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"Marry me."

John opens his eyes, wincing from the morning sunlight pouring into the room via the actions of the Original Fucking Morning Person. Who just--


With malice aforethought, Rodney bounces onto the foot of the bed, looking down with an affectionately irritated expression of tolerance, like he can't imagine why on earth John would need a repeat, but he's just *that willing* to make the sacrifice. "I think we should get married."

John glances at the clock. It's definitely six am.

"Um." Pushing feebly at the pillow, John forces himself up on both elbows, then gives up and goes back down, rolling slowly onto his back. *Six in the morning*. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, John tries again, but no, the numbers stay the same, Rodney continues vibrating inches away, and at some point, John ingested a hallucinogenic drug. "Well."

Rodney nods enthusiastically. "Yes."


"No, you're supposed to say 'yes'," Rodney says, giving John an expectant look.

John's never, unlike certain other people, needed coffee to regain his humanity, one of those ironic circumstances in life, that he's sleeping with a person constitutionally incapable of sleeping past six yet still unable to function without sufficient caffeine. He's military, he knows how to wake himself up, awareness of surroundings, something, but--. "Wait."

"For what? My prime years to be lost? No." Leaning forward--and how weird is it, John thinks blankly, that hallucinated Rodney can be just as annoyed as the real one--Rodney fixes John with a sincere look that wakes him right up, because Rodney sincere is only marginally less scary than the Wraith. "I've been thinking."

"I see that." He does. Sitting up, John rubs a hand over his eyes again, just to be sure. Yes. Still the same. And no pink elephants, so-- "Is this about Colonel Carter getting married last month?"

Rodney scowls, sitting back on his heels. "Yes. I was pining for Carter and now that she's off the market, I've decided to settle with my second choice. That's logical."

Scarily, it kind of is. "Wait. I need--" A cup of coffee is thrust under his nose, and that just caps it, because he can count the number of times Rodney has given him *anything* on one hand, and getting at coffee with Rodney in the same room is Vegas odds. Straight flush at that.

"As I said, I've been thinking," Rodney continues, with a glare that reminds John that this is his only source of regular sex speaking. Only. Source. Of. Regular. Sex. So pay attention. "We've been dating six months."

So that's what they call this. John had thought it was called *fucking*. "I see."

"Obviously, we're compatible."


"You don't snore, drool, or otherwise offend my sensibilities, and occasionally, you show some amount of intelligence. You don't demand excessive attention and clean up after yourself. Not to mention this is seriously the best sex of my life. I'd like to keep that."

John's tracking now. "And marriage--"

"Legally obligates you to perform regular conjugal duties."

Funny how, in all the weddings that John's ever attended, he's never heard that part. "Huh."

Leaning forward again, Rodney cocks his head. "You can think about it. There's no rush. But there's a prime slot three weeks from now that will fall between projects, so the twentieth would be ideal."

Last night, John went to sleep with his--boyfriend? Apparently so--after extremely satisfying sex and perhaps, one might go so far as to say cuddling, though it's the Atlantean equivalent of winter and for some reason, Rodney's quarters are freakishly cold. There was some discussion of something involving particles and time loops, a short digression into C++ programming errors, and possible alternate alpha sites. Rodney had mentioned Zelenka and a biologist, or possibly, just biology, and right around the time John fell asleep, he could swear Rodney was making sad sounds about his cat. Again.

He's almost sure that this hadn't come up. Almost.

"So--you want to marry me because I put out?"

"You make it sound very, very cheap." Crossing his arms over his chest, Rodney frowns. "Drink your coffee."

John does, because, one, *coffee*, and two, he really, really needs to be awake for this. Finishing the cup in one inhale, John sets it carefully aside and tries to pull this together. Also, he wishes for his pants, because this discussion could really benefit from less in the way of nudity.

"It's logical," Rodney states, like John had asked for reasons, and John nods along, because frankly, it's just easier that way. "Obviously, we're headed in that direction, what with the dating, the sex, and the constant time spent together. We've only been actually engaged in sex for a few months, true, but it's not like at this point, we don't know each other well enough to be able to project the chances that we'll be able to continue a stable relationship. And honestly, this bed is too small, and with marriage, we can get Elizabeth to open up the larger quarters on the fourth deck. The ones with the view? Also, much nearer my lab."

It sounds--just maybe--like Rodney's in this for the real estate.

"You could move there without marrying me," John says cautiously, trying to feel for the edges of sanity.

"I could," Rodney says slowly, like John's very, very stupid, "but I'm really not comfortable us living together before marriage. Like John's toothbrush, half his gear, and most of his porn isn't already in here. "It feels wrong."

