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Morning had never been Rodney’s favorite time of the day. His tendency was to work late into the night, crash hard, sleep heavily, and stagger from bed, semi-comatose until he’d drunk several cups of coffee. But mornings had never involved the warm body of John Sheppard under the covers with him, long fingers stroking his sides as John’s agile tongue lapped at his nipples. He murmured sleepily, not opening his eyes, his hands searching out John’s thick hair, burying themselves in the silky mess, and petting.

He felt John’s body shifting, scooting up to lie on top of his, then that heady sensation of two bodies aligned from chest to groin, skin and muscles pressed tight together. John’s legs tucked between his, and his hips thrust leisurely on Rodney’s. Rodney could feel the weight of John’s forearms on each side of his head, as John’s lips captured his own in long, sustained kisses. It was so pleasant and relaxing, the heat slowly growing in his body, a lovely early morning with nothing to do but shift against John's hard, lean body and learn more about how damned good his mouth tasted. But then the flame began burning too fiercely, red, orange and yellow sparks lighting up Rodney's nerves, and merely petting John’s hair wasn’t enough. He grabbed onto John’s butt, grinding him urgently down as he thrust up, squeezing John’s legs between his thighs, and kissing him with desperate, frantic need.

And then it was even better, hot and dirty and gasping and sweating, hard cocks sliding together, until John shuddered in his arms, and he groaned, feeling his own muscles quake and spasm, and wetness flow over his belly.

Yes, morning had definitely improved. In fact, it might even become his favorite time of day.

"Your superior, huh?"

"My what?" Rodney mumbled, too satiated to make sense of John’s words.

"You said aliens kept making you have sex with your superior."

John’s tone was laced with satisfaction, making Rodney’s eyes snap open. John’s face was almost too close. Rodney could see his expression, the cocky tilt to his grin, the small flecks of brown in the green of his bright eyes, all in exquisite detail like through a perfectly focused telescope. "My team leader. Team member."

"Uh huh. That's not what you said yesterday."

"Oh, you conceited – " And then John was kissing him again, hotly, wetly, and his body shouldn't be that interested again so soon, but it was, curse it. But John's lips separated from his, and Rodney heard himself give a little embarrassing moaning whine as John leapt off the bed and disappeared into the next room with a brief, "I'll be late." Rodney heard the shower start, and briefly contemplated joining him, but no, morning wasn't quite yet his favorite time, his body hadn't gotten worked up enough to force him from the bed, and the warm sheets, spiced with John's scent and the musk of sex, lured him back to sleep.

"Look, we should have talked more last night. You know we have to live with 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?"

Rodney started awake again, wiped his face to make sure he hadn't drooled, and nodded, watching with regret as John's naked body disappeared under black pants and a black t-shirt. "Yes, your absurd American military homophobia," he muttered without heat because he was watching John dress and complaining about misguided nonsense didn't seem worth the energy.

"Thanks. It's already going to be interesting enough when we get in contact with Earth again, explaining how I shot my mission commander." John flashed him a lopsided twist of his lips, an expression laced with regret, not humor. His hair was still slightly damp, and he ran his fingers through it, making it somehow both spike up and flop around at the same moment in time, before sitting down on the bed. After pulling on his socks and shoes, he leaned over to give Rodney another toe-curling kiss, then dropped the life signs detector on the bed. "Check that the corridor is empty before you leave." Crossing to the doorway, he stopped and said with gloating satisfaction, "Superior." This time the lopsided expression was a definite grin.

Rodney threw a pillow at him, but John had already ducked out of the bedroom, and the pillow hit the closing doors.

~~~

Saving the Athosians had been the only decision he could make at the time, and had definitely turned out to have advantages. Though they knew more sophisticated technology existed, they were fairly content to live an agrarian existence. It was, after all, the only lifestyle they had been allowed to develop, due to the periodic culling of the Wraith. They were grateful to know that the Earth team would protect them from the Wraith as much as was feasible, and happy to settle on the mainland, setting up farms, finding the best places to hunt, and creating new lives for themselves.

More importantly, in John's opinion, the Athosians were pleased to offer food in exchange for protection and the technological help the Stargate expedition offered. MREs were good as a basic, easily portable staple, but a hot breakfast was even better, John thought, contemplating the eggs, bacon, and toast on his plate. Okay, the yokes in the eggs were rather large, the bacon was an unusual shade of brown, and the bread wasn't the correct size to fit in a sandwich bag, but then sandwich bags probably didn't exist in the Pegasus Galaxy anyway. The important thing was it was food and it was warm, two criteria that John had learned to appreciate greatly. "Hey, Ford," he said, as the Lieutenant approached him.

"Major." The Lieutenant put his tray on the table and sat down next to him.

"I think I could get used to hot meals," John said happily, taking a bite of the bacon and chewing. "And sooner or later to the taste, too," he added, because whatever this crispy strip of meat was, it hadn't come from a pig.

Rodney was drifting around the room that they'd organized as a mess, and John jerked his head, signaling him to come over. "Doctor," he and Ford both said, as Rodney took a chair. "So, Ford," he asked casually, "Have the Athosians come with names for all the new foods? 'Cuz I was thinking with the size of these yokes, they could just be Superior Eggs."

Rodney glowered, but didn't directly respond to John's statement, instead diving into a discussion of his plans for the day, the research he intended to do in the lab since no mission was scheduled. And wow – John knew Rodney was intelligent, perhaps even as intelligent as he claimed, but he'd never realized that scientific technobabble was so much his specialty. But then, Rodney was usually attempting to explain something to him or Elizabeth, and this time, clearly, he was determined that John wouldn't understand one single solitary word. Rodney would make a great professor, one of those guys who scared off most of the undergrads in his first lecture because he thought his time and energy should be focused on the best and brightest. John ate his breakfast, listening raptly as Rodney pontificated, enjoying his enthusiasm and the complexity of his words, and kicked Ford under the table when the Lieutenant shifted in his chair and made motions like he wanted to escape.

Rodney's diatribe on his important work finally slammed to a sudden stop, as if Rodney was ready to give John a chance to respond. John waited a beat, and said, "Cool. That sounds fascinating. You'll have to update me on your research later on." Just like he'd understood every word that Rodney said and was fascinated. Rodney glared, and picked up his empty tray, because the man could eat as fast as he could talk, and stomped off.

"Sir…is there something I should know? Dr. McKay seems kinda stressed." The addition of the words 'even for him' hung in the air.

John took a sip of his coffee – real coffee, and he agreed with Rodney, they definitely needed to find a good replacement before supplies ran out – and contemplated what to say. "You know that McKay and I have had some…involvement due to external causes." There, that sounded much more politic than 'McKay and I have had some amazingly hot sex.'

"Yes, sir."

"McKay's a scientist. He's worked with the military a long time, but he's never been much on the frontlines until this year. He hasn't really had to accept that bad things could happen to him personally. It's going to take him some time to put these experiences behind him." Christ, particularly since they were going to keep doing it willingly, he was never going to let Rodney put it all behind him, and he couldn't believe he was lying to Ford. Ford, for Christ's sake, his main support. Don't Ask, Don't Tell sucked. "He's a little twitchy around me."

Ford's fingers tapped a little on the table, indicating his nervousness. "Sir, I think you should know that there's been gossip. But neither Teyla nor I talked about what happened on PKS-331. Or what started on the mainland."

Elizabeth had already warned him about the gossip, but John didn't mention that, wanting to hear Ford's version of what people were saying. "I know. You and Teyla are my team. You have my implicit trust, Lieutenant."

The reassurance seemed to help loosen Ford's tongue. "People saw you and McKay going to your quarters, sir. And I guess one of the medical staff talked about the fangs, and having to do tests on both of you."

Well, there was a new item to add to his mental to-do list, talk to Carson about his staff's discretion. Not that it was wholly unexpected. People talked, particularly civilians in weird, scary circumstances, they simply had to or the confusion and fear would be paralyzing. Ideally, though, he and Rodney just really needed to have nice, normal, planned sex. It would be so much easier to hide. "And what do people think about the gossip?"

"A lot of people respect you."

Not McKay of course, McKay's arrogance and bluntness hadn't endeared him to very many. "But?" he prompted, because the Lieutenant was clearly so dying to talk. Sometimes people's needs could be helpful.

"You weren't involved with the expedition until just before we left, sir. And it's gotten around that you shot Colonel Sumner. And you're a pilot, sir."

A pilot? What the hell was wrong with being a pilot? Flying was the best thing that had ever happened to him. But…oh yeah, it meant he'd spent a lot of time in the air while the regular grunts were on the ground. Soldiers did tend to resent pilots, writing them off as worthless flyboys until they had their butts saved at the last minute by a pilot taking insane risks. And he was a Johnny-Come-Lately who'd killed the established leader and was now fucking a civilian. Or actually, so far, getting fucked by a civilian, not that that distinction would help matters. "So there's a certain level of distrust in my leadership."

"A few troublemakers, sir. That's all."

A few? He hoped so, hoped that his actions as military commander during the troubles they'd already faced on Atlantis had earned him respect, despite the black marks against him. "Thank you for letting me know about this. On another subject," he picked up the laptop from the unused chair and handed it over, "it turns out the scientists have been holding out on us."

"Sir?"

"They managed to cram a lot more than one personal file onto their laptops. Here's some of what they brought, though I don't think it's all of it. Get it downloaded where everyone can access it, and see if you can get the rest from them. Start with Zelenka. He's usually approachable."

"This is fantastic, sir. I'll take care of it." Ford grinned, making John happy that Rodney had confessed to the violation of the one-item rule. They'd been too isolated and too long away from Earth. Everyone needed diversion, recreation, and Ford was the kind of guy who'd be a great social organizer.

"But Ford – not the music files on the subdirectory labeled 'personal.' Leave those."

Ford clearly wanted to question Sheppard on what made those files special, but Sheppard gave his best 'I'm the boss and don't ask' face, and Ford didn't. John had never yearned for power, only for the rank that would allow him to fly the fastest planes and most interesting missions, but sometimes being in charge was useful, to be able to draw that subtle line the conscientious wouldn't cross. "What should I tell people about all these files?"

"Just say we're compiling all the personal items for sharing. Space it out a bit if you can. I don't want resentment that the scientists have been hoarding."

"Yes, sir. I'll get right to it." Ford took his laptop and tray, leaving Sheppard sipping the last of his coffee and contemplating how he was going to handle the malcontents among the soldiers. Something unconventional, something that would help him identify which ones they were, something that would let them purge their aggression, but respect him more. A tall order perhaps, but compared to fighting the Wraith, it seemed like an easy one to fill.

