Chez Crysothemis -- "Do Over"

Do Over

by Crysothemis

Pairing: John/Rodney (with a side order of John/many)
Rating: NC-17 — for adults only
Wordcount: ~19,000
Summary: John never sleeps with anyone twice
Thanks: To Tex, Lamardeuse and WPAdmirer for beta.
Warnings: badsex — OMG so much badsex — and implied het sex
Notes: General Season 4 spoilers, including specific spoilers for "Quarantine." Not mine.

If Rodney had thought about it (which he totally hadn't—really, it wasn't nearly as high on his list of priorities as a patio or a whirlpool bath), he would have thought that moving into a room just down the corridor from John would be an advantage. Hey, they were both senior staff. They both got called in on many of the same emergencies. And if for some reason their radios went out in the middle of the night, they'd be in the same sector, which could only be an advantage, two heads being (usually, anyway) better than one.

What he hadn't counted on was that he'd be living just down the corridor from John. That he'd have to walk past John's quarters every evening on his way home from the transporter. That he'd hear giggles. And thumping noises. And the occasional completely gratuitous gasp through doors that really ought to have been better sound-proofed than that. And that sometimes he'd have to deal with more than just noise.

For a week, he was blissfully unaware. Life was good, the whirlpool tub was amazing, and he saw John only on the few mornings when he bothered to get up early. But then, late one night when he was heading back to his room for a well-deserved rendez-vous with his bed, a slender figure barreled right into him just outside John's room. So, granted, he was coming around the corner, and she was apparently looking down in order to button her blouse, but honestly, there was no excuse for that.

"Don't you ever, oh, I don't know, actually look where you're— oh. Dr. Esposito." Rodney stared at her, trying to catch his breath. There was one vital button still undone.

"Dr. McKay," she said, a little breathless herself. "I didn't realize you lived here."

"Yes, yes, just down the hall. I was headed that way right now. You know, to sleep. I, ah, usually do that, right about this time."

Esposito . . . laughed. It made her blouse gape, and the rise and fall of the pink lace of her bra was terrifyingly mesmerizing. "I think we should all sleep. Sleep is very important," she said with exaggerated seriousness, and then laughed again. "I'll see you later, Dr. McKay."

She didn't even look back as she headed for the transporter, but God, she looked almost as good from the back as she did from the front, and how was it possible that John got to have sex with that while he had . . . no one. Not since Katie, and look how that had turned out.

And now it looked like John and Esposito—what the hell was her first name, anyway?—were an item, and he was going to have to smile and nod and not sit with them in the mess, which was even more bothersome than the whole sex thing, because John was the one he usually liked having dinner with, and lunch, too—not that he didn't have plenty of other people to eat with. Radek, for instance, and Teyla and Ronon, of course. He didn't need John, and if John was going to be part of a couple—strange thought, that—well, he'd deal.

He just . . . wow, he'd never really thought of this before, but the thing was, maybe he could deal, but he really, really didn't want to.

* * *

Only as it turned out, he didn't have to. He saw it all the next day in the mess hall. Rodney was up early—for some reason he hadn't slept very well—so he was already sitting with Ronon when John came in. Esposito was sitting with a couple of engineers, and she looked up when John came in and flashed him a smile. John smiled back, and then . . . walked right past her and plonked his tray down next to Ronon.

Rodney gaped at him, but he didn't even seem to notice. "Shouldn't you be sitting somewhere else?"

"Huh?" John looked up as he slid into his chair. "I always sit here."

"Shouldn't you be . . . with your new friend?"

John took a sip of coffee. "My new what?"

Rodney leaned forward and lowered his voice. "You know, the woman you were with, I don't know, last night?"

John's face went through a remarkable number of expressions in the space of a second and a half before settling on bland confusion. "Look, I don't know where you got the idea, but I'm not dating anyone."

Rodney rolled his eyes, because really. "I live just down the hall from you. I'm not blind, you know, and even if I were, I could hardly have missed her when she ran me down in the corridor."

"Really." John leaned back in his seat, all studied nonchalance. "Maybe you should try watching where you're going."

"For your information, she was the one who ran into me, not the other way around. And you're totally avoiding the question, here."

John's eyebrow arched. "Didn't realize there was anything to avoid." He took a bite of his muffin and chewed. "And I'm pretty sure what I do behind closed doors with another consenting adult is my own business."

"I am not being nosy," Rodney said. "She ran me down."

"Sounded kind of nosy to me," Ronon rumbled, and God, how had Rodney managed to forget he was there?

"I wasn't," Rodney said. "Really. I was only trying to plan ahead."

"Speaking of planning ahead," John said, "you want to tell me more about M7S-549?"

"Right," Rodney said. "M7S-549." And he launched into an explanation of the characteristics of the planet's peculiar—and potentially highly useful—ionosphere.

It was actually almost a relief to be sidetracked, even if it meant he never got an answer to his question. At least this way Ronon stopped looking at him like he was some kind of barbarian.

* * *

In the end, Rodney figured it out for himself, because a week later he caught sight of another woman leaving John's quarters at ten past midnight. A tall, very blonde woman, who was clearly not Esposito. And two weeks (and one rather nasty run-in with an Ancient satellite that mistook them for space junk) after that, it was a petite, black-haired zoologist.

Rodney stared after her retreating back, at the little swing of her hips he swore he'd never noticed in the biology labs. It was disgusting really. Because, seriously, what did John have that Rodney didn't? Hey, Rodney was a hero, too. He probably saved the city twice for every time John did, and it wasn't like John was any better looking than he was. Which could only mean . . . what? That John was just that good in the sack?

So maybe it was being nosy again, but Rodney couldn't help wondering exactly what John did that was so amazing. Was it kissing technique? Staying power? Tongue stamina? It couldn't be the size of his dick, because Rodney had seen it—once, when they'd had to go through decon together—and while John certainly had nothing to be ashamed of, it wasn't like he was hung like a horse or anything.

Of course, that was when John's door slid open for a second time. Rodney crossed his arms and tried to act like he hadn't just been thinking about the size of John's dick, but John didn't even seem to notice him. "Alicia?" he called in the direction the transporter. "Hey, are you still . . . ? Damn it. Alicia!"

"I think you missed her," Rodney said.

John turned, but didn't seem the least bit surprised to see him. "She forgot one of her earrings."


"What?" John frowned at him. "You think she did it on purpose?"

Rodney hadn't been thinking that, but it suddenly made sense. "Maybe she wasn't too happy about being kicked out of your bed."

John made a face at him. "I didn't kick her out. She got what she was here for."

"Oh, I'll bet," Rodney said. "I'm sure she was just thrilled to watch you carve another notch in your bedpost."

"Hey," John said. "I didn't lie to her. She understands why I can't afford to get involved right now."

"Oh yeah?" Rodney rounded on him. "Well, maybe you can explain it to me. What is so wrong about settling down? I thought you tried it, once."

John's eyebrows pulled up in the middle and he looked suddenly tired. "Yeah, Rodney, I tried it. I tried it and I screwed it up. And now my job is going through that gate, and there's a pretty good chance that one of these days, I won't be coming back. So you tell me. Does that sound like the kind of person who should be making a commitment?"

The sad thing was, that actually made sense. It wasn't what had ruined things for him and Katie . . . well, apart from the "screwed it up" thing. "Right. Well. I suppose you have a point there."

"Thank you," John said, more than a little sarcastically. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have an earring to return."

"Have fun," Rodney said, and watched John's back as he headed down the hallway. He still didn't get it—not at all—no matter what Jeannie said. John was just John, with the long torso and the lopsided smile, and there was absolutely nothing special about the way he . . . no. No, Rodney definitely didn't get it at all.

* * *

So it went on like that. Rodney did his best to ignore the squeals and moans coming from John's room, and John never mentioned it and never sat with anyone unexpected in the mess. John was always just John, deadpan and slouchy and exactly the right man to have with you in a crisis, and who he shared his bed with didn't affect that.

So really, Rodney didn't care. At all. It wasn't any of his business. Seriously, he got laid sometimes, too. Well, once, and it wasn't very good, but that wasn't the point. The point was, they were both men of the world, and everything was fine.

And if he sometimes carried a life signs detector in his own hallway, well, that was just because he wanted to avoid embarrassment. Because the days he forgot it were inevitably the days he really, really needed it.

His first clue should have been that the laughter was pitched a little lower than usual. It didn't sound like John's laugh, which was pretty distinctive. But Rodney didn't have time to try to place it, because John's door was sliding open and . . . oh. It was only Ronon. He'd probably just been having a beer with John or something.


"Ronon." Of course, he didn't smell like beer. He smelled kind of like . . . God, no. That was impossible. John didn't—and surely Ronon wouldn't—but Ronon had a bizarre sort of smirk on his face, and then he just kind of adjusted himself, and Rodney knew. "Oh, God. Not you, too."

Ronon just raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms meaningfully over his chest. "You got a problem with it?"

Crap, Ronon was big. Ronon was really, really big, and the idea of John doing that with him was just . . . "No," Rodney said. "No problem. I'm just heading for my quarters. Over there. You know, I live just down the hall from here."

"I know," Ronon said, and the corners of his eyes went kind of crinkly. "Nice place."

"Yes, yes, it is. Thank you. So I'll just . . . go there. Now."

"You do that," Ronon said, and adjusted himself again.

"Going," Rodney said, and fled.

* * *

The worst part about it was that he just couldn't shake it. He'd be in a meeting and look over at Ronon and think John and naked and then his palms would start sweating and Sam would have to say his name twice to get his attention.

Or they'd be offworld, pinned in the upper branches of a tree while a giant slug-like creature snorted and slimed its way across the forest floor below, and he'd find himself staring at John's ass and wondering what it looked like naked and whether he'd let Ronon fuck him and God.

"Rodney? You okay? It didn't touch you, did it?"

"What? No, no, I'm fine."

"Good, 'cause that slime's pretty caustic."

Rodney shifted, trying to get comfortable on the lumpy branch, which was basically impossible. "So tell me something. Seriously, how do you do it? Do you just have the perfect line or what? Because I would . . . I mean, not that I need any help or anything, so really, I'm just curious."

John twisted toward him, sliding one knee up so he was half-straddling his own branch, and wow, that wasn't an improvement. "Do what?"

"You know." Rodney waved the hand that wasn't holding on for dear life. "With the women." Because he was going to leave men out of this, although come to think of it, there had to be more than just Ronon, because, seriously, who would choose Ronon as their first? "What do you say to make them fall at your feet?"

John peered down at the slug thing like it was the most interesting thing on the planet, which, okay, it probably was. "Uh, actually, I'm not usually the one who does the asking."

"Oh, that is just typical."

John's chin jerked up. "What?"

"You," Rodney said. "Let me guess, you never turn any of them down, either."

"Is there a reason I should?"

"Yes! No. Well, how the hell would I know? I mean, clearly you're not picky, which is . . . right, okay, I wouldn't call that a character flaw, but, I mean, seriously? If someone asks you, you just say yes?"

John's face was all scrunched up. "Is there a point to this conversation?"

"Yes, I mean, no, no, of course not. Just making small talk while the slime monster does its thing down there. I mean, if there's anything distracting, it's your love life."

