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Catch-19

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John was looking at his feet, trying to stop the panic rising up through his chest like some sort of emotional bile, when Rodney burst into Elizabeth's office, datapad cradled in his arm.

"Good, you're both here. You will not believe what Radek and I found in the database. The Ancients research on the life signs detectors. With this we might even be able to figure out how they work." Their lack of response must've clued him in because Rodney stopped looking at his datapad and looked at them, first Elizabeth, then John. "What's going on?"

There wasn't any way to sugarcoat it, not that Elizabeth hadn't tried, so John just said it. "I'm being sent back to Earth."

"What?" Rodney looked sharply at him then quickly shifted his gaze to Elizabeth. "What is he talking about?"

"The IOA feels that the American military has too much influence on the expedition. They want someone from another country in charge."

"That's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard. Don't they realize how many times the Colonel has saved our collective asses, not to mention theirs?"

"Thank you, Rodney," John said, because Rodney calling people idiots on his behalf always made him feel warm inside.

"You're welcome."

"They're aware," Elizabeth said. "It's not John they have a problem with."

"Just the fact that he's American," Rodney said, nodding.

Elizabeth nodded with him.

Rodney turned to look at him and John had to resist the urge to make a face. "Maybe you should change countries."

"What?"

"Just…" Rodney waved his hand. "Give up being American and join another country."

"You can't just change citizenship willy-nilly, you have to live in the other country and stuff," John said, looking to Elizabeth for confirmation.

"Not if you get married."

That had to qualify as the most idiotic thing Rodney had ever said.

"People do it all the time."

Nope, he'd topped it. "In the movies," John countered. Who did Rodney think John was, Gerard Depardieu?

"It's not like half the women in Atlantis wouldn't throw themselves at your feet if given the chance, just pick one who isn't American, marry her, join her country's military, problem solved."

"No, the problem is not solved. I'm not going to use someone like that."

Rodney snorted. "Like any of them would object."

John looked to Elizabeth. If anyone could explain Rodney's idiocy to him, it was Elizabeth.

"It could work," she said slowly, "although you'd want to choose a country with some clout in the IOA."

Traitor, John thought. Not that he wanted to go back to Earth, but marriage. He'd been there, done that. He had the divorce decree to prove it. "I can't believe we're even talking about this."

"It's either that or go back to Earth, and we both know how happy you were at the SGC," Rodney said, folding his arms across his chest.

John crossed his arms too, because the best way to deal with a stubborn Rodney was to out-stubborn him. "Let me repeat, I'm not using someone like that, and don’t say she'd be willing because that just makes it worse."

Wagging a finger at him, Rodney said, "Now, you're just being selfish."

"Excuse me?"

"Gentlemen," Elizabeth said, holding up her hands. "Rodney, we're going to have to think of something else."

"Like what?"

"I don't know," Elizabeth answered, emphasizing each word.

With a disgruntled huff, Rodney dropped into the chair behind him. John followed suit, Elizabeth taking the seat behind her desk. The three of them looked at the floor, at the walls, at each other.

"Marry me," Rodney said.

John's head snapped toward him. "What?"

"Marry me. You don't want to take advantage of some poor woman, then don't. I'm volunteering. Unlike your backward country, Canada recognizes gay marriages."

"Hey--" John said, instinctively protesting Rodney's slam of the good ol' US of A. Then he noticed Elizabeth looking at them speculatively. "You can't think this is a good idea." She simply smiled. "Rodney and me, no one would believe it."

"Why not?" Rodney demanded, sounding genuinely offended which, knowing Rodney, he probably was.

"Oh, I don’t know, maybe because neither of us is gay, or maybe because you've been panting after Colonel Carter for years."

"Maybe it was a cover story, designed to hide my feelings for you. Feelings we never acted on because we were afraid you'd be sent back." Rodney stood, moving across the room as he talked. "But now that you're going to be sent back anyway, we have nothing to lose, so you've decided to resign your commission and marry me, put an end to all that pining."

"This could work," Elizabeth said.

John looked between them, shaking his head in disbelief. Rodney shot her a grateful look. "Pining. I've been pining for you," John muttered.

"I'm pineable," Rodney said.

"I never said you weren't." Shifting his attention back to Elizabeth, John sighed. "You honestly think this'll work?"

"It's all about politics. The Chinese are contributing roughly a quarter of the project's budget, almost as much as the Americans."

"And they think they should get something for it," John said.

Elizabeth nodded. "The Europeans are deeply unhappy with the current administration and so are more than happy to support the Chinese in demanding a non-American. However, they want a European."

"Let me guess," Rodney said, "they can't agree on a candidate."

"Well, the Russians and the English have managed to agree on one thing--they don't want a German or a Frenchman. A Canadian would be the perfect alternative. It would let them all stand up to the Americans without upsetting the current balance amongst themselves. Especially if that Canadian is you," she said to John.

"Can I think it over?"

"You can," she said, and Rodney grinned.

John was so screwed.

***

"It's like that book you loaned me," Rodney said, reaching for his coffee.

John frowned. He'd only loaned Rodney one book. "You never gave it back."

Waving his sandwich, Rodney said, "I will."

"You better." That book was one of John's few prized possessions--a first edition his mother had given him when he graduated from college. "This is nothing like Catch-22."

"Sure it is. You can either marry me or leave. Catch-22."

John shook his head. "First of all, a catch-22 keeps you from leaving a combat zone. I'm trying to stay in one. Secondly, it's a twist or a turn in the regs. Like when Doc Daneeka explains how he can't let Yossarian out of flying combat missions on the grounds of insanity unless Yossarian asks to be let out. And if he asks, then he's sane and has to fly. That's a catch-22."

Rodney took a hasty bite of his sandwich, but it wasn't quite fast enough to hide the confusion on his face.

"You never read it," John accused.

"Unlike you, I don't have a lot of time to just lay about reading stories."

"Rodney."

Wincing, Rodney said, "I'll read it. I promise.

"You better." Mollified by the wince, John went back to the original argument. "This is a choice--marry you or leave Atlantis. It's more like Scylla and Charybdis."

