On day one, a wraith dart shot them down.
"We're screwed. We're completely, totally, absolutely, positively screwed."
"You forgot 'really'."
Rodney gave John the dirty eyeball. "Your joking does nothing to reduce the direness of our situation."
"It's not that bad, Rodney," John said, sorting through the gear he'd tossed to the ground, checking to see if anything had broken. Rodney's griping relieved him of any real worry about their situation.
"Not that bad? Colonel, we crash-landed on a planet that we're not supposed to be on, we have no way to radio for help, and we have no idea if that wraith is still around waiting to scoop us up like a drive-thru snack!"
"The emergency beacon in the jumper will let the rescue team know where we're at."
"If it's working, and if they're searching the right planet. Do you know how long it'll take for them to search each of the thirteen planets around the stargate? Our bones will be bleached by the time they find us."
John tossed a powerbar at Rodney. "Think of it as a vacation."
"A vacation involves air conditioning, a firm mattress, and room service—" Rodney unwrapped, bit into the powerbar, and continued speaking with food in his mouth, "—nun' of thish back-t'-nature cwap."
"Fine, then think of it like we're in a movie, like The Blue Lagoon." John shot Rodney a cockeyed grin, his heart rate speeding up a bit. "Dibs on being Brooke Shields."
"First of all, thank you for ruining a perfectly good pair of breasts by making me imagine them on you," Rodney said, waving his hands around the area. "Secondly, do you see any beaches? We're in the middle of the woods. If anything, we should pretend we're the Swiss Family What's-Their-Names."
"Robinson," John supplied. "Now, you're getting into the spirit. We'll have a house built in the trees in no time."
Rodney snorted. "Because being in the trees has done well for us so far."
"We're alive, aren't we?" John craned his neck. Warm sunlight filtered through the thick canopy, painting bright spots on the undergrowth. Thick, sturdy branches wove together making it difficult to discern which branches belonged to which towering tree. The net of branches had caught the damaged jumper before they crashed to the unforgiving ground. Rodney and John were both a little bruised, but otherwise fine. They'd abandoned the jumper when the cracking of the branches became too worrying.
John and Rodney had been making a routine visit to PX5-957, the planet with the really cool waterfall that looked like it fell up. The planet also had rocks that fascinated Rodney and wild corn they checked on periodically. The absence of indigenous people made the trip more of a pleasant diversion than a mission, and it was why Teyla and Ronon had stayed behind, otherwise occupied on the mainland. John was normally cautious when he and Rodney went out alone, but he'd been distracted by (participating in and egging on) Rodney's diatribe on jello versus pudding that the wraith dart had caught them by surprise. They were lucky they'd only been shot down and not captured.
Around them, the trees grew thick and lush. Roots stretched and tangled on mossy ground. Moisture hung in the air and smelled alive. Faint sounds of native animals rustled in the distance. John's black t-shirt stuck to his chest and back beneath his tac vest. Sweat beaded along Rodney's upper lip, his mouth in a crooked frown as he tapped on his tablet. "I'm not picking up any life-signs in the vicinity."
"That's probably a good thing," John said. They'd landed on PX5-952, but on the wrong side of the planet from the Onhin, a trading partner Lorne's team had acquired. John tried to remember if there were other settlements on the planet, as he scouted a short distance away, wanting to set up camp clear of the jumper in case it fell. He poked his P-90 in a hollowed trunk, stirring a spiderweb. The ground flattened somewhat nearby and he kicked at a few sticks. "I'd prefer to have our wait as peaceful as possible."
"I'd prefer it to be short."
The wait wasn't short and Rodney's displeasure over that fact had grown annoying by the end of the second day.
The third day, John eyed the roll of duct tape with longing.
The fourth day, John figured they'd better do something besides sit around, before he really did use the tape. Rodney's complaining didn't stop, but at least the tune changed.
"My calves are killing me. Do you plan on having us walk all the way back to Atlantis? Ow! And there's another root I tripped over. A sprained ankle is just waiting in the wings…"
John had grown used to listening for sounds under Rodney's constant patter and he altered their direction when he heard the babble of a stream.
"…Heat stroke is inevitable. Does my face look flushed? I'm starting to feel light-headed— oh."
