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Rodney hadn't exactly forgotten that they were going to pretend to be a gay couple and had agreed to do it because it was the only way to take a look at a very, very promising piece of technology, but being faced with so much of Sheppard's skin was another thing entirely.

The sight of Sheppard's hairy chest made his stomach twist because he associated it with death and pain and fear, but here in this warm room with its spacious bed, located inside a facility that had been hidden inside a volcano for thousands of years, he felt completely safe. Which meant that there was no anxious waiting for Sheppard's heart to start beating again to distract him from the way Sheppard's chest hair narrowed down towards the swim trunks that they were both wearing.

"Ready?"

Rodney just nodded, tearing his gaze away. He couldn't be blamed for his flushing cheeks and his heart rate going up a notch. As awkward as Sheppard could be at times, standing there in just swim trunks and flip-flops, hair somehow more tousled than usual, he'd be attractive to anyone who was...alive.

Rodney quickly gathered his laptop and the sensor device and stepped outside their room towards the large dome at the center of the facility, where the main power control was located.

John was right behind him. It was hard to keep thinking of him as Sheppard when he had his warm hand on Rodney's back.

Blend in, Rodney thought.

Elizabeth had ordered them not to disrupt the daily proceedings in the facility. She'd agreed to let them go after Rodney had outlined the great potential of technology that could safely harness natural energy like that of a volcano. But after discussing the situation for gay couples in the Pegasus Galaxy with Teyla and Ronon, she'd made it clear that they were to respect this safe haven under all circumstances. She'd directed this at Rodney in particular, which he found insulting if not entirely inexplicable. However, Elizabeth needn't have worried. After some of Ronon's more gruesome stories about what was done to gay people on some planets, he had no intention of doing anything to endanger the place.

So here they were in the gay resort of choice in this galaxy, pretending to be a couple.

Sheppard had explained that they couldn't openly be together on their planet. He'd also told them that Rodney had difficulties relaxing. Kelq, their personal attendant, had accepted this as a reason for the laptop and sensor. He had also smiled fondly at them and expressed his hopes that Rodney wouldn't spend all his time working. "I'm sure I can persuade him," John had answered, stroking Rodney's back. It had sent shivers down Rodney's spine then, and it did more than that now.

They made their way to the dome at the center of the facility.

Rodney half-expected dozens of well-oiled, hairless bodies walking around the pool and lying in the little spots of green that they'd built around the tower-like structure giving off the energy signature Rodney was after. There were a few couples in the various niches. Some of them were obviously together, others were just relaxing. There were young men, but also an older couple and not everyone looked as if they belonged in a catalogue or magazine.

Of course, Rodney wasn't here to watch them. He spotted a wide canvas chair close to the tower structure. It was situated under a palm-like tree and half-surrounded by plants, which afforded at least a bit of cover. He set up his laptop on the little block of stone next to it.

Sheppard sat down behind him, looking over his shoulder. For the sake of their camouflage, he seemed to have forgotten any sense of personal space because Rodney could feel John's chest hair tickling his back.

He managed not to snap at John. Elizabeth had joked that they already had the "married couple" act down pat when they'd departed, but he didn't think verbal attacks would go over very well in this peaceful place.

"There's only so long I can let you play with that thing without people noticing," John whispered into his ear.

Rodney swallowed. It was ridiculous that this was getting to him so much. "Why don't you go take a swim?" he suggested, without turning around or adding instead of distracting me.

"All right, sweetheart."

Rodney didn't have to see Sheppard to know he was grinning. He made a shooing motion, hoping that he'd finally be able to work in peace without John plastered to him.

John did move away, but didn't get up immediately. Rodney waited for him to leave, eyes fixed on the monitor. Then he suddenly felt the quick brush of John's soft lips against his cheek.

Rodney spluttered. He finally turned around, but John had already gotten up and was walking toward the pool. Rodney looked around to check if anyone had seen them, but most of the couples only had eyes for each other. A few however were watching John.

Rodney's gaze returned to him. He was kicking off his sandals and dipping his toes into the water. Rodney smiled. His smile froze as John bent forward and scooped up some water, letting it fall over his head.