"Lovely. Am I the monster or the whirlpool?"

Pointing at Rodney with the corner of his own sandwich, John said, "Not sure. It could go either way. You certainly have some whirlpool like qualities. On the other hand…" John paused. "Maybe it would be better to ask if you're the rock or the hard place."

Rodney's glare softened, even though John could tell he was trying to keep it in place, and he shook his head.

John smiled, feeling better than he had all day.

"What's so funny?" Ronon asked, taking a seat next to Rodney.

"Nothing," Rodney said, Teyla sitting on his other side. Ronon liked to poke Rodney when he was eating and had somehow managed to convince Teyla to start blocking Rodney's escape route. John kind of wished he'd been able to hear that conversation.

Ronon picked up his fork, his elbow bumping Rodney's arm.

Rodney sighed, taking it for the sign of affection John was sure it was.

Teyla met his eyes, smiling in a way that invited him to share her amusement.

"Yes," John said.

Choking on his drink, Rodney said, "Really?"

John nodded. "But you have to read Catch-22."

"Deal."

Ignoring Ronon and Teyla's puzzled glances, John took a bite of his sandwich. How bad could marriage to Rodney be?

***

Less than two days later, John was convinced being married to Rodney would be nowhere near as bad as marrying him.

"I think she's trying to get even for every hard time you ever gave her," Rodney said, staring at the list on his desk.

Sitting beside him, John looked down at the neat lines of Elizabeth's hand writing. There were a lot of lines. "I gave her? You aren't exactly Mr. Easy to Get Along With."

"Flowers," Rodney said. "Who thinks about flowers?"

"Brides."

"But neither of us is a bride. If Elizabeth wants flowers she should pick them."

"We could ask Katie."

"Oh, yes, by all means, let's ask the woman I managed to reject not once, but twice to choose the flowers for our wedding."

"If we get married in the gardens would we need flowers?"

"Good idea," Rodney said, pointing his pen at John. He wrote "hold ceremony in garden" next to the word location on Elizabeth's list and then added "see location" under the word flowers. "Vows."

"Please tell me we don't have to write our own," John said. He'd been down that road once. It had been once too many.

"She attached choices." Rodney flipped the page, skimming through the options. "You know what I always wanted for my vows?"

"What?" John asked, memories of long ago conversations with his then fiancé, now ex-wife, making him stiffen.

"Do you?"

Spaceballs. John grinned. "Do you?"

"Kiss her," they chorused.

"Write it down," John said.

Rodney wrote. "Cake," he said and wrote "chocolate."

"Carrot," John said.

Rodney ignored him. "What do we want for food?"

"Something edible."

Rodney wrote "edible" under the word food. "Although, I liked that casserole thing they made last month that was kind of like lasagna."

"That was good. Write that in."

"Waltz," Rodney said.

"What?"

"First dance. It's going to be a waltz."

"I don't know how to waltz."

"I'll teach you," Rodney said, flourishing his pen. "No way am I shuffling around in circles to the chorus of 'The Flame' at my wedding."

"You have a problem with Cheap Trick."

"I have a problem with power ballads." Looking up from the list, Rodney turned to glare at John. "Do you really want people holding up their lighters while we dance?"

John shrugged. "I was thinking REO Speedwagon. 'Keep on Loving You.'"

Rodney's glare intensified.

"Maybe Air Supply."

"Tuxes, black and white." Rodney scribbled on the page.

John began humming 'Lost in Love' under his breath, not stopping until Rodney elbowed him in the ribs.

***

"'Do you? Do you? Kiss' are not wedding vows."

"Sure they are," John said, perching on the corner of Elizabeth's desk.

Standing next to him, Rodney nodded. "Short, succinct, to the point."

"Since when have you ever worried about being short and succinct? Pick something else."

Sighing, Rodney took the pages of vows Elizabeth was holding out to him. John followed him from the room.

"Mess?" Rodney said.

John nodded. This was something that called for coffee, maybe even pudding.

***

"What are you doing?" Teyla asked, taking a seat across the table from John and Rodney.

"Trying to choose our vows," Rodney answered without bothering to look up. Glancing at John, who nodded, he drew a big 'X' through one of the vows. Just the thought of saying the words "a lifetime of eternal, immeasurable love" made John shudder.

"What are you vowing?"

"The usual," Rodney said, waving his pen, "love, honor…"

"Obey," John added.

Rodney snorted. "As if." He stopped reading long enough to look at Teyla. "Elizabeth won't let us go with 'Do you' which is ridiculous, because it's short, succinct, and to the point."

"Not to mention Mel Brooks is a genius," John said.

Rodney nodded. "Young Frankenstein, one of the funniest movies ever."

"Who," Teyla said, a rare note of impatience in her voice, "are you vowing to love and honor."

"Each other," Rodney said, once again reading through the vows.

"We're getting married," John said, smiling at her, because now that he was getting used to the idea, it wasn't so bad.

Teyla's bottom jaw fell open. It was a look they were about to get used to.

***

"I can't believe everyone is so surprised," Rodney said, dropping onto John's bed. "I'm attractive; you're attractive. Why is it so hard to believe we might find each other attractive?"

"Because neither of us is gay," John said, climbing over the bed to get to his reading chair.

"We could be bisexual."

"We could, but we aren't."

"Which is too bad, because I could really use the sex."

"Yeah," John said, "me too."

"Woolsey is going to be here in two days, checking to make sure we aren't up to something," Rodney said, straightening and reaching for the laptop he'd placed onto the bed next to him. "We need a plan."

"Right. A convince everyone we're in love plan." John thought about that for a moment. "We have to act like us, though. Nothing over the top or they'll know it's fake."

"All right," Rodney said, typing. "If you were in love with me, what would you do?"

"I'd bring you food. Coffee, maybe a muffin, dessert from the mess, that kind of thing."

"You already do that."

"I'd do it more often and, I don't know, smile indulgently or something," John said. Rodney gave him a strange look, but he typed anyway. "What would you do?"

