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John is shy in bed. Rodney doesn't figure it out very quickly because John's fine when his clothes are on—half-smiles at him when no one's paying attention, intense, careful looks when they're alone, obvious enough to make Rodney feel hot and flustered, but John never falters, brushing his fingers across Rodney's so smoothly that Rodney thinks later it was probably an accident. John even started the whole thing.

"Re-ally," he says, in a low, slow voice, the one time Rodney mentions dating a guy, absolutely by accident.

"Yes, really!" Rodney says because the best defense is a good offense, and also because, in the past, people have thought he wasn't hot enough to be gay, which is about a hundred times more insulting than just being gaybashed by ignorant homophobes, and Rodney has the bone structure of his Great-Aunt Minnie, who had personally caused multiple people to move to the northern territories in despair over her love, and, at 86, had broken the heart of her arthritis doctor. He's about to tell Sheppard this when Sheppard says,

"You still date guys?"

"Uh," Rodney says, and when Sheppard stands up to leave, his hand knocks casually against Rodney's knee, fingertips brushing up over his thigh, and Sheppard flirts with him for weeks and weeks, smiles and leans in close and takes him on what can only be called dates, long comfortable strolls to this or that tower during yet another dusky violet twilight to see some cool shit Sheppard just thought he might like. Sheppard even kisses him first, lifting his hand to Rodney's cheek and pulling him in firmly, lips closing softly over Rodney's lower lip.

Rodney can't help but think that getting involved with Sheppard is a really incredibly monumentally terrible idea, but John kisses him, and seems sure, and Rodney is weak and just really likes being flirted with. He's always had to spend a lot of time carefully pursuing people and trying not to offend them and generally being the aggressor without seeming to be aggressive. He's generally found romance tiring and demoralizing and John is so good at smiling at him like he wants to take his clothes off that Rodney just lets it happen.

So, yes, he's surprised when John gets quieter and redder and less sure, the more clothes he takes off. He's normal on the couch, laughing and pinning Rodney down and kissing him and putting his hands under his shirt, and then helping him pull it off, and then he's underneath Rodney and smiling a lot when Rodney's slipping the buttons open on his shirt and sliding his hands down his belly, and then his cheeks are fire hot when he touches Rodney's cock, wrapping his hand around the shaft, eyes shuttered, mouth tense with concentration.

"Yeah," Rodney says, too loudly, and then conscious of trying not to seem like a selfish asshole, and also thinking about getting his mouth on John's cock, he says, "How about a blowjob?"

John doesn't say anything for a minute, and Rodney wonders frantically if he doesn't like blowjobs, if that's even possible, if John maybe is a conservative gay or bisexual flirtatious intergalactic fighter pilot guy who thinks blowjobs are dirty, and then John nods, silently, and slides down on his knees next to the couch and puts his mouth on Rodney's cock.

"Oh, hey," Rodney says half-heartedly. John's sucking hard, and has his head tucked down so Rodney can't see his face at all. "I meant for you."

John pulls off. His mouth is wet and his face is really, really red. "Oh," he says. "I thought—"

"Uh, are you okay?" Rodney says.

"Sure," John says. "Why wouldn't I be?" and the words are exactly right but they sound wrong, somehow, coming roughly out of John's mouth, and Rodney thinks fleetingly that it's just not fair, that John had made it seem like this would be so easy, and then Rodney realizes that he's a moron and that John Sheppard is half-undressed on his couch and still hard, and he gets him to lie down with his head against the arm and slides his hand inside John's pants and John doesn't say no—doesn't say anything at all—just closes his eyes and bites his lip and clutches at Rodney's shoulders.

John is completely normal the next time Rodney sees him, like his hands never shook when he worked open the buttons on Rodney's BDUs, like he never jerked Rodney off and got come on his shirt and apologized for Christ's sake, while Rodney was still lying back, trying to recover.

"hey," Rodney says, a little cautiously at breakfast. John didn't even stay over.

"hey," John says, sly and smirky and confidential, his eyes dipping down across Rodney's chest. Rodney decides he's remembering things wrong.

