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"We have a kill," Rodney said over the radio. He could practically hear all of Atlantis holding its breath. Please, please, please let the satellite hold out for two more shots. "Grodin, how are we doing?" He was worried, even if he didn't want to admit it.

"The bypass is holding!" said Grodin. "The satellite is powering up for another shot. Stand by."

A stream of white light shot out of the satellite, hitting the second ship squarely, and blowing it into little bitty Wraith pieces. He toggled the radio switch. "Make that two kills."

There was muted cheering coming through the radio, but neither he nor Miller were breathing. One more shot. That's all they needed from the satellite. "We might have a problem," Grodin said over the radio.

"Now what?" asked Rodney.

"The computer isn't reading the bypass correctly anymore. The buffer is showing at 98%, but none of the energy is getting through."

No, this couldn't be happening, not when they were so close. "Have you tried swapping the first and second crystal on the buffer system? Maybe that will work."

"Doing it now." There was silence from Grodin's side of the radio, and Rodney forced himself to take deep breaths. He couldn't fix it from here. Grodin was a perfectly competent engineer - he'd be able to figure it out.

Ten seconds, fifteen seconds, "The Wraith ship is in range and is powering up weapons," said Miller.

"Grodin, now would be a good time to get that thing back online!"

There was silence on the other end, and Rodney counted the seconds in his head. The Wraith ship was going to fire any second - the satellite fired first, the weaponized laser hitting the third ship squarely. As it exploded, Rodney heard Miller relaying the information to Atlantis, and the cheering of the crew. He was busy, radioing Grodin. "Grodin, can you hear me? Peter?"

Finally, with a crackle, Grodin radioed back. "I'm here and safe. Can you come pick me up now?"

Rodney breathed out a sigh of relief. He would not have wanted to face Elizabeth if Grodin had died in the attempt. "Yes, give me a few minutes to suit up and we'll come get you."

It took them about another forty-five minutes to get the jumper manually docked. When Grodin came through, both Rodney and Miller were there to pat him on the back and tell him good job. Pulling him in, they radioed Atlantis one last time and then detached from the satellite, headed for the city.

Rodney hadn't realized how tired he was until the third time he yawned in five minutes. Miller looked at him out of the corner of his eye and diffidently suggested that Rodney might want to lie down in the back for a bit. Rodney thought about snapping at him, but yet another yawn stopped him. "Fine. Wake me when we get to Atlantis," he said, even though he doubted he'd sleep that long, and went to the back of the 'jumper. Lying down on the uncomfortable seat, he closed his eyes -

- and opened them in the docking bay of Atlantis, John leaning over him. "You did good, McKay."

He struggled to sit up, back pulling in uncomfortable ways from sleeping on the bench. "Of course I did. Everything okay here while I was gone?" He wanted to kiss John and say, "We did it!" but Miller and Grodin were right there.

"Fine, great, terrific. We found a Wraith that had been hiding in the city for the last two weeks, doing god knows what, but it's dead now, so we're all good." John held out a hand, taking Rodney's and pulling him to his feet. "C'mon, we have a briefing." Rodney gave John's hand a squeeze and then let go.

"What do you mean, there was a Wraith in the city? How the hell did we miss that?" Rodney's attention was all on John, but he realized that he was being guided towards the conference room. He didn't much care. He wanted to know how no one had noticed a fucking Wraith.

"It beamed itself down when that dart flew over the city. It's dead now, and based on the scans that Zelenka ran of the city, there aren't any more."

Rodney sat down, still focused on John as various members of the expedition filed in. "Was anyone hurt?"

"Bates is in the infirmary, in a coma." John looked guiltily at the floor when he said that. "He'll be okay, though. And at least we know why Teyla was having nightmares."

Elizabeth coughed at the front of the room, and Rodney looked around to realize that the room was full, standing room only. "Good job, Rodney," said Elizabeth. "I understand that we have you to thank for getting the satellite operational?"

Rodney shook his head. "It was all of us - and Grodin kept it working for ship number three."

"Well, we owe you all a great debt," said Elizabeth. John started to clap, and before long, the whole room was ringing with applause. He looked over at Grodin, who looked exhausted but happy, and Miller, who was blushing fire engine red, and grinned. It was nice to be acknowledged, but it was even better that no one had died.

Gradually, the applause died down, and he nodded his head. "Uh, well, thanks," he said. "From all of us."

Elizabeth said, "Okay, we've got a lot to do over the next few weeks and months, but we've all earned a break. Take the day, everyone, and we'll meet tomorrow to discuss what our position is, and how we can keep this from happening again."

With that, the meeting broke up. There were lots of soft murmurs of people talking to each other, reassuring each other that it really was over, that they'd made it through. There were a lot of expressions of relief, and a noticeable lessening of tension. But it was just a lessening, not a complete relaxation, which Rodney thought was good. There were still an awful lot of Wraith out there.

He wondered if he was the only one thinking about the fact that Earth hadn't responded to their message. He was almost positive that it had made its way through, and Carter should have been able to decrypt it pretty readily. He'd included instructions on how to get a message back to them. Why hadn't they?

A hand landed heavily on his shoulder. "What are you doing with your downtime?" asked John.

"Um, what downtime? I'm going to the lab to see what the monkeys have destroyed while I've been distracted." John's hand felt so good on him. He didn't really want to go to the lab, but his responsibilities to the city came first.

"Nope." John's hand tightened as he turned Rodney towards the transporters. "You're showering, and then eating, and then maybe napping, but no working."

"Sheppard - "

"No arguing. It's an order. Shower, then food, then nap. I'll see you in the mess in about twenty minutes."

Rodney knew that if he pressed it, John would have to give in. He wasn't Rodney's mother, after all. Or maybe he could convince John to come back with him? But Rodney had to admit that he was tired, even with sleeping for hours in the back of the jumper. And a shower and a meal sounded good. "Fine," he huffed. "I'll be there."



Over the next few days, they discussed infrastructure, food supplies, and how badly they needed a ZPM, but there was a slowly rising tension around the one thing that no one was talking about. John had pulled away, and Rodney was feeling more adrift than ever.

Where was Earth? Why hadn't they sent a data burst back? They may not have had a ZPM to allow them to send help, but they should have at least sent a message.

Finally, just as Rodney thought that he'd go mad and do something like blow up Atlantis in error, the gate dialed. Protocol said that they not lower the shield, so they didn't. The gate was only open for a second, and Rodney charged up to the computers on the control panel. Sure enough, there had been a data burst.

"What is it? Is it from Earth?" said Elizabeth, who came out of her office.

"Yes, it is," said Rodney. "Give me a few minutes to decode it, and then we might as well get the section heads up here to listen."

Elizabeth nodded and disappeared back into her office, no doubt calling up the various heads, as Rodney isolated the computer from the network, just in case, and started to decrypt it. They'd used Rodney's protocol, so it was fairly simple to get the message open.

He scanned it, and his stomach dropped into his shoes. Oh, this wasn't good.

Heart heavy, he carried the computer into the conference room and waited as the various people came in. Several people were winded, as if they'd run all the way to the control tower. As the last person came in, he set the computer in front of Elizabeth. There was no way that he could read this aloud.

"Rodney?" she asked.

"The data burst consisted of a series of videos - messages, I assume, for members of the expedition. In addition, there was one text document. I've opened it and it's there."

She nodded. He made his way to the chair left empty - the one next to John. Sitting down, he dropped his head and stared at the table as Elizabeth started to read.

"To the Atlantis expedition:

"We hope that this message reaches you. We received your data burst, and the messages have been disbursed to families. In response, here are some return messages. Please distribute them." Several people murmured at that. Rodney knew what was coming, though, and it just made him tense all over.

"We know that you were hoping that we could send you assistance and materials." Elizabeth paused, swallowing. "Unfortunately, that is not going to be possible at this time."

Elizabeth paused again, and then read in a rush, "The war with the Ori is not going well. The Daedalus was destroyed with all hands on board in a skirmish, and we have no other ship at this time. The Asgard have problems of their own and refuse to send us one that we can use to reach you, and we don't have a functional ZPM."

"We hope that you have managed to fight off the Wraith - they appear to be a fearsome enemy. If you have, we also hope that you'll understand this order."

Several people muttered and jumped when John said menacingly, "Shut up."

Elizabeth continued. "Under no circumstances is Atlantis to fall into Wraith hands. As per the plan you sent to us, if it looks as if you are to be invaded, you are to evacuate and set the city to self-destruct."

"Earth cannot have another enemy, Atlantis."

Elizabeth stopped reading.

There was dead silence in the conference room, and when Rodney lifted his eyes from his intense study of the table, he saw that no one was meeting anyone else's eyes.

When Elizabeth stood, everyone looked at her. "Well, it's not good, but at least we've heard from them. You all need to go back to your departments, relay the contents of this message, and distribute the videos to those who received them."

Kate Heightmeyer spoke up. "If anyone has a problem, my door is open. Please make sure that everyone knows that."

"As is mine," said Elizabeth, firmly. "Word of the data burst is already spreading, I'm sure. Let's get out there and head off any rumors."

Within moments, the room had emptied other than Rodney and John. John rested a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "You okay there, buddy?"

"Sure, great, terrific," said Rodney. "I just found out exactly how important we aren't to earth. That always makes for a fun day."

John crouched in front of him. "That's not what they said. They said they couldn't come to our rescue. Not that they didn't want to."

"I know that's what they said. But it's easier to think of it my way than to think that they might lose to the Ori." Rodney rubbed a hand over his face, trying hard not to think about his sister.

With a nod of understanding, John stood again. "I wish I could say that you were wrong, but…"

"Yeah. All right, Zelenka will have filled in the physics department by the time I get there. I guess I need to go see if anyone is panicking yet."

"Ford will have started spreading the word, but I should go help him. Meet you at eighteen hundred for dinner?"

"Sounds good to me." Rodney forced himself to stand, and then the two of them made their way to the transporter, where they went their separate ways.

There were no hysterics in the physics lab, a fact that made Rodney incredibly grateful. He wasn't sure he would have been able to handle them without indulging in a few himself. A glance around the room showed several people with traces of tears on their faces, though.