"Find you a really cool weapon."

"I don't think that counts."

"Probably not," Rodney said, clearly thinking. "Build you a ferris wheel."

"You could do that?"

"Maybe. But probably not before Woolsey gets here. I'd sit through those ridiculous Bruce Willis movies you like so much."

"They aren't ridiculous, just a little exaggerated. Most movies are."

"Uh-huh," Rodney said.

"They're showing Die Hard tomorrow night."

"So we'll go. Share popcorn. Sit too close together."

"I could put my arm around you," John said. Rodney's head snapped up, his eyes locking with John's. "Or not."

"What else?" Rodney said.

Tilting his head to the side, John thought for a moment. "We should get in each other's space, stand too close, make a lot of eye contact, lingering glances, that kind of thing."

"Good, good," Rodney said typing.

"Maybe be seen leaving each other's quarters early in the morning. We could borrow each other's clothes."

"We're not teenaged girls."

It was a good point. "Okay, no clothes sharing. We should touch each other, though, nothing blatant, a hand on the small of the back, a shoulder, stuff like that."

Nodding, Rodney typed.

"If we're going to convince Woolsey and all the people he's going to talk to, we'll need to display some affection."

"How much affection?" Rodney asked, a disconcertingly suspicious note in his voice.

"Kissing. Nothing passionate. No need for a public tonsillectomy or anything, but small, couple kisses."

"Couple kisses?"

"You know the kind couples exchange when they say good-bye or hello. Short, just lips, but, you know, affectionate."

"Couple kisses it is," Rodney said. "Anything else?"

"Not that I can think of."

Rodney turned his laptop toward John, and John read over the plan. As plans went, he thought it was pretty good. "Looks good to me. You should probably hang out here for a couple of hours, then later you can look like you're sneaking out of your lover's quarters."

"Except since you've resigned and we're engaged, I don't need to sneak." Something must've shown on John's face, because Rodney's voice softened and he asked, "How did that go, anyway?"

John shrugged. It had gone. His career or Atlantis, it wasn't really a choice.

"Soon you'll be all signed up with the Canadian military. We have planes, not as many as the Americans, granted, but you're here flying jumpers anyway. Your uniform won't even change, just the patch, and did you know we have a tank. We do. It spends three months protecting each coast and the rest of the year on loan to the U.N."

Finding himself starting to grin, John said, "Get the chessboard."

They played four games, winning two each, before deciding it was late enough for Rodney to be going back to his own quarters to sleep. John put away the chessboard, which consisted of putting it back on his desk, and pulled off his t-shirt.

"What are you doing?" Rodney asked, his eyes on John's chest.

"Getting ready to say good-night to my lover," John answered, tossing the shirt onto his bed and bending to remove his shoes and socks.

"You're going to leave your pants on, right?"

"Yes, Rodney. Although you're probably going to have to see me naked some time."

"I'd rather delay that as long as I can, thank you very much."

"Come on, loverboy," John said, taking his elbow and leading him toward the door.

"Laptop," Rodney said, snapping his fingers.

Picking it up from the bed, John handed it to him before taking Rodney's elbow again and guiding him to the door. The door slid open and John moved into the doorway. "Night, Rodney," he said, pressing his lips to Rodney's for a soft, short kiss. "Say good-night, Rodney," he whispered when Rodney didn't answer, instead staring at John's lips and making John wonder if there was something wrong with them.

Rodney cleared his throat. "Good-night, John." He took a step away before turning back and surprising John with a swift, firm kiss.

John watched him walk away, smiling at a passing airman before slipping back into the room and letting the door slide shut behind him.

***

The next night John went to Rodney's quarters at 2130 to collect him for the movie. He'd dressed for a date in tight jeans and a navy blue pullover, and he'd shaved. Rodney didn't seem to notice, instead muttering something about movies that were nothing more than an exercise in machismo.

The Ancients hadn't put armrests between their theater seats so John could sit pressed up against Rodney's side. It was kind of nice, and John took merciless advantage of the fact that they were supposed to be on a date to lean in and whisper comments in Rodney's ear, trying to make him laugh.

When the popcorn was gone, he placed the bucket on the floor and stretched his arms, one somehow ending up on the back of Rodney's chair.

Rodney shot him a suspicious look, but he didn't say anything.

If John's arm happened to slip onto Rodney's shoulders, that wasn't his fault.

But the elbow that dug into his ribs was definitely Rodney's.

Just to be annoying, John left his arm where it was.

***

"I thought you weren't good at marriage," Ronon said.

That Ronon didn't slow his pace in the slightest when he wanted to talk was one of the few things John disliked about running with him. That he almost never talked was one of the things John liked. "I figure it'll be different with McKay."

"Because he's a guy or because he's McKay?"

"Both."

"Lot of people don't think it's real. They think you two are up to something."

"What do you think?"

"I think the only person I know crazy enough to marry McKay is you."

"Gee, thanks."

They'd gone almost a quarter mile when Ronon added, "I also think it'll work."

John stumbled. Fortunately, Ronon caught him.

When they reached the mess, they veered inside. John grabbed a bottle of cranberry juice and dropped into the seat next to Rodney, who while sitting with Zelenka and a couple of the other scientists, was reading something from his laptop. Since everyone else was reading from their laptops, no one seemed to mind.

John leaned in close, "Good morning, dear."

"Go away."

"Rodney."

"Reading."

John opened his juice and waited.

"That isn't orange juice, is it?"

"No, dear, it's cranberry."

Rodney didn't answer and John waited, taking one drink, then a second.

"Did you just call me dear?"

"Twice."

"Don't do it again."

"Whatever you say, sweetheart," John answered, finishing his juice in one long drink and leaning in to kiss Rodney's cheek. "See you later."

He was halfway to the door when Rodney yelled, "Don't call me sweetheart."

"Sure thing, darling," John yelled back. There were parts of this engagement thing he was actually starting to enjoy.

"So how many of those names do you have?" Ronon asked, falling into step beside him and quickly picking up the pace.

"Couple of days worth. I'm saving the best for last."

