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On the very few occasions where John Sheppard had allowed himself to imagine getting his own command, never in his wildest dreams had it been as perfect as living in Atlantis. Sure, the big problems were beyond horrendous, the large nasty aliens constantly trying to suck their very life force, and the lack of contact and support from his commanding officers, or anyone at all on the planet Earth. But the people of Atlantis were amazing. Ford and the other soldiers were some of the damned finest, bravest men and women John had ever served with, Teyla was a kick-ass alien guide, and Elizabeth was a bureaucrat who was both compassionate and intelligent, a species John had never thought to encounter.

Speaking of which … John turned his neck to glance back as he heard the door open, smiling as Elizabeth stepped onto the balcony. "Hi."

"You're becoming very fond of sunsets, aren't you?"

"They're lovely here." John sipped his coffee, and waited for Elizabeth to speak. He could always tell when she'd tracked him down to discus a subject she didn't want to bring up in normal briefings with the rest of the senior staff.

Elizabeth didn't rush to talk, propping her arms on the balcony ledge by John, enjoying the salt air and the sun slowly disappearing behind the horizon. "The Atlantis grapevine seems to think someone has become fond of you."

"Someone?" John looked at Elizabeth, and caught her meaning. They worked well together, arguing on occasion but often on the same page. "Rodney?" He didn't want Elizabeth to think he was laughing at her, but he couldn't keep the incredulity out of his voice.

"A number of people saw the two of you staggering into your quarters together. And other people saw you two emerge mid-morning the next day."

John sighed. Yeah, Atlantis was a wonderful command, but it was a small, isolated one. Even in a large command, gossip was only natural and to be expected. It was practically a weed here. "I'll ask Ford to mention to a few people what happened, that it was out of our control. Word'll get around."

"Actually, I like the gossip. I think it makes the homosexual members of our community more comfortable."

"Do we have homosexual members of our community?"

"Don't be insulting, John. Don't ask, don't tell, is your pretense, not mine."

"I guess I deserved that." John drained his cup, savoring the last sips of dark, strong flavor. He'd accidentally drunk Rodney's coffee one time, and almost gagged at the sweetness. "I'm sorry. Some habits that are hard to break, and military blindness is one of them."

Elizabeth nodded, accepting the apology.

"So if you don't care about the gossip, why are we having this conversation?"

"I care about my people. I worry when they get too involved."

"And you think … " John paused, trying to follow Elizabeth's train of thought, which for once was surprisingly hard to do, " … Rodney is getting too involved?"

"Have you noticed how helpful he's been lately?"

"Well … yeah, but he's been egotistical about it every time too."

"Rodney is always Rodney. But I think he's genuinely trying to please you, John."

"O - kay," John said doubtfully. "And you think that I should …? "

"I think you should let him down gently and firmly, before he gets his hopes up. I think you owe him that. He has enough problems getting along with people. We don't need him dealing with the public embarrassment of being rejected by you."

John considered the sunset, the vanishing yellow rays, and wondered how the hell he should respond. Elizabeth was a great leader, but obviously she had some blind spots, fortunately one of which was noticing that John had been paying attention to Rodney, not vice versa. Or had she indeed noticed, and this was her subtle way of warning him off? Elizabeth had been a political mediator before she became a bureaucrat; she could be very good at subtle. "I'll talk to Rodney," he promised. "I'll make the situation clear between us."

"Thank you, John. I knew I could count on you."

"Always, Elizabeth." She left the balcony and John followed her back into Atlantis, contemplating the one who was rapidly becoming his favorite person under his command, Rodney McKay.

~~~~

Rodney had always known that he would be a great scientist, doing amazing research, making the important break-throughs of his generation, but he'd never imagined that his big opportunity would come in another galaxy, isolated from home, with a small core of fellow scientists to assist him. He'd never imagined that part of accomplishing that brilliant work would be tromping off to different planets, meeting with strange aliens who would frequently try to kill him, and end up being protected by the hottest soldier he'd ever seen.

Sighing, Rodney rubbed his brow, wondering if there was some way to scrub thoughts of Major John Sheppard from his brain. The man was becoming a pest, hounding Rodney even when he wasn't present. Maybe the Ancients had invented a memory removal device? Now he just had to find it, decipher how to work it, use it, and then never see John again, never have more sex with him …

Think of the devil, and in he walks, Sheppard, looking casual and relaxed, hands in his pockets. "Hey."

"Major," Rodney said curtly. Sheppard didn't usually walk with his hands in his pockets. They always swung by his side. Rodney couldn't help glancing at the front of John's pants and quickly looked back down at the Ancient database he'd been reading. "Can I help you with something?"

"I was just wondering how you're doing."

"I'm fine, thank you." Pay no attention to him, read the database, he'll go away, Rodney told himself.

Unfortunately, John didn't seem to be listening to Rodney's internal dialogue, swinging his leg over a chair and sitting down. "Elizabeth thinks you're courting me."

"Elizabeth what?"

"Elizabeth thinks – "

"Yes, yes, I don't have any problems with my hearing. What gave Elizabeth the insane notion that I'm courting you?" He didn't understand people, really, truly he didn't. Courting Sheppard? The man drove him insane. Especially in bed.

"You helped Teyla's people with the water project."

"I happen to like to eat, particularly something besides military rations. And the coffee is not going to last forever. We need some kind of decent substitute."

"You helped Ford – "

"What is this, I use a smidgen of my genius to help other people on Atlantis, and Elizabeth assumes I'm romancing you? Helping Ford with weapons research helps protect Atlantis. Where, oh gee, I happen to live now."

John shrugged, but his eyes said Rodney's agitation was amusing him. "It was just a comment."

"Well it was a stupid comment. Elizabeth is usually brighter than that." Rodney glared at John, and John just smiled back. "If that was all you had to say, you can leave now. You can tell Elizabeth that I'll stop being helpful."

"Actually, I've been instructed to make my position clear. And you know I always follow orders."

"Your position?" Those words brought a hot flash of recollection, of John on his back, his legs tucked around Rodney's hips … no, don't think of that. Think of physics, think of complex equations … but that brought up thoughts of big bangs and exploding stars and other places Rodney didn't want his imagination to visit.

"I'm military. My job is to protect the people of Atlantis. That's what I do."

"Yes, yes, and you do it very well. We all know that." He spoke dismissively, like John was the janitor keeping piles of garbage from overflowing, even though he knew he owed his life to John, many times over.

John smiled sweetly, but his eyes were serious as he stroked one side of Rodney's face, a long caress from temple to jaw line. "Look, we're living in a place where we could lose our lives tomorrow. And I'm not going to throw away a good thing because of what might make my superiors unhappy, if and when I ever see them again. So if you ever want to be more than team members, you let me know."

Rodney found himself backed against the lab table as John kissed him, exquisitely and deliberately. And then he just walked out, with that long-limbed swagger of his, leaving all the decisions in Rodney's hands.

Damn the man. Why did he have to be the best part of Atlantis?

