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by astolat

Aside from one unwanted Wraith virus, the Daedalus cargo also included: a hundred and seventeen new people, two hundred crates of medical supplies, fifteen metric tons of MREs, four more naquada generators, five hundred new laptops, ten new computer projectors, and ninety-five small but powerful speakers, intended as replacements for the mostly blown-out citywide intercom system.

The Daedalus docked at Atlantis on a Saturday morning, or close enough. The mess had been cleaned up, everyone had caught their breath and realized they were still alive, and there were a lot of new people to meet on both sides. Clearly, it was time for a party. The systems people hooked an iPod up to the new speakers and put visualizations on the projectors, the ops crew put together some snacks, the pilots flew in the Athosians along with a bunch of barrels of their very best home-brewed.

Everyone had a drink or maybe two, and pretty soon it turned into a dance party: the kind of dance party that was the stuff of which blackmail and sitcoms and bar mitzvahs were made, the kind of dance party that featured a conga line and an Electric Slide, and a disproportionate number of rhythmless geeks flailing around enthusiastically.

Rodney was not part of the action; he'd gone straight from the control room to the power chamber and stayed there, practically making love to the ZPM and begging it to forgive him for ever leaving it alone.

John went and dragged him out about halfway through the night; but though lectures on team morale and physical force went a long way, Rodney still dug in his heels at the edge of the dance floor. "Come on, Rodney, no one cares how bad you are. Get out there and show some team spirit," John said.

"I don't do pop," Rodney said, scowling, and planted himself firmly at a table. "Also house, techno, hip-hop, or anything else that requires me to suspend all musical taste and judgement. No."

"Come on, you were in school a million years, you must have hit a frat party at some point," John said. The situation was urgent. In a moment of weakness induced by one too many kamikazis, he'd let the cute new operations manager drag him out on the floor for the Electric Slide. He was going to need some serious counter-material to make Rodney take the inevitable video off the Atlantis servers tomorrow morning. "You never got a little drunk, danced your ass off?"

Rodney sniffed. "I had better things to do on Saturday nights than kill off large quantities of my highly valuable brain cells, Colonel."

"Yeah?" John said. "Like what?"

Rodney looked vaguely embarrassed and actually shut up, which was pretty much like putting up a flashing neon sign saying there was something interesting here. John regretfully gave up on the operations manager -- clearly a bad influence anyway -- commandeered a tray of drinks, a bowl of the salted puffy bread-things, and settled in to lay siege.

Rodney eyed him warily. "Why don't you go dance some more?" he said, but his hand crept towards the bowl almost unconsciously.

"I feel like taking a break," John said, stretching his legs out across a couple of chairs. He nudged a drink over as Rodney started munching. "No frat parties, huh? So what was it, the local bar scene?"

"I realize this is a difficult concept, but some of us actually did work in college," Rodney said, before launching into a rambling description of his single-handed triumph over the entire rest of the MIT pranks club, involving balloons filled with Jell-O, fireworks, and the entire Boston University cheerleading squad, which got him through three drinks, and eventually led to the unguarded moment where he confessed the ballroom dance lessons.

"Huh, interesting," John said, and casually ambled off to have a word with Zelenka, and then with the DJ, who fortunately was a new Marine eager to make a good impression on his CO. He detoured on the way back to grab a slightly bewildered Elizabeth, and hauled Rodney up off his chair and shoved them together towards the floor as the tango music started. He looked across the room at Zelenka, who gave him a thumbs-up and circled over, sharklike, with the video camera held ready.

Teyla joined them at the table a little later. Zelenka had put down the camera, and they were morosely eating the rest of the bread-things. "This is a very interesting dance," she said. "It seems much more... focused, than the others."

"Mhm," John muttered. Zelenka picked up Rodney's unfinished drink and started in on it, melted ice and all.

Teyla watched some more. "I wonder if Dr. McKay would teach me," she said.

Zelenka's head came up. "You should ask him," he said urgently. "I am certain he would enjoy it."

"Oh, sure," Rodney said, dropping a panting and slightly wobbly Elizabeth into a chair. "It's not that hard."

Zelenka ran to get Elizabeth a drink while John folded his arms over his chest and stewed. It made some sense in retrospect, he guessed. Ballroom dance was all about steps, patterns; it was something you could study, and Rodney wasn't actually that much of a geek, physically speaking. He'd picked up shooting pretty quick, anyway.

