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They’ve been pretty lucky in the Pegasus galaxy, as least as far as John can tell from reading SG-1’s mission reports. After all, you could hardly expect to travel to another galaxy, to visit alien cultures that have had ten thousand years of sociological evolution completely separated from Earth, and to find that you only very rarely had to explain about stuff like forks, or tube socks, or knock-knock jokes. But generally speaking, it’s more like the Atlantis crew went to college across the country instead of across the universe, because things just aren’t that different here. Skies are almost always blue, grass is green, animals are furry, fish are slimy, and people -- well, people are mostly dumbasses. Just like home.

The biggest difference, John would admit if pressed, is that Pegasus seems to have a few too many shamans. But then, he’s always been a bit uncomfortable around the clergy. They like to pretend they can see right through you.

“I would relieve your burden, The Colonel,” says the local shaman of P3R-2X7, staring into John’s eyes. On this world, they like to precede honorifics with the word ‘the’, and won’t be corrected when it comes to John’s own rank. John is avoiding Rodney’s eye, leery of the inevitably painful Kentucky Fried Chicken jokes.

“Thanks,” John says, reaching for his shades, “I mean, thanks for the offer, The Priest, but I like to carry my own gear.” He slips the glasses onto his face, then fondles his P-90 by way of demonstration. “Now, we’d really like to speak to The Leader.”

“About The Food,” adds Ronon unhelpfully.

“Ah, yes. We’re The Hungry,” contributes Rodney, obviously thinking he’s very witty, and John takes a side step in order to tromp down on Rodney’s stupid foot.

“Of course,” says The Priest, bowing. John hates that, he never knows when to bow back. This time he stays up and catches Teyla bowing out of the corner of his eye. Dammit. “We will give you refreshment after your journey, and then The Leader will come and speak with you. I hope you will accept our hospitality and stay the night. It’s a long journey back to the Ring of the Ancestors.”

Of course, the jumper’s parked about five minutes away and it’d take them all of ten minutes to get back to the gate, but Teyla’s long since convinced John that diplomatic sleepovers are worth the effort. “We’d be glad to,” John lies cheerfully.

“Now, if The Doctor will just lead the way,” prompts The Priest, pointing Rodney towards a young girl who’s been appointed to show them around, “I will go and make preparations for the ritual to lift The Colonel’s burden.”

“No, I’m really fine with my -- burden,” John interjects, but The Priest has already bowed and turned away while the rest of John’s team follows after Rodney with hungry alacrity. The girl brought the team to a small hut and left them to dine in private.

“I know what your burden is,” Rodney says confidingly as they settle down in front of steaming bowls of what looks like Spaghetti-Os.

“Oh yeah?” John answers, quirking his mouth and reaching for what looks like parmesan. He takes a bite. The red sauce tastes like cranberries but it’s okay otherwise.

“All I’m saying,” Rodney continues, abruptly serious and low-voiced, “is that you can trust me.” He puts his hand over John’s on the table, and John feels his back go rigid with instinctive panic: Teyla and Ronon are sitting right beside them. “I would never,” Rodney says, emphasizing the word ‘never’ with a hand-pat, “tell anyone about your eleven secret herbs and spices.”

John kicks Rodney under the table, hard, while Rodney snorts cranberry Spaghetti-Os out his nose laughing at his own joke. Teyla and Ronon look on, puzzled and bored respectively.

“Do not,” says John to all of them, deadpan, “mess with The Colonel.”

“I think it’d actually be the The Colonel. Two ‘the’s,” says Rodney thoughtfully, some time later. Teyla’s in trade negotiations with The Leader, Ronon’s gone to do a quick recon circuit of the village, and Rodney and John are in the guest hut, reclining on pallets on either end of the dirt floor, trying to shake the twitchy sense of gate lag. It’s full dark and night-quiet here, but back on Atlantis it’s just after dinnertime. “I mean, using ‘The Colonel’ as your full name, I think you’d have to stick another ‘the’ in front if you wanted to specify with a definite article.”

“And I think that the The Doctor should shut the hell up,” John says flatly, flipping through a magazine from his pack.

“But those things that looked like sunflower seeds and tasted like smoked ham were pretty good,” Rodney continues. “I hope Teyla gets some of those.” He’s writhing on his pallet now, trying to get out of his tac vest and boots without actually having to sit up. It’s a little bit distracting and a lot annoying, so John gets up and goes over to help.

“Hey,” he says by way of greeting, and settles down with a thigh on either side of Rodney’s hips.

Rodney always looks surprised when John does this, and that’s part of the appeal: his round lopsided mouth falling open, falling slack and heavy and ready for John’s own mouth, for John’s cock. John presses his position of advantage, kneeling forward a bit and pinning Rodney’s shoulders with his hands before fitting his face into the juncture of neck and jaw so he can bite down there, make Rodney’s fingers come up and bite in turn into the tense muscles of John’s back.

They don’t undress, John all too aware of the village sleeping around them, of the possibility that Teyla or Ronon could return at any second. John just gets Rodney’s vest off, his jacket, his pants undone, and sucks him off hard and dirty in the half-light. Rodney is never any good at being quiet, and tonight’s no exception. He’s mumbling while he grips his fists in John’s hair, disjunct ramblings about John’s rank, the lumpiness of the pallet beneath him, the likelihood of getting caught any second.

“Here, let me,” Rodney says after John raises his head, panting and swallowing fitfully. “Let me,” he says again, irritably, but John shakes his head, already most of the way there just from the taste of Rodney, and now from the gleam of his spit-wet cock amid the dim shadows.

“You take too long,” John says, pants open and hand working.

“Well, pardon me for wanting to get you off in more than fifteen seconds,” says Rodney, rolling his eyes.

John watches Rodney’s annoyed frown until the edges of his vision go blurry and then he’s coming, slumping forward and making a mess of Rodney’s BDU bottoms. When he blinks a minute later and goes to lift his head, it’s to discover that Rodney’s got one hand on the back of John’s head, stroking through his hair and urging him to rest on Rodney’s shoulder.

“Lemme go,” John says sleepily, resisting.

“No, shh, just--” says Rodney, his voice torn between trying to soothe and trying to bicker. “Stay, just stay for a minute.”

“Let -- Rodney, stop it,” John says, gaining momentum. “Let go!” He wrenches back abruptly to break Rodney’s grip, getting up on his heels. “Jesus, Ronon could walk in any second, what the hell?” John snipes as he gets off the pallet.

“I’ve never known anyone who’s as bitchy as you within thirty seconds of coming,” Rodney observes nastily, kicking his wet BDUs to the end of the pallet, wriggling his way under the covers.

“Just because I don’t feel the need to spoon,” answers John, and then Ronon comes into the hut, literally catching John with his pants down. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to continue as though he were simply preparing for bed, especially with Rodney already burrowed under his blankets.

“See anything interesting out there?” asks John, folding his uniform pants over his forearm and ignoring the way his heart won’t stop hammering.

“That shaman’s still chanting,” answers Ronon, stripping off his own shirt. “Seems pretty determined to help you out. Lift your burden. Whatever.”

“It’s going to take more than a night of chanting to eliminate the Colonel’s issues,” says Rodney pointedly.

“Okay, everyone shut up and go to sleep,” says John, pulling back the covers on his pallet.

“It’s only seven o’clock on Atlantis,” says Ronon with a frown.

“Well, I’m tired,” Rodney contributes.

“Whatever, I’m playing Sudoku.” Ronon breaks out the Palm Pilot someone gave him and starts tapping away.

Teyla comes into the hut sometime in the middle of the night, making the usual rounds to flip John and Ronon onto their sides before going to bed herself.

“I don’t snore,” John protests blearily, more for form than anything else.

“Only when you are asleep,” Teyla agrees gently, and moves over towards Ronon and his killer buzz-saw impression.

The next time John opens his eyes, there’s a stripe of light slanting across the hut and his teammates are moving around the hut, dressing and talking in low tones and (at least in Rodney’s case) heating up the tiny disgusting cups of coffee from their MREs.

“Good morning, Colonel,” says Teyla, seeing John stir. Unselfconscious as always, Teyla’s bent over in the middle of the hut, shimmying her way into one of the short leather skirts she prefers. From his angle in bed, John has a clear view straight down her top.

John squints and blinks against the sight, fighting a yawn and wondering why Teyla doesn’t seem to notice or care that she’s flashing John. “Morning,” he agrees unenthusiastically. Late to the party, John’s cock has suddenly decided to wake up as well. He balls the covers in his lap to cover himself up before finger-combing his hair into some kind of order.

“I need to borrow your extra pants, Colonel,” Rodney announces. “Someone spilled hair gel on mine and I forgot my spare pair at home.”

The thought of Rodney slipping into John’s pants is really not what John needs to focus on at this particular moment, so he doesn’t argue, only extracts the pants from his duffel and frisbees them at Rodney.

When they get outside, they’re greeted by both The Leader and The Priest, as well as a small group of men whom John’s privately calling The Minions. The Leader makes a speech about fruitful partnerships, Teyla makes a speech back about friendship, and in the end, Teyla gets a pouch full of sample goods to take back to Atlantis.

“Thanks, it’s been a slice,” says John once Teyla’s finished the goodbye speech.

The Priest bows and this time John’s on the ball, bowing back. “You must not consider my service to you as a debt to be repaid,” he tells John, beaming. “I’m under sacred oath to give such help as I am able, by the grace of the Ancestors.”

“I sure do appreciate all the chanting,” says John with a serious nod. “I can already feel that burden lifting.”

“The full effects,” warns The Priest modestly, “will not come until the moonrise tonight.”

“Well, thanks, I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for that,” John says.

“No thanks is necessary, The Colonel Sheppard,” The Leader says with a grandiose wave of his hand. “Only enjoy your newfound freedom.”

“Super. I will.” John nods, already planning to exclude himself from future expeditions to the planet. Peaceful missions are a good idea in theory, but John knows that too often they spur him to stupidly risky acts, like blowing Rodney in the hut last night. It’s as though he’s trying to generate his own kind of danger.

From now on, The Priest can chant his ass off for The Major Lorne instead.

The Daedalus is leaving at noon today, and though departures are much simpler than arrivals, there’s always paperwork. John goes to his quarters and types up requisition receipts with one hand while watching the Superbowl on a borrowed laptop.

“I have your pants,” says Rodney when he comes in the room. He doesn’t, in fact, have John’s pants. His hands are empty and he’s not walking like a constipated duck, which means he’s wearing his own pants again.

“No you don’t,” John says, mostly to be contrary. It’s obvious that Rodney’s not here to exchange laundry.

“Well, not with me,” Rodney says, and lies down on the bed, behind John. “I’m not your personal assistant.” He turns his head towards the laptop playing the football game. “I know how this one ends,” he tells John.

John shifts back a little on the mattress until his hips edge into the dip of Rodney’s waist. “What’s on the menu for tonight?” he asks.

“They’ve got to use up the last of the romaine lettuce,” says Rodney, one hand coming up to stroke under John’s shirt on his left side, hesitantly, but encouraged by John’s own overture. “I think it’s make-your-own-wilted-salad night.”

“I have two bags of wildberry Twizzelators,” John says by way of proposition, and Rodney seizes him by the waist and hauls him down flat.

It’s rare that they do this, fuck twice in the same week, or even during the daytime. It’s a little too risky for John’s taste, but John’s been feeling itchy and restless since they got home this morning and everyone’s busy with the Daedalus this afternoon anyway. It’s an indulgence, to make out with sunlight pouring through the windows, to take things as slow as Rodney likes for a change, hands in each other’s back pockets, lips pressed to eyelids and to collarbones and to temples. It’s strangely non-urgent, making John aware of strange things like the taste of Rodney’s stubble when John licks against the grain.

It goes on while the sun sets, while the Superbowl ends and the laptop hums into idleness, until Rodney works himself up out of his own lazy exploration and begins to breathe hard, his hips making little thrusts against John’s thigh.

It’s good and dreamlike and just sweaty enough, and John’s surprised how much he’s enjoying it, until Rodney reaches down and says, “You’re not getting hard.”

“Yeah I am,” John says, indignant, but Rodney’s hand is cupping his cock and John can feel for himself: he’s not even halfway there, though he’s stirring a little now that he’s being touched. “Well, if you didn’t take a week for foreplay,” John complains, thrown and defensive.

“What, were you watching porn all morning or something?” Rodney asks, only half-kidding. “Jesus, you’re like a dead squid down here.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s gonna help,” John snarls, pushing Rodney’s hand away. He gets his pants open, shoves them down, rolls onto his knees and gets his ass up in the air. “Come on, just -- come on.”

