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Accidentally In Love

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If John had to pick a world out of a lineup starring those mostly likely to turn his life upside down, P3X-793 wouldn't have even shuffled through the door.

P3X-793 was a pretty planet. The settlement was located in a Mediterranean-like zone, and even without any of the distinctive cliffs, the whitewashed adobe village immediately brought snapshot images of Santorini to mind. The people were just as warm as the weather. Smiles abounded, food was plentiful.

Yep, it was a pretty world. Gentle and colorful. John's own personal chaos butterfly, which alighted with a question so commonplace that he never even noticed it happening.

"How did you sleep last night?" Helena asked as she passed Rodney the cheese plate again. John would have warned her ahead of time that seating Rodney and Ronon on opposite sides of the table was a bad move, efficiency-wise, but she and Mikel had been stubborn about the seating arrangements.

"Fine, good," Rodney said, paying more attention to his fork than his words. "The bed didn't kill my back for once. Is there, ah, any more of the pear thing?"

"Of course." Helena managed to unearth the plate with the last slice of fruit tart from between all of the other half-empty platters. "I am glad that our hospitality suited you."

Then she winked at John.

"And how was your night, Teyla?" Mikel asked before John could finish panicking over what was probably only a friendly gesture. Probably. "Ronon?"

Ronon stopped glowering at McKay and looked over at Teyla on the bench beside him. She scooted her plate, still bearing half a slice of the tart, an inch closer to Ronon without turning her smile away from their hosts.

"It was most pleasant, thank you," she said while Ronon scooped up the tart. "The quarters were some of the most sumptuous I have ever seen."

Helena beamed like a mother gloating over her newborn. "I thought you would appreciate them. All of you," she said, making a wide circle with her hand. "I just had that feeling when you came through the ring together. The timing was too perfect."

John got that uh-oh feeling in his gut again, but Mikel simply rolled his eyes like Helena had just announced that the postman had brought another Publisher's Clearinghouse envelope. Mikel didn't let his opinion stop him from dutifully lifted his mug of water and tipping it gently in their direction. John held up his own, elbowing Rodney in the side as unobtrusively as he could manage.

"Ow! What?"

For once, arching his eyebrows was enough for Rodney to get the picture. It might have helped that everyone else had a mug in their hand.

"We thank the Ancestors for bringing us new friends," Mikel intoned, the solemn timber of his words at odds with the smile crinkling the corners of his eyes. He paused, looking at Helena until the smile met his lips. "And yes, my dear wife, our blessing is doubled by the presence of two such loving couples."

Ronon choked on his water. John wished he'd jumped the gun and drank as well so he could do the same. He looked at Rodney. Rodney looked at him. If they'd been back on Atlantis, John would have made some comment about seashell pink not really being Rodney's color. But Rodney was already recovering, the muscles in his jaw moving in slow motion to reel in his shock and spin out some insult that John could see turning this very nice visit into a disaster.

"Oh, ah," Rodney said, "we're not--"

"Used to such gracious hosts," John jumped in with his friendliest smile. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Rodney open his mouth again, so he squeezed Rodney's knee. Hard. "We're just happy to be here."

Helena's age dropped away as she ducked her head and gave her husband a sweet smile. John would have bet money that Mikel was going to get some later.

"What are you doing?" Rodney hissed in his ear at the same time as he dug his fingers into John's knuckles. John let go so he could grab Rodney's hand. "We're not--"

John kept smiling, but he turned his head so his profile hid their mouths. With any luck, theirwhispering would be taken for a simple lover's tete-a-tete. "Shut up, Rodney. Let the nice people think what they want to think, okay?"

He pulled back, raising his eyebrows each time Rodney opened his mouth. John was already wondering what the hell he'd been thinking when he decided to go this route. Not only was Rodney a terrible liar, but he also had an insatiable need to spill as much information as he could to anyone willing to listen. But little white lies were the bread and butter of good trade relationships. John thought they could pull this one off, if only Rodney would stop looking like a water-starved fish.

"Fine," Rodney not-whispered at last. John relaxed his grip, and Rodney eased away from him, looking back down at his plate. "But don't expect any PDAs."

"Wouldn't dream of it," John said through his smile. "Besides, I already have one."

"I meant Public Displays of Affection, Colonel," Rodney snapped. "I was trying to be circumspect."

"I know what you meant." John felt like burying his head in his hands. He figured there was no way Helena hadn't been disabused of her romantic thoughts by now, but she simply giggled at them.

"How long have you two been together?" she asked.

John smiled harder. "Going on three years."

"Practically newlyweds!"

"Ooh, grapes!" Rodney blurted, and suddenly became intensely occupied with trying to spear them from the bowl at John's elbow.

Considering the way Helena looked on the cusp of asking about kids, John wished he hadn't lost his own fork sometime after the main course. He glanced away from Helena's expectant eyes, hoping for divine intervention.

And lo and behold, Teyla and Ronon looked like they'd never seen a better show than the one he and Rodney were putting on.

"It feels like I've known Rodney forever," John said, his smile coming much more easily this time. "But Ronon and Teyla, now. They haven't even been together a year."

Helena's attention swung to the pair like a dog spotting a bone. Teyla narrowed her eyes at him before she looked back at Helena and Mikel. Her smile said she was about to pull out all the stops. John caught the words "simply stunned me the first time we met," but his admiration for her skill was undercut by the way Ronon had started to play with his table knife.

"Oh, now you've done it," Rodney muttered. "At least I'm not stupid enough to spar with them on a regular basis."

"I didn't hear you coming up with anything better."

"Yes, because the truth was such a dumb idea."

The bowl tipped and half of the grapes went flying into John's lap.

"Ah, sorry?"

"Whatever, McKay." John spread his legs enough to let the grapes roll onto the floor. Then he plucked the fork out of Rodney's hand, stabbed the three grapes left in the bowl onto the tines, and handed it back over.

Rodney stared at it like he'd never eaten solid food before. Ronon cracked up, drawing the others' attention back to John and Rodney.

Thankfully, a gong rang in the distance.

"I'm sorry," Mikel said. "But that's our call to meeting. We were having such an enjoyable meal that I'd forgotten it was scheduled."

John tried not to sigh with relief too obviously. "Hey, no problem. Don't let us keep you."

Helena and Mikel stood. "Feel free to linger," she said. "We'll have plenty of time this afternoon for the tours you wanted."

"Thank you," Teyla said. John smiled yet again and waved goodbye.

Rodney leaned forward as soon as they stepped off the dais. "Explain to me why they think we're a couple. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

"Hey, I'm a great catch!" John protested.

Teyla rolled her eyes. "And it makes more sense for them to assume that Ronon and I are together?"

"Well, yes." Rodney's brow wrinkled. "You're an attractive woman."

"So of course, I must belong with one of you."

"I didn't say that," Rodney backpedaled, obviously seeing the same neon-bright warning lights that John was. "But come on, me and Sheppard?"

"Be grateful that this is the first time it has happened," Teyla said, pushing back from the table. "I cannot count the number of times that people have assumed that I am with one of you. At least here, they do not think that it means I cannot speak for myself."

"Wait. When has that happened?" John leaned forward. "I've seen plenty of drooling go on, and Lucius was a real asshole. Are you saying there's been worse than that?"

"I am hard pressed to label anyone worse than Lucius," she said dryly. "Truthfully, it has not been as bad since I started working with you. But there are times when all of the little slights, the looks and judgments, all add up."

"Damn it, Teyla." John sighed. He depended so much on her expertise that sometimes he thought she was invincible. That all the stupid shit that happened to people on Earth was too petty to happen out here. "We can drop the whole act if you want. Even if they kick us out."

Rodney made a whine high in his throat; he'd been all but panting for a chance to look at the 'Cave of the Ancestors' that Mikel had mentioned in passing. John went for Rodney's thigh again, but Rodney caught his hand.

"Oh, please, Colonel," he snapped. "I'm not completely insensitive. Although, as Teyla herself pointed out, it's not like they were treating her poorly."

"Not any worse than they were treating McKay," Ronon agreed. He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled evilly. "I think he likes being the wife."

Rodney spluttered.

"I think we should stay," Teyla said. She stood up, stepping gracefully over the low bench seat. Her arch look swept them all into the same pile. "Perhaps you will learn something."

She didn't quite stalk out of the room, but her head was held high as she passed under the wisteria-draped lintel. He could see her through the unframed windows as she strode down the limestone path, heading back towards the cottage that they'd all spent the night in.

"So, do you think there's going to be a quiz later?" John quipped. He didn't need to look to see Rodney roll his eyes. "Seriously, have you either of you noticed what she was talking about?"

"I've seen her get some gruff." Ronon shrugged. "She won't let me do anything about it, though."

"Yes, well, I would imagine that would negate the point, wouldn't it?"

Ronon grinned. "Doesn't matter if they're dead, does it?"

"Okay, okay," John broke in before Rodney could bring up Canada's civilized superiority again. "Do what she says, Ronon. Just, you know. Watch out for her."

Ronon stretched to the side and snagged the seemingly-bottomless cheese plate. "You want to tell me something new, Sheppard?"

"Yeah. You're starting to sound like McKay."

"Oh, ha ha." Rodney pushed the grapes off of his fork and leaned across John to steal the last hunk from under Ronon's nose. "Now that we've decided that life sucks for Teyla, let's turn back to the truly important question. Is there a reason these people think I'm gay?"

"I'm sure they've clued into your impeccable taste and manners," John said, brushing at his pants to get rid of the cheese crumbles Rodney had lost. "Or maybe it's your effervescent personality."

"Don't forget that you're one half of this very gay equation, Colonel. And believe me, I'm not the one who looks the part."

"Maybe it's because you two act like an old married couple," Ronon said.

John knew better than to swallow the bait, no matter how tempting, but Rodney went for it like he hadn't eaten in weeks.

"What? What do you mean by that?"

Ronon pointed a finger at the two of them. "What I said. The bickering, the teasing, the way Sheppard winds you up for fun."

"Hey!" John didn't need that little secret spilled. It was one of his key team management skills, after all.

