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John Sheppard was beginning to believe the first rule of the Pegasus Galaxy was 'Nothing can be normal.' Even when a mission was supposed to be pleasant and simple, a sweet little scouting trip, almost a reward for too many stressful ones, something odd always occurred. He pushed his sunglasses up on his forehead and looked steadily at Rodney McKay. "Let me get this straight…you want to sleep outside?"

"I said that, didn't I?" Rodney snapped. "Do you have to belabor everything?"

That question miffed John a little because as far as he could remember, he'd never belabored anything in his life. He liked simple, easy, direct. He just couldn't quite get his head around the notion that Rodney McKay, the king of prima donna scientists, the most infuriating, high-maintenance man in Atlantis, was not insisting on setting up his sleeping bag inside the relative comfort of the jumper. Indeed, that he had offered his willingness to sleep under the stars – well, in the pup tent anyway. "Okay," was all he answered, heading back inside the jumper. He tossed two sleeping bags outside, watching as Ford and McKay caught them, Ford with one-handed ease, McKay almost dropping his, even using both hands.

Teyla followed him inside so they could lay out their own bags. Darkness could be unexpectedly absolute on planets without any ambient lighting from civilization, and they'd learned to make their preparations for the evening as soon as they settled on a campsite.

"That was unusual," Teyla commented.

"Yeah, I expected McKay to insist on the jumper." The agitated sound of Rodney's voice came from outside, indicating he and Ford were bickering over something. At least that wasn't odd. Ford and McKay had accepted each other enough that the snarking was usually friendly. McKay was probably warning Ford that he'd better not snore. He glanced at Teyla, her quick, efficient movements are she spread out a sleeping pad, flipping open a sleeping bag on top of it. Her top rode up a little as she moved, exposing even more of the firm muscles of her abdomen than normal. "Crap," he said.

"Major?"

"You. Me. Sleeping in the jumper."

"Yes, that is the arrangement that has been made." She gave him one of her patented, non-committal 'you're being weird but I'm listening' expressions.

John rubbed at his forehead, pushing his sunglasses further up, trying to chase away the headache that was threatening to develop. He hated to think he'd deciphered the reason for McKay's oddness but…yeah, he had. He knew he was right. "McKay thinks we want to have sex. I bet Ford does too."

"You and I do not have sex."

"We know that. Ford and McKay are morons." Especially McKay. Jeez, the man was clueless - or John was a much better actor than he realized. But that was good, right? Rodney needed to stay oblivious and John had to keep his real feelings hidden. John was accustomed to flawlessly performing the charade of a straight, macho but laidback, flyboy, even as the perfection of his mask left him feeling empty and hollow inside it.

"I do not understand. Why do you believe they think we want to have sex?"

Jeez, was Teyla going to follow Rodney's example now? At least she had the excuse of being an alien. John unrolled his sleeping pad and bag and smoothed them down, keeping his eyes on the thick material. "Look, a lot of people from Earth…they just make assumptions. They pair people off. I'm the military commander, so people are going to assume I'm with Elizabeth, since she's the expedition leader, or with you, since you're my team member and they can see we're close."

Teyla punched the tab on her pillow, inflating it. "I'm sorry, Major, but I still do not understand. Since you are attracted to men, why do they not pair you with Doctor McKay as the scientific leader?"

John glanced up, shocked, but Teyla continued to appear naively innocent, as if she hadn't just made an assumption that could get his ass busted out of the service. That is, as soon as there was a way back to Earth. John took off his glasses and tucked them into a vest pocket. Now he was really getting a headache. "Who said I was attracted to men?"

"Are you not?"

"That's not the point. What makes you think I am?" John massaged his forehead, grateful that his hand covered his eyes, not wanting to see that Teyla was looking at him with as much disbelief as he'd just been looking at McKay.

"It has always seemed apparent to me."

"Well…it's not supposed to be. It's apparently not to McKay." And maybe he sounded a little bitter there, but having the object of your desire think you were interested in someone else was rather frustrating. Rodney was the straight guy who constantly drooled over women. He ought to be angling to sleep with Teyla, not throwing her at John.

Life would really be much simpler if Rodney wasn't as hot as he was infuriating. If he was as dorky in appearance as he was smart, then maybe John could ignore him, not be so attracted to him, not be so frustrated at working closely with him and knowing that's all it could be – work.

"Are you sure you have not misinterpreted Dr. McKay's desire to sleep outside? Surely he realizes that you are attracted to him? Or perhaps he does realize that you are attracted to him, and this is his way of discouraging your interest?"

