When Jonas Quinn left Kelowna, he'd been more worried about Dr. Jackson's sacrifice—not to mention the suitcase full of naqandriah and his hastily forged papers—than whatever might happen to him on Earth. He had lain awake all night, thumbing through books on ethics and moral philosophy when he wasn't tossing and turning, mind full of O'Neill's stony face and the sound of shattering glass; the decision leave was as much a relief as a burden. Dr. Jackson had given his life for Jonas's country, while Jonas himself had been lying on the floor, too terrified to react; there was a certain symmetry, then, in Jonas giving his life for Daniel's.
But of course, no one on Earth had thought about his future any more than he had. They were very grateful for the naqandriah, of course, and they were politely sympathetic when he explained that he'd not brought so much as a toothbrush. But Dr. Jackson was gone and possibly dead, SG-1 was in mourning, and the rest of the base had their various duties. There just wasn't much for an extraterrestrial ethicist to contribute.
Not that he hadn't tried. He taught himself both English and Goa'uld and tried to learn as much as he could about both cultures; he had more luck with the Goa'uld, though, because of course none of the English material was footnoted to clarify the cultural context. The television in his quarters was nearly useless to him for the same reason, its only saving grace being the Weather Channel, which was both comprehensible and completely amazing.
He had too many questions and too few people to ask, except for Teal'c, who seemed particularly sympathetic to Jonas' plight. "What's a bike?" he tried one day in the nearly-empty gym.
"Normally, it is a lightweight wheeled conveyance—" Teal'c started.
"No, no, I got that," Jonas said, fiddling with the weight machine. Which was also amazing, though not as amazing as the Weather Channel. "But I heard some airman call one of the engineers the 'base bike' and nobody wanted to explain it me when I asked."
"Ah. Dr. McKay." Teal'c tested the bar and effortlessly pulled it down all the way. "He serves a special ceremonial function in the mating rituals of the Tau'ri, analogous to that of certain Jaffa priestesses. I doubt your world has a similar custom. "
Mating rituals. Jonas had seen a surprising amount of mating going on in the few short weeks since he arrived, and it hadn't seemed very ritualistic. And McKay didn't seem to do much except eat, scream, and get called away urgently in the middle of both. "Mating tends to happen in private where I come from," Jonas said, and tested the bar himself; he almost pulled himself off the floor before he got it to move. "And the language…well, I won't pretend my people haven't invented cursing, but we'd never refer to a woman as a slot. That's just…"
"There is much about this world you must learn," Teal'c said, but then demurred on all of Jonas' other questions, referring him to Dr. Fraiser or Dr. Mackenzie for accurate and detailed answers.
Jonas didn't actually go to them, though, until a few days later. Shortly after his defection he started to feel vaguely and indefinably ill—persistent headaches, trouble sleeping, that sort of thing. At first he had blamed it on a lot of things—stress, new food, the slightly longer day, being trapped underground—but it didn't fade after a few weeks. If anything, it built, adding a general body ache and a low-grade fever, until he admitted to himself that it was probably best to see a doctor about it. Especially what with his recent change of address and all.
"Any other symptoms?" Dr. Frasier said, shining her penlight in his eyes.
Jonas shrugged, feeling sheepish. "Well, this might sound a little crazy, but everything's starting to smell weird. Weirder than it did before, I mean."
"That could have a couple of different causes," Frasier said, and then she tried to palpitate his lymph nodes, without the thin rubber gloves he saw most of the medical staff wear during even the most cursory examinations.
The touch was like an electric shock, as sudden and as sharply painful. The next thing Jonas knew clearly, he was being dragged away by SFs with gloves on, blood in his mouth, and Frasier was shakily applying triple antibiotic to her split knuckles.
