refused. And when in doubt, Rodney sneered, a tactic that had always been the best response to pretentious academics. "Don't mock you? I haven't even begun to mock you. You've got the most pathetic plan I've ever heard. Your own scientists from an advanced race can't take on the cream of the American military, so you have to turn to earthlings? Is there a brain in that head, or is it all filled with flashing lights and voice synthesizers?"

"You dare to – You will learn the consequences of disrespect."

Rodney felt himself bouncing on the balls of his feet, ready to respond to anything. He hadn't anticipated that Shu would stretch his hand to the side, toward John. The gold caps on his fingers were linked by something in his palm. A gold light came from his hand, shooting toward John's forehead. His eyes widened with pain, while his head tilted back. He moaned, not a sexy groan like when he'd been getting a blowjob, but an eerie anguished moan. Rodney watched in horror as John began to slide off the chair in apparent agony from some sort of invisible torture.

"Stop it! Stop it!" Rodney rushed over, standing next to the line of painful light connecting the two. "Stop hurting him! What is this going to achieve?"

Shu dropped his hand, the gold light fading. "Your cooperation, Dr. McKay."

John gave a soft sigh as his face relaxed, and Rodney risked placing a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. "You'll never get it."

Shu laughed, a sound that chilled Rodney's spine. "You don't think torturing the major occasionally will make you obey me? I rather think it will. Your weakness for him is evident."

"Well, no. I mean he's very pretty." Rodney looked longingly at John, who, even still kneeling with one knee on the ground looked irritatingly laidback now that he wasn't writhing in pain. John didn't seem distressed that his torture wasn't motivational enough for Rodney, so Rodney kept going. After all, John was one of those hero types, right? This is what he'd want Rodney to say. "I won't help you conquer my own planet."

"Harold."

"Sir?"

"I think Dr. McKay misunderstands the seriousness of the situation. He seems to believe that he's strong enough to withstand my will. Perhaps he would respond to a more primitive demonstration."

"On him, sir?"

"No, I think we'll stick with the major for now."

"Very good, sir."

Harold was on John before the major had even stood to meet him. Grabbing John's shirt, Harold flung him toward the wall. John floundered, stumbling to get his feet under him, his shoulder slamming into the hard surface. He straightened to fight, one fist swinging toward Harold's face while the other aimed for his midriff. Harold blocked John's attempts and swung again. John's lanky frame was lamentably skinny next to Harold's bulked up muscles. Rodney feared that John was weakened by the pain of the weird hand gadget and the earlier tasering, because while the expression on his face was fierce and determined, his reactions seemed slow compared to Harold's viciousness.

"Stop it!" Rodney screamed again, but Harold wasn't listening. Shu smiled with a superior smirk when Rodney glanced his way. Radek was worried, perched on the edge of the chair, his hands digging into the arms.

Rodney grabbed a lamp off a table and tried to throw it, but the cord tugged at the outlet and didn't come out. Swearing, Rodney grabbed at the cord, yanked it out, and threw the lamp at Harold. Fighting with the cord had made his balance unsteady, and he fell to his knees by the coffee table, the fall cushioned by the thick carpet. Shattering glass told him that he hadn't achieved his target. Peering up, he saw the ruined doors to the china cabinet. Harold and John paused in surprise as Shu began swearing at Rodney. Then Harold swung again, sending John flying into the wrecked cabinet.

Rodney's heart leapt with worry and regret for his actions when he saw John fall into the shards of wood and splinters of glass. Great, in his attempt to hurt Harold, he'd made things worse for John, almost like that embarrassing situation in London, except he was pretty sure this time none of these people were minor members of the Royal family.

But John was back on his feet quickly, his face still tight with his anger. He was a completely different man than the one who'd smiled, swinging around a stripper pole. This was a warrior who wasn't accepting defeat, which really made Rodney's worry worse because he didn't want to watch John beaten to a pulp. Maybe it was time for them to pretend to cooperate.

John swung and Harold evaded and swung and…didn't connect, his fist bouncing off a green aura that blinked into existence and disappeared. Rodney blinked and glanced at Radek, who shared his astonished expression. Really, everyone looked astonished, even John. Harold swung again, and it happened once more, his fist hitting some shimmery green field instead of John.

John opened his hand, looking at a small object contained within, as if verifying that it was the source of the oddness. Then he curled his fingers around the object, the hardest expression settling on his face. He swung, and swung again, and again, and Harold fought back, but bad goatee goon was clearly making a pointless gesture, as none of his blows could get through the invisible shield that protected John.

Motion out of the corner of his eye made Rodney check on Shu. He yelped as he realized that Shu was aiming a gun at John. Harold was slumping down to the ground, unconscious, blood trickling from his mouth as Shu fired at John, far too close to miss. John didn't have time to duck, even if it had been feasible. The way people successfully ran from speeding bullets was one of the reasons Rodney hated popular entertainment.

But he didn't even have time to wish that real life could be as ridiculous as television, because there was the sound of the shot, the glimmering field of green, and John's relieved grin as the bullet was deflected as completely as Harold's punches, ricocheting into the wall.

Rodney released his pent-up breath in a long sigh. Shu fired twice more as John advanced toward him, and Rodney made the mistake of laughing abruptly in astonishment as neither bullet impacted. A little hysteria wasn't surprising, but drawing attention to himself was a bad move, considering he was closer to the evil man with the gun than the man with the invisible shield.

