(Really Just That) Obvious

by Crysothemis

Pairing: John/Rodney
Rating: NC-17 for all the wrong reasons (and some of the right ones)
Wordcount: ~9,000
Summary: The one with the eye poking. Yes, that kind of eye-poking.
Warnings: Medical implausibility, gratuitous hard ons, Olympic-qualifying conclusion-leaping, and bizarre carnival rides (but sadly enough, no clowns)
Notes: Set sometime in Season 4, but shockingly spoiler-free. Not mine. Thank yous to WPAdmirer and Tex for beta.

Rodney was cold. And damp. In places that really should never be cold and damp.


Also, apparently not alone. Rodney committed the egregious mistake of opening his eyes. There were rough stone walls all around him. He was wearing exactly nothing. And Sheppard was lying next to him, as bare-ass naked as he was and sporting a seriously impressive woody.

Jesus. Rodney slammed his eyes back shut. He hadn't just seen that. This had to be some kind of horrible dream, or no, no, some kind of drug-induced hallucination, because even in his worst--

"Rodney?" Sheppard's voice was sharper now, and his hand touched Rodney's naked -- very, very naked -- shoulder. "Hey, you okay?"

Rodney threw an arm up over his tightly closed eyes. Not that it mattered; the image of Sheppard's dick -- the long, graceful arch of the shaft, the shocking plump outcrop of the head -- was still burned onto his retinas. "I am lying stark naked on a cold dirt floor. My head hurts, I can't feel my ass, and you are not wearing any clothes. So no, not really doing all that great, here."

Sheppard's hand fell away. "It must've been the wine. They put something in it to knock us out."

"Oh, right, of course. And that obviously explains your . . . state of excitation, there."

"Rodney." He could hear the little shake of Sheppard's head, the rolling of his eyes. "It's a side effect of whatever they gave us. Unless you're actually confessing to something, here."

Oh, God. He didn't . . . that couldn't possibly mean . . . crap. Rodney cracked his eyes open and groaned, because, yes, he could feel it now that he was actually paying attention.

He was as hard as Sheppard.

He tried thinking of unpleasant things -- small children, coding mistakes, oranges -- but there was apparently no point. His dick just bobbed there against his stomach hair.

"C'mon, McKay," Sheppard said, climbing to his feet with the barest hint of a grunt. "Let's figure out how to get out of here."

"Oh, God," Rodney said, sitting up. "What if they molested us while we were unconscious? Think about it: they had us completely at their mercy. There's no telling what sort of unspeakable things they could have perpetrated on our bodies while we were--"

"Anything hurt?" Sheppard interrupted. He was looking up, scanning the stone walls of the chamber they were in. Which actually made sense, given that there was no sign of a door.

"Well, no," Rodney admitted. Apart from being half-numb with cold, his ass felt perfectly normal and mostly his dick felt . . . well, kind of happy. Like it really, really could use a helping hand about now. Rodney ignored it with a grimace and climbed to his feet.

"Good," Sheppard said. "Give me a boost."

"What?" There was really no door. And no ceiling. This was hardly even a room. More like . . . a big well, with a damp dirt floor.

"A boost?" Sheppard gestured upward. "The wall's rougher higher up. I think I can get a handhold or two, but I'm gonna need a little help getting up there."

"Okay, okay. I can do this. I can . . ." Oh, God, he couldn't do this. Sheppard was naked. And hard. Hard and naked, and about to be up close and personal. Rodney positioned himself where Sheppard indicated and cupped his hands in front of him, no, to the side, a little to the side, or Sheppard was going to be dangerously close to a certain part of his anatomy that really didn't want to be stepped on.

Sheppard braced a hand on Rodney's shoulder and lifted his foot to Rodney's hands. "Okay, nice and easy," he said. He rocked a little, and then heaved himself upward, and damn it, he was heavy -- ridiculously heavy for someone that skinny. Rodney staggered and scraped his back against the wall and Sheppard twisted against him and goddamnit, something was poking him in the eye, something big and blunt and oh, God.

They tumbled in a heap on the ground, Sheppard half on top of him. "Ow," Rodney said. "Seriously, ow."

"Sorry," Sheppard grunted, and levered himself up, which only made Rodney realize that Sheppard had been lying on his dick. "What the hell was that about?"

"You poked me in the eye," Rodney said, sitting up. Hey, it was a completely justifiable complaint. "With your dick. I can't believe you poked me in the eye with your dick."

"Um," Sheppard said, and had the grace to do that thing where he scratched the back of his neck with his hand. "Hey, I said I was sorry."

"It's not exactly the sort of thing you can apologize for," Rodney said. "I mean, I may very well be traumatized, here. I'm probably going to have to do therapy for this. I'm--"

"We need to try again," Sheppard said. "With a little less of the staggering and twisting."

Rodney leaned back against the cold stone wall and crossed his arms over his chest. It was mere coincidence that he'd lifted a knee between himself and Sheppard. "Not a chance. I'm not letting you anywhere near me with that thing. I have no desire to be poked again. In the eye or anywhere else."

Sheppard looked down at himself thoughtfully. "Right," he said. "Well, there's a cure for that." And without so much as a pause he spat in his palm and . . .

"Oh, God," Rodney said, and averted his eyes. Too late, too late again, because now he was seeing Sheppard's hand curling around his dick, thumb and forefinger making a snug little circle just below the head. "Do you have to do that in front of me?"

"Not like there's anywhere else to go," Sheppard said, but when Rodney dared a glance his direction, he had turned his back. And was starting to really go for it, if the short hard jerks of his elbow were anything to go by.

"Christ, don't you think you could--"

"Might want to try it yourself," Sheppard said, his voice low and disturbingly breathy. "You're going to have to . . . climb out, too. One way or another. It's just going to . . . get in the way."