Oh, just…kill him now. A Wraith needed to drop out of the sky and drain his life away from him, because he really didn't want to ask Teyla why she was convinced he was interested in Rodney. He was, but she sure the hell shouldn't realize it. No one should. Rodney didn't. "Look, maybe we shouldn't talk about this any more. Let's just assume Rodney's being a nice guy and not look a gift horse in the mouth, okay?" It was a relief that she already knew that colloquialism, because John wasn't in the mood for an English lecture.

"If you think that is the best course of action." Her tone said she didn't but that she would accept his judgment.

"Yeah. I do." John punched the tab on his pillow, watching it inflate, not responding as Teyla gave him a last considering stare before walking out of the jumper. John let her go.

~~~

Everyone behaved normally while setting up the campsite, slipping easily into their normal bantering as they found dried wood and started a fire, cooked dinner and warmed the Athosian ale Teyla had produced, so John figured he could relax a little. He sipped the ale, trying to decide if he liked it warm, and finally concluding he did, the temperature making the flavor more potent. He stared moodily at his teammates, aware that he was well on his way to drunkenness, a luxury that he didn't often allow himself.

Across the fire from him, Rodney, the hottest pain-in-the-ass he'd ever met, and what he wouldn't give to have that ass, was busily expounding on the pleasures of airline food versus MRE's to Teyla, who seemed as quietly unconvinced as she had earlier when John had suggested Rodney was a nice guy. She was beautiful as always, sleek hair and perfect body and pretty face, but female, which made her attractiveness seem distant and unreal to John. Ford, good-looking, athletic Ford, had his legs stretched out in front of him, booted toes dangerously close to the flames. Sometimes John wished he found Ford attractive, as a distraction if nothing else, but Ford was too much like the younger brother John wished he'd had. Ford was sipping his own alcohol with relish, and the pleasure of the strong, hoppy flavor seemed to be the only thing keeping him from rolling his eyes at the scientist.

They were a good team, the four of them, and John knew he should be thanking God or fate or whatever that he had such people to keep him alive in this hellacious galaxy. But mainly right now, with the ale burning a smooth path to his stomach, he wanted to smack Ford and Rodney for being so clueless. Particularly Rodney. And Teyla for being too observant. But really, mostly Rodney.

As if called to slap himself by John's brooding thoughts, Rodney gave his own arm a sudden smack. "We can tell Elizabeth that our potential alpha sight has its fair share of bloodthirsty insects. Why do they always land on me?"

"You must be tasty, Doc." Apparently Ford had gotten tired of Rodney's rhapsodies on bland food, because he launched straight into a different subject. "This reminds me of camping with the Boy Scouts."

"You were a Boy Scout, Lieutenant?" John prompted, not particularly surprised, but willing to encourage a new conversation, anything that would take his mind off Rodney's denseness and the pup tent carefully set up close to the fire and not the jumper. How thoughtful of them, giving Teyla and him enough distance to be noisy.

"I made Eagle Scout," was Ford's proud response.

"What is a Boy Scout?"

Rodney didn't give Ford a chance to answer Teyla's question. "The Boy Scouts are a homophobic religious organization that encourages young boys to compete for signs of honor called badges and to participate in bonding rituals like this, sitting around a campfire on hard dirt."

"You have a pillow. A nice pillow," John noted, not unduly surprised that Rodney's opinion of the Scouts wasn't favorable. He couldn't see a young Rodney going on hikes and building models from kits, if the Scouts even existed in Canada. Rodney had probably hung out with the geeks as a kid, not so different from John's childhood, though Rodney was unlikely to believe their similarities.

Rodney shifted his exquisite ass on his soft, plushy, non-military-issued pillow and smirked. "I know how to plan ahead."

"Be prepared, it's the Boy Scout motto," Ford slipped in, and from the cheeky grin, he wasn't taking offense to Rodney's description. "You could be a Boy Scout."

Rodney shuddered in horror. "I think not. Too much nature."

"And what did you do with the Boy Scouts, when you sat around a fire? Is this where you competed for your badges of honor?"

Ford brought his legs under him and leaned forward, conspiratorially. "Nah, this is where we'd tell secrets. Talk about sex and stuff."

"Oh god. Juvenile truth or dare," Rodney lamented.

"I have been curious about sex and love in your society, but have hesitated to ask."

Teyla's honesty made John blink in surprise. He hadn't realized she had any hesitation at asking him questions. Then he wondered if Ford had started on this topic deliberately, as part of his ongoing matchmaking efforts. 'Let's talk about sex, gee what a thought.' If so, the Lieutenant really did need to be smacked. He smiled genially, showing his teeth. "Feel free to ask anything you'd like, Teyla. This is the time. What's said on the strange, alien world stays on the strange, alien world, right?"

Ford gave him a sideways glance and John wondered if his words had been too sharp, but Teyla nodded at the permission and began speaking. "You do not seem to have the same criteria for potential partners that the Athosians do. For my people, it is important to love and marry someone who is a good hunter or farmer or trader. Someone with whom you wish to have children. But when you discuss people that attract you, you can sound very…"

"Shallow? Yes, it's my thing for blondes." Rodney gazed fondly into the fire, as if seeing the blonde of his dreams in the flames, and certainly not the brunette across from him. "I know, hair color shouldn't matter much, should it? But really, I wouldn't say no to a brunette scientist either."

