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Alpha Centauri

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“WHAT?” Rodney snapped when he opened the door, and John was all set to say hey, whoa, it’s me. It only took him that one split second to realize that Rodney knew good and well who it was.

“You’re the best argument for decaf I’ve ever seen.” Sometimes a joke could get Rodney out of his moods. Although normally his moods were lab-related; normally he was in fairly high spirits when he was off-duty with a bored and horny John Sheppard on his doorstep. So this was...not normal.

Rodney frowned. “I-I’m sorry,” he said, and that was when John was sure that something was spectacularly wrong. “You startled me, I was – working – napping.”

“Working on napping?”

“I was working and then I was napping, and you – I woke up. Hello. I thought you had – things. You said you had things tonight.” He sounded vaguely accusatory, he looked more than vaguely rumpled and jumpier than usual, and he still hadn’t invited John in, or even so much as moved out of the doorway, leaving John standing in the hallway like the freaking Jehovah’s Witnesses.

He still hadn’t moved out of the doorway....

“What’s going on in there?” John asked, and the way that Rodney flung himself sideways when John leaned confirmed his suspicions. The idea of Rodney McKay keeping secrets was kind of funny, actually. That part of your brain that kept you from saying everything that was on your mind at the specific moment it occurred to you? Yeah, Rodney had removed that and replaced it with an extra slot for storing prime numbers. “No, seriously,” he said, more amused the longer he thought about it. “Whatcha got in there? Hoarding food?”

“Yes,” Rodney said loftily. “As a matter of fact I am, operative word hoarding, mutually exclusive with sharing, and I am not ashamed of it. A man has to do what a man has to do. Goodnight, see you at breakfast.”

“Usually when I see somebody at breakfast,” John said, trying a different tactic, “I expect to be shown a good time the night before....”

“Really, well, that’s fascinating, given that you eat in a cafeteria, and certainly I admire your dedication to morale, and if anyone could, ah, entertain the troops single-handedly, I do imagine that it would be you, but this is not in fact a good time for me, which I think I’ve made fairly clear, and oh, God, don’t look at me like – like I’ve abducted your puppy. You’re so manipulative, has anyone ever told you that? And you can’t even be very good at it, if I’ve noticed, because I’m not alert to that sort of thing, I’m surprisingly oblivious when it comes to social interaction– “

“I wouldn’t say surprisingly.”

“You have to go away,” Rodney said, and he’d started to sound so genuinely desperate that it was becoming less amusing and more worrisome. Could he be in some kind of trouble that he wasn’t free to talk about? Or maybe it wasn’t Rodney at all – that wouldn’t even really blow the curve for weird this month.

Just as he was about to offer Rodney the choice between letting him in and having him call Bates up here with a security team, something moved inside the room. John’s hand flew to his side, but of course, fuck, he hadn’t exactly come here armed for bear, and he was making a mental note to have a P90 goddamn arc-welded to his thigh when his hand stopped and then his brain stopped and Rodney put his hand over his face and groaned, “Unbelievable. These things only happen to me, I have no idea why.”

“‘Scuse me,” Ronon said. He was getting more mannerly every day, John noted, with the part of his brain that wasn’t noting that Ronon was sidling out of Rodney’s quarters, gracefully twisting through so that Rodney barely had to shift aside at all. He glanced at John with his quick, curious eyes and a strange little smile on his face that was stuck midway between wry amusement and mild embarrassment as he stretched up his arms and let his sweater slip down over his smooth, hard, broad, recently naked torso.

“Some would say it was karma, I suppose,” Rodney kept muttering, in a sad monotone, “but really, I do everything for the greater good, I think of myself as a decent person. These are the times that try men’s souls, but inasmuch as I believe in a higher power– “

“Sheppard,” Ronon acknowledged with a nod as he extracted himself from Rodney’s doorway and began to amble off like he had nothing but time to kill.

“G’night,” John said faintly to his back.

