Rodney stared in horror at the tangled mess of wires and cables behind the enormous television John had set up at the end of Ronon’s infirmary bed.
“This is horrible,” he said. “Mensa must have made a mistake. This looks like a bunch of squirrels got drunk in a BestBuy and decided it would be a good idea to build Vista.”
“Yeah,” said John, sounding unconcerned, from his visitor’s chair beside Ronon’s bed. He was wearing board shorts and a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt, presumably so that nobody would make the mistake of thinking he was someone who could be trusted with responsibility, and, in defiance of all probability, his hair was even wilder than usual. “So, if you could just fix it in time for the game…”
“You do realise that I have more important things to do? Like, I don’t know, everything?”
“No, you don’t,” said Ronon, looking suspiciously healthy for a convalescent. Rodney was starting to suspect that all the bandages around his middle were just a ploy for attention. “You’ve been hiding in your lab, stalking Dr Keller on Facebook and listening to that woman sing all week.”
“Okay, one, how do you even know what Facebook is? Your idea of social media is sniffing the nearest tree to see what’s passed by recently. Two, Celine Dion is an artist who happens to understand the very real pain of rejection, and three-”
“Quit whining,” said John with all the empathy Rodney had come to expect. “Nobody made you volunteer to stay on duty in the city this week. You could have been eating vegan meatloaf or whatever at Jeannie’s.”
“God, no,” said Rodney with a shudder. “You know how I feel about nuts and berries. Anyway, Jeannie and I have just started getting along - why ruin it by spending time together?”
“Good point,” said John, squinting at Rodney in that asinine way that usually meant he thought he was being funny, but in fact just made him look like he’d lost his sunglasses.
“Anyway, what’s your excuse?”
“I’m keeping Ronon company.” John held out his fist and Ronon bumped it with his own. This was Rodney’s life now - reduced to the cable repair guy, surrounded by people who unironically fist-bumped, and doomed to die alone and get eaten by cats.
“Come on,” said John, his nasal tones cutting rudely into Rodney’s reverie. “The game’s starting soon, and the Falcons are- ”
“Fine,” said Rodney hurriedly, hunkering down behind the TV. “Please stop talking.”
When the TV was finally working, Rodney pulled up a chair next to John and sat down, on the pathetically slim grounds that he didn’t have anywhere better to be.
“I thought you said the game was starting soon,” said Ronon after yet another interview between two interchangeable men with bald spots and badly fitting suits.
“The pre-game counts,” said John. “It’s all part of the experience.”
“Your planet’s weird,” said Ronon, which was rich coming from someone who did woodwork for fun and regarded cutlery as optional. “I don’t know why you’re all obsessed with this box, or with putting cheese on food, and I don’t understand why, if all your chickens are gay, they haven’t died out yet.”
Rodney blinked, which made sense as an autonomic response but unsurprisingly did nothing to make the sentence he’d just heard any clearer.
“What’s that about the chickens?” asked John. He sounded wary, as if he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know the answer, but he was the one who’d taught Ronon how to use the internet in the first place so it was almost certainly his fault and it was only fair that he deal with the consequences.
“Earlier, on that hospital show,” said Ronon. “Two of the guys were pretending to be gay chickens. And some of the marines had joked about it before.” He frowned. “If it’s a weird sex thing, it’s ok not to tell me.”
“It’s not-” began John, but he didn’t get the chance to finish because Rodney leaned over and smacked a big wet kiss right on his lips, to which John reacted by jerking backwards and falling off his chair.
“That’s gay chicken,” said Rodney smugly while John was climbing back to his feet. “And I just won.”
“Seems pretty gay to me,” said Ronon.
“That’s because you’re unacquainted with the complexities of game theory,” said Rodney loftily. “The true game of gay chicken is in fact a test of heterosexuality. The more secure you are in your sexuality, the less threatened you feel by a homosexual proposition, and thus the slower you react. The person who moves away first, i.e. Sheppard, is the most threatened and therefore the most gay.”
Ronon looked unconvinced.
