by Crysothemis


Pairing: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay

Rating: NC-17

Length: ~33,000 words

Disclaimer: Still not mine.

Summary: John has a problem. Rodney really doesn't want to help.

Thank you: to Aristide/Mairead Triste, Rustler, and WPAdmirer for kick-ass beta.

Warnings: All the usual clichés without the usual fluff. Spoilers up to 3x15 "The Game," with an additional spoiler for 3x17 "Sunday."

Notes: Set after "The Game" and veers from canon shortly thereafter.

Other versions of this story:   Rodney,   Rodney and John


Rodney was dawdling again. John did what he always did when they were exploring uncharted parts of the city—checked the room for visible dangers and then called out his "all clear"—but Rodney still didn't show. So John did what any rational person would do: he took a second look around.

There were the usual consoles everywhere, so, some sort of lab. Some sort of lab that . . . had a door in the wall that slid open when he got close to it. That was kind of cool. John stepped forward and stuck his head into the little room. There was a chair inside, not one of Atlantis's usual incredibly uncomfortable desk or conference room chairs, but a big, cushioned cradle-shaped chair, half tipped back.

John glanced back to the door, but Rodney was nowhere to be seen, so, hey, if Rodney was going to take his sweet time out there, John at least deserved to put his feet up. He stepped inside and lowered himself into the chair.

It was even more comfy than it looked. John crossed his ankles and tipped his head back, and the door to the little room closed in front of him. So, okay, that was odd. But he was too comfortable to be really worried, and the room went nice and dark. A nap room. Built by the Ancients. Who would've thought it?

The funny thing was, he didn't feel particularly tired. Just . . . nice. Relaxed. Maybe a little horny, but hey, that wasn't anything new, considering the fact that it had been a couple of days since he'd jerked off. It was too bad Rodney was out there and likely to interrupt at any moment, because what John really felt like doing was taking care of things right now. There was a warm buzz at the base of his cock, and he was . . . okay, he was getting hard, now, and that was inconvenient, but Rodney still wasn't showing, and maybe . . .

Oh, God. He hadn't touched himself. He hadn't even moved his hands. But he'd felt something, a tantalizing, ghostly stroke, right where it counted. John reached down, but there was nothing there. His dick was still in his pants, fully hard, now, but there was nothing touching him, nothing anywhere, but, God there it was again, stronger than before, and he wasn't imagining this.

Not a nap room, then. More like . . . a sex room. Some kind of virtual semi-reality. Which just went to show that the Ancients were kinky bastards as well as irresponsible jerks. John pushed himself up in the chair, meaning to stand, but another wave of it hit him, hot and hard, and he fell back into the chair, panting. Jesus, he couldn't. He shouldn't. Rodney was out there, would be here any minute. And it was a freaking Ancient device, which was seriously not to be trusted. But damn it, another wave hit him, and it felt . . . weird and amazing and shit, he had to go. He had to get out of here right now.

Stop, he thought at the device. Stop now.

The warm buzz faded, and it was just him, alone in the chair, no ghostly fingers touching him, no virtual anything.

John pushed himself up onto his feet, still breathing hard. The lights slowly came back on, and he could see the door control. He was good. He was fine. He was . . . damn it, horny as hell. And he really didn't want to go looking for Rodney like this, with a bulge in his pants that was showing no signs of going away.

Okay, it had stopped when he asked it to. It was under his control. There was no reason he couldn't sit back down and enjoy himself. From the feel of it, it wasn't going to take all that long, and if Rodney hadn't opened the door yet, he wasn't going to.

Well, probably wasn't.

God, he shouldn't do it. It was the worst idea ever. But he was already stripping of his shirt and shoes and holster and pants so he wouldn't make a mess of them. Because even Rodney would probably notice that.

John took his sidearm out of the holster and laid it on left side of the chair, then settled back into it and put the P90 on his right. He placed his hands on the arm rests, which were shaped to cradle his palms, kind of like a control chair. Okay, he thought at the device, do your thing.

For a moment he felt nothing. Damn. Maybe he'd screwed up and lost his chance. And then it touched him again, sweet and electric and good. John closed his eyes and just let it wash over him, stroke after stroke, slow and intense, and he was floating, floating in a sea of sensation.

At first it was just his cock; it felt like a vibration, hot and fast, right on the underside of the head. Then his balls joined the party, buzzing in counterpoint. And then slowly the sensation spread, until there was another electric point right there at the base of his cock, only deeper inside, and God, that felt fucking amazing.

He was aching, now, so turned on he could barely stand it, but the sensation went on and on, always escalating but never quite there, until he was rocking in the chair, thrusting into nothingness, dying a little inside, because he wanted to come, he wanted to come now, but it wasn't quite there, wasn't ever quite there, and he was going to break, he couldn't take this, he couldn't . . .

"Oh, God, please," he said out loud, and it hit him like a tidal wave, pleasure so intense it almost hurt, washing from that point inside him outward, until even his toes and the tips of his hair felt good, and oh, shit, he'd come so hard, he'd managed to cream himself in the face.

John tipped his head back and just sank down into the cushioned chair. He felt wiped, like he was never going to be able to move again. And then something very much not-virtual brushed him. His heart jumped in his chest, but no it was okay. It was some sort of cleaning device, because a moment later his face and chest and belly felt dry again, and the ocean-smell of semen was gone.

A faint light went on, a diffuse glow from above, and John sat up and fumbled for his clothes. He couldn't believe he'd just . . . but seriously, that was the best jerk-off session ever, and there was no way he was ever telling anyone about it. Especially not Rodney.



Rodney was out there somewhere, probably wondering what the hell he was doing in here. John buttoned his shirt as fast as he could, then buckled his belt and holster on. Right, well, it was Rodney's own fault for being so slow.

He checked his watch, then had to check again, because, crap, he'd been in here over a hour, and there was slow, but even Rodney couldn't be that slow.

John found the control panel and ran his hand across it, and the door opened to the room, just exactly as he'd left it. Empty, which was weird. So either Rodney had given up on him, or . . . okay, that wasn't Rodney. That was Elizabeth, out in the corridor. The air in front of her was shimmering oddly, but John smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner and sauntered over. The shimmer was still there, but when he stepped through it, he didn't feel anything at all. He was just in the corridor, and Elizabeth was staring at him like he'd grown a second nose or something.

"John, what happened in there?" Elizabeth asked, her hands clenched in front of her. "Are you hurt?"

John did his best not to look guilty. "I'm good," he said, only it wasn't just Elizabeth. Teyla was there, and Ronon and McKay and Zelenka and another scientist named, um, Kunene, he thought. Kind of overkill for one locked door, wasn't it? "Hey, what's the party? And how come nobody invited me?"

"You were in there for over an hour," Rodney said tightly. "You weren't responding to your radio, and Atlantis wasn't even admitting to the existence of the force field. So you'll excuse us if we were a little worried about you."

John blinked at him. "What force field?"

"That one," Rodney said, pointing at the door, and hey, he was right, the doorway was still shimmering.

"Huh," John said, and held out his hand to it. He didn't expect to feel anything—hadn't felt a thing when he'd just walked right through it—but it shocked his fingers like a live wire, and he jerked his hand back, shaking out the tingles. "Was that there before?"

"That's one of the things I'm trying to figure out," Rodney said. "I didn't see it until you were already on the other side. Actually, according to everything in the Atlantis system, it doesn't exist. But it's there, and it's real, and you were totally ignoring your radio in there."

"Can you tell us what happened?" Elizabeth said.

John stuck his free hand in his pocket, trying to look innocent. So he'd just done something phenominally stupid. It wasn't like he had to admit to it. "Sure," he managed. "Rodney and I were cataloging rooms in this sector. You cleared that, remember?"

Elizabeth nodded earnestly, so John kept going. "So we found this room, and I went in first to check it out, like I usually do. Rodney was being slow, so I thought I'd be a little more thorough. I took a closer look at a room that kind of looked like a storage closet. It was, um, it was fine, so I came back out and found all of you acting like something just exploded." He turned back to Rodney. "Did something just explode?"

Rodney shook his head. "Wait, that was it? Nothing else happened? You didn't feel anything when you went in there?"

John shoved his hand deeper in his pocket, not thinking about the chair, or the warm buzz, or anything. "Uh, not really, no." He wasn't even going to mention the chair, because Rodney would probably give him grief just for sitting down in it. But he must've given something away, because Rodney got a funny gleam in his eye.

"What?" Rodney said. "Come on, Colonel, something happened in there, and I want to know what it was."

John put on his best blank face. "Okay, it felt a little weird. But it wasn't a big deal, okay?"

"Could be a stasis pod," Zelenka suggested.

"Yes, or some kind of time compression field," Rodney said, and he was, thank God, seriously on the wrong track, and even better, distracted from his little inquisition.

"We should get you to the infirmary, just to be sure you weren't affected by anything," Elizabeth said, and she reached over and put a concerned hand on John's arm.

John ducked out from under the touch as subtly as he could. "Hey, that really isn't necessary. I feel fine."

"Oh, please," Rodney said. "We have no idea what just happened in there. You could have been exposed to radiation."

"Or altered genetically," Radek added.

"Or exposed to a nanovirus," Elizabeth suggested, far too brightly.

"Or nothing at all," Teyla said, "but we would all feel better if we knew that for certain."

"You're going," Ronon added, "if I have to carry you."

John raised his hands in surrender. It wasn't like the thing had actually done anything to him; it was no different than if he'd jerked off using his own hand. Not physically, anyway. "Okay. Infirmary it is."

"I'll go with him," Ronon said, and Teyla and Elizabeth offered to go, too.

"Good, good," Rodney said, like he was happy to be rid of the annoying part of the problem. "Radek and . . . " And he trailed off, like he'd forgotten the name of one of his scientists again. John suppressed a snicker when Zelenka said, "Dr. Kunene," and Rodney turned a little pink.

"Yes, yes, of course, Kunene," Rodney muttered. "Radek and Kunene and I will stay here and figure out what just happened. Let us know if you find out anything on your end."

"We'll be in touch," Elizabeth said firmly, and she and Ronon and Teyla herded John down the corridor toward the nearest transporter.

"You didn't even notice you weren't getting a radio signal?" Elizabeth asked as they walked. "Rodney said he called and called to you."

"Must've been the force field," John said, although that didn't explain why he'd been able to walk right through it, twice. "It could have jammed the transmission, somehow."

"I am sure Rodney will figure it out," Teyla said soothingly. "And then we will know what happened to you."

"I'm fine," John said. "Nothing happened." He was starting to get just a little annoyed here, because, okay, a little friendly concern was nice, but there were things that a person really shouldn't have to share, and this was one of them.

"Of course you are," Teyla said, but it was clear she didn't believe a word of it.

When they got to the infirmary, John repeated his story to Carson, doing his damndest to keep a straight face while Elizabeth hovered and Teyla looked concerned and Ronon just looked bored.

"It wasn't anything," he said, for what felt like the umpteenth time. "I thought Rodney was just being slow, and there was a chair in there, so I sat down to wait for him. And no, I don't remember how long I was in there. I didn't hear anything on the radio, so I finally got up and went to see what was taking him so long."

"Right, we'll just take a look at you, then," Carson said, and John hopped up on the scanner bed while the Ancient tech did its thing. Carson was watching the screen, so John had a good view of his profile, and he knew when the scanner caught on to something, because he saw Carson's eyebrow go up and the tip of his ear turn pink.

"What is it?" Elizabeth asked, which was way too nosy for someone who was supposed to be a diplomat. Really, they should have cleared the room to run the scan.

"Oh, it's nothing. Nothing at all," Carson said, and cleared his throat. "The scan is perfectly normal. Every indication says he's healthy as a horse."

"Can I go, Doc?" John asked hopefully, and Carson looked back over at him, still pink.

"Aye, you can go. Just, ah, try not to worry us again."

John absolutely did not wink at him as he hopped down. Carson was a doctor, after all. He was good at keeping secrets.

"I'll just go catch up on my paperwork or something," John said.

"Careful," Elizabeth said, "or I'll start to think something really is wrong with you."

John grinned at her, because at least this was safe territory. "Well, okay then, maybe I'll find something else to do. I mean, I wouldn't want to worry you or anything."

Elizabeth smiled back at him. "Oh, just go. I'm sure you'll find something useful to do with your time, now that Rodney's sidetracked. Oh, and John? You might want to button your shirt up properly. Looks like you got out of the wrong side of bed this morning."

John jerked his gaze down to his—oh crap—misaligned buttons. He'd obviously put his shirt back on too quickly. "Oops," he said. "Must've been half-asleep when I got dressed. Can't believe no one said anything to me."

"Well, you were with Rodney all morning," Elizabeth said with an amused twitch of her cheek. "And he may very well be the brightest person in the galaxy, but he's not always the most observant."

"Good point," John said. "Well, I'll just, um . . ." he gestured vaguely at his shirt and retreated to look for some place a little more private to rebutton.

* * *

Rodney spent the entire rest of the day trying to figure out the force field. John knew, because he kept checking the life-signs readouts. There were three signs in that corridor for most of the day. Well, at lunch and dinner, there were two, but Sheppard caught Zelenka picking up sandwiches at the mess at noon, and Kunene grabbing an armful of MREs from stores at 1900. And all three were still apparently hard at work five hours later, when John went to bed.

He was normally so exhausted that he fell asleep when his head hit the pillow, but for whatever reason, sleep wasn't coming. John felt . . . energized. And strangely horny, considering that he'd come so hard just this morning. John reached into his boxers and gave himself a half-hearted pull, but it wasn't what he wanted. What he really wanted was to sit back and relax and let someone—okay, something else do all the work. He could almost feel it when he closed his eyes, the buzz inside, not like being touched by another person at all, but still . . .

God, it had been amazing. John pulled his hand out of his shorts and leaned back against his pillow. He wanted it. And maybe that was weird, but really, what was the harm? Of course there was no way to tell if he'd be able to get the force field down again. But it had let him in once. He turned to check the life-signs display on his computer screen. Maybe he would be able to get in again, if he were alone.

Go to sleep, Rodney, he thought at the now-solitary dot on the screen. But it stayed stubbornly where it was. John sighed and rolled onto his back. Rodney had to sleep sometime. In an hour, or two, or three, he'd be out of there, and John could take a crack at it.

But three hours later, Rodney was still there. John finally rolled himself out of bed and pulled on his clothes. Maybe Rodney had fallen asleep on the job or something. Well, if he had, it would serve him right to get woken up.

John headed for the transporter and touched the location nearest the corridor on the Northeast pier. He'd barely taken two steps down the hallway when a very solid body came around the corner and barreled right into him. John stuck out a hand to keep him from falling, but Rodney reeled back, muttering curses, and shrugged off the help.

"Gotta watch where you're going, there," John said.

"It's three in the morning," Rodney complained, blinking at him. "What do you think you're doing here?"

John just shrugged. He wasn't going to admit he'd been hoping to find Rodney asleep. "Saw there was still someone down here on the life-signs detector, so I figured I'd check it out."

Rodney squinted at him. He looked tired and rumpled and decidedly disgruntled. "Don't you ever sleep?"

"Not tired," John said, which wasn't exactly true, but hey, close enough. "So did you get the force field down? Figure out what it did to me?"

"No," Rodney said crankily. "No, I did not. I'm starting to think it's a secret prison. Or maybe a torture chamber. There is simply no way to lower that force field, because believe me, I have tried every means humanly conceivable. You're lucky you got out."

John managed not to laugh at that, which wasn't easy, because wow, Rodney really had an imagination there, didn't he? "Yeah, so what do you want to do? Seal off the section and forget about it?"

"No, I do not want to just seal it off, Colonel. We don't know what that thing did to you. I am not stopping until we actually know something."

Geez, there was dedication, and then there was Rodney McKay. "Wow, Rodney," John said, just to tease him. "I didn't know you cared."

"Oh, please. You're the military commander of the city. Of course I want to know if you've been injured or compromised."

"Of course," John said sarcastically. "Seriously, I'm fine. It was nothing, okay? Just go get some sleep before you start scaring people you pass in the hall. We have a mission to plan tomorrow. 0900 hours, remember?"

"Oh," Rodney said. "Right." He scrubbed his eyes with one hand. "Don't worry, I'll be there."

"Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I hope," John quipped. He escorted Rodney to the transporter, and carefully pressed the location for the hallway near Rodney's quarters. When Rodney was safely on his way down his own hallway, John pressed the location for the Northeast Pier again and headed back to the sex chamber.

The force field was still there. He could see it, a faint shimmer in the dim corridor. But when he reached out a tentative hand, he couldn't feel anything, and it let him slip right through like it wasn't there at all. So maybe it only worked when he was alone. Or . . . something else. But he was in, and the chamber opened when he approached it, the same little room with the same big, comfy chair. And he wanted to be in it, right now.

John stripped off his clothes as fast as he could, then sank down into the padded chair. There was a long moment when nothing happened, and he thought maybe it wasn't going to work. But then the tendrils of sensation started, on his cock and balls and whoa, that was a nipple. He let out a long breath and gave in to it, while the sensation built until he felt the tiny point of pleasure inside once again, bright and hot and amazing.

John groaned and hitched his hips up, knowing there was nothing to thrust into, but he wanted, wanted . . . oh, God. It felt like he was being stroked on the inside, like that little point of fire was expanding in ripples and waves, washing through him, until he was tingling everywhere.

"Now," he whispered. "Please, now." And the wave crested and he was coming and coming, and there was nothing but pleasure and more pleasure, inside and out.

Afterward he just lay there, only half-aware, while the device cleaned him up. The lights came on, soft and dim, and he knew he should get up and go back to his room, but he was too tired to move. After awhile the lights dimmed again, and John drifted in the afterglow, feeling it like warmth at the base of his cock, a soft buzz inside, a sweet stroke . . . oh, God. It was starting again. And somehow, inconceivably, he was getting hard already.

John just lay there, ready to laugh at it when it failed, but it didn't fail, and within minutes he was aching again, needy again, lost in sensation, desperate to come.

He let it go for awhile, wondering how long it would take to make him come if he didn't beg for it, but the sensation went on and on, intense as hell, but just shy of what he needed to push him over the edge. He was burning up everywhere, inside and out. He couldn't feel individual points of pleasure anymore. It was everywhere and nowhere. Elusive. Constant. Maddening. Perfect. And he couldn't take it any more.

"I have to," he croaked. "Please let me." And it was over and he was gushing again, wrung out, strung out, done for, and sated.

He managed to get to his feet when the lights came on. Managed, after several tries, to get his clothes on. He tottered out the door and back to his room and fell asleep before his body even hit the surface of his bed.

* * *

He slept through his alarm, slept through breakfast and his morning run, and nearly slept through the nine-o'clock meeting. He stumbled in, barely dressed and yawning, only to find the rest of them all cheery and caffeinated.

Damn, he really needed a cup of coffee. And of course, Elizabeth noticed. "John, are you all right?"

He jerked awake again. "What? Oh, yeah, fine. Just didn't get much sleep."

Elizabeth frowned and started adding two and two and getting six. "Are you feeling ill? Maybe you should go to the infirmary again, just to get checked out."

"No, really, I'm fine." And damn it, he could prove it. They were supposed to be what? Oh yeah, planning a mission. He turned to McKay, who looked unfairly awake for someone who'd been up almost as late as John had. "Rodney, tell us why we want to go to M9J-478."