Watching the water drip down John's back was a sinful experience. Rodney's gaze flicked over to the others, and he suddenly felt very smug, if not a little possessive, that John was here with him, that John was his.

Then he dropped back into the realm of reality where they were just pretending to be together and John was nothing more than a good friend. Rodney thought back to the quick kiss on his cheek, then cursed his own irrationality. He still couldn't tear his gaze away until John jumped into the pool surprisingly gracefully, at which point Rodney could finally get to work on his tests.

~~

The technology that powered the shield and everything else was amazing.

He'd have to ask Kelq for a tour of the tower. Sheppard had already established him as a workaholic, so it might actually work. Eventually they'd have to come clean anyway.

Rodney was about to start the last round of collecting data when he heard someone come up behind him.

"Just a few more minutes," he said. He didn't bother to turn around since he'd settled on his stomach, laptop on the ground in front of him. Then he felt drops of water on his back. "What the hell! What do you think you're doing, Sheppard? Despite the hair, you're not a do—"

Rodney stopped short after finally turning around indignantly.

Sheppard was leaning over him, dripping water all over the place, which was mainly on Rodney. He was wet and flushed and far too close.

"I'm...uh... I'm not quite finished," Rodney managed.

John just looked at him for a moment. "Kelq came looking for me. I think he's just about ready to start an intervention for us."

Rodney's gaze wandered around the area, but he couldn't see their attendant. Then again, he guessed that was part of his job. "Right. I just need to record a bit more data. Then we can go back to...to our room." Their room with the big bed, the candles, and a drawer full of condoms and lube and oil.

"We could come back here later," John suggested.

"No," Rodney almost shouted. He wanted to finish his recordings as soon as possible to have all data that he needed to run a few simulations. But he also didn't want to go back into that room, where John wouldn't be leaning close and where everything would remind him of what they were supposed to be doing in this place but weren't because they were just pretending.

Dammit, this wasn't an opportunity or anything. At least that was what he tried to tell himself, but when he opened his mouth, what came out was, "You could massage my back while I finish up."

One of John's eyebrows rose slightly, and Rodney immediately tried to take it back. "I just thought, you know, in the spirit of blending in." He turned back onto his stomach and to the computer screen. "You can just take another swim. It won't take long."

He fiddled with the computer, unable to concentrate while John was hovering above him. He hadn't meant to overstep their boundaries. Hell, Sheppard had kissed him. He had just wanted to buy them some time, before Kelq started suggesting couples therapy. And if the thought of John's hands on him for just a few minutes seemed very inviting, that was nothing John ever needed to know.

After what seemed like an eternity, Rodney could still feel the warmth of John's body above him and the occasional drop of water falling onto his back. He'd already said enough, though, so he held out.

Eventually John moved away, and Rodney was both relieved and disappointed. He breathed out and finally went to set the parameters for the sensor, when he suddenly felt hands on his shoulders.

Rodney gasped in surprise as John sat down, straddling his thighs.

Rodney took a few deep breaths. He had asked for this after all.

"Is this okay?" John asked, and the uncertainty in this voice made Rodney feel better for some reason.

"Yeah," he said, glad that it sounded almost normal.

John started to knead his back, and Rodney couldn't hold back a little moan. Lying in this position must have made him tense.

He quickly started to enter the missing parameters, but when John's hands drifted further down his back, concentrating became difficult. Rodney bit his lip. He could feel his dick hardening beneath him.

John's hands moved to Rodney's sides, and Rodney's body didn't really see a difference between a massage and foreplay.

Rodney squirmed, trying to give his trapped dick a bit of relief. John moved up, allowing Rodney to arrange himself a bit better. But instead of settling back down on Rodney's thighs, John leaned forward.

Rodney could feel the whispered words, before he could hear them. "I think, if I kissed you it would convince Kelq that you won't be working for much longer and that there's no need for him to worry."

Rodney's heart beat wildly in his chest. John was just making a suggestion to support their act as a couple, of course. It was just like his own suggestion and didn't mean anything.

