Miles of empty roadway lay ahead. Bored, Rodney slowed down as he passed the location of the now missing black mailbox. Rumor had it that Mr. Medlin kept finding mail addressed to the aliens stuck in his mailbox. Of course, he did. What did Medlin expect living on the edge of Area 51?
Medlin tried to solve the problem by giving his mailbox a separate space for Alien-addressed mail. Maybe it had worked for a while. Rodney didn’t know, but he knew it hadn't helped for long. Someone had stolen the whole damn thing months ago.
Now, a small pile of rocks marking where it had once stood was all that remained of the Medlin-Alien mailbox. Pity. It had been one of the few interesting things to see between here and civilization.
The Extraterrestrial Highway wasn't known for its scenic view, unless you had a thing for scrub brush and cactus. Rodney snorted. When he'd first been assigned here he'd kept referring to the road as Route 375 like any sensible person.
The locals kept correcting him and he'd finally given in when he realized that as long as he worked at Area 51 this was his life. Oh, joy.
As he approached the town of Rachel, Rodney turned his Lincoln Town Car onto a dirt road.
He was the first to admit he had a love/hate relationship with his car. It had over 230,000 miles, sported a paint job in a tired shade of decrepit brown and had an interior best described as vomit green.
It didn't matter how many shiny black sedans sat in the garage. Whenever Rodney needed to use an employee vehicle, this beast ended up being the only one available. After endless rounds of arguing and complaints, the motor pool, either because of, or in spite of, his complaints, simply assigned the car to him full time.
He'd gotten even by rolling up his sleeves, overhauling the motor and installing the best AC money could buy.
His destination lay just ahead. It wasn't on the map but somehow the tourists still found the place. He pulled into the sandy, unpaved parking lot and got his first good look at the place. It wasn't much larger than a double-wide trailer with a storefront window that advertised Genuine alien artifacts and Doo-dahs. God, it wasn't even spelled right.
At least the establishment looked clean, in that faded, worn look most places here had after a decade in the unforgiving sun.
The cartoonish faces of cheerful, bug-eyed aliens decorated the windows while out front stood a full-sized cutout of an equally cheery green alien. This one sported a sign that bobbed in the light breeze. Not just a sign, but a blue rocket with the words Welcome to the Alien Emporium painted on it, and in fine print just below John Sheppard, proprietor.
Rodney adjusted his shoulder holster and wondered if he could get away with leaving it off. The damn thing always chafed
"Just suck it up, McKay," he muttered to himself. He was here to take statements and first impressions mattered. Besides, if trading on the Men in Black mythos got him through this faster, then he'd put up with it. Evade answers and misdirect. Don't get distracted. Be cool.
Rodney put on his shades and briefly admired himself in the rearview mirror. Oh yeah, he could do cool
He straightened his tie, made certain he had his pen and notebook, and stepped out of the car. Oh god, this place was even more kitschy than the last, and the last one had greeted its customers with a revolving pink donut in the shape of a flying saucer.
He could do this. Two more days and he'd be off for the weekend. This time he was determined not to come in on his day off just because someone in the department wanted him to interview the local loonies.
Rodney didn't actually hate his job, just the part where he had to go out into the populace to follow up on reports of UFOs and other strange phenomena. It was Area 51, so of course people reported strange sights in the sky. It was almost Pavlovian.
He patted his pocket. No need to flip through to the latest entry; he had it memorized. Mr. John Sheppard called in late last night claiming to see colored lights bouncing in the sky roughly a half-mile up towards the north quadrant. Sheppard claimed they were 'spooky'.
Colored lights were easy and came under the aircraft list. Let slip a casual hint about military testing and he wouldn't even have to use the word experimental. The cover story practically wrote itself. He tucked his notepad away with an annoyed sigh. His talents were so underused here, he could weep.
He got out of his car and went in. The only customers in the store were a man and his two kids standing at the checkout. Rodney waited for them to leave. Should he loom? Was looming a Men in Black thing? How did looming work, anyway? His elbow hit one of the shelves and Rodney barely stopped the grey alien bobblehead from hitting the floor in time. Damn it. He knew he should have practiced looming at home.
He quickly shoved it back on the shelf and nearly rammed his shin against a two-foot-high pink ceramic creature. Six glossy, purple eyes gleamed back at him. Rodney took a slow look around the room. Was there any oddity Sheppard hadn't managed to pack in here?
A large jar of individually wrapped Cthulhu jawbreakers sat on the counter. Part of one shelf seemed devoted to bow ties and tee shirts with pictures of various Disney characters (and that had to be a copyright violation) riding in a flying saucer.