Before Rodney could answer, Elizabeth cut in with, "I want you checked again before you go offworld. No arguments, John. We need to make sure you're really okay."

She was really being a dog with a bone about this, which meant the fastest way to make her lay off was to give in. "Okay, sure, I'll get checked out. Rodney?"

So Rodney did his thing explaining about the thing that they needed to get from the thing there, and John could pretend to be awake enough to get Elizabeth off his back. They finished up their planning and John headed for the infirmary, just like he'd promised.

"Back again?" Carson asked, his eyebrows doing their patented concerned dance.

"Elizabeth caught me napping in a meeting. It was the easiest way to make her stop fussing."

Carson smiled. "You haven't been getting bored on duty again, I hope."

John nearly choked, but managed to turn it into a cough. "Nah, no more shirking my duty. I was just annoyed with Rodney because he was being slow."

"Right then, let's get a scan of you."

So he got scanned again, and Carson's eyebrows went up again, but at least this time he didn't blush or anything. "Well," he said, his eyes on the screen, "it appears that your acetylcholine levels are a wee bit higher than usual, but it might just be a normal fluctuation in neurotransmitter activity. How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine," John said firmly. "I just had a kind of late night last night."

"Oh, aye, that might explain it. Well, just make sure you get a good night's sleep tonight, and let me know if you feel anything unusual—tremors, sweating, pounding heart, digestive problems, anything like that."

It was John's turn to raise his eyebrows. "Honestly, I feel fine. Just a little sleepy."

"Well, that's only to be expected if you won't go to bed at a decent hour," Carson said, and sent him on his way.

* * *

He wasn't going to go down to the sex chamber. He really wasn't. He needed sleep more than he needed to jerk off. But after dinner he somehow found himself at the Northeast Pier.

Okay, that was weird. He hadn't meant to come here. He really should go back to his room. But instead, John just slipped through the force field. He stepped into the little room, shucked his clothes and sat down. The chair was really amazingly comfortable, so soft it was almost like he couldn't feel it. It was like he was floating in water or air, disconnected, untethered, ungrounded.

The sensation started slowly, right inside him, spreading outward in a warm wash. It felt good, really. But actually, it was kind of unsettling not to be in control of it, not to have anyone he could say "faster" or "slower" or "yeah, right there" to. Not that it didn't seem to know what worked for him, but that was strange, too, thinking it could read his mind.

In minutes he was tingling from his ears to the soles of his feet. But it still felt weirdly off-kilter, and suddenly he couldn't take it, couldn't wait, he was too tired, too wired, he needed release, he was dying for release, he . . .

"Damn it," he said, and the orgasm hit just like that, sharp and fast and strangely unsatisfying.

John let the device clean him up and then scrambled to his feet. Okay, so apparently you could have bad sex even with a sex machine, and the worst part was, he couldn't blame anyone but himself. He'd been thinking too much, that was the problem. The thing was what it was, take it or leave it. Nothing said he had to come down here.

He yanked on his clothes, rebuckled his holster, and headed out. At least the device didn't have any feelings he could hurt. It could have been worse.

He was on the other side of the force field when it struck him. An orgasm that bad meant he really deserved another. Seriously, he was due. He turned on his heel and stepped forward . . . and reeled back in pain when the force field zapped him.

"Hey!" he said, and tried the door controls, but no amount of poking or mental gymnastics would make the force field go down. He was locked out.

So, okay, it wasn't just that it only let him in when he was alone. Apparently it wouldn't let him in right after he'd just come out, and that was cruel and unusual and really just arbitrary. He tried the door controls again. And another time. And a time after that.

Right. John stepped back and glared at the implacable shimmer. Apparently there was no point in messing with something Rodney hadn't been able to crack. Even if it was completely unfair. Even if his head was buzzing and his hands were clammy and damn it, he wanted back in there.

John headed back to his room and tried to sleep, but he only managed to doze fitfully.

He woke with a start and sat up and bed. His clock read a little after midnight, which meant it had been more than five hours since he'd last tried the force field. Maybe it would let him in now.

He felt strangely shaky, but he pulled his clothes on and made his way back to the corridor, where the force field still shimmered its faint, inscrutable glow. This time he was more careful. He touched a single finger to the shimmery space—and received another zap for his efforts, damn it.

It really wasn't right. He wanted a decent orgasm. He deserved a decent orgasm. But his breathing felt shallow and his heart was racing and the thought of his own hand was . . . completely unappealing right now.

Okay, that was weird. He was usually on pretty good terms with his right hand. They'd been through a lot together. It didn't seem right to not want that.

Just out of curiosity, he rubbed himself through his pants. It felt . . . well, it didn't feel bad. It just didn't feel remotely appealing. Not when there was the perfect orgasm just waiting for him behind that stupid fucking force field.

John shoved his hand out again recklessly, and jerked back in pain. Damn it, that felt even stronger than before. Like it knew what he was trying to do, and was trying to tell him to just give up already.

Yeah, okay. Okay, he could take a hint. John turned and stumbled back to his room. He didn't need a sex machine. He wasn't that far gone yet.

Once again, he fell on the bed fully clothed and eventually dropped into a restless sleep.

* * *

John hated just-culled planets. They made him feel helpless, and no matter what he did to assist the survivors, there was nothing but misery and death all around. So by the time they got back from M9J-847, he was tired and cranky and really, really hoping the damn force field would change its mind and let him in already.

"So, hey, you want to play a game of chess or two?" Rodney asked after dinner. And okay, they'd been playing a lot recently, ever since the Game had been shut down, but John wasn't up for that right now. Right now he had exactly one thing on his mind.

"Actually, I've got something else I've got to do," he said with a shrug. "Sorry. Maybe some other time."

"Right, yeah, okay." Rodney said, and John didn't feel guilty about the little lost face he made. Well, not very guilty.

He dumped his tray and headed to his room for a few minutes, just to make sure no one was looking for him. He tried turning on his computer and checking his email, but he couldn't concentrate. The words made sense, but the meaning behind them didn't, and all he could think about was the damn chair. There was a weird, jittery feeling in his stomach that refused to go away. He just needed to know if it was going to let him in. He needed to know now.

The transporter was just down the hall. It took only a few seconds to get there, and press the right location on the destination map.

He approached the corridor slowly. Not that he thought the thing was going to zap him before he actually touched it, but a little caution wouldn't hurt. But when he reached a careful hand up to the shimmer, it was like it wasn't even there. No pain. Nothing.

Thank God.

The chair was there waiting for him, like it had never refused him, like all was forgiven, and wow, okay, that was fucked up. He was starting to think of it as sentient, which it really, really wasn't.

John stripped efficiently and sat down. The chair surface felt as soft as leather, molding to his body like it remembered him perfectly. He closed his eyes and waited, willing it to be good again, not like the last time. Anything. He could take anything. Just not like the last time.

The sensation started slowly, like always. Sweet and slow, building to more and more intense, inside and out, and God, it was good. Everything was forgotten and forgiven. It was nothing but good, nothing but pleasure, and he was rocking, aching, needing. He let it go on for as long as he could, let it wash through him and over him, let it thrum the whole length of his body, until he couldn't bear it any longer and had to whisper, "Please."

It hit like seven Gs, banking into a turn, and for a moment he couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't do anything, and then he was curling up out of the chair and coming and coming and coming.

When it was finally over, he slumped back down, flushed and sated, and wow, seriously relieved.

He forced himself to get up after the clean-up part, because he really didn't need a second round right now. He pulled his clothes on, holstered his sidearm, and headed out through the force field, only to find McKay, large as life, sitting on the floor of the corridor with his data pad out.

John's gut congealed. "Rodney?" Pure shock made it an accusation. "What the hell do you think you doing here?"

Rodney's eyes went wide and he clambered to his feet. "Don't you think that's my line? What the hell, Sheppard? Getting zapped once wasn't enough for you?" But then Rodney's face brightened with smug realization. "Oh, no, wait, I get it. You're still jealous because I got turned into a super-genius and Elizabeth wouldn't let you try it. And that's perfectly understandable, but if anything, whatever's in there seems to be turning you into an idiot, and if you want to prove me wrong, you'll take that force field down right now."

"Can't," John said, pretty sure it was true.

Rodney turned an interesting shade of purple. "What do you mean, can't? You just did!"

"There's some kind of built-in delay," John said. "It's at least six hours. Maybe more."

"Prove it."

John shifted on his feet. "I can't. I mean, I can show you it doesn't let me in automatically." And he reached his hand out carefully until the force field gave him a (fortunately) fairly small zap. "But see, that doesn't prove anything, because we both know there's a mental component."

"Yes, yes," Rodney said impatiently. "So think it off."

"I'm trying," John said, passing his hand over the door control and thinking open at it. "See? No dice."

Rodney frowned at him, like he wasn't sure whether to believe that or not. "Okay, okay," he said finally. "Meet me here in eight hours. No excuses then."

Oh, great. That was just not a good idea. "Rodney—"

Rodney lifted his chin. "What? Is my concern bothering you? Or do you think no one needs to know what that damn thing did to you?"

John frowned and looked away. This was seriously not Rodney's business, and it felt damn weird to have Rodney fussing about him. Usually he was the one looking after Rodney. "Look, it's not anything to worry about, okay? You're making too big a deal out of this."

Rodney widened his stance, clearly not mollified. "How do you know that? It could be anything! Drugs, mind control—I mean, it's obviously brainwashed you into thinking it's harmless already."

John shifted on his feet. Rodney was so very wrong about this, and maybe that should have been reassuring, but he just wanted this conversation over with already. "It's not like that," he said. "It's more like . . ." Christ, what could he say? He needed a lie, any lie, something plausible that would throw Rodney off the scent. "Okay, you remember that virtual reality thing on the Aurora? This is kind of like that."

"Virtual reality?" Rodney's whole face changed. If he'd been a dog, his ears would have pricked up. "Really? Is it cool?"

"Seriously cool," John said without thinking.

"Okay, okay," Rodney said, all his concern transformed into eager curiosity, which was totally not what John had been going for, here. "So eight hours, well, make it ten. We'll meet here first thing in the morning. If you can get the force field down, we can check it out together. Might even be more fun with two, hmm?"

Oh, crap. "Rodney—"


"It's not that kind of virtual reality." John glanced around so he wouldn't have to look at Rodney's face when he explained. "It's not really something that can be shared, okay?"

"What do you mean? How personal could it possibly—Oh, my God." Rodney's eyes went wide. "You found an Ancient sex toy, didn't you? Some kind of a virtual sex simulator. Admit it, you did."

John's whole body went warm. He really had to remember not to skirt the truth around geniuses. They were way too good at figuring stuff out. "Something like that."

"Jesus. Was it good? Okay, right, it had to have been good, or you wouldn't be coming back." Rodney was looking a little pink, himself. "Wait, it's not totally virtual, is it? Because you took off your clothes."

Christ on a stick. Make that way, way too good at figuring stuff out. "Actually, I uh . . . just didn't want to be stuck with a laundry problem."

Rodney blinked and managed to look almost as uncomfortable as John felt. Of course, that didn't stop him from continuing to pry. "Uh, so it was really good, then? Because, you know—not that I'm not exceedingly well acquainted with my own right hand—but I always thought it would be, I don't know, pretty sterile, to be having sex without another person there."

"Honestly?" Okay, he still didn't want to talk about this. He really didn't. "Yes. It was good. It was amazing, okay?"


"Yeah," John said. "Really."

"Wow." Rodney mulled that over for a moment, and John could almost see the gears turning inside his head. "Look, are you sure this is such a good idea? Because, okay, I'm not saying you're going to catch an Ancient STD from it or anything, but isn't it, I don't know, just a little weird?"

"You could check it out yourself," John heard himself say, which was wrong and crazy and he really didn't want to share, but the words were already out. "Come back in the morning. It's not like you don't have the gene. You just walk right up to it and it lets you through."

"Um . . . " Rodney looked torn between embarrassment, reluctance, and temptation. "I don't know. I mean, not that I'm sure it isn't really . . . but I just . . ."

"Suit yourself," John said. Not that he was relieved or anything. "You heading back?"

"Oh, yeah, sure," Rodney said, and they walked back toward the transporter together. But of course, Rodney being Rodney, he couldn't just gracefully drop the subject. "So what's it like?" he asked. "Do you get to pick your virtual partner? Choose a blonde or a redhead? What?"

John almost laughed. That would totally be Rodney's idea of virtual sex, wouldn't it? "It's not like that at all. When it starts out, you can't see or feel anything. Like . . . sensory deprivation. So when you do feel something it's . . ."

"A lot stronger," Rodney said. "Huh."

"Yeah." John ducked into the transporter. Rodney followed him and made a show of pressing the location nearest John's quarters before John could touch anything. So . . . not entirely mollified, there. Which was perfectly ridiculous. Rodney really ought to know by now that he knew how to take care of himself.

At least the transporter was instantaneous, and he didn't have to say anything more but "Good-night" before he got out. Rodney nodded back, still pink, as the doors closed between them.

* * *

It wasn't a problem. It wasn't anything to worry about. It wasn't like he couldn't stop, anytime he wanted to. Only the thing was, he couldn't.

There was an itch in the back of his brain, maddening and incessant, and he couldn't make it stop.

In five more days, he'd been to the sex chamber seven times. It hadn't taken much experimentation to figure out that the lock-out lasted exactly seven and a half hours, which meant that technically, he could go up to three times a day. The only problem was that he had to stay up late enough to be sure Rodney was in bed, so he wasn't getting a hell of a lot of sleep.

It wasn't a big deal. He just didn't need Rodney to know what he was doing. Not that he was ashamed of it, really. Hey, he had a healthy libido, and who wouldn't do it, if they could? Only he was really starting to wonder if he should be doing it at all.

It wasn't just that he was exhausted, so tired that even caffeine wasn't helping. It wasn't just that he kept thinking about it, to the point where he found himself getting hard in a meeting, of all things, which was very not cool.

Mostly it was that even when he told himself he wasn't going to, sooner or later he still found himself going down there. And that bugged the shit out of him.

He wasn't panicking. He could handle this. He didn't need to freak out. He just needed to stop.

So he did what he always did when he needed to quit thinking: he ran. Out on the South pier. As far from the sex chamber as was physically possible.

He was pounding down the accessways, breathing a little hard, when his radio sputtered in his ear. "Colonel Sheppard?"

John slowed and took a couple of nice long breaths before switching on his radio. Not that he was winded or anything, but he had been pushing himself a bit. "Yeah, Rodney. What can I do for you?"

"Look, I really need to talk to you." Rodney sounded . . . concerned again, and John had a sudden sinking sensation that he knew what it was about. "The sooner the better."

"Oh," John said. "I'm a little busy right now, but I can stop by your lab in about fifteen minutes. That soon enough for you?"

"It'll do. Only, um, make it my quarters, okay?" Yeah, okay, if Rodney wanted privacy to talk about it, he definitely knew what this was about. Crap.

"Right," John said. "Fifteen minutes. Sheppard out." And he headed for the nearest transporter so he could get a shower before he had to face Rodney.

He actually made it to Rodney's quarters before Rodney did. He leaned against the wall outside Rodney's door and ran a hand through his still-damp hair. He wished he knew exactly what Rodney wanted to say to him. He was pretty sure Rodney hadn't actually gone and used the sex chamber himself. At least, he'd never showed up on the life-signs detector, and John had been checking it fairly frequently.

When Rodney finally showed, his mouth was set in a tight line that didn't bode well. "You better come in."

John nodded and followed him inside. Rodney locked the door, which didn't make him feel one bit better. John went over, casual as he could pretend to be, and sat down on Rodney's bed.

Rodney turned to face him. "You have to stop." And yeah, okay, no question what he meant there, except he went and explained it anyway. "The virtual sex thing. You have to stop doing it."

John took a long breath and scrubbed a hand through his hair. "Yeah, I know."

Rodney blinked at him. "Wait, what? You know? How do you—what do you know? And why didn't you tell me?"

"It's pretty damn obvious," John said, because it was. "Every night I tell myself I'm not going down there. And every night I do. Sometimes twice."

"God." Rodney walked over to his desk and set down the laptop he was carrying, then turned to face John again, his expression pained. "Look, it doesn't work, and even if it did, you don't want to ascend, anyway, right?"

Okay, wow, that wasn't what he'd been expecting Rodney to say at all. "Ascend? That thing's supposed to make me ascend?"

Rodney grimaced. "I know, I know. It's nuts. But when the genetic manipulation project started to fail, the Ancients got a little desperate." He started to pace, punctuating his words with random gestures of his hands. "They began arguing among themselves, and some of them tried some pretty crazy things. One of them—her name was Sirjah—decided that the way to become one with the universe was through prolonged, intense sexual stimulation. Her science was all wrong, of course. Well, okay, it's true that parasympathetic stimulation lowers brain wave frequency, but even assuming you got down to near-ascension levels, no one in that state wants to ascend; you just want to come already."

"No shit," John said with feeling.

Rodney stopped his pacing for a moment, but his hands kept moving. "And then, of course, orgasm triggers alpha waves and you're back where you started. With or without sufficient synaptic connections."

"So I'm not going to ascend by mistake," John said. Not that he was really worried about that.

"No, you're just going to go insane." Rodney turned and started pacing again. "Sixty-seven percent of the Ancients who tried it developed an uncontrollable, incurable addiction, to the point where they were put in stasis to prevent them from tearing the city apart to get back in there. That's the point of the force field, by the way. It's to keep the nutcases out. I still haven't figured out why it's letting you in."

Christ. That was really not what he wanted to hear right now. "What about the other thirty-three percent?"

"Three of them—that's twenty-five percent—committed suicide. The last one was Sirjah herself, and as far as I can tell, she was the only one who could handle it. She left it behind when they gated back to Earth."

Really, really not what he wanted to hear. "Those are crappy odds, Rodney."

"I know!" Rodney stopped and faced him, and he looked . . . frustrated and helpless and annoyed as hell. "I just . . . look, the one chance you've got is if you quit now. The ancients who tried it all did it for months. It's only been a week for you."

John did the reckoning in his head. "Eight days," he corrected. It felt like a lot longer.

"Right, whatever. Just don't make it nine, okay?"

John rubbed his eyes. He was so tired. He just wanted to . . . fuck. Right. That was exactly what he wasn't supposed to be thinking about. "I wish I knew I could do that."

Rodney stared at him, stricken. "It's not a choice, Colonel. If you can't break the habit, we're going to end up sending you back to Earth—either in a straitjacket or a coffin."

Crap. He really didn't need to hear any more of this. "I got that, Rodney," John said. "But thanks for spelling it out." And he pushed himself up off the bed and turned toward the door.

"Don't go," Rodney said, too quickly. "We can, um, play a few games of chess. Or watch a movie. Hey, I can see if Radek has anything you haven't seen—he owes me a favor, anyway."

Damn it. John clenched his teeth. He didn't need someone to watch him. He was perfectly capable of going back to his own room and . . . shit. Okay, he had to be realistic here, and realistically, if he walked out the door, he was going to end up on the Northeast Pier. And Rodney knew it. "Chess is fine," he managed.

Rodney got out his board and set it on the bed. Not even suggesting they go to the mess, like he thought John was going to have a raving fit or something. John thought about suggesting it himself, but Rodney was already settled at the head of the bed, so he just shrugged and sprawled across the foot, leaning on his elbow as he set up the pieces.

