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always should be someone you really love

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John wakes up in someone else’s body.

He pushes his way up to awareness, struggles to come out of it, to assert control – god knows who else is in here with him – and manages to open his eyes and wrench his body into a sitting position. His vision immediately blurs, his stomach heaves, and he turns his head just in time to vomit on the floor instead of his own lap.

Another moment of consciousness, and he becomes aware of the rest of his body. It’s a woman’s body, but there doesn’t seem to be a woman around: no press of another mind, like that time with Thelan. He’s all alone in here, in one of the private exam rooms in the infirmary. He opens his mouth to yell for a nurse, for help, for an explanation, but stops short when he hears a nearly-familiar voice come through the wall.

“Oh god, I hate my life so much!”

Higher-pitched, but otherwise Rodney. John starts, and his eyes fall on the scar on the back of his left hand from the car accident when he was sixteen. His hands fly frantically over the body: rough patch of skin on the neck from the bug, white line on the upper arm from the bullet graze, blue freckle on the inner arm from the other bug. The left knee twinges the way it always does when the weather on Atlantis gets damp.

“Oh,” John says aloud, alone in the little room.

-

Once the nurses realise that he’s awake, John is wheeled out into the main area, and suddenly surrounded: Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth, Carson, and what seems to be the entire Atlantis medical staff. He misses his empty room.

Rodney doesn’t remember either, but Teyla and Ronon tell them about the wild-haired little man who hit them with some sort of energy beam before scurrying back into the bushes.

“It was only because you two were walking ahead. You shielded us from the . . . device,” Teyla explains. “You collapsed on the ground. We would have chased after him, but you were both convulsing, and we judged it best to get you to the gate.”

Elizabeth nods. “By the time you were back in Atlantis, you were almost completely changed.”

Rodney, in the bed beside John’s, is sitting with his knees drawn up and arms crossed, the covers pulled up almost to her – his – chin.

“Great story,” he says, “really, I love it, especially the part where we have seizures. Now how about, I don’t know, the part where we get changed back?

John doesn’t speak, but he grimaces his agreement. Elizabeth exchanges a glance with Carson, who puts on his usual you’re-not-going-to-like-this frown.

“I’m afraid that I have no idea what’s been done to you. I frankly would not know how to begin to reverse such a radical genetic change without access to that device. But you are both completely healthy, and now that the initial stress of the transformation has worn off, there don’t seem to be any side effects.” Carson tries to give them a little smile.

Rodney gapes. “Well, I do actually have a side effect, Carson. I have a fucking vagina. And, no offense to the ladies present, but I have no intention of going on like this!”

“Chill, Rodney.” It’s the first thing John’s said since ‘I’m fine,’ and his voice stops McKay mid-rant. “Ronon and Teyla will go back to the planet and find this guy. They’ll get the device, Carson will switch us back, and we’ll be laughing about this by Tuesday.”

-

After the briefings and the medical exams and the embarrassing ordeal of borrowing clothes from Cadman, there’s nothing left to do but go on with life as usual, especially since Elizabeth’s grounded the two of them in case of any complications. Elizabeth has also sent out a memo (“Accepting Gender Ambiguity”) to alert the staff to the situation, and Rodney has responded with a memo of his own (“We’re Girls Now, Deal With it and Don’t Look at My Ass”) to ensure that everyone got the message.

John takes a deep breath and walks into the commissary. To his relief, Rodney’s there, too, looking equally uncomfortable. But John recognizes the determined tilt of his chin and the high flush in his cheeks even on the new, rounder face. He joins Rodney at the little two-person table in the corner, mentally congratulating him on having scored the most strategically defensible location in the room.

After a brief hello, they eat in near-silence. Everyone else in the commissary gives them a wide berth, avoiding stray eye contact with John or Rodney. Despite the usual quantity and variety of weird shit that goes on in Pegasus, this one seems to have thrown everyone for a loop: no one seems to know quite how to deal with either of them. In just the last few hours, John’s noticed differences: Lorne’s friendly back-slap stuttering away before landing, Elizabeth’s usual smile – harmless flirtation – falling away when she looks at him. Her. John applies himself to his food.

Sometime after the mashed potatoes and before the cupcake, McKay broaches the subject.

“So, this is weird.” Rodney seems to find something fascinating in the cupcake’s chocolate icing.

“Yeah,” John says, mind groping wildly for something to say.

Rodney peels the paper away from the dessert, eyes still focused on his task. “Um. How are you finding it?” He asks finally.

“What, being a woman all of a sudden? In general?” John doesn’t know how to answer that except with a juvenile I dunno, why don’t you tell me kind of reply, but Rodney’s earnest nod tells him that this is the wrong time to be juvenile.

“I can’t get used to the balance thing,” he finally says, cautiously, starting on safe ground.

“Yeah, I feel like I’m moving sideways more than I’m moving forwards. How women get anywhere with hips like these, I don’t know.”

The bitching is at least familiar, so John relaxes a little and allows himself a raised eyebrow. “Well, with hips like yours, anyway.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know . . .”

John can’t think of any way for McKay to finish that sentence and not scar both of them for life, so he interrupts. “Settle down, girlfriend, I didn’t mean anything by it. Your ass doesn’t look fat in those pants.”

Rodney’s ass, actually, is gorgeous, matched by curvy hips and great tits that John had tried to avoid looking at through Rodney’s flimsy hospital gown. But he has no fucking idea how to tell Rodney that he’s pretty without it sounding pervy and paradoxically gay, or like some sort of consolation prize: hey, your whole body was changed against your will by some random alien device, but at least you’re hot!

Rodney rolls his eyes, pursing his lips into a little red bow. “Oh, ha ha, I’m a girl, shut up. At least I’m not the one who apparently spends equal time on his hair regardless of gender.”

“Yknow, Cadman told me that my hair looked cute this way.” John runs a hand through it thoughtfully, the mussy spikes falling into his eyes in a way they didn’t before.

“Wonderful, I hope you two are very happy together and have lots of lesbian babies.” Rodney’s attention falls to the chocolate in front of him, and he takes a bite from his cupcake.

John thinks for a minute, then tilts his head and asks, “Do you think we’re lesbians now?”

Rodney coughs dryly, crumbs flying from his mouth. “Excuse me? What happened to ‘we’re gonna fix this’ and ‘we’ll be laughing about it by Tuesday’? You’re suddenly contemplating lesbianism? Can’t you hold off having sex until we’re changed back?”

“Yeah, because I have this plan to go down to the local dyke bar and pick up girls. I mean hypothetically, McKay.”

“Are you even allowed to say ‘dyke’?” At John’s dark look, he holds up his hands. “Never mind, never mind. Uh. I dunno. Hm.” Rodney’s face gets that look that it gets when he’s suddenly thought of an interesting way to manhandle Ancient technology. “Actually, I’m surprised that the social scientists haven’t come knocking to ask me how much of my sexuality was tied to my physical gender.”

“I’m surprised too. They should know by now that you’d greet a question like that with grace and understanding.” John smirks as he leans back and hooks an arm over the edge of his chair. Rodney blinks at him, then ducks his head and takes another bite of his cupcake, chewing thoroughly for once before responding.

“Fair enough. But, um. I guess we are.” Then, hastily, “I mean, I’m still attracted to women, so.”

“Yeah, I – me too.” John feels strangely embarrassed, talking about this with Rodney, as if they hadn’t already known this about each other, hadn’t watched each other date women, hadn’t competed for women, hadn’t argued about which Alien movie Sigourney Weaver was hottest in. But the old landmarks are suddenly missing, or turned inexplicably into landmines.

John’s queasiness returns, so he pushes his cupcake across the table.

-

That night, John lies in bed, motionless, and thinks about it for a long time. He concentrates on the feeling between his legs, the slipperiness as he shifts back and forth, so different from the safe familiarity of his dick and balls. He skims his attention over his breasts, high and firm, feels the ghosts of imaginary hands on his legs, his ass, his neck. He feels shoved in where he doesn’t belong, but at the same time, can’t stop being fascinated by the way that this body feels, strange and sexual. He’s never felt this aware of himself, before, of the way he inhabits bones and muscle and skin.

He gives in to the inevitable, shucking off the tank top and cotton gym shorts he’d worn to bed, kicking the covers down to expose his flesh. He’s seen his new body in bathroom mirrors, in bits and pieces while changing, but this is different: rubbing his palm over a nipple, running his hands down his sides over curving hips to clutch and grip at his thighs, moving his fingers in slow circles over his fucking clit. All his responses feel upside-down and backwards, as if his whole body has been rewired. He keeps his eyes open, shoulders propped up against the headboard, feet planted on the mattress, watching himself as he slips two tentative fingers into his hole. The heartbeat-throbbing, deep inside, takes him by surprise when it first starts, just familiar enough to put him off-balance, and when he scratches a thumbnail across the underside of one breast, the little shiver that runs down his spine feels like a revelation.

-

The next day, in the morning briefing, John meets Rodney’s eyes and can’t help wondering whether McKay had tried it, too, taken the new body out for a test drive at the first opportunity. McKay’s glance back is calm and businesslike, but maybe he’s got the same secret. Maybe he’s wondering the same thing about John. He can’t think of a possible situation in which he could ask him about it, wouldn’t want to talk about it even if he could, but the experience burns inside of him. He wants to know if McKay felt the same way, new and bright and sharp inside his skin, every sensation maddeningly familiar and gloriously strange.

-

Teyla and Ronon take Zelenka back to the Nendari planet to look for the hit-and-run genderswitcher. Rodney tries to convince Elizabeth to let him go along (“What’s the worst that could happen? I accidentally get turned into a man?”) but Elizabeth holds firm (“You fell down in your lab for no reason this morning, Rodney. No off-world missions until you’ve mastered your centre of gravity” ). John’s appeal falls on similarly deaf ears, even though he hasn’t fallen down since at least the day before.

But despite Ronon’s tracking skills and Zelenka’s energy-scans and Teyla’s polite inquiries, they come back empty-handed. The little Nendari man who did this to them was nowhere to be found, nor was the ray-gun looking thing that he’d used. No one in the villages seems to have ever heard of him, or of non-invasive spontaneous sex change operations, for that matter. Days slip by, and Ronon looks increasingly aggravated each time they return through the gate. Teyla, though she hides it better, is beginning to betray her own frustration.