"It's not love," John said. "It's just sex."

"And you honestly don't care who you do it with?"

John's nose wrinkled. "Well, I wouldn't go that far."

"Ha!" Rodney said. "So you do have standards. Or, well, something, anyway. So what does it take to make you to say no? Is it about looks? Or brains? Or, okay, it's obviously not gender because of Ronon, and I guess you have a lower age limit because of the whole 'consenting adults' thing, but . . ."


"What? I'm just trying to figure this out here. I mean, when was the last time you turned someone down?"

John pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look, I don't think this is . . . wait." He looked up, squinting at Rodney. "Are you hitting on me?"

"No!" Rodney said. His heart was thumping in his chest, because that wasn't what he'd meant at all. "No, of course not. Why would I do that? I was just curious, and we seem to have a bit of time here, and since I live right down the hall from you, I thought—"

"Crap," John muttered, looking away. "Okay, look, I really don't think it would be a very good idea. I mean, we have to work together. We're on the same team. We're—"

"Ronon's on the same team," Rodney said. "That didn't stop you from doing it with him."

John grimaced. "That was different. And anyway, this isn't about Ronon; it's about you and me. And I really think—"

"Oh, so that's what it would take to make you say no," Rodney said, and he didn't want to have sex with John—seriously, not even a little bit—but his stomach suddenly felt like lead. "Well, thank you. That's really flattering."


"No, I mean, really. It's nice to know where I stand. Hell, you'll sleep with just about anybody, but apparently I'm not good enough."

"Rodney." John's eyebrows were pulled together, his mouth all tight and cranky. "I didn't mean it like that, okay? I'm not saying I won't have sex with you. I just don't think it's that great an idea."

"So you're saying you would have sex with me."

John's chin went up. "Are you asking, or just trying to piss me off?"

Rodney made a face. "It's not like it matters, does it? Since you're not going to answer the question."

John leaned back against the tree trunk, desperately casual, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Okay, fine. If you really wanted to, I would. Satisfied?"

He was bluffing. Rodney could see it. He was counting on the fact that Rodney wouldn't dare call him on it. "So if I said I wanted to come by tonight, say, ten o'clock, you'd say yes?"

John's left cheek twitched. "Provided neither of us are in the infirmary with slime burns? Sure."

"Okay, then." Rodney said, and stared firmly off into the tree tops.


"Ten o'clock."

"Ten o'clock."




Rodney didn't look at him, didn't dare look, because shit, shit, shit, what had he just gotten himself into? He didn't want to have sex with John and it was all John's fault, anyway, for taking him completely wrong. And now he was going to have to show up or look like an idiot, and God, that was just insane.

But damn it, John clearly didn't want to have sex with him, and that burned just enough to make him want to actually go through with it. It would serve John right, for saying something like that in the first place.

And anyway, maybe one or the other of them would end up in the infirmary tonight, so it wouldn't matter anyway. Not that he was hoping for that. Well, not really, anyway. He just . . . oh, God.

For a genius, sometimes he was a complete idiot.

* * *

Of course John ended up killing the slug thing with a well-placed grenade and a packet of table salt, and naturally, neither of them were hurt in the process. Which meant that at 9:59, Rodney found himself standing in front of John's door, cursing himself and John indiscriminately as he rang the chime.

"Hey," John said as the door slid open.

"Hey," Rodney managed.

John was dressed like always in his black uniform shirt and pants, and for some reason that made Rodney feel a little better.

"We should probably lock that," John said, and Rodney turned and pressed the door crystals in the pattern for "no entry."

"So," Rodney said.

John's hands were buried in his pockets. "Yeah."

"So I'm here," Rodney said. "And it's ten o'clock."

"Thanks, I'd noticed that."

"Right. Well. We should get on with this, then."

John took one hand out of his pocket and rubbed the side of his nose. "Look, about that . . ."

"Oh, no," Rodney said, the heat flaring in his gut. "No, you don't get to back out now. You said you would and I'm here and we are going to do this."

John ran the hand through his hair and shifted on his feet. "Okay. So, you want to trade hand jobs or something?"

"No," Rodney said, and took a belligerent step forward. "No, I want the whole deal. I want what they get, the hordes that you don't even consider saying no to. I want the full ride."

John's eyebrows went up, but all he said was, "Right, okay." And then just stood there, like he had no idea what to do next.

"You know, for a guy who has no-strings-attached sex at least once a week, you're really bad at this," Rodney said.

"Hey," John said. "Look, this is different, okay? I don't usually do it like . . . this."

Rodney sighed, because it was looking more and more like this was going to be a disaster of epic proportions. "Okay, so maybe we should start by taking off our clothes, hmm?"

"Right," John said. "I guess we're really doing this." And he reached up and started unbuttoning his shirt.

Rodney took a quick breath and unzipped his jacket, because damn it, at least he was going to get an orgasm out of this. Even if he and John never managed to look at each other again, and oh God, why had he ever thought this was a good idea? This was the worst idea ever, and throwing sanity after insanity only made it crazier, and John was completely naked now—not aroused, and looking pretty much exactly the way he had in decon, only a lot closer—and crap.

"Here," John said, reaching for Rodney's fly. "I can help you with that."

"No, that won't be necessary. Really, I know how to. I've been taking off my own pants for nearly forty years, well, thirty-nine, anyway, although according to my mother I started pretty early, and really, considering that was probably one of my earliest signs of precociousness, you'd think she would've appreciated it a little more, wouldn't you?"

John might have chuckled at that, but Rodney was too busy getting his socks and shoes and pants all the way off to be sure. And then they were naked. Both of them. Very, very naked. And John was still close. Close enough to . . . well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Rodney leaned forward and kissed him.

If he'd thought about it, which he totally hadn't, he would have expected kissing to be fairly high on John's list of talents, because women were usually kind of picky about that sort of thing. But John just kind of stood there, hands at his sides and mouth lax, while Rodney pressed their mouths together and then, in desperation, licked John's lower lip.

And then finally, finally John's hands came up to either side of Rodney's head and John held him just a little too firmly and did a bit of exploration of his own, lips going firm and then soft and then firm again, sliding across Rodney's, shaping to fit the space between them. John's tongue flicked out, just for a moment, and then John pulled back and Rodney found himself staring into John's eyes.

"You didn't shave," John said, and, oh God, that meant—yes, obviously John had.

"Sorry," Rodney said, and the thing was, it just hadn't occurred to him, because yes, Katie had complained about beard burn, but John was John and . . .

"No," John said. "No, it's . . . interesting." And he tipped his head and pressed his mouth to Rodney's again, still exploring, still weirdly hesitant, but curious, speculative, wandering. Wandering right off Rodney's lips and across his cheek and back behind his ear, which was, oh. Enough to make Rodney shiver. "You like that," John said softly.

"Yes," Rodney said, because it wasn't like he could deny it. "That's always been a bit of an erogenous zone for me."

"Cool," John said, and licked and sucked right there, right in that spot, and God. John's hands were on Rodney's shoulders, warm and steadying, and Rodney kind of leaned against them and went with it, letting his head tip sideways as John's mouth traveled down his neck to his shoulder, sucking and nipping, and . . . ow, ow. That was a bad spot, that was a really bad spot.

"Crap, sorry," John said, pulling back. One of his hands slid up to rub the back of Rodney's shoulder, and damn it, that hurt, too.

"Ow," Rodney said.

"Jesus, you're tight. Don't you ever stretch?"

Rodney pulled back. "Do you usually insult the people you have sex with, or is it just me?"

John's hands found his upper arms, cupping them a little more gently. "Apparently, it's just you."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Well, doesn't that make me feel special?"

"Rodney," John said, and leaned in to find the good spot again, and okay, Rodney could forgive an insult or two, because his spine was tingling now and he was actually starting to get hard, and whoa, he was going to have sex with John. For real.

"You have a bed," he said.

"Yeah," John said against his neck.

"We could be on it," Rodney said.

"We could."

But John still wasn't moving, so Rodney kind of took hold of him, one hand on an arm, one hand at his hip, and wow, John's skin was warm and shockingly smooth. Rodney kind of pushed a little, and John went, stepping backward once, and then again, and it was a good thing John's room was so small, because here they were at the bed already.

Rodney gave one more little shove, and John let go to flop down backward without ever glancing over his shoulder to see that the bed was there. Like he trusted Rodney, which, right, he did. Rodney knew that. He just hadn't realized it would extend to this.

John just lay there looking up at him, his expression bemused. He was, yeah, seriously naked. Long and lean, with hair in all the right places, and still not hard, but his dick looked at least a little fuller than it had before. He was—really, Rodney had never had this thought about another guy before, but seeing as his experience with men was limited to a few random hand jobs and exactly two blowjobs (one giving, one receiving), it wasn't like he'd had that many opportunities. But John was really kind of appealing. If he'd actually wanted to have sex with Rodney, it would have been—

"You planning on joining me?"

"Yes, of course," Rodney said, and crawled right on top of him, feeling John's thighs against the insides of his knees, John's shoulders against his braced hands.

"Hi," John said, and lifted his head off the bed to kiss Rodney again. His lips were a little surer this time, and wow, it was really different now that they were horizontal, and somehow without even meaning to, Rodney found himself stretched out on top of John, legs and bellies and everything in between touching, and oh, God, Rodney was hard now, and John's body hair felt amazing against his sensitized skin.

Rodney twisted his mouth away and panted against John's neck, rolling his hips and just rubbing, feeling the sensation spread from his dick to his spine to the tips of his toes. John's dick was right next to his, now—fuller, yes, definitely sitting up and taking notice, and that was good, that was amazing, and maybe John hadn't been totally into this before, but from the way his hips were rocking to match Rodney's, he sure as hell wasn't minding now.

"Nrgh," Rodney said intelligently, and John chuckled in his ear.

"See, this isn't so bad."

"Ungh," Rodney agreed, and rubbed harder, and it was good, it was actually really good, but he couldn't help thinking it could be even better, if . . . if . . . hey, maybe if John were the one on top. Rodney grabbed his shoulder and pulled, twisting and rolling and taking John with him, and there was a glorious moment when their dicks were pressed right up against each other.

And then Rodney fell off the bed.

He landed on his shoulder and hip, hard against the unforgiving floor, and John had absolutely no right to be leaning over the edge of the bed and laughing at him.

Rodney scowled and sat up gracelessly. His hip ached and his shoulder smarted and it was all he could do to keep his face from flaming.

"Nice move," John said, still grinning.

"Oh, that is not fair. These beds are ridiculously narrow. Have you noticed that? I don't see how two grown men could possibly be expected to do anything as complicated as having sex without—"

"Hey," John said softly. "Get back up here. I'll make it up to you."

The floor was cold and Rodney's ass still ached. "I'm not really sure that's possible right now."

"C'mon," John said, reaching for his shoulder. "I'll give you a blowjob."

"Oh." Right, that was . . . actually, that made things look considerably brighter. "Okay, that might work."

Rodney scrambled up on the bed and lay down, his head propped up on John's pillow. He'd lost his erection, but then again, so had John, and by the time John had found a good position between his legs, he could feel the blood coming back already.