For one brief minute, he felt sympathy for Grumpy; that was not a comfortable position for any dwarf to be in.
Rodney caught sight of something in the far corner and his eyes widened. Was that a blow-up Tardis with the planet Saturn stuck in its doorway? Now, that was just plain sacrilegious.
The man behind the register turned to Rodney and with a lazy grin said, "You can relax, everyone's gone. Can I help you find something?"
Mortified, Rodney stiffened. "I'm looking for Mr. John Sheppard."
"You found him." Sheppard came around to the front of the counter and stood there with one hip cocked in Rodney's direction. He wore a baggy Hawaiian shirt, denim cut-offs so short they should be outlawed, and a pair of flipflops on his strangely attractive feet.
Tearing his gaze away and gathering his resolve, Rodney pulled out his badge and flashed it in Sheppard's direction. " FBI, Special Agent Rodney McKay. I'm responding to a call you made, Mr. Sheppard, about the unusual phenomenon you reported last night at one fifteen a.m. Do you recall this event?"
"Yep. I made that call."
John's body language indicated that he was amused by their entire interaction, which made no sense at all. Most people were at least a little intimidated by the badge. Rodney scowled. He removed his dark glasses the better to see Sheppard's face. "Was this a prank call?"
"Nope. I saw something, all right." John leaned forward as if including Rodney in some great secret. "Strange things glowing in the night, UFOs hovering over Area 51—you're the guys to report it to, am I right?"
"Yes, yes, that's us." God, why was Sheppard so distracting? Rodney fumbled his notepad out of his pocket and took a deep breath. "If you could answer a few questions?"
"Hit me." John smiled with a ridiculously goofy grin that didn't drop his hotness factor one iota. Rodney bit his lip. Life was so unfair.
"Uh, right." He desperately wanted to loosen the knot in his tie but settled for handing Sheppard his card. He took a deep breath and concentrated on the task at hand. His job was to find out how much John Sheppard had seen and convinced him that it wasn't a UFO. Humanity needed to be eased into the truth and they weren't ready yet. He cleared his throat. "So. Questions."
"I think we've established that you wanted to ask me questions, yes. Cold drink? You look like you could use it, and I make a mean egg cream."
"Egg cream? Really? I haven't had one of those since I was a kid. I didn't even know people made them anymore."
"Then you're in for a treat." John beckoned him with a wave of his fingers. "There's a soda fountain on the other side of the store. Follow me."
As Sheppard led the way, Rodney couldn't seem to tear his gaze away from the man's backside. Every flex of muscle from his calves to his hipbone was hypnotizing. Rodney blinked and choked out, "Is there something wrong with your air conditioning? It seems hot in here. Maybe a fan would help?"
The only reply he got from his astute observation was a lift of Sheppard's eyebrow and a friendly pat on the red seat cushion where he wanted Rodney to sit.
Rodney sat down and couldn't help a satisfied nod. While it didn't match any alien encounter he'd ever heard of, he had to appreciate the décor. Unlike the rest of the store, here Sheppard had created a mini-version of a 1950s soda counter complete with fountain taps and swivel stools.
"One super-duper extra-special egg cream coming right up. Why don't you ask me some of those questions while you wait, Agent McKay?"
"Questions? Right! Could you describe exactly what you saw last night, Mr. Sheppard?"
"Call me John." John leaned on the counter. "You don't mind if I call you by your first name, Rodney, do you? After all, two guys sharing an egg cream experience—it just seems like we should be on a first-name basis."
This wasn't in the FBI manual. He was certain he would have remembered the chapter on egg cream and first names if there had been. "I guess so, John."
"See, that's better already." John practically glowed with satisfaction. "I couldn't sleep last night. Just restless, I guess. I went outside and there were these red and green flashing lights, just like I reported."
"Did you hear anything?"
"Like a buzzing or zoom-zoom noise? Can't recall. I mean, not that I remember but maybe there was a noise being picked up by my subconscious and that's why I couldn't fall asleep."
"Well, I don't know for sure." John tapped his forehead. "Because of my subconscious."
Rodney did not pound his head against the counter, in part because John had taken that moment to slide a frothy and delicious looking drink in front of him.
"Well?" John asked, one hip cocked against the counter as he toyed with his straw. "Good?"
Rodney took a long pull on his own straw and his eyelashes shuttered in pure bliss.
"Did you say something?" Rodney asked, wondering why John would be moaning.
He slowly sipped at his drink, wondering how he'd managed to turn his afternoon into a complete waste of time. Then again, he hadn't had an egg cream like this since he was a boy. It didn't help that John Sheppard in those damn cut-offs was going to provide him with fantasy material for a month. Okay, that helped a little.