It was his turn to be white, but as he made his moves, his head felt slow and muddled. Usually he could anticipate Rodney, or at least cut through his convoluted plotting with a few well-considered, decisive moves. But tonight the strategies kept getting mixed up in his head, and he found himself walking into trap after trap that he was pretty sure he ordinarily would have seen right through. He wasn't really surprised when Rodney checkmated him three times in a row.

"Ha!" Rodney crowed. "You totally didn't see that coming. I can't believe you didn't see that coming. That'll teach you to play with a genius, hmm?"

John rubbed his left temple, which had been aching for the last half hour. "I should go."

Rodney sat up with a jerk, knocking over half the chess pieces in the process. "Wait, wait, not yet. You should, I mean, we could—"

John made a face at him and climbed to his feet. It was late, he was exhausted, and somewhere along the way he'd actually managed to lose to worst of the itch. "To my quarters, Rodney. To sleep."

Rodney still looked jittery. "You could, uh, stay here if you want. Sleep on my couch."

John rolled his eyes. "I don't need you to babysit me. If I'm going to quit this thing, I have to do it on my own."

Rodney got up and came over, all too obviously putting himself between John and the door. "I know you think you're capable of just about anything, and you know, that confidence is actually justified surprisingly frequently, but what if you can't beat this? We should at least tell Carson."

Oh, God. That was the last thing he needed right now. "What's he going to do? Prescribe methadone? Look, just let me try, okay?"

Rodney met his gaze with a searching look, and something softened in his face. "Okay, okay, but if you can't do it, you have to promise me you'll come talk to me rather than just going down there. Deal?"

"Deal," John said. He reached up and squeezed Rodney's shoulder, just to let him know how much he appreciated the vote of confidence. "Thanks, Rodney."

"Hey, sure. Just . . . good luck, okay?"

"Yeah," John said, "Looks like I'm going to need it," and headed out the door.

He made it to his quarters just fine, and if sleep was a little hard coming, at least it wasn't as impossible as he'd expected.

* * *

"John," Elizabeth said, just when he thought he was going to be able to duck out of the meeting unhindered, "can I speak with you for a moment?"

"Yeah, sure," he said, doing his best not to sound like he'd rather have a root canal. He followed her into her office.

"I'm worried about you," Elizabeth said bluntly as soon as she had the door shut. "You haven't been acting like yourself, and quite frankly, you look terrible."

John hadn't looked very closely in the mirror lately, and he was getting the feeling he was happier that way. "I'm not turning blue again, am I?"

Elizabeth smiled at the joke, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Actually, it's closer to gray. You look tired, John. And Carson says you're under stress. Is there something going on that I need to know about?"

"No," John said quickly. "No, really, I'm fine. I'm just . . . not getting enough sleep. You know, the usual, burning the candle at both ends, eating too many blue potatoes."

Elizabeth made a face. "They didn't taste much like potatoes, did they?"

"It wasn't really the taste that was the problem," John said, just to distract her.

But Elizabeth, being Elizabeth, didn't take the bait. "I want you to see Carson again, just to be sure," she said. "And I've made an appointment for you with Dr. Heightmeyer. Tomorrow morning at ten."

John managed to keep himself from rolling his eyes, but it was a close thing. "Oh, hey, I really don't think that's necessary. If Carson can give me a sleeping pill or something, I'm sure I'll be all better."

"No arguments," Elizabeth said. "And if you miss the appointment, I'll just send Kate looking for you."

John slunk out of her office, feeling thoroughly routed.

* * *

He found Rodney alone in his lab, hunched over his computer screen while numbers scrolled by too fast for him to be actually reading them.

"What the hell, Rodney?"

Rodney jerked his chair around. "Hey! I am working on an extremely complicated problem here. You can't just barge in like that. The fate of this expedition could be resting on my undivided attention."

"What did you tell Elizabeth?" John demanded.

Rodney's eyes went wide. "Elizabeth? What makes you think I talked to Elizabeth?"

God, he really was a rotten liar. "Oh, come on," John said with a roll of his eyes. He leaned against Rodney's desk and crossed his arms over his chest. "You had to have said something. She's on my case now, and she's making me see Heightmeyer."

Rodney pressed a few keys on his computer and looked up. "You do realize that Dr. Heightmeyer is a professional, and might actually be able to help you, right?"

John grimaced. "What did you tell Elizabeth?"

"Nothing! She figured out it was the ascension device all on her own."

Jesus. John's gut suddenly felt worse than it had after the blue potatoes. "You told her about the device?"

"No! I mean, okay I might've said something about it being a kind of virtual reality, but I didn't tell her what kind. Whatever conclusions she jumped to, she jumped to on her own. Look, Colonel, I don't know how to put this, but you have a problem, and if Heightmeyer can help you with it, then you need to let her help you."

Christ. He couldn't even feel relieved that Rodney hadn't spilled all the beans, because Rodney was being seriously impossible, here. "If she can help me," John said. "That's a big 'if.'"

"I still can't figure out why it's letting you in," Rodney grumbled. "According to the database, the only one it was supposed to let in on demand was Sirjah herself."

"Really?" Okay, whoa, that made a sickening sort of sense. "Christ," John said. "It thinks I'm her."

"What?" Rodney stared at him. "How do you know that?"

"I don't. I mean, not really, I just . . ." Something about the way it touched him, about that point of pleasure inside him . . . it wasn't his kink, it was someone else's. Crap. It was like he'd been using someone else's favorite programmable vibrator. "Wait, you said she evacuated to Earth, right? So maybe she ended up having a kid or two."

Rodney frowned and rolled his chair back a bit. "You can't possibly . . . I mean, given the vagaries of mutation and genetic drift, even if you were her direct descendant, the probability that you'd have a significant number of her genes is infinitesimal."

"I had to get my ATA gene from somewhere," John said.

"Okay, whatever, the exact nature of your parentage is irrelevant," Rodney said. "What matters is that you're the only one who can get in there. Look, that thing has to have an independent power source, some kind of long-lasting, low-power generator. If you can remove it, it'll take the force field down, and then I can get in and dismantle the thing."

John's hands and forehead went suddenly, weirdly clammy. Because, shit, that would work. That would really work. All he had to do was . . . "I can't," he said, and it came out more of a croak.

"Oh, for God's sake. You'd rather have an incurable, deadly addiction?"

"No," John said. It came out low and harsh, not like his voice at all. "I can't. If I go in there, I won't be able to resist it. Trust me, Rodney. I'm sure of this."

"Crap," Rodney said with feeling. "You can't just . . . grit your teeth or something?"

"No," John said.

"Right, okay, okay. We'll think of something else. Just . . . don't do anything idiotic, okay?"

"I'm trying," John said.

He only wished he could be sure he was succeeding.

* * *

It felt like being a teenager again. Only, seriously, he'd never been this bad, even at seventeen. John couldn't stop thinking of the sex chamber, of the way it stroked him, of the breathless feeling that would go on and on until he begged it to stop. He wasn't even thinking of sex, or women. He just . . .

Okay, maybe that was what he needed. Sex. Real sex. With someone hot. Someone who could make him forget what he was missing. Yeah, that might really be the answer, because he liked sex, he liked women, and maybe what he needed was just someone to remind him of that.

So . . . sex was the answer. But the question was . . . who?

Military personnel were off limits, of course. So that left the scientists. There was always Lauren Esposito, who really did have a great smile, except Rodney kind of had a thing for her, so that wasn't cool. Katie Brown, of course, was right out for that reason and more—John was pretty sure Rodney still wasn't over their breakup. Alicia Coleman was kind of hot, though. And not dating anyone, as far as he knew. He could ask her out, take her for a moonlit walk on the South Pier, maybe share a bottle of wine . . .

Ah, crap, who was he kidding? He'd never make it that long before he was either completely distracted, or slobbering all over her like a horny baboon. And even if he did manage to behave himself, it would still be using her, whether she knew it or not. Yeah, and then she'd start expecting things, and they'd be dating, and it would be like Melanie all over again. Fuck.

So, no scientists. And Elizabeth was obviously out, for the same reasons, not to mention the fact that she'd probably turn him down flat and then get all worried about him again. And as for Teyla . . .

Okay, why not Teyla? Teyla didn't have Earth baggage. And yeah, okay, she could beat the tar out of him with or without her sticks, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. At least he wouldn't have to worry about his rank or position influencing her. And, God, she was hot. It wasn't like he'd never noticed that.

Except . . . shit. He couldn't ask Teyla. In the first place, he had no idea what her customs about sex were, whether she'd frown on something casual or not. And even if she didn't, John was pretty sure Ronon had his eye on her, and Ronon was really the last person he wanted to be on the wrong side of.

Which meant . . . damn, he was screwed. Apparently there wasn't a single woman in the city of Atlantis he could ask to sleep with him. So it was up to him and his own right hand.

John trudged back to his own room, past a couple of scientists making eyes at each other, and wow, was everyone in the city getting some except him? He locked his door, stripped off his clothes, found a tube of lotion, and sat down on his bed.

He wasn't in the mood. Really not in the mood at all. He wanted to be leaning back in a cushy chair, feeling the buzz on the inside, letting it take him away—not sweating and pulling on his own dick.

Right. He squeezed a glop of lotion on his hand, then reached down and gave himself a quick stroke. Okay, it didn't feel bad, but he wasn't hard, and he wasn't getting hard, even when he pulled and squeezed and rubbed just the right way. He wanted to feel that point of pleasure inside him, the one that made his heart pound and his toes curl. Only that was an Ancient's kink, a woman's kink, and there was no way he . . .

His hand slipped down below his balls, rubbed the skin there, and felt a tiny spark. Not right, not what he wanted, but closer, anyway. He rubbed again, and felt his limp cock twitch, just a little.

Okay, more of that, a little harder, a little lower, damn, he wanted to feel it inside, really inside, and then his finger was inside, and oh, yeah, that was almost it, that was actually good, even if he couldn't quite get it, it was . . .

His left hand found his cock and circled it, and that was better, too. At least he was getting hard, now. He dug his finger deeper and trying to find the spark again. Maybe two fingers. Okay, that was pretty tight, but he pushed in anyway, ignore the little spasm, and curled both fingers up toward the base of his cock. Oh, yeah. That was it, right there; that was the spot, and he just needed to . . .

Shit. He had the wrong hand down there, because his left hand was really not used to jerking him, and he couldn't get the rhythm right. It was awkward and stupid and, God, he was never going to manage to come, was he?

John took a long, slow breath, and let it out again. What he needed was a fantasy, and wow, that pretty weird: he hadn't even thought about it, but he'd never once fantasized in the sex chamber. It had been all about sensation and he'd just floated in it. He hadn't needed anything else. And now that he needed more . . . crap. He couldn't fantasize about an Ancient device, and it was all he wanted, so he was screwed. Totally screwed, because, damn it, he was going soft.

He tried curling his fingers inside again, searching for the good spot, but that only made it worse, because it just reminded him of what he was missing. He tried pulling on his cock again, but that didn't help either, and he was back to completely limp already.

So much for jerking off. John pulled his fingers out of his ass, stumbled to his feet, and made his way to the shower. He turned his face into the spray and just let it wash over him, trying not to think, because the only thing he wanted to think about was going out to the Northeast Pier.

He was in serious trouble, here. He had to come up with something, anything, to distract himself, and chess with Rodney was really not going to cut it tonight. He needed sensation. Someone else's hands on him. And there was no one he could ask.

John turned under the spray, letting it beat on the back of his neck while he lathered up his front. He was going to go down there. He knew it, suddenly, the way he knew he was going to feel like shit afterward, the way he knew Rodney was going to be horrified. But it was fucking inevitable. He was out of options, he was aching, and he was pretty close to the point where he didn't care if he ended up crazy or dead. He just wanted to come already.

He rinsed his hair one last time and stepped out of the shower. It wasn't like he hadn't tried. Well, okay, he hadn't actually asked anyone to have sex with him, but since there wasn't a woman in Atlantis he could ask, what was he supposed to do, ask a man?

Oh, yeah, right. John toweled his face, then rubbed his hair. Hey, he was as open-minded as the next guy, probably more open-minded, given certain thoughts he'd had in his misspent youth, but it wasn't like he'd ever actually acted on them, and he wasn't about to start now. Anyway, asking a man would be just as problematic as asking a woman, even if it was for different reasons. He didn't even know if there were any members of the expedition who were gay—certainly, no one he knew well was—and he wasn't about to give someone he didn't already trust that sort of weapon against him.

Hell, the only person who would understand why he was asking would be Rodney, and seriously, on the list of people he would ever consider having sex with, Rodney McKay came in pretty much dead last. John tossed his towel over the rack and went back to his room to find some clean clothes.

The thought of sex with Rodney was laughable. Well, of course Rodney was straight, so it was moot, but honestly. Rodney was Rodney, for God's sake. He was annoying and full of himself and he complained about things constantly. And yeah, okay, they were friends, and Rodney actually wasn't a bad friend, but friends didn't do what John needed right now, and oh God, he wasn't seriously considering this, was he?

John yanked on his boxers, then his pants. The thing was, Rodney was perfect. Rodney was straight, so there was no worry about any kind of entanglement. Rodney wasn't the least bit attractive, so even on the off chance John reverted to whatever kind of thoughts he'd had twenty years ago, he didn't have to worry about entanglement on his own side. And Rodney was the only one who actually knew what the stakes were here, so John wouldn't have to explain anything, wouldn't have to reveal anything, wouldn't have to be any more mortified about this than he already was.

Christ. He couldn't believe he was actually considering this. He had to have a hole in his head. Maybe the damn sex chamber had already sent him over the edge, and he belonged in the funny farm, for real.

But, God, he just wanted to come. He wanted to feel the buzz, the tingle on the inside, the damn Ancient's kink. John pulled on a t-shirt, buckled on his holster, shoved his feet in his boots, and was out the door before he could think about it. The transporter was just down the hall, which was why he'd chosen this room in the first place. He was in it before he could think to stop himself, his hand hovering over the map's representation of the Northeast Pier.

He wanted it. He wanted it so bad. His hand hovered over the pier for one long moment more . . . and then pressed the location closest to Rodney's quarters.

* * *

Rodney looked tired and disheveled and more than ever like the last person he'd want to have sex with. But at least he was dressed, so John hadn't woken him up.

"Rodney." His voice came out like a croak. "You've got to help me."

Rodney frowned at him, but stepped back out of the way. "Yes, right, come in. Like I said, I'll do anything you need me to. Um, you want to play chess?"

"No," John said, low and desperate.

Rodney's face went pale. "You didn't actually . . . "

Now that was a vote of confidence. John shook his head. "I . . . managed to stop here."

Rodney's expression went marginally less stricken. "Okay, so we just have to distract you. Occupy your mind with something else until the craving goes away. " He frowned. "So, a movie maybe? Or, okay, I'll even watch football with you if you have anything. I'm afraid I don't have anything like that on my hard drive, but—"

"Rodney," John grated out, every syllable an effort. "I don't need a damn football game. I need to have sex. Preferably with a human being."

"Oh," Rodney said faintly. "Of course. So, right, you came to me, because obviously I'm the right person to, um, to find you a partner." Rodney swallowed visibly, and John put up a hand to stop him, but Rodney, being Rodney, barreled on, oblivious. "I'm sure there are plenty of women who are attracted to you, we just need to find one. I can . . . I can go look around right now. I guess the marines are off limits, but there are plenty of—"

"No," John interrupted, because if he had to listen to another word, there might be violence. "I can't ask a woman."

Rodney waved a dismissive hand. "Yes, yes, I know. That's why I'm going to do the asking for you."

John caught Rodney's gaze, willing him to figure this out already. He was supposed to be a genius, wasn't he? "I can't have you ask for me, either. What are you going to say, 'Hey, come fuck John so he doesn't go batshit crazy?' That's not even a bad pick-up line. That's coercion, and I haven't sunk that low yet, okay?"

Rodney swallowed visibly. "Okay, yes, I can see that. So you won't let me ask anyone, but you need to have sex. Preferably with another person. Um, I take it you've tried jerking off?"

John just nodded, because Rodney really didn't need to know the details of that. "It didn't work at all. Please, Rodney."

"Please what? Please . . . oh, God." Rodney's eyes went wide. Christ, finally. Finally he got it. "I . . . um . . . didn't realize you were gay."

Fuck. This was harder than he'd expected, and damn it, he thought he'd been expecting the worst. "I'm not. I never even . . . but that damn thing . . . and I can't ask anyone else, okay?"

Rodney gulped and looked away, like he didn't even want to think about it, and okay, John got that. He didn't want to think about it, either. But that didn't mean Rodney had to be so obvious about it.

"Let me just get this straight," Rodney said. "You think the best solution would be to do it with someone you're not attracted to—someone who, just coincidentally, is also not attracted to you. On what planet does that equal a cure for a sex addiction?"

"It doesn't," John said, because damn it, Rodney was missing the point here. "But it's the only option I've got."

Rodney flinched, like the thought of sex with him was worse than unappealing, like it was downright distasteful, and that was the last straw. "You know what?" John said. "Forget about it. I thought it would be different, asking you, but it's not. So I'll just . . ." And he spun and reached for the door control.

"Colonel, wait." Rodney put a hand on his arm, just as the door slid open. "I didn't say no."

John stared at the hand on his arm. It felt hot against his skin, hot and wrong. "You should have."

Rodney took his hand away, but only so he could reach up and tap the door closed again. "You think I'm going to let you go crazy?"

John took a long, slow breath. "You don't want to have sex with me."

Rodney tipped his head back, nostrils wide. "You don't want to have sex with me, either! I say that makes us even. And anyway, if there's a chance it could work, we have to at least try it. It's just sex."

Oh, that was a good one. When had anything ever been just sex? "Right," John said. "Just sex. And just sex is what got me into this in the first place."

Rodney snorted. "That's not sex. That's closer to torture." He stepped back, hands on his hips, and eyed John appraisingly. "Well, if we're going to do this, we need to get our clothes off. I understand even gay sex works better that way."

Whoa. Okay, he hadn't realized they'd actually made a decision here, and what the hell had he just gotten himself into? John scratched the back of his neck and stalled. "Christ. This is going to be a disaster, isn't it?"

"Quite probably," Rodney said, and then, God, he was taking off his pants, like this was . . . like they were . . . shit. "Now, strip. Unless you want me to take off your clothes for you."

"What? No!" Jesus, he didn't want Rodney to . . . but he didn't want to . . . and crap, Rodney's pants were down around his ankles already and he couldn't exactly back out now, could he? "No, I got that covered," John said, and bent to unlace his boots.

Rodney was too busy getting his own clothes off to look over, and that helped a little. John pulled off his boots, unbuckled his belt and holster, and stepped out of his pants. He left his t-shirt on, which was stupid, but it made him feel a little less naked, and he didn't figure Rodney would want it off, anyway. When he finally looked up, Rodney was sitting on the bed, taking his socks off, so he pulled his own socks off, too. When he glanced up again, Rodney was completely naked except for his watch.

"Um, bed?" Rodney said, and John came over slowly, feeling exposed and wrong and God, he couldn't believe he was doing this to Rodney, who really hadn't done anything to deserve it.

John sat down on the bed next to Rodney and leaned forward, his elbows propped on his knees. This is a really bad idea, he wanted to say. I think we should just forget about it.

"Right," Rodney said. "Where do we start?"

John swallowed hard. "I have no idea."