Ronon smirked. "The way you both get jealous if somebody gets between you."

"That's friendly competition," John protested.

"Oh, really," Rodney said dryly. "I thought you just enjoyed leaving me with blue balls."

John stared.

"I didn't mean that the way it sounded," Rodney said quickly. "I meant because you're always getting in my way with the beautiful women. Not because you... Oh, forget it."

"Let's forget about the whole conversation," John suggested, just shy of making it an order. "Are you guys done eating yet, or should I see if they have doggie bags?"

"Ooh, do you think they might?"

John gave him the look. The look that he had to pull out whenever Rodney got too caught up in his own pleasures to think straight. Rodney gave him the same look he always gave John in return: the slightly sheepish, kind of pissy, mostly beaten-puppy look that made John frown harder so he wasn't tempted to take it back.

"What's a doggie bag?" Ronon asked.

John sighed and made a half-hearted attempt to explain. The conversation devolved into a discussion on Satedan versus Canadian cuisine that lost John after they stopped talking about coffee. Thankfully, their hosts returned before John had to start defending the Big Mac.

The rest of the day passed as uneventfully as John had learned to hoped for. The 'Cave of the Ancestors' turned out to be nothing more than a grotto with several really old paintings and an altar, and yeah, he silently agreed with Rodney's much ruder disappointment. A ZPM or two and a nice cache of drones would have been sweet. But their hosts were still smiling at the end of the day, so John counted the whole thing as a win. Or at least a tie.

As for the whole couple thing--their guides seemed more interested in showing them around their city than grilling John and Rodney on the details of their relationship. John couldn't help playing it up a few times, though. The first time John laid his hand on the small of Rodney's back, he got a nice little jump and a hastily hidden death glare that warmed the cockles of his heart. Rodney's reactions petered out after that. John would have stopped, but they met back up with Helena at dinner, and she simply glowed every time John acted a bit solicitous.

Really, the whole thing wasn't a big deal. At least, it shouldn't have been. But back in the cottage, staring at the big bed they'd shared the night before, John was suddenly hit by an attack of nerves. The carefully-turned down sheets and big fluffy pillows beckoned feyly, while the thick comforter was no help at all, lounging at the foot of the bed, practically laughing at how easily it would slide to the ground with just a little bit of activity.

"Oh, good God." Rodney sat down on the edge of the bed and began loosening his shoelaces. "It's a huge bed. I'm not going to molest you in your sleep."

"I know that." John shook his head at himself, sense of humor returning with Rodney's impatience. "Are you sure I won't molest you, though?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. John grinned and stripped down to his boxers. He slipped between the sheets, completely over whatever it was that had gotten into his head before. Rodney finished settling his clothes and shoes and watch and PDA and God knew what else, and then he finally climbed in on the other side of the bed.

The light was still on.

Rodney huffed.

"Last one in," John reminded him.

Rodney huffed again, but he got out of bed. The process of finding his way back to the bed in the dark took three times as long as crossing the room in the light--for a genius, Rodney was really bad at remembering how to walk in a straight line. He finally made it back without any yelps or howls, tugged the covers so hard that he pulled them half off of John, and got into bed. Then he proceeded to flop around four times before finally, finally settling into place.

"If I have to go through this every night," John deadpanned, "I want a divorce."

"Well if you'd show an ounce of concern about my back, I wouldn't have to go through this. Some husband you are."

John laughed. Rodney chuckled along with him.

"Have you ever thought about it?" Rodney asked.

"Being married to you? Not even in my nightmares, McKay."

"You're a barrel of laughs, you know that?"

"I'm gifted that way."

Rodney snorted. "Yes, whatever you need to tell yourself."

John grinned at the dark.

"No, I meant, you know," Rodney said quietly. "The thing with men. Theoretically speaking, of course."

John shrugged. "Theoretically, I guess. I mean, you kind of have to, right? Have to wonder what they get out of it."

"Yes, exactly!" Rodney sounded like he'd just hit on a new hypothesis. "I keep getting stuck on breasts. How can you not love breasts?"

"I don't think it's so much not liking breasts," John mused. "I've heard of gay guys who are really into breasts. It's just that they like other things more."

"And by other things, you mean dick."

"Yes, Rodney. I mean dick."

Rodney rolled, tugging the blankets out of position yet again. "I guess it wouldn't be that odd. Like touching yourself."

"Except for the part where it's somebody else's dick," John said, but he thought about it. Definitely weird, but he could understand Rodney's logic. A hand was a hand, a dick was a dick. Sort of. "Not as weird as other stuff, though."

"Like kissing," Rodney said immediately.

"Something which you know all about."

"That was Cadman!"

John chuckled and rolled towards Rodney. "Yeah, but you were along for the ride. So you know what it feels like."

This close to each other, John could just make out Rodney's sourpuss expression. Either that, or he was getting too good at predicting the faces Rodney made.

"I was a little more concerned about staying sane at the time," Rodney grumbled. After a few seconds, he added, "It was like kissing a woman. Badly. And with stubble. Believe me, I'm going to be much more conscientious about shaving in the future."

"A little five o'clock shadow is manly, Rodney."

"You're just saying that because you get one o'clock shadow." Rodney reached up and scratched at his own face. John could hear the stubble rasp under his fingers. "I always thought that women were just overreacting, but if it's that annoying on the face, can you imagine it down there?"

John licked his lips. "Mmm. I'd definitely miss doing that."

"Mmmm, yes," Rodney practically hummed out his agreement. "Nothing like the sweet, sweet taste of a woman."

John snuck a hand under the sheets to adjust himself. "And sliding in... There's nothing like that."

"Oh, yeah." Rodney cleared his throat. "Although, with a man, you'd still have certain options. That can't be too different."

"It's different," John said without thinking. "Still good, but you feel it in different places."

"Something I should know, Colonel?"

"What?" John asked, confused. Then he figured it out. "No! I meant on a woman."

"Oh, right." Rodney sounded embarrassed. "So, ah, you've done that before?"

John nodded. "A couple of women I was with really, really got off on it."

"Huh. I wouldn't have thought... Well, you know. No prostate."

John didn't say anything, thinking about Yvonne. She'd talked him into playing around one lazy Sunday afternoon, when the sun was too hot to do anything outside, but the breeze was perfect with the windows open and the curtains billowing over the bed. He couldn't imagine sticking anything as big as a cock up there, but yeah, oh yeah, a couple of fingers had been good.

"So that's a plus in the guy column, actually."

John blinked. He was starting to zone out. "What is?"

"Having a prostate," Rodney said like John was stupid.

John thought Rodney might be right. He was sleepy and horny and spilling sex secrets to Rodney McKay on a planet in a galaxy far, far away. Pretty damn stupid.

"Blowjobs would still be good," John added, too tired to worry about it all that much.

"Getting, definitely. But giving... I guess it would be like kissing. Intimate."

John rolled onto his front, letting the soft mattress cradle his half-hard dick. "It's a reciprocity thing," he mumbled, and then he fell asleep.

When Rodney showed up at his quarters four days later, John totally didn't get it.

"I was wondering if you wanted to watch a movie," Rodney asked, more diffidently than he usually bothered to be.

John shrugged, but he was already mentally out the door. He showed up at movie night on his own from time to time, but he usually preferred to be invited. Theoretically it was all about giving his people room to breathe, but John was man enough to admit to himself that he just liked to be asked.

"What's playing?" he asked casually.

"I'm not sure, actually." Rodney thrust his laptop at John's chest. "I downloaded Die Hard earlier. Accidentally, of course, and I thought that before I delete it, you might like to watch?"

Die Hard. John loved Die Hard. But-- "I thought you said you hate Die Hard."

Rodney reeled the laptop back in, clutching it to his chest like a teddy bear. "I hate the broken glass scene. So if you're going to have a problem with me closing my eyes, then we can just forget about it."

John grabbed Rodney's upper arm and tugged. "Get in here, McKay."

Rodney settled in on John's couch, fiddling with the arrangement of his laptop on the coffee table until they could both see it. Once he got it adjusted to his satisfaction, he looked over at John, finger hovering over the play button. "I don't suppose you have any popcorn?"

"I'm so glad I could welcome you into my home theater, Rodney," John said, but he got up and dug out his stash. The Ancient heating gizmo wasn't all that different than a microwave, but it was much better at not burning the kernels. He divided the bag into two bowls--always a necessary move with Rodney--and sat down, ready to see Bruce Willis kick some ass.

They'd just gotten to the part where the first guard was taken out when Rodney heaved a huge huffy sigh and paused the movie.

"You do get that this is fiction, right?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Yes, of course. But I can hardly see the screen. The glare in here is terrible."

John shrugged. "So fix it."

Rodney leaned forward. John assumed he'd fiddle with the position of the screen some more, but instead he picked up the whole laptop, scooted closer to John, and balanced it on their thighs.

"Cozy," John said.

Rodney rolled his eyes as he reached for the play button, but John thought his cheeks were a little pink. John grinned and went back to watching the movie.

Or tried to, anyway. Rodney kept shifting and fidgeting, rubbing his thigh against John's and elbowing John's side every few seconds. The screen was bobbing so much that Bruce looked like he was in the Poseidon Adventure, not Die Hard.

John finally broke after the laptop nearly slid off. "Would you just stop?" he snapped, clamping his hand down hard on Rodney's thigh.

Rodney squeaked. "Sorry! It's just that it's hot. The fan's right over sensitive skin, and I can feel it burning--"

John shoved the laptop fully into Rodney's hands, stood up, and marched over to his desk.

"No, wait! I can handle it. Even if it is bad for the hardware--"

Rodney finally shut up when John held the lap desk six inches from his face.

"Happy now?"

"Yes, thank you." Rodney grabbed the desk and stuck it under the computer. "Although you could have mentioned you had one earlier."

"I'm so sorry, Princess. You want me to check under the cushions for peas?" John waited for the eye-rolling, but Rodney looked down at the keyboard and cleared his throat. He took the hint and settled back into place next to Rodney, half of the lap desk balanced on his left thigh. It wasn't the most comfortable way he'd ever watched a movie, but it wasn't awful, either. Definitely warm, what with Rodney pressed along his entire left side.