When Jonas had been a teenager, a school friend had talked him into toking naphiam—just a litte, she said, just enough so they could fool around all night. Instead, Jonas had ended up with an erection that lasted over two days, one that wouldn't go down no matter how many times he came. The only reason he didn't go to a hospital was that he'd have had to explain about the naph, and by the end he'd been more than ready to do so—a police citation had seemed so minor, and so much better than enduring the pain, and so much cleaner than the option involving a hacksaw.
Jonas hadn't been able to walk normally or wear underwear for days even after it had finally gone down, but his mind had been clear and as rational as anyone his age the entire time. This was different.
The SFs had wrestled him back to his room and tied one hand to a bedpost with a plastic zip tie, as if to keep him from making a break for the door. And Jonas couldn't promise he wouldn't. One moment he felt detached from himself, looking on as a baffled observer as his body thrashed and throbbed without his consent; the next he was gone, mind shredded by raw sensation, unable to think at all. He could barely muster the concentration to open his belt in order to grab himself; he had no hope of tracking what the airmen were saying to each other or over their radios around him.
He was pulling off wrong-handed and frantic before they were even out the door, and the part of himself that would normally have been ashamed was so busy gibbering in panic that he couldn't really care.
Just like with the naph, coming didn't help; it helped him concentrate a bit better, but didn't stop the onslaught of sensation or desire. The air in the room had gone mysteriously thin and hot, his pulse still roared in his ears, and two thoughts managed to form in his mind:
I've gone mad and I'm going to die.
Everyone else is alarmingly calm about this.
The door of his room opened, and he fumbled in a dazed manner at trying to cover himself, to hold onto at least a little dignity. A familiar face appeared in the crack, scowling. "Oh my god, it's you?" McKay blurted. "I thought you were an alien!"
The most intelligent thing Jonas could say to that was, "What?"
"Never mind." McKay shut the door behind himself, and, to Jonas' wild incredulity, started undressing. "Obviously you're not alien enough, and I suppose it makes sense that the Goa'uld would've manipulated everybody's genes, and more importantly you're clearly too far gone to track what I'm saying so the question of why you didn't just warn somebody—"
"Stop," Jonas croaked, cutting him off, because there was just too much skin showing and he was getting that disconnected feeling again, unable to will his eyes away from it—acres of skin, soft and pale and a little hairy in the expected places. He wanted that skin with a terrifying intensity. Apparently he'd not only turned into a sex maniac, he'd gone blithe in the process.
McKay just sighed melodramatically and kept undressing. "Yes, yes, I know the routine, get over here and put that mouth to better use, et cetera et cetera, please spare me any attempted witticisms." He kicked out of his boxers, completely naked, and crossed the room towards Jonas' bed completely at ease. It took far too long for Jonas to realize that this meant that McKay was coming towards him, might even touch him, and at the last possible minute he summoned the will to twist away from McKay's reaching hand, nearly flinging himself off the bed in the process. "Okay, what the hell?"
"Don't," Jonas said, "just don't, I can't, I can't," and his mind was a mess, all over the place, there was not enough air and it all smelled like Rodney, who was apparently blithe too, and what was he even doing here? Jonas pulled at his blanket, trying to get something between them because Rodney was naked and there and Jonas had never wanted anything so badly in his entire life and he was pretty sure if they actually touched he'd scream.
McKay made a noise like mmm, sitting on the bed and folding his (strong, nice) arms over his (pale, broad) chest. Jonas drags his eyes away. "Okay. Jonas. That is your name, right? Did nobody explain to you that 'Socket in Chief' is part of my actual official job description? I'm a Universal Receptor and I've engaged most of the people on this base, and while I admit the Victorian bride act is a novelty, the sooner we start the sooner we finish, hmmm?"
Jonas gave up on the blanket in favor of squeezing his eyes shut and trying to regulate his breathing. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he gasped.
