Rodney grumbled angrily under his breath as they made the final approach to the large, ornate gate at the entrance of the village. The people of Duras had settled on the top of a small chain of mountains, a place that apparently the Ancients had once lived as well. The hike to the village had been grueling. Rodney had no idea how far it had actually been, but it had taken all day. The trail was narrow and smoothly paved up the side of the mountain in tight switchbacks. Every bone in his body was sore, especially those located in his legs. The muscles surrounding them were tender and stiff, threatening to cramp up on him.
"Tell me again why we couldn't just take the Jumper?" he complained yet again.
"The people here do not approve of the use of technology," Teyla stated with tight, clipped words, annoyance bleeding into her voice.
"Which has already been explained to you a hundred times Rodney," John added, drawing the other man's name out in that aggravating way he did sometimes.
"I still don't see why Carson isn't here with us. This whole thing is for him," Rodney complained, crossing his arms over his chest. They were here to try trading for some magical herb that was supposedly a cure-all. Rodney doubted that was actually true. However, the tiny sample they had acquired from a marketplace had made Carson so excited the doctor had barely been about to put together a cohesive sentence. So here they were, seeking the source.
"It's not just for Carson," John chided. "In case you haven't noticed, we do go on a lot of military missions that result in injuries. New and improved medicine is good for everyone."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "He still should have come himself."
They reached the village just as the sun was setting and were greeted by a handful of natives. They varied in age, and dressed in a variety of brightly colored, multi-layered robes. "Welcome to our settlement. I am Kalu, the appointed head of our people," an older gentleman with wispy grey hair said, bowing to them.
"Colonel Sheppard, Dr. McKay, Teyla, and Ronon. Nice to meet you," John said, gesturing to each of them and giving a small bow himself.
Rodney groaned. He could already tell these people were going to be the annoying, fluffy, spiritual type.
"The trip to our village is long and tiring. We invite you to eat, rest, and relax. We may speak of trade in the morning—assuming that’s why you’re here. Does this agree with you?" Kalu asked, and suddenly Rodney liked these people.
"That sounds amazing," he said, before John had the chance to say anything. "Especially the food part. And the rest part."
John gave him his trademark 'what’s wrong with you?’ look before turning his attention back to the village leader. "Yes, we’ve come to trade with you. We appreciate your hospitality, thank you."
"We have plenty of guest rooms. Young ones, please show them the way," Kalu said, resting his hand on the shoulder of a boy in his early teens.
"This way please," the boy said, sweeping his hand towards a path on their right.
"We’re happy to have you as our guests," a girl the same age said, mirroring the boy's motion.
The four of them followed the children and were led into a large building with walls made of wood and wax paper paneling. The first room they entered was a large sitting room with a low table and small fire pit in the middle. "This is the common room for the building. In the morning, please make yourselves at home here," the girl said, then slid open a door panel that led them down a hall. The flooring was smoothed and polished honey-colored wood, and a small part of Rodney felt guilty they were dragging dirt and grime into the building.
"Two of you may follow me," the boy said, as they reached a t-shaped intersection. Rodney and John were closest to him, so they followed as he turned down it.
"Sure splitting up is a good idea?" Rodney stage-whispered to John, as they walked down the hall.
"I think it’ll be okay, Rodney. I'm not really getting much of a warrior vibe from these people. They seem more like monks than anything," John replied, just as hushed.
Rodney nodded and let it go. If John's gut told him it was fine, Rodney would trust it.
"Colonel. Doctor," the young man leading their way said with a slight bow, and gestured at two doors respectively.
"We get our own rooms for a change. Well, how about that?" John said with a lazy smile, as he slid the wood and paper door open.
"Lovely," Rodney agreed, opening his own room. "I’ll be able to get some real sleep and not have to put up with your snoring."
"I do not snore, McKay," John said sternly, crossing his arms.
"You keep telling yourself that," Rodney muttered, rolling his eyes.
The local boy chuckled at them and bowed again. "There are fresh clothes, along with food and drink for both of you. Please make yourselves comfortable. There are hot springs out the back as well, they will help soothe the aches from your travels."
John returned the gesture of bowing, as did Rodney, and they were left to their quarters.
Rodney wasted no time stepping into his room and sliding the door shut. Dropping his pack, he plopped down onto the low, firm bed and started tugging off his boots and socks, all but moaning as his feet were freed. Laying back, he wiggled his toes slowly and looked around the room. Next to the bed, a low table held a drink jug and bowls of dried fruits, meats, and a small loaf of bread. Along one wall was an open closet, where robes in a variety of colors hung.
Reaching for the table, he snagged a piece of jerky and hummed pleasantly as he chewed. It was a sweet meat and far softer than he had been expecting. He had to stretch to reach the bread and it caused his ribs to ache, but he had so little energy he didn’t want to sit up. Really, the tone of the place seemed to heavily imply he should be relaxing.
The village as a whole screamed of Asian influence, and it was a marvel to Rodney how some aspects of culture could literally be universal. The fancy robes the natives wore strongly resembled kimonos, the buildings had sloping, angular, roofs lined with tiles. And, of course, the walls of thin wood and soft, colored, waxed paper. Rodney had never been to Asia, but he felt like he had stepped onto a movie set—the kind that had the broad strokes right, but missed the finer cultural details.
Groaning, Rodney made himself sit up and remove his vest before laying back again. The firm—if not too thin—mattress would do wonders for his aching back. He shifted around a bit, but despite enjoying the firmness of the bed, could not get comfortable. His legs throbbed if he was still, but if he moved them, they hurt even worse.
Sitting up again, Rodney gritted his teeth and stood. It took far more effort than it should have to walk over to the closet. His legs were passing the point of overworked soreness to the lead-heavy pain of lactic acid settling in his muscles. Figuring it couldn't make things worse, he decided he would take the advice of their host and try the springs.
Slowly stripping off his clothes with deliberate, efficient movements, he pulled a robe from the closet and tied it around his waist. It was far more gaudy than anything he would normally wear. Bright cobalt blue with a delicate paisley-like pattern—were they supposed to be fish? Alien fish?—dancing across it in pale yellow. He shoved a handful of dried alien apple slices into his mouth, then opened the back sliding door. Rodney breathed in deeply. The night air was just a touch too cool to be comfortable, but felt good on his exercise taxed lungs.
The hot spring was a smallish, kidney shaped pool, rimmed with flat tan rocks. They were smooth looking and sparkled with gold flecks in the lantern light. Dozens of tiny lanterns were perched on little poles around the courtyard. In their light, Rodney could see the steam rising from the water.
As he approached the spring, he could smell it as well. It had a deep, earthy scent, almost like wet wood. The water was a touch foggy the way hot mineral water often was, but it wasn't opaque. Rodney could tell the same tan-gold stone lined the bottom and could see it twinkling up at him.
Rodney glanced around the courtyard. It was fenced in, high enough that it would take great effort to look over. Other than the entrance from his own room, there was only one other door that led outside. Based on the position, Rodney guessed it was the entrance to John's room. Communal showers and shared quarters on missions over the past two years left nothing to the imagination when it came to John's body, and the same went for Rodney. The scientist knew John had seen him in the nude more times than his last girlfriend had, so really, he had no shame or worry as he dropped his robe.
Stepping into the water, Rodney flinched at the heat of it. Gritting his teeth, he sank down and moaned as the almost too hot water engulfed him. There was a shelf for sitting on and he settled there, stretching out his legs and tipping his head back against the smooth stone rim. The water lapped just below his nipples, covering his torso like a thick, comforting blanket.