"That's quite enough, Major, or your doctor dies." Shu pointed the gun away from John and directly at Rodney's head. Both of them froze.

"So you have the gene of the Ancients. What a fortuitous discovery. You could be valuable as much more than a hostage for Dr. McKay. I hope you haven't harmed Harold too much, but his loss will be worth having a gene carrier at my command."

"Gene carrier?" John asked blankly.

"You don't even know what you are? You pathetic fools. Now open your hand and drop the shield, or Dr. McKay's excellent brains will be decorating my walls."

Rodney had only a moment to lament the sudden reversal of his status from desired prisoner to expendable hostage and then wow – maybe he should stop being so scornful of television because it really did happen like that sometimes, that bad guys liked to hear their own voice, standing around making threats to their own detriment. While Shu talked about ancient genes, and not, Rodney presumed, the ancient jeans John was wearing and which clung so well to his hips, Rodney watched with satisfaction as Radek raised a large statue of an Egyptian cat over his head, stretched onto his tiptoes and brought it smashing down on Shu's head. Shu crumpled satisfyingly to the floor, the gun falling from his limp hand.

"Radek, I could kiss you," Rodney crowed.

Radek smiled. "Please don't. We will get out of here now, yes?"

John had already scooped up Shu's gun. He patted down Harold, pulling out another one, and then tossed a cell phone to Rodney. "You remember the number?"

"Of course."

"Good, make the call."

"Where are you going?"

"Just checking the corridor. Those shots may have been heard." John slipped outside.

Rodney stared at Radek in bemusement, wondering if all the fear and excitement was finally over. Bad guy and his main stooge down, the hero off to clean up the remnants of the gang.

"It is not like Prague, is it?"

"No," Rodney agreed. "I never thought Prague would look so good in comparison to anything else."

There was a shot and another and a third, in quick succession, and Rodney jumped, fumbling open the cell phone and dialing. He had to call for help and then assist John, if he could.

"Ford."

"Ford, this is McKay. The bad guy and one of his goons are down, but John's out fighting the others and we need help."

Ford, bless him, wasn't a man who asked stupid questions. "Leave the phone on. We're tracing the signal."

"I'm going to put it down. I've got to help John."

"No! You'll get in his way. Stay where you are. He can handle it."

Radek was kneeling on the ground by Shu, muttering in Czech, swear words by the sound of it. His eyes were stricken. "Rodney, I may have killed him."

"Ford, I'm putting you down to help Radek with Shu."

"No! You need to get –"

But Rodney had already set the phone down on the table and was crouching by Radek. The blood seeping from under Shu's head told a grim story, but Rodney felt for his pulse anyway.

"His pulse is weak but it's still there."

"So much blood." Both of them stood, backing away from the spreading stain.

"Head wounds bleed a lot. That time in Regina when –" realizing he didn't want to discuss the whole thing with the Mounties, Rodney quickly switched to, "well, he may be perfectly fine. Besides, if he's not, Sheppard and his people will probably eliminate all traces of this event."

"That would not make it better, Rodney."

Though normally a very civic-minded person, in this case it seemed like a body disappearing would indeed make it all better. Feeling awkward, Rodney put one hand on Radek's shoulder and squeezed. He never knew what to say for comfort.

"Rodney, is that – "

What it was, Rodney couldn't have said. It seemed to be snake-like except with wings, and it was crawling out of Shu's body. Out of his body. It perched there, on top of his shoulder, and opened its mouth, wide and nasty, and gave a screech, before flinging itself through the air directly at Rodney and Radek. They both gave what Rodney hoped were manly yells but he was afraid were more like shrieks of fear. They leaped away from it, going in opposite directions. The thing – creature – flew first at Radek, who swung at it with his arm, knocking it aside. It hit the wall, but screeched again, decidedly pissed-off, Rodney decided, searching for something to use as defense. Snatching one of the smaller painting off the wall, he whacked at the creature as it flew toward him, managing to hit it, but tripping over his own feet, and falling heavily to the ground, the picture tumbling from his hands. Once again grateful for the carpet, he grabbed for the picture, swinging madly as the creature came toward him again.

Rodney missed and the creature darted around the picture, heading straight toward his mouth. Christ, his mouth, was that how the creature had entered the other guy? In horror, he waited to feel the monster invading him.

Then the creature jerked to a halt, suspended in the air mere centimeters from his face, screeching even more loudly and unpleasantly. Its appearance didn't improve on close acquaintance.

Looking past the creature, Rodney could see John holding the end of its tail. The creature flipped around to confront John, wings beating fiercely as it hovered in the air, but fortunately, the green shield sparked into view, stopping it from striking or entering John.

"I don't want to hurt you, but I will," John said grimly, as if the creature understood English. If it did understand, it didn't show any sign of cooperating, continuing to strike at John.

"I'm not letting go of this shield or of you, so you might as well cooperate."

In response, the creature stopped attacking John's face and switched to his chest, arms and hands, as if testing the shield for weakness or trying to force John to release his grip.

John was…almost absurdly beautiful in a manly warrior fashion, Rodney thought, propped on his elbows, watching the confrontation. His pouty lips were drawn into a hard line, and his hair spiked in mad cowlicks around his head. His green shirt deepened the green in his eyes while the green shield, glittering on and off with each of the creature's strikes, made an eerie halo around his body.