"Great," he heard Rodney say, as they went swooping by again. "You're kind of a natural at this, actually. Ready to pick it up a little?"

"By all means," Teyla said, and Rodney yelled over his shoulder, "Okay, put the other one on now," to the DJ. "Just move with me, I'll give you the cues," he added to Teyla.

No kidding he was giving her the cues, John thought. Teyla really was a natural, and Rodney was starting to pull out all the stops, stuff he hadn't tried with Elizabeth: spinning her around and around, doing weird things like bending her almost to the floor and back up, pulling her close with just one hand, in the small of her back; their hips so close together you couldn't see daylight in between.

They came off the floor to applause; John pasted on a smile, ready to grudgingly admit defeat, and then Teyla snatched up a glass of water, gulped the whole thing without stopping for breath, put it down, grabbed Rodney's arm, smiled at them all, said "Goodnight," and dragged Rodney, who managed to look simultaneously shocked, elated, and utterly terrified, out of the room behind her.

John stared after them with his mouth open, gaping, what the hell?

The next morning Rodney came running into the otherwise subdued first senior staff meeting twenty minutes late. Before anyone could even yell at him, he erased the careful agenda Elizabeth had drawn up on the whiteboard and started scribbling equations. Despite being mostly hungover and a little slow, people probably would have gotten to the yelling a second later, but halfway through the third line Zelenka started jumping up and down, and then burst into tears, which shocked everyone else into gawking silence, and then the two of them both went running right back out of the room.

Half an hour later Elizabeth finally managed to corral another member of the science team long enough to get a translation: Rodney had just had a breakthrough on one of the five major unsolved problems they were pretty sure were standing between them and a grand unified theory of everything.

"In other words," Dr. Novak said, seeing the lack of wild excitement on their faces, "what we need to understand to make our own ZPMs. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to run this by Hermiod -- the Asgard won't tell us the answers, but I'm pretty sure I can tell from his reaction if we're on the wrong track."

"What, he'll narrow his eyes a little extra?" John muttered, and she gave him a glare before sweeping out of the conference room again.

Elizabeth gave up on getting any of the scientists into a meeting anytime soon, and sent everyone else to lunch. John poked unenthusiastically at his beef enchilada MRE and watched Teyla eat through four servings of the Athosian chicken stew, half a loaf of fresh bread, and three glasses of milk. Then she went back for seconds on the pie. It was disgusting.

"Carbing up for a big workout?" John said, bitterly.

"No, I have no plan to exercise today. In fact," Teyla said, covering a yawn, "I think I will go and take a nap. Good afternoon, Colonel."

Even the Colonel wasn't enough to make him feel better. It wasn't that he begrudged Rodney getting some, although seriously, something was wrong with the universe when the most obnoxious geek on base was getting more than he was even with his shiny new title, and what was up with Teyla, anyway; she'd stopped flirting with him about thirty seconds after she'd gotten to know him, and here she was dragging Rodney off for hours -- minutes, he corrected himself snidely, and then cursed when his brain delivered the image of Teyla eating like a linebacker and corrected him right back to hours -- of horizontal ballroom dance.

Then it occurred to him that given that the night's main event had apparently gone okay, Teyla would probably be up for another go-around on the dance floor, and that made him get up and dump the rest of his half-eaten tray and go to the gym to beat up on the punching-bag for a while.

John started to relax after a few weeks: he was pretty sure he'd be able to tell if Rodney and Teyla were sleeping together, and the looks Rodney occasionally snuck in Teyla's direction weren't so much I can't believe I am regularly having sex with this incredible woman as they were did I really have sex with that incredible woman or was it all a drunken hallucination. John could live with that. He'd just been worried about the team dynamic.

Major Fallon's team came back from M7X-G79 with samples of an odd plant that sat quietly in the corner of a botany lab for a month until they gave up poking at it, and then abruptly one morning after it had gotten back-benched, it quivered, sprouted tiny little waving limbs, and started growing at an exponential rate. By the time anyone noticed, it was already looking like something out of Jack and the Magic Beanstalk, and it was starting to grow into the city's computer systems. The stargate and the jumper bay both wouldn't open, doors all over the city locked people in, radios went on the fritz, lights went out, the temperature started dropping to freezing, and then it started opening the buoyancy chambers to the sea.

