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Stars Against the Sun

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When Atlantis returns from Earth to the Pegasus galaxy, the city is ready for war.

In the past, the SGC staffed and equipped the expedition as, essentially, glorified security guards for Atlantis, its secrets and its stargate. John never had any illusions that if the SGC wanted the Atlantis expedition to do much more than hold the line, they probably would have chosen anyone but John Sheppard as military commander.

After Kenny's attack on Earth, the SGC is serious: John can tell, because he's not in charge anymore. Sure, he's still military commander of Atlantis, but now there's a Brigadier General overseeing military operations in the Pegasus Theater, directing the Daedalus and the Hammond and a fleet of F-302s in a series of tactical strikes against the Wraith, with Atlantis acting as their base of operations.

Holding down the fort is a vital function, but it's a logistical effort more than a tactical one. The kind of thing Lorne excels at, but nothing that really plays to John's strengths.

General Everett isn't the kind of guy who leaves resources untapped, so it's no surprise and no small relief when he comes to John with a proposal designed to get John out from behind a desk and out on the front lines where he belongs.

=

"This is insane," Rodney says, for maybe the twentieth time.

"You saw the intelligence. We can't let the Wraith build a new cloning facility," John repeats on autopilot as he checks over the two jumpers prepped for the mission.

"Despite being completely shut out of the decision making process by General 'what science department?' Everett, I did see the intelligence, and it bore a remarkable resemblance to a juicy piece of bait in an enormous and obvious trap," says Rodney. "Kenny's allies clearly let Todd intercept this falsified data hoping to draw us out. Look, if nothing else, you're our military commander - shouldn't you be directing this from the base?"

"No," John says, "I shouldn't. Relax, Rodney. If you're good, maybe I'll bring you back a nice ZPM or two as a souvenir."

"There's no ZPM, and there's no half-built cloning facility on PX6-204!"

"Well, definitely be sure to say that where my strike team can hear you. Nothing builds morale like a big vote of no confidence from the lead scientist." Not that it'll be news to his guys, but he can't resist giving Rodney a hard time.

"John," McKay says, and god damn it, it's a huge fucking weakness, but John's never been able to ignore him when Rodney says his name like that. "John, I think you know this is a wild goose chase, or you'd take me with you. Us with you. Remember, us, your team?"

"We need the three of you here," John says, checking Jumper One's main access panel, closing it and moving on. Teyla's lending her expertise aboard the Hammond. Sam's crew is excellent, but few of them have any Pegasus experience. Ronon's going out with as many recon teams who'll take him. John's not going to pull him away from that to stick him in a jumper for days on a mission that calls for pilots and technicians.

And Atlantis needs Rodney, so he's staying put, no matter how much he crosses his arms and jabs his chin in the air and snaps, "I know you've raised pigheadedness to an art form - "

"Wow. Pot, kettle; I think you two'll get along just fine."

"Give me thirty hours to at least run some cursory tests and prove there's no there there."

"Because we couldn't possibly know that already. There's no way we're chasing that wild goose as a diversionary tactic. You know us military guys," John shuts the second jumper's access panel firmly, "we're just not that smart."

"And you think it's good strategy to waste the military commander of Atlantis on a diversion?"

"The Wraith will never believe we bought it unless I go myself." He shrugs, trying for glib. "Don't worry. General Everett promised to take good care of the place while I'm gone."

Rodney doesn't answer, and John makes the mistake of looking at him; he'd been trying to avoid meeting his eyes, but whoops, so much for that. Rodney looks as freaked out as John's ever seen him, and they've both been freaked out almost beyond their capacity to freak out many times since they've known each other.

If John were a hug-and-a-handsqueeze-on-the-shoulder kind of guy, he'd do that now, maybe say something vaguely inspiring and brave.

He's not that guy, though. He's just who he is, so he bops his fist against Rodney's elbow for about four milliseconds and says, "You know I'm coming back. We've got a chess game to finish."

Rodney's brows clash. "We do?"

"We do now. Queen's pawn to d4." He hooks a little smile at Rodney and leaves the jumper bay.

=

Three weeks into the strike team mission, John doesn't have much to smile about. As anticipated, there was no sign of the purported cloning facility under construction on PX6-204, just a complement of Wraith cruisers lying in wait.

John led the cruisers for a little goose chasing of their own, ducking and weaving around the planet's asteroid ring and seventeen moons while the second, cloaked jumper targeted cruisers and brought them down with drones.

The second jumper went down under a hail of cruiser debris, plummeting onto the third moon. Using the trick of extending the first jumper's shield to encompass the second, John and his people were able to evacuate the two Marines from the back of Jumper Two, but the sealed cockpit had already blown out and they'd lost Tichenor and Araujo.

Then there was the little matter of infiltrating the sole remaining cruiser, getting the coordinates for the rest of the hives and bases controlled by Kenny's faction - it's probably more fake intel, but better than nothing.

In the battle to trigger the cruiser's self-destruct, Koduri suffered a shock that's left her right leg limp and streaked with burns, and a Wraith drone dragged Litvinov along the sharp wreckage of a busted console.

The team escaped ahead of the explosion, but the jumper took some damage to the starboard drive pod. John managed to cloak just as a second group of cruisers showed up on long-range scanners.

Days later, the jumper reeks with the rotten honey smell of unwashed bodies and crusted blood. Firing up the damaged drive would betray their position, so the patrols have them penned. Poulsen, Alpern and Thawi work hard, and they manage to keep the cloak up and prevent the busted drive pod from leaking radiation.

He can see they're doing everything they can under the circumstances, but John's never missed Rodney's fast, ingenious repair skills more.

By the time the Daedalus leads a squadron of F-302s against the cruisers, it's been a week of thin rations and too-close quarters for the team in the jumper; his people are ragged. Koduri's wounds aren't healing, and Litvinov's side looks pulped and raw.

There's a dicey moment when the Daedalus takes a hit to the docking bay, but the F-302s fly tighter interception after that, and over the course of a grueling six hour battle, they bring all the cruisers down.

Afterward Caldwell radios the jumper. "Colonel, you'll be happy to hear your diversion was successful. We've taken down two of the hives that allied themselves with the Wraith that attacked Earth." His voice drops. "We thought we lost the strike team. I hope you're ready for a hell of a welcome when you get back to the city."

"Yes sir," John grinds out, his voice thick in his throat, and sets the course Caldwell gives him to fly back. He turns the stick over to Alpern and shuts himself in the jumper's narrow head to pull himself together, splashing water on his face. They're weeks out from anything as frivolous as a shower or a shave.

In the reflective panel set in the door, John sees himself: full beard, dark rings under his eyes, drawn and exhausted face.

"This is no time to get sloppy. It's not over yet," he tells the careworn man in the mirror, and goes back to the pilot's seat to fly Jumper One in the wake of the Daedalus back to Atlantis.