When he turned back around from staring, Rodney held up his hands and said, “Now, before you work yourself into a frenzy, I should point out– “

“I suppose I can fucking come inside now, instead of standing out here like a moron? I mean, you don’t have Teyla in there, do you? There’s not some kind of, oh, I don’t know, naked staff meeting that I let slip my mind?”

“You can come in.”

Inside was fine, except for the way that he was now in full view of Rodney’s bed. It didn’t appear as if maid service had been by, at least not since, oh, the last time Rodney had gotten laid in it. Rather athletically laid, if the state of the sheets was any indication.

John deliberately turned his back on the bed. “Okay,” he said. “So....”

“So?”

“What happens now?”

“I– “ It didn’t seem to be what Rodney expected. He looked as though he were running simulations in his head of a number of different scenarios. “Are you breaking up with me?” he blurted out at last, and that was– Okay. That was cute. Also, it proved that interrogating Rodney was the kind of job that involved a lot of shutting up and letting him talk himself right into the noose.

“Am I breaking up with you?” he repeated thoughtfully.

“If you are, I think I should say – I think – it’s unfair of you, really, because we never – no one ever said– “

“No. No one ever did.”

A tiny flash of anger moved in Rodney’s eyes, and it took all of John’s military discipline (which he did have, no matter what anyone said behind his back, or to his face, or for that matter in his personnel file) not to grin. This wasn’t going to be any fun at all if Rodney just gave in. “I always assumed,” Rodney said, drawing himself up haughtily, “that you preferred to leave yourself free to gallivant around the galaxy with whatever you found willing.”

“Well, exactly,” he said pleasantly. “What’s not to prefer? I definitely prefer that to you gallivanting around the galaxy with whatever you find willing.”

Rodney gaped in outrage. “I am not gallivanting – and if I were, I have just as much right as you do – well, maybe I was gallivanting, and if so, more power to me! I happen to be a man of substance, of stature in this city, a brilliant and worldly man in the prime of my life, not to mention a man of some heroism in the face of overwhelming odds, and just because you persist in believing your role in my sex life is to do me the very great favor of – of – the things that – well, you know what it is you do to me, I certainly don’t have to tell you.”

“Certainly not.”

“The point is, you may have thought that an exclusivity clause in our little arrangement was superfluous because no one but you could possibly want to sleep with me, but in fact you have been proven entirely wrong, not for the first time, but I must say if we sort the list by the amount of satisfaction you being wrong provides me, this goes directly to the top of it.”

John grabbed him by the shoulder of his shirt and yanked him forward, cutting off his incipient noise of panic with a quick, hard kiss. “You’re so hot when you’re satisfied,” he said low in his throat.

“You’re jealous,” Rodney gasped, either from the kiss or from the force of revelation.

“Yeah.” John ran his hand down Rodney’s neck, underneath the collar of the shirt, and began to gather up the fabric in his hand, hitching it higher with an eye toward getting it off altogether.

“You just can’t stand,” Rodney said wonderingly, “that I got to him before you did.”

That stopped John for a second, and he cocked his eyebrows at Rodney. Surprisingly oblivious, John’s sweet ass. “Mm,” he said after a moment. “Maybe that’s it exactly.”

He jerked Rodney up against him, and Rodney said, “John, I haven’t – I just finished – “

“Oh, I can see that.” He still smelled – alien. John leaned closer again and inhaled a non-Rodney mix of leather and something woodsy and something that might have been butterscotch, along with the smell of sweat and fucking, which was not so much new, but at the same time, it was new. Different. John licked up his neck, and Rodney shivered convulsively, as if his skin were still fiercely sensitized. There was a mark starting to form on his neck, too; John slid his mouth softly across it, and that tore a strangled sound out of Rodney that he fully expected to be followed by begging for mercy right...about....

“John, please, please, no.” Now. “This is – too – “

He ignored Rodney’s hands trying to press him away until they became too much of an annoyance, at which point he grabbed Rodney by the wrists and pushed his arms down to his sides. “I thought you didn’t want us to split up?”

