Today was the first time John was ever, for even one second, pleased that two members of his team were sleeping together. "Teyla and I will come get you and Ronon when the joining ceremony is do—."
"Wait a minute," said Rodney. "Ronon and I aren't doing this. I can't believe you would think we were, although I don't know why, as your capacity for cluelessness is constantly revealing new voids."
"First of all, it's your fault we're in this mess. I fully understand and appreciate your excitement at finding a piece of apparently functioning Ancient technology, but breaking a powerful fertility fetish in the process kinda pissed off our hosts. And, secondly," he flicked a significant look at Ronon's hand on Rodney's shoulder, "the P'tily aren't asking you to do anything you and Ronon don't already do. Nightly. At high volume."
Rodney flushed, but unlike every time other John had referred to the Incident, he didn't mention that it had been only the once. He just straightened up and pursed his lips. "This may have escaped your notice because of provincial American or ideological self-righteousness, but the P'tily joining ceremony isn't just semi-public sex followed by a picnic and loud music, it's a wedding. They are asking us to get married. And in your country, a wedding of two men may not be a legally binding contract, but it certainly is in mine, and I have no intention of tying myself for life to someone I'm currently casually dating. While it is possible that one day, in the future, Ronon and I might want to take measures to publicly announce we are 'two become one', that day is not today, and I am not going to be your, or the P'tily's, performing monkey."
John opened his mouth, but Rodney turned away from him and into Ronon's side. "That's not to say—," he stopped, took a breath. Rodney's posture changed, relaxed, and he put one hand on Ronon's waist.
Ronon leaned down, brought his face next to Rodney's.
Rodney whispered in Ronon's ear, and whatever he said made Ronon smile, nod, and say, "You're good." Then Ronon straightened up and looked at Teyla. "Could you and he…?"
"No," she said, shaking her head. "Now is a bad time." She made a vague gesture towards her mid-section.
John wondered if there was anything to be gained in blaming someone for not including condoms in the field supplies. True, they were technically forbidden from sleeping with the natives. But it could happen to any team, at any time, that their resident scientist could knock over a fertility fetish cleverly disguised as a sculpture of a fat woman with no feet. And of course that would mean the people they were attempting to establish trade with would demand that someone on the team get married in order to dedicate the new fetish. Could happen to any team, any where, at any time at all. "So, McKay, you and Ronon need to—."
"I'll do it with you, Sheppard," said Ronon. "I've served my team leader before."
"You most certainly will no—," Rodney started to say, to squeak really, but he stopped and inhaled noisily.
"You care?" said Ronon.
Rodney turned to face him. "Wouldn't you care if the Colonel and I…?"
Ronon shrugged. "If he was hurting you, I would stop him."
Rodney raised an eyebrow, but said, "Fine, then I'll do it." He turned to look at John and blanched.
John knew he was scowling, but this was so out of bounds. Why were they acting like he would have sex with either of them? "When did my ass get put on the line?"
"When you left your giant, overstuffed backpack on the floor by the possibly working Ancient device. That's what I tripped on when I fell on the goddess thing."
When it came down to it, the P'tily ceremony wasn't too bad. John and Rodney were each made to bathe with special soap and put on the P'tily version of a tux: long yellow tunic over scratchy leather leggings without shoes. They repeated the very pregnant priestess' lines in a dialect so old the Gate autotranslate function could no longer cope. Then they did a Lady and the Tramp number, where they ate into opposite sides of a bitter orange fruit until they met in middle and tongue-wrestled for the tiny seeds that tasted like sugar cubes.
Everyone applauded when they broke apart, and a smaller yet still visibly pregnant priestess led them to a hut on one side of the main square, opposite a huge buffet. John, from the corner of his eye, caught Rodney waving. He turned to see Ronon weighed down with two hefty plates already.
He rolled his eyes and tapped Rodney on the shoulder. "After you," he said as he pulled aside the tent flap.
"Thank you, Colonel." Rodney walked halfway in the door, froze, and backed out. "There's a naked woman in there!"