Rodney let out another vaguely sexual sound as he relaxed into the water. It felt good, really good. Shifting around a bit more, Rodney let his arms float lazily below the water's surface and sighed out a deep breath as he relaxed. He had never held the mindset that baths were 'girly' like he knew some men did. He had always enjoyed a hot bath, and found it was one of the easiest ways to clear his mind. Which was—for someone of his vast intellect—not an easy task.
As he let his limbs sway with the subtle current of the pool, Rodney felt the tension leave his sore muscles. The throbbing ache in his calves and thighs melted out of his pores and drifted up and away with the rising steam. As his mind cleared and he drifted in the foggy plane of almost asleep, Rodney noticed that while the ache of his sore muscles was being erased, it was being replaced by a different kind of ache in his crotch.
The heat of the water and the soft current around his body had coaxed his dick into a heavy erection, thick and eager against his stomach, as the water pleasantly caressed him, like an incorporeal lover. Humming a little, Rodney shifted deliberately in the water, hips rocking softly against the smooth stone he was sitting on.
Rodney lifted one arm over his head, tucking his hand behind it to improve the support for his neck. His other hand he let sink to his thigh, lazily stroking his fingers over the lightly-haired, soft skin there. Slow, barely there, touches up and down across the pale flesh, his fingertips gently making contact. Goosebumps broke over his skin at the teasing touch and Rodney moaned softly.
Letting his head loll to the side in a comfortable stretch, Rodney brought his hand up to his chest and touched his nipples with teasing fingers, circling first one then the other. He shivered despite the heat of the water as arousal danced across his skin. He followed the patch of hair on his chest down to the dark but sparse trail of hair on his stomach, sweeping back up to his chest and down again a couple times. Why rush a good thing? The heat engulfing him made Rodney feel as lazy as it did turned on.
Finally, Rodney let his fingers stray lower, burying them in his public hair. He scratched his nails along the base of his dick in a touch so teasing it was nearly mean. Groaning softly, he lifted his hips reflexively, seeking contact. The feeling of his dick moving through the hot water was oddly arousing and Rodney couldn’t take anymore teasing. He was just about to wrap his hand around his shaft and really get into it, when suddenly—
"How’s the water?"
Rodney went dead still at the sound of John's voice. The sliding doors were so light and quiet Rodney hadn't heard him come out. How long had he been there? What had he seen?
"Good. Warm." Rodney forced himself to say, clearing his throat against the strained tone of his voice. Rodney heard John start walking over and tipped his head back to see the other man. John had been standing on the little porch just outside his door. Good, that meant he had probably spoken as soon as he stepped outside.
"Awesome," John said, as he approached the side of the spring.
Rodney shifted, straightening a bit. He was at a loss for what to do. His cock was still rock hard, and he knew the water wasn't opaque enough to hide it. Looking up at John, Rodney saw the soldier's eyes quickly shift upward to meet his. John had seen.
Rodney could try to cover it, hide it. Or he could ignore it and hope that John, as a respectable adult, would do the same.
"Mind if I join you?" John asked, and bent to set a terracotta jug down on one of the flat stones surrounding the spring. Rodney recognized it as a twin of the one that had been in his room.
"Uh, fine, sure," Rodney consented. What else was he going to say? 'No, come back in ten minutes so I can jerk off in peace?'
Next to him, John started to untie his robe. It was as gaudy as Rodney's. Vibrant emerald with the same alien fish paisley pattern swimming across it, embroidered in bright magenta. The hideous robe fell away, slipping from John's body to pool on the rocks. With Rodney looking up at John as he was, it gave him a full and intimate view of John’s crotch. Glancing away, Rodney though perhaps that made them even.
"Oh, yeah," John groaned as he stepped into the water. He sank down to sit opposite Rodney, stretching out his long legs towards the middle of the spring. His feet brushed Rodney's, stroking lightly over his calves a bit before settling on the bottom next to the scientist's.
The warm, wet, slide of skin did nothing to aid in stamping down his arousal, and Rodney cleared his throat awkwardly, shifting a little himself. This only prompted John to play footsie with him again. Rodney scowled at this and John laughed, eyes crinkling as he picked up the jug he had brought out and took a long, slow drink from it, before offering it to Rodney.
"What is it?" Rodney asked, taking the jug and sniffing it. The liquid inside had the telltale, scorching scent of alcohol. Having answered his own question, Rodney took a sip from it and nearly blanched. It was sharp and bitter. Face scrunched up, he was about to dive into a rant on how it was possible to make alcohol that tasted good, when the aftertaste settled in. It was light and sweet, making his tongue feel heavy, almost a tiny bit numb. "Oh," he said, blinking at the jug before venturing to take another drink.
"Yeah, first impression isn't great, but the aftertaste…" John licked his lips and hummed, holding out his hand for the jug. Rodney passed it back and John took his turn drinking. "I like this place," John said, as he passed it back to Rodney. "Really reminds me of Japan. Old Japan, not the crazy, busy cities."
"You been?" Rodney questioned after taking a deep pull from the jug. He set it on the edge of the spring in easy reach for both of them.
"Yeah. Was there for a while on this joint training assignment with their Air Force. On a couple of the long weekends, the guys took us to this resort thing up in the mountains. Was pretty cool."
Rodney nodded, mouth slanting in a tiny frown as he realized how little he knew about John. Sure, he knew a few random off-the-wall facts. Like how Johnny Cash was his favorite singer, and he had broken his arm falling off his skateboard as a kid, and on one horribly drunken weekend he had blown nearly ten grand in Vegas and didn't trust himself to ever go back (Rodney couldn’t remember how the hell that had come up in conversation). In reality, Rodney probably knew far more about John than anyone else in Atlantis. But the big things, his family life, where he was actually from, and where he had been before Antarctica and Afghanistan, those things were a mystery.
"You've traveled a lot, haven't you?" Rodney asked, cocking his head to the side. The alcohol was being amplified by the hot water and his head was already feeling a touch fuzzy.
John nodded, smiling lazily in a way that showed he was also feeling a touch buzzed. "Yup, sure have," he sighed, and reached for the jug again.
"What’s your favorite place you’ve been to?" Rodney asked. John held the jug out and Rodney briefly spared a thought that he should slow down, but then accepted the drink anyway.
John's face scrunched up in thought for a moment before he snapped his fingers. "London," he said, nodding slowly in approval of his choice.
"Really? How exotic," Rodney rolled his eyes, disappointed by the bland answer. He took another long drink and passed it back to John. Between the two of them they had nearly killed it.
"What’s wrong with London?" John defended, gulping down the last of the drink and setting it aside. "The people are nice, the architecture is cool. And," he paused for dramatic effect, "they have the London Eye."
Rodney couldn’t help but laugh, the booze making him giddy and easily entertained. "Leave it to you to rank a place based on the amount of Ferris wheels they have."
"Hey, that’s an important and often overlooked criteria!" John defended himself, pointing a finger at the scientist. Rodney snorted out another laugh and John kicked his leg lightly under the water.
Rodney returned the favor and it quickly devolved into a footsie-and-splashing match that left both of them laughing; drunk and happy and wet-headed. "Okay, okay, I concede! I will never travel anywhere again without first considering the level of coolness a place has based on their Ferris wheels!" Rodney choked out, after John nailed him in the face with a viscous and well-aimed splash.
"That’s all I ever wanted," John sighed and leaned his head back against the smooth stone. “Ferris wheels are important. More people need to recognize that.”
“You’re drunk,” Rodney pointed out.
John hummed, not contesting the statement.
“I think I might be too,” Rodney added after a moment.
“You don’t say?” John stated slowly, not bothering to look at him.
“No, I do say,” Rodney replied, making John chuckle.
