"Didn't you used to be shorter?" Rodney asked, not looking up from his laptop. "Also, longer hair and --" He absently made an underhand grabbing gesture. "-- a much better rack."
"I'll let Teyla know you miss her," John said, tossing his bag in the corner and unhooking his radio from his ear. "Lose the laptop. You're not going to convince me Teyla lets you get away with that."
Rodney rolled his eyes and huffed but shut down the computer and sat it on the window seat by his own bag. "Where is Teyla, anyway?"
"Some sort of thing with the Athosians on the mainland," John said, because he wasn't quite clear on the details. "Elizabeth wanted to do some sort of trade deal in writing and Halling protested because -- you know, I don't even know why. Maybe he thought Elizabeth didn't trust him or something. Anyway, they needed Teyla to grease the wheels a little. So you're stuck with me."
Rodney shrugged a little. "I suppose it will be less humiliating to have my ass kicked by the military commander, but considering Teyla kicks your ass on a regular basis -- " John raised one eyebrow. "Er, what was I saying again?"
"Something about getting your ass kicked," John said dryly. "Do you give Teyla this much lip?"
"No!" Rodney said with as much horror as John could imagine. "She'd kick my ass!"
"Right. Okay, let's get started." John was seriously starting to regret his own order that Rodney be taught some sort of self-defense to eliminate his status as Giant Bullseye in the field. "I'm going to teach you to block grabs. They can't hurt you if they can't get a hand on you."
"I think you're forgetting, or possibly ignoring, the possibility of projectile weapons ranging from sticks and stones to those energy weapons the Genii use." Rodney started to put his hands on his hips, then seemed to change his mind and just let them hover aimlessly in the air as if he didn't know what to do with them.
"Right, well, we'll start with angry villagers, move up to pointy stick people, and when you're really good, I'll teach you to slow down bullets with your mind," John offered. "In the meantime, let's get this show on the road. I hear we're having tava beans for dinner."
"Yes, now there's a reason to hustle along," Rodney agreed with all due sarcasm, but he stepped into the middle of the room and shifted his weight from foot to foot. "Bates couldn't have found a planet willing to trade Big Macs?"
"Bates is one of those guys who lived on egg whites and protein powder back on Earth," John said. "I'm going to show you how to block grabs. I want you to mirror my moves for a while." He counted a beat and then brought his forearm up vertically in a swift, sure move, hand closed.
"Bates is a jerk," Rodney agreed, copying John's arm movement awkwardly. "But everyone misses Big Macs." He moved his arm again, mirroring John almost exactly. "I think I got it. Time for dinner?"
"Nice try," John said, repeating the movement calmly and steadily. "This needs to be second nature. Someone makes a grab, you shouldn't even have to think about this. You know," he added conversationally, "I knew guys who could break someone's arm blocking. It's all in the timing."
"I feel like Daniel LaRusso," Rodney complained. "Wax on, wax off, very nice, yes. Can we move on to something useful or should I start thinking about all the ways the chefs can ruin tava beans?"
"Patience, grasshopper," John said, throwing another empty block and gauging Rodney's attention span.
"That was Kung-Fu, not The Karate Kid," Rodney panted and John decided that he was sufficiently distracted.
He made a quick snatch for Rodney's collar, counting on Rodney to be too wound up in old media and preoccupied with his arm movements to duck the attack. As he'd planned, Rodney snapped his arm up and knocked John's swing away.
"Hey!" Rodney said, eyes lighting up. "Did you see that?"
"Yes, I did," John said, flexing his fingers. Rodney was a little more solid than John had thought and tingles ran down his forearm.
"I was totally awesome," Rodney enthused.
John rolled his eyes. "Congratulations, David Carradine. Now, let's talk about what you do when you've deflected the grab and pissed off your attacker."
"Wait, you just taught me something that is going to piss people off?" Rodney asked, but he cooperated when John taught him the followup grab and how to decide whether to use a palm strike or an elbow strike.
It didn't take long to realize that Rodney was hopeless and John would be bargaining for his safe return for maybe the rest of their natural lives. On the plus side, if Rodney kept this up, their natural lives were going to be pretty short.
"All right," John said, catching a palm strike that should have been an elbow strike before he got all his teeth knocked out. He dug his thumb into the soft spot on the inside of Rodney's wrist and levered his arm down and out of range. "Let's try something else before you do me permanent damage," he suggested dryly. He shifted his weight from foot to foot and considered Rodney as he tried to think up something. He didn't want to frustrate Rodney completely and besides, the more inept Rodney was at a maneuver, the more John was at risk from flailing limbs. It was hard to believe this was the same guy who had figured out blowjobs in under an hour and could reduce John to an exhausted mess in half that time -- but, John amended, that didn't count.
Maybe, though, that was the trick. Rodney reacted to certain death, as he put it, a certain way, and while that eventually meant 'pulling a brilliant solution out of his ass' most of time, there was also a fair amount of panic and distress along the way. John didn't have any way to replicate certain death in the east pier gym, but he could make it not count.
"I'm wearing you down, aren't I?" Rodney asked smugly. "You're beginning to see the futility of this exercise."
John rolled his eyes and rolled his neck, getting the cricks out. "Okay, let's do something fun," he said instead.
Rodney lifted his chin. "Fun as in, dinner, or fun as in, let's beat up the poor scientist who already spends too much of his life being tied up and poked at?"
