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"Well. The Norstebo wanted us to wash our feet, and the Trita wanted us to wash their feet, but this has got to be the strangest ritual cleansing requirement we've run into."

"Yeah." McKay looked a little red, and no wonder; it wasn't exactly a normal topic of conversation. "On the plus side, it won't really be difficult to meet their requirements."

"Well, no."

The door of the cell, which the Maksiu quaintly called the Travelers' Chamber, was not remotely soundproof -- they could hear footsteps in the corridor beyond -- but it was as much privacy as they were likely to get here. John put a call in to Atlantis to explain things to Elizabeth.

"Well, the good news is that they consider their ZPMs to be minor religious artifacts, and they trade minor religious artifacts all the time, so no problems there."

"ZPMs, plural?"

"Yes. They've got two."

"But you're implying that there's bad news?"

"Not exactly. Just a ritual."

"Major, what exactly do you have to do to get two ZPMs?"

"Spend the night in their temple guest room," John said. "Oh, and not have sex with McKay."

"Did you say --" He could hear a ripple of laughter in the gateroom.

He grinned at McKay, who rolled his eyes. "Yep. I have to spend the next twelve hours not jumping McKay's bones."

"Their exact words," McKay put in, "were, 'You will be our guests for the night, and abstain from all copulation.' "

"Well," Elizabeth said slowly, "that shouldn't be difficult, correct?"

"Nope. Just have to spend the night doing something other than having sex with McKay, just like every other night." He couldn't help it. It was funny.

"Rodney? No problems on your side?"

"I've managed to resist Major Sheppard's many charms so far. I'm sure I can hold out for another twelve hours."

"Right, well, you do that."

John looked around. The Travelers' Chamber was decorated in the high Maksi style, which ran to gleaming panels of glossy muted colors, like an upscale mall. In two opposite corners, platforms rose out of the floor and were made up as beds -- nice big beds, John noted with approval, with plenty of room to stretch out. Another platform in the center of the room held a bowl of fruit, a plate of small loaves or cakes, and a pitcher of water; there were benches on either side.

In the middle of one long wall was the door, half glass and half gray-green shiny stuff pierced all over with holes to carry sound. The bathroom was down the hall, and "attendants" were supposed to be available to escort them there, day or night.

So it was made for surveillance, obviously, but pretty comfy just the same.

They'd been promised a meal at sunset and another at sunrise, and then they'd be taken immediately into the temple proper for something that was supposed to be a cross between a trade negotiation and a religious ceremony. Nothing they hadn't done a dozen times before. In between, nothing to do but relax and not have sex with McKay.

He grinned at the thought, and McKay smiled back. "Easiest diplomatic requirement we've had in a bit," he said.

"Yeah." The last visit, the Lippen had made them do calisthenics and run a footrace. "So you want to get the not-having-sex out of the way now or save it for later?"

"Why not both?" Rodney gave him a grin with teeth. "Unless you're not up to not having sex twice in one night."

"I can keep up with you, don't worry," John began, and then the door opened and a young woman entered, wearing an elaborately wrapped and layered headscarf.

"I am assigned to see that you are supplied with all you need." None of the people they had met had bothered to give names. John wondered if they had names. This one looked about seventeen, and was surreptitiously staring at their clothes and their instruments. The Maksiu got a steady stream of interstellar visitors, but naturally they'd never seen anyone from Earth. "I am also assigned to clarify for you the nature of the required sacrifice."

There was more? "Way I understood it, all we had to do was spend the night in this room and not have sex," he said.

"Then you can plainly see that much depends upon the definition of 'sex,' " she said primly.

"Yeah, he's American -- they have trouble with these things," McKay put in.

"I regret that I am unacquainted with the reference," she said, but not as if she really regretted it very much. She folded her hands in front of her. John half expected her to start singing, and in fact her speech became singsong, like the voice of an airline stewardess explaining yet again about how you should secure your own oxygen mask before assisting other passengers. "With your leave, I will clarify what is forbidden. The contact of genitals with hands, mouth, genitals, or other skin --"

"Hey, hey, hey," John interrupted. "I figured I'd stay over here and he'd stay over there and we'd have no problems." He didn't dare catch McKay's eye for fear he'd start laughing.