Rodney fell blessedly silent when the water came into view. The trees towered over the wide, winding stream. Erosion cut the stream deep and smoothed the rocks along the edges. Sunlight glittered on the surface, rippling near the shore.
John jumped from slippery rock to slippery rock until he reached the edge of the water. He crouched, cupped his hand in the stream, and drank. The coolness quenched his dry throat from the heat. "It's fresh."
"Do you know how many diseases you just ingested?"
John shrugged and unzipped his tac vest. "Tasted fine to me."
"It's a wonder you're still alive." Rodney gaped as John stripped off his sweaty shirt. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" John piled his gear away from the edge of the stream and unlaced his boots.
"You're not the first person to say that." John smiled indolently and shucked off the rest of his clothes.
"I hope you don't expect me to join you." Rodney folded his arms and watched as John carefully made his way into the stream.
"Ahhh," John exaggerated his refreshed sigh, but not by much. The water felt cool and heavenly after four humid, showerless days. The stream deepened rapidly, but it was slow-moving and John easily regained his footing with a few swum strokes.
"Diseases, Colonel! You may as well shoot me; I'll be equally dead," Rodney groused, but was removing his tac vest already. John hid his amusement by dunking his head underwater.
"Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow." Naked, Rodney crossed the rocks, entering the stream. Tan-lines circled his biceps and neck where the t-shirt hadn't covered him. John's eyes lingered longer than appropriate and his face heated when Rodney caught his gaze.
Luckily, Rodney misinterpreted. "Go ahead, laugh at the naked scientist as he falls on his ass. I'll have my revenge when you come down with a case of schistosomiasis."
It rained on day seven; a veritable torrential downpour. John couldn't see further than a foot outside of the emergency two-man shelter. The humidity spiked unbearably and the tent was stifling.
"I'm so hot, my sweat is sweating." Rodney sat with his pant legs rolled up and his bare feet sticking outside in the rain like John's. The tablet sat between them and they were taking turns solving complex equations using one of Rodney's homemade game programs. "I'd go outside, if I didn't think I'd drown."
A vivid red flush covered Rodney's chest, neck, and face, bringing color to his fish-belly skin. Perspiration coated him wetly, droplets rolling from his hairline down the curve of his cheeks. Another droplet dripped from his chin to his stomach and slid slowly downward, circling his navel, until it tangled in the trail of hair that disappeared beneath his waistband.
John draped his rain-soaked t-shirt over his head like a hood, bent his knees slightly, and concentrated on the next math problem.
The seventh night, after the rain ended, John slept outside.
Before Rodney woke on the eighth morning, hiding behind a tree, John reminded himself that he was in the military, and he repressed and denied as he came over his hand.
On day ten, John sighed and said, "Shut up, Rodney. You're scaring the fish."
"I'm scaring the fish?" Rodney perched on a semi-flat rock beside the wide stream. "You're the one shooting at them."
John pulled the trigger of the P-90. Two fish out of the cluster he'd aimed at floated dead to the surface. "There we go. Dinner."
"I can't wait to taste the bullet fragments inside."
John exhaled exasperatedly and used a fallen leafy branch to net the fish, dragging them closer to the shore. "Swiss Family Robinson, McKay," he reminded.
"Those people were masochists," Rodney declared. Water splashed from the top of his canteen when he gestured. "Eating improperly cooked food. Drinking from a bacteria-infested stream. Bathing in a bacteria-infested stream. Sleeping outdoors – and my back is never going to forgive me for that. What's next? Fighting bare-handed with lions?"
"Actually, it was a snake."
"That makes me feel so much better."
John speared the fish through the gills and out the open mouth with a different branch, making them easy to carry. "Are you done?"
"Yes, yes. Here." Rodney shoved one canteen at John, tucked another in the pocket of his tac vest, and then picked up the last two to carry. He fell into step behind John. "You don't think there are snakes here, do you? I'm more susceptible than most to snakebites. Was there antivenom in the medical kit? We should—"
The sound of a wraith stunner shooting was something John would never forget and he spun on his heel right as Rodney went down, face frozen in shock. John's heart leapt in his throat. A second shot arced through the trees and John threw himself to the ground. Adrenaline hammering through his veins, he belly-crawled behind a thick root, keeping Rodney in his line of sight. He checked his P-90 and scanned the area around and behind him. If they were lucky, it'd be only the wraith that had shot them down. John knew the wraith dart had taken damage, too, before the jumper had been felled.
