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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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They made it to cover five seconds before the aliens did (the other aliens, of course, not Teyla and Ronon or any of the tens of thousands of sensible aliens they'd met over the last six years, but the loincloth-wearing loonies wielding the remarkably painful rubber spatulas).

John and Rodney ducked into the hollow of a gargantuan tree as Ronon and Teyla slid under an outcropping of rock, shielding them from view above. A moment later, the aliens darted past in the silly golf cart-like buggies John had so admired and they'd taken such offense at the suggestion of trading for supplies.

Rodney crouched low, peering out through a small hole in the tree trunk at the five dozen aliens running back and forth on the road. His rasping breath seemed to scrape through his dry throat, and, crammed above him, Sheppard's chest vibrated against his spine. Rodney was fully prepared to complain at the ridiculously, unnecessarily close proximity, but the road was still congested with hostile aliens in what were essentially studded leather undies and Mardi Gras beads and Rodney had developed some idea of when to keep clammed up. Usually it was when threatened with absurd weapons by lunatics who dressed out of Lady Gaga’s dresser.

Sheppard had tugged Rodney into the hollow tree through a narrow crack in the trunk facing away from the aliens’ dirt road, giving him little time to be absolutely repulsed by the concept of crawling into rotted tree. Now, Rodney had a spare moment for the discomfort of the situation to creep in and he realized how tight the space inside the tree was – that they were crammed into a hollow shaped vaguely like a hyperbola, and that if they could actually straighten out, one of them could actually stand upright.

Even if talking was out, that didn’t rule out moving, and Rodney intended to let Sheppard know how unwelcome Sheppard’s magma-hot body was in his personal space. He shifted, lodging an elbow in Sheppard’s ribs, and Sheppard pushed him right back, flat against the inside of the tree trunk.

“Quit it,” Sheppard hissed.

“I am borderline claustrophobic, Colonel,” Rodney hissed back. “And you’re crushing me!”

“Just stay down for a damn minute, McKay, and then we can deal with your issue.”

Over Rodney’s shoulder, he caught Sheppard’s narrowed eyes. He puffed up his chest. “My issue?” he whispered indignantly. “I believe I have a right to personal space.”

“Nobody ever agreed to the terms of your Lantean Constitution, Rodney,” Sheppard retorted.

“Which, I maintain, was the wrong decision.” Rodney shrugged John’s hand off his shoulder. “Now, would you please—”


“—get off?” Rodney got a shoulder into John’s arm and twisted. As Rodney moved, his foot swept out John’s boot, and Sheppard tumbled over, biting his tongue against an exclamation. He clumsily fell all over Rodney like a blanket.

Rodney’s brow creased stormily, his cheek crammed against the smooth inside of the tree, John’s sharp chin in his shoulder. “Colonel?” he snapped.

Sheppard met his eyes over his shoulder, his dark eyebrows furled in annoyance. “Don’t move,” he warned Rodney – somehow, he’d managed to keep his legs off of Rodney, and he was propped on his hands on Rodney’s back.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Rodney,” John warned.

“I won’t.”

“Do not move,” Sheppard growled.

Rodney narrowed his eyes at him, his neck twinging as he tried to see the Colonel better. He moved a fraction of an inch for the purpose of properly seeing him, and his hips pushed back into Sheppard’s. Sheppard tensed, his hand going tight on Rodney’s shoulder. Rodney froze, his hips flush against Sheppard’s crotch.

His blue eyes shot wide. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the reddened tip of Sheppard’s ear and the flush creeping up his neck. Ever the scientist, Rodney wouldn’t draw a conclusion based on one experiment – he carefully shifted his hips and felt it like a catch on a smooth surface. John Sheppard’s erection.

The erection of legend. Rodney was sure that they told tales about it on planets Sheppard had wooed. Except that this erection was plastered against his ass, his male ass, yielding the distinct impression that this erection was pleased about being plastered against his male ass. Rodney couldn’t entirely get over that.

Incredulous, Rodney asked, “Are you hard?”

Sheppard’s lips thinned into a tight line. He studiously avoided Rodney’s eyes, boring a hole into the tree trunk with the power of his glare. Rodney’s brows shot up to his hairline. “It’s not you,” Sheppard answered finally, when sweat was breaking out on his forehead despite the cool autumn air.

Rodney balked. “Um, I’m sorry, Colonel, but I’m the only one I see here, so I’m failing to understand who, precisely, it would be if it wasn’t me.” He attempted to imperiously lift his chin and scraped his cheek on the tree trunk. He wouldn’t bank money on Sheppard’s stormy look being all bluster. He was attacked by a sudden feeling of uncertainty.