Glass empty, he stood and held out his hand. "Thank you, John. For the drink and your cooperation. I don't have any more questions for you at this time—" John's hand felt warm and comfortable in his own and Rodney briefly lost his train of thought.
"But you'd like to come back and ask me more questions if something else comes up?" John prompted.
"Yes. I'd—I'd like that."
With no further excuse to stay, Rodney left. When he got back to the office he'd add a note to Sheppard’s file. Visual confirmation of lights, check. Inconclusive identity, check. John had seen something, but he didn't know what it was and didn't seem inclined to pursue it.
Rodney drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He'd need to send another strongly worded request to the director. Something was out there and he wanted read in on it.
It wasn't until later, some three miles down the Extraterrestrial Highway before Rodney realized it. John was the only person he'd ever met who hadn't asked him if aliens were real.
"McKay, off to meet your new boyfriend?" Kavanagh called out, waggling his fingers on either side of his temples like antennae.
"Yeah, McKay," hollered Cadman, "I hear those little grey aliens are hung like horses. Watch yourself, you could wind up pregnant."
Rodney grit his teeth and plastered a narrow, insincere smile on his face. "Neither of you are as amusing as you think you are."
He'd known he was in for it as soon as word got around the office that he stopped by the Alien Emporium on a regular basis, especially after they discovered the nature of John's roadside attractions.
He couldn't deny it. Someone in the office had floated pictures of the place with his car parked out front. Normally, this kind of teasing would make him crazy, but then he'd remember John's dorky grin and his happy enthusiasm whenever he stuck a straw in Rodney's drink.
"Aw, look, Kav, Rodney's gone all soft-eyed and goofy. He must be thinking about John," Cadman teased.
"I keep telling you, John is not my boyfriend. I just like—"
"His egg cream!" they both yelled in chorus.
"Oh, shut up!" Rodney picked up his field notes and headed for the door. It didn't matter what they thought. Stopping by to see John after work was the best part of his day. Okay, maybe it had turned into more of a regular thing than he'd planned on.
That first report of John's had turned into a weekly sighting, then a two-day-a-week sighting and before he'd realized it, Rodney was stopping by almost every day. Somehow that had eased into becoming a habit to swing by on his way home from work.
Rodney had a tiny apartment in Rachel. Like all government housing, it was cookie-cutter functional. Beyond hanging up his degrees and a picture of his favorite cat, the décor remained as bland as the day he'd moved in.
John's Alien Emporium, like the man himself, was anything but bland. Its air of gentle kookiness seemed to soak into its surroundings and damn if he wasn't becoming used to it. For one insane moment he considered buying one of John's alien bobbleheads to liven up his own place. On second thought, that could be a disaster.
It would mean he'd have a constant reminder of John around his place. Throat dry, Rodney stuck that thought firmly in the back of his head and concentrated on his driving. The long stretch of road in front of him was empty of traffic and he still had eight miles to go. Surely, it wouldn't do any harm to go a little over the speed limit.
He pulled up to the storefront to see John sitting outside. This was going to be the first time since they'd met that they both had the whole weekend off. Their plan was to celebrate it with cold beer, pizza, and a night viewing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
John had pulled a lawn chair out front and had his feet soaking in a kiddie pool. The chair's thin frame looked wobbly and unsafe. Rodney itched to weld it together, and possibly add a seat belt. However, that would have required steady breathing, and he was having a hard enough time managing that.
With his feet cooling off in the kiddie pool and a beer in one hand, John lifted his shades and gave Rodney a slow, lingering once-over from his shoes to his hairline. "Short sleeves look good on you, Rodney. I knew you had some muscle under that jacket. Beer's in the fridge, grab one and join me."
John lifted one bare foot from the water and waggled it in his direction as if sticking his feet in water were the best thing since sliced bread.
As mesmerizing as that was, Rodney was having a tough time tearing his gaze from John's face. "You—you haven't shaved." God, how had he not known he had a thing for rakish stubble?
"Not since yesterday," John answered scratching his chin with his free hand. "Day off—remember?"
John kept staring and finally Rodney shook himself back to sanity. "Yes. Day off. Beer sounds good but I'm not sitting in a deathtrap just to dangle my feet in… what is that, a 1980s kiddie pool? "
"Why, Rodney, you sound disappointed that it's not a converted flying saucer." John scrunched up his face. "That does sound pretty cool. You got any extra ones at Area 51 I could use?"
Rodney didn't have a damn thing he could throw. Giving in, he locked his car and went inside to get that cold beer John had promised him, yelling over his shoulder, "And find me a decent chair to sit in. I have a bad back, you know!"