John couldn't help himself; he stuck his head in too. Sure enough, a pretty brunette with skin the color of hazelnuts was lying on a cot without anything on except the anklet that marked her as a priestess. He pulled his head back out and turned around. The other priestess was looking up at them, brows wrinkled and bottom lip between her teeth. "Why is she in there? I thought Rodney and I were supposed to, uh, join and quicken."
"Well, yes, you and Dr. McKay will be one in heart, but the two of you being one in flesh will not suffice. You are both men, and the goddess cannot choose to make new life from your joining without a conduit." She looked back and forth between them and then smiled suddenly. "Unless your people have the technology to make two men fertile with one another? We would like very much to trade for that."
When John got sent on this mission, he hadn't planned on getting married, or having sex with Rodney, or anything other than trading for game and looking for Ancient devices. He certainly wasn't ready to impregnate a complete stranger and leave the resulting offspring on the planet.
Rodney apparently felt the same. "I certainly can't allow any child of mine to be raised here. I fully expect my offspring to be mathematical or musical geniuses, and, as such, I want them steeped in the traditions of my culture so they can advance their chosen fields. You have some very interesting instrumentation, but if what we heard last night was typical, your sense of harmony is—."
"Dr. McKay," interrupted the priestess, "a priestess of Pnyssa would not dream of keeping and raising a child. If you don't feel the creche of the priests of Terrell is adequate to raise any children the goddess makes, we are happy to have the child raised with your people."
"Oh," said Rodney. "That's all right then."
John blinked. "Rodney, may I have a private word with you?"
"I can withdraw, but she," the slightly pregnant priestess pointed towards the tent, "must stay where she is." She left the two of them and headed towards the food and the music.
John turned back to face Rodney. "McKay, if you get this woman pregnant and she sends your offspring through the gate in nine months, what are you going to do with it? Our situation in the city isn't exactly ideal for parenting, and I don't think Ronon is looking to move to the mainland and raise your kids with the Athosians."
"Send the kid to my sister Jeannie. We have a standing arrangement."
John squeezed his eyes shut tight, until he saw shooting colors beneath his lids. When he opened them again, McKay was standing in front of him with one brow raised, waiting to see his reaction. "Okay, fine, that's good for you. Your sister has a standing arrangement to raise your children but I didn't have the foresight to make those sorts of plans, and I—"
"You will bugger me, Colonel, and the chances of you impregnating the priestess will be comfortably close to zero."
John opened his mouth to object and then he closed it. The only real downside to this plan was was that a) it would piss off Elizabeth and b) he would be having sex with Rodney. But those were the downsides of the previous, priestess-less plan, to which he'd already reconciled himself. So, instead he twisted his mouth into a smirk and pulled open the tent flap.
Rodney smiled back (probably because he was an asshole who needed to be right all the time) and went in.
John followed him, and this time, looked around at more than just the naked priestess. As tents went, it was a nice one: a second, larger cot piled high with pillows and furs was against one wall; a table with bottles of what he guessed were water, wine, or oil stood next to it; small, tightly woven carpets, soft and cool underfoot, completely covered the floor; and a second, smaller table had candles burning on it. The light was weak, but the smell was delightful, like honey with a sharp undertone.
He turned to look at the priestess, who was still stretched out on the small cot. She smiled at him with a tightly-held mouth and worried eyes. "This is your day," she said, pointing somewhere in the foot of space between John and Rodney. "I will come as you are about to sow seed and I will catch it in me."
Rodney nodded, then turned to John and said, "Colonel?"
"Whatever," said John. He would actually have liked to sleep with the priestess, but she wasn't so hot he wanted to end up an unplanned parent out of the deal. He turned his back to her and faced Rodney. "So, what do you want to do?"
Rodney silently raised his hand to the the hem of his tunic and pulled it off. He pulled the leggings off and stood naked in front of John. "And you?" he said, waggling his fingers to hurry John along.
John stripped as quickly as possible, wincing at how the leather had stuck to his skin. He sat on the bed, one leg drawn up under himself. "Well, Rodney?"
Rodney shrugged and sat close by on the bed. He put one hand on John's knee.
Rodney pulled his hand back and put it in his own lap. "What do you need me to do?"
John shrugged and reached a hand out, touched Rodney's arm. It was hairy and warm and John was surprised by the muscle in it. He didn't know why he was surprised; he saw Rodney hauling Ancient equipment and fully loaded field packs all of the time. "Muscle-y," was all he said.