*

John will kiss him, quickly, in the lab if there's no one there, and press his thigh against Rodney's underneath a table. He'll touch Rodney's shoulder on missions when they're alone and ask what Rodney wants for his birthday and smile helplessly. He'll drag his fingers hypnotically over the nape of Rodney's neck while they're watching a movie, he'll walk into a crowded room and look so transparently for Rodney that Rodney worries about it, John will press a kiss against his throat and tell him to stop worrying, John will fall asleep on Rodney's couch while Rodney works, his bare toes curled and defenseless, he'll crowd Rodney up against a wall when they've been apart for a week, ten days, too long, and kiss him surprisingly softly, but he's terrible in bed; it takes Rodney a long time to admit it, even to himself.

He doesn't mind for himself—well, perhaps a little. The real problem is that John doesn't seem to enjoy himself much. He gets quiet and awkward when they have their clothes off; it's hard to watch, and it makes Rodney feel guilty, the stiff set of John's shoulders, his clammy hands, the way his eyelashes flutter shut, like Rodney touching him is just something he's trying to get through. His cock gets hard enough, and he'll do anything Rodney asks for, but he doesn't ask for anything for himself. Later—much later—the next day, John will act like the sex was amazing, like he can't wait to do it again; he'll touch Rodney's chest or arm like he can't stop himself. Rodney can't tell if he's serious or not.

Rodney thinks John doesn't like sex, or—more likely—that he's not really gay enough but keeps on doing it anyhow, out of kindness; John has never been one to pay much attention to his own physical comfort. Rodney knows he should break up with John since John won't break up with him, but he can't quite bring himself to, not when John's still bringing him cupcakes—fucking chocolate cupcakes—in the lab and rubbing his shoulders and telling Ronon he did a pretty good job on the mandatory obstacle course torture thing.

Instead, more and more, he waits for John to smile and kiss him, pull him down on the bed, and then they make out with John's hands in his hair or stroking up his back. Rodney runs his hands under John's shirt and John presses up against him, sucks on his tongue, throws his head back against his pillow while Rodney kisses his neck and his ears, and it doesn't go any further than that. Rodney hasn't had a relationship where dates ended at second base since he was—well, a junior in college, but he was fifteen at the time.

"You have to—take off?" John says, the tenth or eleventh time Rodney jerks back off the bed and says he has to go. He always looks surprised, but he's never once said Rodney should stay.

"Yeah, I'm gonna—" Rodney says.

"Okay," John says, shrugging, and digging out a comic book from under his bed. He's hard—Rodney can see it, and he could feel it against his leg when they were kissing. He wonders what John's going to do about it, since he doesn't seem that invested in letting Rodney touch it.

"Are you fucking someone else?" Rodney says, in spite of himself.

"What?"

"It's okay if you are," Rodney says. "It's—we can break up, you don't have to stay with me if you'd really rather be with her—"

"I'm not seeing anyone else."

"Oh."

"Are you?" John says, oddly casual.

"Er, like who?" Rodney says cautiously. John's face darkens.

"Katie Brown. Miko. Lieutenant Parillo. Karen from Geology. Simpson," he spits out.

"What? What? Lieuten—okay, Simpson really hates me," Rodney says.

"Simpson would hit it," John says.

"What does that—how do you know?"

"Because she said so," John says. "She said maybe she had space insanity but she'd hit it, and Parillo said you had a nice back, and Karen wants to sit on your—look, never mind. I think you should go for it."

"Why would I—are you breaking up with me?"

"No," John says. He swallows and stands up, shoving his hair back off his forehead. "We can still—if you want. But you can also, um, with Miko, or—"

"Why?"

"Because I'm not," John says. "You won't—we never, you don't want to fuck me."

"What's the point of even trying when you freeze up every time I touch you below the belt," Rodney says. It comes out a lot worse than it sounded in his head.

"Oh," John says. "I see." He sounds stricken, but if you don't know where to look—around his eyes, his too quiet hands—he looks pretty much okay.

"Look, I don't care," Rodney says. "It doesn't matter."

"I wanted—I can," John takes a quick breath and then says, "I know you've been with—um, a lot of guys, and I'm not. I haven't."

"It's not really that many," Rodney says modestly.

"Come on," John says, turning away, restless, and starting to pull the blankets tight on the bed. "You've been with, what, twenty guys?"

"That's less than one a year—"

"Fifty guys?" John says, slapping his pillow roughly into shape.