He felt as though he needed to say something, so he cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. "This hasn't changed much. We've always been on our own, and there was never any guarantee that Earth would be able to help. They know where we are now, though, and that means that when they're able to assist, they'll be able to get here. For now, we still have our work, and we have each other. Hold onto that."

Several of the scientists were looking better when he finished – not smiling, no, but no longer looking like they were going to break down any second.

Deciding that being an example was the best idea, he went to his desk, where he opened up his latest simulation results. He couldn't focus enough to actually read them, but the others didn't need to know that.


Rodney had had it. John was avoiding him, and he wasn't having any part of it anymore. He waited in the hallway outside John's office, long after John should have left, watching the lifesigns detector until the room just had the one dot. Then he went and opened the door without knocking.

John looked up. His face was drawn and tight, and he blinked when he saw Rodney, as if he couldn't figure out why he was there. "Rodney?" he asked, standing up. "Is everything okay? Did something happen?"

Rodney turned and looked hard at the door, which slid shut obediently behind him. "We need to talk."

"Four words no man wants to hear," said John with a sigh. "Rodney, I'm busy - can't this wait?"

"No, it really can't. I know that getting you to talk about feelings is like pulling teeth, but I need to know - are we ending this? Because you sure can't seem to stand to be around me right now." Rodney forced himself to meet John's eyes, trying to convey just how serious he was.

"What? No!" John shook his head. "I'm not avoiding you, I've just had stuff I had to do."

"That may be, but right now I actually need you. Not the military commander, not the lightswitch, you."

"Let me just finish - "

"No. As you're always telling me, it'll be there in the morning. It's time to go to eat and go to bed. Hopefully, there'll be someone in mine tonight."

With that, Rodney opened the door and stared at John until John set aside the papers he'd been filling out and followed him out of the room. They went to the dining hall where the dinner hour was long past, but there were the makings for chicken-thing sandwiches in the refrigerator, which they prepared and then took them back to Rodney's room.

John sat at Rodney's desk, while Rodney sat on the bed as they quickly ate them. Rodney was brushing crumbs off the bed when John spoke, staring intently at the bed. "I - I don't know what to do, Rodney," he said. "I can't fix this. I can't do anything and I can't stand that."

Rodney shook his head, then leaned forward and turned the chair John was sitting in so that he faced Rodney. "You don't have to do anything, at least not for me. I don't want you to fix this - though if you're sitting on a miracle and not telling anyone, I'll kill you - I just want you to be here."

Looking up, John met his eyes. "Really?"

"Really. Now, would you just get over here already?"

Rodney could have laughed at how relieved John looked when he realized that the talking portion of the evening was over. Next thing that Rodney knew, he was being pushed back into the bed, while John straddled his thighs. He went backwards willingly, looking up at John. "Hi there," he said.

"Hi." John lowered his face to Rodney's, and their lips met in a kiss that was every bit as hot as the one that they'd first had so long ago.

John's hands came down on either side of Rodney's shoulders, and they kissed for a long time, till they were both breathless. Rodney couldn't stop squirming, as he tried to get badly needed friction for his dick, making John chuckle. When he lifted his head to speak, though, Rodney groaned and tried to recapture his lips. "I think we need to take our clothes off, don't you?" asked John.

"Fuck, yes," said Rodney, and as soon as John had moved, he sat up and started to strip. This time he remembered to take his boots off before he stripped off his pants. They were both naked in a matter of minutes, and then John pushed him back down and resumed his position on Rodney's legs, pinning him to the bed.

They fell into each other hungrily, mouths kissing, bodies grinding together, and they stayed like that till John came with a loud groan. He slid down Rodney's body, stopping to lick up his own come, before taking Rodney's cock into his mouth and sucking hard. Rodney was so close that it didn't take long before he was coming, emptying himself of everything.

They fell asleep curled around each other, and for the first time since the Wraith had come, Rodney felt a little better.


It took a whole week before Elizabeth called a meeting to discuss the food situation. "We need to find more people that we can trade with for food, and we need to come up with something better to trade than medical supplies."

Rodney spoke up. "I've got some thoughts on that. We have a bunch of engineers. We should be bartering their skills for supplies. Even most of the marines have secondary and tertiary skills that can be used." Rodney looked around, meeting the section heads. "I know we came here to do theoretical work, but we need to start finding a way to use what we're finding for practical applications. It'll help us, and it'll help our allies."

"That sounds reasonable, Rodney. What do we need to do?" asked Elizabeth.

Ford said, "We have a couple of marines who have been injured over the last year and aren't able to go into the field anymore. Maybe we might be able to utilize them to help index the available skills, so that we can match up teams to appropriate worlds. It's just flat dumb to send a marine biologist to a desert planet, or an irrigation expert to a rainforest."

A little surprised, Rodney looked at Ford. "That's a good idea. Take Jones as well, she can help with that."

Ford nodded, typing something into his laptop.

John spoke up. "I'd like to start sending out more teams, which means getting more people trained to lead them."

"Okay," said Elizabeth. "How would you like to do that?"

"First off, I want to give Ford his own team. He's got the experience now to lead one, and he's earned it."

Ford looked shocked. "What? My own team? I'm not ready for a team."

"You are ready," John insisted. "I want you to work with Teyla to find an Athosian to fill a slot on it, and I want to pick an older NCO as your third, but you're ready for a team. This idea of using Gonzalez and Harris just cements it."

"But sir - "

"No arguing."

Ford closed his mouth with a snap.

Elizabeth interjected, "That's reasonable. I agree with Major Sheppard that you're ready, and we need more people out there with experience with the people of the Pegasus galaxy."

Stuttering over the words, Ford said, "I'll do my best!"

John and Ford exchanged smiles, and then looked back at Elizabeth, who said, "What are you going to do about a fourth?"

John grimaced. "We're going to start rotating NCOs through that position, try and shake out a few more team leaders. Hopefully we'll be able to start sending out more teams shortly." He turned to face Rodney. "We're going to need to break in a few more scientists, as well."

Rodney thought about that for a minute. "I've got a few who might work. But they're going to need weapons training, and some hand to hand – most of them have never been out of the lab in their life."

"Obviously." John turned to Teyla. "Do you think you could set up some sort of training routine for the scientists? I don't expect them to be able to rip a Wraith's head off, but I want them to be able to hold one off for a few minutes to give them time for the other members of their team to get there."

"I believe so, John. I can pair them up with some of my people for some one-on-one training."

"That would work. As far as weapons training goes, hmmm. I don't have time to oversee theirs the way I do Rodney's, but I think I could get one of the marines to handle it." John's voice trailed off as he continued to write on the pad in front of him, clearly writing out a schedule.

"Okay," said Elizabeth, and John started, clearly having forgotten that he'd been in a meeting. "Sounds like you have a plan. Write it up, get those names of scientists from Rodney, and let's get some teams out there."

Within moments, the room was empty. Rodney found himself walking with John to his office, so that they could go over the scientists that Rodney thought might work. "Simpson, definitely. Miko, no. Long and Aberly both should work." He thought for a minute. He was most familiar with the physicists, but he had a working knowledge of all of the other fields. He just wasn't sure who would make good team members.

"You've got all of the anthropologists on teams, and a couple of the linguists. Some of the botanists might work, but I'm not sure. Let me talk to them and I'll give you a complete list."

John nodded. "Even if they're not going off-world, I want all of the scientists enrolled in hand to hand and weapons training."

"What? No! Some of them are just not appropriate for it - Miko will just cry, and you'll break Venkman in half the first time he gets hit."

"Rodney, I wasn't asking - I was ordering as the military commander. The only reason that we didn't have hand to hand in the corridors was because the satellite worked. But we can't count on it continuing to work. You said yourself that it's jury-rigged. Don't you want Miko able to take care of herself?"

"That's a low blow, John," said Rodney. "You know I do. I just don't know how well she's going to do."

"She'll do fine. Teyla won't let her get broken."

John looked at him and said, "How is the science team handling all of this?"

Rodney wondered at how John was able to pick the one issue that was driving him nuts. "Several people have had to be sedated due to hysterics, and someone cries almost every day in the lab. I mean, I've seen tears before, but this time I'm not causing them. I just don't know what to do."

"That's kind of what I figured, so giving them something new to focus on will help. Get everyone out of their heads for a little while, you know?"

All Rodney could do was nod. "All right. So we'll set up a training protocol, and ask a few of them if they're willing to be on teams. Plans. Plans are good." Rodney turned towards the door. Pausing for a moment, he said, "So, see you tonight?"


By the end of the day, he had a list of eight scientists who were willing to join off-world teams. He'd also broken the news about the hand to hand and weapon training, which wasn't met with as much resistance as he expected. Even tiny, shy Miko seemed to understand the necessity, and there weren't any tears or arguments over it.

Well, except for Kavanagh. He was pissed that Rodney wouldn't even consider him for an off-world team, and he was furious that the training was mandatory even if he wasn't joining a team. Rodney was distracted by thoughts about what John and he were going to do later, so he just waved Kavanagh off when he attempted to confront him about it in the lab.

He left, with a parting shot about how he was going to go to Elizabeth and complain, but Rodney knew that Elizabeth would back John. "Fine, do what you have to do," he said, muttering, "Moron," as Kavanagh stormed out of the room.

Rodney stared at his computer for at least an hour, watching a simulation run without actually noticing what he was watching. When Zelenka came over and shut it down, he startled. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Go eat, Rodney. You're not paying attention. You didn't even notice when the simulation finished." Zelenka closed the laptop. "Go."

Knowing that Zelenka was right, he sighed and left, headed towards the mess.

Teyla was there, eating with Elizabeth, but there was no sign of John. Rodney wasn't really surprised - John was determined to make sure that the people of Atlantis were safe and that meant making sure that they got fed, got intelligence, got weapons, got allies. As one of the people of Atlantis, Rodney was all for it. As someone who wanted to get laid, he wished that John wasn't quite so dedicated.

Filling his tray, he went to the table and waited for Elizabeth to nod and say, "Please, join us, Rodney." Sitting down, he started eating hungrily. Dealing with morons always made him want his hungry for? dinner.

They resumed their conversation, talking about the plans to establish new teams. Rodney only listened with half an ear as they talked about training regimens, looking up when he heard his name. "Don't you think, Rodney?" said Elizabeth.