John was pretty much the only one who could get through the city: Atlantis still tried to obey him, and he felt almost a nudging at the base of his skull, a gut-level sense of where to go, which hallways he could fight his way through, which doorways could be pried open, which transporters would still function. Elizabeth and Caldwell were stuck inside her office, at least safe for the moment, but Rodney had gone out towards the west pier with a Marine escort to check out one of the shield-generation stations, and John hadn't been able to raise him on the radio. He managed to get to Zelenka and Kavanagh, who'd been in one of the main labs, and get them to the lab where the damn thing was still growing.

About fifteen minutes before the water pressure was about to breach the anchoring stations and sink the city in one last extremely unpleasant fell swoop, Rodney's voice broke in over the radio for about ten seconds, yelling, "Fluorescents!" over and over, with a panicky edge to his voice, and Zelenka and Kavanagh stared at each other and started running around frantically shutting down all the secondary power sources. The newly-installed backup lights from Earth all went out, leaving them completely in the dark, and the beanstalk made a loud complaining noise.

"All the rest," Zelenka panted, blindly herding John towards the door. "We must turn off all the rest of the naquada generators -- "

Thankfully the beanstalk slowed down as they turned off more and more of the lights, buying them extra time; and by the time they got to the last generator, out towards the west pier, they met Rodney in the room, already turning it off. "Are the others all -- oh, thank God," Rodney said, sagging down to the floor, and added, "Took you long enough!" He looked harried, and also weirdly mussed: shirt unzipped far down his chest, fly hanging halfway open, hair plastered sweatily to his forehead, and then John noticed that his escort, Master Sergeant Lynda (stupid spelling) Taffe (pronounced like "Taffy," also stupid), was looking kind of disheveled too, and had a weird, vaguely appalled expression on her face.

John made them start taking out remnants of the dead plant as they headed back, dragging giant chunks of already-deflating vines out of the air ducts and circuitry; he hacked and slashed with a lot of venom, and a few hours later, after they'd gotten Elizabeth and Caldwell out of the office and set the city mostly back on its feet, he dragged Rodney aside and hissed, "I don't fucking believe you!"

"We thought we were going to die!" Rodney said defensively. "And anyway, I can date one of the Marines if I want to!" which was probably true, but didn't stop John from planning out the conversation he was going to have with Taffe about appropriate behavior in crisis situations. He finally tracked her down in the hallway outside the mess, and stopped: Rodney was with her, awkwardly asking if she wanted to grab some dinner.

"No!" she said. "And if you ever tell anyone -- "

John decided to let it slide. Anyone could make a mistake once, and she hadn't been in Atlantis that long.

A couple months later, the long range sensors started yelling and flashing lights: the Wraith had sent out a cruiser to do a fly-by of the planet. "They must be looking to try and salvage anything left of the city now that the radiation has died down," Rodney said in the hurriedly convened staff meeting. "We're screwed."

"The cloak is still working, isn't it?" Caldwell said.

"But if they actually come down here and poke around -- " John said.

"I repeat, we're screwed!" Rodney said.

The process of evacuating and prepping the self-destruct was starting to feel uncomfortably familiar, though at least this time John was glad they'd be sending personnel back home to Earth instead of to some random alpha site to be picked off by the Wraith later on. Rodney and his staff had all disappeared into the labs, but so far nothing had come out; there was still a chance the Wraith would just do a fly-by, but John wasn't betting on it. They weren't stupid -- when they didn't find anything left over at all, they'd get suspicious, and they'd come down.

The cruiser was about six hours out, and John was holding a strategy meeting with Elizabeth and Caldwell about the military response once the Wraith resumed their attack, when Rodney and Zelenka burst in, out of breath, sweaty and glowing, and Rodney announced, "Everyone relax, we have saved the day, as usual."

"The day is not yet saved!" Zelenka said. "The modification of the cloaking engine may still not work -- "

"Don't be such a pessimist," Rodney said, waving a hand airily.

"Why don't the two of you fill the rest of us in," Elizabeth suggested, and Rodney launched into a complicated explanation, punctuated occasionally by his digressions into how incredibly cool the cloaking technology was, and how brilliant he was for having suddenly figured out the adjustments that would let them project and not just conceal.

