Rodney doesn’t think much about it when John crawls into his tent, curls over him and noses his way up to his neck. It’s happened on occasion, on the good missions, ones with just the right kind of mystery and the right lack of immediate danger, when Rodney can really get some solid rest, and his dreams become sweet and warm and he knows he’s going to wake up soon; the coffee craving has already begun.
John is licking up, towards his jaw, but not really getting to the point of it all. Usually by this time there aren’t any clothes, so perhaps Rodney is more awake and thinking too logically, but then John lifts his head and pushes his mouth, lush with a moan, up against Rodney’s, and the amount of clothes really doesn’t matter anymore.
He’d left the flap of the tent open, and the low light of a grey dawn has seeped in, coloring everything silvery blue, the tips of John’s ears catching Rodney’s half-open eyes, so he pulls his tongue out of John’s mouth and turns John’s head and yeah, traces the edge of one, gently bites down until John huffs a laugh.
It is at this point that Rodney thinks there really shouldn’t still be any pants involved, but he’s at a loss as to how to make them go away; lucid dreaming is not his purview, past experience notwithstanding. He bats ineffectively at John’s thighs. John’s pants do not respond by dissolving appropriately, remaining stubbornly on.
“I want you naked, you should be naked all the time.” John manages to say, in between sucking on Rodney’s fingers.
“G-Good idea, yeah, let’s, you too…” And eventually they manage, in between exploratory oral tangents, to stretch out as much as they can in the bottom of the tent on a pile of their discarded clothing, gloriously skin to skin, and it is around this time, when the tang of sweat hits Rodney’s nose and a zipper scrapes his calf, that Rodney realizes two retroactively disconcerting things:
This is not a dream, and yet he has no desire to question anything.
“Okay,” Rodney says into the air. John has taken his left arm and is rubbing his face into the crook of Rodney’s elbow. It seems as good an idea as any to reciprocate, so they end up pretzeled, doing what can only be described as caressing each other, rubbing their bodies contentedly together as the morning beings to steep.
John comes first, almost quietly, spilling onto Rodney’s belly while he’s got a handful of Rodney’s ass and a mouthful of Rodney’s shoulder. He looks down, seeming surprised at his own come, and then bends over to lick it off the edge of Rodney’s navel, his tongue lapping over the crinkle of hair there, a hot, broad swipe. His face turns back up to Rodney and he smiles, the small one that’s genuine.
Rodney doesn’t remember much after this, just rolling John over, the pressure of a thigh between his legs, a sticky mouth on his nipples. Coming is a side-benefit, something that happens between one moment of pleasure and the next.
When Rodney wakes up again he sneezes three times in a row and almost hyperventilates. John, startled awake, is still naked, staring warily past Rodney’s head at the back of the tent. “Bless you,” he croaks out.
Rodney doesn’t respond, choosing instead to break the awkward pause by groping around beneath himself for his pants. But then it’s obvious that they’re John’s pants, because he can’t pull them up past mid-thigh, and when he dares to look up at John he’s met with a broad stretch of naked hairy torso as he’s trying to carefully extract the arm of his jacket from under Rodney’s butt.
The issue is, Rodney is many things, but what he is not is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. John, he does things on a whim, because he’s in the right place at the right time. Rodney can give the impression of this; has spent much of his life taking advantage of his chances, but it’s all a matter of faster (superior) decision-making skills.
“What the fuck?!” Rodney huffs, giving up on his pants.
John sits back on his heels, jacket half-on. His cock is lying quietly against one thigh, seemingly innocent. Rodney knows better. “I don’t know what the fuck, what the fuck to you too!”
“Why didn’t I stop you?!” Rodney shouts. Instead of an answer, he gets his own pants thrown at his face. It’s not that Rodney is upset to have had sex. It’s that he’s genuinely confused - his biggest problem sex-wise has always been shutting up and letting things happen. That there was no apparent premeditation, no clue from John’s behavior the day before, no discussion, is raising all the red flags in Rodney’s mind that should have been raised earlier that morning.
They manage to clothe themselves in the little tent without really looking at each other.
“Look,” Rodney starts again, ignoring John’s mulish frown, “did something happen that I need to know about? Is there…” Before he can think of any possibilities, a shadow falls across the brightly-lit entrance to the tent.
