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"Excellent," the head delegate announced, his voice carrying. He raised his hands like an orator and started proclaiming to the room, and Steven straightened his posture to ward off the instinctive slump of boredom. To his left, Sheppard seemed to be amusing himself by drumming his fingers against his knees.

The sudden cessation of pompousness caught Steven off guard, but he joined in the polite applause only a beat after Sheppard, and rose to his feet, ready to eat alien finger food, say a few polite goodbyes, and then beam back up to the Daedalus.

The head delegate moved to stand in front of the woman beside him. He took her face in his hands, kissed her loudly on the mouth, and then moved down the line. Some people got a friendly little buss; others -- the ones who'd argued the most, or who'd compromised their interests -- got more lingering kisses. Whether or not tongue was involved didn't seem to depend on gender at all.

When it's Steven's turn to do his team, he has to start with Sheppard. He does no-nonsense kisses, dry and on the lips, and no one tries to make the situation more awkward by kissing back with anything like enthusiasm. He feels a lot like his Great-Aunt Nora, who had been a master of passionless social kissing. At then end of the row, he has to kiss the delegation head. Feeling a little devilish, Steven then introduces the quaint US custom of shaking hands. This gets practiced a lot in the reception, and then it's time to head home.

Back on the Daedalus, it takes less than a day for Steven to realize Sheppard's not dealing well with the kissing. He won't meet Steven's eyes for longer than a second, and his personal space is more inviolate than usual. On Earth it would be a problem, but on board, and in Lucian territory, the potential to be life-threatening is very real.

He orders Sheppard to the office at 1530, and kicks Arniott and Muhamad out so he'll have privacy. The room is the size of a closet anyway, especially with the desk and chairs and consoles taking up all the space. There's a travel poster for Hawaii on the wall which Steven figures is psychologically necessary.

When Sheppard knocks Steven tells him to come in and sit down. "Talk to me, Colonel," Steven says. "Or I'm putting you through the first gate back to Earth."

Sheppard represses a wince, starts to slouch, and then sits up straighter. Steven can see Sheppard's thought process in his unguarded expressions: wanting to deny there's an issue, knowing Steven won't buy that, wanting to spin his story so it's less damaging, worrying. Finally he bites his bottom lip and says, "It's nothing to do with you, sir. I'm not," and his mouth twists, " good with public displays of affection."

"I'd hardly call yesterday affectionate," Steven says dryly. "As offworld rituals go it was perfectly within the SGC's guidelines for what is acceptable when dealing with alien customs." He leans back in his chair, keeping his posture open and non-confrontational and his expression relaxed, even though he's fairly sure his eyes give away that it's an act. "I'd be personally disappointed to find out that you have problems serving under a gay officer, and I'd remind you professionally that the US military's rules have changed."

Sheppard's hands, resting too-still on his legs, curl so his fingers bunch up the fabric of his badly-fitting uniform, but other than that he doesn't betray that he's surprised. "I got the flood of e-mails," he says with a wry tip of his head. "And attended all the meetings." He shrugs and looks at the blue Hawaiian sky before sliding his gaze over, meeting Steven's eyes with disarming openness. "But that was the most lip action I've had with a hot guy in years. I'm a little distracted."

"You need to get out more," Steven says, thinking oh. He hadn't known that about Sheppard. "So now I'm going to stop the lecture about being homophobic and start on the one about chain of command and sexual harassment."

Sheppard makes a noise and slumps forward to drop his face into his hands. "Uncle," he says, muffled and amused-sounding. "You could just buy me a beer sometime." He pauses. "Unless you're seeing someone."

Steven's not looking for a relationship; his career fulfills him. He's proud of his accomplishments and he doesn't regret the sacrifices he's made. He also remembers the first time he met Sheppard, even though he had a snake in his head at the time. Sheppard had been seconds away from death by suicide mission. The goa'uld had felt strongly that Sheppard was just trying to show off and buy glory with his theatrics. While Steven had wanted to automatically believe the snake lied about everything, the insidious doubt it cast on Sheppard left long shadows.

"Yeah," Sheppard says into the pause that's gone on a bit too long. He sits up, rolling his shoulders back, and the smile he has isn't amused at all. "Bad idea."

Steven's seen Sheppard accepting imminent death, and injured, and crashing post-mission, and mutated into a butt-ugly bug creature. He's nearly killed Sheppard once or twice himself; his therapist tells him he's not responsible for what the goa'uld did, but Steven still has trouble accepting that.

"Probably," Steven agrees, and pushes to his feet. He comes around the desk, and Sheppard stands because there isn't enough room to fit otherwise. Steven's well within Sheppard's personal space, and he takes a step forward so they're practically shoulder to shoulder. He sees Sheppard's eyes widen as he leans in, and then flutter closed as Steven takes possession of Sheppard's mouth.

Steven probably sees the same amount of inaction as Sheppard does, but he makes up for that with skill and confidence and aggression. He's incredibly good in bed because he puts effort into honing his fucking skills, and he's a very good kisser. He kisses with intent, pushing Sheppard back up against the wall right next to Hawaii. Sheppard opens his mouth obediently and shivers under Steven's hands, but he gives as good as he gets, his hands restless and distracting, fingers sliding in soft intimacy down the side of Steven's face one moment and salacious on his ass the next. When Steven relents and pulls back, he's as hard as he knows Sheppard is, and probably looks just as ravished.

"You've had worse ideas in your day, Sheppard," Steven says, and gives him a grin, still working on getting his breathing back under control. "Yeah, you can buy me that beer next time we're on Earth." He leaves Sheppard there, dark-eyed, breathing hard, leaning against the wall, and thinks that his life's about to get complicated, in a good way.