Actions

Work Header

Bare

Work Text:

Rodney forces himself to slow down the rate at which he’s consuming dinner. His chicken parmesan is gone, he’s making quick work of the rice pilaf, and then all that will be left is the sad, watery pile of green beans he's been avoiding. They’ll buy him a little time but not much, and then he will be forced to sit here while Ronon and Teyla trade Athosian and Satedan versions of childhood folktales. Rodney is sure this counts as a very charming conversation topic for them, but personally, it’s not his cup of tea. Plus, he's feeling a little left out. There’s no one to catch his Batman references, no one to give him a hard time for getting three servings of dessert and eating them all before he even touched the rest of his dinner. “Where’s John?” he finally blurts, not waiting for a lull in their discussion.

Ronon and Teyla both look at him, eyes wide with surprise even though they should really be used to being interrupted by now. Then their expressions change: Teyla purses her lips and her eyes get glittery, and Ronon lifts his brows, smirking. “He took that new guy in the Anthropology department out for a beer a few hours ago,” Ronon supplies, saying it like it means something.

“A few hours ago?! Then he should be coming to dinner any minute now,” Rodney says, skin prickling. He still feels a little left out. Like he’s missing some context, excluded from an inside joke.

“They went back to his quarters,” Teyla says lightly, making a face. “I think it is safe to say he will not be making it to dinner at all.”

Rodney sputters. “Why is it safe to say that, how fucking long does it take to have a beer with a new coworker and—”

“They’re fucking,” Ronon says in a low voice, leaning across the table onto his elbows so that Rodney can properly hear him. Which is a good thing because otherwise Rodney would be sure that wasn’t what he said. Because what the fuck. He coughs, choking on a green bean, and Teyla sympathetically slaps his back for him while he wheezes.

“Did you not know,” she says carefully, shooting a concerned look at Ronon over their mostly empty plates, “that Lt. Colonel Sheppard enjoys the company of—”

No, I did not!” Rodney manages to grit out, sucking in air desperately before grabbing his glass of water and downing it. “Since fucking when?!” he yelps as he surfaces with a gasp.

Since as long as I’ve known him,” Ronon says, shrugging while Teyla nods along.

This is news to Rodney. It is such fucking news, in fact, that he doesn’t actually believe it. He is choosing to ignore the way a number of small, puzzling things he’s accumulated in his brain regarding John Sheppard are suddenly falling into place, assembling into a whole that he can discern the shape of amid what was formerly nothing but shadow. “You guys are playing a practical joke on me,” he snaps anyway, dabbing at his sweaty brow with his napkin. “I am going to go to Sheppard's quarters, right now, and prove to you that he is not banging some guy in Anthropology. Jesus. An anthropologist?! That’s not even a real science, what a ridiculous field of study to—”

“Rodney,” Teyla says, tugging on his sleeve. “I would not interrupt him when he’s. Ah. When—when they’re—”

“Fucking,” Ronon says again before standing up, stacking their trays, and taking them to the trash can. Rodney’s plate still has a few green beans on it, but his appetite is most definitely gone, so he supposes it’s no great loss. He just sits there, sweating, thrumming with energy like he’s had one too many cups of coffee, trying to reconcile the John Sheppard he thought he knew with this one who supposedly takes men out for beers before bringing them back to his quarters for the night. To fuck, presumably, according to Ronon. Rodney shudders at the sudden unbidden image of John’s sweaty back that forces itself into his mind, flexing and golden. His stomach, and all the green beans inside it, lurch. “Well, when do you think they’ll be, like, um,” he says, gesturing loosely and vaguely in front of himself for a few seconds before managing to add, “done? I have a bone to pick with John. About why he told you guys about this but never told me.”

He did not tell me so much as I found out,” Teyla offers, like that makes it better. Rodney tries not to dwell on what “found out” means, tries not to imagine what it might be like to accidentally walk in on Sheppard—doing whatever men do when they are doing each other.

“He propositioned me once,” Ronon says, sitting back down on his side of the table, crossing his arms leisurely over his chest like he’s not dropping a fucking bomb.

What?!” Rodney gasps. “How come he came on to you, but he’s never come on to me!? I mean, we’re equally good-looking. Unless you’re into barbarian types, in which case you do have a leg up, but still,” Rodney babbles, voice getting tighter and shriller by the second. “Not that I want John to come on to me, I just fail to see why, if he’s into men, I have never fucking been given any indication.”