Then John growled out, "I didn't want to do this, but I'm not risking you getting into Rodney. Or Radek." He raised his arm overhead and brought it down fast, the creature's head thwacking unpleasantly against the wall. It hung loosely in John's fist, silent.

"You okay?"

Rodney and Radek could only nod. John released his grip, letting the creature drop to the ground, and picked up his fallen gun, shoving it into his waistband. "I think I'll stay here until the others arrive."

He wedged a chair under the door handle, then sat next to Rodney, carefully placing the gun by them so he could clasp Rodney's hand while still keeping hold of the shield in his other hand. "Radek why don't you come sit by us?"

As Radek sat on the other side of John and they waited for rescue, Rodney couldn't stop staring at the limp body of the creature who'd tried to…steal his body? "Was that my first alien encounter?" Rodney asked, as he slumped against John, laughing hysterically, clinging to his warmth and trying to repress the shiver of fear over what could have happened if John hadn't come back.

~~~

And then the cavalry rode to the rescue, the 'chauffeur' Ford and other men in Marine uniforms, followed by Elizabeth – Dr. Weir, Rodney noted she was called – and Sam Carter, that blonde bitch who was going to get her Nobel off another race's discovery but who was as hot as Rodney remembered, and another man with a soldier's body but glasses and a tendency to anthro-babble, as Rodney had deemed it during that one forced mythology class.

Rodney wanted to stay in the room to hear John's report, hoping to fill in the many gaps in his understanding of the situation, and because the scarabs from the wrecked cabinet were generating discussion on whether anything else useful was hidden. But somehow Ford and another Marine hustled him and Radek out, which really wasn't difficult, because even though Rodney had gotten almost accustomed to arguing strenuously with well-muscled men with guns, they simply pushed and Rodney's feet moved. In the hallway, Rodney vehemently protested their exclusion, but Radek shrugged. "You must be hungry. Your blood sugar, yes? Shall we find the kitchen?" They looked at Ford for permission and he shrugged his shoulders.

So they found the kitchen, and the caviar, cheese, crackers, and champagne. Their late unlamented host had been an evil madman or an innocent dupe controlled by a vicious creature from another planet, but he'd had good taste. Satisfied that they were occupied, Ford gave a firm, "Stay here," and left, but the other Marine stayed in the archway, on guard. They spread the food out and munched, not talking much, until John showed up. "Champagne?" Rodney asked, still antsy to know everything the military was doing but feeling quite mellow toward John, who really had been protecting him.

"I'm on duty," John said, but he didn't argue when Rodney poured him a glass, taking it and sipping with appreciation. His hand curled around Rodney's biceps. "Excuse us a minute," he apologized to Radek, tugging Rodney toward a door and into a walk-in pantry. Shutting the door behind them, John placed their champagne glasses on a shelf and was pressing Rodney's back against cans and bottles before he could protest. John's hands cupped his face and John's warm lips covered his own and Rodney didn't understand because wasn't John a straight boy?

John kissed him like he didn't have a care in the world, like Radek wasn't eating in the next room, like soldiers weren't roaming all over the house, rounding up leftover goons and searching for any more extra-terrestrial – fuck, extra-terrestrial technology. His pouty lips were soft and sweet, coaxing Rodney's mouth open so his tongue could slip in, free to leisurely explore like he had all the time in the universe, and Rodney wasn't going to stop a good, no an excellent, sensation, just because he was confused.

Rodney pushed John's shirt up and placed his hands on each side of John's torso, needing to feel warm skin under his palms. He kissed John back, breathing deeply through his nose, smelling the mixed scents of a dozen spices and John's sweat and blood from the blows he'd taken. He kissed to share his relief that they'd survived to have another kiss, grateful that John wanted one.

"Rodney." John's forehead rested on his, his eyes shut, black lashes forming half-circles on his cheeks. Rodney kept his eyes open, wanting to see his face, needing to read every nuance of his expression. "Rodney," he said again. "I'm a little scared of what happened back there."

Scared? Why was John scared? They'd survived and won. "Why did Shu call you a gene carrier? How did that shield thing tell him you were one?" Because John wasn't scared of weird snake guys or guys with tasers and guns, but he might be afraid of being special. Some people were, even if that wasn't an attitude Rodney understood.

"At least it meant I kept the Goa'uld out of you. If it had gotten in you –" John's eyes opened, and they were stark with pain.

"That snake thing? Was that the Gould? Would it have taken over my mind? Would I have thought I was a God?"

John grinned, his face at once happy and relaxed, an expression Rodney loved to see. "Rodney as a god. Everyone bowing down to you."

"Please. They do that already. The secretaries cower from my wrath." They didn't really, they rolled their eyes or glowered at him or dragged him to strip clubs and thank God – the real one, if there really was one – because that had led to this point in time, huddling with John in a pantry and he would never have wanted to miss this moment.

"I like that thought, you ruling your lab with an iron fist. I want to think of you like that."

"What? No, no, no." Because there was too much 'good-bye' in that sentiment. "I want to be involved with what you're doing." They were traveling through wormholes and fighting evil aliens and while Rodney wasn't too fond of the latter activity, he craved to know everything about the former.

But John was kissing him hard, shutting him up and then breaking away. "I wanted to thank you."

"For what?"

"For not giving in."

Which seemed like lunacy, and Rodney said so. "You wanted to get tortured and killed?"

"I'm rather fond of living," John replied. "But I wouldn't want to be used to control you. Besides," John added, "I don't think he would have had Harold beat me up if you hadn't pissed him off so much. And then you wouldn't have thrown the lamp."

"You're welcome." It was good to know that he was useful for irritating people, and it was pointless, undoubtedly, but Rodney wanted to know what scared John, so he had to add, "You didn't explain about the shield thing, or the gene thing. Mind you, gene means there's medicine involved and most medicine is voodoo and not science, but still, I want to know."

John shrugged and drained the last of his champagne. His laidback persona had returned with a smirk like a skater boy who'd just done a dangerous flip after being told he shouldn't. "I need to get back to Elizabeth," and he wandered off, out of the pantry. Rodney tried to follow but the Marine blocked his way as John walked back up the stairs and out of Rodney's life.