He came back to an empty yard. "John?"
"Out back! Give me a hand." John held out the end of a clothesline for Rodney to take. "Hold that. I'm going to fix the other end to the corner of the roof."
Rodney immediately understood what John was trying to do. He was hoisting up a large white sheet for movie viewing. "Did you bring it?"
"Of course. I've got everything else we need to set up except for the popcorn."
"My hero." John took the rope from Rodney's hand, ready to tie it off. The warmth of John's fingers brushing against his lingered like a phantom touch.
Rodney was beginning to realize he might be in trouble. Maybe more than a little. Did he want this kind of trouble? Did John? Fuck. Why couldn't this crap stay far, far away and locked up in the back of his mind where it belonged?
"C'mon, Rodney," John beckoned him with a crook of his finger. "Help me carry the couch out here and then we can set up the equipment."
"Great." At least John's words had broken him out of his epiphanic stupor. "Wait! I need to change out of my work clothes first. I brought jeans. My bag and the movie equipment are in the car."
"Jeans?" John's eyes grew round. "Good idea. Might as well drive your car around back while you're at it."
God. The way they'd molded Rodney's ass. John tilted his head back and closed his eyes, remembering. Did Rodney have any idea how he looked in them? John shivered as the ice began to melt. Definitely a necessary preemptive strike. He needed to cool off. Otherwise, he'd never make it through the first fifteen minutes of the movie without embarrassing himself.
John couldn't risk screwing this up. Agent Rodney McKay was the most interesting thing to happen to him since he'd arrived here.
Rodney leaned over the counter for a closer look at John, his denim-covered ass on glorious display. Frowning, he asked, "How did your shirt get wet?"
"A casualty of good fortune."
"You're a little nuts, you know that, right?" Rodney's wide gesture included a wall of cups, tee shirts, and knick-knacks that all announced, I Met an Alien and all I got was this lousy souvenir.
He had a comeback on the tip of his tongue and then Rodney pushed away from the counter. The smooth, strong muscles of his biceps flexed with the motion and John forgot all about smirking.
It didn't get any better when Rodney helped move the couch, putting those broad shoulder muscles to work. John bit back a whine.
"Watch your step," Rodney cautioned. "That's the fourth time you've tripped over your own feet. What's a grown man like you doing sleeping on a couch in your store, anyway? Do you even have a place to live? Oh, my god, you live here, don't you?"
Crap. He never anticipated the awkward questions. "This is good. Put it down here." John dropped his end of the couch facing the homemade movie screen. He stood and watched as Rodney pivoted his end to achieve the prime viewing angle. He sort of loved Rodney for that. Oh, who was he kidding? Rodney McKay was the most intriguing and human person he'd ever met and John had passed 'sort of' weeks ago.
"Be dark in an hour. Why don't you finish setting it up while I round up the snacks?" As he headed back to the kitchen, John called over his shoulder, "Yell if you need another extension cord. I've got plenty."
That shooting at things helped to work off his frustrations hadn't hurt, either.
He removed his ear protection and looked up to see Agent Cadman grinning at him and giving him a thumbs up.
Great. Ever since his movie night with John, she'd been hovering around and peppering him with annoying questions. Rodney wished he'd had something gossip-worthy to tell her but nothing had happened.
Well, nothing beyond John falling asleep with his head on Rodney's shoulder. He’d barely breathed the entire time, unwilling to risk waking John up.
He'd wanted to run his fingers through John's thick, dark, wild hair so badly his fingers had ached from it. Instead he'd sat there, barely seeing the movie in front of him, his heart too full of amazement that John had liked him enough and trusted him enough to get this close. It had taken his breath away.
Right, like he was going to tell Cadman that—ever. He left the firing range with a nod in her direction and hoped that would be the end of it. No such luck.
She sauntered up to him, waving a slip of paper. "Heard you got one of these, too. Everyone in the department is bitching about it. At least you won't have to requalify for the firing range. Nice shooting, McKay."
"Didn't we do this just six months ago?" Rodney asked.
"Yeah, which is why everyone is bitching." Her gaze wandered over him from knees to torso. "You're going to have to hit the gym." She patted his gut. "I think someone's had too many egg creams."
"Personal space!" Rodney yelled, twisting away. She grinned back, unrepentant. He sighed. "I know. I blame John for so much right now."
"Yeah? He didn't knock you up, did he? It is Area 51 after all, and weird shit happens."
Rodney snatched the note from her hand. "You're an idiot. Oh look, it says here that you're going to have to retest for explosive ordinances level two. Slipping, Cadman?"