Ronon has nothing to say to that, just a barely concealed expression of amusement he shoots at Teyla. They’re exchanging knowing glances now, whatever. Rodney has had enough. “Maybe he did not tell you because he thought you might react…poorly?” Teyla eventually says, wincing a bit as it comes out, like she wishes she’d worded it with just a bit more tact.

“Like you’re reacting now,” Ronon observes.

“What! Why would I react poorly!? I’m only upset now because he never said anything to me about this and has lied for years to my face, not because he's gay,” Rodney snaps, saying the word aloud for the first time, albeit in a forced, quiet, urgent whisper, like it’s a curse. And it’s not, he knows it’s not, but— “I’m very open minded,” he grits out then. “I am a scientist and reserve no judgement for whatever weird gross things some men get up to in their spare time, even if they are doing weird gross things with anthropologists.”

Teyla makes her I’m done having this conversation face, and Ronon shrugs, and Rodney supposes that that is the end of that.

—-

He badly wants to let this whole thing go. Just forget it until he can confront John about being a gay liar in the morning, but unfortunately, Rodney cannot even sleep. He just keeps going over the last few years and realizing things, or else seeing them in a whole new light. The way John does not seem appreciative enough of all the women who throw themselves at him. The way he rarely uses gendered pronouns when he does imply he’s slept with someone. His gay sex jokes. His fucking Johnny Cash poster. Rodney cannot believe that he, a literal genius, has never even wondered about this. He feels stupid, which in turn makes him furious, and he can’t sleep when he’s furious.

He brews himself a pot of coffee and spends a few hours stalking this fucking anthropologist on the staff database. His name is Rene or Raphael or something, and he’s not handsome so much as pretty, slight and dark-skinned, teeth a pearl-white flash smiling back at Rodney from his tablet. He glares at the picture, skin crawling. He wonders if this is Sheppard’s type—go-go dancer-looking guys half his size and age. He also wonders if this guy is still in John’s room right now, if he’s touching John as Rodney sits alone in his quarters obsessing over it. If he’s currently smoothing those narrow brown hands up through John’s thick chest hair, or else down the planes of muscle on his sides, past his waistband, into his trousers. Or maybe Sheppard is touching him, dragging that shiny stupid smile toward his dick, making fists in his hair, fucking his mouth.

And maybe Rodney is a little more prejudiced than he initially thought because imagining literally any of these hypothetical scenarios makes him physically ill, a gnawing sort of queasiness to his stomach, a fever-heat rising up his cheeks. He doesn’t want to care at all, but if he’s honest with himself, he hates the idea of Sheppard having sex with a man. He sort of hates the idea of him having sex with a woman, too, but to be fair, that's always because underneath it all, he’s secretly jealous the alien babes never fall for him. John is so effortlessly charming and good-looking, it’s normal to be envious of that…but this feels entirely different.

This sort of thing has never bothered Rodney before. He’s had gay coworkers in the past, and Zelenka even confessed to him one time after too many late-night tequila shots that the best blowjob he ever had was from some Italian guy in his grad school program. That hadn’t bothered Rodney, in fact, he’d only been grateful for more fodder to ridicule Radek with next time he was given the chance. He doesn’t normally feel uncomfortable or disgusted by the thought of gay sex, so it’s very troublesome that he feels so powerfully ill over the thought of John having it. Like, is he so obsessed with his own perception of John’s masculinity it bothers him that he was so crucially wrong about it? Or is it tied up in hurt, amplified by the fact John clearly didn’t trust him enough to confide in him the way he had Ronon and Teyla?

Regardless, Rodney lies awake until dawn, obsessively poring over Rene Rafael’s resume before spitefully deciding he’s underqualified for his position in Atlantis, even though he does not know a fucking thing about anthropology.

—-

Rodney does not see John until noon the following day, and he tries his hardest to not to think about what was keeping him from the lab for so goddamned long. He tells himself it was meetings he personally wasn’t invited to, not a slow, luxurious morning blowjob. “There you are,” he snaps, scanning John’s body in spite of himself, trying to see if he’s looser after sex, if there’s a bounce to his step, a dark hickey sucked onto his neck. He doesn’t note anything observable, but still. He narrows his eyes. “Did you have fun last night?”

John stops, grip almost imperceptibly tightening around his thermos of coffee. “Shit, did I forget about some plans we had, or—”

Why have you never told me in all three and a half years we’ve worked very closely together as colleagues and friends that you’re gay?!” Rodney interrupts, unable to last a single second longer without exploding.