John started with a lick—just a little one, but his tongue was warm and wet and, oh God, that was a swipe in just the right place. Rodney swallowed a gasp and held still while John licked and played with him, and it felt even better as his dick got harder.

John was teasing him, still just licking his way around the head, but when Rodney looked down, he was all business, watching what he was doing rather than looking up for a reaction, so Rodney tipped his chin back and closed his eyes while John opened his mouth and sucked him in.

It was good; it was really good, but damn, John was a tease. John was an unbelievable tease. He sucked for a moment and then pulled off; licked a bit more, then sucked again, and he wasn't doing anything long enough to build up any sort of rhythm.

"Please," Rodney groaned when John pulled off for the third time. "Please, just . . ."

"More?" John said, and Rodney opened his eyes and nodded hard. John licked his lips, studying Rodney's dick like it was a tactical conundrum, and then bent down to suck him in again. There was wet heat, and pressure in all the right places, and oh God, John was taking him deep, John was taking him really deep, and then, damn it, the heat was gone and John was coughing against Rodney's hip.

"Oh, for—" Rodney let his head thump back on the pillow. "You don't have to deep-throat me. Use your hand or something."

"Sorry," John wheezed. "You're bigger than I thought."

"Oh." That was . . . well, of course he knew he wasn't small, but it was certainly gratifying to hear it from someone who had as much experience as John obviously did. "Well, I can see how that would be a problem."

"It's not a problem," John said, and wrapped his head around the base of Rodney's cock. "I can handle it." And then the wet heat was back, and John's tongue was flicking the sensitive spot right under the head, and Rodney was making little embarrassing noises and trying really hard not to hitch his hips up.

But damn it, John was still teasing him, because after about ten sucks he pulled off again, and this time Rodney did whimper and push up.

"'S'okay," John said. "I got you." And his mouth came back. But it went on like that, ten or twelve sucks and pause, then ten or twelve more. It was like John was either just that lazy, or honestly trying to drive him batty, and damn it, either way it killing him.

"John," Rodney groaned. "You can't . . . I want, no, no, need, I need you to . . ."

John didn't say anything, just dove back down and sucked harder, and oh, oh, that was what Rodney needed, if only John could keep it going, if only . . . but John was pulling off again.

"Close?" John asked.

"I was," Rodney said, but John didn't laugh like Rodney expected him to, just took an audible breath and sucked him in again.

It hit before Rodney was ready for it, a bolt of pleasure shooting through him, pure and clean and bright. Rodney gasped, and John choked and then pulled off and coughed while Rodney shuddered and came all over his stomach. When he finally opened his eyes, John was sitting up next to him, staring at the mess like it was the most fascinating thing in the world.

"Told you I could handle it," John said.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Seriously? I think that was probably the worst blowjob I've ever had, and given my history, well, trust me; that's really saying something."

John kind of . . . stiffened for a moment. But then he leaned back, all exaggerated bonelessness, and drawled, "Well, it's nice to be appreciated."

"Oh, please," Rodney said, sitting up. "You totally phoned that in, and you know it. Come here and I'll show you how it's supposed to be done."

John lifted an eyebrow at him. "Does that line ever actually work for you?"

"Hey," Rodney said, and reached for John's hip, but John pulled away and stood up. Not hard now, whatever he might have been before.

"Nah, I don't think so," John said, and bent to pick up his pants.

Rodney blinked. "Wait a minute. We're not actually done here. You didn't . . ." He checked the sheets furtively, but there was no damp spot, no sign that John had come. "Look, I may sometimes be accused of being a little selfish, but I wasn't trying to use you. I'm perfectly willing to reciprocate, here."

John stuck one leg in his pants. His boxers were still inside, but he didn't fumble at all, just pulled both up with a single, easy motion. "I didn't say you weren't." He got the other leg in and yanked them all the way up. His hair was even more tousled than ever and his bare chest made him look strangely more vulnerable than he had looked naked. "C'mon, Rodney. Playtime's over."

Rodney swung his feet slowly to the floor. Who the hell would refuse a blowjob after he'd given one himself? "Is this how you always kick them out?"

John snorted. "I don't usually have to kick them out."

"I see." And suddenly he was in complete agreement with John; he needed to be out of here so that he could clear his head and contemplate the magnitude of this disaster. "Right, okay." He found his pants and yanked them on, not as smoothly as John had, but it wasn't exactly a competition. "For the record, this wasn't how I was expecting this to go. At all."

John crossed his arms over his chest, making no effort to put his shirt back on. "Yeah," he said. "Me neither."

"Okay, then," Rodney said, pulling his shirt over his head. "Okay, I'll just . . . "

"Don't forget your shoes," John said.

Rodney got his socks and shoes on, yanking on the recalcitrant laces until his feet hurt. "Look, I need to know something," he said as he straightened. "You won't . . . I mean, this isn't going to affect our working relationship, is it? Because I would hate to think that anything that happened here would make you . . . would change the way we . . . would damage our . . ."

"Nothing's changed," John said, and he sounded as tired as he looked. "We're still . . . whatever we were before."

Rodney swallowed and lifted his chin. "Friends. We were friends, before."

"Yeah," John said softly. "We were."

"So," Rodney said. "You want to do something tomorrow? Play a game of chess, or uh, you know, a video game or something?"

John looked away. "I'm busy tomorrow."

"Well, what about Thursday. Or Friday? I mean, you can't be busy every night, can you?"

John looked, if anything, even more tired than he had before, and maybe that was the whole problem, anyway, that Rodney had caught him on a bad night. "Yeah, okay. Friday," he said.

"Great," Rodney said, and he did feel marginally better. "I'll just, um . . ."

"I'll see you in the morning," John said. "Staff meeting at 0900, remember?"

"Right, yes, of course." It wasn't that Rodney didn't want to leave. He really did. He just . . . well, John still had his arms folded over his chest, and his face was completely closed off, and Rodney was struck by the sudden, overwhelming, inappropriate urge to kiss him.

"See you," Rodney said, and stumbled out the door.

* * *

By Friday, the depths of the disaster had begun to truly sink in. It wasn't that John treated him any differently, because he didn't. It wasn't that anyone else thought anything was wrong, because there was no reason to think they did. It was just . . . well, it was all Rodney, and he knew it, but he just couldn't get past the fact that he'd left John hanging. That was just wrong, in so many ways. Because at least Rodney had gotten an orgasm out of it. All John had gotten was a brief laugh when Rodney had fallen out of bed.

Rodney wasn't stupid—far from it, actually—so he had a chess board under his arm when he rang John's door chime. But the first thing he did was set it down and round on John, who was watching him with a strangely wary expression.

"Okay, I've been thinking this through, and after considerable analysis, which, quite frankly, took valuable time that I could have put to far better use, I have come to the conclusion that you owe me a do-over."

John's eyes narrowed. "A what?"

"A do-over. You know. You didn't come, so it didn't count, and that means I deserve another chance. What do you think?"

John pressed his lips together. "I think it's a terrible idea."

Rodney took a step toward him. "You laughed at me. And then you gave me a bad blowjob and you didn't even come."

John's face was completely closed, not giving a hint of what he was thinking. "I'm aware of that, Rodney. I was there."

"Yes, yes, I know. I'm just saying, it doesn't count as having sex, and you said you'd have sex with me. Also,"—God, he didn't know why it was true, but it was—"I really want to blow you."

"Rodney." John's hands were on his hips, his eyebrows compressed in a tight line. "Come on, don't—"

"I may not have a lot of experience," Rodney pressed, because there had to be a chink in that armor somewhere, "but I think I can make up for it with enthusiasm."

John's nose wrinkled. "It's harder than it looks."

"I know that," Rodney said with an editorial roll of his eyes. "I didn't say I had no experience."

"Look, I just—"

"I'm not asking you to go steady with me," Rodney interrupted. "I'm just asking you to follow through on your promise. You said you'd have sex with me, and you kicked me out halfway through. So I think I deserve a chance to finish what we started."

John looked at him sideways. "So you're saying you just want to suck me."

"Yes!" Rodney said, because John was weakening. Really, he could see it. "I just want to suck you. You don't have to reciprocate or anything. Seriously."

John's mouth pulled to one side. "And then this will be over, and you won't ask again? Because, honestly, this is not about you. I'm not getting involved with anyone."

Rodney waved a dismissive hand. "I am well aware of that. And as long as it's not a disaster, I promise, I won't be asking again. And anyway, how bad could it be? It's pretty hard to screw up from the receiving end."

"What makes you think I'm going to be the one who screws it up?"

"Nothing, nothing," Rodney said, and started to undress, because if they were going to do this, there was no time like the present. "But it's not like I'm going to ask for another do-over if I screw up."

John stared at him for a long moment, and Rodney could practically see the gears turning in his head. It didn't stop Rodney from continuing to unbutton his shirt.

"Okay," John said finally. "Fine. Let's just . . . not regret this in the morning, okay?"

"Nope, fine, no regrets," Rodney said, and stripped off his shirt. He looked up to find John just standing there staring at him. "Well, get undressed already," he said. "Come on, get the clothes off and get on the bed. The sooner we get there, the sooner we get to the good part, right?"

"Right," John said kind of sarcastically, but he set to work on his clothes, anyway. In a few minutes they were both naked and John was . . . wow, for some reason he looked better tonight than he had the last time. It wasn't that he'd changed any—he was still all angles and long lines, the sharpness softened only by the blurring of body hair—but there was something about those lines that made Rodney want to . . . right, he could touch. And lick, and suck. For one night, one night only, get it while the getting's good.

As soon as his pants were off, Rodney made a beeline for the bed, taking John with him and shoving him around until they could both occupy the ridiculously narrow space without fear of falling off. John just let him arrange them both, an oddly amused expression on his face. But the expression disappeared when Rodney bent down and sucked his dick in.

John was pretty soft, which was not something Rodney had experience with. But it turned out to be kind of fun, because you could do a lot of things with a soft dick you couldn't do with a hard one, like roll it around against the back of your teeth and flip the head back and forth with your tongue and suck it in so far you had pubic hair tickling your nose and okay, wow, that particular game was over pretty fast, because he could actually feel John's dick growing, and in a few quick heartbeats, it was taut against his tongue.

Rodney hummed happily and set to work, trying to remember every good move anyone had ever done on him and, more importantly, trying his damnedest not to stop or break rhythm. He wrapped his left hand around the base and curled his tongue against the head and bobbed up and down, and okay, he could see how this would give him a crick in his neck, and yes, John's little rest breaks were making sense, now. But surely all he had to do was shift his angle so he didn't need to move so much and use his free hand to encourage John to do some of the work by pumping his hips a bit, and—

"Jesus, Rodney," John said. "I thought you said you didn't have much experience."

Rodney lifted his head and gave John's dick a nice long lick. "Well, the bulk of my knowledge is purely theoretical," he said, and licked again, giving an extra flick to the underside of the head. "But I've always had something of a knack for applying pure theory to practical situations."