"Oh." John waits, but Rodney just watches him expectantly, and what the hell does John say to this? "Don't you think this is--a little sudden?"

"Three weeks is plenty of time to prepare for the rest of our lives together." John feels Atlantis shift under him in a thoroughly nauseating way. *The rest of their lives together*. "Anyway, I'm going to go with the twentieth, so remember to put in leave for the week after. I plan to take advantage of my back vacation time."

John watches Rodney nod firmly, then gets up, going to the bathroom with a thoughtful look on his face, like he's already planning out the ceremony, or calculating power distribution rates, and there's a very real possibility that John will be in his dress uniform on the twentieth and getting married. "Wait. Rodney?"

Rodney stops, eyebrows drawn tightly together. "What? I'm going to be late, so unless it's important--"

"Thought. What if I say no?"

Rodney blinks. "Why on earth would you say no?"

John opens his mouth, but the sheer *number* of reasons seem to clog themselves together in his head, and he feels his jaw snap shut again helplessly. Rodney nods smugly. "Right. Twentieth. I'll tell Elizabeth. You get Caldwell. And try to get it done today? Caldwell will probably want some warning if he's going to be running Atlantis for a week without you available." And with a turn, Rodney's in the bathroom and like that, John's an engaged man.

John's never told Rodney he's been engaged before.

A few years before, John had gotten engaged to a girl while on leave in Saudi Arabia, a strange affair that came about due to a small language problem, a misplaced burka, and forty-five hours of sleep deprivation. John's not ruling out heat exhaustion as a contributing factor, either. Later, while desperately escaping across the border with her family hot on his heels, he'd thought to himself, that was close.

But comparatively speaking, that was *easy*.

First, John tries to be logical.

"What if--and this is just a suggestion--we could get Elizabeth to give you the larger quarters *without* getting married? I wouldn't *have* to live with you, and we could still have sex, and then you wouldn't have to lose a week out of the lab. Where Zelenka will definitely blow something up without you to supervise."

Rodney puts down the scanner and thinks about it for all of five seconds. Which is the closest that John's ever come to winning an argument with Rodney about anything.

Five blissful, almost-unengaged seconds.

"It's kind of a waste of space for a single person," Rodney says, applying a screwdriver to the scanner before glancing at the screen of his laptop, where something that looks creepily like a *gift registry* is forming. "I'm emailing you the guest list when I'm done, by the way. And no, we're not inviting Chaya." Frowning, Rodney looks back at the scanner, then up at John, eyebrows drawing sharply together. "Aren't you on rounds now? I'm kind of busy."

"Right," John says slowly. "I'll go--do that."

He tries logic. Again.

"I just don't think I'm ready for marriage," John says that night, uniform on, right down to boots, and Rodney sits up in bed to stare down at him.

"Why are you still dressed?" Pushing the covers back, Rodney studies John's multiple layers with a critical eye. "Your boots are filthy. Run get more sheets, would you?"

John stares at him. "Rodney. I'm not ready for marriage."

"Oh please." Jerking back the blankets, Rodney crawls down the bed and starts pulling off his boots. "You're not getting any younger, and forty is what, right around the corner?"

"That's *five years away*--" John starts, offended, then stops himself, because wow, that's totally not something he wants to think about too hard. "Rodney--"

"And it's not like you have all that many chances out here," Rodney says, wrestling off the other boot and throwing both to the floor. "Sheets. Now. What is that smell? Did you wade in manure on that planet or something?"

"Wait. Wait." Rodney pauses on peeling off his socks. "There is a--what do you mean, you think I'm *too old* to--"

"I'm just saying, at your age, you should think of settling down. And not with intergalactic supersluts," and great, now Rodney's been reminded of Chaya and this can't go anywhere good. Pushing John down, the big hands close over the waist of his pants, making quick work of the buttons. "Lift up."

John does, letting Rodney peel away his pants and boxers, tossing them to the floor. "I could date non-super--I mean, non Ancient women. Or men," he adds hastily, when Rodney raises an eyebrow of amusement. Like he knows John can't even *remember* the last time he slept with a woman.

Rodney stares at him, eyes narrowing dangerously. "We're not even married yet and you're already thinking of cheating on me?"

John shuts his mouth tight and lets Rodney pull off his shirt with far too much force. "Ouch. And no, of course, I'd never--"

"Then why are we discussing this?" Sliding off the bed, Rodney stomps to his laptop. He's so not getting any now. Perhaps for the next week. "Sheets now? I'd like to *sleep tonight*, thanks."