Rodney rolled his eyes and humphed.
John grinned because it was proof that being naked and gay did not make Rodney any less himself.
"I'm going to suck your cock."
Except, of course, where it made Rodney just say things like that. John refused to flinch again. He said, "Okay," and waited for Rodney's next move. He had a very firm policy of not refusing blowjobs, anyway.
Rodney stood up and grabbed a pillow off of the bed. He knelt in front of John and pulled the leg on the bed down on the floor beside him.
John wasn't hard, but he was feeling that first rush of heat, the swirling sensation when he realized that he was going to get off because someone else was touching his cock. He loved his cock, loved the heavy, hot weight between his legs. Loved the drag and pull when someone else touched it and the wet heat when he fucked a mouth.
John felt two hands pushing at his upper thighs, and he spread his legs.
"Lie down," said Rodney. "Relax."
John lay back and spread his legs wider. He blinked at the ceiling, then put his left arm over his eyes. Nothing touched him, but he felt himself getting harder, his dick rising over his stomach and his nipples tightening.
Then he felt Rodney's hands on his dick, two strong bands squeezing the shaft, forcing blood to the head. Rodney licked it, and John moaned. That hot, wet heat was the best thing in the world. Rodney swallowed the top half of his dick, and John couldn't stop himself, he thrust upward. He kept it slow and gentle, but Rodney pulled away from him. John relaxed back onto the bed.
Rodney moved his head and licked John's balls. The soft wet slide on his balls, and the feathery tickle of Rodney's hair on his dick left John whimpering, spreading his legs wider and and thrusting again, harder and faster this time. Rodney rolled with it, followed John's rhythm up and down and up and down on the bed.
John grabbed his dick and stripped it. "Ball sucking is nice, McKay, but it's not exactly a blowjob." He shut up when he felt Rodney bear down on his balls, not biting or crushing but threatening consequences for complaints.
John stroked his dick faster, harder. He closed his eyes so he could listen to the soft, suckling noises from Rodney's mouth, the deep quiet moaning from his own throat.
Then John felt Rodney pull off, and his balls drew up a little from the cold until Rodney grabbed them and tugged on them, first one hand and then the other, in a skipping, scattering rhythm John didn't think he would ever catch up to.
Rodney kept his hands going, but he got his mouth back around John's dick, warm and moist and soft on the inside. John had to tense, to hold himself back from just going for it and fucking Rodney's mouth, plunging in and out of that slick, soft tunnel in counterpoint to Rodney's own rhythm. Instead, John brought his hands up to his nipples and lightly dragged his nails across them, so he was just making contact, and he whimpered because it all felt so fucking good.
Rodney pulled off of John's dick and said, "You're ready." He pulled John's balls down and they drew right back up. "How do you want to fuck me?" He put his other hand on John's dick and started squeezing and releasing, up and down the shaft.
It felt good to John, but in such a different way from anything he was used to that it took him a moment to articulate his thoughts about how to fuck Rodney. "Straddle my lap with your back to me," he said.
Rodney stood up and grabbed one of the bottles. He sniffled it and put it back, tried a couple of more before he poured a thick, nutty smelling oil on the head of John's cock. It felt strange to John, thick but not wet, and he put his fingers in it, slicked the oil down the length of the shaft.
He looked up as Rodney backed onto his lap. He grabbed Rodney's hips and pulled them to the right, lining up dick and hole exactly right. Rodney's ass was a tight fit. John pushed up slow and steady with his hips, pulled down just as steady on Rodney until he heard Rodney hiss.
"Don't stop," said Rodney, and he shoved his ass down until John could feel there was no more room between their bodies.
John reached around and grabbed Rodney's cock, stroked it fast and loose. He couldn't keep a rhythm at first: the pressure and friction on his own dick was completely divorced from what his hand was doing, and the loose slide of Rodney's foreskin felt wrong in his hand.
But Rodney was working his hips like a metronome and he put his hands over John's to set the pace there, too.