They settled into contented quiet after that, the water still lapping gently against the lip of the spring from their earlier movement. John's feet settled with Rodney's, and the soldier was still on occasion brushing the arch of his foot along Rodney's calf. Rodney wanted to be annoyed but it felt nice. Despite John's presence and the booze, the subtle contact combined with the hot water had kept his erection alive. Sighing, Rodney shifted his hips a bit. He really wished he could get himself off.
"Sorry I interrupted you earlier," John said suddenly. Rodney lifted his head from where it was resting against the stone and looked at John. So much for the guy code of not acknowledging certain things. "You could have told me to leave, I would’ve understood," John added.
"It's fine," Rodney said, shrugging. Feeling a touch embarrassed, he wasn't sure what else to say. It made him wonder again how much John had seen before making his presence known.
"You're still hard," John said bluntly.
Glancing down at the water's surface, Rodney didn't know how to respond to that. His erection was obvious even under the foggy distortion of the water. Sliding his eyes across the water's surface towards John—Rodney sucked in a tiny breath. John's erection was just as obvious. The sharp line of it under the water was unmistakable where it lay against the other man's stomach. One of John's hands was resting on his thigh so close to his crotch his fingers were grazing his sac.
Slowly, Rodney brought his eyes back up to John's face. He swallowed thickly. He could ignore it, but the situation seemed like some kind of invitation. Rodney had never fooled around with another guy. Wasn't sure he wanted to. So maybe it was the foggy drunkenness that made him say it, or maybe it was because this was John and John was special, or maybe—whatever the reason, Rodney found himself saying, "You’re hard too. We could, uh… take care of ourselves."
Apparently, that was the right thing to say. John smiled, wide and drunk. "Yeah, we could," he said, and under the water his hand was moving; wrapping around his shaft and stroking slowly. John moaned softly and lifted his hips in pleasure, wasting no time indulging himself.
The sounds John made sent a tingle of arousal shooting down Rodney's spine. Reaching under the water, he stroked his fingers lightly against his erection. His cock jumped at the contact, jerking forward into his open palm. He had been hard without stimulation for too long and the feel of his hand was far better than it normally would have been.
Letting his head tip back, Rodney closed his eyes and focused on the pleasure. His grip light and strokes long, he groaned softly and let his knees fall open wider. His drunk mind forgot John was there with him, and he explored himself the way he would alone. His free hand went to his chest to play with his nipples, pinching them softly and rolling the hard peaks of them between his fingers. Biting his lip, Rodney groaned again and arched into his own touch.
"Fucking Christ, Rodney," John moaned, drawing the other man’s name out in a seductive drawl.
The sound of his name jerked Rodney's head up, his fuzzy brain remembering he wasn't alone. Looking across the hot spring, Rodney saw that John was watching him, his hazel eyes wide and dark as they moved over Rodney's form. It was a look that shocked Rodney, mainly because he hadn't thought watching each other was allowed.
Rodney had worked with the military long enough to be familiar with the rumors of straight guy-on-guy action. While he wasn't versed with the rules of engagement, he was sure they existed, and Rodney had the feeling that watching each other jerk off and using names were against those rules. However, at the moment he didn't really care. The lust in John’s eyes made Rodney’s dick throb and he gripped himself harder.
Since John was looking, Rodney figured he could as well. So he let his eyes trace over John's body. Tan skin, dark with wet body hair, water lapping around John's nipples as his arm worked beneath the surface, stroking with short, fast movements. It was a far more arousing sight than Rodney would have imagined. "John," he gasped, voice husky.
Suddenly water was sloshing around him and up over the edge of the spring as John moved quickly through it. Rodney blinked rapidly as he tried to process what was happening. John was next to him now, his body a solid line of slick, wet, flesh, pressed against him. "How about we help each other out," John suggested, voice low and sexy.
The tone of John's voice was arousing but still Rodney wasn't quite sure. "I've never done anything with other guys," he admitted, moving away slightly.
"But you jerk off in front of them and watch them jerk off?" John drawled, moving back in close, boldly reaching out towards Rodney's erection.
"Well, uh, no," Rodney conceded, scooting away a touch more and putting himself just out of reach from John's hand.
"So?" John questioned, and persistently moved back in towards the other man. He ran the arch of his foot over Rodney's calf making the scientist shiver, and when he spoke next, John was so close his lips brushed Rodney's ear. "Would it be that much of a stretch to let me give you a hand job?"
"I...uh," Rodney stuttered. John's body felt good next to him, and it had been a long time since anyone but himself had touched his dick. Rodney gasped as John's fingers brushed, delicate and fleeting, along his shaft. "Okay, why not?"
No sooner had the words left his mouth, then John's hand was wrapped around his erection. Rodney groaned, hips lifting at the contact. John's grip was firm and sure as he stroked over Rodney's shaft, causing the scientist to moan wantonly. Relaxing against John's side, Rodney let his head roll onto John's shoulder. It felt different from his own hand, different than the hand of a woman.
John's hand was a little rough with gun calluses. The tough skin, built up over years of weapons handling, was a foreign sensation, but not an unpleasant one. It sent tiny sparks of almost pain to mix with the pleasure and Rodney liked it. He liked how John stroked him with firm, slow passes. Liked how he moved his foreskin back up over the glans before pulling it back down on every stroke. Rodney liked how John was pressed along his side, liked how his breath ghosted over his cheek as John breathed harshly, and a bit unsteadily.
"You don't have to, but," John's hand paused with his words, and he squeezed the base of Rodney's cock rhythmically a couple times before continuing the sentence, "if you wanted to return the favor, I'd be cool with that."
Rodney lifted his head from John's shoulder, looking up to his eyes, then looked down to where John's hard-on was alone and untouched under the water. "Never done this before," he said. Some hazy part of his drunk mind supplied that he was being repetitive.
"Same as jerking off." John emphasized this by giving Rodney's shaft an extra slow stroke from base to tip.
For a moment Rodney didn't move. John gave a heavy sigh and his hand started moving again, although with a touch less enthusiasm. Rodney looked down to watch as John touched him. It felt good, really good. And to Rodney's surprise, it didn't feel at all wrong or awkward or unnatural. Maybe there was something to be said for the idea of offering a helping hand. So what if he wasn't into guys? Neither was John, and he was still willing to help out.
When Rodney grabbed John's cock, the soldier jerked against his side, making a startled sound. His shout slid easily into a low, sexy moan as Rodney stroked down his shaft. The movement was familiar enough, if a little awkward from the position of reaching across to John's lap.
John's cock felt nice in his hand. Smooth and hard like steel against his palm. Did his own cock feel like that when it was hard? Rodney had never really taken notice of it. Something about John's cock felt drastically different and it was confusing to Rodney's alcohol hazed mind. Was John bigger than him? John was long and—well, Rodney wouldn't say slender, because he had a decent girth. Maybe not as much as he had himself. So they were comparable, size wise.
Rodney looked down to where John was stroking him and then over to where he was stroking John. He slid his hand over John's shaft with slow, light touches, and as he brought his palm up to brush firmly over the head, it hit Rodney why John felt so strange. "You're circumcised," he said, not stopping his hand.
John chuckled, turning his face to Rodney's shoulder. "Yeah and? You're not," he said simply.
Rodney shrugged, the weight of John's head impeding the movement a little. "Just stating a fact," he explained and squeezed John hard, right under the crown of the tip.
John moaned loudly at the action and spread his legs more, hooking one of them over Rodney's thigh. Rodney frowned at the action, as it made the angle he was gripping John at even more awkward. This would all probably be much easier were he not drunk, Rodney thought. As he wasdrunk, his coordination was not what it should have been, and the angle was making his wrist ache and if he was going to participate in his first guy-on-guy sex act he figured he should at least be comfortable and do it right.
"This is awkward," Rodney said in his trademark cranky and frustrated tone. Along with the words, he released John's erection, leaving it to wave softly in the hot water.