He sets down in the jumper bay and a crowd pours in through the doors before he can even get the jumper's hatch down. Stepping out, John feels something halfway between nostalgia and deja vu, like he's revisiting a former life.

The med team brings Koduri out on a gurney, the others step out to accept handshakes, embraces. John's looking around and it's like he can feel the moment Rodney sees him, a pang going through him.

Then Rodney's wrestling through the throng and saying, "John," grabbing him and pulling him close. Once he's squeezed John's shoulders like an accordion, Rodney makes a frustrated noise and goes in for a hug, the way they never do.

John tried to defuse this moment in advance, set McKay up with that chess move crap to give them something easy to say to each other now. But Rodney just holds him close and hangs on tight.

And John can't help it; he lost two good soldiers and he really thought he wasn't going to bring his people back this time, a week of living under the gun just praying the cloak would hold and the radiation from the busted drive pod wouldn't show up on the Wraith's scanners - he turns his head and presses his face hard into the curve of Rodney's neck, bare and warm, and he opens his mouth against Rodney's skin and just breathes.

It feels like the first time he's had enough air in his lungs since the last time he was here, right here, giving Rodney another bullshit goodbye.

Rodney relaxes and lets him go, and then tilts in close and somehow, they're kissing, sweet and hard, and if it's not the best moment of John's entire life - well. It's up there.

Then things get complicated.

=

Rodney turns out to be great in bed, when they get there: after the debriefing; after John learns that between the strike team's diversion and a coordinated attack from the F-302s, the Hammond, and the Daedalus, the most aggressive Wraith faction has been almost completely annihilated; after no one says a DADT-related word to John, from the General on down, and he decides it's not an issue; after they regroup with Teyla and Ronon, and John chokes up a little when Ronon lifts him off his feet and even more when he touches heads with Teyla, squeezing her hands; after John's showered for a couple of eons, and shaved three weeks off his face.

By the time he makes it to Rodney's door, it feels like years since they kissed in the jumper bay, and decades since he was trapped with five scared faces looking back at him in Jumper One.

But when Rodney touches him, it's like no time's passed at all since the kiss, no time since John sat in the control chair in Antarctica and first heard Rodney's voice, his instructions, his guidance, and responded with instinctive trust.

=

So yeah, John always figured it was even odds that Rodney would either be fantastic in bed, or really awkward and bad. He'd even talked himself into expecting awkwardness, telling himself that it'd be okay. That it'd be fun, even, to coax Rodney into relaxing, the same way he challenged and convinced Rodney to unclench a little and accept his friendship, back when they first met.

It's not like that at all.

When he used to entertain the possibility that Rodney would be good - all that genius brought to bear on producing optimum orgasms, like elegant solutions to infinitely complex equations - he'd imagined Rodney showing off devastating techniques, but staying a little clinical, a little detached.

It's not like that either. Rodney kisses him eagerly, messily, scrapes his teeth against John's stubble and wetly works over his ear, blowing into it til John's shivering and has to go for Rodney's nipples to retaliate. They feel good under his thumbs, tight and eager.

Rodney gasps openly, lets his head fall back and groans when John touches him, clutches at John's clothes and fumbles with the zip on John's pullover and snags it in his chest hair. He laughs softly even as he's making pinched regretful faces, his fingers careful. He extricates John and soothes his chest with his mouth, kissing and then just plain flat-out licking him.

He doesn't seem self-conscious about it, dragging his tongue along John's collarbone with wholehearted devotion. He gives the same treatment to John's nipple, the flat of his hip, his cock, and John wasn't expecting that, the way Rodney behaves like he's more invested in making John feel good than in demonstrating his skills. It disarms him; that first time, John comes way too fast.

"That's so hot," Rodney breathes, and guides John's hand to the thick, solid length of his dick. Rodney says, "Feel that? You're killing me."

John goes down, intent on using all his best tricks to make up for the abbreviated run-up to his own orgasm. Rodney holds out just long enough for John to deep-throat him a little and lip him a little and suck hard with his tongue caressing as much of Rodney as he can, but he comes quickly enough that John doesn't feel too bad about popping off so fast himself, quickly enough to convince John that Rodney's as into this as John is.

The only thing even a little clinical or detached about it comes afterward. They're lying together, John's hand curled very carelessly on Rodney's chest, Rodney just coincidentally cupping his elbow.

"Good?" Rodney asks, in a perfunctory yet solicitous tone, like a nurse at the end of a check-up.

"Mmm, that's one word for it," John says. Rodney squeezes his shoulder and turns his head to kiss John's eyebrow, warm and familiar already.

=

They get some good news when Dr. Mubarak reports on the intelligence the strike team gleaned from the last cruiser. They need it, coming hard on the heels of the memorials for Captain Janine Tichenor and First Lieutenant Xavier Araujo.

John tried to convince Rodney to let him have some time on his own after the ceremony, but Rodney wasn't having it.

"What, so you can brood and indulge your survivor's guilt? I don't think so," Rodney said. "It's not like it's some big consolation to them, you know, like they're dead but at least Colonel Sheppard feels really bad about it. If it were you," Rodney blinked rapidly, cinching his lips together for a moment, but he pressed on, "if it'd been you, you wouldn't want them to wail and rub ashes in their hair, you'd want them to appreciate surviving."

"I wouldn't mind if they rubbed a little bit of ashes in their hair," said John, with weak black humor.

Rodney smiled grimly. "Commemorative light-socket styling would probably be a little more apropos."

"That's the problem with being dead," John said thickly. "People only do that kind of thing in memoriam, but I'd wanna see that."

"Teyla and Ronon and I would've poured all your beer off the end of the pier," said Rodney. "We can still do that part, if you want to be there for it."

"Leave my Bud alone." At Rodney's scrunched nose of distaste, John added, "Don't give me that face. You drink it."

"I spit it out when your back is turned," said Rodney, and John laughed and it hitched in his throat and he ended up leaning hard against Rodney, clutching his sleeves and trying not to see the two swollen bodies in the blown cockpit, the blood on Araujo's mouth. They deserved to dwell in better memories than that.

Araujo had been quiet, serious, one of the few who seemed to genuinely like training with Ronon, a solemn joy evident in him when they sparred; Ronon always complimented him after a session, once with "Not bad for a pilot," throwing a sardonic grin at John, sharing the joke with Araujo, who looked a little guilty but laughed anyway. Tichenor once helped bring down a fleet of darts attacking one of their allied planets. Her gene wasn't especially strong but when it came to the drones, her aim, control, and focus under fire were unreal. It was the main reason John chose her for the strike team mission, and she did an amazing job against those cruisers before Jumper Two went down.

After the memorial, Rodney took him home and stuck by him, even showering with him, unfazed even though John already had a shower that morning, just needed an excuse to have some water on his face.