"But she must be a scientist?"

"Well, no, I guess she could be brilliant without being a scientist. You see, Teyla, I'm a genius, and desire to marry and have children with another genius. It's like the Athosians, where you want to raise your children to be good hunters, only I'm in academia and research. That is what I wish to pass along to the next generation."

Ford grinned, volunteering his own criteria. "A smile. I don't care what her hair color is, but she has to have a great smile and a good sense of humor. And cook like my grandma does."

"And would you wish her to be a soldier?"

"Hell, no," Ford answered. "Pardon my language, but I wouldn't want her in this lifestyle. I'd want her to do something safer. Maybe work with kids. Yeah, I can see being with a teacher. That would be cool."

Teyla tilted her head in that way she did when considering a subject and slotting the pieces together. "So you would seek a mate based on her personality while Doctor McKay is more interested in her intellect?"

John snorted, poking at the fire with a stick, making the logs shift and pop. "And her looks. Don't miss that part of McKay's recipe for happy domesticity. He wouldn't fuck an ugly brain."

"Hey! I'm not – oh, what am I saying?" Rodney slapped at another bug and gave a little sigh of acceptance. "She wouldn't have to be a supermodel certainly, but good-looking. I'm definitely attracted to good-looking women. Blondes."

"We've got insect repellant in the jumper. Maybe you should go put some on," John snapped.

"I am wearing repellant, but I'm tasty. It's my fair skin."

"And you, Major? Do you seek personality or appearance in your mate?"

The question threw John because damn it, he'd been so focused on Ford's matchmaking and irked by Rodney's obliviousness, he hadn't expected Teyla to question him. When had she and Ford become so devious? Ford trying to hook him up with her, Teyla giving him a chance to be honest with his team, with Rodney.

Perhaps it was the ale making him stupid, but the temptation to tell the truth was almost irresistible. These people mattered more to him than anyone else in his life, and they were stranded in this weird galaxy, fighting hostile aliens. It wasn't like Don't Ask, Don't Tell mattered much. On the other hand, the expedition needed his military leadership and if the soldiers went all homophobic on him…his gaze swung Ford, who was really the key element. "What's said on the strange, alien world stays on the strange, alien world, right?"

Ford agreed. "What's said at the campfire stays at the campfire." He held three fingers up in a sign John dimly recognize as a salute.

John looked back across the fire at Rodney. With the darkness behind him and the flames in front of him, the scientist looked even more pale than normal, his eyes more startlingly blue. "I like men," he announced.

His timing hadn't been planned, but it couldn't have been better orchestrated for effect. Rodney did a spit take, the mouthful of liquor expelled into the flames, making them give a roar as he coughed.

"I knew it!" Ford crowed, followed immediately by Rodney's hoarse, "You are so not!"

"I am."

Teyla frowned. "You are what?"

"Gay. Homosexual. Someone who seeks a mate of his or her own gender."

Ford gave another singsong, "I knew it! I knew it!" making Rodney glare at him. "Fine, then I'm sleeping in the jumper. I'm not going to be eaten alive by bugs if – " and he stopped, blushing furiously.

"But do you seek a man by his personality or his intelligence?"

John had never realized how very innocently Teyla could ask a question to which she damn well knew the answer. That must be part of why she was such a good trader. Not sure he was willing to be that explicitly honest yet, he turned to Ford. "How did you know?"

"I grew up in San Francisco. I knew a lot of gays. You do a good job though."

"Then why were we – " Rodney started to ask Ford and stopped.

"Setting us up? Not that I don't appreciate the gesture, but it's not necessary."

"I'm sleeping in the jumper," Rodney muttered, making John wonder whether to laugh or cry. He hadn't expected Rodney to be overtly homophobic, but he had expected more of a reaction than such blatant concern for his own comfort.

"So what kind of men do you like, sir? Some of the guys at my high school were gay and the things they would say – I was never sure if they were serious or just putting it on for the straights."

"I like blue eyes. Beautiful clear blue eyes." Ford nodded, as if he could relate. Ford was probably getting off on this revelation, being a secret confidante to the military leader. He'd let his tongue be ripped out before he'd reveal John's secret. "I'm not fussy about hair color but I usually like brunettes, not blonds. Short brown hair, perfect for my fingers…" to run through when I'm getting blown, he almost added, but realized he didn't need to elaborate. Ford had gotten the picture. "Pale complexion to go with the blue eyes and a body that's a little rounded."

"Not buffed?"

"Nah. Definitely not buffed. I like someone who's cuddly. Someone with a little padding."

Ford's eyes strayed to Rodney, as did Teyla's. Rodney was staring straight at John, apparently in horror, mouth agape.

"And the personality," Teyla asked. "Do you seek intelligence as Dr. McKay does?"

"Smart's good. But mostly I like someone with lots of personality. Energy and sarcasm."

"You so do not!" Rodney yelped.

Torn between the immense relief at being honest for the first time since he'd joined the Air Force and a fear that this had been a bad, really bad decision because Rodney was about to go ballistic, John kept his tone level. "I so do not what?"

"You are so not telling me I'm your type!"

"I do not see why you cannot be his type," Teyla answered in John's stead. "Have you not often said you would be a fine catch for a woman? Why should you not be a fine catch for the Major?"