~~~~

People were disappearing, and Rodney hated that he didn't know why. There was whispering, and the next time he looked around, someone else was gone, presumably on a break. He had never tried to impose normal working hours, regarding the concept as ridiculous. These people were here because they wanted to make great discoveries; their trips to the toilet didn't need to be timed. But still, it was rather disconcerting, having the labs become deserted in the middle of the morning by both scientists and techs, until there was only Kavanagh and him.

"Where is everyone?" he finally snapped at Kavanagh, who smirked.

"Not in the loop, McKay? I thought you knew everything."

Rodney didn't bother bickering further with Kavanagh, stomping out of the lab. Wherever the others had gone, he'd bet his future Nobel Prize that they'd all gone to the same place, making a visible cluster of people. He pulled the life signs detector out of his pocket, blessing that he hadn't tried to slip it back to John at breakfast.

Yes, there, in one of the grand lobbies that they'd speculated might have been a public meeting place for the Ancients. And from the number of life signs, soldiers were there too. Rodney approached the lobby from the second floor, where the detector showed a ring of people standing around the landing.

The door swooshed open and yes, there were his missing scientists and lab techs, completely uninterested in his arrival, all of them intently focused on whatever was happening on the first floor. Rodney joined them, craning his head over to see what had everyone so fascinated.

Objects had been scattered on different places on the floor, a couple of mattresses, some chairs tangled together, a pile of military webbing, a stack of crates. In the middle of the floor were John and a few of the soldiers, while the other soldiers were lining the walls. They were unarmed, except for John, who carried a set of the Athosian sticks. They were engaged in some sort of military game, Rodney supposed, darting back and forth in the obstacle course, occasionally punching each other, John moving the fastest of all, his black shirt drenched with sweat as he dodged blows and darted to other locations.

Rodney leaned over the railing, and all he could think was, 'I fucked that, that long, lean, glorious, athletic creature.' That first unsettling time, John lying on his back, pulling his legs up for Rodney's entrance, and Rodney had felt what John felt, their senses bound together by the Ancient device. Then later, when he'd sunk his teeth into John's neck and drunk, the taste of his blood better and sweeter than any wine ever bottled by man, and then John had laid down on the bed, and let Rodney prep him and fuck him. Hard, really hard, and John had moaned and groaned and squirmed, his fingers clenching in the sheets, his ass thrusting back into Rodney's hips.

Oh god, he was going to become aroused, standing here thinking about sex with John. Rodney blessed his lab coat, letting it dangle loosely around him, and turned his attention away from John and to the created environment on the bottom level. He could see that the conglomeration of objects had been carefully planned, and John used them all at different times, the mattresses for falling on, allowing him to roll away, the stack of crates to duck behind, the webbing and the chairs to trip people on. Of course, John was a pilot; he had almost perfect balance and a supernatural awareness of the objects around him, whether they were fighter planes or Wraith darts or physical objects.

It took longer for Rodney to realize that it wasn't just John and the soldiers; it was John against the soldiers. He tried to figure out the rules, a mental exercise that proved unexpectedly frustrating for someone who could do game theory in his sleep. Obviously there was safe areas, times when people couldn't move, times when a soldier could attack and times when he couldn't. The only absolute Rodney could determine was that John never attacked first but was resolute in his own defense. He finally realized that Christ, it was some madcap physical game of fizzbin, John changing the rules as it suited him, as he needed to in order to avoid getting beaten up.

Rodney wanted to leave then, return to the lab and go back to work, try not to think of John getting hit or punched by his own men. Watching John take the lead, put himself first into danger, was bad enough on missions. He could tell that his staff had become aware of his presence and it was making some of them fidget. A few who tended to be most cowed by his sharp tongue vanished. But he couldn't leave, couldn't look away, couldn't do anything but watch John run and swing the stick and duck blows and call out orders to change the ground rules and the participants.