~~~~

Elizabeth was always nervous when a team was out exploring, even if the mission seemed routine. In her opinion, nothing was standard in the Pegasus Galaxy. She hid her nervousness well, knowing that confidence was one of the characteristics she most needed to display. The people of Atlantis were isolated and alone, instinctively looking for someone to believe in, someone they could trust would get them through the problems they faced. Unfortunately, that was she. And Major Sheppard.

She stayed calm when the call came through, Sheppard's voice crackling over the comm system a second after the gate was activated. "Atlantis, we need a medical team. Rodney has been wounded."

"Major, what is his condition?" Elizabeth glanced at Ramirez, appreciating good training as she noted the tech relaying the information to Carson.

"He was attacked by some kind of animal. He has numerous wounds all over his body and is bleeding heavily. I think he's going into shock."

"Was anyone else hurt?"

"I got slammed against a tree, but I'm okay."

"We'll let Carson decide that. A medical team is on its way."

The jumper shot through the gate and landed instantly, delicately. Sheppard clearly wasn't too hurt to fly with his normal skill. Elizabeth started down the steps toward the floor in front of the gate even as Carson and his team rushed into the room, pushing a stretcher. Rodney was at least ambulatory, staggering out of the jumper with Ford and Teyla's assistance, but his appearance was horrible, his clothes stained with blood from wounds like big scratches on his body, his face pale, his expression blank with shock.

"Help him lie on the stretcher," Carson ordered, and Ford and Teyla followed the instruction. In seconds, Carson and his team were rushing toward the infirmary with their patient.

John stepped out of the jumper, and like the others, he had blood stains on his clothes. Rodney's blood. Elizabeth shuddered, hating any time that someone under her command was wounded. "What happened?"

"Some crazy … Thing … attacked him."

Elizabeth arched her eyebrows at John as he gave the worst mission report of his life. Teyla leaped to provide more description. "We do not know what happened. Everything was going fine. We were meeting with the village elders. Rodney was having a discussion with someone who I believe to be a village shaman. They wandered out of our sight. After a while, we heard Rodney screaming. Major Sheppard reached him first, and fired several rounds into the creature. The creature hit him and sent him flying. Ford and I both fired, and the creature ran off. We helped McKay and the Major stand, and headed to the jumper."

"And the village elders? What did they do while this was happening?"

"They stayed in the village."

"That seems unusual."

"Look, I need to put the jumper in the bay and see how Rodney's doing," John interrupted.

Elizabeth wasn't pleased with John's impatience. When returning from a mission gone bad, he normally recognized that he couldn't assist in the infirmary, and understood that she needed to be informed. But John wasn't being normal this time. Even though he remained relatively calm, the distraction in his eyes said the Major was extremely upset by the attack on Rodney. "Very well. Remember to have Carson examine you when he's through with Rodney."

John was off without a word, walking back into the jumper and lifting off, leaving the three of them standing on the control room floor. Ford almost grabbed the rifle slung over Teyla's shoulder. "I'll return this to the weapons locker." He jerked his head in a nod, like he already had permission to go, and scampered out of the room.

"I believe I would like to clean up, Doctor Weir."

"Yes, Teyla, thank you for the report."

Elizabeth strode sedately back to the command center, as if nothing was abnormal, remembering John's words. 'Rodney and I will be fine.' 'I'll make the situation clear.' She'd gotten the wrong end of the stick, and John had blithely let her, without batting an eye.

She needed to have another talk with John. A long one. And this time, John was going to be honest.

~~~

Rodney hurt.

Rodney hated hurting.

Oh, there were happy drugs in his system. He could feel them in his veins, supposedly eliminating the pain, but only succeeding in masking it. An IV was in his arm, his torso was full of stitches, and he hurt.

He looked blearily at the world, discovering that he was indeed in the infirmary, under Beckett's thumb. John was sitting in the chair next to his bed, dozing. His clothes had bloodstains on them, and his chin was sporting five o'clock shadow. He looked dreadful, in a macho-sexy way.

"John?"

John snapped awake. "You okay?"

"I hurt," he said, as if John would fix it.

"Let me get Beckett."

"No." He tried to wave one arm, finding it weak.

John took his hand, holding it between both of his, those clever pilot's hands. "You want me to stay?"

"He's awake?" Carson bustled over and Rodney lost the memory of what he wanted to tell John. "How are you feeling?"

"I hurt."

"You lost a lot of blood and some of the wounds were deep. We had to sew you up in several places. But you'll be fine and feeling better soon. Let me increase your medication." Carson was fiddling with the IV and his instruments, and Rodney felt more happy drugs flooding into him. Not that they would help, because Carson was fixing what he saw the source of the pain, the wounds, not realizing that the problem was much larger. The problem was … What was the problem? Rodney giggled and clutched at John's hand.

"Don't worry," John soothed. "I'll stay."

That wasn't right; John alone couldn't fix the problem. But for now, it was enough.

~~~~

John missed the second time Rodney woke, having been chased out of the infirmary by the combined force of Carson and Teyla, who insisted he shower, change clothes, and eat. But he was there the third time. "Hey."

Rodney blinked, his eyes more alert. "Hi."

"How are you doing?"

"I'm feeling better."

Carson noticed their conversation, coming over and examining Rodney, asking his fussy medical questions. John scooted out of the way and did small stretches in the chair. He hadn't wanted to do anything that might wake Rodney, but his body was tired of sitting. Inactivity had never been his strong suit.

"You're healing remarkably well," Carson noted, his fingers touching Rodney's stitches. "I don't think I've seen anyone recuperate quite that fast." Carson's down turned mouth said he wasn't particularly happy with Rodney's healing ability.

"Lucky I guess." Rodney spoke distractedly, his eyes on John.

"At this rate you should be able to leave the infirmary tomorrow." Carson waited for a response from Rodney, but finally said, "Well, Elizabeth wanted to be kept updated," and left.