No sooner had he let go, John was moving away from him. Letting go of Rodney's dick, he put an arm’s length between them. "Sorry," he murmured looking down at the water. "You're drunk I shouldn't have—"
"No, you idiot," Rodney said with a less than fierce scowl. Gripping John's thigh firmly, he tugged John back over to him, the water making John's body floaty and easy to move. "I meant the position is awkward."
"Oh," John said, his face lighting up again. "That we can fix."
Rodney was about to ask what John had in mind but before he had the chance, the other man was moving. Water sloshed around them in a pleasant, hot swirl. Then something even more pleasant encompassed Rodney—John's slick, hot, skin, as the soldier straddled his lap, settling there. "Oh," Rodney gasped, a touch dazed by the move.
John just smiled down at him. His drunkenness showed in his slightly unfocused eyes and open, happy face. Rodney brought a hand up to touch John's face. He hadn't noticed before how shuttered John's expressions normally were. Now that he saw the loose, uncaring, happy expression, it made Rodney realize John never let much show on his face.
Stroking his thumb across John's jaw line, Rodney tried to think of something to say. Some way to tell John he looked really nice when he was happy. But he couldn't think of anything he thought sounded right. In his head, every line sounded corny, and his tongue was heavy from the alcohol, which didn't help. Instead, he just continued to touch John's face. Tracing his fingertips along John's mouth, softly brushing over his cupid's bow. Something else Rodney had never noticed before—John had beautiful lips.
It was easy for Rodney to slide his hand up to the back of John's head. Tangling his fingers in the damp hair there, he tugged John down and into a kiss. The other man made a startled noise and pulled back from the kiss. Rodney pinched his brow in confusion. "What?" he asked in response to John's startled and slightly aghast look.
John's mouth worked briefly like he was going to say something, but instead he shook his head and leaned down to kiss Rodney again. Not in a state of mind for deep thought, Rodney didn't question the strange reaction and kissed John back.
As they kissed, John shifted his hips forward, causing their dicks to brush. The spike of pleasure made Rodney moan loudly, and John swallowed the sound along with the scientist's tongue. Rodney hummed happily. He liked kissing with tongue. Liked it a lot. He was also quickly discovering that he liked having his dick touching John's.
Rodney pushed his hips up, sliding his shaft next to John's, and held the other man tightly. One hand was still in John’s hair, tugging and controlling the angle of the kiss. His other hand locked over the soldier's narrow hip. Anchoring John to him, Rodney repeated the movement of his hips several times, until the water built up a subtle ebb and flow around them.
John panted against Rodney’s mouth, reluctant to pull away. "Here," he finally managed to say clearly. His lips were still so close they brushed Rodney's as he spoke. With one hand, John grasped the one Rodney had clamped over his hip. Then he brought their hands down between their bodies and twined their fingers together around their cocks.
Rodney caught on quickly and started stroking their dicks together, taking John's hand along for the ride. If they weren't still kissing, they would have been making embarrassingly loud sounds of pleasure. As it was, their noises were muffled around tongues and lips, coming out as soft mews and whines.
John sped up their pace and added a tight little squeeze each time they reached their bases. It had Rodney bucking up against him with no real rhythm, and soon the scientist was coming. His cock jerked against John's, and created a floating cloud of opaque white under the water.
"Oh, oh, God, John," Rodney drawled, lazy and drunk, his consonants running together just a bit. He shivered through the aftershocks, sucking idly at John’s shoulder, leaving more than one hickey in his wake.
Had John been sober he would have objected, but as it was, he enjoyed the feeling and the idea of Rodney marking him. "Me," John said softly, running his hands up Rodney's sides to cup his jaw.
Rodney looked up at him, confusion clear on his face for a moment. Then his eyes got big and he smiled crookedly. "Right of course," he said with a nod, and wrapped his hand snuggly back around John's dick.
The soldier moaned and pushed up into Rodney's palm, moving with him. "Kiss me again," John demanded and slid one hand into the fine, wet hair at the nape of Rodney's neck. Rodney obliged, sealing their mouths together and all it took was a well-timed bite to John's lower lip and he was climaxing. John groaned low and happy as the pleasure shook through him, making no effort to move away from Rodney.
"It's gonna be freezing when we get out," Rodney pointed out, after they had both recovered. John nodded, his wet hair dragging against Rodney's neck in a scratchy, annoying way. Grumbling inarticulately, Rodney frowned and pushed at the other man softly. John made a disappointed noise but floated away from him, settling back on his side of the spring.
"Thanks for the fun," John said with a sigh, and sank down as far as he could into the water, letting it lap under his chin in an attempt to soak up as much heat as he could before they had to get out.
"Right back at you," Rodney said, eyeing the other man and trying not to laugh. The booze and the post-orgasm fuzzies were making him a touch giddy. "It's going to be freezing when we get out."
"You said that already," John huffed, ruffling a hand through his hair and making it stick up at strange angles.
"We could help each other out again," Rodney suggested, and John met his eye, cocking a brow at him. "You know, body heat."
"Is that the scientific way of saying you want to cuddle with me?" John teased, words clumsy. Laughing to himself, the soldier hauled himself out of the water and let out a rattling breath as the cold night air was amplified by the loss of heat from the water.
"Yes?" Rodney replied, not sounding overly sure. He looked up, watching as John put his robe back on. Frowning, Rodney's impaired mind took the action as meaning he had been rejected. "Or not," Rodney pouted sourly as he got out and mimicked John, pulling on his own robe. Tying it shut, he turned and headed for his room, his steps slightly less stable than they should have been.
"Wait for me," John said, and quickly walked up behind Rodney to keep pace with him. "I just got dressed, I didn't say no."
"Well, if the answer is yes, you shouldn’t be dressed. You should be naked," Rodney stated firmly, his S's drawing out, making the words sloppy. They reached the steps of the little porch and Rodney wobbled a bit as he went up them, prompting John to wrap his arm over the scientist's shoulder. "Hey!" Rodney squeaked as John leaned too much weight into him. Stumbling, Rodney reached out and caught the edge of the door, causing the flimsy wood and paper frame to rattle violently.
Still hanging on to Rodney, John laughed openly and reached out to open the door. As they stepped into the room, Rodney turned a squinty, annoyed eye on John.
"You're a sloppy drunk," John said, opening his robe and letting it fall to the floor in a colorful heap.
"Maybe I wouldn't be sloppy if people weren't hanging all over me," Rodney stated, tipping up his chin as he stripped himself back down.
"You mean like this?" John said, grinning and wrapping his arms around Rodney's shoulders, letting most of his weight rest on the scientist.
Rodney didn't even try to catch himself as the extra weight threw him off balance, and they toppled down onto the bed. Low and firm as it was, they landed with a series of huffs as the air was knocked out of them. John squirmed out from where he was pinned by the other man, subsequently elbowing Rodney in the gut.
"Why are you so boney?" Rodney grumbled, pushing and tugging at John till he had the other man situated how he wanted.
John just hummed a nondescript sound and shrugged. He burrowed deeper into where he was pillowed on Rodney's chest. Nuzzling right next to the other man's nipple, he toyed with the idea of biting it.
"You know, I've never done stuff with another guy before," Rodney said, draping his arms around John.
"You're also very repetitive when you're drunk," John said, the larger words coming out a bit jumbled.
"I'm just saying... I don't know the rules for this kind of thing. I mean, I’m assuming there are rules," Rodney replied, his own dialog suffering the same way John's was.
John gave a deep, put-upon sigh, and twisted in Rodney’s arms until he was looking at the ceiling, instead of Rodney's chest. "There are... I'm really bad at following them." He pouted, plump lower lip sticking out in a classically juvenile way.
"What'd you mean? We broke them?"
