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Yes, all right, they were both drunk. Everyone was drunk – it was that kind of party. That wasn’t the point.

The point was that– Look, it started with– He wanted a beer, because there was real beer, Canadian beer, so he waved his arms and called out to his good pal Ronon, who had strategically placed himself by the cooler – good man, Ronon, fine strategic mind – and made what was clearly the universal series of gestures for toss me a can of that beer, eh?

And then Ronon winged it at him – overhand, for God’s sake! – and because Rodney wasn’t drunk yet, he realized that he was in imminent danger of having his nose broken by a can of Molson’s. So of course he did the only reasonable thing: he screamed and ducked. The can hit the corner of a shelf behind him and punctured, spinning wildly and spewing foam everywhere, so that Rodney ended up with a nose in one piece, but dripping beer and being yelled at by several of his colleagues simultaneously.

The point was that Rodney hated parties and hardly ever went and only had one fashionable shirt, which was blue (not purple, Sheppard was the only person in the galaxy who thought it was purple) and had wide cuffs and gold buttons and was now quite possibly ruined, and he was scowling down at the stains and wringing out his cuffs and didn’t see Ronon approaching until it was too late, and he was being seized up under Ronon’s giant arm and squeezed into acquiescence. Ronon put a new can of beer into his hand and grinned down at him and his thumb touched the inside of Rodney’s wrist, and that was how Rodney started sleeping with his good pal Ronon.

Well, not at that exact moment, of course. But he distinctly remembered glaring up at Ronon, pissed about his shirt and his nearly broken nose and his utter public humiliation, and it was just – he was just – there, his eyes scrunched shut as he smiled, his fingers hot alongside the cold aluminum against Rodney’s skin, and he smelled kind of herbal and smoky and – and toothy, which wasn’t a way that someone could smell, unless that person was Ronon Dex. Then he remembered looking down and popping open the beer, and that was how he started drinking, and clearly the drinking had a lot to do with the ensuing sex, although not, Rodney was aware, everything to do with the sex, or he wouldn’t have started thinking about it when Ronon’s thumb grazed the veins in his wrist.

In point of fact, the chain of causality might have been flowing in the other direction: he probably would have quit drinking and gone home inside of an hour like he usually did when Radek bullied him into showing up at one of the civilian parties, except that Ronon (who was only sort of a civilian, but was very well liked by certain influential segments of Atlantis’s population – primarily the medical staff, and the females, and people with eyeballs) kept bringing him fresh drinks. So of course Rodney kept drinking them, just to steady his nerves, which seemed to go into overdrive every time Ronon clapped his shoulder supportively.

After a drink or two, Ronon wasn’t so much clapping his shoulder as he was laying his hand against Rodney’s arm, leaving it there for a moment or two, then drawing away slowly. A couple of drinks after that, he was touching the back of Rodney’s neck, just holding his hand there in a gesture that reminded Rodney ever so slightly of a mother cat lifting and depositing her kittens with her teeth, and that just made Rodney homesick, even though every cat he’d ever owned had been spayed, so that didn’t make much sense. Ronon had nice hands, and he smelled very masculine, and sort of toothy, and sort of like rum.

People started to leave the party, which just meant more alcohol for Rodney, and the music got louder and Rodney got a lot wittier, at least if Ronon was any judge. He stopped rolling his eyes at Rodney’s jokes, or raising his eyebrows and smirking in that It’s none of my business what bizarre yet hilarious thing comes out of your head look of his, and started just throwing his head back and laughing, deep and yet strangely light as well, effervescent like...beer. Good beer. Rodney wanted to touch his mouth, which looked smooth and happy.

It was just starting to occur to Rodney that they might be just a tad drunk when Ronon came up behind him and handed him a glass of that classic late-night mixed drink, Whatever We Have Some Of Left, with one hand and looped his other arm around Rodney’s neck, holding Rodney against his shoulder, mantling himself over Rodney protectively, and Rodney downed his last drink in two long gulps and said, "This isn’t a joke, right? I mean, you’re not doing some kind of – funny guy-bonding – kidding around thing, are you?"

"Some kind– Huh?" Ronon said.

Rodney couldn’t quite stop himself from leaning back a little more, letting Ronon take some of his less-than-completely-steady weight. Ronon’s free hand brushed over the backs of Rodney’s fingers, curled around his empty glass. Rodney closed his eyes and said, "If I invite you home, there won’t be...a punchline, will there?"

Ronon leaned down, his dreads spilling over Rodney’s shoulder and his chest, and murmured in his ear, "If you invite me home, there’ll be whatever you want there to be."

"You are so drunk right now," Rodney said breathlessly.

He could feel the curve of Ronon’s smile against his ear. "Is that a problem for you?"

"Actually, no," Rodney said.

Ronon was the kind of person who helped clean up after the party was over; Rodney wasn’t totally sure whose room they were using, if anyone did actually live here, but he was sure that if they did, they appreciated the gesture. Rodney didn’t really appreciate it at all, and not only because it gave Sheppard (who wasn’t in any way a civilian, and yet got invited to everything, all the time) a chance to back him into a corner and provide the unlikely voice of reason by saying, "McKay, what the hell do you think you’re doing?"

Rodney glanced around, but no help seemed to be forthcoming; Ronon was still picking up after less scrupulous citizens and Teyla was hovering over John’s shoulder but making no move to intervene. Rodney opened his mouth a few times, and finally came up with, "I don’t know what you’re talking about."

"Do not fuck with me!" John said, and Rodney hadn’t actually known that it was possible to yell in such a quiet voice, but clearly it was. "If you screw us up, so help me, Rodney...."

For one terrible moment, Rodney thought that us meant John and Ronon, but then he caught up with himself and smiled indulgently, because obviously for Sheppard there always had been and probably would only ever be one us. "No, no, no," Rodney assured him. "This is fine, this is– It isn’t what you’re thinking! Nothing’s going to change."

In spite of himself, Rodney suspected, John’s expression softened a little. He glanced over his shoulder toward Ronon, then looked back to Rodney. "You can’t – you have to be careful, okay? He’s – look, I know this sounds retarded, but he’s kind of...fragile. If you just want to get loaded and hook up, just – pick someone else, okay?"

"No, I don’t," Rodney said – although, well, he sort of did, except for the just part. "No, no, I.... He’s my friend, we – we like each other." He thought about that for a second, and it sounded...right. "We like each other," he said. John gave him a supremely skeptical look, and Rodney said, "What? Just because we don’t have that much in common at first glance doesn’t mean we – appearances can be deceiving, you know! It’s – we’re – look, it’s like Mr. Fantastic and the Thing, you wouldn’t necessarily know – but they’re really very close! They have years of history, they went to college together!"

"Okay, I know, but– Wait a minute, I thought I was Mr. Fantastic."

"No, no – what? Are you crazy? Reed Richards is a genius, he’s an inventor, he’s a master of alien technology, he’s a fucking physicist! No way in hell are you Mr. Fantastic!"

"Yeah, but...I’m the leader," John said, looking a little wounded.

Rodney relented and patted his shoulder, which changed John’s expression from wounded to don’t touch my shoulder. "The Human Torch can fly," Rodney said consolingly.

"Did not the Thing begin his career as an Air Force test pilot?" Teyla said. They both looked at her blankly. "I have researched your Fantastic Four," she said coolly, crossing her arms. "I see no reason I cannot be Mr. Fantastic, too."

"Oh, now, come on!" John said, throwing his hands up. "We can’t all be Mr. Fantastic!"

The cavalry arrived at that point, in the form of Ronon wrapping his hand in the shoulder of Rodney’s one stylish shirt and yanking him out of the corner right past John. "Are you done yet?" he said, switching effortlessly between a warning gaze at John and a gentler, more promising gaze at Rodney. "I’m ready to go."

"Gotta go," Rodney said, happy to ignore Sheppard’s dour expression as Ronon pulled him away. Sheppard could be so negative sometimes.

"What did he say to you?" Ronon asked once they were out in the hall. He was still holding Rodney’s arm, just above the elbow.

"He said he was Mr. Fantastic, can you– ? Oh, before that? He said we shouldn’t– we shouldn’t– He said you were fragile. Why did he say that?"

"Because he’s an asshole," Ronon growled.

"No, he’s not," Rodney said, because he was feeling deeply suffused with love for his fellow man, which was somehow connected to the way Ronon was placing his hands on Rodney’s chest and shoving him backwards into the transporter. As the doors closed, he put his arms around Ronon’s neck and said, "He’s your friend. He just needs to...loosen up a little." Rodney kissed Ronon’s throat to illustrate his point, which was...what, again?

Didn’t matter.

The point was, Rodney might have been very, very drunk, but a lot of people at the party had been very drunk, and none of them except Rodney were taking Ronon Dex home.

They were just sober enough not to make out in the hallway, but they stepped out of the transporter somewhat...entangled, and the ten yards to Rodney’s door were difficult, but not impossible, to navigate in that condition. The impossible part was navigating it with grace and dignity, but really, fuck dignity, which had never been Rodney’s most faithful boon companion in the past, anyhow. They were stumbling, tripping each other and rubbing against each other, all deafening heartbeats and smothered groans, and then somewhere around yard eight, Ronon started to laugh – snorting, undignified, gleeful laughter, sexy and ridiculous and – and satisfying in ways that Rodney couldn’t begin to describe. He only knew that he’d known Ronon for almost two years, and nobody made him that happy, that Rodney had ever seen. Nobody until now – until him.

Rodney was laughing, too, by the time they made it through the door. He couldn’t help himself, and he couldn’t stop, not even when he took Ronon’s face between his hands and tried to give him a hot, sexy kiss that just wouldn’t work quite right, not with both of them grinning and laughing and unwilling to break eye-contact entirely. They managed something like a kiss, sloppy and shapeless and noisy and better, better than any kiss Rodney had had in – since – just, the best thing ever. He slid his hands up, his fingers grazing Ronon’s temples and brushing his hairline, and Ronon put his hands on Rodney’s waist and his thigh between Rodney’s legs, and they went down to the floor like a skyscraper in an earthquake, and now they were kissing. This definitely qualified.

"Floor’s good," Rodney gasped as Ronon pulled his one fashionable shirt off him with one hand, the other hand splayed firmly across his ass.

But Ronon stood up, which Rodney would have protested, if he hadn’t been distracted by the sight of what might’ve been the best strip show he had ever seen, except that it was happening at lightning speed, so that Ronon was fully naked before Rodney’s jaw had even finished falling all the way open. Ronon sat down on his bed and said, "Are you gonna take your clothes off or what?" and Rodney banged his elbow and his head on the floor rolling over and getting up to obey.

He was starting to feel a little disoriented when he got his clothes off and pushed Ronon down to the mattress with his legs around Ronon’s waist – dizzy or something, dreamlike and lightheaded, and he wasn’t really sure what they were doing, if they had talked about what they were going to do, if they should talk about it. He was just rubbing himself up and down Ronon’s body, kissing him sloppily and biting his lip, whimpering nonverbally every time Ronon’s hand skimmed over his spine or backwards across his scalp, rucking his hair forward. He finally pried himself back just far enough to rub one of Ronon’s nipples and say, "How’s this, everything good?" in a cracked, uneven voice.