Rodney climbed to his feet and put as much space as possible between himself and Sheppard. It wasn't nearly enough. "I am sorry, but there is no way I'm going to join you in some kind of abbreviated circle jerk. I mean, we have no idea what they drugged us with. For all we know, you could be making things worse."

"Only one way to find out," Sheppard said. His breaths were coming short and hard now, and he had his free arm braced against the wall. Rodney could see his ass tensing and releasing as he pushed into his hand, and Christ, when Sheppard went for it, he went for it, and Rodney was absolutely not staring, but he really, really couldn't look away.

"Nnngh." Sheppard grunted and stiffened, and a moment later the spatter hit the wall.

Rodney gaped, his mouth moving before he could even think to stop it. "What is that, you have some kind of hair trigger? Or were you trying to set the speed record for jerking off in the Pegasus Galaxy?"

Sheppard looked over his shoulder and lifted an eyebrow. "Would you be happier if I'd taken my time?"

"Oh," Rodney said, and actually thought about that. "Okay, no. It was . . . it was fine."

Sheppard turned to face him, and Rodney wasn't going to look; he really wasn't, but -- okay, apparently it had worked, because Sheppard's dick was at half-mast now, dark pink and distractingly shiny. "Your turn," Sheppard said. "Come on, I'll turn my back and everything."

"No," Rodney said stubbornly, because, just, no. "No, I am not going to jerk off with you standing less than three meters away from me. I am sorry, but I happen to have standards, and this is the most ridicu--"

"Rodney." Sheppard's lips went thin, well, thin for him. "Look, it's not a big deal. Just get on with it, get it over with, and we'll get out of here."

"Get it over with?" So he was quite possibly starting to sound hysterical, but Sheppard was asking him to do something incredibly private, and maybe they already had some serious boundary issues going on here, but there was no way Rodney was taking this even a millimeter further. "Are you insane? Okay, obviously you have absolutely no scruples against jerking off in front of me, but this is just not the sort of thing teammates or even collegial colleagues should have to . . ."

Sheppard's eyebrows were now making shapes previously unobserved on the expanse of his forehead. "'Collegial colleagues'?"

"Okay, friends, whatever," Rodney sputtered. "Look, it's nothing personal. I just can't."

"Oh, for crying out loud," Sheppard grumbled, and then, without the slightest bit of warning, he reached out and--

"Oh my God," Rodney said, jerking away. "You just touched my dick. I can't believe you did that. You touched me. On the dick."

Sheppard pulled his grabby, grabby hand back, looking weirdly confounded. "Well, if you're not going to do it and you won't let me do it, how the hell do you think you're going to get out of here?"

"Hey." Rodney crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm not the one who did the poking. And in any case, this is all supremely irrelevant, because we're not going to get out of here. Whoever put us in here is going to come after us before you're halfway up that wall, and they're going to kill us or worse, and I am sorry, but I would really prefer to go to my death with my dignity intact."

Sheppard made a face at him. "Come on now, none of that. We're getting out of here. Right now, in fact. Give me a boost." And then his hand was on Rodney's shoulder and his knee was up and Rodney had no choice but to cup his hands again.

At least this time Sheppard's dick wasn't standing out like a poker, although it was still pretty full. Either that or it was always this big, and okay, that was not what Rodney should be thinking about right now. He braced himself just in time and Sheppard heaved and shoved and somehow Rodney managed not to stagger. Well, not too much. Sheppard was still ridiculously heavy, but he kept his crotch away from Rodney's face, and then some of his weight lifted as he scrabbled for a hand hold and clung to the wall.

"Got it," Sheppard said, pulling himself up. One foot swung dangerously free, so Rodney turned and braced it with his hands. "Thanks," Sheppard grunted, and a moment later he had found a crack in the stones and was shoving his long, prehensile toes into it and scrabbling up the wall.

"How the hell do you do that?" Rodney said. "Oh, God. You're going to fall, aren't you? You're going to lose your grip and fall on me."

"Do you mind?" Sheppard grunted, and pulled himself up another three feet. "Trying to climb, here."

"Right," Rodney said, and bit his tongue, but Sheppard was really surprisingly good at this, and in a short time, he was hauling himself up over the rim of the well.

A moment later his head appeared, his hair haloed against the sky. "I'm going to see if I can find something to pull you out with," he said. "I'll be back in a bit."

Rodney stared up at the bright circle of daylight. He was alone. Alone with his swinging, still-hard dick, and Sheppard hadn't said a word about it, but if he was going to have to climb out of here clinging to a tree branch or something, there was no way he was going to do it with a stiffy.

Rodney hunched his shoulders and spat in his hand, just like Sheppard had. It wasn't half as good as hand lotion, but it was better than doing it dry. Rodney gave himself a nice long pull, and it wasn't like it felt bad, but, right, he really needed to get this over with. He tugged harder, circling the shaft and working his arm a little. Not that he was copying Sheppard or anything, but Sheppard's method had certainly managed to get results, and right now he needed speed more than finesse.

Rodney glanced up, but the circle of sky was unbroken. Sheppard was probably searching for a log to shove down to him. Either that or he'd been captured and was being hideously tortured up there -- Rodney put the odds at about even.

Right. He was supposed to be taking care of things, here. And there was no way John Sheppard was actually better at this than he was, because that would be just humiliating.

Rodney had made it all the way to short, quick, tight strokes when a shadow fell on the dirt floor in front of him.


Oh, God. That was Sheppard. Peering down like he had no idea what Rodney was doing. "A little busy down here. If you don't mind."

"Yeah, well, hurry it up, okay? We may have company soon."

"Oh, thank you very much, that is exactly the sort of motivation I need."

"You want a different kind of motivation?"

"No! Just . . . just give me half a minute here, okay? Half a minute of privacy."

"You got it," Sheppard said, and mercifully disappeared.