"Such contact," she went on doggedly, "is not forbidden, but it is dangerous. If either of you arrives at the moment of fruition, your sacrifice will be invalidated, and you will be unable to enter the temple in order to participate in tomorrow's council."

Fruition. John looked anywhere but at McKay and tried not to laugh.

"All right," McKay said. "In the really amazingly unlikely event that this were to happen, couldn't the people just try again the next night?"

"They could," the priestess said. "But our experience suggests that it gets more difficult for many nights before it gets easier."

"Right, yeah, I can see that," John said. If he'd been here with someone really tempting -- Teyla, for instance, not that she'd have any difficulty resisting him -- the next night would just be that much worse.

"Thus you will understand why I warn you away from all such contact, even though it is not in itself forbidden."

"Sure, yeah, slippery slope, yadda yadda," McKay said.

The priestess looked sharply at him. John could see the tips of her ears reddening. "The best of luck to you," she said, and retreated in a hurry.

"Huh," McKay said. "She must be unacquainted with the reference." He dug into his pack. "Now that we've gotten that highly necessary warning out of the way, are you interested in cards?"

They were so evenly matched that standard card games got boring pretty fast. After that, they did a couple of rounds of something like rummy, where the winner was the first one who could tell five of the seven cards in the other guy's hand, and then McKay started improvising a variation on double solitaire designed to pit both of them against the laws of probability, which wasn't bad, though it would have been more of a challenge if they'd had a second deck.

They were just experimenting with adding randomness using Rock, Paper, Scissors when another priestess entered with dinner.

John glanced at McKay when she uncovered two large handleless cups of a vegetable stew with something carroty and something beanlike. "Ah, the universal food," McKay said.

"I am prepared to answer any questions you might have about your sacrifice." What was it with the headscarves? This one didn't have quite as many knots and folds as the last one, but it was still hard to look at her face without your eyes wandering up and trying to make sense of all that fabric.

"We already had one of those," McKay said with his mouth full. "This needs something," he added.

"Garlic," John said absently. "Maybe we can trade them some."

"You mean to tell me an advanced civilization managed to develop without garlic? The human race is more resilient than I thought." McKay swallowed and said to the priestess, "If this practice requires so much information, it probably means it's more complicated than it needs to be. Why not just put the people in separate rooms?"

"Oh, but if you go into a room alone and sleep, this is an ordinary night," she said earnestly. "If you spend the night in company, and yet abstain, this is a sacrifice." She frowned down at her hands, which had been painted with blue swirls. "We do understand that your culture is not our culture and your beliefs are not our beliefs. The morality of requiring this sacrifice of travelers is something that is unendingly debated. But the alternative would be to defile our temple, or to separate trade from belief, which we find unacceptable, or to exclude all strangers from our economic life."

"I wouldn't worry about it," John said. "Not having sex -- I don't see how that could possibly be against anybody's beliefs."

"Though it would be rough on newlyweds," McKay said. "Try one of these," he added, handing John one of the breadlike things. John bit it. It was the consistency of a pancake, but spicy rather than sweet. "They could use some garlic, too."

The priestess let herself out.

John ate as slowly as he could. The card game was probably not going to hold McKay's attention for long, and they had a lot of time to fill. But there was only so much time you could spend lingering over a big cup of soup and some bread.

McKay gobbled his dinner in five minutes and spent another five staring at John while he ate his. Then he picked up one of the fruits from the bowl and dropped it hastily.

"What?" John picked up the fruit, which looked a lot like a nectarine. He turned it over. The blossom end was flushed deep pink and covered with a ring of little bumps. "Great. Fruit with nipples."

McKay was going through the rest of the bowl. He wordlessly held up something shaped like a peach, which looked even more obscene than a peach usually did because the skin in the cleft was split, revealing dark-red flesh.