"What one is the best?"

"Sweetcheeks or maybe studmuffin, I can't decide."

"Go with sweetcheeks," Ronon said sagely. "He might like studmuffin."

"Good call."

***

"People still aren't believing us," Rodney said.

"I know." It didn't make sense. They'd kissed in public at least a half a dozen times and every time people had just reacted with indulgent little smiles, the kind you gave children playing dress-up. Even Sergeant Evans, and Marine master sergeants weren't supposed to have indulgent little smiles. John was pretty sure the Marines surgically removed them upon promotion.

"You calling me pet names isn't helping."

John was pretty sure it was, and he considered arguing the point, but decided it wasn't worth it. "Woolsey arrives this afternoon, so tonight, you stay over."

"You should stay over at my place. My bed is bigger."

"By what? Two inches?"

"Still bigger."

John was about to say size didn't matter, but in beds it kind of did.

***

Duffle slung over his shoulder, John knocked on Rodney's door at exactly 2000 hours. He'd made a point of being seen, choosing the most populated corridors for his stroll to Rodney's for a night of hot, pre-marital sex. He'd even dressed for the occasion, wearing black jeans and a black shirt, unbuttoned at the neck.

"Yes, yes, come in," Rodney said not even bothering to give John an appreciative once over.

Pulling War and Peace from his duffle, John held it up. "I brought my book."

"You've constructed a schedule that means you will never actually get to the end, haven't you?"

"Maybe. Or maybe I'm rereading it."

"Uh-huh," Rodney said, going toward his desk and his laptop.

John grabbed his arm. "Catch-22. You promised."

Rodney tugged his arm free, but he picked up the book and the two of them settled on to the bed side-by-side, leaning against the wall, shoulders pressed together. Within minutes he was chuckling.

Eventually, the chuckling tapered off and John found himself with a sleeping Rodney resting against his shoulder.

If John slid his arm around Rodney, that was only because it was more comfortable that way.

***

"I can't believe we spent the whole night together and no one noticed."

"Maybe if we hadn't slept so late," John said.

"I'm not the one who turned off the alarm clock."

"It was playing 'We Built This City.'"

"Mmmm, Grace Slick is one of the few people I find annoying enough to get out of bed to silence."

"When we're married, you're just going to use a nice, loud buzzer like a normal person." Rodney waved a hand at him, clearly too busy pacing his quarters to listen. John eyed the alarm clock in question. Maybe he could get rid of it now.

"I've got it. There's a supply closet just down the hall from guest quarters."

"Yeah, so?"

"We hide in the closet, wait until Woolsey comes by and then exit."

"You do realize that 'coming out of the closet' is just an expression, right?"

Rodney gave him his 'I'm not an idiot' look, one John always found particularly satisfying. "We come out mussed, like we've been having a quickie in the closet."

"You want Woolsey to think we have sex in random supply closets during the middle of the day."

"I want him to think our lust for one another is so strong that we have to sneak away for a few minutes of illicit passion."

"Uh-huh."

***

Maybe Ronon was right. Maybe John was crazy. There was no other explanation.

Rodney was pacing the length of the small closet for the third time, life signs detector in front of him, as though moving it around would somehow change what was on the screen.

He was half-tempted to suggest they try making out just to relieve the boredom. Instead, he leaned his head against the side of a crate and closed his eyes. He hadn't slept all that well. Rodney's bed was way too small for two people for one thing. Plus, there was no way in hell that was a prescription mattress, not unless the prescription was written by Fred Flintstone's chiropractor.

"Hey. John. Wake up. There's someone out there."

"What?" John rose to his feet. "Where?"

"Outside." Rodney tilted his head at the door. "You ready?"

Atlantis. Closet. Rodney's coming out scheme. "Right," John said, pressing the door controls.

They stepped into the hallway, blinking against the suddenly bright light, only to see Lorne walking toward them. "Dr. McKay, Sir," he said with a quick nod, giving John a wink before continuing past them.

"He has got to stop doing that," John muttered.

"What?" Rodney said, giving John an annoyed look, although John hadn't done anything annoying. It wasn't like he was Grace Slick.

"Lorne and the winking. He asked me to help him with the new staff rotation yesterday and when we were done, he winked at me. He's winked at me at least once a day since I told him I was resigning and we were getting married."

"Maybe he's trying to come out to you," Rodney said. Then he sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I can't believe it didn't work. Does that man never come to his quarters?"

Sliding a hand across Rodney's back to his shoulder, John gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Come on. Let's hit the mess. I could do with a snack."

Woolsey caught up with them just outside the mess hall. "Ah, Dr. McKay, Mr. Sheppard, I've been looking for you. Do you have a minute? I'd like to speak with you in the conference room."

"Sure," John said, ignoring the knots forming in his stomach. "No problem."

The conference room wasn't that far away and the three of them made their way there in silence.

"I'm sorry we have to do this," Woolsey said, walking around to the far side of the table. "I'm not really comfortable asking people about their feelings."

"That's okay," Rodney said, taking the seat across from Woolsey. "John's not comfortable talking about them."

John shot him a "cute McKay, real cute" look and slid into the chair next to his. "I'll manage," he said, for once sitting upright. If they couldn’t convince Woolsey of their undying devotion, then John was going back to Earth, back to Earth with no Air Force, no friends, no anything.

Not that he was feeling pressured.

"So, I guess I can't ask how you met, since that's a matter of record. Maybe, Mr. Sheppard, you could tell me why you want to marry Dr. McKay."

"Sure," John said easily. It was a question he'd actually thought about, figuring someone would ask him eventually. Holding up his hand, he began ticking off points on his fingers. "One, he's smart. Two, he's good-looking. Three, he has amazing hands; he's always waving them around, all graceful and, um, wavy. Plus, he uses them to build really cool stuff. Four, he kisses really well. Five, he makes me laugh."

Rodney was staring at him. "You have a list."

John gave him a lazy half-shrug and a big smile.

"Very good," Woolsey said, making notes. "How about you, Dr. McKay?"

"Why do I want to marry John?"