“This is the most romantic moment of my life so far,” Rodney grumbles, but he strips and fumbles in the bedside drawer and then he’s got his fingers inside John. John twists back against Rodney’s hand, working himself into reflex hardness from the brush of Rodney’s fingers against his prostate.

“There, see?” John pants harshly, eyes squeezed shut. “Now fuck me.”

Rodney, at least, doesn’t seem to be having any motivational problems. His cock is unforgiving and hot when he slides inside, and John finds himself thinking inanely: that’s a cock, Jesus, Rodney’s cock, like it’s a revelation. And then Rodney’s thrusting and holding John by the hips and breathing small words of relief and gratitude, and John --

-- John’s on his knees, braced up by his elbows, legs spread, head bowed down on the pillow, being fucked. It’s infuriatingly clear-cut, John’s mind whirring along at its usual clip with none of the amazingly blurry and bright desperation that always seizes him when he’s getting fucked. Instead of reacting frantically to Rodney’s motions, instead of driving back and hurling himself towards his orgasm single-mindedly, John feels like he’s striking a pose, giving a demonstration. For all Rodney’s ecstatic noises, for all Rodney’s cock is ramming hard against John’s prostate, for all this exactly the kind of brutal fuck John loves, he’s only aware of his body’s pleasure on a distant level.

Instead, he’s thinking about the fact that he’s out of clean sheets and wondering if he’s going to have time to get down to the laundry before nightfall.

Then Rodney reaches under John’s hips with a clumsy hungry hand. John’s hard now, though unenthusiastically so, but the tunnel of Rodney’s palm feels nice, familiar if not as necessary as it should be. “I want to feel you come,” Rodney says brokenly, shifting his pace into the shallow rapid fuck that usually makes John go off inside a minute. “I didn’t get to do it yesterday, I want --”

“Yeah,” says John, but his voice sounds too loud. He tries, tries to reach for it, but he’s still being distracted by stupid irrelevant things, things like the brush of the hair on Rodney’s thighs, flush tight against John’s ass. “Just, just keep going,” John says, and settles back a little so he can get his own hand in there, rubbing across the head of his cock, down to jostle his balls, coaxing his cock like this is his fourth orgasm of the day.

“Am I doing it wrong?” Rodney asks, abruptly insecure, and no wonder -- John’s usually long-gone by now, usually would have shot as soon as Rodney said the words ‘feel you come’.

“Harder,” John says, letting go and reaching back to wrap his arm around Rodney’s neck, both of them shifting back so John’s in Rodney’s lap. “Just, jerk me harder, faster.”

Rodney obliges, determined now. John closes his eyes shut and feels a great warmth blooming in his chest, struck suddenly by how much Rodney wants to make John feel good, how important this is to him. How had he never realized it before?

But it’s no good. John’s cock is enjoying itself but in a lackadaisical way, as though it’s completely unconcerned with the end result of this activity. John looks down, betrayed, but the sight of Rodney’s fist on his cock is almost -- it’s unsettling -- so John closes his eyes again and starts thinking of the sexiest things he can: his favorite porn scenes, the blond twink he fucked the night before he shipped out to Atlantis, the night he let Rodney tie his wrists behind his back, the time Rodney gave him a blowjob in the jumper while John was flying.

Nothing, nothing. John grunts with frustration and starts pushing back against Rodney’s cock -- god, cock, stop thinking cock, what the hell? -- and then he finally starts feeling the burn of orgasm, low and weak like a flame at the base of his spine. “Say something,” John blurts, impulsively, “say something, help me here --”

“You’re amazing, I love being inside you,” Rodney says, heartfelt. “I love --”

John comes, like the squeeze of a fist, a throb and a pulse, barely holding his breath before it’s over. Rodney groans with relief and topples John forward right away, pinning him down so he’s flat on his belly and going deep, one, two, three, before Rodney shouts and comes, coming inside me, there’s come inside me John thinks, weirdly envious of how good Rodney’s feeling.

“Are you okay?” is the first thing Rodney says, some minutes later.

“I’m fucking great,” John answers too quickly. “Just -- get off me, okay?”

John can practically hear Rodney’s eye roll, even facedown on the mattress. Rodney’s halfway off the bed when John impulsively reaches around behind him and catches Rodney by the wrist, holding him fast. “Bring the Twizzelators when you come back,” John orders, voice softer. He can’t stop reliving that moment when Rodney spoke low in his ear, the way that Rodney’s voice brought John off when nothing else would, and it makes John feel strangely tender.

Rodney freezes, caught off-guard, but he knows John well enough to read between the lines. He goes into the bathroom, and when he comes back, he’s carrying a handful of candy. Rodney curls around John like a cat and feeds him Twizzelators while they discuss stupid things, normal things.

Rodney’s never stayed the night, and even with the chaos of the Daedalus’s departure disrupting the city’s rhythm, it’s a stupid move to start now -- but John doesn’t let go of Rodney’s wrist and so Rodney falls asleep there beside him. John lies awake for a long time wondering what the hell is wrong with him, comforted only by the sound of Rodney’s breath.

John wakes in the grey dawn, sweaty from being pressed too close to another body, irritated with his bad judgment in letting Rodney stay and fully prepared to shake Rodney awake and kick him out before anyone else is up to see Rodney leaving his quarters.

Then John remembers yesterday, remembers their strange fuck and John’s strange reaction to it, and impulsively, John snakes a hand down to cup his own morning-hard cock.

Cock, he thinks, deliberate and determined. His dick stays hard. Good. Momentary glitch, John decides, but just in case --

Rodney isn’t a graceful sleeper, throwing his body around fitfully with no heed for any casualties incurred by his flailing limbs, but he’s currently half on his back, and that’s all the encouragement John needs. Rodney’s cock wakes up before Rodney does, rising purplish and eager under John’s tongue. John opens wide and goes down, wanting Rodney to open his eyes and watch, to see how John’s doing this for him.

Rodney’s cock likes this, lengthening abruptly and startling John. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” says Rodney from somewhere above John, his voice popping and low, “but if you ever decide to wake me up at this hour again, it won’t matter where you put your tongue, I’ll fucking kill you.”

John laughs low in his throat and Rodney sighs, still barely conscious. His right hand is suddenly heavy on John’s head, familiar and sleep-hot, and John performs the rest of the blow job in lazy comfort. Rodney falls asleep again the moment he finishes coming.

John rests the point of his chin in the crease between Rodney’s thigh and belly, staring up the landscape of Rodney’s body and wondering if he should be panicking right now.

Because John’s cock lost its erection the moment John went down on Rodney, and it hasn’t moved since.

John tries not to think about it for the rest of the day. He doesn’t want to be one of those neurotic men whose every thought revolves around their sexual function, and it’s not like John’s lost his ability to perform: his libido’s just taking a little vacation, he decides. Or maybe it’s part of turning forty, for Christ’s sake. John can’t expect that his cock will be hard forever without pharmaceutical intervention, and there’s a thought -- do those online Canadian drug companies ship to other galaxies?

He shakes his head, realizing that he’s doing exactly what he didn’t want to do. “Could you repeat the question?” he asks Elizabeth ruefully.

She arches an eyebrow and tilts her head. “I said, do you agree with Teyla?”

“I trust her judgment,” John answers generically, because he usually agrees with Teyla.

“Are you feeling well, John?” Elizabeth pursues. “You seem very distracted today.”

John clears his throat. “I’m fine.”

Elizabeth looks hard at him for a moment before answering. “I just needed to know if you agreed with Teyla that the shaman’s desire to help you with -- well, with whatever burden he thought you suffer -- that the desire was innocuous.” Clearly, she’s sussed out that John hasn’t been paying attention, though her tone isn’t accusatory in the least. “We can’t send other teams to the planet if there’s any chance that it wasn’t.”

“He just chanted,” John says, shrugging. “I didn’t even have to sit through it. And he seemed to think that whatever he did worked, so --“

“You haven’t noticed any effects?” pursues Elizabeth closely.

“From the chanting?” John says, incredulous.

“Well, given the way things happen around here,” Elizabeth says, amused, “I wouldn’t be all that surprised if it turned out that the shaman’s ritual actually did something concrete.”

“Like, say, repair all my cumbersome emotional damage,” John says snidely. “Well, you can tell Heightmeyer that her job’s secure. I’m just as screwed up as I was two days ago.” Actually, probably more so, John adds privately, remembering that he was recently contemplating getting Viagra all because of one night of bad sex.

“That’s good to hear,” says Elizabeth cheerily, and rises from her chair behind her desk. “Fine, we’ll send a trade delegation tomorrow.”

John stands too, watching Elizabeth stretch, the hint of a black lace bra cup showing in the V of her red shirt.

John’s cock stirs.

“Oh my god,” John says and sits again, his knees giving out abruptly with shock.

Porn on the Atlantis server is about as well hidden as Radek’s hatred of children. John finds Lorne’s personal stash two clicks into the network server, and thirty seconds later, John’s watching a file called ‘asian_lesbo_chixxx.avi’. It seems to be an accurate description, if much more than John ever wanted or needed to know about Lorne’s tastes.

John’s seen straight porn before, lots of times; he’s in the military, after all. He’s even perfected the art of pretending appropriate interest: the appreciative head-tilt, the mindless consumption of popcorn, the shifty sidelong glances at the other men to make sure that no one’s getting his dick out. It’s a necessary evil and a chore but it’s not as bad as having to fabricate ex-girlfriends or tell stories about eating girls out. John can deal with straight porn, if that’s what it takes to prove to himself that he’s being a total nutcase about this whole sex thing.

He’d barely gotten out of Elizabeth’s office in one piece, feeding her some bullshit story about not having eaten breakfast and insisting that he didn’t need to visit the infirmary, terrified the whole time that she’d look down and see that at least one part of him was feeling perfectly healthy, wishing fervently that she’d stop standing so close with those breasts. But it was just a weird coincidence, maybe some sort of delayed reaction from the morning’s blowjob, and John would be reading far too much into it if he decided it meant something that he kept picturing Elizabeth topless.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to be certain.

Lock, John tells his door, and turns his attention back to the Asian lesbians.

They’re kissing and feeling each other’s tits, and John has to stifle a yawn while he pauses the file and zips ahead a few minutes. That’s better, now they have their shirts off and you can see their boobs, which are so obviously fake they might as well be balloons with nipples painted on them --

John’s cock nudges against his fly.

John draws his eyebrows together and thinks, down, like his cock is controlled by Ancient technology just like the lock on his door.

One of the girls is sucking on the other one’s breasts now, running her tongue around one nipple and making high-pitched noises of pleasure.

John’s cock gets harder.

Okay, but men have nipples too, John reminds himself, and he’s probably just cross-associating nipples here, subconsciously imagining a flat pectoral muscle and lower-pitched sounds and it’s still nothing. He clicks forward in the file.

There. A pussy, improbably bare, framed by smooth slender thighs, wet and glistening and in no way resembling a cock and therefore totally completely uninteresting --

John looks down and realizes that his hand is on his cock, rubbing mindlessly through his pants. He panics and closes the file, breathing hard, willing his erection away but failing to make an impact on it.

Maybe porn lesbians aren’t a good indicator, he decides, because they’re gay, sort of, and he’s definitely gay, and there’s just too much gay going around for this test to be objective. John clicks around Lorne’s network folder some more and comes up with a short avi file called ‘seriouslygoodshit’, hoping fervently that Lorne’s not actually into Scheisseporn.

It turns out to be just straight fucking, when John jumps to the middle of the file. There’s some guy banging some girl and they’re both gasping and kissing and the camera keeps cutting back to a shot of the guy’s cock ramming in and out of the girl’s cunt, and John somehow got his pants open somewhere in the first minute and now he’s watching thoughtlessly, fucking up into his fist and watching pussy and not really caring about anything other than that this feels good.

John comes into his cupped hand watching the girl climax.

“Oh my god,” John says, staring at the girl’s boobs, helplessly enthralled even though he’s just finished coming. He reaches out with his unsticky hand and pauses the file, breathing hard. “Oh my god, I’m straight.”

It’s not as though John can go running to Elizabeth or to Dr. Keller, complaining or panicking or explaining that the shaman actually did something to John after all. He can’t tell them that ‘lifting your burden’ is apparently a euphemism for ‘de-queering you’, and he can’t go and warn against sending anyone else who’s gay. Intellectually, John knows that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rule can probably bend or even break for this kind of situation, but the very thought of having to tell someone at all makes John feel cold and queasy. He’s spent too many years hiding to burst out of the closet just because he’s suddenly stopped being gay.

It’s probably temporary, John decides, right after he stops thinking things like, this is impossible, and I motherfucking hate this galaxy, and my dead dad would be so proud. It’s temporary, and in a day, or a week, or two weeks, John will be taking it up the ass like a man again, sucking cock and liking it. All he has to do is roll through this phase, maybe even relax and take in the scenery a bit. It’s a learning opportunity, John thinks, a chance to perfect his cover by figuring out what it’s really like to be straight.