The crack of a stick being stepped on drew John's attention. He ducked lower and forced his breathing to steady. A single wraith came into sight, stunner raised. John strained his ears, searching the trees for more of them. He bided his time, waiting, watching, and listening, until the wraith bent over Rodney's prone form.
John pushed to his knees and pulled the trigger. The P-90 rang in his ears. He hit his mark with accuracy borne of practice and experience. The hail of bullets knocked the wraith back. John kept firing until the wraith collapsed to the ground. Jumping to his feet, he leapt over the root and ran low over to the wraith. No stunner shots erupted from the woods around him.
John didn't hesitate over the fallen wraith. He snagged the stunner and impaled the wraith with the tip, before the wraith's irritating regenerative abilities could revive it. A howl-scream burst from the wraith's throat and cut off abruptly.
John shot the distress beacon on the wraith's wrist and shouldered the stunner. He crouched beside Rodney and checked his pulse, earning a whimper. "Shh," John whispered. "Hang tight. We need to make sure there aren't more." Dragging Rodney with him, John sought cover behind the thick root again.
They waited. After ten minutes, John stood down. It appeared as though it was a single wraith. He'd still be cautious when they returned to camp, but his heart rate was returning to normal. "I think we're in the clear," he said.
"Oh, 'ooh," Rodney said, mouth frozen partway open.
John glanced at Rodney, petrified with the canteens locked in both hands. He tamped down his surging emotions. He hated that the wraith had done anything to Rodney, but it could've been much worse. On the positive side, Rodney couldn't complain while stunned.
"'ihs ihs 'uhs 'ahe. 'Uh 'aihh ihs 'erhs 'an a 'ahe."
Well, not coherently, at least.
Days eleven through thirteen were spent worrying that more wraith would attack. John and Rodney took shifts keeping watch. Tension ratcheted. John's temper felt like it would snap at any moment. His clothing plastered to him in the heat and humidity. His fingers sweated under the barrel of the P-90. Rodney had the wraith stunner and sat on a root on the opposite side of the camp's perimeter, tapping at his tablet.
John eyed the sunlight sifting through the trees. He hadn't seen many animals, but they probably smelled him and Rodney and steered away.
"I think I may be able to boost the signal strength on the jumper's beacon," Rodney said out-of-the-blue, tapping faster. "I might be able to get it out into space."
"And tell the wraith up there exactly where we are," John said, shifting his weight. "Good thinking."
"I was thinking more of telling the rescue team where we are and they'd be able to take care of the wraith."
"We don't know which planet the rescue team is orbiting and I'd rather not give away our position if we can help it."
"The odds of a wraith ship picking up the signal versus one of our own—"
"I said no, McKay," John said tersely. "Now, drop it."
"Don't be ridiculous, Colonel. If I can access the panels—"
"It's too dangerous, McKay," John repeated for what seemed like the hundredth time.
"Stop interrupting me," Rodney snapped. "I know it's dangerous. I would rather not climb the rope to certain doom, but I can't talk you through programming it and you're not smart enough to do it on your own."
"The answer is still no."
"Will you stop being pigheaded and let me do what I do best: saving our lives."
"I'm not going to let you put yours in danger just to be rescued a few days sooner," John stated. Didn't Rodney get it? "It's not worth the risk."
"Since when are you Mr. Cautious?" Rodney didn't wait for an answer, instead heading into the woods, back towards the jumper.
"McKay!" John shouted, but Rodney didn't stop. Cursing, John ran after him.
Rodney beat him to the rope they'd used to escape, dangling from the treed jumper. He squinted upwards and tugged on it. The wraith stunner was discarded to the side. "Did it look like the jumper moved to you?"
John snatched the rope away from him, with a glare that made his soldiers quake. "I told you to forget it."
"What is your problem? You want to get out of here as badly as I do," Rodney said.
"It's not worth the risk," John ground out.