"Christ," John said, and arched toward him, silently begging for more. There was no way Rodney could resist that—no way he would want to—and in a moment John's dick was in his mouth again, warm and smooth, and God, there were serious advantages of application over theory, because he never would have imagined that John's skin would taste good, or that he would fill Rodney's mouth so perfectly, or that there would be something that twinged in Rodney's chest every time John made one of those amazing, needy noises.

But this was John, the same guy he'd known for four years, and somehow right now it wasn't hard to admit that maybe he'd been wanting this for awhile, that maybe he'd even been thinking about it, when he wasn't thinking about quantum anomalies and what faction of the Pegasus Galaxy was out to get him killed this week. This was John, and it felt good, and if this was the only chance he was ever going to get, he was going to do his best to make it something neither of them would ever forget.

John was actively thrusting now, but Rodney's hand was plenty of protection against choking, so he went with it, keeping his tongue moving and his lips over his teeth. His own dick was so hard it was leaking, and maybe it wasn't something he should be doing, but he couldn't help himself: he sidled over until he was straddling one of John's legs, and kind of rubbed a little against John's knee.

But John didn't pull away. John grunted and bent his leg a little to give Rodney better access, and then Rodney could suck and rub in the same rhythm, and it was—

"Oh, God," John said. Then, "Fuck, fuck, Rodney, off, get off, Rodney, you have to—" And John's hands were in his hair, pulling, which was just, what the hell? But it hurt, so Rodney lifted his head, and John's first spurt hit him full in the face.

"Shit." Rodney ducked out of the way, but not before he'd taken another hit, and damn it, he had semen in his eye and what the fuck? "Jesus," Rodney said, and twisted to wipe his face on the sheet. "What the hell did you do that for?" He blinked hard, trying to clear his eye, because ow, and then glared at John, who had his head tipped back and was panting like he'd just run a marathon.

"Crap," John said.

"You came on my face," Rodney said, and wiped his eyes again. "I can't believe you came on my face."

"Well, I didn't mean to," John said. "You wouldn't get off."

"I was planning to swallow," Rodney said, and damn it, yes, he was peeved.

"Christ," John said, and dropped his head back onto his pillow. "Rodney, c'mere."

"I'm not sure I want to," Rodney said, and yes, maybe part of that was for show, because he was still hard, and if John wanted him up there, maybe it meant John was relenting on the no-reciprocating deal, and—

"Oh, c'mon," John said, "before I change my mind." So maybe Rodney should have held out a little longer, but he was horny and John was naked and the next thing he knew he was sliding up to lie on top of John and John was, oh wow, kissing him.

"You got semen in my eye," Rodney said when John pulled back, but all John did was wrap an arm around him and twist, and then they were lying on their sides, and no one was on the floor. Rodney was still gaping at the move when John's hand closed, hard and warm, around his cock.

"Sorry about that," John said huskily. And then he was jerking Rodney, and wow, maybe his blowjobs were crappy, but this was, Jesus.

"Oh my God," Rodney said. "You said . . . I mean I . . . you don't have to do this. This wasn't what I . . . why I . . ."

"Shh," John said, and nuzzled close to his neck until he was, God, sucking on the good spot behind Rodney's ear. Which meant . . . he remembered, he knew, he was doing this for Rodney and Christ, that was all it took, and Rodney was coming, coming warm and wet all over them both.

John let go of him and flopped back onto the pillow. The bed was narrow enough that there was nowhere for Rodney to put his head except John's shoulder, and maybe he should've just gotten up, but it was over, and he wasn't going to get another chance, and damn it, he wasn't ready to leave yet.

John's shoulder was warm and a little too bony, but apparently not bony enough, because the next thing Rodney knew, John was shifting under him and saying, "Hey, Sleeping Beauty, time to go."

"Wha—?" Rodney sat up with a jerk, and wow, he must've dozed off or something, because his head was completely muzzy.

"Pretty sure your room's the one down the hall," John said, and then cocked his head, looking at Rodney. "You okay? Your eye's kind of red, there."

Rodney blinked, and ow, yes, it still stung a little. "I can't believe you came on my face."

"Hey," John said. "Look, I told you—"

And that was when Rodney saw it, clear as day, because damn it, John had proved that it was possible to screw up a blowjob from the receiving end, and he wanted . . . "No," he said. "No, this is your fault, and I think you need to make it up to me."

John twisted and sat up, at the head of the bed, away from Rodney. "Now, hang on a minute, you promised—"

"I promised this would be the last time if you didn't screw it up." Rodney's stomach was still sticky with half-dried come, so he used a stray corner of John's sheet to clean it off. "But you totally screwed it up, and I'm the one who's paying the consequences, and I think I deserve a little compensation."

John lifted his hand to rub his eyes. "Rodney, look, I—"

"I can't look. My eye hurts. Come on, one more time isn't going to kill you."

John eyed him warily. "We're not dating."

"What makes you think I'd want to date you?" Rodney said, but something inside him twisted at the thought. "I'm just asking for one halfway decent sexual encounter, and I really don't think that's too much to expect. It's not like you leave your other paramours wanting, and trust me, I know, because I've had more than one encounter with them in the corridor."

"'Paramours'?" John said faintly.

"Okay, then," Rodney said. He got to his feet, found his pants, and began pulling them on. "That's settled. But I think we'd better wait until sometime next week, just to make sure my eye's better. Say, Tuesday?"

"Hey," John said. "I haven't said yes."

Rodney buttoned his fly and set to work on his shirt. "Well, you might as well. Unless, of course, you want me to check to see what Ronon and Teyla think about the situation. But I should warn you, I'm pretty confident they'll see things my way."

"That's playing dirty," John said, but Rodney could see the white flag waving in his eyes. "Okay, fine. Tuesday. Assuming we're not offworld or saving the galaxy or something."

"We can have Wednesday for a rain check," Rodney said.

"If we're not offworld then," John said, and God, the urge to kiss him was back, worse than ever. But at least this time Rodney knew he was going to get another chance to. Tuesday. Or Wednesday. He could live with that.

"Great," Rodney said. "I'll see you then."

"You'll see me tomorrow," John said. "M9U-749, remember?"

"That, too," Rodney said, and managed not to smile until he was out the door.

* * *

Tuesday—it was Tuesday, despite an adventure involving a giant sloth, a waterfall, and a group of badly made-up Wraith-wannabes who had kept them occupied Saturday through Monday—Rodney showed up at John's door feeling a little more prepared. For one thing he'd remembered to shave—hey, third time lucky—and for another, he'd managed to ferret out Lieutenant Rodriguez's stash of gay porn, which had given him some very interesting ideas about blowjob technique, and he was eager to try them out.

He didn't figure John would mind too much. Well, once he got over his whole hang-up about the dating thing, which they totally weren't doing anyway, so there was no point in being pissy about it. It wasn't Rodney's fault John couldn't get it right. Seriously, how hard could it be?

"Rodney," John said when his door opened.

"You were expecting someone else?" And whoa, that was a weird thought. Okay, he knew John hadn't been with anyone over the weekend, because they'd been on M9U-749 with the crazies in the green make-up, but they'd been back a whole day, and they weren't planning another mission until Thursday, and John would have plenty of time to get asked by someone else.

But John just tossed off a casual, "Nope," and put his comic book down to get up off the bed, so Rodney went over and got in his space and kissed him.

So maybe they were actually getting somewhere, because John hesitated only briefly before his mouth opened to Rodney's, the momentary awkwardness sliding into heat and wetness and tongue against tongue. And when Rodney reached up to thread his fingers into the back of John's hair, John just grunted and slipped a hand around his waist.

If Rodney closed his eyes—which he totally already had—he could almost imagine . . . no. No, there was no point in imagining that, even when John's other hand came up to stroke his cheek and John pulled back just enough to say, "You shaved."

"Yeah," Rodney said stupidly, but honestly, who would have full command of their brain when they were wrapped around John Sheppard? "I . . . do you like it?"

"It's different," John said, and tipped his head to do a very thorough exploration of Rodney's lips with his own. Rodney just stood there and gave back as good as he was getting, and it was amazing, seriously fantastic. And then John shifted a little and Rodney could feel the ridge of his erection through both pairs of pants, and wow, wow.

John was turned on. John was actually into this, and that was different, too. That was . . . Christ, he would have shaved the first time if he'd known that was what it took. Hell, he would have shaved twice, against the grain, even. He would have—


"What? Wait, why did you stop?" Because John wasn't kissing him anymore, just looking at him speculatively, like he'd spaced out or something, which he totally hadn't.

"I have an idea," John said.

"Does it involve both of us, naked on your bed?"

"Strangely enough, yes."

"Then I am totally behind that idea. One hundred percent."

"Cool," John said, and started stripping.

It turned out that John wanted him face down, which was . . . okay, he'd never done that, and he really didn't think he was ready for that, but if it was what John wanted . . . oh, God.

"Relax," John said, and two hand closed on his shoulders. "I just want to give you a back rub."

"Oh," Rodney said, still stupid, and what was it about John, anyway? "Um, okay, just, go easy, okay?"

But John's hands were already moving, kneading his shoulders, then working inward to his neck, and ow, that hurt.

"Seriously, watch it," Rodney said. "I'm a little sensitive there, and unless you have a sadistic streak, I don't think you want to—"

"You have so many knots in your back, it's practically macramé," John said. "Come on, if I can get them loose, you'll feel a lot better."

"If you don't kill me in the process." Rodney squirmed, because damn it, that hurt even more. "Hey, come on. This is supposed to be foreplay, not sports medicine."

"Trust me on this," John said, and that was completely unfair, because Rodney did trust him, Rodney trusted him with his life on a regular basis, but this was . . . this was . . .

"Ow," Rodney whimpered. "Ow, really."

"Just relax," John said. "Close your eyes and think about what you want to do next."

"I'm trying," Rodney said, and really, he was. He was thinking about flipping over and knocking John onto the floor.

Only—okay, this was sick, and it wasn't that he was enjoying the pain, but John honestly thought he was doing something nice here, and the fact that John wanted to do something, anything was just . . . well, of course he'd be happier if what John wanted to do was give him a slightly more enthusiastic blowjob. Or more kissing, certainly, kissing would be nice. Especially if it involved rubbing and possibly fondling. Yes, fondling would be delightful, but the reality was ow, ow, because that was moving past painful and onto excruciating.

"Okay, really, that's enough. That's quite enough. You can stop now, and by 'now' I mean right this second, not ten minutes from now, because ten minutes from now I'm going to be lucky if I can get up off the bed without a backboard and a full medical team."

"Hey," John said. "I think I'm finally getting somewhere."

Rodney jerked and twisted away from John's hands, and John didn't quite fall off the bed, but he came pretty close. "That's one way of putting it." Rodney lifted an arm to gesture accusingly, and was rewarded by a twinge right across his upper back. "Oh my God, I think you pinched a nerve."

"It can't be that bad." John frowned, picking himself up to sit on the bed next to Rodney. "I wasn't pushing that hard."

"You totally were," Rodney said, because damn it, his whole upper back was still throbbing.

"Look, I'm sorry," John said. "I'll make it up to you." And he leaned closer to slide a hand across Rodney's thigh, which ought to have been pleasurable, but honestly wasn't much of a distraction from the pain.