Rodney was clearly moving past horror and into irritation, not a long trip for him. "Because he's Kirk. Kirk hits on young blonde space bimbos with enormous breasts, not male scientists."

Teyla was looking at Ford, seeking confirmation, and they did a quick, "Kirk is – " "Yeah, the one in the movie – " "The man with the wig?" "Yeah."

The exchange almost made John snicker, the memory of explaining a toupee to the Athosian whose culture had never developed the concept of wigs, but he was too occupied by keeping his eyes steady on Rodney's, his expression serious. "I'm not Kirk. I'm not interested in space bimbos."

"But you – Chaya!"

"She was an interesting person and had the potential to save Atlantis. Besides, I'm used to faking interest in women. I have to."

"Right. But you've always had the hots for me. Nursing a secret passion for a middle-aged Canadian."

John flinched at Rodney's sarcasm. He did love that quality of Rodney's, the speed at which his brain worked and analyzed and could fling out a sharp, witty comment, but Rodney's barbs hadn't often been directed at him, and Rodney had never doubted his honesty. "I can't make you believe me, but it's true," he said quietly.

"I don't appreciate being mocked." Grabbing a flashlight, Rodney rose to his feet. "Excuse me, I have business to attend to." He stalked off into the darkness.

"I am sorry, Major. That does not appear to have gone as you might have wished."

John threw his head back and swallowed the rest of his ale in one large gulp. He wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand, catching the trickle that escaped his lips. "It's okay," he said, though it wasn't really. "He's so straight. I should have known he'd react badly. Ford, why don't you two sleep in the jumper? We don't need him waking up completely bug bitten."

"Of course, sir. Or he and Teyla can. I have to say though – "

Ford's words stopped and John recognized the abruptness of a soldier who'd reconsidered the wisdom of saying something in front of a superior officer. "We're still on the strange alien world." John held his hand up in what he hoped was the right salute.

"McKay, sir? Really? He's such a pain in the ass."

And wouldn't he like to be in that ass? That firm, rounded…John shrugged those thoughts aside as clearly not achievable. "You know what they say, 'there's no accounting for taste.'"

A shout came from the forest, and John sprang to his feet, recognizing Rodney's voice. "McKay?" he yelled. Rodney was often startled on alien worlds, which could mean he'd encountered anything from the Pegasus version of a cockroach to pitchfork wielding villagers. But the next sound was a scream, long and frightened, and John's gun was in his hand as he ran around their fire and into the forest, Teyla and Ford grabbing their own weapons and following close behind him. "Rodney! Where are you?"

Rodney screamed again and John kept running toward the noise, hearing the thrashing sound of Rodney stumbling back to them. The forest wasn't too dense, fortunately, but the ground was uneven, scratchy bushes tearing at their clothes. Curse Rodney and his polite Canadian restraint, always insisting on going far enough away to be discreet. From now on, he was pissing where John could hear every drop fall.

He called again, frantically, "Rodney!" and a second later, the scientist's body slammed into his. "Rodney, what's wrong?" He arms went around Rodney's chest, his right hand holding his gun pointed in the direction Rodney had come from, his left curled around Rodney's torso. He felt something warm and liquid ooze onto his hand. "Back to the jumper," he ordered. "Rodney's hurt."

Not waiting for Ford and Teyla, John adjusted his left arm to hold Rodney around his back, under his shoulders, and hauled him out of the forest, his gun still in his right hand and his ears listening to determine if Rodney's attacker was following. The other two closed ranks, protecting them.

"What was it, Rodney?" John asked as they stumbled into the light of the fire. He could see the gashes on Rodney's chest, blood welling from claw marks, the shreds of blue shirt hanging loose. Thankfully, the flow wasn't fast, and the wounds didn't seem too deep. They looked nasty though, and Rodney was white-faced, his eyes filled with pain, and likely to go into shock soon.

"Animal," Rodney gasped. "Couldn't – couldn't see it well."

"Okay, hang on, just hang on. We'll get you back to Atlantis. Ford, the fire, then help Teyla get our stuff. Don't forget Rodney's pillow." Keeping his arm around Rodney, he coaxed him into the jumper and sat him down on one of the bunks in the back, retrieving the first aid kit and grabbing out the scissors to cut the rest of his shirt away. He began to dab antiseptic on the wounds. "Just hang on, buddy, hang on," he murmured, trying to be reassuring.

The sound of equipment being dumped in the back interrupted his babbling, and he fell silent, wondering if Rodney even wanted his comfort at this point. Rodney was pale and shaky, not responding one way or the other. John grabbed the bandages out of the case and began winding them around to cover the scratches.

"We have everything, Major."

"Good. You take over here." He handed Teyla the bandages and grabbed one of the sleeping bags out of the pile of stuff, tucking it on Rodney's lap and around his legs, hoping to prevent shock. Leaving Teyla to finish, he slipped into the pilot's seat, starting the engine and calling impatiently for Ford.

"John?" Rodney asked, though John wasn't sure of the question or how to answer it.

"You will be fine, Rodney," Teyla reassured him as she tied off the bandages and sat next to him, one arm around him for comfort.

"Ford! Get the hell in here!"

Ford run into the jumper, dropping the shovel and plopping into the passenger seat. "Site secured, sir."

The jumper controls purred under John's hands as the spacecraft rocketed into the air.