"Okay, so maybe they use different terminology where you're from—"
Rodney reached for Jonas' arm again and Jonas jerked back, twisting his still-bound wrist painfully in the plastic tie. "Don't touch me," he shouted, and then, "please, please don't, I don't…I don't want to…" To do this, to feel this, to be blithe, to be here. He had a sudden, terrible suspicion. "Please don't, don't, whatever you want, just don't, please…"
But when he looked at Rodney again, because he couldn't stop looking, Rodney's eyes were nearly bugging out of his head. "Oh my god," he blurted. "Are you telling me this is your first Cycle?" He actually stood up off the bed. "I mean, what are you, like, thirty?"
"I don't know," Jonas said, because he couldn't think in numbers just then, and he didn't know what a Cycle was, but at least Rodney was moving away from him. "I don't know what's happening, I just, she touched me and I just—"
"Shut up and give me a minute, will you?" Rodney snapped, pinching the bridge of his nose. And Jonas laughed, in spite of everything, a high and fragile giggle. "Yes, thank you, I appreciate the irony," Rodney snapped. Then he sighed, and squared his shoulders. "All right. First time for everything."
And then he jumped on Jonas.
Well, threw himself down, more like it, and just the contact of skin on skin made Jonas blank out again, sparks flying behind his eyes, his whole body bucking upwards in search of friction while he made an embarrassing, agonized noise. But Rodney settled himself in a position that kept Jonas pinned, caught hold of his free hand and the point of his jaw. "Concentration on this part, okay?" Rodney said. "You are Cycling. That means something in the environment has carbonated your hormones. If we don't have sex right now and probably for the next couple of days, you are going to get very, very sick. And I'm not usually the one giving this assurance, but I promise I am not going to hurt you."
Jonas found it easier to concentrate on Rodney's hands, the sturdy thighs that straddled his waist, the maddening pressure on his erection that he was unable to relieve, Rodney's own flushed face and slowly filling penis. Plus little things, like how his bound hand was losing circulation. But he managed to pull himself together enough to grind out, "Not…blithe."
Rodney just blinked. "Well, I'm not exactly happy to be here, either."
And then he released Jonas' chin to reach for something, stretching out on top of him, putting his chest a hair's breadth from Jonas' face, and that was it. There was nothing else for it. Jonas was gone.
He woke up disoriented, with no idea how much time had passed and only the vaguest idea of what they'd actually been doing. That scared him more than the want still aching in his gut and more than the shocking pleasure of lying intertwined with Rodney, skin on skin. He managed to squirm out of the embrace and headed straight for his little bathroom. He ached in unexpected places, and he was crusted with dried semen and something that was probably lubricant, but he turned the shower setting as cold as he could stand before slumping to the tile and bracing his head on his knees.
He'd known he was surrounded by aliens here, but he'd never expect to become one.
He heard Rodney moving around and ruthlessly ignored the little thrill of mine! that wandered up from some place not his brain. A few minutes later, Rodney stuck his head into the bathroom and waved a bagel in Jonas' direction. "Hey, food. If you're not out in ten minutes, I'm eating yours, too." When Jonas didn't react, Rodney set the bagel on the sink and stepped fully into the bathroom. "Just for the record, I don't do nervous breakdowns," he said, sounding more wary than afraid.
"I'm not…" Jonas started to protest, but really, he kind of was. He sighed. "This is like some kind of nightmare."
Rodney made like he was going to climb right in the shower and join him, at least until he realized the water was cold. "Yeow! Okay, masochist much?" Instead, he made himself comfortable sitting crosslegged on the bathmat. Jonas was sore, and had a nice welt around one wrist from the zip tie (and he had no idea how Rodney had gotten that off) but Rodney looked slightly mauled: long parallel scratches on his back and thighs, enormous purpling bites, bruises in the shape of fingers, the same splatters of semen and lubricant and a little bit of blood. I did that, Jonas thought, caught painfully between guilt and a mad possessive glee.
"So," Rodney said nervously. "Obviously your mother never told you about Cycling."