It’s a goddamn nightmare, is what it is.

Breasts, John suddenly realizes, are everywhere. Every woman has two of them. Right on the front of her body! Right below her face, right where John can’t help but see them! He doesn’t get why he’s never noticed this before, why he’s never paused to consider the omnipresence of boobs.

“Colonel,” repeats Cadman, not a little sharply, “is there a problem?”

John snaps his gaze back up, blinking hard. “No, no,” he assures her, shaking his head for good measure.

There are two little lines between Cadman’s eyebrows, signaling her suspicion. “So -- you’re okay with the changes to the C4 storage protocols?” she prompts.

“Seems reasonable,” John agrees, because half his brain was listening while the other half was trying to imagine what kind of bra Cadman was wearing under her t-shirt.

“Okay, I’ll send a memo,” Cadman says. She doesn’t seem angry, John realizes with relief, only confused. John supposes that it’s because he’s never shown any interest before, and makes a mental note to try and stare at women’s chests more once he’s back to normal.

“Perfect,” says John, and sticks a thumb over his shoulder, gesturing. “I’m supposed to spar with Teyla, so.”

“See you later, sir,” Cadman says, almost sympathetically.

Sparring with Teyla is a very bad idea. It’s like the time the bug got into his system -- the sense of hunger, of greed -- only this time John’s not crazy enough to act on his impulses. Instead, he’s forced to pretend that he’s feeling perfectly calm while Teyla throws him down to the mat, straddles his chest, and leans forward with her sticks holding down John’s arms, her breasts threatening to fall out of her top and into John’s face.

He closes his eyes and thinks about football.

“You are very distracted today,” Teyla says, displeased.

Her inner thighs are hot where they’re splayed over John’s body. “I’m, uh,” says John, improvising, “coming down with something.”

Teyla huffs in wordless disbelief and clambers off him, heading for the side of the room, putting her sticks away. John rolls onto his stomach and ignores his dick pressing into the tatami mats, trying to look casual and not like he’s humping the floor. “You haven’t been practicing,” Teyla tells him.

“Been busy. With the Daedalus leaving and all. Paperwork,” John says, shifting to his feet, back on his haunches, so his pants are bunched up in front. It helps hide things a little. “Look, Teyla, maybe we should take a little break from the stick fighting. Just -- just for a couple of days. Maybe a week.”

She looks over sharply, surprised. John crosses his wrists over his knees and stares at the leather band on his right wrist, not wanting to notice Teyla’s skin, the sheen of sweat on her arms, the flicker of muscle in her legs. He feels like his body’s been hijacked. A long silence stretches between them.

“If you think it best,” Teyla says finally, and leaves the room.

John collapses back on his ass, sighing, exhausted. He’ll be glad when this is over and he doesn’t have to struggle to be friends with women.

It takes two days and a strict regimen of retiring to his quarters every six hours for a quick jerk off before John masters the art of walking around without constantly thinking about breasts, bras, pussy, and how every woman might look in her underwear. It takes a bit longer to feign normalcy with the women who’ve somehow landed squarely in the middle of John’s fantasies; it’s difficult to look Elizabeth in the eye and discuss allocation of recreational facilities for the military staff versus civilians and not remember that twenty minutes ago, John was constructing a vivid image of what it would be like to have her on her knees in front of him.

Other men do it, though, so John reasons that it’s just a matter of time before he can bluff his way through everyday life as though nothing’s changed. It’s reassuring, too, to notice that if he can manage to avoid outright staring at women’s chests, no one seems to see any difference in John. It means he’s doing a good job of pretending -- and, more importantly, that he was doing a good job of pretending, before. The marines treat him the same, and his officers, and if Teyla’s a bit cool towards him, it’s easy to write it off as just a predictable dip in a long-standing friendship.

Things are not so simple, however, with Rodney.

“No no no no no,” tuts Rodney, pulling the scroll right out of John’s hands and elbowing him in the ribs. “Don’t touch things, how many times do I have to say not to touch things?” He settles down on the trestle bench beside John, so close that their thighs are pressed together, completely absorbed in the scroll.

John looks down at the place where their legs are pushed next to each other and impulsively shifts away. He doesn’t know how he never noticed before, but Rodney’s pretty much constantly touching him. It’s not overtly sexual -- it’s not even overtly friendly -- but John is aware of Rodney’s body in a way he hasn’t been since the first few weeks they worked together, the few weeks they’d had before John had gone into Rodney’s quarters one night and said “You wanna?” and Rodney had looked shocked and absurdly flattered.

The team is chasing a rumor about a myth about a ZPM. Ever since the fiasco with the Brotherhood a couple of years back, the Atlantis teams have learned to play it close to the chest when it comes to treasure hunting. John managed to convince the local chancellor that they have a burning desire to view the planet’s archives because they’re a nation of scholars and scientists. They even brought a couple of particularly bookish-looking anthropologists along for the purposes of believability, because ever since Rodney started his combat training he’s looking less and less like a harmless geek.

John looks over at Rodney now, considering the bend of Rodney’s arm, the line between his biceps and his deltoid. It’s interesting, if unsettling, to look at men this way. John’s been so focused on seeing women, trying not to look, he’s hardly had time to consider the other side of the equation. Rodney’s arms, which John always found irresistible, are merely an intellectual phenomenon now. They’re not attractive so much as simply worth looking at, the same way he used to admire Elizabeth’s cheekbones or Teyla’s calves -- from a distance.

“I’m gonna take a walk,” says John, leaving Rodney to his scrolls. Just experimentally, he pats Rodney on the shoulder as he rises, a simple casual touch like the ones Rodney’s been bestowing all afternoon. But the motion seems flat, forced, and John has to clear his throat as he leaves the archive’s reading room, suddenly feeling constricted and anxious.

They haven’t seen each other much since the morning Rodney woke up in John’s quarters. That’s good, and normal -- after they have sex, they keep apart for a while, a long-established pattern that John’s enforced right from the beginning -- but now they’re offworld, and John’s constantly jarred by the dissonance of Rodney’s presence. His mind wants Rodney, John realizes, wants him from years-long conditioning, but his body is like a light switch stuck in the off position, like a drained Ancient artifact.

The archives are situated in a stone-walled compound, ringed by a cobblestone path whose aimless nature suits John’s circular thought patterns at the moment, so he wanders the circuit a few times, squinting into the distance as though in search of something.

“I just wish you’d tell me what I did to piss you off,” says Rodney, stepping out onto the path the third time John passes the front door of the archives. “Not that it isn’t fun guessing.”

“I’m not pissed off,” John says, sounding pissed off.

“You keep flinching whenever I come within a meter of you,” Rodney says, metrically precise even through his wounded tone, “and you practically leap at the chance to leave the room whenever I’m in it.”

John pats his vest down, but can’t find his shades. Must have left them in the jumper.


“So nothing,” snaps John, frustrated. “So goddamn nothing, Rodney.” He picks up the pace, hoping to lose Rodney at the next turn, but he’s forgotten that Rodney’s well able to keep up with him these days, at least walking. Rodney only sighs and catches John by the elbow, tripping along beside him.

“Would you just stop for a second and look at me?” Rodney implores, voice caught between irritation and confusion. “It’s because I stayed the night, right? I knew it was a bad plan, I knew you’d be like this, but I -- I don’t know. I guess I hoped maybe I was selling you short.”

“It’s not that,” John says, planting his feet and turning to face Rodney, though he keeps his gaze fixed over Rodney’s shoulder.

“Then what?” Rodney demands, and John unthinkingly glances down at Rodney’s hand on his arm. “Oh, Jesus, sorry, am I touching your arm in broad daylight?” Rodney snarls, and pulls his hand away, makes as though to turn back down the path.

John wants to be relieved, but he can’t look away from the point of hair on the back of Rodney’s neck, can’t shake the sense of panic welling under his sternum, and before he knows what he’s doing, John has Rodney pinned against the wall of the archives and is kissing the hell out of him.

“What,” Rodney says dazedly, between kisses, “what the --”

“Shut up, shut up,” says John, and hauls Rodney into a dark place behind a tree that shades the building, gets to his knees and nuzzles the familiar heat of Rodney’s groin. There’s a cock under the fabric, hard and unrelenting and smelling all wrong, but it’s Rodney and so John forces his mind to take over, forces back the rearing distaste of his body. Rodney has finally cottoned on, opens his fly and offers John his cock, chest heaving.

Familiar if not welcome, the glide of Rodney over the U of his tongue, the clench of Rodney’s fingers in John’s hair, the clean sharp tang of Rodney’s arousal in John’s nostrils. Rodney seems to take a long time to come, but then John’s not in the blissed-out cock sucking trance he usually achieves when kneeling in front of Rodney, so he’s no fair judge.

Rodney’s come is startling, hot and copious and does John really swallow? Does he really do this, and like it? John manages it, barely, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and suppressing the urge to twist his lips in unhappiness. He looks up and sees Rodney, still trembling and red-cheeked. John feels a surge of affection in spite of himself, stroking his thumbs over Rodney’s hips before gently fastening his pants again.

“Did you?” says Rodney, when John comes to his feet and rests his face against Rodney’s shoulder. “I could do you, if you didn’t.”

“I did,” lies John easily, breathing Rodney in, feeling safe for the moment.

It’s not going to work as a long-term strategy, though. John can’t fall to his knees and suck Rodney off every time Rodney gets snippy about John’s behavior. And even if he could, Rodney never seems to stay in a post-orgasmic stupor as long as a normal man. John used to think that was cute, that Rodney would say things like, “But I wonder if Radek remembered to change out the coefficient of heat transference with the numbers we got using the Ancient algorithms,” while John was still trying to get his inner thigh muscles to stop jumping ecstatically, while Rodney was still buried balls-deep in John’s ass and not all the way soft yet. Now, it just means that John has fewer than two minutes of peace in which he can make a clean getaway, and then it’s back to avoiding Rodney again.

“You heading to the jumper?” asks Ronon, catching John where the circular path crosses the path heading out of the village.

“Sure,” says John amiably, and turns with Ronon onto the second path.

“Did McKay find you?” Ronon asks, lengthening his stride now that they have a destination.

“Yeah, he did,” John says, feeling guiltier about the impromptu blowjob than he’s felt about anything else he and Rodney have done, even counting the time they fucked quiet and frantic while Teyla and Ronon slept in the next bed.

“Good,” says Ronon, seeming confident that his teammates were at peace again.

They’re into the village proper now, dodging through the crowd. John waits until they’re out of the worst of the bustle before asking, “You ever gotten something you always sort of wished for, and then ended up wishing it away again?”

Ronon keeps silent for a long while, so long that John starts to think that he didn’t even hear John’s question, maybe lost in his own thoughts. But then they draw near the jumper, and Ronon speaks, his gaze fixed firmly ahead, his expression impassive. “Never,” he says, “but then, my father always told me that wishes were for those who were too scared to take what was right in front of them.”

They camp out in the jumper that night, as they sometimes do when they don’t want to tax the hospitality of their hosts, but also don’t want to go to the trouble of striking equipment at the end of the day. It’s a tight fit, six people arranged head to toe around the jumper, Ronon stationed across the tongue of the ramp like the faithful hound, John taking point with his back pressed up against the pilot and co-pilot’s seats. The prime spots are along the padded passenger benches in the back section, so of course Rodney has secured one for himself and is already bundled into his army-issue cocoon sleeping bag while John is still unfurling his own bedroll.

“Do we like the quiet or should I pop in an eight-track?” asks John of the team at large, drawing a snort from the anthropologist on the other bench, confused looks from Teyla and Ronon, and a sleepy groan from Rodney. “Seriously, I’m pretty sure I’ve got Abba Gold in the dash already.”

“Shut up,” slurs Rodney, rolling away to face the wall.

John can’t sleep, so he waits until everyone else has settled into slumber and then gingerly picks his way among the tangle of limbs and bedding, out to the crisp night and the open field beyond. It’s not that cold, but John hugs his elbows anyway, scanning the sky and the black horizon while his vision adjusts to the dark. He wanders a bit farther and finally sits in the long grass, the soles of his bare feet planted in front of his knees, his arms stretched back under him for support.

John sits, and breathes, and forces himself to admit that this just might be a permanent change in his life.

It’s been a long time since John let himself think of things this way, since he let himself consider his sexual orientation as something other than a mere fact of existence, and it startles him to realize it. Looking back, John can’t remember a time he didn’t know he was gay; and he can’t remember a time when he didn’t wish he wasn’t.