"Right," John says slowly, and gets up, naked, to find the clean sheets.

This? Isn't working.

Elizabeth smiles at him over her laptop. "John, there's no problem with leave, if that's what you're worried about. I've spoken to Caldwell, and he's perfectly willing to hold down the fort while you and Rodney go to the mainland for a few days."

The mainland. "The mainland?"

Elizabeth nods. "The mountains are beautiful this time of year," she says enthusiastically, and punching a few keys, turns the screen so John can see it. It is, in fact, a mountain. Right there on the screen. "Rodney wanted to know how far the Athosians had penetrated the interior, and it turns out there's a small hunting lodge they occasionally use for overnight trips. With a few upgrades, it would be the perfect place for your honeymoon."


She beams at him, and John feels a strange sense of vertigo. Standing up, he closes a hand on the edge of his chair and nods blindly. "I'd better get--back to inventory. The bullets don't--they don't count themselves. Yeah."

"Wait," Elizabeth says, standing up, and then she comes over and Christ, *hugs him*. It's like he came back from a nuclear explosion all over again, and really it kind of *is* like that, except for the fact that this time, he won't be coming back. "Congratulations."

When John rebelliously goes to his quarters that night to sleep, it somehow isn't a surprise to discover they're completely and echoingly empty.

Rodney has a point, he thinks, staring blankly at the ceiling of the new bedroom with the wider bed, though still strangely cold, Rodney draped over him like a second blanket. The bigger quarters are much nicer.

John's never told Rodney that the first time they had sex, it was incredibly, disturbingly, almost creepily good.

He's also never told him it was the first time he slept with a guy.

It had started, as most brand new gay sex does, with a tent and low temperatures and imminent hypothermia, and Rodney calmly unzipping the sleeping bag John was shivering in to zip them together, crawling inside, big and warm like a living space heater, wrapping himself around John and shutting him up with a kiss, which later turned out to be the most effective way to silence John ever.

He was warm, God, he was warm, fitting himself into John like he'd never been anywhere else, cock rubbing against cock through their long underwear until John peeled them away to get skin on skin and all attempts at rational thought fled, replaced by big fingers hollowing him out, stretching him open, cock pushing inside him with slow deliberation, feeling Rodney everywhere, touch and taste and sight and smell, his voice in John's ear, low and jagged and sexy as hell.

They could have been doing this for years, the way it came together.

John felt *drugged*, hands heavy on Rodney's slick back, sensation bright and sharp and hot enough to sweat through the cold, coming when Rodney's teeth closed over his shoulder and bit him hard enough to feel it for days. Weeks, when he'd touch the fading bruise and get hard just thinking about it, until he went to Rodney's quarters and crawled into his bed and Rodney had sleepily asked him, "What took you so long?" then wrapped around him to go back to sleep like he'd always been there.

Rodney's always asked him questions like that. He's never had a good answer.

The next night, Rodney blows him to get consensus on wedding invitations, and John thinks that there's a very good chance that this time next month, he'll be married.

It actually gets a little surreal around that time.

"Please," John says to the gathered Marines, looking at him shamefacedly from the center of the mess hall, surrounded by a mish-mash of trays and covered in the remains of possibly the worst lunch experiment in history, "don't be shy, just tell me how you all *lost your minds* and decided combat practice in the mess hall was a good idea? What am I saying, you're not crazy, you're simply *stupid*." Waving a hand, John frowns at the look on Ronon's face, then points at Lorne and his security people, hovering in the background, looking slightly shell-shocked. "You. In case it wasn't obvious, brig. Now."

Ronon's still looking at him as the guilty Marines are led away. "What?"

Ronon shrugs, turning back to his own tray of lettuce-things. "You're starting to sound like McKay, that's all."

John feels all the blood in his body drain away as he catches the smugly proud look on his fiancée's face halfway across the messhall. There's a single second of unrelenting, unimaginable horror before John gives up and grabs a tray.

He'll have his breakdown in his office later.

"I'm just saying--military don't ask don't tell--doesn't that sort of preclude this?"

Caldwell *pats him on the shoulder*. On. The. Shoulder. "Atlantis is an international effort. The laws set up to govern it and the military assigned are more flexible than those governing the United States. Eli---Dr. Weir and I agreed that the city and the people living here shouldn't be restricted by outdated laws and practices."

That sounds creepily like a speech that Elizabeth once made. John stares at Caldwell suspiciously. "She cut you off, didn't she?"

Caldwell pours them both a whiskey and downs his in one gulp, looking depressed. "Yes."