~~~

Ford and another Marine drove them home, with Rodney angrily muttering demands to be involved, to know everything that had happened, which earned him only stoic 'we're ignoring you' looks. So now he knew another reason why working with the military was bad. They showed a definite resistance to being badgered.

"You know you'll look ridiculous if you say anything," Ford said as they got out at Radek's apartment.

Even before the Marines had driven off, Rodney was already venting at Radek, but the Czech raised his hand. "Please, Rodney. I wish to shower and change into clean clothes." Radek left him then, and Rodney reluctantly got in his car and drove home, brooding.

Precious was hungry and so pathetically happy to see him, rubbing against his legs. He fed her and then sat down to brood some more. The cat joined him eventually, and sat on the couch by him, grooming herself. Rodney stroked her soft fur and thought of John. He'd assumed John was straight, that John had been taking advantage of his sexuality.

But sitting in the room, holding hands while waiting for the others to arrive, and then that kiss in the pantry… John had seemed like someone who could handle almost anything, but that kiss had been seeking comfort for something he didn't want to accept. Comfort from Rodney, who sucked at giving comfort but couldn't help but be happy that John had sought it from him.

Precious finished her grooming and twisted on her back, wrapping her legs around Rodney's hand and biting affectionately.

"John needs me," he told his cat, who stared at him with her big golden eyes and licked his fingers. Rodney wasn't accustomed to being needed by anyone, and the feeling was disconcerting. "John needs me," he said, testing the truth spoken aloud, "and they're going to have to accept me." With that decision, Rodney grabbed his laptop and began typing.

~~~~

The phone call from Elizabeth didn't surprise Rodney. They'd thought he'd keep his mouth shut because he'd be a figure of ridicule, babbling that a plot from a cancelled TV series was real. They hadn't realized that Shu had given them Carter's paper to read, or perhaps they just hadn't realized he could reproduce it almost word for word after two readings, only with quite a few grammatical improvements and the substitution of "By Rodney McKay, Ph.D." on the front. Carter had probably felt a real thrill when that arrived in her mail.

Rodney parked his car in the visitor's lot at the local Air Force base and looked around, deciding further exploration wasn't necessary. This base was too close to town to be where the top-secret research and space trips were happening. The main center of operations had to be somewhere more isolated.

Elizabeth was waiting in an office obviously used for temporary workers, stark with only the barest essentials of furniture. "Dr. McKay." She rose and offered her hand this time too. "That was an interesting paper you sent."

"I want in and you need me," he said bluntly. He didn't mention John. Their separation had given him time to wonder about the impact of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and whether he should be public about his interest in an Air Force major. He had a sneaking suspicion that John had left the blowjob out of his report on Rodney's kidnapping.

"You've seen what we're up against." She was cool, but not cold, not whitewashing the dangers involved.

"I have and I still want in. I want into the project that discovered the technology for creating wormholes for space travel. And you need me because I'm the foremost expert in this world." He wasn't, Carter was, which was a bitter thought. But he would be again. "In fact, I don't know why I wasn't invited to participate when the initial discovery was made."

"You regard yourself very highly, Dr. McKay."

"I'm not given to false modesty," Rodney snapped. "The snake guy wanted me because of my reputation and my work, because I was the best person to use against the people you work with. You have to let me in."

He could see her considering, deciding, and almost crowed. She needed some pushing but she could be convinced. Rodney was very successful at persuading people who disagreed with him, by logic or blunt trauma if necessary.

"The project has been limited to Americans and Russians so far. It's been my responsibility to introduce the project to other countries and particularly to recruit their scientists for an offshoot project. In fact, Major Sheppard had been helping me with the legwork, that's why he collected you when the information came from the NID that Shu was interest in you."

Rodney relaxed a bit. Of course, he must have been first on their list when they'd gotten past their nationalistic nonsense.

"Your name has come up in discussion, as well as your abrasive personality." The hint of concern in Elizabeth's eyes and voice said that the second point actually mattered.

"Are you telling me you weren't going to contact me because I'm not a team player? Scientific advances are made by geniuses arguing and people building on each other's work, trying to outdo each other, not from corporate niceties and group think. Or do you have some hyper-cautious unimaginative lunatic like Dickie Kavanagh as your scientific advisor?"

There was that flicker of something in Elizabeth's eyes, like the last time he'd mentioned Kavanagh, and Rodney realized she was hiding her reaction to his accuracy. "Oh my god, you do. You've been listening to Kavanagh."

"Dr. Kavanagh is highly respected in his field."

"Dickie Kavanagh is highly respected by idiots who aren't in his field, idiots who think his mishmash of other people's ideas represents real creative thought. Look, you give any of my papers – any of them – and any of Kavanagh's to Colonel Carter. Ask her to read them and see which one she would trust."

"You're that confident."

"I have every reason to be." He glared because Elizabeth still seemed unconvinced. "Look, here," he scrambled for her laptop, flipping it around toward him. She made an abortive gesture to take it away but then relaxed, waiting to see what he would do. He opened a blank document, typing rapidly. "You want the best people working for you on something this significant, and these are the people you want." He thought frantically, pulling names from different disciplines because space travel, Christ, these people were traveling to other planets, they'd need everything and everyone, all sorts of sciences, and though Rodney might disdain other fields, he always kept up with who was the best of the best, because he wasn't going to be out of the scientific loop.

Elizabeth nodded, reading his list. "I have some of these people."

"The ones you don't have, those are the ones in the fields closest to Kavanagh. They're the ones who are the biggest threat to his authority."

"That's quite a guess."

"Tell me I'm wrong. You're not because you can't. Look, I'm proving a point here. You need me. You don't have to like me. The people who work with me don't have to like me. But I'll push them to make the discoveries you need made." Christ, insane snake guy was willing to torture an American soldier to have Rodney work for him, why did she have to look so doubtful?

"Major Sheppard agrees with you."

"He does?"

"He was very impressed by your bravery."

Now that was incredibly thrilling, that John would share that sentiment with others, particularly as Rodney hadn't felt throwing a lamp was all that heroic. Perhaps if John was willing to speak up for him, DADT wouldn't be a problem. "I'm gratified to know there's some intelligence under that fluffy hair." He snapped his fingers at her. "That gene thing. You have the Scots guy, right. What's his name. Caron, Carver, Carson. Carson Beckett. He's doing the most cutting-edge research in gene therapy." And hopefully he wouldn't say anything about the incident in Inverness. After all, it would look as bad for him as it would for Rodney, and really, neither of them were to blame. It was purely the fault of bad haggis.

Elizabeth typed Carson's name onto the list. "Thank you for the suggestions, Doctor. And yes, if you're willing to accept both working with the U.S. military and the possibility of more risks like you've already experienced, then I have this for you to sign." Elizabeth slid several sheets of paper across the desk.

Rodney flipped through them, scanning the fairly extensive and elaborate non-disclosure promises and security warnings, which seemed to range from losing his green card to death by firing squad, as well as everything in between, and signed the last page without hesitation.

Elizabeth took back the signed document and handed him a disc. "The highlights are on this. If you don't change your mind, call the number on the disc. Transportation will be arranged for you."

Alas, probably not a nice limo with his head on John's lap, but he would take whatever he could get. "I'll be calling," he promised.