"Really not in the mood anymore," Rodney said.

John stared at him. "Seriously?"

Rodney glanced down pointedly at his limp dick. "Seriously." Of course, John wasn't hard anymore, either, so at least he hadn't gotten off on the idea of causing pain.

"I could, um . . ." John stroked his hand up Rodney's leg until his thumb brushed Rodney's balls. ". . . do something about that."

It wasn't that Rodney was into denial, or delayed gratification. But it hit him, suddenly, wildly, that he now had the power to make John do this one more time. That they could have another evening together, with more kisses and more . . . whatever, and less of the pain thing, and all he had to do was work this, just a little.

"This may come as a surprise to you, but pain is really not a turn-on for me."

"I kind of got that," John said, and turned his hand so he was cupping Rodney's balls. His thumb stroked the side of Rodney's dick, and God, if he kept that up, Rodney's plan would be done for.

"Really not kidding," Rodney said, and slapped John's hand away. "The next time you want to maul me, do it sometime when we're not supposed to be having sex, okay?"

"Wow." John rubbed his face with one hand and looked up again. "So that's it? You're just going to throw away your last chance, here? Thought you wanted to get this right."

"I do," Rodney said quickly, because that was so not what he was trying to do. "I just don't see the point of trying right now, because I'm pretty sure it's going to be impossible."

"I see," John said, and grimaced. "You know, if you weren't so tight, it wouldn't have hurt."

Rodney made a face at him. "For your information, that's why I moved into a room with a whirlpool tub. It's really astonishingly relaxing." And then he had an idea. An amazing, brilliant idea. Because of course it was the first thing he'd thought about when he moved into the room, but he'd already broken up with Katie at that point, so he hadn't had a chance to try it out. "You could see for yourself," he said. "With me, I mean. The next time. The time we finally get this right."

John's eyebrows arched. "You want to have sex with me in your tub?"

"Oh," Rodney said, because John was looking at him like he'd just suggested they go for a space walk stark naked. "Well, we don't have to. I mean, it was really just an idea."

John was still looking at him, but the surprise had faded, and now Rodney couldn't read his expression at all. "Wow, okay, well, I guess it couldn't be any worse than this."

"Right," Rodney said, because that was a yes. That was totally a yes. "Shall we say tomorrow night? Unless I'm still experiencing any lingering after-effects of your torture session?"

"Sure," John said, like it was nothing, like he was agreeing to a game of chess, and God, how had they gotten here, anyway? "Tomorrow night."

"Great," Rodney said, and whoops, his dick was kind of getting interested at the thought. "I, um, I have to go now."

Rodney was fairly certain he set a speed record for dressing, at least in the Pegasus Galaxy. He didn't look at John while he yanked and tucked and buttoned, but he couldn't resist one last glance as he headed out the door.

John was just watching him, contemplatively, from the bed. Still completely naked, and suddenly Rodney got it, got it with a full force that nearly bowled him over. Because if they could see what he saw now—the women, the men, Ronon—it was no wonder they were beating down John's door for the chance for an hour or two with him.

It wasn't physical beauty, well, not entirely. It was just, somehow . . . John was John, to the Nth degree. He was more himself than anyone Rodney had ever known. And that was . . . actually, Rodney had no idea what it was, but he wanted it, with an intensity that made his teeth ache.

"Tomorrow," he said like an idiot. And ran.

* * *

The Ancient version of a whirlpool tub was completely automated. One simple activation filled it with water at the perfect temperature, and another touch started or stopped the jets. There was nothing to fiddle with. Nothing to adjust. Nothing to keep Rodney occupied while he waited for John to show.

The door chime rang at ten-oh-nine, which meant John wasn't looking forward to this even a tenth as much as Rodney was. Well, that or he'd been waylaid by some sort of crisis, but if it had been anything even remotely important Rodney would have heard about it. He folded his arms over his chest and called out, "Come in."

And then John was there, locking the door and crossing the room to the bathroom. He looked rumpled and tired, and Rodney was obviously going soft, because his annoyance evaporated almost immediately.

"Hey," John said. "Sorry I'm late."

As an apology it was, well, more than Rodney was expecting. "The tub's just about ready," he said, which was a complete lie—it had been ready for an hour. "You want bubbles or something?"

John's gaze tracked from Rodney to the tub and back to Rodney again, but all he did was shrug and say, "Knock yourself out."

They were really going to do this. Have sex in a hot tub. Rodney's hands weren't entirely steady as he picked up the liquid soap they'd traded for on M7W-623, so he ended up tipping in a little more than strictly necessary. The jets churned and frothed it, and in no time the tub was piled high with white foam.

"Smells good," John said, and it did, like pine or eucalyptus, only not really like either. But clean. Refreshing. Possibly even sexy. At this point, Rodney had absolutely no idea. He only knew that John was here, that John was, God, taking off his shirt, which meant that he should be doing the same.

He stripped as quickly as he could, and managed to beat John, which was actually not what he'd been going for. "Right, ah, you think we should—"

"Don't wait for me," John said. He was bent over, untying his boots nice and slow, like he was actively trying make Rodney crazy.

"You think?" Rodney eyed the bubbles, then John, who was finally pulling off one boot. "You wouldn't rather be, well, on the bottom?" And oh, God, he hadn't just said that, had he?

John's eyes crinkled. "I'm sure we'll work it out once we're both in there." And he straightened and started to unbutton his pants.

"Right, right, of course," Rodney said, and then there was nothing left to do but get in the tub.

It felt as good as always—leave it to the Ancients to live in an enormous cold city with sharp corners everywhere but the most decadent baths in two galaxies. Rodney tipped his head back and closed his eyes for a moment, and he might have actually let out a blissful little sigh or two.

"Sure you want me to join you? You look like you're having a party in there all by yourself."

Rodney shot upright, sending water slopping to the rim of the tub. "No! I mean yes. Yes, of course I'm sure. I was just . . ."

John grinned and leaned toward him, lifting one leg to slide it into the water, and oh, oh he was hard; he was really hard. He was turned on already and they hadn't even kissed.

Rodney swallowed as John swung his other leg in, straddled Rodney's body and slowly lowered himself into the water.

"This work for you?" John asked, and wow, Rodney could feel John's knees against the outside of his thighs, and the phantom brush of, no, no, that was really John's dick, bobbing in the swirling water.

"Um, yes?" Rodney said, a little higher pitched than he'd intended.

"Cool," John said, and leaned in to kiss him, slow and lazy like the warmth of the water.

Rodney tipped his head back and went with it, and John followed, tracing the shape of Rodney's mouth with his own. He'd shaved again—he shaved every time—and Rodney wanted to ask him not to, next time, just to see what it was like. Only there wasn't going to be a next time. There was never a next time, and damn it, he'd known that from the start.

"You okay?" John asked against his mouth.

"Sure," Rodney lied. "I'm just great."

John pulled back a bit and looked at him, like he wasn't buying that for a moment. "How's the back?"

"The back?" Oh, right. The back. Well, he wasn't about to admit he'd woken up pain-free for the first time in months. The last thing he needed was for John to think that his little torture session had actually done some good. "Oh, it's better. I mean, the tub, the water, really is, ah, quite nice. For the back."

"Nice for other things, too," John said with a smile, and bumped his dick up against Rodney's.

"Yes, of course, that's really a very good, oh God, a very good point." So maybe he was babbling, but John was rubbing up against him now, and he couldn't help himself; he hitched up his hips and rubbed back while the water churned and foamed around them.

"I'm pretty fond of it," John said, shoving against him. "My point, I mean. I kind of like your point, too."

"Oh my God," Rodney whimpered, shoving back. "Please don't tell me that's what brings the hordes to your door. I mean, I can understand about the whole military hero thing you've got going, and I could even see one or two of them, well, the women, anyway, being partial to the hair. But, seriously? Your idea of talking dirty is making bad puns?"

"Hey," John said, and leaned in to steal a quick kiss. "C'mon, you totally thought it was funny."

"That is just so unfair," Rodney said, and slipped his wet hands around John's neck to hold him there. John's lips were slippery sweet, and his dick was hard against Rodney's, and the unfairest part about it all was that this was the best thing they'd done yet.

"This was a good idea," John said when they finally broke the kiss.

"Yes, well, I'm full of those," Rodney managed.

John nuzzled his ear, perilously close to the good spot right behind it. "Should've figured this was why you decided to move. I bet they all love it."

It took Rodney an embarrassingly long time to figure out what he meant, but John's breath against his ear was incredibly distracting. "Uh, no, actually, this is the first time I've ever used the tub for, ah, for this particular activity."

"Really." John pulled his head up, which conversely thrust his dick harder against Rodney's. "I'm the first?"

"There's no need to get smug about it. I'm really incredibly busy, you know."

"But not too busy for me," John said. "I think I'm honored."

Oh, God. That was too close to the truth. That was way too close to the truth. "Well, honestly, if you wouldn't keep screwing it up," Rodney said, and it was amazing how pure panic could come out as crankiness, "then we wouldn't have to keep trying like this."

John's hips stopped moving, and for a long moment Rodney was sure he'd gone overboard in the opposite direction. But then John slipped an arm around Rodney's waist under the water and ground down against Rodney's dick so hard Rodney groaned. "What do you say we get it right this time?" And then John leaned in and sucked that spot behind Rodney's ear, and that was . . . that was . . . oh, that was perfect.

"God, yes," he said, and if John was going to do it like this, he didn't care if it was the last time. Of course, he was never going to be able to take a bath again without thinking of John, but if that was the price he had to pay, well, he was more than willing. Actually, it was quite a bargain—but then, just about anything would have been a bargain because really, this was really pretty close to priceless.

John was thrusting hard against him, his mouth still warm and wet against Rodney's neck, little grunts and gasps keeping time with the movement. And then he pulled back, and maybe he shoved too hard or maybe Rodney hitched up just a little too soon, but suddenly John's dick was not sliding against his, but slipping down, underneath his balls, and oh, oh, God.

"Crap," John said, and jerked back, body and head. "Sorry, sorry."

"Where did you go?" Rodney said, and yes, that was his voice, begging, broken. "You can't . . . seriously, I just . . . come back. Please, John."

And just like that, John was back, kissing him hard, and all Rodney had to do was reach down between them and take John's dick in his fist and guide it down between his legs, and oh fuck, he wasn't doing this, he'd never . . . but he needed John to know it was okay, it was fine, it was, oh God yes, that was what he needed, the pressure right there behind his balls, and when John pushed his hips tentatively forward, his dick slid over Rodney's hole and set every nerve in his body tingling.

"Jesus, Rodney," John whispered. "Like that?"

"Yes, like that. Just exactly like that."

John thrust again, a little harder, and Rodney gasped and tightened, and then somehow John was fucking the space between his legs and it was . . . the thing was, he'd never tried anything like this, never wanted anything like this, but John wasn't trying to push it any further; John was panting in his ear like this was the best thing ever, and oh God, somehow it was, it really was, and all he needed was . . .

"Come on, Rodney," John said, and his hand closed around Rodney's dick between them. "Give it up for me. C'mon, I know you can."