“I know – no, I mean, I don’t, but – well – no, I don’t.” Rodney got his hands free and slid them up John’s arms. He tried to lower his head to get underneath John’s eye-level and wound up Athosian-hugging him, his breath warm and sugary-sweet on John’s face. “I owe you an apology,” he said quietly, and John hadn’t been so shocked since five minutes ago. An apology? Maybe the word meant something different in scientist. “I really like you, and I, I didn’t plan this. I wouldn’t. Have planned this, I mean, on the chance, on the off-chance that it would...hurt your – bother you? Maybe – I have no reason, really, to think it would bother you, I know this is hardly – what we’re doing together is.... Actually, I have literally no idea what we’re doing together, but I haven’t mistaken it for the romance of the ages, and yet on the other hand– “

“Rodney. Rodney, stop. You being all sensitive, it gives me the creeps. I don’t know that you owe me anything, but if it makes you feel better, fine, I accept your apology.” He slid his arms around Rodney’s waist and kissed him slowly and thoroughly, waiting until his body went lax and unresisting against John’s, breathing shallowly into the kiss and curling the fingers of both hands into the space just below the back of John’s neck.

He made an agonized sound as John pushed him down on the bed, and then made the same sound again, louder, when John knelt up over him with his thighs pressed firmly between Rodney’s legs. The smell that clung to everything – the bed, Rodney’s skin, Rodney’s tongue – was close to driving John past all thought, and he didn’t know if it was that it smelled so sharply, aggressively sexual, or that he was coming to associate the smell of a sweaty, aroused McKay, Pavlov-style, with an orgasm in his immediate future, or if it was that it smelled like Ronon – Ronon, who he’d been grappling with in the practice rooms for weeks now, and you’d think that getting thwacked in the head by a thick stick every time he was distracted by a flash of belly, a particular roll of his broad shoulders, a glint of boyish glee in his eyes – you’d definitely think that would make some kind of turned-on-by-Ronon equals ow-stop-hitting-me thing happen in his head, Pavlov-style, but not so far. More like an okay-hit-me-again-whatever-you-want-just-name-it thing, and this all had the potential to get very ugly and turn their team into one unhappy, incestuous family, but right now John couldn’t care about that, he could not at all give a good goddamn, because he had Rodney gasping and squirming and hard, presumably for the second time that night, underneath him -- Rodney who had just been in this very bed having sex with Ronon.

“What are you – what are you doing?” Rodney asked, which was a stupid question, and if John had been on his game there would have been mockery, but actually it was nice to have Rodney gasping and squirming and stupid underneath him.

“Reasserting my dubious claim on your person,” John said brightly. He’d managed words of four syllables and the buttons on Rodney’s pants, and those accomplishments made him feel like a god of wit and coordination. He leaned forward to kiss Rodney again, letting the weight of his body press and grind between Rodney’s legs, and then growled beside his mouth, “You wanna be mine? I can make you mine.”

“I can’t!” Rodney moaned, and he sounded like he was being tortured, but his face – God, John loved the way Rodney’s face looked in bed, like every single time it was the shock of his life how great it felt, like maybe he wouldn’t have been such a bastard his whole life if he’d only known he was capable of feeling this way. It wore off, of course, but it was a good look on him while it lasted. “No, John, you don’t understand, I can’t. You’ll – it’s too much, you’ll – I can’t, let me– “ He tried to press up on his elbows, his mouth blindly kissing whatever part of John’s face it came to. “Let me suck you,” he said in a rough, desperate tone that made the hair on the back of John’s arms stand up. “That’ll, I know you like that, I can – I like it, too. Let me....”

Yes, sure, go right ahead seemed like the only logical answer, if the question was What do you say when someone begs you to let him suck your dick? And yet something illogical seemed to be happening in John’s head (being around Rodney often made him want to do random and illogical things, just for the cute way that Rodney sputtered and called him demented and immature and evolutionarily misbegotten), because he heard himself say, “Nah. Rather fuck you through this mattress. Thanks, though. Rain check?”