Ronon smiled broadly with his eyes closed and wrapped his hand around Rodney’s cock. "How’s this?" he said, while Rodney’s cock throbbed in his tight grip and started to leak shamelessly.

"Oh, Jesus Christ," Rodney said as Ronon began to jack him with strong, carefully measured movements that made Rodney’s skin tingle and his back arch. His knees slipped on the sheets while he struggled to get them reliably underneath him so he could thrust back, fucking Ronon’s callused hand while his own hands twisted the sheets and his head fell forward and his mouth fell open and he moaned desperately.

"Oh, fuck," Ronon whispered, his other hand stroking roughly over Rodney’s shoulder. "Oh, you...look.... Oh, fuck, come on, come on – Rodney."

Rodney had never really had the urge to watch his own dick while he came before, but then he’d never come all over Ronon’s chest and stomach before, Ronon’s hand looking strangely pale as it worked his red-purple cock. Rodney wanted to say something – how amazing – how it looked, how it felt, how it was – Ronon, oh, God, he – they –

But it was too much, too strange, so he just made a short noise and collapsed forward into another of those unsteady, smiling kisses, his fingers shaking just a little as he stroked Ronon’s face, and then he passed out from manly ecstasy, or possibly from tequila.

He woke up in the middle of the night – mostly woke up. Enough to raise his head and notice the crucial details, like nausea and stickiness and Ronon’s arms around him and holy fuck, we were so drunk....  Ronon didn’t stir, not even when Rodney extricated himself and went into the bathroom to drink two cups of water and bring a washcloth out to wipe them both up. He drank some more water and put on his underwear and, after some pointless hesitation, went to bed just the way he woke up, tucked under Ronon’s arm, his hand on Ronon’s chest. Only as he was drifting off again did it occur to Rodney that Ronon hadn’t gotten to come last night. In fact, on further reflection, he wasn’t sure that Ronon had even gotten hard. Given how much alcohol they’d both ingested, that was actually less surprising than the fact that Rodney had, and Rodney didn’t give it any more thought, except to tell himself that he’d make up for it if Ronon was still there in the morning.

The next time Rodney woke up it was daylight, and Ronon was leaning over him on one elbow and touching the corner of Rodney’s mouth with two light fingers. Rodney blinked his eyes gradually open and thought, in sequence: dear God, he’s so beautiful and I slept with Ronon last night! and ow, my head and did I really sleep with Ronon last night? None of that was very meaningful or probably very interesting, so instead of saying it out loud, Rodney opened his mouth and closed it again around Ronon’s fingers. Ronon closed his eyes in something like a flinch of pleasure, and Rodney couldn’t help grinning in self-satisfaction as he slid his lips all the way down Ronon’s fingers and back up with a slow lick. Ronon’s eyes flickered open, darker and hungrier, and he curled his fingers and then slid them back across Rodney’s tongue, holding Rodney down under his leg and finger-fucking his mouth with impossible gentleness.

When he was damn good and ready, Ronon pulled his fingers out from between Rodney’s lips and used them to carefully hold his jaw. "Good morning," Rodney managed to croak before Ronon blocked his mouth again, this time with a slow, slow, luscious kiss. When he pulled away again, Rodney said, "So...are we not having the we-were-so-drunk, let-us-never-speak-of-this-again conversation?"

Ronon actually looked a little startled. "The what? You don’t want– Because we were drunk?"

"No," Rodney said hastily. "No, no, no, that was – theoretical. That was – a stupid thing to say. I want to – I mean – hello, good morning." He put his arms around Ronon’s neck and lifted his head to nibble lightly at the side of Ronon’s mouth. "Thanks for staying," he murmured.

He could feel Ronon’s smile against his lips. "Morning," he said, and shifted aside just far enough to let his hand fall on top of Rodney’s morning wood. "Why’d you put your clothes back on?"

"Oh...because...I’m an idiot?" Rodney suggested faintly, lifting his hips into the too-light touch. And then the full implications of the last two minutes sank in on him, and he said, "Oh, my God, we’re going to keep having sex, aren’t we? I’m having sex with you now!"

Ronon smirked and slid his hand under the elastic of Rodney’s boxers. "Uh-huh," he said. "Sure looks like it."

Ronon placed a sweet, soft kiss in the hollow of Rodney’s throat while he rolled down the waistband of his boxers, freeing Rodney’s cock to lie against his belly, pleasantly aching with anticipation. Habit made Rodney reach down for it, but Ronon nudged his arm away and kissed his chest, and then, oh, God, yes, he really was, he was kissing between Rodney’s ribs, sliding himself down on the bed, headed– oh, God, right there. He licked under the head of Rodney’s cock, and Rodney bit his lip hard and stuck his hands under his back so he didn’t grab Ronon’s unbelievably-tempting-to-grab hair. Ronon lifted his head and said, "I haven’t done this all that much, so you might want to tell me if...."

"Nnngh," Rodney said in what he hoped was a tone of friendly encouragement.

As far as Rodney could tell, Ronon didn’t have anything essential left to learn about the art of blowjobs – but then, it had been long enough for Rodney that any dick-sucking at all was pretty much a thing of beauty and a joy forever. So he didn’t feel like he was being particularly dishonest when he drew his knees up and rubbed his ankle along Ronon’s muscular arm and said, "Oh, God, so good – oh, you’re the best." By a number of very meaningful rubrics, Ronon was in fact the best; Rodney was hardly going to celebrate breaking a three-year dry spell by rating his very first volunteer against some ridiculous porn-fantasy standard. So Ronon didn’t deep-throat, and he could suck or lick but he couldn’t seem to quite coordinate to do both at once. He was here and he really seemed to very much want Rodney’s cock in his mouth, and so he was basically a legendary sex god as far as Rodney was concerned. Rodney let his head sink further back into the pillow and said, "You’re the best," again, throaty and blissed-out and one hundred percent sincere.

He pulled himself together enough to warn Ronon when he was about to come. Ronon hesitated, his mouth still around Rodney’s cock but not adding any particular stimulation at that exact moment, and his hand moved on Rodney’s thigh with no purpose, an aimless nervous gesture. Carefully, Rodney extricated his hand and touched Ronon’s hair, pulling a stray dread away from his cheek with faintly shaky fingers. "You don’t have to," he said hoarsely. "I can – your hand again– "

And he meant it completely, but it was still an undeniable relief to see Ronon’s face harden into that (usually not nearly so welcome) I-never-run-from-a-fight glare. He sucked Rodney’s cock back into his mouth and used his other hand to rub, indiscriminate and gloriously rough, between Rodney’s legs, over his balls and behind them, and Rodney came so hard it was a lot like he hadn’t just come pretty much exactly that hard six hours ago. This couldn’t be healthy, at his age – but then, Rodney didn’t lead a very healthy lifestyle, and this morning he cared a lot less than usual about his health. This might kill him, but, as the saying went, what a way to go.

Reluctantly, Rodney pried his own eyes open and found himself instantly robbed of his next words – his next breath, even. The sight of Ronon, sleek and beaded lightly with sweat, lying on his stomach and his elbows, leaning up against Rodney’s thigh and smiling at him – well, fuck, what did a person say to that? Just – what were you supposed to say? (Thank you, Rodney’s endlessly inventive brain murmured to him. You’re the most beautiful human being I’ve ever seen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’d do anything you asked me to do. It wasn’t just sex. Please stay.)

Ronon pushed up on top of him and gave him a short, chaste kiss. Rodney groaned and tried to grab at him as he pulled back, but Ronon just grinned easily and said, "Brush my teeth first, okay?"

"Okay," Rodney said faintly as Ronon heaved himself out of Rodney’s bed. The soft weight of Ronon’s cock dragged across Rodney’s thigh as he slid off and away, and for a few seconds the whole scope of Rodney’s intellect narrowed to the sight of Ronon walking toward his bathroom, lean and naked and with just a hint of swagger to spice up his usual smooth prowl. Belatedly, just as Ronon reached the doorway, Rodney shook off his daze and said, "Wait, Ronon. Don’t you – I could take care of– "

Ronon glanced back over his shoulder with a fond little smile and said, "‘S okay, I’m good," then shut himself in the bathroom.

Rodney sank bonelessly back to the mattress and frowned up at the ceiling, trying to remember if Ronon had been hard at any point this morning, either.

*

Ronon showed up on his doorstep that night, fresh-showered and barefoot, stone-faced except for his dancing eyes. "Um," Rodney said, because he’d had almost eighteen hours to convince himself that the whole sleeping with Ronon thing had been a alcoholic hallucination; somehow the let-us-never-speak-of-this-again conversation that they hadn’t had continued to feel more convincing than the reality. "Are...should I be...?"

"You should ask me to come in," Ronon said, not very seductively. It kind of sounded like a threat, but Rodney let him in anyway. Just in case.

As soon as they were alone together, Ronon put his hands on Rodney’s face and yanked him closer to kiss him, and Rodney externalized his rather complicated feelings by trying to kiss Ronon back and fend him off simultaneously, a gambit that ended with Ronon’s arms securely around him and his own hands wedged between their bodies, pressed to Ronon’s shoulders. He made a needy little noise when Ronon broke the kiss, looking down at him with a puzzled tilt to his head. "Something wrong?" he said.

"Not...as such...I suppose," Rodney said, letting his fingers slide up and curl more comfortably around Ronon’s shoulders.

However rudimentary Ronon’s command of blowjobs may have been, he was clearly at post-graduate level when it came to kissing, or at least he seemed to like exactly what Rodney liked – slow and deep, hard and slow. His hands stroked down Rodney’s back and up his sides, rucking up his shirt, callused fingers running just lightly enough over Rodney’s midsection to trigger his ticklish reflexes. Rodney tried to swat his hands away, or at least push them higher or lower. Ronon just smiled against his lips and stroked under his ribs again, letting the fingers of his other hand work down the back of Rodney’s pants.

"Quit that," Rodney ordered, clamping his hand down over Ronon’s. "You’re not allowed to do that."

"Mmm," Ronon said. "Got the feeling last night that I was allowed to touch pretty much anything I wanted."

"That’s a more than slightly premature assumption; we still have quite a few uncharted frontiers of intimacy that I’d rather you didn’t just go bashing your way through, and let’s put tickling at the very top of that list – particularly when you don’t have the proper respect."

"I respect you." It sounded kind of dirty, when Ronon said it.

Rodney swallowed and instructed himself to focus. "Well, for my intellect, obviously, but I meant – respect for – look, I’m not fat, all right?"

Ronon cocked his head and gave him a vaguely exasperated look. "You’re not– What? Can we have sex or what?"

"I heard you, you know! When you told Sheppard and Teyla I was fat, which I am not! I’m actually the same weight I was three years ago, only more of it is muscle mass now, which is denser and weighs more, so actually– "

"I never said that," Ronon said. "I don’t know what you’re even talking about."