~~~

Rodney could barely wait to get home but he restrained himself from watching the disc on his laptop while driving. He doubted the Air Force would be forgiving if their top-secret war was leaked because he'd crashed his car. As soon as he'd started a pot of coffee, the disc was in and playing. Unfortunately, the presentation seemed designed more as an informational blurb for a politician than a serious examination, giving only tantalizing glimpses of the scientific discoveries they must have made, but it covered the history of how the Stargate had been discovered and then deciphered by Daniel Jackson (who'd severely trimmed his hair and toughened his body since making his recording explaining the symbols on the gate), how circumstances had led into a war with a parasitic race (go-ah-ould, Rodney practiced, hoping any pronunciation problems could be blamed on his Canadian accent), how contact with races like the Asgard had been established (Rodney knew some conspiracy theory geeks who'd love to know that Roswell-type aliens existed, not that they'd ever learn it from him), how research was continuing at Area 51 (building spaceships, they were building spaceships that loomed as impressively as the Star Destroyers in Star Wars and he hadn't known, which was almost more wrong than not knowing wormhole travel was real), and that an expedition to the Ancient city of Atlantis was being planned (and yes, Shu had been a lying parasitic bastard, claiming the go-ah-ould had built the Stargates), just as soon as a few unspecified issues were resolved. What issues? He wanted to know everything. He had to know everything.

There was a knock on the door as Rodney began to watch the disc for the fourth time. A flash of Air Force blue caught his eye as he opened the door and his heart leaped but then – "Dr. Carter," he said stiffly, disappointed to see her smiling blondness and not John's casual smirkiness.

"Dr. McKay." She smiled. "Dr. Weir thought it might be best if I came to answer some questions. She was sure you would have a significant number."

The thought that this woman had answers that he didn't rankled, but the wonder of actual wormhole travel overwhelmed all other considerations. "Come in." He stepped back, waving her in, noting the extreme mess of his apartment. "It's, um, sorry, I've been watching the disc from Elizabeth," he said, hoping she'd accept the pretense that the mess had accumulated within the last day and wasn't status quo. He grabbed stacks off the couch, dumping them on the dining table. "Can I get you anything? Coffee?"

"Coffee sounds great."

Rodney detoured quickly into the bedroom. Carter hadn't seemed unnerved by the sight of him in his t-shirt and blue boxers, but he threw on a button-down shirt and jeans anyway before grabbing coffee for both of them. The next few hours proved surprisingly agreeable as Carter talked of her many trips through the Stargate and answered his every question. Rodney even came to not mind hearing it all second hand because he hadn't even wanted to work with the military, and he couldn't begin to imagine shooting at hostile aliens and blowing up spacecraft with generous amounts of C-4. Her face froze every once in a while, like it had in the bar, which Rodney quickly deciphered as time to let her speak uninterrupted, slowing down the questions and particularly his own observations of how situations might have been handled better. After all, they had only given him information, not officially offered him a job. Carter appeared important to the Stargate Command, and he was pretty sure she could still screw it all up for him, particularly since she outranked John.