Rodney didn't want to come. Well, not now, anyway; he wanted this to last at least a reasonable facsimile of forever. But John's hand was stripping him mercilessly and John's dick was hitting places he didn't even know were a turn-on, and then John's mouth found the sweet spot on his neck again, and that was it, he was coming, spurting hard into the water between them.

"Oh, thank God," John said, and thrust three more times before he shuddered and shuddered and grabbed Rodney tight and kissed him.

The kiss went on a little longer than Rodney had expected, lips and teeth and tongue, and when John finally pulled away, his expression was softer than Rodney had ever seen it.

"You, um . . ." Rodney said, but his brain was still offline, and he couldn't manage to finish the sentence.

"Yeah," John said. His face was flushed and there was a streak of foam across his collarbone and Rodney wanted to kiss him again so badly it hurt. But it was over. No one had screwed it up this time, which meant he had no excuse to ask for another do-over. Now, or ever.

"We should get out," Rodney said, possibly a little more testily than was strictly necessary.

"We should," John said, but he didn't make any move to actually do it.

"In case you hadn't noticed you're the one on top," Rodney said, because, seriously, did sex make John stupid or something?

"Yeah, I am," John said, and flashed him a smile that went from sweet to devilish in the space of a microsecond. Rodney had no time whatsoever to prepare, because suddenly John had one hand on his hip and the other on his shoulder, shoving him hard, and his head was, Jesus, under water, and he was clawing and fighting his way back to the surface, and what the fuck?

"What the hell was that for?" Rodney sputtered. Water was streaming down his face; he had soap and God knew what in his eyes, and damn it, that was just mean. "I'll have you know, I have very sensitive eyes, and if I have a reaction to this soap and end up in the infirmary, I'll . . ."

"You'll what?" John said. He looked disgustingly pleased with himself, lounging against the other side of the tub. "Come on, what are you going to do, ask me for another do-over?"

Oh, God. Oh, God, that was what this was about. John was teasing him, testing him. Daring him. Rodney rubbed the soap out of his eyes and pushed his dripping hair back and glared. "What makes you think I would want one?"

John's smile didn't fade, but it went a little ironic around the eyes. "Nothing in particular. Well, apart from the fact that you are, hands down, the pickiest person I have ever had sex with."

"I'm not picky. I have extremely reasonable standards." And he wasn't going to do it; he couldn't do it; he wasn't an idiot, and neither was John, but then he was saying, "And quite frankly, ducking me does not meet them."

"Ha," John said. "Thought so."

"I didn't say I was asking," Rodney said with a sniff. And since John was clearly not going anywhere, he heaved and managed to haul his feet out from between John's legs and climb out of the tub. Fortunately he'd thought to leave a pile of towels handy, so he wrapped one around his waist and used the other to scrub his face and hair.

Behind him, the tub's jets suddenly went silent. Rodney didn't turn, but he heard the slosh and thump of John getting out, and then John was in front of him, toweling his back without bothering to wrap up anywhere.

Rodney wasn't watching. He wasn't going to give John the satisfaction, even if there was something weirdly mesmerizing about the bounce and swing of John's dick and balls as he dried off everywhere else.

"So when do you want to try again?" John asked, completely matter-of-factly, as he finally brought the towel to the front to dry the bouncy parts. "Tomorrow? Or Friday?"

"What?" Okay, now he really was staring, because John had apparently lost his mind. "Wait, we're doing this, now?"

John shrugged, and how was it possible for him to be so naked and yet so casual? "You said you wanted one halfway-decent sexual encounter, and I guess I kind of ruined it at the end, there."

"Really?" Rodney gulped. "You mean, you'd really do it?"

John bent, found his pants and started pulling them on. "Hell, Rodney, I've done it three times already. What's one more try between friends?"

Rodney scowled at him, though his heart was pounding in his chest. "We're not dating."

"Never said we were." John fastened his pants and reached for his t-shirt.

Rodney swallowed hard. He couldn't say yes. He didn't dare, because if he said yes, John would know. "Okay. Okay, I would appreciate it. Just the . . . just the once."

John slipped his uniform shirt on and started buttoning, his face completely neutral, like he didn't get it, or didn't care if he did. "Tomorrow or Friday?"

"Friday," Rodney said firmly, because he might be insane, but he was pretty sure he needed a little time to regroup and figure out what kind of game John thought he was playing.

"Sounds good," John said, and started on his socks and shoes. "My quarters?"

Rodney swallowed. "Sure. I'll just show up at the, um, the usual time." And really, it would be easier that way. It was a lot easier to be the one leaving than the one who had to watch the other go.

"Great. See you then," John said, and patted Rodney's shoulder on his way out the door.

* * *

It didn't take until Friday to figure it out. A few hours of tossing and turning were plenty to get the facts straight; well, as straight as possible, under the circumstances. The thing was, John had done it deliberately. The ducking had been wholly intentional; the only question was why. And the answer . . . well, there weren't enough data points to determine the answer, but there were a few logical conclusions.

The thing was, if he hadn't done it, John could easily have claimed he'd fulfilled his part of their bargain. Therefore John hadn't wanted to, or had wanted something else more.

So maybe he was just playing with Rodney, teasing him just for the fun of it, which, okay, wouldn't exactly be unusual. But in the process, he'd agreed to have sex again, which meant . . . well, of course he'd enjoyed it. That much was obvious. But presumably he enjoyed the sex he had with his legions of one-night-stands, too. So, much as Rodney would have liked to believe that he was special . . . no. No, he was special, because he'd said he wasn't interested in dating. Which apparently meant he was as good as a one-night stand . . . as long as he never asked for anything more.

Rodney rolled over and pillowed his head on his arms. Okay, he'd known from the start that John wasn't picky. That was what had gotten them into this mess in the first place. But this was just . . . right. Well, it was what it was, and he could take it or leave it. And all things considered . . . he knew himself well enough to know he wasn't going to say no. This time, or the next, because damn it, there was going to be a next time if it killed him.

What he needed was a plan, a glorious plan, a bulletproof plan. A way to make sure that whatever happened, something went wrong. And really, the more wrong the better—as long as he could blame it on John.

So maybe it was a little crazy to be planning for bad sex in order to have another shot at bad sex, but well, apparently that was what he'd signed himself up for. And really, it wouldn't be hard.

He could think of one sure-fire recipe for disaster, easy as breathing.

* * *

"I want you to fuck me," Rodney announced when John's door opened.

John was off the bed in an instant, yanking him inside and swiping the door shut and locked. "Jesus, Rodney."

"What? There was no one anywhere near this corridor. I checked before I came over."

"Oh," John said, and the cords in his neck relaxed a little. "You, uh, you always do that?"

"I'm not an idiot," Rodney said, neatly sidestepping the fact that checking the vicinity for unexpected life signs was a pretty ingrained habit by now. "And however much I disapprove of your government's ridiculous rules, I do understand the need for discretion, here."

"Thanks." John scratched the back of his neck. "I'm just not really used to this."

"Yes, well," Rodney muttered, possibly a tiny bit bitterly, "there's no point in getting used to it, is there?"

But John didn't seem to be paying attention. "You really want to, uh . . ."

"Fuck?" Rodney lifted his chin. "Yes."

"Okay," John said quietly. "Okay, we can do that." And he reached to brush Rodney's cheek with his thumb, soft as a kiss.

"Right, then," Rodney said, sliding his jacket zipper down. "Shall we get on with it?"

"No, let me," John said, and eased the jacket off Rodney's shoulders. John's hands came back, slowly stroking up Rodney's bare arms and down his chest, and then lifting the hem of his t-shirt. Rodney just stood there watching the progress of those hands, and maybe his mouth was hanging open a little, but honestly, who was this and what had he done with John Sheppard?

"Look, I don't—I mean, I'm all for a bit of foreplay, but this isn't really—mmmph," Rodney sputtered as John eased the t-shirt over his head.

"Isn't what?" John said, soft and low, and oh, those were thumbs circling Rodney's nipples, and John was kissing his neck, careful of the tight spots, and Jesus.

"Nothing," Rodney said. "Nothing, I'm fine, I'm really perfectly fine with this. You can, oh God, you can do anything you want." Because John was licking his left nipple and he was rapidly losing the power of coherent speech.

John chuckled against his chest and licked some more, then slid lower, nuzzling the hair on Rodney's stomach and setting to work unbuttoning his fly. Rodney watched him in a daze, because this was just . . . this was . . . okay, obviously he'd had sex with John three times already, but he'd never had this, never had John focused on him like this, like his pleasure was all that mattered, and wow, if this was what the hordes of admirers got, it was no wonder they were standing in line.

John got his fly open and pushed his pants and boxers down. For a moment, John just knelt there, like he was contemplating the lay of the land, and Rodney held his breath. He wasn't even sure what he was holding it for, because they were supposed to be fucking, not this, but then John took a visible breath and sucked him in, and it was, oh, God.

How had he ever thought John was bad at blowjobs? Well, okay, maybe John wasn't a pro, but enthusiasm totally counted, and that was tongue in exactly the right place, licking and swirling, and then John looked up at him, mouth still stretched around him, and Rodney almost came right then and there.

Rodney pressed his lips together and closed his eyes. He should tell John to stop. He knew that; he just . . . well, if they were going to do something awful—and, given the fact that it wasn't something he'd ever had the slightest urge to try, he was pretty certain that getting fucked was going to be awful—then he deserved at least a few minutes of . . . oh, oh.

John was moving, now, bobbing his head in and out, and Rodney couldn't help the answering twitch of his hips. John made a strangled noise around him, but then John's hands were on his ass, pulling him forward, encouraging him, and there was no way to resist.

Rodney let his hips rock forward, pushing into John's mouth, and John coughed and gulped and held on. John's hands on his ass guided him, in and out, and it was good; seriously, it was amazing. And then John's hands slid down, kneading and squeezing, until his fingers were almost . . . almost . . . oh, God.

Rodney came silently, his head thrown back and pleasure tingling its way to every finger, every toe. John gagged and choked, but didn't pull off, just rode it out, licking and slurping until Rodney was completely spent.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Rodney said as John climbed to his feet, still completely dressed when Rodney was naked down to where his pants were bunched around his thighs. "I didn't mean to—"

John's mouth covered his, soft and tangy-bitter, and oh God, that was himself he was tasting on John's tongue, and it wasn't like he'd never been kissed by someone who'd just given him head, but, no, not like this, never like this. John was kissing him like he couldn't stop, like he just wanted to stand here and do nothing else all night long, and something twisted tight in Rodney's chest and refused to let go.

"You're still dressed," Rodney said, wrenching his mouth away. "Why are you still dressed?"

But John dove in for another quick kiss. "Relax. The city's not on fire. We've got plenty of time."

"I know that," Rodney said, only they didn't have plenty of time. That was the problem: there was never enough time, because there was never any guarantee of a next time. He bent his head and attacked John's shirt buttons, slipping one after the other as fast as he could. In less than a minute he was tugging John's shirt down over his wrists, then lifting off his t-shirt and setting to work on his fly.