"You're being ridiculous, and I'm tired of waiting for the wraith to pick us off." Rodney grabbed for the rope and tried to yank it from John's hand. John held on, his jaw set. Rodney huffed. "Please, I'm not going to get into a fight with you like a twelve-year-old."
Rodney jerked the rope. John jerked back. Neither released. John ground his teeth. Rodney tilted his chin mulishly. Then, they began fighting in earnest. John knew it was stupid, but he wasn't going to give in. He turned his body, shoving his shoulder between Rodney and the rope. Rodney kicked him in the shin. The rope scraped John's palms and he twisted his leg around the bottom of it for a better hold. Rodney's warm breath gusted against the nape of John's neck, sending frissons along his nerve-endings, a moment before Rodney jumped on his back.
John grunted, nearly losing his balance. He teetered on one foot, the other leg wrapped around the rope still. "McKay!"
Rodney attempted to scale John, his boots digging into John's sides as he hoisted himself up the rope above John's head. His tac vest snagged John's hair. John swayed purposely, using the momentum of the rope to try and shake Rodney. Rodney's elbows boxed John's ears. "Damn it, Sheppard."
"Get off me—"
"I'm going up there and you're not stopping me."
"The hell I'm not." John released the rope, getting his balance under him, and grabbed Rodney's hands instead. He dug his fingers into the creases of Rodney's knuckles.
"Ow!" Rodney yelped and released the rope. Without the support, he slid abruptly and, squawking, he threw his arms around John's neck. John wheezed at the sudden chokehold and his head was jerked back as Rodney dropped his feet to the ground. The forced look upwards caused him to catch sight of the crack in a branch with the charred marks around it; it must've been hit by lightning during the heavy storm. The branch looked like it could give at any moment and, with it, the jumper's support.
"Rodney," John wheezed, pulling at Rodney's arm. Did he hear a cracking sound? "The branch…"
Rodney released John, ducked past him quickly, and grabbed the rope. John snagged the collar of Rodney's tac vest. "Wait – look at the branch on the right. It's not safe."
"Now you're playing psychological games? Can't your macho ego take it, that I need to be the one who risks life and limb for the sake of the team?" Rodney pulled against John's hold, even as he looked up. "There's nothing wrong with the branches… except that one that has a giant crack in it and, my god, were you actually going to let me climb up there? Do you have no concern for my well-being whatsoever?"
The fight, and the pent tension, bled from John with a bark of laughter. Trust Rodney to shift gears in a blink of an eye. "Next time, I'll be sure to stop you."
"Yes, well, enough with the groveling for forgiveness." Rodney waved his hands, his face creased in a frown. "Unless the jumper happens to become one with gravity and fall – preferably when I'm a nice, safe, long distance away – there's no way for us to boost the beacon's signal." Rodney sighed unhappily. "You were probably right about the wraith, anyway."
"Maybe." John rubbed the back of his neck. It was really Rodney putting himself purposely in harm's way that was the underlying cause of John's protests. The wraith attack three days ago had amped his emotions. Normally, Teyla and Ronon were with them, unknowingly easing John's protectiveness of Rodney because he knew they would keep Rodney safe. Alone, John was irrational and overreactive for reasons he couldn't name.
Shoulders slumped, Rodney asked, "Now what?"
John made a split-second decision and started back towards camp. "Now, we move on to Plan B."
"Plan B? What's Plan B? How come I wasn't informed there was a Plan B?" Rodney hurried after John. "We need to work on your interpersonal communication skills, Sheppard…"
The fourteenth day, John and Rodney packed up camp, left a note that read: "We went that-a-way," for the rescue team, and set off hiking. Plan B involved keeping themselves occupied exploring instead of continuing to sit around, waiting for the possibly non-existent wraith to attack. Rodney huffed and puffed and complained, as usual.
"Thank you, Colonel Plan B, for coming up with the wonderful idea of giving me a heart attack and heat stroke, and I'm probably going to go into hypoglycemic shock after being dragged around the forest for hours without stopping for food."
"You're welcome." John grinned and continued doing what he did best – adding fuel to Rodney's rants.