Rodney groaned and went back to pulling on his dick. He could do this. He was damn good at it -- hell, he had plenty of practice, and the short hard strokes -- like Sheppard, just like Sheppard -- were actually working right now.

He could still see Sheppard going at it, the little hollows made by the muscles of his ass as he shoved in and out of his hand, the corded tension in the arm he'd braced against the wall. And it wasn't as if he'd ever even given enough thought to the subject to wonder how Sheppard liked to jerk off, but still somehow he never would have pictured it like that, never would have imagined the bead of sweat on Sheppard's upper lip, or the flush in his cheeks afterward.

He was close. He was almost there. Three more strokes, and that was it: he was coming all over the wall -- striping the stones where they were already shiny. Hey, it was pure practicality. There was no point in making more than one slippery spot.

"Rodney? You ready?"

Jesus. Sheppard had been listening or possibly even watching him. "What does it look like?"

"Here," Sheppard said, and a thick rope came snaking down. "Grab on. I've got the other end anchored. All you have to do is walk up the wall as I pull you up."

Of course it wasn't as easy as that. Sheppard grunted and yanked and Rodney lost his footing three times and banged his hip twice -- naturally, it was the same hip, in exactly the same spot -- but eventually he made it to the top and Sheppard handed him one of the rough-spun tunics the local villagers wore, and they made it out of there unscathed. Well, physically unscathed, anyway. Mentally? Rodney was pretty sure he was scarred for life.

In an ideal universe, they would have recovered their gear and clothing before they were actually seen by anyone from Atlantis. In reality . . . well, okay, it probably could have been worse. Ronon found them before they got to the gate, which was good, because of the whole missing-IDC problem, but not so good, what with the raised eyebrows and the amused looks.

"What?" Rodney snapped as he dialed.

Ronon shrugged. "Nice outfit."

"Hey," Rodney said. Because, yes, it looked like a burlap sack, but still . . . "It's not like Sheppard's wearing anything different."

Ronon tilted his head and threw Sheppard an appraising glance. "Looks different on him."

"Oh, that is just not fair," Rodney said as the wormhole engaged.

"What's not fair?" Sheppard asked, like he hadn't been paying attention at all.

"Life," Rodney muttered, and shouldered through the gate.

* * *

"So let me ask you something." Rodney took a bite of his banana, ignoring Teyla's eyebrow and Ronon's bored look, because it was a week after The Incident in the Well, and he still couldn't get past this. "If somebody, you know, touches you, it has to mean something, right?"

Teyla took a thoughtful sip of tea and placed her cup back on her tray. "There are many kinds of touches," she said, "and many kinds of meanings."

"Yes, yes, philosophical mumbo jumbo." Which did absolutely nothing to explain why he was so distracted he'd lost three games of chess in a row last night. "I'm talking about touching touching. You know, the kind you can't really mistake for anything else."

"A hand on the shoulder always has meaning," Teyla agreed. "As does the press of one forehead to another."

"Not that kind of touching," Rodney said. And yes, okay, maybe he wasn't expressing himself very clearly here, but there were limits to how far he was willing to go to make his point. He hadn't even had his fourth cup of coffee yet. "You know, touching."

"What are we talking about, here?" Ronon asked, leaning back in his chair. "Somebody put a hand on your dick?"

Rodney's face went warm. "Well, I was hoping for a more, ah, delicate way to phrase it, but since you mention it, yes."

Ronon grinned. "Sounds pretty direct, McKay."

Teyla's eyebrows were threatening to get lost in her hairline. "I would imagine that was . . . rather clear."

"Yes, well, you'd think so, wouldn't you? Except now h-- this person is acting like absolutely nothing happened. I mean, if somebody touches you and it means something, shouldn't they at least act like they did it, afterward?"

Ronon shrugged with his hair. "You touch him back?"

"No! No, of course not. Why would I-- I'll have you know I'm-- Wait, how did you know I was talking about a man?"

Ronon leaned forward and went back to eating. "Just figured."

"Oh," Rodney said. "I see. I suppose it was obvious, then?"

"Rodney," Teyla said firmly. "If you want to know what this touch meant, there is only one way to be certain. You must ask the person who touched you."

"Yes, well . . ." Of course, that was the problem. It wasn't that he didn't want to bring the subject up, it was just that, well, he really didn't want to bring the subject up. "I'll just get right on that, then."

"Get right on what?" Sheppard asked, sliding his tray onto the table and lowering himself into the seat next to Rodney's. His hair looked damp and he smelled like soap and oh, God. Rodney had to get out of here.

"Get right on some, ah, work-related things. Very important. Very work-related. Right, um, right now."

"O-kay," Sheppard drawled. "You do that, then."

"Right," Rodney said, jerking to his feet. "Getting on." He scooped up his tray and escaped, but not fast enough that he missed hearing Sheppard say, "What's got into him?" and Ronon's low chuckle in reply.

"You know McKay," Ronon said, loud enough that Rodney could hear it even as he stomped through the mess hall. "He always has to have something to freak out about."

Rodney almost turned and gave them both a piece of his mind, because he wasn't like that at all, but then he realized a) Ronon hadn't actually told Sheppard anything and b) if he made a fuss, Ronon might, so all in all, it turned out that the best thing to do was go dump his tray and hide in his lab. For a year or two.

* * *

It was a good plan. Air tight, really, apart from one small detail, which was that Sheppard knew where his lab was. And tended to show up at the most random times imaginable, like he didn't have actual work of his own to do.

"Hey, Rodney." Sheppard crossed the threshold in all of his usual slouchy glory, and weren't Air Force officers supposed to keep their hands out of their pockets? "Whatcha working on?"

Oh, yeah, Air Force officers were also supposed to keep their hair neat and not touch other people's dicks, so apparently Sheppard and regulations were skew lines in three dimensions. Possibly four. "Work," Rodney said. "Vital, important, and unbelievably complicated . . . work."