The next fruit he picked up was fairly normal-looking, the color of a plum and the shape of an apple. He examined it all over, as if he expected it to have dirty graffiti on it; when nothing jumped out at him, he took a bite.

It made a loud, wet, juicy X-rated noise. McKay froze with his teeth halfway into the fruit. Then he very carefully removed it from his mouth and put it back on the table.

By unspoken agreement, they left the elongated fruits alone.

"Very funny, guys," McKay said to the closed door. "You know, I have never been so continually reminded of sex."

"Tell me about it."

"When we get back to Atlantis ..."

"Yeah."

McKay got up and started prowling around the room, tapping on the walls. "Wish they'd provided a TV or something."

"Yeah."

"I mean, if they want to be sure everybody makes the sacrifice, they ought to provide a game on TV. A billiards table. Scrabble. Coloring books."

"Or some less suggestive fruit."

They both looked glumly at the bowl for a while. "We should be grateful it was us," McKay said. "Imagine having to do all this with somebody you wanted to have sex with."

"I'm wounded," John said, giving McKay a ridiculous eyelash-batting look.

McKay responded with a rude gesture. "Try that on Elizabeth. I'm immune."

"She hasn't been all that susceptible, either," John said.

"Yeah, well, think how many problems it would cause you if you were having sex with your commander," McKay pointed out. "More cards?"

The third priestess arrived just about the time John was debating going ahead and going to bed, even though it was insanely early. She backed in the door carrying a thing like a miniature barbecue grill, which was overflowing with slightly spicy smoke.

Incense? he was thinking, when McKay said sharply, "Is this going to make us see visions and dream freaky dreams?"

"Oh, no." This one was older than the others -- older than him or McKay, for that matter -- and her headpiece was no more than a strip of fabric over her short gray hair. "It's only redleaf. It will relax you, nothing more."

"And lower our inhibitions, I imagine." When she didn't answer, McKay smirked. "I'm beginning to think the Maksiu would prefer it if we didn't succeed in making this sacrifice that's so important to you." He looked at John. "What do you think? Want to get high for sound diplomatic reasons?"

John shrugged. "Yeah, why not?"

"You are very confident," the priestess said, setting the burner on the table beside the fruit bowl.

John smiled. "Yeah, well, so far I've had no problems keeping my passion for annoying physicists under control."

She glanced at McKay and the corners of her mouth tucked in. "I'm also here to answer your questions and to clarify for you what is forbidden and what is permitted."

"You people really belabor the point, you know that?" McKay said. "We get it, we get it, no orgasms either together or separately."

She serenely ignored the interruption. "To blossom in his hand or in his mouth or against his skin, or using your own hand -- these things are not forbidden, but they are very, very dangerous. Some adepts use this method to increase the value and depth of their sacrifice, bringing themselves or one another to full blossoming and keeping one another in a state of bloom throughout the night. This is traditionally done before entering into a publicly declared bond, or on the eve of conceiving a child. One of our loveliest traditions, and most justly praised in song and story."

"Oh, I'll just bet it is. You could get whole libraries out of a tradition like that. With that kind of a tradition, I'm surprised you didn't just spontaneously develop the internet," Rodney said.

"I'm not acquainted with the reference," she said gravely. "But this is not recommended for novices. Extending the period between the blossoming and the fruition, this takes practice, and of course fruition would invalidate the sacrifice."

She gave them one last hard look and glided out the door very quickly, as though she wanted to be sure none of the smoke escaped. Finally John could look at McKay without worrying about cracking up.

"Blossoming?" McKay said, already beginning to laugh.

"You, uh, you have to give them points for providing complete information, don't you?" John said.

"No," McKay said, wiping his eyes, "no, I do not in fact have to give them points, because they're giving me information I neither want nor need, and they're putting things in my head which I was happier not to think about. No offense."

"None taken," John said.

McKay sat down on the bed he'd laid claim to and began some sort of lightning-fast game of solitaire. He had very long fingers, John noticed, and noticed it wasn't the first time he'd noticed. The smoke made this a matter of little concern, even mildly amusing; he leaned back against the wall of his own bed, stretched his legs out, and watched.