The woods around them offered little variation in scenery. The thick, leafy canopy of the towering trees trapped the humidity. John tied neon marker ribbons to exposed roots that crept like withered fingers over the mossy ground. Their footsteps squelched on occasion on the moisture-rich soil. Annoying gnat-like insects hovered around their heads. Birds called one another, hidden in the trees.
The sun had passed high overhead by the time John spotted something out of the ordinary and they stepped out of the woods onto a long, grassy stretch of beach. The sudden brightness after the shade of the branches made John put on his sunglasses. Salt spray didn't tickle John's nose, despite the expanse of crystal blue water he could clearly see making waves on the vegetated shore. About halfway down the beach, smoke rose and dissipated against the blue sky.
John exchanged a glance with Rodney, before Rodney took out his tablet and John got the binoculars. "Twelve life-signs," Rodney said, taking a reading. "Human."
Sitting around a fire pit, John saw people in loose tan shirts talking and drinking from wooden cups. Several were laughing. One of them was speaking with grand gestures, like Rodney. What looked like fruit was piled high in a basket. "I think we may have found ourselves a beach party."
"Do they have food?" Rodney was already starting in their direction. John shook his head with amusement, put the binoculars away, and caught up quickly.
The beach party quieted and suspicious faces watched as they approached. They each wore a similar style of long, dark hair and thick mustaches that drooped over their lips. "Hi," John said with an easy, harmless smile, his hand resting casually on the butt of his P-90. "I'm Sheppard. This is McKay. Mind if we join your party?"
One of the twelve men rose. The loose tan shirt settled around his stocky thighs, his legs bare, making John wonder if he was wearing anything underneath. "I am Uriahn of Awnsa. By your dress, I would say you are Onhin?"
None of the Awnsans appeared tensed to fight, so John nodded slowly. "Sure," he said. Guess he'd gotten his answer as to other settlements on the planet.
Uriahn smiled with gap-toothed pleasure. "Then, welcome! Two more have joined our celebration."
The Awnsans cheered and made a spot around the fire. A woven mat of brown grasses was laid out for them. Rodney was quick to dump his gear and plop down on the mat. A mug was passed immediately to him and he sniffed its contents. "This doesn't have citrus in it, does it?"
John kept his sidearm strapped to his thigh and joined Rodney on the mat. He accepted his own mug and sipped cautiously. It tasted like watery wheat. "I think it's their version of beer," John said quietly to Rodney.
"In that case…" Rodney tilted his head back and gulped down the Awnsanian brew in one long swallow. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Ah, that hits the spot."
Laughter rose from the Awnsans and Rodney received a refill. "Can I have some of those fruit-things, too? What else do you have in those baskets over there? Is that bread?"
After taste-testing the food, John leaned back on his elbow, stretched out his legs, drank his not-beer, and let himself unwind. From what he could glean, the Answans were having some sort of religious celebration that involved a lot of bread and fruit, drink, and an epic story about a farmer named Temen and a hunting god called Ferelia. The fire burned hot and the heavy smoke smelled sweet from whatever branches Kaelinth added from a separate basket. The waves lapped at the shore, a relaxing undercurrent to the lilting voices.
"…There swept through the woods Ferelia on his monstrous stag, spear raised, a cry of the hunt falling from his tongue. Temen leapt over roots and fallen trees, his garments snagging on limbs, tearing from his body. His heart thundered in his chest like the hooves of the stag. His muscles burned with every step. He saw the red light in Ferelia's eyes when he glanced over his shoulder…"
The shadows lengthened. The fire highlighted auburn streaks in the Awnsans dark hair. The heat slithered from the burning wood, wrapping its arms around the revelers. John disposed of his sunglasses. Rodney shed his tac vest and pants. "It's hot, and they're only wearing their shirts, too." John found Rodney's bare knees endearing and drank more not-beer.
"…Ferelia dismounted and stalked towards the fallen Temen. His flesh gleamed under the moonlight. Ferelia's spear quivered as he came closer. Temen could not tear his eyes from the sight of that which would pierce him. He pressed back into the grass in fear of the great huntsman…"
Stars winked on like specks of light in the deep navy sky. A faint crescent moon hung low over the water. The sweet smell of the smoke clouded John's head. In the glow of the fire, men across the circle glistened with sweat, their shirts removed. Closer, a pair rolled together, the mat crinkling beneath them.