One of Sheppard's eyebrows arched skyward. "You feeling okay, there?"

"Yes, yes, perfectly fine." Or he would be, if he weren't so incredibly distracted by the shape Sheppard's hand was making inside his pocket. His right pocket. His right hand. Which was, purely coincidentally, the same hand that had touched Rodney's dick.

"You want to take a break? Play a round or two of video golf? Or, hey, I'll even play hockey if you want."

Rodney wrenched his eyes away from Sheppard's pockets. It was just . . . wrong -- completely and utterly wrong that Sheppard could be acting so ridiculously casual, like nothing had happened, like he simply enjoyed spending time together, and . . . oh, God. What if it hadn't just meant something, but had actually meant something? What if Sheppard had some kind of big gay crush on him -- what if he'd always had a big gay crush on him -- and all of this casual friendliness was actually him trying to . . . trying to . . .

Rodney slammed his laptop shut and jumped to his feet. "I have to go," he said. "I think I just figured something out."

Both of Sheppard's eyebrows were up now. "Anything I should know about?"

"No," Rodney said. He had to brush by Sheppard to get out the door and Sheppard's body was long and warm and . . . "No, it's purely theoretical at this point, and I really think I'd like to keep it that way. Better for all concerned, seeing as how any practical applications would be completely . . . um, going now." And for the second time in as many hours he could feel Sheppard's puzzled gaze on his back as he fled.

* * *

The more he thought about it, the more it was painfully, horribly obvious. The thing was, knowing Sheppard had a crush on him made so many things make sense. Why Sheppard came looking for him, why Sheppard had played the Game with him for over two years, and why, ever since they'd had to quit, he'd made up the slack with video games and chess and extra movie nights. And okay, sure, he invited Teyla and Ronon to the movie nights, but that was just cover. It was painfully clear that Sheppard was pining for him, which--

"Any luck figuring it out?"

Rodney straightened from where he was hunched over the possibly-Ancient control panel and shot Sheppard a withering glare. "No, and for your information, your hovering is not helping at all."

Sheppard, being Sheppard, didn't take the hint. "It's not an emergency, Rodney. I mean, I wouldn't mind getting back to the gate sometime this century, but hey. Take your time."

Damn it, Rodney could feel him, feel the warmth of his body radiating across the space between them. "Look, for your information, this is an incredibly complicated device. If I activate the wrong function, we could both be vaporized."

Sheppard craned his neck, looking around the dusty underground chamber with its gaudy, blue- and gold-painted walls. "Vaporized? You think?"

"Yes, well, either that or it's going to start playing disco. Now, do you mind?"

"Nope," Sheppard said, lowering himself to the floor mere feet away and leaning against a convenient pillar. "Don't mind at all. I'll just sit here and watch you work."

Marvelous. They were locked together, alone in the room with Sheppard's big gay crush, and Rodney was the only one who could get them out. He poked at his tablet, running a third diagnostic to tease apart the intricacies of what, given his luck, probably really was just a glorified juke box.

Honestly, it was astonishing he'd never noticed it before. Sheppard was just painfully obvious -- the way he sprawled instead of sitting, the way he crossed his legs at the ankles, the way he looked over at Rodney with that damn smirk of his. Rodney should have seen it months -- possibly even years -- ago.


"What?" Rodney jerked his head up, banging it on the intricate-but-very-hard sculpture that was hanging directly over the console.

"Looked like you were drifting off, there."

"I certainly am not," Rodney huffed. "I told you, this is an extremely-- ah, wait, I've got it." Yes, that had to be it. The lever on the left was clearly the one that opened the door. He reached out and pulled it, and something loud and bright shot out of the top of the sculpture and whizzed around the room.

"Down!" Sheppard yelled, and then Sheppard was on top of him, pressing him into the floor while whatever it was shot sparks in all directions as it whirled over their heads. A drone. It was a drone, trapped in the confined space, and it was going to take them both out when it blew unless . . .

With a terrific bang, the thing exploded over their heads. Rodney cowered, hands over his head, but there was no shockwave, no blast, nothing except a shower of red, then orange, then purple sparks that danced their way to the floor for what seemed like an impossibly long time.

Rodney grunted. Sheppard was still on top of him -- well, of course he was. He was no doubt indulging his big gay crush. But before Rodney could say anything, Sheppard rolled off and climbed to his feet, shaking his head and grinning. "Fireworks! Cool. Maybe this really is a disco."

Rodney sat up slowly and scowled. He could still feel Sheppard's weight on him, the distinct impressions of Sheppard's holster and vest pockets, and hey, if Sheppard was going to go throwing himself on people, he really shouldn't wear so much field gear. Not that Rodney had any desire to see him undressed -- he'd already done that, thank you very much, and once was quite enough to burn it into his brain permanently. But still, a little consideration would not have been amiss.

"So I'm guessing that was the wrong lever," Sheppard said conversationally, eyeing the panel.

"Don't even think about it." Rodney shouldered him out of the way and steeled himself. If it wasn't the left-hand lever, it had to be the one on the right. He pulled it and ducked . . . only to hear a low creaking noise as the door swung open to reveal a flight of steps leading up into daylight.

Sheppard, damn him, looked amused. But all he did was wave at the doorway and say, "After you."

Rodney stomped past him, grumbling under his breath, and it was only when they'd made it to the top of the stairs that he realized he'd given Sheppard the opportunity to ogle his ass the whole way up.

* * *

Rodney wasn't a bigot. Really, not even close -- he firmly believed that people should be getting whatever kind of sex they wanted just as often as they wanted it -- but in his case that meant hot blondes with Mensa-level IQs, not . . . not . . . certainly not slouchy, unkempt, and very male Air Force colonels.

Make that very, very male.