John spits out his mouthful of coffee all over Rodney’s desk, where various computer chips and flash drives and other important things are lying. “Oh, thanks, great,” he snaps, grabbing some paper towels to dab everything dry while John just stands there, chin tilted up and eyes wide, like he’s waiting to see if Rodney will forget in his cleaning panic what he asked him in the first place. “You’re not getting out of this, as soon as I shove this tablet into some rice, we are resuming this conversation, and you are telling me why I, out of our whole team, was the only member not privy to this information.” And then, because it seems relevant, he adds, “And an anthropologist, John, really?! Also how old is this guy, he looks like he’s fresh out of college, I really think you should date more in your age group if you are going to date at all, and—”

“Jesus Christ, Rodney,” John mumbles, grabbing him by the collar and dragging him away from the desk before steering him to some sort of supply closet, which he shoves Rodney bodily into before following, latching the door firmly behind them both.

It’s dark inside and smells like bleach and now coffee, since it’s all over the soaked ball of paper towels Rodney is still clutching between their chests. John looms over him, close enough that Rodney can feel the heat from his body, and for one terrifying second, he thinks John’s going to kiss him because he’s leaning forward, but then he just flicks on the light over Rodney’s shoulder so that they aren’t standing in blackness. “What are you doing?!” Rodney asks in a furious whisper, before throwing the paper towels at John’s chest.

They thud there before falling to the ground in the few inches between the toes of their boots. “What are you doing?!” John fires back, eyes flashing as he shoves Rodney hard enough he thunks against the wall, upsetting a broom and a dustpan. “You cannot go broadcasting personal shit like that in the lab! What were you thinking?!”

Well! Maybe if you had told me before, I wouldn't have had to confront you about it and go broadcasting in the first place!”

John rolls his eyes spectacularly. “Rodney, I didn’t tell you because there’s this thing, maybe you’ve heard of it, called ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I was upholding my end of that bargain, what’s your fucking excuse?” he snaps, jabbing a finger into Rodney’s sternum.

“Oh, what, I’m supposed to believe you suddenly care about rules!? You disobey orders all the time! You’re going to cherry pick this one bit of red tape just to avoid telling me why you trust Teyla and Ronon more than you trust me?!” Rodney yelps, rubbing at the sore spot on his breastbone, heart pounding as John cards his hands through his hair, lifting his arms so the closet is suddenly flooded with the sharp smell of his fear-sweat. It’s how he smells on dangerous ops, the times they’ve been thrown into Wraith cells, and damn, maybe he really is worried about this. Maybe Rodney is being insensitive. “Look, I’m sorry, I just—”

“I could lose my position at Atlantis over this,” John interrupts, eyes flashing, greener than they usually are. “I didn't want more people knowing than was necessary, alright?”

Something pangs in Rodney’s ribcage between his lungs, which can’t seem to expand all the way. “You don’t really think Weir would—”

“No! No. Not her, but she doesn’t always get to make the rules, you know that. There are other people I don't trust on the IOA and also like…I dunno, Caldwell. Lorne. The military isn’t very accepting when it comes to this sort of thing, and I’ve already got some marks on my record. I can’t just go telling people because they’re my friends,” he explains. And then, after a few beats of just looking at Rodney, his brows knit together, he adds, “And to be completely honest, I thought you'd freak out.”

A defensive surge of feeling rockets through Rodney’s body, making him bristle. “Freak out how?!”

Uh, yelling about it in the lab, for one,” John says, making an incredulous face, and well, okay, maybe he has a point. “But also, I dunno…I didn’t want to go through the whole weird, awkward period of you adjusting. Not wanting to be alone with me, jumping every time I touched you, then moving into the, like, overly accepting phase where you tell me what a good ally you are…the thing is, I’ve been there, done that. It sucks.” Then he smiles. Not his real smile, which is sheepish and makes his eyes crinkle up, but the fake, bright, sarcastic version of his smile he uses more often, the one that doesn’t meet his eyes at all. “Guess we’re doing it anyway, though, huh?”

Rodney frowns, something twisting in his gut because he'd like to think he wasn’t the sort of guy to have such a transparent reaction, but here he is. Locked in a closet with John, hyper-aware of all the places they’re standing close enough their clothes can brush, heart leaping with anxiety every time it happens. Thinking invasively and inevitably about last night, wondering if John was much taller than Rene Rafael, if he had as many inches on him as he does on Rodney, if the view and angle he had would be similar when John leaned down to kiss him. Provided gay guys even kissed when they fucked. Rodney has no idea. “I wouldn’t do any of that. Or, I won’t. I’ll try not to,” he amends.