Woolsey nodded.

"Because he's…" Rodney waved his hand up and down in John's direction. "John."

"I see."

John smirked. "Who's bad at talking about their feelings now, Rodney?"

"Oh, shut up."

"When did you first discuss your feeling for one another?" Woolsey asked.

John looked at Rodney. Rodney looked at John. John hadn't been expecting anyone to ask that. From the look of things neither had Rodney. "Infirmary," John said at the same moment Rodney said, "Near death experience."

"It was MT7-450," John said.

"The planet where you were caught in a culling," Woolsey said. Damn, but the man had a good memory. John might even put it up against Rodney's.

"We were separated from Ronon and Teyla," John added, nodding. "We were pinned down. I didn't think we were going to make it out alive."

"I kissed him," Rodney said, "because I thought it was the last chance I'd ever get."

"Afterwards, we talked about it in the infirmary," John said, picking up the story.

"Decided we'd rather be friends in Atlantis than lovers on Earth," Rodney added and, from the look he was giving John, John half believed it had happened exactly like that.

"When did you realize how you felt about Mr. Sheppard?" Woolsey asked, and Rodney turned away, looking first at Woolsey, then at the table.

"The siege," he said after a long moment. "You may have read about our plans to fly nuclear bombs into the hive ships using the chair to remotely pilot two jumpers. Unfortunately, the damn generators gave out. John just… left. Left the chair room and disappeared. I called after him, then I went back to trying to make the generators work."

Rodney paused, glancing at John out of the corner of his eye and then focusing on the table again. "When I realized I couldn't make it work, and even if I could I didn't have a pilot to fly the jumpers, I went to the control room. I looked at the screen and there he was, a tiny dot moving toward a hive ship. It felt like my heart stopped beating for at least a minute."

"And that was before the explosion."

John waited for Rodney to say more, but he stayed silent, eyes still focused on the table.

Woolsey cleared his throat. "I don't think I need anything more. Thank you, gentlemen."

They walked from the conference room side-by-side. "I think it went well," Rodney said when they reached the bottom of the stairs.

"Yeah, me too," John answered absently. He touched Rodney's sleeve, stopping him. "How come you never said anything?"

"What could I say?" Rodney asked, looking at John with eyes full of the kind of knowledge no one should ever have to have. "Don't do your job? Don't be a hero? Don't be yourself?"

"Thank you," part of him wanted to say, but John had no idea what he would be thanking Rodney for, so he reached out instead. Reached out and pressed a hand to Rodney's cheek, soft skin and stubble against his palm. He moved closer, unsure what he was going to do, just needing to be closer.

He placed a hand on Rodney's waist, and it slid around to Rodney's back all on its own, pulling Rodney closer, until they were hugging. Until John was just holding on, with his face pressed against the curve of Rodney's neck.

Rodney's radio went off.

Letting go, John took a step back and then turned away, not waiting to hear who had called Rodney. He kept his eyes straight ahead, not wanting to see all of the people who had just seen him hold onto Rodney like he was never going to let go.

***

"Ow," Rodney said, pulling his foot out from under John's. "You did that on purpose."

Ignoring the accusation, John said, "Remind me again why we can't just sway in a circle like a normal couple."

"Because I refuse to dance like an adolescent at my wedding."

"I liked being an adolescent."

"Of course you did," Rodney said. "Now, step back this time. Ready?"

John put his hand back on Rodney's disturbingly large shoulder.

"Good. Now I go forward, you go back on one. Now to the side."

Dutifully, John moved his foot to the side, barely managing to avoid Rodney's instep.

"Feel the pressure on your hip, that means we're about to turn."

"I don’t know how to follow," John said sulkily, following as Rodney guided them through a turn.

"This is a waltz. You don't know how to lead, either."

Sometimes Rodney's use of logic was really annoying. "I bet I could learn faster than I'm learning to follow."

"Let me put it this way, do you honestly think I'm coordinated enough to do this backwards?" Rodney said.

"Fine. I'll follow." Letting Rodney lead couldn't be any more humiliating than marrying him. And at least he wasn’t the one getting his toes stepped on.

***

Leaning closer to the mirror, John tugged on the corner of his tie. It still didn't look even.

"It is fine, John," Teyla said, standing in the doorway of his bathroom in a formal gown that he had no idea how or where she'd gotten, but which looked stunning.

"I hate these things."

"Weddings are always difficult." She patted his arm. "Just a few more minutes and you can see Rodney."

John hoped Rodney was as uncomfortable as he was.

***

They took the transporter to the garden. Ronon and Rodney were already standing there waiting for them.

Rodney looked good. John hadn't been sure he had the right build for a tux, but he looked good. Like Rodney, only dressier.

"It's about time," Rodney said.

"We're not late, McKay," John answered.

The music changed to something John didn't recognize -- Rodney had vetoed the traditional wedding march on the grounds that it had been written for donkeys-- and Rodney pointed at Ronon and Teyla. "The two of you go first."

Ronon offered Teyla his arm, and the two of them moved to stand in front of John and Rodney. Ronon and Teyla took a step forward, starting down the path between the rows of chairs, and John bumped Rodney's shoulder with his.

"I'm getting married," Rodney whispered.

"You'll survive," John whispered back.

He was aware of their friends smiling at them as they walked past, but he kept his eyes fixed on the wall behind Elizabeth. She smiled at them when they reached her. John tried to smile back, but he was getting married.

"For the first time, we, the residents of Atlantis, have gathered to celebrate the marriage of two of our own. Two of our best. Those of us who come here do so knowing that we are risking our lives. We do it because we want to do something important, something meaningful. We want to discover and explore. We want to satisfy our curiosity, live our dreams, be a part of history.

"Whatever our reasons, in coming here there is one thing we all find. Ourselves. No one can live here for long without being brought face to face with the best and worst in themselves.

"These two men have found the best in themselves in each other.

"Together they have risked their lives for others. Separately, they have risked their lives for each other.