~~~~

There were many advantages, John had discovered, in reporting to a civilian leader like Elizabeth, not the least of which was the lack of 'report back to me in my command center' bullshit. If someone was wounded and receiving medical care, then Elizabeth was in the infirmary.

"What happened?"

"McKay went into the forest to relieve himself and got attacked by an animal." John watched grimly as Carson unwound the field bandage.

"The wounds don't look too bad," Elizabeth noted.

"He probably scared it as much as it scared him."

Elizabeth put her hand on his arm and squeezed. "You weren't to blame, John."

Trust Elizabeth to see through his flippancy and realize how much blame and fear he felt. He hated when anyone was wounded under his command, Rodney most of all. "At least the survey was looking pretty good," he said, not directly answering her comment. "The planet should make an acceptable alpha site."

"Excuse me? Attacked here," Rodney snapped, and John realized that he and Elizabeth hadn't been quiet enough. "You think that's a good alpha site?"

"We have to expect some disadvantages, Rodney," Elizabeth said soothingly. "We can handle wild animals if the world is livable."

"Yes, because we did such a great job of handling this one."

John felt every word of Rodney's response like a whip on his flesh. "You shouldn't have gone so far from camp."

"Blame the victim, why don't you."

"The victim and everyone else should really be silent and let me concentrate." Carson's fingers were skilled and fast as they worked on Rodney's skin, cleaning the wounds and stitching the deeper cuts closed.

"I'll leave you gentlemen to it," Elizabeth said. "I'm glad you're going to be okay, Rodney." She gave John's arm another squeeze and headed out. John pulled up a chair, hooking his feet around the legs and leaning back to close his eyes. It wasn't that late but he was tired from the dying adrenaline rush caused by his unplanned confession and the disastrous ending.

Carson left the room with a last instruction to Rodney to rest and call him if he needed anything. John roused himself and sat uneasily on the bed next to Rodney's. From the glazed look of Rodney's eyes, John realized the scientist was probably about to drift off.

"I just wanted to say I'm sorry."

Rodney's hands twitched on the coverlet. "For the record, Major, I don't appreciate being mocked."

John cupped Rodney's chin in his hand, forcing Rodney to meet his eyes. "I was not mocking you. Everything I said was sincere. But I should have appreciated that you're straight and kept my damn mouth shut. For that, I am very sorry and I apologize."