But somewhere in the last few years -- since Iraq? or since Atlantis? -- John’s omnipresent sense of injustice, his anger at whatever god had decreed that he was to forever be the round peg jammed into the square hole -- his discontent had faded, almost to the point of disappearing entirely. Not that John was about to lead the Atlantean gay pride parade -- not that he was even prepared to say the words aloud, to own them in such a blatant way -- but ever since the chanting ritual and John’s abrupt introduction into the world of biological heterosexuality, a small niggling voice at the back of his mind had been saying, quite clearly, But this is just what you’ve always wanted, isn’t it?

If someone had offered him the chance twenty years ago, ten years ago, even five, if someone had said, “Do you want to be straight?” John would have jumped at the opportunity. He would have counted it a blessing, a gift, and never looked back. And if Ronon’s advice is to be followed, he should do the same now: breathe a sigh of relief, recalibrate his brain, and live the second half of his life the way he always longed to live the first -- being normal.

But even the word ‘normal’ grates at John’s mind now, makes his fists curl instinctively, makes him feel a little hair-trigger crazy, like he’s about to blow apart, about to burst into laughter or tears.

“You’re going to catch pleurisy and die,” says Rodney, but settles down next to John anyway, tucking a blanket around both of them.

“I’m fine,” says John, who was aware of Rodney’s approach long before Rodney spoke.

Rodney snorts with disbelief, but doesn’t speak, only burrowing into John’s side to share warmth. Even though John can sense the tension and frustration rising off Rodney in waves, for once, Rodney’s too tired to fight with John.

The impulse to confess the truth rises like a bubble inside John’s chest, closer and closer to the surface as Rodney nudges into John’s space, his chin on John’s shoulder, his head lolling against John’s, his fingers catching on the worn cotton of John’s t-shirt.

“I miss you,” says Rodney finally, almost to himself, drowsy and heavy.

“Me too,” says John, and means it. He misses himself, misses Rodney.

He might always miss Rodney, now.

The next day, Rodney and the anthropologists unearth a ZPM on a continent on the opposite side of the planet; the team makes a clean getaway after thanking the chancellor for the chance to read his moldy old scrolls, and then there’s a triumphant return to Atlantis, and after that there’s a drunken celebration in the commissary. John doesn’t set out to do it, but all of Atlantis is buzzing around him giddily, and somehow he winds up being more than three sheets to the wind, hiding it badly.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way,” John says, earnestly, “but you have really amazing breasts.”

Kate blinks wide blue eyes, the closest John’s ever seen her get to open shock.

“I’m not saying that because I want to --” explains John. “Not that I wouldn’t, if you offered. But I’m not asking you to offer.”

Kate’s maybe a little buzzed herself, because she doesn’t seem as put off by John’s incompetent flirting as she probably should be. She merely frowns at him, puts one long finger just inside the lip of John’s cup. “I didn’t think you,” she begins, uncertainly.

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” he tells her, smiling because it’s funny.

“Really?” she asks, almost breathless, and look -- her pupils have gone wide and dark, and that’s the sort of thing that cuts right through gender lines, isn’t it? John takes a chance and bows his head, brushes his lips against Kate’s generous mouth, feels it open with surprise just like he’d hoped it would. “Not here, John, not here,” she says, but she’s tasting him back.

“We don’t have anything to hide,” John says, astonished with the fact even as he states it.

“Still, there’s such a thing as professional decorum,” Kate protests, and takes him by the hand.

In her quarters, Kate touches a match to a handful of tea lights, she turns down a poppy red duvet, and then she takes John into her as gracefully and easily as she holds all of Atlantis’s secret yearnings.

“Oh, wow, so that really happened?” says Kate, waking John.

His shoulder’s stiff from trying not to fall out of the narrow bed all night, making John grunt with discomfort as he struggles to twist himself around towards Kate. “That’s just exactly what a guy likes to hear the morning after,” John says, blinking. Kate’s not throwing off heat like Rodney does, not shoving onto his half of the bed. She’s cool to the touch where John’s knee brushes hers under the duvet.

“You snore a lot,” she confides.

“So Teyla tells me,” John says, covering a yawn.

Her head tilts and she squints. “Teyla?”

“Yeah, she -- oh. No, not like that. Sharing quarters offworld, that sort of thing.” John doesn’t know why he says this; normally he’d be happy to let someone think that he and Teyla -- but it feels important to tell Kate, to set things right I n her mind.

Kate’s mouth makes a little ‘O’ of understanding as she wriggles onto her back. The duvet slips down a bit, exposing the curve of one breast, so John turns his head, polite. That’s how he misses the shift in her mood, he figures, because it catches him off-guard when she speaks again and her voice has slipped out of sleepy friendliness and into quiet suspicion. “This was a bit out of character,” she observes, but not like a normal person. She says it like a shrink, a question without inflection. “For both of us,” she adds.

John sits up, swings his legs over the edge of the mattress, suddenly needing air and space and silence.

“I’m going to have to stop treating McKay,” Kate says, voice going softer. “God, I can’t believe I--”

“What’s Rodney got to do with--” begins John, finding his boxers at the foot of the bed, hastily stepping into them. Then he gets it.

Kate knows. Kate has probably known for a long time, months or years.

John stands, fitfully running his fingers under the elastic waistband of his underwear, turning the fabric so it’s not twisted.

“John,” she says, behind him.

“Yeah, I’ve got a post-mission debrief, I’ve gotta,” John says, turning in circles as he tries to find his pants, his t-shirt.

“John, slow down for a second.” She’s moving too, though, pulling on her underwear, picking a robe off the back of a chair, tying it closed around her body.

All John can think about is that Kate knows, she knows about him -- him and Rodney -- and it makes him crazy that she’s known all this time and has never treated him like she knew. She should have made some kind of signal, he thinks, should have warned him. She shouldn’t have let him come home with her when she knew.

“It was your first time, last night,” Kate says, and asks, back into therapist-voice. “With a woman, I mean.”

“No, no,” John scoffs. “There were girls before, lots of girls.” He buckles his belt, realizes that Kate took off his wristband when she undressed him last night. His wrist is skinny and bare and ridiculous. “Yes,” he corrects himself, hesitantly. “Yes, it was the first time I--” Wanted it. Liked it. Understood it. “Where’s my wristband?” he asks, scanning the room.

She picks it up off the night table where it was lying curled in on itself, unaccustomed to being open and empty. She brings it over and presses it into John’s open palm. Kate is beautiful in the wash of morning light, even hung over and stressed, even with her hair tangled and her faded blue silk robe falling off one shoulder. He’s tricked into looking at her without meaning to, and because of that, he’s able to see the warring sides of her mind: the professional who wants to understand everything, and the woman who wants to erase it all.

Her fingers trail against his skin for a moment as she moves her hand away, and John impulsively catches them, traps her. She blinks up at him, startled. He can’t decide if he wants to kiss her or to lay his head down on her bare shoulder, let her comfort him.

“Something happened to me,” John says, finally, and squeezes her fingers before releasing them. “The last time we went offworld.”

At first Kate says a lot of things about sexuality being a fluid thing, about currents and waves and peaks, like John’s cock is subject to tidal forces. Then John explains to her about the porn test, about the breast thing, and she starts telling him about post-traumatic stress disorder and how it can fracture behavior patterns, shake people into different configurations as they try to cope.

Then John takes a deep breath and tells her about fucking Rodney the first night, about how John had been outright repelled by the act, how he’d barely managed to force an orgasm. He tells her about the other times, before, with other women, and how he remembers what it’s like to make your dick do something it’s not very inclined to do.

“Have you considered,” she says, nursing a cup of coffee and tucking her tangled hair behind one ear, “that you might be subconsciously seeking an avenue of escape as your feelings towards Rodney deepen?”

John kicks his bare feet up on the table between them and throws a narrow look Kate’s way.

“Well, it might explain why you approached me, of all people,” she says, a little less confidently. “You knew Rodney holds me in a position of trust, that to sleep with me would be to betray that trust --” She trails off, going pale. “God, John.”

“It’s not that,” John reassures her. “I’m telling you, that weird-ass shaman did something. He flipped a switch.” He pauses before adding the next part. “And don’t take this as a bad thing, but I honestly wasn’t thinking about all that much last night. You know, other than getting laid.”

“You’re saying that this,” Kate says, pointing between them, “had nothing to do with your recalcitrance about achieving true intimacy?”

“Not everything,” John says, neatly, “is about Rodney. Can we get back to the part where I’m suddenly… batting left-handed? I don’t know what the hell to do, here.”

Kate levels a long studious gaze at him over her coffee cup. She finally must see what she’s looking for, because she releases a long breath, as though setting herself to work on an arduous task. “I suppose,” she says, “we could do some scans. Run some tests. There are a few anatomical and physiological indicators of sexual orientation that might help support what you’re describing, though they can’t really serve as definitive diagnostic tools.”

“This all stays confidential,” John interjects firmly.

“Of course,” Kate says, smiling a little. “And I’ll see if I can’t somehow go and meet this shaman on P3R-2X7, find out what he thinks he did. And if he can undo it.”

John smiles back as a knot in his chest loosens abruptly.

“But, John,” she says, going serious again, leaning in towards him, “you have to tell Rodney.”

“I’m pretty sure he saw us,” John hedges, avoiding her eyes. “I’m pretty sure everyone saw us, at least everyone who wasn’t so drunk they’d already passed out. And you know the gossip mill around here, he’ll have heard by now if he didn’t see for himself last night--”

“Not about that,” Kate corrects him, patiently. “John, you have to tell him about what’s happened to you.”

The knot wrenches taut again. John can’t breathe, dizzy and terrified.

“You owe him that much,” Kate says, and she sounds nothing like a shrink at all.

That’s how John knows that she’s right.

Kate wants to come along, volunteering herself as a mediator, but John turns her down. In the event, he’s glad he did, if only because she couldn’t possibly have found Rodney’s reaction very flattering.

“I just, I always thought you’d go with Teyla if you ever decided to do it with someone from Atlantis,” he says around a mouthful of powerbar, matter-of-fact and not at all crazy or violent like John expected.

“You…expected me to…” says John, trying to piece the bits of crazy together and failing to make a coherent whole.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with Heightmeyer,” Rodney is hasty to add, as though leery of giving offense to John. “Only -- did you ever notice that she has one eye bigger than the other? It’s disconcerting -- and once you notice it, it’s all you can see when you look at her.”

“Look, Rodney, I know you might be kind of pissed,” ventures John, but trails off when he realizes that he doesn’t have an ending for that particular sentence.

Rodney swallows the last of his cold coffee and crumples up his foil wrapper. “Well, Colonel, far be it from me to dictate your choice of beards,” he says, magnanimous, “just, if you were asking my opinion, I’d say that you should probably stick to the offworld alien hussies and leave the women in the city alone. Easier that way.”

“Beards?” repeats John.

“You know. Whenever you think things between us are getting too”-- here Rodney makes a waving motion with one hand, opening a spreadsheet on his tablet with the other -- “what’s the word? Too, too” -- he snaps his fingers -- “too gay. That’s when you go mess around with some woman, so you can throw everyone off the scent and convince the military contingent that you’re just a big manly stud.”

“I do not!” says John, open-mouthed.

Rodney snorts, but still doesn’t do John the courtesy of looking up from his work. “Chaya,” he says, pointedly.

“Chaya and I never --”

“I know that,” Rodney says, testy, “but as far as everyone else is concerned, you did. It’s like the thing with Teer.”

“Teer just -- it was either meditate or let her -- look, which would you choose if you thought that everyone --” John starts and stops, remembering the long afternoons in his hut in the Sanctuary, Teer amusing herself with John’s body like it was just another road to enlightenment, John lying back and watching, wondering idly if Teer’s brother would ever be seized by a similar impulse.

“Again,” says Rodney, in a long-suffering tone, “I’m perfectly aware. Just like I know about that spoiled naked princess in the tower, and that fortune-teller gypsy girl from the planet with all the purple bananas.”

“People think I -- with her?” John says, genuinely surprised. “But we weren’t even alone together!”

Rodney just smiles with one side of his mouth.

“Okay, so you told everyone I --” says John, and stops short when he realizes that this is why Rodney’s not being crazy and violent: Rodney thinks that Kate was just another way in which John said he has commitment issues. “Rodney. With Kate…it’s not what you think.”

“What I think,” Rodney says succinctly, “is that I need to find a new therapist. Thanks for that, by the way. It’s not like there’s a big selection of psychiatric help available in the Pegasus galaxy.” He looks up at John, calculating. “What did you do with her, anyway? Maybe if she didn’t actually, you know, touch your bits, I could work around the hideous awkwardness for the next few sessions.”