Except that his suggestions had meant something, and he couldn't help wonder if John was doing the same. Although honestly, it wasn't so much wonder as hope.

"Okay," Rodney whispered back and turned his face towards John.

They looked at each other, and Rodney thought that if this was pretending, he wasn't sure if he'd survive the real thing. John moved in, and Rodney closed his eyes just before their lips touched. In this position, he couldn't hold John's face, but it was still glorious when they opened up their mouths to deepen the kiss.

They had to part to take a deep breath, and John's mouth went to Rodney's ear, whispering, "You should really finish up now."

Rodney regretfully turned his head towards the screen. He wasn't sure if it had been too much for John, if this was a subtle hint that they were just doing this to convince Kelq, but then he felt John's lips on his neck. John had never been this dedicated to following orders. It had to mean more. It had to mean that Rodney wasn't the only one feeling the way he did.

He hastily entered the last of the parameters while John kissed along his shoulder, his hands stroking Rodney's back. A few last keys pressed and finally the computer was beginning to record the energy patterns.

Rodney carefully turned around. "It'll run for a few minutes now."

John was right above him, his face hovering over Rodney's. He'd just have to lean down, and they'd be kissing again, or Rodney could lean up.

He hesitated, though, because he wasn't sure what they were doing here. Were they just making the most of this little act? Was this just an opportunity to act on the attraction that was clearly there between them? Or, was this the beginning of more?

He looked up at John, but he couldn't read anything in his face.

In the end, he moved his hands to John's torso, because touching him felt like the right thing—the only thing—to do. And whether this was pretense or not didn't have to matter for now.

John lowered himself slowly back down, and when his crotch made contact, Rodney could feel that he wasn't the only one who was half-hard.

After that, there was no more hesitation for either of them. Rodney's hands ran up John's chest to his neck. He pulled John's face to his own, and their lips only briefly touched before tongues came into play.

John was squirming on top of him as if he couldn't get enough of Rodney and just needed to be closer. Rodney moved his hands to John's back, holding him almost violently. He ran his hands over the tense muscles, pushing upwards every now and then because it was never close enough.

When his hands reached John's swim trunks, he hesitated only for a second before sliding one hand beneath the material.

John groaned loudly into his mouth, then moved up and away.

Rodney immediately removed his hands, letting them fall at his side.

John was straddling him across his groin, looking down with swollen red lips and wild hair. "I think now would be a good time to go back to our room," John said between heavy breaths.

Rodney stared up at him. Had he gone too far? Maybe making out was as far as John had been willing to go for the sake of "blending in". On the other hand, maybe he wanted them to go back to their room to finish this properly. Rodney was too terrified to ask.

He didn't know how long they'd stared at each other when the computer signaled that it had finished recording the data.

John stood up, and Rodney turned to pick up the computer. Part of him wanted to rush, the other part wanted to stay here and just get back to what they'd been doing.

When he was ready, though, John put a hand on the small of Rodney's back and guided him back to their room.

Rodney held the computer in front of his tented trunks. He was expecting the worst—that John would let go of him like a hot potato as soon as they entered their room. With that in mind, he tried to see the positive in that. He'd get to start on a few simulations immediately. The findings were sure to be fascinating, and he'd probably forget what had happened between him and John in a matter of minutes.

Right. And the Wraith would turn vegetarian any day now.

Far too soon, the door to their room came into view. Rodney had to force himself to keep walking.

John opened the door and gently guided Rodney inside. Rodney set the laptop on the table. After taking a deep breath, he turned around to face John.

They looked at each other, and Rodney wished that John's look meant he felt the same. There was a certain amount of trepidation in his eyes, but Rodney didn't know if it meant that he was afraid that Rodney didn't feel the same or that he was afraid of hurting Rodney.

Eventually Rodney couldn't take it any longer. "Please just say something."

John stayed silent for a long moment. Then he simply said, "Something."

Rodney sighed in frustration. "That's not even—"

And then John was on him and around him, holding him, kissing him, and saying "I'm not pretending", "I want you", "This is real" without uttering a single word.

Rodney kissed back and pulled him toward the bed, and the things he said to John didn't need words either.