"Please, don’t try to weasel out, it’s just not admirable of you. I had the super-hearing, remember? I heard you."

It finally seemed to click, and Ronon looked a little relieved even as he rolled his eyes. "Oh, that."

"Oh, that. So don’t go thinking I’m just going to let you...poke and prod me. You have to earn my body!"

There was a little twitch around Ronon’s mouth, but his voice stayed very serious when he said, "You should’ve listened more carefully. I said you were going to get fat, not that you already were."

"Oh, and that makes me feel much better about the whole thing. It’s not like I didn’t suspect anyway, you know – all that nagging you do about what I eat and how often I practice letting you hit me with sticks like some kind of demented PE flashback. Don’t for a minute think that starting a physical relationship with me gives you some kind of license to be more full of unwanted advice than you already are. I’ll be in charge of my body, thank you very much."

"I nag you because I know what happens to veterans," Ronon said simply, and that was so wholly unexpected that Rodney closed his mouth abruptly. "You’re getting older, your body’s slowing down, your metabolism’s slowing down, but you feel the same as you ever did, so you don’t see it. You keep doing what you’ve always done, you don’t change how you eat and what you do, and suddenly you’re weaker, you’re slower, you get injured more often and you don’t come back from it as fast when you do. But you’re still a warrior inside, in your memory, so you just keep ignoring it and going on, right up until you get hurt too bad to ignore, or until you – just aren’t fast enough anymore. Then you die. Look, even I’m not twenty anymore, and you know how I eat. I can eat you under the table, and I’m not hypoglycemic. What do you think I run ten miles a day for, the fucking fun of it?"

"Um, yes?" Rodney said hesitantly. "Doesn’t Sheppard say he– "

Ronon looked slightly incredulous. "Are you joking? Sheppard is--" He gave up and shrugged. "Maybe he does do it for fun. I do it so I don’t get fat and tear up my back and my knees and clog up my arteries and die, or – or let one of you down because I’m slower than I could be, or...." He gave Rodney a level look. "I’m sorry what you thought you heard me say made you feel bad. But I worry about you. You don’t have a lot of options in a fight, so we’re counting on your ability to, when one of us says ‘run now’ – to run."

"Oh," Rodney said. After a moment he added, "Well, I knew you didn’t say it because I was actually fat. Since I’m not."

"No," Ronon said. "You’re solid and you’re tough and you run pretty damn fast and I don’t worry about you that much when we go through the Ring because I’ve seen you take care of yourself. I want you to be just like this...pretty much forever. You won’t be, but – that’s what I want."

Rodney kissed him briefly and said, a little short of breath, "That’s the hottest medical advice I’ve ever gotten in my life."

Ronon shrugged.  "All this stuff was pretty much covered in the first two weeks of medical school."

"Very funny," Rodney said. Ronon gave him a puzzled look. "You were never in medical school."

"Yes, I was."

"You were – not – what? You went to medical school?"

"Well," Ronon said.  "Not for all that long. I washed out in my first year. It was really hard." Somehow, Rodney couldn’t think of any response that seemed half as appropriate as stunned silence, until Ronon rolled his eyes and said, "Look, unless this is really turning you on, can we talk about it later?"

"It...kind of is, actually," Rodney said, but admittedly, not as much as the way Ronon grabbed him by the arms and hauled him backwards onto the bed. On his hands and knees over Ronon and kissing him while his hands came up Rodney’s sides, dragging his shirt along until it was bunched up under his arms and Ronon’s thumbs were tracing his pectorals, Rodney didn’t care if Ronon was secretly a vascular surgeon or a beauty school dropout.

"Oh," Rodney remembered to say when he came up for air, and to let Ronon pull his shirt off of him, "I also don’t eat my unhappiness, by the way."

"I don’t even know what that means," Ronon said. "And I stopped caring about this whole thing a while back."

So had Rodney, honestly, but he still for some reason felt compelled to say, "I don’t even have unhappiness. I have stress. It’s totally different," while sitting back on his heels to work at the fastenings on Ronon’s pants.

"Okay," Ronon said, letting his fingers touch Rodney’s collarbone and drift lingeringly down his chest. Rodney suspected he wasn’t really listening anymore.

With Ronon’s cooperation, he got the leather pants loosened and off, and while he was squirming around, Ronon also managed to make his shirt vanish into thin air, so that when he laid back he was entirely naked, and every bit as gorgeous as Rodney remembered him being last night. Even now that Rodney was sober, the sight of Ronon made his head spin.

His cock rested against his thigh, looking thick and substantial enough that it really wasn’t until Rodney put his hand on it that he fully realized that it wasn’t erect. He looked up at Ronon’s face, startled, but Ronon had his eyes mostly closed in what looked for all the world like blissed-out indulgence and didn’t seem to notice.

Rodney had never really touched another man’s soft cock before; the kinds of relationships he’d had with men didn’t include much intimacy that wasn’t specifically geared toward immediate mutual orgasms, and the fact that his relationship with Ronon...apparently did involve that kind of intimacy?.... He wasn’t sure what to think of that, and he couldn’t think of a way to ask that wasn’t, first of all, very unfortunately girlfriend-like, and second of all, guaranteed to draw attention to the fact that Ronon’s bedroom performance so far had...certainly had its ups and downs. As it were. And that was nothing a man liked to hear and nothing...nothing that Rodney could imagine saying to a – friend, to someone he cared about.

Blowjobs, Rodney decided, were the cure for this, as for so many of life’s ills. He squirmed down on the bed and ran the flat of his tongue along the underside of Ronon’s cock – perhaps more timidly than he’d planned, because it just felt so – so fragile, somehow, cupped in Rodney’s hand. Ronon gave a long, soft sigh and spread his legs a little more, so Rodney tried using his mouth further back, in front of Ronon’s balls, behind his balls. Everything felt warm and soft where there wasn’t damp hair, and Rodney felt a sudden, fierce surge of protectiveness. He shifted the weight of Ronon’s cock from his hand to his mouth and found it unnervingly easy to maneuver, until nearly the whole thing filled Rodney’s mouth, and dear God, Rodney could feel it – feel it stirring just a little, pulsing subtly with life like – well, like something he’d certainly never expected to be holding in his mouth before this. He let it slip out, and Ronon groaned.

Rodney lifted himself up on his hands so he could see Ronon’s face and waited until Ronon opened his eyes to assess the situation. "Is this...okay?" Rodney said. "Are you – do you like this?"

"Yeah," Ronon said, and he looked closer to shy than Rodney had ever seen him look before, but he was smiling. "Yeah, I like it, it feels nice. You gonna stop?"

"No," Rodney said, and this time when he went down he knew what to expect. The size, the smell, the texture of everything as Rodney laved it with his tongue and nibbled kisses along the delicate skin – his brain was starting to associate all of it with Ronon, and that was – well, that wasn’t a bad thing at all. He felt that protective surge again, but this time he felt less like he had to defend this vulnerable piece of Ronon’s generally invulnerable body, and more simply suffused with the affectionate need to wrap everything up and hang onto it that Rodney associated – well, that he associated with the few women in his life that he’d had genuinely functional relationships with – that maybe he could have loved.

That was a little daunting. Rodney figured once the endorphins receded, he’d have a nice, boundary-reaffirming panic attack about that.

Ronon lifted Rodney’s head away gently after a while, making Rodney look back up at his warm eyes. "Ready for your turn?" he asked, and Rodney didn’t have the higher functions to do anything but nod.

Normally he might have been a little embarrassed by how little time it took for Ronon’s hot, wide mouth around his cock to become the best thing Rodney could remember since, well, since first thing that morning – but all things considered, it seemed unnecessary to be embarrassed in Ronon’s presence. That was...an unexpected side-effect of the whole...issue with Ronon, the, the – erectile issue. All the potential pressure on Rodney to live up to the manly standards of a large, chiseled, warrior lover...was only potential. The reality was something completely different. Rodney wouldn’t have said he knew quite what, yet, but definitely something different.

Ronon almost kissed him afterwards, but veered aside at the last moment to kiss Rodney’s cheek instead. He could probably feel the pressure of Rodney’s frantic heartbeat against his palm. "I brought my own toothbrush this time," Ronon said.

"Okay," Rodney said, by which he meant, thank God. He’d managed not to say anything this morning by chanting loudly to himself that he liked Ronon, he liked sex with Ronon, and there was no way he was willing to give up the possibility of future sex with Ronon over.... But it was disgusting anyway, and what the hell was wrong with anyone who didn’t realize that automatically? "You have excellent teeth," he realized aloud.

"Thanks," Ronon said, kissing under the hinge of Rodney’s jaw.

Rodney tilted his head back and said, "No, I mean – you really do, they’re in very good shape, considering...considering your, your history. I’d think your teeth would be hard to take care of, under the circumstances."

"Kind of, yeah," Ronon admitted. "But you have to make the effort. Nothing’s more distracting than a toothache, and it wasn’t like there was anywhere I could go to get one pulled. Guess I could’ve done it myself, but...I wasn’t hoping to."

"I can imagine," Rodney said.

"I mean, I learned the basics in dental school," Ronon said, "but still."

Rodney’s head jerked up off the pillow, and then he recognized the little shiver of Ronon’s sweat-warm body against his as suppressed laughter, and he collapsed again. "That’s not funny," he said.

"You’re wrong about that," Ronon said comfortably, draping himself half across Rodney and nuzzling into his neck.

"Were you just messing with me about the– ?"

"No. That part was true."

"It’s just, I have a very complicated relationship with the medical profession," Rodney said.

"I’m not a medical professional. I’m a soldier."

And Rodney had spent a number of years expending every effort to keep his relationships with soldiers from becoming...complicated, but that was another freak-out for another time. "But...is that what you really wanted to be?" he asked hesitantly. It wasn’t any of his business, of course. Of course, but.... "A doctor?"

"I really wanted to be a soldier," Ronon said seriously. "Since I can remember."

"Then why– ?"

"Stupid reasons," Ronon said, short and unpleasant. After a beat he said in a gentler voice, "For a girl."

"Ah," Rodney said. Didn’t everyone’s stupid reasons for everything eventually boil down to that? "And then you flunked out, and she dumped you, and you joined the military and the rest is history."

Ronon was silent for a moment. "And then I flunked out," he said slowly, "and she said she might consider going out with me if I would quit trying to be something I’m not, and I joined the military and the rest is...history. Yeah."

Rodney let his hand move over Ronon’s arm, feeling the flow and bend of his muscles. "Listen...Ronon," he said. Ronon stirred just enough to let him know he was awake and listening. "If there’s something– Is there – something? That you...need? Something I could do for you?" God, Rodney didn’t know whether he was hoping that there was or if he dreaded it. Who knew what kind of insane alien kink Ronon might be harboring – blindfolds, feathers, stiletto heels? Something he couldn’t...do without, maybe? Part of Rodney wanted to run screaming from the very idea, but.... Ronon. He liked Ronon, he – cared about Ronon, and he was getting progressively more hot for Ronon and not less. He wanted Ronon to feel...well, maybe not exactly the same way, maybe that was too much to ask, but at least...reasonably satisfied with his decision to push his way into Rodney’s bed. "You could tell me if there were," Rodney said, almost voiceless with nerves.