“They’re lying right to our faces,” is Ronon’s assessment of the situation. Teyla nods and sighs as the gate shuts down behind her.

“I sense that there is something they are not telling us, but I believe that it will take time to discover. We must earn their trust.” She brightens. “But they have agreed to barter for a share of their crops, which was, after all, the original mission. They grow a very nice variety of tuber.”

Ronon, as if on cue, digs in his pocket and pulls out a fist-sized purple potato that looks vaguely sentient, holding it up for John’s inspection.

John blinks at it, then turns around and walks out of the gateroom.

-

Two weeks later, John and Rodney manage to tag-team brow-beat Elizabeth into letting them go off-world again. It’s been over a week since either of them has fallen down for no reason, opened a door into his own face, or vomited from moving too quickly: they’re getting more comfortable. And while Rodney hasn’t said as much, John can see on his face the echo of his own desire for something familiar, for normal activity. In the end, Elizabeth makes them run through the Marines’ north pier obstacle course to prove it, which makes John mutter darkly about G.I. Jane, but he does it anyway. He tries not to be too smug about his time, which outstrips most of the Marines. Rodney, of course, does abysmally, but no more abysmally than he would’ve done in his old body, so in the end they get clearance.

At the gate, John feels a resurgence of the nausea he’d felt those first few days. His new gear fits his new body but feels uncomfortable in a way his old stuff never had. And despite his itchy feet, he no longer feels particularly excited to step through the puddle.

He looks over at Rodney, who is squirming and readjusting his tac vest over his still-kind-of-astonishing rack. When John meets his eyes, he frowns with one side of his mouth, a startlingly familiar expression. John, almost without thinking about it, reaches over and ruffles Rodney’s hair – fuller up front than it used to be, thanks to the second X chromosome, and somewhat pixieish on his new, feminine face – and smiles at him. Rodney’s frown deepens, but he stops fidgeting.

From behind him, Ronon puts a hand on his shoulder: a light touch that preserves its old masculine meaninglessness. “We going or what?” he grumbles.

“We’re going,” John says, and they step through the gate.

-

With the two of them as exhibits A and B backing up Ronon and Teyla’s claims, the Nendari are suddenly more forthcoming. Working off of tips and rumours that they had gathered, painstakingly, over the last three weeks, they finally talk to someone who tells them to talk to someone else who thinks she knows someone who might know something. With the usual warnings – “It is forbidden to speak of it” and “I will be in a great deal of trouble if I tell you,” they are pointed to one particular house, a cheery little thatch-roofed number with smoke coming out of the chimney. Ronon knocks.

The door opens to reveal a short, stocky man in his mid-fifties. “Hello. Can I help you?” he inquires, wiping his hands with a bright green cloth.

“Yes, I’m Colonel Sheppard, this is Dr. McKay, Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex.”

“Yes, you two have been asking around the village for me, haven’t you?” the man asks, eyes darting between Teyla and Ronon. “Well, it took you long enough. Of course I’m forbidden to tell you, so couldn’t stop you in the village square, but since you’ve come asking . . . but, my manners! My name is Tarin N’Vell. Come in, Colonel, Doctor, Teyla, Ronon. Sit down.”

“I gather that you know the reason for our visit?” Teyla begins, settling gingerly onto a straight-backed wooden chair.

“Oh, indeed!” the man frowns. “It is most unfortunate, but I assure you, you will get used to it.”

“Whoa whoa whoa, what do you mean, ‘used to it’?” Rodney interrupts. “Are you saying there’s no cure?”

“I’m afraid not.” Tarin furrows his brow.

John intercedes, using his softest voice. “Look – Tarin. How do you know this? Are you the one who built the device? Is it some sort of experiment gone wrong, and that’s why you’re not allowed to talk about it?”

“They really don’t talk about it in the village anymore, do they? Used to be you could get someone to tell you the story – my story, anyway – in exchange for a drink.”

“We bought a lot of people drinks,” Ronon deadpans. “Nobody told us anything, except to talk to you.”

“Well.” Tarin seems flustered. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had to tell anyone this, but yes. I underwent the same process that you two did, twenty years back. I used to be a woman.”

Rodney nods eagerly, as if he’s been expecting this. “Was it on purpose? How did the device work? What did it look like?”

“I can describe it to you, if you like, or draw a picture. It’s a device from the Ancestors. We found it while digging holes for a fence, and activated it by mistake. I was the only one affected, then. We kept it for years, with the other relics. Some time ago, however, it went missing from the archive.”

“Why would anyone steal it?” Ronon asks. “It’s not an effective weapon.”

Tarin looks a little embarrassed. “Perhaps this happens on your world as well; I do not know. But there were youths in the village who wished to marry, but could not, for our ingrained moral taboos and cultural laws forbade it.”

Teyla nods. “This happens among the Athosians. But we have allowed such as these to marry in the past, so long as they found other partners with whom to produce children.”

John blinks at Teyla, surprised by this insight into Athosian culture. “So, wait, you have gay marriage and forced reproduction?”

“The Wraith come often, Colonel,” Teyla says, eyes ahead of her.

Tarin nods. “Children must come first.”

“Okay,” Rodney says slowly, “so you’re telling me that some band of militant queer youth stole the device and started changing the sex of random strangers . . . why? To make a political point?”

“They started changing their own sexes so that their unions could be approved, but the village elders refused to allow them to marry even so.” Tarin shakes his head. “So it was with me; my husband left me and no woman would have me after I was changed. It is seen as unnatural. Realising that they would not be accepted, the protesters found a way to change themselves back, and established a camp outside the village. After that, they would return from time to time, to change others – village elders, prominent members of the community. I suppose they believed that, if enough people were changed, the village would have no choice but to accept them.”

At the words “change themselves back,” John feels his jaw unclench. “So it has been reversed.”

“Yes; a young lady among the outcasts found a way to alter the device somehow, inside, so that the process could be reversed.” John can sense Rodney’s body relaxing beside him.

“I take it that their protests did not encourage acceptance among the village elders,” Teyla intones.

“The opposite, in fact. Some of the younger villagers staged a raid on the outcasts’ camp and stole the device back. All who had been changed against their will were changed back to their original shape, save for me.” Tarin smiles. “After twenty years, I have no desire to get used to another body again.”

“But you said there was no cure,” Ronon says from behind John. “Sounds like we just need this device.”

Tarin sighs. “There is no cure, not any longer. That is, I believe, why your initial inquiries were met with so much resistance. I apologise on behalf of my people; we did not know that the protesters had taken your group for allies and targeted you as well, not until it was too late. I am afraid the device has been destroyed.”

-

On the way back to the gate, Rodney gets through at least four distinct rants on the stupidity of technophobic societies, the stupidity of homophobic societies, the stupidity of this society in particular, and the stupidity of the Ancients, who apparently made a sex-changing machine just for shits and giggles.

John punches a tree.

-

Elizabeth listens to their report, the line between her eyebrows getting deeper as the story goes on. Her eyes stray, once, to the scraped knuckles on John’s right hand.

“And then, apparently, these morons decided to fix the problem by hitting the thing with a rock until it died,” Rodney spits. “And now I’m stuck combing through the Ancient database, trying to find this stupid device, and then trying to build one, assuming I can find schematics.”

Elizabeth tilts her head towards him. “So there’s still hope, then?”

“Maybe. Probably not. I don’t know.” Rodney rubs his forehead tiredly, his blue eyes watery. “You know what that database is like, Elizabeth. Even assuming the schematics are in there, we’re looking at a project that’s going to take a lot of time before we get results.” He doesn’t specify, but John can hear words like “months” and “years” in the tone of his voice.

Elizabeth purses her lips. “That’s something that I wanted to discuss with you two. While I appreciate your – discomfort, with your current condition, and while I want to help you get back to normal – I’ll help you with the database as much as I can, Rodney – I just can’t sanction you devoting your full attention to this indefinitely.”

Rodney looks at her like she’s just declared the Earth to be flat.

John speaks before Rodney can. “Elizabeth, we have had something done to us against our will. I agree it’s not life-threatening, but we need our bodies back!”

“And we’ll get them back,” Elizabeth agrees, “But Dr. Zelenka has come to me with a real workload problem; you know as well as I do that city maintenance has backed up alarmingly over the last three weeks. Rodney, you need to be back on your regular duties at least three quarters of the time, including fieldwork and your responsibilities as team leader. We need you around here.”

“Right, and you don’t much care what package my brain comes wrapped up in.” Rodney’s voice is cold and precise. He stands, gathers his laptop, and heads for the door. “Thank you for giving me a vision of the future, in which I’m sure you’ll have my head preserved in a pickle jar for many years after my death.”

After Rodney leaves, John meets Elizabeth’s steady gaze for a long moment before getting up and following him.

-

John catches up to him outside his quarters.

“Hey! Rodney. Wait up.”

Rodney pauses outside his door. “You might as well go with Meredith, Colonel, as it looks like I’m going to be an unlikely Rodney for the foreseeable future.”

“You were kind of an unlikely Rodney anyway. But hey, good call: at least you won’t have to change your name.”

Rodney’s mouth compresses into a hard line as he turns away from John and palms his door open. John follows him inside.

“What is wrong with you?” Rodney practically shouts, dropping his stuff on his desk. “Do you not realise what this means? We are stuck like this, and Elizabeth isn’t even willing to give me the time and resources to get us unstuck! How in the hell can we ever go back to Earth? The SGC will have to keep us locked up as a security risk. Not that they’re much better – it’s been three weeks everyone around here is still giving us weird looks like we’re diseased or something. We’re going to end up social outcasts like Tarin in his fucking thatched roof cottage!”

“Hey,” John says, holding up his hands, “look, believe me, I am just as pissed off about this as you are. You think I don’t get it? This is not how our lives are supposed to work.” His voice begins to rise against his will, his soothing tone abandoned. “You get another consciousness in your brain, you get better. I get another consciousness in my brain, I get better. You turn into a semi-ascended being, you get better. I get turned into a bug, with, with bug-eyes and bug-scales and bug-sweat glands and what I’m pretty sure was a pincer, and I. Got. Better.” He forces himself to take a deep breath. “So don’t take it out on me when Elizabeth’s just screwed us both. I came over here to ask you how I can help.”