John sighs, then reaches out to squeeze his shoulder. “Thanks, McKay,” he says. “Now. Don't mention it again, alright?”

Rodney nods, trying not to think about the way his skin is tingling when John lets go, in the ghost-shape of his palm.

—-

It turns out it’s almost impossible to not mention it again because Rodney is a man of science, and he’s painfully curious about John’s experiences and sex life, even if he doesn’t want to be. It’s the curse of his brilliant mind, he tells himself. To seek knowledge beyond all logic, to picture things vividly even if they also make him want to scream.

When other people are around, he’s perfectly respectful. He even protects Sheppard when he can, bringing up his alleged heterosexual exploits whenever conversation veers toward speculation, shutting down homophobic jokes people might make in passing, etc. But when they’re alone, Rodney sometimes just can’t help it. He’ll look at Sheppard, study him across breakfast or their gaming consoles or a chess board or the popcorn theyre sharing two hours into their X-Men marathon, and his curiosity will get the better of him because, still, some part of his brain cannot process that John’s really gay. There’s something that sticks, a thorn nagging in his side, and Rodney just can’t leave it alone.

They’re half-watching Star Trek, filling out paperwork they’re behind on, when Rodney comes across a mission report from an incident a few months back where John ended up briefly married to the magistrate’s daughter because of some botched alien social cue. It had been a whole fiasco with much offense taken on both sides, and although they sorted it out before John was expected to spend the night with her for the sake of consummation, it had seemed like it was heading in that direction. And Rodney remembers that he was so jealous at the time, he had been the one first in line to negotiate a trade agreement with her—but John had swept in at the last minute, of course, and pulled strings so he was the one doing them instead.

“You know, you sleep with a lot of alien women for a gay guy,” he says, waving the mission reports in John’s face. “What’s up with that?”

“Hey, I’m not one hundred percent gay,” John grumbles, batting the papers away and scowling down at his own stack. “I don’t mind sleeping with women every once in a while. Women are great. Plus, you only think I have sex with every alien who makes eyes at me. I usually weasel my way out of it, if I can.”

“I’m just saying, next time you’re in some absurd Captain Kirk scenario, you could always send me in to take your place, since I’d, you know, actually enjoy it,” he explains, rifling through reports and realizing how much of a pattern this is. “But come to think of it, it’s like you actively sabotage all my opportunities with women.”

“It’s because I don’t want to subject them to your personality,” John says, shooting Rodney a grin. “Do you know how painful it is to watch you try and flirt?”

Rodney wads up the mission report and tosses it at John’s face. And he tries to get back to what he was doing, but his mind has been activated and he cannot shut it off. He went from thinking John was the paradigm of heterosexual prowess to realizing he was somehow actually gay to now hearing that he’s floating somewhere nebulously between the two. And he can’t help it, he wants to know more. “Okay, so just for clarification, you do like women? Sometimes? But prefer men? Why? Women have—well. They’re women,” he says, lifting his hands awkwardly to his chest to mimic the heft of breasts.

John taps his pen on the desk, looking unimpressed. “Rodney, have you ever considered that it is none of your business?”

And of course he has. He knows it’s weird. But he doesn’t care enough to let that stop him. “I’m a scientist! I’m collecting data! I simply don’t understand what could possibly be more appealing about men if you’re also into women,” he explains, thinking that men, on average, are just not as good-looking. There are the finer specimens, like John himself, but as a preference? It’s elusive. He tells himself this is why he keeps digging, that he’s attempting to shed light on a very pressing mystery, for the sake of scientific gain.

“I’m not answering that,” John says stubbornly, and then he turns back to his paperwork. The Star Trek credits are rolling on screen, and Rodney hums along with the music in an effort to keep himself from asking anything else, but he must be fidgeting impatiently or something because eventually John sighs and says, “Fine. If you must know. I just. I really like a good cock.”

Rodney stares, very nearly choking on his own spit.

“A good—really?! It’s that shallow?” he eventually sputters, cheeks suddenly hot. “What even constitutes a good one? Big? Long? Circumcised?”

“Just—good?! I don’t know!” John exclaims, shrugging. “Just. You asked what gets me going, and that's it!”