“She touched them,” John tells Rodney, grimacing. “She…Rodney, we…”

They’re alone in the lab -- John had waited until late at night to make sure that they would be -- but it still catches him by surprise when Rodney reaches out, grabs John by the belt loops, and hauls him in close. It’s completely unromantic -- it’s simply Rodney being pushy and demanding -- but it feels oddly gentle at the same time. “Colonel,” says Rodney, exasperated, sticking his fingers in the back of John’s pants, “John. I’m not pissed off at you. So could you please stop acting like I’m an EM pulse generator about to go off?”

“You will be pissed,” says John, helplessly, holding his body stiff so he doesn’t accidentally move into Rodney’s touch.

“What, is she having your love child?” says Rodney, impatient with John’s resistance. John takes too long to answer, still trying to think of a way to explain, and Rodney’s expression goes dark. “Please tell me you two weren’t actually too drunk to operate a condom,” he says.

“Rodney, I didn’t go with Kate because -- she wasn’t supposed to be a beard.” This time John doesn’t give Rodney a chance to get a word in edgewise, barreling on without any distinct idea of what he’s trying to say. “And yeah, I had a little too much to drink, but that wasn’t it either.” John has to stop again, to swallow and breathe and think, but Rodney seems to have suddenly realized that John’s attempting to communicate, here, and so John gets to keep going, uninterrupted. “I had sex with her,” John says, the words feeling almost funny in his mouth, “because I wanted to have sex. With a woman.”

Rodney laughs, just half a laugh -- he starts a sarcastic, caustic chuckle and then he stops almost immediately with a soft sound like a stab wound, like something just went through his windpipe and got lodged crosswise in his chest. His hands let go of John’s belt loops, dropping down limp. Then he says, “If you don’t want to fuck anymore, you could just say that. You don’t have to be a dick about it.” The words are Rodney, pure snippy Rodney, but the voice is quiet and slow, so slow.

“This is exactly why I didn’t want to tell you,” says John, angry with Kate. “I knew you’d take it all -- fucked up and backwards. Like it’s personal.”

“How is it not personal?” exclaims Rodney, hands cutting through the air. “I mean, excuse me for thinking that it’s personal when you decide that you’re bored with me, or whatever it is about me that’s just not worth your time anymore.”

“Rodney, shut the hell up and listen to me,” John shouts, hating the way his heart wants to jump into his throat, like he’s standing on a ledge inches wide over a long sickening drop. “It’s not personal, it’s not about you. There’s something wrong with me.”

“Well, sound the alarms!” Rodney yells back, now on his feet and pacing. “Alert the city! John Sheppard’s finally realized that he’s the source of all his own problems!”

“Why is it so impossible for you to listen to a goddamn word I’m saying?” demands John.

“Maybe because I’ve been in love with you for three years and this is the first time you’ve ever bothered to tell me anything!” bellows Rodney, and sweeps a pile of papers to the floor -- whether accidentally or on purpose, John can’t decipher -- before he pivots hard and stomps out of the lab, ricocheting clumsily around the benches and chairs as he goes, too angry to look where he’s going.

As for John, he’s still feeling the long freefall in the pit of his stomach long minutes after Rodney is gone.

Kate’s scans show that John’s hypothalamus is bigger than it was.

“That’s consistent with your described symptoms,” she tells John, as though he were the one who needed convincing. “It’s far from a sure thing, John, but you do seem to have the brain of a heterosexual man.”

“Is that why I’m suddenly having trouble matching my shoes to my handbag?” says John, wide-eyed.

They agree on a strategy to get Kate offworld: John will feed Elizabeth a line about an anti-depressant herb that the shaman had. They drink tea in Kate’s long narrow office and Kate asks John questions in a pleasantly clinical way, how do you see women differently now? and do you find the stimuli for arousal are more visual than psychological? and what about people you found attractive before? do you still see the attraction or was it an immediate change?, and that’s how John comes out for the first time -- the first time with words and not with his body, anyway.

“I still feel gay,” he tells her.

“In what way?” Kate presses, clearly fascinated.

“In that I still feel like I have this big important secret,” John returns. “I still feel like I’m hiding something from everyone. But I’m not, not anymore.”

“Whether you still harbor sexual feelings for men or not,” Kate reasons, “it doesn’t erase all the years when you did. And I’d venture a guess that the lines between concealment and sexual behavior are very blurry for you, more so because you’ve spent so long trying to hide your identity. Sex and guilt and the need for secrecy are probably deeply conflated in your mind. You can’t expect to let that all go away overnight. It would be the same,” she concludes, “if you’d decided to come out before all this happened.”

“That’s not it,” John disagrees. “I mean, yes. Obviously. But that’s not -- it’s not what I’m feeling.”

“What are you feeling?” Kate returns.

John buries his face in his mug, breathing in steam. He doesn’t answer, and she doesn’t ask again, but he senses the dark edges of the troubling secret, biting away at his sense of certainty.

He’s not sure he wants Kate to make things right again, even if she can.

John can’t sleep, so tired that as he lies on his back, the pattern of the ceiling above him seems to be crawling slowly from left to right. He sighs, rubs his knuckles over his gritty eyes, and rolls to a sitting position.

The lights in his bathroom refuse to go on but John’s in no mood to argue, so he finds his way to the toilet and then the sink by touch. He staggers back into his bedroom, wondering if it’s irresponsible to start drinking at 3:30 in the morning when he’s technically on duty in two and half hours. He flops back down on his bed, deciding that he doesn’t have the energy to find his half-empty bottle of scotch anyway, and watches the ceiling crawl some more.

Some of the shadows up there, he thinks blearily, look kind of like they’re hopping now, not crawling. John watches the shadows hop for a while, optimistically hoping that this is one of those weird transitions into a dream state, because if not -- it’s actually almost disturbing.

One of the shadows suddenly detaches from the ceiling and falls down onto John’s chest with a slimy plopping noise, and John is forced to jump and scream in response, because there is a goddamn frog sitting on him, and as he’s still trying to grasp that turn of events, another frog falls down from the ceiling and lands on John’s hand.

John flails, brushing it off, and lunges for his radio headset. “Control, this is Colonel Sheppard. Why the hell are there frogs all over my quarters?” Because now John’s properly awake, his room is aglow and he can see that the entire ceiling is covered with frogs. The ceiling, the floor, and most of the walls. “Oh my god, there are frogs all over my quarters!” John shouts, and tries to decide if standing on his bed and freaking out is really an option.

“Sir?” says the control room tech. “Did you say ‘frogs’, sir?”

“Shit, shit, shit!” John says, and leaps over the moving sea of frogs -- how did he not step on one between his bed and the bathroom? -- until he’s close enough to bolt out the door into the corridor.

Which is filled with hopping frogs.

John is still barefoot.

“Rodney!” John yells, trying another channel, one that hails Rodney’s room this time. “Rodney, pick up your radio, godammit!”

Rodney’s voice comes over the channel. “Lentil,” he says, grouchily, only it’s probably not meant to come out as ‘lentil’. “Colonel?” he tries again.

“Rodney, we have a problem,” John says, picking a path down the corridor. “Check your life signs detector. Calibrate it to pick up things smaller than people.”

“Do you know what time it is?” says Rodney, appalled and finally awake.

“Do it!” John says, reaching a bulkhead that demarcates a different section of the city. He thinks the bulkhead door open and finds a frogless expanse of floor in front of him. Hastily, John leaps over the threshold and thinks the door closed again, trying not to consider what might have happened to any frogs who tried to come along.

“Why am I -- oh my god, what the hell is going on?” asks Rodney. “The entire west pier looks like Woodstock.”

“What’s going on is that the entire west pier,” says John, “is full of frogs.” He’s heading for a transporter, still stepping gingerly and jumping at every little motion in his peripheral vision.

“What did you do?” asks Rodney.

“You honestly think this is my fault?” John snaps. “I just had a frog fall in my face!”

There’s a pause in which John can faintly hear Rodney’s fingers snapping. “Oh, oh, I’ve heard of this. It happens sometimes, something about localized high winds and waterspouts and -- maybe it’s raining frogs outside and someone left their window open?”

“Did you just say that it’s raining frogs?” says John, stepping out into the control room.

“Hallelujah,” returns Rodney ironically.

The control room tech looks surprised to see John, probably because John is wearing a pair of boxers and nothing else. John, for his part, is just profoundly grateful that he’s not wearing any amphibians. He thinks. He runs a hand through his hair just to be sure.

“Okay,” says John, turning to face the windows along the back wall of the room. “I’m looking outside and it seems to be a clear night, some scattered cloud cover, light winds out of the west, and, oh yeah, no frogs falling from the sky.”

“That’s because they’re originating inside Atlantis,” says Rodney over the radio, despairingly, “in a second-level zoology lab. Phillips, you dumb annoying fuck, what did you do with that power expenditure I authorized for you? Shit, he’s pulling juice off the new ZPM at an incredible rate, what is he --”

John sinks into a swivel chair and breathes a sigh of relief. Whatever has gone wrong, Rodney’s going to fix it.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” says Rodney, later that day in the conference room, “Dr. Phillips has very inconveniently fumbled across what seems to be an abiogenesis machine.”

“Life from inorganic matter?” says Dr. Keller, stunned.

“Not just life,” says Rodney. “Frogs in particular.”

“But the degree of complexity,” says Dr. Keller, shaking her head, “it’s not possible.”

“Yes, well,” says John, “I’ve got three Glad bags full of dead amphibians that would disagree. And that’s just from my quarters.”

“You should just be happy,” says Rodney, turning to smirk at John, “that the plague machine was set to amphbiae and not insectae.” When John looks askance, Rodney clarfies: “The ten plagues of Egypt? It could have been locusts, and we all know how you feel about bugs.”

John forces a smarmy half-smile in reply.

“Do you really think this device could be an explanation for the Egyptian plagues?” asks Elizabeth, eyes wide, a hand going towards the small grey box but stopping short of touching it.

“It’s possible that it, or more likely something like it, was the reason behind some mythical Earth phenomena,” concedes Rodney, “but at the moment, I’m more concerned with the fact that Phillips burned through eight percent of our new ZPM’s power by zapping Kermit and all his little green friends into existence.”

John kicks back and watches as Rodney alternately doles out parcels of invective and information, feeling strangely soothed by the familiar rise and fall of Rodney’s voice, even angry as it is. It feels a bit like any one of a hundred lazy nights after a mission, hanging out ostensibly watching a movie in Rodney’s quarters, listening to Rodney rant about someone in his department, knowing that it’s all a delicious prelude to the moment when John gets tired of waiting and puts his mouth over Rodney’s.

“You should have just said so,” Rodney tells John, stroking a hand through John’s hair. John opens his eyes, weary, and realizes that they’re alone in the conference room, that John must have fallen asleep in his chair and that everyone left him there. “Heightmeyer showed me the scans,” Rodney adds, “and told me what happened.” He takes his hand off John’s head, regret written into every line of his posture.

“I tried to tell you,” grouses John, unfolding his arms. “You wouldn’t shut up for long enough.”

“Oh, yes, pardon me for --” Rodney begins bitterly, then cuts himself off. John immediately feels sick to his stomach. “Well, congratulations. You’re cured. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and lock up the plague machine before --”

John is on his feet before he can think about it, pressing Rodney back against the wall, wanting to hold him in place -- like everything’s backwards now, even between them, because it’s always Rodney who tries to keep John still and John who resists.

“What are you--” begins Rodney, startled. John leans in, wants to kiss him, but Rodney turns his head away.

“Don’t walk out,” John tells Rodney, and his voice sounds desperate even to his own ears. “Rodney, don’t --”

Rodney’s head turns back and his lips brush over John’s, and John’s body backs away, only for part of a second. John growls low in his throat, frustrated and determined to kiss back, but Rodney’s already turned his head away again. “I don’t want this,” Rodney says, “not like this.”

“Just -- I don’t have to come, just let me,” says John. “Remember, outside the archives, we can still --” He’s trying to hold Rodney still and reach for Rodney’s belt at the same time, and it’s not going well. Rodney’s wriggling like one of the frogs under John’s touch.

“Don’t -- John, stop it,” Rodney gasps, then seizes John by the forearms, forces John to look up at him. “You don’t owe me this. I know -- what I said, before. It doesn’t mean that you owe me anything.”

John wants to tell Rodney that this has surprisingly little to do with Rodney’s impromptu confession of his feelings, that it’s really about John being kind of frantically selfish, but instead he just exhales slowly and remembers what it felt like to lean in and press his lips to that stubborn jaw line.

Then it strikes John that he never has kissed Rodney’s jaw, not the way he wants to now -- just a touch of lips, careful like the placement has to be perfect, holding Rodney steady with John’s hand carded through the hair at the nape of his neck. Three years, and John is only now realizing that he never took as much time as he should have.