Rodney deflates a little, slumping down into his desk chair. He rubs two fingers over his forehead, the way he had in the briefing room, and John recognizes the gesture, now: it was the same move he’d made on Ford’s planet, strung out on Wraith enzyme and struggling to make his thoughts cohere. John is struck with empathy, as he had been then. He crouches down beside Rodney and, reaching out, grips his shoulder in his hand.

“Hey, buddy, it’s okay.” Rodney looks down at the place where John is touching him, then back up to meet his eyes. John means to pull his arm back, but instead finds himself reaching out with his other hand to clasp Rodney’s knee awkwardly. Rodney licks his lips, then speaks.

“You had a pincer?”

John meets Rodney’s half-smile with one of his own. “Why don’t you show me the sections of the database we have to check?”

“Sure,” he says. Then, hesitantly, his hand comes up to grip John’s where it’s still clasping his shoulder, one hard squeeze. “Thanks,” he adds, and John pulls away.

Over the next four hours, he shows John what they’re looking for and where they’ll have to look. John doesn’t say it, but comes to see Rodney’s point: without a team of people working on it full time or some clue as to where to start looking, their chances of finding one non-essential device are almost nil.

When he can no longer keep his eyes open, he drags himself out of his chair to leave. Rodney gets up, too, and for an awkward moment they stand motionless and unspeaking by the door. John gets a weird feeling, like they might hug. He’s seen women hug each other that way, for comfort and friendship, for the sake of touching. And the tired, vulnerable look in Rodney’s eyes, so familiar from a dozen other hopeless situations, makes John want to comfort him, to pull his soft, female body against his own, to hold him the way he had held his mom after his father died.

In the end, John just clasps his shoulder again, ineffectually, and leaves.

-

John’s so exhausted that he assumes he’ll just fall asleep immediately, but it doesn’t happen. He rubs a hand against his thigh, considering. It’s become a nightly ritual, to offset the exhaustion and frustration of his days, the strange looks, the way he still feels a little vertigo when he walks too fast, the way he misses his body. He can’t jerk off like he used to, but this is becoming more and more familiar: his fingers on his nipples, on his clit, pushing up inside himself. He can’t tell anyone, not even McKay, how much he loves this, this body all new for him, beautiful and unworn. But he’d been almost glad of that; it stays his secret, delicious and perverse.

Tonight, though, he can’t stop thinking about how it would be if he could tell someone. Tell McKay. He knows McKay must be doing it, too, must’ve been curious. John’s fingers rub over his belly absently. Rodney had probably felt like he won the Boob Sweepstakes, John thinks wryly, palm cupping the warm side of his own breast. The edges of his fingers tease his dark brown nipple. Rodney did have nice tits, full and round, nipples that got hard just as often as they did when he was a man, poking through his shirt at meetings, in the gateroom, earlier tonight while they sat together in front of the computer screen. John’s nipples tighten, little shocks of pleasure.

Yeah, John thinks, Rodney’s definitely played with his own tits, and hell, he’s human, he has to have gone on. Has to have been greedy for it, the way John had been, greedy to slip his fingers into his cunt, oh just like that, to press down on his new clit and close his eyes as his breathing sped up. John can see him, wide hips spread on the bed, knees up, feet planted. Sees him with one hand on his clit and one squeezing his breast, the pads of his fingers pushing back and forth over his nipple. John pushes a little harder with his fingers, small circles speeding up.

Rodney reminds John of girls he’s fucked, smart girls with clever tongues and lush curves. John’s had his dick between tits like Rodney’s, pushed them together to cover his cock while he slid back and forth. John reaches into himself, three fingers, wishing he could go deeper, rocking his fingers back and forth to make himself open, open, open. He gives in to the fantasy as he rocks against his hand: imagines slipping his cock into Rodney’s pussy, imagines Rodney’s legs up over his shoulders as he fucks in deep, imagines Rodney spread out before him, on his back, John’s hands on his ass. Rodney would groan as John’s dick pushed into him, filling him up, would get a hand down to his clit, would shudder and clench as he –

oh

John’s breath catches in his throat as he starts to come, fingers still pushing, pushing, drawing it on and on, his whole body condensing into a single point of pleasure.

-

Three days later is the third Tuesday since John first woke up in the infirmary. John spends it on paperwork and Marine-wrangling, which makes for a long, grueling day. Though he can’t pin it down, there’s something very different about talking to his men now that he’s a woman, and the obvious discomfort that they exhibit is inevitably exhausting.

But when he gets back to his room, Rodney is waiting outside his door with a DVD in his hand. He looks a little nervous, but John hasn’t quite gotten used to reading Rodney’s emotions on his new face, so it could be something else. When he sees John coming, he smiles in a way that used to be endearing and is now surprisingly stunning.

“Hey, I got this from Simpson, one night only. Wanna join me?” He holds up the DVD to show John: V for Vendetta, which John had mentioned wanting to see about a month before. He realises that he hasn’t watched a movie or played chess or hung out with Rodney at all, really, since they changed.

“I thought we were devoting every spare minute to searching the database?” It comes out more accusatory than he intends it.

Rodney sighs. “It’s all I’ve done for the last three days; I can’t see the symbols anymore. I can’t look at it again until tomorrow.”

John nods. “Movie sounds good. C’mon in.”

They end up spinning John’s bed around so that the long side is backed against the wall to make an improvised couch, tossing pillows behind their backs and setting John’s laptop up on the little table in front of them.

“How is your room so tiny? Seriously, I think this was originally an Ancient closet,” Rodney grumbles as they rearrange the furniture.

“A man’s needs are simple,” John answers, then regrets it. Rodney doesn’t respond, but does give him a funny little sarcastic smile before settling in and pressing play. Rodney curls up on the other end of the bed, feet pulled under him. John tries not to notice how sweet he looks, all tucked into himself like that.

The movie isn’t on for more than fifteen minutes when Rodney reaches forward and pushes the space bar to pause it.

“Hey, it’s just getting good,” John protests. He likes the swordfights.

“It’s not as good as the book. Listen, Colonel. I have to ask you something,” Rodney says, then falls paradoxically silent.

John turns toward him and raises his eyebrows. “Yes?”

Rodney’s brow furrows. “I just. Do you remember that conversation we had, back when all this started?”

Oh, shit. “About decreased security perimeters to save power? I told you, we can’t pull back any further.”

Rodney gives him his I’m-not-buying-your-bullshit look. That one definitely hadn’t changed with the face. “No, not the security perimeters, you moron, the lesbian thing!”

“The lesbian thing.” John tries to think of someplace he has to be, but before he can, Rodney’s lips are on his. A soft, hasty press, closed-mouthed and swift, both a statement and a question. Then Rodney pulls back, out of his space.

“The lesbian thing,” he repeats. “Look, I don’t know how to ask you this,” and he stops, clearly searching for the right words, a furrow working between his eyebrows. John is struck breathless: he knows this feeling. When Rodney walked into the darkness creature, just weeks after they met, John felt exactly this way.

When Rodney next opens his mouth to speak, John’s there, his mouth covering Rodney’s, his hand sliding up his leg, lips sliding, tongue pushing in in in.

Then Rodney makes a high-pitched little moan and pushes his tongue back against John’s, and the kiss gets dirty and desperate and wet. Rodney’s hands are high on his waist, thumbs pushing into John’s belly, fingers against the ribs just below his breasts. And if John thought his responses were strange when he was touching himself, then this is completely out of control: the sensation of Rodney’s hands on him is overwhelming. It’s the most sexual experience of John’s life and they haven’t even gotten to second base yet. His hand slips behind Rodney’s neck, fingers clench, tugging at the short hair as he deepens the kiss. Inside, he feels that low-down heartbeat-throb. He’s brand-new, again, nerves jangling, a perfect shock to his system.

When they break apart, Rodney takes a second longer than John does to open his eyes, so that when he does, John is confronted with the sudden blueness of them, contrasting sharply with the swollen red of his lips. He’s a little short of breath, too. John glances down to where Rodney’s chest is heaving, takes in the swell of Rodney’s breasts, and sees that his nipples are hard against his shirt. The sight creates some sort of feedback loop: John feels his own nipples contract with pleasure. He can’t stop his hands from running up and down Rodney’s back, his arms, restlessly, wrists to shoulders to neck to nape and back again.

He realises that this, this is what he’s been craving for days, since Tarin took away the hope that this was just a dream and that they could wake up. John’s stuck here, now, lost in this body that isn’t quite his, but Rodney’s lost like him, and so beautiful. He closes his eyes briefly. Words that he’s held inside for weeks slip irreversibly from his mouth.

“God, Rodney, don’t, don’t take this the wrong way, but you are really gorgeous as a woman.”

Rodney’s mouth makes its way from John’s ear down his neck, his lips running hot trails along his collarbone.

“You, you too,” John hears, murmured against his skin. “God, do you even know? You’re completely my type, I can’t even . . .” More words, lost against his body as Rodney kisses the hollow of his throat, fingers sliding along John’s waist. His mouth works down into the little v-neck of John’s t-shirt, along the sternum, his face nearly on a level with John’s high, firm breasts. He looks up, fingers plucking at the hem of the shirt.

“Can we?” he asks, eyes earnest and hopeful.

John grins, says, “I’m not actually a woman, Rodney,” and pulls his shirt over his head one-handed.

“That’s what you think,” Rodney mutters, and presses his face between John’s breasts, nuzzling against the white lace bra. John is about to speak to demand fair play, fingers sliding up Rodney’s belly under his shirt, when Rodney turns his head and mouths John’s nipple over the bra.

And god, the wetness, the heat, the pull of Rodney’s mouth over the slight scratchiness of the lace is devastating: the air he’d intended to use for speech leaves his mouth in a sudden, harsh breath. He sucks more air in, breath coming faster, little “ah!” noises escaping his lips as Rodney’s lips cover his nipple and his warm hands rub circles against his lower back. Then Rodney starts to suck him, and the sensation arches from his nipple to his pussy like an electric shock.