In bed Rodney shoved his face against John's shoulder and dozed, his arm heavy across John's stomach, just there, just present, just breathing and warm and alive. John wondered how he'd made it through the last few years without having Rodney with him like this.

Now Dr. Mubarak unceremoniously confirms that their strikes against the allied Wraith have completely eliminated all the hives in the most aggressive faction.

It feels like there ought to be cheering, a celebration, but it's just another strategy meeting. The news lands with only a ripple of weary relief spreading over the faces in the room.

"As ever," she says, "The other Wraith forces have kept their distance in order to allow us to take out hives they too perceived as a threat. According to our intelligence from codename 'Todd', the Wraith expect the offensive to end, and the battlecruisers to be recalled to Earth once we have dispensed with codename 'Kenny's' alliance. If we strike more widely against the Wraith, we risk driving them into another alliance with more power than we could easily defeat."

"Back to stalemate," John says.

"Unless we can convince them to accept the gene therapy," says Woolsey.

"We might be able to persuade some of them, but I think we're going to have to make the situation a whole lot more uncomfortable for the Wraith before they opt for that in a big way," says John. "And it's up in the air whether we have the resources to make that happen." He looks to General Everett, signaling that he recognizes that's going to be Everett's call.

The general acknowledges the point and the look with a nod, and turns his own gaze to Dr. Mubarak. "Anything else, Doctor?"

"A point of interest. It has been so long since the Wraith faced successful organized resistance from humans that their language does not even have words to encompass it," Mubarak says. "Colonel Sheppard and his gate team have survived so many direct encounters with the Wraith that the Wraith accord them a level of regard that they can only express with the words they normally reserve for their own kind. They refer to Teyla Emmagan as the 'Queen' of the Atlantis 'hive' and to Colonel Sheppard as her lead commander."

John's not so sure they're far wrong on that. With General Everett in authority over the Pegasus Theater, Woolsey's position as civilian leader of Atlantis has been reduced to a fig leaf; Everett can overrule him at any time.

Teyla's influence persists, though. When Atlantis was on Earth, Teyla earned the respect of everyone she encountered at the SGC with her freely offered cooperation on one hand, and her tireless advocacy for Atlantis to return to Pegasus on the other. The old hands of the expedition revere her, and the new people hold her in awe.

And she's the only person in the city with a child. Considering that among the Wraith, only Queens can reproduce, John kind of sees where they're coming from. Though he's sure as hell not going to say so to Teyla.

"Codename 'Kenny's' allies had hoped to lure both the Colonel and Ms. Emmagan to PX6-204 and eliminate them," Mubarak goes on. "They know that we differ from them, that we do not require queens and commanders because our soldiers are not drones. But knowing this is not the same as understanding it. Eliminating Ms. Emmagan and Colonel Sheppard has assumed a totemic significance to many of our enemies. Certainly to the allied hives."

"Any idea how we can turn that to our advantage?" Everett asks.

"It confuses them that we risk Ms. Emmagan and Colonel Sheppard on missions that take them out of Atlantis without a retinue of soldiers guarding them," says Mubarak. "Likewise Mr. Dex and Dr. McKay, whom they view as commanders as well. For lack of any other interpretation that makes sense to them, they see it as a show of strength."

Everett says, "Good to know," but that's all. He dismisses the meeting soon after. As the room empties out, the murmurs of conversation are more relaxed and expansive than they've been in a long while.

Back in Rodney's quarters, "I just hope no one sees Mubarak's report and gets the oh so clever idea to refer to us as the queens of Atlantis," Rodney says.

"I dunno," John smiles against his neck, sliding a hand down to cup his ass, "Long as they're friendly about it, I don't think I'd mind."

=

No one calls them anything, though; no one ever comments, not even when John accidentally leaves an unmistakable mark on Rodney's neck that his collar doesn't cover. People see them leaving one another's quarters; John could make an excuse if he had to, but he never has to. No one asks.

It's going about as smoothly as John ever could have hoped, and the only discordant note is completely unexpected. Rodney keeps looking as though he's working up to something, but whatever it is, he never quite seems to get to it.

"Things okay with Jennifer?" John asks, taking a stab in the dark. Trying to uproot whatever this thing is before it has a chance to grow.

"What? Oh. Fine," Rodney says, looking abstracted. "We had the whole hope-you're-happy-now conversation that popular culture apparently mandates for modern post-amicable-breakup situations in which one former partner takes up with someone else. It was formulaic but it was surprisingly reassuring to mouth the platitudes."

"You're a real romantic, McKay."

"I can be romantic," says Rodney. "I'd take you on a picnic since that's apparently your cliché of choice, but we're still kind of at war."

Of course then Rodney looks a little irked, clearly thinking of Chaya, so John quickly cuts that off with some quality making out.

A couple of nights later, Rodney has the same air about him as if he's working his way up to something. John grits his teeth and tries, "What's on your mind?"

"More than you could ever imagine," Rodney snaps, badly covering a guilty look.

John's never been a big fan of relationship talks himself, so he can't figure out how to ask any further without resorting to the kind of hints and questions he's always shrugged off and resented when his exes used them on him.

It's weird. Of all the problems John ever speculated they might have, all the possibilities ranging from dying to DADT to Rodney somehow being allergic to sex with John... Rodney holding something back never even made the list.

It's early yet, John tells himself. They'll figure it out.

=

Meanwhile, they have a lot of sex. John's horny all the time; he hasn't craved sex like this for years, but Rodney's training his body to expect it again, to want it.

He used to jerk off as part of his morning routine when he had the time, but if he skipped a day or three, it wasn't a big deal. Now, when circumstances conspire and he doesn't get to screw around with Rodney every day, he's got to take the edge off on his own or he gets a little twitchy and frantic.

And these days, he can't just get himself off with his usual cursory technique (plastered against the water-warmed wall of his shower with the spray running down to confuse the sensations, imagining a deliberately vague fantasy of pinning someone there with his body and jerking off with tight cramped strokes between them; now that he's having regular sex again, it's embarrassing to remember how he used to almost press his lips against the wall.)

Now he can't help thinking about stuff. The way Rodney licks him features pretty heavily in his new fantasies. John finds himself getting a lot more wound up, even solo orgasms feel shiny and new again, but his skin feels stretched and tight afterward, untouched. He wants Rodney.

And he has him, over and over again. In each others' quarters, in Rodney's office, in Jumper Four - Four, because Jumper One always smells like old blood to John now.

Rodney licks and bites him like he wants to eat John alive, and when John touches him, he has a way of throwing back his head in reaction, and then rolling it back around to watch intently, til the next thing makes his head go back -

"You'll get seasick," John murmurs to him, joking, or "You'll give yourself whiplash."

"I can't help it," Rodney always says, "I want to see."

John gets it. He likes watching too. He likes the way Rodney looks naked; he's been attracted to Rodney for a long time, the way he occupies space, the timbre of his voice and the music of his hands. The scent of Rodney's sweat is as familiar to him as Ronon's, as Teyla's, as his own.