"I will be honest with you. There have been times when I could gleefully have strangled them both, but I don't think I've ever been prouder of Atlantis, of what we've accomplished here than I am right now. Because in the end, whatever the history books may say of us, this is what matters. Happiness. Friendship. Love." She smiled again, and this time John found himself smiling back. "Are you ready to say your vows?"

"Sure," John said.

"He can go first," Rodney said, and John heard a small laugh pass through the crowd.

So John turned toward Rodney and took his hand, and promised to have and to hold for as long as he lived. As he said it, he found himself thinking that this time it was a vow he might actually be able to keep.

***

The noise in the mess immediately subsided when Teyla stood and picked up her glass. "I have been told that it is traditional for one of the witnesses to give the first toast."

Blinking back surprise, because he should have expected a toast, John glanced at Rodney who looked as pained as he'd looked the entire reception. John hoped people would put it down to discomfort with the romantic nature of the event. Giving Rodney's thigh a reassuring squeeze, John smiled up at Teyla who smiled back before speaking again.

"Unlike many of you, I was not completely surprised to learn of Colonel Sheppard's and Dr. McKay's intentions. Spending time with them in the field and here on Atlantis, I have watched as the easy camaraderie they shared grew into a deep friendship.

"They compliment one another. Dr. McKay is intelligent enough to figure out all of the things Colonel Sheppard does not know how to say. And the Colonel has the perception to see past Dr. McKay's bluster to the kind, brave heart beneath.

"My friends," Teyla turned to look at them, instead of the crowd, "however long or short your time together may be, I know that it will be filled with more of the same joy you have already given to one another." She raised her glass. "To John and Rodney."

John lifted his glass, intending to clink it with Rodney's, but Rodney stood and leaned over John to give Teyla a clumsy hug and kiss on the cheek. "Thank you," he said.

It had been a nice toast, especially the part about Rodney being kind and brave, which he was, although only the team and maybe Zelenka tended to see it. When Rodney let Teyla go, John stood and hugged her himself, kissing the same cheek Rodney had.

They sat back down and John sipped his champagne while their guests went back to talking. He was nearly done when Sergeant Reed appeared and informed them it was time to cut the cake.

"Shove cake in my face and you're sleeping on the floor," Rodney said as they rose and followed the sergeant.

John sighed.

***

Dropping gratefully onto the couch in their new quarters, John stretched his arms out along either side. They had a couch, like real grown-ups. "I'm so glad that's over."

Rodney didn't answer, making a beeline for the bathroom instead. He returned a few minutes later, sans jacket, undone bowtie still hanging around his neck. John had undone the tie. Rodney had given him such a peculiar look when he'd untied his own, opening the first couple of buttons, that he'd figured Rodney had wanted out of his. So he'd leaned in and kissed Rodney slowly, reaching up with one hand to tug the tie loose. Then he'd opened the top button of Rodney's shirt. He was still feeling rather proud of himself for that maneuver-- he'd gotten Rodney more comfortable and he was pretty sure anyone who saw them was now convinced John wanted to get Rodney naked. But Rodney had given him the strangest look, merely nodding when John whispered, "Comfortable?"

"I'm going to, um, turn in," Rodney said, moving his hand and ending by pointing at the bedroom.

"Good idea," John said, reluctantly pushing himself up from the couch.

Rodney gave him a weirdly wide-eyed look and then turned for the bedroom, shoulders hunching as he marched toward it.

John followed, keeping his shoulders back.

"I'm just going to--" Rodney pointed at the bathroom again.

"I thought you just did that," John said, sliding out of his jacket and looking for a place to hang it up. The problem with Ancient doors was that they didn't have knobs.

"Now I have to brush my teeth."

"Okay. I'll do mine when you're done." Turning, he opened the closet and began looking for an empty hanger. Once he'd finished stripping down to his boxers, carefully hanging up the tux, he started opening drawers, looking for a t-shirt since McKay seemed to have issues with John being naked.

"You have, green clovers, pink hearts, yellow moons and blue stars on your boxers."

John turned around to find Rodney staring at him, wearing boxers and a stretched out t-shirt that might've once had Bugs Bunny on it. "What's wrong with my boxers?"

"Nothing if you're a silly rabbit." Rodney's expression changed to one of horror. "I married a man who wore Trix boxers on our wedding day."

"Yours have kiwis on them."

"They were on the top of the pile."

"So were these."

"I'm going to bed," Rodney announced, pulling back the blankets.

"I'm going to brush my teeth," John answered.

When he got back Rodney was lying on his side facing away from John. John got in behind him and lay on his back, staring at the ceiling.

He'd gotten married. Again. This was his wedding night.

Turning his head, he stared at the back of Rodney's head for a long moment. Edging closer, he rested his chin on Rodney's shoulder. "Hey, Rodney."

"What?"

"Thank you for marrying me."

"Oh, well, you're welcome." Rodney rolled onto his back, pressing them together in awkward places, but Rodney didn't seem to notice. "The IOA was being stupid, and you know how stupidity irritates me."

"Right," John said, gazing down at Rodney's face in the semi-darkness. "Stupidity, always annoying."

"Yes, it is." Rodney was smiling a little and John suddenly wanted to lean down, to get closer.

"Thank you anyway," he said, instead.

"Atlantis is where you belong. I wouldn't let anyone take that away from you."

John swallowed, but it didn't ease the sudden tightness in his throat. "No one's ever tried to protect me before, not since I was really little."

"Yes, well…"

John waited for the caustic remark, the one that would make this all okay, but it never came, leaving him there with a tight throat and an awkward confession and nowhere to put it all.

"Good-night, John," Rodney said and turned onto his side again.

"Night." John moved away, but only an inch or two, and settled onto his side to stare at Rodney's back.

***

John woke up pressed against a wall of solid warmth. He had an arm around Rodney's chest and his nose buried in the base of Rodney's hair. His cock was nestled between Rodney's cheeks, separated from skin by two layers of cloth that seemed much thinner than boxers usually felt.

"Um, John."

"Yeah."

"Can you let me go?"

"Sure," John said, lifting his arm and moving his hips back, easing himself away from Rodney's warmth.