"Hey, you, too," John said, but Rodney was already down on his knees, his own pants still tight around his thighs. John's cock was hot and salty in his mouth, and it wasn't like the last time, not even close, because John was hard already, John was leaking on his tongue already, and if he kept this up, John was going to come already, and right, right, he couldn't do that, because he needed to manufacture a disaster, here.

Rodney pulled off and John whimpered. "I told you," Rodney said as he sat back to fumble out of his own shoes and socks and pants. "I want you to fuck me."

"I'm good," John said, looking down at him with glassy eyes. "Really, I was perfectly happy with what you were doing."

Rodney leaned forward and jerked John's boot laces loose. "Well, I'm sorry, but as it happens, I have other plans."

"Oh, plans." John came back to himself, a little. "Well, if you've got plans . . ." And he reached down to help pull his pants all the way down and off.

"Bed," Rodney said, a little breathless. "We need to be on the bed. Oh, and I need lube. Please tell me you have lube." Because, yes, occasionally his plans weren't entirely perfect, and he'd forgotten to bring anything himself.

"I have everything we need," John said. "Nightstand drawer."

Right, of course John had supplies. John probably ordered them in bulk. Rodney climbed over the bed and opened the drawer, and whoa, that wasn't an exaggeration. There were two bottles and a tube, as well as a supersize box of condoms. Rodney grabbed a random bottle and popped the top, only to have John take it out of his hand.

"Not that one," John said, and switched it for another that looked almost exactly the same. He patted the bed. "You want to lay down?" Jesus. John was going to . . . "I can get myself ready," Rodney said, holding out his hand for the bottle.

But John didn't hand it over. "I got it," he said. "C'mon, Rodney. If you really want this, just lay down."

"Right, right, lying down." And there was nothing else to do but stretch himself, face down on John's bed. The sheets were soft and smelled clean, and a moment later, John's hand touched his back, warm and surprisingly gentle.

"Hey," John said, stroking downward. "Just relax, okay?"

Rodney wasn't relaxed, wasn't going to be relaxed, because this wasn't the sort of thing it was possible to be relaxed about. Even if the hands now kneading his ass felt a lot nicer than he'd expected.

"That's better," John said, and something warm and soft brushed one cheek, and—oh God, that was a kiss. John had totally just kissed him on the ass.

Rodney closed his eyes and held on while John stroked and kneaded and, yes, kissed some more. He wasn't hard; wasn't going to get hard, because he was almost forty and he'd already come. But it was a different sort of pleasure, slow and easy, like he was melting all the way down to his bones.

"You could do that," he muttered into John's pillow. "Seriously, you could do that all night long."

John chuckled. "Don't tempt me." But his mouth touched the swell of Rodney's ass again, warm and wet, cooling when he sat up again and slid his hands closer together, right to the center, and then, God, slipped one thumb into the crease to brush Rodney's hole.

It tingled like a tiny shock, or maybe he was just so sensitized he thought it did. Rodney bit back a whimper, but John must have felt it, because his thumb came back, drawing lazy circles, and there was no reason it should have felt good, but it did. It was like the hot tub all over again, and he wanted, needed more. But John just pressed another kiss against his skin and pulled away.

"Wait, where did you—" But Rodney didn't need to finish the sentence, because he heard the top of the bottle pop open, and a moment later, John's hand was back, slick and teasing, circling and pushing and oh, so good.

"So I guess you've done this a lot," John said softly, and pressed the tip of one finger inside.

For a moment Rodney kind of forgot to breathe. But John had asked a question. "Well, actually, no," Rodney said, too overloaded to attempt a lie, "this is my first time. Is that going to be a problem?"

John's finger stopped moving. "No," he said in a strangely strangled voice. "Not if you're sure you want it."

"I'm sure," Rodney said. "I'm sure, could we just . . ."

"Yeah." John's finger started moving again, pressing in and out, now. "I think I'd better stretch you."

"Nng," Rodney said, and spread his legs a little wider.

It should have felt unpleasant. Logically, he knew that. There was a lot of potential for pain, and really, this wasn't anything he'd ever wanted. But John's hands were warm and sure, and he moved slowly but not too slowly, pressing in and in and then his whole finger was inside, and oh, that was a different sensation entirely.

"God," Rodney said, and when John said, "More?" it was all he could do to nod against the pillow.

More fingers pushed inside him, and there was a stretchy-hurt, but the sensation came back, not a tingling anymore but a sweet, diffuse pleasure that made him want more, that made him want . . .

"Okay, I need it now," Rodney said. "Need your cock. Inside me. Right now."

"Christ, McKay," John said, but his voice sounded like laughter. "Should've known you'd be demanding."

Rodney heard the slide of the nightstand drawer and opened his eyes enough to see John taking a square packet out. And then, mere moments later—and no, he was not going to think what it meant that John was that practiced at putting on a condom—he felt something warm and blunt and a lot bigger than a finger against his ass.

"Look, just do it, okay?" Rodney said, because John was just holding it there, not moving at all. "Preferably today, not tomorrow."

"Working on it," John said, and slowly, excruciatingly slowly, he pushed inside.

He felt bigger than Rodney was expecting, and the stretch hurt again, but Rodney just lifted his hips until finally, finally, there was pressure just exactly where he wanted it. And then John began to move.

He must have whimpered or something, because John froze, still deep inside, and said, "You okay?"

"I'm fine, I'm good, I'm really pretty much fantastic here, or I would be if you would actually move and not just . . . oh God." Because John was thrusting again and it felt good all the way to his elbows.

John settled into a rhythm, smooth and steady, hitting the right spot on every stroke, taking Rodney apart piece by piece, until he had to hitch his hips up and beg. "Come on, you can do it harder than that. Please, John, you can . . . okay, harder is good. Harder is great. Harder is, oh my God, perfect."

"Rodney," John grunted. "Rodney, I can't . . . you gotta . . ." And his hand reached under to find Rodney's cock.

Don't worry about it, Rodney almost said. There was no way he was going to . . . except okay, wow, maybe he was, because John's hand felt astonishing, and John's cock was still pounding into him and oh, oh fuck.

The world tipped and went fuzzy around the edges, and the orgasm rolled from his heels through his spine and on outward to the palms of his hands. John was curled up over his back, still thrusting into him, sucking hard on the perfect spot on his neck as they rode Rodney's shocks out together, and then John was the one bucking and pulsing and holding on tight.

"Fuck, Rodney."

"I know," Rodney said, the wonder of it choking his words. "I know, just . . ." Amazing, he wanted to say, but the word didn't come out. Nothing came out, because John was kissing the back of his neck, slow and wet, and then, too soon, John was rolling off him. Rodney slid over to make room and John grabbed a tissue to deal with the condom and somehow they ended up side by side, with John flat on his back and Rodney curled next to him, his right leg slung over one of John's.

John's face was flushed and expansive. "Now that's what I call a good plan."

"Yes, it was, wasn't it?" For a moment Rodney was nothing but smug. And then it hit him: apparently he was the one who was stupid after sex, because this wasn't the plan at all. It wasn't supposed to be perfect. It was supposed to be awful. It needed to be awful, because otherwise he had no excuse to ask for a do-over, and John . . . wasn't playing along this time. At all. In fact, John hadn't done anything to screw it up, hadn't even tried, wasn't trying now, which meant . . .


"You want to know what's funny?" John said, his voice still warm. "I had no idea you were gay."

"I'm not gay," Rodney said, and it came out sharper than he'd meant it to, but damn it, he was reeling, here. "I'm bisexual. Which is, of course, the only logical sexual orientation. Anything else cuts out half of your opportunities."

"Huh," John said. "That makes sense, I guess. I haven't really known that many bisexuals."

"You mean, apart from yourself," Rodney said. Not that it mattered if they were never going to have sex again, but still, it was the principle of the thing.

"Me?" John had the gall to look surprised. "Well, not really. I mean, okay." He gestured to the space between them. "Maybe I'm not as straight as I thought I was, but—"

"No, no, no, wait," Rodney said, because that was impossible. That was insult to injury. "You can't possibly. . . . What about Ronon? I know you had sex with him. I saw him coming out of your room."

John shrugged with one shoulder. "That was some kind of Satedan warrior bonding thing. We just stuck our hands down each other's pants. It wasn't like this."

Rodney sat up. This was worse than disaster. This was epic disaster. And yes, of course, he'd known all along that John didn't want what he wanted, but he hadn't realized the gulf was as wide as this. "I have to go," he said jerkily, and lunged for his pants.

"Hey," John drawled. "Aren't you going to tell me what I did wrong this time?"

Rodney buttoned up his pants—apparently he was working on a Ph.D. in speed dressing—and reached for his shirt. "Nothing," he said, and dragged the shirt over his head, because John had no right, absolutely no damn right to try playing along now. "Not a goddamned thing."

"Rodney." Now John sounded kind of peeved.

"Seriously," Rodney said, jamming his feet in his shoes and shoving his socks in his jacket pocket. "It was great. It was perfect. Congratulations, you finally got it right."

"Rodney," John said, but honestly, Rodney had already heard enough.

"Going," Rodney said, and it was small comfort to know that this was the last time he was going to have to flee like this.

He was shaking by the time he made it back to his room.

* * *

He made it through three whole days without mortifying himself or blowing up any planets, so really, Rodney figured he was doing pretty well. Okay, maybe he spent a fair amount of time kicking himself for not having figured it out earlier, but he was pretty sure he hadn't wanted to figure it out earlier, and even genius-level intelligence wasn't much use against that.

So, John was straight and whatever game he'd been playing, it certainly wasn't the game Rodney had been playing, but anyway, life went on. Teyla still rolled her eyes at him and Ronon still ate his food off his knife and Rodney managed to avoid John entirely.

Well, almost entirely, which clearly wasn't enough, because it was ten at night and the coast ought to have been clear, but there was John, right outside the mess, one hand propping him against a wall panel and talking to . . . oh, crap.

Dr. Lena Zemaitis was as gorgeous as she was brilliant, especially when she was smiling . . . smiling and leaning in and resting her hand on John's arm. Her head was tipped and her cheeks were flushed and it didn't take a double Ph.D. to know where that was going.

Rodney hurried past them and into the mess, and even Tarpagian seed cakes weren't enough to console him. He took three anyway, and got himself a cup of coffee and went to sit by the window with his back to the door so he wouldn't have to see if John came in with Zemaitis . . . or didn't.

He was halfway through his second cake when Ronon sat down across from him. "So," Ronon said without preamble, because he was Ronon and he didn't do preamble. "You and Sheppard."

Rodney's stomach clenched around the one and a half seed cakes already inside it. "There is no me and Sheppard. I have no idea where you heard that rumor, but we are nothing more than friendly colleagues. Anything else is a mere figment of your imagination."

Ronon grinned and tipped his chair back. "Thought so."

"No, really," Rodney said. "He's out there hitting on an organic chemist. Didn't you see them when you came in? It was pretty hard to miss."

"Saw a couple of scientists," Ronon said, ingesting half a seed cake in a single bite. "Didn't see Sheppard."

"Great," Rodney said morosely, because he knew what that meant. John and Zemaitis were probably halfway to his room already.

"You gonna eat that?" Ronon asked, eyeing Rodney's third cake.