His hands come up to cup Rodney’s head, holding him to his breast. Rodney looks up and brings his index finger to John’s mouth: another question. John licks his lips, then opens up and sucks it in, running his tongue up and down, getting it wet. Rodney pulls it out and presses it against John’s other nipple, rubbing and slipping, back and forth, while his tongue laps slowly at the first one.

“Oh, Jesus, Rodney, that is amazing.” John moans. Rodney pulls his mouth back, lips red and obscene against John’s breast, and looks up at him curiously. “Better than with fingers?” he asks.

“You have to try this. Take your shirt off.”

Rodney gives John’s nipple one last little tweak and then does, tossing the blue science-team t-shirt to the floor. Rodney’s wearing the same sort of thing, functional white lace, his tits spilling generously forward as he reaches behind himself to unhook the bra.

“Do you want – ” John begins hesitantly, “the lace is kind of, um, nice, if you.” Rodney shakes his head.

“Just your mouth,” he blurts, then flushes. His nipples are flushed, too, dark pink and tight against his breasts. John bends his head. Rodney tastes salty with sweat and smells familiar, like a hundred cramped tents and shared rooms on a hundred different worlds. He cups the underside of one breast with his hand and massages rhythmically, nails scraping against the soft round flesh even as he presses the flat of his tongue to Rodney’s nipple.

“God! Okay, yes, Colonel, that’s good. Fuck.” Rodney keeps one hand against the side of John’s breast, rubbing his palm back and forth mindlessly.

John pulls his mouth off briefly. “I think you can call me John,” he says between open-lipped kisses to Rodney’s nipple, “since I’m not here in any official capacity.”

Rodney laughs and buries his hands in John’s hair, pulling him up his body again and then giving him a little push backwards. John hesitates, then goes with it, lets Rodney push him to lie flat on his back in the bed, then grabs Rodney by the shoulders and pulls him down on top of him. Rodney’s stretched out over him and slightly to one side, his knee falling between John’s legs, his hard nipple rubbing down to nestle between John’s breasts. All the hesitation is gone as Rodney takes his mouth again, hot and dirty and pushy. John lets his legs fall open, forcing Rodney to fall further against him. And Rodney’s hot thigh presses between John’s legs, through three layers of clothing, and grinds the seam of John’s pants against his clit. John groans and breaks off the kiss, looking into Rodney’s eyes and blinking rapidly as he cants his hips upwards to get more friction.

Rodney looks momentarily confused, then glances down and licks his lips. Looking back into John’s face, Rodney drags his thigh slowly upward, tensing the muscle there and rubbing it deliberately against John, pressing it into John’s body. A long, slow drag up, then he pulls away, depriving John of contact, and moves back down only to do it again, tense and push and drag upward, over and over and over.

“Rodney,” John gasps between thrusts, “oh, christ. uh, Rodney, do you wanna. . .” John plucks at the waistband of Rodney’s pants to illustrate his point.

“Yeah,” Rodney breathes, and pulls back to unbutton and unzip. John arches his back against the bed and gets his hands behind himself to unhook his bra, pulling it off and tossing it on the floor. By the time he’s managed that – stupid bra hooks – Rodney’s got himself completely naked and is kneeling on the end of the bed.

John’s mouth goes a little dry at the sight of Rodney’s body, the broad, muscled thighs, the little round belly that dips in slightly at his waist before flaring back out, up, to those round gorgeous tits, one nipple still gleaming from John’s mouth. And right there in front of him is Rodney’s pussy, little thatch of hair between his spread thighs, a glimpse of wet red flesh behind brown-blonde curls. John’s hands still on his fly when he catches sight of a drop of moisture clinging to a single hair like dew.

Rodney snaps his fingers, and John’s gaze drags upwards again.

“Earth to Sheppard! C’mon, I know you’re in the military, but I’m pretty sure you’ve seen pussy before.”

John grins at Rodney’s wide smile. “Asshole. C’mere.”

Rodney does, his hands replacing John’s on the waist of his pants, pulling them down and off before stripping the socks from John’s feet.

“You missed a spot,” John says, thumb slipping in to the waistband of the white cotton panties as he spreads his legs even further, one foot coming down to brace on the floor. The cotton is damp where it’s been pressed against him. He can smell himself, suddenly, that great pussy-smell that he’s always loved seeming to fill his mouth and nose. He pulls himself up on his elbows and gives Rodney a challenging look that usually has to do with fixing a DHD or firing a gun.

Rodney holds his gaze for a long moment before bending down and running his hands up John’s legs. The change hadn’t removed any proportionate muscle mass, really, so his body is still well-defined, lithe and strong. It’d been one of the few familiarities immediately after the change. Rodney’s hands trace over the muscles: over the knotted runner’s calves and the front of his thighs, up his sides to cup and rub the hardness of his shoulders. John lies still as Rodney’s fingers ghost down the lines of his biceps to his inner elbows. Then Rodney’s hands draw back up again, his fingernails scraping against John’s skin. John inhales sharply.

When Rodney’s hand next cups his bicep, John flexes a little, winking at Rodney before grabbing him by the back of the neck and pulling him back down into a kiss. Rodney settles on top of him again, their flesh pressing together hot and sticky. Then John braces himself, foot pressing against the floor, and flips them over, driving a soft “umph!” from Rodney as his back hits the bed. He scrambles over Rodney’s body, bracing one hand on the bed and his knees on either side of Rodney’s leg while he draws his legs up one at a time to pull the white cotton away from his body and toss it on the floor.

“Yeah,” Rodney murmurs, his hands bracing John’s shoulders as he squirms above. Then John lowers himself down to ride his bare wet flesh against Rodney’s thigh, bracing his own leg to rub against Rodney’s clit. Rodney gasps, then groans out a long, low, “Fuck” and lifts one hip, hooking his ankle over the back of John’s calf and grinding up.

John pushes back against him, riding Rodney’s thigh harder. They’re held together by Rodney’s leg locked over his, breasts pressing, nipples catching on hot skin. Rodney gets a hand down between them, fingers adding to the pressure of his thigh against John’s cunt.

“Jesus,” he mutters into Rodney’s skin, squeezing his eyes closed. “Jesus, Rodney, yeah, just like that. You feel – oh, christ you feel good.” He drags his mouth up, across Rodney’s jaw, back to his lips, sliding their tongues together as they push against each other. They writhe like that for a while, hard nipples scraping against skin, kissing frantically, trying to get more friction. John is full of the sex-smell between them and the sounds of Rodney’s little gasps against his mouth.

Finally John takes Rodney’s hand and pulls it down further, presses two fingers against his hole. His eyes open as he puts Rodney’s fingers into him, filling the ache inside. Rodney meets his gaze and curls his fingers into John even as John spreads his thighs a little further and brings his clit down onto the hard heel of Rodney’s hand. Then John’s rocking against his hand, moving his hips in slow circles that press Rodney’s callused fingers against that internal smooth spot, again, and again, and again. And he’s been waiting too long now, for what feels like weeks: he’s suddenly desperate for it. He closes his eyes and rests his forehead on Rodney’s shoulder as Rodney gets a second hand down onto his cunt, shifts his grip, gets a third finger into him while his other hand covers his clit, pressing in warm little circles over and over. John’s clenching against Rodney’s fingers now, high gasps tearing themselves from his throat, his cunt tightening around those points of pleasure. Rodney pushes through it, inexorable, fingers stroking and sliding, pushing deeper and filling him up as John is overwhelmed by wave after wave of hot, rushing joy.

He collapses completely against Rodney’s shoulder, gasping heavily. “God, Rodney, I don’t even . . .” He stops himself talking and reaches between them to grasp Rodney’s wrists and draw his hands up to his face. Rodney’s fingers are coated, wet and sticky. John closes his lips around two fingers and licks them clean, tongue lapping at the webbing between them, tasting himself on Rodney’s skin.

Rodney groans and shifts his hips beneath John’s. John takes a minute to lose himself in Rodney’s mouth again, pushing the bitter taste of John’s cunt onto his tongue, then wriggles down his body to get his face between his thighs.

“Oh, please, yes, god, yes, do it.” comes Rodney’s voice from above him. John slides his hands up those soft white thighs, then grips firmly and shoves them apart, dipping his head down to lap at the dark scent of Rodney’s pussy. Rodney’s hands slide into his hair, pushy and familiar, as John slides his tongue down to tease and circle at Rodney’s hole. Above him, Rodney gasps, and John lets his tongue slip inside briefly before pulling away. Rodney groans at the loss.

He presses two fingers in: long, deep strokes that make Rodney shudder and stutter out one-word sentences: “Fuck. John. I. Jesus.”

Then he presses his mouth back down onto Rodney’s clit, stroking and lipping in counterpoint, thumb rubbing against the tender space below his clit. In, and around, and over, again and again, the hot smell all around him. John’s mouth is buried in Rodney as he pushes and slides and licks: in, around, over, again, and again. Rodney’s squirming and cursing above him, muttering in an unending litany: “fuck, do it, fuck, John, do it, god, fuck.”

Then Rodney’s hand slides down onto John’s shoulder and squeezes hard, even as his internal muscles begin to clench. John presses down a little harder, moves his lips and tongue a little faster, and curls his fingers up inside Rodney as he comes, a long groan pulled from his throat as he falls back against the bed.

John crawls back up the bed and kisses Rodney again, his face still smeared with wetness from his pussy, fucking his tongue into Rodney’s soft, slackened mouth. Then he pulls away and falls against his body, breathing heavily. He runs his fingers slowly over Rodney’s breast, watching his chest heave like he’s been running a marathon.

Lips against Rodney’s ear, he says, “If I still had my cock, I’d fuck you now. That’s how it goes, right? After I eat you out I get to fuck you.”

Rodney makes a breathy little noise and rolls onto his side so that they’re facing each other with their legs tangled together.

“Yeah, that’s how it works.” His voice is soft and hesitant.

John slides his fingers back into Rodney, teasing his clit with gentle pressure. Rodney closes his eyes and bites his lip.

“But I can’t.” His fingers move back and forth, slow and lazy.

“I wish . . . I wish you could.” Rodney opens his eyes again at this, as if surprised by his own admission, but then looks frankly into John’s face, daring him to call him on it.

John just moves his fingers: back and forth, slow and lazy, on and on.

Then, “You’d want that? Cock?” voice quiet. The frantic heat from before is gone; Rodney comes against John’s fingers again, but John doesn’t stop moving against him.