His stomach growled, reminding him it was long past lunchtime and well onto dinner. "You hungry? There's a great place down the street."

She checked her watch. "I should run. But thank you."

She stood, so Rodney stood, too. "So someone will be contacting me? The research being done at Area 51…" Because frankly, hanging around Stargate Command sounded stressful, what with the frequent occasions of alien incursions and the threat of biochemical weapons, but having free rein over all the toys brought back would be even more than the dream of a lifetime, a reality so fantastical he could never imagine it happening. But…where would John be?

Her lips twitched as if amused. "Someone will get in touch with you. I believe Dr. Weir is considering asking you on the Atlantis Expedition."

"Atlantis?" That threw him, because Atlantis was in a different galaxy. If hanging around Stargate Command seemed frightening, going to another galaxy – "It would be a one-way trip," he blurted out, uneasy at the thought that the observation might sound cowardly.

"It would." Carter's expression was sympathetic. "Dr. Weir has been looking carefully for resourceful scientists from different countries who have…no strong commitments." Her eyes flicked over his cluttered apartment, and he could hear 'no spouse, no kids.'

Precious took that moment to brush against his leg and meow that she was ready for dinner. He scooped her up, and she tolerated being held. She always did when hungry. "I'd have to leave my cat."

"It would be the most amazing adventure that anyone in the Stargate program has undertaken."

"Or the biggest disaster. Or potentially the most frustrating, if they make discoveries they can never return home to share." After all, the Nobel Prize committee couldn't consider candidates if they were missing in the Pegasus Galaxy.

"It would be your decision, of course. But I believe Major Sheppard has recommended you highly. He says you handled yourself very well with Shu."

There it was again, John talking him up to people. But – "Why is Sheppard involved? I thought Marines were going to be the military unit on the Atlantis Expedition. Is this –" Rodney snapped his fingers. "Sheppard is genetically connected to the Ancients, isn't he? That's what Shu meant."

Carter nodded at his conclusion. "The shield that he touched was of Ancient origin. The Goa'uld have scavenged bits and pieces of Ancient technology, but they generally can't use it. As far as we know, they've never taken a host with the Ancient gene. They do have personal shields, but this one was much more effective. Major Sheppard is the strongest natural carrier of the Ancient gene that we've discovered so far. He'll be absolutely vital on the Atlantis Expedition."