Rodney’s fingers gripped his shoulders firmly, holding his attention even as he yanked Rodney’s pants down past his hips. “John,” he said seriously. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this twice in a row without actual physical damage. Please, if you love Beckett at all, spare him this infirmary visit, all right?”

John didn’t say anything. He knew he was supposed to say something, and yet there was nothing there, nothing he wanted to say, nothing he could.... His hand had come to a stop tucked against Rodney’s inner thigh, and he could feel the hair, the heat, the slick, smeared....

“I. I’d still like to.” Rodney’s grip on his shoulder turned into a gentling caress, a there-there gesture that began to sputter-start John’s brain up again with irritation. He didn’t need to be patronized, for God’s sake. Rodney kissed him lightly and said, “Lie down, lie down. I meant it, I want to.”

“You let him fuck you?” Ah, and there it went, all the lights back on and the power up, and John barreled ahead as if there’d been no interruption at all in his higher thought processes. “You don’t even let me fuck you!”

“I have – I have no idea where you get that from.”

“You’re so full of shit, McKay.”

“I do let you! I have.”

“Hardly ever.” Three times, in fact. John remembered every one of them, because – well, because – it was Rodney McKay, and–

Fuck, for John it was nothing. It was one of a handful of self-destructive things he’d tried in his pissed-off, sulky youth, and only by accident did he discover that it wasn’t self-destructive at all, that in fact it helped him keep his balance, that it left him feeling relaxed and powerful and sexual and free – like any other orgasm, or maybe if anything more so. He’d never exactly taken it from a whole cafeteria full of servicemen or anything like that, but he’d spread his legs enough times in his life to make whatever deep, emotional freight it might have once carried with it seem a long way away.

Rodney was different. John wasn’t his biographer – was barely even his boyfriend – and he didn’t know the gory details of Rodney’s sexual history, but everything about that night they first switched places told John like an I Can Read book that it was a pretty damn big deal. The way he trembled, the way his eyelashes fluttered with his eyes closed, the way his muscles only unwound after John spent what felt like weeks slowly stroking Rodney’s back and arms and shoulders, the kiss he turned his head to give John, intent and motionless and pleading. And then, to feel him warm up and wake up in John’s arms, to start making those blissed-out little sounds and rocking back against his thrusts and finally to hear him answer John’s this is good, this is good, come on, isn’t this good? with a breathless okay, yes, good, oh, John, you’re good.

Rodney had let him do it three times – once on the Daedelus on their way back home to Atlantis, once on that fucking miserable night when they’d found Kolya, lost the ZPM, and had two weeks left to live, and that first time, in the aftermath of the storm. That time when Rodney was weirdly quiet, his hand moving back and forth to brush against the stitches on his arm and then to touch the back of John’s hand as if checking to make sure he was still there while they necked for ages and then got naked and then laid there and didn’t talk to each other until Rodney said, Look, you are going to stay the night, aren’t you? and John said, Sure, absolutely, sorry to be so – you just don’t know how tired I am right now and Rodney said, That tired? Because I was hoping, I thought I’d ask if you wanted to be on top? Because I understand you must be...tired, but that’s what I want right now, I really can’t even express how much I want you to.... And then he couldn’t seem to quite say it, and John grinned and kissed him and he clenched his fingers in John’s hair and kissed back so hard it should have left bruises around their mouths, and then in the middle of it all, with Rodney so tense but trusting him so completely, he’d felt this power-surge of – protectiveness, or possessiveness, maybe. This sudden, unexpected surge of knowing Rodney and wanting Rodney and worrying about him and being grateful for him and proud of him, the same deep gut-twist of caring about someone’s well-being more than your own that John always felt about the men under his command, only to the power of ten and irreducible to anything he’d felt before.

And he didn’t need that all the time, didn’t mind it being a special-occasion deal, a whenever-it-seems-necessary deal, and the rest of the time just having Rodney around as his unpredictable, endlessly (if often unintentionally) amusing friend who also happened to be very hot for John and made it very worth John’s while to run with that pass.