“Yeah,” Rodney stutters, finally. “I mean, what the hell, this body seems to like having, uh. God. Having things inside it.”

“Yeah,” John echoes, the word drawn out like taffy, low and sweet. He kisses Rodney’s lips, mouth closed and soft, and gets a hand down to his own clit.

-

When John wakes up the next morning, he’s sticky, and naked, and covered in warm sunlight, and alone. He rolls over and scrubs at his face before wrenching himself out of bed and over to the bathroom to pee. His eyes are gluey and his hands are tired, to the extent that he’s kind of glad, for once, that he can just sit down and doze off a bit while he urinates.

When he comes back into the main room, it occurs to him to check his email. He doesn’t even have to go that far, however; when he wakes the computer up from sleep mode, there’s a text document open in front of him.

Up early to go to the labs (coolant leak, Zelenka fired).
See you tonight?

The cursor blinks beside the question mark, as if it was asking Rodney whether he’s sure he doesn’t want to erase that last sentence. John sits back on the bed, crosslegged, and pulls the computer onto his naked lap. He sends Rodney an email:

tonight is good. drop by anytime.
-J

-

Rodney shows up after dinner and fidgets awkwardly in John’s quarters for five minutes while talking about the coolant leak. John listens for a bit, then steps into his space, backing him against the wall. He presses his body along Rodney’s, then stills, watching his mouth.

Rodney’s gaze darts from John’s eyes to his mouth and back again, and then they’re coming together slowly, so slowly, breath mingling first, lips millimetres apart. Rodney’s hand comes up and covers John’s breast, thumb scraping over a nipple, and John’s gasp is swallowed up in the start of the kiss, in the softness of Rodney’s lips, in the heat coming off of his skin. Rodney’s tongue slips wet and intimate between John’s closed lips, and he opens only enough to touch the tip of his tongue to Rodney’s. They move infinitesimally, wet and precise, little bites and tiny swipes of tongue gradually filling the whole room.

John pulls his mouth away, then, and leaning back against the wall, slides the back of his heel up Rodney’s calf. Rodney licks his lips, hand still moving slowly on John’s breast.

“John,” he says, as if trying out the word.

“Yeah.” He slides a thigh between Rodney’s and begins to slide slowly against him.

Rodney’s thumb slides down John’s nipple. “This is a little weird for me,” he says, watching his thumb as it moves back and forth.

John laughs and pulls Rodney closer, leans in to lip the place below his ear. “For me too,” he mutters into Rodney’s neck.

“I mean – mmmmm,” as John bites an earlobe, “what are we –”

He stops when John pulls back and looks him in the eyes, one hand splayed over the front of Rodney’s neck. He doesn’t speak, but holds Rodney’s gaze as he slides his hand down, over his collarbone, his breast, in to the middle of his torso to run his palm over the round of his navel, then down to cup the mound of his sex.

“I like this,” John says, kissing him briefly, lips catching. Then, gaze shifting to Rodney’s collarbone, his tone softens, his voice husky and almost inaudible: “I need this.”

Rodney nods, wide-eyed, and undoes the buttons on John’s shirt, one by one.

-

After, when they’re both sweaty and exhausted, tangled up together on the bed, Rodney closes his eyes briefly and takes a breath, as if to fortify himself. Then he pulls his leg out from between’s John’s knees and moves to sit up.

John thinks of the nights he spent on this bed, every night for three weeks, losing the petty miseries of the day, shuddering in his new skin. He thinks of Tarin, alone in his little cottage for twenty years, Tarin whose people could no longer recognize him. His skin cools suddenly, goosebumps rising on his flesh.

“You can stay if you want,” he mumbles into a pillow. His eyes are closed as if he’s already half-asleep.

They sleep on their sides, curled in toward each other, touching at foreheads and knees. Rodney, unladylike, drools on the pillow.

-

It goes on like that; during the days, on coffee breaks, between missions, they scour the Ancient database for an answer. At night, Rodney shudders to pieces in John’s arms, sweaty and cursing and beautiful. Often, John lies awake afterward, sliding a hand up Rodney’s side, his belly, pushing his face into the spot between Rodney’s neck and his shoulder and breathing and breathing and breathing.

-

One bright morning, John drags Rodney out of bed and down to the shooting range, and keeps them both there until they’ve each requalified, having made adjustments for slight changes in height and build. He goes for a run with Ronon, finding to his surprise that his pace is even faster than it had been before. He thinks his bones feel lighter, hollow like a bird’s, as if he could leave the ground if he could just run fast enough.

Later, he finds Teyla and asks her if she’d like to practice with the sticks. She’s surprised; he hasn’t shown up for their practices in well over a month, with good reason.

“You realise that you will have to be retrained for your new size and balance,” she says slowly.

“Yeah,” John answers. “I guess I will.”

-

Off-world, surprisingly little has changed. Ronon is actually the one who gets perceived differently, as a man-slave or as a harem-owner, depending on where they go. Even old trading partners who know them well don’t blink more than once, typically. Teyla has a little speech:

“And of course you remember Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay. They were previously male, but were altered by one of the Ancestor’s devices.”

At this, the people will nod sagely and mutter about Ancestor technology. “I once found a device that turned me into a toad,” one old woman tells them brightly. “But I got better.”

“Lucky for you,” Rodney mutters, squinting at her bitterly.

John reaches out and flicks Rodney on the ear. “Be nice to Elder Ballera,” he says warningly. Rodney rubs his ear indignantly.

“Oh, thanks, Colonel, this behaviour modification system you have going on is really working wonders for my mental health.”

Ballera chuckles. “Don’t worry about me, Colonel. Once you’ve been a toad, it’s hard to be bothered by cheeky youngsters.”

John loves her deeply. Rodney blinks, taken aback.

“So,” Ballera grins, “are you ready to steam? The feast begins soon!”

John had forgotten about the steam-caves, rock formations above natural hotsprings that made for perfect saunas. The Vis steamed before they ate, considering it a matter of hygiene. Last time it’d been great; the caves were gender-segregated, so he’d hung out with Ronon and Rodney, each of them wearing soft baggy shorts provided by the Vis for the purpose, lying on hot wooden benches and letting the steam loosen their muscles.

This time, Ronon goes off by himself while Rodney, John and Teyla are led over to the women’s side and given little curtained-off rooms in which to strip and don their steam-wear: the same baggy shorts, this time accompanied by soft, midriff-baring tank tops.

Rodney looks as self-conscious as John feels when they come out of the little alcoves. The outfit accentuates his round little belly, the fullness of his legs, the smooth curves of his shoulders. John can’t help but look; he’s seen Rodney naked and spread-eagled, but not like this, not showing little glimpses and flashes. He averts his gaze at the same moment that Rodney turns to face him, and out of the corner of his eye, he can see Rodney’s eyes raking over John’s long, lithe body.

The steam room is as amazing as John remembers. The natural vents mean that there’s no fluctuation in temperature, no getting up to add water to rocks. Teyla makes a little groaning sound as she settles onto one of the benches, eyes closing. John’s eyes keep slipping to Rodney where he lies on the opposite bench. Rodney’s loose top is a little too small for him, and from this angle, John can see the undersides of his breasts where the garment has ridden up, skin freckled with drops of sweat. Beads of moisture accumulate on his thighs, his forearms, his upper lip, trickling down to darken the soft clothing.

They’d kept themselves limited to the nights on Atlantis. During the days, especially off-world, they’d fallen back into their old patterns: John still touches Rodney, but it’s elbows to ribs or a flick to his ear or an impersonal hand on his shoulder to move him out of the way. But watching Rodney’s body soak up steam, loose and slack and open, John feels himself getting slippery and wet the way he does at night when Rodney’s hands are on him. He watches Rodney’s sweat-slick, half-covered body for a long time while the steam soaks into his muscles.

The feast and the subsequent trade deal rush past, and John only learns later that Teyla managed to score some samples of a rare medicinal plant. He tries to keep up conversation with Elder Ballera, but his eyes keep sliding to Rodney’s hair, still wet from the steam, plastered in little curls around his face. Rodney notices. Their eyes meet and lock over the table as Rodney takes a deliberate sip of the delicate wine. John licks his lips in sympathy. Rodney’s hand comes up slowly and softly brushes against his mouth as if wiping away excess liquid, fingers on his own lips just a moment too long, dragging just a little too slowly across the gleaming pink flesh.

-

When they get back to Atlantis it’s still early afternoon, thanks to the time change. John has Teyla give the report to Elizabeth and escapes as quickly as possible, back to his quarters. Rodney has beaten him there, though: he’s waiting for him when the door opens, waiting to grab John up and shove him against the wall and crush their mouths together.

John kisses back enthusiastically, his hands all over Rodney’s body, covering and twisting over his skin, getting his shirt off, getting his pants undone and loose around his hips. Rodney pulls back suddenly, and John is about to ask him what he wants to do when Rodney pushes him down on the bed and drops to his knees, working at John’s zipper.

John feels a little dizzy, so he gets a hand on Rodney’s shoulder to steady himself. A pretty girl, half-naked, on her knees in front of him: how long’s it been since he’s seen something like that? He can’t remember, but he’s pretty sure that last time, he wasn’t a woman, and the girl in front of him wasn’t a man.

Rodney finishes burrowing through his clothes and gets his fingers on John, other hand grabbing at his pants and underwear and pulling them down to his ankles, where John kicks them off. Rodney spreads John’s thighs, cupping them in his hands, and bends his head, licking his lips. His wide, mobile lips are pulling at the sensitive flesh, his tongue now pressed flat against him, now darting in to lick just at the edges of John’s hole. His thumbs rub deliciously up and down the outer lips of John’s cunt.

John looks down at Rodney, mouth working enthusiastically, fingers scratching at John’s thighs, and is hit with wonder.

“You really like this, don’t you?” he asks, surprised. He hadn’t pictured Rodney as the kind of guy who liked going down on women. But then, he hadn’t really given a lot of thought to Rodney having sex at all, before.

Rodney mmmmmm’s in answer to John’s question, low and deep in his throat, and pushes his tongue in further. The little noises Rodney’s making are driving John crazy, more than his lips or tongue or fingers: like he can’t get enough of John’s pussy.