“Wow. So like—to look at? To touch? To—oh god, do you like to—with your mouth—”

Sucking dick? It’s one of my favorite things, yeah,” John says, interrupting, gathering all his paperwork up and snapping the pile violently into a clip board. “McKay, you are not making it any easier to concentrate on this stuff.”

And Rodney barely registers what he’s saying, his mind is whirring too quickly, oscillating wildly from one half-formed question to another. He just always assumed, likely based on his own preconceived notions regarding John, that if there was dick-sucking involved in his gay sex sessions, he’d be on the receiving end of such things. Rodney thinks back to the anthropologist, how he was younger than John, more slender, almost feminine and therefore so easy to picture on his knees or something. And Rodney is trying everything in his power to not picture it the other way around, John’s face wrecked, his mouth sloppy, his eyes closed, drool on his chin, but fuck. The image finds him anyway, haunts him, makes his stomach tighten in terror. “I’m sorry,” he sputters. “I just. I. I just thought—

“I’m gonna finish in my quarters,” John mumbles. “Goodnight.

And Rodney sits there alone for a long time. chewing the inside of his cheek. Feeling sick, and hating himself for feeling sick.

—-

He manages to not ask John any invasive questions for a whole week, even if he amasses them mentally, stores them away in a file cabinet in his brain for later when they’re drunk or John is in one of his chattier moods. Unfortunately, not talking about it just makes Rodney think about it all the more obsessively. Every time John skips team dinner or is late to a meeting, Rodney wonders if he’s sucking some guy’s dick. And every time the thought inevitably makes him queasy and shaky and feverish, he resists that response by forcing himself to think about it more, forcibly exposing himself to the unpleasant stimulus of John Sheppard having gay sex. Rodney is half-convinced he can train himself out of his embarrassing, knee-jerk homophobia if he just quantifies it enough, gathers enough information for it to become scientific, clinical.

At the same time, Rodney knows he can’t just ask John details about it whenever he wants, so he stops himself, chews them back, tries not to study the shape of John’s lips and imagine them stretched tight around the girth of whatever a “good” cock is.

But then they get captured by some rogue former Genii soldiers while investigating a suspicious energy reading on a nearby planet, and all of Rodney’s defenses come crashing down. The soldiers bind their hands and ankles before steering them to the world’s tiniest jail cell, if you can even call it that. It’s smaller than the supply closet John pushed Rodney into that one time, nothing but a hole in the ground with a forcefield covering the opening. They shove John in first, then Rodney shortly after him, and immediately he capsizes and falls directly on top of John with a choked oof.

“Ow,” John grumbles, bending a knee, hot and solid under Rodney’s dead weight.

“Shit, sorry,” he mumbles, trying and failing to wiggle his way off. It’s hard to do without free-range motion in his arms and legs, so he just sort of ends up grinding on John, shimmying ineffectively. “I can’t—I’m trying—”

Hey, it’s okay,” John mumbles. “I like being on the bottom.”

It sits in the air for a few seconds before Rodney realizes he’s making a joke and then realizes with horror what that joke is about. “Oh my fucking god,” he snaps, finally managing to roll off and inchworm away with the sheer force of his panic. Once he’s free, he lies there on the floor, catching his breath, heart pounding while John snickers somewhat self-deprecatingly in the dark, struggling to sit up and prop himself against the wall of the cell.

“Sorry,” he says, eyes glinting amid the black. “I couldn’t help it.”

“Do you really?” Rodney blurts. “Like. Being on the bottom, I mean. Or were you just choosing to take advantage of my unfortunate--um. Position?”

John sighs a long sigh, and Rodney stares at the direction it comes from until his eyes properly adjust to the darkness and he can make out the shape of John's shoulders, the curve of his bicep. Then he drags himself up and sits closer, forcing himself to not be weird about the way their knees brush. “I mean, I like both,” John says then, voice quiet. “Not too picky. But nothing like being fucked raw by a big hard cock.”

Rodney’s mouth goes dry, his cheeks suddenly burning, and he’s grateful it’s mostly dark in here so John doesn’t witness him flush so obviously. “Well. I see,” he says, trying to sound nonchalant, which is frankly somewhat of a challenge given how shaky his voice has just become. “Thanks for the colorful description.”

“You’re welcome,” John mumbles. “Love your scientific enthusiasm about my sex preferences. I feel like an amoeba.”

“You should feel like a physics proof,” Rodney says. “I don’t care much for biology.”