"Don't I think what?"

"That the training will be helpful for the scientists?"

"Oh, yeah. Though Kavanagh is pissed."

Elizabeth sighed. "When isn't he? I'll do the best I can to calm him down."

"Thanks," said Rodney, "But I'll take care of it. He's my problem since I picked him for the science department."

She nodded. "I'll send him back to you, then."

Teyla finished eating, and excused herself, and Elizabeth followed a few minutes later. Rodney thought about dawdling, waiting to see if John would come to eat. He wanted to go back to the lab, but knew that he wouldn't accomplish anything there.

So instead he went back to his room. The first thing he did was check his email, but he ignored the screed from Kavanagh. Of course, he'd probably already been to Elizabeth and been sent back to Rodney. He didn't want to deal with it now, though.

The chime rang to his door a little later, and John came in, dropping a DVD on his table. He then sat down on the couch next to Rodney. "Hi!" he said brightly.

A little bemused, Rodney said "Hi. What's gotten into you?"

"Can't I just be in a good mood?"

"Uh, that would be a no," Rodney said. "You're practically perky. You're never perky."

"The word is horny, Rodney," John said with a grin. "Besides, I finished the damn duty roster for the next few weeks, so I feel like celebrating."

Rodney arched an eyebrow. "Oh? What did you have in mind?"

"I was thinking that you could fuck me tonight."

"Oh, like I'm ever going to say no to that." Rodney grabbed John by the shirt collar and pulled him forward into a kiss. He was distracted, though, by thoughts of John's ass. He loved John's ass. He forced himself to gentle his hands, releasing John's collar and sliding them up his back under the soft material.

John moaned into his mouth, "Christ, I want you."

Rodney tugged his shirt up and off. "Take your pants off," he said, as he turned his attention to getting his own clothes off. Then he went and fetched the lube from his nightstand. When he turned back around, John was kneeling on the couch, facing the back, and something in Rodney's brain broke a little bit.

He hurried back, and knelt on the floor right behind John. Tugging on his hips, he urged John to stick his ass out, and then spread John's cheeks with his hands. Dipping his head, he licked from the back of John's balls to the top of his crack. John let out a shout, and Rodney was grateful at how soundproof the room was. Then he returned his attention to what was in front of him - driving John absolutely out of his mind.

He licked his way to John's hole, and circled it obsessively until John was begging inarticulately, and only then did he slide the tip of his tongue into John. He tongue-fucked John until his tongue was exhausted and then he did it some more.

When he finally lifted his head, it was to the beautiful sight of John clinging to the back of the couch, hands fisted in the material, sweating and shaking and begging.

Wetting his fingers in the lube, he slid one inside John's hole, not doing much more than getting him wet and slick before he came back with two fingers. John opened for Rodney like he knew just how badly Rodney wanted in. Or maybe he wanted it just as badly.

With a groan, Rodney pulled his fingers out. Backing up, he urged John down on the floor, kneeling, facing the couch. John spread his thighs without being told, and Rodney couldn't wait any longer. He nudged the head of his cock into place. "Are you ready?" he asked, only to shut up when John turned around and gave him the Are you kidding me? look.

He started to press inside, the head of his cock popping through the tight ring of muscle. They both groaned at that. Rodney started to move, fucking his way deeper with short strokes, as John used his voice and his body to egg him on.

Finally Rodney was buried all the way inside John, and he froze. "Oh, god," he said. "You feel so good."

"You're not moving," said John, his hips rocking minutely as if he was trying to fuck himself on Rodney's dick.

Rodney swallowed hard and started to really move, pounding John into the couch. John groaned, his arms collapsing under him and changing the angle that Rodney was using.

From the noise that John was making, this was a good thing, and Rodney focused on fucking him, steady as a metronome. It wasn't the first time that he'd been grateful for the work in the field that increased his endurance.

His hands clung to John's hips as his own moved back and forth. "You feel so good inside," he groaned. "So hot, and tight. Going to come for me? Going to squeeze me even tighter?"

"If - if you keep fucking me like that, I am," John gasped out.

"Not a problem," said Rodney, even though it kind of was. He wanted to speed up, he wanted to come, but he wanted to make John come more.

John was moaning steadily, and one of his arms slipped down so that he could jerk himself off. Rodney was kind of grateful that he couldn't see, since that always made him come.

Suddenly, John gave a harsh sob, his body locking up tight. His hole spasmed, and Rodney knew that he was coming. He focused on fucking John through it, until John relaxed.

That let Rodney slide in another half inch, and with a groan of his own, he started to pound into John, hard and fast, and oh-so-good. It only took a half dozen strokes and he was coming hard enough to see stars.

He wanted to lean on John and catch his breath, but he knew that that would be uncomfortable. He pulled out, drawing an unguarded hiss from John. Running a soothing hand down John's back, he pushed himself up off the floor and went to the bathroom to fetch a washcloth to clean them both up. Then he pulled John off the floor, and led him to bed, where they curled around each other and slept.


Two days later, Rodney watched from the control room as John, Teyla, Simpson, and Hava went through the gate together. He knew the logic – that John wanted to work with the NCOs and scientists before he assigned them to teams, but it didn't make it any easier.

They were supposed to be gone for two days, to an unpopulated world that they'd explored three months earlier. The only real danger to any of them was the possibility that one of them might step in the equivalent of a rabbit hole. But still, Rodney would have felt better if he'd been able to go too.

Elizabeth squeezed his shoulder, murmuring quietly, "I know it's not easy, Rodney, but they'll be fine."

"I know they'll be fine," said Rodney decisively. "I never thought otherwise."

"Of course." Elizabeth squeezed his shoulder again, and then let go. "Didn't I hear Zelenka say something yesterday about simulations that he planned to run with you today?"

"Yeah. I'm going," said Rodney.

He forced himself not to look back as he left the room. He could feel the gate at his back.

They returned, hale and hearty, the next afternoon, but it took everything Rodney had not to drag John off and examine every inch of him immediately. He managed to hold off until they were in bed later that night, and then he kissed John all over, making sure that he was all right.

John teased him. "You gave me a more thorough exam than Carson. Have you become a medical doctor in your spare time?"

"Like I'd ever study that voodoo," sniffed Rodney before he turned over and got comfortable, letting sleep claim him.

Every three days, there was another mission to the same planet, over and over again, with different NCOs and scientists. Three weeks later, John had approved three of the scientists, ruled out two, and approved four of the NCOs.

Given that they were a closed society, Rodney had to be concerned about what the marines thought. He had done a little subtle questioning of Walters and Para - two of his scientists who were dating a couple of marines - which had showed that they hadn't been quite as secretive as he'd hoped. It seemed that their relationship was something of an open secret among them. Thankfully, most of the marines seemed okay with it. If there were marines who weren't all right with it, they weren't saying anything, at least not where Rodney could get wind of it.

They were gone on yet another shakedown mission when Rodney heard what he'd most feared. "Doctor Beckett to the 'gateroom. Doctor Beckett, to the gateroom."

Rodney didn't even bother to shut down his computer. He just took off at a run to the gateroom, wanting to make sure that John was okay. He was more than a little surprised to find that Carson was suiting up, a small medical kit at his side.

"What's going on?" he demanded.

"Teyla requested that I come with a kit," said Carson, nervously. "She said I need to hurry, but she didn't say why."

"Give me one minute to get my vest," said Rodney.

"Rodney, I don't have time," said Carson. "For all I know someone is bleeding!"

Elizabeth came to the edge of the command bridge. "I want you to wait for him, Carson. Ford is coming as well, and I want you to go through with a complete team. You might need the hands."

"But Elizabeth," said Carson. "I need to go!" Rodney started running while they were still arguing, meeting up with Ford's team in the ready room. It only took a few minutes to get into his vest and clip his P90 to it, and he beat Ford's team back to the gateroom by a full ninety seconds.

He was standing next to Carson as the gate opened, and only hesitated before going through because Ford insisted. Normally he wouldn't care, but Carson's nerves were contagious.

He expected to be met by John's whole team as they went through the gate, but instead there was just Teyla, hands twisting together. "Carson, good," she said. "Do you have your equipment?"

"I have a basic kit, aye, Teyla, but I don't know what I needed."

"I shall explain as we go," she said.

She started to move rapidly over the landscape, and Rodney was focused on keeping up, so he couldn't really hear what she was saying.

Somehow he couldn't be surprised when he saw a huge man, dressed in leather, and with an impressive set of dreadlocks, holding a gun on a tied up John and Aberly, with an unconscious Baer lying nearby. Carson didn't even hesitate or look at the armed maniac before hurrying to Baer's side. Not being stupid, Rodney fell behind the marines, though a look at John showed a man who wasn't nearly as worried as someone tied up should be.

The man grunted and continued to point the large gun at John. "Put down your guns," he said.

Ford started to argue, only to be interrupted by John. "Do what he says. He's got every reason to be nervous," said John. "Carson, Baer's fine. Get over here – I need you to do a little bit of surgery on our friend Ronon here."

"I am not doing surgery here. We can go back to Atlantis – "

"No, we can't," said John. "He has a Wraith tracker in his back. We can't lead them back there."

Carson argued a bit more, but he was already getting his tools out. Teyla stood next to him, acting as his assistant as he cut into Ronon's back. Rodney was more than a little impressed as Ronon stayed conscious until he heard the sound of Teyla stepping on the fiendish little device.

As he slumped over, dropping his gun, John nodded to Ford, who went over and propped Ronon up so that Carson could finish stitching him up as the rest of Ford's team untied John and Aberly.

"What are we going to do with him?" asked Rodney, pointing at Ronon, who was starting to come around.

"That's up to him," said John. "But I'd like him to come back to Atlantis."

Ronon sat up straight at that with barely a wince. "You want me to come back with you?"

"Yeah, sure. You've been all over the galaxy, you know where there are people and where there aren't, and you've got a pretty good grasp of how the Wraith think. Of course I want you to come back with us."

"Can I talk to you?" asked Rodney, dragging John to one side. "Are you kidding me? You're going to let him come back with us? What do you know about him?"

"Not much. But I've got a good feeling about him. Just trust me, okay? I'm going to have a hard enough time getting him past Elizabeth. Don't make me fight you too."