“We can still be friends, right?” says Rodney, relaxing his hold on John’s forearms, setting him free. “I mean, I realize that I’ve never sounded more like a fifteen year old girl, but --”

“Yeah, you dumbass, of course we can,” John says, feeling a wash of weak relief.

Rodney leaves the room with his arms wrapped around the plague machine. John follows two paces behind, empty-handed.

Because of the frogs and the ensuing clean-up, it’s three more days before Kate gets a team to take her offworld to quiz the shaman (John carefully assembles a group of marines who are almost certainly straight); of course, that means that Elizabeth sends John’s team offworld the same day, another first contact with a world reputed to have quality soap and textiles. Rodney immediately dubs it “Bed, Bath, & Horrible Noxious Fumes” because apparently neither soap-making nor cloth-dying are pleasantly aromatic processes.

“Pee,” he tells John, wiping at his watering eyes. “Because of the ammonia. And, ugh. Dog crap.”

Teyla’s watching both of them from a distance with that faintly disgusted look that means, ‘Earth men are so weak.’ Beside her, Ronon’s frowning at a bolt of blue cloth, fingering the weave and examining the thread count.

“I probably have to be on the planet with Kate for it to work, anyway,” John says quietly.

“Would you stop --” Rodney pauses, sniffs the air, and turns his head. “Yes, lovely, here’s the rendered fat part of the tour. Great. And, Colonel, would you stop being a crazy person? If you suddenly feel the urge to take me savagely among the looms, I’m sure you’ll find a way to control yourself.”

“It wouldn’t happen that fast, anyway,” John says, frowning. “It took a whole day, last time. I just -- want to be prepared.”

“I thought you told Kate not to let The Priest do anything yet,” Rodney half-asks, watching Teyla study the vats of lye up ahead.

John waves a hand -- you know shamans and their legendary impatience -- and steps over to a cart loaded with what looks like gold lamé. “Hey,” he says, sweeping his fingertips over the shiny material, “just in case I get my queer back!”

“Huh,” says Rodney, coming over to see. “Straight guys really can’t dress themselves. Even their hypothetically gay selves.”

They’ve been hanging out a lot, John and Rodney. At first it was awkward -- John fighting the urge to touch and connect, to test himself and his body, Rodney holding himself aloof and throwing John nervous glances -- but soon enough they found themselves arguing over what movie to watch, what video game to play, which Ancient device to try, and then yesterday Rodney had reached across the cafeteria table at lunch and flicked John’s ear, hard, and suddenly John felt like everything would be okay.

Later that night, Radek left the lab for a minute to get something they needed, and Rodney said, after watching him go, “You’re not being as careful as usual.”

John had blinked, confused, looking down at the metronome-shaped machine they were dissecting.

“I mean, before…you’d never have spent as much time with me as you have the last couple of days,” Rodney added, matter-of-fact.

“I wouldn’t?” John said, stupefied, but of course Rodney was right. John was always careful to pace himself when it comes to Rodney, so no one could suspect about them. “But we’re not doing anything wrong,” John protested, mostly to himself.

Rodney had snorted. “I never thought any of it was wrong,” he said, and suddenly the air got thick between them, tense and filled with dark unnamed things. John almost choked on it, almost had to get up and escape the lab, but Rodney was making him hold the bits of the Ancient metronome just so, and he couldn’t move or they’d all blow up. It occurred to John, belatedly, that Rodney might have engineered this situation.

“Not wrong,” John had backtracked. “You know what I mean. Against regs.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Rodney had answered, dismissively. “All I meant to say was -- it’s interesting.”

John’s still trying to decide, a whole day later, if Rodney meant ‘interesting’ as in ‘painful and soul-crushing for me’ or ‘interesting’ as in ‘yet another piece in my masterwork of psychoanalyzing John Sheppard’. But, he figures, since Rodney keeps coming back for more, since he’s not actively telling John to fuck off, it’s probably the latter.

“Check it out!” John says cheerfully, holding a fat clay bottle of the almond-tasting liquor aloft. So far, the liquor’s the only thing that’s managed to chase the ammonia-and-poo stench out of their nostrils.

Rodney’s standing in the doorway of his guest quarters, already wearing his offworld pajamas (t-shirt and BDU bottoms), his hair sticking up like John got him out of bed with his knock at the door. But he doesn’t complain, just swipes at the bottle and gets it out of John’s hand. Then he steps aside and waves John in.

This, John thinks -- closing the door behind him, in full view of at least a couple of passers-by in the hallway -- is far from being careful. But, he reminds himself, as Rodney pulls the cork and tilts a few swallows down his throat, it’s not like they’re doing anything wrong. Nothing against regs.

He sits down next to Rodney on the bed, waits his turn with the bottle, sniffs idly at his fingers and grimaces at the stink of his fingernails from where he stroked the gold lamé. Then Rodney passes him the liquor, and John drinks, and he starts to wonder if he might be the kind of straight guy who gets a little gay after a few drinks. After all, he’d always been the kind of gay guy who could act convincingly straight once he’d tossed back a couple of beers.

John tests his theory after they’ve each had two more turns with the bottle, leaning across and pressing his face into the curve of Rodney’s neck.

“Whoa, hey!” says Rodney, pushing John away.

“Come on,” John wheedles. “I’m pretty sure I’m too drunk to notice if you have a dick or not.”

“As appealing as that is,” says Rodney, rolling his eyes, “I think I’ll pass, thanks.”

John reaches over again, gets a handful of Rodney’s t-shirt this time. “Come on,” he says, dropping his voice about an octave. “I miss you.”

Rodney gets a wonderfully stricken look on his face, clearly torn between the prospect of sex and the equally tantalizing prospect of being self-righteous.

John tips the balance a little by reaching down with his free hand, opening his own pants. “You can blow me. Take as long as you want.”

“And you’ll, what, close your eyes and pretend I’m Christy Turlington?” Rodney complains, but first he made a little motion with his legs, like he wanted to go down into a kneel. John saw it.

“Mmm,” says John, rubbing himself through his boxers. “I was thinking more of that gypsy fortune-teller girl I slept with.”

“Ha ha,” says Rodney, but he moves anyway, comes around in front of John and pushes him back on the bed, pulls John’s knees apart, tugs at his pants and his boxers. “God, it’s just like blowing David Magee in grade eleven,” he complains, “except I’m pretty sure he was always faking the whole straight thing.” And then he opens his mouth and goes down on John, and John’s body doesn’t care at all that Rodney’s fingers are square and strong, that his mouth is wide and that the noises he’s making are low-pitched. John’s body is too busy being ecstatically happy and John suddenly empathizes with every straight guy he’s ever blown -- a blowjob is a good thing, no matter who’s giving it.

And it’s Rodney, John thinks brokenly, reaching down to pat at the short soft hair, all his instincts flooded and submerged. It’s Rodney, thank fuck.

Rodney, holding John to his word, takes a long time, pulls John to the brink and backs away over and over again. They’re both sweaty and flushed and desperate by the time John caves, says, “Now -- this time, let me -- god, Rodney,” and he hears the rustle of fabric as Rodney gets his own pants open, tries not to hear the weirdly disconcerting sound of Rodney getting himself off. John distracts himself by pulling one knee up high to his chest, wetting his right index finger fast, and reaching down and around to --

“Oh, god,” says Rodney, pulling off when he realizes what John’s doing. “You still do that, you still like that?”

“It’s still my ass,” John says, a little defensively. “Don’t stop, you were doing pretty good there.”

“No, can I --” says Rodney, and pushes John’s hand away, replaces it with his own. “Wow, so you’re going to have to find a woman who’ll peg you, huh?”

That’s it, that’s all it takes -- the thought of a woman curled around John, fucking him slow and teasing, the way Rodney did, does, is doing -- and John comes, hitting Rodney in the chin, arching and sighing.

The orgasm sobered him up enough that when Rodney clambers up beside him on the mattress, bumps John in the side with his still-hard cock, John involuntarily flinches away.

“Sorry, sorry,” says Rodney, embarrassment in his voice. “I’ll just go in the bathroom, finish up.”

“No,” says John, feeling magnanimous, sleepily reaching out and hauling Rodney back in. “Do it here. I don’t mind.”

Rodney only hesitates for a moment, then throws one leg over John’s thighs, hikes up John’s t-shirt, and curls his hand around his own cock, moving quickly and efficiently. He comes after only a few strokes, striping John’s belly where he’d bared it, then murmurs an apology before using a nearby hand towel to clean up.

“Do you want to go?” asks Rodney, hovering. John’s already melted into the mattress a bit, feeling his body’s borders go blurry with sleep. “It’s kind of late.”

“Nah,” says John, cracking his eyelids open to see Rodney, mouth still red, t-shirt sticking damply to his chest. “Thought I’d stay.”

“You’re not being careful at all,” says Rodney, when John’s already mostly asleep, curled around Rodney.

“Their taboos against homosexuality are very deeply ingrained,” Kate tells John, after her visit to P3R-2X7. “The shaman was not very receptive to my request. It seems he thinks he’s granted you a gift from the Ancestors, and he can’t comprehend why you would reject it. It’s blasphemy, in his mind.”

“I knew I should have held onto my receipt,” John says, trying for a light tone.

“John, I’d like you to make a standing weekly appointment with me,” says Kate. “Just for the next little while, until we get you past this initial transition.”

“So you’re giving up on the shaman?” says John as it sinks in. “Just like that? Bam, I’m straight?”

“I’m not giving up,” Kate protests. “I made a first contact, and I plan to try again after giving him some time to mull over what I said, but in the meantime -- John, even if it’s only temporary, this is going to be a difficult time for you.”

“No,” says John. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“I could make it an order,” says Kate, warningly. “I’d have to take it to Elizabeth, get her on board, but --”

“Hey,” says John, blinking hard, “what about patient-doctor confidentiality? You can’t do that.”

“You’re not my patient,” says Kate, “so --”

“I’m pretty sure this is unethical, to blackmail someone you slept with into becoming a patient,” John tells her, but Kate only smiles kindly. “Fine. But only if you keep working on the shaman.”

“So you’ve made your decision?” Kate asks, sitting back in her chair. “You’d like to go back to being homosexual, given the choice?”

John realizes that they’re now doing the therapy thing, and casts Kate a deeply betrayed look before replying. “I let Rodney blow me, offworld,” he tells her.

“It’s interesting, your choice of words,” says Kate, unbothered by the abrupt subject change. “Why do you say that you ‘let’ him do that? Was he pressuring you?”

“No,” says John. “I wanted him to.”

“But you don’t have sexual feelings towards him,” Kate clarifies.

“A blowjob’s a blowjob,” shrugs John.

“So it was about physical release, a means to an end,” says Kate.

She wants John to disagree, to argue with her until he admits all sorts of things, like the way he’d kept his hand curled around the base of Rodney’s neck, during; the way John had let Rodney come on his stomach, after; and the way that they’d woken up together and John had kissed Rodney, just kissed him and kissed him in the morning light, hungry and empty and frustrated.

Kate wants to know all of it, but John doesn’t feel like telling her. It would be too much like betraying Rodney. So instead, John opens his mouth and says, “Yep, that’s about it. Plus he gives great head.”

Life goes back to normal, or what passes for normal in Pegasus. Ronon gets shot in the back with a poison-tipped arrow and they have to find an antidote without the benefit of the Atlantis medical staff because (of course) the puddle jumper malfunctioned and crashed ten kilometers from the gate. Then, on the next mission -- this time to a forested uninhabited world, a possible new alpha site -- Teyla senses a Wraith and they find it near a wrecked dart. It looks about seven years old but Ronon shoots it anyway.

After that it’s time for the Daedalus to return, which means it’s been a month since the chanting ritual and Kate still hasn’t made any progress with the shaman after two more visits.

“I’m starting to think you just like listening to me talk,” John says, feigning flirtatiousness, casting Kate a sweet look from under his lashes.

“I’m doing the best I can,” she says, ignoring his sarcasm. “If I could recruit the help of someone better qualified in negotiation -- Elizabeth or Teyla -- I think I could make better progress.”

“No,” says John, shaking his head for emphasis.

Kate is quiet for a minute, then sits back in her chair and surveys him. “And I’m beginning to think,” she says, speculative, “that you’re actually not that eager for things to go back to the way they were.”

“I never said I was eager,” John points out. “In fact, I think I said that I wasn’t sure what I wanted.”

“But now you’re leaning towards staying this way,” Kate concludes.

“I didn’t say that, either.”

“You spend a lot of time with Rodney now,” Kate observes. “Are you still having sex with him?”

“No,” says John. It’s the truth. After their encounter on the Bed, Bath, & Noxious Fumes world, they’ve kept their distance in that way. “We’re just -- friends.”

