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The Education of Rodney McKay

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Sometimes life just seemed to happen to Rodney without any warning.

One minute, for instance, he'd be charging through his day, master of all he surveyed, and then--BAM--Katie Brown would be cornering him in the mess and asking him to dinner, and he couldn't even work out how to string a coherent sentence together in reply.

Rodney was still hyperventilating when he slid morosely into the seat opposite John. He poked at his food, stomach churning too much for him to be able to eat. "God," he said, dropping his fork and resting his head in his hands, "What was I thinking? I should have said no."

John looked up from his meatloaf, and instead of the condescending look Rodney had been expecting, he gave Rodney a sympathetic smile and said, "Yeah, well, it was an ambush. No one thinks well under those conditions."

Rodney found himself smiling back and actually felt a little bit better. But obviously not completely back in control, because otherwise he never would have blurted out, "It's not that. It's just such a waste of my time. I'm terrible at dating. I'll be lucky to escape the night without ending up in the infirmary, and not in a good way!" Then he finally managed to snap his mouth shut on the over-sharing and blinked, waiting for the smack-down.

But John just kept picking at his meatloaf in that easy way he had, as though Rodney hadn't just admitted to being socially and sexually incompetent.

"Do you like her?" John asked, mashing some peas with the back of his fork and then smooshing them on top of his mashed potato.

"What?" said Rodney, tentatively pulling his own tray closer. Maybe he could eat something after all. "I guess. I don't really know her very well." He mashed some of his own peas and potato together, imitating the combination John had invented and was now busily scarfing down faster than Rodney had ever seen him eat anything before. Rodney tried a bite. Huh. Not bad. He glanced over at Dr Brown as he swallowed. "She's kind of pretty."

"Yeah, I noticed that," John said, casting his own sidelong glance at her, and then he shrugged and changed the subject.

Much to Rodney's relief they spent the rest of the meal debating the merits, or lack thereof, of time travel in as many movies as they could think of. It put him in such a good mood to definitively prove that Back to the Future was stupider than Time After Time that he even forgot to be nervous for close to half-an-hour after leaving the mess.

All it took, however, was one overly-sarcastic remark from Kavanagh, and all Rodney's good mood was gone, the next night's date once more looming in his thoughts and making his hands sweat with the anticipation of his upcoming humiliation.

Hours later, as Rodney trudged back to his quarters in the dead of night, an arm appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the collar of his shirt, and pulled him into one of the small meeting rooms.

He opened his mouth to scream, but a hand clamped over it, and he found himself staring at John's intent face.

"Do you trust me?" John murmured. Then he slowly peeled his hand away from Rodney's mouth.

"Jesus," said Rodney. "You scared me half to death! What the hell are you doing here?"

"A covert op," said John. "If you want in?"

Rodney thought for a moment: back to his room where he'd spend what was left of the night tossing and turning and quite possibly throwing up... or, hanging out doing something dubious with John. Well, that was a no-brainer. "I'm in," he whispered.

"Go and sit down." John waved at a pair of chairs facing each other in the middle of the room.

"What am I? A dog?" Rodney grumbled as he sat down. "And you still haven't told me--"

"It's a visualization exercise," said John, taking the other chair. "Close your eyes."

Rodney stared at him for a moment, but John just stared back, his expression giving nothing away. With a huffy sigh, Rodney closed his eyes.

"Okay," said John, "So you've managed to get through dinner without any major casualties, and you're standing at the doorway of Brown's quarters wondering whether to kiss her goodnight. What you need to keep in mind for this to work smoothly is that sex is just like science. You should base your decisions on the evidence... Is there a problem?"

Rodney's eyes had popped open at the word 'sex'. "Wait, wait, wait!"

John raised an inquiring eyebrow.

"You're... what? Giving me some kind of bizarre sex ed?" Rodney stood up and started pacing. "I can't believe this! I'm thirty-eight years old. I do know how sex works, thank you very much, Colonel, so you can just take your condescending..." Rodney waved both hands, groping for a truly scathing insult.

"I taught you how to shoot," John said, draped bonelessly across his chair. "How to fly the puddle jumper. Basic self-defence. This is just another thing, Rodney. It's only a big deal if you make it one."

Rodney gaped at him. "You're seriously comparing teaching me to shoot with prying into my sex life?"

John smirked at him. "Do you have a sex life for me to pry into?"

The furious words died on Rodney's tongue at that palpable hit, and for a long moment a battle raged within his soul: pride duking it out with libido. It was a pretty even match, until Rodney was struck by the sudden blinding realization that John had women throwing themselves at him all the time. When it came to sex, all the available evidence suggested that John was one of the foremost experts in the Pegasus galaxy! At that point, Rodney's thirst for knowledge teamed up with his libido and the war was won, pride ending up stuffed into a small dark corner.

Rodney collapsed back into the chair. "If you're pulling some kind of crass practical joke, I swear to God, I will make your life a living hell until the end of time."

"What am I going to do?" John asked. "Tell the marines that I walked you through a sexual visualization exercise?"

The mental image that evoked begged the question, and it came out sounding way more uncertain than Rodney had intended: "So why are you doing this? I mean, if there's any potential risk--"

"There's no risk," John said, "although I'd rather it stayed between us."

"I'll never tell," Rodney agreed fervently, visions of angry marines dancing through his head. "But--"

"Because you're my friend, McKay!" John said. "Alright? And because life's too short to hold a fucking grudge indefinitely. Especially," he made a gesture at the ceiling, conjuring the threat of future hive ships. "And because I can. So shut up and close you eyes already, before I change my mind."