"Fun as in I'm going to teach you what to do when someone comes at you from behind."
"It's times like this that make your choice of personal item not so baffling," Rodney remarked, and gamely adopted a stance that was probably supposed to look relaxed, yet watchful, and really just looked spastic.
John walked him through the individual steps; how to drop his shoulder and grab the shirt at the shoulder and the waistband, and how to twist and shift his weight one hip to rotate the attacker around his center of gravity.
And then he let Rodney throw him.
"Oof," John said as Rodney sat on his stomach.
"Okay, you were right, that was fun," Rodney said. He shifted his weight off John and made like he was going to stand up. "Now we -- "
John swung his leg up, catching his knee against Rodney's shoulder and knocking him sideways. In seconds, he was on top, his weight divided evenly across Rodney's thighs, hands pinning his biceps to the floor.
"Hello, my back," Rodney said in horror, craning his head up to look at John. "What is it with you that you need to be on top all the time?"
John didn't answer, just leaned forward and caught Rodney's mouth against his own. It opened immediately, obligingly, and John dropped his weight forward for a deep, dirty kiss, a slow trace through Rodney's mouth. Rodney made a low sound and struggled a little, but John just tightened his hold.
"Kinky," he mumbled as John pulled back. John raised an eyebrow and rolled his hips so Rodney could feel him, already hard, and yeah, Rodney was keeping up with this. John reached down and tugged open Rodney's fly before ripping open his own.
Rodney hooked his free hand around the back of John's neck and dragged him back down for another kiss. John dragged away their pants and pushed together, skin to skin. He decided he liked the feel of Rodney's hand on the back of his neck, so he didn't pin that arm again. Instead, he wrapped his hand around both their dicks and guided them together, hot friction and growing slickness against his palm.
"Did you lock the door?" Rodney asked against his mouth.
"We're all the way out on the east pier," John said, nudging Rodney's chin up with his cheek and rubbing his five o'clock shadow (which had been a five o'clock shadow three hours before and was now an embryonic beard) against the underside of Rodney's jaw as he kissed Rodney's neck.
"Are you crazy?" Rodney yelped. "Anyone could walk in on us!"
John rolled his eyes and stared pointedly at the door. "There, locked," he said.
"Are you sure?" Rodney asked.
John kissed him instead of answering, grinding down and pushing everything right up to the breaking point as he dipped in and out of Rodney's mouth. He came first, embarrassingly enough, shuddering against Rodney's shoulder, but Rodney was pretty polite about it and thrust into his hand for less than a minute before coming with a surprised gasp.
John rolled off to the side and panted at the ceiling for a few minutes before struggling up and going over to the window to dig his towel out of his bag. He blotted himself dry, zipped up, and tossed the towel onto Rodney's stomach. "Almost time for dinner," he said, bracing for the inevitable.
"Oh, excellent," Rodney said, wiping himself off and doing up his pants without getting off the floor. "I've been looking forward to tava beans all day. Tava bean soup, you think? Salad? Or straight up with rice pilaf? I have to admit, though," he added with less sarcasm. "All this 'exercise' -- " and God, yes, he did the air quotes, " -- makes me terribly hungry."
"Exercise, huh?" John asked as his headset beeped.
"Major Sheppard?" Elizabeth's voice came distantly through the headset he'd stuffed in his bag.
He raised his eyebrow at Rodney and fished the little device out.
"Sheppard here," he said.
"Major. We could use you in the control room," Elizabeth said. "It's not an emergency but -- "
"I'll be there as soon as I can," John said. "I'm out on the east pier."
"Thank you," Elizabeth said and clicked off.
"So that's the party line?" John asked, fixing the radio back in his ear. "It didn't count because it was exercise?"
"Unless you have something better," Rodney sniffed. Before John could think of an answer, Rodney made a face.
"I should grab a shower on the way, huh?" John asked.
"It was very strenuous exercise," Rodney said.
John stirred and stretched as well as he could with Rodney's arm pinning him to the bed.
"Mmph," Rodney replied, waking halfway up. John was just happy he didn't spring to attention like usual.
"Why didn't we do it this time?" he asked around a yawn, pushing back against Rodney's solid body.
"My toothbrush is here," Rodney said, shoving at him. "The real question is, why is there no room on this bed?"
"It doesn't count because your toothbrush is here?" John asked, thinking that was the lamest excuse ever, and ignoring the elbow Rodney was pushing against his ribs.
"Well, where else was I supposed to sleep?" Rodney demanded.
"Right," John said, deciding not to mention that Rodney had brandished the toothbrush when he walked in the door the night before.
John poked Rodney in the side.
"Yeah," John said, pulling a face at Rodney's prone form, which still hadn't moved as if in accordance with the declaration. "So why doesn't it count this time?"
"Huh?" Rodney opened both eyes and glared up at John.
"The sex," John said, palming the curve of Rodney's ass. He leaned closer, putting his lips next to Rodney's ear. "Why didn't it count?"
"Oh, um." Rodney looked flummoxed and also a bit glazed. "It's your turn to make something up."
"Really?" For some reason he didn't want to examine too closely, this pleased him. "Okay, let's see...."
Rodney rolled his eye and flopped over.
"We had mushrooms from PX4-893 for dinner last night," John decided. "Maybe they were, you know, wacky."