Suddenly, it all snapped together and made sense in John's body: his hips were moving at half the time of his hands and the whole deal was accelerating, slowly at first, so slowly you could only tell from the inside that the heat was growing and then Rodney started sweating and it was because John could smell him, the raw fucking smell and the sweat made everything slide faster and harder and Rodney said something John couldn't hear through the rushing in his ears and John sank his teeth in Rodney's shoulder as he came and came and came.
There was a moment of perfect afterglow and then the next moment was too much, so John put his hands on Rodney's thighs and pushed down. "Come here," he said, more into Rodney's shoulder than over it.
The priestess stood up and slung a leg over Rodney's lap. John didn't see them make the connection, but there were suddenly two adults bouncing up and down on John's overly sensitive penis. "Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up," he hissed.
"That's not—." Groan! "—really—." Grunt! "—sexy. Damn!" shouted Rodney and John felt Rodney's ass squeeze on his own dick as Rodney came.
John waited very patient seconds before he said, "Everybody out of the pool."
Rodney muttered something under his breath, but he pushed the priestess up off his lap and fell sideways onto the bed.
John watched the priestess walk back to her little cot and lie down again before he lay down himself and took a brief nap.
Fifteen months later
Rodney woke to a smell equal parts Columbian French roast and Lady Jane Grey. He didn't open his eyes right away. He didn't understand the fascination, but it was easy enough to give Ronon a few minutes watching him unobserved and it made Ronon happy. Besides, he liked to wake up slowly. Eventually, though, he sat up and said, "I thought you liked English Breakfast?"
"The Daedalus won't be back for another twelve days and I only have enough for six more cups. I traded with that zoologist for some of this." He shrugged. "It's better than nothing."
Rodney sat up and stretched. "How are we on coffee?"
"You've got enough for twelve days and two overnights." Ronon's mouth was a serious little line. "Not three."
Rodney picked up his mug and sipped it. He would just have to convince Carson to break out the speed right away if there was a crisis. He wasn't going to short himself on coffee.
Ronon put down his cup. "I'm going to the mainland today. I'm looking for some game, maybe some of those groundbrowsers with the flat tails."
"Ooh, could you get some of those little yellow tubers? The kids dig them up and trade them."
Ronon nodded. "We've got raisins around here, I think."
"That should do."
Ronon opened his mouth to speak, but Rodney's headset clicked on.
"Dr. McKay to the gateroom. Dr. McKay to the gateroom." They could hear the tinny, crackly voice from the bedside table.
"Do you need me with you?" said Ronon.
Rodney shrugged as he got out of bed. The answer was almost certainly no, but having Ronon around made Rodney feel less worried. Nothing ruffled Ronon, and he helped ground Rodney just standing around. So, Rodney said, "Don't take off for the mainland until I find out, okay?"
"Radio me when you know something."
When Rodney got to the gateroom, he saw a lot of people staring stupidly at a viewscreen. He pushed his way through the crowd, and he saw a woman with a baby in her harms standing in front of the gate at the Alpha site. The woman looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn't think from where. He assumed he recognized her from offworld trading, but the tunic and leather she was wearing seemed more technologically backward than the clothes of their most recent trading partners.
He didn't see anything that required his attention. "What do you need me for? If she needs medical attention for her child, that's really Beckett's department, isn't it?"
"Play back the transmission," said Sheppard in a tight, strangled voice.
Major Lorne appeared on the viewscreen, eyes wide and blinking rapidly. Rodney had never seen him surprised before, but that's certainly what it looked like. "Ma'am, this woman who identifies herself as a priestess of Pnyssa has a message for Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard. Also, a baby. Ma'am."
The woman stepped up to the camera and looked around it a bit. She clutched the baby and cleared her throat, then said, "Rodney McKay and John Sheppard dedicated an embodiment of the goddess, they joined in heart and flesh, and from Pnyssa has traveled this girl to them." She adjusted her grip on the baby and moved the cloth so they could see that the shape of the girl's face and her hair were the same as Rodney's, but the eyes were those of the woman who held her. "They said at the time that they did not wish their child raised by the priests of Terrell. Now that she has had her first milk, I've brought the girl to the place they told me was their home. If they have changed their mind, she still has welcome in the creche."