Sometime in the last five years or so, Rodney's high cheekbones and bent mouth, his soft jaw and sharp chin, the blue of his eyes and the set of his shoulders - these things have come to mean home to John, as much as the spires of Atlantis or the hum of the puddlejumpers.

But as familiar as Rodney is to him, John hasn't seen him naked all that often, and it's thrilling to learn these new things about him, the constellations of his freckles, the shape and weight of his balls in John's hand.

He learns that the uniforms do Rodney no favors; nude, Rodney has a nicely modeled chest and torso to go along with the biceps John's always admired. Rodney carries a little extra weight that blurs the planes and edges of muscle and bone, soft enough to afford welcome. His uniform pants cut in; he looks better without them. And out of those BDUs, his ass is beautiful, round, smooth and grabbable.

After the drought John's had, Rodney could probably trail one finger down his hard-on and get him off, but Rodney's as generous and greedy in bed as he is everywhere else. John barely has to slant him a look to get a handjob, and a Rodney McKay handjob turns out to be a bigger deal than a blowjob from anyone else, because Rodney's mouth roams everywhere while he jerks John off.

It's been a long time since John felt this comfortable inside his skin, aware of his body for all the ways it can make him feel good, not because some of it hurts.

=

Rodney lifts John's legs and shoves him up on the bed some, slides down and fellates him and swallows, something John's learned not to take for granted. He never asks for it, he's never wanted to pressure anyone, but it definitely makes orgasms last longer and feel more intense, somehow.

Even after he comes, Rodney stays down there for a while, biting him here and there, just lightly, like he's mapping John out with his teeth.

Once his bones re-form (it was a really good orgasm) John reaches to pet him, gentling a touch along the curve of his ear, rubbing the nape of his neck.

"That feels good," Rodney sighs, and kisses John's hip. "As much as it sucked to have Atlantis stuck on Earth in limbo for months and months, I'm glad we had the time to get new beds in. Can you imagine doing this in those little planks we had before?"

And maybe it's just because his brain melted when Rodney drank his come and hummed like he thought it was goddamn delicious, but John almost says out loud: Is that why we're doing this now?

He hasn't asked because it doesn't matter. It's not going to change the years when they weren't doing this - when John wanted it and Rodney didn't seem to even consider it. If Rodney's feelings have changed or if he wanted this before and just never acted on it til now or if he's been struck by an Ancient gayifying beam: whatever. John's not sweating it.

He's just glad they both survived long enough to get their timing right.

=

"Oh my god, I wish I'd known this years ago," Rodney laughs, fingers busy against John's ribs, "is the military commander of Atlantis ticklish, huh?"

"No!" John denies even as he's laughing compulsively and writhing, smacking Rodney's hands.

"I think you are..."

"I'm not!"

"No? What's this then?" Rodney trails his fingers agonizingly up and wiggles them against John's neck, and John laughs explosively, grabs his wrists and flips him over, pinning him.

"Oh yeah, what about you?" he demands, but his grin fades when he sees Rodney's face has changed, his eyes wide, his body tense.

John lets go and slides off him. "Sorry."

"I'm not one of your sparring partners, you know. You could've cracked a rib," Rodney says, but it sounds nothing like his usual complaints, tight and false like he's reading it off a cue card.

"Okay. I'll be more careful," John promises, but he can see it's the wrong thing to say, that he should have played along and offered some fake retort.

"It's fine. Come here, I'll - "

"Let me, I want to," John says, easing Rodney's boxers down and nuzzling him; Rodney's half-hard already and firms right away when John opens his mouth around him.

He tries to get across an apology, drawing out the blowjob til his jaw aches, urging Rodney's hips to move, letting Rodney fuck his mouth til he comes. John swallows, doesn't move til Rodney peels him off.

Rodney strokes him, the movements almost brusque even though he looks soft-eyed and tired.

Usually after sex Rodney telegraphs his intent to stay in John's bed or his desire for John to stay in his with a very unsubtle leg slung across John's. Tonight he doesn't do that, and unsettled, John says, "I've got a thing early tomorrow, I'm gonna - "

"See you," Rodney says.

=

Rodney is suddenly very very busy after that.

"Now that we've beaten back the Wraith threat, the SGC's pressuring me to work out a more modular version of my wormhole drive," Rodney says, not quite meeting his eyes. "The deadlines are ridiculous. Look, I'll make it up to you later."

Of course the excuses are bullshit, or Rodney wouldn't promise to make it up to him. John's still got no idea how to solicit a confidence, though, so he backs off.

=

With all that, it's almost like some kind of cosmic consolation prize when General Everett calls him in to Woolsey's office, and John finds that somehow, he's made full bird.

When he first comes in and Woolsey says, "I wasn't sure if you'd want a larger ceremony; the SGC does these things differently," John thinks he might be getting a medal, or official command of the Pegasus Theater, since it's soon to consist of just Atlantis again and General Everett is returning with the Hammond back to Earth.

"Not necessary, sir," he says, and then the next thing he knows Everett's saying Colonel and John's pinned with eagles.

John's maybe a little dazed. He didn't see another promotion coming til he put in the maximum time in rank, if then.

"Well earned, Colonel," says Everett, and John tries not to puff up so much that he actually lifts off the floor. It takes effort.

"All it takes is one time saving the world, huh?" John's grin hurts his face. "Colonel Carter might have something to say about that."

"You carry out your duty with excellence, you get promoted. You save Earth, you get... a little leeway," the general says.

Oblique as it is, it's the only reference he's made to John's relationship with Rodney. "Thank you, sir," John says sincerely.

"Now, ordinarily, with this promotion, you might be expected to move out of the front line role of leading the first contact recon team," says General Everett. "But evidently our enemies believe your presence on AR-1 to be a show of strength. Withdrawing from that might be considered a sign of weakness we can't afford. So it seems you'll be leading offworld missions for a while yet, Colonel."

John beams, "Glad to hear it, sir."

"We're all very proud to see you get the recognition you deserve, Colonel Sheppard," Woolsey says.

"Congratulations," Everett tells him.

When John exits to the gateroom, Lorne's there, beaming, and everyone's on their feet, lining up to salute him. It's maybe not the very best moment of John's life, but it's definitely way up there.

=

John heads to the lab, and the oddness between him and Rodney doesn't stop Rodney from hugging him - apparently they hug now - at the news and making all the scientists present salute him, too: half of them give him the Vulcan salute, a couple give the one from Red Dwarf, and one guy seems to be doing a Ministry of Silly Walks thing. John gives them his best salute back anyway.

"Some of my guys want to buy me drinks," John says, "so I'm on my way - but I just wanted - "

"To gloat, yes, I know." Rodney barely manages to feign dismissive vitriol, he keeps losing the scowl to a grin. "Just remember, Colonel, the only reason I'm not promoted on a regular basis is because there isn't any higher for me to go."