"Wacky?" Rodney lifted his head. "We had them two nights ago. Try again."
Rodney's head hit the pillow with the force of a bowling ball dropped from a great height.
"All right, if that's not good enough," John said, stretching out his legs. "How about you were just overwhelmed by my manly aura and couldn't help yourself?"
"How about your hair poked me in the eye and I blind to what I was doing?" Rodney suggested into the pillow.
John shrugged. "Whatever works for you."
"Hm?" Rodney asked, snuggling in and breathing warm air into John's hair.
"Why didn't it count this time?" John mumbled, feeling Rodney half-hard against his ass.
"Oh. Um." Rodney yawned, too. "We haven't had breakfast yet?"
John considered this. "We still haven't had breakfast yet."
Rodney stirred behind him, definitely interested. "That's a brilliant observation, Major," he said, reaching around and cupping his hand around John's dick.
"I coulda been in MENSA," John said smugly as he rolled Rodney over.
When Rodney showed up at John's door, drawn and hollow-eyed after Gall and Abrams had died down on the horrible desert planet, John moved aside silently and didn't even take advantage of the opportunity to tease him.
Rodney asked after his arm, so John stripped off his shirt to show him that it was bandaged and fine, and then he stripped off Rodney's shirt, and then Rodney's pants and shorts and shoes, and steered him to the bed.
He kissed Rodney, long and slow and deep, and touched him in sweeping, confident strokes. Rodney opened up under him more willingly that he ever would have imagined or wanted to.
When he opened his eyes the next morning, Rodney was awake and staring at the ceiling. John's face hurt like hell from where the Wraith had smacked him and he kept the bruised side turned into the pillow so Rodney couldn't see.
"So, um," Rodney said.
"Yeah," John said, reaching out and pulling him in. "I know."
John and his team returned from M4X-P29 with one wounded (Ford), twelve crates of fruit (might have been kiwi-esque but who knew for sure?), 47 refugees (sent to the mainland), and six Genii spies. Weeding out the spies from the refugees took another twenty hours (four of which John spent taxiing actual refugees to the mainland), three more wounded (all Marines), and a complete shutdown of the base, which had something technical to do with their naquadah generators and resulted in a nearly constant running commentary in his ear until he shouted at Rodney to turn his radio transmitter off.
He walked into his room and collapsed into his bed to find Rodney already hogging the pillow. He raised an eyebrow, but that was the only thing going up that night, so he just crawled in next to Rodney, turned his back, and bid consciousness a less-than-fond adieu.
When he opened his eyes, Rodney was sprawled in his personal space and he just didn't have the energy to be mad anymore. "Hey," he said, pushing at Rodney's arm. "Get on your own side of the bed."
"Huh, what?" Rodney asked, sitting, the hand on John's stomach using him as leverage.
John grunted and shoved Rodney's arm harder. "You stink," he said, and Rodney did. He'd performed half a dozen minor miracles over the course of the emergency and had streaks of coolant, grease and what was possibly naquadah residue on his face and hands. He smelled like dried sweat, fuel, and ozone.
"So do you," Rodney said, making a face. "Didn't you shower before coming to bed?"
"Didn't you?" John retorted.
"I was practically dead on my feet," Rodney said. "Hey! We can use this! It didn't count because we were too tired. Or too stinky. Or -- "
"It didn't count because it didn't happen," John said, rolling his eyes.
"Oh." Rodney considered this. "I suppose you're right."
"Of course I'm right," John said, casting a glance across the room at the door to the bathroom. "So. Since we both stink? Shower? It totally doesn’t count if you drop the soap, you know."
"I'll be sure to forward the memo to prison," Rodney said sarcastically but he was out of bed and into the bathroom before John could even sit up. "Are you coming or not?"
John grinned and kicked the covers aside. "On my way," he said.
"I need to see you," Rodney said, falling back several paces as John followed him and Beckett out of Weir's office.
"Yeah," John said because he knew what that was all about. In fact, he'd been on his way to Rodney's room when Elizabeth had held him back for that earnest and yet completely futile lecture on the chain of command.
Rodney's room was closer and John had his hand on Rodney's shoulder before the door was completely closed. When he heard the click of the panels, he dragged Rodney close, kissing him hard and walking him back toward the bed.
Rodney was making deep, whimpering noises that sounded like they were meant to be words, had John's tongue not been in the way of Rodney's teeth and lips.
John slid his hands up Rodney's stomach, over his chest, around his shoulders, fingers curling around Rodney's arms. Rodney's body was warm, his heart was beating double-time in his chest, and his arms were soft. John knew, could tell from months of comparison, that the layer of fat padding the muscle had been pared down by desperate runs for the gate and the target practice Rodney hadn't actually been shirking. He kissed the corner of Rodney's mouth and line of his jaw and moved down to nuzzle his neck before moving to his collarbone.
Rodney's hands landed on John's arms and slid up under the short sleeves of his t-shirt, and then Rodney stuttered out, "Not that I particularly want you to stop or anything but I think -- I mean, I meant to -- "
John centered a kiss at the top of Rodney's chest and drew back. "What is it?" he asked.
"I just." Rodney pulled a scanner out of his pocket and pointed it at John, adjusting the dials.
"What is that?" John asked, frowning as he stepped back into Rodney's personal space.