The crew of the Daedalus promises actual flour, and Rodney has a small, yet easily noticeable orgasm in the gateroom when the supply of chocolate is locked up for exclusive use on the wedding cake.

("Not white cake?" John asks, at this point just to see what Rodney will come up with next.

"I don't think either of us could pull off anything white, do you?"


When Bates said he needed John's help, it was suspicious. It was very, very suspicious. So suspicious, in fact, that John had armed himself before venturing to the lower levels, where the Marines had taken to carousing on their off hours.

Help, it turns out, means in military terms, *torture*.

There are streamers and there are *balloons*, and God help them all, there is alcohol and chips and Bates and Caldwell smirking from the side of the room like this is John's own special hell for ever, ever coming to Atlantis.

"Congratulations, sir," Lorne says with a perfectly straight face, eyes dancing as he leads him to the giant cake. Oh no. Oh God no.

"If Rodney sees this," John says, eyes wide, hunting out the security cameras by memory. Because he will be found dead in the waters of Atlantis and Rodney will have a totally plausible alibi and oh God, the LEDs are still *blinking*. "Off! Off! My God, are you *suicidal*?"

Lorne slaps him on the back, with an obvious look of sympathy for John's whipped state, but they *just don't know*. "Zelenka's monitoring."

"And you *trust him*?"

Lorne gives the cameras a long look. "They're having some kind of party for Rodney up there. Don't worry so much, sir."

John gently puts down the bottle and carefully takes the lapels of Lorne's shirt in his hands and softly hauls him up against the wall. "He is *evil*. This is the man that Rodney will not steal coffee from. Do you understand? We are going to *die*. Or be blackmailed for the rest of our lives and--"

A pretty redhead leaps from the cake, dressed in what seems to resemble traditional Proculus priestess gear, what a surprise. Somehow, and John has no idea how, he thinks he hears hysterical Czech laughter. He also thinks that he never knew that Caldwell was *that evil*.

"I think you're being paranoid, sir," Lorne says, but his eyes are screaming oh my God, we are so fucked. John knows the feeling.

At that point, John lets Lorne go and reaches for his bottle. "I need to enjoy my last night on earth." Snapping his fingers at the makeshift bar (and yes, he so knows where he picked *that* up), he drops into a chair and watches the undulations of not-Chaya in resignation. "Bring me something in fatal." Staring around the room at the many, many faces, he comforts himself that when he dies, at least he won't be the only one.

Twelve hours later, he stumbles into their quarters to find Rodney in a grass skirt, lipstick smeared in unfortunate places, and sporting a really professional-looking black eye.

John thinks about it as he carefully staggers to the floor. It's nice down there. "Let's never discuss this night again, okay?"

Rodney nods enthusiastically. "I agree."

The next morning, John finds a coconut under the bed.

He wonders what Zelenka wants for the security feeds.

John's never told Rodney he's never been in love before.

There was a girl in Philadelphia that was almost, but John's never loved anything or anyone like he loved to fly. There'd never been anything like the controls beneath his hands, the freedom of the sky huge around him, opening him up, adrenaline rush and perfect peace all at once. The way that nothing else mattered--not black marks or disappointed family or disgrace, tanked career or even the frozen cold of Antarctica. How being in the air was better than sex or sleep or people could ever be.

One day, Rodney had come into his quarters bitching about the end of the universe with detailed accounts of how many kinds of messy death had been averted today, alphabetized. It had continued through a bathroom trip, a shower, barely muffled, then Rodney had come back out, soaking wet, and had wondered aloud why John was still awake at this ungodly hour, when his shift started in less than four hours.

Rodney had stood there, wrapped in John's second favorite towel, red-eyed and unshaven and John had pulled him into bed and grinned and said, I was reading, when the book isn't anywhere in the room. Tomorrow, he murmured in Rodney's ear, I'll take you out on the jumper, and I'll even let you fly.

He thinks that may be when he knew he'd fallen in love.

John doesn't drink when he sees that Rodney's emailed out a copy of the gift registry to everyone in Atlantis, but it's a very close thing.

"All right," John says, breaking into Rodney's locked lab via seduction of the technology--Atlantis can be such a whore--and stopping in the center of the room. It'd be far more impressive if epiphany hadn't occurred at eleven, when John had already changed into his sweatpants. "Okay. Marriage. What's that about?"

Rodney *doesn't even look up from his laptop*. "Working here." He waves an empty mug in John's general direction. Sort of. "Coffee?"