Rodney thought that this was a bad idea, but when John put it like that, he couldn't bring himself to argue. "Okay. But you get to explain it to her."

"Will do." John went back to Ronon. "Do you want to come with us? You don't have to, honest, but it would be a safe place for you to rest and recover until your back is better."

"I have your word that I can leave?"

"Any time you want," said John.

Teyla had helped Carson clean up, and as soon as Ronon agreed to come with them, both teams headed back to the gate and Atlantis.


John wasn't wrong - Elizabeth was not happy that someone who'd held one of her teams hostage was being allowed into Atlantis. The sound of the argument in Elizabeth's office carried over the command tower, even if the words couldn't be heard. But finally John came out smiling, and gestured to Ronon. "All set. Let's see about getting you some quarters and supplies."

Rodney barely saw John for the next three days, and every time he did, he was with Ronon. They went running together, they ate together. When Rodney went to the armory for his weekly shooting lesson, Ronon was there.

Ronon seemed to catch on to Rodney's frustration better than John did, but he didn't back off. All he did was smile at Rodney, a smile that was full of teeth and no humor.

He tried to reassure himself that it didn't mean anything. What he'd heard of Ronon's history was enough to turn anyone's hair white, so of course he needed to cut him some slack. John, on the other hand, seemed to have a new best friend.

Figuring that there was one thing that he was able to do that Ronon couldn't, he picked up his chessboard and went to John's quarters. He rang the chime, and waited. It seemed that he waited for a long time before the door finally opened.

John didn't look happy to see him, and when Rodney looked past him, he could see Ronon sitting on the bed. He stammered out something about wanting to play chess, but clearly John was busy, and he'd come back later.

Without waiting for John to say anything, he turned tail and fled. He thought about going back to his room to lick his wounds in private, but decided that he needed to work instead. The lab was already empty whey he got there - it was after dinner - but that didn't stop him from booting up his laptop and starting work on one of his pet projects.

He was still there hours later when John came looking for him. "Shouldn't you be with your new playmate?" asked Rodney snidely.

"Huh? What?" asked John. Then, without waiting for an answer, he said, "Never mind. Look, I've been with Ronon all afternoon and it sounds like Sateda had some real tech. We're thinking about a scavenging mission tomorrow. Interested?"

"Fine. See you when you get back." Rodney was beyond angry. He was livid, in fact.

"Who pissed in your cheerios?" asked John. "I want you with us, of course. You're the best at judging what might work with the tech here in Atlantis."

"Oh, of course. You need me for the tech," spat Rodney. He was starting to suspect that he was jealous. He'd known that John would find someone else, that it would happen eventually, of course, but he hadn't thought it would happen so quickly. But even he had to admit that Ronon would be a better match to John than he was.

But John just continued to look puzzled. "Seriously, what's wrong? I thought you understood why I was bringing Ronon back here. He's got intel about planets even Teyla doesn't know, and he'd make a valuable member of a team - "

"So now you're putting him on a team. Magnificent!"

Understanding dawned on John's face. "You're jealous!"

"Oh, I am not!" Except for how he really was. But he wasn't going to admit that, oh, ever.

"I don't know why you'd be jealous, McKay," John said. "Okay, yeah, he's a big guy, but he's hardly going to take your place on the team."

"Yeah, because the team is what I'm worried about," said Rodney under his breath and turning away. "Go away. I'm busy," he said, louder.

"It's not the team you're worried about?" John was back to sounding puzzled. Then, "Oh," softly.

Rodney couldn't help it – he looked back at John's face, which had softened considerably. "Whatever you're thinking, you can just stop right there. I just think it's a bad idea, that's all."

John didn't say anything. He just stepped forward, right into Rodney's personal space. Grasping Rodney by the shoulder, he urged him to turn around. When he complied, John cupped his face in both hands and leaned down to kiss him gently.

"It's not like that," said John when he ended the kiss. "I'm not interested in Ronon at all. Why would I want him when I have you?"

"Have you looked at him?" asked Rodney, smiling a little and thumping his forehead against John's shoulder.

"Yes. And yet."

"I don't understand." Rodney hated how plaintive his voice sounded.

"Rodney – so you don't look like Ronon. But you're the one I want to be with. Honest."

"Well, of course I am," said Rodney, straightening and pretending that he'd never been jealous of Ronon. "I speak in complete sentences."

John laughed at that. "Okay. Now, would you please clear your busy schedule to go to Sateda with us tomorrow?"

"I guess I can manage that," said Rodney.

"Good. Now it's late. I think we should head to bed. Don't you?"

"I will in a little while. I need to finish this up." Rodney turned back to his computer.

Except that John wrapped himself around Rodney's back, one arm going around his chest and the other stroking down between his legs. "I was thinking more like we'd go to bed together," he said.

"Oh. Oh," said Rodney, as he became hard under John's hand.

"Yeah, oh," whispered John, kissing Rodney's neck just below his ear. Rodney sagged back into John's arms, letting him take some of his weight.

It was difficult, but he managed to shut down his computer. Standing back up straight, he turned in John's arms. "Let's go to bed," he said, trying not to sound too eager and failing miserably. John released him, and the two of them managed to stumble through the halls without meeting anyone.

Some of the urgency had receded by the time they got back to Rodney's room. They managed to keep their hands to themselves as they stripped off, but as soon as Rodney looked up and saw John's skinny ass, something snapped.

By the time he came back to himself, John was flat on his back on the bed, with Rodney propped up above him. "I want to fuck you," said Rodney, letting his hand stroke over John's hip and then dip down between his thighs. "Can I fuck you?"

Rodney knew that there was something more than a simple desire to be inside John going on here - he'd fucked John before, after all, and never been this desperate for it. But he didn't want to look at it too closely. Instead he bent his head, nipping at John's shoulder and repeating, "Please, John?"

"Yeah, course," said John, spreading his legs a little wider. "Let me shift a little and I'll slick us up."

Right then, that sounded like the hottest thing ever. So Rodney knelt up between John's thighs and watched as he slicked his own fingers. John reached between his legs and circled his hole, just once, before sliding his finger inside.

They moaned in unison as John fucked himself with just that one finger. "Add another," said Rodney, watching greedily.

"Yeah," said John, sliding his middle finger in as well.

Rodney couldn't stop himself. He had to touch, to feel John from the inside. He reached down and slid his finger in, alongside John's. John groaned, his head going back. "Fuck," he said, his voice hoarse.

John felt so good, so tight and warm and soft. Rodney couldn't wait for it to be his cock in there. "John?" he asked as their fingers moved together.

"Yeah, I'm ready," he said, pulling his fingers out, Rodney a second behind. He poured more slick on Rodney's cock, making Rodney gasp.

As soon as he'd let go, Rodney ran his hands under John's thighs, lifting and spreading them so that John was practically bent in half. It took him a second to get into the right place, and then he slowly slid in. John surrounded him, making him whimper as he tried to keep control.

He bent down and kissed John, forcing himself not to move, not to just fuck the way that his body was demanding. Not until John said that he was ready.

It was only a few seconds but it had felt like an eternity when John said, "Now, Rodney." He tried to stay gentle, he really did, but his body was having none of that. Within a few minutes, he was pounding into John hard.

As he blinked the sweat from his eyes, he saw the look of complete and utter bliss on John's face. "Good?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah," said John, as he reached down and started to strip his cock ruthlessly. "Just like that."

That wasn't a problem for Rodney. He continued to pound into John. He was vaguely aware that he was talking, saying things like, "Take it," and "You're mine," but he couldn't bring himself to stop. It gradually devolved into "Mine," over and over again.

"Yours," said John, as he striped his stomach and chest. He clenched tight around Rodney, pulling Rodney's orgasm from him.

Rodney wanted nothing more than to fall forward, holding John tightly. But instead he held it together long enough to pull out. Going to the bathroom, he fetched a warm washcloth that he used to clean both of them up. Only then did he allow himself to get back on the bed, curling around John and holding him as if he'd never let him go.


The mission to Sateda was something of a success - they found no people, but Ronon was able to lead them to several armories that had not been disturbed. Rodney felt uncomfortably like they were robbing the dead, but if Ronon was okay with it, he wasn't going to argue.

There weren't any guns like Ronon's, and when John asked him where he got it, he just shrugged. "Found it somewhere." John looked disappointed, but there were enough guns, bullets, and other distance weapons that it wasn't a wasted trip.

When they returned to the city, the control room was tense. Even Rodney, who normally wouldn't have noticed, realized that something was wrong. Elizabeth was standing at the top of the stairs, and after a long moment of looking around, John and Rodney started up them towards her.

"Gentlemen, can I see you in my office?" she asked. It was clearly a formality, and the two of them headed towards the office without saying anything to her or each other.

She followed them in, shutting the door behind her. She dimmed the windows so that no one could see in, and then turned to face them. "I have had a... complaint," she said, speaking carefully. "That the two of you have been behaving inappropriately."

"Define inappropriate," demanded Rodney, though he had a sinking sensation that he knew.

"Someone has reported that we're sleeping together," said John, flatly.

She nodded. "Is it true?"

Rodney very carefully didn't look at John. It wasn't his call to make. "Yes, it's true," said John.

Suddenly, Rodney couldn't bear the thought of what might happen if John said any more. What if Elizabeth saw fit to remove him from his position? "John -" he said, turning to face him, unsure of what he was going to say but knowing he had to say something.

"Rodney, leave it," said John in that same flat voice. "I'm not denying you." He turned back to Elizabeth. "What are you going to do?"

"John, how the hell am I supposed to defend you if I don't know about it?" She leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. "I don't think it's a particularly good idea for the members of a team to sleep together, but I'm not bound by the homophobic rules of the military. Earth has abandoned us, and I think it's time we start making our own rules."

"I think you're right," said Rodney when John kept silent. "About the making our own rules thing, not the not sleeping together thing, but I'm sure you probably guessed that."

She laughed a little. "Yes, I figured as much. We're a very small group here, and I suspect that with or without a rule change, people are going to start pairing off. The only thing that keeping it against the rules is going to do is make them keep it a secret."

"So, how do you want to handle it, Elizabeth? Clearly someone has a problem with us," said John.