Rodney sighed next to him, and a moment later John felt Rodney's hand on his back, right up next to his neck, rubbing him through the t-shirt. There wasn't anything the least bit sexual about it, and that helped somehow. Actually, it helped a lot. John let his head fall forward, and Rodney just kept on rubbing like he had no other plans, like he could keep it up all evening.

Right. Except John was the one who needed this, so John was the one who had to make the move. At the very least, Rodney deserved a decent orgasm, just for not saying no.

John twisted around, cupped Rodney's shoulder with one hand, and tried to ease him back onto the bed, only he misjudged the amount of force it was going to take, and Rodney's head hit his pillow with an audible thump. Crap.

John leaned over him. If Rodney had been a woman, they would have been kissing already, but he was pretty sure Rodney didn't want to be kissed. So he turned his face away and found his cheek against Rodney's shoulder, his nose buried in Rodney's chest hair.

He could do this. It couldn't be that hard. Teenage girls—and boys—did it for the first time every day. And strangely enough, Rodney actually didn't feel so bad against his cheek. Rodney smelled warm and human, and his chest hair tickled.

Right. John took another deep breath and slid downward, slid all the way down until he was kneeling between Rodney's legs. Rodney wasn't hard—right, why would he be?—and his dick felt really weird against John's lips. It was soft and small and kind of wrinkly, but it didn't taste too bad, so John licked it and took it into his mouth, and then, thank God, it finally started to grow.

He licked a little more, kind of slurped a bit on it, then went back to the licking, while it grew and then grew some more, until the skin was hot and taut against his tongue and he could feel Rodney's pulse when he wrapped his mouth around the head. He glanced up, but Rodney's eyes were closed, so John closed his own and tried to figure out what the hell he was doing.

He really should have paid more attention to the blow jobs he'd gotten over the years. Melanie had been kind of weird about the whole concept, so they hadn't done it very often, but Cynthia had been amazing. Only John had absolutely no idea what she'd done, except that he remembered she'd moved her head a lot, bobbing up and down on the shaft.

He eased his mouth down around Rodney's cock, not all the way down because he didn't want to gag, but far enough that hopefully Rodney could feel it, then pulled back up kind of quick. And Rodney twitched in what was obviously not a good way.

"Crap," John said, and pulled off.

A heartbeat later he felt Rodney's hand on his hair, stroking him like a cat. "It's okay," Rodney said, which really didn't make John feel any better. "Just try not to scrape with the teeth."

Shit. Disaster didn't even begin to describe this. But he wasn't going to give up now. That would only make it worse. "Teeth, right, okay," John managed, and leaned his forehead against Rodney's hip. At least Rodney was still hard. That had to be worth something. He lifted his head again and caught the head of Rodney's cock against his lips, then just sort of sucked him in.

Rodney gasped, and John froze. He couldn't tell if that was another bad sound or not, but he didn't dare risk any more disaster, so he went back to the licking and the slurping. After a few minutes, Rodney kind of rocked a bit against him, which couldn't be all bad, so he kept it up. Only nothing really seemed to be happening here, and God, he wasn't imagining it. Rodney was starting to go soft.

He was screwing this up. He was giving the worst blow job in recorded history, and Rodney, who complained about everything, wasn't saying a word against it. Somehow that was the worst part, that Rodney didn't even feel comfortable being Rodney right now. John pulled off and propped his chin against his fist. "That bad, huh?"

Rodney looked down at him, eyes too innocent, mouth pulled sideways. "No, it's good, it's, um, really pretty good, I just . . ."

John rolled his eyes. "Rodney, I've known two-year-olds who could lie better than you."

"Yes, okay. Okay, it's not working. Could you just . . . that thing you were doing before, with the sucking? That was actually quite nice."

Sucking? Oh, right. The thing that had made Rodney gasp. So maybe it had been a good sort of gasp, and John just hadn't dared believe it. "You mean this?" he asked, and leaned forward to try it again, closing his lips around the head so he got a good seal and then applying suction until Rodney's cock slid into his mouth, fast and hard. And Rodney made a little breathy noise and kind of lifted his hips.

"Yes," Rodney whispered, "yes, that," so John did it again, and one more time after that, and wow, he was actually doing something right here, because Rodney was twisting his hands up in the sheets. John made sure his teeth weren't in the way and sucked even harder, until Rodney whimpered. "That's good, that's good, that's . . . Oh, God." And there was no chance to pull away; Rodney was coming already, flooding John's mouth with hot, salty bitterness.

"Fuck," John said, and spat and spat.

"Sorry, sorry," Rodney gasped. His chest was heaving, his face was flushed, and he looked . . . debauched, which was something John had really never wanted to see.

John flopped down on the foot of the bed. His neck was tired and his lips were numb and he was never, ever, ever going to do that again.

"Hey," Rodney said. "Come here."

John didn't even look over at him. He just . . . needed to rest for a few minutes, and then he'd leave. Honestly, at this point, anything else was too much work. But then Rodney's hand closed around his arm, Rodney yanked on him, damn it, and it was either make a scene or scramble up to the head of the bed and stretch out there, next to Rodney.

John closed his eyes. God, if Rodney tried to suck him, he didn't know what he'd do, because either Rodney would be as spectacularly awful as he'd been himself, or Rodney would be better at it, and then he'd be smug, and . . .

But Rodney didn't suck him. Rodney just reached down and closed a hand around him, warm and easy. It felt . . . oh, God. It actually felt almost good. Rodney squeezed him a few times and then rubbed him in just the right spot, and John held his breath. He wanted . . . Jesus, he had no idea what he wanted Rodney to do, but he wanted him to do something, and that was shocking enough.

And then Rodney's hand disappeared, and Rodney shifted on the bed next to him. Not going away, God, please, not that . . . but no. John cracked an eye open to see Rodney scooping up a bit of hand cream.

"You okay?" Rodney whispered. John nodded, and then Rodney's hand was back, and it felt even better, slick warmth wrapped around him, squeezing and pulling and rubbing with no urgency, like there was no need to hurry, like Rodney was in this for the long haul. John could feel Rodney's leg pressed against his, and it wasn't a damn thing like the sex chamber, but it wasn't like trying to jerk off, either.

John relaxed into it and just let it happen, let the slow rhythm take him, let Rodney do whatever Rodney was going to do. And okay, whoa, that actually was a little like the sex chamber, because it was totally out of his control, here, and the way it was building, maddeningly slowly, was all too familiar. Except that it didn't feel the same, because the only place Rodney was touching him was his cock. Well, and the leg against his leg, but that didn't really count. Rodney wasn't touching his balls or his nipples, or his . . .

Oh, God.

The worst thing was, he wanted it. There was no fucking way he was going to ask for it, but if Rodney touched him there, touched him inside . . . Jesus. John rocked into Rodney's hand, and Rodney squeezed him just a bit more firmly. John rocked again, and then it was a rhythm, he was practically fucking Rodney's hand here, but he wanted, God, he wanted . . .

He was close, now, close but not there, and it wasn't enough, wasn't going to be enough, unless . . . John whimpered and let his knees fall open, exposing himself, begging without words, and Rodney . . . oh God, Rodney slipped his other hand down to cup John's balls.

John bucked hard against Rodney's hand, shoving his hips up so that Rodney's hand slid down, and for an instant there was pressure, exquisite pressure, just exactly where he wanted it.

"Oh, God, sorry, I didn't . . ." Rodney said, but it was too late, John was over the edge and falling, coming so hard he couldn't see straight, all over his t-shirt and half of Rodney's bed.

"Oh," Rodney said quietly, and then the whole room tilted and John's face went hot.


Rodney knew. Rodney knew. It didn't matter that John had managed to keep his mouth shut; apparently actions spoke louder. And now Rodney knew what he'd wanted, knew his secret kink, and he couldn't even protest that it was the damn Ancient's kink, because that was too much information in and of itself.

Rodney's hand touched his thigh. "It's okay, you know."

Like that would make it better. John shook his head and shoved himself up and off the bed. "It's really not."

"It is if we say it is," Rodney said, "and I'm saying."

Christ, if only it were that easy. John looked around, desperate for an exit strategy. "You have clean sheets somewhere?"

Rodney pointed to a drawer and stood up so that John could change the bed. There was something actually soothing about the automatic motions of tucking and pulling, and by the time John straightened, his face had cooled down.

Rodney was holding something black in his hand. A t-shirt. A clean one. Which could only mean . . . John looked down. Oh, yeah. His own shirt was a disaster area.

"You could stay if you want," Rodney was saying, like that was even an option. "The couch isn't too bad."

John glanced up at him, then had to drag his gaze away. Rodney looked concerned, and he just couldn't bear it. "I'm fine."

"No, you're not fine, which is, hello, why you're here in the first place." John still didn't dare look at him. "At least take the shirt, okay? You can't walk through the halls like that."

Jesus. "It's three in the morning. Who's going to see?"

"Take it," Rodney snapped. "Or do I have to strip that one off you myself?"

John gritted his teeth. He didn't want it, didn't want to be beholden to Rodney any more than he so obviously already was, but didn't want to have to explain that, either. He took the shirt and exchanged it for the one he was wearing, which he balled up and dropped on the floor. Rodney was busy getting dressed himself, so John pulled on the rest of his own clothes, buckling on his holster but not bothering to tie his boots.

When he finished, Rodney was staring at him again, looking oddly nervous. "You wouldn't go down there now, would you? I mean, I know this was pretty bad—okay, gruesome wouldn't really be an understatement—but you can't, you just can't, look, give me a day or two and I'll figure this out, just don't—"

"Christ," John said. And okay, it wasn't like he'd thought it was exactly good for Rodney, but he hadn't figured it was as bad as that. "I'm fine, McKay," he managed. It was, strangely enough, not even a lie. "You took the edge off, and I'm thinking I might be able to sleep if I leave now. If I stand here and argue about it, there's no telling."

"Right, sorry," Rodney said. "Go. I'll, um, I'll come up with a better solution in the morning."

Jesus, that was not what he needed. He needed Rodney to stop thinking about him, to forget this whole sordid thing had ever happened. John scooped up his soiled shirt and reached for the door control. "Rodney . . ." he said, quick and low.


"Just . . . thanks," John said, and slipped out the door.

* * *

Rodney was busy on some project involving hyperspace, and as curious as John was about it, he really wasn't up to hanging around the labs today. He saw Rodney on his way out of the mess at breakfast, and that was bad enough. He nodded a quick greeting, but Rodney, who had been deep in conversation with Zelenka, jerked his chin up and gave him a searching look, and it was all John could do not to ask him what his problem was.

Of course, there was no point in asking something you already knew the answer to. But it thrummed like a bass line in the back of his head all day. He'd had sex with Rodney McKay. Spectacularly bad sex. Well, okay, they'd both managed to come, so it hadn't been that bad, but Rodney had called it gruesome, and that grated, all day long.

Hey, he'd tried. He'd really fucking tried. It wasn't his fault that he'd never had gay sex before. It wasn't his fault that Rodney wasn't attracted to him . . . well, all right, yes. That was his fault, considering he'd chosen Rodney for exactly that reason. But if Rodney had really thought it was gruesome, he could at least have kept that little gem of an opinion to himself.

John went through the usual routine for an uneventful, mission-free day—a meeting with Lorne, a meeting with Hartwell, filling out requisition forms for the next Daedalus run, supervising puddlejumper flight training, answering his email, disciplining a couple of marines who thought they'd try drying and smoking some of Parrish's offworld samples, more meetings. By the time he stumbled back to his own room after dinner, he was tired and cranky and sick to death of thinking about Rodney McKay.

Except, wow, he'd thought about McKay all day rather than the sex chamber, and that was a change, anyway. It wasn't exactly an improvement, but hey, at least being ticked at Rodney wasn't likely to kill him. Well, not on most days, anyway.

There was a woman standing next to his door when he got there. A xenobiologist whose name was . . . Lozano, he thought.

"Hi," she said, and smiled as he approached, which kind of implied she wasn't there by accident. Damn.

"Something I can do for you, Dr. Lozano?" Crap, he really hoped those idiot kids hadn't tried to smoke her offworld samples, too.

Lozano smiled again—a very nice smile, all shiny with lipstick—and twisted on a pair of high-heeled shoes that were seriously impractical for the Pegasus Galaxy. "It's Lisa. And actually, I was thinking maybe there was something we could do for each other."

John swallowed hard. Here it was, the solution to all of his problems. A willing, friendly, lovely solution. And all he had to do was . . . risk entanglement, and sleep with her under false pretenses. "Wow, that's, um, wow."

Lozano grinned. "So what do you say? Are you going to ask me in?"

Jesus, she moved fast. Like she had reason to believe . . . oh, shit. "Wait," John said. "Did Rodney put you up to this?"

"Rodney? You mean Dr. McKay?" Lozano blinked at him. "I don't think he's ever said more than two words to me. And, no offense, because I know he's on your team and all, but most of us in biology try to stay out of his way. We're usually happier that way."

"Right," John said. So it wasn't Rodney. Unless . . . well, of course Rodney was a genius. There was no reason to expect he'd do the legwork himself. "But someone put you up to this, right? Someone told you I was, what, feeling lonely?"

Lozano's mouth twisted into a pout. "Okay, yes, there was a rumor you were having a bad week and needed a little female companionship." She tipped her head. "They weren't wrong about that, were they? You look, um, kind of tired."

God damn it. It was Rodney for sure. "Someone is playing a practical joke on me," he said, which was close enough to the truth. "This is their idea of a good laugh."

Lozano frowned. "You mean they're going to spy on us or interrupt us or something?"

"Something like that," John said, which was more of a lie, but hey, in the end, it amounted to nearly the same thing. "Sorry."

"I understand." Lozano looked crestfallen, which was really pretty flattering. "So, maybe we can take a raincheck, then? Some other night?"

John swallowed. And really, she seemed perfectly nice, but he just couldn't imagine a universe where that would be a possibility right now. "Wow, um, you know what? I'll have to get back to you on that. I'm not sure how long this is going to take to blow over."

"I see." Lozano folded her arms across her chest, which certainly set off her assets there rather nicely. "Well, I guess I'm glad you figured it out. I'll see you around, John."

"You bet," he said, and waited until she was halfway down the corridor before escaping into his room.

John leaned against the wall as the door closed. He was going to kill Rodney. This was insult to injury. So maybe Rodney even meant well, but John had explained why he couldn't sleep with a woman, and tantalizing him like this was just cruel.

Rodney really should have known better.

The door chimed, and John jerked away from the wall. It couldn't possibly be . . . but it was. Another woman. Tricia Langenberg from Linguistics, who looked downright predatory.

"Why, hello there," she said, pushing halfway into his room. "How are you doing?"

"Whoa," John said, his hands up just in case he had to fend her off. "You know that rumor you heard? Completely false. Someone's trying to play a joke on me."

"Don't be silly," she said, moving closer and sliding a hand under the hem of his shirt. "It can't be completely false. And even if it is, there's nothing wrong with a little fun between consenting adults."

"Practical. Joke," John yelped before she managed to get her other hand on him. "Really!"

Seriously, Rodney was deader than a dead man.

* * *

Rodney was alone in his lab, which was a damn good thing for everyone involved, except maybe Rodney.

John rounded the corner and did his best to loom. "Okay, I have had not one, not two, but five women come knocking on my door this evening. Something tells me they didn't just decide to show up on their own."

"Wow, five?" Rodney swung his chair around, looking far too pleased with himself. "So how many did you, um, have to turn away?"

John glowered down at him. "All of them. Damn it, Rodney, I thought I told you I didn't want a pimp."

"What makes you think it was me?" Rodney went for wide-eyed innocence again, and only succeeded in looking a little loopy. "I didn't ask anyone to sleep with you."

John rolled his eyes. "Oh, right."

"Okay, okay, I might have mentioned something to Zelenka. But I didn't tell him anything about the—" Rodney waved a hand "—thing, so it's not like anyone is forcing them. What's so hard about saying yes? You don't have to sleep with them all. Just pick one. Or two. Or, you know, three at the most."

Christ. Rodney really didn't get it. John dropped into the nearest lab chair. "It's still using them. Lying by omission."

Rodney waved a hand. "What, even if all they want is to spend a pleasant hour or so with you?"

"Yes!" John leaned forward in his chair, because apparently he was actually going to have to explain this. "Look, say I pick one of them, and say she sleeps with me because she likes me. Best case scenario, I beat this thing, lose the craving, go back to being me. Then what do I do? I either say, 'hey, thanks a lot, see you around,' or I'm in a relationship with her, and trust me, she's going to be happier if I dump her."

Rodney's chair squeaked as he shifted in it. "What?"

Jesus, what had he said that was so unclear? For a genius, Rodney could be awfully obtuse. "You know, the whole relationship thing?" John said. "Not really something I'm good at."

Rodney snorted. "How would you even know? Have you ever had a serious relationship? I mean, something that lasted beyond the 'Wham, bam, thank you ma'am' part?"

And wow, that just went to show Rodney had no idea what he as talking about. "Does marriage count?"

"Well, of course marriage . . . wait, you were married?" Rodney stared at him. "You never told me you were married."

John crossed his ankles to match his arms. "It never came up. Look, I'm just saying—"

"It never came up?" Rodney sounded . . . wow, almost hurt there. "I've known you for two and a half years—come on, you know the name of my childhood cat—but I don't know you were married?"

John sighed and stared at his feet, because that meant he didn't have to look at Rodney. He should have known better than to mention it. He really should have. "It only lasted eighteen months. And I believe her last words to me were, 'I don't ever want to see you again, John Sheppard, not even in a body bag.' So, not really fodder for casual conversation, okay?"

"Whoa. What did you do to deserve that?"


"No, really, I want to know. I mean, I've had my share of brush-offs, but usually they say the nasty things fairly early on, like when I ask them out."

Christ, Rodney was just not going to let this go. "It wasn't just one thing, okay?" Yeah, that was putting it mildly. Funny how he remembered Melanie's misery better than his own. "But, well, the final straw was when I kind of forgot to tell her I was going TDY until the night before I had to leave."

"You forgot?"

John rolled his eyes. "No, of course I didn't forget. I just couldn't face the teary good-bye sex. So this way I got the tears without the sex."

Rodney was looking at him, his mouth half-open. "Okay, wow, this is getting into Too Much Information territory."

John snorted. "We're not just there, we've set up camp and are starting to build infrastructure. Look, just lay off, okay? I told you, I can handle this on my own."

"Right, because handling it on your own just leads to you showing up at my door at two in the morning."

Shit. That was hitting below the belt. John climbed to his feet and kicked the chair under the nearest desk. "You don't have to worry about that. It's not going to happen again."

"Sheppard, come on—" Rodney started, but John really didn't want to hear it.

"I'll see you around, McKay." And he managed to escape without hearing the word "gruesome" again, which had to count for something.

* * *

Over the course of the next few days, John did his best to avoid Rodney, which was actually pretty easy, since Rodney was elbow deep in his hyperspace project. It was apparently something to do with the puddlejumpers, and ordinarily John would have been right there, getting all the details, because a hyperdrive on a puddlejumper would be amazingly cool, but under the circumstances, he figured he'd better pass.

He managed to sneak Rodney's shirt back to him, leaving it on his dresser when he knew Rodney was in the mess. So the only time he actually had to be in Rodney's presence was on M1U-424, and they spent most of that being grilled about what "hell" was, and whether it had a gate address, so it wasn't so bad. Even if Rodney did make more than a few pointed comments about watching their language during the long trek back to the gate.