Rodney jumped when he felt Elizabeth's hand on his shoulder. "Dr. McKay. Colonel Sheppard. Come to my office, and let's go over that birds and bees thing. Right now."
Rodney walked into his quarters two hours later with a large chocolate bar in his pocket. Ronon looked up from the table where he was working with a pile of mission briefings and a dictionary. "That didn't take long."
Rodney tried to smile, but it didn't come out too well. He held out the bar of chocolate while he tried to figure out what to say.
Ronon took the chocolate and looked at the label. "This is the good stuff, Rodney. What did you do?" He held the bar loosely in his hand as he stood up and put the other hand on on Rodney's waist. "I don't like getting a bribe this big."
Rodney rolled his eyes, because the way Ronon was opening up the wrapper with his teeth and chomping away said different. "You remember when Colonel Sheppard and I—when the P'tily made us have sex?"
Ronon nodded, but didn't say anything around the half bar of chocolate crammed in his mouth.
"I may have avoided mentioning the priestess."
Ronon blinked once or twice, but didn't otherwise change expression.
"I had to have sex with her. Or it didn't count as restoring their fetish."
Ronon nodded and swallowed. "So?"
Rodney swallowed and looked down at Ronon's chest. "She just brought back the baby." He looked up to better gauge Ronon's reaction.
Ronon smiled, then frowned. "The baby's well? There's nothing wrong with it?"
Rodney shook his head. "As far as the priestess knew, she was fine. Carson Beckett's checking her out now."
"Well." Ronon pulled Rodney close into his body and hugged him one handed. "You should be happy, Sunrise, babies are good things."
Rodney pulled back and looked at Ronon with raised eyebrows. "We can't keep her."
Ronon frowned and his arm weighed more heavily on Rodney's body.
"I can't raise a child. I'm a mean old man. I can't deal with the ignorant or ill-spoken, and children are by definition both. I don't have time for you, let alone a defenseless, dependent, immobile person who can't say what she needs or argue with me when I'm a jackass. Also, I'm selfish with food and a complete pessimist, both of which are bad for children. I know, because my parents were like that. You can't seriously believe I'd make a good daddy."
Ronon smiled and did the hipcheck thing it had taken Rodney a month to realize was a sign of affection. "I could protect you. Both of you."
A knot Rodney hadn't consciously felt in his stomach unclenched at the words. Ronon's confidence and calm made Rodney readier to face life, less certain that the inevitability of death was rushing at him at breakneck speed. But he still had to shake his head. "We'll have her until the Daedalus goes back, but my sister Jean is going to take her." He looked up to see Ronon's stubborn mule face, but his hand over Ronon's mouth. "No, really. I don't have time to raise her, and neither do you, not while you're on an exploration team."
Ronon's mouth drew into a tight line, but he nodded his agreement.
"However, there are things here I can't leave, repairs I have to supervise so we can submerge the city if there's a need. There will be a need."
Ronon nodded again.
"She needs an escort to my sister's. Will you do it?"
"To your sister Jeannie I've never met? On a planet I've never been to." Ronon looked at Rodney the way Ronon did whenever a branch snapped into Rodney's face offworld or a tree branch tripped him.
"I'll send a message explaining everything in the next data transmission to Earth. And you'll be going with military personnel. They don't let aliens wander around alone, even if they are human. She'll be prepared."
Ronon pulled Rodney close again, kissed the top of his head lightly. "I could quit the team and—."
"No," said Rodney, "you couldn't."
Five Months Later
Ronon opened the door to his quarters expecting a mess. Rodney couldn't figure out how to maintain order in his personal quarters, would let things accumulate for a long time before he stopped being able to find things and reorganized it all into some efficient, logical system he abandoned after about a week. The room was clean, though, cleaner than Ronon usually kept it. He figured a need to clean had coincided with the Daedalus' return. It often hit Rodney after a crisis, and they had received a report that the Genii had come and been repelled in the time between the Daedalus' departure from Earth and entering transmission range of Atlantis.
He brought his bags into the room and started to unpack. He had bought a lot of things on Earth. Jeannie had insisted he needed more and different kinds of clothes. Frankly, he was glad to get out of Athosian looseweaves and animalskins. He'd brought back food and infodiscs as well. He put away the clothes first. It was easy because Rodney had scrupulously divided up the closet space and drawers when they'd moved in together, and no matter that Ronon's wardrobe had been a quarter of his.