"And then we just project a lot of tiny bits of radioactive debris floating on the surface of the water," Rodney concluded triumphantly. "The Wraith check their sensors: nothing left but pieces too small to use, too hot to handle safely, and they give up and go home."

"We should also throw some garbage down to the ocean floor," Zelenka added. "Larger or heavier pieces, exposed to high levels of radiation."

"Yes, good thought," Rodney agreed benevolently, sitting down and heaving a long self-satisfied sigh, folding his hands over his stomach, and just generally looking even more pleased with himself than usual. John eyed him with dawning suspicion: was that a hickey? He stared across the room at Zelenka, who had sat down and was surreptitiously trying to pat down his hair, which was wildly disheveled.

"You slept with him!" John hissed to Rodney, under his breath, furiously.

Rodney twitched and looked simultaneously smug and embarrassed. "What does that have to do with anything?" he hissed back.

"So what's the excuse this time?" John demanded. "You thought you were going to die again?"

"I wasn't aware I needed an excuse!" Rodney snapped. "Also, what the hell business is it of yours?"

"He reports to you!" John said.

"Oh, please," Rodney said, dismissing fraternization and sexual harassment and a thousand deadly lawsuits with a single disdainful handwave.

"And anyway, what about him and -- " John turned to send a meaningful look in Elizabeth's direction and discovered her and Caldwell and Zelenka all staring back at them.

"If you gentlemen are finished?" Elizabeth said dryly. "We have five and a half hours until they get here. Let's have this working by then."

Rodney and Zelenka headed back to the lab, and John followed as soon as he was free to keep an eye on things. At least at this point they were just working -- everyone was, practically the whole science team running from one side of the lab to the other, and the combined air of victory and sudden frantic hurry was a relief to watch after the long week when everyone had been mostly sitting around staring at computers and looking hopeless.

It all worked, and after the Wraith had been and gone and Rodney had vanished into his quarters to catch up on sleep, John caught Zelenka sitting alone in the mess poking at a tray. "I've got to tell you, I'm kind of surprised," John said, determinedly casual, sitting down at his table.

"I am sorry; what?" Zelenka looked up. There were dark hollows under his eyes: he probably hadn't had that much more sleep than Rodney the last few days.

"I just thought you and..." John said, and shrugged noncommittally, eating a forkful of the greens.

"Yes, that is so very likely," Zelenka said morosely.

"Why don't you just ask her?" John said.

"I am her subordinate!"

"You're Rodney's subordinate too," John pointed out.

"Yes, but Rodney is insensitive jerk," Zelenka said. "He does not care about what other people will think of me or him."

Clearly Zelenka needed some help. John called in a bunch of favors and did a bunch more wheedling and got Zelenka's schedule synchronized with Elizabeth's. He set up a bunch of minor science-department snafus for their night shifts -- nothing technical enough to be worth waking Rodney up for, but requiring Elizabeth's input, and then he mentioned on the side to Elizabeth that Radek probably didn't get appreciated as much as he deserved, just by virtue of working next to Rodney, who won the squeakiest wheel contest hands-down; soon she and Radek were having coffee after their evening shifts.

John stopped by the lab a couple of weeks later and found Rodney sitting alone and looking kind of depressed, just staring at his laptop, not even poking at the array of interesting alien technology lying around. John felt a horrible sickening twist of guilt in his belly. "Hey," he said awkwardly, wondering what the hell to do.

"Oh, it's the Atlantis yenta," Rodney said, rolling his eyes without even looking up. "Thanks a lot, by the way. Do you know how much this sucks?"

"I didn't know you -- " John said, swallowing. "You could -- I don't know, tell him-- "

"What, that I care?" Rodney sneered. "Don't be an idiot. Radek's had a pathetic thing for Elizabeth for a year, I'm not going to get in his way now he's actually pulled it off. No, I'm just going to content myself with the awareness that you're a jerk. I've got work to do, by the way."

"Right," John said, and slunk out with his tail between his legs.

John managed to appease Rodney by saving his dessert ration cards for a couple of weeks and delivering them all at once. "You're still a jerk," Rodney said, stickily, around a mouthful of ice cream and caramel and peanuts, but he let John hang out in the lab again and went back to sitting with him at lunch. He did look a little wistfully across the room once at Radek and Elizabeth sitting together at a table for two overlooking the ocean view. "I liked having sex regularly," he said mopily.