He didn’t need that all the time, but he sure as hell couldn’t think of a single reason that Ronon Dex needed it ever.

“Don’t do that anymore,” he said shortly, leaving soft, nipping kisses along the underside of Rodney’s jaw. “I mean, I don’t care who you sleep with, that’s your business– “

“It’s all right if you don’t want me to, I don’t mind, you and I could– “

“No,” he said quickly. “We’re friends, right?”

“Well...yes, I consider you a friend....”

“Good. So as your friend, I’ll be the first one to congratulate you for bagging the hottest piece of ass in the colony. But don’t do it like that. Don’t bottom for anyone else, okay?”

Rodney’s thumb ran heavy and slow down the side of his neck, and as he stared up at John the wheels were turning almost visibly in his mind as he worked furiously on the complicated equation that John clearly represented to him. “As what?” he finally asked.

“What?”

“Well, as my friend, you’re simply thrilled to pieces that I slept with someone else. So as my what, exactly, are you willing to interfere with my private life?”

“Now you’re just being difficult.”

“No, I’d really like to understand the parameters of our little ‘relationship,’ here. Because I did have a rather fantastic time tonight, and should the opportunity arise again, I need some sense of exactly why it is that I’m expected to– “

“Because it’s personal, okay? It’s personal, it’s intimate, it’s– You barely even know the guy!”

“You’d roll over on your back for him in a heartbeat! The whole city can see that!”

“It’s totally different!”

“God, you’re self-centered. It’s different because it’s you?”

“You and I are different, Rodney. You may not want to hear me say that, but we are. Things that mean something to you don’t mean much of anything to me.”

For a second, he looked like he was about to say something sharp back. Then he got quiet and his eyes slid away, his head lolling slightly to the side on his pillow so that he was looking pensively at the wall. “I see,” he said at last, not nearly sharply enough for John’s comfort. “That’s a, ah, viable theory. You might be right about that.”

“Rodney....” He wasn’t sure exactly what to say, though. It was the truth, he’d told the truth, and John wasn’t in the habit of lying to his friends. Of course, he wasn’t in the habit of making his friends look like they were bleeding out on the curb, either.

Rodney put up his hand to John’s lips to shush him, and then slowly rolled him over to his back. “Rodney,” John said again as Rodney pulled his shirt off of him and then leaned down to kiss the middle of his chest, toying with John’s right nipple as he did.

“Oh, God, aren’t we done with the talking parts yet?” Rodney said, and every muscle in John’s body relaxed at the familiar tone in his voice, all ruffled feathers and crisp impatience. This was better, this was solid ground. “Shut up and take your blowjob like a man, will you?”

I know you like that he’d said, as if it were some personal quirk of John’s. Surely to be able to give blowjobs like Rodney did, he must have practiced on enough men to have noticed the flaws in that, but in any case the fact did remain that, yes, John liked that very much. He liked the way Rodney kissed his stomach while they both twisted and stretched trying to get John’s sweatpants off of him, and the loose, tantalizing way he curled his hand around the base of John’s cock once they did. He liked the way Rodney always focused on the head where the best nerve-endings were, sucking and licking with wet lips and a firm, quick tongue, rather than trying to copy some move out of a bad porno and jam it directly down his throat. He liked the way it seemed casual, almost forgetful, when Rodney’s fingers strayed back to rub around the base of his balls, like maybe he wasn’t trying to do anything for John, but just liked to play around with John’s balls while he gave head. He liked – oh, God, he liked everything about this, and by the time Rodney had a hand braced against the mattress just inside John’s leg and was working his cock deeper and deeper into his mouth with grim, half-lidded determination in his eyes, John was gasping for air and pressing his palms flat on the wall behind him to hold his body taut and steady.

“Yeah, shit, shit,” he gasped, his hips twitching just a tiny bit before he could get control of them again. “Fuck – baby – fucking great, don’t stop, don’t stop.”