"Rodney, you have been staring at a blank screen for fifteen minutes," Radek said, rubbing his eyes beneath his glasses. "Something is wrong?"

"What? No, of course not. I was thinking. Important thoughts."

"About how to recalibrate the desalination coils, I hope."

"Yes, yes, of course," Rodney muttered. It wasn't that he had forgotten the task at hand. He'd just been distracted, and seriously, anyone who was the object of John Sheppard's affections had the right -- no, possibly the duty -- to be a little distracted. "Why don't we just increase the power input by ten percent or so?"

Radek looked up sharply, and adjusted his glasses. "We have just tried this. As you can see, it does not solve the problem."

"Oh, right, right," Rodney said. He needed to focus, here. "Okay, maybe the problem is the intake filters."

Radek made a pained face. "We have already flushed the filters. You don't remember doing this?"

"Of course I remember. That wasn't what I meant. I meant . . ." Oh, God, was that whistling he heard? Nobody whistled off-key like that except . . . . "I'll just be stepping out for a moment. If anyone asks for me, I'm not here."

There was a supply closet right off the lab. Rodney ducked into it and closed the door just in time.

"Radek," he heard Sheppard's voice, muffled through the door panels. "Is Rodney around?"

"I'm afraid he has . . . stepped out." Damn it, was that a sly note in Radek's voice?

"Damn," Sheppard said. "I wanted to talk to him about something Hong and Chiswick found in the East Pier. Or, hey, are you busy right now? Maybe you could check it out with me."

What? One moment Sheppard wanted him, and the next, Zelenka was an acceptable substitute? That was wrong, incredibly wrong, so wrong Rodney almost opened the closet door. Almost.

"Unfortunately, I must work on repairing the desalinators," Radek said, and Rodney slowly lowered his hand from vicinity of the door panel. "If we don't fix them, we will all be drinking salt water tomorrow."

"Okay, that's definitely got priority," Sheppard said. "Listen, if you see Rodney, can you tell him I was looking for him?"

"Perhaps if you contact him by radio . . ."

Rodney's pulse jumped again, and he scrambled to switch off his ear piece, but Sheppard was already saying, "Nah, I'll catch up with him later."

"I will tell him you were looking for him."

"Great, thanks."

There was silence then, and possibly the sound of retreating footsteps, although it was hard to be certain. Rodney counted to a hundred, then two hundred, before opening the door.

Radek, being Radek, gave him a disapproving look. "I do not know what sort of game you and the colonel are playing, but I would appreciate if you leave me out."

"Game?" Rodney said. "There's no game. No game whatsoever. I just, well, he can be very distracting, with the . . . and the . . . I mean, sometimes I think he thinks I have nothing better to do than to play pointless video games with him, when there are incredibly pressing problems like repairing the desalinators, without which, let's see, we'll all die of thirst in less than--"

"Ah!" Radek exclaimed, a propos of exactly nothing. "I think I have it! If we reprogram the osmotic field to take into account the excess of strontium, the desalinator will operate within acceptable parameters."

"What?" Rodney stared at him, utterly confounded.

"Strontium," Radek said. "The concentrations in the sea water here are significantly higher than they were on Lantea. We reprogram the field, and look, no problem."

"In simulation," Rodney said sourly, because there was no way he was so distracted that Radek had just figured the whole thing out for himself.

"No, no, in practice," Radek said. "I have just implemented. See? This is the outflow from the desalinator, in real time."

"Oh," Rodney said, feeling thoroughly routed. "I see. Yes. Well. I guess we'll be drinking tomorrow, after all."

"One way or another," Radek muttered. "Rodney, this thing with Colonel Sheppard? Fix it. You cannot be hiding in the closet like a little boy when he comes looking for you."

"I wasn't hiding," Rodney sniffed. "I was . . . heroically avoiding distraction."

"You are already distracted," Radek said. "For all the use you have been lately, you might as well be playing videogames."

"Really?" Okay, he'd known it was bad. He just hadn't realized it was that bad. "Are you sure?"

"Very sure," Radek said. And then, almost kindly, "Go. Find Colonel Sheppard. See what he has to show you on the East Pier. It will be good for you."

"All right," Rodney said blindly. "I can do that. I mean, if there's nothing else that's pressing, I suppose he might have some sort of interesting development that . . ."

"Go," Radek said, and pushed him out the door.

* * *

"Hong said the energy drain was coming from here," Sheppard announced when they finally made it to the top landing. "She said they couldn't find anything that was actually using power."

"Huh," Rodney said, doing his best to calm his breathing. Sheppard, damn his fitness, wasn't even slightly winded from the six flights of stairs. "I'm not getting anything. No power drain, no fluctuations, nothing. Are you sure this was the right spot?"

"Positive," Sheppard said, craning his neck to look around at the walls. His long, elegant neck, and oh crap, had Rodney really just thought of another guy's neck as "elegant"? It was all Sheppard's fault, with his big gay crush, because Rodney certainly would never have had that thought on his own.



"You getting anything?"

"No, no, I told you. No energy readings whatso-- wait, hello, what are you?" His scanner showed a sudden spike that seemed to be coming from the wall to the left. It had some sort of fancy inlaid decoration on it, so Rodney held the scanner closer.

It was only a small drain, not enough to be what Hong and Chiswick had reported, but more than just the normal power flow involved in lighting lights and circulating air. "It's some kind of sensor," Rodney said. He could feel Sheppard at his shoulder, way too close.

"It's scanning us?"

Rodney lifted his hand with the scanner, passing it right in front of where he thought the sensor had to be. "No, no, I don't think so." And maybe he was a little distracted, but who wouldn't be distracted, with Sheppard and his big gay crush standing right there and breathing? So maybe his hand brushed the inlaid part of the wall. Just a tiny bit. "I'm not getting any kind of --aaaagh!"