The cravings were back. Not that he hadn't expected that, but they were worse than before, because now every time he thought of the sex chamber, he thought about having sex with Rodney, like the two were all mixed up in his head.

Elizabeth kept giving him searching looks all through the debriefing, and then ordered him back to the infirmary. John dutifully went, and Carson clucked over his neurotransmitter levels again, although this time he was apparently more concerned with the dopamine than the acetylcholine, whatever that meant.

"Have you been under any undue stress recently?"

John shrugged and hopped down from the infirmary bed. "It's been over a week and a half since the city was in mortal peril, so, not really, no."

Carson chuckled. "It has been a bit eventful around here lately, hasn't it? I'd say your body's just having a wee bit of a delayed reaction. You're seeing Kate regularly?"

"Sure," John lied. He'd faked his way through the appointment Elizabeth had set up, and hadn't scheduled another.

"Well, then, I'm afraid there's not much else I can do for you," Carson said, and let him go.

John trudged back to his quarters. He'd thought he'd been out of options before, but he obviously hadn't known what that meant, because just having Rodney—to talk to, play chess with, whatever—had made all the difference in the world. But he'd fucked that up, and now there was no way he could ask Rodney for help, because there was humiliation, and then there was abject humiliation, and he was way past that and on to mortification.

So John spent the evening alone in his room, trying to jerk off, and he knew it was bad, because even porn wasn't working. The woman on the screen had pretty tits and a nice ass, and she was really going to town on the guy's dick, which was usually a bulletproof turn-on. But tonight it just wasn't doing it for him. His dick kept going soft in his hand. So maybe . . . hmm, maybe if he pictured Lisa Lozano's face there . . . oh, no. God, no. That was just creepy. And now his dick was completely limp.

John closed his computer and leaned back against his pillow. It was the weirdest thing, to be aching like this, and not even be able to get it up. It was fucking freaky. Maybe Carson was right and his head was scrambled for real.

Or maybe he just needed a helping hand. A nice, warm hand. A hand that would take its time, pumping him slow and easy. And maybe another hand, a hand that would slide down and . . .


He was thinking about McKay. He was thinking. About. McKay. And that was just so wrong on so many levels, he couldn't even begin to list them all. Of course, even if it hadn't been wrong, it was just as bad as thinking about the damn sex chamber. Because, seriously, a guy who called it "gruesome" and then tried to set you up with someone, anyone, else? Not really a candidate for a repeat performance.

Not that John wanted a repeat performance. He just really, really wanted to come. And Rodney had been the only substitute that had worked, the only thing that had made the itch go away, if only for awhile.

He wasn't going to. He really wasn't going to. But the next thing John knew, he had his clothes back on and he was standing in the transporter, pressing the location for the Northeast Pier.

* * *

The door to the corridor was locked. John shot out the control panel and pried it open. It took him no more than 30 seconds.

* * *

He was drenched in sweat. He was writhing in the chair. He needed this to be good, to be better than good, to chase every stray thought out of his head. He wanted . . .

"Okay, okay, now, please, now." And everything went hot and white and he was coming, coming hard, and it was good, really good . . . not really good enough.

Crap. Maybe if he stayed for another round.

* * *

John's fingers shook as he tried to do up his buttons. Wow, three times in a row was apparently a really terrible idea. His head was woozy and his knees were rubber and if he thought he could take it, he would have sat right back down. But, um, yeah. No way. If he sat down now, he might never get up again, and that would really piss Rodney off.

He finally got all the buttons done—in the proper holes even, which was doing pretty damn well—and his fly fastened and his holster buckled on. But when the door to the chamber opened, there was something odd, something different. Right. The lights were on in the corridor outside, when they hadn't been before.

John stumbled through the force field on still-rubbery knees, and oh, hey, look who was here. His very own reluctant rescuer, in all his hunched-over, computer-tapping glory.

"Rodney. What a surprise."

Rodney's head jerked up, and he scrambled to his feet, his computer forgotten on the chair behind him. "Is this what you call handling it on your own? Are you insane? You said you weren't going to do this. You said you—"

Geez, John felt almost drunk here, because his legs really didn't want to hold him up. "I said I wouldn't show up at your door at two in the morning again," he said. "And I didn't."

"Christ." Rodney was right there in his space, and John didn't even know how he'd gotten there. "You honestly think I'd be happier to have you come down here? Oh, my God, you really have gone crazy."

Actually, at this point going nuts sounded kind of good. If he were nuts, he'd be in a nice, cozy, padded room, and he wouldn't have to deal with Rodney anymore. "You know, I think you're right."

"Damn it." Rodney's eyes were wide and bright and way too concerned, and then, whoa, Rodney's hands were on his shoulders. "You can't do this. I'm going to tell Carson. I'm going to tell Heightmeyer."

Oh, Crap. "No," John said, and apparently he wasn't above begging. "God, Rodney, don't do that to me."

"I have to," Rodney said fiercely. His hands tightened once, and then dropped away. "You can't handle it on your own."

"I can," John promised rashly. Hey, he might not be able to stand up straight, but he could take care of himself. "I'll do better. I lasted a week. I'll make it longer next time."

"And what if you don't? What then? Look, I have tried helping you with this, and I am completely out of ideas. This isn't exactly my area of expertise."

John felt a rush of something weird and kind of warm, because Rodney really had tried. It wasn't his fault it had been a total disaster. "Hey, I lasted four more days when I didn't think I was going to last ten minutes. So don't get a complex. You did your part, okay?"

Rodney blinked. "Really? It helped?"

How was it possible that Rodney didn't know that? Rodney was the only one, the only thing that had even . . . "Of course it helped."

"Then for God's sake, let me help you again the next time you start thinking about coming down here."

Okay, wait. That wasn't what Rodney was supposed to say. That was . . . shit, that was just wrong. "I can't do that. You hated it."

"I didn't hate it," Rodney said, like he actually thought John might buy that. "Okay, okay, it was pretty awful, but if you honestly think I'd rather have you tortured by that damn machine, you don't know me very well. Promise you'll come to me if the cravings get bad again."


Rodney took a deliberate step toward him, until he was so close John could have touched him just by rolling his hips. "Promise me, Sheppard."

Jesus, was this Rodney's idea of a come-on? That was both disturbing and weirdly touching. "Hey, it's not like I need anything tonight," John said, in case Rodney had forgotten. "I just, um, you know." And yeah, okay, maybe he wasn't exactly proud of it, but for God's sake, he'd done it for Rodney. The man could at least acknowledge that. "Three times."

Rodney's face fell. "Okay, I get it," he said, though he very clearly didn't get it at all. "I get that one crappy orgasm with me isn't much competition for that. I just . . . I was doing the best I could, all right?"

"Jesus," John said. "That wasn't a complaint." And shit, he'd thought things were screwed up before, but if he'd made Rodney feel guilty and inadequate in addition to everything else . . . He pushed himself away from the wall, his hip inadvertently brushing Rodney's as he went. "Okay, you win," he said, hard and fast before he could chicken out or come to his senses. "I'll come to you if I can't handle it on my own. You happy now?"

Rodney lifted his chin defiantly. "Yes."

John searched his face, but Rodney seemed pretty sure of himself, there. "Okay, then," John said. And turned to go, so he wouldn't change his mind and back out and tick Rodney off one more time.

* * *

It should have been easier, knowing Rodney was willing to help out again, but it wasn't. John couldn't stop imagining new and even more disastrous ways that they could have bad sex. Ways that would make Rodney never want to look at him again, and really, that would make going on missions together a serious pain.

He tried running again, but it didn't do any good. He was pounding down one of the long corridors in the South Pier, but all he could think about was wanting, wanting, wanting, and damn it, he was so tired of wanting.

He slowed and stopped, heart thumping in his chest, breaths coming fast and deep. It was the sex chamber or McKay. One or the other. Flip a coin and decide his fate.

Yeah, right.

He headed slowly back to his room, took a quick shower, pulled his t-shirt on before he'd properly dried himself, and headed for the transporter. He knew which one he wanted. He just didn't know if he could handle the humiliation of facing Rodney afterward.

Maybe he'd just go in there and sit down and never get up again.

It was tempting. So damn tempting. John closed his eyes, and reached for the transporter map.

His heart was pounding when he rang the chime for Rodney's door, and it didn't really help things any when Rodney took one look at him and gulped. "Oh, God, it's bad, isn't it?"

John nodded, not sure he wanted to know what Rodney was seeing.

"So come in already. What are you waiting for? Don't be an idiot. Take off your clothes."

It was just so typical, so Rodney that John couldn't suppress a strangled laugh. "God, Rodney, don't ever change, okay?"

"What? What did I say?"

John swallowed another laugh at set to work unbuckling his belt and holster and taking off his pants. He left his shirt on again, for obvious reasons, but Rodney glanced over at him and frowned.

"You don't want to take that off?" Rodney said, gesturing to his own bare chest.

John shrugged. "I just thought you'd be more comfortable with it on. What with the hairy chest and no—" He traced a pair of curves in the air in front of him. "—you know."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "You do realize that the deal-breaker is a bit south of that, right?"

Um, right. "Yeah, well, there's not much I can do about that. I just figured I'd spare you what I could."

Rodney huffed at him, like this was a perfectly normal situation, like John was the one acting odd. "Just take it off and get on the bed, okay?"

"Gee, McKay," John said as he hauled the shirt off, "I can see why you're so popular with the ladies."

Rodney frowned at him. "Do I need to remind you that you're the one who wants to have sex, here?"

Christ. It wasn't like he'd forgotten. It was just that, for the space of a minute or two there, he'd actually thought this might not end up being gruesome. "No, I think that's pretty obvious to everyone involved," John said stiffly, and went to sit on the bed.

Rodney came over to join him. John felt the bed dip next to him as Rodney sat down, and it was awkward and awful all over again. Damn it.

"Look," John said, "you want me to—" But Rodney was already saying, "Okay, why don't you—" so of course they both broke off at the same time.

Rodney rubbed his temple like it hurt. "Just lie back, okay?"

It really wasn't what he wanted . . . but maybe it would be easier for Rodney to be in control. Maybe that was the mistake he'd made, last time. John stretched out on the bed, his head on Rodney's pillow, his legs out straight to give Rodney room to work. He waited while Rodney glanced at his face and then looked away, staring at something in the vicinity of his feet.

So, not really better this way. Not really at all. John forced himself to lie still and not fidget. Rodney was just sitting there, like he had no idea what to do, and damn it, that was why John had wanted to do him first, anyway. Well, one of the reasons.

John lifted his head. "Rodney?"

"I'm thinking!"

Christ. That was only going to make trouble, here. "It's not a physics problem, okay? I have a dick; you have a hand. How hard can it be? Unless you want me to do you first, which was what I was trying to do in the first place."

Rodney was touching him before he'd stopped talking, his hand wrapped big and warm around John's cock. John let his head fall back and closed his eyes, because Rodney was squeezing him and stroking him and God.

But then Rodney's hand stopped moving. "This is really what you want? Because I probably could manage, um . . ."

Jesus H. Christ. "It's good," John said. "It worked last time. Stop thinking, okay?"

"You know that's not exactly my strong suit, right?"

"Yeah, I know," John managed. He rolled over, pulling away from Rodney's hand, and rooted in Rodney's nightstand drawer until he found the hand cream Rodney had used last time. "Here," he said, handing it over.

"Right, okay," Rodney said, and finally got with the program. In a moment his hand was on John's cock again, firm and slick and good. John bit his lip, and Rodney stroked again, and damn it, he couldn't keep himself from hitching his hips up, because Rodney was real, his hand was real, and there was something to push into, something to fuck.

Rodney made a funny little noise, somewhere between a grunt and a hum, and gave him another good stroke, and John lifted his hips again. It was nothing like the sex chamber. It was unpredictable and imperfect, and it was Rodney.

And maybe that shouldn't have been a plus, but somehow it almost was. Because, damn it, he knew what this was costing Rodney. He knew Rodney didn't want to be here, wasn't attracted to him, wasn't getting anything out of this. But that meant Rodney was doing this for him. All for him. And that twisted John's chest up in a way he couldn't explain at all.

They had a rhythm now, working together, John rocking and Rodney stroking, and it was working, working a hell of a lot better than the last time. And if John wanted more, if he wanted Rodney to . . . God, no. He wasn't asking. He damn well wasn't asking. So when Rodney slid a hand down to cup his balls he stopped moving for a moment, just to make sure Rodney's hand went exactly where it wanted to.

He thought he'd succeeded. He really thought he'd succeeded. But after a couple more strokes, Rodney pulled his hands away.

"Okay, wait," Rodney said, like they were in the middle of some kind of technical procedure rather than a hand job. "I need to know something."

"Rodney." God, that sounded like a whine, but damn it. "Can't this wait?"

"No, it can't wait," Rodney snapped. "You think I'd be asking if it wasn't important? Look, I just need to know one thing: does that thing hurt you?"

Whoa. Okay, that was really not what he was expecting. John lifted his head so he could see Rodney's face better. "Hurt me? It gets my rocks off, McKay, and no, I'm not into pain."

Rodney looked . . . flushed. "Does it penetrate you? Is that why you . . . ?"

Crap. That was just not something he wanted to talk about. "It's virtual," John said. "It doesn't actually do anything. It's all in my head. I just . . ." Christ. He really didn't want to say it, but he owed Rodney this much. "I can feel it everywhere. Inside and out. And the closest I can get to that is, you know, with my fingers. When I jerk off."

"Oh." Rodney said, like that was a revelation, and John felt his face go hot. "I, um . . . well, okay, then."

Shit. "Rodney—"

"Yeah, yeah," Rodney said, and then his hands came back, warm and happy, right where they had been. John jerked against him, thrusting into his fist, and it was warm and good and, oh God. Rodney's hand was moving, rubbing just below his balls, and John felt a hint of that little spark.

Jesus, that was good, that was fine, that was enough, but Rodney's hand was still moving, and oh wow, he wouldn't. He really wouldn't, not after the slip last time, not . . . but Rodney's finger was right there, circling, and it wasn't like touching himself at all. It was . . . and it . . . and oh Jesus, Rodney was pushing his finger inside, and John couldn't help himself. With a little whimper he pushed back, pushed hard, until Rodney's finger was all the way inside and he was panting and lifting off the bed and so goddamn close he could taste it.

If he'd been in the sex chamber, he would have been begging already, but this was Rodney, and Rodney was . . . not hanging him out to dry here. Oh, God. Rodney was pumping him harder and pushing with his finger until it was there, oh yeah, right there, and John was coming and coming and spasming hard around Rodney's finger.

Rodney milked him dry, pulled his finger out, and patted his thigh gently. John's heart was still thundering in his chest, and he couldn't open his eyes, even when Rodney disappeared for a moment. By the time his eyelids were obeying him again, Rodney was back with a warm towel.

"Thanks," John said, and mopped himself up. "I'll be with you in a sec."

Rodney shifted on his feet. "You know what? I'm actually okay."

"What?" John pushed himself up, shoving the towel off the side of the bed. "You don't want me to . . . ?" Oh, God. What was he thinking? "Right. Of course you don't." Of course. But God, he couldn't just leave it like this, because then he'd be a total user. "Look, I know this is asking a lot, but if you could just let me . . ."

Rodney's head jerked around, and his eyes met John's. "Really? You actually want to . . . ?"

John put a hand over his eyes. "Listen, the difference between that . . . thing . . . and real sex, is that real sex is not all about me. I don't want this to be all about me." Even if it was. Right. "You don't have to worry about the teeth," he added, just in case that was the problem. "I can use my hand."

"Um, okay," Rodney said, though he didn't exactly sound convinced. "Okay, yeah, we can do this."

John swallowed the tiny bubble of relief that was welling up in him. "I'll try to make sure you don't regret it."

Rodney just kind of stood there, naked at the foot of the bed. "You know, actually, regret's not really that big a part of my life. I mean, I've regretted a lot of sex I didn't have, but I've never really regretted . . ." Damn it, that was stalling. John cocked an eyebrow at him, and Rodney went a little pink. "Oh, right. We should get on with this."

Rodney sat down on the bed and stretched out next to John, pale and hairy and just . . . Rodney. John scooted over and twisted to get some hand cream, and when he turned back Rodney was, wow, actually starting to get hard, and that was more than John expected, more than he'd ever thought to ask for, but, God, he'd take it. He settled down on the bed and reached across Rodney's belly to take hold of his cock.

Okay, yeah, this was easier than giving a blow job. A hell of a lot easier, even if it wasn't like jerking himself. Rodney's cock was hot and alive in his hand, and Rodney sighed and muttered as John stroked him, so John added a little rub with his thumb at the top of the stroke, and Rodney tipped his head back and pushed up into John's hand.

Wow. He could do this. Rodney liked it. Rodney actually liked it, and that was such a fucking relief that John almost lost his rhythm. His hand stuttered on the upstroke and Rodney whimpered, so John tried it again, and then Rodney was thrusting to meet his hand. They were good. They were really good together. It was working, and Rodney was making even more noise now, little gasps and grunts and moans.

John pressed up against Rodney's arm, never letting his rhythm falter. He wanted . . . yeah. He wanted more. He wanted Rodney to feel more, to have two points of pleasure instead of one. And Rodney might not appreciate a finger up his ass, but there was always . . . John leaned forward and licked Rodney's nipple. And Rodney surged into his hand.

"You don't . . . I can't . . ." Rodney babbled, but he wasn't really protesting. John licked his nipple again, and he arched up off the bed with a moan. God, yes. John licked again, and again, and one more time, and Rodney squirmed and fucked his hand and came.

If Rodney had been a woman, John would have kissed him, but he wasn't, so John settled for one last lick of his nipple.

Right. That was, um . . . and they weren't . . . so he really shouldn't have done that. John got up off the bed and found a clean towel in the bathroom. When he came back, Rodney was still lying there with his eyes closed, so John leaned down and carefully wiped his stomach with the towel. Rodney looked . . . surprisingly vulnerable like this. John gave him one last swipe and then turned to look for his boxers and his pants.

"Oh, right," Rodney said, a propos of nothing.

John looked up from where he was buttoning his fly, but Rodney didn't explain. He was half-propped up in bed, looking over at John and frowning.



John bent and retrieved his t-shirt from the floor. Yeah, he'd pushed the envelope there; he knew that. He shouldn't have argued Rodney into the hand job in the first place, and he definitely shouldn't have done any licking. Even if Rodney hadn't exactly complained at the time.

"Look, Rodney," John said, pulling his t-shirt over his head. "I'll make this up to you. I haven't figured out how, yet, but I will. When this is all over, when I'm back to being me, I'll owe you one. Anything you want, okay?"

Rodney sat all the way up and his frown went thoughtful. "Really, anything? I might hold you to that."

Christ, John hoped he wouldn't regret that. He buckled on his holster and shoved his feet into his boots. "You do that. Hey, I'll see you around."

"Just don't do anything stupid, okay?"

Stupid. Yeah, well, it was way too late for that, but he could pretend with the best of them. "You got it," John said, and turned to go.

* * *

It was nothing. It was really nothing. John was sitting next to Rodney in a meeting, and he noticed he could see Rodney's nipples through his shirt. Not that he hadn't noticed that a hundred times before. Seriously, he was just bored.