John just happened to look over at Rodney during the reunion scene. Rodney's face was soft and open, a tiny smile around his lips, and he let out a tiny sigh and sort of melted against John's side. He didn't stay that way for long, so John didn't say anything--even though he grinned at the idea that Rodney was a closet romantic.

Rodney hit stop as soon as the credits started rolling. They both stood. John stretched his arms over his head, trying to get rid of the tingling in his leg.

"So that wasn't so bad," Rodney offered.

"Which part? The movie, or having to put up with your fidgeting?" John smiled as he said it, but again his teasing fell flat. Rodney pressed his lips together, and John felt a little bad about it.

"Well, I should go." Rodney grabbed his laptop and tucked it under his arm. "So, thanks for putting up with me."

"Hey, thanks for the movie," John said. "It was fun."

Rodney finally smiled. "It was, wasn't it?"

John nodded.

"Okay, goodnight," Rodney said. And then he patted John on the arm, spun on his heel, and took off for John's door like he had a Wraith on his heels.

John stuck his head out the door to watch him go, amused by whatever had gotten into Rodney tonight. Part of the fun of being around McKay was trying to figure out exactly what was driving him to do the wacky things he did. Running for their lives on a constant basis was doing him good. Watching him book it down the hall, seeing the way he filled out his black fatigues, John would have taken him for any soldier.

He blinked, finally getting it. Rodney had worn his black fatigues. The blacks looked good on everybody, but they were especially flattering on Rodney. And he'd shown up with one of John's favorite movies, a fact that had come up in discussion a good six months ago.

The data kept presenting itself, even though John didn't want to add it up. The odd fumbling with their positions, until they'd wound up pressed more closely together than two teens at a drive in. Rodney's weird attempts to be polite, and the way he kept looking disappointed when John brushed them off. That awkward pat on the shoulder.

The fact that Rodney had shaved.

John stepped back, letting the door close in his face as he tried to tell himself he was full of shit. But every way he looked at it, John kept coming to the same conclusion.

He'd just been on a date with Rodney fucking McKay.

John sat down on his coffee table, staring at the spot on his couch where they'd been practically cuddling minutes before. He wasn't given to hysterical laughter, but right then could have used some outlet for the panicky humor tumbling around in his head.

A fucking date.

Obviously, Rodney had taken something different away from their little bedtime conversation than John had. Liking breasts and pussy, check. Liking blowjobs, check. Liking gay sex? Big no. Okay, so he'd been the one to bring up anal sex, but that wasn't the same thing at all.

It definitely wasn't Rodney's wide blue eyes staring up at John as he pushed in, slow and easy.

John scrubbed at his eyes. He really hadn't needed to think that thought, ever. Bad thoughts. Bad, bad thoughts, and he was totally blaming Helena and Mikel. He knew that planet had been too good to be true.

Fuck. He was going to have to straighten Rodney out. And that was a pun Rodney would appreciate, if the whole situation wasn't such a mess.

Maybe if he didn't do anything, the whole thing would just go away. He wasn't going to spend anymore time thinking about it.

"No, no, no. Biochemistry is not one of the basic sciences," Rodney ranted, not even bothering to glare at John before he turned back to Elva. Buxom, beautiful, blonde Elva, who was now on the receiving end of one of Rodney's stupidly happy smiles. "Not that you won't want to add that to your curriculum eventually. It's fundamental to such things as, oh, all of Wraith technology."

"Not to mention little things like medicine and pharmacology," John put in.

Elva smiled at him over Rodney's shoulder, but Rodney went on as if John was less than a gnat flitting in and out of his peripheral vision.

"As I was saying, it looks like you've got a pretty good outline already. Now, what do you have in the way of texts?"

John sighed and fought the urge to crawl under the console to take a nap. They'd been at this all afternoon, Rodney hmmphing and ah-haing and tsking as he studied the details of the Pristani's revamped science curriculum. And in between each opinion, he'd smile and brag and attempt to flirt with Elva. The whole spectacle was making John's stomach hurt.

Or maybe that was hunger pangs.

"Why don't we take a break," he said, leaning forward so he could make eye contact with Elva past Rodney's big brainy head. "Didn't you say something about dinner earlier?"

"Oh! Yes," Elva said. She looked like John had just accused her of keeping her kid locked in a cage in the basement. "I'm sorry, I was just so caught up with Dr. McKay's excitement..."

"Please, call me Rodney," McKay said with that same stupid smile. John rolled his eyes, and Elva giggled. Rodney just smiled at her harder. "And, um, you said there was food?"

"Yes, of course. Please, follow me."

She led them down two flights of stairs, to the main level of the hall, and into a large room that reminded John a lot of his first high school cafeteria. The wall of windows on the far side of the room was mirrored from the darkness outside, but he imagined it would be a pretty nice view during the day. The serving line was more like a hotel buffet than a mess line, with metal warming pans lined up in a long row on the front table.

"So, Elva," John opened while they waited for Rodney to decide if the chicken-looking meat was tempting enough to risk possible citrus contamination, "what made you decide to become a teacher?"

"My father was a teacher," she said with a shrug. Then her eyes widened and a faint rose blush crept up her throat. "But it was more than that, of course. I mean, I didn't do it just because that was all I knew."

"Of course," John said, smiling to try to set her at ease. She'd seemed so much more comfortable back in the lab when they were talking science.

"I never liked teaching that much," Rodney said, now staring down some kind of pasta dish. "Too boring. Plus, the idiot ratio is just that much higher before the truly pathetic ones get weeded out."

"You were a teacher?" Elva asked breathily. John stabbed up a lump of what looked like meatloaf, reminding himself that not everybody caught on to Rodney from the beginning.

"Well, a graduate assistant," Rodney said. "For my first few semesters, before I could get the research position I deserved. But I like presenting research. You know, lectures? Well, I did, back before I stopped being able to for security reasons."

"Why am I not surprised by that," John mumbled.

Elva smiled at Rodney coquettishly. "Perhaps you can present some material to our students, once the program becomes more successful."

Rodney looked up from the cake plate. "I'd like that. Depending on my availability, of course. I'm a very busy man."

"Yeah, yeah," John said, nudging Rodney between the shoulder blades with his tray. "Why don't you busy yourself over to the table so we can actually eat?"

Once they started eating, Rodney's conversational forays shallowed out into the "wow, this is really good, wait, does this have citrus?" commentary that usually accompanied new cuisine. John figured it was his duty to take up the slack.

"You didn't finish telling me why you became a teacher," he said, smiling once again.

Elva nodded, covering her mouth while she finished swallowing. "I've always had great ideals, I suppose. Our people struggle so much, and when I was little, my father taught me that the more we learn, the better equipped we are to face life's difficulties."

"Mm, admirable attitude," Rodney put in. "That should be your school motto."

"School motto?"

"You know, guiding principle, something you stick under the big seal?" John wasn't really surprised when she blinked back at him. "A motto."

"Yes, a saying," she said. "I had never considered the need for one for the school before."

"Well, now you have one," John said. "Although I don't know how good it'll sound in Latin."

Elva smiled at him, even though he knew she couldn't possibly have understood what he meant. The important thing was that they were building a good rapport. That, combined with Rodney's input on their science academy, should keep them friends with the Pristani for a good long while.

"If you'll excuse me," Elva said as she stood. "I need to talk to Minister Tiri for a moment. Please, help yourself to another course if you would like."

"Thanks," John said. He didn't miss Rodney's little wave goodbye.

Or the kick right to his shin.

"Ow! What the hell, McKay?"

"You're doing it again," Rodney hissed. "Is it really that amusing for you to try to ruin my chances, or are you just that hard up?"

"I'm not doing anything but my job," John growled. "And maybe if you'd concentrate on doing your job instead of simpering like Pepe le Pew, we'd have been done two hours ago."

"What? That's ridiculous." Rodney sat back, crossing his arms over his chest, and gave John a really sour look. "I do not simper."

"Whatever, Pepe."

"Listen. If you really want me to finish faster, then leave us alone. You're the one who's being distracting."

John tossed his fork onto his tray and stood up. "Fine. I'll just go find Ronon and Teyla. Radio when you're done."

He stomped his way back to the tray return, wondering what the hell had changed in the past three days. He'd been trying not to think about the whole date thing, but it was like not thinking about purple monkeys. Or whatever the saying was. The more he'd tried not to think about it, the more he did think about it, until Rodney had even started to invade his dreams.


He didn't need naked dreams about Rodney. He should have been relieved that Rodney's attention seemed to have drifted away from him as quickly as it arrived, as fickle as cotton fluff floating on a breeze. But it seemed kind of obnoxious, that lack of focus when it came to relationships. Made John wonder where their friendship stood.

Of course, maybe he really had imagined the whole thing. The conversation on P3X-793 had planted the idea in his head, and then he'd extrapolated a whole set of behaviors out of a simple friendly gesture. Okay, Rodney had been kind of flustered that night, the way he knew Rodney could get if he thought he actually had a chance with a woman, but that could have meant anything. Who knew what went on in McKay's head? Rodney certainly hadn't beamed at him the way he'd been smiling at Elva today.

Which meant John was an idiot who got worked up over absolutely nothing at all.

He hit his radio. "Teyla? Ronon? How's the gymnasium?"

The Pristani, it turned out, were more than happy to demonstrate their fighting style on a brand new guinea pig. John was glad he hadn't eaten much of his meal. Getting tossed around a mat turned out to be the best thing for his mood, even with Ronon and Teyla doing play-by-play on his many deficiencies. And when Minister Dorin insisted on a demonstration of their new steam room, John didn't see any reason to say no.

By the time Rodney radioed, John was relaxed, happy, and able to laugh at the whole misunderstanding. They met Rodney and Elva near the gate. The night breeze was shockingly cool after the heat of the steam room. John rubbed at his arms, wishing he hadn't stuffed his jacket into his pack.

"Don't hesitate to contact us if you run into problems," Rodney was telling Elva. John wondered how that would turn out--Elizabeth wouldn't be happy if they were receiving gate transmissions every couple of days just because Elva had a crush. "But I think you'll be just fine."