“The point is that I won,” said Rodney happily. Because screw strategy polymorphism and Nash equilibria - the true way to win at gay chicken was (a) move first, and (b) be entirely comfortable with kissing other men.
In other words, cheat.
“You didn’t win,” said John irritably as he dusted himself down. “You cheated. I was startled.”
“Well, if you want to try again-”
“Oh, we’re going again,” said John with a murderous look in his eyes. He sat back down, swivelled to face Rodney, chewed his lower lip, and placed one hand on Rodney’s knee.
Rodney covered John’s hand with his own and squeezed. Then he leaned in close and stroked John’s cheek, all the while looking deep into John’s dark, pretty eyes. He had long eyelashes for a guy; not as long as Rodney’s, but he didn’t have the advantage of Great-Aunt Phyllis’s DNA.
John swallowed with an audible click. He looked at Rodney with an unreadable expression, then moved closer, eyes still open, and planted a soft kiss on Rodney’s lips.
Rodney countered by opening his mouth and bringing his tongue into play. John’s mouth was hot and wet, and when their tongues met it made John breathe heavily and rise halfway out of his seat in an effort to get closer, his hand sliding up Rodney’s thigh.
“This is really gay,” said Ronon.
“You don’t understand our ways,” gasped Rodney, kissing John’s neck in case John tried to claim that Rodney had forfeited by breaking the kiss first. Victory depended on continued escalation, and that thought led Rodney to glance downwards and confirm that yes, John’s dick was as keen as his own. How far would John be willing to go to win? Because Rodney still had blowjobs in his arsenal, so he was guaranteed to either win or at least get his cock sucked.
Faced with the dizzying, unprecedented possibility of a win-win scenario and the dizzying, unprecedented sensation of John’s tongue in his ear, Rodney’s brain went as blank as the TV had been before he fixed it.
“I’d leave the room,” said Ronon, “but I can’t. So you should go.”
“Roger that,” said John, rising to his feet and dragging Rodney up by his wrist. “Is the code to the supplies cupboard still 911?”
“Yeah,” said Ronon, turning his attention back to the TV.
“Oh, now that’s just poor security-”
“Shut up, Rodney,” said John, and he yanked Rodney inside the cupboard and shut the door.
In the small space, lit only by a glowing Ancient lightbulb overhead and surrounded by boxes of rubber gloves and dressings, Rodney could hear John breathing heavily. He looked angry, or possibly aroused - Rodney didn’t have sufficient bases for comparison to be sure.
“Oh!” said Rodney, belatedly. “You’re actually gay.”
“So are you,” said John, glaring at him.
“Eh, a bit.” Now that they’d stopped touching, Rodney realised that his hands were sweating and his stomach felt hollow. “So, ha, that’s interesting, if neither player can crash then the game is technically unbounded and-
“- and there are no equilibrium points, I know.”
Rodney’s heart leaped. “God, that’s hot,” he said, grabbing John’s stupid shorts by the belt loop and tugging him closer.
“So neither of us can win,” said John softly, his lips grazing Rodney’s jaw.
“Unless you’re bluffing.”
John’s sigh was warm and damp against Rodney’s neck. “Rodney-”
“I’m not willing to take that chance.” Rodney dropped to his knees and started tugging at the cord holding John’s shorts up.
“You are the worst loser I’ve ever met,” said John, but his voice was fond.
“Who’s losing?” said Rodney giddily. He didn’t understand how he’d got to where he was - kneeling on the floor with John’s dick in his hand and John’s hand in his hair - but in contravention of all known laws he appeared to be heading towards a situation with negative entropy, where everybody won and nobody lost, and escalation had worked improbably well as a strategy so far so he wasn’t going to abandon it now. If that meant sucking John’s dick, or proposing to him, or cuddling up in bed and having a big gay talk about their feelings, then so be it.
“You,” said John, breathless. “You’re a terrible loser, and - oh - a worse winner, and - ok, fine, yes, you win, you win, oh, keep doing that, you-”
Outside in the infirmary, Ronon looked at the cupboard door, rolled his eyes, and turned the sound up on the TV. The game was pretty good, actually. He had some queries about the rules but decided they could wait until later.