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"What was in that punch?" John groaned, flopping onto his back to blink up at the night sky, legs dangling over the edge of the balcony.
Rodney shifted around so he could lean against the railing. The hard metal bars were only a nominal back support, but it was better than none, even if it meant sacrificing the view. "The dregs of every alcoholic beverage we had," he said. What he really needed was a cushion for his ass; he'd be completely numb from the waist down in a few minutes. "It was napalm with Tang flavoring, basically."
"It was goooood," John slurred through a goofy smile.
"I doubt that," Rodney said as he slowly peeled the polka-dotted paper wrapper off his cupcake. "How many glasses did you have?"
John raised an unsteady arm, holding up three fingers.
"Hmm, no," Rodney said, taking a big bite. A fourth finger slowly uncurled. "Keep going."
John grimaced and lifted his other hand, two fingers poking up.
"I told you to stop after the second one," said Rodney, who had arrived early and watched the mixing process with growing alarm, and wasn't disappointed at all that his citrus allergy put it off limits. It had been a convenient excuse not to imbibe.
Not a month went by in Atlantis without some kind of party for some kind of holiday, Earth- or Pegasus-based. Most were open for anyone to attend, whether they subscribed to the tradition in question or not; during the first year, Rodney had quickly sussed out which ones were likely to have maximum food and minimum somber ritual, and planned his participation accordingly.
The Christmas party had yielded particularly good results tonight, including a table piled high with red and green cupcakes. It had only been John's insistence that he absolutely needed to get some air that had dragged Rodney away, clutching a cupcake in each hand, grumbling all the way.
It wasn't so bad, though, sitting on the balcony off one of the lounges, eating his cupcakes while John coasted along on his Napalm Punch buzz. Rodney had spent quite a few worse evenings in Pegasus, and it wasn't all that often he had better ones.
He picked up the second cupcake and nibbled at the green jimmies scattered on top. The other one had been yellow cake beneath the frosting; he was hoping for chocolate this time.
"Want some cupcake?" he asked, pulling back the paper. Damn. Yellow again.
"No," John said.
"Want some water?"
"Want me to hold your hair back later while you puke?"
"Please don't say puke," John whimpered.
"Just don't leave your shoes on the floor between your bed and the bathroom." Rodney knew from experience it was a tactical error that could mean disaster.
"I'll sleep with my boots on," John decided, looking pleased with his problem-solving skills. His voice had a soft, dreamy quality to it that completely derailed any mocking reply Rodney would have made.
He licked some frosting off his thumb and decided he hadn't sacrificed the view at all by turning around. Quite the opposite, actually.
John was humming to himself, tapping an accompanying rhythm on his belly with his fingers, lost in his own little Tang-tinted world. His eyes were closed, and he was still smiling, obliviously happy, completely relaxed. Rodney didn't get many opportunities to just sit and look at him, without having to worry about being caught by other people, or John himself, and it had certainly never happened when he looked like this. It was worth the backache he was sure to suffer tomorrow.
Rodney finished his cupcake and then his water, and was just starting to wonder how much more air John needed when--
"You know I'm in love with you, right?" John said suddenly.
Rodney bolted upright, bonking his head on the railing.
"You heard me," John said, testily enough that it could have been Rodney's imagination he'd been professing love mere seconds ago.
"You…" Rodney trailed off, bewildered.
They'd been fooling around for the past few months, but this was completely unexpected. There had been probably a dozen quick, late-night hook-ups, always initiated by John, always going several days—and once an entire week—between.
Rodney, who had very little prior experience with men, had spent much of that time feverishly imagining the many and varied things they could do, given the time and opportunity, but he had no idea what the rules were, no idea what would happen if he made the first move one night. He didn't want to step over some invisible line and ruin everything, and if there was ever a guy who was made of invisible lines, it was John Sheppard.
So John showed up at his door once in awhile, and left a few hours later, and life went on like normal. Just going with it seemed like the least risky option. Keep it fun, no pressure. It wasn't like they were in a *relationship*--
"You're kidding me!" Rodney said, finally clueing in, and John muttered, "That wasn't really the reply I was hoping for," but Rodney shouted over him, "*This* is your idea of a relationship?"
John's fingers stopped drumming. "Yes?" he said.
"It *so* is not," Rodney said, and threw his empty water bottle at John's head.
"Ow!" John yelled, even though it barely grazed him. "Knock it off!" He propped himself up on his elbows, glaring. "And what do you mean it's not? We hang out all the time, we have sex, we do things with other couples--"
"When have we ever done something with another couple?"
"All the time," John said, with an air of exasperation Rodney felt was completely unwarranted. "We went to see those big stone…things…"
"Statues," Rodney filled in.