They stopped finally, after too many hours of Rodney feeling tense and barely able to breath. John called his men into a cluster around him. Rodney couldn't hear what he was saying, the Ancient acoustics being irritatingly too good, but he could see John's leadership qualities in the way he spoke, and the respect on the faces of his men. There were a few comments and then they all left together, undoubtedly heading to the showers. Rodney finally went back to the lab, his stomach still roiling. If he ever felt hungry again, he'd eat a powerbar in his lab.

~~~~

John paced his bedroom, trying to decide what to do. They should have taken time to talk logistics in the morning, but given that Rodney was a Canadian who generally disdained military rules, John had gotten distracted by wanting to cover the Don't Ask, Don't Tell nonsense. Well…and needling Rodney over the 'superior' comment, because that was just fun. And then he'd run out the door, because he always did a round of the main city areas before breakfast, and he didn't want any disruption in his routine that might lead to questioning.

Now he wasn't sure what to do, if he should track Rodney down, if Rodney would come to him, if Rodney would even be ready for bed. He knew the man often worked late in the lab, occasionally falling asleep on one of the tables, rolling off it in the morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and a powerbar, and starting again. His hand hovered over the comm button, wondering who might hear him call. If Rodney were in the lab, would other scientists be around? And even if the other scientists heard him call Rodney, would they connect it with the rumors? Or was he letting the need for secrecy make him ridiculously paranoid?

Hell, he didn't even know if Rodney would want to be with him tonight. Just because they'd had some wild sex didn't mean they had compatible sex drives.

And then the man of his worries walked through the bedroom door, gave him a cool look, and said, "Get undressed and get in bed."

Okay, this was good. Not that Rodney's mood was particularly sexy. His expression seemed rather cranky, and he headed straight into the bathroom and started water running. "Don't I get a kiss?" John called.

"Get undressed," was Rodney's rather snappish response.

John shrugged and obeyed, pulling back the sheets, and lying down, propping his head on his hand and watching the doorway. He could hear Rodney rummaging through his cabinets. Lube, good. Then Rodney emerged with damp towels, gave him a grumpy look, and demanded, "On your stomach."

"Do I get to know what we're doing tonight?" John pouted internally because hey, here he was, naked and sorta Playboy-posed on the bed, Rodney could at least give him a burning look of desire.

"I saw part of your ridiculous exhibition today. I lost half my lab staff to the scent of testosterone and a chance to ogle half-clothed bodies. Don't tell me you're not sore."

Rolling over, John curled his arms around the pillow, twisting his head to watch Rodney. "Massage?" he asked hopefully. Passion would be better, but massage ran a close second.

"Which is more than you deserve," Rodney snapped, but he laid one of the hand towels over John's shoulders, and another along his back. Not as good as a sauna for loosening the muscles, but they were warm and damp, and felt wonderful, the heat soaking into his skin.

John thought at the lights, which obediently dimmed to a low level. "I'm used to that sort of thing, you know."

"Oh yes, your 'superior' physical training, beating up half your staff. Do you realize you could have been seriously hurt?"

Rodney was pulling off one towel, then his hands descended on John's shoulders. And oh…yeah. John had felt Rodney's hands on his body before, knew that they were surprisingly strong for hands that were used mostly for writing and typing and constant emphasis. Fingers covered with oil dug into his muscles, squeezing and stroking and massaging. It hurt at first, because his muscles were more tense and knotted than he'd realized, but Rodney kept working, rubbing the palm of his hand into John's body, caressing with his fingers, until each muscle was limp and relaxed.

"I was in control," John said, not wanting to cause any dissension that might end this massage, because it was fabulous and Rodney had great hands, but needing Rodney to realize that his actions had been carefully considered. No, he wasn't as smart as Rodney, he was never going to be, and Rodney would never understand the military mind, but still…the thought that Rodney might have decided he was an idiot was distasteful.

"I noticed you controlled the variables of the environment, but not every action can be predicted, not in that kind of situation."

"It had to be done."

Rodney placed the towel again on John's shoulders, keeping them warm while he proceeded to his back, sweeping his hands up and down John's spine before starting the determined massaging again. "And the reason for this inanity would be?"

"I shot Sumner. I'm a pilot. I joined the expedition at the last minute." I had sex with you were the words he didn't add, not wanting Rodney to feel he was being blamed. "There are concerns about my leadership."

"So you beat each other up and that makes everything better?"

"It's what they expect, that I show them how tough I am. Besides," he added, "I was never that good at the pissing thing. This was more interesting. Less conventional."

"I'm not even going to ask," Rodney sighed, a response which John found mildly humorous. Scientists certainly had their own version of pissing, even if it involved words and ideas rather than yelling insults and physical demands. They were quiet for a long time, Rodney adjusting the towels, loosening John's muscles, giving equal attention to John's butt, thighs, calves, and feet. His hands were wonderful, massaging John until he felt like an inner tube without any air left in it, limp and floppy. "Turn over."

John was on the verge of sleep, and it almost hurt to wake up enough to turn, but he did. Rodney disappeared, and John fell into a light doze until newly warmed towels were placed on his chest. "I never knew you could do massage."

"I have back problems. I get massages regularly when I can. The technique seems simple enough to duplicate. I'm sure my knowledge of musculature is more comprehensive than that of your average masseuse." Rodney's hands traveled down his arms, working out the knotted muscles in his biceps. "So did your grand scheme work?"

John grunted. "Yeah. I know who my problem people are. The others all respect me more."

"So you went through all those hours of sweating, to identify your Kavanaghs?"

John's lips twitched into a smile. "I thought you only watched part of it." With a glare, Rodney started to rise from the bed, but John's hands caught his wrists, holding his hands flat to John's chest. "I'm sorry, okay?" John said softly, sincerely. "Soldiers aren't like scientists. They're not going to get in a superior's face, not if they can help it. But they can bitch and grumble behind his back and cause a lot of morale problems. And we have enough of those with the threat of the Wraith."

Appearing a little mollified, Rodney flexed his fingers. "I need more oil," he said, and John released his hands. He poured more oil into his palms and continued down John's body, massaging his chest, his taut abdomen, working around the groin, down to his thighs, legs, and feet. John's mind fuzzed out, drifting comfortably, knowing nothing but the sense of well-being created by Rodney's strong hands. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this content, but it was long before he plopped his butt down in a funky chair and blue lights started glowing. He heard Rodney moving around, removing the towels and taking them to the bathroom, the rattle of a drawer as the oil was put away.

"Get undressed?" he asked sleepily.

"Not tonight." The covers were pulled up to his neck, and lips touched his without passion. "I'll see you at breakfast." The lights went completely dark as the doorway opened, and John could hear Rodney walking out. He wanted to protest, but sleep claimed him first.

~~~~~

Rodney woke to the unsatisfied emptiness of his own body and the acceptance that using his own hand to jack off the morning erection was far less exciting than John's hot, lean body grinding against him. But when he reached the control room, John was already there, looking fresh and alert, almost perky, and even Rodney, who wasn't particularly observant about other people's moods or health, realized how drawn and tired John's face and eyes had been lately.

Yes, his decision to leave last night had definitely been the right one, he thought smugly, helping John to a good night's sleep. And tonight, he was sure, John would be happy to show his appreciation for Rodney's magnanimous gesture.

Those thoughts had to be pushed to the side though, as Ford and Teyla walked in and Elizabeth gave a last-minute mission briefing. Which wasn't much really, as they had little information on the planet, just a gate address that worked and a hope that something there would prove valuable. Their needs were so many – a ZPM, allies against the Wraith, food – that every planet was worth at least a cursory review.

The wormhole formed, the beautiful watery silver surface that Rodney had loved from the very first time he'd seen it, and he followed John through, with Teyla and Ford close on his heels. And look! Hey, it was another beautiful planet, the Stargate in the middle of a meadow ringed by tall trees with mountains in the distance, with absolutely no evidence of any civilization in sight. It was the Wraith's fault, definitely. The routine cullings kept most worlds at a state of early development, leaving the Pegasus Galaxy full of planets with lovely forests but few big cities - Rodney's personal idea of hell.

Rodney checked the DHD as the other three spread out, looking for signs of a trail that would indicate the presence of people. "DHD is good," Rodney said, and turned his attention to his scanner, seeking energy signals. The others always walked with rifles ready, and it took the little snick of one being cocked to make Rodney look up, realizing that they'd been completely surrounded by natives. Not, of course, Rodney mourned, technologically advanced natives, but ones wearing leather and fur and carrying big spears and arrows.

"The Wraith! The Wraith have come!" The lead guy was as tall as John, but more solidly built, with a huge damn spear in his hands. One spear couldn't cause the amount of damage that a P-90 could, but the moron native probably couldn't realize the incredible lethalness of an automatic rifle.

And really, one spear in his chest would do a whole lot of damage. Rodney scrambled for his pistol, pulling it from the holster, and aiming at the closest native. Christ, he hated these kinds of beginnings, really hated them.

"We're not the Wraith," John answered calmly, but his rifle was held high, pointed straight at the natives nearest to him. "We're explorers. We'd like to be friends."

"Only the Wraith come through the great circle!"

"You don't believe that, or you'd already be trying to kill us," John said, his tone still even.

The native shook his spear angrily at John, as if he thought the intimidation would stop John from contradicting him. "We will kill all Wraith who come to our world."

"We do the same thing. We don't like the Wraith. We're not fond of having our lives sucked out of us."

Rodney was tempted to roll his eyes. Maybe the next time John started making cracks about his 'superior' comment, he'd concede that John won in the 'patience with stupidity' category. Because this native clearly would have been called a moron five times by now if Rodney were in charge of diplomacy.

"If you are not the Wraith, who are you?"

"We're from a place called Atlantis. Heard of it?"

"We know only the Wraith."

"Well there's lots of other worlds out there, with other decent people on them. And we're some of them."

"You are not the Wraith?"