He was falling. It was like the floor had just opened up and dumped them, and oh God, they were falling together, down, down, inside the core of the tower, with windows flashing past them and oh no oh no oh no there had to be a bottom, and they were going to hit it and it was going to really, really hurt.

"Rodney!" Sheppard said, and grabbed his arm. And then they hit.

Soft. It was soft -- deliciously, deliriously, impossibly soft -- like falling onto an enormous down pillow, or possibly an airbag. Rodney bounced and Sheppard bounced with him and Rodney ended up on top as the crash cushion or whatever it was billowed and rocked under them.

"Oh my God," Rodney said. His face was buried in Sheppard's -- John's -- hell, the man had touched his dick -- shoulder. Their legs were tangled together. His crotch was snuggled right up against John's thigh, which was really not something he'd ever wanted to happen, but damn it, he could feel the lean muscles through the two layers of pants and his boxers, and if that wasn't the unfairest thing in two galaxies of unfair, then--

"You planning on getting off me anytime soon?"

Rodney pushed up against the cushion, and it was squishy and weird and hard to balance on, which entirely explained why he didn't try to move his lower body off of John's. "This is all your fault."

"My fault?" John's eyes were a bizarre color of green with a surprising little starburst of brown in the middle, and why had he never noticed that before? "You're the one who pushed the button."

"Oh, no, no, no." John's lower lip had a weird little cleft right in the middle that only emphasized how full it was. "You can't put this one off on me. I would never have been distracted enough to touch it in the first place if it hadn't been for you, with your breathing and your big gay crush."

"My what?" John stared up at him with narrow eyes, and damn, he was good at this, because he actually looked confused there.

"Your crush," Rodney said. "And don't try to deny it. Ronon and Teyla totally agree with me."

John closed his eyes and looked kind of pained for a moment. "Ronon and Teyla think I have a crush on you?"

"Well . . . not exactly," Rodney admitted. "I mean, they didn't say it in so many words. But they both agreed that it had to mean something." Nevermind that Teyla had said he actually had to talk to John to know exactly what.

John was doing that narrow-eyed thing again. "Did you hit your head on the way down?"

"What? No! No, I'm fine. It's just really squishy down here and kind of hard to balance and you totally have a big gay crush on me."

John made a face. "I do not."

"You do so."


"I can prove it. See?" And it was the easiest thing on the planet to hitch up a couple of inches and brace his hands in the soft, treacherous cushions and adjust the angles without overbalancing and lower his head to press his mouth against John's.

That lower lip felt as full as he'd imagined, plump and soft and perfect. John let out a surprised breath -- like, what, he hadn't seen this coming? -- and opened his mouth a little in the process, which was good, yeah, Rodney could work with that; Rodney could dart his tongue right in there and lick his way around and wow, John tasted better than any normal person had a right to. Not that John was normal; John was actually kind of nuts, with his absurd hair and his big gay crush, but he had good lips, really good lips, and whoa, was that his tongue?

Jesus, John could kiss. John really knew how to get with the program. John's tongue was nasty in all the best possible ways and he was using his teeth and oh, God, it was quite possible that Rodney had forgotten the point he was trying to make here.

"See?" Rodney panted, and slid sideways far enough that he could stroke a hand down to the telltale bulge in John's pants. "Big. Gay. Crush."

"That's funny," John said, and suddenly his own hand was worming its way between them. "'Cause I could've sworn you were enjoying that at least as much as I was."

Rodney whimpered and absolutely did not shove his hard on against John's hand. Because John was the one with the crush. "Well, you were kissing me. It's a natural physical reaction."

One of John's eyebrows went up. "Pretty sure you were the one who kissed me."

"I was proving a point!"

John rolled his eyes and pulled his hand away. "What happened to, 'It's a natural physical reaction'?"

"You kissed me back!"

"Well, you seemed pretty into it."

Rodney's mouth might have opened and closed a few times. "So that was you humoring me?"

John shrugged. "Something like that."

Oh, God. Rodney was still hard, and what he really, really wanted was to be kissing someone right now. Only John wasn't looking all that interested, and how was it possible that he could have been so wrong? "You touched my dick."

John scrunched up his eyebrows and shifted his head against the cushion. "You touched me, first." "No, I mean, in the well. The other well. The one where we were naked, remember that?"

"Not really something a person could forget," John said dryly

"Okay." At least he wasn't trying to deny it. "Well you definitely touched me. On the dick. You just reached right out and did it."

"Oh, for . . . look, we needed to get out of there, and it was getting in the way. It was pure practicality, and it wasn't like you were taking care of it yourself."

Pure practicality. And Rodney was, unaccountably, still lying on top of him. "Right," he said, scrambling sideways and falling onto his side as the billowing cushion gave way under him. It wasn't as if he wanted John to have a big gay crush on him. "Of course. I mean, well, obviously I knew that. What Ronon and Teyla choose to believe is entirely their own problem, and let's see if we can figure out how to get out of here, shall we?"

He made it to his feet -- well, sort of -- by leaning against the nearest wall. They were in a smooth, circular chamber, something like six stories tall. There was, yes, once again, no door, and the walls were unmarked except for a single inlaid design that looked similar to, but not the same as, the one at the top. "Wonderful," he muttered. "They couldn't be bothered with labels?"

"Hey, it could be worse," John said. He was sitting up, and it should have been impossible for anyone to look anything but ridiculous slithering across an unstable air cushion, but . . . right, okay, John looked ridiculous, too. "At least we haven't been drugged and we still have our clothes."

Rodney gritted his teeth and turned toward the inlaid panel. He was pretty sure this wasn't what Radek had meant when he'd said, fix it. "Yes, yes," he muttered. "Although we do still seem to have the other problem."

John had the nerve to actually laugh at that. "Good point," he said, and then he was right there, on his feet and reaching out his hand and . . . oh, oh, right. He was holding out Rodney's scanner.