"Okay, that's way more information than I wanted, thanks," John said hurriedly.

They'd slowed down the pace of offworld missions, trying to stay under the radar of the Wraith and the Genii both. Things were mostly smooth and quiet, and John almost started getting a little bored. Then, while exploring the abandoned outpost on M15-SS1, he and Rodney fell through a hidden panel in the floor. They got dumped into an underground cell with no windows, no doors, and a bomb counting down loudly in a language they didn't know.

"This isn't an Ancient design!" Rodney yelled over the cheerful ticking. "I don't even understand the basic principles -- if I start mucking around, I'll probably set it off quicker."

"Come on, Rodney, I've seen you pull off stuff way harder than this!" John yelled back. "You can do this, just -- just -- " and then he grabbed Rodney's belt and started yanking at his pants.

"What -- wait -- what are you doing?" Rodney said, voice going high and squeaky as John went down to his knees and made the answer unnecessary.

John had never sucked cock before, he'd never so much as kissed a guy, but adrenaline went a long way, and Rodney was already partly hard by the time John actually got it in his mouth. "Oh my God," Rodney said, and came.

"There," John said, standing up fast and wiping his mouth, swallowing a few times. "Now come on!"

"You've lost your mind," Rodney said, sliding into a little heap at the bottom of the wall.

"You always pull off miracles after you get laid, and this would be a really good time for one!" John said. "Hurry up, we don't have time for you to have afterglow."

"What?" Rodney said, struggling up to his feet and stuffing his dick back into his pants. "I don't believe you! You just blew me to make me think better, and you thought that was actually going to work?"

"Rodney!" John yelled. "Bomb!"

"Sex doesn't change the basic fact that this electronic system is organized on a totally different -- oh, hey," Rodney said, and dived at the bomb.

All the long walk back to the jumper, carrying the disabled bomb, Rodney kept eyeing John nervously. John ignored him as hard as he could, feeling kind of like a time bomb himself, his heart still pounding and the sour-salt taste thick in his mouth.

But Rodney didn't put anything incriminating in his mission report, other than being less boastful than usual about his last-minute brilliance, and he didn't do anything afterwards like corner John and demand an explanation. At least, not until two weeks later, after they got trapped in Atlantis's version of a trash compactor and John pushed him up against the slowly creeping wall and covered his mouth to muffle the half-hearted protests, jacking him fast and hard until Rodney came all over his hand and then figured out the code sequence to halt the process and open the lock on the door.

"I was going to get that!" Rodney said resentfully, shoving himself back in his pants as they climbed out the door. "Everything was under control!"

"But this way we cut down on the last-minute suspense," John said; he was trying hard to ignore the way the adrenaline had his own dick pushing against the button-fly of his trousers.

"I am not your personal wind-up genius!" Rodney said. "Keep your hands to yourself!" He stomped off, as well as he could while leaving squelchy puddles of garbage ooze behind him.

M10-R86 had a ruined factory complex with a mysterious room that zapped them into an even more mysterious room at the top of a tower. The windows were pretty much only big enough for them to stick a hand out, Ronon and Teyla didn't answer over the radio, and when Rodney poked out the camera, the video feed showed nothing but sheer glass walls going down, down, down. The shiny purple orb in the middle of the floor was dull and inert.

"Don't even think about it!" Rodney said.

John shrugged and leaned against the wall to watch Rodney work on the orb. After a few minutes of nothing happening, he peeled himself a powerbar to munch on. Rodney got increasingly panicky over his attempts, darting glances sideways and up at John every few minutes; John folded himself down to stretch out on the floor, humming a little something under his breath.

"Almost done," Rodney said.

"Really, I'm close."

"This is -- it's just, it's a little -- uh, time-consuming."

On a rising note, "Oh, oh, is that it, you stupid piece of -- " and abruptly cut off. "It's coming along fine! Just a little longer."

"Uh huh," John said, yawning, and stood up to take off his jacket.

Rodney leaped up like he'd been shocked, and backed into a corner, leaving his tools scattered all around the tangle of wires and circuitry.

John just lifted his eyebrows, folded up the jacket, and lay down again, tucking it under his head for some padding.

After a minute or two, Rodney edged back towards the orb, warily.