John pulled his chair back to the bedside. "Zelenka brought you your laptop," gesturing to where he'd tucked it safely out of the way. "But I don't think you should be working yet."

"He's loaded it with the stash."

"The stash?" John raised his eyebrows.

"Oh … " Rodney had an 'oh crap' look that screamed he'd realized he'd revealed something he shouldn't. The expression was atypical for Rodney, who seemed to regard blunt tactlessness as his preferred communication style. The drugs must still be making him loopy, and John pounced on the blunder.

In his firmest voice, John said, "Rodney, did you guys bring files you weren't supposed to?"

"Only what we had to. Trek. Babylon 5. Classics. The one item rule was too absurd."

"So you guys brought movies on your laptops? And here I thought you'd loaded them with important scientific data."

"We brought all the research data on the Ancients." Rodney shifted, and John helped him sit up, keeping the tubes out of his way. "But there was space left. So we coordinated the stash."

"So while the military was running around, planning logistics of food and munitions, you were voting on bug-eyed alien movies?"

Rodney snorted. "Classics, I said, not bug-eyed alien movies. Besides, we spent months planning this mission before you showed up with your special ability to use the Ancient gene."

John realized that he was still sitting right next to Rodney on the hospital bed. He glanced around uncomfortably, noticing that Carson was out of the room and the nurse didn't seem to be paying attention to them, but scooted off the bed and returned to the side chair anyway. "Do you have Wormhole Extreme?"

"That piece of trash? It didn't make the ballot."

"I thought you might have appreciated the irony."

"Did you ever see that show? The woman playing Sam's role looked nothing like her. Nothing."

Rodney's vehemence surprised John, though it was a relief to see the spots of color on his face. "You're sweet on her."

"On who?"

Well, definitely not on the skanky actress, as if that really had to be said. And here John had thought that Rodney was truly passionate only about physics. "On Sam Carter."

"I am not sweet on Samantha Carter. She happens to be one of the finest scientists with whom I have ever had the privilege to work."

"Oh, that's all."

"Yes, that's all."

The little flare of jealousy at Rodney's obvious attachment surprised John. After all, this relationship couldn't go anywhere, couldn't become anything lasting and meaningful. They were just playing around, getting some relief. One of these days they'd find a ZPM and return to Earth or the Wraith would launch a massive attack or … any number of possible options might occur, many of which might result in his death, and none of which were likely to result in he and Rodney sharing togetherness for a long time. "So you wanna watch something?"

"No."

"Okay. You want something to eat?"

"No."

"Something to read?"

"No. Just … the truth?"

"The truth?"

Rodney bit his lip, but asked more boldly than John had ever thought he would. "Why are you interested in having sex with me?"

The temptation to blow off the question was on his tongue, with evasive nonsense like 'Why not?' or a flippant answer of, 'You look good sweating,' or some such evasive nonsense that would irritate Rodney and derail his line of questioning. But Rodney was his teammate, a wounded man, and deserved honesty. "Because I like you. And I like having sex with you."

"I annoy you. Frequently."

"Well … yeah."

"So you like having sex with people who irritate you?"

"Well … no. Not generally. I guess I'd have to say you're the exception."

They sat in silence for a while, John hoping he'd been honest enough and really wishing that Teyla or Ford would walk in to check on Rodney's status. Some distraction would relieve the tension and might snap Rodney out of his odd absorption with staring into John's eyes.

Rodney scooted back down in the bed, and John immediately leaped up to help him again, keeping the tubes out of his way, rearranging the sheet and thin cover. "I'm going to sleep some more. You'll stay?"

"Yeah. I'll be here," John promised.

~~~~

Something had changed within Rodney. He couldn't tell quite what. It hovered outside of his awareness, like a tingling sensation during a scary movie that makes you jump and turn to see if someone is behind you. Only normally there's no one there and you laugh at being spooked, but Rodney rather thought that the scary person had been faster than his turning, and was behind him again.

Carson knew something had changed too, but he couldn't identify it. All he knew was that Rodney had healed, ridiculously fast. Maybe it was something about the creature that had attacked Rodney, something about Atlantis … None of it made sense, and Carson didn't like medical mysteries. But he had no justification for keeping Rodney, and when Rodney made scathing comments to prove that his intelligence and normal lack of tact were fully restored, Carson reluctantly agreed to let him go. John disappeared for a few minutes, showing up with clean clothes, waiting while Rodney changed out of the hospital gown, and then ambling by his side as he walked to his quarters.

"I'm fine. I could go back to work," Rodney suggested, waiting for John's objection, knowing it would come.

"Two days rest, at least. You promised Carson."

"Oh, very well." Rodney paused outside of his quarters. John stopped, looking at him inquisitively when he didn't make a move to enter. "Something up?"

"You said you liked having sex with me. And that I should tell you if I ever wanted more." Rodney spoke low and did his best to give John one of those looks that the other man had patented, the slow caress from eyes to groin with a fast flick back up. John stood stock still, as if he couldn't believe his ears and eyes, making Rodney think he'd done it right.

"And is that what you're telling me?" John spoke in a voice that didn't seem quite his own.

"I want to fuck you again. I want to fuck you hard."

Then John was kissing him and shoving him through the doorway at the same time, their feet almost tangling but not quite tripping as they danced into the room.

And Rodney knew it was going to be much better than last time, and very, very different. John didn't realize how different it was going to be, because he didn't understand that Rodney had changed. But he would know soon.

~~~~

Carson would kill him for this. Elizabeth would scold him and give him one of her firm, unhappy looks. John knew those facts, but they were a distant reality compared to the feel of Rodney's body in his arms, Rodney kissing him like he wanted to devour him. John kissed back, pushing Rodney into the room, slamming him against the wall, only breaking the kiss long enough to pull his shirt up over his head and command, "Get undressed."

Their lips were locked together again, as John's hands dealt with his belt buckle and his trousers, kicking off his shoes as he pushed the rest of his clothes to his feet. This time it was Rodney who broke the kiss, a Rodney who was wearing too many clothes and seemed strangely amused.

"We have all night, John."

"That's what you think," John muttered, distinctly concerned he wasn't going to last long, Rodney's graphic words and unabashed desire pushing him too far, too fast, after the long days of watching Rodney's pale face as he recovered from his wounds, wounds that John should have been able to prevent. But Rodney was dropping to kneel at John's feet, picking up John's feet one a time, helping him step out of his trousers and remove his socks.