"The shielding on the puddlejumper should have protected you from any radiation from the naquadah generator," Rodney explained quickly, "but I've been keeping track of my own personal lifetime radiation exposure and I thought maybe I should start keeping track of yours, too, especially if you're going to be doing things like that. I realize that I've missed some key exposures, I think you mentioned -- "
"Rodney," John interrupted, taking the scanner away and tossing it on the table next to Rodney's bed. "Shut up. Carson checked me. I'm fine." And then he kissed Rodney again because goddamnit, Rodney had almost died, was supposed to have died and there was nothing John could have done in time. He rubbed himself against Rodney's leg, a little too hard, a punishment, and slid his open mouth over Rodney's cheek.
"Bed," Rodney said, pushing at John and deftly unfastening his pants.
John pulled Rodney's shirt over his head and pressed artless kisses over his shoulders and chest before letting Rodney push him onto the bed. He dragged Rodney down with him and rolled them so he was on top again, shucking his own shirt before going to work on Rodney's pants.
Rodney's shoes were in the way so John yanked them off before hauling Rodney's pants down his legs. He knelt on the bed and stroked his thumb up the smooth white strip of skin on the inside of Rodney's thigh, sweeping it just under the hem of the yellow boxer shorts. (Oxygen molecules were printed in blue all over it and one of them was looking John very obviously in the face.)
"I want to fuck you," he said and was surprised at his own voice. "Is that okay? Tell me it's okay."
"Yes, yes," Rodney said, lifting his hips toward John. "I can't believe you waited -- just do it already."
"Do you have -- " John started but Rodney was already reaching blindly for the drawer in the beside table. He moved up, straddling Rodney's legs, and reached past Rodney's flailing hand to the drawer. A tube of gel was in the front, the top dented a little, and it fit completely in John's hand. "Lift up," he said, slipping his fingers between the elastic of Rodney's boxers and his skin.
Rodney didn't usually follow orders in bed any better than he did in the field, but this time he did, thank goodness, and John had him naked in seconds. His own dick was rubbing up uncomfortably against his boxers, even with his fly down, so he got out of his pants and shoes and knelt up on the bed.
"I, um -- " He glanced around, everywhere but Rodney. "Maybe we should have done this in my room."
"Oh, for -- " Rodney reached under the pillow and tossed the square condom packet at him. "I swiped it from Carson. He puts a jar of them out so people can take them if they need them but he puts it out in the middle of everything so it's not like everyone can't see you -- "
John had never seen this jar of condoms and he was plenty familiar with the infirmary layout but he didn't say so. If Rodney wanted to talk, John wasn't about to stop him. Instead, he smoothed just a drop of Rodney's lubricant over his dick and rolled on the condom, tight against his skin. Then he slicked it up and reached between Rodney's legs.
"Remember this?" he asked as Rodney tensed up in surprise. He stroked further back, and braced himself, planting one hand on the bed next to Rodney's hip. "You like this, don't you?" he went on, teasing around the hot, dark opening high between Rodney's buttocks.
Rodney made a strangled noise and nodded frantically so John rewarded him by sliding one finger up inside. Rodney responded with a heartfelt grunt that slid straight down to John's dick. He leaned down and mouthed the incongruously soft skin at the inside of Rodney's thigh as he moved his finger. Rodney wasn't quite as tight as he'd expected and he remembered the flushed admission that brought forth an image of Rodney riding his own fingers. John shuddered and moved back, working his finger out carefully.
"Ready?" he asked. He might have given Rodney more time, more warning, but his nerves were still singing with raw, chafed feeling of having almost lost Rodney to some freaky nanovirus.
"Uh-huh." Rodney lifted his head and nodded, then made to turn over.
"No," John said, putting his other hand on the inside of Rodney's knee. "We can do it this way. Lift up a little."
Rodney lifted his hips and let John slide his knees underneath. The alignment was pretty good so John pulled Rodney's knee up and counted on him to mirror with the other one. He glanced up at Rodney's face and bit his lower lip as he pushed in, going slow because he'd been a little lazy about opening Rodney up.
He and Rodney made the same sound when he was all the way in. Rodney was hot, so hot, like a sweaty day in summer, when the perspiration clung to John's skin and slicked everything he touched. "Wait a minute," Rodney said when John went to move, and so John braced himself on both arms, suspended over Rodney's body as Rodney shifted experimentally. He shifted his hips around John, sending violent shivers up through John's body as he tried to hold still. Finally Rodney seemed to have wriggled into some position that pushed the head of John's cock right up against his prostate because his eyes went round and his mouth opened, but nothing came out.
John grinned at Rodney, then moved his hips back and pushed them forward again.
John licked his lips and moved again, working them both into a pace, sparing Rodney nothing. He wanted to get lost in Rodney, forget about the whole damn day, forget about the anger and the fear and the feeling that he was spiraling out of control. John just kept pushing for center and after a few thrusts, Rodney picked up the rhythm and started to move with him. John went with it, pushing forward and up, lifting Rodney's thighs with his own, breath coming in rough pants. Rodney's hands scrabbled at, then closed around his forearms, the tight grip anchoring them both.
Rodney's face was red, his breath coming harder than John's, and he tried to say something, something John couldn't focus enough to catch, and then he was coming, the fluid from his dick hitting high on John's stomach and on his own.