"Okay…not a good time to discuss this."

John frowned. "What?"

Rodney waved his hands. "Go away. We can discuss this when I'm not exhausted and overloaded with medication."

"We don't need to discuss this ever again."

"Yes, we do. But not now. Go away." With that demand, Rodney scooted farther down into the bed, curled up and fell asleep.

~~~~

John stayed away from the infirmary the next day. Teyla and Ford reported that Rodney was looking better, and John figured he'd let Rodney rest and recover before inflicting his presence on him again. To John's surprise, Rodney called him on the comm band later that afternoon. "My quarters now," Rodney said peremptorily.

"I thought you were supposed to be resting," John answered as a delaying tactic. He'd thought he'd have at least another day before having to face Rodney's wrath, and wasn't particularly keen on baring his heart or apologizing again.

"Oddly enough, Carson has little enthusiasm for keeping healthy patients around, especially when they constantly critique his medical skills. My quarters. Now."

~~~~

John stopped, hesitating at the doorway to Rodney's room. He didn't like to think of himself as a coward, but this had the potential for destroying – or saving – one of the best relationships he'd ever had, and one he definitely didn't want to lose. Facing the next few minutes was an intimidating prospect.

On the other hand, Rodney was waiting for him, and an impatient Rodney was a cranky Rodney was an unhappy Rodney…and it would be best to get this scene going before Rodney was too aggravated by John's lateness. Right? Right, John told himself.

Rubbing his sweaty palms on his thighs one last time, John made the door give a warning ping, then thought it open. Rodney was waiting inside, the expression on his face…thoughtful? Yeah, thoughtful, John decided, hoping they were good thoughts. "Rodney."

"John. Come in."

His words came across more as an instruction than polite courtesy, and John obeyed, stepping inside as the door slid shut behind him.

"Why did you say those things on the planet?"

"Because I meant them," John snapped, thrusting his hands in his jacket pockets, feeling his shoulders hunch. He hadn't planned on being instantly defensive, but he hadn't anticipated Rodney's thoughtfulness would sound so extraordinarily doubtful of John's intentions. He wondered if Rodney would be happier if he retracted the whole thing as a bad joke. "Why is that so hard to believe?"

"That was the truth, not just some puerile attempt at humor?"

"It was the truth."

"You don't look very happy about it."

"Jesus, Rodney, you may be a genius, but you're freaking clueless sometimes. Of course I don't enjoy being interrogated about my feelings by someone who obviously doesn't believe me."

"You want me. Sexually."

"I want you. Sexually. Romantically," he added, wondering if that admission would make it better or worse, if Rodney would prefer to be regarded with lust or love.

"Why?"

"Why is it so hard to believe?" John was beginning to feel a little cranky himself at Rodney's continuing interrogation. Rodney didn't like to be mocked and John certainly didn't like being regarded as a liar.

Rodney shook his head dumbly. "Do you really expect me to believe that…that…" Rodney's words faltered.

"That what? That I find you hot? That I've fantasized about you? That I've dreamed about kissing your lips, about your body, about your…" And it was time for John to stumble to a halt and blush, wondering how graphically he should describe his feelings. Rodney did do the whole Canadian delicacy thing sometimes. If he was having a hard time with John's homosexual feelings toward him, then verbalizing too much might be bad.

"Oh, please," Rodney rolled his eyes, his moment of hesitancy over, and full-fledged scathing restored. "Do you seriously expect me to believe that you've fantasized about sucking my cock? Fucking my ass? Next you'll be telling me you dream about moving in together and lazy Sunday mornings in bed."

"Christ, Rodney, you are the most infuriating man I've ever met, you know that?" More furious than he'd been for a very long time as Rodney mocked his most secret dreams, John pushed, hard, sending Rodney sprawling onto his bed. He dropped to his knees between Rodney's spread thighs, asking, "What do you want? You want me to prove it to you?" He reached for the buckle on Rodney's belt but froze at the sight of his own hands hovering at Rodney's waist, over the tan of the science uniform, at the bitter knowledge that they were there without permission. His sudden outburst of anger faded at the shocked realization that he'd let the rawness of his emotions drive him almost to violence.

His body sagged back onto his knees, his forehead dropping to rest on Rodney's knee, his arms pulling back to hug his chest as if he could curl in on himself and wither away. Trying to gather his control, he mumbled, "I'm sorry, Rodney. Sorry, so sorry. More than I can say."