"Oh, shut up. It wasn't my fault. Kavanagh snuck in and crossed the wires as a joke and didn't tell me." She shot a sharp grin in his direction. "At least I know I'll requalify with flying colors while you get to sweat it out in the gym. Have fun, Rodney!"
He waited until she was out of earshot before groaning out loud. He hated working out. He had six weeks to get in shape, barely doable with his schedule. He pulled out his phone and stared at his appointments. If he went to the gym three nights a week, cut back the amount of time he spent at John's, stuck to egg whites and rabbit food and gave up on what-the-hell-else that made life worth living, he could do it.
He couldn't do it. He needed help. Rodney's thumb was already on speed dial before he realized what he was doing.
"Sheppard's Alien Emporium. Area 51 souvenirs and crash-landing debris is our specialty."
"Hi Rodney. What's up?"
"I need help. Whatever your secret is, you have to tell me!"
"My secret." There was a long pause before John's voice came back on the line. "Are you calling me from work?"
"Yes! I have awful news. I have to get back into shape to pass my physical, not that I let myself go entirely. You've seen me. I've gotten a little soft around the middle but hardly – my god, John. These evil bastards are going to make me do chin-ups. You have to share your secret with me. How do you manage to stay the way you look with the slinky hips and wiry, smooth muscles?"
Shit, he probably shouldn't have worded it quite that way. He plastered one hand over his face and quietly groaned.
"That's the secret you want to know?" John asked, sounding oddly relieved.
"But, Rodney," there was another long pause before John added, "I think you're perfect just the way you are."
"My ego doesn't need nonsensical, fluffy kitten assurances, John, this is serious. If I can't pass the physical I'm out the door."
"Jeez, okay already. Relax, Rodney, I'll help. How do you feel about running?"
The worse part about running was—everything.
Rodney peeked through his fingers at his alarm clock. The Marvin the Martian's rocket ship ticked off the minutes counting down towards a five a.m. alarm. Ka-boom. Two minutes to go. Damn it.
John had given it to him as a gift and Rodney had been too weak to refuse. Right up until John's snort of laughter and hearty shoulder bop, but by then it was too late to give it back.
He sleepily watched as the seconds ticked by until he realized he only had seconds before it went off. He fumbled one arm out of the blankets and gave old Marvin a smack right in the ol' modulator.
Peace, heavenly peace.
"Rise and shine, sunshine!" John's voice carried in from the kitchen.
Why had he given John a key to his place? And what was he doing here this early in the morning?
The scent of coffee wafted in, caressing Rodney's senses with the aroma of caffeinated goodness. Ah, that was why.
Rodney climbed out of bed, hitched up his Physics gives me a large Hadron boxers and stumbled into the kitchen. "Breakfast?" he asked, hopefully.
"After our run." John leaned against the counter, wearing a pair of grey running shorts, and a soft-looking black t-shirt. His hair looked like he'd been running his fingers through it and Rodney could swear that John's eyes looked greener than ever in the morning light.
"I hate you."
"No, you don't." John set a cup of coffee down in front of him.
No, he didn't. Even while sitting at the table he leaned towards John. Rodney needed to be a lot more awake than this if he was going to manage any attempt at resistance.
Afraid he'd revealed too much already, Rodney concentrated on drinking his coffee before he could say something he'd regret. It took a couple of minutes but he finally noticed John grinning at him. "What's so funny?"
"Your hair. It's all fluffy. I don't think I've ever seen it like that before."
"My hair?! You've got a lot of nerve, Sheppard, the way yours perpetually looks like sleepy sex hair no matter what time of day it is."
"Hey, I didn't mean anything by it. I like the way it looks."
John bent over the table, reached out and laid his hand—not on Rodney's shoulder, which he could have handled—but against his cheek. Rodney had no defense for that. The strong curve of John's palm was warm and gentle. Rodney pushed his face into it before he could stop himself.
It was too much. Helplessly, he pressed the side of his face deeper into the cradle of John's hand and kissed his palm. Oh, god, what the hell was wrong with him? He held his breath, fully expecting to be shoved away in disgust. The last thing he expected was to hear John softly say, "Finally."
Rodney stood, uncaring that his chair tipped over. He needed to meet John halfway, and suddenly they were standing close enough to kiss. Time froze. Want bubbled up in his chest so hard it hurt. "You…"
"Yep, me. And you. Kinda nice the way that works, isn't it?"
Rodney blinked back John, completely speechless for once.
"It's okay, it's okay, god, I've wanted this so much…" John murmured a litany of soft words against Rodney's skin and his even softer mouth kissed Rodney on his cheek, his brow, the corner of his mouth, and the lobe of his ear.