Elva smiled sweetly up at Rodney. With the big moon low in the sky and the stargate on the edge of the brick colonnade, the whole scene was straight out of a chick flick. "I look forward to seeing you again," she said, and John braced himself for the kissing scene.

"Ah, yes. I look forward to that, as well." And then Rodney awkwardly patted Elva on the arm.

Exactly like he'd patted John on the arm, three nights ago.

John swallowed, completely unprepared for the rush of feeling as he realized he hadn't been wrong.

"We're done now, Colonel," Rodney snapped, and that was enough to knock John out of his stare zone. John nodded goodbye to Elva, stuffing the bad thoughts down as far as he could, and headed back to Atlantis with the rest of his team.

He kept telling himself he'd succeeded in forgetting about the whole thing. Right up until the point he grabbed a random DVD off of his shelf and headed out the door. There was absolutely nothing wrong with watching a movie with a friend. Nothing at all.

"Colonel! Is there a problem?" Rodney looked completely surprised to see John at his door. Maybe he was still harboring a grudge over the dinner scene. Or maybe he was completely smitten with Elva, and John... Yeah, he wasn't going there.

John leaned his right forearm against the frame of Rodney's door, smiling like he knew where the best party in town was. Sneaking a peek at the label on the jewel case to make sure he hadn't grabbed an installation disk, he waved the DVD back and forth in his left hand. "I was bored. You interested?"

John hadn't been imagining things. Not with the way Rodney suddenly flushed and swallowed hard, or the way he peered around John as if expecting the gay police to show up and slap on the chains.

"Ah, I was working," Rodney finally said. "Writing up my notes on the Pristani curriculum. Maybe some other time?"

Despite the refusal, Rodney didn't look like he wanted John to go. He looked nervous: avoiding John's eyes, rubbing his fingers together, shifting from foot to foot. John figured that Rodney had thrown the first pitch without ever expecting John to hit it back at him.

Which added a bit of a competitive thrill to the whole proposition.

"Come on, Rodney," he wheedled, leaning a little further into the open door. "All work and no play--"

"Okay, yes, fine," Rodney huffed. "But if Elizabeth complains about my report being late, you're taking the heat."

"I'll be sure to wear my flak jacket." John ignored the relief that came with Rodney's acceptance. "So can I come in, or do you plan on making me watch from the hall?"

"Come in," Rodney said dryly. He stepped back, and John followed. "Just let me clear a space."

Every time John saw Rodney's room, he was surprised at how neat it was. Rodney had obviously been working on his couch. The only mess in the room was centered around it: two laptops, a tablet PC, and various scanners were all piled on top of his coffee table, a coffee mug within easy reach. Rodney shoved one of the laptops to the far side, leaving a space that would be perfect for their feet.

"Do you want something to eat?" Rodney offered. "I don't have popcorn, but if you're hungry I have rations."

"I'm fine," John reassured him. MREs were fine when you were in the field. They weren't his idea of a funtime snack, however. "Let's just watch the movie."

There was an awkward moment when they stepped towards the couch at the same time. John had a moment of deja vu. He felt even more awkward when he realized he was remembering that moment back on P3X-793, staring at the bed and thinking about what it implied.

Rodney plunked down on the couch and snapped his fingers for the disk. John handed it over and sat down while Rodney fiddled with the drive. He was sure to keep a couple inches between them, because his brain hadn't gone all the way down the rabbit hole just yet. Rodney was either fine with that, or he didn't notice.

His safe zone lasted until the opening credits. Rodney started shifting around just like he had that first night, but he stopped as soon as their thighs made contact. John almost said something. He should have said something. Rodney's thigh was warmer than John remembered. Hotter than the laptop through the desk. Hot enough that John felt like he had a fever.

Rodney laughed. John stared at the screen. He'd seen the movie several times before, had liked it, but for the life of him he couldn't remember what it was about. Rodney gave him a sideways look, expecting John to agree with something, and John mugged a smile. Rodney smiled back, almost shyly, and turned back to the movie.

Christ, he was fucking nuts. He had no clue why he was here. If Rodney really did think that this was a date, then John was being a total asshole, leading him on for no reason at all. He should leave, or at the very least, scoot over so that they weren't touching.

But it wasn't like touching a friend was automatically gay. Rodney's shoulder pressed into his was warm. Comfortable, a physical reminder of the fact that they were buddies. Buddies who looked out for each other, who saved each other's lives on a regular basis. Who liked to watch movies together. Rodney hadn't even made a real move, anyway.

John turned his head enough that he could give Rodney a once over. He couldn't imagine what they'd do together. Okay, yes, he understood the basics. But Rodney's chest was so flat. Well, not flat, not with those pecs, but John's hands knew breasts. Touching Rodney's chest would be kind of clinical. Nothing to play with.

Except for Rodney's nipples.

John flushed, tore his eyes away from Rodney's chest--and his gaze landed right in Rodney's lap. Not good. Not that he could actually see anything, but friends didn't look at other friends' dicks. Not that he wanted to see anything.

John covered his face with his hands. He really was going insane.

"Something wrong?" Rodney asked, stopping the DVD.

John swallowed the whimper that was crawling up his throat. "Nah, I'm fine," he said. "Just more tired than I thought."

Rodney snorted. "I wonder why." He held up his index finger, rolling his eyes upwards as if struck by inspiration. "Oh, I know. I bet it has something to do with the little exercise demonstration Ronon and Teyla were so happy to tell Elizabeth about. What was it again? Some kind of dancing? Ballet, perhaps?"

"It wasn't dancing," John growled, shoving his elbow into Rodney's ribs. "It was more like tai chi. With a lot of wrestling moves."

Rodney hmmed.

"Not that I couldn't dance if I wanted to," John added.

"Of course, Colonel," Rodney smirked.

"I could."

"Uh-huh." Rodney ejected the disk and tucked it back into its case. "So, we can expect a demonstration when?"

"I said if I wanted to." He would have pressed the point further, but he was distracted by Rodney handing him the case. To his best recollection, they hadn't finished the movie. "We're done?"

Rodney shrugged. "You're tired, I have work to do. I just figured since you didn't seem interested anyway..."

"No, that's fine," John said, even though he felt bad for being a lousy movie companion.

"Unless you wanted to--" Rodney stopped, his mouth frozen in a O like even he couldn't believe what he'd been about to say.

John's common sense kicked in for the first time all day. "You know, I should let you get back to your work."

"Right, right." Rodney set the laptop and desk back on his coffee table. John lurched up, nearly ramming his forehead into Rodney's belly when Rodney turned back around. They finally managed to stand without any inappropriate touching, and Rodney gave John one of those sappy smiles he'd been practicing on Elva all day. "So, yes. This was, ah, nice."

Nice. Rodney was trying so hard, and John was being a dick. But he could fix that. He had his opportunity right here, right now. This was the exact moment when John should suck it up and get the awkwardness over with, let Rodney know that he just wasn't interested.

He opened his mouth.

"We should do it again sometime," he blurted. As friends, his common sense was screaming at him to add, but he couldn't force the words out. Not when Rodney's smile relaxed into something more genuinely Rodney. More genuinely happy.

"It'll be my turn, next," Rodney agreed, and John nodded and grinned and watched himself in horror as he reached out and awkwardly patted Rodney on the shoulder.

Then he got the hell out of there.

He was going fucking insane.


"You won't believe this," Rodney said the instant John's door opened the next night. He held up his laptop to illustrate the unbelievability of whatever he was talking about. "Jefferson actually brought the classic Batman collection. Say hello, Julie Newmar."

"Hello, Julie Newmar," John obliged, stepping back to let Rodney in. He headed towards the couch, but Rodney didn't follow.

"Ah," he said, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "Sitting up straight on the couch like that for an extended period of time really cramps up my back. Do you think we could sit on your bed instead?"

John raised his eyebrows, but the sudden thudding in his chest kept him from pointing out how lounging around would only extend Rodney's lumbar woes. "No problem," he said, and led the way into his bedroom.

Moving was so old hat to John that he'd never bitched about each time they upgraded quarters, not the way Rodney always did. He'd been more than happy with the increased space each time, and last move had even come with a double bed. The bed was a real luxury, something he enjoyed stretching out in after a hard day.

He'd never had the opportunity to share it with anybody, though. Until now.

Taking a deep breath, John climbed on and situated himself against the headboard. Rodney handed over his laptop and then proceeded to plump the living hell out of John's extra pillow.

"Would you like a nice cushy backrest?"

"Oh, that would be perfect. Do you really--" Rodney closed his mouth with a snap as he finally clued in on John's sarcasm. With a put-upon sigh, he climbed onto the bed, squirming around until he'd achieved the perfect slouch next to John.

Rodney reached over John's arm to pull up the file, his arm rubbing across John's over and over again, his shoulder squarely pressed against John's shoulder. John should have said something irritated and snappy, but God help him, he liked it. By the time the screen was displayed the way Rodney wanted it, John's palms were sweaty and his chest was tight from trying to stop himself from sniffing Rodney's neck.

Rodney smelled really good.

"Oh, now that's hot," Rodney said, pointing out Catwoman's entrance. "Don't you think so?"

"Catwoman's always hot," John said, but he was distracted by the way the hairs on Rodney's forearm sawed against his own as Rodney pulled his arm back. "Except for Halle Berry."

Rodney snorted. "One of the great paradoxes of the universe. Halley Berry: hot. Catwoman: hot. So you would think, together, they'd be mindblowing."

John nodded. "And yet, not so much."

"I know." Rodney sighed like he'd just found out lemon meringue was the only pie on the menu. Then he quieted down, presumably caught up in the show.

John tried, but while he'd liked it as a kid, and could appreciate the kitsch as an adult, there was no way it could hold his attention when Rodney was in his bed. He flushed a little at the thought. He still couldn't get his head around the idea of doing things with Rodney. His whole life, he'd been told those things were bad, evil, and while he'd figured out that was a bunch of bullshit a long time ago, what he knew intellectually was a hell of a lot different than what he felt in his gut. Part of him hit a brick wall every time he tried to imagine

Rodney felt good next to him. Not enough to get him turned on, though. John thought maybe the problem was that he was stuck in his own head. Maybe everything would be different if he touched Rodney with purpose.