Next he did the discs. Or rather, he put together the shelves he'd bought to put the discs on. The directions were all pictures without words, but he still put the back piece on backward and upside down to start. He distributed the discs without any particular organizational scheme, since he'd bought pretty much at random.
Last was the food. He'd brought back things that would keep, things in cans and jars, and boxed food that only needed water and some heat to be eaten, a few salted meats that would keep indefinitely. He'd bought crackers and cheeses too, but they'd all been gone by halfway through the trip.
He opened the cabinet where the food should go and then sat heavily on the bed. It was empty. He didn't know how or why, except that it was wrong. There should have been powerbars and coffee and sugar, possibly chocolate and instant soup and bottles of water, other things Ronon couldn't think of now.
He took a breath. Checked the bathroom. Some stuff was missing, Rodney's razor and toothbrush, but his soap was still there and the lotion, too. Ronon had already seen most of Rodney's clothes were still here.
He left the rest of his things where they were and went to the laboratories. Ship day and Atlantis day were off about a third of a day, so a lot of them were empty, and the others had only one or two people. He found someone who knew him in Reverse Engineering. "Zelenka," he said.
The little man started so badly he nearly fell off his stool. He took a moment to resettle himself and frowned when he looked straight at Ronon. "I have lost track of the days again, and, so, I think, has Rodney."
Ronon nodded. "He's not home, Zelenka. Where is he?"
Zelenka shot a look at the clock above the door. He frowned again. "It is after working hours and I am not his keeper. How should I know?" He turned back to his bench.
"I know the Genii came. I'm worried, Zelenka. You know something and you're not telling." Ronon stepped further into the room. "You're his friend, aren't you? Help me find him."
Zelenka looked up at Ronon, looked back down at his bench and shrugged. He started cleaning up the equipment on the table. "The physical damage the Genii caused was minimal. Both to him and the city. But it was Kolya who led the attack. It did not go well for either of them." Zelenka pushed his glasses up his nose and looked straight at Ronon. "Colonel Sheppard has been a great comfort to him in your absence. I do not know how, exactly, but they have become close in a way they were not before."
Ronon turned and walked away. He stopped and said, "Thank you," from the doorway.
He went back to his quarters and put the food away. He was sitting on the bed, contemplating the discs when the door opened.
Rodney walked in. He looked tired and his shoulders were hunched. There was a light-colored smear on the pocket of his grey t-shirt. But he smiled when he saw Ronon, a tiny, tired expression, but a real one. "You're back," he said and he walked over and hugged Ronon.
Ronon squeezed back, one hand up the back of Rodney's shirt and his nose pressed hard into Rodney's chest. He breathed Rodney in and let himself relax, the one place he could, in this room with this man who could explain the world to him and make it make sense. He let himself breathe.
Rodney moved back first, to look Ronon up and down. "You look good."
"You look like Sheppard hasn't been taking good enough care of you." He put a hand to Rodney's face, his thumb rubbing the bags under Rodney's eye.
Ronon put a hand over Rodney's mouth and clicked his tongue for quiet. "Sunrise, I don't want you with him if he sends you back to me looking Wraith-touched."
Rodney shook his head. "I look better, I feel better than I did before. You didn't see what happened, what happened to me."
Ronon frowned and pulled Rodney in closer, felt Rodney tremble in his arms. "Zelenka told me that you saw Kolya."
Rodney nodded, but stayed silent.
"Come to bed and tell me in the morning."
Rodney pulled back away from Ronon, shook his head. "He's expecting me back."
Ronon frowned and said, "You knew the Daedalus was coming back today."
"You didn't radio me or come and find me." He turned his back to Ronon, but leaned against him. "I assumed…."
"The wrong thing. You're the smartest man I know, but you're stupid about people."
Rodney didn't say anything, but Ronon could feel the displeasure radiating from him. Ronon kissed the top of Rodney's head and squeezed him again. "Let's go see your new man."