* * *

Rodney got this look when he was excited about something. His eyes went squinty and his cheeks went pink and he looked like a totally different person. And he tended to hop up on things, like tables and desks, doing the squinty, sparkly, pink-cheeked thing.

Also, he didn't notice when he invaded your personal space.

* * *

The hair on Rodney's arms was a different texture than the hair on his chest. Pretty much the same color, though. His pubic hair was darker.

* * *

Jerking off still didn't work, except when it did. John was pulling and squeezing and panting and not thinking. Not thinking at all. Certainly not thinking of Rodney or Rodney's finger up his ass, because that was his finger. Fingers. God, two was better than one. Two was really better than one, and three . . . burned a bit, but yeah. Oh, yeah.

He really wasn't thinking about Rodney, because Rodney wouldn't . . . wouldn't want to. And John sure as hell would never ask. But oh, Jesus, if he did, if they did, if Rodney just . . . .

He was coming already, coming fast and hot. And Rodney . . . didn't have to know about this. Didn't have to know a single, goddamned thing. It was John's problem, so he could cure himself any damn way he wanted to.

And if he put a condom in his pocket the next time he left his room, well, that was his problem, too.

* * *

Rodney never noticed that you were looking at him. Well, almost never. But usually you could fend him off with a well-timed put-down, or a deadpan tease.

Telling him he had gravy on his nose worked pretty well, too.

* * *

John made it five days. Five days, one mission, and one false alarm of a Replicator attack.

He thought about the sex chamber. He thought about Lisa Lozano. Twice—although in all fairness, the second time was only because he nearly whacked her with his tray in the mess.

He didn't think about Rodney. Not very much. Well, okay, sometimes. And he felt the shape of the condom in his pocket every time he moved.

"I'm sorry," John said, standing in Rodney's doorway. "I thought I could . . . I mean, I really wasn't going to do this to you again, okay?"

Rodney grimaced at him. "Fine, fine, whatever, get in here."

"I think it's getting a little better," John said as he unfastened his pants. "I mean, it's pretty bad tonight, but there were a couple of times I actually thought about women."

"Like that means you're cured," Rodney snapped, and yanked his own pants down. "Look, I told you not to be an idiot, okay? You don't have to wait until you're ready to break. I'm a busy man. What are you going to do if I'm working on something when you need your fix?"

John froze, his shirt over his head but still caught around his arms. Rodney actually sounded peeved there. Not that it meant he wanted John stopping by more often, of course. He was just being logical. "It's usually worst in the middle of the night," John explained.

"Sometimes I work in the middle of the night, or were you too busy sleeping to notice? I'm not saying you have to stop by every night. Just use your brain. I'm pretty sure you've got one in there somewhere."

Wow, Rodney really was peeved. "McKay—"

Rodney gave him a look, and just said, "Do it, John." Which was . . . wow, was that the first time Rodney had ever used his first name? That was . . . weird. But Rodney was acting like it wasn't a big deal. Rodney was tossing his shirt onto the pile of discarded clothes and wandering off in the direction of his dresser.

John took everything off this time, even his watch and his dog tags. Not that he was stalling or anything, but God, this was as awkward as the first two times in its own special way. Because this time he . . . well, he hadn't actually been lusting after Rodney, but he'd obviously come a little too close. "Okay, okay. I got it," he said. "I won't let it get this bad again."

"Good." Rodney opened his dresser drawer. "All right, listen, I've been thinking about this, and I'd like to try something. You don't have to . . . I mean, if you don't like it, we can stop anytime. Just say something, okay?" And he pulled out what looked like a necktie.

Okay, now that wasn't what John had been expecting. At all. "Whoa," he said slowly. "Kinky."

"Oh," Rodney said, sounding way too innocent to be standing there naked, holding a freaking necktie. "Is that bad?"

Jesus. Rodney couldn't really mean to . . . what, tie him up? "I don't know. I never really, um . . ."

"Right, right, you've been too busy having perfect sex with gorgeous women all your life to ever need to spice anything up. Hmm, okay, I think this will work better if you sit on the bed."

John walked over to the bed and sat down. He wasn't really . . . well, being tied up wasn't one of his fantasies at all, and he had no idea where Rodney had gotten the idea. Unless it was Rodney's own personal kink, which was, wow. But when Rodney came over, all he did was wrap the tie around John's head as a blindfold.

A blindfold. God.

John almost protested that he really didn't mind looking at Rodney, but Rodney was busy tying it nice and tight and he really seemed, well, into it. So John let it pass.

"How many fingers?" Rodney asked when he was finally done with his knots.

There was maybe a hint of light showing next to his nose, but other than that, he might as well have been in a cave. "Twelve," John said.

Rodney didn't even chuckle. "Right, good. Just, uh, can you be a little careful with it? I only have two ties, and I already spilled soup on the other one."

John rolled his eyes under the blindfold, because if Rodney was trying to be kinky here, he'd just totally blown it. "Okay, Rodney," he said in his best kindergarten voice. "I'll do my best not to chew on your good tie."

"Um, right. Well. I think this will work best if you have something to hold onto," Rodney said. And the bed suddenly lurched.

"Hey!" John staggered and grabbed for support and managed not to fall on his ass.

"Oh, sorry, forgot you couldn't see."

Right, because he'd only been the one who tied the fucking blindfold. "I'm trusting you here, McKay."

"Yes, yes, okay, now lie down. No, on your back, and if you need to, you can grab on up here. There's one of those wall panels."

John stretched out on the bed and reached up to find, yes, one of those Ancient excuses for wall decoration. His hands found a bit of carving that stuck out, so he wrapped them around it. It actually felt . . . reassuring, somehow, to have something to hold onto. Anchoring. Even if it did mean Rodney could do anything he wanted to with the rest of John's body.

John shivered a bit, thinking about that. Because he had no idea what the hell Rodney wanted to do, but apparently Rodney wanted to do something and that was . . . wow, that was . . .

Except Rodney wasn't doing anything. John had no idea where he even was, except that he wasn't here on the bed. He could be anywhere, doing anything. Only he wasn't doing a damn thing.

"Rodney? Am I supposed to just lie here?"

"Yeah," Rodney said from very close by. "Yeah, like that."

John felt the bed dip as Rodney sat down but then . . . nothing. He waited, waited for Rodney to do something, but Rodney was thinking again, damn it, and if he thought just one second longer, John was going to . . .

Oh God. It was just the slightest touch on his ankle of all places, but it made John's breath catch. Rodney was teasing him, teasing him on purpose, here, and oh, that was his knee, and he wanted, damn it, he wanted . . . Jesus, his ribs.

John tightened his hold on the wall panel so he wouldn't be tempted to grab Rodney's hand and shove it down where he needed it. Because okay, this was torture, but it was Rodney's idea, and he wanted . . . he wanted Rodney to have ideas, because it meant Rodney had been thinking about him. And maybe not thinking about him the way John had been thinking about Rodney, but beggars couldn't exactly be choosers, and wow, that prickled, that was stubble against his chest.

The touches went on, maddeningly unpredictable. A short, sweet stroke down his wrist. A swipe—oh, God, tongue—across his nipple.

Rodney twitched on the bed beside him. "Is it okay?" he whispered. "Does it feel anything like the, um, the ascension device?"

"Yeah," John said, because it was okay, it was better than okay—but wait, was that what Rodney was trying to do? Imitate the damn sex chamber? "No. God, no, it's not like that at all."

"Oh," Rodney said in a small, disappointed voice. "Really, are you sure? Not at all?"

John closed his eyes under the blindfold. Wow. Rodney was way out in left field here. He didn't understand at all. But . . . okay, he was trying, and it really didn't matter what he intended if it was working, and damn it, John needed to be touched again. Right now, for God's sake. "Don't stop."

"Right, right, not stopping," Rodney said, and there was touch again, a hand running down John's arm. John turned his face toward the hand, not that he could see, but he wanted, God, he wanted . . .

The next touch was a hand on his chest, warm and firm and slowly sliding downward. Oh, yeah. Yes, please. But no, damn it, Rodney was a tease, he was such a tease, because John's cock was right there, begging for attention, and Rodney was totally ignoring it. Rodney's hand slid down the far edge of John's hip, and then disappeared again.

John whimpered, and Rodney stroked his knee, and then, God, his inner thigh, and by the time Rodney's hand brushed his balls, John was desperate, aching, dying for more. He curled his hips up and opened his legs, begging, daring, and for a moment Rodney didn't get it or didn't care, and the only touch was on his goddamn knee again, but then Rodney's hands went away and the bed shifted, and John heard a sound like a lid opening.

He waited, shivering. It felt like ages before Rodney came back, but Rodney settled closer this time, his leg warm against John's hip, and that helped. John had two anchors, now—his hands on the wall panel and the pressure of Rodney's leg—and he could wait, he could wait, oh God, he couldn't wait.

A soft brush across his collarbone. A stroke of his hair behind his ear. And then finally, thank God finally, slick fingers on his balls, sliding down, and Jesus, when Rodney went for it, he really went for it, and that was two fingers inside of him, thick and hot and perfect.

John tightened his grip on the wall panel and arched up off the bed, straining for more, begging for more, and Rodney curled his fingers and the inside of the blindfold whited out for a moment. John pushed back, and Rodney let him—Rodney held his fingers right there and let John fuck himself, hard and fast. God, it was good. It was amazing. He could come from just this, and he didn't even care if Rodney knew.

"Rodney," John panted, "oh, God."

"It's okay, shh, it's okay," Rodney said, then something touched John's lips. A finger, maybe, or a thumb, shushing him. And John knew better, he really did, but he couldn't help himself, he had to lift his head and taste the . . . thumb, yeah, definitely a thumb.

Rodney . . . froze. His fingers stopped moving inside John and his thumb disappeared, and oh crap, crap, crap, oh God. That wasn't a thumb, that was Rodney's mouth, sweet and tentative, right there against John's.

John groaned and kissed Rodney back. Rodney knew everything. Rodney knew everything now, but Rodney was giving him this anyway, and it was dangerous and stupid and the best thing ever. John opened his mouth and touched the edge of Rodney's lower lip with his tongue, and Rodney's lips parted for him, inviting him in, and God, that was . . . that was . . . but John couldn't stop, couldn't pull away, couldn't do anything but kiss and kiss some more.

Rodney was nipping John's lower lip now, sucking and licking, with his fingers still up John's ass. And God, if Rodney could do this, then surely he could . . .

"Jesus, Rodney," John said, "fuck me already."

Rodney's mouth stilled against his, and John rocked on his fingers desperately. He couldn't say no, not now, not after all of this. "Um," Rodney said—stalling, damn it, "I don't actually . . ."

"I brought a condom," John begged. "Right front pants pocket."

Rodney pressed his mouth to John's one more time and said, "Okay, yeah, okay already," and then Rodney was stumbling off the bed and making rustling noises over where John had left his clothes.

After far too long, he climbed back onto the bed, a weight shifting the mattress, then a hand on John's thigh. "You know, you really could let go of the wall. Aren't you getting uncomfortable?"

"I'm good," John said, because he really was, and what he wanted most right now was Rodney's mouth on his.

"You want the blindfold . . ."

"On. Rodney, come on."

Rodney's weight settled onto John's hips, and John could feel the blunt head of his cock right where he wanted it. John rolled his hips up, wrapped his heels around Rodney's ass, centered himself, and pulled Rodney in. And damn, it worked—it stung, because Rodney's cock was a lot bigger than two of his fingers—but then it was in, it was good, it was better than good, and Rodney's mouth was warm against his lips.

It was too much. It was finally enough. Rodney was over him and inside him and mouth-to-mouth, and John just squeezed with his legs and twisted and yanked, until they were fucking so hard the bed shook. He needed this. He needed it so much. And Rodney was giving it to him, giving him everything, not holding a damn thing back.

Rodney broke the kiss and pushed himself up, which had to be easier on his back. But no, he had something else in mind; his hand was hot and hard around John's cock, and John didn't even get the chance to say, not really necessary, there because, oh God, he was coming, coming hard with Rodney pumping into him, and he was still riding the shockwaves of it when Rodney groaned and thrust and came with a shudder that John could feel all the way inside.

Rodney collapsed down onto him without a word, and John finally let go of the wall panel, easing his aching arms down to his sides. He wanted to touch Rodney, to rub his back or kiss him, but he'd already asked for too much, and it was enough to feel Rodney's weight on him, to hear Rodney's breathing start to slow against his shoulder.

All too soon, Rodney heaved himself up and out, and John was alone on the bed. He lay there for a long moment, feeling his sweat cool, before he finally found the energy to push himself up and reach for the blindfold.

Rodney's tie was a crumpled mess. It took John three tries to get the knot undone because his hands weren't quite obeying him, but he finally got it and laid the tie out on the bed so he could tug and smooth it back into shape. When it was as good as he could get it, John folded it carefully and set it next to Rodney's pillow.

Rodney was still in the bathroom. Taking a shower, maybe. John lay back down and settled in to wait for him. He didn't even know what he was going to say when Rodney came out. Thanks wasn't really enough, but anything else was . . . yeah.

It was actually pretty funny, in a stomach-lurching kind of way, that he'd ever thought of Rodney as safe. Only maybe no one would have been safe, maybe he'd been fucking primed, maybe he was just tranferring the goddamned cravings.

Because he could feel it, even now. It wasn't so much an itch anymore as a quiet ache, but he wanted. He still wanted. And the thing that he wanted was . . . exactly what he'd just had.

As frequently as humanly possible.

Christ, he was screwed. Totally, completely screwed. Because Rodney was supposed to be curing him, here, not just . . . changing the focus of his addiction.

* * *

John woke to twisted sheets, a too-dim room, and an ache in his arm muscles that meant . . . oh. Right. He sat up in bed. He was stark naked, and he was alone, which meant . . . no, he could hear a faint snore from the other side of the room. John got up and made his way over to the couch, where Rodney lay curled under a blanket, his shoulders rising and falling with every breath.

"Rodney," John said, but Rodney just shifted and snored more loudly.

John crouched next to him and dared a hand on Rodney's bare shoulder. Rodney smelled like sex, which meant he hadn't taken a shower, after all.

"You should've woken me," John said softly. "Your back's going to be killing you in the morning."

Rodney snuffled a bit, then went right back to snoring. Right, but Rodney hadn't even tried to wake him, which pretty much said it all right there. Especially considering he'd waited until John had fallen asleep before coming out of the bathroom.

John straightened and pulled his hand away, only trailing it a little of the way down Rodney's arm. "I'll make this up to you," he said. "I'll . . . " God, what? What could possibly make up for something this enormous? "Look, I'll set you up with a woman. Someone hot. And smart. Someone who can appreciate you, damn it." Not that he had any idea who that would be. Not that he wanted . . . but what he wanted wasn't really the point, was it? Rodney had given him everything tonight—every goddamned thing—and then gone and freaked out in the bathroom, and if that wasn't fucked up, what was?

"I'm sorry," John said hopelessly, and then went to find his clothes. Rodney was still snoring softly when he left.

* * *

Lisa Lozano apparently ate breakfast early. John had skipped his morning run, and there she was, alone at a table at six thirty-five. He put on his best smile.

"Mind if I join you?"

She looked up from the tablet she was working on, surprised. "Oh, hi. Sure, feel free."

"Thanks." He slid into place across from her and took a bite of his bacon, which tasted suspiciously fishy. "So how are things over in biology?"

Lozano smiled. "It's been a good month for us ichthyologists."

John took another bite of bacon. Yup, still fishy. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about the origins of this bacon, would you?"

She laughed. "I'm innocent until proven guilty. Seriously, I think Major Lorne's team traded for it somewhere. He claimed it came from an animal that really almost looked like a pig."

"It still tastes like fish," John said, and pushed it to the side in favor of his toast.

Lozano was finishing up a bowl of the oatmeal John had avoided. "So how are you doing?" she asked. "You look a lot better."

"I'm, um, good," he said, and managed to avoid flushing. The less she knew about why he was good, the better. "Listen, I wanted to ask you something."

"Oh?" she said, arching an eyebrow at him.

"Yeah," John said. "It's about Rodney. Rodney McKay?"

"Oh," Lozano said, in an entirely different tone of voice. She wrinkled her nose. "I thought I told you I don't really know him that well."

"Yeah, sure, I know," John flailed. God, this was even harder than he'd expected. "I was just wondering if you knew anyone who was, you know, interested in him."

"Interested in McKay?" Lozano laughed. "You have got to be kidding."

"I take it that's a no?"

She tilted her head. "What is this? Some attempt to get him back for playing that joke on you in the first place?"

Oh. "Oh," John said. "No. No, I'm serious, here. The joker turned out to be . . . someone else."

"So you're feeling bad about accusing him and want to make it up to him?" Lozano guessed. John didn't correct her, so she went on. "Listen, John, even if you mean well . . . Dr. McKay is not exactly popular around the science department. Maybe if he actually took the time to learn our names? But the only woman I can think of . . . well, okay, Katie might take him back. But he'd probably have to grovel to get her."

"But he's . . ." Wow, that was just wrong. "I mean, come on, there must be someone who would want him. He is a genius, right?"

"Trust me," Lozano said, "It doesn't always translate. In fact, in McKay's case, I'm betting it doesn't translate at all."

Christ, that burned. If she only knew . . . "Did Katie Brown say that?"

"Not that I heard. It just stands to reason. The man is not exactly humble. I mean, can you imagine him actually bothering to try to find out what you like in bed?"

Jesus. John flashed to the blindfold, to waiting, breathless, for the next touch. "Yes, damn it. Look, I work with him, and sure, maybe he can come across as a little . . . arrogant sometimes. But he's not really like that. He's really . . ." Generous. Inspired. Game. The kind of person you wanted around when the worst happened. "He's really a good guy," John said lamely.

Lozano gave him a long look, then got to her feet and picked up her tray. "If you feel that strongly about him, maybe you should try dating him yourself. See you around, John."

John stared at her retreating back, the blood pounding in his ears. God, how did she know? What could she see? Was he walking around with a huge sign on his forehead that said, "I have a boner for Rodney McKay?"

Crap. He was trying to do the right thing here. He really was. And all he'd succeeded in doing was fucking himself over. John reached for the nearest thing on his tray and took a big bite of . . . fishy bacon.

Right. It looked like it was going to be that kind of day.

* * *

John spent the morning catching up on his email and his mission reports in his office. At least he didn't have any meetings with anyone but military personnel, so the likelihood that he'd run into Rodney by accident was pretty low.

"Colonel Sheppard," Rodney's voice said from his radio. "I need you in the main puddlejumper bay."

John's heart jumped to life in his chest. "What, now?"

"Well, yes. If you can make it. I mean, it's not crucial, but Zelenka and I need to run some tests, and we could use your assistance."

God. Rodney sounded like . . . Rodney. And John was not getting hard just from hearing his voice over the radio. He really wasn't. "All right. I'll be there in a few."

Rodney was waiting next to Jumper Three when John got to the bay. His hair was kind of fluffy and his chin was up and John really wanted to touch him.

"Hi," Rodney said.

Right. Work. He was here to help Rodney, not to . . . "What kind of tests do you need me to do?"

"We need to talk," Rodney said.

"Oh." Shit. He didn't need this, couldn't face it right now. Rodney looked determined, which really didn't bode well for this kind of conversation. At all. John took a deep breath. "Look, Rodney, I'm working on it, okay? I, uh . . . thanks for what you did last night. It was really helpful, and I think I might be getting to the point where I won't need it again, okay? So you don't need to worry about it."