Oh for – morons, morons, and morons. He hated this most of all, the sudden fear twisting his gut, then veering into impatience. Rodney holstered his gun, marched over in front of the head native, stepping to the side so he was too close for the guy to put his spear in Rodney's chest. "Look, we are not the Wraith, get it? Wraith, bad guys. We're good guys. Are you in charge? Because we need to speak to the head guy, your tribal chief or shaman or leader guy. Who clearly had better not be you. Get it?"

The native let the tip of his spear dip to the ground. "Kellek is our leader."

"Fine, let's go talk to Kellek." He glanced at John, who quirked a smile at him, signaling he was fine with Rodney taking over. At least this trip was likely to be brief, and they could get back to Atlantis, where Rodney could take charge of John in more interesting ways.

~~~~

Kellek proved to be an apparently genial old fellow, white haired but with the posture and body of an ex-warrior who kept himself in shape. His eyebrows were sharply rounded, and John guessed that when they'd been black, they'd made him look vaguely Satanic.

They went through the normal meet and greet, John feeling generally pleased with himself and his growing comfort with the whole intergalactic diplomat thing. Kellek seemed receptive, chatting a little about his people, their culture, and possible resources that they could trade, but he did persist in returning the subject frequently to the Wraith. Their mutual enemy wasn't a subject John particularly wanted to discuss because, Christ, he could see these people would be defenseless in the event of a culling, and there wasn't anything he could do to help them. He was pretty doubtful that they'd be able to defend Atlantis herself if the Wraith attacked, a worry he tried very hard not to let control him.

So he smiled and nodded and made nice conversation and kept trying to drag the topic back to their extra food resources, until Kellek insisted on displaying the skills of their warriors. They all tromped over to the field next to the village and dutifully watched the warriors drill. There was a primal beauty about them, bronzed muscled bodies moving gracefully, showing off their attacks and defenses, using a variety of spears and knives.

Despite the spectacle in front of him, John found his gaze drifting frequently to Rodney. The scientist certainly wasn't bronzed and muscled. In fact, his fair skin was beginning to pink up, which Rodney must have realized, because he dug in his jacket pockets until he found sunscreen, dabbing it on his cheeks and nose, apparently oblivious to John's regard.

It was kinda funny in a way, how dissimilar he and Rodney were, and yet how well they got along, even to the point where John could tell from Rodney's face what he was thinking. Of course, maybe that was less John's ability to think like Rodney and more Rodney's inability to dissemble and hide his thoughts from his expression. One look at Rodney's face and John didn't need to be a psychic to know that Rodney was thinking these people were complete and utter morons.

Rodney's silent judgment was harsh and not one that John accepted. They weren't morons. They were, however, completely delusional since they seriously seemed to believe they could fight the Wraith. Kellek moved among the warriors, calling out tactics, and proclaiming how they would use each maneuver to bring down a Wraith soldier. With their spears and arrows and hand-to-hand training and stealth tactics, they thought they could take on life-sucking space vampires and win. Christ. No, not inherently stupid, but absurdly naïve.

"Seriously, have you ever seen anything like this?" he asked Teyla softly as they watched the drill.

"No, Major, I have not. Most races in the Pegasus Galaxy train to fight the Wraith, but from what Kellek is saying, these people do not appear to know about darts or hive ships. They assume they will face a limited number of soldiers on the ground."

"They're going to be lambs to the slaughter. It's an Earth expression," he added in response to Teyla's confused expression. "Lambs are considered vulnerable animals. And they make good eating."

"And yet these warriors would make formidable adversaries."

"On an individual basis, yeah." They were certainly stealthy and alert, witness their ability to take the team by surprise at the gate. But mono-cultural too, which led to one fighting style, a major flaw in the Pegasus Galaxy. John thought of a TV show he couldn't quite remember - Kung Fu or something similar, he supposed – where the arrogant white guy who could box was creamed by a smaller Asian martial artist. These warriors were like that white guy; overconfidence in their own skills and lack of awareness were their biggest flaws.

"Can we go now?" Rodney hissed, at least keeping his voice low. "So bored here."

"No. Shut up."

"These people have nothing we need."

"They might have fruit. Veggies." He gave Rodney a swift poke in the stomach. "You could use some fresh food."

"I like MREs," Rodney hissed back, but he stomped off a few feet, sat down on a tree stump and acted like he was enraptured by the display of native warriors in combat simulations.

John glanced around, searching out Ford. "Did you see Ford leave?" he asked Teyla.

"I saw him entertaining some of the children, but I had not realized he had left."

John touched his comm button. "Ford." There was no response, but that didn't mean panic was necessary. The comm system had acted up before on alien worlds. "Rodney, why don't you see if you can find Ford? I'd like him to stick closer."

"Oh yes, there's a valuable way to use my time, tracking down lieutenants who persist in wasting our chocolate," Rodney muttered, but he stalked back toward the village.

~~~~

Rodney scratched his nose, and contemplated his scanner again, really hoping that something extraordinary would flash on the screen, something that would make this trip not such a waste of time. The villagers carried on with their peasant-type duties, shooting curious glances at him but leaving him alone as he wandered around, looking for Ford and something interesting.

If they ever connected again with Earth and were able to recruit more people for the science team, Rodney decided he would have to add "must like Renaissance Faires" to the list of requirements. So many of these Pegasus Galaxy planets were so very Renaissance Faire feeling, and as a good leader, he ought to make sure people were properly forewarned, in case they had the intelligence to be like him and despise Ren Faires. Sure, some of the food could be fabulous, and encountering aliens who wanted to roast big slabs of meat over open fires in their honor was always fantastic, particularly when the meat was well-marinated and not gamey tasting. But mostly Ren Faires were heat, dust, too little shade, sitting on scratchy bales of hay, and people wearing clothes that looked uncomfortable.

John would probably look good in those clothes. Not the big frilly ruffle thing and the puffy doublet, but a simple brightly colored tunic with a little gold braid over dark leggings, a leather belt with a knife holder wrapped around his narrow waist. There would be a real advantage to those clothes, in terms of easy accessibility, no buttons or zippers to undo, just slide his hand up John's thigh…

Not that these people had quite reached the tunic-legging stage. Their clothes were a mishmash of woven material and animal skins stitched together. Rodney wouldn't have been surprised to see a few leather loincloths. Which actually would probably be another very good look for John.

"Ford!" he called impatiently, both into the air and his earpiece, because they really needed to get this mission done and go home and onto more interesting pursuits, like making up for last night. There was no response and Rodney checked his scanner, still not seeing any atmospheric factors that would create havoc with their communications system. He was going to be seriously pissed if Ford had wandered out of range playing hide-and-seek with wannabe mini-warriors. "Has anyone seen Lieutenant Ford?" He glanced around, but the villagers continued studiously attending to their chores. "He wears clothes like mine. Young guy. Baseball cap."

A warrior walked up to him, and Rodney thought it was the original guy, the moron who thought they were Wraith, but they all looked sorta alike to him, long scraggly hair and leather and critically in need of a bath. "You will come with me," the guy announced.

"I'm looking for Lieutenant Ford. I need to find him."

And then a spear was once again pointed at him, this time angled to touch his chin, and fuck, Rodney hated this kind of thing, even more than Ren Faires. "You will come with me," nasty warrior guy said.

"Yes, fine. I'm just putting this away, okay? It's valuable equipment and I don't want it dropped." Rodney ostentatiously tucked the scanner into a vest pocket. He let his hand continue moving, intending to touch the comm button and give John a big "Help!" before this moron realized what he was doing, if this moron even understood what he'd done after he'd done it because, hello, wireless technology wasn't exactly known here, he'd probably think Rodney was talking to himself.