Then Rodney was leaning forward, taking John's dick into his mouth. "Christ," John gasped, holding onto Rodney's scalp, running his fingers through the short brown hair. "You've done this before," he accused.

Rodney interrupted his sucking long enough to respond, "No," before resuming his task with eager lips and tongue.

John struggled to breathe. He truly wasn't going to last long if Rodney kept sucking like he was, making little groaning noises in his throat, and swirling his tongue around the head of John's dick. But hey, who really cared if orgasms were shared? John would happily let Rodney fuck him all night if he could have this one orgasm, which was promising to be a doozy.

But then Rodney stopped, just stopped as John felt his balls tighten, preparing to spurt. John was left dangling, needing that final push to go over the edge, and not receiving it. "Bastard!"

Rodney laughed, and grabbed John's hands away from his cock. "No, I don't think so," he said coolly, threading his fingers through John's and holding them on the wall on each side of John's head.

It was almost scary in a way, how different Rodney seemed. Very in control and a little cruel. Scary but sexy, a Rodney who knew how he wanted John. John pressed his hands on Rodney's, trying to force him back, but Rodney held him tight to the wall. John had always assumed that he could overpower Rodney, but he was no longer sure of that fact. "I want you naked," John said, not sure what weird game Rodney was playing, but needing him to appear as vulnerable as John felt.

"I will be. In a little bit." Rodney plastered his still clothed body on John's, his hips thrusting against John's. Happily, John curled his legs around Rodney's hips, letting the wall and Rodney take his weight. His head arched back on the wall as his hips picked up the rhythm, their bodies stroking together, John trying to get back to the place of imminent release. Rodney was sucking at his throat, as hard as he'd sucked John's cock, and there would be a hell of a bruise to try to cover in the morning, not that John cared, because who the hell knew Rodney could suck like that?

And then Rodney bit him, two teeth sinking into John's arched throat. It hurt like hell, the stabbing pain of sharp teeth in his soft flesh, but it was a good pain too, a pain that lets you know you're still alive, that your body exists to be hurt. John came a heartbeat later, his cock erupting onto the front of Rodney's trousers, his hips bucking, rubbing the sensitive underside on the slick fabric of Rodney's uniform as every last drop spilled.

John hung in Rodney's arms, unable to move. Rodney withdrew his teeth and lapped at John's throat, cleaning every last trace of blood from his skin. He released John's hands, helping him uncurl his legs and stand up again.

Feeling shaky, John touched his throat, trying to find the wounds, sure that they would need stitches. But his skin felt unmarked. "What the hell was that?"

"Didn't it feel good?" Rodney's expression was briefly uncertain, his lips still reddened from John's blood. John glanced at the front of his trousers, noting from the extent of the stains that he must have come too.

"That wasn't natural."

"But it felt good," Rodney said with more confidence.

"Yes." John had never been one to deny the truth.

"Come to bed now." Rodney took John's hands, tugging him across the room.

"Rodney, those were fangs. We should talk to Carson. And Elizabeth."

"We will," Rodney promised, even as he tugged his shirt over his head. "Later." He took John's head in his hands, kissing him hungrily before whispering in his ear, "I want to fuck you."

And John found himself obeying Rodney, found himself getting into bed on his belly, spreading his legs, waiting with anticipation for Rodney to undress and find lube. Because Rodney wanted to fuck him and nothing else seemed important.

~~~

"Hey sleepy head."

Rodney smiled at John's voice, putting his arm out, patting the bed, finding it empty. Opening his eyes, he saw John sitting on the chair by the bed, fully dressed. "Why don't you get back in bed?"

"You need to get up and get dressed. Carson is expecting us."

"Why?"

"Rodney … you bit me yesterday."

"Did I?"

"With fangs."

"Oh." Rodney ran his tongue along his teeth, but they felt normal. "I did, didn't I? That was hot."

"Yes, Rodney. It was really hot. But now we need to go see what caused it."

With a shock, Rodney realized that John was using one of his command voices, the sedate but controlling one reserved for situations where people were likely to start shooting and everyone needed to calm the hell down before someone got hurt. John was afraid of Rodney. That awareness jolted him to a seating position in bed. "I wouldn't hurt you."

"I know you won't. But we still need to know what's happened to you."

Rodney hesitated. John would escort him to Carson, who would examine him, searching for the changes, the not-Rodney presence that lurked out of sight. He needed to be certain that John was bound to him first. "I want you again," he said bluntly.

"And I still want you. But not until Carson has a chance to examine you, okay?"

Rodney searched John's eyes, seeing the honesty and the fear. "You promise?"

"I promise."

Rodney hesitated, not sure if he should rely on John's word. Scared people often said things that they didn't feel bound to uphold. But in John's eyes, the honesty was more powerful than his fear. Rodney would rely on that strength.

~~~~

Elizabeth strode into the infirmary, surprised to see that both Rodney and John had obviously been getting examined, the two of them sitting on separate beds, not wearing shirts. Rodney's wounds seemed almost healed, fading to a pale pink, while John was sporting a mammoth multi-colored bruise on his throat. Addressing Carson, she said, "Fill me in."

The doctor frowned unhappily. "Rodney has some sort of problem with his blood. I wish I could give you more details, but I can't. I've got some tests running."

"And John?"

"The Major appears to be healthy, though the two men … did share bodily fluids last night. I canna be sure if he's okay until I'm sure what's wrong with Rodney. And whether Rodney is infectious."

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows quizzically at John, then at Rodney, then back at John. She knew exactly what Carson meant, but John needed to be raked over the coals a bit. "Shared bodily fluids?"

John shrugged uncomfortably, a faint pinkness on his cheeks. "Fellatio. Anal sex. That sort of thing."

"Well I'm glad we're all clear on that," Elizabeth snapped, giving John a long steady look. Directing her gaze back to Carson, she asked, "When do you expect to know more about Rodney?"

"A few hours. I can tell you that he's got multiple blood types in his system, and seems fine with it."

"I am fine," Rodney sighed. "Look, this is all completely unnecessary. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me."

"There's the fangs," John inserted. "You gotta admit the fangs are a little odd."

"I don't see any fangs," Elizabeth said.

"Aye, I still haven't actually seen them either. It would be helpful to observe them," Carson said to Rodney.

"I can't make them come out. This isn't something I controlled. Here fangs, emerge!"

"I think I know how to do it," John offered.