"Well, perhaps I would consider it." It couldn't be too bad if John were there to protect him, after all. He'd seen the lazy calm John could exude while being held hostage and the ferociousness with which he attacked the enemy. If there was anyone who could keep him safe, it was John. And then he'd have more opportunities to explore the meaning of the kissing and cuddling in the pantry.

~~~

Too many late nights trying to finish all his research before reporting to his new job had Rodney finally succumbing to a catnap. He was having an extremely pleasant dream where John was on his knees, begging forgiveness, or perhaps to give him a blowjob, the image was muddled and changing as dreams tended to be, but some loud banging noise was interrupting him. He finally surrendered and woke up fully, yelling, "All right, stop it!" and stumbled out of the bed and to the front door. He flung it open to see the man of his dreams, looking totally hot in a maroon shirt and yet another pair of snug faded jeans, and not at all repentant at waking him up.

"You were asleep? It's the middle of the afternoon."

"What are you here for?"

John swung car keys from one finger. "Your transportation has arrived."

"Oh really? Do you expect me to trust going anywhere with you, straight boy?" The goad slipped out, even as he hoped it wasn't true.

"Damn it, Rodney!" The casual insolence vanished as John straightened to a stiff military posture, the pout in full evidence. "What do you want?"

"I want an apology for kidnapping me and scaring the hell out of me and I want an explanation for letting me give you a blowjob."

John licked his lips, hesitating, then offered, "Apology first then," and pushed gently at Rodney, until his back was against the wall. The light switch dug into his shoulder blade and he was crammed against a bookcase, but that discomfort seemed inconsequential when John dropped to his knees and yanked Rodney's boxers down. He was half-hard already, from the dream and seeing John in the flesh, delectable as ever, but he went completely stiff when John simply opened his mouth and swallowed him down.

"Condom," he said, with a little whine in his voice. He didn't quite understand what was happening, why John thought what promised to be one hell of a blowjob was more appropriate than an 'I'm sorry,' but he knew what needed to happen first.

John released his cock, gazing at him from under lowered eyelids, and said, "Look, I've read your medical reports, okay? I know you test regularly. If we're going to be exclusive, I'm not going to use condoms."

"Oh," Rodney said brilliantly. Were they going to be exclusive? John gave every appearance of believing so, as he went back to giving Rodney an amazing blowjob. John's mouth was just…devouring. Sucking and licking and then blowing cool air on Rodney's cock to calm him down, then sucking and licking and heating him up some more. John's hands were busy as well, sensual but determined, cupping and squeezing and playing with Rodney's balls, caressing his ass and exploring the crevice between his cheeks.

Rodney whimpered and whined and held John's head in his hands, running his fingers through John's soft, messy hair. His initial – no second – assumption of John's sexuality had been wrong, definitely wrong, and sometimes Rodney could admit a little fallacy on his part and this was one of those rare times because no, no way was John a straight boy. No straight boy could give head this well. No straight boy could be so starved for the taste of cock and so delighted in his chance to greedily, hungrily suck another man down.

Which John finally did, taking Rodney's cock deep in his mouth, down into his throat, sucking until Rodney saw stars and came, his cock throbbing between John's soft lips and shooting warmly into his throat.

John drank it all, no gag reflex, no hesitation, just a soft, purry noise, eyes shut like his whole world was the cock in his mouth, before licking Rodney clean. Yes, John was gay, and John wanted and needed him.

"Okay," Rodney gasped, marveling. John really knew how to apologize. "Not a straight boy."

"I thought you'd finally get a clue," John said, smiling as he rose and leaned against Rodney, his hands burrowing between Rodney's body and the wall to hold him in a loose embrace.

Rodney envied the way he stood, no indication that his knees were stiff from kneeling. "Are we going to be exclusive?"

"I figure that's easier than filling my duffel bag with nothing but condoms."

"Duffel bag?" Rodney asked. John's erection, contained by faded denim, was brushing against Rodney's limp dick, making thinking difficult.

"Atlantis?"

"You're going?"

"Elizabeth is counting on me."

"Oh, is she?" The jealousy was way too obvious, but Rodney had been waiting two weeks – two weeks – finishing up his work at the lab, reading mission reports, calling Carter regularly to ask questions, all the time afraid to ask questions about John, and the restraint had driven him a little crazy.

John licked his lips before explaining. "Look, I got stuck at McMurdo being a ferry pilot. I started talking to Elizabeth and she asked if she could recruit me to help her do background checks. We're friends, that's all. I don't want to let her down. And she'll make you Head of Science if you go."

"Not Carter?"

"She's not going. She's busy with SG-1."

"Not Kavanagh?" Which was the most horrible thought ever, but Rodney had been forced to consider the possibility.

"He and Elizabeth had a big falling-out after she saw you." John grinned. "You have an impact on everyone. I don't think he'll be going to Atlantis. And I figure you have to go, since it's your fault I'm going."

"Mine?"

"Hmm." John nuzzled his cheek. "One of those names you gave Elizabeth – Carson Beckett – finally nailed the Ancient gene. They knew there had to be some connection between the people who could make the chair work, but Carson came in and put it all together."

"For a medical doctor, he's almost a scientist."

"I've got the official job offer paperwork." John pulled an envelope from his back pocket, resting one corner gently on Rodney's cheek. "So…Atlantis?" His tongue darted out again to lick his lips, compelling Rodney to flick his own tongue over John's soft lips, which led to a slow, lush kiss.

"I have terms. Equipment that would have to be included. I need to hire some of my own people. Radek."

"Elizabeth said you might want to. I'm supposed to let her know your needs and get everything in motion before I bring you to Colorado." The tongue flick happened again, and Rodney realized that John was nervous. Rodney's answer was vital to him. "Atlantis?"

"Biggest scientific discovery of all time? I'll be needed."

"As am I. I make things work." The stiffness faded from John's shoulders and he grinned again, a cocky charming grin that Rodney didn't think he'd ever tire of seeing. "I'll be your lab rat."

It was finally beginning to sink into Rodney's sated brain that he was receiving everything – more really – than he'd ever dreamed, a scientific wonderland and the man of his dreams. Normal people dreamed of winning the lottery, but this was beyond all comparison. "Okay, you can be my lab rat."

"You can put me through my paces." He thrust once and Rodney moaned as John's hardness, barely contained by soft denim, stroked his cock. "So…do you want to..."

"Oh, yes," Rodney replied eagerly because yes, he wanted to do everything, and he hoped John wanted to start by pounding him into the mattress.

Despite his eagerness, the mind-blowing orgasm had made Rodney lethargic, so lethargic that he succumbed to John's insistence on removing his clothes, kissing and sucking and caressing as he coaxed Rodney across the living room and into his bedroom. John was stripping himself at the same time, displaying his skill at multi-tasking, something that Rodney hadn't appreciated when he was fully focused on survival.