"It's a sex story," Rodney breathed against John's shoulder, and when John turned his head, Rodney's flushed face was right there. His eyes burned brightly in the firelight. "We're listening to porn."
"Hmn." John tried to push the haze from his thoughts. His limbs felt like they were moving through molasses as he set aside his empty wooden cup. Endarin, on the other side of John, pushed a pestle into his hand with a sultry smile that made John hard.
"…Ferelia rose over Temen, his teeth bared. His spear was coated with oil crushed from oonbernan petals…"
John never saw these things coming. Endarin shed his shirt and John swallowed thickly at the bared flesh exposed. He forced himself to look away and give a shake of the head. Endarin's smile stared fading, but then he looked at something over John's shoulder and smiled knowingly instead. He patted John's hand, unfolded from the mat, and unselfconscious of his nudity and erection, walked to the other side of the circle to join another man.
John exhaled through his teeth and sat up straight. The pestle in his hand contained some sort of pinkish-substance that John realized was homemade lube. Setting it aside, he covered his face with his hand and cursed under his breath.
John dropped his hand and looked over his shoulder. He wished he hadn't. Rodney lay propped on his elbows, his t-shirt clinging to his torso, his long legs stretched out in front of him. His blue boxers tented in the front. He watched John with hooded eyes and an upward tilt of his lips. "Hi."
"Hi," John croaked. His fingers tightened in the folds of his pants.
"Yes, very high." The firelight tinted Rodney's skin a soft gold. "I haven't had this much of a contact high since my first college roommate held bong parties in our room."
"The branches," John said, fighting the fog enveloping his thoughts. "We should leave."
"You can if you're uncomfortable." Lying prone and naked on the other side of Rodney, Ullian touched Rodney's arm. Rodney's head rolled on his shoulder and he gave Ullian a languid smile. "I think I'll stick around."
John tamped down the strange gust of anger. He only bared his teeth a little at Ullian before looking at Rodney. "Since when are you gay?" he said.
"Don't push your idiotic military homophobia onto me," Rodney said, with an imperious tilt of his chin. "Now, go away. I'd like to get laid for the first time in so long I'd have to invent an equation to determine the exact duration."
Rodney blinked incredulously at him. "Excuse me? Did you just say no?"
John bit the inside of his cheek, his knuckles white where they gripped his pants. Women were one thing, but if Rodney wanted to have sex with a guy…
"Sheppard?" Rodney sat up, confusion and irritation coloring his features. He started speaking again, but the hammering of John's heart drowned out the sound. Before he could talk some sense into himself, John leaned closer, his sight set on Rodney's mouth.
Eyes growing wide, Rodney jerked back at John's approach, but then he stopped short. John continued forward until his lips pressed against Rodney's and, oh god, he was kissing Rodney. A shudder ran through John and his eyelids fluttered shut. His lips made a tiny noise as he placed the first kiss. His nose bumped Rodney's and he shakily released the breath he'd been holding.
"Mwai' mwai' mwai'," Rodney pushed John back suddenly, "wait, wait a second. What was that?"
Dread stabbed John and anxiety coiled in his gut. He averted his eyes. "I thought it was obvious, McKay."
"Since when are you gay?" Rodney said. "You aren't gay. You've never been gay."
John rubbed the nape of his neck self-consciously. "I wanted to be Brooke Shields, Rodney."
"Brooke Shields? What does she—oh. Oh."
"Yeah." John shifted uncomfortably. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ullian rise and join someone else.
"So, you're gay," Rodney said, and the bluntness made John want to repress and deny again. Instead, he nodded.
"And you kissed me, instead of any of the other naked, better-looking, willing-to-fornicate men here."
John felt his ears heat.
"Clearly, you're high," Rodney declared. He snapped his fingers in front of John's nose. "Quick, kiss me again before you sober up."
That shocked an awkward laugh out of John and he lifted his gaze. "Come on, already," Rodney said, a furrow of impatience creasing his brow. "I'd like to have sex before I get the munchies. This is leading to sex, right?"
The tension released with a relieved inner-sigh and John's mouth curved in a smile. "Yes, it's leading to sex."