But before he could finish his action, his arms were caught and jerked painfully behind his back, and Rodney was marched out of the village.

~~~

Kellek clapped his hands, and the warriors stopped their display, standing almost at attention. "You have seen our warriors and what we can do. Not it is time to prove yourselves. We cannot trade with a people who are not worthy of being our allies in the battle against the Wraith."

"Sure." John nodded. "I can appreciate that." A nice sustained round from a P-90 was sure to impress them and maybe they'd get down to serious negotiating for tava beans or whatever. "I'll need a target," he said, patting his rifle.

"You must show your ability to use our weapons."

"Sure." John unslung the P-90 from his shoulder, handing it to Teyla. He'd never trained with spears, but he was good with knives and hand to hand, and working with Teyla on the Athosian sticks had expanded his repertoire significantly. How hard could a spear be? He waited, body loose, hands open for someone to give him a weapon. But then loud insistent warning bells were ringing in his mind, the bells that he should have trusted when they'd been a quiet dinging, because suddenly both of them were surrounded, numerous spears pointing at their chests, and with John's P-90 in one hand, Teyla couldn't use her own effectively.

"We do not trust that a warrior of another people will display all his strengths without incentive."

"Incentive?" John snapped.

"It would not be wise, would it? To reveal all that you are capable of doing to people who are not yet your allies. You must have something of value at stake."

"And that would be?" John asked, but he already knew and cursed himself for letting Ford wander away, for sending Rodney out of his sight. He should have been more proactive when Ford didn't answer, rather than using his absence as an excuse to let the bored Rodney escape.

"The other two of your people." Kellek smiled, a smile that John didn't find warm or charming. "They have been taken to different locations, to the east and to the west. The paths will lead you there. You may have our weapons, the spear and the knife. If each of you is successful at rescuing your friend, you will be welcomed by us as allies. If you are not," Kellek shrugged, "then you will already be dead."

"It doesn't work like that for us, Kellek. You make us risk our lives for no reason, you make us kill some of your people to get our own back, then we've leaving here and never coming back."

Kellek didn't even bat an eye at John's threat. "You will do what you must. But we cannot welcome you without knowing your strengths and weaknesses, in the only way they can be known."

"What happens to Ford and McKay if Teyla and I fail?"

"Then your people are not worthy and they will die."

Unfortunately, John didn't doubt the seriousness of Kellek's threat. The genial smile was gone, leaving a thin-lipped mouth and those Satanic eyebrows. "Let's get this the hell over."

"Major," Teyla said, but it was a question, and he met her eyes as both P-90s were taken from her, and the handguns from both of them. They weren't searched, so John knew he had an extra knife and was pretty sure Teyla did too. "Go to the east. Get Ford or McKay and get home."

"We cannot leave without you, Major."

"And hopefully you won't have to. Report to Elizabeth." Accepting a spear and a knife, he backed away, toward the path out of the meadow, tense with the expectation that he might be attacked at any second. Teyla was doing the same, heading in the opposite direction.

The natives, fortunately, seemed to be willing to give them a head start, as they waited until he hit the tree line, and then half were starting toward him, the other half toward Teyla, and John took off on a run down the path. He hated leaving her, but their superior numbers made winning a fight in the meadow impossible. Divide and conquer was the only way they were going to survive this one.

~~~~

If anyone had asked, Rodney would happily have admitted he was scared, though the fear was rapidly dissolving under misery and crankiness. He was hungry, he was thirsty, his leg muscles hurt from the forced pace to this ramshackle collection of huts, the leather strip binding his hands was chafing his skin, and frankly, he was bored. Being a captive didn't provide a lot of mental stimulation, and whatever was going on here, his role seemed to be helpless victim even though he much preferred being the brilliant scientific savior.

Lying down in the hut, he tried to sleep, figuring a nap would conserve his energy, but the dirt was hard, and his back was getting sore. He shuffled on the ground, trying to find a more comfortable position, wondering if they'd give him a blanket or pillow or anything civilized, since they hadn't been very responsive to his requests for food. He heard a noise, a whisper of movement and a small gasp, so quiet that he would have overlooked it in less trying circumstances. He listened hard, but didn't hear anything else, and finally started to drift off, when the same noise jerked him awake.

Squirming onto his side, he pushed up into a sitting position and finally stood, facing the door. Something was happening out there. He wasn't sure what, but meeting it standing was preferable, though standing with a P-90 in his hands would have been even better.

Then the door flap opened and a man slipped in, and Rodney sighed with relief. Even in the dim light inside the hut, he could recognize John's lean figure as he straightened up, the messy hair making his silhouette taller. "John!" He tried to whisper, but in his nervousness, his voice must have come out louder than he thought, as John rushed across the room and clapped a hand over his mouth, whispering, "Shh," in his ear. Rodney nodded his understanding.

"The guards are taken care of. Head right outside the door and toward the forest. There's a path going east." John whispered into Rodney's ear, his breath warm on Rodney's skin. Rodney nodded and pressed a kiss into John's palm, signaling his understanding. "It should lead you to the Stargate. Don't stop, no matter what."

Rodney jerked away, shaking his head wildly, because this close up, he could see how dreadful John looked, covered with dirt and streaks of blood, his expression hard in that full-out warrior mode he rarely had to use. John anticipated more fighting ahead, and intended to be the one doing it, the one winning the battles. John's body touched his again, warm and comforting. "I'll be right behind you. I need to know I don't have to worry about you, that you're on the move. Okay?" John hissed again in his ear, even as his hands ghosted down the length of Rodney's arms, finding his hands and cutting the strap binding them.

"Don't," Rodney said softly, not sure what he wanted to add. Don't make me leave you? Don't sacrifice yourself for me? Wasn't that what John was supposed to do, be the tough military man protecting his team?

"I will be right behind you. Now move." John's hand pressed on the small of Rodney's back, guiding him toward the door flap. Rodney ducked slightly to fit under the low doorway. He paused as he stepped out, his gaze falling on nasty warrior guy, propped by the tent door. The guy's eyes were sightless, his throat slit, a swath of red blood streaming over his leather vest. Unintended, a small squeak of noise emerged from his throat, and John hissed, "Damn it, Rodney, move!"

Rodney stumbled a little but scampered to follow John's order, averting his eyes when he saw the other guard tucked at the side of the tent in a similar state. He'd complained at these people about food and water and now they were dead.

~~~~

As they fled the collection of huts, the dead bodies and whoever might still be alive, John allowed himself to smile grimly, relishing that he'd gotten halfway through this asinine test, and appreciating the advantage of Rodney’s noisiness and how much it had helped find him. Ford was probably nobly suffering in silence. Name, rank, serial number, not that those would mean anything to these people, and maybe a small whimper of pain if they hurt him really, really badly, which hopefully they hadn't. But no, not Rodney. The scientist had no macho code to uphold. Scooting through the forest, taking down natives one by one, he'd frequently heard Rodney’s voice floating on the wind, keeping him on track. "Hypoglycemic, you cretins. Do you know what that means? It means I need to eat, or you’re going to have to carry my unconscious body around. And don't you dare drag me." Rodney’s loudness had been even better than a life signs detector, because it was uniquely Rodney, and not just a little dot on a screen.

John hoped that Ford hadn't been too quiet, that he'd given Teyla something to help find him besides the uneven and winding path, but he couldn't distract himself with that worry now. He had to trust in his people and focus on getting Rodney to the Stargate.

They fled through the forest, John letting Rodney go first, keeping him in sight. The scientist was noisy, despite his efforts to the contrary. He breathed hard and his feet constantly tripped over twigs, breaking them with loud snaps. If there were any natives on the route back, they'd hear Rodney first. Would they be bright enough to look for his companion before attacking?

The first one wasn't, leaping on Rodney and bringing him to the ground before John could intercede, which ironically made him easier to handle. John's knife was in his back, stabbing deep before he even knew of John's presence. Rodney heaved against the body thrashing on his as John yanked up. The dying native was tossed wildly to the forest floor, and John retrieved his knife from the native's back, blood spurting out as the man gasped.

"Should we – do something?" Rodney asked hesitantly, scrambling to his feet, staring in horror at the dying native as John wiped the blade on the broad green leaves of a nearby bush.

"Kellek made it very clear it's kill or be killed."

Rodney's face was pale as he swallowed, bobbed his head in a nervous, acknowledging nod, and darted back down the trail.

The second one was wiser, letting Rodney pass by him before leaping out at John. Forcing down the instinct to retreat from the man's sudden appearance, John darted forward aggressively, thrusting with his knife. The native jerked away, and they circled each other warily.

Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Rodney return and pick up a branch, hovering outside the circle the two of them were making. "Go to the gate," John ordered, never letting his attention waver from the native.

"Like I'd survive without you," Rodney said, almost shrieking, and then he lunged forward, swinging at the native. It was a stupid move, at a poorly planned time, but John had anticipated that Rodney would do something erratic. The native must have underestimated Rodney's nerve because he was taken by surprise, and John was able to get under his guard, his knife sinking between his ribs and into his heart.

"Fuck," Rodney said, as blood splattered both of them, red blotches splashed on Rodney's shirt and added to the collection of stains John had already accumulated. Rodney gave him a hopeless, dazed look, and John took the time to cup Rodney's face with his free hand, and give him a fast, firm kiss.

"Keep moving. We'll make it." He stared hard at Rodney, willing the scientist to believe in him, and Rodney turned and began running. They reached the gate without further intervention, for which John was profoundly thankful, trying hard not to remember how many people he'd already killed, or to wonder how many Teyla had handled. They'd been very lucky so far, and he knew it, and hoped Teyla had had the same luck. John started dialing as soon as they reached the DHD.

"What are you doing? Where are Ford and Teyla?"

"They took Ford prisoner too. Teyla's rescuing him. I want you to go back to Atlantis and let Elizabeth know what's happening."

"You want me to leave? Without you?"

"Elizabeth needs to know we're under attack." The last chevron locked, and silver rushed out of the Stargate, forming the wormhole home.

"I wouldn't be leaving if I were Ford or Teyla. We'd be going to rescue the others." Rodney glared at him, defying John to argue.

"I’m not going to debate tactics with you, Rodney." Damn, were there any circumstances under which the man couldn't be argumentative? John couldn't deal with this now, needing to know that Rodney was safe. He grabbed Rodney's arm, dragging him toward the gate. "Type in your IDC."

Rodney dug his feet into the ground. "You can't ask me to leave without the rest of you."

"Yes, I can! Type in your fucking IDC!"

"I won't!"

John was ready to slug Rodney and type in his own IDC, when he heard Teyla yell, and looked over to see her and Ford emerging from the trees, running hard. "Look!" He pointed and Rodney's head jerked around. John was tempted to slug him and push him through the gate before Rodney realized that Ford and Teyla were likely running because some of the natives were chasing them. The spare knife had been left buried in a body early on, so John didn't have one to give Rodney, who probably couldn't throw one in a straight line even if he did and wouldn't be effective in the fight that might be coming.

"Okay!" Rodney yelled. "I'll go!"

John released his grip on Rodney's arm as the other man rushed past him, hesitating just before the wormhole's silver surface.

"Go!"

Rodney typed in his IDC but then waited a few more seconds, watching Ford and Teyla get closer, before stepping into the wormhole. John breathed a sigh of relief and started toward Ford and Teyla, knife in hand, waiting for the natives to emerge from the forest.