"I don’t need anything," Ronon said, his voice thick and muffled with sleep. "Everything’s good. You?"

"No, I’m good," Rodney said quickly. "Really...good. I was just...thinking about you." Ronon grunted a vague affirmative – appreciation for Rodney’s considerate and generous nature? Permission to keep thinking about him? Was this going to be one of those relationships where Rodney spent a lot of time nursing headaches and wishing the other person would just for God’s sake say whatever it was straight out, in a sentence? What was he thinking – of course it was. He settled an arm across Ronon’s back and resigned himself to his fate. It didn’t take that long.

After a grim internal struggle, Rodney cleared his throat and said, "It...it happens, you know. It happens to...lots of people." He regretted bringing it up the very moment he did, but fortunately, from the sound of his breathing, Ronon slept peacefully through the whole thing.

*

The next three weeks were quite possibly the most sexually satisfying of Rodney’s life – not that he was being shallow about it. Not at all. He liked the sudden ease he and Ronon had together, as if they’d leapt years’ worth of getting used to each other and were instantly not just workmates and occasional lunch buddies, but friends – old friends, even. Ronon had, literally overnight, become more familiar to him, the same daily feature of Rodney’s life that he was before, only more so, somehow.

He tried to explain that to Ronon, but Ronon just looked vaguely hurt and vaguely irritated and said, "We weren’t friends before?"

"Yes, well – yes," Rodney said. "In a sense, but– I mean, yes! Obviously! But– "

"I’d stop right there if I were you," Ronon said, giving Rodney a cool look over his sandwich that had the capacity to become a glare on a moment’s notice. Rodney stopped right there.

Even Ronon’s body had become familiar – the same old boring six-foot-four, leggy, sleek, muscular, high-cheekboned Ronon that Rodney had been looking at for two years now wasn’t just part of the scenery anymore, but a known quantity; when Rodney ran his fingers over Ronon’s inner thighs or bit gently along the ridge of his collarbone or tucked his palms into the curve of Ronon’s lower back, it was like reciting pi or Planck’s constant – effortless, self-evident, and breathtaking all at once. Naked and laid out in Rodney’s bed, Ronon was an integral part of the fabric of space-time, and one of the many, many arcane things that Rodney alone fully understood.

He didn’t even try to explain that one.

They didn’t really talk about the fact that they were having sex every night and sometimes in the morning and that one time in the afternoon – Ronon because, well, Ronon could go three weeks at a walk without really talking about anything, and Rodney because he still hadn’t figured out a tactful way bring the conversation around to why all this sex they were having made Rodney’s dick hard and made him come, whereas Ronon...not so much.

Not everyone knew that Rodney could be tactful, but he could, when something important came up. People’s fashion sense or table manners or taste in movies – not important. Medicine, postmodernism, alien cultures that consulted the signs before agreeing to sell tubers, the power of prayer, anthropology, and pointless, showy military spectacle – not important. People’s crackpot unsubstantiated scientific theories – possibly important, but science was no place for the weak-minded, and Rodney considered his lack of professional tact part of a necessary tempering process that, ideally, all innovative ideas should undergo at their earliest stages. The correct functioning of a man’s dick in intimate situations – very, very important. That much was obvious even to Rodney.

He finally had to try saying something, on a night when Ronon showed up in his room a few hours later than usual, stripping naked in the darkness and then coming forward into the lamplight that cut a bright triangular shape across Rodney’s bed, pushing Rodney’s Journal of Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology out of his hands and losing his place before gathering him close to kiss his objections silent.

"I thought maybe you had a change of plans," Rodney said when they stopped to breathe.

"Thought I might go to sleep early," Ronon admitted. "With an early mission tomorrow and everything. Just...."

"Just?" Rodney prompted him quietly, stroking his chest.

Ronon shrugged, even though his position made it slightly difficult. "Just changed my mind, I guess," he said. "You want me to go?"

"Oh, ha, ha, of course I do," Rodney said and kissed him again.

Rodney pushed Ronon onto his back and worked from his chest down to his tight, defined abs and his hard hipbones and the warmth of his soft cock. Ronon made appropriately gratified noises when Rodney rubbed his palm against it, and Rodney couldn’t help but wonder, yet again, what Ronon would sound like with Rodney stroking him right, jacking his hard cock ruthlessly, keeping him just seconds away from orgasm. At that point he wasn’t ready to abandon tact, exactly, but he was willing to take a calculated risk.

After a quick kiss, Rodney stilled his hand and leaned up over Ronon, looking down into his eyes. "You know," he said quietly, "it could be...it’s probably stress."

"Stress?" Ronon said a little foggily.

"Well...yes. Stress can – it can have an effect. Well, it can have any number of, of physiological effects. Headaches. Loss of appetite. Loss of...appetite.... Do you think you’re under a lot of stress? Maybe?"

Ronon focused his eyes on Rodney’s face and seemed to think about the question. "A lot compared to what?" he finally said.

"A lot – compared – well, I don’t know, you tell me! I’ve had thirty-one incredibly, remarkably good orgasms in the last three weeks, and I’m actually very willing to return the favor, if we ever manage to figure out what’s – what’s– " What’s wrong with you? Jesus, he’d been right from the very beginning; there was no way to have this conversation tactfully, it could not physically be done. "I’m just saying, we could...try something to help," Rodney said. "We could... I could help. If it’s stress, there are ways – meditation, backrubs, journaling, I don’t know what, but we could – we could find something. I’m saying, I would help. I want...."

Ronon watched him long after Rodney had given up on the point, cupping his hand around the base of Rodney’s skull and hooking his ankle over Rodney’s calf to keep him from squirming away completely. "It bothers you," Ronon said cautiously, and Rodney was at least relieved that nobody was going to pretend they were talking about something other than what they were talking about. That had to be a solid first step.

"It...no," Rodney said, and he didn’t know if that was a lie or not. "I would just assume that...it bothers you."

"I figured it would happen when it happens." He smiled, his eyelashes fluttering low and then up again to unshade his eyes. "I’d take you up on a backrub, though."

The backrub didn’t change the state of Ronon’s cock in any noticeable way, but the same couldn’t be said about Rodney. Just settling down for it was arousing, straddling Ronon’s naked body and coating his hands with lotion, trying not to get lost in the memory of the way he’d come last night, with nothing but this lotion between Ronon’s fingers and Rodney’s prostate; the lotion was part of some kind of bizarre aromatherapy set that Jeannie had sent him that smelled like lavender, chamomile, and sage (according to the bottle), or flowers, tea, and mown grass (as far as Rodney could tell), and was supposed to be relaxing. It was highly relaxing, in fact – at least, the way Rodney used it. Although he would probably never feel the same way about tea ever again.

Both of them groaned a little when Rodney leaned his weight into it, working as deeply as he could into the tight muscles just around and beneath Ronon’s neck, but Rodney cut himself off as quickly as possible so he could hear the muffled noises Ronon was making into Rodney’s pillow. Rodney let one of his hands smooth down Ronon’s shoulderblade, touching the place where his skin was whole and unmarked, and he thought, yes, of course, of course he was my friend before this, how could I have forgotten?

When he’d taken stock of his relationships in the midst of that unfortunate – zen superhero terminal illness thing – he remembered being shocked and ashamed to tune into his own thoughts and realize how he treated Ronon’s life story like – like a joke, or the origin story from some comic book, or the liner notes about a video game character – like it was only barely important, and only because it made Ronon a more adequate bodyguard. He remembered looking across the cafeteria table as Ronon wolfed down his food and thinking for the first time that he thought of those seven years as a fait accompli, lasting as long as the few sentences it took Ronon to describe it. Thinking that he’d never compared it to the last seven years of his own life – all the places he’d lived in seven years, all the projects he’d worked on, all the successes and failures and the people he’d met and the people he’d lost and seven birthdays and Christmases and five apartments and two cats and three girlfriends and two galaxies – a lifetime. Seven years.... It was a lifetime, especially for someone Ronon’s age, and Rodney routinely glossed over it in his mind as if it were some kind of extended training exercise, meant to forge Ronon into his own personal gunslinging ballistic shield.

He’d been glad he could do something about the scars. He didn’t like what it said about himself, though, that it had taken a year and a half for him to notice there were scars at all.

Rodney leaned forward and kissed Ronon’s shoulder, feeling him shudder. He kissed Ronon’s spine, between his shoulders, and said, "I don’t make a very good friend."

Ronon snorted softly. "I like you fine."

"I should – I could have been – I call you names, I snap your head off. I don’t...really listen when you talk."

"I don’t really talk much," Ronon said, which was, well, true. But still. "I’m rough on you, too, most of the time. Don’t worry about it."

"I just don’t want you to think I’m only being nice to you now because you’re my– because we’re seeing each other."

"Oh, that’s not why?" Ronon said dryly. He turned his head, resting his cheek on his wrists, and said, "I liked you like you were. I like you even better now."

"Why?" Rodney said. His voice cracked a little, for no apparent reason.

Ronon smiled slightly. "I don’t know. I guess...you liven things up. That and you’re honest. And sexy. That doesn’t hurt. Why?" he asked after Rodney didn’t respond for a second. "Were you expecting some other reason?"

Rodney didn’t exactly know what he’d been expecting. "No," he said. "Those are fine. Sometimes people are attracted to my intellect," he added. "Any leader in his field tends to exude a certain magnetic, alpha-male quality."

"Huh," Ronon said thoughtfully. "No...I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s more the other stuff."

"The other stuff works for me," Rodney said. "Especially that last one."

"Is this leading up to asking if I’ll let you fuck me?"

"Uh...no," Rodney said, his throat gone suddenly dry. Without conscious planning, his hand drifted down over the curve of Ronon’s back. "No, it...wasn’t leading up to anything, really. Just making conversation...."

"Because the answer’s yes," Ronon said.

"Okay, now ask me again."

Ronon closed his eyes and grinned as he said obligingly, "Trying to ask if you can fuck me, McKay?"

"Yes, yes, I am. That’s exactly where I was going with that."

"Good. Do it."

So overall the conversation did achieve remarkable orgasm number thirty-two for Rodney, but the original goal still didn’t seem any more obtainable than before, plus they overslept for the mission departure. Not exactly a loss, but a qualified success, perhaps.

*

The only real difference in the field, now that Rodney was sleeping with Ronon, was that they never took watch together during the night; presumably Ronon felt it was best to avoid the temptation to make out during their shift or take undue advantage of the tent when they were supposed to be sleeping. Rodney certainly preferred to avoid the temptation, so it was nice to believe that Ronon worried about that kind of thing, too. Maybe it had more to do with the appearance of impropriety, but Rodney chose to believe Ronon didn’t trust himself to keep his hands to himself.

MX9-3Y9 appeared to have been abandoned, but you never could tell about these planets. After a long day of scavenging downed flying vehicles that couldn’t, to the best of either Rodney’s or Sheppard’s expertise, ever in any way get off the ground, they had to relocate the discussion, and all the detachable parts, over toward the secured camp.