He must have been moving around more than he realized, because Rodney suddenly pulled off just enough to readjust and gripped John’s hips hard between both his hands, shooting one shut up and be careful look up at John before sinking back down, hot wet sweet sucking. John bit his lip hard and threw his head back, panting noisily and staring at the ceiling. God – Rodney – fuck, it was only John’s deep and altruistic sense of duty to the mission that kept him from locking Rodney in a secret room in some unexplored part of the city and keeping him there as John’s permanent sex-slave.

Rodney stopped long enough to run his tongue in one flat, sleek stripe up the inside of John’s thigh, and just when the combination of stopping-bad! and licking-good! was about to make John lose his last remaining logical synapse in a fiery blaze, he bit the soft skin of John’s stomach. John’s hips lurched up convulsively, blocked by the weight of Rodney over him, and that slippery fabric that Rodney’s shirt was made out of, like nylon only infinitely nicer, felt even better than usual as his dick pressed up against Rodney’s shoulder.

“I do love this,” Rodney mumbled against his stomach as John thrust up, the niceness of the super-nylon not exactly an acceptable substitute for the heat and pressure of Rodney’s mouth. One hand traced the curve of John’s body from ribs to hip, a light, shivery touch, and he said, “You’re so responsive. It really feels like you want....”

“I do,” John panted. “I want you, I want you, c’mon, Rodney, I want your mouth.”

Rodney licked the underside of his cock and then said, crisp and hoarse and a bit distant all at once, “I think that’ll do, that’s close enough,” then took John back into his mouth and made him scream.

He laid on his side and watched as John recovered himself, then sat up slowly and pretended lying flat like that didn’t make his back tighten up in a way it never used to do. John glanced over his shoulder as he stood up, pulling on his sweatpants. Rodney was flushed, with his hair standing up everywhere and his mouth looking dark and swollen, and for a moment John came to a dead stop, imagining Ronon lying there in bed beside him (in imagination, Rodney’s bed was at least a full size larger than the real version was), naked and sheened with sweat and utterly relaxed by the previously unsuspected eroticism of one of Rodney’s blowjobs. John started to rewind that mental videotape to get to the parts he’d missed, and then abruptly shook himself off.

Rodney was smiling at him slightly, almost but not quite a smirk. “Are you all right, Colonel?”

“Mm. I’ll recover, I think.” John grinned back at him, and then on impulse leaned over and put one hand on Rodney’s waist, brushing a faint kiss across his mouth. “You better hope Ronon keeps secrets as well as I do, or you’ll have the worst reputation in Atlantis.”

“Well,” he said breezily, folding his hands behind his head, “now that I know for sure that I’m a thoroughly eligible bachelor, I suppose that could work to my advantage.”

Something about that didn’t sit entirely right with John; the idea of McKay singles-scening it through the galaxy – it just didn’t seem to fit Rodney somehow. Luckily, John had seen him fall on his face enough times with the pre-sex, meet-and-mingle phases of romantic entanglements that he didn’t expect he’d need to worry about Rodney donning a smoking jacket and racking up conquests any time soon. Pegasus Galaxy’s loss and John’s gain.

“I’m going to be jerking off for the rest of my life to the picture of the two of you. You know that, right?”

Rodney smiled again, no snap to it at all, just a broad, relaxed, pleased smile. “They say there’s no accounting for taste, but I suppose I have no choice but to feel flattered.”

“I hate to run off, but I committed myself to doing surprise inspections on the Gateroom third shift tonight. This is the part of commanding that’s no fun at all, being the exact same officious tight-ass that you hated when you were rank-and-file.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself.”

“I’m not making excuses, I was just telling you about my day. Look, after the officious tight-ass part, there’s a whole bunch of paperwork, but if you want after that, I could come back– “

“It’s not necessary. You’d only wake me up.”

“Really, are you sure?” John waggled his eyebrows in a manner he hoped was suggestive, but feared was suggestive of not much more than a Groucho Marx impersonator. “You’re sure I wouldn’t just be interrupting your hot, naked liaison with – who? – Zelenka?”