~~~~

Atlantis was nice and clean and normal when Rodney stepped through the gate, his breathing still rough. Elizabeth was walking down the steps toward him. "My God, Rodney, you've got blood on your shirt. What happened? Rodney?"

Rodney waved his hand, not sure what he was trying to say, just needing to stave off Elizabeth's questions for a moment, and turned to face the gate, waiting for the rest of his team to emerge.

Elizabeth came to stand next to him. "Rodney? Are you hurt?"

"Not my blood." Rodney gestured again. No one came through. "They were following me," he said tightly.

"What happened?"

Rodney reached for his earpiece, but it wasn't there, taken when they'd taken his gun because the warriors were moronic but not unobservant. "We need a team to go back. I knew I should have stayed. A gun, I need a gun." He turned to Elizabeth, but she had that irritating 'I'm worried but I need all the facts' look on her face, so he kept turning until he saw one of the Marine guards. And thank God, at least one soldier had a few brain cells to rub together, because he could hear the taller fellow quietly talking on his headset to Bates, reporting the potential need for a rescue team. Satisfied that things were in motion, he turned back to Elizabeth. "Sheppard was at the gate, Teyla and Ford were running toward it, and the natives were using us for Wraith hunting practice or something, I don't know. But if they don't come through soon, then something's gone wrong and we'll need to rescue them from the morons with no technology but lots of big spears."

"Okay, stay calm. Were any of them hurt? Do – "

The silver surface shimmered as Teyla stepped into the gate room. "Rodney, Doctor Weir."

"Where's Sheppard? And Ford?" Rodney couldn't help noticing that Teyla looked as bad as John had, her expression calm but the disarray of her clothes and hair testimony that rescuing Ford hadn't been a walk in the park.

"They have stayed to talk to Kellek, but the Major thought you should be reassured that he does not expect any trouble."

"He doesn't expect any trouble? They were using us for hunting practice!"

"They were attempting to determine if we were worthy allies."

Elizabeth spoke quickly before Rodney could continue monopolizing the questioning. "Was anyone hurt?"

"Lieutenant Ford was not. Major Sheppard did not appear to be."

"Sheppard was fine," Rodney snapped. "At least until he stayed behind to chitchat with the morons with big spears and no brains."

"Their ways may be different than ours, but I believe the Major trusts Kellek to be honorable."

"Honorable? Taking people prisoner – " Rodney was ready to let loose with a serious rant when he was interrupted.

"Miss me?" John asked easily, smiling as he walked into the gate room, followed by Ford, both of them carrying several guns.

"Were you gone?" Rodney responded, trying to hide his relief. He stared greedily at John, seeing the dirt and blood stains, the small rips in his clothes, the messy hair, but most of all the cocky grin that proclaimed everything was fine in John's world, that he had the situation under control. Then Rodney stalked out without waiting for an answer.

~~~

John smiled as Rodney walked out, taking slow deep breaths, pretty sure he was successfully faking everyone out, that the Marines and techs in the gate room thought he was confident, relaxed, having survived yet another horrendous mission, and finding it no big deal to stand in the freaking lost city of Atlantis, with the blood of several different people on his clothes. They needed to see him this way.

"I gather the mission didn't go to plan," Elizabeth said.

"Not really, no."

"Rodney didn't seem to think that – Kellek? – would let you go."

John shrugged. "We passed his test. Teyla and Rodney had already left, so he knew reinforcements might show at any minute. I wanted to get our gear back. We're running low on supplies." Yeah, like that was all it was, a few minutes taken to collect their P-90s. Like John hadn't needed the satisfaction of facing Kellek one time, of letting rip on him. Not that John was sure whether he'd made much of an impression on Kellek. People that blindly self-assured of their place and purpose in the universe were…well, blind. Still, he thought the sustained burst of fire that he'd let fly over the warriors' heads had gotten his point across to a few of them. "I think we're taking the rest of the day off," he added.

"Sounds like a plan to me," Elizabeth agreed. "Maybe you should see Carson?"

He glanced down, fully realizing how dreadful he looked. "No, I’m fine. Teyla?"

"I am well too. But a shower would be much appreciated."

"Take care of yourselves then. I'll expect a report tomorrow."

"Thanks." John, Teyla, and Ford walked toward the stairs, heading out of the control room. John caught Ford giving him an odd look, like he wanted to ask something, but didn't know how to say it, and it reminded John of the looks Ford had given him – was it just yesterday morning at breakfast? Jeez, time did fly when you were trying to keep an expedition of people alive in a hostile galaxy.

Maybe it was time to talk to Teyla and Ford, to confirm that what had started between Rodney and him by accident had continued by mutual agreement, because he knew he'd come very close to revealing everything in front of Kellek. It would be better to violate a little of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ridiculousness than surprise Teyla and Ford with a loss of control in the middle of a mission.

~~~

Rodney paced through the halls of Atlantis, acting as if he was going to his lab, but took a right turn, went down another hall and walked straight into John's bedroom. The Major wasn't there, and Rodney sighed, feeling deflated after the anticipation of expecting to see him waiting. He fingered the earpiece, wondering if he should call him. 'Hello. Where are you? Why aren't you in your bedroom, ready to have sex with me?' Because after today, he needed John, needed to see him not deadly, not smirking and looking like a wise-ass, but unguarded and relaxed, the way he looked after they made love.

Being stuck wondering when John was going to return to his room left Rodney a little grouchy. Really, of the two of them, John was the logistics expert. Shouldn't he have initiated a conversation about how they were going to handle arrangements? Rodney wasn't even sure when John went to bed. For all he knew, the Major might have a nightly routine of a five-mile run around Atlantis.