"With Lorne and that geneticist, what's her name?"
"That was one thing," Rodney said.
"And we play Dungeons & Dragons with Bacon and Shufelt," John said. At least, that was what Rodney thought he said. His vowels were still a little mushy from the punch, and that sentence was a mouthful.
Once he got it translated, Rodney was surprised by that bit of information. "They're a couple?"
"Um hmm," John said. "Maybe even since before we left Earth. Or maybe after. Something."
Rodney would never have guessed, but he supposed that was the point of flying under the DADT radar; Bacon and Shufelt were both Marines, gaming geeks John sometimes hung out with.
Shufelt made Ronon look positively talkative, unless someone brought up guns or scrapbooking. Sergeant Bacon was big and loud and sort of scary, and that was why Rodney had never, ever dared make a joke about her name, even if it was incredibly distracting.
"I'm glad your last name isn't Bacon," he confessed. "Every time I see her, I want a BLT." All the time he spent with John, he'd be living on a steady diet of greasy sandwiches.
"You don't even know the half of it," John told him, dropping flat onto his back again. "Her first name's Candace."
It took Rodney a couple seconds to catch on. He blamed the Napalm Punch, even though he hadn't actually had any. It was probably the fumes coming off John. "Her name is *Candy Bacon*?"
"She's like the boy named Sue—'
"Johnny Cash!" John crowed.
"—only...you know. A girl," Rodney finished. "And probably even tougher."
"She has gravel in her gut and spit in her eye!" John was on a roll now.
"Please don't recite the entire song."
"Shufelt's the one to look out for, though," John said, switching gears in the whiplash way drunks could. "She knocked Ronon unconscious once, with just her elbow."
"It was *awesome*. He had a crush on her for three weeks afterwards and everything."
"Wow." Rodney would never understand the fascination John and Ronon had for watching each other get beat up by other members of the expedition, but even he was sorry he'd missed that.
John frowned up at the moons. "Why are we talking about them?"
"Bacon and Shufelt are a couple," Rodney said. Like us, he thought, thrilled and little freaked.
John snapped his fingers—or tried to, anyway. "Right! They're a *couple*. We hang out with them. Because we're in a *relationship*." He waved a hand expansively, looking triumphant, while Rodney tried to process the fact that John had been taking him on double dates, and he hadn't even realized it.
"But," Rodney said.
"But what?" John sat up suddenly, eyes wild and alarmed. "Are you dumping me?"
"No no no no no!" Rodney said, while John listed dangerously to the right and insisted, "You *can't* dump me!"
"I'm not dumping you," Rodney told him again.
"But you don't think this is a real relationship!" John accused, and Rodney couldn't even contradict him, because he hadn't, technically, until about two minutes ago. "What do you think we should do? Carve our initials in a tree?" He leaned forward and said in a hushed voice, "Do you want to get matching tattoos?"
"We should have more sex," Rodney said quickly, desperate to derail John's train of thought before it led to genital piercings. Also, it was the only thing he really wanted to change about them that wouldn't require massive governmental and societal reforms.
John gaped at him. "You're the one who hardly ever wants to!"
"What?" That was the most ridiculous thing Rodney had ever heard in his life. He always wanted to!
"You *never* start anything," John said.
"I didn't know I could!" Rodney protested. "I didn't even know we were dating!"
John harrumphed and lay back down, which was really more like slumping the rest of the way to the floor, and draped an arm over his eyes. "Like any guy turns down sex," he grumbled.
Since this clearly was not the time to launch into his own extensive and well-researched psychoanalysis of one John Sheppard (the proper time would be, oh, never), Rodney decided the best response to that was no response at all.
"Are we, uh, exclusive?" he ventured, trying not to sound too hopeful, but it was hard to play it cool with SEX SEX SEX MORE SEX flashing in his brain like a billboard on the Vegas strip.
"You need to come here, "John said, crooking a finger, "so I can slap you in the head."
"So that's a yes, then."
"Even if you get kidnapped by another sexy alien?" Rodney asked suspiciously. It could happen again tomorrow, so it was only common sense to get that cleared up as soon as possible.
"No wonder Katie dumped you," John said.
"That was a mutual breakup!"
"Sure it was."
"There are a lot of sexy aliens in this galaxy," Rodney said, in his own defense.
John sighed and held up a hand, as if taking a pledge. "Yes, Rodney, even if I get kidnapped by a sexy alien."
Rodney pushed one of the cupcake wrappers across the floor with his finger, first one way, then the other. "What if you accidentally fall through a quantum mirror and end up in a parallel universe with another me?"
"Then I ask the other you to send me back," John said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, which was flattering, yes, but not the point.