“Oh, you don’t?” John says, clearly amused. He knocks into Rodney’s side, jostling him in the darkness, his body hot, thrumming with energy. “You know, it’s gonna be a few hours before Atlantis realizes we’re gone and sends a team to find us. You have me captive. Might as well grill me for all the information you want. Take some field notes.”

Rodney’s stomach drops, something strange and hot and overwhelming uncoiling inside of him, pulse speeding as he realizes his time has come. John’s chatty. He’s tied up and chatty. “So,” he starts conversationally, clearing his throat. “I wouldn’t have guessed, you know. Like, if you had asked me for a hypothesis regarding how you liked to, um, do the penetration thing, this wouldn’t have been it.”

“I’m full of surprises,” John offers flatly.

Rodney licks his lips, tries to steady his breathing. “So, does it hurt?” he asks.

“Being fucked? Nah, not if you’re doing it right,” John explains, shifting his position to settle back against the cell wall and stare up at the stars, distorted into a fish-eye shape through the haze of the forcefield. “I personally don’t mind a little pain, though.”

“Wow,” Rodney mumbles, blood rushing to his face. “A masochist.”

“No, more of a realist. I don’t like if things are too clean, too streamlined, too easy. I’m not opposed to a little stretch,” he says, so casually, like they’re talking about his favorite way to eat eggs and not anal sex. Fried, over easy. It’s surreal.

“Is it, like. Okay. Sorry if this is gross, but by messy, do you mean…,” Rodney trails off, not wanting to say it out loud, not wanting to admit he’s thought about the carnal reality of gay sex in enough detail to have wondered about this.

“Not shit, Rodney, Jesus,” John snaps, elbowing him in the ribs, though not very successfully because of the angle his arms are bound at.

“Well! I’m sorry, it seems like a perfectly reasonable question given the nature of—of that.”

“It really doesn’t happen, if you know how to prep,” John says cryptically, and wow, Rodney’s not sure he even knows how to ask about that, or if he wants to. He’s reeling, light-headed, dizzy under all those hazy stars. “I just meant I like sweat, I like come,” he pauses, then sucks in a breath before mumbling, “you want to know my favorite thing ever, besides choking on cock?” he asks, and Rodney’s stomach plummets, his heart racing in terrified anticipation.

“Oh god. Do I?” he asks, simultaneously dreading it and needing to know. Wanting John to surprise him again, to defy his expectations, to quantify and quantify so there’s nothing for Rodney to be grossed out or scared by anymore. Nothing but facts, data. “Tell me before I talk myself out of it.”

“Fine, okay, I love it when a guy fucks me bare and dumps his load in me. I love feeing full of come. The way it drips out,” John says, voice low, thick, and Jesus, Rodney doesn’t know what to do with that. His brain flatlines, nothing but darkness and static for a few seconds before he inevitably pictures John’s hairy thighs slicked in white. They’d be paler than the golden-brown of his arms, tender and intimate, sticky and shining, and just like that, Rodney realizes he’s sporting a semi in his military trousers. Which is—well. It’s not homophobia, he supposes. Because god, he would take an experiment too far, start throwing himself so deeply into the act of understanding something that he ends up liking it too much. He shakes his head, heart rabbiting in his chest, still too hot-faced and empty-headed to think of a single normal thing to say about John Sheppard liking to be cream-pied. He’s going to die right here in this fucking hole. “Hm,” John says after a while. “Good thing your hands are bound, bet you’d be trying to hit me otherwise, huh?”

“What?! No!” Rodney sputters, a little offended.

“Really? You’re not just sitting there freaking out?” John asks, sounding genuinely surprised. “Not gonna lie, I was sort of trying to say something that would push you to your limit so you'd, like, hulk out and break your restraints and scale the wall and get us out of here.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Rodney hisses, annoyed he was being used as a pawn in John’s grand escape schemes, and that they weren’t just having a confessional heart-to-heart. “Pretty sure nothing could get me past that forcefield.”

“You never know,” John offers. “You’d be surprised. Like, I’ve seen men jump off literal boats into shark-infested waters in a gay panic. Anything could happen.”

“I’m not having a gay panic,” Rodney insists, even though he’s angling his hips away from John nervously, willing his dick to quit twitching, betraying him. “I’m just—wait! Were you lying? Do you really like being pumped full of jizz, or was that just you trying to gross me out?”