"Thank you," Rodney grumbled, and scanned the panel. Not that it was telling him anything useful, since apparently these controls were wired in ways that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

"Maybe we just press the big button in the center," John said.

"No!" What did he think he was doing, trying to get them killed? "Look, for all we know, that's going to drop us another six stories, and there's no guarantee of an airbag at the bottom. Let me just see if I can . . ."

But another ten minutes of scanning and diagnostics told him absolutely nothing he didn't already know, and it really wasn't helping that John was distracting him by leaning against the wall less than five feet away.

"I've got nothing," Rodney said, finally. "As far as I can tell, the only active part of the panel is the center, but I have no idea what it's actually supposed to do."

"Great," John said easily. "Let's try it." And before Rodney could stop him, he was pressing his palm to the circular part of the center of the design.

Rodney's stomach went instantly queasy. He felt strangely light, like . . . oh, God. His feet weren't touching the floor anymore.

"Cool!" John said. "Antigravity. Think we can push ourselves up to the top?"

"Wait, what are you . . . ?" Because John was already using his hands to bounce himself off the wall, floating upward. "Are you crazy? What are you going to do if it shuts off?"

"There's a crash cushion underneath us, remember? C'mon McKay, try it."

Rodney was really quite fond of gravity. Free fall -- or more technically, antigravity -- made his stomach roil. But it didn't look like he had much of a choice here, and oh, crap, was that a breeze?

Leave it to the Ancients to create something this insane. There were gusts of air jetting from the circumference of the floor beneath him, pushing him upwards after John. Rodney kept a hand out to brace himself -- not that that would help at all if the antigravity field cut out, but he liked the illusion of control -- and gave in to it.

It took considerably longer to go up than it had to go down, but in the end it was noticeably more pleasant. John, with his head start, reached the top first, so by the time Rodney got there he was standing on the landing with his hand out. Apparently the antigravity field only extended over the circular column of the drop chamber itself.

"C'mere," John said, taking his hand and tugging, and Rodney had no anchor, so he had no choice but to scramble, suddenly heavy, onto the landing next to him.

There was a slight grating noise, and a circular piece of floor slid out to cover the hole.

"Oh, my God," Rodney said. "The Ancients were insane."

"That was the coolest thing ever," John said. "How much you want to bet this is the Ancient equivalent of a carnival ride?"

Rodney backed away slowly, heading for the stairs. "Right, well, if you're done having your fun, perhaps we can go do something useful?"

"Spoilsport," John said cheerfully, but he followed Rodney back down the stairs.

* * *

It was astonishing that Rodney had thought himself distracted, before. Apparently there were levels of distraction he hadn't even begun to contemplate, because he actually didn't notice he'd put a slice of key lime pie on his tray until the mess hall server snatched it back.

The sad thing was, it wasn't like he had anything worth being distracted by. So what if John had denied having a big gay crush on him? It wasn't a big deal. It wasn't like it changed anything -- it wasn't like Rodney cared -- and anyway, if John didn't want people to go around thinking he had a big gay crush, he really ought to learn to keep his hands to himself.

Fortunately, the one thing Rodney was capable of doing, even distracted, was remembering John's schedule. John tended to have breakfast early and dinner late, so by the simple measure of heading for the mess hall for the early evening shift, Rodney managed to easily avoid him. Of course that meant he had to sit with Teyla, which, while ordinarily no hardship, was not precisely what he needed right now.

"Are you feeling unwell?" she asked finally, after an admittedly disjointed conversation on a topic Rodney couldn't even remember.

"Me? No, fine. I'm fine. Totally, utterly fine. Couldn't be better."

Teyla lifted a disbelieving eyebrow. "You seem . . . preoccupied."

"Ah, yes, well, you know. Busy, busy. Have to keep the city from falling apart; you know how it goes."

Teyla's face went, if anything, more skeptical. "Usually when there is a crisis you do not eat early."

"Right, well, in this particular case . . . wait, have you been talking to Zelenka?"

"I have not seen Dr. Zelenka today," Teyla said mildly, but Rodney had the distinct impression she was laughing at him. "Have you considered meditation? I find it most helpful when I need to concentrate."

Rodney shoved the last bite of Turkey Surprise into his mouth and pushed his chair back. "Yes, yes, I'm sure it's very useful. Unfortunately, I have too much to do right now, but hey, maybe some other night?"

"Of course," Teyla said with a smile, but she still looked amused, and Rodney didn't even want to think about what she could be thinking about. Unless she had spent time with John this afternoon and he'd been preoccupied too, which would mean . . .

No. He had no idea what that would mean. Because John didn't have a big gay crush, or at least he said he didn't, and that was completely unfair considering the way he'd--


Oh, right. Teyla. He was still standing by their table, tray in hand, staring off into space. "I have to go now," Rodney said, and fled.

* * *

By 10:00, Rodney was fairly certain that Operation Avoid John was a success. No one had radioed him, there were no ongoing crises, and really, his quarters were almost as convenient as the lab for basic theoretical work. He had three laptops processing simultaneous simulations and a bag of not-quite-stale chips, and if he zoned out every ten minutes or so, well, the computers just kept on cranking through their data.

He was good. He was fine. He was going to go to sleep and wake up and forget anything had ever happened. And maybe he'd even be able to face John in the morning and not think about who had kissed whom and who had enjoyed it more.

At 10:02, his door chime rang.

"Hey," John said when Rodney opened the door. He held up a DVD case with a hand-scrawled title and a six-pack of some kind of godawful American beer. "Can I come in?"

"What is this, some kind of peace offering?"

John lifted one shoulder. "Figured it couldn't hurt."

Right, well, he damn well ought to be apologizing, even if Rodney had been the one to kiss him first. Because he really shouldn't go around kissing people back if he didn't mean it. Rodney stepped to one side and snagged the DVD as John walked by him.