A couple of hours went by. Rodney had relaxed; he was muttering and clanking quietly to himself. Still no answer on the radio. John checked his watch. "You remember what's scheduled for dinner tonight?"

"Meatloaf, mashed parapas, mushroom gravy, chocolate pudding," Rodney said, absently; then, "Oh, that is not fair!"

"Just wondering," John said.

Rodney threw his screwdriver across the room and stood up. "Okay, fine! Fine!" he yelled, red-faced.

"What?" John said, innocently. This was getting to be kind of fun.

"Shut up," Rodney said, already jerking his pants open.

Rodney followed John all the way back to his quarters from the post-mission briefing, so close on his heels there was no chance to get the door to shut between them. "All right," he said, blustering, "this has got to stop."

John dumped his gear and sat down on the bed to heel off his boots. "We're home, we're healthy, we're not starving to death at the top of the Empire State Building. What's the problem?"

"You're molesting me in crisis situations and you're asking me what the problem is? Also, stop taking your clothes off!"

"I want a shower before dinner." John tossed his shirt onto the laundry pile. "And you're the one who didn't want to miss the meatloaf."

"I was placed under unfair pressure!" Rodney said. "How was I supposed to concentrate with you -- with you -- "

"Sitting quietly in the corner?" John said, blandly, and tried not to grin at Rodney's spluttering. "You need to stop overthinking this."

Rodney stopped with hands in mid-air and mouth open. "At least there's some thinking going on!" he yelled; it was more like a scream, actually, complete with spittle. John winced.

"It's not that big a deal." He shucked his pants and boxers, grimacing as he pulled the cotton away from his skin, and threw them on the pile too.

Rodney's "Excuse me?" trailed up and away into a squeak.

"Come on, Rodney. Sex or death? It's kind of a no-brainer," John said over his shoulder, heading into the bathroom.

He came out again ten minutes later, toweling off his hair. Rodney was still standing in the same place. "So?" John said, getting out fresh clothes.

"So -- so -- so, what is the idea?" Rodney said. "I, you, we just," he waved his hands around vaguely, "every time there's a disaster scenario?"

John rolled his eyes. "Hey, if you'd rather be dead than get a ten-minute blowjob -- "

"All right! All right, if you put it that way, it might make a certain depraved kind of logical sense," Rodney said, grumpily.

It worked pretty well. Teyla and Ronon got trapped in an underground labyrinth on M3X-T3X; John jerked Rodney off in the back of the puddlejumper, and Rodney figured out how to reprogram one of the drones to drill a column straight down to them.

M3G-TRN was a little more complicated; they were running and hiding for almost a week from the crazy automatic drones while Rodney tried to figure out a way to hack into the heavily encrypted computer system that still controlled them. It took a couple of blowjobs, snatched hastily in dark alcoves, to get into the network at all; but when the third one didn't quite get Rodney through the final layers of protection, John had to follow it up with some desperate measures.

"Oh, god," Rodney moaned, scrabbling at the wall. He sounded drugged. "God, yes, right there -- so close -- "

"Yeah," John said, panting, his hips working. "Yeah, there we go, come on, Rodney -- come on -- "

They were back in Atlantis the next morning.

Then there was the problem with the naquada-reactor engines on the Daedalus, which started spiraling helplessly down from orbit straight for a crash-landing on the mainland; Rodney hadn't even finished coming before he was on the radio to Novak and Hermiod, yelling about the flux capacitor or whatever the hell it was. John wasn't paying much attention, because he was too busy getting a hand into his pants, breaking his own rule: there was something about Rodney technobabbling a mile a minute overhead while his dick was still spurting in John's mouth that just -- anyway, Rodney didn't notice him doing it, so it didn't really count.

There wasn't exactly any technology for Rodney to figure out in their jail cell on MR3-YVM, but it made him stop panicking and help John come up with the escape plan, which involved macgyvering a pulley out of the bed and (slightly damp) sheets to crank open the portcullis-style door. On M8Y-M03, John had just gotten his fingers slicked up when Rodney sat up and said, "Oh, hey, I've got -- " but he pushed them in fast and Rodney dissolved into a whimper before he could go any further.