“I have reason to believe that we have been compromised. We must make haste back to the Alpha site.” Teyla’s hair casts a rusty glow across his carefully stacked equipment.
Outside, Ronon is standing behind the carcass of something freshly dead. “Now?” he’s asking Teyla.
“Yes. It is not worth the risk for you to dress your kill.”
Rodney does, however, insist upon gathering their equipment. Whatever’s happened, the passive sensors he’d set up the night before around the high grass of the clearing will help eliminate possibilities. With a last longing glance at the strange, puzzle-like structures they’d found, seemingly Ancient but like none else they’d ever seen, he heads away, following his team back home.
“Listen, Woolsey, it’s not that my virtue has been besmirched. It’s that this… this sex pollen could be a clue to the purpose of those ruins, and I think it’s worth the risk of going back.”
“Sex… pollen…?” John mouths.
It was definitely sex pollen. Teyla had explained, tersely on the way to the Alpha site, and in slightly more detail once they’d been cleared from medical, that instead of keeping the last watch, she’d spent the dawn, in her words, “pleasuring” herself, and then awoke mid-morning.
“I thought nothing was amiss. It was as though a compulsion had taken me. I must be truthful, it was not the furthest thing from my mind. But I would never indulge in such a way when on duty. I would not be capable of…” At this, she’d trailed off, noticing the redness of Rodney’s face, the closely-guarded smirk of John’s. “It was extremely disconcerting to awaken afterward,” she’d gracefully concluded, turning back to Woolsey.
Ronon rolled his eyes. “I was normal,” he said, and that had been it for him.
“Look, sex pollen is a thing,” he says to John. “It’s a perfectly adequate descriptor until we have more detail, and that’s why we need to go back.”
Woolsey holds up a hand, stops Rodney from tumbling through a further argument. “Dr. McKay, have a biohazard team make the necessary preparations, and bring me a plan in the morning.” He turns his focus to John, then. “Lucky for me, Stargate Command has a form for incidents of this nature. Unluckily for you, I’ll be expecting them properly filled out for your team along with Dr. McKay’s plan.”
“Look, we all have to do the forms, because we were all affected,” John explains, slapping a pile of pens down on the table.
“Not me,” Ronon grumbles. Teyla pushes a pen at him.
“Look, you were there, just do mine for me. I have to meet with Hannam and Zelenka.” Rodney scurries off before it’s too late. If he has to spend much longer very carefully not making eye contact with John, he’s going to do something crazy and stupid, and this time there’s no environmental excuse, just the familiar halls of Atlantis. It had been bad enough, stumbling through minimal explanations to Teyla and the doctors and Woolsey. Every time, John had gone paler and tenser. Sometimes, being a responsible adult wasn’t worth the pudding cups.
Hannam, newly-minted head of botany, was by all accounts good at what he did. “What makes you think it was pollen?” he asks, as though he were a real scientist, entitled to questioning hypotheses.
“Rodney thinks his sneezing is connected,” Zelenka explains. “If it is not reversed polarity, it is allergies. Sensor analysis reports no anomalies of magnetic or gravitational nature, so a biological source is most likely”
“Well, it would’ve had to have been a highly localized affect.” Beckett had come down from medical, ticking through their charts on his tablet. “Ronon isn’t displaying a significant deviation from his pre-mission baseline, whereas the rest of you are exhibiting the after-effects of a large endorphin release. But there’s nothing more here than if you’d all had a good, long laughing fit.” Becket pauses, finger-swipes one chart back. “Rodney not quite so much, it seems. But still enough to be noticeable.”
“See, see? Stuffy nose.” Rodney touches his own nose, lifts his eyebrows.
“Leave team coordination to me, Rodney. You…” Zelenka looks at him askance. “Go fill out form Q-78-B, yes?”
“How do you know about form Q-78-B?”
It only takes two days for everything to go horribly awry. One of the idiots from xenozoology lets a tiny hummingbird-like creature land on his arm, pricking unnoticed holes in his suit with its minuscule talons.
“Margot was singing show tunes for over an hour, sir.”
“But Margot wasn’t the one responsible for…?” John is sitting next to Rodney, sharing the monitor, but his back is stiff and straight, nothing like his habitual slouch.
“No sir, that’d be Yarrington. Seems like he got the bright idea to compromise the clean shelter’s integrity. Claims curiosity, sir.”