There was silence for a long moment and John knew he should rise, should leave the room, but he couldn't gather his nerve to look at Rodney's horrified expression. Rodney's hands wrapped around his forearms, tugging his hands away from his chest, sliding down his arms. The touch made John ridiculously glad that he was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, so he could at least experience Rodney's broad palms on his bare arms. It would probably be the last time they touched before Rodney never spoke to him again. Then Rodney's hands held his own, their fingers clasping together. John raised his head, staring at their joined hands, and watched as Rodney brought John's hands back to his belt, all in silence.

"Rodney?"

"You could prove it," Rodney offered, his voice surprisingly quiet. "That would be acceptable. I'm a scientist. I like empirical data."

"I could prove it?" John searched for any fear in Rodney's face, any evidence that the offer was made from intimidation, and saw only curiosity and maybe…hope?

"Yes. That would be good." Rodney's voice strengthened, became more confident. "In fact, now that you've made such a fuss, I insist upon it. Hard, physical proof of this emotional state you persist in claiming you feel."

Slowly, giving Rodney plenty of time to change his mind, John unbuckled his belt. He ghosted the palm of his hand down Rodney's fly, feeling the softness of Rodney's dick, its length and solidity, and the twitching sensation as it surged into his palm. "I think I can guarantee you hard evidence."

One of Rodney's thumbs traced John's upper lip, a touch that went straight to John's dick. "Or maybe soft. Very, very soft."

John's tongue flicked out, wetting his lip and tasting Rodney's thumb, the saltiness of his skin. "I can do soft. And hard."

"A man of multiple textures."

"And talents. I can be very, very talented. And creative," he promised, giddy relief making his voice light and happy.

"You can just – um – start with the basics. Because I haven't…"

"Basics, right. I can do basic. You will love my basic." John wasn't quite sure what was motivating Rodney's sudden willingness to experiment - repressed homosexuality or bisexuality or just 'hey I'm stuck in another galaxy and someone wants to suck my dick, why the hell not?' But he didn't think it was about making John prove the truth of his words, not any longer, because Rodney's eyes were too wide and intent, the blue deepening into black as his pupils dilated with arousal and his dick twitched again under John's palm.

With gentle hands, John opened Rodney's fly, coaxing his trousers and boxers down his hips. Rodney obeyed the silent instruction, lifting up, his weight on his hands, so John could shove his clothes down to his thighs.

Rodney should have looked absurd, blue shirt covering his chest, tan trousers stretched around his legs, groin area exposed, but his cock was there, fully visible to John, and John wasn't laughing. His hands resting on the bed on each side of Rodney's hips, he leaned forward and licked at Rodney's cock, softly, wetly, up and down the shaft. It tasted fabulous on his tongue, warm Rodney skin, so he did it some more, content to take his time. He could happily spend the rest of the day on this very act.

Rodney's breath sped up, little pants of air expelling from his lungs, and Rodney's cock was thickening and lengthening. A drop of fluid glistened on the tip, making John wrap his lips around the head, his tongue seeking to taste that drop, bittersweet and delicious.

"God, John, your lips!"

"What about my lips?" But Rodney didn't seem capable of answering, staring fixedly at John's mouth. John brought his hand up, running one finger along his lips, and Rodney's eyes tracked the movement. "Do you like my lips on your cock? Have you thought about my mouth on your cock?"

"No, of course I haven't! I mean – oh god, who wouldn't? Everyone in Atlantis probably does."

"I don't care about anyone else on this base," John growled. Christ, did that mean Rodney had thought about John's lips on his cock, and hadn't been willing to act on his fantasy? Could anything be better than imagining that Rodney had yearned and feared as much as John had?

Rodney's body gave a little shiver at John's rough tone, and John returned to his task, his delight. He lost himself in Rodney's dick, in licking and kissing, relishing as it got fully hard and flushed red. Taking it back into his mouth, he savored the feeling of Rodney's dick on his lips, between his teeth, on his tongue, pressing as far back as he could handle. He moaned around the length, moving his head back and forth, wishing he could take it all the way down, into his throat, wondering how much of Rodney would be enough.

Rodney's hands gripped his shoulders, fingers digging into John's muscles, almost painfully. "John, John, I'm going to…"

John ignored the warning. He had no intention of giving up any taste of Rodney. His arms locked around Rodney's hips, holding him tightly so he couldn't squirm away. John sucked hard, really hard, and heard Rodney's anguished groan as he came, that delectable flavor flooding into John's mouth.