It's not until then that John realizes he's been dreading that he lost the friendship in the mess of whatever else is going on. But Rodney's so transparently pleased for him that John can, at least, rest easy on that score.

=

"Sorry I haven't been around much," it occurs to John to say at the lunch table the next day as they're finishing up the meal.

It's taken twice as long as usual to eat because people keep coming over to congratulate him on the promotion. Ronon gets it, John can tell, while Teyla has been wearing the same vaguely benevolent look she gets on missions when she's honoring the wacky local rituals.

"It's okay," Ronon shrugs. "Busy anyway."

Teyla shoots a sardonic look at Ronon, but then she relaxes into a warm expression and says, "We are very happy for you both."

John can't help grinning down at the leftovers of his mashed amefe and blue beans. Even with Rodney being weird right now, even if the worst is happening and somehow it's already over - it's been really good just to be out, good to find out that it's not an issue to the people who matter to him. Good to hear their friends wish them well.

He wants that. He wants all of it, and he wants all of Rodney, the hypochondria and the pettiness and Rodney's puffy eyes in the morning and the way he thoughtlessly wipes his drool on John's shoulder, whether John's lucky enough to be wearing a pajama shirt at the time or not. He wants evening hours spent plausibly-deniably cuddling with Rodney while they review mission reports and read the funny parts to each other out loud.

He wants it enough to fucking talk about it, he realizes, and says, "Thanks, Teyla. I guess if I'm forgiven for ditching you, I might as well do it again," and stands.

"Practice tomorrow," Ronon says. "No more slacking."

Recklessly, John says, "I've been getting plenty of exercise."

"McKay can't be giving you much of a workout," Ronon says, unperturbed.

"You might be surprised."

"So surprise me in practice tomorrow," Ronon answers, smiling.

"Okay, okay," John promises, and goes.

=

John lets Rodney work for a six-hour stretch after lunch before he runs him to ground in his office and shuts the door.

"They're waiting on me in the lab," Rodney says.

"Look. There's obviously something," John tells him. "If it's about what happened that one time, the - thing you didn't seem to like. That's not some kind of thing with me. If it bugs you, it'll never happen again. Just say the word."

"What word is that?" Rodney asks, oddly tentative.

"Any word!" John forces himself calm and shrugs. "I won't do it again."

"Well." Rodney squares his shoulders and tips up his chin. "Okay."

=

It's not okay.

Rodney comes over that night and they trade blowjobs, but that's all it is: a trade. The next time they get together it's the same, and the next.

More talking, then. Son of a bitch.

He tries to come up with something, but John's just who he is; he doesn't have it in him to play true confessions.

"Do you want to fuck me?" he asks Rodney the next time. It's all he can think to offer. Practically every guy he's been with wanted that, or at least wanted to talk dirty to him about it if they couldn't do it.

"If you want," Rodney says, perfunctory yet solicitous.

"Or I could do you."

"Well, make up your mind."

"A little input would be nice, here."

"So," says Rodney, "you want my input, huh?"

John flips him off, rolling his eyes at the entendre, and Rodney snorts and slaps his ass, and that's it, things are okay again; god, thank god, that must have been it, typical Rodney, sulking because John didn't beg for his cock or whatever. John hands him a condom and the lube.

"Unless you want me to do it."

"No," Rodney says, "I like this part," setting off a deep thrill in John's stomach because oh, Rodney fingering him and liking it, that's - he flips over, all at once he can't wait.

"Give me a minute," Rodney chides, and when John cranes around to look, Rodney's sucking his own fingers. His shoulders hunch defensively. "What? It softens the skin. You'll see."

"I'm not questioning your style, here."

"Good," Rodney mumbles around his fingers, three of them now. John shivers a little, anticipating, and lies back down.

It's good: oh hell is it good, Rodney slowly working into him while John's breath echoes loud in his own ears. Rodney's amazingly patient. He starts with his index finger and plenty of lube, then switches - John looks over his shoulder again, it's Rodney's thumb now, thicker but not as thick as two fingers together. He works his thumb in deep before he switches again, two fingers now, his slick thumb rubbing against John's perineum. John presses his face into his folded arms, tamping down hard on the moan that wants out.

Rodney keeps going, steady and gradual, and even with all the care he's taken, John finds himself reeling.

"How many - it feels like your whole hand," he gasps.

"It's not," Rodney says, "just three fingers, it's okay. Turn over."

John does, and Rodney follows him, turning his hand to keep his fingers right where they are, and then his thumb's pressing behind John's balls and his mouth's on John's cock and his fingers slip out and in, out and in, too much, just perfectly enough - right there, there, perfect.

Rodney moves up, curling over him, sliding his fingers out and doing himself with his wet hand. John's too blissed out to do anything but watch. Anyway, it's fine with him if Rodney wants to come on him. Though Rodney doesn't; he catches it in his palm, and goes to the bathroom to wash his hands right away, not even a little unsteady.

He's in the bathroom for kind of a while, and by the time he comes back and settles into bed next to John and throws a leg over him, John's caught a clue that this wasn't the beautiful answer after all.

Fuck it. They've usually been able to cut through the crap with each other when it counted, before; John shifts a little nearer.

He's sort of talking at the top of Rodney's head, but if he waits for eye contact he might not be able to push through with this, so he just says, "You're going to tell me what's up with you eventually. So why don't we skip to that."

Rodney makes an irritated huffing noise, so John lays it on a little thicker with a lingering, "McKay."

He's surprised when Rodney reacts by inching closer and pressing the point of his nose into John's neck. "You asked," he says in warning.

His tone tells John what's coming next almost before he says it.

"It's... there are things I like that fall somewhat outside the typical spectrum of activities."

Oh. John considers how he'll take it if Rodney wants to - what. Smack him with a riding crop; dress up in women's clothes, or make John wear them; take a crap on his chest. John wants to be able to say that nothing's going to be a dealbreaker, here, but he's not so sure that's the truth.

"I can try," he says honestly instead.

"I suppose I just want you to - like the same things too. Is there anything...?"

"I've liked just about everything I've tried," John says, "but I don't think I've done a lot that's really out there."

"Something you've seen in porn, maybe."

"I'm kind of easy when it comes to that stuff. As long as the people having sex look like they're getting off on it, I usually like whatever."

"Figures," Rodney says morosely.

"Hey."

"I know, I know, sorry," Rodney says, and John relaxes, soothed by the hoop of the accented o, breathed against his throat. "I realize it's ironic in the extreme considering that in every other area in my life I can be, I'm told, perhaps a little demanding of special treatment, though only because it's both necessary and earned! - but when it comes to sex I'd rather not be merely indulged."

John gets it, finally. "Is this what ended things with you and Jennifer?"