John licked his lower lip and watched Rodney gasp through his orgasm as his body clenched around John's cock, pulling at the last vestiges of John's self-control. He rolled his hips, not pushing in or out, just sliding inside Rodney as Rodney caught his breath and then looked right at John and gave him a brilliant smile. Everything crashed over him then, and he came hard into Rodney's body, a groan dragged from his throat and his peripheral vision sparking.
"Ah," he said, when his body was limp, fingers cramped in the sheets under them.
"Wow," Rodney said with that lilt that meant he was gearing up for some big thing. "I had read articles and of course seen, on the odd occasion, pornography that indicated anal intercourse could be extremely pleasurable but I had no idea -- ow," he added, as John pulled out. "Anyway, that was fantastic and wow, I'm really kind of not ready to crash yet. I wonder if that is an effect of an orgasm by prostate stimulation instead of -- "
"Rodney," John interrupted, lethargy setting in as the day caught up with him, making his muscles heavy and his responses delayed. He started to tell Rodney to go to sleep, but changed his mind. "You okay? I didn't hurt you?"
"Oh. Well, there was a bit of discomfort at the beginning, I'll admit, not quite to the level of pain I'd expected but more distinct than what I'd experienced in my experiments -- "
"Good," John interrupted, and rolled to his side.
"So," Rodney said, when John was clearly trying to go to sleep without closing his eyes to avoid seeing images of Rodney dying horrible deaths by brain aneurysm on the insides of his eyelids. "I don't suppose you heard my last words and what I wanted everyone to tell my sister when she was informed of my untimely death."
"I don't think it was on city-wide," John said because he'd heard murmurings from the Marines who were down in the lab with Rodney and Carson and he hadn't even known Rodney had a sister until then he'd heard someone say something to someone else. "Rodney, go to sleep."
"Right, of course," Rodney said. "Well, it still stands, in any event of my early demise, since you can't exactly tell her about this highly classified scientific mission, I'd like you to tell her I died saving kids. Lots of kids. Okay?"
John closed his eyes and sighed. Savings lots of kids. As if saving his teammates' collective asses on the lost city of Atlantis in another galaxy wasn't enough.
Rodney poked John in the side. "Okay?"
"Yes," John said, opening his eyes. "I will tell her you died saving an entire school bus full of kids. Kids and nuns. All right? Now go to sleep."
"All right," Rodney said and managed to be quiet for maybe fifteen seconds. "What do you want me to say? Just in case, I mean."
John rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to tell Rodney to shut up and go to sleep again, but then he closed it. "Tell them I died saving my people," he said finally, and he didn't tell Rodney that there was no one to notify. "Tell them I died saving people I -- people who were important to me."
"Yeah," Rodney said, curling one arm around John's waist and kissing his shoulder. "I can do that."
John slept like a dead thing for ten hours and when he finally lifted his head, it felt like lead. He groaned and rolled over, crashing into Rodney. "Hey," he said, eyes still closed. "I gotta get going." He didn't move.
"What time is it?" Rodney mumbled back.
"I dunno." With effort, John turned his head to the side and squinted at the clock. "It's after six. The Marines are going to eat all the dinner."
"I think maybe they'll save some for you," Rodney mumbled. "On account of you saving all our asses and all."
"Yeah," John said, struggling into a sitting position. He rubbed the heel of his hand against his eyes and looked down at Rodney, who was still supine with his head tilted back, eyes closed and mouth open. "Okay," he said, and leaned forward, kissing the corner of Rodney's mouth and drawing back quickly before throwing his legs over the side of the bed. "I'm going back to my room to get a shower and change."
"'Kay," Rodney agreed without opening his eyes. "Why didn't it count this time?"
John stopped and stared at him. Even after all that talk about what to tell the people on Earth -- he shook his head and found the pile of his boxers, pants and shoes, and began to untangle them. "The near-death thing always works," he said shortly when the silence stretched just a little too long.
"Eh, we used it already," Rodney said. "Let's come up with something better."
John rolled his eyes and stepped into his boxer shorts. He pressed his palm against the side of his cock and remembered how tight Rodney's body had been around him that morning and how hard Rodney had gripped his forearms. "I think it's your turn to pick," he said, dropping his hand and shaking out his pants.
"Really?" Rodney rolled to his side and pushed himself up a little. He tilted his head appreciatively at John. "Well, Ford hugged me. Clearly I needed to uh -- " He waved a hand. "Overwrite that experience?"
"Ford hugged you?" John asked in disbelief. He stepped into his pants and did them up.
"Yeah," Rodney said. "Apparently escaping certain death makes him affectionate."
"He's not the only one," John muttered, as he pulled on his shirt and boots, tucking the laces inside.
"Huh?" Rodney asked, sitting up a little straighter.
"Forget it," John said. "See you later." He made it all the way back to his room before he realized that his shirt was inside out.
John slept lightly when he was on duty and despite the fact that they'd been living in the Pegasus galaxy for more than six months, he never quite got over the feeling that he was in the field.
So when his radio chirped at five in the morning, John rolled off Rodney and scooped up the headset from the bedside table.
"Sheppard," he said, pitching his voice low to keep from waking Rodney.
"John," Elizabeth's voice came from the speaker. "I need you in the gateroom and if you wouldn't mind stopping by Rodney's room, he's not answering his radio."