After a couple of shuffles, McKay said without looking up, "You ever? With a guy?"

"Nah." It had never crossed his mind until today. He wondered if that meant he was repressed. "You?"

"Once. High school."

"Only once? Not worth the risk?"

"No, it was just, you know, bad. Laughably bad. Like, equipment failure level of bad." Snap, snap, snap, went the cards onto their piles. "Is that why you never? Not worth the risk?"

"Just never thought about it."

"Not even when Jongen made that pass at you at the harvest party?"

"What? He didn't."

"He was practically sitting in your lap."

"He was just playing around." Snap, snap, snap, went the cards, and John looked at McKay's hands, because McKay was smirking at him. "What was it like?"

McKay's cards slowed down. "Isn't all bad sex pretty much the same?"

"Is it?"

"No, actually," McKay said thoughtfully. "There are infinite variations of bad sex. Sex can be bad a lot more ways than it can be good. Why is that, do you suppose?"

"Maybe you need to try a different agency?"

McKay flipped a card at him. "Anyway, thinking about it was sort of, I don't know, thrilling and nauseating all at the same time, but actually doing it, huh-uh. I mean, we pretty much knew at kissing that it wasn't going to work, but we kept going a bit for the principle."

"That has to have sucked." John flipped the card back.

"Well, not so much. It was at the big regional Physics Club convention; he was some ballistics expert from a Catholic school in Guelph. Not like we were friends, or had to work together afterwards."

McKay switched to some other game that involved peeling a card off the front of the deck and another off the back. John watched for a while, and then said, "Jongen was making a pass at me?"

"He couldn't have been any more obvious without taking his clothes off."

This struck John as funny. Jongen taking his clothes off -- "He did take his jacket off," he said. "And his shirt, eventually."

"And this made no impression on you, naturally."

"I thought he was just hot."

"Yeah, well, the feeling was mutual, evidently."

John laughed for no good reason. "I think I might be a little high."

"Just a little?" McKay was smiling that crooked smile of his.

John smiled back at him. "You're all right, McKay. If I have to be in an alien Motel 6 abstaining from sex, I'm glad I'm abstaining with you."

A peaceful silence drifted over them. The ceiling, like the rest of the room, was decorated with shiny panels of color. Even the lights were covered with shiny color. He wondered what time it was.

"We should probably get some sleep," McKay said.

John rolled his head slowly around to look at him. McKay was crosslegged on his bed, looking at him. It was just McKay's regular facial expression, curious and slightly superior, but it gave John a nice warm feeling. "-- uh, what?"

"Sleep."

"Not sleepy."

"Me either. I think there's some sort of stimulant in the smoke."

"How can it be a stimulant and a depressant at the same time?"

"Spoken like a man who's never had Irish coffee," McKay said. "Or smoked a cigarette."

"Oh, yeah, right," John said.

McKay was flipping a card in and out through his fingers. His very long fingers. "What do you want to do?" he said.

John gave this some thought. "In a perfect world, I'd like to be having sex."

"Mm, yeah, that would be good." McKay's eyes were an interesting color. John thought maybe he'd seen a matching panel on the walls somewhere.

"Even with you, if they didn't keep reminding us it's against the rules," John said lazily.

The card went still in McKay's hand. "Really?" he said.

"Sure. You're here, you're my friend, we already share this embarrassing experience of having strange women lecture us about fruition."

"Wow." McKay was staring at the wall. "It would probably be bad," he said tentatively.

"Yeah, maybe. So what?"

"Well, that's a, a very intimate experience, having bad sex with someone. Much more intimate than having good sex, don't you think? Because with good sex you've got the whole, the momentum, the building excitement, the urgency, you know? But with bad sex, there you are, all exposed, and not even hormones to blind you to how, frankly, very silly the whole thing is." He cleared his throat. "Don't you think?"

John licked his lips. "Dunno. I've never really had any sex I thought was bad."

McKay gave him a skeptical look. "I don't know whether that means you're some sort of sex god or just that you have really low standards."