Crossing the room, she sat down behind her desk and folded her hands on top of it. "I don't know. Personally, I think we need to announce the change in rules and let people get used to it before you go public with your relationship. But I do think that you should go public. Eventually. Otherwise you aren't going to know who has a problem with it."

"But what if Earth - " started John.

Elizabeth cut him off. "I know you're worried about what would happen if Earth gets in contact with us again. Don't. The worst thing they can do is remove you as military commander, and if they want to try, they're going to have a fight on their hands."

"Not really. All they need to do is take me out of the city, and there's nothing you can do to get me back."

"You'd be surprised," said Elizabeth. "I have dirt on everyone in the SGC, dirt that I've never used because I've never seen a reason to. But for this? Oh, yes, I would. I'd make sure that they know it, too."

John frowned. "I don't know. I'll have to think about that. But we should go over the rules and see which ones we want to change and do it all at once, like ripping off a band aid."

"You have a point," she said. "We should - "

"Wait a second," said Rodney. "It's pretty obvious that everyone knows something is going on, or there wouldn't have been so much tension out there. So how are we supposed to keep it a secret now?"

"Oh, well, that's probably because they heard me when I was told. I might possibly have lost my temper a bit."

"Let me guess," said Rodney. "Kavanagh. It sounds like something he'd do."

"Actually, no," she said. "It was one of the marines."

That got John's attention in a big way. His eyes were focused on Elizabeth to the exclusion of all else in the room. "Who?"

Rodney echoed him. "Yes, who, Elizabeth? I want to know who won't have hot water ever again."

"I won't tell you." Elizabeth looked certain. "Exactly for that reason. I think he was just doing what the regs required him to do - I don't believe there was any malice there. And he's already been yelled at by me."

"Fair enough," said John. "As long as we're going to change those regs."

"I don't like not knowing," said Rodney, but he shut up at John's look.

They spent the next few hours going over the military regs regarding personnel interactions, tightening some and relaxing others. Fraternization was going to be allowed, since as Rodney pointed out, they couldn't keep team members from choosing each other, given how close most of them were. But sexual harassment rules were strengthened. The rules regarding same sex couples were removed entirely.

They were nowhere near finished when Rodney's stomach grumbled loudly. John grinned at his blush, and then turned back to Elizabeth. "I think that's our cue to take a break. We're not going to finish this in one day."

"True. Go on, get something to eat," she said, waving them out of the office. She followed them to the door, smiling.

The tension in the gateroom had lessened greatly, and Rodney felt some sort of tension lifting off his shoulders. People weren't staring at them, which he'd been afraid would happen.

When they walked into the mess, it got quiet for just a moment, before the noise level ramped back up. John and Rodney looked at each other and then split up, John going to sit with some of the marines and Rodney to Simpson and Radek.

"What was that all about?" Rodney asked, not even trying for subtle this time.

"The rumors are flying," said Radek. "Supposedly you and Major Sheppard are… involved."

"I thought that those rumors were old," said Rodney, remembering what he'd been told previously.

"Well, someone in the marines has given them new life," said Simpson. "We've been trying to find out who all day and had no luck."

"There's only eighty of them," said Rodney. "How well could they be hiding it?"

"Pretty well," said Simpson. "Even Walters can't find out, and Para has broken up with Blake, so she can't ask either."

"John will get to the bottom of it," said Rodney with certainty.

That night, he had a different thought – mostly involving killing John. "What do you mean, 'I didn't ask'? Someone is spreading rumors in the marines and you didn't so something as simple as asking?"

"It's going to be a moot point in a few days," said John. "Elizabeth's right about us coming out, so unless you want to keep it a secret, everyone's going to know that we're together."

"Well, of course I don't want to keep this a secret," said Rodney, feeling oddly defensive. He'd expected John to be the one who wouldn't want to tell people. "But I do want to keep you safe, and clearly someone is unhappy with the status quo."

"Relax. I know my marines, Rodney. They're not going to razz me up for being with you. They're just bored with guarding scientists and looking for a little gossip to spice things up. We'll come out in a few days, they'll razz me for a few more, and then it'll all be fine."

"If you're sure." Rodney wasn't so sure that John was right – several of the marines had been inflexible bastards in the past – but maybe he was and Rodney was just being paranoid.

"I'm sure. Now come here, would you?" John reached out and pulled Rodney into a tight hug that did more to relax Rodney than all the words in the world could do.


Rodney couldn't leave the labs entirely while a new system of rules was being hammered out, but he met with Elizabeth and John every evening to go over decisions that had been made. Most of the time he agreed with them, and when he didn't, they actually listened to him. Sometimes they changed it, sometimes they didn't, but Rodney never got the feeling that they were ignoring them.

Finally, after a week and a half, they had a system that the three of them agreed was workable. They decided to go for the simultaneous email and announcement - John would handle the marines, Rodney the hard scientists, and Elizabeth the soft sciences and administrative people.

As the meetings were scheduled back to back, Rodney slipped into the room early to hear what John was going to tell the marines. " - These changes aren't optional, ladies and gentlemen. If I hear that someone is being hassled for being gay, you'll wish that Ronon had kicked your ass. If I hear so much as a whisper that you have harassed someone - in or out of your line of command - you will wish that Teyla had kicked your ass. Am I understood?"

"Yes, sir," the room rang out.

"Boyd, Devin, and Ray, front and center."

The three marines that were called came forward, looking nervous. John grinned at them, breaking some of the tension. "I don't have any spare rank insignia, gentlemen, so you'll have to take my word for it until we can get some made. You're all promoted, effective immediately. Rank is second lieutenant. Sorry that I can't give you the pay raises that go with it."

"Wh - " said Boyd, cutting himself off, but clearly wanting to ask the question.

"We decided that having only two officers was stupid," said John. "You will soon discover that being an officer means more paperwork - a lot more paperwork - but you've led your own teams the longest, you know when to shut up and listen and when to talk, and I have every reason to expect that you'll do well." The smile fell off his face, and suddenly John looked downright scary. "Do not make me decide that I have made a mistake."

"No, sir!" The three marines waited a moment before returning to their place in formation.

"Ford," said John. When he would have stepped forward, John waved a hand at him, indicating that he should stay in place. "Same thing for you, except you're being promoted to Captain. Come see me after formation and we'll discuss how that changes things for you."

"Yes, sir," said Ford, looking a little shell-shocked. Rodney hid a smile at that, glad that John had insisted on promoting Ford over Elizabeth's objections. He didn't have as much experience in combat, but he was shaping up to be good at what he did. Of course, he would never say that to Ford.

"Are there any questions?" asked John from the front of the room, snapping Rodney's attention back to him.

There was quiet for a long moment. John caught Rodney's eye, and raised an eyebrow, as if asking if Rodney was willing to go along with John. Thinking that the question was stupid, Rodney nodded.

"One last thing. There have been some rumors about Doctor McKay and myself." The entire room went still and frozen. Rodney wasn't sure that any of the marines were breathing. "We are involved. As you've just learned, that is no longer against the regs. If you have a problem with it, come to me or to one of the other officers, and we will find you a job where you don't have to interact with me. I make no statements as to how pleasant that assignment will be. Understood?"

There was just a split-second of hesitation, before the room echoed with, "Yes, sir!" John dismissed them and sat on the desk at the front of the room, waiting for the room to clear. As soon as Rodney could get to him without feeling like he was swimming upstream, Rodney went to him.

"You could have waited," Rodney said. "You didn't have to tell them today."

"I know, but the rumors would have just gotten worse. This way it's all out in the open, and they won't have anything to gossip about anymore. They're good people," said John. "We won't have a problem with them."

Rodney still wasn't sure, but John knew them better than Rodney did. If John said it was going to be okay, Rodney was going to take him at his word. He wanted to hug John, or maybe kiss him, but even with having confirmed the rumors, he still wasn't comfortable with PDAs, so he just smiled and bounced a little.

The scientists started to filter in, and with a nod and smile, John left the room.

Rodney waited until the room had filled and the last fidgeting had stopped before he began. "As many of you have guessed, Doctor Weir and Major Sheppard and I have spent the last few days hammering out a new set of rules for us to live by. You'll find the completed code in your inbox. Read it. Love it. Live it."

"Why?" said one of the botanists. Rodney hadn't bothered to learn his name, but knew that as a group, the botanists were having the hardest time adjusting to life without Earth.

"Because the one we inherited was unworkable for a society of two hundred and fifty people indefinitely. Now, as you have probably guessed - "

"You're just doing this so you and your boyfriend can be together." The tone was snotty, and when Rodney glared in that general direction, he found a path cleared to one of the chemists.

"Why, I didn't know you cared," Rodney clutched at his heart. "I'm sorry, Roberts, but I'm already in a relationship. You should have made your interest plainer in the beginning." When Roberts started to sputter, Rodney continued on. "Yes, this does lift the ban on gay soldiers, and it also makes fraternization legal. If you have a problem with it, we always need cooks and people to sweep the floors."

"Now, if you don't mind, there are several other things that will have actual impact on the scientific department."

As he continued on, outlining changes in reporting and protocols, he noted the people who were whispering behind their hands. He didn't expect problems with his people - he didn't think he'd selected anyone with a closed mind for the mission - but he never knew.

Finally, with an admonishment that he expected them to all read the document in their inbox and start obeying it immediately, he dismissed them.

Elizabeth was up next, but Rodney didn't think he could take this for a third round, so he left the room. He wanted nothing more than to go find John, but he knew that he needed to be in the lab and available for questions.

He didn't try to set up any experiments, which turned out to be a good thing, since he was being asked questions every ten minutes. Most of the questions were administrivia that Rodney thought was outlined perfectly adequately, but a couple of them were veiled - or not so veiled - questions about his relationship. They boiled down to, "What does the major see in you?"

Rodney sent those people off with a tongue lashing to make their ears ring, and pretty soon word got around the department. When he'd gone forty-five minutes without a question, he looked up to realize that the only people left in the lab were Zelenka and him.

Zelenka was staring at him. "What?" he demanded.

"You are... happy," said Zelenka. "You yell less, you explain more. I believe Major Sheppard is a good influence on you."

Rodney thought about arguing, but... "You're right."