"We'll be right there," John said, knowing full well that it sounded exactly like it was. Elizabeth was the last person who would start an investigation on him and it seemed that whether this thing with Rodney counted or not, it was around to stay.
There was silence on the other end as Elizabeth weighed John's words. He didn't clarify. She would draw the right conclusions or she wouldn't.
"I'll see you both in a few minutes," she said and he heard the click of her radio disengaging.
"Hey," he said, reaching over and thumping Rodney's shoulder with his fist. "Wake up. Elizabeth needs us in the gateroom.
Rodney woke up all at once, sitting straight up in bed. John was surprised he hadn't pulled something doing that yet. "What, what's wrong, where's the coffee?" he asked immediately.
"Elizabeth needs us in the gateroom," John said, pulling on his boxers and the black shirt he'd worn the day before. Whatever had caused the tension in Elizabeth's voice was bound to be messy and would likely require sweating to fix. He'd shower later.
"Elizabeth?" Rodney said. "Needs us? Did she call on the radio? Where's my radio?" He rolled over and started feeling along the floor where he'd thrown all his clothes the night before.
"I told her we'd be there ASAP," John said, hopping into his pants. "Get a move on."
"You told her we'd be there?" Rodney babbled, trying to work his boxers on under the covers as if John hadn't seen the real estate the night before. And earlier that week. And half a dozen times before that. "Are you crazy? She's going to think -- "
"Rodney," John snapped, pulling on his boots and tossing Rodney's shirt on the bed. "If she asks, I'll just tell her it didn't count."
The resultant silence threw him. There should have been a smart comment and instead, nothing. He looked at Rodney and saw that his eyes had gone round and his chin had gone up stubbornly.
"C'mon," John said, feeling inexplicably rotten. It wasn't like he was the one insisting that it didn't count for months. "If it doesn't count because we all blow up in half an hour or something, I'm going to be pissed. Get a move on so we can save the world and think of an excuse to have sex again." He cupped the back of Rodney's head in his hand and kissed him.
Rodney didn't kiss him back.
"Gateroom," John said, backing off. "I'll see you there."
He made it out of the room and even heard the door zip shut behind him before he tripped on his untied shoelaces and took a header into the wall.
~ ~ ~
"Sensors are picking up a spacecraft on approach," Elizabeth said when he arrived in the control tower, laces tied (finally), fly zipped (he'd double-checked) and P-90 clipped to his vest (he'd stopped by the armory.)
"No," Zelenka answered from the console where he was huddled with Peter Grodin. "This is a design we have not yet seen. Possibly Genii?"
"Oh, please," Rodney said, walking into the room and taking a bite out of a Power Bar. "The Genii never got around to developing atmospheric flight capabilities, there's no way they'd be tooling around the galaxy in spaceships. Move." He shouldered Zelenka aside and leaned over the readout.
"Why would they bother with atmospheric craft?" John asked. "There's no way to hide that from the Wraith."
"Major Sheppard has a point," Elizabeth said, crossing her arms over her stomach and walking quickly over to stand next to Zelenka. Rodney was typing a million miles a minute and suddenly the view on the console shifted and a diagram of the ship's approach to the planet appeared.
"Aha!" Rodney crowed.
"What?" Elizabeth asked anxiously.
"Steep angle of attack," John observed. "The construction suggests that any armaments -- here and here," he added, pointing to what appeared to be gun pods on either side of the wings, "would launch vertically in that position and well, they'd blow themselves up."
"They want to land," Rodney said. "Also, probably invade us."
"That would be a fairly small invasion force," Grodin said doubtfully. "We're not reading any life signs." Something beeped on his usual console and he crossed the room to check. "We have an incoming radio transmission," he reported. "Shall I put it on speaker?"
"Please," Elizabeth said.
"City of the Ancestors," a tinny, male voice piped into the control room. "This is Information Transport Five of the Star Cruiser Delphinia. Request permission to eject data pod."
"Oh, no, no, no, no, no," Rodney said quickly. "This is a very bad idea. Eject sounds very bad."
"Data pod sounds like intel," John said. "That sounds like a very good idea."
"And where do you think this data pod is going to land?" Rodney demanded. "And at what velocity? And more importantly, is it going to explode or shoot off laser beams when we go to pick it up?"
John rolled his eyes and looked to Elizabeth.
"What do you think the danger is in authorizing release of the pod?" she asked Zelenka.
"Likely very slim," he answered, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Rodney is right to be concerned about where it might land, but I do not believe the pod itself presents a threat."
"Very well," Elizabeth said, nodding to Grodin. "Information Transport Five, this is Atlantis. You have permission to eject your pod." She glanced over her shoulder at Rodney and Radek. "Can we get a visual?"
Rodney's fingers flew over the screen and the scene shifted to where the Information Transport was breaking through the atmosphere. Its rate of descent flattened out and one of the side casings John had identified as gun pods detached and fell toward one of the outer docks.
"It's going into the water," John said.
"I do not think so." Zelenka leaned over Rodney's shoulder and did something to the console that caused a red extrapolation line to appear. The data pod fell along the curve obediently. "I believe it will fall just inside the city -- here." He enlarged the part of the map where the extrapolation line ended.
"What's the transport doing?" John asked.