Rodney can’t help it. He leans forward, a little bit into John’s space. “Captain Lang, have there been any further incidents of…”
“You asking if we’ll need some copies of Q-78-B, Doc?” He shakes his head, huffing laughter. “Nah, but we’ll need more supplies if we’re supposed to stay. Three of your biologists decided it would be great to make everything edible we brought for breakfast. Yarrington fell asleep in a puddle. Oh, and Margot’s got a black eye. Punched because of the show tunes. She didn’t stop, but you know how she is. Loud. Um, sorry, sir.”
John visibly keeps himself from rolling his eyes, and turns to Woolsey, who nods. He turns back to the monitor. “Pack up. Eat dinner back home, Captain. And you’ll be letting Lieutenant Fontaine watch you spar with Ronon.”
Near the bottom of the third page of form Q-78-B is a box Rodney had ticked, agreeing to group counseling sessions with “any other affected parties” that have also ticked the box. It takes a week, their schedules being what they are, for them both to have a slot free.
John’s already at the door to Dr. Freedman’s office when Rodney rolls up, overly casual in the way he’s leaning against the wall. They look at one another, in what feels like the first time since that dawn a week ago.
“Hey, okay, hear me out on this,” Rodney starts, just as John’s opening his mouth. “Instead of getting our heads shrunk and using our I-statements, we have lunch and watch a movie at my place.”
John’s face scrunches up in consideration. “Okay,” he concedes, and leads the way back down the hall.
Halfway through his sandwich, John swallows loudly, always a prelude to something profound from him. “Zelenka told me, during jumper maintenance, that you’re still calling it sex pollen.”
“Well,” Rodney mutes the movie mid-explosion, “it has a certain ring to it.” But it wasn’t sex pollen, was the thing. It was pollen, that was the catalyst. The clearing where they’d made camp had been home to a cluster of plants that bloomed just before dawn, inciting the resident colony of tiny crepuscular birds to engage in a flurry of activity, including eating the nectar and pollinating the plants, but also releasing clouds of dander, wafting strange alien hormones all throughout the space where they’d found the interlocking ruins poking up through the long grass. Hormones that really did nothing more than make the local fauna search out what would make them happiest in the shortest term, and then sleep, exhausted.
Rodney wonders if this meant he should commend Yarrington for his curiosity being foremost, instead of busting him down to cage-cleaning duties. Or maybe just in addition. The real maddening thing had happened Thursday, when the anthropologists had explained the ruins as the work of an Ancient sculptor. “It was art,” they’d said. “There’s no solution to the puzzle - it’s pure aesthetic form. Like Ancient Art Nouveau. They must have designed it over a series of mornings.” Just another thing to add to his list of reasons why the anthropologists should be kept in a cupboard and rarely let out.
Just as he’s about to un-mute the movie, John groans. “It’s just…”
He waits, trying to be patient, but John’s trailed off again. “Do we need to go back, get a batch rate for our couples counseling?” As soon as the words come out, Rodney wishes he could swallow them back down, but it seems to work.
John turns to him, angrily spits out, “It’s just that if fucking you makes me happy, why’d we do it like that?”
He gestures with his sandwich. “You know, all…”
“Wait, wait, are you trying to tell me that out of all of this, your manliness was impugned because we cuddled?”
“No! …Yes. A little.”
Rodney snorts. “What, has all your gay sex been with repressed military guys who like slapping and refuse to kiss on the mouth?” He’s going to continue, something about glory holes, but John goes wary. “Really? Since when do you even have any gay sex?”
“Since when do I have any sex at all!” John abandons his sandwich to fling his hands in the air. “Look, it’s been a while. Or, it had been.” At Rodney’s disbelief, he rolls his eyes hard enough to sprain an eyebrow. “Whatever. I’m not arguing about this with you.” He starts eating again, his chewing loud and deliberate.
Rodney waits a couple minutes, watching the movie flash by in silence out of the corner of his eye.
“Hey John,” he forces himself to start, “wanna go cuddle?”
“…No.” But John is holding fast to the uplifted corners of a smirk.
Rodney inches closer, drops some of his pretense. “…Wanna see if my knees still bend up to my ears?”
At this, John breaks into a wide grin. “Only if we can kiss on the mouth, too.”
They do, they can.