"Of course I am. Now, go eat before hypoglycemia makes you grumpy and I have to take it back."

With a laugh, Rodney shut down his computer and left the lab.

When he went into the mess, he found John, Ronon, and Teyla sitting at the team table. Grabbing a sandwich and a piece of the fruit from PVF-456, he went to join them. "How'd it go with your people?" asked John.

"Fine. Some pissing and bitching, but I think they'll get over it eventually." Rodney took a bite of his sandwich and gestured with the rest of it. "Any takers on your offer?" he muttered through a mouth full of food.

"Offer?' asked Teyla, raising an eyebrow.

"I offered to find jobs for anyone who didn't want to work with me. And no, no takers."

"Why wouldn't someone want to work with you?" asked Ronon, clearly puzzled.

"Because Rodney and I are sleeping together," said John. His voice was casual, but his face was pinched, as if he expected Ronon to be offended.

Ronon looked at Rodney, and then shrugged. "Why would people be upset by that?"

"Because, well, it's complicated," said John. "Ask me some other time."

Shrugging again, Ronon went back to eating. Teyla smiled at the two of them. "I am glad to know that you are finding happiness in each other," she said.

Rodney could feel the blush rising in his face, and a quick look at John showed that he was red too. "Uh, thanks, Teyla. We are, um, very happy."

"Good." She stood, picking up her tray. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have an appointment with some of the scientists for their hand-to-hand lessons."

They said goodbye as she walked away. A minute later, Ronon grunted and stood. "Later," he said.

John and Rodney looked at each other. The noise volume dropped in the room, and when Rodney looked around, he saw several people staring at them. "Why are they staring at us?" whispered John. "It's like they expect us to do something."

"Do something? Like what?"

John shrugged. "I don't know. It's not like we're going to kiss or something." He stood and patted Rodney on the back. "I'll see you later."

"Yeah, you will," said Rodney. With a grin and wave, John loped off, and Rodney returned his attention to his sandwich. So far, everything seemed to be working out well.


Days passed, and the terrible tension seemed to have broken. A couple of people came out - several in the science department and even a few of the marines. Rodney was glad that they were able to relax and be themselves, and for a while he thought that John had been right - there weren't going to be any objections.

They had spent three days negotiating an agreement on MVD-190. It was pretty straightforward - some of the engineers were going to work on improving the irrigation system for the B'Vorth's settlement. In return, they'd get enough wheat-like product to supply Atlantis for six months.

Given that no one had shot at them, tried to take them hostage, or even raised their voices at the team, Rodney was in a good mood when they went through the gate. That mood disappeared as soon as they arrived in Atlantis. It was like that day three weeks earlier, with tension so thick it could be cut with a knife. "What happened now?" he demanded.

Elizabeth was there, her lips folded tight like she did when she was deeply unhappy about something. "Wells is in the infirmary." Wells was one of the marines who had come out to John.

Oh, this was not good.

"Why?" asked John, already starting towards the medical. People who didn't know him would only hear concern in his voice. Rodney heard the suspicion and anger that were being suppressed.

"We're... not sure," said Elizabeth.

"What do you mean, 'not sure'? Get sure," said Rodney. He had a nasty feeling in his gut and wanted someone, anyone, to tell him he was wrong.

"He didn't report for his shift. When Boyd sent a marine to roust him out of bed, they found him on the floor, unconscious. John, it looks like he was beaten."

"What do you mean, 'beaten'?" asked Rodney. "How could he have been beaten in his own quarters?"

There was no answer for a second, as Elizabeth pressed the transporter controls for the infirmary section. As they started down that hall, she said, "We don't know, but whatever happened, it's not good."

"And what does Wells have to say?" asked John as they arrived at the infirmary.

"He hasn't said anything," said Carson. "He's still unconscious. He's got a concussion, a fractured cheekbone, and a couple of broken ribs. Thankfully, Ancient scanners are better than ours and I can tell that there doesn't appear to be any brain damage."

Rodney looked at John when he didn't say anything. The rage on his face was clear to everyone in the room. Several of the nurses moved away.

"Sheppard - " he said, not sure what he was going to say but unable to stay silent. John held up one hand, shutting him up.

Boyd stepped forward from where he'd been standing next to Wells' bed. "I've been standing guard, sir. No one has been able to get close to him except the doctor and the nurses."

"Good." John turned to look at Rodney. "The last time we had something like this happen, it was a Wraith in the city. We need to make sure that this isn't the case this time."

Rodney knew that it was unlikely to be a Wraith - the bruises on Wells' face looked like they were inflicted by human fists - but he needed to give John hope that it wasn't one of the men under his command. Turning to Elizabeth, he said, "Get everyone but medical personnel into the central tower and get Zelenka up to the control room. We're going to have to scan the city."

She nodded and gave the order over the radio. "It's going to take a little time," she said.

"That's fine. I have to go adjust the scanners." He wanted to squeeze John's shoulder, let him know that Rodney was thinking of him, but one look at the rigid line of John's spine told him that he wouldn't welcome it. Instead he just nodded at Elizabeth and headed to the central tower.

Zelenka was already there, his laptop hooked to the scanner. "We are looking for Wraith in the city?" he asked, face a little pale.

"Yes. We need to make sure that everyone is here, before we start scanning."

"Yes, yes, of course."

They worked together to get the widest, most accurate scan possible. At first, it showed lifesigns scattered all over Atlantis, but gradually they started to drift in to the central tower in ones and twos. Eventually there was a crowd of them in the center, a small group of them in the infirmary, and two lights by themselves, way out at the west pier.

By that point, they'd been joined by John and Elizabeth. They all hesitated, holding their breaths, hoping that those two signals would start moving, heading towards the control room, but they stayed steady. "Okay," said John. "We need a headcount. Figure out if that's our people or something else."

Rodney started grouping the scientists by department, having them identify each other in each group, as John called the marines into formation. It took him a few minutes longer than John, but ultimately he was missing one person. Joining Elizabeth and John, he said, "Kavanagh's missing."

"So's Zahr." John looked furious. "Get together a team," he barked at Ford. "I want them armed with Wraith stunners and back five minutes ago."

"Yes, sir!" Ford started picking men out of the formation.

"John, there's no way Kavanagh would do this," said Rodney. "He's an ass, but I don't think he's that big of an ass. And I don't think he's strong enough to do that kind of damage to someone."

"I hope you're right," said John. The team assembled in less than three minutes. "Okay, we're going to bring them back."

"I'm going with you." Rodney parked himself right in front of John.

"No, you're not. It's one of my people in the infirmary."

"And it's one of mine out there. Yes, I am." John tried to stare him down, but the best had tried to glare Rodney into submission, and they'd never succeeded. John wasn't going to succeed this time.

After a minute, John said, "Fine. But you stay behind us, got it?"

"Fine." Rodney tried to hold back his temper as they started to run. It was a real bitch to keep up, but a year on an away team had done wonders for his stamina and endurance, and he managed. It helped that they hit a transporter that took that most of the way there.

They could hear Zahr before they could see him. "I'm not going back. Everyone will know! I can't even go back to Earth."

Kavanagh's voice was only slightly softer. "Not if you explain what happened, Jim. They'll understand."

"I can't. Don't you - " He cut off as the marines turned the last corner, coming into view. He lifted the handgun he was holding and pointed it at his own head. "I'm not going back!" he screamed.

Kavanagh held up one hand, clearly trying to keep them from coming any further forward. Rodney was more than a little surprised when John obeyed. "Zahr, lower your weapon," he said, voice calm, as if this was something he did every day.

"No, sir," said Zahr, breathing like he'd just run a marathon. From this close, Rodney could see the tear tracks running down his face.

"Sheppard back off," ordered Kavanagh. "Jim doesn't want to hurt anybody, so let's not push him."

"I'm sorry, Kavanagh. I can't do that." The shift in attention was visible when John addressed Zahr. But I give you my word that we'll listen to you."

The sound of Zahr taking the safety off the gun was loud in the relative quiet. Out of the corner of his eye, Rodney saw one of the marines inching up his stunner. Apparently John saw it too, because he said quietly, "Zahr, Johnson is going to lower his weapon. In fact, we're all going to lower our weapons. And then you're going to put yours down. You have my word that we're going to help you."

"Don't you understand? I don't want your help!"

Kavanagh stepped forward, just half a step. "Jim, you know what I think of the leadership of Atlantis. And I'm saying you should trust Major Sheppard to help you. He's many things, but he's not a liar."

Zahr's hand was shaking so badly that Rodney was afraid he'd shoot himself accidentally. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure." Rodney had never heard Kavanagh sound so gentle.

Slowly, Zahr lowered his hand, clicking on the safety as he did so. Two of the marines started to step forward, but were waved back by John. Rodney held his breath as John walked the few feet to Zahr, and took his gun from his unresisting hand. "Let's go talk to Doctor Weir."

"I'm going too," said Kavanagh, but he lacked his normal attitude. He seemed worried, but not snotty. John studied his face for a long moment, and then nodded. Taking Zahr by the arm, he started back to center of the city.

As they walked back to the transporter, John radioed Elizabeth. "We've got our lost sheep. I'm not sure where to take them, though."

"No, I don't think the brig just yet." John's hand tightened on Zahr's arm as he tensed. "I think we need to have a conversation before any decisions are made."

"Heightmeyer's office? That's a good idea. We'll be there in about ten minutes. John out."

Territory covered at a run on the way out was crossed much slower as they walked to Heightmeyer office. Elizabeth and Heightmeyer were waiting in the hall, but as they approached the door opened and they preceded them inside. John dismissed all but two of the marines, sending them back to the central tower. The other two he put on guard in the hall and then led Zahr and Kavanagh into the room. Rodney slipped in just before the door shut.

John gave Zahr a gentle push towards a chair. "Okay. What's going on?"

"Sir - "

"He's not comfortable talking about it in front of all of these people, Sheppard," Kavanagh interjected.

John shot him a look. "You're here because I think he needs someone to back him, but you have to stay quiet. If you can't shut your mouth I'll have you removed."

Kavanagh looked like he was going to object, then clearly thought better of it, folding his lips and crossing his arms in front of himself.

When it became clear that he wasn't going to stay anything, John turned his attention back to Zahr, who was huddled in the chair.