John smiled at him. He was really funny. "Not saying I want to. Just, you know, it wouldn't be a hardship, that's all."

McKay looked at him for a long time, until he started feeling a little strange, and then he looked away suddenly, turning his head to the side. John wondered if McKay liked having his ears kissed. He probably did. Most people did.

"Yeah, same here," McKay said at last.

That made him happy. The room was pretty and the smoke smelled good and McKay had said he wouldn't mind having sex with him. It wouldn't be bad, he was pretty sure. If McKay had equipment failure, John could figure out how to get him going again. He could think of some things he'd had done to him that he wouldn't mind trying on McKay. He was sure McKay would like some of them.

He let his eyes go unfocused and thought about nothing at all for a while.

When he came back to awareness, the smoke had burned down to a tiny wisp, and the lights had dimmed. McKay was lying on his back, mouth-breathing the way he did when he was asleep, but his eyes were open and fixed on the ceiling. One hand lay beside his hip; the other rested on his stomach and rose and fell with his slow breaths.

John felt a pang of something like loneliness. After tonight he was never going to be able to look at McKay the careless way he always had. His long fingers, his sturdy body, his oddly pretty eyes -- this was no way to be thinking about a member of his team. But after tonight, he couldn't un-know what he knew.

The door clicked open again.

"Don't tell me," McKay said without turning his head. "You've come to tell us more about all the various and sundry things we aren't doing."

John reluctantly turned his eyes away from McKay to look at the latest priestess. She was past middle-aged and well down the road toward elderly, and she must have been very high-ranking, because she had no head covering at all.

"After revelation and euphoria, redleaf smoke often causes melancholy," she said. "Eating will help." She covered the burner and picked it up. "You have resisted many temptations. Your sacrifice is nearly complete."

She opened the door, then turned back to them. "Sleep if you can. You will not be further interrupted until morning."

For a time after the door shut, neither of them said anything. Then McKay turned his head and said, "Amazing. Not a single effort to define the word 'sex' for us."

His voice didn't have its usual animation. John got the plate with what was left of the pancake things and went to sit beside him. "Here. She said it would make you feel better."

"I feel fine." McKay slid over, and John sat beside him, leaning against the wall, stretching out his legs and crossing one ankle over the other just like McKay's. He put the plate on McKay's lap, and McKay took a pancake absently. "For someone who's been kept up all night and plied with alien drugs and X-rated fruit," he added with his mouth full.

John leaned his head back against the wall. "Almost done, though." It made him a little sad to think of leaving this room, the end of his happy night of not having sex with McKay.

"Here." McKay shoved a pancake at him. "Bet you're a weepy drunk, too."

"I have it on good authority that I'm very cute when I'm drunk."

"If it makes you feel better." McKay patted his leg in a way that would probably have seemed perfectly normal yesterday. To blossom, in his hand or in his mouth or against his skin -- Or just from sitting next to him. McKay's hand had felt cold through the thin fabric of John's pants. John probably ought to get up and let him get under the covers.

"I really want to kiss you," McKay said.

John looked at him. He was looking away and down, so that John saw his ear, the side of his neck, half a dozen places to put his mouth. "We can't."

"I know that."

"Two ZPMs."

"I know."

McKay closed his eyes, and the darkness of his lashes on his cheek made John ache. "I want to," John confessed hoarsely.

McKay's cheek turned pink. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. I want to do all that stuff they told us about."

"You want to, to blossom?" McKay said in a thin imitation of his usual snide tone. Maybe he was trying to lighten the mood. It wasn't working.

"Too late for that."

The muscle in McKay's jaw tensed. "Yeah."

"Maybe the smoke did something to us," John said mournfully.

"Maybe."

"Because you never thought like this about me before, right?"

McKay hesitated a moment. "Well, not never."

"Oh." McKay had thought about it, about him, about the two of them -- "God, I want to do everything to you," John said, and his voice had already started dropping.

"Everything?"

"And some of it twice."

"I want to do everything to you, too," McKay said, and his tone was confiding, breathless, almost shy.