“Nah, I really do love that,” John admits. “Don’t do it that often, though. I haven’t hooked up with that many guys since coming to Atlantis, and when I do, it's usually unplanned and a one-time thing, you can’t just trust guys to be totally clean. Unless someone’s got a negative STI test on them, it’s not happening. So it’s sort of the stuff reserved for fantasy,” he says, shrugging. Rodney stares, taken aback by John’s continued nonchalance, how open he’s being.

“Why are you telling me all this?” he asks then, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

“I told you, I’m trying to—”

No, I mean, it’s clear I’m not going to tunnel my way out of here to get away from you! And usually when I ask you about this stuff, you clam up or run away, so I’m just wondering…what’s changed, I guess.”

John is quiet for a long time, and Rodney wishes he could see him, suss out his expression, peel him apart.

“Well,” he starts. “I don’t really get to talk about this stuff on Atlantis, there’s too many military personnel, or else guys who really would slug me, and I dunno…you were asking. The curiosity is almost refreshing?” John ventures eventually, gazing up at the sky, mouth a downturned, troubled shape in the dark, faintly visible now that there’s moonlight spilling onto him. Rodney studies it, heart pounding. “Plus, I might sort of feel guilty about not telling you for so long.” His gaze sweeps over to Rodney, electric and dark, reflecting back the light of the stars in so many fractal points. “I mean you’re right. You are my friend. I don't like keeping stuff from you.”

“Well. Thanks. I guess,” Rodney says, wishing his hard on wasn’t quite so fucking persistent.

“Don’t mention it.”

And they don't say another word to each other until a Puddle Jumper touches down to rescue them from the pit.

—-

Rodney loses an enormous amount of sleep to lingering, technicolor thoughts of John with his ass full of come, and well. It does not take Freud to discern the significance of this particular problem. He’s a genius astrophysicist, after all. And at least he’s not homophobic anymore.

It's inconvenient, though. He sees John every day, and he jacks off to him every night, and he’s even more sleep-deprived and caffeinated than he usually is as a result, meaning reality is beginning to blur with fantasy, so much so that he’s often half-hard and delirious in the middle of the day at work, thinking about the very real bite of John’s sweat under his deodorant, alongside the totally imagined and horribly inviting dip in his spine he keeps picturing in pathological detail. Rodney needs to do something about this—it’s affecting his performance.

The natural conclusion is to get tested, so he does just that, showing up to the infirmary with a nice set of fishing lures and a bottle of scotch for Carson. “This is a bribe,” he says, shoving it all unceremoniously into his hands. “No questions.”

The results come back negative, like he knew they would. But now he has proof. He has paperwork. So he arrives outside of Sheppard's quarters that evening and thrusts the stack of paper at him, gaze snagging over the lean, lanky shape of his body as he stands there in his civvies—black t-shirt with some silly graphic on it and soft-looking, worn-in plaid PJ bottoms. “What’s this?” he asks, thumbing through the papers, brow furrowed in confusion.

“HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, herpes. Or, rather, lack thereof. I have been declared squeaky clean,” Rodney explains in a rush, smiling cheerily, John’s doors shutting neatly behind him as he shoulders his way in.

“Um. Congratulations?” John says, lifting a brow as he tentatively hands the results back to Rodney. “Were you worried, or…?”

Rodney takes a deep, shuddering breath. He actually hadn’t gotten this far in his planning process—he sort of imagined sharing the results with John, then skipping ahead to the sex part, but now he’s realizing this trajectory is much clearer in his mind than it is anywhere else, and he actually owes more of an explanation. “Okay. Look. I keep thinking about what you told me when we were tied up in that pit, about how tragic and unfair it is that you haven't had a guy come in your ass in forever, even though it’s apparently your favorite thing, provided you were telling me the truth.”

John gets pale. “Rodney,” he says, small and quiet as he takes a careful step backward. “You’re not—you don’t have to—”

“I know I don’t have to!” Rodney interrupts. “I just. You mentioned being clean was a particular obstacle you faced, so I decided to remove that obstacle, in case, perhaps, maybe, you might be interested in doing that. With me. Because I sort of keep thinking about it. And we don’t have to do it now! Or at all, if you’re not into the idea, but if you wanted me to, let’s say, fuck you bare, I could. I would. I want to, actually.”

John stares, something dark and unreadable flickering across his face. “Are you kidding me?” he says, and well. That's not the slutty, desperate enthusiasm Rodney has been picturing, but he can work with it.