"If you had enough power," Sheppard said, poking the fire with a stick and sending up a shower of sparks, "I guess you could get anything into the air. Sorry."

"No, no, it’s all right," Rodney said, slapping at the place on his sleeve that had begun to smoulder. "Being set on fire never hurt anybody. You do realize that you’re one theory away from ‘maybe Godzilla picks the whole thing up and carries it where you want to go,’ right?"

"Hey, you don’t know how it flies, either," Sheppard said.

"I know they didn’t strap three ZPMs to the wings and flip the on-switch. I know that– Well, wait. Hm."

He started to stand up, because he really needed to take another look at that thing that he’d assumed was a fuel cell, because if the power source wasn’t internal, then– But Sheppard reached up and grabbed him by one of the straps of his vest, yanking him back down. "In the morning," he said.

"Yes, but– "

"It’s dark out there, Rodney. And there are bats."

"They’re not bats," Rodney said. "And I have a titanium flashlight, solves two problems at once."

Sheppard made a funny little noise, and it took Rodney a second to realize it was a chuckle. Sheppard didn’t laugh all that often. "Now that I could sell tickets to," he said. "You playing whack-a-mole with flying Pegasus rodents and your damn Mag-Lite. It’ll all be there in the morning, I promise. Just stay put for now."

"Fine," Rodney said, throwing up his hands. "We’ll just sit here and waste the whole night. Maybe instead of pioneering new frontiers in energy and learning how to build freakishly improbable airplanes for you to wreck, we’ll tell ghost stories."

"We could do that," Sheppard said amiably. "If you want."

"Don’t bother; I’ve seen all the same movies you steal your stories from."

"Guys who whine about not getting to make copies of all my porn don’t get to complain about my video library."

"When was the last time I– Okay, and I don’t whine. I just don’t understand what harm it does to you if– "

"Because it’s weird, okay? I don’t want you to know what kind of porn I keep around! If I wanted you to see it, I’d run it on the computer so you could steal it your damn self." After a moment, Sheppard grinned a little and said, "Guess it has been a little while, though. Not so hard up anymore, huh?"

Rodney stared at him, trying not to let his mouth fall open. Laughing, smiling, and now voluntarily bringing up the subject of Rodney’s heretofore-unspeakable and presumably barely forgivable sullying of Ronon’s chastity? "You’re not drugged, are you?" Rodney said. "Did you inhale any plant matter, or other foreign substance?"

To his relief, Sheppard shot him a glare. Back on solid ground again. "You don’t want to talk, we don’t have to talk. We’ll just sit here."

"No, I– No! We can talk. It’s just that, you don’t normally– "

"I don’t care, we can sit here, it’s just that we’ve got three hours to kill, and– "

"Well, then, let’s talk! I like to talk. I’ll talk all night if you want."

"Don’t knock yourself out or anything," Sheppard said dryly. "I just thought – it was kinda weird. How you haven’t been...you know. Coming around, bugging me as much anymore."

Drugged by alien plant spores. It was really the most likely explanation. Rodney’s hand twitched toward the pocket where he kept his epipen, just in case. "You...missed me?"

Sheppard rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. "You know what, forget it. No more talking, it was a dumb idea."

But it was too late. He hadn’t been spending as much time with Sheppard since he started seeing Ronon, and Sheppard missed him, which had to be worth months of abuse; Rodney could hardly wait. "You missed me," Rodney sang under his breath.

"I’m gonna come over there and cold-cock you," Sheppard growled.

"Missed me," Rodney sang again, higher-pitched but quieter. But then he felt a little guilty, because honestly, that had been a rather generous thing for Sheppard to say, that thing about how he missed Rodney and wished they were still spending quality time together and how he wanted to know more about what was going on in Rodney’s life – well, generous things to imply, because certainly they were all implied rather than so much said. He’d been a little bit busy, himself, but all at once he missed Sheppard, too. Nothing had been quite the same since they had to quit playing Geldar and Hallona. "Would it bother you a lot if you were impotent?" Rodney asked.

It was hard to tell in the firelight, but Sheppard seemed to get a little pale and shocky-looking. "Jesus fuck, Rodney!" he said, sounding strangled.

"Oh, not that – not that you are! Or have been! I mean, I suppose you might – I wouldn’t know – I just mean, I’m not asking because I think you’re some kind of local expert on erectile dysfunction. I was just curious, hypothetically."

"Rodney...seriously, stop."

"It would bother me a lot," Rodney said, staring moodily into the fire. "But then I got to thinking, if I were someone like – like you, for example – if I saved lives and, and fired lasers and knew how to kill someone with my thumbs – if I were a soldier, maybe I’d – maybe those are the things I’d use – to judge my manhood by. Maybe it wouldn’t be so...threatening?"

"I am not going to talk about your penis. I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear, earlier. I didn’t really think it was going to be an issue, but.... Just, no."

"I’m not asking about my penis. I just wondered– "

"No!"

"– hypothetically, say, on a scale of one to ten, how threatened you would feel in the general arena of masculinity if– "

"Or my penis, either – especially mine! Even hypothetically! This is so incredibly inappropriate. Jesus, we’re on duty, Rodney!"

"Oh, please," Rodney scoffed. "I’ve been working for the military for years now; I know the kinds of things you people talk about amongst yourselves."

"I really, really think you don’t," Sheppard said, sounding tired. He rubbed hard at his eyes and then said, "Look. Okay. As a friend, I’m just gonna tell you that you should – try not to let it – you know, make you crazy. You should maybe talk to a doctor, see if there’s any medication that might help, but if not, just...don’t worry about it. It happens, it doesn’t mean anything about your.... It doesn’t mean anything."

"This is not a conversation I’m really eager to have with Jennifer Keller," Rodney said. "It’s one thing to tell one of our friends– "

"Lucky me," Sheppard sighed.

"Maybe if Carson were...." But there was no point in finishing that sentence, was there? Because Carson wasn’t, and he never would be. Rodney hunched over his knees, drumming his fingers in idle, nervous patterns on his kneecaps. He didn’t think about Carson every day anymore, which inevitably left him feeling particularly defenseless and uncomfortable when the subject did come up.

Sheppard sighed again, but in a slightly different tone this time. "It’s probably just one of those things. I mean...assuming...it’s not a chemistry thing."

"What does that mean, a chemistry thing?"

"Well, you normally go for...you know, blondes. Blonde physicists. Maybe he’s just not...your type."

After a second’s pause to reevaluate the conversation they’d just had, Rodney said, "Wait, no! No, I said– Do you not know the meaning of hypothetical? It’s not me, we're not talking about me!  My penis is fine!"

"Okay, stop saying penis." 

"Well, I'm sorry," Rodney huffed.  "I didn't realize we were going to have the kind of conversation where we didn't use words."

Sheppard hung his head briefly and rubbed both hands over the back of his neck.  When he looked up again, he spoke in the calm, cautious tone of a man trying to land a conversation safely amidst extreme atmospheric turbulence.  "I just thought this was one of those ‘I have this friend’ kind of things."

"Well, it’s not! I mean, it is – it’s – it’s not me, okay? He’s my type. I have no problem– It’s not me."

"Okay, fine, Jesus. Can’t imagine why it didn’t occur to me that we were having an actual hypothetical penis– Oh, shit. Oh – fuck, Rodney!" Sheppard kicked the toe of his boot into the ground, sending a spray of dirt and gravel across Rodney’s shoe. "You fucking broke him, I’m going to kill you. I told you he – I told you to be careful!"

"I didn’t! I didn’t do anything!"

"Don’t talk to me anymore! I don’t want to hear about this! Just – just – don’t worry about it, Rodney, it happens. And don’t go saying all this shit about masculinity to him, it’ll just freak him out more. Just – don’t pressure him. It happens. It’ll work itself out. End of conversation."

"End of conversation," Rodney repeated glumly. Sitting in silence it was, then. Longingly, Rodney looked off in the direction of the grounded craft and considered going back out there again. It was maybe five minutes’ walk – okay, ten to be safe, in the dark – and he had a flashlight. There were bat-like animals, that was a negative, admittedly. He’d previously been counting on the fact that Sheppard would probably follow him and shoot anything untoward, but it didn’t look now like Sheppard would really mind seeing Rodney get his hair ripped out by space bats. Rodney sighed and leaned closer to the fire, warming his hands. "You want to talk about Rainbow Six Vegas?"

"God, yes," Sheppard said. "Are you using the tactical control option or the default settings?"

*

It wasn’t bad advice, really. Rodney didn’t want to worry about it. He didn’t want to worry about anything, and common sense suggested that while his already exciting, meaningful, high-achieving life was further improved by the addition of a jaw-droppingly gorgeous younger man who came willingly to his bed almost every night to satisfy Rodney’s every erotic whim, worry should be the furthest thing from his mind.

That had never really been the guiding principle by which Rodney lived his life, however.

Oh, he didn’t worry all the time, of course. The more Ronon’s cock became a part of Rodney’s daily life, the deeper and more intense Rodney’s affection for it grew. It was this strange and unexpected secret, in a way; nobody, looking at Ronon, knowing his ferocity, his bluntness, his impatient physicality, would ever guess what it was like to hold his cock, to kiss and suck it. Only Rodney knew that – how it was thick and soft, how the shape and the weight of it changed inside Rodney’s mouth, how Rodney could feel the blood thrumming through it when he did the thing that Ronon really loved, rubbing his thumb down the underside and his fingers up the top at the same time.

After years and years of viewing cocks through a relatively binary lens – they were erect or they were not erect, they were being used for the provision of orgasms to one or more people or else they weren't anything worth devoting very much attention to – Rodney was developing a fascination with all the states in between. Ronon’s cock didn’t make Ronon or Rodney come, but on the other hand it was impossible to ignore – Rodney didn’t want to ignore it. He started to catalogue its degrees of semi-hardness, to use his hands and his mouth like he was having a kind of conversation with it, receiving his answers back in the form of shivers and shifts and the beating of Ronon’s pulse just under the skin.

He’d only seen it fully erect once, on a night when he was called away to consult on an unexpected power surge in the dead of night. He crawled back into bed at almost five in the morning, and he was all settled in and nearly asleep when one or the other of them moved just slightly, bringing the back of Rodney’s thigh into contact with something rather unexpected. At first it was only puzzling, in a drowsy sort of way, but as soon as his brain filtered through the implications, he was wide awake all at once, his heart pounding. He brought the lights on and pulled the sheets back and stared.

Erect, Ronon’s cock was not all that much larger than usual, but it was flushed dark and stood up away from his body, the veins and the flare of the head more clearly defined. It looked...different, a stranger’s dick, and Rodney felt suddenly nervous, as if there really were a strange man with a hard dick sleeping in his bed. It almost felt as if he were cheating on Ronon when he reached out to touch it, but Rodney pushed that idea out of his mind. It was ridiculous and irrational; Ronon liked it when Rodney touched his dick, he would want this, he did want this. They both did.