John felt everything wind a little tighter at the sound of it. He reached out blindly and took McKay's hand, lifted it, stroked it with his fingertips. It wasn't cold; it was warm and smooth, and McKay turned slightly, and then they both had their hands tangling together, stroking one another's fingers, and McKay sighed, "John," and John whispered, "Rodney," and lifted Rodney's hands and kissed them.

"The ZPMs," Rodney said hoarsely.

"I don't care," John mumbled.

"Oh."

"I need to care," John said. "Care for me, Rodney, because I don't and I need to and --"

"I can't --"

And it was at that moment that the priestess came through the door with breakfast.


"Nice work, gentlemen." Elizabeth looked down at the two ZPMs, which had been painted with stripes of shiny paint in muted colors.

"Thanks." John felt lightheaded. He was really getting too old for drugs and all-nighters, not to mention getting turned on almost to the point of pain and then having to talk to authority figures.

The only thing that had stopped him from throwing Rodney on the ground and licking him all over as soon as negotiations were done was the fact that both the negotiating table and the gate were in the middle of an amphitheater full of politely applauding women in elaborate headscarves. They had kept a careful arm's length between them since they came through the gate, and had taken up positions on opposite sides of the table.

In spite of all that, John was aware of every breath Rodney took.

He glanced at Rodney, whose nostrils were widening -- god, he was smelling John from all the way across the table. John looked away fast, because if he and Rodney looked each other in the eye, there was no power in Pegasus strong enough to keep him from hauling him down under the table. Or on it. God, what a picture.

Elizabeth looked at them both, then seemed to conclude that things weren't any weirder than she had expected them to be, and went back to looking lovingly at the ZPMs. "Lab confirms they're more than half charged," she said.

If she'd known John longer, she could have guessed something was wrong just from his stance; he never stood this still except when he had a powerful impulse to do something that would destroy his career, such as assaulting a general, or shooting a lying ambassador. Or, apparently, jerking off a team member in public.

Rodney, lacking John's military training, was fidgeting like crazy, shifting from foot to foot, clenching and unclenching his fists. His pants were heavy and dark, good camouflage in light this dim, but John was almost sure Rodney was still in a state of bloom over there. He certainly was.

"Carson's blood tests say your bodies are breaking down the majority of the -- substance you inhaled," Elizabeth said, and she wasn't one of those people who went on and on just to hear themselves talk, but, god, couldn't she wrap it up? "The last of it should be metabolized in a few hours. He says to drink a lot of water."

"Good thing we don't need to operate any heavy machinery," Rodney said.

"Speak for yourself," John sad.

"I'm taking you both off duty until tomorrow morning just in case," Elizabeth said. "I suggest you get some sleep."

Rodney's hand brushed John's as they went through the door, and it was like an electric shock. Rodney hissed through his teeth. The hallways had never seemed this narrow to John before. He backed up until he was almost touching the wall, and then started walking toward Rodney's room. After a second, Rodney came after him, clinging to the opposite wall.

They turned a corner. Three visiting Athosians passed between them, laughing. When their voices died down, the hallway was deserted. John glanced at Rodney, found him staring hungrily back. Their steps started to slow.

"No," Rodney said pleadingly, stepping closer.

"No," John agreed, looking at Rodney's mouth.

"Not here, John, please," Rodney said, still edging closer. "I'm serious, I don't know if I can --"

John reached out slowly and wrapped his fingers around Rodney's wrist. Rodney gasped and shivered and closed his eyes, and with every shred of self-discipline he possessed, John did not shove him against the wall and have him right there in the hallway outside the biology lab, but instead took off at a near-run, hauling Rodney behind him, around another corner and across a sitting area where a couple of the engineering staff stared as they went by.

It was a hundred and fifty steps to Rodney's room, and when they got inside, John didn't let go of his wrist, just pinned it to the wall at his hip and stood close enough to feel his body heat. Rodney's eyes were reddened from a night without sleep, and the light caught the stubble on his jaw. John put his other hand there and Rodney closed his eyes.

"It's not forbidden," John said softly.

"Just dangerous as all hell," Rodney said in a harsh voice, but he raised his chin, and John took the invitation and kissed him.