Rodney didn't need the reassurances. Okay, maybe he did. For all that he was attracted to John, his sexual experience was limited to women, and damn few of those.
"Rodney?" John held him by the chin and stared straight into his eyes. “You with me?"
With a soft, "God, yes," Rodney tilted his head, giving John not just the perfect angle to kiss his mouth, but laying every bit of himself bare for John to take.
Rodney had blown his mind. A grin crept over John's face. That wasn't all he'd blown. Rodney's bedsheets were rucked down by the foot of the bed, shoved there when—okay, he wasn't sure exactly when. He'd been a little preoccupied with Rodney's tongue down his throat.
Bossy even when half-asleep, Rodney shifted around on the bed until he had one arm slung over John's waist. He snuffled and shifted his way over until he made himself comfortable using John's chest as a pillow for his head. Bemused by Rodney's unconscious honesty, John patted him gently on the head.
How did Rodney do that? Not the physical stuff, John knew exactly how he'd done that, but the soul-baring stuff. Where he came from, nobody did that shit. He'd grown up around surface concern and fake emotion, practiced and plastic. As soon as he'd been able to support himself he'd struck out on his own, looking for something genuine. That he'd found it on Earth, packaged in the guise of an irascible Federal agent with an acerbic tongue had surprised the hell out of him.
John ran his hand down the pale, smooth skin of Rodney's back and got a drowsy, grumpy moan for his efforts.
"Do you know what I was just thinking?" John asked.
"Unless you intend to add sex to my aerobic regime, then no." Rodney's hand slid over John's bare hip. Just as it was started to get interesting, he stopped and said, "Oh, hell, it's Marvin, isn't it? Damn clock. Am I late for work?"
"Not yet." John poked him in the shoulder. "You have to go to work and I have to get to the shop. Inventory waits for no man."
"You say the sweetest things."
It didn't take long to find their clothes. John steered Rodney towards the shower and was rewarded with a shy, sweet kiss on his cheek. "Tomorrow?" Rodney asked.
He curled an errant tuft of Rodney's hair around his finger before fondly smoothing it back into place. "Count on it."
The rest of the day moved like molasses. John's thoughts kept wandering back to Rodney and their morning together. He knew he was grinning like a dope and didn't care. Giving inventory up for a loss—he just didn't have the concentration for it—he went out and sat on the stoop.
He probably should have seen this coming, probably should have nipped it in the bud, but it was too late now. He was in love with an alien.
Technically, he was an alien in love with an Earthman. All a matter of perspective, really. John preferred to think of himself as an accidental tourist. If Earth's magnetic field hadn't interfered with the infrasound drive he never would have crashed.
He rubbed his fingertips together, remembering the feel of Rodney's skin and the way his body had arched under John's and the "Oh. Yes," of his moans in John's ears. Yep, the crash landing had been totally worth it.
Now, how to explain all that to Rodney?
"Hard not to. I think my ears are still ringing. What happened? Don't tell me you didn't pass your physical?"
"I passed, for all the good it did me. Even my blood pressure impressed the doctor." His voice dropped. "Thanks to you and our… um… well, suffice to say I couldn't have done it on my own. No, this is a bigger problem. The bastards are relocating me."
"I know. It sucks. They're shipping me off to SETI. Make no mistake, it's a complete dead end compared to what I'm doing now. What am I supposed to do, John, interview the radio dishes? Well hello there, Mr. Dish. Did you pick up any unusual radio waves last night? Care to elaborate on that?" He took a deep breath and tried to rub away his headache. It didn't help.
"When? How long have we got before…?" John sounded as strained and frustrated as Rodney felt.
"Next week. Can I come to your place?" As Rodney stared at the blank, utilitarian walls of his office, bile rose in his throat. "I need to get out of here."
"I've got a better idea. I've got an old storage shed that I use for a garage sometimes. It's a little hard to find but it's not far. Come pick me up and we'll head out that way. If you're going on a road trip it can't hurt to give your car a tune-up. Besides, it will give you something else to think about."
That wasn't what Rodney had in mind at all. He wasn't even sure he'd be allowed to take the company car. Probably, but still—fine. Anything was better than staying here.
Rodney picked John up and followed his directions. To say this shed was off the beaten path was an understatement, though at least it explained why it wasn't on any map.
He glanced over at John. "I don't think I've ever seen you look nervous before. I know it can't be my driving, I can't get above thirty-five on this goat trail."
"There's a path," John protested, the color coming back into his face.
"Right. Those tracks that are almost impossible to see. Very helpful."