Licking his lips, John slowly slid his hand down his leg until it was situated between their thighs. His knuckles pressed into Rodney's thick muscle.

Rodney turned his head, gaze fixed on the encroachment. His eyes were wide, as big as if a hive ship had suddenly appeared overhead. John almost pulled his hand back, but then Rodney swallowed loudly and turned back to the show.

John eased out a breath. Not taking time to reconsider his plan, he rubbed his index finger against Rodney's pants leg. Heat shot from the insensitive skin of back of his finger, straight to his dick. Shock stopped the breath in his lungs.

So, maybe getting turned on wasn't a problem after all. Slow experimentation seemed to be the way to go to break down the walls in his own head.

"Do you, ah, do you want to watch another one?" Rodney asked.

John looked away from Rodney's leg long enough to see that the screen was black. "Sure."

"Good, good," Rodney murmured. He pulled up the next file, doing the arm-brushing thing even more this time.

John found himself breathing through his mouth, almost panting. He clenched his teeth shut, embarrassed.

Rodney wriggled again, his shoulder boring into John's. "Catwoman isn't in this one, but it's a good episode anyway."

"I thought you just got them," John said with a smile.

Rodney huffed. "Hello, perfect memory?"

"I wouldn't think you'd want childhood TV shows taking up all that valuable space," John prodded.

Rodney opened his mouth, but then his protests settled into a wry smile. "Genius or not, I can't control everything that goes on in my head."

Like this, John thought, watching Rodney suck in a breath when John wiggled his finger again. "I guess that explains the hypochondria and narcissism," he teased.

Rodney's smile disappeared. The pressure from his shoulder eased up, and he turned back to the computer without another word. John thumped his head backwards, the odd metalloid material of Atlantis absorbing the blow without a sound. That definitely wasn't the response he'd been hoping to get. He thought about apologizing, but words weren't his strong point. He was a man of action.

Action in this case seemed a little more than he was ready for. If only Rodney would make a move. Not that he was likely to do so now that John had just finished insulting him.

Rodney laughed.

John glanced at the screen; Batman and Robin were deep in discussion. Rodney's rancor seemed to have faded away; he was relaxing again, his shoulder pressing back into John's. Batman swung, and a big POW! flashed across the screen. Rodney turned his head, offering a smile, and John returned it. They smiled at each other longer than was exactly comfortable, and when Rodney finally looked back to
the laptop, John swore he was blushing.

John took a deep breath. Man of action, he told himself. He inched his hand up so it was no longer trapped between their legs. And then he turned his hand over. Set his palm directly on top of Rodney's thigh.

Rodney froze. John could feel it: thigh, shoulder, arm, all suddenly stiff like a rabbit scenting a wolf. Rodney took a breath--and stopped the show.

John snatched his hand back.

"I just remembered," Rodney said, words so fast John could barely hear them through the buzzing in his ears. "I was supposed to check in with Radek earlier. Highly volatile experiment." He pushed off the bed, backing away like John really was a wolf. "I really need to go. Now."

"Okay, not a problem," John said, trying not to panic. But Rodney was already out of the room. Poof, like Nightcrawler or something.

And then he was back. "Computer," Rodney blurted. He snatched his laptop off of John's lap like he was pulling a steak from a lion's mouth. Then poof, he was gone again.

John scooted down the bed and pulled the blankets over his head. He was too tired to watch stupid Batman, anyway.

"That's it, right there," Corporal Anderson said, sticking his finger right in John's line of sight.

"You mean that giant hill of rocks with the corner of the jumper peeking out? I never would have guessed."

Anderson pulled his hand back. Out of the corner of his eye, John could see him frowning away, but John didn't feel bad about the attitude. Anderson was a big boy. A Marine, even. He could deal with his commanding officer being a little testy.

Especially since John had dumped this mission on Lorne just so he wouldn't have to deal with the...things he wasn't dealing with lately. And now he was right where he didn't want to be, trapped in the puddle jumper with Rodney all because he had to pull his XO's chestnuts out of the fire.

Or dirt, actually.

"You said it took you an hour to get back to the gate, Corporal...?" Rodney snapped his fingers like he was searching for a name, but John was pretty sure Rodney had never known it in the first place. He was terrible about getting to know people, and then he was always surprised when his knowledge came up short when he needed it.

"Anderson, sir, and yes, that's right."

"And another half hour to gather equipment and return... They should have several hours left with the CO2 scrubbers, assuming they're still functioning."

"Right." John concentrated on parking the jumper on the far side of the meadow. He thought maybe he needed to make an addendum to the Intro to Puddlejumpers speech: never park next to something that could fall down on you. He hit his radio. "Lorne? You there?"

Static answered.

"There's probably iron in the rock," Rodney said. "Keep trying, you might break through."

John nodded. "Lorne? I had plans for today, so I'd really like to get this over with as soon as--"

"Here, sir," Lorne responded. The signal was still full of crackle, but his voice sounded strong. "About time you showed up. It's getting -- stale in here."

John snorted.

"Major, have you tried flying out?" Rodney asked.

"Can't. One of the drive pods was damaged in the slide, and we don't have enough lift with one."

John sighed. He figured they'd end up doing a bunch of digging, because Lorne wasn't stupid enough to not rescue himself if he could, but he still wasn't looking forward to it. Especially when it would mean listening to Rodney bitch the whole time as they got hot and sweaty.

And he really didn't need to be thinking about Rodney hot and sweaty right now. It just made him crankier, and he had a job to do.

Lorne said something else that was garbled by the static. "--trying to get us out of here when it came down."

"Lovely," Rodney murmured.

"Could they not fire a drone through the rock?" Teyla quietly suggested.

"It wouldn't do any good," Rodney said. "Even if they managed to do so without blowing themselves up, it would only open up a small hole at ground level. And that would just get filled back up in a manner of minutes."

"Yeah, that's pretty much what happened when we tried it," Lorne said.

John opened the back hatch. Sure enough, the small copse of trees behind them had a charred path through the middle. He wondered how far the drone had gone before exploding.

"Any ideas, McKay, or are we stuck with shovels?"

"I'm thinking," Rodney mumbled, and then he wandered out the back of the jumper, scanner in hand.

John sighed and got up to follow him. So far, things between them had been perfectly professional. Or as professional as they ever got. Rodney hadn't been giving him the cold-shoulder, and he hadn't acted like a scared rabbit if John got too close.

But things still weren't right. And to be truthful, John had been too busy not-moping for the last three days to figure out how to fix the problem.

Not that he'd been not-moping where anyone could see him.

"Huh," Rodney said, stopping at the graveled line where the rockfall ended and the grass took over.

"Huh, what?"

Rodney ignored him, pacing back and forth in front of the lump where the jumper ostensibly was, waving his scanner back and forth like a Geiger detector. He stopped again and hit his earpiece. "Major, is your shield working?"

"The readouts say it's functional, but it'll draw power away from life support."

"That shouldn't be a problem," Rodney said, smile growing on his face.

"What are you planning, McKay?" Lorne asked.

Rodney closed the channel. John raised his eyebrows.


"Can you place a drone right about..." Rodney stepped three steps to the left, then waved both hands up and down in what looked like a bad imitation of a runway guide. "Here?"

"Shouldn't be a problem," John said. "But what's that going to accomplish? Won't it just bring more rock down?"

Rodney smiled even more widely, then held up his index finger. "This is why I'm the genius, and you're not."

"Do I need to bring up my Mensa scores again?"

Rodney actually looked up at him. He was still smiling, looking delighted by himself and the world and even John, and something ripped through John's gut that felt a hell of a lot like shrapnel.

"The plan, McKay," he snapped. "I'm assuming you actually have one."

Rodney dropped his hand. "If I'm right, which, hello, me, then we're going to have a lot less digging. That's all."

John glanced over at the pile of rubble. Ronon could move a hell of a lot of rock, and the rest of them weren't slouches, but it'd be pushing it to clear the jumper hatch in the time they had left. "All right. Let's do whatever it is you think is going to be so spectacular."

Rodney made a pleased little hum, and then they headed back to the jumper. John closed the hatch while Rodney hailed Lorne. "Raise your shields now, Major."

"I'm not sure if I like where this is headed, McKay," Lorne said.

"Relax, Major," John said. "We'll have you out of there in a jiffy."

"Ah, you might want to raise our shields, too," Rodney said quickly. John glared at him, wondering what the hell was going to happen that Rodney was being so secretive about. "Just to be safe," he added, rather defensively.

John raised the shields. Teyla and Ronon pressed forward to stare out the viewscreen, obviously sensing a show. Giving Rodney one last look, John fired. The drone hit exactly where Rodney'd told him to put it. John opened his mouth to brag, when suddenly the giant pile of rubble exploded.

Not exploded. The rock blazed. Tongues of fire shot up from where the drone had gone off, spreading out and turning the entire area white from heat.

"Um, Rodney? What about the cliff?"

"Relax. The stuff that fell is loosely packed, with pockets of oxygen throughout. It should burn out before it even reaches the cliff face, and even if it does--" Rodney stopped, and John swiveled around to see what the next catastrophe was going to be. But Rodney only pointed back towards the viewscreen. "See? I was right."

Sure enough, the flames were dying down, the white-hot glow fading to campfire red.

"Cool," John said, impressed. "But now what?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "We wait for it to cool, and then shovel a little bit of ash away from the hatch."

It turned out to be more than a little bit of ash, especially deeper down, but John had to admit it was a hell of a lot better than shoveling several tons of rock. The engineering team he'd ordered had shown up just in time to help out, which meant that Rodney lucked out and spent his time 'supervising'. After his brilliance, John didn't begrudge him the laziness. He still wound up just as covered in ash as the rest of them, smudges of it across his cheeks and all over his hands. There were sweat-washed streaks of paleness down his throat, and white crow's feet at the corners of his eyes.

John sighed and went back to digging.