“You weren’t friends before,” Kate concludes, tilting her head.

“It was different,” John says, trying to stay vague.

“How was it different?” she says, inevitably.

“Well, before there was a lot more anal sex,” John says, and smiles brightly. Kate, predictably, doesn’t turn a hair.

“And now you don’t touch at all?” Kate asks.

“No, we don’t,” John says. “Don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression, you know.”

They touch all the time, just as much as before. More than before, if John is being honest with himself. They make excuses to do it -- fixing each other’s gear, handing papers and equipment back and forth, snarking at each other until it seems reasonable for one to smack the other on the back of the head. And then there’s the after-hours touching, the kind that they save for when they’re alone. Nothing sexual, nothing leading anywhere -- but nothing that could possibly be construed as merely platonic.

Like this: sitting on the west pier, drinking some of the Capri fake juice pouches that arrived with the Daedalus, barefoot and trailing their feet in the water while the sun sets straight ahead. John’s hand is tucked inside the back of Rodney’s waistband, his thumb stroking the path of Rodney’s spine. And Rodney’s got his palm wrapped around John’s thigh, not moving. Just -- in a holding pattern.

“Do you miss fucking?” John asks, veering away from their conversation about the box of DVDs Rodney’d gotten from Amazon.

Rodney’s hand squeezes with surprise, just a little. “Is that an offer?” he says, trying to joke.

“No,” John answers, not joking at all. “I just wondered.”

Rodney is quiet for a long time, so long that John knows he must be coming up with an answer. “I miss it,” he admits, finally. “But I like this, too. Just -- being close. It’s -- intimate in a different way.”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” says John, taking his hand out of Rodney’s waistband. “Let’s go find a world where they can chant until you grow the vagina you so obviously are missing.”

“You’d like that,” says Rodney, rolling his eyes. “Have your pussy and eat it too.”

“I keep meaning to try that,” says John, thoughtfully. “See what all the fuss is about.” Then he puts his hand back and runs his fingers over the top curve of Rodney’s ass.

“Word of advice,” says Rodney, “make sure you stock up on Tic Tacs first.”

John doesn’t really mean to try it out; he’s made good friends with his right hand and the contents of Parrish’s network folder (pegmehard.avi is the best one, but there are others), and really, he’s doing okay. He’s not ready for it, anyway -- that’s what he keeps telling Kate.

But there’s this planet with these really great anti-Wraith guns, and there’s this arms dealer who keeps looking at John like he’s something unpleasant on the sole of her boot, and then there’s a demonstration of the weapons and John gets to show her that he’s a good shot, and she’s still looking at him like something on her boot, and somehow he finds himself trying really hard to get her attention.

“You could always pull her pigtails and run away,” says Rodney as the team walks back to the gate at the end of the first day.

“Does that work?” Ronon asks, interested.

“I believe she is attracted to you, Colonel,” Teyla reassures John. “She’s merely keeping her distance until negotiations are concluded.”

“She can just go ahead and keep all the distance she wants,” John says bravely, and dials home.

But the next day he wears his leather uniform jacket and makes a point of mentioning how he has twelve spaceships at home.

Asha -- that’s her name, it’s kind of nice to say -- Asha just wrinkles her nose and says, “They are ships of the Ancestors, aren’t they?”, like John’s trying to claim that he built them himself or something.

John bites the inside of his cheek to keep from shouting that he’s the military commander of an entire city.

Teyla gets them forty guns in exchange for five crates of penicillin, but by then John’s decided that he hates Asha and can’t get back to Atlantis soon enough. That’s when Asha shows up to the celebratory feast wearing something that, god help him, looks exactly like a pair of ripped denim cut-offs, with a shirt knotted up over her navel.

“Oh my god, she is Christy Turlington,” says Rodney, too loudly.

“Shut up, shut up!” John hisses, and she comes over to him.

From there it’s a blur. Asha smiles and laughs at everything John says, presses her long bare thigh against his under the table, eats food off his plate, forces him to try her favorite dish (feeding it to him with her fingers against his lips), and then tells him that she wants to show him their sculpture garden.

She actually shows him her bedroom, and, shortly thereafter, shows him that she’s not wearing underwear underneath the denim cut-off things. John’s just gotten stretched out along the bed, belly-down to the silky sheets, has just pressed her thighs open and done a quick visual recon to identify all the important bits, when the shooting starts.

“Damn, god fucking damn!” Asha says, and rolls naked to her feet, heads to the window to look out and see what’s going on.

What’s going on is a raid by an arms dealer competitor who’s not impressed with Asha’s bargaining skills. John gets his pants done up and finds his P-90 and decides that they might as well ally themselves with Asha, since he was about to go down on her and all. He and Ronon hold off the first wave of the attack while Asha gathers her own people, and together they rout the rest of the intruders, round up survivors, and secure prisoners.

Rodney got a graze on his arm in the initial exchange of fire, just a small furrow through the flesh of his biceps, but he’s bled through the field dressing since Teyla tied it on. “We should get you home,” John says, gingerly lifting up the bandage and dabbing at the free-flowing blood.

“Ow, ow, ow,” Rodney gasps, “stop poking at my exposed muscle tissue, you ass!”

“Shh,” says John, patiently, and without thinking, strokes his hand across Rodney’s forehead by way of comfort, cups his hand around the base of Rodney’s neck. “Okay, let’s get a clean dressing on this before we go through the gate.”

“I didn’t know,” says Asha, crouching beside them, “that you were batosha’od with Dr. McKay.”

“Yeah, well,” says John, grimacing at the sight of Rodney’s blood all over his hands, “we don’t like to make a big deal out of it.”

“I think it’s nice,” Asha says, approvingly, and moves away.

“What the hell did she say?” asks Rodney in confusion, clammy and pale.

“Something about us,” John says, shrugging. “You know. Being together.”

“Huh,” says Rodney, then, “Ow, shit, ow! Gently, Colonel de Sade!”

“Hey,” says John, looking up at Teyla from the floor, his ass smarting from where he hit the ground, “do your people have a party line when it comes to being gay?”

Teyla’s been around the Atlantis expedition long enough now that she knows what he means. She holds out a hand to help John to his feet. “If you are trying to distract me from the fact that you are sadly out of practice,” she says, “it won’t work.”

“No,” says John, earnest. “Well, yeah, I am trying to distract you, but I’m also genuinely curious. I mean, I know Ronon doesn’t seem to care.”

“Most peoples of the Pegasus galaxy think of human sexuality as existing on a continuum,” Teyla tells him, and lunges.

John parries and blocks but still loses ground, giving up precious inches on the mat and getting too close to the wall behind him. “Well, good for you. Took our people up until the 1950s to figure that out, and-- let’s just say we’re still not all on the same page.”

Teyla uses his distraction to catch him in ribs. “There are, however, some planets where different views are held.”

John waits until he can inhale again before attempting to answer. “And?”

“And we respect those views, just as we respect many other ways in which cultures may differ from our own,” Teyla says, and does a spin-kick number that ends with her foot squarely in the middle of John’s chest.

“You ever heard of a culture that tries to change people?” John asks, between gasps.

“Other than your own?” she throws back, slyly.

“Other than mine,” John concedes.

Teyla shakes her head, slowly, keeping her arms up in a defensive position while John regains his balance. “I do not think I have encountered such a people. But then, I’m not certain I would know it if I had.”

“Yeah, the thing is -- you have,” John tells her, dropping his arms and opening his fists so that his sticks clatter to the ground. “Teyla, I need your help with something.”

They decide to take the whole team back along with Kate. Now that Teyla knows, there’s no further need to explain. Ronon doesn’t question the mission; either he knows about John’s dilemma or he doesn’t care.

“It’s probably Ancient technology,” says Rodney as they gear up. He’s been fizzing with giddy energy since John told him that they were going back for one last try. “Now that I know what I’m looking for, I should be able to find it by the energy signature.”

“Rodney, we must not try to take the device by force,” Teyla says, firmly. “We must only negotiate for a chance to examine it, and then request its use while we undo what was done to Colonel Sheppard.”

“And if that doesn’t work,” John says, lifting his P-90, “we ask again. Nicely.”

They’ve told Elizabeth that Rodney found something in the Ancient database about a potentially useful device that was last known to be on the planet, and after their success with the ZPM, she’s not inclined to argue. They step through the gate and are greeted by The Leader personally.

“The Doctor Heightmeyer,” says The Leader, bowing. “We are glad to see you again.” The lines around his mouth suggest otherwise. “And you have returned with The Colonel. It is an honor.”

John bows a little, not feeling particularly inclined towards courtesy in spite of Teyla’s warning look. “Look, we want to talk to The Priest.”

“The Priest is otherwise occupied at the moment,” says The Leader tightly. “But I can only assure you that he is well aware of your complaint against him, if I may call it such.”

“I like to call it such,” says John, narrowing his eyes.

“We would not endanger our relationship with such good trading partners,” says Teyla, hastily, “so if you will kindly convey the news of our request to The Priest, we will gladly wait until it serves his convenience to receive us.”

Rodney gets his scanners out as soon as they’re left alone in the guest hut. “I’m not getting anything,” he announces unhappily, “but it could be that the device doesn’t activate until the shaman goes to use it.”

John paces the length of the room and waits.

They wait all through the long hot day, through a noon meal and then through an evening meal, and still the shaman doesn’t send for them. Ronon and Teyla volunteer to go and corner The Leader again, press their case, and Kate offers to go along with them, casting a sidelong glance at John and Rodney.

“What if it’s not a device?” John says as soon as they’re alone. “What if it’s just the chanting, and we can’t undo it?”

Rodney taps his tablet twice, then answers, not looking up. “Then I ask him to chant for me, too.”

John freezes, disbelieving. “You -- what? Rodney, no, that’s stupid.”

Rodney tilts his head to the side and back, a little shrug, but still doesn’t meet John’s gaze. “Actually, it’s the only intelligent thing to do. I’m only partly gay anyway, it’s not like I’d be venturing into totally foreign territory like you did.”

“How is that -- forget it, I won’t let you do it,” John snaps, baffled.

“John,” says Rodney, finally lifting his chin up, looking at John. “I’ve been pretty good-natured about this, but I have to admit -- it’s not actually that much fun being in love with a man who finds you physically repugnant, who only touches you out of some misplaced sense of guilt. I’d rather it just -- went away.”

John feels his mouth fall open as he stares at Rodney-- Rodney, who’s bowing back to his work, shoulders squared against the hurt. Rodney, who clearly doesn’t get what’s going on between them, what John’s been trying to tell him with every stolen touch. John stammers, heartbroken, “Rodney, you’ve got it all backwards, that’s not what --”

There’s a sound at the door of the hut, and Teyla comes back in, smiling. “The Priest will see us now,” she says, triumphant.

“This is where you chant?” asks Rodney as they file into the tent. The Priest is sitting cross-legged by a fire, so the rest of the team hunkers down beside him. “I mean, this is where all the -- magic happens,” Rodney presses, not bothering to hide his scanner or the way he’s waving it around the small space. “Could you maybe hum the beginning of the chant, just show us how it starts?”

“Rodney,” John says, urgently.

“Not the whole thing!” Rodney says, making an impatient face at John. “Just, you know. Fire it up.”

The Priest doesn’t seem inclined to oblige. “The Doctor Heightmeyer tells me you are determined to ask me to break my sacred oath.”

“The thing is,” John says, squirming a little as he seeks a comfortable spot on the hard dirt floor, “I didn’t really know what you meant when you offered to lift my burden. If you’d clarified a little, I probably wouldn’t have gone along with it.”

“Probably?” repeats Rodney, disgusted.

“Definitely. Definitely not,” John corrects himself.

“It doesn’t matter what your wishes may have been,” says The Priest, calmly. “It is my sacred obligation to relieve men of such burdens as I am able. The Ancestors choose the burdened, just as they choose who shall be unburdened by working through me.”

“Is it not possible,” says Teyla, breaking in, “that the Ancestors might not have intended you to lift this man’s burden? Could there not have been an error?”

“Certainly not,” says The Priest. “If it had not been intended, it should not have come to pass.”

“Colonel, can you think ‘on’?” says Rodney, sighing. “Just -- think ‘on’! Maybe that’ll light up the dequeering device.”

John obediently thinks ‘on’ as emphatically as he can, and nothing happens.

“Hmm, maybe it needs to be in the presence of gay thoughts?” Rodney says, then closes his eyes and proceeds to make the face he makes when he’s thinking about John naked.

“Rodney!” John barks, reaching out to smack Rodney’s stupid head.

“Shh, I’m mentally undressing you,” says Rodney.

“This one is also burdened?” says The Priest, surprised. “I did not sense it before.”