This whole 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell and don't let anyone see anything' nonsense really sucked in Rodney's opinion. In some respects, it was unfortunate that the American military had been the ones to get their hands on the Stargate. How differently might things have gone if a more rational country like Canada had been the ones to open the first wormhole?

But then John walked in, saw Rodney, and in one fluid motion crossed the room while tugging his shirt and earpiece off, pulled Rodney into his arms and started kissing him, and Rodney conceded that perhaps there were some advantages to having American flyboys hanging around, being all brave and heroic and macho. And really sexy.

John's lips separated just enough from Rodney's that he could talk while kissing. "Christ, I want to fuck you. I really, really want to fuck you." Another hard, firm kiss, and then a more hesitant, "If it's okay. If you're ready."

"I don't know," Rodney said dubiously. It wasn't really something he'd thought of, because frankly, he liked the other way, and it hadn't seemed that pleasant when he'd shared John's reactions through the Ancient device. Well…there had been a lot of pleasure, truly an incredible amount of pleasure, but not until after the uncomfortable stretched feeling.

"I'll make it good, I promise." John rubbed the side of his cheek on Rodney's, speaking softly into Rodney's ear. "Look, this isn't that superiority nonsense or I gotta be on top, or anything like that. But I could have lost you today, and I want to know what it's like. I want to feel you, know you like you've known me."

The sincerity of John's request was impossible to deny. Rodney nodded by rubbing his cheek on John's, and began to strip off his clothes, dropping them to the floor. John was doing the same, and their hands wandered back and forth, helping each other, fondling the skin that was revealed, their lips continuing to share long, dizzying kisses until Rodney had to lean against the wall, feeling light-headed.

"Stay there," John commanded with a hard kiss, retreating to the bathroom, emerging a few seconds later with the oil. "Turn around."

"Against the wall?" Rodney complained, even as he turned, resting his front on the metal of the wall. The surfaces and walls of Atlantis always seemed warm and welcoming to his skin, as if the metal had special properties.

Rodney could feel that John was close to him, even though John didn't touch him. "You have the best ass."

"Do I? I thought – "

"You thought what?" John prompted, when Rodney didn't speak more. He stepped forward, so his feet were between Rodney's, the skin of their legs almost touching, and his hands gripped the ass he'd admired, squeezing firmly. "Christ," he muttered reverentially.

"That you thought I was fat." Rodney really hoped that didn't sound completely pathetic.

"Fat?" John's hands were slick with moisture, his fingers sliding into Rodney's crack, spreading the lubricant. "What makes you say that?"

"You said I needed to eat more fresh fruit. And veggies."

"You do," John said absently, and from the dedicated way that his hands were playing with Rodney's ass, Rodney realized that his attention wasn't focused on his words. "You have an atrocious diet. But don't ever lose this." John's hands slid slickly from Rodney's ass to his front, giving him a squeeze on the little flesh around his belly. "Or this. I love this." John's teeth nibbled at the nape of Rodney's neck, along his shoulders, as John's stiff cock rubbed between the cheeks of his ass.

"You do?"

"Oh yeah." John's hands returned to playing with his ass, one of his fingers squirming inside, and there it was, that weird uncomfortable sensation. Rodney forced himself to relax, not to get tense, and oh, oh, oh…there was the second sensation, the really good one, the moment when John's finger brushed on Rodney's prostate, and yeah, he knew this feeling secondhand, but now it was firsthand, it was in his own body, little zingy shivers arcing everywhere, from his ass to his cock and up and down his spine.

"That good?"

"Yeah. Oh, God, yeah. That's good. Really, really good."

"Yeah, babble for me, Rodney." John's tone was smug, but deservedly so, and Rodney couldn't help but obey, a litany of begging, pleading words falling out of his mouth as John worked in another finger and then a third, keeping up the firm, steady touch on his prostate, making the pleasure vastly outweigh any other consideration like dignity.

Then John's hand was gone and Rodney whimpered, wanting the pleasure back, but John's dick was easing in, John's hips making little thrusting lurches. It was uncomfortable again, because John's dick was bigger than his fingers, but then warm, solid flesh slid against his prostate and was this what anal sex was, discomfort constantly overcome by ecstasy? Because ecstasy was what Rodney felt and Rodney was pretty sure he said that several times, though he wasn't sure if any of them were coherent.

It was weird to feel this good sexually without any touch on his cock, and Rodney tried to reach down, to grab himself, but his hands were scrabbling on the metal wall and wouldn't cooperate. But maybe the interaction with the Ancient city was making John partially telepathic, or maybe Rodney had babbled that need along with everything else falling out of his mouth, because John's hand grasped Rodney's cock and oh god…he wasn't sure which one was better, John's hand on his cock, or John's cock in his ass, but the combination of the warm enfolded sensation with the stretched, open fullness was truly amazing.

Then John leaned on him harder, and the side of Rodney's face was forced to the metal wall. But the discomfort of being mashed to the wall didn't matter any longer, because John's other hand had joined the action, moving between Rodney's nipples, pinching and rubbing the sensitive nubs. Rodney gasped breathlessly and thrust back into John's hips, rocking on his cock in a long and sweet gliding rhythm. And damn any discomfort and John's kinkiness in doing it against the wall because this was the best goddamned sensation he'd ever felt in his life and he wanted to feel it every single day. Every single day.

And from the noise John made as they came, half-laugh, half-moan, Rodney thought maybe he'd said that aloud too.

Rodney and John staggered to the bed together, John having enough presence of mind to pull back the blankets before they fell onto the sheets. Rodney was sprawled partially on top of John, and it dimly crossed his mind that his weight might be too heavy. But John wasn't protesting, and Rodney fell asleep before he could ask.

~~~~~

Ford surpassed Sheppard’s expectations. He didn’t just organize a movie night; he planned a dance and invited the Athosians. A few people did the official "date" thing, but most showed up solo in their best civilian clothes. Ford had commandeered the largest room and created a "beyond the sea" look…and who knew that military webbing could so resemble fishnets?

John's options for civilian clothes were limited, so he wore a white button down shirt and khaki trousers, which seemed to be fairly standard fare, though more casual than Elizabeth's black pants suit. He took Elizabeth’s hand as the music started. “I think we’re probably supposed to kick this off,” he said, leading her into the middle of the floor.

“I always wanted to be homecoming queen. I should have asked Ford to find me a tiara.” Elizabeth said lightly, letting John swing her into his arms as Bobby Darin began crooning 'Beyond the Sea.'

She fit well in his hold and was light on her feet, following his lead perfectly. John didn’t try anything complicated, a little shuffling waltz step that he figured the Athosians could copy without problems, until Elizabeth's grace reminded him that as a diplomat, she'd probably attended a lot of formal parties, so he pushed her away, pulled her back and twirled her around, trying a few more elaborate steps. She matched his every move, responsive to his guiding touch. As they danced, he saw Rodney across the room, wearing a blue shirt that matched his eyes and tan trousers, drinking a glass of punch and vociferously arguing something with Radek, apparently patently ignoring the dancing.

Halfway through the song, Ford escorted Teyla out, and then a couple of the scientists joined in. The evening progressed well, a nice mix of dancers and people chitchatting along the walls. Ford must have coaxed the scientists into coughing up their complete collection of music, because he’d compiled a wide range of songs from several decades, all of them with a good beat for dancing in that partial waltz, partial disco, partial shuffling in place that most people untrained in dancing tended to do.

John circulated the room, trying to dance at least once with all the women. Girls at his high school had always seemed to complain about the lack of male dancers, so he decided to do his bit for morale. Since the ratio of men to women was definitely skewed in Atlantis, he didn't think there'd be much of a problem with any woman being a wallflower if she didn't want to be, but better safe than sorry. Besides, he liked to dance, and at least the obligation of being the military commander meant he didn't need to do the bullshit nonsense of pretending he was too macho.

He escorted Teyla out as 'Walking On Sunshine' started up, and counting on her athletic skill, pushed the edge a bit, flipping her up and over his arm. What he hadn’t expected was that she didn't know men were supposed to keep their feet on the ground, until he found himself similarly flipped. He was startled for a second, but then tucked his legs together and went with it, tightening his stomach muscles to help pull him along. Then spun and twirled and then he did another one, bending at the waist and rolling her over his back, and she did the same. They kept it energetic, Teyla a perfect match for him, excellent at picking up and copying his every move, until he realized that the rest of the dance floor had stopped and were watching them. The music ended with a flourish, so he and Teyla gave a bow – John noting that he must remember to tell her women were supposed to curtsey if the highly unlikely event that they ever did this again – and got off the floor to take a breather.

From there, things got a bit wild as Radek dragged a couple of men out and started some sort of line dance with squats and jumps that John sincerely doubted was truly Czech, but just Radek making up nonsense to toy with everyone, and which the Athosians and the soldiers definitely did better than the scientists. Except surprisingly, Radek did it best of all. Who knew such a little guy would have such strong thigh muscles?

He tried to keep an eye on Rodney, surprised to see that the scientist didn’t remain a wallflower, but danced with several women, mostly from his lab, and Elizabeth. Rodney must have been forced into lessons as a child; he did a very nice albeit conventional box step, but his sense of rhythm was excellent, and he looked shockingly good when he dipped Elizabeth over his arm. John ignored the insane urge to claim Rodney for a number…because dancing with the lead scientist in front of the entire community would make adhering to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' rather hard.