"Timecop? You couldn't do any better than that?"

John actually went a little pink around the ears. "Sorry. I had to borrow something on short notice. You've already seen everything of mine."

"And you thought I would like a crappy time-travel movie with plot holes the size of a Volkswagen?"

John rolled his eyes. "It's a gesture, McKay. You want a beer?"

Rodney set the DVD on his desk and took a step toward him, then another, until they were so close he could see the starbursts in John's eyes again. "No, I do not want a beer. What is that, Coors?"

"Okay." John just stood there with the beer dangling from his hand, and it was enough to drive a person crazy. "So, no movie, no beer. Got it."

"Look, I realize you're trying to make some sort of friendly overture, here, but after today's fiasco, I'm not even sure--"

"Rodney." John's voice was soft, but there was a note in it that made all of Rodney's protests fizzle to nothing on his tongue. They were standing so close -- too close -- and John was just kind of staring at him. And then John tilted his head and his mouth found Rodney's, and oh, they were on the same page here, whatever page it was, because John's lips fit against Rodney's perfectly and that was John's tongue again, God, yes, his ingenious, indecent tongue.

Rodney wrapped his arms around John's shoulders and held on. He needed this, and John had to want it too. John had to -- he was the one who was doing the kissing here -- only he was squirming against Rodney, twisting away, and . . . oh, right. He was still holding the six-pack. Rodney loosened his grip enough so that John could set it on the desk, and then John was back, one of his hands cupping the side of Rodney's neck, the other one at the small of his back and oh, oh. John was hard again.

Rodney rubbed back and forth against him, and John groaned and dragged his mouth along Rodney's jaw. "Jesus, Rodney."

Rodney tipped his head back. John's cheeks were flushed, his eyes half-closed. "Oh my God. You do have a big gay crush on me."

"No," John said, leaning in until his mouth was right next to Rodney's cheek. "I really don't." John's hands slid between them, and Rodney shifted his hips to give him better access. "I never." Both hands started working on the buttons of Rodney's fly. "Wasn't even thinking of you." He yanked Rodney's pants and boxers down to his hips. "Not that way." And then, finally, finally those hands were on Rodney's dick. "Not until you kissed me."

Rodney grunted and shoved into John's hands. "You touched me. We were naked, and you touched me."

"I know," John said, and he sounded confused again. "I don't know what the hell I was thinking."

John was squeezing and rubbing now, and it was good; it was really, amazingly good, but John had . . . "You must have been thinking something. I am sorry, but most guys don't just go around touching other guys' dicks."

"I know," John said again. He shifted, changing his grip and leaning his forehead against Rodney's. "I just . . . it was you. It didn't feel weird."

Rodney looked down at John's hand wrapped around his dick and swallowed hard. God, that was it. That was it exactly. It should have felt weird, but it didn't. "Okay, okay, I get that." And then Rodney was shoving his hands down to scrabble at John's fly, because he really did get it, and that meant he needed to be touching John right now.

The buttons were recalcitrant and John wasn't helping any -- John was, in fact, distracting him like hell -- but Rodney finally got the fly open and John's boxers shoved down below his balls and oh yes, oh yes that was what he wanted, and John's dick was as amazing as he'd remembered, hot and smooth and alive in his hand. The length of it fit his palm perfectly, the head was as soft as he'd imagined, and yes, he'd imagined it, he'd imagined this, leaning against John and panting while they worked each other fast and hard.

"Christ," John said, rocking into his hand. "God, Rodney."

"I know," Rodney said. He pressed closer to John, wriggling his hips so that the heads of their dicks rubbed together, and that was . . . oh, that was even better. "I want . . ."

"Yeah, me, too."

Rodney wrapped his hand around both dicks, squeezing them together. "I couldn't believe that you did that in front of me, right there in my face, when I wasn't allowed to touch."

"You can touch," John said. "You could've . . . God, Rodney, you can do anything you want."

"Anything?" Jesus, he wanted everything. Everything he'd ever done with anybody and a lot of things he hadn't.

"Hell, yeah," John said, and his own hand curled around Rodney's so that they were jacking both dicks together, a tangle of fingers and flesh. One of them was leaking enough to make it slick, now, and John's hand moved faster, tugging Rodney's with it. John's head bent forward, his breath ragged against Rodney's neck.

"I was thinking about you," Rodney confessed, his own breath gone a little unsteady. "After you touched me. I couldn't think of anything else."

"Fuck," John said, and came all over them both in stuttering spurts.

"Oh, God, you do have a hair trigger," Rodney moaned.

"No," John said. "Not usually." His slick hand pumped Rodney once and his lips found Rodney's for a quick, hard kiss. And then he was dropping to his knees, his mouth a warm, wet shock where his hand had been.

"Ohmy-- oh crap." Rodney jerked, trying to pull away, but John's hands locked on his hips and John's tongue did something depraved and then Rodney was coming, sweet and fast, while John gulped and swallowed and licked him clean.

"And you say I'm the one with the hair trigger," John said, wiping his mouth smugly as he climbed to his feet.

Rodney stared at him, the shock registering in quick, hard waves, because John looking amused and sated was the best thing ever. "Oh my God, what if I'm the one with the big gay crush?"

John laughed out loud at that, but the way his hand came up to thumb Rodney's cheek kind of took the sting out of it. "It wouldn't be a tragedy, Rodney."

"Really?" Rodney looked up to find that John's expression was . . . surprisingly earnest. "But you weren't even thinking about me. You said not until I kissed you, which was, what, six hours ago?"

John cupped both hands around Rodney's jaw and leaned in, trailing his lips across Rodney's cheekbone like a declaration of intent. "I once pulled eleven gs in an F-16," he said, low and gravelly. "I think I can handle a little acceleration."

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