“Well, only about half-burdened,” Rodney modifies, opening his eyes again. “The other half is pretty enthusiastically unburdened, if you catch my meaning. But hey, yeah, why don’t you chant for me?”

“Rodney,” Teyla says, while Ronon snorts and Kate looks put-upon. “We are here to enter into a discussion with The Priest, not to encourage further action on his part.”

“I would be glad to lift your burden,” says The Priest with alacrity. “At least one among you knows how to welcome the gifts of the Ancestors with becoming grace.” He cuts a disappointed look John’s way, then closes his eyes and hums.

The floor around the fire suddenly glows blue under the dirt, and Rodney shouts, “Aha!” while John frantically thinks off, off, off!

It flickers, shifting into a standby mode, but now John knows what it is he’s trying to access, so he cautiously thinks at it: do you have a ‘reverse’ setting? The thing processes his question, then lights up again, this time shining a pale green.

Okay, John tells it, do your thing. Gay me up.

The Priest is chanting with eyes still closed, seeming not to have noticed that his toy has changed colors on him. John spares a thought to hope that The Priest will never notice, and that from now on all his attempts at converting gay people result only in more and more queers.

It doesn’t feel like anything is happening, but the device is humming happily and industriously, so John cautiously meets Teyla’s gaze, Rodney’s, and Kate’s, giving them the signal that all seems to be working.

“We’ll just -- leave you to your chanting, then,” says Rodney, tapping his scanner, presumably telling it to monitor the output of the device and let them know if it suddenly reversed polarities again. “We’ll be heading back home in the morning, all straightened out.”

They leave the tent in single file, John going last, following close on Rodney’s heels.

“What are we going to tell Elizabeth?” Rodney asks once they’re safely back in the guest hut. He sits down on a pallet and John throws his tac vest down on the one next to it.

“That we didn’t find anything,” Kate says, sounding certain. “The mission was a wash.”

“I must admit, I am relieved that we seem to have found a peaceful solution,” Teyla says, “though I’m not certain that it is entirely fair to let The Priest think he is lifting Rodney’s burden instead of restoring Colonel Sheppard’s.”

“Serves him right,” says Ronon, pulling out his Palm Pilot and stifling a yawn. “Stupid to act like there’s something wrong with the way the Ancestors made you.”

John sits down on his pallet, feeling a wave of deja-vu. “Goodnight everyone,” he says.

This time, though, it’s Rodney who wakes John up to turn him on his side. “You sound like an angry warthog,” he grouches. “You’re worse than Ronon.”

“I don’t snore,” John tells Rodney, blinking up at him in the dark.

Rodney grunts and crawls, hands and knees, back towards his pallet.

“Rodney,” John says, quietly.

“Whuh?” says Rodney, already facedown in his pillow.

“It wasn’t because I felt guilty,” John tells him, feeling safe in the quiet, surrounded by people who know the truth.

There’s a silence, and John thinks maybe Rodney’s asleep again, but then he hears it: “Why?”

“Because,” says John, “what The Priest did -- it didn’t change how I felt about you.”

“Oh,” says Rodney. There’s a rustling of covers as Rodney rolls over to face John. “Just to be clear, we’re talking about good feelings? Like, possibly, strong good feelings?”

“Seriously, tomorrow we’re going to find the planet that has your vagina and get it back, Rodney,” says John.

“Oh, very nice, Colonel.”

“Okay, seriously, how does anyone on this team sleep offworld?” says Kate, grouchily. “Can we please shut up and have some quiet time before dawn?”

“You know, for a psychiatrist,” says Rodney, the suppressed smile audible in his voice, “you’re not very supportive of healthy communication between significant others.”

“In no universe,” says Kate, consonants blurry, “did that qualify as an example of healthy communication.”

John reaches across the space between his pallet and Rodney’s, finds Rodney’s hand, prods at it. Rodney blows a breath of exasperation and turns his hand palm up so he can clasp John’s fingers.

Maybe because the Ancient device isn’t working against the grain anymore, it seems to do its job much more efficiently, John notices. Last time, the full transition didn’t kick in until the next evening, but John’s barely been back on Atlantis for three hours this time before he feels the difference.

“They ran out of pudding already,” says Rodney, dropping his tray across from John. “It’s been four days since the Daedalus got back, and we’re already out of pudding.”

John looks up at Rodney, about to make a face that shows how deeply he cares about pudding supplies, but he’s caught off-guard by the flush high in Rodney’s cheeks, the way his hair is a little damp and sticking up in the back. “You just have a shower?” John asks, swallowing with difficulty.

“Hmm? Uh, yes, went for a jog this morning, thought I’d clean up before I got lunch.” Rodney digs into his canned spaghetti with a happy noise. John wonders when Rodney started saying ‘a jog’ instead of ‘a rehearsal for my inevitable messy death’. “I hate that sweaty feeling, you know that feeling where your clothes are sticking to you in weird places?”

John shifts on his chair, struck by the image. “Yeah, it’s --” he says, but Rodney’s not paying attention.

“Anyway, I have to redo our power allocation schedules this afternoon, I’m not done punishing zoology for the whole amphibian plague thing. But Poon in chemical engineering has a good idea for rerouting the water treatment protocols that might save us some power, I’ve got to take a look and figure out how to make it work in the real world.” And Rodney continues to natter around mouthfuls of food, pausing only to swig coffee and complain again about the pudding shortage.

John’s cock is hard the entire time.

“Crap, is it already one?” Rodney says finally, shoving his tray aside with a clatter. “I have to go, things to do, people to mock, see you tonight? Come by the lab whenever.” And just like that, Rodney’s gone again.

But like breasts, John discovers, Rodney seems to be everywhere. Every time he turns a corner, he bumps into him -- sometimes literally, his shoulder colliding against Rodney’s broad chest, his hand bumping into Rodney’s wrist. And while John knows intellectually that Rodney’s incapable of being deliberately provocative, it’s difficult not to suspect him of doing it anyway, because every time John sees Rodney, Rodney’s doing something John finds sexy: prising off a wall panel with strong square fingers, shouting at a hapless scientist, cramming a powerbar down his throat.

John’s beginning to feel like he’s under siege, like Rodney’s determined to make him crazy by the end of the day. He’s ready to jump out of his skin.

It feels fucking amazing.

“So you’re getting back to normal?” Kate asks, offering John a mug of tea.

He shakes his head at the offer and makes another turn, unable to keep from pacing the length of the room, filled with nervous energy. “Yeah. Pretty normal,” John says, relishing the word.

“You’ve already noticed a shift in your sexual responses?” Kate says, impressed.

John half-laughs. “You could say that.” In the same room as Kate, it’s impossible to remember why he wanted to be naked with her. Walking down the hallway past the place where Rodney is crouched with crystals scattered around like a deck of cards, it’s unthinkable that John could go another day without Rodney bending him over the nearest horizontal surface.

“You told me before that you felt like being gay meant having a big important secret. Is that feeling still there?” Kate tucks her feet up under her, getting comfortable, as though trying to compensate for John’s activity level.

“No,” John says, stopping to look out the window. “Okay, yes. But -- it’s not a bad secret.” He hesitates. “It’s not all bad,” he revises.

Kate sounds oddly pleased when she says, “That’s very good to hear, John.” And she lets him go early, like a reward for a feat John didn’t realize he’d performed.

Rodney said, “See you tonight,” and also “Come by the lab whenever,” so John holds out until after dinner, then forces himself to take the very long route to Rodney’s lab, no transporters, up and down stairs for no other reason than that John’s trying to slow himself down.

He still makes it to the lab in twenty minutes.

Of course, the lab after dinnertime is chock full of scientists. John negotiates his way around Simpson, who’s touching electrodes to a giant chessboard, loops back past Radek, who’s typing with a pen clenched between his teeth, and nods at Miko as he squeezes between her work station and the lab bench, taking a shortcut.

Rodney is playing a complicated Ancient card game on his desktop, though his bored aspect is probably just a cover for some big idea that he’s mulling over.

“That was pretty stupid, what you were going to do yesterday,” John says, because he can’t stop thinking about it, the way that Rodney was going to turn over half of his body’s responses just because of John. Like he thought he’d never want to fuck another guy, if it wasn’t John.

“It’s not as stupid as, just for example, flying off into space to personally deliver a nuclear warhead,” says Rodney, looking up at John and smiling with half his mouth.

“So, you wanna?” says John, and cocks his hip against the lab bench the way Rodney can never resist. Same words as the first time they did this, except this time they’re not alone, it’s not the middle of the night, and John’s pretty sure that he’s actually never going to get tired of making Rodney’s mouth go slack with surprise like that.

“Um,” says Rodney, inanely checking his watch, clicking out of the card game, trying to stand up with one ankle still hooked around the leg of his stool and nearly falling over. “Just let me,” he says, and looks around. “I just need to tell Radek --”

“He’ll figure it out,” John assures him. “I’ve got this new thing I want to try.”

Rodney’s pupils blow wide and dark. “You -- okay. Yes. We should --”

They head for Rodney’s quarters -- closer -- while Rodney hisses sentence fragments at John: “I can’t believe you,” and “Right in front of everyone,” and “Oh, god, I’ve missed this.”

John gets Rodney all the way into his room, backs him up until they’re beside the bed, still not touching. “Okay, let me do this,” orders John, and he begins to undress Rodney. It feels so good to touch Rodney this way, to feel his skin hot and live under John’s fingers, as though Rodney’s the one who’s changed. And Rodney has changed, John thinks, pausing to unlace his boots and pull his own shirt over his head, because three years ago Rodney would never have stood like this, frozen and holding himself in check, going John’s pace, unafraid.

John moves in close, close enough that his dogtags brush Rodney’s chest, takes Rodney’s hand and puts it over John’s fly. “Just to be really clear,” John says, pushing down until Rodney gets the idea and closes his hand around John’s cock through his pants, “this is what you’re doing to me right now.”

“You’re welcome,” says Rodney, only a little brokenly.

John laughs and drops to his knees and takes Rodney down, like the rush of his first time, thinking stupidly and endlessly, cock, I like cock. Rodney, who always complains that John goes too fast, immediately starts complaining that John is being lazy and is killing Rodney. Still, it’s all over too fast, John swallowing and holding Rodney’s right hip, then resting his forehead on Rodney’s stomach, breathing hard and just holding his own cock in his fist.

“So what’s this new thing you wanted to try?” asks Rodney, weakly. “Because I’m pretty sure just the old stuff is going to give me a heart attack.”

“It’s nothing,” says John, unfastening his pants and shoving them off, clambering up on the bed, lying on his back and hauling Rodney down on top of him.

“It’s something,” corrects Rodney, all too astute for someone who was completely incoherent less then thirty seconds ago, “and now you’re trying to back out of admitting it.”

John squints up at Rodney, pulling a face of reluctance. “It was just --” He hooks his calves over Rodney’s thighs, brings Rodney down between his legs, kisses Rodney’s chin. “I was just going to say,” John tries again, distracted by Rodney’s hand finding its way to John’s erection, “that we could.”

“We could,” Rodney says amenably, but not letting John off the hook.

“We could,” John repeats, inanely, then tries again. “I could. I could tell Elizabeth. About us.”

Rodney gives John the gimlet eye. “Are you still partly straight? You’re not about to suggest a threesome, are you?”

“Not for that, you dumbass,” John grates, annoyed. “And don’t stop, you were just getting the right -- yeah.” He lifts his hips, pleased, and goes back to what he was saying. “I meant, we could tell Elizabeth so that she would know. Because she should know things that are--”

“Potentially dangerous,” supplies Rodney, getting back on his heels and nudging John’s knees up.

“No,” John counters. “Things that are -- important.”

Rodney lets go of John’s cock, only about a dozen strokes away from the part where it got really good -- but John forgives him, because Rodney moves back up John’s body, pulls John up from the mattress, and hugs the hell out of him, backs off to plant several enthusiastic if poorly executed kisses.

“Okay, okay,” John says, growing impatient after about a minute of this. “Are you hard again yet? I could really do with a good long fuck, if you’re done being all emotional and weepy.”

And Rodney rolls his eyes and smacks John’s head and then obliges.

They’ve been pretty lucky in the Pegasus galaxy, even given weird shit like sexual orientation-reversing Ancient technology.

John shifts a bit closer to Rodney, fitting his hips against the round curve of Rodney’s ass, breathing soft against Rodney’s hair.

“Ha,” says Rodney into his pillow. “I knew you wanted to spoon.”

“Shut up,” says John, “or I’ll wake you up at five o’clock with another blowjob.”

Things just aren’t that different here. Skies are almost always blue, grass is green, animals are furry, fish are slimy, and people -- well, people are mostly dumbasses.

Mostly, but not all.