Rodney opened the door to Sheppard's quarters. Sheppard was on the bed, reading the only book Ronon had ever seen him with. He smiled at them warily and said, "Good evening, boys. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Ronon waited for Rodney to say something. He wasn't sure what Sheppard had just asked. But the silence stretched out too long, so he said "Tell me why I should let Rodney be with you."
Sheppard blinked once or twice and his smile shifted to something brighter and more false. "I wasn't aware he needed your permission. He's a big boy; he can make his own bed and lie in it." His eyes flicked to Rodney's face and he raised an eyebrow.
Rodney stiffened next to Ronon. He said, "I value Ronon's opinion on interpersonal matters quite highly, and he's not convinced you're good enough for me."
Ronon couldn't help himself, Rodney's tight-clipped speech made him pull upwards and loom over Sheppard, one hand on Rodney's shoulder in a show of possessiveness his mother would have beaten him for.
Sheppard put his book down and stretched, then began to count on his fingers. "I've kept him alive longer than you have, I can order marines to guard him when I can't, I don't snore or hog the sheets, and I give a fabulous blowjob." He swung his legs around so his feet were on the floor and stood up. "What more do you want from me? Your alternative is to let him take care of himself, which, okay, will work out ninety-nine percent of the time. But the other one percent he's tripping on sacred statues and blowing up solar systems, so he still does need a keeper."
"He needs a keeper all the time," said Ronon. "He needs more sleep and less coffee. He doesn't look good."
Sheppard flicked his eyes to Rodney's face again and back to Ronon. "He doesn't sleep because he has nightmares about Kolya. I do the best I can, but he wakes up screaming."
Ronon put his hand to Rodney's shoulder and let it take the weight of his arm. "What do you want, Sunrise?"
"I want us to stay." Rodney leaned back into Ronon, but he held a hand out to Sheppard. "I want you both."
Sheppard stood up and walked ot the two of them. He kissed Rodney, hard enough that Rodney's head pressed into Ronon's breastbone.
Ronon brought his arms around the two of them and held on tight.
Taryn stepped out of the Ancients' Circle into the meadow she had visited once before. The grass was still the strange, yellowish color she remembered, but there were far more people here today. Well, today the Alphans were expecting someone to come through the circle.
It was not common for a priestess of Pnyssa to join a tradegroup, but Taryn liked to see how the travelers of her body landed when they were more grown. She looked in the crowd to see if either McKay or Sheppard were there, but she did not see them, nor any children. Instead, a woman with the same strange, pale skin and short, dark hair stepped forward. "Welcome to the Alpha site, people of P'tily," she began, and launched into what was obviously a prepared speech.
A woman came forward, to Taryn, and Taryn recognized her but couldn't remember her name. She and another man had been with McKay and Sheppard on that trip several years ago. The woman said, "May I offer you a seat, Priestess?"
Taryn rubbed her belly, swollen with another traveler, and nodded. "And, if I may, some water?"
"Certainly," said the woman. "Can you walk a short way? Our buildings are just over this hill, and it is cooler there."
"Of course," said Taryn, and she followed the woman a very short way indeed, for the building was built into the hill and you entered it from the top. The inside was cool, as promised, and the water was fresh and sweet.
The woman brought her a second cup and a chair and said, "My name is Teyla. If you have need of something, ask for me." She turned to leave, but Taryn caught her arm.
"Please. I am looking for McKay and Sheppard. Are they here, can I talk to them?"
Teyla looked at her blankly for a moment, then her gaze sharpened and said, "You are the priestess with the baby!"
Taryn frowned, because to be a priestess of Pnyssa was to be a priestess with babies. "Yes?"
"No, I mean, you are the priestess who gave a baby to McKay. There is not an order of those."
Taryn smiled a little uncertainly. "Yes, I did. I wanted to ask them if I might see the girl. Just a moment, from a distance. I like to see the older ones, when a new one is coming. To know it went right once, and will again."
Teyla smiled, but she shook her head. "The girl is not here. She is at the, the Omega site with her aunt. Those three have gone to see her, actually."
"Three?" said Taryn.
Teyla nodded. "McKay, Sheppard, and Ronon. He was with us also, on the original mission to P'tily. It started there for them, I think." She laughed. "The goddess has blessed them, truly."