And he explained. Jonas listened, and the constant pounding of the icy water on his back helped him concentrate on genes and on jargon, on Cycling and Receiving. Things he'd read and seen and heard weeks ago began to take on new meaning or connect with each other, but of course nobody had told him any of this because—
"It's not supposed to happen," Rodney said. "I mean, it was never theoretically impossible, but we've never encountered another human population with the genes for it, even on planets where the light or the moons or whatever send our people Cycling the moment they step through the gate. Though of course we don't test every single person we meet, so if a planet didn't have the right environmental conditions to trigger it—and even then, well, I don't think any offworlders but Teal'c have hung around as long as you, and Jaffa Cycle completely differently. Thank god," he added in an undertone that Jonas probably wasn't supposed to hear.
"So if I stay on Earth, this'll happen again," Jonas said, but it was the water that made him shiver. Mostly.
"Well, yes, that's what I just said," Rodney said with a small, brief scowl. "And it's not like some kind of death sentence, as long as you engage a Reciever, so I think your allowed nervous breakdown time is up." He climbed to his feet and stretched over Jonas to adjust the taps to hot again, and Jonas had to bury his face in his arms to fight the urge to reach up and drag him down and—
"Doesn't this bother you at all?" he ground out, addressing the drain.
Rodney huffed as the water changed from cold to lukewarm. "I have a feeling the things that bother me about the situation are not the same things that bother you," he said.
"We're both men!" Jonas protested.
"Case in point." When the shower had gone to tepid, Rodney joined Jonas on the floor, making him shiver in a way that had nothing to do with the water. "Somehow the biological process that recognizes the genetically optimum people with whom to procreate is bad at recognizing a major chromosomes. Surprise, surprise, you're not in Kansas anymore."
The shower stall was really too small for them both to be in there, and the steam filling the air made it hard to breathe. Jonas got that disconnected feeling again, too, like it wasn't really him who twisted around to straddle Rodney's thighs, who drank in Rodney's little whimper at the press of clammy skin. The real Jonas was somewhere else, observing calmly that Rodney was just as hard as he was, just as touch-hungry, and maybe it was what he'd called a Sympathy Cycle or maybe it wasn't, maybe this was how Rodney liked it and he knew Jonas couldn't stop himself.
Couldn't stop nuzzling against the place where Rodney's neck met his shoulder, smelling and tasting and feeling.
Couldn't stop stroking up and down Rodney's sides and back, feeling the patterns of scratches and thinking, mine.
Couldn't stop rutting against Rodney's hip, grinding down and then rocking back into the broad hands that cupped his ass and held him there, wanted him there, matching him stroke for stroke.
"Fornication," the real Jonas observed, pushing the words out and into Rodney's skin.
"Eh?" Rodney asked, sounding dazed.
"Not…reproductive," Jonas murmured. "Fornication." And bit down.
Rodney made a high pitched noise that broke off into a giggle. "Oh, god, the first alien to Cycle on Earth and he's a Jehovah's Witness."
There wasn't a lot of talking after that.
Jonas Cycled for about four days total, though the last day was mostly spent snuggled tightly in bed, Rodney lying halfway on top of him, drifting in and out of sleep while the Weather Channel droned in the background. Whatever unfortunate airman was charged with keeping them supplied came by in the late afternoon with another pair of trays, but the noises Rodney made while enjoying food were so close to the noises he made during sex that the trays ended up on the floor and Rodney ended up bent over the table, because by then Jonas was to exhausted to keep fighting himself.
On the fifth day, Jonas woke to find that he'd squirmed out of Rodney's grip in his sleep and was perched precariously on the edge of the mattress, along with most of the sheets. Rodney slept spread-eagle on his face, and Jonas knew the Cycle was over when he looked at Rodney's abused shoulders and felt nothing but a sort of vague nausea.