"Flying away from the city," Zelenka answered, switching up the view to show the transport zooming away. "I do not know if it will return to its -- "
As Zelenka spoke, the transport broke apart and incinerated itself in a contained explosion, the remaining pieces tumbling down into the sea.
"Oh," Zelenka said softly. "I suppose instead it will explode."
"You said it was unmanned, right?" John said to Grodin.
"Quite so," Grodin confirmed. "No energy readings beyond the power output by its engine."
"Which we could have studied to determine the power source and perhaps reverse engineered if it used anything close to the vacuum energy like the ZPM," Rodney said with a sigh, "but no. It had to go blow up instead."
"At least it didn't blow up on us," John said. "I'm going down there to retrieve the pod."
"It might be dangerous," Rodney said, spinning around in his chair. "Or weren't you listening?"
"That's why I'm going alone," John growled. "Besides, Doctor Zelenka doesn't seem too worried."
"Well," Zelenka admitted. "I did not take into account the idea of any possible radiation or that it may simply just be hot to the touch due to friction of acceleration gained when entering atmosphere. I measured its velocity at approximately seventeen point six two meters per second which indicates that it may be fairly heavy. I was not able to analyze the type of metal used in construction."
"Take Rodney with you," Elizabeth suggested.
"Oh, I don't think that's a good idea," John said.
"Don't be stupid," Rodney snapped, standing up and scooping a laptop under his arm. "If there's a problem, you won't know until you walk up and poke it with your gun."
"Rifle," John said.
"Rodney should go to detect dangerous emissions," Elizabeth said. "And if you can't move it, maybe he can extract the information from there. But I expect you both to stay in radio contact."
"No problem," John said through his teeth and walked out of the control room, leaving Rodney to catch up.
"Oh, that was very mature," Rodney hissed as they got in the transporter.
"You're the one who thinks that thing's going to kill us all," John snapped.
"Excuse me if I think it's unwise to place two of the most vital people on this expedition in a position that will probably kill them."
"I don't see you balking at going through the stargate," John shot back. "But thank you. I'm flattered that you think I'm one of the most vital people on this expedition."
"Yes, but I'm the other one, and it makes me nervous how cavalier you are with my life." Rodney hiked up the laptop under his arm and walked out of the transporter. "How far away is this thing?"
"Hey, I offered to let you stay behind," John said, purposely extending his stride more than usual. "You're the one who went all protective about his turf."
"Maybe because you have no sense of self-preservation," Rodney snapped back.
"What's that have to do with anything?" John asked incredulously. The stepped out onto a wide platform with steps that made a wide spiral down to an open plaza.
"It means," Rodney said, craning his neck to look at the silvery pod lying in the middle of the plaza and leading the way down the stairs, "that you're utterly clueless!"
"I'm clueless?" John asked, raising his P-90 as they hit the bottom step. "You're the one who doesn't think we've been having sex for the past six months!"
"Hello, of course we've been having sex for the past six months," Rodney said in a hushed voice as if there was anyone within hearing distance. "But it doesn't count."
"Yeah," John said. "That's just exactly what I meant." He squinted down at the pod, which was a little bigger than a watermelon and round, with a flat bottom. He suspected it was weighted to roll upright on impact because there was a screen and keypad sunk into the top of the pod.
"Huh?" Rodney asked.
John shook his head. He extended his P-90 and nudged the tip of the barrel against the pod. It rocked easily and slid right back into position, confirming John's theory about the weighting.
"Wait, what are you doing?" Rodney asked, shoulder-checking him out of the way.
"I was just testing -- " John started, but cut himself off as soon as he saw the red symbols appear in the sunken screen. "Rodney?" he asked. The symbols blinked, changing and John recognized a couple of them from the puddlejumpers. They were numbers and if his Ancient wasn't completely off, they were getting smaller instead of bigger.
"That doesn't look good," Rodney said.
A pleasant female voice said something in Ancient, something John didn't recognize at all and then started counting down the numbers with the red display.
"That doesn't sound good," John said. "What's it saying?"
"It's ah, it's counting down numbers," Rodney said, kneeling in front of the pod, hands already flying. "Oh, this is so not good."
"Is it going to explode?" John demanded.
"I don't know, shut up," Rodney said. "I have to figure out -- "
"Well hurry up and figure out!" John shouted at him, because really, something that size could pack a lot of C4 or worse, a lot of naquadah or much worse, a lot of something they didn't even know about that made a much bigger boom than naquadah.
"I think," Rodney said, "I think maybe it's asking for a code, or maybe confirmation that we're the Ancients and it got to the right place or maybe -- "
"Would you stop talking about it and start stopping it?" John paced a few yards away and then turned back to stand behind Rodney. "What would happen if I shot it?"
"Bad things!" Rodney said, sounding horrified. "Don't even think about it."
"Okay, fine! Do you think maybe we should get it out of here? Get it over the side, into the water maybe? Or maybe we should get out of here? What kind of explosion are we looking at here?"
"I have no idea!" Rodney shouted. "We don't even know that it's going to explode!"
"It's got a countdown timer!" John replied. "How do we know that it's not?"
"Just...just shut up and let me work," Rodney said, going a little tight around the mouth and typing rapidly on the keypad. "This is very important and distracting me right now is going to get us both killed."