"Oh," Rodney said, but he was still frowning. "I see."

"Rodney, what is taking so long?" Damn, that was Zelenka's voice from inside the jumper, and how had John forgotten that he was supposed to be here, too?

Rodney looked even more annoyed. "I'm just explaining to Sheppard what tests we need him to run."

Oh, sure he was. But Zelenka was still talking. "I do not understand why you have involved Colonel Sheppard. You have the gene. You could do it yourself."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "He's a pilot. If anyone can run a thorough systems check, it's him."

"Fine, fine," Zelenka said. "Can we get on with it now?"

"Getting on," Rodney snapped, and waved John toward the jumper's hatch.

It was totally unfair that Rodney was appealing even when he was annoyed. "Thanks for make-work, Rodney," John said.

"It's not make-work," Rodney said. "You're the best man for the job."

John made a face that Rodney probably didn't even notice and made his way into the jumper. The rear compartment was half-obstructed by a complicated looking device, which had long coils sticking out the sides and a screen attached at the far end. The display was just numbers, scrolling by faster than John could read them.

"That's a hyperdrive?" It looked more like an air conditioner on steroids. "Seriously?"

"It was assembled from materials at hand," Rodney said. "It's not supposed to look pretty."

"Does it work?"

"That's what you're here to tell me, remember?"

"Right." John made his way to the pilot's seat and brought up the HUD while Rodney dropped into the seat next to him.

"See if you can get the hyperdrive to respond to the jumper's controls," Rodney was saying. "And tell me whatever you can about how it interfaces with the jumper's navigation system."

John was already on it, pulling up display after display as the jumper evaluated its shiny new drive. There were . . . okay, some red flags here and there, but from what he could tell, it was amazingly cool. Rodney had fed the hyperdrive controls into the HUD to give him easy access, and the interface was nicely logical and wouldn't interfere with the jumper's ordinary systems at all.

"Sweet." John ran some more systems checks. Okay, another flag or two. But damn, if it actually worked . . .

It was one thing to know Rodney was a genius. It was quite another to experience that first-hand, and wow, if he sat here much longer he was going to get a hard-on from a puddlejumper, and that was just wrong. John told the jumper to consolidate the error flags into a single display, and Rodney muttered a "thanks" and connected his laptop so he could download the readout.

John climbed to his feet and stuck his hands in his pockets, just in case there was something obvious, there. "You need me for anything else?"

Rodney glanced up at him sharply, but then looked back down at his screen. "No. Thanks. I think we're good here. You just saved us a couple hours of work."

"Glad I could help," John said. "See you later, McKay." And it was mercy to leave, it really was, because if he stayed any longer, he might do something stupid.

Something really, really stupid, with Zelenka right there in the back of the jumper.

* * *

He had to stop. Seriously. He had to stop this. It was, if anything, worse than the damn sex chamber, because with the sex chamber, the only person he could hurt was himself.

Rodney was in Elizabeth's office, talking animatedly, probably about the hyperdrive. Elizabeth had left the door open, which meant it wasn't a private conversation, but John waited his turn, anyway, watching Rodney's hands sketch complex polyhedrons in the air.

He wanted. It was a constant in the back of his head, now, an incessant thrum. Every time he saw Rodney, every time he thought of Rodney, and sometimes even when he didn't.

The thing was, he never would have wanted Rodney before. He had enough sanity left to recognize that. But before, he hadn't known Rodney like this, hadn't realized what Rodney was capable of.

John watched Rodney's gestures go broader, as if the space right in front of him weren't big enough to hold his thoughts. Christ, maybe this wouldn't have happened with just anyone. Maybe the problem was Rodney, with his intensity and his focus and his goddamned problem-solving skills. Maybe John had singlehandedly chosen the worst possible person on Atlantis to cure his addiction, and wasn't that just a kick in the head?

Elizabeth was talking now, smiling at Rodney, sharing some sort of joke. Rodney nodded and smiled back, said something more, and then turned to go. In a moment he was coming through the door, brushing right by John, too close for comfort and not nearly close enough.

Rodney did a double take. "Oh, hi."

"Hi," John managed. "I, uh, have a meeting with Elizabeth."

"Yes, right, of course." Rodney lifted his chin and looked John over. "You okay?"

"Yeah, sure," John said. He'd never noticed how expressive Rodney's eyebrows were, how they pulled up or down or inward with Rodney's changing moods. "I'm good."

"Were you planning to, um, stop by tonight?"

Jesus. John's whole body went hot, then cold. They didn't talk about it, not like this, and now Rodney was asking him right in front of Elizabeth's open door. John shifted on his feet. "You mean, for a game of chess?"

"What?" Rodney squinted at him in annoyance. "Oh, right. Yes, a game of chess."

"Actually, I've got a few things I need to do," John said. Because, God, that wasn't an invitation, was it? "Not really sure I can make it."

"Oh, right, right, then," Rodney said. "Maybe some other time."

"Sure," John said casually, though he could feel his heart hammering in his chest. "See you later." And he stared after Rodney's retreating back until he disappeared up the stairs.

"Don't you think you could make a little time for him?" Elizabeth asked from right behind his shoulder.

John tried to cover his flinch with a shrug. "Oh, you know Rodney," he said. "He only wants to play because he's managed to get ahead by a couple of games."

"He's been working pretty hard on the hyperdrive," Elizabeth mused. "Does he seem a little more stressed than usual to you?"

"Not really," John lied. "I mean, you know how he gets."

"Play chess with him," Elizabeth said. "It will do you both good."

Crap. It was like the universe was conspiring against him. And Rodney had maybe almost asked . . . no. Rodney had asked if he was going to come by. It wasn't the same as asking him to come by. "Okay, sure, I'll play with him," John said. "I'm not going to let him win, though."

Elizabeth grinned. "That's more like it. Now, let me get you up to date about the latest communication from M7G-677."

* * *

He made it through another day. Morning, noon, evening. It would be wrong to ask Rodney again. He didn't need to ask Rodney again. He wasn't even thinking about the damn sex chamber. And no matter how fine he seemed now, Rodney had freaked out in the bathroom after the last time. So, no. Just, no.

There was certainly no point in wondering what exactly had made Rodney freak. Although, really, it couldn't have been the blindfold or the touching, because those had been Rodney's idea. So it was a toss-up: the fucking or the kissing.

John sat down on his bed and leaned forward, elbows on his knees. The fucking had been, yeah, amazing, but the kissing . . .

Oh, God. It had to be the kissing. Because Rodney sure as hell hadn't had any problem getting or keeping it up, but he'd been awfully tentative at first with the whole liplock thing.

Not that it mattered, because he wasn't going to do anything. He wasn't going to stop by Rodney's room. Not even for chess.

And anyway, there was no way to know if it actually was the kissing that had been the problem. Well, not unless he tried kissing without fucking, or, more to the point, fucking without kissing.


He wasn't thinking about it. He couldn't think about it. It was wrong and unfair to Rodney and he'd promised himself he wouldn't do this. But his dick was already tenting his pants.

* * *

Rodney answered the door looking rumpled and surprised and perfect.

"Okay, I was wrong," John said, and he was. Very, very wrong. "I'm trying, but I can't . . . look, can I come in?"

"What, you think I'm going to say no?" Rodney stepped to the side, waving him in. "I'm in this for the duration. I mean, unless you decide to find someone else."

God. It was still wrong. It was really still wrong. But when Rodney said things like that . . . "Right," John said, "like that's going to happen," and reached for Rodney's fly.

He got the button undone and shoved Rodney's boxers down, and Rodney was half hard already. John was on his knees in a moment, sucking Rodney in, sucking hard the way Rodney had liked it the first time, and God, yes, it was working, Rodney's cock was thick and hot in his mouth. He sucked it again, and a third time, and then pulled away to yank Rodney's pants down a little further. He wanted them off, off right now, and, whoops, he'd forgotten Rodney's shoes.

"Here, wait, let me help," Rodney said, and bent down so fast he nearly cracked John's head. John dodged out of the way, and Rodney sat down heavily, but hey, that made the shoes easier, at least. John tugged them off, then the pants, too.

"C'mon," he said, and pulled on Rodney's shirt. This time Rodney managed to help him, and they got the shirt off over his head together, and that was good. That was very good. Naked Rodney was much better. John bent and gave Rodney's cock a couple more quick, hard sucks and then tore himself away so he could get his own clothes off.

"Jesus," Rodney said. "Where's the fire?"

John couldn't answer, couldn't say anything at all. He needed this so badly, and Rodney's cock was right there, so he had to lean down and suck it one more time.

"Oh, God," Rodney whimpered, and pushed up into his mouth, like he couldn't stop himself, and wow, that made two of them.

John sat up and scrambled for the condom he'd brought. It was in his pants . . . no, not Rodney's, his. Right. There. When he turned back around, Rodney was still sprawled back on his elbows, looking completely poleaxed with his cock jutting, dark and shiny, straight in the air.

John swallowed hard, because Rodney wanted this. Even if he freaked out later, he wanted it now, and that was . . . God, that was . . . John unrolled the condom over Rodney's cock, and Rodney watched him like it was the most fascinating thing ever. And then Rodney sat up and reached over to stroke John's face, and John had to duck away or kiss him.


John reached for Rodney's arm and gave it a tug. "Bed, Rodney."

"Okay, bed. Bed's good. A lot more comfortable than the floor, anyway." John staggered to his feet and found the nightstand and the lube that Rodney had stashed there. "You'd really think, with all their technology, " Rodney was saying, completely irrelevantly, "the Ancients would have thought to invent rugs."

John got some lube on his fingers and stuck them right up his ass, because he was ready, damn it. He was long since ready. He climbed on the bed and laid himself out, face down. "Rodney?"

"Yes, yes, I'm right here," Rodney said, although he obviously wasn't.

John wriggled impatiently, and then Rodney really was right there, his cock exactly where it needed to go, and John pushed back and Rodney pushed in until they were both panting and shaking.

Rodney held himself still while John took a couple of deep breaths, and then Rodney was pulling back, and it was good, it was so good, oh God, it was going to be over in about ten seconds.

"Do me slow," John begged. "Slow as you can."

"What?" Rodney froze halfway into his thrust. "You tear off both our clothes like the city's on fire, and you want it slow?"

Okay, okay, put that way it sounded nuts. But since this might very well be the last time they fucked . . . "I need it now, McKay. But I want it to last."

"God." Rodney thrust all the way in, fast and hard and way too good.

John groaned. "That's your idea of slow?"

Rodney huffed, pulling out again. "I'm trying!" But this time he slid in far more deliberately, and John could feel every millimeter of his cock as it pressed inside.

God, it was torture. Rodney thrust again, achingly slowly, and John felt like he was coming apart. Every inch of him was screaming for more, faster, harder. But he couldn't give in. He wouldn't. He twisted his fists in Rodney's pillow and hung on while Rodney eased in again and again.

It was astonishing. It was maddening. Rodney was doing this for him, to him, and Rodney was making a soft little gasp at the end of every stroke.

"God, Rodney."

Rodney eased back again. "Good?"

"You have no idea." John hitched his hips up, and Rodney slid in again, hitting the sweet spot just exactly right. It was so good. It was almost perfect. The only way it could have been better was if he could feel Rodney's mouth against his. John buried his face in the pillow, not asking for that, not letting himself ask. And then he felt Rodney's weight on his back and the warm, soft, damp brush of lips on the back of his neck.

"Jesus," John said, and bucked against him. Rodney thrust wildly back, and John was close, so close. He couldn't wait any longer, couldn't bear it any longer, needed it right now.

"Sorry, sorry," Rodney said. "I didn't mean—"

"Do it again," John gasped. "Rodney—"

"Like this?" Rodney asked, stroking in again, hard and fast.

"Yes, damn it, yes."

Rodney thrust into him again, and John surged to meet him. They matched each other, push and shove, and every stroke brought John closer and closer still. And then he felt Rodney's hand wrap, warm and startling, around his cock.

"Oh," John said, and came.

Rodney groaned and thrust one more time, and then he was there, too, holding himself taut and still, and John could feel the pulse of his orgasm from the inside. And then Rodney collapsed down onto him, nuzzling and sucking and licking wherever he could reach, and it was all John could do not to turn his head and nuzzle back.

They lay like that for ages. It wasn't nearly long enough. John's heart slowed, and Rodney's licking went more desultory and then stopped altogether, replaced by the weight of his cheek against John's spine. And then, far too soon, Rodney rolled off of him and flopped over onto his back.

John propped himself up on one elbow. "Hey."

Rodney looked sated and sweaty and wonderful. "Hey."

"I should go," John said.

"You could stay," Rodney said, completely matter-of-factly.

John bit the inside of his cheek. Rodney had to be offering his couch, because the bed really wasn't big enough for two. They'd have to sleep wrapped around each other. "Can't," he said desperately, and pushed himself up off the bed. "I have to change your sheets again."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Leave it. Come on, we can take a shower first."

God. He didn't mean together. He couldn't possibly mean together. But it had sure as hell sounded like he meant together, and that would be . . . Jesus. John took refuge in searching Rodney's drawers for a set of clean sheets. "Can't make the bed with you in it."

Rodney made a face and got off the bed, and John stripped off the wet sheets and put the clean ones on, neat and tight. He shouldn't have come here. He was painfully aware of it now, and yes, he'd been lying to himself nearly as much as he was lying to Rodney, because it didn't make a damn bit of difference whether they kissed or not. He'd taken advantage; he could see that now that he wasn't blinded with lust. He'd taken advantage, and now Rodney was acting really weird, and he couldn't . . . God, he had to get out of here.

When he looked up again, Rodney was watching him with his arms crossed over his bare chest. "So I guess you're okay, then?"

John wasn't okay. He wasn't anywhere near okay. But Rodney was asking, and Rodney was worried again. "Yeah, Rodney. I'm okay."

"That's good," Rodney said. "That's really good. I mean, that's the whole point of this, right? To get you back to being okay?"

John nodded. "The whole goddamned point." He pulled the blanket tight, tucked the last corner, and then headed for the pile of his clothes. His boxers were still inside his pants, so he yanked them out and stepped into them.

"Then I take it I'll just see you around," Rodney said, in a weird, bitter voice, and yes, okay, he had a point there. It wasn't like they hadn't been through this three times already. He had to be heartily sick of John saying one thing and doing another.

"Crap," John said, and yanked his t-shirt down over his head. "Look, I swear I'm trying. I know it doesn't look like it, but I am. If it is humanly possible, I won't be back, okay?"

"Yes, yes, okay," Rodney said, though he didn't sound convinced.

John finished dressing, still searching for the right thing to say, the thing that would prove that he really was sorry, the thing that would force him to actually do what he said he was going to do.

"Go," Rodney said, with a wave of his hand. And it was relief John was feeling, nothing but relief, when he gave Rodney one last look and turned to go.

* * *

Jerking off was the answer.

Of course, it was also the problem, because when John did it in the shower, he thought about Rodney in here with him, about soaping each others' bodies, touching each other, God, even fucking against the rough stone wall. John leaned into the water, his hand moving fast. Of course, it wasn't any better when he did this on his bed, because then he thought about lying there together, wrapped around each other, and waking each other up, both hard.

Yeah, he'd needed new fantasies like he needed a hole in the head.

But he couldn't stop thinking about them, because they were Rodney's ideas, not his. Well, mostly Rodney's, anyway, and if Rodney was going to go saying things like that, what did he expect John to think?

The most terrifying thought was that maybe Rodney had meant them the way John had taken them. That maybe Rodney had liked the sex, really liked it, beyond just the getting off part. That Rodney maybe liked it enough to want to do it again—for it's own sake, not just to help John—and okay, it was pathetic that that was all John needed, but that was it and he was coming, hot and hard, spattering the shower walls.

John leaned forward into the spray, letting it wash through his hair and stream down his torso. Rodney had said, "I'm in this for the duration," and that wasn't exactly a declaration of lust. Rodney was just helping him out, nothing more, and if Rodney had enjoyed it a little, too, well, that was only fair, only right.

John straightened and pushed his hair back, then rubbed the water out of his eyes with his knuckles. He had to face the facts. There was no way in hell that Rodney was addicted to him the way he was addicted to Rodney. The best he could even hope for was that Rodney had enjoyed it enough to make up for the awkwardness, past and present.

* * *

John made it through four more days. He saw Rodney in the mess, and they went on a mission together to a creepy planet where Ronon stunned some kind of weird, monkey-like creature and wanted to take it home with them. John said no, and Ronon got cranky, so at least there was a distraction from Rodney's constant presence just past his left shoulder.

Rodney didn't sit with him at dinner, which was a relief, really. John sat with Ronon and Teyla and tried to pretend he didn't care what Rodney and Zelenka were talking about three tables away.

"You are feeling better," Teyla said, apropos of exactly nothing.

"I'm good," John said, and busied himself cutting his meat, which looked like pork and tasted like beef cooked with too much garlic.

"You haven't been yourself," Ronon said around a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

They were both looking at him, like they were expecting a real answer. "Oh, yeah, well, I might've had some kind of weird space bug or something for awhile. Guess I got over it."

Teyla gave him a look that said she wasn't buying a word of that, and Ronon actually swallowed before speaking. "Is there something going on between you and McKay?"

John's heart stuttered in his chest. He could still deny it. He had to deny it. Only, how the fuck did Ronon know?

But Ronon was still talking. "Because I'll talk to him if you want. I know he can be pretty annoying, but he's actually not that bad, underneath."

Christ. He meant . . . he didn't mean . . . "Oh, hey, you don't need to say anything. Rodney and I are good. Really," John said weakly.

"I think he has been concerned for you, too," Teyla said. "He simply shows it differently."

"He shows it fine," John said. "Really, I'm not mad at Rodney."

Teyla lifted her eyebrows at him, but didn't say anything more, and Ronon just grunted and said, "If you say so."

"I say so," John said firmly, and took a big bite of his meat, just so he wouldn't have to say anything more for the time it took to chew it. And if Teyla and Ronon saw through that, well, at least they had the grace not to comment on it.

* * *

The curled-up-in-bed-together fantasy probably should have been old by now, but it wasn't. There were so many variations, that was the problem. This time John pictured himself wrapped around Rodney, his cock nestled right against Rodney's ass.

John stroked himself, nice and slow. He would be lying there, wondering if Rodney was awake, wondering if it was wrong to wake him. And then Rodney would stir and start rubbing against him, warm and sleepy and interested, and Rodney would roll over and slide a hand down his hip, and then . . .

Shit. That was the door chime. John closed his eyes, willing whoever it was to go away or at least radio him. But the chime sounded again.

John stumbled off the bed, shoved his feet into his pants without bothering with boxers, and yanked his t-shirt over his head. He got the door open, and of course it was Rodney. Rodney, looking him up and down and then just staring with his mouth open. Christ. But John wasn't going to apologize, damn it. If anything, Rodney owed him an apology.

"Can I come in?" Rodney asked in a strangled voice.

Jesus. That wasn't what he was supposed to say. That wasn't what he was supposed to say at all. "No," John said.

Rodney looked down the corridor, like he was checking to see if they were alone. "Look, I could help you with that," he said, low and fast, with a jerk of his chin toward the tent in John's pants. "I'll make it worth your while."