John grabs it, sullenly finding the coffeepot and pouring them both a cup, sparing a second to wonder, did he used to drink this much coffee before McKay?--but no, that's just not a place he wants to go right now. "Here. Coffee. Talk."

Rodney takes a drink, sighs in a way that gives John flashbacks to the last time they were in this lab alone, considerably more naked, and right. Focus. "McKay. Or I will so not be there tomorrow."

"I think, according to the paperwork, we're already married," Rodney says thoughtfully. "Marriage is a very bureaucratic business, you ever noticed that?" Typing something one-handed, Rodney takes another sip of coffee. "The ceremony is merely a formality to get cake. And presents." *Now* he looks away from the laptop, staring into space with a dreamy expression. "Presents."


Rodney rolls his eyes and puts down the cup. "I'm in love with you. Happy? Now can I finish trying to save our lives for the fifth time this week? Or is that just too much trouble?"

Son of a *bitch*. John puts down his coffee cup (empty, Christ, this isn't *happening*) and narrows his eyes. "And you couldn't just *say* that?"

"Do I tell you the sky is blue or can you figure that out for yourself?"

And what the hell is he supposed to say to that? "I'm going to bed," John says sullenly, thinking of all the ways tomorrow is going to just suck *so much*. "And I'm not carrying flowers."

"The gods weep for your lack of respect for tradition," Rodney says absently, then reaches for John's hand and brushes a kiss against the inside of his wrist. It's so--something. John tries not to lean into it, and fails. Miserably. "Night."

Caldwell will officiate, as the captain of a ship, some kind of insane bit of naval crap that's resurrected specifically for this moment in daytime television, leading to the horror of meeting with him and Rodney to discuss the ceremony, something that John will never remember without wanting hallucinogens to blunt the trauma of Caldwell asking him very seriously if they want to write their own vows.

And it's where John puts his foot down and says no, because Rodney is a genius and brilliant and all of that crap, but he can write for shit and never did learn the art of comma placement or good taste and a thirty minute speech on the wonders of marrying Rodney McKay could lead to spousal abuse or, possibly, a painkiller addiction. Probably a painkiller addiction. John knows because just thinking about it makes him want a morphine drip in the worst way.

Rodney sulks, and John's rewarded with sleeping on the couch, in their freezing fucking apartment, but the glow of winning is warmer than a blanket could ever be.

John doesn't *ever* tell Rodney that he has no clear memory of the wedding.

There were Athosian flowers, he remembers that, because Rodney got shot up with enough antihistamines to kill even the most determined allergies. There were balloons, *again*, and streamers, *again*, and the messhall was bright with lights and music that someone who will be pulling KP duty for the next *year* piped in that sounded suspiciously like a nineties power ballad.

He's pretty sure he wore his dress uniform, or so the pictures later testify. They could be doctored.

There were words, a lot of them, and Rodney kicking him to remind him when he's supposed to repeat them, dire promises under his breath that post-marital sex will be restricted in very unpleasant ways if John doesn't get his ass into gear. There were rings, though John has no idea where they came from or how in the name of God Rodney got them. There were so many hugs that John felt bruised and more cake than the entire population of Atlantis could ever eat. There was food and dancing, and there were presents in piles on the tables that Rodney gloated over for-fucking-*ever*, and at one point, Elizabeth told him he was glowing and he thinks he might have started laughing then, because his ribs are killing him when he wakes up the next morning. There was Bates and Lorne with the camcorder and the promise of the entire thing turned into a music video with copies for everyone.

John kind of hopes that he imagined that part.

But he does remember this.

He remembers Rodney stripping him in the middle of their room like he'd never done it before, careful and focused and steady, swift fingers slowing to stroke over nearly bare skin and watching him with wide, dark eyes. He remembers being stretched out on their bed with big, careful hands, touched everywhere until he was dizzy with it, maybe a little drunk from all that focused, unrelenting attention like a touch all in itself, rare and strange and addictive. He remembers how his back arched when Rodney knelt between his legs, Rodney's voice low and rough in his ear, fingers tight in his when he slid inside, as perfect and unexpectedly familiar and amazingly good as the first time.

He remembers the slow rhythm and the fragile look in Rodney's eyes when he came, surprised and a little broken and a little shocked, but mostly amazed, and John was amazed too, because he'd never made anyone look like that before.

In the morning, his ribs hurt and he's bruised in strange and inexplicable places, and he thinks he'll probably never move again. Rodney snores into his ear and is way too heavy to move, so breathing is a problem. But he also thinks this wedding thing was probably the best idea *ever*.

Maybe that part, he'll tell Rodney some day.