"Not the only thing, but. Part of it. Yes. She tried," Rodney tells his Adam's apple. "She was good at it, even. But I'm, um, difficult." He snorts. "Imagine that."

Pressing a little closer, John winds an arm around him.

"I don't want to want this stuff. But I'm not getting any younger," Rodney says, "and the things I want are becoming non-optional."

John nods. He gets that; he's always wanted men, but it always used to be easy enough to sleep with women, too. He didn't even have to fantasize, just an enthusiastic partner was enough.

These days he could probably still manage it, but he might have to think about men to make it any good. He hasn't tried in a while. Easier to go without.

"So what is it," and John can't help himself, he has to add, "I'm pretty sure anything Keller could handle, I'm up for."

"Oh, you're so sure, are you? She is a doctor."

"Quit stalling," he says, "spit it out."

Reluctantly, Rodney says, "Well. Those times when I'm working on something and the clock's ticking, and you stand around yelling at me in a completely unhelpful way..."

"Don't give me unhelpful, I can see it makes you faster."

"Yes," Rodney admits reluctantly, and clears his throat. "It does. For uh, not the reasons you might have thought."

"You get off on that?" It's the wrong thing to say in the exact wrong tone, but John can't help it, he's surprised. Hastily he adds, "What's the big deal then? I mean, that's doable. That's so doable, we've already done it."

"You don't think it'll be different?"

"I don't think I'm going to have any problem yelling at you, no."

"It's not the volume, it's the." Rodney swallows.

John massages the back of his neck. Rodney's always tense there. He shifts gears, asking, "Keller could do that? She was good at it?"

"She had that whole sort of 'doctor's orders' thing working for her."

"Huh."

"But it wasn't something she was into herself, and I was always... aware of that. And, well. Eventually I realized I was always hearing you. Which wasn't fair to her."

"You maybe could've mentioned."

"Right, just like you could've mentioned you were gay."

"Because you could have lost your job for liking being yelled at?"

"Because I could've pissed off my team leader? And you wouldn't have lost your job. I can be discreet, at least, unless someone I really thought was dead this time comes back and kisses my neck..."

John bends and presses his mouth to Rodney's neck again, just the same way. Rodney sighs and squeezes him. John gives it a second and then he asks, "It's not the volume, it's...?"

"Telling me what to do," Rodney sighs, his voice dwindling, maybe the quietest John's ever heard him. "Not... I don't like pain, I don't like um, leather or the superficial trappings usually associated with - but. Being pushed around a little. That works. Restrained. Works. And told what to do. That really works."

John rests his feet on Rodney's insteps and strokes. He likes this, he's always liked this, for some reason, facing someone and touching their feet with his feet. Rodney's insteps are smooth; John's seen that his feet are hairless except a few dark strands on the joints of his big toes.

John pedals his feet against Rodney's lightly, enjoying the way it feels, his soles rubbing against Rodney's feet, and tries to imagine telling someone that he wants to do this. He couldn't put words to this if he had a gun to his head, and this is maybe the most innocent, least embarrassing thing he can imagine wanting in bed.

But Rodney did that, struggled with it and finally put words to what he wants. If Rodney can do that for John, John can find a way to do it too. They've always been competitive.

He kisses Rodney, slow and thorough. "Okay," John says. "Everything's going to be fine with this. You'll see."

=

It's slow going at first. Rodney doesn't want to be called names; it's a relief, John's not sure he could keep a straight face. But it also means there aren't any obvious words to use, no shortcuts.

At first he tries just telling Rodney to do things they've already done. It's not easy. It feels weird to say "Suck me" when he's used to being quiet in bed. When he's been proud, in a way he was never really conscious of before, that he could hint at what he wanted without ever needing to say it out loud.

And he's not sure Rodney's really getting what he needs out of it anyway; Rodney tends to dig his heels in and argue when John tells him to do anything Rodney wasn't already planning, and despite the blanket permission to push him around, John doesn't feel ready to manhandle him.

So he sticks to telling Rodney to do what he can see Rodney's already about to do anyway, in the most authoritative voice he can manage.

"Swallow," he says, the word sticking in his throat, and he puts his hand on Rodney's head as though to prevent him from pulling off, even though he knows Rodney isn't going to pull off, will swallow, because Rodney always has before. And yet, saying, "That's it, take it all," when he starts to come... it makes Rodney shudder and clutch at him, the first really good reaction John's achieved, and the satisfaction of seeing that gives John an extra kick too, or something. It's a hell of an orgasm, anyway.

=

He's going to get Rodney to react like that again if it kills him, and the only way to do that is to push the boundaries. John starts experimenting.

"Get over here," he says, when Rodney's barely inside the door. "Strip. Fast."

Rodney doesn't look thrilled, but he obeys.

"On the bed, no, other way. On your back, McKay, come on," John arranges Rodney with his head hanging upside-down off the end of the bed, the way John read about it in high school in an article about deep-throating in an old Penthouse magazine that was getting handed around.

He's never asked anyone to try it before. He thought of it sometimes, but it doesn't really follow naturally from any of the usual positions John maneuvers through during sex, so it always seemed awkward and cumbersome to suggest it.

But this thing with Rodney means he has to come up with stuff to tell Rodney to do, so he tells Rodney to do this.

"Open your mouth. Use your hands to guide me in and keep me from banging into you," John says, and he feeds his cock into Rodney's mouth. It's strange to feel the hard palate against the underside of his dick, ridged and firm, giving way to yielding smoothness as he works further in. Rodney's tongue presses against the top; there's not much control for him in this position, a side bonus.

"Hold up one finger for okay, two for not okay," John improvises. "And don't give the okay if you're not. I'll decide if you get to be okay or not. You just tell me what I need to know."

Rodney holds up one finger.

"All right," John says. He has no goddamn clue what he's doing, and for a second it scares him, but he's been here before - he's been here all the time in the last few years, no idea what he's doing but still left holding the bag. This time no one's life is on the line, it's not the safety of the base or life on Earth that depends on it.

All that's riding on this is whether Rodney gets off on it, and while John's pretty damn invested in that, it's not so much pressure compared to what he's used to.

He starts nudging in and out, gentle against Rodney's throat; Rodney swallows and swallows around him, probably instinctive, or just trying to get used to the sensation. It feels amazing.

Rodney grabs his hip, his other hand cupping John's balls, probably to keep them out of his face - John can't help finding it a little comical, the position, the whole scenario, it's kind of silly, but then Rodney's hand urges him a little deeper and there's nothing silly about it, he wants to fuck Rodney's throat, and more than that, he's supposed to say so - he wants to say so.

"That's good. Relax your throat," he says, "just take it," and looks down Rodney's body. Oh yeah, Rodney's definitely getting off on this, his dick's hard and bobbing, glossy at the tip.

"That's it, give it up for me," he says, his voice low and unfamiliar to his own ears, "get ready, I'm gonna go faster."