Elizabeth and Carson watched with fascination as John stroked the nape of Rodney's neck, guiding Rodney's mouth to his neck. Rodney scooted off his hospital bed, standing between his legs, almost sitting on one of his knees as he leaned into John's body. John kissed Rodney lightly on his face, using only his lips. No tongue, no teeth, just kisses that fluttered and landed. It was almost unbearably erotic and intimate, how gentle John's hands were on Rodney's neck, how softly they controlled his actions, how much the two men focused on each other, seemingly oblivious to their audience. John brought his other hand up, tracing Rodney's lips. "Yeah, there," he said, and tilted Rodney's head back, onto his shoulder, away from his neck.

Rodney's eyes were glittering, almost red, his mouth opened slightly to reveal two sharp pointed teeth. Fangs. Rodney had fangs.

"I'd like to see him feast, if possible," Carson asked.

Elizabeth started to object, "I don't think that's wise," but Rodney's head was already burrowing into John's neck. They couldn't see his fangs pierce John's flesh, but they watched as John's eyelashes fluttered shut, dark on his cheeks, his expression pained but beautiful. He stroked Rodney's head and the only sound was the noise of Rodney's swallowing.

"Christ," Caron said reverently, but Elizabeth gave a sharp, "That's enough." John's "Rodney" was woozy, but his grip was firm, tugging on Rodney's short hair. Rodney withdrew his fangs from John's neck, licking at the spots of blood on John's skin and his own lips.

Rodney's eyes were blank and unfocused, while John's skin was pale. John swayed, and Rodney helped him lie down, picking up his feet and putting them on the hospital bed, as Carson took his pulse. "I think I should give him some blood. He's lost a lot." Giving instructions to the nurse, Carson worked to insert an IV in John's arm.

Elizabeth watched Rodney as much as John. The Major seemed physically tired, but Rodney's mind was clearly in a different world, preoccupied only with John, not concerned with whatever impression Elizabeth and Carson might make of this scene. "John, how are you doing?"

"I'm fine. A little tired. I could use some food."

"I'll get you some," Rodney offered.

Elizabeth stopped him, putting a hand on his arm. "Rodney, do you even know what you just did?"

Rodney's eyes slid away from Elizabeth's. "I'll get him some food." He turned abruptly and left the infirmary, one of his hands sliding down John's bare chest as he walked away, not apparently caring that he was still shirtless.

"John, this has to be dealt with."

"I know. Just … let me recover a little bit, okay?"

"Okay," Elizabeth agreed, not understanding what was happening between the two men, but respecting John enough to accept he needed to be involved. She stepped away from the bed, giving Carson plenty of room to work, and commed on her earpiece. "Ford," she said, waiting for the Lieutenant's response. "Find Rodney and keep an eye on him. He should be heading from the infirmary to the cafeteria. Something may have happened to him on that planet. No, don't detain him. Just watch him. Be casual."

She looked back at John, relieved to see the resignation in his eyes. He may have bonded to this strange vampiric Rodney, but his loyalty first and foremost was to Atlantis.

~~~~

Rodney took the glass, swirling the red fluid inside. The idea was revolting, drinking blood. He wasn't some kind of vampire. So he'd just gotten a little carried away and took a bite from John. Even John had agreed it was hot. Wasn't really good sex supposed to be like that? Out of control, a little wild? Tentatively, he took a sip, and promptly spit it out. Carson stood his ground, letting the blood splotch on his white jacket. "That's revolting!"

"It's just blood, Rodney. The preliminary test results indicated that your system may now need blood to survive."

"I can't drink this!"

"Fine. Then keep eating regular food. But I want a report if you have any problem digesting it."

Rodney gave Carson his best impatient glare, but the doctor proved impervious. Damn doctors. Like they truly thought they understood people, when everyone knew medical science was frequently guesswork. People were simply too irrational, bodily systems too complex to diagnose problems accurately. "Fine," he snapped, stalking out.

Ford was lingering outside the infirmary, and started to talk to him, but Rodney stormed past him, walking toward the control center. He had to find John.

~~~~

Getting chewed out by Elizabeth was so much worse than being yelled at by a military officer. True, the volume was generally lower, and the swearwords more limited and less colorful, but the "you've really let me down" part was so incredibly disheartening. He'd become rather impervious to "Christ, Sheppard you're a fuck up," but "John, I rely on you," always hit him hard.

He sat across the conference room and took it, quietly, respectfully. With his military superiors, he'd often thought a good chewing out was mostly a way to establish dominance, to piss on the subordinate officer and remind him of his place. But for Elizabeth, it was truly about letting him know the standards of conduct she expected.

She was winding down, giving him that intent look that said she was ready for his apologetic reply, when Rodney stormed in. "Do you know what Carson tried to make me do?" The words were addressed to John, but he let Elizabeth reply.

"Yes, Rodney, I do. We both do."

Rodney stared at Elizabeth, as if he hadn't expected to find her there. "It's revolting."

"Then eat regular food, Rodney. And if the test results say you need supplemental blood, you will go to the infirmary and get some from Carson. I'm sure he can put it in you through an IV."

"No. If I need blood, I'll get it from John."

"You will not drink from John. You will leave him alone," Elizabeth commanded sternly. She stood as she spoke, and John restrained the impulse to wince. She wasn't going to win a pissing contest with Rodney. Rodney didn't appreciate when he needed to back down at the best of times, and this wasn't the best of times.

"What do you want me to do, Elizabeth? Don't you understand?" Rodney waved both his hands at John, who stayed sitting across the conference table and seemed very involved in looking at his own hands. "He's prime rib, okay? Prime rib. With creamy horseradish sauce. And those little new potatoes. You're asking me to subsist on McDonald's."

Elizabeth's voice was more cutting than John had ever heard. "I thought you didn't need blood to survive."

"Well … no." Rodney looked confused. "But if I do, I need to get it from John."

"Because he's prime rib? Well, how about a little ground chuck once in a while? Perhaps a nice pot roast?" Elizabeth's eyes brightened with her anger. "You're endangering his life, Rodney. His life. And when you endanger his life, you're endangering all of Atlantis."

John cut in finally, because Rodney was staring at him again, looking like he was ready to expound further on John's tastiness, and John really didn't think Elizabeth was in the mood to hear it. "Don't exaggerate, Elizabeth. A few ounces won't kill me. And Atlantis would survive without me."

"Would we? I wish I could be as certain of that." Elizabeth faced Rodney again. "You will drink the blood that Doctor Beckett has. I don't care if you like it or not, you will drink as much as you need to survive. And you will leave Sheppard alone. Do you understand me, Rodney?"