Damn, John had gone back to chewing his bottom lip.
Rodney tried drawing him out again. He couldn't remember ever seeing John this nervous and had no idea how to help. "I hope you realize this is them shoving me off to pasture at an early age and killing off any chance of promotion."
Okay, there was a spark of outraged interest. Good. Maybe he should try for more honesty. Rodney gripped the steering wheel and steeling himself, admitted, "Oh, god, John, I don't want to leave."
"Rodney." John scooted over to sit close enough to lay his hand on Rodney's arm. "You don't have to go."
"Quit my job?"
"Would it be that bad? Assuming you had something to do that's a lot more interesting and with someone that—"
"Someone like you?"
John nodded and for the first time in hours, the ache in Rodney's chest began to lessen. "That's not a completely horrible idea."
Tension flowed out of John, and he relaxed into his normal slouch.
"Feeling better? You've been wound up about something since I picked you up," Rodney said.
Finally at ease, John shot a dopey grin in his direction." I'm good. And, I have a feeling you're going to like my idea."
After another ten minutes of driving, John had him pull over. "This is the place."
"I don't see it." Rodney got out of the car and stood with his hands on his hips. "Where the hell is it?"
"It's camouflaged. This way." John stepped a few paces ahead and waved his hand over something Rodney couldn't see.
Rodney tensed as a sandy-colored building appeared in front of him. "Sheppard, what is this? Oh my god, you've stolen government secrets, haven't you? You must have. Somehow you managed to steal advance tech out of Area 51." He ran a hand over his face. "Oh my God."
"Rodney, no." John gripped Rodney's shoulders and took a deep breath. "I didn't steal tech from you guys. You stole mine!"
"I'll explain everything but first we have to get under cover." With another wave of his hand, a garage door opened. "Drive your car in. Once it's inside they won't be able to detect it. C'mon, Rodney, before someone gets curious and sends out a drone to check on us."
Rodney stared at the not-really-a-garage with the not-really-a-garage door and swallowed. John got back in the car, took his hand and squeezed. "Trust me."
John didn't let go. Rodney stared down at their hands and relaxed. He trusted John. That was good enough. "Okay. Okay. Wait—the car has a GPS tracker."
"It won't matter once you drive inside."
"Really? That is so cool."
He drove inside and John hopped out and closed the garage door behind them. Rodney wanted to explore everything—because hello—invisible garage— He hesitated, waiting for John to invite him to explore.
Instead, John leaned over and patted the car's hood. "You need to give her a name, Rodney. It's plain disrespectful not to."
"It's a pilot thing."
He went with it. What else could he do? At least Area 51 had prepared him for odd, unnerving situations. But Rodney would bet a year's pay that no one could be prepared for John Sheppard." Fine, her name is Car."
John shook his head. "After that, you're not allowed to name things, ever. I'm calling her Candy." He bumped Rodney's shoulder. "Because she came with something sweet inside."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Could you get anymore hokey?" No one else had to know that he'd almost turned into a girl because John called him sweet. Besides, he knew a delaying tactic when he saw one. John had something else up his sleeve, he'd just have to wait him out. Ha! John didn't know it yet but Rodney had the patience of a saint. As long as he didn't have to wait too long.
Elbows deep in the guts of his engine, Rodney looked up to ask John for a 9/15ths socket wrench.
"Here, Rodney. This will work." John passed him a multi-tool, smiling and leaning into Rodney's space.
At some point he'd switched his typical ratty Hawaiian shirt out for a thin wife-beater that molded to his chest. He pulled a popsicle out of his mouth that had turned his lips cherry red, and Rodney almost dropped the multi-tool into the engine's guts.
"I…you…where did that come from?"
Shamelessly, John licked up the side of the popsicle. "The invisible closet. Did I mention I like cherry?"
Distracted, Rodney kept forgetting what he was supposed to be looking at. Oh, right. The engine. It took a few minutes but when he recognized the material the multi-tool was made of, he narrowed his eyes. "You didn't find this in any hardware store. I suppose you're going to tell me that we stole this from you, too?"
"That and some other stuff like it." John shrugged. "I had it to spare."
"Okay, that's it." Rodney tossed the multi-tool down and folded his arms across his chest. "Talk."
John ducked his head and grinned. "Aw, Rodney, I told you I had a plan for us."
"Now, Sheppard. Confession time. What are you trying to hide?"
John ducked his head and smiled. "If you're sure you're ready?"
"Okay." John waved his hand over a trigger in the wall. The whole wall shimmered clear and another room was revealed. "There she is, our ticket away from here."