It feels - it's so hot, deep inside, searing, but cool everywhere else because Rodney's panting all over him, his nose upside down between John's thighs. When he speeds up, Rodney pushes him back, starting to choke; but then he recovers and pulls John in again, gulping around his dick and making cut-off little groans.

"You want to touch yourself," John says, not really a question, but Rodney holds up one finger anyway. "Do it. Make yourself come while I fuck you."

He can't even believe he's saying this stuff, he's the guy who stumbles all over himself trying to get out one damn word about a feeling. He's never asked for stuff in bed before, never told anybody what to do, but now he can.

And Rodney wants this, he keeps reminding himself, Rodney wants this: Rodney's hand is trembling as he strokes himself, his strangled groans getting louder.

"You want this," he says, "you want to get off like this while I'm fucking you," and Rodney thrusts up into his own hand and shoots all over himself.

"Jesus, Rodney, that's gorgeous," John says, because now that he's talking like this he doesn't know how to stop. Rodney grabs his hips with both hands now and pulls him in so, so deep and swallows and swallows, and the fluttering spasms of his throat are too much; John surges and comes.

John fishes tissues out of the bedside drawer and uses them to clean Rodney up, and falls onto the bed next to him, head at the foot, feet at the head; it doesn't matter. He lies on his back, tugs Rodney over, and Rodney follows, lying half on his stomach and half draped over John.

"Are you sure you've never done that before?" Rodney slurs. For a second John thinks he means the position. "Because," Rodney goes on, "I'm not sure I even fantasized that you'd be that good."

"It was - hot," John says. "Guess you inspired me."

=

The next time, though, Rodney offers to have sex without the talking. "It shouldn't always be about my, my thing," he says, in the stilted way Rodney fumbles when he's trying to be thoughtful.

They try sixty-nining, and it's good. It's exciting, the way was when they started all this.

It's just that when they started this, John didn't know about the other things they could be doing. As Rodney's mouth works around him, he keeps imagining how it would feel to tell him he has to take it. And he can't help wondering if Rodney's fantasizing about being told.

"That was great," he says afterward, when it's his turn to drape himself over Rodney and bask in the afterglow. "Gotta say, though. Kinda miss bossing you around."

He looks up in time to catch Rodney smiling thinly.

"Hey." He pokes Rodney. "Do I ever say stuff just to humor you?"

Rodney evaluates the question seriously. "In general, only when you think I'm about to die."

"New hypothesis, jackass," John says. "Maybe it takes an extreme situation to make it easier to say stuff that's, you know. Honest."

"Oh. Maybe?"

John says, "Could be."

=

The city's latest home planet is dotted with a number of islands, some forming a large archipelago in a balmy temperate zone. The vegetation tends toward a different shade of green than John's used to, a little more blue, and a number of the trees have dark red leaves.

It's a little strange to walk on a warm tropical beach of sugar-white sand overhung with crimson leaves dripping down from trees like weeping willows. Strange, but he'll take it. It's gorgeous.

He makes his way back to Jumper Four just in time to stop Rodney from setting everything up right at the base of the ramp. "Come on," he says, "we're here to be here, not to look out at it from the Jumper."

"But the shade," Rodney explains.

"There's a million trees!"

"Yeah, way over there."

"Good choice, that's the perfect spot." John grabs a cooler, stacks some folded blankets on top and hefts it all up, heading for the shady stretch Rodney indicated. "Hup hup, c'mon."

He knows he can't make Rodney tote and carry for long without getting an earful, even though this whole trip was Rodney's idea. John leaves him spreading out the blankets and heads back to the Jumper, sticking his fingers into his mouth to produce his most piercing whistle.

Ronon emerges from the treeline, eerily silent, even with his knee splinted up. "Lot of wild fruit," he says. "And tracks all around it. Hoofprints. Good hunting."

Torren's laughter rings out from deeper in the woods and down the beach. "Hey," John calls out, "all ashore that's going ashore!"

Amelia's carrying Torren, bracketed by Teyla and Kanaan; even here, as safe as Atlantis can make them, they're always primed to protect him.

"We're setting up there," John indicates, and Kanaan comes to help him carry the rest of the baskets to their spot, Teyla hefting the beach umbrella. Ronon walks alongside Amelia with only a little hitch in his step, and he watches her cuddle Torren with a reverent, gentle look on his face.

While the others settle Torren down and feed him, John parks a second cooler next to Rodney and says quietly to Ronon, "You guys talked about it?"

Ronon casts a smile at him askance. "Yeah. Someday."

John wasn't ready for how that hits him, pushing a hard breath out through his nose like he's been punched; his eyes sting. Teyla has her family, John and Rodney have each other, and John's wanted that for Ronon too, something certain, even though he knows it's been a lot of years since Ronon allowed himself the luxury of hope.

John's a little choked up and ready to be a lot embarrassed about it, but Rodney's already saying, crabby and brisk, "Well, I'm not doing delivery duty twice."

"But Rodney," John says, "you've had practice."

"I've done more than my fair share. You can take the next one, Colonel Ob-Gyn."

"No," John says, "I really can't," and Ronon laughs.

"Why not?" he asks, his moustache twitching along with the edges of his lips. "She does all the work."

"I've played enough football in muddy conditions," John starts, but Rodney makes an irked noise and waves him quiet.

"Stop, you're going to give me flashbacks and I want to eat at some point today. Preferably soon," Rodney says, "as in now," and he digs into the cooler.

Torren's too excited and restless to stay still, so Teyla and Kanaan lead him to the rim of the waves to print his baby feet in the sand, waving his arms wide with every step. Amelia helps Ronon up and walks with him, stopping him from loping too quickly and aggravating the injury to his knee.

Putting on sunscreen for the third time, Rodney keeps stealing looks at-- something, the blanket, or John's shoes or his legs or his ass, it's hard to tell; John says, "Spit it out."

Rodney hrms, "You took the good cushion."

"I deserve the good cushion," John says, "after the night I had."

He'd never say it around anyone but their nearest and dearest, because he can practically read a recap of the night before right off Rodney's face.

He almost can't believe he's the guy who said those things, who ordered Rodney to bend him over the foot of the bed and fuck him, give it to me, harder, c'mon, harder, that's it, angle up a little-- oh God, there, there, there, damn it, Rodney, don't you dare slow down, don't stop.

"Fine," Rodney says, looking a little pink. "Though let it be noted that you asked for it. Demanded it, in point of fact," he adds, and yeah, that's definitely a little bit of a blush. "Though if I'd known you were going to insist we wear ourselves out like that last night, I wouldn't have planned this outing for today."

"Yeah, what about that," John says. "I thought I wasn't getting a picnic because we're still kind of at war."

Rodney looks at him, then past him, his eyes tracking Torren's bobbing steps at the edge of the water. John hasn't seen that expression on him often, not til lately; he thinks maybe it's contentment.