***

A knock on the door pulled John from his book. He glanced at Rodney sitting on the other end of the couch with Catch-22, and stood. Before he could head for the door, Rodney stopped him with a hand on his arm.

"Wait." Standing, Rodney reached for the buttons on John's shirt, opening them quickly.

"McKay," he said, making it a question.

"We're on our honeymoon. You should look like you've been relaxing."

"You mean fooling around," John answered, undoing a couple of buttons himself.

Another knock.

"We're coming," Rodney yelled. Finishing the last of John's buttons, Rodney looked him over. "There."

John returned the look. Rodney was far too together for a guy who'd supposedly been making out on the couch. Taking Rodney's face in his hands, John kissed him firmly, sucking on Rodney's lower lip and sliding his hands through Rodney's hair, mussing him.

"Now," he said, drawing back, "you look like a guy who's been fooling around." Rodney was still looking surprised so John kissed him again, lightly this time, and started toward the door.

As expected, Woolsey was on the other side. "Hello, I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"Not at all," John said, forcing a smile onto his face. "Come in." He took a step back, turning toward Rodney who waved at Woolsey, one hand held awkwardly in front of him. Damn, John should have thought of that.

Holding up a bottle of champagne, Woolsey said, "From the IOA. I meant to leave it with the other gifts last night, but--"

But he'd held onto it as an excuse to stop by. John took the bottle from him. He knew next to nothing about champagne, but it had a pretty label. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Woolsey looked between them. "So, married life is agreeing with you."

John flashed him a grin that was just this side of dirty. "You could say that."

"Good, good, I'm glad to hear it. I don't want to keep you from enjoying your honeymoon." He backed toward the door.

Shooting Rodney a glare, John followed him.

Evidently catching on, Rodney said, "Thanks for the champagne."

"You're welcome."

Woolsey stepped through the door and John sighed. He didn't dislike Woolsey, but he didn't much care for the man's bosses. "Think we fooled him. Good call with the shirt."

"Yes, right, well, I'm going to--" Rodney jerked his thumb over his shoulder. He was still holding his hand in front of him.

He looked awkward, bothered, like something was wrong. Taking a step toward him, John caught Rodney's hand as he lowered it, fingers curling around Rodney's wrist. He rubbed with his thumb, and Rodney sucked in a breath, eyes closing for just an instant.

"Please don't do that."

John stopped rubbing, but he didn't let go. "Rodney?"

"Look, I get that it's an act, the kisses, the touching. Hell, I suggested it, but my body doesn't always get it. So if you could just ease up a little, that would be good." Rodney had barely glanced at John, his gaze falling to the floor as he spoke.

John's eyes were drawn to Rodney's other hand, and he wondered if it was hiding what he thought it was hiding. "Rodney."

"What?" Rodney tried to move the arm in John's grip, but he didn't tug hard enough to actually pull it away.

Rubbing his thumb across Rodney's wrist, John lifted his gaze to Rodney's. Rodney had the most remarkable eyes John had ever seen, blue and luminous. Sometimes John had crazy thoughts about the things he imagined he could see in Rodney's eyes. Things like infinity and the meaning of life. "Rodney." Help me out here. I don't know what I'm doing.

Rodney took a step toward him and raised his free hand to John's cheek. For an instant, John considered looking down, seeing what Rodney had been trying to conceal with that hand, but then Rodney's lips touched his, soft and easy, their mouths fitting together perfectly after so many kisses. But this kiss wasn't for show, it was just for them. It was Rodney saying all of those things John never had words for without uttering a single syllable.

Wanting to answer him, John slipped his arms around Rodney, pulling him closer, completely caught in the feel of Rodney's lips parting beneath his, Rodney's arms wrapping around his shoulders.

Then he felt it, what Rodney had been trying to hide behind his hand, an erection, hard and amazing and shockingly good pressing into his own. John gasped, pulling back from their kiss.

Rodney had never been able to hide a damn thing, his emotions shining in his face as if he were a human lighthouse, warning you away and drawing you in at the same time. Hands on Rodney's hips keeping him in place, John rested his forehead on Rodney's. "We're married," he whispered.

"Yeah," Rodney whispered back.

"We could."

"Except for that straight thing, yes, we could."

John moved his hips, rubbing his cock against Rodney's, making him gasp. "That doesn't seem to be much of a problem."

Rodney smiled slow and sweet and sexy as hell. "No, it doesn't." Stepping back, Rodney took John's hands in his, walking backwards toward the bedroom, bringing John with him.

For once in his life, John was happy to follow.

***

"I just had the best sex of my life with my spouse on my honeymoon. That has to be ironic."

John nodded, his whiskers catching in the curls of hair on Rodney's belly. He was feeling good, really good, relaxed and a little bemused, or maybe stunned. Rodney had come with his gaze locked on John's, his cock throbbing in John's hand, and it had been so hot John had almost come with him. "Mmmm."

"I should've known sex would make you preverbal."

"Mmmm."

Rodney chuckled, rubbing his thumb between John's shoulder blades. It felt nice. All Rodney's touches felt nice. Better than nice. Rodney was a curious guy, used to using his hands to satisfy that curiosity. John was really hoping Rodney's curiosity wasn't satisfied because no one had ever touched him like that, with intent and wonder and affection all mixed up together. He wanted Rodney to touch him some more.

Just as soon as he found the energy to move.

"I'm assuming that means it was good for you," Rodney said.

"Mmmm." Turning his head, John kissed Rodney's belly. It was soft and John liked the gentle roundness of it, unexpectedly sweet, like so much of Rodney. "More like amazing." Lifting himself from Rodney's belly, he stretched out next to him, leaning in for a kiss, a hand resting where his head had just been.

Rodney slid a hand into his hair, keeping him close, prolonging the kiss.

John didn't mind. Kissing Rodney was a little like flying a jumper. It had that same sense of being something John was meant to do, so he let Rodney kiss him until he couldn't hold back any longer, until he had to have more right now. Then he pressed his lips to Rodney's neck, tasting his skin, sliding a leg between Rodney's and stroking the inside of Rodney's thigh with his own.