Rodney opened his mouth, from his expression intending to argue, but he fell silent as Elizabeth began talking to her earpiece.

"Yes, Doctor, what is it? Is he okay? Are you sure it was Rodney? Thank you, Doctor. Keep me informed." She waited a beat, then said, "Lieutenant Ford is in the infirmary."

"And Rodney put him there?" John had to ask, because Rodney just seemed perplexed.

"Ford tried to talk to him outside the infirmary, and Rodney threw him against the wall."

"Is he okay?"

"He got the wind knocked out of him. Carson says there's no broken bones."

"Good," John said with relief. Ford was one of his best men, his constant support. How would he deal with it, if Rodney had done more to him? "Look, we have to go back to the planet. We need to find out what caused this and cure it."

"I think the more important issue is why Rodney attacked Ford."

"I didn't … " Rodney leaned on a chair, his hands gripping the arms. "He was outside the infirmary. I needed to get to John. I walked by him. That's all."

"Elizabeth, we have to get Rodney cured. We can deal with other issues later. Carson doesn't know what's causing this. We need more intel. Rodney and I can go back to the planet. We'll talk to the villagers. They must know what's happening. If we have to, we'll track down that guy, that creature."

"Are you sure that's wise? Taking Rodney?"

"I am still here, people!"

John ignored Rodney. Convincing Elizabeth was more important than dealing with Rodney's ego and erratic behavior. He focused his voice and body language on convincing her, his tone intent, his body leaning forward. "I don't know if it's wise, but I think it's necessary. Elizabeth … you may be on the edge of losing both Rodney and me."

Rodney snapped, "It's not going to come to that!"

Elizabeth's indecision was clear, her gaze shifting between the two men, but then John breathed an internal sigh of relief when he could see in her eyes that she decided to believe in his judgment. "Very well. I'll have a jumper prepped. Who do you want on your team?"

The question threw John for a moment. "Teyla and O'Connor, but only on a volunteer basis." If he couldn't have Ford, at least O'Connor had the Ancient gene and could fly them home if the mission went bad. "And Carson, if he will come." Carson hated missions, but John knew he would say yes, the doctor in him outweighing the fear.

"Very well. I'm going to trust you to handle this." Elizabeth nodded and left. John relaxed back in the chair, and reached over to tug at Rodney's hand, pulling the scientist toward him. Rodney came, leaning with one hip on the table as John scooted his chair, placing one leg on each side of Rodney.

"I didn't hurt Ford."

"Ford had orders to stay with you. He would have followed you here and been outside the conference room if someone hadn't hurt him. If it wasn't you, who was it?"

"I don't … " Rodney shook his head in confusion. "I remember he was outside the infirmary. But I walked past him."

"Rodney, face the facts. Ford got in the way and you slammed him aside. This thing is affecting your brain, your body, your memory. You need blood. You need me. And no matter what orders Elizabeth gives you, you're not going to stop feasting on me."

Rodney looked at him sideways, like he was too ashamed to face John directly. "She doesn't understand what it's like. But I'd never hurt you. I'd never take too much."

"Rodney … " John placed one of scientist's hands on his neck, tilting his head to brush against it. "I could barely stop you in the infirmary. I didn't want to stop you, even with Elizabeth and Carson watching."

With one fingertip, Rodney traced the outline of the bruise on John's throat, the touch making John's skin tingle.

"Rodney!" That jerked the scientist out of his preoccupation, and he looked at John, his eyes clearer. "You're not yourself, and you're affecting me. Do you understand? I don't know if you could stop yourself from taking everything, and I don't know if I would want to," John said ruefully, surprised that his ego wasn't more wounded. Having Rodney hold him against the wall and feast on him had been scary as hell. He'd never once dreamed that the scientist could be a physical match for him, much less a danger. But there it was, the truth of the matter. Rodney was stronger than him, and Rodney was going to stay that way as long as he was infected by this disease or bug or whatever the hell it had been.

What if Rodney lost control and kept drinking? How good would it feel, to surrender to him? He didn't share Elizabeth's belief that Atlantis would be doomed without him. But without both him and Rodney? Maybe. Either way, he owed the people of Atlantis his best to keep both of them functioning.

"I don't want to lose you."

"We can still have sex." It was risky, daring the blood lust to emerge, but he gave Rodney a look, a burning look of desire, satisfied to see the other man flush. "But we didn't ask for this whole thing with the fangs. The guy who attacked you on the planet did this to you. Now we're gonna shove it back at him, okay?"

Rodney nodded, his expression a little scared. "Am I really out of control?"

"Yeah. You're out of control and you're erratic as hell. Even for you," he added, in an attempt to introduce a little levity to the scene. He didn't appear to have been successful, as Rodney continued to look both lost and aroused. Which would really be a good look for him, John mused, if he hadn't started tossing soldiers into walls.

Biting his lip, Rodney gazed down at himself. "I can't go out there like this."

Yeah, Rodney's reactions were definitely out of proportion. Flattering, but out of proportion. "Don't worry." John opened the front of Rodney's trousers, just enough to coax his erection out, taking it into his mouth. What had seemed so weird and unusual, what … the week before last? Now it seemed perfectly normal, so sexy to see how he could make Rodney horny with just a glance. He sucked and licked, feeling Rodney's hands in his hair, listening to Rodney's panting and mumbling disjointed words until the bitter taste of come flooded his mouth.