"Zahr - Jim," said John. "What happened? Talk to me."

"You know Wells is gay, right?" asked Zahr in a monotone.

"Yes, and this better not have been a gay bashing," said John, his face tightening in anger. "I warned all of you - "

Zahr looked up, clearly panicked. "No, sir. It wasn't a gay bashing."

"Then what was it, Sergeant?" asked Elizabeth gently.

"He wanted me to come out," Zahr whispered.

"So you beat him up?" exclaimed Rodney, unable to stay silent any longer.

"I didn't mean to!" Zahr jumped to his feet, only to sit back down when John glared at him.

Heightmeyer stood up. "All right, I think we all need to calm down now. Sergeant, can I call you Jim?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Jim, did you assault Corporal Wells?" Heightmeyer held up a hand at Kavanagh before he could open his mouth. "We're going to give you a chance to explain, but we need to know if we're looking for someone else."

"Yes, ma'am," said Zahr miserably. "I didn't mean to, though."

"What, his face fell on your fist?" asked Rodney derisively.

This time John glared at him. "McKay, you're not helping. Let the man talk." Reluctantly, Rodney kept quiet. He knew that tone of voice.

Zahr's eyes darted from person to person, as if looking for a sympathetic face. There were droplets of sweat gathered near his hairline, and he couldn't have made himself any smaller in the chair if he'd tried. He swallowed hard, and then whispered, "David was my - we were sleeping together." He stopped there.

"Why'd you hit him, Jim?" Heightmeyer voice was incredibly gentle.

"He came out, and caught a lot of harassing from the others. Nothing obvious," he turned to face John, "Nothing worth going to you about, sir," he said. "But it kept going on and on. Everyone else who'd come out had been either girls, or, well, you, and he thought he was catching the brunt of it because he was the only guy marine."

"He thought if I came out too, it wouldn't be so bad. That maybe the others would back off, or at least spread it around a bit."

"But I couldn't. I just couldn't. I'm not gay, sir. I like girls just fine. I just... I wanted to be with David. But he didn't understand that." Zahr paused, panting slightly like he was out of breath. "We were arguing about it this morning, when I went to go back to my room, like we'd done every day for what felt like forever, and he got mad. He pushed me first, and I hit him. I hit him a bunch of times, because I was just... And then I realized what I was doing, and stopped and ran away. And then Kevin found me, and you saw the rest."

Other than the sound of Zahr's breathing, the room was silent. Even Rodney couldn't think of anything to say.

Sheppard finally said. "I can't condone what you did, Zahr. You're going to be punished, though I'm not sure how. You're going to be escorted to the brig while I wait for Wells to wake up. I suggest that you use that time to think about your actions."

"Yes, sir," said Zahr. As John went over to the door, Zahr stood, rubbing his upper arms as if he was cold.

"Take him to the brig, gentlemen," John said to the two marines outside the door. They took him by the arms and led him away.

"I have a question," said Rodney when it looked like no one else was going to say anything. "How did you know?" he asked Kavanagh. "Why did you go looking for him?"

"Because he's my friend, McKay. And because I can understand a little bit of what he's going through. It's different for you and Major Sheppard. You're in charge of the science department. And Major Sheppard is damn near idolized by his men, so you're in no danger of being hassled. But Jim's a marine, and you just changed the regs, on top of us being separated from Earth. How easy do you think that is for them?"

Chagrined, Rodney kept silent, meeting Kavanagh's eyes squarely. Truth be told, he hadn't really thought about it, and that wasn't right.

"Right now, the question is what are we going to do with him?" asked Elizabeth. "It may not have been the best way to go about it, but it doesn't justify beating someone up."

"We can't afford to keep him in the brig. We need every able-bodied person working," said John.

Kavanagh said "Why don't you ask Wells what he wants done? He's the one who got beaten up."

"We can ask him," said Heightmeyer, "but we also need to take into account that Wells may not see things very clearly."

"Yes, I am aware of that," said John. "I have been to the mandatory trainings over the years, you know."

"There are laws regarding domestic violence, John," said Elizabeth. "We can't just disregard them."

"I'm also aware of that, and if we had more people, I would say lock him up and let him rot. The simple fact is that we simply don't have the people or the resources to support that course of action."

Reluctantly, Elizabeth nodded. "I see your point. But we need to discuss this further."

John shrugged. "I want to know what Wells wants. Let's go to the infirmary."

As the group stood, Rodney turned to Kavanagh. "Go back to the central tower. You've already helped, believe it or not, and you know that we're not going to just lock him up."

"Fine." Kavanagh seemed dispirited, but he left the room without arguing.

Elizabeth, John, Heightmeyer, and Rodney all went down to the infirmary. "How is he, Carson?" asked Elizabeth.

"He'll be fine. He's got the typical hard head of the marines. He's already awake and trying to get out of the bed."

"We need to talk to him, Carson," said John. "I'd prefer to do it in private – can we use your office?"

"He shouldn't be out of bed, yet," Carson said. "I can't let you do that. But you can pull the curtains."

John and Elizabeth didn't look pleased, but they moved closer to Wells' bed with Heightmeyer. Pulling the curtain, they started to talk softly.

Uncertain what to do, both Ford and Rodney stood outside the curtain. Rodney couldn't help listening.

"How are you, Wells?" John asked.

"Just fine, sir. I'll be up and about in a day or two, I'm sure."

"You want to tell us what happened?"

"Zahr and I got into a fight. That's it." Wells' voice never wavered, never changed.

"That's not quite true," said Heightmeyer, "is it? Zahr told us that you were catching some hazing from the other marines."

"Nothing I can't handle, ma'am," he said. "Just a little teasing."

"Wells, cut the crap," said John. "I told you that hazing was off-limits. You should have told me right away when it started."

Rodney could hear the sigh. "Yes, sir."

"Now, what was happening?"

Wells' voice was clearly reluctant. "Just... comments. Being asked if I was going to drop the soap in the shower, that kind of thing."

"And?" Rodney could tell that John's patience with being stonewalled was rapidly running out.

"A bit of shoving and roughhousing. A couple of times my locker had stuff written on it. That kind of thing."

"Well, clearly, the marines need a little bit of remedial lessons. I'll take care of it. If it happens again, you are to bring it to my attention immediately. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir!"

"So what happened, specifically?" Elizabeth asked.

"We were arguing. And I got tired of him stonewalling me, so I guessed I grabbed him. I wasn't trying to start a fight, wasn't expecting one, neither, so I was surprised when he hit me. Didn't fight back."

"You shouldn't have to fight back," put in Heightmeyer. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"No, ma'am, I know that. But still, I'm a marine."

"And so's Zahr," Elizabeth interjected. "You had no reason to expect this to turn violent. He is going to be punished for this."

"Don't be too harsh on him, please, ma'am. I'm not that badly hurt, and he was upset for a reason."

Rodney fumed outside the curtain. On what planet was a broken cheekbone and bunch of broken ribs, not badly hurt? Then again, Wells was a marine.

"I understand that. You need to rest," Elizabeth said.

"Rest, get better. That's an order, Wells," said John. "I expect you to listen to the doctor, and not push to get up before he says."

The curtain opened, and Elizabeth led the way out. "Carson, we need to use your office," she said. Without waiting for an answer, she opened the door.

John and Heightmeyer followed her in, and before the door could slide shut, Rodney came in as well. "You don't need to be here," said John.

"I'm part of the leadership of this city, Sheppard and I want to know what's going to be done about this."

Heightmeyer said, "Well, he definitely needs therapy, and I think some space from the city would be a good thing. Especially since it would keep him away from Wells, at least for now."

"We're certainly not dumping him off on another planet by himself," said Elizabeth.

"How about spending some time with the Athosians?" said John slowly. "They're always in need of strong backs in the fields, and it's good, hard, repetitive work that would give him time to think."

Elizabeth said, "Do you honestly think that's harsh enough? I don't want this to happen again."

"I don't know," said John. "I do know that I can't think of anything else to do."

Sounding reluctant, Elizabeth said, "Okay. But I reserve the right to revisit this if it doesn't appear to work."

Rodney turned to face John. "If this happens again, we're going to have to come up with another punishment."

"I know that, Rodney," said John, sounding frustrated. "But this is what we have right now. We're just going to have to deal with it."

Rodney nodded slowly. He wasn't sure that he agreed that this was the best way to deal with it, but he didn't have a better suggestion.

Elizabeth looked between the two of them, and then nodded. "When do you want to talk to Zahr?" she asked.

John said, "I'm going to let him stew for the night while I talk to Halling and Teyla, and then we'll tell him tomorrow morning."

"Fair enough. Well, that's been enough excitement for one day," said Elizabeth. "I'm going to release everyone from the central tower, and just let them know that there's no Wraith."

"Okay." Elizabeth and Heightmeyer moved off, leaving John and Rodney standing there. Rodney did what he'd wanted to do since this whole disaster started and squeezed John's shoulder.

Memories of relationships that had died because he couldn't remember to ask how someone was doing haunted his thoughts, and he said, "So, crappy day, huh?"

"Yeah. How'd I miss this, Rodney? If anything Zahr underestimated the amount of harassment that Wells was catching. I'm sure that most of the guys are just mean it as teasing, but still, it adds up."

There wasn't much that Rodney could say to that, so he squeezed John's shoulder again. John took a deep shuddering breath, and let it out slowly. "All right. I need to go talk to Teyla, and probably take a jumper over to the mainland. Do you want to go with me, or should I just see you when I get back?"

"Truthfully? I want to go with you, but I should go back to the lab. Having everyone out of the lab without time to shut down beforehand will have caused issues with some of the experiments we're running."

"Fair enough. I'll see you at dinner then?"

Rodney glanced at his watch. It felt like it should be much later, but it was only three o'clock. "Dinner, yes."

He wanted to give John a kiss, but he knew John wouldn't welcome it. Instead, with one last touch, he headed to the lab.

He wasn't really surprised to walk in and find everyone bunched together, talking about the events of the afternoon. He listened just long enough to know that it was all guesses, before he broke it up. "Are you here to do research or are you here to have coffee klatches?"

The group broke up, returning to the benches. With a sigh, he settled in at his own computer and tried to lose himself in simulation results.