"What does it matter?" Rodney says. "If you don't want to have sex with me—"

"I do," John says furiously. "Why don't you want to—uh, top me?" he finishes carefully, looking at the floor.

"What, did you read that someplace?" Rodney says, almost laughing.

"Yes," John mutters defensively. His face is red again.

"Oh. Sorry," Rodney says.

John shrugs.

"So how many guys have you been with?" Rodney says. He used to think about John sometimes, before they got together, when he felt like an asshole and kind of a sexual harasser for picturing Sheppard on his knees in a hangar somewhere or maybe jerking off Lorne.

"What?" John says. "None. You know that."

"No, I don't."

"None, then," John says. Rodney's told John a million stories about the slutty summer of 1988 or the bad judgment spring of 1992; John always laughed and made fun of him, and never once, Rodney realizes now, told him any stories in return. He never thought it was because there wasn't anything to tell.

"Not even—really?" he says. "Not a handjob, or—"

"No," John says.

"So that's why you're so—um," Rodney says. There's a long embarrassing silence.

"Yeah," John says stiffly. "Sorry."

"I said I don't care," Rodney said. "Just—you don't have to be nervous."

"I'm not nervous," John snaps.

"Okay, okay, okay, right," Rodney says. "Of course not."

John licks his lips, staring at the floor. Rodney thinks it's a good thing that they're having this conversation or—fight—or whatever it is—in John's quarters or John would have left ten minutes ago, mumbling excuses.

"I have condoms," John says. "And—stuff."

"You—all right," Rodney says. "You want me to—um—do you?"

"Only if you want to," John says diffidently, but his whole face changes.

"You might not like it," Rodney says.

John nods.

*

John has medical grade lube in stupidly tiny packets which are hard to open once Rodney has lube on his fingers, he uses up four just to get a finger inside John; he's tight, his face buried in his pillow, ass bent up towards Rodney, toes curled. By the time he gets two fingers inside, John's breathing hard, rubbing against the bed a little.

"You like it," Rodney says, more to himself than John, sliding a finger around the outside of John's hole and then back in again, while John gasps and pushes back against him. He doesn't really mean for it to be sex talk, but John says,

"Yes," and "Rodney," and "I—God, you should—can you—again?" but he goes completely silent when Rodney finally gets his cock inside him.

"Okay?" Rodney says. John's not making noise, but he's wiggling around underneath Rodney obviously wanting more; Rodney has a pretty good grip on John's ass, so he holds him open so he can get in deep, and John says, raggedly,

"Um, yeah." Rodney fucks him for a while just like that, with John's arms folded around a pillow.

"I'm going to fuck you so hard," Rodney finds himself saying. "I'm going to make you—" but, of course, he doesn't do either of those things; it's John's first time, so he keeps stroking into him, nice and easy, and reaches around to jerk him off. John's cock is wet, and Rodney's fingers are still sticky with lube, and John moans so gratefully when Rodney first squeezes up base to tip, twisting his fingers gently over the head, that it makes up for the fact that he can't see John's face.

John goes a little limp when he comes, shivers and collapses on one elbow on the bed, surprising Rodney into a deep thrust that makes John cry out.

"Fuck, sorry—" Rodney says, trying to pull out,

"It's—" John says, and twists his hips right as Rodney slips out, so Rodney comes all over his ass and down his back.

"Is that, um—" John says, a few minutes later. He still sounds breathless.

"Do I usually come on guys' asses without securing permission in advance, you mean?" Rodney says, pushing himself up and rolling off John.

"No, that's—you don't have to ask," John said. "If that's what you like to do." He's still pressed face down into the bed, so Rodney can really only see that his ears are red—bright red, fuchsia—but it counts as blushing, as far as Rodney's concerned.

"Okay," he says. "But you're going to tell me what you want to do sometime, right?"

John goes a little still, but slowly turns his head to the side, so Rodney can see his face. There's stubble-burn all over his mouth and throat. "Yeah, maybe," he says.

He doesn't really, but Rodney figures it out anyhow. John almost gets over the blushing, but he never stops being shy. He hesitates in bed, bites his lip, sometimes looks a little shaken up after they fuck, wants to be reassured that he gets Rodney off, and Rodney—well. Rodney gets used to being the only thing John is ever careful about.