John pushed the mess of comforter and sheet to the foot of the bed while helping Rodney lie down and settling on top of him. Then John stopped multi-tasking because apparently Rodney's nipples were the tastiest treat he'd ever discovered in his life and he needed to savor them for a good long time.

Not that Rodney minded John's dedication. No, nothing to complain about whatsoever. His fingers combed through John's messy hair, appreciating the sight of John's lean naked body draped over his own. It was his first chance to study the supple muscles, the small, tight ass, and long legs dusted with black hair, and he took it happily, the visual stimulus accompanied by the pleasure slowly building, tingling from his nipples to every nerve in his body.

Then John released his nipples and propped himself on his elbow, making Rodney give a little whimper at the loss. John's eyes were dark, the brown eclipsing the green, as he studied all of Rodney's body. The afternoon sunlight coming through the window let John see everything, and Rodney devoutly hoped he was enjoying the view.

"Christ, I want to fuck you. Can I fuck you?"

Swallowing, his voice too tight to speak, Rodney nodded.

"Lube?" John asked, and Rodney reached for the nightstand, but John was there first, leaning over Rodney to open the drawer. He heard the sound of the tube popping open as he shifted onto his stomach, then one of the John's fingers slid slickly into his ass.

"I knew your ass would be this gorgeous. We were being held hostage and I still looked at your ass whenever I could."

The hoarseness of John's voice made Rodney shiver, as did the thought that John had been checking him out too, that Rodney's craving had been reciprocated. He squirmed into a good position, arms around his pillow, head turned to watch John, body lifted and knees tucked under him. The expression on John's face was still focused, watching his fingers stretch Rodney's opening. It was almost unbearably hot, John's intentness on Rodney's body. On Rodney.

A second orgasm hadn't seemed likely – he was thirty-six, not sixteen – but as John shifted to his knees between Rodney's legs, his chest on Rodney's back, his arms curled around Rodney's, Rodney began to revise his opinion of his own capability. Having John curled all around him was both comforting and exciting, the alpha male who wanted to protect and fuck his mate.

The was pain, of course, because Rodney hadn't done enough of this, the sore stretching of tight muscles, and the invading sensation of John's dick ever so slowly pushing in. He breathed deeply, making his muscles relax, and felt John's breath on his neck, heard his unsteady, "Sorry…sorry…so tight."

"It's fine. Just…go slow."

"Slow, slow, slow," John muttered, like he was drunk, but he followed the instruction, easing himself in, his thrusts languid and relaxed, like when he'd kissed Rodney in the pantry, that he had an endless amount of time and nothing better to do than fill Rodney's body.

That was hot too, the care John showed. His breath was ragged and loud, but his body didn't quicken, sticking to a leisurely pace, in and out of Rodney's body, going a little bit farther with each thrust.

Rodney gave a stifled cry when John's dick brushed over his prostate, the sudden pleasure even more exciting than John's mouth sucking on his nipples.

"Good?" John asked.

Rodney could only respond with a disjointed, "Oh…oh…yeah."

And then he was a horny teenager again, not an adult man, clearly some alien influence had given him back twenty years of his life, because he was hard and needy, his dick stiff and leaking, and he squirmed to balance himself so he could free a hand. He fisted his dick in time to John's relaxed pace, and John's hand covered his, his grip strong, the speed and force of their bodies accelerating until they came in unison, John's teeth sinking into the back of Rodney's shoulder as they moaned in pleasure.

Sex was good. Sex was fabulous. But sprawling naked on his bed, his arms and legs tangled up with John's, both of their bodies sweaty but beginning to dry as their breathing returned to normal after such incredibly amazing hot sex, and with the promise of more, many more such episodes…Rodney didn't even think the words existed to describe the wonder of this moment. He sighed, nuzzling his head into a more comfortable position on John's shoulder.

John's voice was soft, honest, one hand comfortably stroking Rodney's bare skin. "I've wanted you since I saw you."

Rodney made a sleepy noise of contentment and agreement. He'd wanted John the moment he'd seen him, so why shouldn't the reverse be true? Even if it was unexpected. No one else had wanted him at first sight.

"We were in the mess at McMurdo. Elizabeth was talking about finding the right people for this special expedition. She couldn't tell me what it was. They'd detailed Ford to help her, to be her gofer, but she thought he was kind of young. She thought I could provide," John gave a little laugh, "crap, what did she say? A more mature evaluation of whether a person could survive being stranded without resources or backup for an unknown period of time. She was flipping through pictures of people and talking about the countries she needed to go to and I was looking at the pictures…" John stilled, as if he'd run out of words and indeed, it was the longest speech Rodney had even heard him give. Twisting on the bed, John rearranged them so their heads were on the pillow, facing each other. "There was one of you, lecturing I guess, looking like you were speaking to idiots, and I thought, I want to see that face looking…" He stroked the side of Rodney's face, from his temple, along his jaw line, his fingers coming to rest on Rodney's lips. "Just like you do now."

Rodney grinned, and John's fingers kept stroking his lips as he spoke. "Oh yes, a very mature reason to travel to another galaxy."

John smiled lazily. "I thought so. We flew out from McMurdo the next day, though you ended up being almost the last person on the list. Sometimes I thought Elizabeth knew what I wanted and was keeping me away from you."

Almost the last? Rodney decided that Elizabeth was saving the best for last, and not hesitating to ask him because of her weird concerns about his personality. "Do you think she did?"

John's response was to snuggle a little closer, and Rodney gratefully shifted to get more of their skin touching. "Nah, I think it was just coincidence. Though she probably started guessing after your comment about the forced fellatio. She reamed me out less than I expected after you went to bed."

"So why did you…?"

A rueful smile, and another little snuggle. "Waited too long. Wanted too long. I'm sorry. I should have stopped you, I guess."

The thought that John had wanted him so desperately… "I guess I can forgive you."

"You don't mind being discreet, do you?"

"To have this?" Rodney stroked John's body, from his shoulder to his bony hip. "I am the soul of discretion." He was, really. He'd been silent while talking to Weir and Carter. That whole blabbing in Baltimore debacle had been absolutely abnormal.

"Atlantis, here we come," John whispered softly against his lips, rolling him onto his back and deepening the kiss hungrily.

Wrapping his arms and legs around John, Rodney kissed back with equal fervor. Atlantis, here we come, indeed. Though given Rodney's track record, it was likely to involve some major fiasco, no doubt its disastrous nature proportional to the length of the trip. But with John at his side, protecting and defending and loving him, Rodney could conquer anything.

~ the end ~