Rodney took one of his hands, carried it to his mouth, kissing his palm and raking one fang over the pad of his thumb, light enough to score but not to break the skin. John shuddered, and willed his dick down, concentrating on Ford in the infirmary. He had to be the strong one now. No one in Atlantis could suffer for his sex life. Pulling his hand back, he did up Rodney's trousers and gave him a final hard kiss. "Let's go kick some alien butt."

~~~

The puddle jumper lifted off and glided easily through the gate under John's capable hands. Rodney sat behind John, staring at the top of his head over the pilot's chair, wishing that he had more time to think.

Thinking had always been Rodney's forte, his strong point, analyzing data and creating theories. But lately his mental strength was disappointing him, the not-Rodney making his mind fuzzy. He tried to think and all that came to his mind was the taste of John's mouth, the feel of John's strong body, and John's scent, a mixture of aftershave, spent ammunition, and the sea air.

No, don't think, he told himself. Thinking led back to John. John, who along with Elizabeth, had rushed the prep for this mission, obviously intent on finding some way to cure Rodney quickly. John who was afraid of Rodney, afraid Rodney would lose control and kill him.

Now there was a particularly odd thought, Rodney as a threat. No one had ever considered Rodney dangerous. His classmates had mostly ignored or scorned him. His friends were all fellow geeks, who were challenged by his intellect but not in a fearful way. When he'd fallen into working with the military, the soldiers mostly treated him with a distant professional rudeness.

But not John. John treated him as an important member of Atlantis. John had dropped to his knees and sucked Rodney off in front of strangers, then held Rodney, hiding his expression as Rodney came unglued. John had shared amazing alien sex toy enhanced pleasure with Rodney. John had let Rodney hold him against a wall and drink his blood.

Flicking his tongue in his mouth, Rodney could feel the fangs emerging, his teeth lengthening. So there was the rub. Think of John and sex and blood and surrender to the not-Rodney. Be a vampire. Be like the wraith, draining the life from someone. Drain the life from John … John who trusted him. John who cared for him, who sucked him off in the conference room even after Rodney compared him to prime rib. No, Rodney wasn't going to be that person.

But he had to think, because he was Rodney and that was his value. So think, not of John, but of the other man. The memories were fuzzy, like so many of his thoughts. They'd arrived on the planet, and flown some distance to the village. Teyla hadn't been able to tell them much about the planet's people. Semi-nomadic and agrarian, kept from technological advancement by the Wraith's periodic culling, much like Teyla's people. Not overly friendly but willing to make a decent trade, and Teyla thought it would be worth their time to say hello, 'we're new to the galaxy, what's up with you?'

He'd started talking to one of them, a man who had reminded him of John, tall and dark-haired, not quite as lean and a little broader across the shoulders. A comment had come out, he couldn't even remember what it was, something about the people's lack of technology. The man had asked him a question in response. Normally, Rodney didn't tell people how to improve their technology. Not that there was some weird Prime Directive holding him back, only the sheer practicality that too much of the Pegasus Galaxy needed to be brought up to speed, and Rodney didn't have the time. But the man's superficial resemblance to John encouraged Rodney to talk further, rambling about basic improvements that could be made.

They'd drifted outside, away from the others, and the man had made a comment, an odd remark. What had it been? "You would benefit my people. You must stay with us." His eyes gleamed, turning red, and the fuzziness had started, the desire to do what the man wanted, but the rejection and the fight too, because the man was like John, but he wasn't John. Rodney had said no, and tried to return to the others, but the man had slashed his own wrist, holding it to Rodney's mouth, trying to make him drink. Rodney had gagged and spat, but he couldn't stop an involuntary swallow, and then John and the others had arrived, firing their rifles to protect him.

"The villagers aren't going to help us." The jumper was already coming to land outside of the village. Rodney spoke fast. "They have to know about him. Who he is, what he is."

John guided the jumper to a soft landing. "And what is he? A vampire?"

"As a general term to use, yes. He fits some of the classic archetypes, the feasting on blood, the mesmeric ability. He's fast and strong. But we saw him in daylight."

"Is he gonna need a stake through the heart to kill him?"

"Look, this isn't my area of specialty. I'm into science fiction, not horror. But no, I don't think so."

"You got any advice on how to handle him?"

"He thinks of the villagers as his people, and they feel the same. We need to get him alone."

"Is he arrogant enough to let that happen?"

Rodney remembered the casual way the man had assumed he could claim Rodney for his people. Like Rodney could be brought over, made to abandon John and Elizabeth and the rest. "Yes. Definitely."

"Good."

~~~~

John kept every muscle loose, relaxed. Their adversary would recognize them as soldiers – the rifles made it a little hard to miss – but he had to underestimate them. John remembered the feeling of flying through the air before, when the guy had given him one backhanded blow. They needed every advantage, particularly surprise and coordination. The moment came, and John glanced at Teyla. He moved, she moved, O'Connor moved. Carson and Rodney gaped. With her stick, Teyla knocked his feet out from under him and threw herself on his legs, O'Connor landed on his torso as he fell, giving him a few good blows to the midsection and holding down his right arm, and John took the left arm and head, one knee trapping the arm, the other knee digging into the fellow's throat, his 9 mil pointed straight at his head.

"I figure it this way. You've got three options. You can cure Rodney, you can come back to Atlantis so we can take you apart and figure out what makes you tick, or I can put 9 slugs in your head, and we'll see how good your healing powers are. I'm guessing they're not quite that good."

The fellow was amused, in that same scary way that Rodney had been last night. "You would kill for him. You would defend him to your last breath."

"You've got five seconds to decide."

"He would have killed you. Ultimately, he wouldn't have been able to help himself. We always kill what we love the most. It is our curse."

"Five."

"Major, I don't think – "

"Shut up, Carson. Four."

"Rodney, you're not going to let – "

Carson was clearly freaking out, which was good, John figured. It helped the illusion that John would kill this man in cold blood. If it was an illusion. "Three." He cocked his pistol, placing the tip of the barrel directly on the man's forehead. "Two." This was going to be messy as hell, another bloody day.

"Very well."

"No tricks."

"No tricks." His lips curled. "As you reject the blessing I have bestowed, I will cure your friend and you will leave this planet, never to return."

"See? I knew you could be agreeable." John, Teyla, and O'Connor moved in concert, swinging off the fellow, pistol, rifle, and stick still held at the ready.

The fellow rose smoothly, holding one hand out to Rodney. "Come."

Rodney was nervous, but he stepped forward, taking the man's hand. John raised his pistol, the barrel next to the guy's ear. "One wrong move."

"Oh, please." The guy sounded so much like Rodney, it almost might have been funny, except his arm swept out, knocking John off his feet. Teyla, O'Connor, and Carson all froze. "I will not have my word doubted."

John propped himself on his elbows, struggling for breath. Carson started to kneel by him, but he waved him away, scrabbling for his pistol and rising to his feet, even as the man folded his arms around Rodney's chest, making the scientist lean against him. Rodney's eyes are scared but resigned, and he spoke soundlessly. John had never been that great at lip reading, but he could swear Rodney was mouthing 'I would never have hurt you.' It made his stomach clench, the thought that Rodney was submitting to this man's forced mercy as the best solution out of fear for John, not himself.

"Fine. No doubting your word. You'll cure him. We get it."