He presses in further still, nose nudging John’s clit, tongue lapping eagerly at his hole. Then, suddenly, he rears back and hacks like a cat.

“Well, except for this,” he says, pulling a dark hair out of his throat. He looks up at John, eyes twinkling, while his fingers temporarily take over the job of thrusting up into John’s body and over his clit. “Seriously, if you want me to eat you out, you should probably trim that bush a little.”

John laughs breathlessly and shoves his cunt against Rodney’s hand, getting more friction. “We’re lesbians, Rodney, I’m not shavin’ nothin’.”

Rodney looks at him seriously while his fingers grind against him, hot and hard inside. “I really think you’re uncritically assuming a sexual stereotype,” he says, but puts his mouth back on John’s clit anyway.

John lets himself fall back against the bed and into the sensation of Rodney’s soft lips taking him slowly, mercilessly apart.

-

Despite Carson’s vague and flustered assurances that “everything looked healthy,” John gradually comes to believe that it’s not going to happen. The fourth Tuesday passes, and the fifth, and it’s the Wednesday after the sixth Tuesday when it finally strikes.

John’s already awake when Rodney wakes up, but hasn’t found it in him to move, yet; he’s just lying quietly in the first rays of the Lantean sunlight, sprawled against Rodney’s lush body. When Rodney opens his eyes, John kisses him softly.

“Mmmmm. Good morning.” Rodney reaches down between his own thighs, lazy and self-assured. “God, I’m already wet,” he rasps. John grins and kisses him again; Rodney brings his hand back up to rest lightly against John’s collarbone. Then they pull away, and Rodney sees the blood on John’s chest, and all hell breaks loose.

“Oh god, this is disgusting!” he calls from behind the closed bathroom door. “Seriously, really, just, disgusting. Aren’t there supposed to be warning signs or something? Shouldn’t something hurt, or something swell? Every woman I’ve ever known has insisted that things hurt and swell first.”

John thinks back to the stomachache he’d had all day yesterday, low and strange in his belly.

“Oh. Shit,” he pronounces calmly.

Eventually, John finds the box that Carson had given him that first day, just in case; he’d tossed it to the back of the closet. He and Rodney read the instructions carefully.

“First sign of danger,” Rodney mutters darkly. “Since when do we read the instructions?”

Once they’re showered and dressed and relatively sure that they’re not going to bleed on anything, they make their way down to the briefing room. They arrive at eleven-thirty, only half an hour late. Rodney claims that this is not too much time to ask for devastating post-traumatic stress.

“Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay. How good of you to join us,” Elizabeth intones darkly. John misses the days when she would just say ‘gentlemen;’ this Colonel-Sheppard-Doctor-McKay business feels too much like hearing his mom say his middle name.

“Apologies, there was a . . . a thing. An emergency,” Rodney stutters.

Deep down inside, John freaks out. Why didn’t they make up a story before showing up?

“There was a problem with the sewage system,” John covers quickly, “backing up in some of the residential quarters. Trust me, you should appreciate that we took the time to shower before coming in.”

Elizabeth raises her eyebrows and she licks her lips as if she wants to call bullshit, but in the end she just smiles at them and goes on with the meeting.

Halfway through, Rodney leans over to John and hisses, “We can’t go on a mission tomorrow!”

John tears his eyes away from Dr. Bast, who is describing his new water filtration technique. “What?” he hisses back.

“Look, I am all for emancipation, yay miracle of life, whatever, but there is no way I’m going off-world like this. I don’t care if your Marines do it, I don’t care if my scientists do it, I am not leaving this base until this stops.”

John thinks about camping in the cold forest of an alien planet with no running water, and suddenly has a lot more respect for Teyla.

“I’ll get us out of it,” he promises fervently.

-

With the mission rescheduled for next week, they suddenly have time on their hands. Rodney automatically suggests another scroll through the Ancient database, though he no longer attacks the task with the same hopeless desperation that he had three weeks ago. Over the next two days, he taps at the screen while sipping coffee, interested but calm, as if he’s playing solitare.

John sits across from him in the empty lab, their ankles rubbing occasionally, fortuitously against each other. When Rodney finds a new sub-directory to explore, he leans forward without thinking and rubs his thumb against John’s wrist to catch his attention. When John brings back fresh coffee from the bacteriology lab, he runs his hand up onto Rodney’s shoulder and squeezes with his right hand while setting the mug down on the table with his left.

Despite all their long hours in the labs, though, it’s Elizabeth who finds the answer.

She calls them each on the radio, separately, asking them to come to her quarters. When they arrive, she’s wearing sweatpants and an old Notre Dame t-shirt, her hair mussed, smiling brightly. Scattered across her desk are dozens of pages of printouts, Ancient characters sprawling all over. John recognizes the sections of the database they’d been searching to find the device and he recognizes Elizabeth’s handwriting scrawled all over the printouts, crossing things out, circling other things, scribbling addenda in Ancient and English. Weeks’ worth of work.

“I pieced it together from clues throughout the database – we were looking in weapons, in Ascension research, in the section on zoological experiments – ”

“Where’d you find it?” Rodney interrupts, eager as ever to hear the solution at the end of the puzzle.

“Adolescent health and development,” Elizabeth answers proudly. She turns her laptop around so that the screen faces them.

“Huh,” John says.

Rodney bends over the computer, one finger coming up to trace against the screen. John peers over his shoulder and there, sure enough, is a diagram of the device. It looks exactly like the picture Tarin had drawn for them: vaguely rectangular in shape with two of the sides curving slightly outward at the base, a set of blinking lights, and a control labeled with the ancient word for transformation.

John swallows against a sudden lump in his throat. “So, can you build one?” he asks finally.

Rodney shakes his head and points. “I don’t need to. Look at this: it was never intended to be permanent.”

John grimaces. “Rodney, Tarin’s been a man for twenty years.”

Elizabeth smiles. “Tarin doesn’t have the Ancient gene.”

John’s mouth falls open as he sees it laid out before him: it’s going to wear off, sometime soon probably. In another moment, in five seconds or less, Elizabeth will tell them how long they have left, and then a countdown will begin, and on the other side of that span of time he’ll faint and convulse and wake up with his body as it was six weeks ago, comfortable and male.

Rodney looks up at him and smiles weakly. His hair has grown out over the last few weeks and is falling over his ear a little: John can’t take his eyes from that little detail, the soft lock of brown hair curling over the top of Rodney’s ear.

“You’ll switch back in another three weeks,” Elizabeth tells them.

-

Everyone is thrilled for them, of course; Lorne claps him on the back, Zelenka nods with satisfaction, and Carson gives John a broad smile when he hears the news. Teyla slaps him on the leg with a stick and says, “I’m glad that you will soon feel better.”

John keeps his eye on her left hand as they circle the ring in the gym, and is completely justified when she feints with that hand before striking out with the right. John blocks it easily and asks, “What do you mean, feel better?”

Teyla does that little head-tilt shrug of hers and smiles. “Your life was not outwardly changed, nor will it be much changed when you go back to being a man. But you were not comfortable as a woman, so I am glad,” she parries and twists elegantly, avoiding his attack, “that you will feel more comfortable again soon. There is nothing else,” she spins and takes the attack back to him, forcing him to step back, scoring a hit on his side, “for which I can congratulate you.”

After the workout, John rubs at his side and thinks about outward changes.

-

That night, Rodney shows up at his room, a DVD in his hand. He holds it up: V for Vendetta.

John looks at his face for a long moment, the curve of his lips, the bright of his eyes, the delicate slope of his nose. “I’ve been wanting to see that movie,” he drawls, finally.

“I got it back from Simpson. One night only.”

“Sounds good.”

Rodney comes in, and they shift the bed against the wall to make an improvised couch.

“I don’t know why we’ve spent all this time in your room; you can’t swing a cat in here,” Rodney grumbles as he lifts the bedframe.

“I thought you liked cats.”

“Not theoretical ones. Schrodinger did a terrible thing to a theoretical cat, and look at the advancements in physics.”

“Hey, he didn’t kill the cat,” John protests.

“It’s neither alive nor dead. That’s the terrible thing,” Rodney says, voice flat, and curls up under John’s arm on the couch. They watch in silence, bodies pressing together insistently.

On the screen, for one brief moment, Evey’s lips brush against V’s mask.

-

Time speeds up: they go on the mission that they had – as Rodney puts it – delayed for weather; Rodney fixes that weird smell that keeps cropping up in the ventilation system; John begins training the newest batch of Marines, fresh from the Daedalus; and, three days before they’re due to switch back, Rodney shows up at his door with a paper bag in his hand.

They haven’t talked about it; not when they thought they were stuck this way permanently, and not since they found the solution. And now the person he’s sucked and fucked and kissed for over two months is going to disappear, and so is John, and he doesn’t have the first clue what to do about it.

When the door closes behind him, Rodney holds the paper bag up in front of him, colour in his cheeks. “I, uh, ordered this on the Daedalus,” he says, and hands it over.

John looks inside, and finds what he expects to find: a long, silver vibrator, with a few handfuls of condoms and single-serving lube scattered around it like plastic grass around an Easter egg. He takes Rodney’s hand in his.

“C’mon,” he says, and pulls Rodney to the bed. They undress slowly, methodically, down to skin that no longer feels raw under John’s fingers. They kiss with slow precision: Rodney licks delicately at John’s lips and runs his fingers over the sweet spot under John’s breast. John shifts his mouth to the side, kissing along Rodney’s jaw to the space behind it, below the ear. He grazes his teeth over that spot, one, twice, three times, while Rodney’s fingers rub slowly against the underside of John’s breast.

When it shifts, it shifts suddenly: from their sweet, measured precision comes something faster, harder, darker. John’s hands are full of Rodney, his mouth nose ears eyes fingers full of Rodney, Rodney’s hot skin pressing against his own, Rodney’s tongue fucking indecorously into his mouth, his skin covered with him, coated in him.

Long, writhing minutes pass as they grind against each other, naked and unsubtle. The sweat slicking their bodies mixes with the wetness between their thighs, everything suddenly slippery and dangerous. Their mouths press together, each time harder, faster, deeper, wetter. That low-down throb inside John’s cunt builds and builds, Rodney teasing his clit with clever fingers and pulling back whenever John seeks the friction out. Rodney’s hard nipples scrape against John’s chest, Rodney rubbing himself against him like a cat, shamelessly.