Rodney sighed and pushed it across. "Go ahead. I'm not hungry anymore." And while Ronon was distracted, Rodney got up and went to bus his tray.

Ronon was right; John and Zemaitis were both gone. So Rodney wandered back to his room.

He wasn't going to do it. Really, he had plenty of better things to do, and the last thing he needed to be doing was wallowing. But the first thing he did when he got to his room was check the life-signs detector.

There was one life sign in John's quarters. Against the east wall, where the head of his bed was. So either John worked incredibly fast, or Zemaitis hadn't showed up yet.

She'd probably gone to her room to freshen up. Not that she needed to, seeing as she'd looked pretty much perfect outside the mess, but women were like that, sometimes.

But an hour later, she still hadn't showed, and John's life sign was exactly where it had been the whole evening, apart from the one time he'd gotten up to go to the bathroom. And suddenly Rodney couldn't take it. He had to know, even if he'd promised himself he wouldn't do anything like this. He grabbed his chessboard for cover and stomped down the hall to John's room.

"Oh, hey," John said when the door opened. For a moment his eyes were surprised and warm, and then his whole face shuttered and he glanced back down at the magazine he'd apparently been reading.

"I brought my chessboard," Rodney said, waving it unnecessarily from the open doorway. "We haven't played for awhile."

"No," John said thoughtfully. "We haven't." He looked up again and set his magazine down. "Well, come in."

Rodney switched the chessboard from his right hand to his left. "You're not expecting anyone?"

John shrugged. "No one in particular."

It couldn't be a lie, because if it were, he wouldn't have told Rodney to come in. Rodney crossed the space quickly and perched on the corner of John's couch, setting the chessboard on the foot of the bed. "Wow," he said as he began setting up the pieces. "That was fast work. Even for you. Really, that's quite impressive."

John swung his feet around to the floor. "Excuse me?"

"Zemaitis," Rodney said, because if John was going to make him spell it out, well, he was going to spell it out. "It took you, what, less than twenty minutes? That's really something. I mean, I hope she was satisfied."

John rolled his eyes. "I didn't have sex with her."


"Hey," John said. "You're not the only one who can be picky."

"Oh, Please. What was there to be picky about? She's blonde, she's hot, and she's brilliant. And don't tell me you're intimidated by the brilliant part, because I won't believe it for a second. I mean, after all, you did have sex with me."

John's chin came up. "Yes, Rodney. I did."

Rodney swallowed and concentrated on the chessboard, lining up the pieces with skill born of years of practice. "So what the hell was the problem? Look, I know she asked you. I mean, seriously, she was all over you. She was doing that thing with her hair and touching your arm, and if you weren't looking straight down her cleavage, it certainly wasn't her fault."

John turned, one knee up on the bed, and started rearranging the white pieces on the board in front of him, which was perfectly ridiculous because Rodney had just . . . okay, so maybe he'd put the knights where the rooks were supposed to go.

"I wasn't in the mood," John said.

Rodney looked up, because he had to see John's face. But John just looked annoyed. "Seriously?"

"Yes, seriously." John's gaze was firmly on the chessboard. "Are we going to play, here?"

"You can't . . . I mean, come on, you're always in the mood. I didn't even think the word 'no' was in your vocabulary. And I think I can be forgiven for that assumption, seeing as I've never actually seen you—"

"Rodney," John said, and now his voice was as annoyed as his face.

"Right, right," Rodney said, and waved at the chess board. "I think it's your turn to be white."

John didn't say anything, just slid his king's pawn forward. Rodney countered with the Sicillian defense because it meant he didn't have to think for a couple of moves. And he wasn't going to do it, really, he'd had enough humiliation in the past couple of weeks to last him a decade, but it was out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

"So what on earth were you thinking when you said yes to me? Don't tell me you were in the mood then, because unless being treed by a giant slug is a turn-on for you—which, frankly, is a pretty frightening thought—you had to be about as far from in the mood as I was."

John's face kind of squinched up, but he didn't look away from the board as he moved his knight. "If you weren't in the mood, why'd you ask?"

"I didn't," Rodney said. "You jumped to conclusions all on your own. I wasn't even interested. You just turned everything around."

"Really," John said flatly.

"Yes," Rodney said. "Really. And don't think you can distract me by changing the subject. You still haven't answered my question."

"Your move," John said.

"Right." Rodney slid a pawn forward.

John leaned back on his hands, not looking at either Rodney or the chess board. "So you're saying we had sex four times when neither of us wanted it?"

"Apparently," Rodney said, and waited while John moved another pawn. "No, really, why the hell did you say yes?"

"I don't know," John said, more forcefully than was strictly necessary. "I just . . . look, it was you, and you seemed like you were pretty interested. And we were up a tree. How the hell was I supposed to say no?"

"You said no just fine to Lena Zemaitis," Rodney said, and made his move.

John took out Rodney's bishop with a casual bump of his knight. "Trust me, that part was easy."

Rodney tried to take stock of the board, but the game was as much of a disaster as the conversation. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," John said. "Just . . . just leave it, okay?"

"Right," Rodney said, and made another blind move.

John countered, and Rodney took out his knight, and it was only then that he realized that John was as distracted as he was. Really, the game wasn't just a disaster; it was nonsensical, no clear pattern of attack or defense on either side. "It was good, though, wasn't it?" he heard himself say. "I mean, the last time we did it, obviously, not the first."

John's hand froze, halfway to the chess board. "Yeah," he said quietly. "It was pretty damn good."

Rodney swallowed the strange lump in his throat. "Seriously, it was perfect. Not one thing went wrong. We even came at the same time."

John gave him a quick, furtive glance and moved a piece. "You came before me."

"By, like, thirty seconds," Rodney said. "That doesn't count."

"Okay. So it was perfect. Great." But John sounded almost disappointed. As if he really . . .

"It was too perfect," Rodney blurted out. "Nobody has sex like that. Well, I mean obviously, we did, but come on. It almost wasn't real. So really, all things considered, I think I'd be well within my rights to ask for a do-over."

John's chin jerked up, his eyes unreadable. "A do-over?"

It was too late to back out now. "Because it was too perfect. I mean, if it doesn't feel real, it's not really good enough, because it should feel good and real. Not . . . not so perfect I keep thinking I must have dreamed it or something. Honestly, I think I preferred the time you pushed me off the bed. At least that time I knew I couldn't possibly have imagined it."

John lifted an eyebrow. "You want to fall off the bed again?"

"No! No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. I'd just like . . . I'd like to know our last time was real. That it really happened. So I could have something to think about when you go back to screwing your way through the population of Atlantis and I'm alone in the shower with only my right hand for company. I think you owe me at least that m—"

"Christ, Rodney," John said, the chess board crashed to the floor as he slid over, grabbed Rodney by the jacket, and kissed him, hard and sloppy and a little bit prickly around the edges because, wow, this time he hadn't shaved.

"Mrrrph," Rodney said against his lips. "Oh, God." Not that he was protesting—no, really, he just wanted to know what the hell John thought he was doing, because this was . . . this was, okay, amazing but if John was going to . . . but John wasn't letting go. John's fists were still bunched in his jacket, and John was kissing him like he had something to prove, and that was just—

"I could join you in that shower," John said, soft against his mouth. "You know, unless you really want to be alone."

Jesus. Rodney froze against John's mouth, because of course he didn't want to be alone, but— "But see, then we'd be right back where we started," he said. "I mean, not that I'm complaining, although I guess I really am, because what we were doing, whatever we were doing, was driving me insane, and quite frankly, I don't think one shower, even a very pleasant shower, is going to make up for that."

"I could screw it up," John said, low and breathy. "Any way you want. I'm pretty good at that. Had some practice."

"Oh, God," Rodney said. Because that meant . . . wow, that could only mean John had been playing the same game, that John knew he'd been playing it, that John wanted to keep on playing it, and that was just . . . "Wait, what about last time?"

"I forgot," John said, and stole a quick, persuasive kiss. "Actually, I'm pretty sure I forgot my own name last time. Come on, Rodney, we can do this."

Oh, God. John wanted this. John wanted him. It was tempting and heady and utterly impossible. "No," Rodney managed, because damn it, nothing had changed. "No, we can't. You can't. You're straight."

John shifted, pressing Rodney back against the couch and circling his hips so that Rodney could feel the ridge in his pants. "I'm not really thinking that's a problem, here."

"Okay, fine," Rodney said, because he wasn't one to deny hard evidence. "But, but . . . you never sleep with anyone twice."

"Come on, genius," John said. "Do the math."

Rodney swallowed, because, yes, okay, the numbers were pretty incontrovertible, too. Except it had never really been about the numbers, and they both knew that. "But you don't . . . you said you didn't want to get involved. With anyone." He met John's eyes squarely, because damn it, if John was going to deny that this was leading to at least some kind of involvement, he'd damn well better say it out loud. "As a matter of fact, you were extremely clear on that point."

John's eyes dropped, and when he spoke, his voice was low and rough. "Yeah, well, it's probably a little late to be worrying about that. We've kind of got a barn-door-and-horses situation, here."

Rodney blinked, because that was . . . wow, that was an admission. That was . . . oh, God. "Seriously?"

John's face was a little flushed. "Uh, yeah," he said, his eyes focused somewhere in the vicinity of Rodney's lower lip. "I mean, I didn't see it coming, and then it was too late, and I . . . Christ, Rodney. I just . . . you're not like anyone else, and I knew that, I mean, obviously I knew that. I just didn't know it, know it. But now I do, and I . . . look, I don't want to give this up."

Rodney's heart was pounding so hard that John could probably hear it, too. "But you said you couldn't . . . that it wasn't fair, what with the whole business of risking your life every time you go through the gate and all."

John's eyes finally, finally met Rodney's again, and his face was still flushed, but the corner of his mouth twitched. "Hey, most of the time when I go through the gate, I take you with me, so it's your own damn fault if you don't watch my back." He lowered his head, his mouth mere inches from Rodney's. "So what do you say? Do I get my do-over?"

Rodney's heart was still hammering and his face was warm and the only thing he wanted to do was yank John down against him, but there was something to be said for not being too easy. "Oh, well, I suppose I might consider it," he said. "Although I might need a little convincing."

John's cheeks curled up and he let out a soft, heartfelt breath. "I can do that," he said, and leaned in for a kiss. It started out a little hesitant, like he was actually worried, which was just . . . but then Rodney got his hands in John's hair and John pushed him back into the couch and then they were plastered against each other, shoving and humping, and okay, so much for playing hard to get.

"See, the way I figure it," John said against Rodney's mouth, "this not-quite-perfect thing isn't going to be as easy as it sounds."

"Wait," Rodney said, pulling back so he could see John's eyes, dark and warm. "What?"

"The not-quite-perfect thing," John said. "Could take me some time to figure out, especially if you're picky. And I know you can be pretty damn picky."

"Oh, picky," Rodney said. "I can be picky. I mean, seriously, if you think you've already seen how picky I can be, you're in for quite a surprise, because—"

John cut him off with a kiss, but Rodney wasn't about to protest. Not when John was kissing him like this.

"Cool," John said when they finally took a breather. "'Cause right now, I don't care if I ever get it right."

"Do Over" on Livejournal