John nodded, his hair tickling under Rodney's chin. He held up his hands and counted on his fingers as he spoke. "You're not supposed to use names, you're not supposed to talk after, you're definitely not supposed to kiss—"
"That’s why you looked at me that way when I kissed you!" Rodney broke in, and John nodded. "Didn't know... I just like kissing," Rodney defended himself, sounding like a kicked puppy.
"Mmhhmm, it’s okay though. You're a really good kisser," John said wistfully, then wiggled his fingers where he was still holding his hands in the air. "Um, what else... You're not supposed to cuddle after, or actually sleep together. You're not supposed to talk about it after, or spend time alone together, or admit you like each other, or have dinner and watch movies."
Rodney frowned and reached up to grab John's hands where he was very poorly ticking the rules off on his fingers. He was mostly just waving his hands around ungracefully. "But... that's like… all the stuff that makes sleeping together fun."
"No," John said, tipping his head back to look up at Rodney. "That's all the stuff that makes it dating, not just helping out."
"And that's.... bad?"
John hummed, looking back to the ceiling. "Rules say you date women and fuck around with men." Sighing, John flexed his hands in Rodney’s grip, lacing their fingers together. "That’s why I'm really bad at this."
Rodney was quiet as he squinted up at the dark ceiling, his drunken brain struggling to connect the dots. "So..." he started but then stalled out again, swallowing against his alcohol induced cottonmouth. "You want to date men and fuck around with women?"
"Mmhhmm," John hummed, not sounding very happy about it. "That’s why I don't do this. Always get in over my head."
Rodney didn't know what to say in that moment. He fell quiet, just holding John and flexing his fingers rhythmically where they were laced with John's. "Well, we already did do it, so I don't see why we couldn't do it again."
John laughed. "Yeah, right. Like you’d want to keep fucking around."
"Well, I’d have a few requests," Rodney said, sighing like it was a great burden. And really, it sort of was. His eyes were getting tired and he was feeling the pull of what promised to be a very sound, alcohol aided, sleep.
"Of course you would. Why does that not surprise me? What are your requests?"
"There would definitely have to be kissing, and cuddling, and talking, and dinner, and movies."
John was silent for a moment, making some kind of funny noise in the back of his throat as he thought. "But...but, that would make it dating not fucking."
"Exactly," Rodney sighed the word with a deep breath, squeezing John tightly.
"Rodney, you don’t do stuff with guys," John reminded him, sounding sad. "You're not like that... this was…"
John let the sentence drift off and Rodney thought it was strange how sad John had sounded, but Rodney was too drunk to dwell on those fine details. Instead, he just shrugged. John made another sad sound and Rodney wanted to ask what was wrong, but before he could, the fuzzy deepness of drunken sleep was pulling him down into unconsciousness.
The sunlight was bright, and purple tinged, where it shone through the paper panels of the door into Rodney's room. The scientist groaned, turning his face away from the offending light and burying it in his pillow. Normally, he would have been able to drift back to sleep, but not this morning.
This morning it felt like someone was trying to split open his skull with a jackhammer, and there was some kind of angry animal clawing inside his stomach. Rodney groaned again and pressed his face harder against the pillow. He had not felt nearly drunk enough last night to warrant this bad a hangover. Sure, he had downed half a bottleof alien moonshine, but he hadn't been ‘blacked out, puking, where did I leave my car’ drunk. Too drunk to drive most definitely, but he remembered the night's events clearly.
Well, as clearly as someone with a raging hangover could remember them. There had been sex with John and talking with John. Rodney was pretty sure they had talked a lot, although the conversation wasn't entirely clear. Some parts were there in perfect form, other bits sounded more like the teacher from Charlie Brown.
Sighing into his pillow, Rodney rolled over. He definitely remembered the evening clearly enough to know he and John had had a good time and had both somehow agreed on the idea that it should happen again. Rodney stretched out, seeking his bedmate, but found nothing except empty, cool sheets. Maybe the other side then. He rolled the other way and was greeted with the same. Squinting his eyes open, Rodney made a disgruntled sound at the empty bed. Sitting up, he glanced around and, sure enough, John was gone, no trace of him present in the room.
Looking at the paper paneled door, Rodney could tell the sun was a fair way into the sky. Must have been a force of habit for John to rise with it. That was annoying and definitely something they would have to work on, because Rodney liked morning sex and that couldn't happen if John was gone when he got up.
Hissing and rubbing at his temples, Rodney stood and went to his pack. Retrieving the bottle of aspirin he always carried, he dry swallowed two pills, then turned to the table of food that had been left for him the night before. The bread was a touch stale from sitting out, but the flavor was still good. Mostly, he ate it to have something in his stomach with the medication.
He considered dressing back in his uniform, but it was sweat soaked from the hike up the mountain and he could smell it as soon as picked the garments up. Wrinkling his nose, he went back to the closet where the robes were. Most were far too brightly colored for him to ever consider wearing in public, but there were a few more muted ones. He pulled a dark blue one, with a shimmery wave pattern embossed in a near black violet, from a hanger and put it on. He felt a bit silly in it, but it was better than putting on his spoiled clothes. While he didn't have a full set of spare clothes, he did have spare boxers and pulled a pair on before leaving his room.
The halls of the building were laid out in an easy-to-follow grid pattern, and finding his way back to the common room they’d been shown the previous evening was simple enough. The building was cool and smelled of fresh spring air. Sliding doors were open at regular intervals down the halls, letting the soft breeze inside and giving the whole place the illusion of being outdoors. Rodney wasn’t an outdoors kind of guy, but even he could appreciate the pleasant mountain air. It was doing wonders to help soothe his aching head—well, that and the aspirin.
"Good morning, Dr. McKay," Teyla greeted him, pleasant as always, when he entered the common room. She was dressed in local clothes as well, wearing a robe that matched her favorite shades of purple. She was alone at the moment, and Rodney again wondered where John had gotten to.
"Morning," Rodney replied, groaning when his knees creaked as he sat on the floor.
Teyla gave him a sympathetic look and poured a cup of tea from a kettle on the table. "It’s strong, like coffee," she explained when Rodney scrunched his nose up at the little clay cup.
Sipping it, he frowned at the bitter, earthy tang. "Better be as good as coffee to make that flavor worthwhile," he grumbled, but drank it down anyway, then poured himself another cup. "Where are the others?"
"Ronon and the Colonel are accompanying our hosts on a special hunting trip to help strengthen the bond between our people. If they’re successful, there will be a ceremony later when they return."
Great, Rodney thought, a ceremony. The alien ceremonies they went to were always boring and dragged on far longer than they needed to. He hated them. "So, what, until they get back, we just sit around? I thought we were supposed to be negotiating a trade for this medical herb?" Rodney questioned, as he took an apple-like fruit from a bowl on the table.
"You and I will negotiate while they’re away on the hunt. While speaking with our hosts earlier this morning, I learned that what they wish to trade for is something you can help with more than the others," Teyla explained, taking a piece of fruit for herself.
"Me?" Rodney pinched up his brow in mild confusion. There was nothing technological here. What could he have to offer them?
"Yes, you," a voice behind Rodney said, making the scientist jump. Turning, he saw Kalu smiling down at him. The older gentleman walked around to take a seat next to Teyla. "Teyla has told us you read the language of the Ancestors. Correct?"
"Yes, I can read Ancient," Rodney confirmed, glancing to Teyla.
"This is not something many people can do, Dr. McKay," Teyla explained. "The language of the Ancestors has been lost to many peoples from our galaxy."
"Lost with time," Kalu said with a heavy sigh. "Like so many things about the Ancestors, time has washed away the knowledge of their language. Too many lives taken too soon and no-one left to pass down the knowledge."