John blew out all the air in his lungs and turned on his heel to pace the a perimeter around the device and around Rodney, kneeling in front of it. His vote, right now, would be to cut their losses and make a run for it, but Rodney seemed to think he could stop whatever it was the thing was doing.
And that was Rodney -- bending the universe by the force of his will.
John wondered what would have happened if he'd woken up that first morning with Rodney huddled up against him in bed. Oh, sure, it would have been fine then, and maybe it would have been fine the next time, but sooner or later, he would have started to get that sick, claustrophobic feeling and one day when Rodney stayed an hour too long, or squeezed John's toothpaste in the middle once too often, John would have snapped out something short-tempered and nasty, and within a week, he and Rodney wouldn't be able to be in the same room without that roiling feeling of discontent.
But they were past all that now and the only thing that really mattered was that if the data pod blew Rodney into confetti, John would miss him. And for some reason, that pissed off John more than anything else Rodney could possibly do.
"I just think you should know -- " Rodney said, pausing and looking up at John.
"I think I really don't!" John said, his voice rising with the combination of near-death panic and the creepy feeling that maybe Rodney knew exactly what he had been thinking. "I think you should get back to work before this thing blows us both up!"
"I'm working, I'm working!" Rodney shouted, looking back down at the device. "I just think that maybe I should tell you, before we both die a horrible death -- "
"If you would shut up and get to work, we wouldn't have to die a horrible death!" John snapped back. "So quit your yapping and get a move on, McKay!"
Rodney set his mouth and frowned. His fingers flew over the tiny set of keys and then he reached into his vest pocket for something.
John blew out air through his teeth and paced back and forth. He wished he could just shoot the damn thing, but he doubted that would be very helpful. "How much time?" he asked when he couldn't stand it any longer.
"Working!" Rodney barked back.
John rolled his eyes and picked up his pace. He counted out seven laps when Rodney went very still and turned his face upward. "What?" John asked instantly.
"I don't think I can stop it," Rodney said, his eyes big and scared.
John grabbed Rodney's vest and pulled him to his feet. There was no cover so John dragged Rodney as far as he could in the time he believed they had left, a mental clock ticking down in his head, and then he acted.
"It counted!" Rodney shouted as John pushed him to the ground, positioned himself over Rodney as a shield, and braced for impact.
John paused, Rodney's words sinking in. "Which time?" he asked, hoping Rodney could blurt out an answer before everything went black and smoky.
"All of them!" Rodney replied, high-pitched and panicky. "Every single one of them from the very beginning -- well, possibly only about eight-eight percent because there was that one where we really didn't have sex and there was that one that wasn't very -- well, never mind now. And it's totally not my fault that I expected a less than positive -- "
John grinned and opened his mouth, but before he had time to respond, he heard a concussive crack and saw a white flash, then the back of his eyelids.
Then the world went black.
By that time, gate team injuries in general and John's in particular were old hat and Beckett kicked John unceremoniously out of the infirmary as soon as he showed signs of consciousness.
"Beckett's letting you out, huh?" Rodney asked, lurking outside the door.
"Kicking me to the curb is more like it," John muttered, rubbing the back of his head and making a beeline for the mess. "I'm starving. The man wouldn't even give me any jello."
"You might be interested to know," Rodney volunteered as they went through the line, "that once the protective cover popped off and whacked you in the head, the data pod contained a crystal. It fit into one of the Ancient database mainframe computers, sort of like a flash drive, and we managed to download whatever was in it to the network."
"Whatever was in it?" John repeated, sticking one Fig Newton into his mouth and offering Rodney the other one. "You didn't stop to look?" He checked his watch. He'd been in the infirmary for an hour, at least.
"It's, ah, it's all in Ancient," Rodney said with his mouth full. "I could make out a few words, it's about some kind of battle, but it's a few thousand years old and it's kind of in this dialect, so we're leaving it up to Elizabeth and the linguists to deal with."
"Huh," John said, finishing up. "Ancient history."
"Yes, and I'm sure -- oh, very funny. The pun is the lowest form of humor, you know."
"Unless you're the one making it," John countered, standing up and waiting for Rodney to leave his tray at the repository.
"Rest assured, Major," Rodney said with a smug little chuckle, "if I'm making a pun, it will undoubtedly be quite clever."
"Oh, undoubtedly," John agreed.
It wasn't far to his quarters and just for old time's sake, he waited at the door until Rodney said, "Can I come in?"
"Sure." John smiled when he said it and activated the door. "So what's going on?" he asked when it had shut behind them.
Rodney stepped forward and put his hand on the back of John's neck. "It's possible," he said, breath warm on John's lips, "that I was maybe expecting you to have an adverse reaction to that thing where you were sleeping with a man."
"It really hurts inside to say you were wrong, doesn't it?" John asked.
"In my defense -- " Rodney said.
"Rodney," John said. "Shut up."
Rodney rolled his eyes and then he kissed John and things were right back on track, the way they should be.
John woke to the sound of Elizabeth's voice in his headset. He reached blindly at the night table in hopes of snagging it and had almost succeeded when a large, warm hand closed over his and pulled him back.
"Rodney," John protested, rolling onto his back. "I need to -- oh."
Rodney was sitting up in bed, holding John's headset to his mouth. "Elizabeth," he said, "it's McKay." He glanced over at John and the corner of his mouth turned up. "Yeah, he's with me. We'll be there in a few minutes."