Then John pushes gently against Rodney’s shoulders; Rodney sits back on his knees, his legs straddling John’s. John meets his eyes and bites his lip and rolls over between Rodney’s spread thighs. His face feels hot where it pushes into the pillow.

Behind him, above him, he hears Rodney’s breathing stutter momentarily. John doesn’t know who he had in mind when he ordered the toy, but this seems inevitable: John lying face down on the bed like it’s been their destination the whole time.

Then a hand comes down on his ass, not quite a smack, but hard enough to make a soft, fleshy noise. Rodney’s hand skitters over his cheek, cupping, kneading, then up into the dip of his back, pressing the heel of his hand into the hard muscles there. Then Rodney shifts, gets one knee between John’s legs, and gives him a little nudge.

“Spread them apart,” Rodney murmurs, and John does. He hears the old familiar sound of a condom being unwrapped and rolled on; strange to hear that sound without feeling it on his dick. Rodney leans down, arms braced on either side of John’s head, and puts his lips next to John’s ear.

“Get your hand on your pussy,” Rodney intones.

John squirms, and does.

He doesn’t get the chance to brush his fingers against his clit more than a few times before Rodney, surprisingly strong, gets a hand under John’s hip and just lifts him, getting him into position. Then: on the back of his neck, a soft, lingering kiss.

The vibrator, warmed by Rodney’s hands, teases at his hole, circling round before pressing in only slightly, then withdrawing, circling again, pressing. John works his fingers on his clit but wants more, wants something inside of him. He hears his voice before he realises that he’s about to speak.

“Please, Rodney,” he grates out, hoarse and needy.

Again: that soft, gentle kiss against his neck. Rodney presses the toy in a little, a quarter inch, slipping against him, then pulls back once more to tease. He says it again.

“Please. Rodney.”

“Please what.” It doesn’t sound like a question, two words pushed out hastily on one short breath, like Rodney’s the one being teased, like Rodney’s the one face-down on the bed and begging.

“Fuck me,” John grinds out, finally, “get it in me, shove it in, please, I need it, just – ” And there it is, Rodney’s hand warm on the back of his neck while the other hand pushes the toy into him, inch by glorious, maddening inch, until it’s shoved up inside him. John presses his forehead to the cool sheets and his fingers to his clit, but doesn’t stop begging, can’t stop begging now that he’s started. The words pour out of him.

“Please, Rodney, please. Do it. Please, oh jesus, give it to me. Rodney. Fuck!” His words lost against the mattress while Rodney twists the thing inside him and turns it on, the vibrations echoing through his body, and he’s writhing for it now, legs spreading further on the bed. He cants his ass back to press against Rodney, lifting his hips, giving him access. The hand on his neck disappears, but over the low hum of the vibrator John hears soft, wet noises, and knows that Rodney is bringing himself off with one hand while fucking John with the other. It drives John crazy, and he tries to hold his breath, to listen for those little noises, not the slick wet sounds of the toy pushing in and out, but the quieter sounds, Rodney behind him with his fingers on his clit, his soft moans echoing John’s rough cries.

John pushes his fingers down a little harder, moves faster, increasing the pressure along with Rodney, who’s moving the thing inside him in tight little arcs that almost push John off the bed. John clenches around the toy, startled by the feel of it, hard and obscene inside him, just as Rodney grits out, “Fuck. John.” behind him. John’s free hand comes up to brace against the bed, and he cries out as the orgasm rips through his body, rough and beautiful.

He comes back to himself to hear Rodney grunting behind him, those wet little noises grown loud and deep. John turns over and looks up to see Rodney masturbating, three fingers on his clit, two driving up into him, as he looks down over John’s body.

“Yeah,” John breathes, stroking his hands up Rodney’s tensed, spread thighs, and Rodney closes his eyes and groans long and low as he comes against his own fingers.

John sits up and kisses Rodney’s mouth, soft and sweet. He finds the vibrator, still humming among the sheets, and strips the condom from it. He fishes around on the floor for another one.

“This,” he says, as he lips Rodney’s chin affectionately, “you have got to try.”

-

Their last days slip away in a haze of sex and slow, burning kisses. They no longer pretend to limit themselves to the nights; John grabs Rodney from a hallway and pushes him into a storage closet, dropping to his knees and eating him out until Rodney had to stifle his gasps and sobs with a hand over his own mouth. Rodney screws him when they go to sleep and again when they wake up, fingers, vibrator, tongue – a continuous line of time in which John feels broken open to the air, new and alive as he had that first day when he’d run his hands wonderingly over his body. They fuck in an empty lab, late at night, and on the east pier, spread out on a blanket, and in the weird, soft-walled room in the top of the north tower. Their bodies encompass the city: every room, every doorway, every hallway is marked by a touch, the brush of a hand or a longing glance.

Rodney’s got it timed out to the second, precisely seventy Atlantis-days from the time the Nendari man – or was it a Nendari woman? John hadn’t thought about it, but supposed it could have been either, or both – hit them with the Ancient energy beam.

They’ve got about twenty minutes left, by Rodney’s count. Carson wants them in the infirmary, but John had refused; they got through this once without medical aid, and they can do it again. John doesn’t know what Carson thinks he would do, anyway, if a spontaneous Ancient sex-change went suddenly wrong in the middle. So they’re sitting crosslegged on the floor of John’s room, knees bumping as they wait.

“Listen,” Rodney says. Rodney always says Listen or Look, always wants to show you the way he perceives the world. “Listen,” Rodney says, “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do when this is all over.”

John takes Rodney’s hand in his own: a friendly gesture that’s all comfort and little heat. “Maybe we shouldn’t do it together,” he cautions. “I don’t know if I. When we wake up.”

Rodney’s brows furrows, but John knows he gets it: John wants to be together when it begins, but alone when it ends. Rodney just shrugs.

“I can go if you want.”

John leans forward across their bumping knees and kisses him briefly.

“Though I am getting mixed messages, here,” Rodney breathes. John chuckles.

“Rodney,” he begins, then stops. He clenches his jaw and looks down to where their fingers are pressed together. “You were a really great girlfriend.”

Rodney has the grace to laugh at that. “You too. Best ever.”

John nods. “Yeah.” He pauses, index finger rubbing absently against the pulse-point on Rodney’s wrist. “How much longer do we have?”

“Seventeen minutes.”

A pause. “Wanna make out?”

“Okay.”

When time catches up with them, they’re kissing and touching lazily, John’s hand cupping Rodney’s face, Rodney’s fingertips stroking idly against John’s neck. They’re already lying down, so they don’t have far to fall.

-

John wakes up in someone else’s body.

He feels dizzy and nauseated, but clamps his eyes and mouth against it: he doesn’t want to puke. The displacement is back, that feeling from the first weeks of the transformation, of something forced in where it doesn’t belong. The hips are too thin, the shoulders too broad, the chest too flat, the weight between his legs ponderous and strange.

Once the nausea subsides somewhat, he rolls over and opens his eyes.

He’d thought that he’d missed his own face, the way the stubble grew in and the angular planes of his nose. He hadn’t realised that he’d missed Rodney’s, but looking at the thick eyebrows and shadowed jaw, he remembers all of the emotions that he’s used to seeing there: fear, panic, elation, mania, fear. He know he’ll miss Rodney’s sweet, lush, female body, but he’s suddenly reminded that the memories that go with this body are good ones, too.

Rodney’s eyes flutter open, just like a dozen mornings-after when they’ve woken up together.

“Oh, god,” Rodney says, squeezing his eyes shut again and pressing the back of his hand to his mouth.

John wills Rodney not to puke, if only because it’ll definitely make him puke too. After a few long breaths, he manages to sit up and get his back against the wall.

“You okay there, Rodney?”

“Don’t talk to me.”

John chuckles weakly and looks over at Rodney, huddled on the floor. His fingers twitch to rub Rodney’s back, slow circles between the shoulderblades.

“C’mon,” he says finally, “let’s go give Carson some blood.”

“Wait,” Rodney calls, pushing himself to his knees. “Wait,” he says again, then shuffles across the floor to John. John’s not moving at his top speed, either, so when Rodney gets a hand on his shoulder and leans forward to press dry, gummy lips against his mouth, John doesn’t really get it in his head to stop him until it’s already over.

“That, uh, was supposed to be a lot more sexy and romantic,” Rodney says, “But I decided to tone it down in order to avoid vomiting in your mouth.”

“Holding back vomit is romantic,” John temporizes. Then, “Rodney . . .”

“I know,” Rodney interrupts hastily. “You’re not gay, I’m not gay, we’re both astoundingly not-gay. I just.” Rodney clenches his jaw. “One for the road.”

Then Rodney pulls himself shakily to his feet and shuffles toward the door. John follows.

Between John’s quarters and the infirmary, Rodney only falls down once. John enjoys the high ground for all of five minutes, until he smacks himself in the face with the infirmary door.

-

“And I think the new guys are all pretty much ready to go into the gate team rotation,” John finishes. “I’ve got team assignments worked out.”

“Excellent,” Elizabeth smiles from across her desk, making a note on the screen with her stylus.

“Anything else?” John asks.

“No, that’s it. Oh,” she holds up a finger, as if remembering something inconsequential, “I did mean to tell you: I translated the rest of the database entry on the gender-changing device.”

“Yeah?” John’s voice is calm, his body relaxed as he slouches back in his chair.

“Yes! It’s quite fascinating, actually. It seems that the whole thing is an Ancient rite of passage: young people would undergo the change at around age eighteen. See how the other half lives.”

John wants to punch Elizabeth in her easy smile.

When he doesn’t respond, Elizabeth continues: “I thought you might like to write something up about the experience, aside from the official report. We can’t publish it in Time, obviously, but maybe one day – ”

“Elizabeth,” he interrupts, voice soft and steady. “Something was done to me.” He licks his lips, considering. “Twice.”

He wants to say something further, but can’t imagine any way to even begin to explain himself.

She blanches and stills. “Of course. I didn’t realise . . . of course,” she says softly, as if to herself. She pauses, then asks, “You’ll send me the new team assignments?”