"What if you're trapped there for months, and the other me keeps hitting on you?"
John hmm'd and chewed on his lip. "Would that really be cheating?"
John tapped his belly some more. "What if you were with me, and we had a threesome with the other you?" he said, finally.
Rodney was aghast. "Oh my God, yuck! That's…that's incest!"
"I'm pretty sure it isn't incest."
"It's still creepy, and no. You are not allowed to have a threesome with anyone in a parallel universe, ever, even if they are both me."
"Fine," John said, and Rodney hoped he was just imagining that he sounded a little disappointed. "Just one you, and only in this universe. I promise."
"Okay." Happy to have that squared away, he added, "Me, too," just in case John was worried about sexy aliens and alternate Sheppards making a play for him.
That settled, Rodney pulled a spare Christmas cookie out of his jacket pocket and munched on it, letting it all sink in, mulling all the possibilities that suddenly occurred to him now that he knew it was okay—expected, even—to put the moves on John *whenever he wanted*. They could--yes. That. And that, and. Oh my God, definitely *that*, and he was going to have to find some kind of lube somewhere, and some rope.
They'd wasted so much time--their honeymoon phase, Rodney realized, stricken. When they were supposed to be fucking like bunnies! They needed to make up for lost time *now*.
"Hey," he said, intending to ask John about the rope, only to realize he was snoring softly, held lolling to the side.
Rodney wrapped his hand around John's knee, rubbing the knobby bones with his thumb, and John made a contented noise. His hands twitched on his stomach, and then he settled into snores again.
Well. John had apparently spend the last two months getting way less sex than he wanted, and he hadn't dumped Rodney, or even complained about it. Rodney could certainly go without for one night. This was nice, too.
For about five minutes, and then Rodney's back started to hurt and there was no way John's neck wouldn't be screaming in the morning if he spent too much time like that. He lurched to his feet, back cramping, knees popping, and bent over John.
"C'mon, Prince Charming," he said, shaking him by the shoulder. "Time to go."
John blinked up at him, looking confused. "Why are we outside?"
"Because you wanted to be outside." If anything, he seemed even more drunk, though maybe being half-asleep was just making him disoriented. "Remember?"
John nodded and grabbed hold of Rodney's arm, pulling himself up by nearly pulling Rodney down. "My head feels like it's floating way," he whined as he flailed to his feet. He poked his head experimentally with a finger. "I think it might fall off."
"You'll wish it had, in the morning," Rodney predicted, slinging one of John's arms around his shoulders and steering him back inside.
"That punch is evil," John said mournfully. "I thought it was so good, but it's evil."
"Very evil," Rodney said. He was concentrating on getting them through the lounge--which apparently had more furniture in it than any other room in the whole city--without breaking both their necks.
"I should shoot it," John declared, groping at his thigh for a holster that wasn't there, thank God.
"In the morning," Rodney told him, fully aware anything louder than a whisper would probably split John's head in half by morning. "You can shoot it all you want in the morning."
"Okay," John said agreeably, then, "You didn't say it back."
"Say what back?" Rodney asked, distracted. It was hard to palm the sensor on the door and hold John up at the same time. "Get the door," he said, giving up.
John didn't move, except to sway slightly and pout. "When I told you that…you know. You didn't say it back."
"Oh. Well, it's mutual, of course."
John grinned crookedly and flapped a hand toward the sensor, finally hitting it on the third try. "Cool."
"Yes, very cool," Rodney agreed as the door slid open, revealing a thankfully empty corridor.
The transporter had never seemed so far away as he tried to hustle John down the hallway and hold him up by the back of his pants at the same time, doing a pretty crappy job of both. Ronon made moving people against their will look so *easy*.
"Sorry you didn't know," John mumbled as they went through the flappy hand thing one more time at the transporter. "I’m not good at saying stuff. 'Less I'm drunk."
"I noticed," Rodney puffed, trying to avoid John's feet, which seemed determined to tangle with his at every step.
He was hoping to get a bit of a break in the transporter by propping John up against the wall, but John had other ideas. He backed Rodney into the corner and tried to make out with him, which mainly resulted in him licking Rodney's neck and almost falling down.
"This is the most romantic night of my life," Rodney said, trying to coax John out of the transporter and wipe the slobber off his neck at the same time.
"I know," John said, solemn and a little proud of himself.
When the corridor came to a T, Rodney tried to steer them to the right, towards John's quarters, but John stopped, planted his feet stubbornly on the floor, and refused to move. He looked left, down the hall toward Rodney's room.
"Can I sleep with you?" he asked, when he turned back toward Rodney, face hopeful. Rodney felt a tiny rush of happiness spread through him, so strong that it hardly lessened at all when John added, "I promise I won't puke."