Feelings of pride and pleasure and relief, all tangled together, swamped John as he swallowed. He'd made Rodney come. Even better, Rodney had willingly let him, had yielded to him. Rodney's dick softened and John let it escape his mouth, licking and cleaning it, giving Rodney time to recover.

"You – damn it, come here." Rodney yanked on John's black t-shirt, and John went with the pull, finding himself tugged up to sit on one of Rodney's knees, like he was a kid on Santa Claus's lap. It was a weird position but John didn't mind, more than happy to receive more presents. Rodney's arm curved around John's back to hold him, his free hand in John's hair, pulling John's head down, Rodney's mouth fastening firmly on his.

Rodney knew how to kiss, wet and hot and like his tongue was an extension of his will to bury himself in John. The intensity excited John and he opened his mouth and shoved his tongue into Rodney's mouth, trying to express the same desire.

A squeeze on his erection had John gasping, looking down to see Rodney's broad hand had released his hair and was cupping him, holding him through the black fabric of his pants. "Get it out. I want to see, want to see you come." Rodney almost chanted his demand.

And John wanted to come, very desperately, so that seemed like a very good command to obey. He had his trousers opened and his dick pulled out of his boxers in no time flat, and was gripping himself, watching Rodney's face as he watched John jack off.

Rodney's expression was like he'd seen the first sunrise over Atlantis, rapt and awed, but also like he'd discovered a chocolate bar, greedy and hungry. John liked that look, liked even better the thought that he was causing it as he fisted himself, fast and needy.

Pushing John's hand away, Rodney took over, and just the feel of that big hand on his dick was enough to push John over the edge, a fall he'd been craving for months. His head tilted back, the better to release his ecstatic moan as his dick pulsed in Rodney's hand and his body shook in reaction to the powerful pleasure.

John collapsed, his muscles limp, resting his cheek against Rodney's shoulder and letting the scientist's solid body take his weight. His come had spurted enough to decorate Rodney's other trouser leg, and he wondered if he should feel embarrassed. Figuring that Rodney would let him know if he should, John turned his head to run his nose into Rodney's hair, smelling shampoo and the antiseptic scent of the infirmary.

"Jesus, are you okay?" he asked, belatedly aware that orgasms weren't generally recommended for people who needed rest. Carson would have his head if he ever learned about this exertion.

"What? Oh," Rodney yawned as John's hands ran over his chest, feeling the bandages under the blue shirt. "Yes, I'm fine. Tired though. I could use a nap."

Suddenly horrified that he'd thought so little about Rodney's physical condition, John dropped off Rodney's lap, quickly working on his shoes, and helping him remove the rest of his clothes.

Rodney stood at John's silent urging, but caught his arms, not allowing John to reach behind him to pull down the blankets and sheets. "John."

"Rodney."

"I liked that. I want more." Rodney waited, standing naked, seemingly unashamed at what he was offering John, but from the pulse beating madly in his throat, nervous as hell.

"Rodney…" Reassured by Rodney's directness, John ghosted his hands down Rodney's sides, his fingertips drifting over Rodney's dick and back up the center of his torso, curving along his shoulders and coming to rest around his biceps. Touching Rodney was as good as John had imagined, soft skin and the faint texture of hair pleasing to his fingers. "I'm planning on giving you more. That was the beginning of the basics. I have a whole lot more to show you before we even get to the advanced techniques."

Rodney grinned, that wide, thin-lipped mouth looking gleeful. "I believe you will find that I am an excellent student. Always top of my class."

"Good. Because you're the only one I'll be teaching. I expect you to excel." John cupped Rodney's face with his hands, giving him a gentle kiss. "Now rest." Without a word, Rodney let himself be helped under the sheets.

"Nap with me?" he finally asked as he squirmed his body into a comfortable position.

"Can't. I'm supposed to be on duty." He wondered if anyone would track him down if he stayed longer, but Rodney gave another yawn and his eyes fluttered shut as his breathing evened out. There would be plenty of time for naps together later on, when Rodney was completely healthy again and could enjoy the before and after.

Straightening his clothes, John dimmed the lights and watched as Rodney slept, feeling guilty for how quickly he'd dropped off. Rodney seemed so vulnerable, curled up in his bed, his expression relaxed into softness, though John knew he wouldn't stay that way for long. Give him a couple days and he'd be back to normal, barking orders to his staff, full of energy and life, and so cuddly-looking that John would want to squeeze and hug and love him.

Only now he could. And who the hell cared if life was abnormal in the Pegasus Galaxy, as long as he had Rodney McKay by his side and in his bed and in his heart.

Whistling to himself, John walked off down the corridor, the door shutting behind him.

~ the end ~