"Good, because I'm horny and there's an alien orgy going on around us and I'm shutting up now before I say something stupid and you figure out Endarin is a much better catch—"
John rolled onto his knees and straddled Rodney's extended legs. He cupped a hand behind Rodney's head. "Shut up, Rodney," he said, and lowered his mouth.
Rodney hummed, tilting his head back, both arms wrapping around John. His lips parted beneath John's, an invitation that he readily accepted. Finesse was lost the moment tongues came into play. Heat bloomed in John's belly and he dove further into the kiss. Rodney responded greedily and the voice that told John that this was a bad idea stopped talking completely.
"…In reverence to Temen and Ferelia and the story of the Great Hunt…"
Rodney yanked at the zipper of John's tac vest and John tugged at the back of Rodney's t-shirt. Their mouths skittered, gasped, parted, and met again, shirts out of the way. John swallowed a moan when his hands got on bare skin. Rodney was warm from the fire, his skin slick with sweat. John dragged his lips from Rodney's to taste along Rodney's chin and neck. Salt burst on his tongue, as Rodney panted heavily in John's ear.
"Okay, that's enough of that," Rodney said, and tumbled John onto the mat. John's knee twisted funnily and his breath whooshed out as Rodney landed heavily on him, hands trapped behind John's back. John's chin smacked Rodney in the nose when his head hit the ground.
"That went much smoother in my head," Rodney muttered after a stunned moment.
John felt the laughter well up from deep inside him and it spilled out at Rodney's rueful grin.
"You know, I don't think I've ever seen you like this," Rodney said, as they readjusted their positions. John's sidearm went under his shirt, nearby.
"That was the idea," John said, exhaling sharply when Rodney pressed his groin to John's. The three layers of clothing still between them seemed like a thousand.
"No, no, no. I don't mean hot and hard for another guy," Rodney said. "You look… happy."
Startled, John froze. Rodney's features twisted. "Listen to me. I sound like I'm trying to get into your pants, when it's a sure thing." Worry crept around the edges of his eyes. "It's still a sure thing, right? What am I saying? Of course it's a sure thing. We're both horny and high and I'm ruining it with all this talking, aren't I?"
John realized that Rodney was as nervous as him. Something unfurled in John's chest and he let go of his final reserves. "No," he answered gruffly, and pulled Rodney down into another kiss.
With the acceptance, desire ignited at a flashpoint touch of their lips. John crushed Rodney to him, slanting into a ravishing kiss, taking, tasting, and teasing with a promise of more. Rodney's groin pressed against John's, the hard line of his cock nestled beside John's trapped erection. John exhaled heavily through his nose, arching his hips, wanting better contact. He groped at Rodney's broad shoulders and back, feeling the muscle play under the sweat-slicked skin. Rodney's solid upper body weighed against John, pinning him, chest hair catching against his own. The woven mat crinkled under John's shoulder blades. Rodney dragged his mouth away, breathing raggedly, and seared John with the intensity of his gaze.
John was aware of the Awnsans finding their own pleasure. The fire crackled by his bare feet. Rodney hovered above him, flushed and ready. John wanted, and he wormed his hands between them. Rodney caught on quickly and pushed up on his knees between John's spread thighs. John unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned and unzipped his fly, and tugged the front of his pants and underwear under his balls. It was a little uncomfortable, but Rodney gurgled, "Oh fuck, that's hot," and shoved his boxers down his thighs without care that they weren't alone.
Rodney's cock was as solid as the rest of him, curving slightly to the left. A rush of arousal dried John's throat and made his own cock twitch with anticipation. Rodney sank down on top of John, blocking the view, but the contact of flesh-on-flesh sent any disappointment skittering from John's mind. A strained sound came unbidden from John and it must've flipped a switch in Rodney, because Rodney attacked him like a madman, kissing him hard and wild, plunging his tongue between John's lips, twisting his fingers almost painfully in John's hair. Rodney drove his hips down and forward and back and around, and John gripped Rodney's hipbones, thrust up, rutting like he couldn't get close enough, and the pressure was just right, and Rodney was just right, and then he was coming and coming and coming and fuck.