Rodney says, "The war can wait."

=

The day Rodney comes off a binge of all-nighters and completes wormhole drive 2.0 - debugged, modular, and slightly less power-hungry - he accepts everyone's congratulations and a hug from John (they do that now.) Then he crashes in his quarters and sleeps the entire next day.

But the evening after that, he comes to John's quarters, not quite meeting his eyes, and John holds back a smile.

"Did you want something?" he asks sweetly.

"Obviously," says Rodney, crossing his arms. "Could we - I don't want to wait."

"No, no, no," John says, "see, and now you're in trouble; if you didn't want to wait, you'd just strip down and drop for me, and tell me what you wanted. Wouldn't you."

"I just - John - "

John goes over to him, bends his arm behind him and marches him over to the bed, steering him past it and over to the chair nearby. John snags a pillow, tosses it to the floor and pushes Rodney down onto his knees on the padding.

"Can you be good like that?" John asks. "Or do you need help?"

"I'm not going to," oh, Rodney's in a state this time, he actually goes to make the airquotes, "be - "

John squats next to him, clapping a hand over his mouth. "So," he says, "you need help," and he looks into Rodney's eyes, finds them wide and wanting.

"Okay," he says, and stands and goes to get the cuffs. They're new; he's been saving them, suspecting Rodney would need something a little more intense, after neglecting everything else to finish the project.

"I don't," Rodney starts, but he can't claim he doesn't want them. His hands are already linked behind his back. John rewards him with a little kiss, and straps the cuffs around his wrists, cinching the ties.

Then he parks himself in the chair and props his feet up on Rodney's shoulder, ankles crossed, and opens up War and Peace.

He lets Rodney marinate, til Rodney bursts out with, "I have more important things to do than sit here being your ottoman!"

John looks over the top of his book. "So, you ready to tell me what you want?"

Rodney purses his lips, but he's silent. John shrugs and goes back to reading.

"This is a waste of my time," Rodney points out.

"So, if you want to go, go."

"Maybe I would, but you cuffed me."

John grins. "You're a genius, get out of them."

Rodney's face shifts, quicksilver, from irritation to keen interest. "Is there a safety catch? A puzzle lock?"

Turning the page, John keeps his poker face on.

When he's sure Rodney's attention is completely absorbed, John watches the bunch and play of Rodney's biceps as he feels the cuffs, tracing the intersections of fabric and wood, trying to gauge whether the lock can be undone from within the restraints.

And in the process, he can't help tugging at the cuffs a lot. John knows that's one of Rodney's biggest turn-ons - pressure around his wrists, from John's hands or from pulling at restraints or having them pulled.

By the time Rodney has examined the cuffs from every angle he can while still in them and concluded there's no way out of them, he's hard, a beautiful length vividly outlined by his BDUs. He breathes heavily, glaring.

"It's a good thing you got promoted," he huffs, "I wouldn't let a lieutenant colonel put me through all this."

John uncrosses his ankles and moves one bare foot to touch against Rodney's throat and down his chest. "Ready to be good for me yet?"

Rodney visibly tries to muster his annoyance again, so John drops his foot and presses lightly against the head of his dick where it strains against his pants.

He gasps, "John."

John puts a bookmark in War and Peace, complaining, "I was just getting to the good part."

As soon as he puts his hands on Rodney, Rodney breaks and starts, "I want to - " but John bends fast and kisses him before he gets a chance to say it. Once he's worked himself up to asking, Rodney really wants to get the words out.

Sometimes it's more fun not to let him.

John straightens and Rodney leans and lunges, pressing his face against John's thigh, greedy and generous, trying to coax John into accepting a blowjob, begging, "Let me - you know you love it when - "

"I decide what happens when," John reminds him, easing away. "Stand up," he adds, and helps him to his feet. He separates the cuffs - they do have a trick to them, just not one that a person wearing them can trigger - and rolls Rodney's t-shirt off him, getting him out of the rest of his clothes too, while his arms are free to help him keep his balance.

Then he brings Rodney's hands around front, re-links the cuffs and arranges Rodney's bound hands over his head. "There. Like that. Onto the bed, face up," he says, strips his own clothes off, and fetches the lube.

"Please," Rodney says the moment he sees it. "God, John."

John presses his fingers to Rodney's lips, slips them inside. Rodney sucks at them, his eyes dropping shut, long lashes fanned out, deceptively calm, deep in the zone.

Uncapping the tube, John coats his wet fingers and shoulders Rodney's legs apart; Rodney doesn't make anything easy when they do this, never gives anything up because he wants to feel John take it instead.

And even so, as John pushes two slippery fingers into him, he's almost chanting, "Please, yes, do it, do it." The one thing John's never told him to do is be quiet.

John's always careful with him, so this is always the most torturous part, when Rodney's keyed up and begging and every word goes straight to John's dick, but Rodney's body isn't ready for him.

John handles it by making sure Rodney's just as desperate as he is, rolling his fingers over Rodney's prostate and telling him, "I'm going to fuck you so hard, you're not going to think you can take it - go ahead, try to get away, I'm looking forward to it. I haven't even tied down your hands. You could stop me if you really wanted." Before, he had no idea these things were even in his head, but it's always ready to spill out of his mouth now whenever Rodney wants this.

"Please, John, please - give me - "

"Tell me."

"Just fuck me!" Rodney says sharply, hungry, and John laughs.

"Good. Good," and he lines himself up and slides in, pushes Rodney's legs back and sets an easy pace.

Too easy, deliberately, so that Rodney tries to push up to meet him, urge him faster, and John pins his hips down hard and makes him wait for it while Rodney tosses his head and all but sobs his name.

Nice and slow and steady, snapping his hips a little harder every time and saying, "Someday, you're going to come from nothing but my cock inside you." Rodney's dick jumps in response.

"See, you're almost there already," John says, "and we'll do that, I'll train you to it, I'll get you there. I love you, I can't wait, we'll make it happen. Someday. It won't be long," and he thrusts in deep and pulls his fist up the iron length of Rodney's cock, just that easy, one stroke and Rodney's firing off, head thrown all the way back, and it lasts, his body pulsing around John for seconds on end, long enough for John to get in a good three, four, five more thrusts, to almost feel like he could happily do this forever -

A last powerful throb brings him off, everything in him spilling out. He drives in hard one more time, trying to get as deeply into Rodney's body as he possibly can, and Rodney's cuffed hands link behind John's neck and pull him down into a kiss.

"Undo these," he says, and John does, "I want, here," Rodney kisses him again, "I'm sorry I fight, I can't help it, but it's so good when you make me - "

"You can fight. I like it," John says, "I can make you, I want to."

"You really do," Rodney says wonderingly, and holds tight. "John. I love you."

If that's not the best moment of John's entire life - well, John doesn't know what is.