"So, I take it you have something you want me to translate?" Rodney ventured a guess.
"Yes, stone tablets left behind in our gardens are covered in the Ancestor’s language. We greatly wish to know what words of wisdom they left for us."
Rodney shrugged. Really, if that was all they wanted, this was going to be the easiest trade mission ever—and hey, he had gotten laid too, so, a great mission all around. "Easy enough. I can scan them and have it translated in no time."
Their host frowned slightly and looked to Teyla. "Actually Dr. McKay, Kalu and his people would prefer the translations done in a more traditional manner."
"Technology is part of what has driven so many worlds into chaos. We do not approve of its use. To reach a higher plane, we must cast off such things," Kalu explained, and Rodney barely resisted the urge to sigh.
"Your people are seeking the path to ascension," Rodney said blandly, completely unsurprised given the overall feeling of the village.
"Yes, we wish to follow the path of the Ancestors. This place was once a peaceful retreat for them on their journey towards a higher existence. We hope the writings they left behind might help us in our quest to understand and join them."
"And that means no technology, which is why we couldn't use the Jumper to get here," Rodney groaned and rubbed at his temples. "Let me guess. You want me to translate the tablets by hand?"
"We would pay you kindly for your work. Our medical herbs are a closely guarded crop, but we would be willing to part with some if you could aid us in our quest to join the Ancestors."
"Dr. McKay would be glad to look at the writings for you," Teyla supplied, pinning Rodney with a stern look that said, 'Don't insult them’. Rolling his eyes, Rodney nodded.
"Sure, I’ll look at them. Greatest scientific mind in two galaxies here but, by all means, use me as a translator."
Kalu either did not understand that Rodney's comment was sarcastic and insulting, or he was too polite to let it affect him. Either way, he stood and gestured to one of the open wall panels. "This way then, please, I’ll show you to one of the gardens."
The path they followed was made of a soft but compact sand, that was just starting to warm under the sun. It felt nice under Rodney's bare feet and made him realize for the first time he hadn't put on shoes, and no one else was wearing them either. He wondered if footwear was also not allowed on their path to ascension.
Kalu led them to a garden filled with spindly flower stalks and fuzzy looking, bush-type plants. The place had a mellow feeling, the variety of beige colored plants a stark contrast to the bright coloring of their clothes. Scattered amongst the plant life were waist high stones covered in writing. "Those are what you want me to translate?" Rodney balked. There were at least a dozen of them in the garden, and he got the sneaking suspicion there were multiple gardens.
"Yes, this is where we’d like you to start. We’ll provide you with pen and paper, and anything else you need to be comfortable," Kalu said kindly.
Rodney walked up to one of the stones, skimming over the writing carved across it. He frowned deeply as he read. This was not the intellectually interesting side of Ancient culture. This was the gooey, touchy-feely, boring side.
"Can you translate it into the common tongue for them?" Teyla asked, coming up next to him.
Rodney glanced back at Kalu, who had given them space to speak privately. "Of course I can, but Teyla, look at all of them. Doing this by hand will take forever. If I could use my tablet to scan and translate them, we could send a transmission back to the city, they could print it and boom—done in under an hour."
"You cannot use technology. Kalu and his people already do not like that you have brought such things into their settlement. If they catch you using it for this, it would ruin our chances of partnering with them."
Rodney groaned, rubbing his forehead. His headache had still not fully disappeared, and the tea had not been as strong as coffee, and he was hungry. "How much of the herb will they give us for each one I do?" he finally said.
Teyla looked at him, a bit surprised. "I didn’t expect you to think of it from such a viewpoint."
"Just because I hate negotiations, doesn't mean I don't understand how they work. You set up a good trade with them and I'll start translating."
"Do you think it’s wise to start before we have arranged the terms?"
"Look at the size of them, Teyla," Rodney said, gesturing to a stone. “It's going to take me long enough to do it by hand without sitting around waiting for you to hash out a deal. Just make it worth my time, okay?" She nodded and turned to go back to Kalu. "And I'm gonna need more of that coffee-tea, a lot more! And food!" he called after her.
Hours later and Rodney's hands were smudged with ink, and his wrist was cramping, and his finger ached with the indents left from holding his pen for so long. He had managed to translate three of the stone tablets. Thankfully that was the number Teyla and Kalu had agreed on for their initial deal, because Rodney didn't think his hand could tolerate doing any more right now.
He set the last page he had done to the side, so the ink could dry, and gazed out at the garden. This was an okay place. Other than the horrible hike to get here, it was pleasant enough. The hot springs were nice, that was for sure. He would be willing to make a repeat trip here, if only to repeat what John and he had done in the springs the evening prior. Of course, Elizabeth or someone else fluent in Ancient would have to come too. For translating, not for the hot springs. No, someone else could translate and he could enjoy the springs. With John.
Rodney hummed to himself. He bet the other man's warm, slick skin would feel even better without the dulling haze of alcohol. Maybe he could convince John to repeat the previous night's events that evening, sans alcohol. Rodney bet he could make an argument for that. Point one: orgasms were good, they should have more of them. Point two: if they were going to try this, Rodney needed to get more experience with men so they should have lots of sex. Point three: having lots of sex meant... having lots of sex. Who could argue with that?
If someone had told him the day prior that he would be fantasizing about his male best friend, he would have called them a nut job. Then again, if someone had told him there was a race of green space vampires with mouths on their hands, he would have called them nut jobs too. Really, Rodney should stop being surprised by anything that happened in this galaxy, ever.
"Sir, are you finished?"
Rodney startled and looked over to see the same young girl who had been coming to collect his pages of translations all afternoon. She was cute and innocent looking and reminded Rodney a lot of Madison. "Yes, that's the last of it."
She carefully picked up the last few pages he had set to dry, gently touching the ink to ensure it wouldn't smudge, before stacking them. "I will take you to the main hall. The hunt today was successful, and the ceremony will be starting soon."
"John's back? Oh, and uh, Ronan too?" Rodney questioned. He hadn't seen John all day and the idea that he was back and hadn't come to find him was a touch hurtful. John was always hovering around when he worked. It was annoying and endearing and he had missed it.
"Yes, they returned a while ago. They have been sequestered, as is our custom, so they had time to mourn the life they took and give thanks to its spirit," the girl said, as they entered a large building with an elegant, sloping roof that came to high peaks.
Rodney bit his tongue to keep from laughing. The idea of John or Ronan mourning over something they had killed to eat was ridiculous.
The building was one large room composed of what looked like a stage with the curtains drawn and rows of low benches. People were filing in and taking seats all around him. The lighting was low and somber feeling, and there was a slow melody that sounded like a string instrument drifting through from somewhere.
"Dr. McKay," Teyla called softly. Conversation in the room was hushed, and her voice carried to him easily. He moved to sit next to her, stiffly crossing his legs indian style as he sat on the low bench. It was horribly uncomfortable, and he hoped the ceremony wouldn't take long.
"So, what is this thing exactly? Why does it feel like someone died?"
"That is how it is viewed. The Duras people do not hunt often; they are very peaceful. When a kill is made, it is both a happy and a sad time. The animal’s life is honored the same way a passing loved one would be," Teyla explained, and Rodney tried so hard not to roll his eyes he nearly gave himself a migraine.
"And John and Ronon?" he asked, managing to keep his judgmental comments to himself.
"As part of the hunting party, they will be on stage for the ceremony. I heard from Kalu that Colonel Sheppard made the kill, so he will be at the center of the Ceremony."
Rodney hummed a little, watching the stage and hoping things would start soon so they could end soon. He was hungry and his hand and wrist were killing him from all the writing. He wanted more aspirin and to lay down and not pretend to care about touchy-feely crap. He had been reading touchy-feely crap all day, and he was sick and tired of it.