"That should do it, Major," Rodney sent a few minutes later, and the hatch slowly lowered, sending up a great whoosh of ash that had them all coughing. Lorne and Dr. Kauffman sauntered out while they were still recovering.

"How's it going, Major?" John asked, like they'd just bumped into each other at Starbucks.

Lorne nodded, taking in their blackened states with a thoughtful expression. "Been needing to get my ashes hauled for a while, sir."

John shook his head, wishing he couldn't relate. "Too much information, Lorne."

"Sorry, sir," he shot back, grinning unrepentantly.

"And you owe me a drink," John said, slapping him on the back. Lorne said something else, but John completely missed it. Rodney was staring at them. Staring hard. John's mouth went dry, wondering what the hell that look meant, and then Kauffman stepped into in his line of sight. By the time he moved past, Rodney was already heading back to the jumper.

John sighed again and went back to doing his job.

Later that night, he not-moped his way into the shower. He spent an extra-long time soaping away the ash, letting the heat seep away some of the grouchiness that had settled into his muscles. He not-moped himself dry, and then he not-moped his way into bed with his book.

He was considering moving on from not-moping to not-sulking when his door chimed.

It was Rodney, proffering a small wooden box. "I thought you might want to show off your mad Mensa skills."

"Okay, don't ever say 'mad skills' again." But John took a quick step back, waving Rodney in. He recognized a peace offering when he saw one. "It just doesn't work for you."

"Fine," Rodney grumbled as he marched over to John's tiny two-person dining table. He plunked the box down and opened it up to reveal a small chess set. "Do you even know how to play?"

"I know how to move the pieces," John caged. Rodney grinned, a shark sensing chum. John fought to keep his own grin hidden. "You'll take it easy on me, right?"

"Yes, yes, of course," Rodney said, intent on setting up the pieces. "Not that you can expect to compete with me, but that's nothing to be ashamed of."

"Naturally," John said as he pulled out his chair.

Rodney spun the chess board so the white pieces were on John's side. "Go on, I'll let you go first."

"You're so generous." Picking a pawn at random, John slid it forward two spaces.

Rodney winced.

"Oh, come on!"

Rodney waved. "Sorry, sorry. I shouldn't say anything, sorry."

"That's a perfectly valid move, McKay."

"For a loose definition of valid, yes." Rodney looked down at the board, and John let his grin out. It was going to be sweet when he kicked Rodney's ass.

He quickly countered Rodney's pawn with another and sat back to watch. Rodney didn't play with any of the slow deliberation he'd seen in most other chess-geeks. At least not yet, while they were still opening up, getting ready to pull out the real power. John didn't imagine Rodney would slow down any once they really got going. No, he'd take in the possibilities, make a snap decision, and go for it with a quick grab of his nimble fingers. Then he'd wait for his opponent to crucify himself on the cross of Rodney's genius.

John liked to play that way as well. But he took his time now, letting Rodney take his slowness for uncertainty. He twirled a bishop between his fingers, enjoying the smooth roll of the wood as he waited for Rodney to fidget or call him out. Rodney finally cleared his throat, and John decided that was good enough for now. He set the bishop back down and completed his move.

Rodney glanced up at him, brow furrowed. "So, ah, I guess it's my move?"

John raised his eyebrows. Maybe he'd done too good of a job at playing with Rodney's mind. If so, he was disappointed.

"Yes, of course," Rodney said. He moved another pawn forward--and stuck his right leg between John's.

John jumped. Rodney kept his head down, staring at the board as if he was waiting for the pieces to come alive, and slid his leg so that their calves were wrapped firmly together. Just like that, John was hard. Almost dizzily so.

"Um," he said brilliantly.

Rodney was still looking down. "Your move," he said, voice squeaking like a teen's.

Strategy completely forgotten, John brought out one of his knights. He'd always been enamored by the way they moved. Predictable, but not. Hard to get a handle on what havoc they might create next. He set it down, then scooted his chair forward so that his knee rested against Rodney's.

Rodney knocked over a pair of pawns. "Damn it," he muttered, fumbling as he tried to set them back up.

Fascinated at Rodney's sudden clumsiness, John squirmed so that he could rub his bare foot across the back of Rodney's calf. He could feel the hair on Rodney's leg crinkle under the thin fabric of his pants, could feel the muscle tensing at his touch. Another pawn went spinning.

Rodney pulled his hands away from the pieces and took a deep breath. He set them aright, one at a time, and then made his move on the board.

John didn't pay much attention to the game after that. He knew he was sucking, and sucking badly, but Rodney didn't crow about it. John thought that might have something to do with the way Rodney's cheeks were flushed and his eyes glazed. Every time one of them shifted in their chairs, their legs would rub together in a new and exciting way. Each touch was a flair of anticipation in his gut, a jolt that went straight to his dick.

"Checkmate," Rodney finally said.

John stared. He tried to put together a brilliant strategy to save himself, but he could barely remember how the pieces moved.

Rodney coughed. "I should probably go. Long day, and all that."

John glanced down at his watch. Over an hour had passed, although it felt like only a few minutes. He almost said 'no need to leave', but after the way Rodney had freaked out about the thigh thing, John figured that would be pushing it.

Besides, he wasn't really sure how far he felt like pushing himself.

"Okay," he said, knocking over his king as an afterthought. He pulled his leg back, and Rodney sighed. A sad little disappointed sigh that almost had John making the offer anyway, but then Rodney started packing up the chess pieces. John began helping. Their hands brushed together so often that it took them twice as long as it should have.

Rodney didn't complain about the inefficiency once.

Afterwards, John followed Rodney to the door, wondering whether to do something. A kiss seemed terrifyingly committed. A handshake was too formal. And a hug was just plain weird. John could imagine them fucking more easily than he could imagine them hugging.

Rodney solved the problem by once again patting John's forearm. This time, John reached out and caught Rodney's hand. Their fingers tangled together for a few seconds as they stared into each other's eyes. Rodney had really expressive eyes.

"Good night," Rodney said hoarsely. He slowly pulled his hand free and backed up.

John nodded. "Night."

"I'll be working late tomorrow," Rodney blurted. "I promised Radek I'd do some testing on his new project with him."

"Not a problem." They nodded inanely at each other. John licked his lips. "That going to keep you busy for a few days?"

Rodney shook his head. "No, no. Barring the world ending, I'll be free on Tuesday."

"Great. Now you've jinxed us."

That got the eye roll. "Please don't tell me you believe in that superstitious nonsense. Wait, of course you do, you're a pilot. Although considering the statistical chances--"

"Rodney." John cut him off before he could work himself into a panic about the odds of them dying before Tuesday. "Good night."

"Oh, right." Rodney turned to open the door. He paused in the doorway, giving John a happy smile. "Night."

The doors shut, and John let out the sigh he'd been holding in all night. Then he dropped into bed and jerked off, picturing that happy smile transformed to one of ecstasy until he came.

John spent the next day and a half coming up with one plan after another, discarding each one after he managed to remind himself this was Rodney he was trying to woo. He knew he wasn't the smoothest Casanova ever, but he could fake his way through a date. With a woman, anyway. They tended to be pretty forgiving if he bumbled his way into cheesiness in an attempt to be romantic.

Rodney would laugh in his face if he even thought the word, 'romantic'. Then again, John could still remember Rodney's sappy little sigh during Die Hard. Maybe romantic was the way to go after all.

He considered a moonlit picnic on the east tower, but if Rodney ever found out John took him on the same date as Chaya, any future dates would be as ephemeral as she was. He thought about taking them up in the jumper. Maybe a romantic orbit around the planet, or even a cruise over to the mainland. But he'd have to declare the flight, and that was asking for all kinds of problems.

There was always the movie route; Rodney'd been pretty content snuggled in next to John. But watching movies was for first dates and old, comfortable relationships. If he wanted to move the relationship forward, he needed to up the stakes with a more expressive gesture.

John stared at the mirror, half his face still covered in shaving cream. He was thinking about Rodney in terms of a relationship. He had to admit to himself that he'd been thinking about Rodney all the time lately, and not in innocent ways. He wanted to touch Rodney, to feel his body, to see him come. He wanted Rodney to touch him.

But a relationship... John took a deep breath and picked up his razor again. Rodney was his best friend; it was okay to have feelings about a friend. He'd be kind of an asshole if he didn't. Right now all he had to worry about was shaving without cutting himself. Against the grain, as clean as he could get it without taking off skin, too. He hesitated over aftershave. Rodney'd teased him about it before. Maybe it was over the top. Then again, Rodney had noticed he was wearing it.

John went with the aftershave--just not a lot.

He picked his hottest outfit--a tight pair of jeans and the blue button-front cotton shirt that was so worn it draped like silk. He really hoped Rodney wouldn't freak out over the fact that John was going all out for this. But he couldn't change things now. Rodney would just have to get over himself.

Tugging his shirt one last time, John stepped towards the door--and promptly had his own freak-out. He was about to walk through Atlantis looking and smelling like he was on a date, and he was going to walk right to Rodney McKay's door. Anybody who saw him would be able to guess what he was up to.

Time to get a grip. After all, he knew where his soldiers were assigned. Plus, it wasn't like he was headed to the busiest part of the city. Or that he never wore civilian clothes. He could do this.

The pep talk didn't help his pre-date jitters, but he was good at ignoring those. And once Rodney's door swished open, John forgot about all of his other worries. Rodney was wearing a pair of faded jeans. John couldn't remember ever seeing Rodney in jeans. They looked good on him, especially with the striped shirt.

"Do you want to come in?"

John shook his head. "I have something else in mind."

Rodney stepped out into the corridor, curiosity already engaged. "What, exactly?"

"You'll see." John grinned devilishly. "It's a surprise."

"A surprise? What kind of surprise?"

"What do you mean, what kind of surprise? The kind of surprise that's a surprise."

Rodney huffed and followed John into the transporter, moving so he could get a good look at the map. John body-blocked him so he could hit the location unobserved. He thought he felt Rodney's hand brush his hip, but then they were transported. By the time he was aware of himself again, the touch was gone, Rodney already making for the doors.

"The botany labs? That's--" Rodney stopped, obviously making an effort to play nice. "--different."