It felt good; it felt right. Rodney let his hand find the shape of it, this different new shape, and then he let his grip tighten more than he’d ever dared before, squeezing down against its firm resistance the way he squeezed his own cock to intensify the sensation of jerking off. Ronon’s breath moved unevenly in his chest and he sighed raspily. The noise, the feeling, the simple reality of what he was doing made heat and need flare up in Rodney, and he kicked out of his underwear and threw his leg across Ronon, pressing their cocks together.

Ronon woke up then, yawning blearily and wrapping an arm around Rodney’s back, and for a moment they were thrusting slowly against each other, their skin too warm and dry for an easy slide, but still so good, so unbelievably good to be together like this.

But then the moment seemed to pass, and Ronon’s elusive erection faded and softened against Rodney’s, and part of Rodney ached like he’d been punched in the face, viciously aware of the loss. But Ronon was smiling gently at him in the darkness, and he put his hand comfortably over Rodney’s ass-cheek and squeezed. Rodney smiled back at him uncertainly and said, "I woke you up. Sorry about that."

"That’s okay," Ronon said.

Rodney rolled back to his own half of the bed (when had it become his own half of his bed? Was there a particular night or a week or a moment when that transition had occurred?) and couldn’t help staring at Ronon’s cock. He laid his palm over it lightly while Ronon watched. "You were, um..." Rodney said. "You know."

"Yeah," Ronon said, a little shortly. "So? That happens."

"Does it?" Rodney said. "I mean...I didn’t know if...that happened. To you."

"Of course it does," Ronon said, although Rodney wasn’t at all sure by what right he sounded so affronted. As if he couldn’t imagine where Rodney would ever get that idea. "Usually in my sleep," he clarified, with a little less banked hostility. "In the shower, sometimes. I don’t know. It happens."

"Oh," Rodney said. "You mean, just not.... Okay," he said faintly, trying to ignore the unpleasantly Sheppard-sounding voice in his head saying a chemistry thing and maybe he’s just not your type. "Well, that’s good," Rodney said, rallying. Ronon raised an eyebrow. "Well, that means it’s not...medical."

"I’m not sick," Ronon said disdainfully.

"Well, how was I supposed to know that?" Rodney snapped. "There could be physiological causes! High blood pressure, or, or prostate cancer! What about excessive exposure to radiation, that could certainly be an issue for you. Oh, my God, what was I thinking? Why would I let a little bit of social discomfort around the pretty new doctor – albeit a doctor who might take God knows what kind of unsavory pleasure in examining you naked – jeopardize your life?"

"Are you jealous of Dr. Keller?"

"Pretty girl-genius doctor!" Rodney said. "Jesus, it could easily have been cancer, there was no way for me to know it wasn’t prostate– Or, well, truthfully, your prostate seems to work just fine, but it still could have been– testicular cancer, maybe. How were– "

"I’m not sick. Quit winding yourself up and go to sleep."

It was a very good thing, Rodney told himself, that they’d been able to definitively eliminate major medical issues as the cause of Ronon’s erectile dysfunction. It was much...much better to know he was safe and well, even if that meant that Ronon just...didn’t. Or, rather, that he did – sometimes, in his sleep.  Or in the shower.

Good news, certainly.

*

The backrubs didn’t really solve the erection issue, but Ronon turned a little bit fanatical about them anyway. Truthfully, Rodney didn’t mind. There was something about having all the power of Ronon’s body spread out underneath him, lax and longing for Rodney’s hands.... Rodney had never felt so physically powerful in his life. Afterward, when he rolled Ronon over and gave him lazy, non-goal-oriented head, he liked to reach up and put his hands over Ronon’s chest, where he could feel Ronon’s heart pounding in the cup of his palms.

He tried not to – overanalyze, not to worry too much, but sometimes he had to stop and assess, to look up at Ronon and say, "Is this...okay? Do you want something else?"

Ronon’s eyes fluttered open, and he ran his hand slowly from Rodney’s shoulder all the way to his wrist where it rested against Ronon’s body. "It’s good," he said. "But maybe – something where I can see you better?"

That was adorably diplomatic, Rodney thought. He crawled up to lie against Ronon and kissed the sensitive spot just behind Ronon’s ear. "I don’t know if I’ve ever been with anybody who tried this hard to stroke my ego," Rodney said. "You’re not half as mean as you like people to think you are."

"Could say the same about you," Ronon said. "But I’m not trying to stroke your ego."

"I know I’m nothing special to look at," Rodney blurted, surprised at the ragged little edge to his own voice. "But...you never make me feel...that way."

Ronon hooked one leg over Rodney’s and ran a hand along Rodney’s back. "You look good to me," he said. "I like your shoulders. I like your hands. I like your thighs. I like – I have a thing about nice, broad shoulders. I like yours."

"You said that already."

"Well, I have a thing. You have weird blind-spots about yourself. I don’t know how you got that way, but what you see – it’s not the same thing I see. When I first met you, I thought it was too bad you were so annoying and cowardly, because you had a really nice body."

"Is ‘thank you’ the appropriate– ?"

"Don’t get snitty. I changed my mind about the rest of it."

It was – a very appealing story. Rodney wanted to believe that it happened exactly like that, with Ronon trying to ignore some kind of mad sexual attraction from day one, and slowly adjusting to Rodney’s admittedly somewhat challenging style of personal expression, until the night he threw caution to the wind, loaded up on forty-proof courage, and gave in to unrestrained passion. That sounded...amazing.

He might have believed it, if it weren’t for the absolute, verifiable scientific fact that lots of things Rodney said and did made Ronon smile, but nothing about him – not even his broad shoulders – made Ronon hard. Not that being able to attract gorgeous and willing sexual partners with nothing but his sheer brilliance and force of personality wasn’t all well and good – people had been promising Rodney for most of his life that brilliance and personality were potent aphrodisiacs, but Ronon was the first tangible evidence Rodney had ever had in support of that theory. He was hardly going to complain.

He wasn’t going to complain. This was what he had, and it was – it was Ronon. He wasn’t going to say anything at all that might bring whatever this was to an end, not yet. Rodney was much, much too selfish a person for that.

Rodney kissed the small constellation of moles on Ronon’s face. "Well. I’m nothing to look at next to you, anyway."

"I’m kind of used to that," Ronon said, entirely matter-of-fact. "I never expected everyone to look like me." It came as a bit of a shock to Rodney: Ronon was usually shy about compliments to the point of prudishness. Rodney didn’t think he’d ever heard Ronon admit that he was as extraordinary as everyone knew he was.

"Really?" Rodney teased. "The way you talk about Sateda, I just assumed everyone was ten feet tall and looked like a movie star and could kill me with their elbow."

Ronon grinned at him and said, "Well...yes and no. Maybe the part about the elbows, yeah. But even in the Infantry, it’s not like everybody is.... It’s not easy to get into the Infantry and stay in. Satedan soldiers are...were really brave and dedicated, and our training was the best in the galaxy. But I was always...you know. Taller."

"Taller," Rodney repeated, smiling fondly at his lover. "Stronger. Faster. Prettier. Better."

Ronon’s cheeks flushed just a little bit darker than before, but he didn’t deny it. "I was the youngest Specialist in more than two hundred years," he admitted softly. "My parents won a bunch of awards."

"Your parents?"

"On Sateda, it’s considered really vain to accept honors for yourself." At the same time, Rodney and Ronon both glanced involuntarily at the bank of diplomas on Rodney’s wall, then back at each other, and cracked up laughing. Rodney rolled off and found a comfortable position alongside Ronon as they settled back down, sharing a pillow with their foreheads almost touching. Rodney pushed back Ronon’s hair so he could see his face. "Unmarried soldiers get their awards sent home to their parents," Ronon said. "They’re the reason you grow up right, anyway."

"Hm," Rodney said, noncommital. He’d spent far too many years trying to detach himself from the legacy of his father’s failed theories and wasted genius to be ready to buy into that entirely. "Did your parents put them up on the walls?"

"The mantle," he said. The shadow of loss was on his face again, but he wore it more softly than usual, and Rodney decided he didn’t need saving or distracting right now. Maybe he needed to talk. "They’re little – metal things. Soldiers who earn fifty during their career are designated war heroes. They get a special burial, a monument. My folks had seven. I told – when you’re married, they present your awards to your partner instead of your parents, and I...told Melena that if she married me, I’d make her a war hero’s partner in twenty years. I thought.... Nobody does it that fast, but I thought I could do anything, back then."

Rodney was far from sure he’d been wrong about that. "Did she...believe you – when you said that? Was she the medical school girl?"

"Yeah, she was the medical school– well, the doctor. She was older than me; she was a doctor by then. I don’t know if she believed me or not, but I guess she figured...there was only one way to find out."

Rodney took a careful, steadying breath. This was possibly their very first serious relationship conversation, so it was no time to rely on his instincts. "I didn’t know you were married," he said. And then he said, "Weren’t you a little young to be married?"

"Aren’t you a little old never to have been?" Ronon said shortly, and Rodney didn’t object. That was the very least he deserved. Stupid instincts. "Anyway, I wasn’t," Ronon said, more gently. "Our wedding was...ten weeks away. We were supposed to.... Ten weeks."

In spite of his best, most sincere efforts, Rodney couldn’t figure out what the right thing to say was. At last he decided, screw it, he’d just stick with the stupid truth, as per usual. "I find it very strange to think of you with a woman." Ronon’s eyebrows shot up, so apparently it was at least a successful diversionary tactic. "Well, it’s that super-buff Satedan warrior thing you put across! I guess I was possibly imagining more...sweaty, testosterone-fueled sport-fucking in the barracks – lots of manly bonding and competitiveness and great abs."

"That’s what you were imagining, huh?" Ronon said with a half-smile.

"Possibly," Rodney allowed.

"You’d have been disappointed. Sateda isn’t.... Believe me, there’s a lot more sport-fucking in Atlantis. Things were stricter back home. It’s – it’s a hard world, you know? We were encouraged to marry young and stay married. There’s a lot of stuff in life that nobody should have to go through alone. Families support you. That’s – what we were raised to believe, at least."

Was this still the relationship conversation? And were they talking about marriage, or – talking about marriage? It seemed a little early for that, but Rodney didn’t have commitment issues, per se. At his age, which Ronon had so kindly called attention to, Rodney was rapidly coming to the point where maybe someday didn’t cut it anymore; he was either going to get serious about meeting someone and settling down, or he was going to have to admit to himself that he was never going to find room in his life for that. He’d tried to explain that to Katie, in fact. That conversation hadn’t gone so well. But then, Katie hadn’t been the one to bring it up, so this time was – different?

"I’ve been thinking a lot about families," he finally said. "Since I’ve been talking to Jeannie, it’s more – more at the forefront, you know. I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot already, in that department, and I wonder.... Well, she’s so happy. And she’s my sister, so we must be at least a little bit alike. I don’t know if it would make me that happy, having what she has, but...maybe it would."

"Jeannie’s nice," Ronon said, which was – completely uninformative.