For about a second it did feel dangerous, because all he could notice was how different it was from kissing a woman -- how Rodney's chin was rough, how his lips were wide and chapped and not soft at all. Then Rodney made a little longing noise and swayed against him, and, oh, god, oh, fuck, it wasn't dangerous at all, it was Rodney. He already knew how to be with Rodney. Being with Rodney was easy.

Rodney was licking at his mouth and wrestling his jacket off his shoulders and dragging him over to the bed, and, god, yes, they could do this. Being with Rodney was going to be the best thing ever.

The beds in the Maksi temple had been nice and big, with plenty of space to spread out, but the beds in Atlantis were narrow. Their knees bumped as they kissed, and Rodney pushed a knee between John's legs, and John drew a shuddering breath.

"God, you feel good." Rodney pressed his forehead to John's and said, "What did you want to do?"

"Everything," John said fervently.

"And some of it twice, yes, I remember vividly," Rodney said, a little out of breath. "But what did you want to do now? Because I don't know about you, but I personally start to get a little edgy after twelve hours of foreplay."

John nodded; there was no way they were going to be able to take it slow this time. "I want you naked," he said, pushing his hot face into Rodney's neck so he could talk. "I want to be naked with you, and I want to kiss you while you come."

Rodney sucked a breath in through his teeth. "You do have a way with words at times," he said, and then he was sitting up, pushing John up, tearing his clothes off frantically until John caught up with him.

Skin on skin took John's breath away like a leap into cold water, and for a moment they just clung together, panting. Then Rodney moved even closer, and Rodney's cock kissed wetly against his belly, and he had to touch it, to take the hot silky length of it in his hand and hear Rodney groan his name.

"You always this wet?" It felt amazing. And somehow just him saying that was enough to make Rodney's cock jump in his hand.

"Some, sometimes," Rodney said, eyes shut, "if I'm really, oh, god, a little slower, let me --" and then his hand was on John's cock and John couldn't breathe again.

Rodney shifted, and shifted again, and said, "I'm sorry, I can't -- I mean, I'm very, very righthanded."

"At this point," John panted, "you could probably use your feet." Rodney wheezed out a laugh. "Here," John said, "what would happen if --" and he put his knee over Rodney's hip and got both their cocks in his hand at the same time.

Rodney's eyes widened. "Oh, very good, very clever," he said, but John didn't answer because he'd started coming the minute he'd felt Rodney's cock sliding against his.

"Yeah," Rodney groaned against his face, "yeah, that's it, John, god, kiss me now," and John did. He let his own cock slip out of his grasp and held Rodney's while it jerked and spat all over both of them as they kissed and kissed.

"Oh, god, that was good," John said. Then he pushed up on one elbow and looked down at Rodney's blissed-out face. "Hey. You said it would probably be bad."

"Hm." Rodney flopped over onto his back. "I suppose I might have been overly pessimistic."

"If that's what you'd call bad, I can't wait till we get really good," he gloated.

"No," Rodney said gloomily, "no, I couldn't call that in any way bad." Then he brightened. "Now, the relationship very well might end up being bad. I mean, I imagine most experts would agree that people who enter into a romance on purpose have a better shot than people who enter into a romance by accident as a side effect of trade negotiations."

"Yes, OK, Rodney. We can have good sex and a bad relationship if it --" John got involved in a yawn and had some difficulty getting out of it. "If it makes you happy," he finished.

"It's not a question of happiness," Rodney said, poking him in the shoulder. "I just prefer not to embark on a relationship based on the assumption that the laws of probability don't apply to me."

"All right," John said, rolling back towards Rodney and pressing sleepy kisses onto his shoulder. Rodney started stroking the back of John's neck with his fingertips, making him shiver. "Get some sleep, Rodney. I want to suck you later on."

"Oh, god," Rodney said.

"Nice and slow," John murmured, and let his eyes fall shut.

"You're going to destroy me with your endless demands, aren't you?" Rodney said in a pleased voice.

"We can always go back to Maksi for a rest."