John grinned. "Surprise."

Rodney looked around, but there wasn't much to see. The corridor looked pretty much the same as any other corridor in Atlantis. "Whoo-hoo?"

"Come on." John tugged at Rodney's sleeve, getting him moving towards their destination. It was a bit of a walk, maybe half a mile, and Rodney shot him considering looks the entire time.

"The arboretum," Rodney finally guessed. To John's relief, he didn't sound like he hated the idea. Not completely, anyway.

"I didn't think you'd had a chance to get down here lately," John said. "They've done some impressive work in the last couple months."

Rodney hmmed as the doors opened, but as John thought, his gaze didn't linger on the plants. The entire room was a half-dome, created to allow room for towering trees. It was a giant window that could be opaqued to whatever level necessary for the climate inside. At the moment it was clear, allowing a breathtaking view of the night sky and Atlantis sparkling below it.

"Wow," Rodney said, sounding genuinely awed. "That's something."

"Isn't it?" John bounced a little, happy that his plan was going well so far. "You haven't even seen the best part yet."

He laid his right hand on the control panel next to the door and gave the system an easy command. Rodney stared upwards while the roof irised open.

"It can do that? I didn't know it could do that."

"You probably just skimmed over that part of the report." John shrugged. "It's not really useful, not like the jumper bay."

"Except for controlling ventilation and temperature for the plants," Rodney said.

"And for looking at the sky," John added as he moved towards the stone-paved path. Rodney followed, and within two steps they were walking side-by-side. The open skylight wasn't bringing in much breeze, but John could smell the ocean, mingled with the scent of rich loam and fertilizer. Something sweet lingered over everything else, a blooming flower trying to make itself known.

"This is nicer than walking on a mission," Rodney said.

John chuckled. "No hills."

Rodney nodded. "Excellent point. Better weather, too."

"The whole climate-control thing is a definite plus." John took the branch of the path that veered towards a raised platform offset from the center of the dome. "And I'm kind of fond of the no running for our lives part."

"Yes, the company is decidedly better."

John's heart skipped. He almost asked Rodney what they were doing, if they were actually dating or if it was all some hallucination on John's part, but good sense overcame his mouth. Instead, he pointed at the gently spirally staircase in front of them.

"Go on up. You'll like this."

John figured that once the plants got going, the platform would blend in with the trees and vines. Now it was a strange architectural oasis surrounded by winding stone paths and small plantings that didn't even hide the dirt. Rodney gave him a questioning look, but he climbed the staircase without comment.

A railing surrounded the edge of the rectangular platform. Planter boxes took up the corners, with spaces in between for people to stand and gaze out over the gardens. Rodney, however, was staring at the bench that took up the whole far side of the platform. Padded and about the
size of a short double bed, it was probably giving Rodney the wrong impression.

"You never talk about the stars," John explained. He laid down on the bench, tucking his hands under his head. The view of the sky was perfect. "Not in any way other besides 'oh my God, we're going to die of solar radiation,' I mean."

"Sadly true," Rodney said before he climbed onto the bench with John. There was the typical squirming before he settled into a position with his head next to John's elbow and his shoulder tucked into John's side.

"Kind of strange for an astrophysicist," John prodded.

"Not really." Rodney sounded wistful. "So much of what we do is theoretical, you know? Almost entirely theoretical before I found out about the Stargate Program. And after that there wasn't much sense in wasting time pondering little things like comparative red shifts."

John nodded. "Finding out about it must have blown your mind."

Rodney snorted. "You could say that. I was furious for days. All those years spent working from just plain wrong foundations, when the U.S. government had all this data for years."

"Just days?"

Rodney shrugged, his shoulder pressing firmly into John's ribs. "I started working for them. I didn't have time to be angry, with so much to relearn. So many new things to discover."

John licked his lips. "Discovery is good."

Rodney rolled onto his side, propping his head on his hand and staring down at John with a small smile. "As long as it doesn't lead to things blowing up in your face."

John chuckled. Rodney's smile widened, his eyes sparkling more brightly in the dark than the stars overhead.

"So what about you?" Rodney asked. "Did you spend a lot of time staring at the stars, dreaming of becoming an astronaut?"

"For a while. I don't think I ever really didn't want to be one, but mostly I wanted to fly, and being strapped to a rocket booster isn't the same thing."

Rodney raised his eyebrows. "Mr. Speed Junkie didn't want the ultimate ride?"

"Hey, you're not living until you've gone Mach 2. Without the inertial dampeners," he added when Rodney opened his mouth. "Don't get me wrong. If anybody had ever said, 'hey, that John Sheppard should be piloting the shuttle,' I'd have been all over it. But it was too much work to get there when I already had what I really wanted."

Rodney rolled onto his back. "It's a wonder you ever get out of bed in the morning."

"Are you implying I'm lazy?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," Rodney drawled. "I didn't mean to only imply. You're lazy."

"As long as we're on the same page."

Rodney's laugh was soft and delighted, missing its usual edge. John wanted to roll over and do things until Rodney laughed that way again. Run his fingers across Rodney's ribs, nip at his throat, nibble his earlobe. Instead he raised his arm and pointed to a hazy purple cloud that veiled a significant portion of the sky.

"That's a nebula, right?"

"Yes, the Ovoid Nebula, actually. It's quite close to Atlantis, astronomically speaking."

"Cool." John pointed to a unblinking spot of light to the right of the nebula. "Planet?"

"Hmm, yes. Outermost one in the solar system."

The one where Gall and Abrams had died. John started to lower his arm, but Rodney wrapped his fingers around John's wrist. He moved their hands until John was pointing at a bright body surrounded by a cluster of blinking stars.

"That's our neighbor," Rodney said. "The Ancients called it Thelonus."

"That's the gas giant, right?"

Rodney nodded, then tugged John's wrist higher, stretching their arms over their heads. "If you squint really hard, you can make out a binary system in the tail of that cluster."

John squinted really hard, but all he got was blurry vision. "Where?"

Rodney let go of John's wrist. John lowered his arm, and Rodney scooted closer, pressing his cheek against John's. "There," he said, pointing so his arm matched John's eyeline.

"Oh, yeah." John was barely able to make out the double twinkle at the end of Rodney's index finger.

They stayed like that for a while, Rodney pointing out more astral wonders until he yawned mid-word. John laughed when the yawn didn't stop Rodney from trying to finish what he'd been saying. Then he yawned, too.

"We should head back," he said. "Early meeting tomorrow."

"Right." Rodney did move, but not away. He rolled onto his side, and John rolled to face him. His heart started beating fast again as Rodney's gaze kept darting between John's eyes and his lips, over and over.

"I don't," Rodney started. He shut his mouth with a frustrated press of his lips.


"Fuck it," Rodney muttered. He lurched forward, cupping John's cheek in his hand right before he brushed his lips over John's. The kiss was over before John had time to really feel it.

"Um," Rodney said, eyes wide and wary. "Um, that was--"

John tipped Rodney's chin with his thumb, and Rodney's babble trailed off. The kiss was longer this time, their lips moving together gently. John had thought men together would be all aggression and getting off, but this was nothing but softness and want. He drew back, running his thumb over the skin of Rodney's jawline, and smiled when he realized Rodney had shaved as carefully as he had.

"Meeting," Rodney reminded him. "I mean, this is very nice, but..."

John sat up. He could take a hint; they'd gone as far as they were going to go tonight. "Come on," he said, pushing off of the bench and holding out his hand to help Rodney up.

They didn't talk as they made their way back to the transporter, but somehow their fingers wound up tangling together as they walked. It wasn't quite holding hands, but it wasn't all that different.

M77-RX9 had John wishing for the P3X-793 kind of misunderstanding. Ones that started with knowing smiles and shared beds and led to sexual identity crises. Actually, the M77-RX9 kind of misunderstanding wasn't so much a misunderstanding as it was a sudden, angry comprehension of the differences between their two cultures.

It was possible John might have figured it out sooner if Elena, the head councilwomen, hadn't been hot, blonde, and exactly Rodney's type. But he didn't think it was his fault; it all happened too quickly to say otherwise.

"How have your people fared with the increased cullings?" Elena asked as she led them back to the town square.

"It has been difficult," Teyla began diplomatically. "But we have survived well enough."

Rodney snorted. "If by survive, you mean kicked a lot of Wraith ass."

Elena and her party stiffened. John went on edge, though he tried to keep a relaxed facade. Rodney really needed to learn what qualified as giving out a tactical advantage. John could already envision demands for their mighty weapons, even Atlantis itself. Elizabeth was not going to be happy.

"Is that so," Elena said casually. She stopped in the middle of the square, motioning at someone off in the distance. "You must tell us more."

"Not much to tell," John said, casually glancing over his shoulder. Five really big guys started closing in on their position. He didn't see any weapons, but he knew better to make assumptions in this galaxy.

"Other than a few brilliant--" Rodney squawked when John stepped on his foot. He glared and opened his mouth again, but Teyla stepped in to fill the awkwardness.

"You were telling us about your festival plans," she prompted.

"You will be the guests of honor." Elena grinned.

The tips of her canines were filed to points.

"Wraith worshipers," Ronon snarled. He drew his pistol quick as lightening, and John and Teyla snapped their P90s up in unison.

Elena laughed, deep and throaty, like she was trying to echo a Wraith queen. Rodney looked lost, but he'd managed to draw his sidearm. He just hadn't figured who to point it at. It moved in John's direction, and John opened his mouth to snap at him to watch his aim when an arm came out of nowhere, snaking around John's throat. The edge of a very sharp knife rested above his collar bone.

"Sorry," Rodney said, the gun wavering in his hand. John started to shake his head, to let him know it was okay, but the knife scraped across his skin.

"Put down your weapons," Elena ordered with a gloating smile. "You have no chance for victory. My queen will be most pleased with this offering."

"Don't," John said. He knew Teyla was hesitating, that Ronon's lip was curling up in a snarl, but John couldn't look away from Rodney. The knife was inching closer to his jugular now, the giant behind him losing patience as his team held their ground.

Rodney's gun dipped again.