"I just...know what you mean, about getting through things more easily if you have...family around you." There. That felt like a nice balance – enough to let Ronon know that he was open to the possibility, just to let any potential seeds start to germinate. He was all set to let it go at that, when he was temporarily possessed (possibly by the same demonic power that prompted him to have copies made of his and Katie’s DNA schematics so he could show her how few serious genetic defects their children would be prone to – people said that women loved babies, but apparently not always). "I just think it’s a little bit early in the relationship for us to be discussing marriage."

Ronon’s eyes widened slightly. "Were we...discussing...?"

No, apparently? "Um," Rodney said. "No? Apparently?"

"I don’t think a few weeks is really enough time to start...." Ronon said.

"I agree! That was my point! We’re in complete agreement here. God, we haven’t even told anybody that we’re sleeping together yet."

Ronon gave him a blank look. "Are we supposed to announce it?"

"No, we wouldn’t have to...announce it, exactly. It’s just, can you imagine what a shock it would be if we were to suddenly turn up engaged to each other, when nobody even knows we’re involved?"

"Who doesn’t know?"

"Nobody, unless you’ve told someone. Well, Sheppard and Teyla know. They were at the party– "

"A lot of people were at that party. I didn’t have to tell anyone, because everyone knows."

"No, no, but – almost everyone else was already gone when we left together, and– "

"Yeah, but they were there the rest of the night, while we were feeling each other up."

"We were not feeling each other up! Sheppard and Teyla could probably tell, because they know us both very well, they have a special connection to us, but the rest– We were just talking."

"McKay, everybody knows about us."

"No, we were just talking! And maybe touching, but, but we do that all the time anyway! Well, not all the time, but – we do that! We have, in the past – friendly, platonic, team-touching. How – there was nothing to see! Nobody knows about us."

"Nobody doesn’t know about us. You didn’t know that?"

"I.... That’s just not a fair rumor for people to start. Can’t one friend touch another friend without the whole city gossiping about it for weeks afterward? I can have friends, it is within the realm of possibility."

"It’s kind of a fair rumor for people to start, since it’s true."

"I would have expected someone to say something, that’s all," Rodney said. "Congratulations, a little pat on the back, gee, Dr. McKay, we’re all pretty amazed by your obvious desirability and prowess, hard to believe we didn’t notice it all this time. Of course, I can see how that might be an awkward admission," he said, feeling a little better the longer he thought about it. "Most people I work with aren’t very good at admitting their mistakes – keeps staff meetings interesting, I’ll tell you that much. And anyway, they’re clearly jealous, because why wouldn’t they be? I suppose it’s understandable."

Ronon rolled over on his back, dragging Rodney awkwardly along with him, arching his spine and yawning. "Plus, people are pretty good around here about minding their own business. Sheppard told me there’s even a rule about it – a privacy rule? What’s that called – Don’t Ask, and I Won’t Tell? I think that’s a nice rule to have, with this many people living in a little space."

"That is not a nice rule. That is a U.S. military policy of enforced discrimination against the arbitrary types of sexual behavior that the village elders have decreed should be banned for no particular purpose except to ruin people’s lives. You and I are opposed to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

"Oh," Ronon said. "We are? I just thought it was for letting me go around without people asking me a bunch of weird questions in the mess hall. ‘Why are you in such a bad mood?’ ‘Is it true you’re fucking Dr. McKay?’ That kind of stuff."

"No, that rule is called I Have Knives In My Hair. Because guess what? No one has any trouble asking me weird, intrusive questions in the mess hall. Like, ‘Do you really think you need two of those?’ and ‘What on Earth did you say to poor Katie?’"

Ronon thought about that for a moment and then said, "You need me to stab anyone for you, you just come let me know."

Which Rodney really thought went without saying, but he appreciated it anyway. "Are you going to sleep?" he asked.

"Eventually," Ronon said. "I could suck you off first, if you want, though."

For a moment, Rodney found it impossible to speak. He wasn’t sure if that was – the kind of comfortably marital taking-for-granted that one theoretically aspired to in a relationship, or if....

It wasn’t an afterthought to Rodney – the chemistry thing. It wasn’t optional or convenient or routine maintenance, and he could barely get through his day at work sometimes without drifting off thinking about the way Ronon’s arms felt wrapped around him with his face pressed into Rodney’s neck, or the way his mouth tasted, or what it was like to come in Ronon’s mouth, his hard, deft fingers in Rodney’s ass, coaxing wave after wave of sensation through his whole body.

He wished to God he knew exactly what it was to Ronon.

"Would you mind?" he said hesitantly.

Ronon smiled easily and used one leg to flip Rodney onto his back, so that before he had time to blink he was staring up into Ronon’s dangerous, shining eyes. "Not at all," Ronon said huskily, and Rodney closed his eyes as Ronon started kissing the clearest, most direct path possible from his collarbone down to his cock. He didn’t want to worry; he didn’t want to think about anything; he just wanted to enjoy every moment of this for all it was worth.

He didn’t want to fall in love with someone that he didn’t have the slightest idea how to satisfy in bed. He didn’t want to lose Ronon. He wanted....

He made a small, almost pained noise as Ronon wrapped his hand around the base of his dick and took the rest gradually into his mouth. Rodney put his hands lightly on the back of Ronon’s head and wanted fiercely to have the power to make Ronon feel half – half of what his most careless touch made Rodney feel.

*

There were, oh, oh so many reasons to be worried about letting Ronon take him to see a movie called Flesh Gordon 2: Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders, but strangely, it never occurred to Rodney to worry about the plot. It frankly never occurred to him there would be a plot.

"Let me spell this out for you in very small words," Rodney told Colonel Sheppard, who looked much more cheerful than anyone had a right to look, coming back from a week-long field training exercise on a pitiful mudball of an uninhabited planet with twenty Marines. Shouldn’t that kind of thing sap a man’s will to live? But Sheppard appeared, God help them all, to have bonded with his brothers in uniform over the past week, even, Rodney supposed, the ones responsible for his twisted ankle and the spectacular cut across his forehead. "I am not going to spend my boyfriend’s first night home in six days watching a porno with half the United States Marine Corps."

"It’s not really a porno," Sheppard said, laboriously trying for the fifteen thousandth time to get his bootlaces loose enough that he could fit the shoe over his bandaged foot. Movie, hell, they wouldn’t even get out of the infirmary until next weekend at this rate. "It’s just a dumb spoof, it’s funny – so bad it’s good, you know."

"I’m willing to bet good money that it’s so bad it’s bad, and I have better things to do. By which I mean, practically anything."

"Listen, Rodney," Sheppard said with unexpected seriousness. "Ronon was pretty nervous about helping me run this survival exercise. He’s still an outsider here to everyone but our team, and you know it. He did a great job – I’m sure he won’t tell you that in so many words, but he did. He earned a lot of cred this week, and there’s no reason he should miss the party tonight."

"Oh, it’s a party now."

"Yes, it’s a party. It’s a back-on-Atlantis, we-survived-survival party, and this is how soldiers do things: they almost get themselves killed together, and then they get drunk and watch dumb movies about slutty extraterrestrial cheerleaders together, and that’s the difference between these guys and someone who just thinks his role in life is to slug his way through fight after fight until he gets killed. Jesus fuck, Rodney, let him be part of a unit again. This is what he should have been doing all along."

That made a certain...stupid, macho sort of sense. "I shouldn’t go, though," Rodney said. "I see what you – fine, but this isn’t about me."

"A lot of other people are coming, it won’t matter. He wants you to come, and I think it’d be good for both of you to see him fitting in for once. You don’t have to make a huge deal out of it; I’m taking Teyla. I mean – I’m – you can, you can tell that – I mean, I’m not taking Teyla, we’re – I mean, lots of people are taking, bringing, going with friends – friends who are – "

"Oh, for God’s sake, stop," Rodney said. "I understand. It’s just another evening in your excruciatingly, torturously platonic mutual obsession with Teyla. I won’t ascribe undue meaning to any of it."

"Nobody is obsessed with anybody."

"Of course not. Have you ever considered just telling her how you feel?" As soon as it was out of his mouth, Rodney realized the essential stupidity of the question. Of course Sheppard hadn’t considered telling her how he felt. The very concept was laughable.

Sheppard didn’t look like he was laughing. "Gee, Rodney," he said, "I thought about getting her really, really drunk in public and then dragging her off by her hair, but that doesn’t work on everyone as well as it does on you."

It was nice to know for sure that at least somebody was properly envious.

The porno-party was as heavily attended as Sheppard had promised, much to Rodney’s relief. He’d also been right about how everyone was suddenly treating Ronon – with a rather charming mixture of camaraderie and respectful man-crush that was vaguely like, yet worlds better than, the cautious, compliant paranoia that Ronon usually engendered among the people he abused for a living. It was...sweet to watch Ronon move around the room, his smile shifting between shy and sly and wolfish as he traded in-jokes and gave his expert opinion on complicated killing-related questions. Rodney stayed put, nursing his (crappy, American) beer and feeling irrationally proud of Ronon, and only very slightly annoyed that it had taken everyone but him so long to realize that Ronon was a person you wanted to have around you as much as possible.

Everything was going fine, right up until the actual movie, which was not only not so bad it was good (just bad, thanks), but was also horrifically offensive to multiple-celled organisms of every variety, and – if you happened to be watching Ronon’s face as he struggled to get the jokes and then as he did get them – heartbreaking. Rodney had expected the "plot" of the movie would require Flesh Gordon to use his skills to save the Cosmic Cheerleaders, and that it wouldn’t involve tutoring them to raise their SAT scores – he’d been prepared for that much, but he really, really thought someone should have had the decency to warn him about the Galactic Impotence Ray.

The impromptu MST3K commentary from the crowd was really only the painful cherry on top of the miserable, demoralizing ice cream sundae of shame.

Ronon made it all the way through the Assteroid field and the totally-gay-for-Flesh Massive Penetrator, but Queen Frigid and the Evil Presence were a little much for him. "You laugh at the Evil Presence now, woman!" declared the first-person-utilizing villain, "But once I get Gordon’s sex hammer, you’ll beg– " and that was right about enough for Ronon.

"I’m gonna go. This is boring," he said as he stood up, but intentionally or not, he said it in that quiet, pissed-off voice of his so that even the people around him didn’t seem to hear or notice. Only Rodney, who hadn’t been noticing anything else.

If no one paid any attention to Ronon leaving, they certainly weren’t going to stop the presses for Rodney’s parting comments, but he still said, "Yes, well, I’ll, um, it’s so late, look at that, how time flies." Nobody heard him, of course, except for Sheppard, who was watching everything with a dark, subtly furious expression, the one he always wore when he was contemplating going back in time and altering the timeline by shooting someone in the head. He smiled tightly at Rodney in a way that Rodney thought meant, Sorry for talking you into this; I honestly didn’t realize. Rodney nodded, because he didn’t really have a lot of time to be pissed off at Sheppard right now. And anyway, if he were going to be pissed off, he had the solace of revenge already, because this movie was totally going to set Sheppard back two years with Teyla.