Warmth spattered on his belly. Rodney wheezed against his lips, pumping unevenly. Oversensitive, John's toes curled, heart thundering still. He curved his hand behind Rodney's lower back and trailed his fingers along the bumps of Rodney's spine. Rodney kept moving against him, seeking release, and finally came with a hurt sound and hard shudder.
Rodney breathed raggedly against John's neck, easing down slowly. Then, he rolled off John without any warning or grace, squashing John's previously twisted knee in the process. John blinked at the suddenly clear view of the sky and the enormity of what he'd done crashed over him. The sweet-scented drug from the branches in the fire couldn't suppress the anxiety expanding in his chest. He scrambled to fix his clothing, suddenly itching to get away and regroup. Rodney sighed loudly beside him.
"Do you mind? I'm trying to enjoy the afterglow here," Rodney said, right arm pillowed behind his head. The tip of his cock poked above the waistband of his haphazardly adjusted boxers, his stomach glistening with their combined come. He watched John with a heavy, sated gaze. "You're freaking out."
"I'm not freaking out."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not." John lay back and threw his left arm over his eyes, even though, yes, he was freaking out, but Rodney didn't need to know that. "I was just getting situated."
"Hmn." Rodney was obvious in his disbelief. His left arm bumped John's on the too small mat. "You can blame being high on firewood."
"I'm not freaking out."
The snap of a burning log echoed on the open grassy beach. Muffled moans and low voices drifted around the Awnsanian circle. Awkwardness weighted John's limbs, preventing him from leaving. He focused on water washing against the shore, lying in the heat of the muggy night.
Rodney spoke quietly a few minutes later. "You can blame it on being high," he said in a serious undertone, "but don't regret it. Please."
John gnawed at the inside of his cheek and cursed rules and regulations and DADT and, most of all, himself.
He moved until the back of his hand was touching Rodney's, and remembered to breathe.
John awoke slowly to the cadence of Rodney's voice and the need to piss like a racehorse. Blinking open his eyes, he squinted in the morning sunlight and pressed the heel of his palm against his temple. A dull throbbing, most likely from the not-beer and not-weed, hurt his head. He sat up with creaks and groans of his joints and dragged his hand through his hair.
The fire was out. A few Awnsans were still asleep, their shirts draped over them like sheets. A long mat had been spread on the grassy beach a short distance away, held down in the corners by rocks. More fruit and breads were piled on the woven surface. Rodney, Ullian, Endarin, Uriahn, Kaelinth, and the other Awnsans sat around the mat, speaking animatedly with each other. Rodney's hands conducted symphonies with his words, his voice rising and falling like the waves against the shore.
John shoved his feet in his boots, strapped his sidearm to his leg, shook out his t-shirt, and pulled it over his head as he wandered off to take care of business. He scratched his belly where the hair was matted together with dried come. The air smelt fresh and a breeze stirred the tips of his hair. Things always looked so different in the morning.
He ambled back to camp and over to the breakfast feast. Rodney was holding court, talking a light-year a minute and probably confusing the heck out of the Awnsans. His expression was cheerful, rather than condescending or annoyed, which was a rarity. "No, no, no. See, that's where you're wrong. The number of animals has a direct correlation to the environmental factors, like weather, predators, and the availability of food. Hunting is only small part of a bigger picture. It's just like with farming, to increase your numbers, you should rotate your hunting lands, giving one area a chance to repopulate without interference, giving you a larger herd to hunt when you return the following year."
"I didn't know you were a hunter, Rodney," John said, folding into a sitting position beside him.
"John," Rodney said his name with the brightness of the sun, and John's stomach flipped like he was on a Ferris wheel at the highest point.
He didn't regret a single second of it.
Rodney shoved a mug into his hand. "We must – must – trade with these people. They have coffee. Or rather, the closest thing I've tasted since we've gotten to this galaxy. I think I've died and gone to heaven. It even tastes good cold."
John laughed, and drank the not-coffee, and if he put his hand on Rodney's knee and left it there, no one was around to dishonorably discharge him. Rodney wore his emotions on his sleeve and his delight was palpable, though John didn't know if it was directed at him or the newfound coffee supply. In those few moments, as he caught sight of a jumper flying over the horizon, everything became much more complicated and the risk was like nothing he'd ever faced.
On day fifteen, John fell in love.