“It’s…,” Sheppard huffed, dropping his head. The aliens’ footfalls were audible from the dirt road. “Just drop it, okay?” His low voice issued near Rodney’s ear.

Rodney swallowed, his blue eyes on the hard line of Sheppard’s mouth. His chest constricted painfully. Rodney had to admit that maybe it was totally unforeseen but possibly a little flattering to know that the great Intergalactic Casanova was getting hot and bothered about being smashed in a tight space with him. Sheppard could (and usually did) have his pick of women, no, people, so the fact that his choice was Rodney was pretty impressive. “So do you…?”

“Rodney,” John whispered in warning, “drop it.”

“Considering the fact that it’s my ass you’re fondling, I think I have some latitude to ask questions.”

“Yes,” John answered sharply.

Rodney’s eyes widened, his mouth sagging in shock. “You mean, you’re really – that you are, um…?”

“Yes, Rodney, and for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, I haven’t brought it up before and I’d appreciate it if we could just drop it in the future.”

Rodney’s forehead creased. “Even after Jennifer and I broke it off?”

John’s eyebrows knit. “What?” he asked softly.

Rodney spared a quick glance out of the hole in the tree, to make sure that the coast still wasn’t clear. Still totally crowded with spatula-wielding aliens. “I mean, why didn’t you bring it up then?” he whispered. “I’ve been single since August – you could’ve made a move on me at any point since then. I was easy pickings. Remember that night on the pier?”

John’s hazel eyes were way too close to Rodney’s. Even without being good at emotions, Rodney could identify the incredulity and impatience in Sheppard’s face. “We’re friends, Rodney. Do we have to talk about this now?”

“Yes. I mean, okay – yes, it’s not optimal timing.”

“Good,” Sheppard replied in a strident undertone. “Then we can just not talk about it.”

“But we are talking about you being in love with me, right?”

Sheppard’s eyes flashed wide and narrowed rapidly. His mouth opened and then closed. “What?” His face was florid and shiny with sweat. “That’s not—”

Rodney decisively turned and dropped his elbow from under John’s chest as he twisted to face the Colonel. Apparently, he was a master of the unexpected, because Sheppard’s trained reflexes were no match for Rodney’s sudden move. Sheppard tumbled off to the side and ended up against Rodney’s chest, his mouth smashed against McKay’s.

For a certified Don Juan, Sheppard seemed genuinely clueless. He was frozen against Rodney, his lean body all tense muscle. Rodney tilted his face up, deepening the kiss, and John murmured quietly into his mouth. Rodney felt John relax by degrees, his mouth softening on Rodney’s, opening up. A jolt ran up Rodney’s spine at the silky touch of Sheppard’s tongue to his. Rodney could almost forget the hostile forces amassing on the road up on the hill.

A discreet cough sounded at the crack in the tree trunk and the two men sprang apart. Sheppard jerked back, smacking the back of his head (and possibly denting his spiky hair) against the low curve of the tree trunk. “Ow! Crap!”

Rodney’s hands shot up in premature surrender, when he recognized the face peering in at them. “Oh,” he said. “Um…”

Teyla and Ronon looked distinctly amused. “Ah, John, Rodney,” Teyla said, “it seems that the Arkana have given up the chase.” She shot a sidelong glance over her shoulder at Ronon, her lips quirking up. “If you are…both ready, Ronon and I think that we should make for the gate before they return.”

“Unless you guys need more time,” Ronon suggested behind her, one thick eyebrow arched and his eyes amused.

Sheppard’s hands absently patted over his BDUs, putting his clothes right as quickly as possible. “No, no! That’s great – let’s move out,” he said quickly. His face was red and his voice was higher than usual as he eased out through the crack in the tree trunk.

Teyla swept a lock of hair behind her ear and glanced over at Ronon with a smirk. “Shall I take point?” she asked.

“You do that,” Sheppard said.

Rodney pointedly ignored Teyla’s smirk and Ronon’s open, toothy grin as they set off together ahead of them. He waited about five seconds before he (fairly) discreetly asked, “I assume that we’ll, um, talk about this later?”

John’s startled hazel eyes met his. A flush crept up over the neck of his black t-shirt. The corners of his hazel eyes crinkled as he cringed. “Can’t we just skip the talking part and get straight to the physical portion?” he asked.

A burst of heat washed over Rodney. “Um, that’s…I’m sure that…Ah…very well,” he stammered uselessly. Beside him, Sheppard laughed.