“Sure will.”

-

John had a mental list of all the things he’d missed about being a man. It went like this:

1. jerking off
2. not bleeding from his genitals
3. not feeling like he was in a porn movie when he yelled at the Marines, and
4. people not touching him.

If he’d made a list of the things he missed about being a woman – which he hadn’t – it would’ve gone like this:

1. jerking off
2. lesbianism, and
3. Rodney

It astounded him that he couldn’t come up with anything else. Although, if he were being honest with himself, he’d admit that the lists were both in the wrong order.

-

For the first week, Rodney sticks to the labs and John sticks to his office, which is, as it turns out, a nice little two-room deal off of the south plaza. They don’t hang out, or eat together, or talk, except in passing. John thinks it’s the shittiest breakup of his life, including that time that Melanie St. Pierre kicked him in the balls in the middle of the football field.

He re-re-trains with Teyla, which means getting knocked down a lot while he tries to figure out how to avoid toppling over without broad hips to steady him. It seems like, after thirty-seven years in this body, it should be more familiar, but the asskicking he’s receiving insists otherwise.

“So, do you feel better?” Teyla asks, thwacking him on the hand.

“Ow! No!” He tries to parry her next attack, but he hesitates, not sure which way to move, and she clips him on the leg this time.

“I mean,” she says, stepping back and beginning again, “now that you’re back to yourself.”

John tries an attack of his own, managing to force Teyla back a step. “Oh. Yeah. Yes. I do.”

“That is good to hear,” she says, and hits him with a spin-parry-thrust combination that makes him stumble and fall backwards. She laughs, probably because Teyla is one of those people who thinks that falling down is funny, even when she’s the one on the ground.

“You do well enough,” she says cryptically, and helps him up.

-

The vibrator that Rodney’d bought was still in John’s closet, so one night John rolls a condom down it thoughtfully and lubes it up and sticks it slowly in his ass. It feels terrible, like he’s taking a shit, nothing like the rolling, clenching waves of pleasure that he’d felt with it up his cunt. He gives up after a minute or two, but wonders, as he squeezes his cock, if he’d feel differently with Rodney’s dick in his ass instead.

The next morning, as he heads for the mess for breakfast, he literally bumps into Rodney, who’s coming too fast around the corner. The mug of coffee that Rodney had been holding splashes down Rodney’s shirt.

“Oh, that’s great,” Rodney half-shouts, blunt fingers brushing ineffectually at his chest. John just looks at him, covered in coffee, hair still too long, shoulders broad and solid. Rodney glares at him accusingly, but does a double-take when he sees John staring.

“What?” he asks, taking a hesitant half-step backward.

And suddenly the misery and loss are too much to take, overwhelmed by this ridiculous moment, by the coffee dripping off of Rodney’s wrist and on to the floor. John’s hand shakes as he reaches out to cup Rodney’s face. His palm scrapes against rough stubble while his thumb strokes up against Rodney’s cheekbone.

He looks into Rodney’s eyes and is gratified to recognize the emotions there – fear, panic, elation, mania, fear. Rodney’s hand comes up to curl around John’s wrist, his eyes sliding shut for a brief moment – elation – before Rodney gently pulls John’s hand away. He drops John’s wrist between their bodies, eliminating the point of contact between them.

“I thought we weren’t . . . doing this,” he says quietly, as if it’s a question.

John looks at the blue of Rodney’s eyes and the delicate slope of his nose and the way his mouth curves down on one side when he’s miserable, like now. He considers agreeing with Rodney, apologising for the slip, limiting himself to elbows to the ribs and flicks to the ear and meaningless clasps of the shoulder.

“I miss you,” he says. His voice sounds low and gravelly even to his own ears.

Rodney looks pained. Then, finally, he answers, “I miss you, too,” breathing out harshly. John can’t help seeing the lips that he’d kissed, the bit of muscle on Rodney’s neck that he’d taken in his teeth, the broad shoulders that he’d braced himself against while he came.

A group of scientists come around the corner, and they both take an instinctive step backward, away from each other. It’s the south pier zoologists, who John knows only vaguely from the big town-hall meetings and Rodney’s rants about escaping fauna. The two men nod and smile vague good-mornings as the zoologists pass by, carrying something furry in a cage. Once the group has gone, chatting amiably about parasites, John turns back to Rodney. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he jams them in his pockets.

“You should come over tonight,” he blurts out finally, a phrase he’s uttered a dozen times over the last two months.

Rodney nods slowly. “Okay,” he says. “Um.”

Then there’s an awkward little dance where they both move as if to shake hands or pat each other on the back, without ever actually making contact. Eventually they end up sort of shouldering past one another, John’s hand slipping briefly over Rodney’s bicep, Rodney’s hand patting weirdly at his waist.

John doesn’t turn and look back once Rodney’s behind him, but he touches his stomach where Rodney’s fingers were. He feels a twinge of nausea, even though it’s been days since he’s felt any side effects of the transformation.

He goes about his day with that nauseous feeling deep inside, sweating and anxious and trying not to think about what’s he’s going to say to Rodney when he shows up in John’s room again.

-

It’s heartbreakingly familiar: Rodney’s smell, and his blue eyes, and his warm body against John’s.

“Rodney, I’m not – ” sure, John means to say; means to say, I miss you and it’s not the same and I’m not sure if I’m into you anymore, but Rodney’s kissing him. And this is familiar too, the way Rodney likes to kiss wet and soft and dirty, the little noises he makes deep in his throat. What’s unfamiliar is the way John’s dick twitches at the first press of lips against his own, the way the heat pools in his belly.

He breaks his mouth away with a soft “mmmmmph,” noise. Rodney pulls back a bit and eyes him warily. John looks at him, at this warm body that he’s come to know so well, at the body of his friend, and figures he’d rather not die a coward, so he reaches between them and takes Rodney’s hand. It’s strange to hold another man’s hand in his own, but he clasps it firmly, pressing their palms together.

Giving his hand a little tug, John pulls Rodney back to him. Their mouths inch together, slowly, breath mingling as their lips catch and drag. Then they’re opening to each other, tongues sliding in softly. John lets his eyes drift closed and thinks that this is easy, he knows this, but the real truth, the one he’s kept hidden from himself until now, is that it’s always been easy, because it’s always been Rodney, and he knows Rodney. The kiss is every kiss they’ve had over the last two months: hard and gentle and fast and slow by turns, summing them up in an endless, intimate press of mouth to mouth.

John slides his hand tentatively upward, still a little surprised to find Rodney’s hard chest where his breasts had been. But the difference is shockingly erotic, the plane of pectoral muscles leading John’s hands up to soft broad shoulders, up to the places on his neck that always make Rodney shiver. He feels himself harden, his dick pressing insistently against the front of his pants.

Rodney’s arms are curved around his ribs, his palms spread against John’s lower back. He pushes, suddenly, backing John against the wall and coming up against him, getting a knee between John’s legs. John’s erection rides against Rodney’s hip, the limited friction just this side of painful, as he feels Rodney’s cock rub against his thigh. It should feel weirder than it does.

From there it’s inevitable: struggling out of their shirts between hot, lengthy kisses, getting onto the bed, stripping off their pants. John reaches forward without thinking, stripping Rodney’s boxers down, and grasps Rodney’s cock firmly in his hand, gratified by the low masculine moan that escapes Rodney’s lips as he does. The feel of it in his hand is like coming home, like being filled up when he didn’t know he was empty. He runs his palm over it, wonderingly.

Rodney thrusts up into his hand and squeezes his eyes shut, as if holding desperately to this moment, his dick covered by John’s body. John rocks forward, greedy for it, needing to touch him, needing to get his cock up against Rodney’s skin. He grinds down against Rodney’s thigh for a minute, mindlessly, before sitting back up a bit to straddle his legs.

As his palm stills and his body pulls away, Rodney opens his eyes to see what’s happened. John is momentarily pinned by that gaze, utterly exposed, naked and sprawling and desperate above another man. Then Rodney cups his hand behind John’s neck, and John sinks gratefully back down, bringing their cocks together and wrapping a hand around them both. This time, Rodney keeps his eyes open as they thrust against each other, faces inches apart, holding John’s eyes with his own. His hand is soft and tender on the back of John’s neck. John is overwhelmed by double-vision: Rodney’s strong masculine jaw shadowed by the gentler curve it’d held two weeks ago, his broad, furry chest reminding John of his beautiful soft breasts. John thinks about how he felt when he went down on Rodney, got his tongue inside him, and is suddenly struck by the desire to get his mouth on Rodney’s cock, to take his thick, hard dick inside his body and make it come.

The rough little thrusts speed up, Rodney’s hand joining his on their cocks, their fingers slipping and sliding over each other indistinguishably. John feels the orgasm gather in the base of his spine and groans, rubbing his whole body against Rodney, ankles to chest, and as he comes he brings his mouth down and presses his lips, soft and close-mouthed, against Rodney’s. His dick spasms, spurting between them, on and on as John rocks the head of his cock into the palm of Rodney’s hand.

Rodney whimpers against his mouth and thrusts up once, twice, and then he comes too, closing his eyes and groaning out a pained “fuck.”

For a moment, they just catch their breath, John still lying mostly on top of Rodney, their bellies slick with semen. Then, suddenly, Rodney’s arms come up around him and he’s rolling John onto his side, and John’s hands wrap around Rodney’s back, so goddamn grateful. Their fingers grasp at skin and knead at muscle as Rodney’s head curls down into John’s collarbone and John’s legs push forward to tangle with Rodney’s. They hug like that, hard and desperate, for a long time. John is filled up with the feeling of Rodney’s breath against his chest and the simple joy of their skin pressing together.

When the embrace finally loosens, Rodney pulls back enough to kiss John again, slow and soft and open. His lips are trembling, so John cups his face to steady him.

“So,” Rodney says finally, “About this thing where we’re not gay.”

John laughs helplessly. His soft cock jiggles against Rodney’s, ridiculously, wonderfully.

“I dunno, Rodney,” he says, cupping his palm over Rodney’s small flat nipple and running his hand down, around his slim hips to grab at his ass, “maybe we should give this lesbian thing another try.”

Rodney grins, delighted and beautiful, and, reaching out, flicks John’s ear with his finger.