Zelenka? I will now be forever unsettled by the suspicion that deep down you harbor inappropriate yearnings for – Zelenka?”

“You don’t think he’s cute? He has that little accent....”

“Colonel, for the love of God, stop talking.”

Once he had his shirt on, John bent down for another quick kiss, but Rodney wrapped both hands around the back of his head, and suddenly it was a long kiss, long and wet and warm, Rodney’s mouth moving like slow surf-waves underneath his. “John,” he said in a small, throaty voice when their lips finally moved apart, “you should know....”

“What?” he breathed back.

“It’s very difficult, not to make this – mean anything to me. I am trying. I can try harder, even. It’s just that – if we’re friends, you should trust me, and I should tell you the truth, so the truth is....”

“Rodney, are you out of your mind? I didn’t mean me. I mean, when I said that, about – meaning something and not meaning something – all that, I wasn’t talking about us. Fuck, is that what you thought?”

“Well. I just thought– “

“Well, stop! Stop thinking that! God, you suck at relationships.”

“I do, yes. I only – well, you were so damn adamant about both of us being free to – that I thought you didn’t want me to get very...attached to you.”

John straightened up and ran his hands through his hair with a frustrated sigh. He wasn’t sure why he’d ever thought things would be simple with Rodney; every point they had in their favor, what with the whole being close friends and already accustomed to trusting each other with their lives, was cancelled out by at least two points docked off any relationship that Rodney had anything to do with. “Rodney, look. Look, I just – I want you to be happy, okay? We’re out here, we have all these connections being formed from the adversity and the teamwork and that kind of crap, we’re going nuts with the overproduction of adrenaline, none of us know when – how long we’re going to last. I like you. I like all this that we do together, all of it. I just think that one extra thing we don’t need hanging over our heads is some kind of fear that one of us is going to let the other one down, or get disappointed or hurt or jealous or whatever. We’ve got plenty of shit to deal with, and plenty of shit is guaranteed to go down and give us a really bad day on any morning that we get out of bed at all. All I want is for you and me to be, God, let’s just say, not the thing that causes a really bad day for each other. Do you know what I’m saying?”

“I...think so, yes.”

He reached down and brushed one finger lightly over Rodney’s cheek, and Rodney’s eyes widened slightly at the unexpectedness of the gesture. His hand came up, his palm across John’s, holding the back of John’s hand against his face. “Don’t ever think I’m not your friend, don’t ever think I don’t trust you with everything I have. You obviously have no idea just how much having you here matters to me. If that’s my fault, I’m sorry. I kind of suck at relationships, too.”

“I’m not angry.” Rodney let his hand slip away and gave him an encouraging little smile. “Go, you have things to do. Grunts to terrify.”

“I should find out how you do it.”

“There’s no trick. I just call people names.”

“That really works?”

“I know, you wouldn’t think so, would you? Scientists can be so sensitive.”

In the doorway, John turned around one last time and looked at Rodney, still lolling sleepily in his disreputable bed. He shook his head, half affectionate and half impressed – Rodney McKay, slut-genius of Atlantis; he wondered if Ronon had walked out of here feeling as buzzed with pleasure and foolish sentiment as John was. “Hey,” he said.

“Hm?” Rodney said, turning his face in John’s direction.

“What you asked before, about who I am? You know, as a friend this, but as what am I asking...?”

“I remember.”

“If I said as your – if I said I was asking as your lover, would you – take that amiss, somehow?”

Rodney seemed to think that over for a minute. “I’m not sure I can answer that. What do you mean by ‘take it amiss’?”

Awkwardly, John shrugged. “Just, anything. Get mad or get scared off or, I don’t know, sprout some kind of misguided sense of loyalty that would prevent you from having another fling with Ronon and inviting me to watch?”

He grinned and turned his face back up to the ceiling. “Don’t you have a job of some kind?”

“Are you kicking me out?”

Goodnight, John.”

“G’night.”

He failed entirely to terrify his grunts that night. It was probably the smile.