Then Rodney tripped and fell over a log on MRG-W33 and was confined to Atlantis by doctor's orders for six weeks with a sprained ankle. He started working on a long-term project that had been back-burnered for a while, some abstract physics thing mostly involving writing equations on whiteboards, with practically zero potential for disastrous or explosive results. When Rodney buzzed him three weeks in, John's day so far had been a combination of getting outrun by Ronon (again), having to do an extra twenty pull-ups because Bates had come into the gym in the middle of his workout (again), and slogging through inventory paperwork (again).

He got to the storage room in double-quick time and barely waited for Rodney to blurt out, "We're on the verge -- major discovery -- " before he was sliding to his knees and taking Rodney's pants with him. He went all the way down, the head of Rodney's dick pressing down the back of his tongue, thick and choking him every time Rodney's hips made their little jerking forward movements.

"You, you know," Rodney said, clenching his fingers into John's hair, "when you think about -- "

"Mmrm," John said, bracing his hands against the wall to either side of Rodney's hips and loosening up his throat, letting Rodney make it in just a little deeper.

"Think, oh, when you think about it," Rodney said, breathless, "it really -- really, it's -- amazingly reliable."

"Mhm," John said; he had his nose buried against Rodney's belly, dumpling-soft and clean and warm for once instead of streaked with sweat and grime, and Rodney's hands were rhythmically stroking back and forth over his scalp.

So John hadn't been listening all that hard at the time and didn't really think about the implications after; not until it was too late. Rodney started coming by more often. First he'd hit a wall in the ZPM recharging project; then it was some issue with the puddlejumper repairs; then there was something off in this physics article he'd gotten from Earth that he couldn't quite put his finger on, and pretty soon he was stopping by mornings on the way to the lab, just to save the trouble of finding downtime later in the day.

"You wouldn't believe the difference in my levels of productivity," Rodney said smugly, buttoning up his pants. "I mean, not that I've ever had anything but a stellar performance review, but this last one -- "

"Yeah," John said, drinking water with his fist clenched where Rodney couldn't see it.

"Coming?" Rodney asked, at the door. "There should still be coffee."

"Nah," John said. "You go on ahead."

And okay, maybe he might have kind of asked for it. He didn't want this to be something it obviously wasn't -- this was about getting things done, he wasn't handing out some kind of favor he wanted returned, so he'd waved Rodney off the handful of times he'd made a stab at it. But fuck this: he wasn't interested in being part of Rodney's morning roadside service, blowjob and coffee on his way to work.

"Look, I'm just not up for it anymore," John said, the next morning; he'd grabbed Rodney's hands and pinned them down to the belt buckle before Rodney could get it open.

"You're not -- " Rodney said blankly.

"It's getting to be a little much," John said. "Every now and again on an offworld mission, that's one thing, but lately -- " He stopped.

Rodney had taken a jerky step back and pulled his hands free. He looked weirdly stricken, white, his mouth open a little; he didn't say anything. John stared at him and felt his own stomach churn up and over, for no good reason. He thought maybe he should say something else, but he was blank and empty when he groped for the words, and before he'd come up with anything, Rodney had turned around and stumbled out the door.

Rodney avoided him after that, for days. Embarrassed, John figured; and it made him feel unexpectedly bad. He'd been kind of abrupt, like Rodney had pissed him off, when it was his own fault he'd let Rodney take it too far. He waited until late one night, when most of the city was asleep, and tracked Rodney down in the lower levels with a life-signs detector.

"Look, it's not that I'm angry," John said, although that was a white lie; he had been angry, it just hadn't been for any real reason, he'd just -- gotten annoyed. "I didn't mean never, just not for any random little thing -- "

"I don't want you to touch me ever again," Rodney said, jerking away from John's hand.

John rolled his eyes. "Haven't we been over this ground before, the whole sex or -- "

Rodney blurted out, "I'd rather be dead," and his face was red and splotchy as he got up and walked away, fast, to the transporter.

John didn't follow him. He thought maybe he was going to throw up.

He didn't talk to Rodney again for a couple of weeks, except the usual: staff meetings, mission planning, briefings; only the things they couldn't avoid. Rodney called him "Colonel," when he had to speak to John at all, and didn't meet his eyes. It was fine. Rodney would get over it, eventually; they'd forget it had ever happened and go back to -- to being friends. It was fine. John was glad to have it over with, except for how tense things were; his knees had gotten sore, and it was nice not to have that little quiet ache in his jaw or his wrist, every throb reminding him exactly what he'd spent the morning doing. Rodney would just have to pull miracles out of his hat without extra incentives.