Remembering how Rodney had responded when John had stroked the inside of his wrist, John worked his way there, sliding his lips over the curve of Rodney's bicep and licking the crease at the inside his elbow before nipping the inside of Rodney's wrist.

He apologized with a kiss when Rodney jumped, then pressed his lips to Rodney's palm. Finally, he closed his lips around two of Rodney's fingers, sucking lightly, holding them between the roof of his mouth and his tongue as he slid his mouth along their length.

"Oh, God." There was nothing but pure, strangled lust in Rodney's voice and John looked up, meeting his eyes, seeing the same want in Rodney's gaze that he could hear in his voice. His eyes locked with Rodney's, John took Rodney's hand in his and pulled it back until only the tips of Rodney's fingers were between his lips. This time Rodney groaned, and when John dropped his hand, Rodney pushed his fingers back into John's mouth all on his own.

This time it was John who groaned.

He shouldn't be so turned on from a few kisses and having Rodney's fingers in his mouth, but he knew there was just as much want in his face as there was in Rodney's. He couldn't have hidden it if he'd tried.

"John," Rodney said, sliding his fingers out and in again.

Taking Rodney's hand in his, John gently pulled Rodney's fingers free. Then he shifted so he was kneeling between Rodney's legs.

Rodney spread his legs, offering John whatever he wanted.

Swallowing at the sight, at the small burst of want it created at the base of his cock, John closed a hand around Rodney's cock. It was a little wider than his own, filling his hand. He stroked it from tip to base, just like he had before.

Rodney clutched at the sheets and tilted his hips, and John was pretty sure he would let John do anything he wanted. It was a heady, scarily arousing thought.

Holding Rodney's cock so that it was pointed up, John leaned down and licked the tip. It was salty but smooth. John licked him again and again; he licked until Rodney made a choked, pleading sound, then he sucked.

He didn't try to take Rodney deep, just took what he could into his mouth and caressed it with his lips and tongue, watched Rodney squirm in response, closed his eyes and listened to Rodney's sounds, and when Rodney came he drew back enough to swallow most of it.

Wiping what he hadn't managed to swallow on the back of his hand, John raised his head.

Rodney was staring at him. "You blew me."

"Yup," John said with a grin. "And you liked it."

"Yes," Rodney said, pointing at him. "Yes, I did." Sitting up, he took hold of John's shoulders and kissed him. It was a filthy kiss, one that made him clutch Rodney's arms as a jolt of lust went straight through him. "And now," Rodney said, pushing John onto his back, "I'm going to return the favor."

***

When John woke up the next morning, he was pressed against the warm, smooth stretch of Rodney's back, his cock resting between plump cheeks, an arm wrapped around Rodney's chest. "Morning," he murmured.

"Morning," Rodney said, pushing back against him.

John slid his hand downward until he found what he was looking for, a hard, solid cock, just waiting to be stroked.

***

"We should shower," John said. They'd had sex, followed by breakfast in bed, and more sex. They'd had more sex in a day than John had had in years, and it had left him feeling lazy and sated. But the dried come on his chest, and thighs, and other places, was starting to itch.

Rodney coming all over John's cock should not have been anywhere near that hot.

"Yeah," Rodney said, but he didn't sound convinced. He was lying next to John, his head on the pillow but so close his nose was brushing John's neck, an arm and a leg thrown carelessly over John.

"Your come is making me itch."

"It's not just mine." The smile in Rodney's voice made John smile in return.

"Come on," he said, patting Rodney's arm. "It'll be more fun with two."

"To be fun I think there'd have to actually be something left in my balls," Rodney said, but when John rolled from the bed, Rodney followed him.

Before they could get into the shower there was a knock on the door.

Rodney had one foot in the stall, so John kissed him and said, "I'll get it." Going into the bedroom, he snagged his jeans from the day before off the floor and pulled them on, zipping them quickly and leaving the snap undone.

Woolsey was on the other side of the door. "Colonel, I'm sorry. I seem to have interrupted you again."

John was tempted to point out that he was on his honeymoon. Instead, he said, "No problem," and stepped back to allow Woolsey into the room.

"This is for you," Woolsey said, holding out a yellow folder.

Accepting the folder, John opened it. He'd barely skimmed the first couple of lines of the report inside when he heard Rodney say, "I should have guessed."

Hand holding the towel around his waist closed, he advanced toward them. "How much more proof do you need? You see that?" he asked, pointing at a spot of matted down hair on John's chest. "Dried semen. My dried semen. Keller could probably run a DNA test for you, if you don't believe me."

"That won't be necessary, Dr. McKay," Woolsey said. "I've finished my report."

John held up the folder. "In conclusion," he read, "given the evidence of their obvious affection for one another and the clear pleasure they take in one another's company, I believe that Dr. McKay and Mr. Sheppard's marriage is a genuine commitment on their part."

"Oh," Rodney said. "Can we just forget the whole semen thing?" It worried John that he found the pinkish tint on Rodney's cheeks and nose kind of cute.

"Believe me, I shall try to," Woolsey said, causing Rodney to turn even pinker. "To be honest, I always suspected the only thing keeping the two of you apart was the Colonel's choice of career."

"Really?" Rodney said.

"Some folks are better at reading people than you are, McKay, as in they can," John said.

"Like you're Mr. Emotional Intelligence."

"I am expected on the Daedalus," Woolsey said. "I wanted you to know what was in my report, and apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused."

"No inconvenience," John said, looking directly at Rodney. "None at all."

"He's right," Rodney said. "We weren't inconvenienced."

"Well," Woolsey said, clearing his throat. "Congratulations on your marriage. I hope it's a long and happy one."

"Thank you," John said, holding up the folder.

"You're welcome." With that he was gone.

"You know," Rodney said in the silence that followed. "I can't decide who the bigger fools are, them or us."

"I know what you mean." John thought about it for a moment, then reached for Rodney's towel and tugged it from his hand and hips, letting it fall to the floor. "Them, definitely them."