The soft music in the background took on an odd twang, with another low-sounding strum, like a bass. Everyone grew quiet and the curtains on the stage opened. Large lanterns were spread out around it, illuminating the front half of the room brightly. On the stage were John and Ronon, and three native men. All of them were dressed in plain black robes and were sitting still and quiet. At the far right side of the stage, a pelt had been hung on a rack, stretched tight to show all the detail of it. The fur was bright chestnut red with golden tan stockings. Mounted alongside the pelt were horns, long and twisted like some kind of antelope.
"Today is both joyous and sad," Kalu said from the stage. "We have been brought new friends who have helped bring us closer on our journey to join the Ancestors. This brings us joy. We have hunted with them and bound our people as one, which gives us strength. We have taken the life of a great creature to further our own. This brings us sadness." Kalu turned to the men seated behind him on the stage. "He who has taken this life, please stand and join me."
John rose gracefully from his seat on the low bench with the others and moved to stand next to Kalu. "John Sheppard of Atlantis. You have taken this creature's life," he gestured to the pelt, "so that our lives may move forward. The world is always moving forward, but that which is left behind cannot be forgotten. It must be honored and mourned, for while this life was taken with pure intentions, it was still taken. John, do you mourn what you have taken?"
John looked oddly uncomfortable, and Rodney couldn't understand why. Surely this couldn't have been the first time the soldier had been hunting. John's eyes landed on him. John looked pained. "Yes, I mourn what I have taken," he said, quickly looking away from Rodney and back to Kalu.
"You will honor this creature's gift and carry on its memory." Kalu lifted some kind of necklace and placed it over John's head. Rodney couldn't tell what it was made of, but guessed it must have had part of the animal incorporated into it. Gross. "You must thank this creature for its sacrifice."
Kalu stepped aside and John moved to stand in front of the pelt. "Thank you for your sacrifice. I mourn what I have taken, but I—" John paused and again Rodney was confused because he sounded oddly emotional, as if his voice was trying to crack, "I am grateful to have received it."
A gong sounded, followed by soft, tinkle of chimes; they sounded like leaves in the wind.
"Rodney," Teyla said softly from his side. He turned to find her holding a bowl of food out to him. "Pass it along." She jerked her head toward the person sitting next to him and Rodney got the idea. He passed the bowls down until everyone had one.
"What about them?" Rodney asked in a hushed voice. The whole room was still rather quiet, the same way a wake would be, and it was really quite creepy.
"They stay on the stage and will remain with the elders for the night," Teyla explained. Rodney frowned deeply because that meant no hot spring sex. "Don’t look disappointed. We’ll still be leaving tomorrow. I spoke with John this morning before he left and planned ahead of time, in case of this."
Rodney nodded. "Yeah, okay, sounds good." He looked back to the stage where John was. Their eyes met for a brief second and John looked away, looked down at the floor, and Rodney couldn't for the life of him understand why the soldier looked so completely miserable.
True to Teyla's word, the next morning, bright and early, John and Ronon where there to meet them at the village gate and start the trek back down. It was another beautiful day, just barely chilly, which was nice in contrast to the long hike ahead of them. Ronon and John both had thick, burlap-looking sacks slung over their shoulders alongside their packs. The herb, Rodney imagined.
They said farewell to their new trading partners and started the trip back. The hike would take most of the day and none of them wanted to dawdle.
As they walked, Rodney shifted around a touch, uncomfortable in his clothes. Their hosts had been kind enough to wash them, but they were stiff and felt tighter than they should have. "Maybe when we come back, we can trade them some fabric softener, am I right?" Rodney said, elbowing John lightly.
John briefly glanced at him, his eyes masked behind his sunglasses. The soldier said nothing, just pinched his lips together and picked up his pace to move ahead of Rodney.
Rodney frowned at his back. "What’s his problem?" he grumbled under his breath, and next to him Ronon gave a low hum.
"No clue. He's been off since the morning of the hunt. What did you do to piss him off, McKay?" the large man questioned.
"What makes you think Idid anything?" Rodney demanded, chin held high.
"You were the one who spent time with him that evening," Ronon said simply, and Rodney blanched a little, caught off guard.
"Well, I wasn't there and neither was Teyla, so either some random local pissed him off that night, or it was you, and the locals were all practically saints..." Ronon gave Rodney a look that said 'so there' and Rodney frowned.
If John had been acting off since that morning, then... Rodney's gut clenched. He hadn't even considered the idea that John would regret what they had done. After all, John had been the one to initiate the whole thing. John was the one that had experience with men. If anyone had the right to freak out, it was Rodney, and he was fine, good, ready for sexy round two.
Apparently, John did not feel the same way. Rodney stared at John's back as he walked, depression over the loss of something he’d never even known he wanted already simmering inside him. What had he done wrong? How had he put John off? Sure, he was no ten on the hotness scale, but he was a solid eight, okay maybe a seven, but he was still in John's league. Was it the team thing? Did John regret slipping up and potentially compromising the team dynamic? Or even more simply, did he regret risking their friendship?
Rodney fretted and worried and mulled over every reasonable explanation for why John would be upset about what they had done, and all of them sucked. It made him feel like an idiot for getting his hopes up. It had been one drunken romp. The pillow talk afterwards was just drunken talk. Best case scenario was that John really wasn't that into guys and it had been the booze talking. That's what Rodney was going with, until proven otherwise, because it meant that John wasn't rejecting him but the whole idea of dating a guy, which was better somehow.
Eventually they stopped to eat and take a brief rest. Teyla and Ronon gave John his space and Rodney took the opportunity to talk to him. John had sat down alone, leaning against a tree on the side of the trail, and Rodney walked up and crouched down next to him.
"Can we talk?" he started and John glanced up at him momentarily before turning his sunglass-sheltered gaze back to the dirt. "About what happened—"
"Really, we have to talk about that now?" John said, his voice tight and strained, hushed to keep the words between them.
"Well, we still have a few more hours of this hike, so unless you’d prefer to spend it surrounded by enough awkward tension that we could cut it with a rusty spoon, yes, I think we should."
John looked at him and his brow twisted, but without being able to see his eyes, Rodney couldn't quite decipher what the look was meant to be. John let out a slow breath through his nose and went back to staring into the—apparently vastly interesting—dirt. "I can't do this here. I—look, I'll handle it when we get back. You don't have to do anything, okay?"
"We need to keep going," John said, speaking over the top of Rodney, loudly enough for the others to hear. His voice was a sad attempt at his normal tone and he must have heard it himself. Clearing his throat, John added, "Still a long walk left. I want us back before sundown."
With that, he was up and walking again, and Rodney was yet again left watching the soldier's back and wondering how he had screwed things up so fast.
When they arrived back in Atlantis, Carson was there, waiting in the Gate room. He thanked them, and he and his staff took the medical herbs to start their research right away. Again, Rodney couldn't help but wonder how the doctor had gotten out of going on the mission if the product was so valuable.
They dropped off their gear and met Elizabeth in the conference room for the debrief. "I take it things went well?" she opened, giving them a pleased smile.
"Yes," Teyla supplied. "We acquired a fair amount of the medical herbs for Dr. Beckett and have created an alliance with the people of Duras. I believe they’ll be open to trading with us again in the future."
"And what exactly did we have to give them for the herbs and alliance?" Elizabeth questioned, sounding a touch suspicious.
Teyla looked over to John, expecting him to chime in, but he gave a small shrug and bland hand gesture, so she continued in his place. "Colonel Sheppard and Ronon helped forge a bond with them by taking part in a traditional and sacred ceremony. Dr. McKay provided them with knowledge they wanted to trade for."
"Knowledge? What kind of knowledge?" She sounded even more suspicious now.