~~~

Rodney watched John all night. He tried not to, and he tried really hard to not make it obvious, but he knew each and every time the Major led a new woman out to the floor. Elizabeth, a soldier, a scientist, an Athosian, another scientist, Teyla, a soldier… It was obvious what John was doing, the systematic and equal attention to each woman, a nice little morale booster to make sure everyone danced with the military commander.

Everyone, of course, except men like Rodney, because even though they were in a different galaxy, John was still an American military soldier. Rodney tried to follow John’s example, though he concentrated on his own staff. After all, he figured none of the soldiers or Athosians were going to sulk if they didn’t get to dance with him. Actually, probably his own staff wouldn't either, but at least they wouldn't risk his displeasure by refusing. He caught John glancing at him once or twice, and wondered if he appreciated that Rodney was making the effort to be nice. He took Elizabeth out one time, but after John and Teyla did wild athletics to some 80s pap that had everyone watching and applauding them, he decided to give his own team member a miss. Teyla didn’t seem to lack for partners anyway, not with her skimpy top and hip-hugging short skirt displaying her perfect abdominal muscles.

The pretense got to him finally, and he slipped out to the balcony, leaning against the railing, watching the dancers, and sipping some of the fruit punch the Athosians had brought, and that they insisted contained no citrus, though considering Radek’s exhibition, he did have to wonder if someone had spiked it with alcohol. Really incredibly potent alcohol. He positioned himself so that one of the columns would block him from being too noticeable, but John found him there anyway.

"Hi." John leaned on the column, facing Rodney, out of sight of the rest of the people.

"Major."

"I thought we'd advanced to John now."

Rodney shrugged. While he could tell most everyone was enjoying the evening, it had been a long few hours. He was tired, his feet were beginning to hurt, and he was beginning to remember why he'd always hated the enforced socializing of work-related parties, whether they sprang from an academic, office or military setting.

"You look like you're having some deep thoughts, Doctor."

"I was thinking about you actually."

"Not very deep, then."

"I was attempting to reconcile the two halves of the equation, but it keeps coming up unbalanced."

"Which equation is that?"

"The equation of you." The moons and stars gave Rodney plenty of light to see John’s raised eyebrows, questioning Rodney’s comment. "We have on one hand, John Sheppard, the easy-going Major adored by everyone in Atlantis, the charming commander who dances with all the ladies, the pilot who looks like he should be surfing."

"Well, that's flattering. Not true, but flattering. And the other hand?"

Rodney eyed John, noting the sudden tenseness. "What is wrong with you? What are you expecting me to say?"

John glanced away, then back at Rodney, and his arms twitched as if wanted to cross them in front of his chest, but he didn’t. "Something about slitting throats, I would imagine."

"Oh, jeez…the defender. The person who always protects his people. That's all I was going to say. Sometimes you act like you're a complete goof, but you always do what you need to do, no matter what it takes."

The tenseness eased out of John's muscles, and he grinned. "A complete goof? You'll make my head spin with all this flattery."

"You really thought I was going to accuse you of killing babies or something, didn't you?"

Then Rodney wished he hadn't been so blunt, because John's grin disappeared. "People have said some harsh things about my choice of profession," John said quietly, which made Rodney wonder about the past John never mentioned.

"Those people didn't deserve to have their culture fucked up by the Wraith, but they made conscious decisions to take captives and it's their responsibility for what happened," Rodney said, realizing he was speaking too vehemently. He didn't want to attract attention to them by raising his voice. "I…admire that you can do what you did." That honesty felt awkward and uncomfortable, because Rodney wasn't used to admitting his appreciation of other people, but he'd clearly hit a nerve that he hadn't realized John had, and wanted to ease the pain.

"I don't leave men behind." John grabbed Rodney’s hand, and pulled him to him, and into his arms. "Particularly not my lover."

John kissed him and oh god…it was truly sinful that someone should be such a good kisser. John knew how to use his lips and teeth and tongue to make Rodney feel like he was being simultaneously savored and devoured. Slipping his hands between the column and John's body, Rodney cupped John's firm, tight butt and kissed him back. All those women might have been able to dance with John in public view, but Rodney was the one with him on the balcony, and that knowledge thrilled him.

Almost as if he read Rodney's mind, John whispered roughly, "I may not be able to dance with you, but I need you in my bed tonight. Okay?"

"Your bed? Who said it's going to be your bed?"

"Fine, your bed. You did say I was easy-going."

Rodney stepped back, pushing John toward the door. "I think you have a few more dances to go yet. I'll be in my room when you're through."

John hesitated, as if he wanted to press the issue, but he went. After that, watching John’s grace and charm with the women was easier. Because for some reason that seemed even more improbable than the existence of space travel through a wormhole to another galaxy, John Sheppard was his.

~~~~

The evening had been fantastic, and John knew the good effect on morale would linger for days, but he had felt torn between delight and the dictates of duty. Holding Miko's tiny body to him for the last dance, wondering at Ford's sense of irony as Louis Armstrong sang about a wonderful world, had felt too much like a lie. Needing to be with Rodney, John's pace increased almost to a jog until he reached Rodney's room and walked in unannounced. The other man was typing at his laptop, still dressed in the clothes he'd worn to the dance. John dimmed the lights and grabbed Rodney's hand, tugging him to stand.

First hitting save, Rodney let himself be pulled into John's arms, resting his hands on the small of John's back, laying his head on John's shoulder. John's hands landed in the same place on his back, his head tucked on Rodney's shoulder, and they drifted aimlessly.

"Are we dancing to anything in particular?" Rodney finally asked.

"Something sweet and slow," John replied. He'd have to ask Ford to load all the music to his laptop so he and Rodney could dance properly some other evening. After a while, he noted, "You took dance lessons."

"Jeannie wanted to, so Mom made me join her. It's been years."

"You looked good."

"Not as good as you."

John shrugged uncomfortably, holding tighter to Rodney, turning his head to rub it against Rodney's.

Inconsequentially, Rodney added, "My father used to laugh when Jeannie badgered me into practicing at home. I hated that. I stopped as soon as Mom let me."

"Parents can be hell," John sympathized.

"Yours too?"

"Yeah, sometimes." Unwilling to end the evening by dwelling on their respective childhoods, John stopped swaying, taking Rodney's face in his hands, giving him a long, lazy kiss, wishing that they could have shared this kiss on the dance floor. "Thank you for what you said on the balcony. So I guess you admit I'm a superior officer?"

That second line earned John the look he expected, the impatience snapping in Rodney's blue eyes, and John grinned cockily, waiting to see how Rodney would react to the gauntlet. To his surprise, he found himself twirled around and flung down on the bed. He landed on his back with an, "Oomph!" Rodney was instantly on top of him, the scientist's hands grabbing his and holding them down, one on each side of his head.

"You want superior? I can show you superior."

"Then show me," John taunted before Rodney's lips fastened on his in a demanding kiss. John just moaned and kissed him back, happy to let Rodney show him anything he wanted, and it occurred to him that evenings with Rodney were the best part of being stranded in another galaxy.

~ the end ~