He succeeded well enough that when someone patted his back, he jumped. Turning, he saw that it was John, which made him check his watch. "Six already?" he said.

"Yep. Time to eat, and then take a break."

Rodney didn't argue, setting up the simulation to run overnight. Picking up his laptop, he looked around, realizing that for once he wasn't the last in the lab. Simpson and Miko were poring over some results, and barely looked up when he said goodnight.

They walked to the mess, and got a couple of trays. The kitchen had finally figured out how to make bread from the grain that the Athosians grew on the mainland, and there were brown rolls in addition to the chicken-like things from the Lakia and vegetables from the Selina. Rodney thought that they were actually doing pretty well, considering everything.

Joining Teyla, Ronon, and Ford at their table, he started to eat. He hadn't realized how hungry he was. Everyone else chatted quietly, and it took him a minute to realize that not only was John not eating, he wasn't talking either. Nudging John's tray with his own, he said softly, "You need to eat."

"I'm not hungry," said John equally quietly, which earned them both a concerned look from Teyla.

"Sir, are you okay?" asked Ford, who was apparently more observant than Rodney would have credited him with being.

"Just tired, Ford," said John with a forced smile.

Rodney thought about forcing the issue, but they were in public and knew that that would be the best way to get John to clam right up. So instead he doggedly worked himself through the food that no longer tasted quite as good. Finishing up, he waited for John to push away a tray that he'd barely touched.

He tried to think of something that would make John feel better. Finally he said, "So, shall we have a movie night tonight? We can even watch that football tape again if you want."

"Nah. I think I want a quiet evening in. Can we do that?"

"Of course." Rodney stood to Ford and Teyla's quiet goodnight and Ronon's grunt of goodbye, and followed John out of the room.

They went back to John's quarters, and sat on the couch. John rested his elbows on his knees and stared at the floor for a long time, while Rodney looked at him in concern. When John finally started to talk, it was in fits and starts, and Rodney thought to himself, oh, this isn't good.

"I think that... it might be best if we... well, I mean that..."

"Just spit it out, would you?" said Rodney, deciding that if John was going to break up with him, he wanted it to happen fast, like ripping off a Band-Aid.

John still wasn't looking at him when he mumbled, "I want us to live together."

"You want - what?" said Rodney, certain that he hadn't heard John correctly.

"You heard me," said John stubbornly. "I'm not going to say it again."

"Not good enough," said Rodney. "Why now?"

John didn't say anything for a long time. But Rodney had practice waiting him out and kept his mouth shut as well. Eventually, John started to talk, still staring at the floor. "That kid? He was terrified that he was going to catch a raft of shit because he had a male lover. I think the best way to keep this from happening again would be for us to move in - to quit pretending that we don't really feel that way about each other. Earth's abandoned us. All we have to depend on is each other, and people need to get over their discomfort with the idea."

"Well, in that case," said Rodney, hesitating long enough that John looked up in concern, "Of course, you idiot. When do you want to start?"

The smile spread across John's face. "Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow. Now, can I kiss you?"

Next thing Rodney knew, he had a lap full of John, intent on kissing him senseless.


While Rodney had no doubt that everyone on Atlantis still missed Earth, no one could maintain that level of stress for very long. Gradually, he saw fewer tears in the labs, heard second hand of fewer fights among the marines. The words, "If we ever get back to Earth," seemed to disappear from everyone's vocabulary.

It was almost a shock to realize that it had been six months since they'd heard from Earth, that they'd been on their own for eighteen months. For the most part, people were realizing that they were surviving on their own merits. It helped that they now had contracts with a dozen worlds, bartering skills for food, for all the things they couldn't make on their own.

After the third world they'd discovered that had been culled severely, leaving only a handful of individuals, Elizabeth, John and Rodney met to discuss it. It was their fault that the Wraith were so active. They also knew that it was just a matter of time before more Wraith tried to take them out - they assumed the only reason that it hadn't happened yet was that word of the satellite had gotten out before they'd manage to destroy the third ship.

It was Teyla who made the suggestion. Atlantis was not self-sufficient, nor could it be for a long time yet. And their population was hardly large enough to replace itself, especially as it was heavily weighted towards men. As Teyla pointed out, they couldn't remain standoffish, not if they wanted to survive in Pegasus.

So they started, slowly, cautiously, opening their doors to groups of Wraith survivors. They offered both the option to live with the Athosians, or, if they had technical skills, or wanted to learn them, they could stay on Atlantis. Slowly the population started to grow.

It wasn't easy, ever. Even though the 'gates translated language, it did nothing to solve cultural barriers. It surprised Rodney that none of those barriers had to do with him and John, who were openly living together. It was Ronon who eventually explained it. "Lives are short. The Wraith always come. So you take love where you find it."

Rodney thought that made perfect sense.

He was accomplishing less pure science - he didn't have time for it anymore, which was regretful. He spent more time training people how to use the equipment than actually using it himself, these days. But when he looked around the lab, and saw not just representatives from ten different earth countries, but also from a dozen planets in Pegasus, he couldn't help the surge of pride. He was helping build something more than a machine. He wasn't sure what to call what they had - a society? Whatever it was, it was working.

He went back to their rooms at night, tired but satisfied. And most nights, John was there to meet him.

Tonight was no exception. John was sitting on the couch, laptop on his thighs, checking his email. Rodney leaned down and brushed a kiss over his cheek. "Hi, honey, I'm home. What's for dinner?"

John glared at him for the endearment, which made Rodney laugh. He held the glare for a moment longer, then laughed as well, that silly-sounding laugh that Rodney got to hear more and more often these days. It was the reason he kept coming up with gooey things to call John - John didn't smile enough.

Rodney flopped down on the couch next to John, waiting impatiently for him to finish typing. When he finally set the laptop down on the table, Rodney leaned in for a better kiss, one that John seemed happy to give him. "New group all settled in?" John asked as they separated.

Sighing, Rodney relaxed into the couch. "Seem to be. Most of the teenagers and young adults opted to stay - the elders were overwhelmed at 'living in the home of the Ancestors' and went to the Athosians."


"Is there a reason that we're talking about this?" asked Rodney with a smile.

"Not really," said John, grinning back. "Though isn't that what a partner is supposed to do? Ask how your day went?"

Rodney stuck his tongue out at John and then wiggled it. "I can think of other things a partner is supposed to do..." he said, voice trailing off.

"Oh, really?"

Before Rodney could say anything in response, he had a lap full of John. One of John's hands wrapped around the back of Rodney's neck, while John nibbled on his ear. With a soft moan, Rodney tilted his head to give John better access. "Oh, that's nice," he said. "Much better than inane questions about my day."

John chuckled, the sound buried in Rodney's neck. "I was thinking I might fuck you tonight," John said.

"That sounds - oh, god - good," Rodney said. "I'd need to take my clothes off, though. And that would be hard to do with you in my lap."

He groaned again as John licked over the pulse point in his neck, clutching at John's arms. He only released them when John started to stand up.

They were frequently frantic - after a mission gone badly, when Rodney had been fighting with the proto-scientists in the lab, when John had been working out with the marines. But tonight they weren't. Instead they were deliberate, undressing themselves but giving each other come-hither glances and occasionally reaching out to brush a hand over a bit of exposed skin.

As soon as he was naked, Rodney went to lie down on the bed, silently thankful for the fact that being together publicly meant that they got a real person sized bed. Spreading his legs, he waved at John to hurry up and get his ass over there already.

John didn't say anything. He just climbed up between Rodney's legs, and bracketed Rodney's shoulders with his hands. Their eyes met, and for a long moment they just looked at each other. Breaking the moment before it got uncomfortable, Rodney reached up and tugged John down into a deep, wet kiss.

He loved the feeling of John's weight on top of him, pressing him into the bed, and he rocked his hips, pressing his cock into John's stomach while they kissed. John groaned into Rodney's mouth, his own hips moving restlessly, and before long they were thrusting together. Rodney was getting close when John said, "No," and knelt up, taking away all that delicious pressure and heat.

Whimpering, he continued to thrust up into empty air for a second, before he managed to force himself still. John gave him a pained smile, his hand wrapped around his own cock, clearly holding back his orgasm.

They both took deep breaths, letting their orgasm back off, before John twisted to reach the nightstand, grabbing the lube. Slicking up his fingers, he started to prepare Rodney, careful and gentle as could be, as if he was trying to make up for all the times they hadn't taken the time for this. By the time John pressed the head of his cock against Rodney's hole and started to press in, Rodney was incoherently begging for it, desperate and wanting. He didn't care, as long as it got John's cock inside him, where it belonged.

John set a slow rhythm, sliding in, filling Rodney in all the best ways, and then back out, leaving him empty. Every push went over his prostate, setting of sparks behind Rodney's eyes, and he could feel his denied orgasm building in his balls, in his skin, in his nerves. This was going to be a mind-blowing orgasm. If he ever got there, that is. "John, please! Please, just a little faster," he begged.

He almost sobbed with relief when John started to move, faster and deeper and perfect. "Yes, yes, yes," he chanted. He was so close, so close, almost there -

And John wrapped his hand around Rodney's cock and started to jerk him off. "Come on," he said, voice deep and raspy, and that was the last thing that Rodney needed. Everything came together in a blinding flash of white, pleasure overloading his nervous system.

When he came back to himself, he found John fucking him with slow, short strokes. "Hi there," he said in a strained voice. "Back?"

In answer, Rodney wrapped his legs around John's waist. "Give it up," he said. "Now, John."

John groaned, "Oh, god," and buried his face in Rodney's neck as his hips slammed into Rodney's a half dozen times. He gave a hoarse cry as he froze, and Rodney could feel the sudden increase in heat that meant that he'd come. Rodney ran his hands over John's chest as John panted, coming down. As his cock softened and slipped from Rodney's body, Rodney hissed. "Sorry," said John, shifting to the side and stretching out next to Rodney.

"It's okay," said Rodney, turning so that he could face John. They both needed to shower, badly, and he was exhausted, but as always, the need to touch John won, and he ran his fingers over John's cheek. John closed his eyes in pleasure, and Rodney thought to himself that while he missed earth, having this made up for it in so many ways. He could live like this.