But when they got thrown in prison again on M69-R2D, John shoved Rodney up against the wall before the door had even closed, panting, "Let me, let me -- " He didn't really hear the words he was saying; the only thing that mattered was that Rodney didn't stop him. He got his hand down Rodney's pants and Rodney's dick was warm and stiff and leaking, just as hungry and happy to be in his hand as ever, and Rodney didn't say no, didn't push him away. Rodney came in about five pulls, and John frantically got his own pants open and shoved his slick dripping hand down into his boxers, pressed his face into the sweat-damp crook of Rodney's neck and worked himself until he shot all over Rodney's bare thighs and belly, spattering their pants.

He staggered back and sat down hard on the cot, eyes closed, breathing hard. "Any ideas?" he said, trying for casual, and opened his eyes. Rodney was looking down at himself: he hadn't put away his dick, he was sliding his fingers through the mess on his stomach, thoughtful.

"Yes, actually," Rodney said, "but first let's get out of here."

That took a couple of hours, what with hotwiring the electrical system to open the cell door and blow all the lights, and then the part where they ran really fast away from the guards with ray-guns. They met Ronon and Teyla in rescue mode halfway to the jumper, and the guards thought better about continuing the pursuit after Ronon unloaded his own bigger and scarier ray-gun at them. All in all it wasn't one of their worst days, so really, John wasn't that tired when they got back to the city.

He cut out quick at the end of the debriefing, dropped his headset in his room and went on a long run along the piers with a handful of powerbars in his pocket. It turned into a walk more than a run, staggering to a halt every once in a while to rest, let the sun soak into his muscles. He stopped in the secondary systems room on his way back and did a quick check of the security cams, just to see if everything was okay. Patrols where they were supposed to be; jumpers nestled all snug in their berths; mess hall hopping with the lunch crowd; Rodney in his lab, working on one of the guns they'd managed to grab.

He turned the monitor off and limped the rest of the way back to his room, grateful for the hot shower and his clean bed; he tumbled down onto his back, turned off the lights, and was asleep just that fast.

He woke up to the smell of coffee and rain spattering on his windows; it was cloudy-morning dark out, and Rodney was typing naked at his desk, rapid-fire clicking keys outgunning the rain. "There's some for you," Rodney said absently; a second mug was steaming on the crate John used as an end table.

"Look, I've got an early meeting," John said.

"Mm, here's the thing: you're an excellent liar, but I have the admin password," Rodney said, finishing up his typing with a flourish, hitting the return key and swiveling the desk chair around to face John. "Your calendar's empty until three."

"I forgot to put it in," John said; his hands were tight in the sheets.

"Then it can't be that important," Rodney said, and got up and came over, and he sat down on the bed and cupped John's face in his hands and kissed him, mouth still hot from the coffee-cup.

"Rodney -- " John said, but Rodney didn't let him go on, just dived right back in: tender biting kisses, a little sloppy, hitting on the corner of his mouth; Rodney's teeth tugging at his lower lip, Rodney's thumbs rubbing gently back and forth along the line of his jaw. Somewhere along the way he got pushed down against the pillows; Rodney threw a leg over his thighs and kept going, and John couldn't say anything, because whenever Rodney broke off for air he had to struggle just to remember how to breathe.

"I can't believe," Rodney said, apparently better able to multitask, "I can't believe I actually fell for the, the fuck or die line -- I mean, of all the classics," after some more kisses, "speaking of which, the fear of commitment thing -- "

"I'm not -- " John said, with a desperate heaving gulp of air, "I'm not -- "

Rodney rolled his eyes and kissed him again. "Oh yes, and that too." He pushed the covers out of the way and climbed between John's legs, kissing him while he pulled the drawer open, while his fingers -- kissing him the whole time, the whole time. John squeezed his eyes shut and grabbed on to the headboard and held, clench and release, in spasms; it hurt, it hurt, low sweet burn turning his muscles soft and helpless, his body coming open so unexpectedly, legs bent back against his chest, his arms straining to hold on, chest and throat tight, Rodney's weight on him, in him, Rodney gone wordless and still kissing him everywhere he could reach, and John didn't want, couldn't want this; he didn't know how to want it; he wanted it to stop; he wanted -- he wanted --

"Oh," John said. "Oh."

= End =

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