Jesus. That was . . . John had no idea what that was. Okay, sure, it was obvious what Rodney was offering, but not why. "No," he managed. He'd been good, damn it. He'd been good for four whole days, and now Rodney was screwing everything up. "Rodney, don't do this."

"Oh, what, it's okay if you show up at my door, but not if I come to you? How is that fair?"

John just stared at him. It felt like his brain had turned off, because Rodney was acting like he . . . like they . . .

"I could maybe try giving you a blow job," Rodney said. "I mean, I'm sure I wouldn't be much better at it than you were the first time, but I might be able to figure out that suction thing, and trust me, that is worth experiencing at least once."

Fuck. John closed his eyes as the world tilted around him. That wasn't something he'd ever imagined; it was too far beyond the realm of possibility. It made his jerk-off fantasy seem tame, and, okay, this had to be a dream. Or a hallucination. Yeah, probably a hallucination, because . . . Christ, Rodney couldn't possibly mean it. He had to be teasing, playing with John, poking him to see how far he'd go. "Rodney," John said tightly, "I can't. And I don't know what the hell you think you're doing, but whatever it is, stop."

Rodney blinked, like he'd been hallucinating, too. "Okay, right, that really wasn't why I stopped by," he said in a slightly more normal voice. "Actually, I wanted to ask if you could run some tests on the puddlejumper again. Of course, I've already tried it myself, and it is highly unlikely I'm missing anything, but in the interests of thoroughness, I'd really like you to give it a run through."

Okay, that was more like it. That actually made sense . . . only it didn't. At all. "Right now?"

"No, no, tomorrow is fine," Rodney said airily. "I just wanted to, you know, give you a little warning, since I did kind of spring it on you last time."

John swallowed hard. Rodney had offered him a blow job. Rodney had meant it. And he'd just said no. "Okay, whatever. Tomorrow," John said. "Now, do you mind?"

Rodney shifted on his feet. "You know, I'd let you fuck me. I mean, if you wanted to. I wouldn't mind. In fact, I think I might like it."

John grabbed for the door frame, to keep himself upright, and to keep himself from grabbing Rodney and shoving him against the nearest wall. "Christ, Rodney." And suddenly it was clear. It was blindingly clear, and he'd been right to say no, damn it all to hell.

"You don't get it, do you?" John said. He had to say it. Rodney had to know what he was dealing with, here. "Look, I have just traded one addiction for another, and you know what? This one is actually harder to fight. I've got this . . . this fucking ache in my gut, and the funny thing is, sex was never that big a deal for me. I mean, don't get me wrong, I always liked it, but I didn't need it like this. It was never a craving before. But you're only making it worse by coming here, and if you want me to fight it, you're going to have to go away. Right now, Rodney."

John stood there, shaking. He'd just revealed everything. Every goddamned thing. And Rodney was staring back at him, like that wasn't what he'd expected to hear at all. And okay, being told someone was addicted to you was probably not really high on the list of things anyone wanted to hear, but . . .

"Oh, wow, okay, sorry," Rodney said, and stumbled back away from John's door. "It, uh, won't happen again. You just go do your thing . . ." he waved his hand vaguely in the direction of John's tented pants ". . . and I'll, um, go do mine."

"You do that," John said, and Rodney just walked away.

John leaned against the nearest wall. He had his answer. Not that he'd been asking the question, but he had it anyway. So Rodney really was okay with the sex, more than okay, even; he'd liked it. But he was apparently not okay with the other part, the part where John needed him too goddamned much, and really, John understood that.

If he'd been the one in Rodney's position . . . um, yeah. He wasn't even sure he would have said yes in the first place. No, scratch that. He was pretty sure he would have said no, and he didn't know what that said about him, but he sure as hell knew what it said about Rodney.

Because that was the thing about Rodney. He might drive you crazy with the day-to-day stuff, but when the chips were down, he came through. And damn it, John still wanted him.

Wanted him more than ever.

John reached down, unbuttoned his fly, and pulled his cock out. He was still hard, had stayed hard through the whole conversation. He closed his fist around his cock and gave himself a quick stroke, and then another and another, until he was jerking himself, hard and fast.

He didn't think about fucking Rodney, or having Rodney blow him. He didn't have to. All it took was the thought of Rodney touching him, slow and sweet—knowing that Rodney liked to touch him, wanted to touch him—and damn it, he was gasping and shaking and coming all over the rugless Ancient floor.

It wasn't like having sex with Rodney, but it was what he had.

* * *

It was, oddly enough, easier to deal with Rodney now that everything was out in the open. John ate breakfast with him in the morning, and it was fine. Zelenka sat with them and they talked about the hyperdrive, and everything was perfectly normal. And if Rodney waved him off when he asked when they needed him to run tests, well, that was easier, too.

"Radek and I need to recheck the power regulation algorithms," Rodney said around a mouthful of cheese danish. "Give us a day or two."

A day or two turned into four. Not that he was counting. And of course when Rodney finally did call him, he was in the middle of a meeting. Fortunately it was a meeting he could wrap up quickly, and if Harcourt noticed he was distracted and a little flushed, at least she didn't say anything.

It was stupid, anyway. It was just a damn jumper test. It wasn't like he was out to prove anything, and yes, okay, the cravings were as bad as ever, but he wasn't going to jump Rodney. Not with Zelenka there, anyway.

Rodney didn't even smile at him when he showed up, just waved him into the pilot's seat and stood behind him, muttering over his datapad. John shrugged and brought up the hyperdrive interface on the HUD. He ran every systems check he could think of and a couple he couldn't (prompted by Rodney), and didn't find a single red flag. The jumper felt ready under his hands, and maybe that was his imagination, but he couldn't shake the feeling that it was as eager to try the new drive as he was.

"So," he said, swiveling in the pilot's chair, "when do I get to take her out?"

Rodney blinked at him. "Well, we weren't actually planning . . . I mean, obviously it's ready, since it checked out perfectly for both of us, but—"

"Hey," John said, because Rodney was going weird on him, here. "There's no time like the present. And nothing more you can twiddle with without test data, right?"

"Okay, okay," Rodney said. "Take it up. Just . . . don't break anything, okay?"

"I won't harm a filament in its head. So how far can I jump? You want me to try for the nearest gate? What is that, M3D-847?"

"M3D-084," Rodney said. "And no, you can't jump that far. This is its first test flight. I don't want you to take it outside the Lantean solar system. Keep an eye on the stability of the hyperspace window. And stay in radio contact!"

"You got it," John said with a grin. "Now, are you going to get out of the jumper, or are you coming with me?"

Rodney just stood there, staring at him like he'd just suggested they fly off into the sunset together or something.


"Leaving," Rodney said. "Look, just don't do anything idiotic, okay?"

John swallowed a smile. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."

"Anytime," Rodney said . He gave John one last look, then turned and made his way out the back hatch.

John powered up the jumper and took it through the bay roof, accelerating out of the planet's atmosphere. It felt good to be doing something for Rodney. Not that they were trading favors or anything, because there was no way he could play that game. He wasn't even in the running. But he could do little things, and testing Rodney's hyperdrive had to count for something.

He brought up the display and rechecked the hyperdrive readouts, but everything still looked good, and he was far enough away from Lantea to initiate the test.

"Rodney, you with me?" he said into his radio.

"Yeah, I'm here."

"All right, here it goes, then." He set the coordinates for a short hop. "Opening hyperspace window in ten, nine, eight . . ."

"What's the stability?" Rodney demanded.

John glanced at the display. "Point-oh-two-three percent. We are all systems go. Three, two, one. Catch you on the other side." And he initiated the sequence to open up the window.

It shimmered in front of the jumper, bright and shifting and impossible to look at. The HUD still showed the stability at point-oh-two-three, so John sent the jumper in.

He barely had time to register the swirling lights of hyperspace when he was out already, somewhere in the vicinity of the orbit of the tertiary planet.

"Cool," John said. A quick systems check showed everything running in the green. And he was—he did a quick calculation in his head—almost exactly four light-minutes from home. "Everything looks good. Initiating second jump in eight minutes unless you tell me otherwise."

Exactly eight minutes later, Rodney's voice came through. "Go ahead, but keep your eye on the stability."

So John jumped. And jumped again. And made it all the way to M3D-084 and back. By the time he brought the jumper back down through the bay roof, he had figured out forty-seven distinct tactical uses for it, and he was half-hard in his pants.

Rodney was there when he lowered the hatch. "Oh, my God," he said, eyes wide. "It worked."

John couldn't even stop himself. He was right there in Rodney's space, his hands on Rodney's shoulders, a grin splitting his face. "Coolest. Thing. Ever, Rodney. Seriously."

"I can't believe it," Rodney said. "Carter said it couldn't be done without naquadriah, and I proved her wrong. I totally proved her wrong."

"You did," John said. "You really did." And he didn't even know who made the move. He thought it was Rodney, but maybe it was him. Not that it mattered, because Rodney's mouth was open and warm and eager, pushing against his, and it was good, God, so good. Rodney was taking as much as he was giving, and after days of denial, John couldn't fight it. He was too goddamned tired of fighting it.

Rodney slid one hand around John's neck and pulled him closer, brushing a hip against John's aching cock, and John gasped. They were in the open hatch of a fucking puddlejumper, and he didn't care. He didn't care about anything except the heat of Rodney's body against his.

"Jesus," Rodney said, and tore his mouth away. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that."

John just stood there panting. Rodney was right. They couldn't do this. Rodney was still freaked out about being the object of an addiction. Only he hadn't felt freaked out. He'd felt . . .

"Crap," John said. Apparently being addicted to a person was a hell of a lot more complicated than being addicted to a stupid Ancient ascension device.

"Can we just pretend that didn't happen?" Rodney said. "Maybe just rewind the conversation back to the part about the hyperdrive being the coolest thing ever? I liked that part."

"It is the coolest thing ever," John said, because it was. "Do you have any idea how many things we can use this for? No more sitting around waiting for the Daedalus when we need a rescue. And the potential for intelligence-gathering alone—"

"Rodney!" That was Zelenka, just outside the hatch. "It worked!"

John took a smooth step back, and Rodney's jerky turn was close enough to normal for Rodney that Zelenka probably didn't even notice anything. John crossed his arms over his chest while Rodney and Zelenka went into full technobabble mode. It was tempting to stay and watch—way too tempting. But he wanted to talk to Elizabeth about strategies for using the hyperdrive, and Rodney wasn't paying any attention to him, anyway.

Besides, before he faced Rodney again—whether it involved kissing or no kissing—there was something he had to do.

* * *

He should have done it a long time ago. He owed that much to Rodney, if not himself. And there was plenty of C4 in the armory. John conscientiously signed it out, listing "city maintenance" at his reason. It was close enough to the truth.

He waited until everyone was asleep apart from the marines on security detail. They didn't patrol the Northeast Pier anyway.

The corridor was dimly lit, like the rest of the low-use areas of Atlantis, but that didn't matter. John had brought a flashlight, and he could easily make out the faint shimmer of the force field. When he entered the room, the lights came on and the chamber door opened, just like always.

The chair looked . . . comfortable. Enticing, even. It wasn't complicated like Rodney. It actually seemed weirdly safe, and it was surprisingly tempting to try it one last time. But it wasn't what he was here for.

The first thing he did was look for the power source. It had to be here, and it had to be obvious. It wasn't under the consoles, or in the chamber itself, but next to the chamber door there was an access panel that opened when he tapped the control panel, and inside was a small, blue metal-and-crystal object. It didn't look like a ZPM, but Rodney might like to take a look at it. John pulled it out of the slot it was resting in, and the lights promptly blinked off and the force field crackled out of existence.


John switched on his flashlight and carried the power source back out into the corridor. He set it down far enough away that it wouldn't be caught in the blast, then went back and laid the charges carefully, several in the chamber itself, and one under each of the consoles. He rigged the blasting caps and fuses, lit them carefully, and retreated to the corridor.

He was counting down the seconds when he caught the sound of hurrying feet coming from the direction of the transporter. Footsteps he recognized, damn it. Rodney had amazingly bad timing.

John reached out and grabbed as Rodney went by, yanking him behind the pillar he was using for cover. "Fire in the fucking hole, McKay!"

The explosion hit, and Rodney jerked back against John's body, warm and solid and real, as debris flew down the corridor.

"Oh my God," Rodney said, still plastered hard against him. "You are insane."

"Yup," John said. He felt . . . weirdly lighthearted. The damn device was gone, and Rodney was warm against him. "Might've even used enough C4."

"Rodney?" That was Elizabeth's voice coming from Rodney's earpiece. "Was there just an explosion?"

Rodney twitched. "Oh, hey, yeah, actually, there was."

John tapped his own radio on. "Don't worry about it, Elizabeth. McKay and I have it under control."

Rodney cleared his throat. "Colonel Sheppard just figured out how to take that force field down."

"At two o'clock in the morning?"

John would have answered if he hadn't been struck with the sudden, completely incongruous urge to laugh.

"Oh, you know how it goes," Rodney said. "You never know when a brilliant idea is going to strike."

Elizabeth made a noise that sounded like a long-suffering sigh. "I'll expect a full report in the morning."

"You got it," John promised. "Sheppard out." He switched on his flashlight and bumped shoulders with Rodney. "Come on, let's check it out."

The room was a wreck, the consoles blown to pieces and the chamber a twisted hole in the wall. Oh yeah, definitely enough C4.

Rodney paused to bring up the lights in the corridor, which made the damage just that much more impressive. He surveyed the mess with obvious curiosity. "Where was the power source? It might have been interesting to take a look at."

John grinned at him. "I took it out before I planted the charges. It's all yours, right out in the hallway. I figured under the circumstances, it was the least I could do."

"Oh, wow, thank you." But Rodney didn't go look at it, just planted himself in the center of the room and looked over at John. "So I guess this is it, then. You're free of it. All fixed now."

John shrugged. "Close enough." It wasn't like the ache in his gut had anything to do with the damn device anymore. "You're off the hook, McKay. You've done your duty, above and beyond, good going and all of that. Sorry, I don't think I can swing you any kind of civilian medal. The Air Force isn't really with the times on this kind of thing."

Rodney made a face. "You think I want a medal? What are you, nuts?"

"Rodney," John said with a roll of his eyes.

"Oh, right, you were kidding about that part." But Rodney didn't smile. "So, what? This means you don't need to have sex with me again?"

Christ. Leave it to Rodney to have to bring up the obvious. "Yeah," John said quietly. "That's what it means. And I think, under the circumstances, that it might be a good idea if you and I aren't alone together for awhile."

Rodney shifted on his feet. "You mind if I ask you why? Because, honestly, that's going to pretty ridiculous extremes."

Jesus, Rodney just couldn't take a hint, could he? "You need me to spell it out? I don't trust myself not to jump you, okay?"

"And that would be a tragedy exactly how? Okay, I get that you don't want any kind of emotional entanglement, but I'm not asking for one, here." John tried to protest, but Rodney cut him off with a quick wave of his hands. "No, wait, hear me out. We could make this work. We could be having lots of really, really great sex. We could be having sex right now. What the hell is so wrong with that?"

"Well, for one thing," John said quietly, because they were missing something obvious here, "you're straight."

"Based on the evidence of the past few weeks? I'm thinking, not so much."

God. John swallowed hard. He wanted. He wanted this so damn much. But he couldn't bear the thought of using Rodney again, and when the hell had that become stronger than his craving? "Look, I can't," he said desperately. "If I start now, I may never be able to stop."

Rodney took a step toward him, then another. "Wait, is that what this is all about? You think you're more into this than I am? Because, wow, that would really take some doing. I mean, I'm not saying it would be impossible, but statistically speaking, it would be pretty close."

"Rodney . . ." Damn it, he thought he'd explained this part already. "I'm not cured, okay? I just transferred the damn addiction."

Rodney waved a dismissive hand. "Yes, yes, now you're addicted to sex. But I like sex. So, really, I'm not seeing the problem here."

Christ. Was that what Rodney had thought? That was just . . . "I'm not addicted to sex, you idiot," John ground out. "I'm addicted to you."

Rodney started, and then his eyebrows shot up and his cheeks went pink. "Really? Wow. Okay, wow, that works. That really, really works."

John gulped. Rodney couldn't possibly mean . . . "Are you nuts? Rodney, I want to lock us in your room together and not come out for a month. Maybe two months."

"Oh yeah?" Rodney's chin came up, stubborn and defiant and utterly Rodney. "Tell you what. I'll lay in a supply of MREs."

"God," John said, and then Rodney was kissing him, kissing him hard. John brought his hands up and found Rodney's shoulders, and Rodney's hands wrapped around him, tight. Like Rodney thought he was going to push him away.

Jesus. He probably should. No matter what Rodney said, there was still no way, no fucking way Rodney could be addicted to him, too. But Rodney was holding onto him. Rodney was rubbing up against him. Rodney was nipping at his lower lip, and maybe it was almost enough.

Maybe it was finally, really, almost enough.

* * *

"You okay?" John asked, because he had to know for sure. When he'd promised anything you want, this really wasn't what he'd had in mind.

"Yes, yes, it's good, it's great, it's . . . would you just hurry up already?"

God. Rodney wanted it. Rodney really wanted it, like it was something sane to want, something normal. John eased a second finger in, and bent to take Rodney's cock into his mouth.

"Wait," Rodney said, and John froze with his lips around Rodney's cockhead. Crap. He was going as slowly as he could with the fingers, and he was pretty sure he'd been careful about the teeth. But Rodney just looked up at him and said, "You really are straight."

And okay, that was just . . . that was just . . . wow, they were totally not on the same page, here, and maybe that should have been freaky, but it just . . . wasn't. "Which part gave it away?" John asked, lifting his head so that Rodney's cock slipped out with a plop. "The cock sucking or the finger fucking?"

Rodney rolled his eyes like he didn't have two fingers up his ass. "Okay, were straight. Whatever. Don't tell me you ever sucked a guy before me, because you were seriously abysmal at it."

"Way to set the mood here," John said, and twisted his fingers.

Rodney gasped, which was, okay, a little reassuring. But he still didn't shut up. "Come on, tell me I'm right. I bet you've been with hordes of women and not one single man."

"You want to list everyone I've ever slept with? Now?" Damn it, he was dying here. John bent to lick Rodney's cock and curled his fingers at exactly the same time.

"A concise—oh, God—summary—Jesus—would do."

"Okay, yeah, you're my first guy," John admitted. He was obviously going to have to say something, or they'd never get on with it, here. "But it wasn't like I'd never thought about it. I told you, sex was never that big a deal to me. I didn't figure I was missing that much."

Rodney looked smug. "Wow, were you ever wrong."

Under the circumstances, it wasn't like he could exactly deny that. "Yes, I was wrong. I was very, very, wrong. And now I'm ruined for anyone else but you. Are you satisfied?"

Rodney propped himself up on his elbows, his face open and eager with something that looked . . . wow, almost like wonder. "Really? Ruined?"

"No, not really," John said, because he hadn't meant it seriously. He couldn't mean it seriously. He . . . okay, he'd totally meant it seriously, and the crazy thing was, he was good with that. "Well, okay, maybe a little. Jesus, McKay, do I really need to feed your ego, here?"

Rodney smirked at him and fell back down onto his pillow—savoring his victory or surrendering, or maybe, quite possibly, doing both at the same time. "I don't care what you do with my ego as long as you fuck me. You are going to fuck me, aren't you?"

John grinned back and leaned toward him. "Damn straight I am."

* * *


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