Rodney swallowed hard before saying, "Okay." He closed his eyes tight. "I trust you."

"Good," said John. "I trust you too."

And then he proceeded to blow Rodney's mind, laying out the cues of sexual response like the elegant, logical construction plans for some kind of super-explosive atomic weapon.

The next night dinner went off with a smoothness that had Rodney wondering if he was experiencing some kind of virtual hallucination. He was still nervous, but not to the point of breaking crockery or unintentionally insulting Katie, and he even managed to limit the number of info dumps he babbled out, interspersing them with a few questions about botany.

Then, as they walked towards the door, it was just like magic, like the best kind of pornographic fantasy--everything so smooth and good and right. Katie was leaning towards him, one hand on his arm, just like John had said to look for, and when he kissed her, gently at first, she slid her tongue against his bottom lip, and God, it was all so easy it was hard to believe it hadn't always been like this.

So easy, as she pulled him away from the door and towards the bed. Easy, as he touched her, brushing a hand over her waist, along her thigh, cupping her breasts. So fucking easy to check her response against the list inside his head. Easy to make her sigh when he took her nipple between his teeth. Easy to make her grind down onto him, taking her own pleasure from his body. Easy, once she'd shuddered around him, to fall headlong into orgasm, his voice hoarse in his own ears as he called out in pleasure.

And then suddenly not easy at all.

"God! Why didn't you tell me you were gay?" she demanded, fiercely swiping at a tear with the heel of her palm. "I can't believe you were thinking of him while we were..."

And there was really no easy answer to that, so Rodney just tried to get back into his clothes as fast as he could.

"I'm such an idiot! I should have realised," she said, wrapping the sheet around herself like an embarrassed mummy. "The way you look at him! I should have--"

"You can't say anything!" Rodney said, panicked, thinking of all those potentially angry marines. "He's not, John's not..." and there was no easy way to end that sentence either.

"Oh," said Katie, looking at him with something suspiciously like sympathy. Really, really hurt and angry sympathy. "So you and he aren't?" and she made a hand gesture that Rodney couldn't make himself look at.

"No! No!" said Rodney, chest so tight it felt like he could barely breathe. "God, I'm sorry. You were right. I shouldn't have come here. I'm so sorry."

And then he fled.

Rodney was a smart man, and through the use of guile and cunning he managed to stay out of John's path for nearly a week, before John took matters into his own hands and hunted Rodney down.

One minute, Rodney was peacefully--well, more like tumultuously, if you took into account the acid swirl filling his stomach, and the emotional swirl filling the rest of him--but in any case, Rodney was alone, fixing a far-flung power conduit. And the next minute, a lazy drawl announced that it was time for a coffee break.

John took advantage of Rodney's frozen surprise to thrust a cup into his hand.

"Thank you," said Rodney, trying very self-consciously not to look at John.

"I take it from the way Dr Brown is walking around in the midst of a gaggle of women, not to mention your disappearing act, that our cunning plan didn't work."

All the words Rodney could think of felt unsafe to say, so he took a sip of coffee instead of answering. It was really good coffee. Just the way he liked it. So he took another sip.

John sighed. "Sorry. I didn't mean to make things worse."

The coffee was so damn good, and John had brought it to him as a peace offering, and all Rodney could think about was Katie marching into the marine barracks and announcing John's gayness, and it was twisting Rodney into knots of guilt with every sip he took.

"Rodney," John said, "I know I'm probably your least favourite person right now, but if there's anything I can--"

"I said your name," Rodney blurted out. "And believe me, you have no idea how much I don't want to be telling you that, but I'm not sure if Katie's going to blab, and it was just because I was thinking about that fucking checklist you gave me, and it doesn't mean anything, but I couldn't tell her that, and she thought... she thought... oh God! You're going to be court martialled, aren't you? If the marines ever find out? And I totally blame you! This is all your fault! Who ever heard of sexual visualization exercises anyway? It's the dumbest idea in the histor--"

John pressed his hand to Rodney's mouth. "Back up a few million words, Romeo. What do you mean, you said my name?" Then he peeled his hand away slowly, as though making sure the verbal diarrhea had stopped.

Rodney licked his lips. They tasted salty. "What the hell do you think I mean?" he snapped.

"You said my name during sex," John said, with the same narrow-eyed look he'd worn while smooshing his peas into his potatoes the day Katie had asked Rodney to dinner, "but it didn't mean anything. Why does that sound so implausible, I wonder?"

"Oh fine!" Rodney said. "Fine! It can mean whatever you like." He waved his hands wildly. "It can mean rain on Tuesday, or that we should buy a fucking lottery ticket, or, hey, how about--"

John leaned forward and kissed Rodney, his mouth hot and slick and dirty, demanding Rodney open up and let him in straight off, no polite may I? about it, and Rodney didn't once think of the sexual-response checklist as he threw his coffee cup aside, clamped both hands in John's hair, pulled him in closer, and kissed him back.

"What was I saying?" Rodney asked, a long time later, as they rested against the wall, panting and casually groping each other. "I was just saying something."

"My name," said John. "I want to hear you say my name."

And then he blew more than Rodney's mind, with an entirely practical demonstration of the sexual-response checklist, successfully making Rodney's entire vocabulary shrink to just one word in the process.