He showered again, as hot as he could stand, and scrubbed himself all over until he noticed pinpricks of blood rising to the surface of his skin. He brushed his teeth and tongue, almost drowned himself in mouthwash and got dressed in the bathroom even though he knew full well there was nothing left for Rodney to see. Maybe even because of that. He half-hoped that when he emerged, Rodney would either still be asleep or already gone, but no such luck; he was sitting up in bed, squinting around sleepily with a corner of a sheet in his lap maintaining a small shred of modesty.
"Oh, come on," he said as soon as his bleary eyes fell on Jonas. "What are you, fifteen?"
"What do you mean?" Jonas asked.
Rodney waved a hand in his direction. "The long sleeves, the fresh-from-the-shower look, the not looking me in the eye. Seriously, grow up."
Jonas felt his face heat up. "I didn't exactly ask for this, Dr. McKay," he said.
"Nobody asks," Rodney replied acidly as he heaved himself out of bed. "And yet here I am, all the same."
Jonas could've left it at that, could've walked out; Rodney was already collecting the pile of clothes he'd shed days ago. But something held him back a minute longer, something about the stiffness in the way Rodney was moving, which seemed to be equal parts outrage and pain. He wondered if he should thank him or apologize or both.
Finally, he said, "You can use the shower if you want, but I only have the one toothbrush," and Rodney sort of snorted in response. Jonas fled.
He expected…he didn't know what he expected in the corridors. Stares, whispers, accusations. Or perhaps nothing at all, like the four days of sweaty deviant sex had happened to someone else, and he could just pick up where he left off and forget all about it. Instead he got smiles, nods, a word or two of greeting like he'd been gone on a business trip instead of locked in his quarters in a hormonal haze. A couple of knowing smiles or winks, and he remembered that they did this all the time, the Tau'ri. They seemed to think it was normal. Jonas wondered if he knew how to judge normalcy anymore.
Then Major Carter came around a corner, and the look of distress on her face when she saw him seemed more in line. "Jonas, hey," she said. "I heard what happened." She glanced around the halls for a moment, as if to verify their privacy. "Are you…okay?"
"You really want the answer to that?" he asked blearily.
She winced. "I'm so sorry," she said. "Everyone is. We should've tested you for the Cycling gene and we should've warned you about it from day one."
"Dr. McKay explained," Jonas said weakly. "It's…I'll get over it."
"Rodney Received you?" Carter asked, sounding oddly uncomfortable. Jonas just nodded. "Well, I guess…never mind. Are you headed to the infirmary?"
"Should I be?" he asked.
She nodded. "It's SOP to get a quick check-up after every Cycle. With Rodney you don't have to worry about catching anything, but Janet can give you some more information about Cycling. And she wants to apologize for setting you off, and for hitting you."
Jonas shook his head. "If anything, I should apologize to her—"
"Jonas, look at me." Carter looked gravely serious. "On Earth, we do not hold people responsible for their actions during their Cycle. It's a hell of a thing to handle even when you know about it and you're expecting it and you've done it before, and you…nobody will blame you if you're angry with us.
He supposed he could be angry—at the doctors who hadn't foreseen this, at Teal'c for avoiding the question, at Carter and O'Neill for shutting him out, at Rodney for climbing in his lap and telling him to concentrate on this. At Daniel Jackson, who'd unthinkingly given his life to save others and left Jonas with no moral option but to do the same. But when he put it like that, he found he really couldn't be angry at all. "How long do I have?" he asked instead. "Until the next time, I mean."
"Everyone's different," Carter said. "The average is about two or three months, but I've heard of people going longer or shorter. It takes a few years for most people to get regular, but since we usually start when we're teenagers…"
Jonas nodded to himself. A month on Earth was thirty days, so two or three…he could live with it. He had to live with it, if he wanted to do what he'd come to do. Because he'd lain paralyzed on the floor while the reactor overloaded, while Daniel had saved him and countless others. Jonas hadn't acted and Daniel had died. It was only fair and right that he repay the sacrifice.