"Don't," John barked. A battle might mean that he wound up dead, but the rest of them would have a chance. Better than any chance in a hive full of Wraith. He clenched his jaw, hating the fickle nature of the universe. Death had tried to stare him down so many times in the past, and John had always fought against it, even when he was riding a bomb into that hive ship. But now, he wanted more than to just live.

He wanted to live for something. For somebody.

"I hate you people," Rodney said--and that was when Ronon did his thing.

Red flashed in John's peripheral vision, blinding him for the few seconds it took the guy holding him to fall. He had the presence of mind to wrap his hand around the hilt of the knife before it sliced him open. Blinking, he tried to make out what was going on in the cacophony around him. A hand grabbed his jacket sleeve, and John twisted, bringing the knife down.

"Are you crazy?" Rodney yelled, and John dropped the knife before he met flesh. Rodney tugged him into a run, and John swiped at his eyes, clearing them of the protective moisture that had sprung up. He could see now, mostly, but running added to his disorientation.

"Fall back," he yelled, just in case Teyla and Ronon weren't doing that very thing. Luckily, the gate was little more than a klick from the village, and the crazy Wraith worshipers didn't seem in the mood to pursue. Rodney dialed and sent the IDC, and then they were home.

In one piece.

"Well, we can cross that planet off the list," John said as the shield went up.

"Oh, I don't know, Colonel," Rodney said. "I think harvesting their gate sounds like the perfect solution."

"Rodney," Teyla chided, but that didn't stop her from smiling.

"Sounds good to me," Ronon said.

"Why don't we table any talk of gate stealing until I have all the facts," Elizabeth said. John hadn't even noticed her joining them. "Are you all right, John?"

"Sure," he said, "why?"

"Oh, my god, you're bleeding!" Rodney yelped.

John glanced down, and sure enough, there was a slowly seeping cut that angled up from his collar bone. He probed at it, but it barely stung when he found the edges. "Just a scratch," he said. "Ronon took the guy out before he could really cut me."

Ronon nodded at him, and John slapped him on the shoulder. "Thanks," he added sincerely. "I really wanted to come home today."

"Not a problem," Ronon said. "But you need to work on getting out of strangleholds. Tomorrow?"

John groaned. "You got it."

Elizabeth urged him towards the infirmary, where they slapped on a band-aid. Afterwards he booked it back to his quarters for a quick shower, trying not to be disappointed about how fast Rodney had disappeared earlier.

As soon as he was dressed, John was out the door, feet taking him straight to Rodney's. It was the middle of the afternoon. He didn't have a movie, didn't have a game, didn't have any kind of excuses. But he couldn't talk himself out of it.

"Colonel!" Rodney looked surprised to see him, but happy all the same. "Did you want something?"

"Can I come in?"

Rodney stepped aside, and John followed him in. They stood staring at each other, just as awkwardly as John had feared.


John sighed. "I wanted to see you."

"Ah, here I am." Rodney held his arms out to the side. "Do you want me to twirl or something?"

"Or something." John stepped forward, deep into Rodney's space. Rodney watched him carefully, but he didn't move away. Didn't freak out when John brought his hands up to frame Rodney's face. Instead, he made a sound deep in his throat that short-circuited all of John's worries. He tugged Rodney forward and went for it, opening his mouth before he even found Rodney's lips.

Rodney met him eagerly, his mouth open and moving. Their tongues brushed together. Rodney drew back, sucking on John's lower lip, and now the moans were John's. They kept kissing, getting wilder and wilder, mouths wide and teeth clacking together.

"Oh, God, this is good," Rodney gasped out. At some point, he'd wrapped his arms around John, cradling him close. John ran his hands through Rodney's hair and moved on to sucking on Rodney's earlobe. "Really, really good."

"I want," John said, wrapping his arms around Rodney and pulling him closer. "I don't want to wait any more. I want to touch you."

"Yes," Rodney said. He bucked his hips forward. John pressed back, grinding his hard cock against Rodney's groin. And then he felt it--Rodney's erection, pressing into his hip. John gasped, impossible want and need spiking through him.

"Jesus Christ," he said, and then he couldn't stop the words. Everything he'd been holding in bubbled out in a seething boil. "I have no clue what we're doing, but I want you so fucking bad, Rodney."

Rodney's eyes fluttered shut. His Adam's apple bobbed, and he swiped his tongue across his lips. "Fuck yes," he said, and then he reached for the hem of John's shirt.

John stripped it off, and then pulled Rodney's shirt upward. They stood there, panting and staring at each other's naked chests. John had seen a lot of naked male chests in his life, even Rodney's, but this was completely different. Rodney's chest hair flared across his pecs, under his collarbones. John reached out, tracing the line of it with his index finger.

Rodney mirrored his touch, but he lingered over the small bandage next to John's neck. "I hate that," he murmured.

John looped his finger around Rodney's, pulling him away from the plastic and back to John's skin. Rodney acquiesced, running his fingers through John's chest hair until he found a nipple. John grunted at the touch, sensation amped up higher than anything he expected.

"Oh, perfect," Rodney said. He brought his other hand up for a double assault.

"I don't really," John started to say, but then Rodney bent his head and-- "Holy fuck!"

Rodney chuckled, lips still moving over John's nipple. He bit down again, just enough to get John shoving forward for more.

"Not as big as a woman's," Rodney said as he straightened, grin firmly in place. "And I still like breasts, but this is good." He started to bend forward again, but John caught his arm and tugged him in the direction of the bed.

"I'll show you good," he promised. He stripped off his shoes and socks, but paused with his hand on his belt while Rodney took care of his own footwear. John wasn't about to take off his pants and then have Rodney freak out again.

Rodney looked up, though his gaze didn't get higher than John's hand. "You're not going to stop, are you?"

"You sure?"

Rodney looked all the way up. "I know the man-thing is weird, but I like you."

John undid his belt. "I like you, too," he said, pushing the words out past the lump in his throat. He undid his fly. "A lot." He pushed his pants down past his hips. Rodney's eyes dropped back down to the bulge of John's cock. "More than women, I think."

Rodney stood up and dropped his pants. He was wearing blue boxers with a purple-paisley print, just as tented as John's were. They were damp-dark where the head of his cock pushed against the cotton.

John took a deep breath and then pushed his boxers down. He was naked and hard, and the way Rodney was looking at him chased away the coolness of the air around him. Kicking his boxers out of the way, he took a step forward. He rested his hands on the slope of Rodney's pecs, then slowly trailed down Rodney's skin, watching the shiver crawl behind his touch, until he reached the elastic of Rodney's boxers.

"I want to touch you," he said, hooking his fingers into the waistband and tugging downwards. He put his mouth next to Rodney's ear. "I want to touch your dick," he whispered, and then he did just that.

Rodney moaned and started scrabbling at his boxers, pushing the cloth out of the way of John's hand. And then John was touching hot skin, was really touching Rodney's cock. It was nothing like touching himself. Nothing.

It was better.

"Do you, ahhhh..." Rodney's eyelids fluttered shut when John rubbed his thumb over the head of Rodney's cock. It seemed smoother than his own, more slippery. Then Rodney caught his hand, pulling it away. "Do you want to lay down?"

They laid down side by side, like they had the night when they'd kissed for the very first time. They kissed now, exploring with mouths and hands, slow and easy, but not tentative. John's eyes flew open when Rodney touched his cock.

"Is this what you wanted?" Rodney asked with a delighted smile. He stroked lightly up and back down, and then cupped John's balls. His smile faded into a speculative look. "That's completely different. Huh."

"Is that bad?" John asked, though given his own discovery a moment ago, he figured he knew what Rodney was talking about. He bent his knee, foot flat on the bed so Rodney had more room to play.

"No, no," Rodney absently answered, eyes unfocused as he learned by touch. "That was not a value judgment of any kind."

John snorted. "Good."

"Very good," Rodney agreed, kissing John again.

"You like this?" John asked, going back to rubbing his thumb over the head of Rodney's cock. Rodney whined and buried his head in John's neck. "That would be a yes," he concluded. He kept rubbing, incredibly turned on by the way Rodney was panting and grunting into John's skin.

"Okay, okay," Rodney said, grabbing John's hand and pushing it back towards the shaft. John got that; too much but not enough. He curled his hand and stroked like he was jacking himself off, and Rodney rewarded him by returning the favor.

They panted together for a while, their hands working in synch. John liked the way they looked together. He glanced up at Rodney's face, wondering what Rodney was thinking.

"John," Rodney murmured, and what he saw in Rodney's eyes sent an extra surge of lust through his spine and into his cock. He pushed his hips forward, shoving his cock against Rodney's grip, keeping up the movement of his own hand through sheer will.

"Nnggh," Rodney whined. His grip went lax. John grunted in protest, but Rodney curled forwards, his forehead pressing into John's, and let out a long, low groan. Wetness hit John's belly a second later.

"Fuck." John ground into Rodney's limp hand and the back of his own and Rodney's still twitching cock and came all over both of them. Rodney started moving his hand again, pulling more shudders out of John. They stroked each other until there was nothing left, until they were playing with the razor edge of too good, just to feel each other jump and gasp and groan.

John finally let go, his wrist exhausted.

"That was amazing," Rodney said, releasing John's cock as well. "I mean, really amazing."

"It really was." John wrapped his arm around Rodney's waist and pulled them closer together. They kissed for a while, lazily. Sleepily.

"Can we stop dating now?" Rodney asked.

Adrenaline shot through him. "What? I thought you liked it?"

Rodney nodded. "Oh, definitely. We should do this all the time. But I'm really, really bad at dating."

John sighed out a laugh. Or laughed out a sigh, relief competing with amusement. "I thought you did pretty good."

"Yes, I'm sure you enjoyed me fleeing from your touch."

John squeezed Rodney's ass, realizing they had a lot more territory to explore later. "Well, the movies were fun."

Rodney nodded thoughtfully. "Sex and movies. I think I can handle that."

"Good," John said, fully willing to go along with that plan. He drifted off towards sleep, thinking about future blowjobs and the conversation back on P3X-793 that had started it all.

And that was how John and Rodney accidentally fell in love.