The man lowered his head to Rodney's neck and bit. Not ferociously, like he'd attacked Rodney before, but gently, sensually, like Rodney had bit John. Rodney gave a little pained moan, his head falling back on the man's shoulder, his throat arched and exposed. John really wanted to shoot the man on the principle that Rodney shouldn't be swooning in someone else's arms. The man drank, and then spat blood out on the ground.

"You could tell us what you're doing."

"You still don't trust me, do you, Major?"

"It's an occupational hazard."

"The tainted blood must be removed from his system. Both mine … " The man grinned. "And yours, I believe." His head lowered again, fangs resuming their position in Rodney's neck.

John decided he definitely didn't like this guy. He was an arrogant, self-centered ass, too accustomed to being idolized. But as long as he cured Rodney … The fellow drank more, spat more. Carson dared to step forward, checking Rodney's pulse. A third time the man drank, sought out the tainted blood, and removed it from Rodney's system. He released Rodney, who crumpled, barely caught by Carson and Teyla. John and O'Connor stayed at alert, weapons poised.

"Our acquaintance is over now, I believe. Leave my planet."

The man turned and walked away, like he didn't care about the semi-automatics pointed at his back. Relieved, John gestured with his head. Teyla and Carson each slung one of Rodney's arms over their shoulders, helping him walk toward the jumper. John and O'Connor followed. The mission was over, and apparently a success.

~~~~

Elizabeth tried to never randomly check on a mission status. Never, never, ever. It hurt sometimes, the need to ask, but there were deadlines and check-ins and official update times. Her people would tell her what she needed to know when she was due to be told. A leader wasn't supposed to be anxious or fretful.

The best days were when news came long before she'd even thought about stopping herself from fretting by burying herself in the paperwork that would need to be filed whenever they made it home. The gate activated, John's voice coming through her earpiece. "Atlantis, we're on our way home."

"How did the mission go, Major?"

"Mission accomplished, Doctor."

"No one was hurt? No problems?"

"I got slammed down again, and Rodney's lost more blood, but he's supposedly all cured."

"That's good news, Major."

The jumper shot through the gate and landed. Teyla and O'Connor were the first off, followed immediately by Carson and Rodney. Rodney was a little worse for wear, and there was blood again on his shirt, by the neckline, but such a small amount compared to last time. He would need to be reprimanded for attacking Ford, but at least he was alive, and as John stepped out of the jumper and put one hand on his shoulder, Rodney gave an off-centered smile and Elizabeth could tell he was well.

Elizabeth smiled. Despite the daily stresses of having to handle nasty aliens, isolation, and temperamental personalities, sometimes life on Atlantis was just fine.

~~~~

There was a laptop sitting on the table. John kicked off his shoes and sat cross-legged on the bed, opening up the laptop and powering it up. He adjusted to the touch pad as he pulled up the directory, checking to see what Rodney had loaded for him. A surprising number of games were listed – football, basketball, baseball, even some rugby and way too much hockey. He'd have to quiz Rodney more on that poll and how many different kinds of files the scientists had smuggled in. He didn't recognize the names of a few files, clicking on them to realize they were figure skating competitions. Not normally his thing, but hell, nights were long in Atlantis. Pretty people in tight spandex could fill some tedious hours.

The Trek films and a slew of sci-fi classics were on the directory, which didn't surprise John, but Rodney had added some action and western films too. He'd have to see if Ford wanted to borrow these. Ford seemed like the kind of guy who would want to organize a regular movie night, and it was long past time for the scientists to share their stash with the military.

Out of curiosity, John opened the music file, to find it fully loaded too. Rodney obviously thought John was a die-hard rock fan from the 60s and early 70s. Good choices really, the kind of music that he'd known from his childhood. Ah … there was "Ring of Fire," which would have to be played many, many times, because he loved that song. Still, it would be fun to see if Rodney could find something for him that wasn't appropriate for a Vietnam film soundtrack.

The music file had one subdirectory, labeled only "personal." John clicked it open, reading the titles. Classical he could tell, but that was about it. Why "personal"? John double clicked, letting the music play, a solo pianist. He was good, whoever he was.

John set the laptop back on the table, letting it play, as he stripped off his clothes, dimmed the lights, and got into bed. A knock on the door didn't surprise him, and he opened it with his mind.

"John?"

"Yeah, Rodney?"

"I wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I'm fine. And I think I'm the one who should be asking you that." John shuffled in the bed, moving to one side. "Are you going to get undressed and get in?"

Rodney walked forward, the door shutting behind him, the room darkening as the hallway light was lost. "Is it okay? I mean … do you want me to?"

"Your prime rib awaits you."

"Ha. I know you weren't going to let me forget that."

John heard the sound of clothes being removed, but didn't say anything until Rodney got under the sheets. He smiled, tugging Rodney close. "I haven't figured out if that was one of the most flattering or worst descriptions I've ever received."

"I'm sorry for … everything. For hurting Ford, for taking advantage of you."

"It was hardly your fault. You were out of control."

"Oh yes, so lovely to have excuses. I'll slam people around and have sex with my superior because aliens keep making me do it."

"No," John said, rolling Rodney onto his back and covering him. "This time we do it because we want to."

~~~~

There was no hesitation, no doubt, no fangs, no alien sex toys, no alien voyeurs … nothing but John's long, lean body on top of his, John's tongue delving into his mouth, John's hands stroking his skin. This was the moment when Rodney made the choice, the conscious decision to wrap his arms and legs around John, to kiss him back. To arch his hips up, and to reach down, aligning their cocks so they rubbed together as the two men thrust.

Rodney groaned, and John groaned, and Rodney told him how good it felt, how hot it was, to be in bed with John, to feel how strong John was … there was only darkness and heat, soft sheets and even softer skin, powerful muscles that bunched and flexed, and the smell of John and sex until they were both coming, moaning into each other's mouths.

They lay together, side by side for a while, then John moved and Rodney did too, spooning together, gently stroking each other. No excuses, no pretenses, just John and Rodney, cherishing the afterglow of great sex.

"Who's this playing?"

Rodney winced, regretting the mad impulse to put his music on the laptop for John. He could hear the technical precision, the lack of artistic brilliance, and hoped that John couldn't. "Someone I used to know."

"He's good."

"Not as good as he wanted to be."

"Coulda fooled me. Now go to sleep. It's been a long few days."

"Okay," Rodney agreed softly, listening as John's breath evened out. He drifted off to the sound of the piano and John's breath, the remembrance of home and the solid presence of the best part of living in Atlantis.

~ the end ~