He caught up to Ronon in the transporter. "We should talk," he said, overriding the directional component to take them to his own quarters instead of Ronon’s.

Ronon didn’t agree, but he didn’t argue, either. He just stood there, his whole body tense and broadcasting the restrained desire to cause someone grievous harm – the exact same signals Sheppard had been broadcasting, only ten times more so. Nobody that Rodney knew hid his reactions better than Sheppard; nobody he knew short of himself hid them as badly as Ronon.

Rodney didn’t know what he expected, but it certainly was not to be put on the defensive the moment they were safely in private. "You could have told me," Ronon said. "You could have fucking told me how you felt."

"How I I didn’t feel – don’t feel any – That had nothing to do with how I feel, absolutely nothing!"

"So it’s just the rest of your people who think I’m inadequate. Who’d laugh at me if they knew."

"Those are not my people!" Rodney shouted, waving his hands. Lovely, they’d reached the shouting stage very early in this fight. Hell, Rodney hadn’t even figured out why they were fighting, and the shouting was already well underway. "Those aren’t anyone’s people! Haven’t we already talked about how movie people are not like real people, even real Earth people?"

"What about the people watching it?" Ronon said.

It was a point in his favor and he knew it perfectly well. Rodney sighed and sat down on the foot of his bed. "Look," he said, "the movie was – it was supposed to be funny – absurd – so that’s how they treated it. Anyone who knew – if anyone knew that you were really...going through something.... They wouldn’t laugh at you, they’d feel sorry– " Oh, and maybe that wasn’t the best defense in the world, come to think of it.

Ronon narrowed his eyes. "I don’t need anyone’s pity, and I definitely don’t need it from a bunch of fucking Lanteans."

"Well, hey, now," Rodney said feebly. "There’s really no reason to get...ethnic about it."

"I know people from different worlds are different, and I know I’m supposed to respect other cultures and everything, but I’m sorry, it’s not always easy, and I really fucking hate how your people talk about sex!  It's wrong. The way you make it a joke, or you make it something – the way you can be with someone, be naked with someone, and it still doesn’t mean anything, you don’t even have to respect them, forget about like them, and love– Do people where you come from even know what that means?"

"Yes!" Rodney said. "You’ve probably, you’ve, you just got a bad impression – everything you know about us you learned from movies and the military and deeply, deeply unfulfilled single science geeks, and I can imagine how that makes us all look by association, but it’s not all – we’re not all – it can mean something to us, too. It means something to – what you and I do, that...means something to me. It means a lot."

That seemed to help a little; Ronon still looked furious, but he looked slightly less ready to fly apart into a million pieces at a moment’s notice. "You should have told me," he said.

"I should have told you what? What should I have told you?"

"What this makes me," Ronon said. "That I’m a joke, I’m pathetic, I’m half a man."

Rodney could barely make his throat work, but he croaked out a helpless, "No," anyway.

"We don’t talk about this stuff where I come from," Ronon said, half angry and half wistful, "everybody deciding what other people are supposed to– " He shook his head. "I know you think – I know that where you come from, it doesn’t count if I don’t do all that stuff - but I thought since I could do pretty much the same thing with my hand, that would be close enough for you. I thought we were doing okay, and all the time you– "

"No, all the time I wasn’t," Rodney said, almost frantically. "I wasn’t thinking that, I never blamed you. Who are you going to believe, them or me? I never blamed you. I love your hands. I love getting all the head I could ever want from you, and the way you – the way you kiss, and – if there are things you can’t do for me, they’re nothing compared to what I can’t do for you, I understand that. You’re not pathetic, all right? You know what you do do for me? You give me giant erections every time you touch me, and you make me come as hard as I’ve ever come in my life, so I think if we’re going to start judging each other’s bedroom prowess, you’re starting from a distinct advantage."

Ronon stared at him hard, frustration and confusion all over his face. "You think...you think I’m not getting hard because you’re not good at sex."

It didn’t really sound like a question, but Rodney decided to treat it as one anyhow. "I don’t know what I think," he admitted. "I know...I don’t want you to leave me– "

"Fuck!" Ronon said, kicking over Rodney’s desk chair for emphasis.

"– but I also know I’m a selfish bastard for trying to keep you when there’s probably...someone out there who has better – better chemistry with you. Who knows what to do."

"Oh, fuck," Ronon said wearily. "I don’t know – I can’t figure out what to even say to you right now. This has been such a long week, and I just don’t...." He scrubbed his hands over his face and then ran them through his hair, seeming to brace himself for the inevitable. "I don’t want anyone else. I want to be with you. I don’t know what you expect me to say, I’m not good at this, but I wouldn’t be fucking you if I didn’t like doing it."

"You’re not fucking me!" Rodney shouted. Somehow, he hadn’t guessed that he’d be the one keeping them from moving out of the shouting phase; when did he get into the shouting spirit? "I’m fucking you."

Ronon crossed the room with such decisive strides that Rodney leaned back a little, instinctively, from his intensity. Ronon caught his face in both hands and bent his head back just enough to make Rodney look up at him. "Rodney," he said, and Rodney didn’t think he’d ever heard anyone say his name in quite that beseeching, exasperated tone. "Okay, I’m slow. Explain this to me. What is this – this weird, secret motive you think I have for what we do together?"

"I didn’t say ‘secret motive.’"

"But you don’t think I really want it."

"It’s a little bit obvious," Rodney said. "And it’s not – I never said secret motive, but you said yourself, sex and – and – affection, there’s not that much difference for you. I know you like me. There’s my sparkling wit, obviously, and – and honestly, I couldn’t really begin to say why, but you – you do like me. And you’re a very nice person, so...."

"So – what?"

Rodney shrugged. Part of him wanted to pull his head out of Ronon’s grip, but most of him didn’t think he could stand the symbolism of drawing away from Ronon’s touch. He didn’t have any idea, at this point, how many more times he’d get to have that. "So...you sleep with me...even though I don’t satisfy you in bed?"

Ronon stared at him for what seemed like a long time. Finally, unexpectedly, he cracked a very slight smile. "I’m not that nice a person," he said.

"I don’t know how to fix it," Rodney said. "This is really...not my area of expertise."

Ronon paced over to the window and leaned his elbow on it, looking out for a minute. "I want you to know," he finally said, still facing away from Rodney, "that it’s not something I...expected you to fix. So you didn’t let me down or anything like that."

"Yes, but I– "

"You can’t interrupt me," Ronon said. "This is hard. I can’t think when you do that."

"Sorry," Rodney said.

He turned around, leaning back against the wall; Rodney couldn’t look at his face without wanting to say a million jumbled things, so he looked straight forward so he could only see Ronon out of the corner of his eye. "I don’t talk a lot about the years I spent running," Ronon said. "I don’t know if anyone would really understand. I don’t even think I want anyone to understand. It’s not something you should have to carry around. You or...anybody."

"But I want – I know, I’m sorry, I’ll shut up, but – I want to know about it. You may have noticed, I’m not good with the unknown. It’s hard to – I need to – if you’re going to be this big part of my life, then I need to know you. Everything."

"I don’t even know me," Ronon said. "I mean, I know who I was before. But I – changed. Not all at once. For a long time I was pretty much the same person, just in a really bad situation. But then, after two or three years, I just started...changing. Things that used to matter didn’t anymore. Things I used to know really well, I could barely remember. I slept different, I ate different, I moved different. My senses changed. My body changed. And I know...who I turned into, or – what I turned into. I know exactly who I was when you met me. But I’m not.... That’s been a couple of years ago, and now I’m not really either of those people. It’s not that I don’t – want you to know me, it’s just...."

"Can I say something?" Rodney asked.

"No," Ronon said shortly. "When I’m done. Sex is just...a part of my life that got buried under everything else. I didn’t think I’d ever feel safe again, and – anyway, it made me think about stuff it was better to forget. It didn’t go away overnight. It took a long time, years. It could take – it’s taking...years to change back. I didn’t care so much, until I...started to feel this way about you. Now I wish.... If I could make myself change back faster, I would, and not as some kind of fucking favor to you. I want to be able to make love to you without a bunch of – stuff in the way, all this stuff from my past. It’s my stuff, it’s got nothing to do with us, or with you."

"Can I say something?"

The desperate note of smothered hysteria in his voice must have proved convincing, because Ronon smirked a little and said, "Fine, yes. Say it."

But then, perversely, Rodney realized that he didn’t actually have anything to say. It was just too hard, listening to Ronon take all of this on himself. So instead he said, "Come here."

Ronon hesitated. "Don’t you – is that – you don’t have something to say?"

"Why, did you want to keep talking about this?"

"Not really."

"Then come here." Ronon looked wary, but he did come closer. He sat down on the foot of the bed next to Rodney, and Rodney pulled his head down to brush his lips with a kiss. Ronon pulled back and looked at him, some kind of question in his eyes that he couldn’t seem to find words for. Rodney put his arm around Ronon’s shoulders and kissed him again on the side of his mouth and said, "Does that feel good?"

"Yes," Ronon said, his voice soft and hoarse.

"Feedback would be a very helpful thing," Rodney said. "Since the usual signals are a little...scrambled, what you could do for me is, you could just tell me out loud, in a sentence, what’s good for you."

"You," Ronon said even more softly, his eyes drifting closed. Rodney touched his jaw and ran a thumb up the vein in his neck. "This."

Which wasn’t technically a sentence, but Rodney wasn’t inclined to be picky about semantics. He kissed Ronon, throwing enough of his weight into it to ease Ronon down on his back. Ronon’s lips parted under his, and he slid his hands under Rodney’s shirt, over his lower back. "Kiss my neck some more," Ronon suggested when Rodney gave him space again, and Rodney took him up on that immediately. "And I still like your hand on my cock," he said, in a voice that made it hard for Rodney to keep his hand entirely steady as he worked the fastenings on Ronon’s pants. "It feels really good."

"There, you see?" Rodney said, dragging the pants down Ronon’s hips. "You’re feeling good, I’m feeling good. I’m not so sure there’s really any room for improvement, frankly."

"Don’t get crazy," Ronon said with a faint little smile. "I still want...."

"And eventually," he murmured, dropping a kiss near his navel, "someday, when that happens--" He nipped, because Ronon could take it. "--I’ll expect to be given some kind of superhero name. Sadly, Mr. Fantastic is taken." He tossed Ronon’s pants away and briefly took his cock into his mouth, lapping at it gently before releasing it. "But then, I do have three PhD’s that I hate to see go to waste, so--" He gave the matter some thought while he rummaged under the blanket for the lube. "Maybe Dr. Fantastic. Dr. Amazing? Dr. Potent!" he decided, smiling up at Ronon triumphantly while he slid his hand up the inside of Ronon’s thigh. "The master of sexual healing. And his trusty sidekick, Thoroughly Satisfied Guy."

"Dr. Shut up and fuck me," Ronon growled.

"I’ll take it," Rodney said smugly. Ronon rolled his eyes, but Rodney wasn’t about to let a little thing like that get in the way of great sex.