"Nothing worth anything to us, Elizabeth," Rodney said with an eye roll. "They were acolytes. They wanted to join the Ancients in ascension. I translated some writings the Ancients left behind."
"They had information about ascension," Elizabeth said, eyebrows rising and sounding far more intrigued than suspicious now.
"If you could call it that. It was a bunch of hippy-dippy philosophy stuff, written in the form of bad poetry."
"I assume you have a copy of the data for us?" Elizabeth questioned hopefully.
"No, they made me translate and write it out by hand. Technology is evil and they wouldn't let me scan it," he complained, flexing his wrist dramatically. "My hand is still all cramped up from it. A complete waste of my time and skill."
"But you do remember what you translated?"
"I suppose, not that it matters. Like I said, it was all useless," Rodney reiterated, rolling his shoulders.
Elizabeth gave him that pinch-lipped frown of hers and Rodney knew he had said something wrong. "Just because it wasn’t about their technology or weapons capabilities doesn’t make it useless, Rodney. Some of us are interested in other, more spiritual, parts of the Ancient culture."
Rodney sighed and rubbed at his temples, already knowing what was coming.
"The rest of you are dismissed. Rodney, you’re going to stay and have a little chat with me about what you learned." The way she said it showed that Elizabeth knew Rodney viewed it as a punishment.
"I would not associate the word 'learn' with that dribble," he muttered under his breath.
Around him the others got up and left, and Rodney glanced over his shoulder to watch them go. He briefly caught a glimpse of Teyla trying to talk with John before the soldier shook his head and walked away from her, disappearing from Rodney's line of sight. He needed to go talk to John, not sit here answering pointless questions.
"Now, there are a few things I want to ask you about specifically," Elizabeth was saying, her computer queued up, her hands poised to type out anything he had to tell her.
"Look Elizabeth, I really wasn't paying much attention to what I was translating. I don't remember much. Do we have to do this?"
"Yes, and don't give me that. You're always bragging about that eidetic memory of yours. I'm sure you remember more than you think."
Groaning, Rodney slumped back in his chair. "What do you want to know?"
Elizabeth's 'little chat' lasted over an hour, and by the time Rodney left the conference room, the evening had grown late. He stopped by the mess and grabbed a sandwich, eating it on his way to John's quarters.
Maybe he should give the other man some space. Maybe John wanted to pretend it had never happened. If that was the case, Rodney could deal with it, he just needed to know. Actually, that was a lie.
Rodney wouldn't deal with it. He would make an argument for trying, because he wanted to, and he thought it was worth a chance, trying things together. Their friendship was great—how could adding sex to the mix make things worse? John was wrong. Rodney just needed to point that out, like he so often did. Because as anyone in Atlantis knew, Rodney McKay was always right and everyone else was wrong.
He didn't even bother to knock at John's door, knowing the other man would tell him to go away and then try to lock him out. Instead, he just swiped in, willing Atlantis to accept him. The door opened for him and John was there, sitting at his desk, looking like someone had shot his dog right in front of him.
"Okay, we need to talk," Rodney said, ready to barrel right into his bullet point list of why they should try dating.
"Rodney," John said and looked up at him. The raw expression on John's face stopped Rodney in his tracks. "I'm not sure it's a good idea for us to talk about this alone. There are rules and regulations for this kind of thing."
Rodney twisted his face in confusion. He knew there were regulations, who didn't know about Don't Ask, Don't Tell? But wasn't that all the more reason for them to be talking alone?
"I said I’d take care of it, and I did." John gestured to a small stack of papers on his desk. "I already filled everything out. Wrote out an account of what happened. You can look at it before I turn it in, to make sure I got it right and didn't misrepresent anything."
"Okay, I'm sorry, but what the heck are you talking about?" Rodney asked, shaking his head and staring at John like he had lost it.
John's eyes went wide and his face even more pained. "Oh God, you don't even remember all of it, do you?" The soldier licked his lips and rubbed his hands over his thighs before standing up. Rodney had never seen him look so nervous, so raw. "The other night—in the springs, we had a bit too much to drink... and I—"
"We had sex," Rodney filled in, not understanding why John was acting so strangely.
"You were drunk, Rodney, and you don't sleep with guys… I took advantage of you being impaired to—"
"Okay, wait, stop. Stop right there." Rodney said firmly, pointing a finger at John. The soldier stopped talking and just looked at him. It took a moment, then Rodney got it.
John thought he had—Rodney couldn't even bring himself to think the word. He suddenly had a very clear mental image of John waking up the morning after and panicking, because he thought he'd taken advantage of him, and it broke Rodney's heart. The guilt John must have been carrying around for the last two days.
"John," Rodney said sternly and stepped up to the other man, gripping his shoulders tightly. John looked away from him. "Look at me." It took a moment, but slowly the soldier met his eyes. John's eyes were glassy and wet as if he was trying very hard not to cry. "You didn't do anything wrong. I wanted what we did. Yes, I was drunk, but I wasn't that drunk. I remember what happened and I don't regret it. It was consensual. Okay?"
John let out a gush of air like he had been holding his breath for days, and sagged forward against Rodney, going completely limp. Rodney wobbled a bit, not expecting the extra weight, but recovered quickly. He moved his hands around to John's back, hugging him close. "How could you even think that about yourself? That's not the kind of person you are," Rodney said, voice breaking a touch with sympathy.
"I was drunk," John said, pushing away from Rodney and standing just out of arm's reach. "I've wanted you for a long time and I thought I’d finally said, fuck it, and taken what I wanted from you. You made it pretty clear you weren't into guys and I still... you're sure you wanted it?"
"Yes, John, I'm sure." Rodney stepped up to him again, replacing his hands on the other man's shoulders. "Sure, I've never been into guys before. But you know what? I’d never gone to another galaxy before, or fought space monsters, or had another person living in my head, or half the crap that we do on a regular basis. I figured out a while ago that my life is bound to be a series of things I would never normally do, but am forced into doing anyway. Not that you forced me to do anything," he added on quickly when John flinched at the word. "Look, what I'm saying is, did I see it coming, no. Did I like it, yes. Do I want it to happen again, absolutely."
"You—really? You mean that?" John questioned, still not looking fully convinced.
"Oh, for," Rodney huffed and rolled his eyes and pulled John in close. He sealed their mouths together and didn't wait for John’s to open, instead pushing his tongue past the soldier's lips in a bossy, controlling manner. John made a startled sound and went rigid, before relaxing and sagging into Rodney's arms, kissing back, but not taking control, letting Rodney dominate the kiss.
"Believe me now?" Rodney asked when he ended the kiss. John was red lipped and smiling stupidly and it made Rodney very proud of himself.
"I don't know," John said, lifting a hand to rub the back of his neck in that nervous way of his. "I might need more convincing." Rodney frowned at him, ready to berate the other man, then John looked up at him and smiled a little. "A lot more convincing. Like a whole night of convincing."
Rodney smiled and steered John towards the bed by his shoulder. "That might be doable, under the condition that more convincing happens in the morning as well."
John chuckled a little as he sat on the bed and let out a heavy sigh. Rodney frowned and sat next to him. "I can't believe you spent that time thinking you’d—I can't imagine what that must have felt like."
"It’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had. God, I hated myself," John said, shaking his head and sighing again.
"Well, don't. Like I said, you didn't do anything wrong." Rodney tenderly caressed John's chin and angled his face for another kiss.
"Rodney," John said, smiling genuinely, and leaned in to meet him.
This kiss was softer, slower. John poured out every bit of guilt and doubt he had, and Rodney swept it all away with every languid pass of his tongue. They kissed until all the horribly wrong emotions had been pushed away and all that was left was the hope and prospect of what was to come.