Rodney's mouth dropped open. Carefully, as if it might all disappear if he moved too quickly, he circled the silver, saucer-shaped vessel. When he could finally form words, he managed to strangle out, "You have a spaceship."
"It's bigger on the inside." John waggled his eyebrows.
"Oh, now you're just being ridiculous." Rodney's hand hovered just above the hull. "Can I touch it?"
"You could always touch it, Rodney."
For the second time Rodney's mouth dropped open, his brain urging him to say yes, yes please, to all the touching.
He suddenly found himself backed up against the shiny spacecraft with John's hands down his pants. Rodney was finding it hard to object when John dropped to his knees and pulled Rodney's pants down with him.
"C'mon Rodney, explore the galaxy with me. It doesn't pay much but I can guarantee great benefits."
John's mouth, still red from the popsicle, began exploring the pale skin of Rodney's inner thighs.
He decided he could grill John about the details later. He ran his fingers through John's hair and tried to guide him to an area needing more urgent attention. Taking the hint, John began mouthing his cock.
Seeing John like this, with his red mouth sucking gently over Rodney's cockhead, and his dark eyelashes closed in pleasure made Rodney's knees tremble. "John."
Okay, conversation could wait. Rodney's head thumped against the side of the spaceship. "Get up here so I can touch you."
John shimmied upright, letting his pants drop to his ankles. Rodney grabbed his hips and pulled John up tight against him. The combination of naked skin and friction went straight to Rodney's cock and he moaned into the side of John's neck.
"Yeah, Rodney, just like that." John surged up against him and shuddered hotly against Rodney's belly.
Rodney briefly wrestled with John's shirt hoping for more naked skin. He gave up trying when John yanked Rodney's pants down to his knees. Trapped in place by his clothes he drew in a sharp breath when John's fingers found the cleft of his ass.
"I love your ass," John husked, low and dirty.
"You are not fucking me against the side of a flying saucer. I mean it, John. I haven't even seen the inside of it yet."
John pulled back and grinned. "That's your criteria? You need a tour first and then I can bend you over the hood?"
"Shut up." Rodney licked the palm of his hand and reached for John's cock. "Yes. Probably."
John made a happy humming sound and went back to stroking Rodney's ass.
"Smug, is not a good look on you," Rodney huffed. Admittedly, his words might have been more effective if wasn't trying to push his ass into John's hands at the same time. "Oh god, that's good."
Rodney whined when John's hand left his ass but decided not to complain he realized John's intention.
"I need…." John ran his thumb over the slit of his own cock swiping up as much pre-come as he could to use as lube. He got a good, tight grip on Rodney's cock and braced his feet. "Fuck my fist. Do it Rodney. That's right, put some hip action into to."
With John's hand on him holding him tight and his husky, sexy voice urging him on, Rodney shoved into John's fist, all motion and no thought beyond need and more.
"God you're gorgeous like this," John groaned. The sound went straight to Rodney's hindbrain and he came hard, seeing stars that had nothing to do with outer space.
"Stay there, just like that," John said.
Rodney blinked lazily back at him.
John smoothed his palm over Rodney's stomach. "I want to come all over your belly. Will you let me?"
"Oh, I love it when you talk all Agency."
Rodney tugged on the part of John's shirt he could reach. "Idiot."
He found himself pushed back against the ship's side again with John pressed up tight against him.
"I'm using your come, Rodney. Using it to make it nice and slick for me to rub off on you."
He refused to think it was sexy and he wasn't going to make any embarrassing noises. Rodney whined and tried to move closer. "Do it." He tugged at John's hair, wanting his mouth where he could reach it to kiss.
The kisses didn't stop there. John kissed his throat, his collarbone, his chest, working his way across his body until Rodney was dizzy with it.
"I can't tease any longer. I need to…" John said, sounding broken.
Rodney gathered John in his arms "I've got you."
John thrust against him, wildly, shaking with the effect to hold back; to keep from coming just a little bit longer. "Oh."
"Don't worry about it. You lasted a full two minutes longer than I did." Rodney patted the top of John's head. "But you still have to clean us up. Man with this pants around his knees here. In case you've forgotten."
John yanked off his shirt and used it to wipe first Rodney and then himself off. "But next time it's your turn."
"Yes yes." Rodney yanked up his pants and tucked himself back in while listening to John make noises about having sex on every planet they visited. He was about to agree when he saw it.
Rodney stared, eyebrows climbing higher as he realized what he was looking at. "John, is that the missing Black Mailbox? And why do you have it?"
John threw his arm around him and grinned. "Yep, that's the one. Of course, I took it, Rodney. I had mail."