“Okay, okay, I know your taste runs more toward twinky anthropologists and, well, whatever Ronon has going on, but Ronon isn’t here at your door with a clean bill of health offering to come in your ass, is he?” Rodney proposes, thinking surely this is an irresistible package deal if John knows what's good for him. But John is backing away slowly to collapse on the edge of his own bed, like his knees are giving out, like he might actually faint. He puts his head in his hands and sucks in a shaky breath, and what the fuck. Rodney doesn’t understand. “What’s the issue?!” he says throwing his hands in the air. “What’s a little casual sex between friends?”

John laughs then, a mirthless and tattered huff of air leaving his mouth as he stares at the ground between his splayed feet. “I can’t have casual sex with you, Rodney,” he says then, very certain, very plain.

Rodney starts to pace, impatient. Because why the fuck not. It makes perfect sense, John doesn’t get what he wants, and Rodney can give it to him, give it to him so fucking good, he’s played it out a hundred times in his head, and every time it’s amazing, so. He really doesn’t see the hang up. “Is it because you’re not attracted to me?! Like, I know I’m not Ronon, whatever, but I’m not disgusting, and I could be behind you the whole time, and you could imagine whatever you want if it's really that much of an issue.”

“It’s...it’s not that,” John chokes out, gaze sweeping upward to hold Rodney’s, however brief, midnight-black and ember-hot, and Jesus, why can’t they just— “Also, why the hell do you keep bringing up Ronon?! I tested the water once with him one day when we’d had a few beers and I was feeling sorry for myself and sort of lonely? He’s not—I don’t want him like that.”

“Okay, but, if he showed up with clean test results and proposed sex, you would, right?!” Rodney says triumphantly. “So why not me?!”

And John looks up at him then, his stare hard and flashing and impenetrable and—a little sad, maybe, something wet reflecting in his lashes, a twist to the corner of his mouth. It sets Rodney back on his heels, sends his heart leaping into his throat.

“Rodney, I just. I can’t,’’ John says, standing up and grabbing Rodney’s shoulders, steering him to the doors before grabbing the test results and thumping them onto his chest. “I’m sorry.”

—-

Rodney nurses the exit wound the rejection bullet left for a few days, mulling the conversation over in his head, playing and replaying it. John threw him out, sure, but he didn't say never, and he also didn’t say I find you physically repulsive, so. Amid the late-night self-deprecating vodka shots and general moping, Rodney still finds his rare and perhaps futile moments of hope.

It is between these sorts of moments when he receives an email from John, no subject, at around midnight. He opens it. Hey. are you free? it says, and he squints at the words, trying to read between them despite how very few there are.

yes?????? he sends back, stomach in strange, hopeful, foolish knots. Maybe John is coming to his senses and realizing he should not be in the habit of looking STI- free gift horses in the mouth. Or maybe he’s deciding to end their friendship formally and in person. Rodney isn’t sure, but he waits, breath held.

Luckily, John replies almost immediately.

Ok, no pressure. not sure if the offer still stands but if it does: I have been fucking myself for the last hour and can’t come because my dumb stupid plastic dick isn’t your dick. and normally i would be more suave and dignified about asking for this sort of thing, but I'm pretty desperate to get off and have clearly gone fucking insane. so here I am. if you want to come find me in my quarters.

Rodney reads it three times in rapid succession, then again, once more, very slowly and carefully to be entirely sure. His cock is immediately interested, mind supplying a whole tapestry of filthy images to go along with the provided text. John’s back arched, John’s wrist tilted, flexing at an elegant angle to keep himself stuffed full of dumb stupid plastic dick. Rodney palms himself frantically through his sweats before pulling a shirt on with one hand and shutting his laptop with the other. And then he’s down the hall perhaps faster than he’s ever been, skidding to John’s room, arriving mussed and panting and a little sweaty.

The doors whir open, and there John is: face down, writhing, back glistening in a sheen of perspiration, his dog tags resting in the dip of his spine as he rubs his red face into his pillow and rasps, “Hi. God. Fuck. You came.”

“Yeah, of fucking course I came,” Rodney snaps, eyes darting from place to impossible place. The dimples in John’s lower back. The dark wreck of his hair. The obscene slick of lube on his thighs, the flared base of a jet-black dildo resting between the muscular globes of his ass. Rodney’s mouth floods, parted around a half-formed gasp as he just looks, drinks in the sight of this thing he gets to touch. Fuck. Come inside, if he’s lucky.

“This is a bad idea,” John murmurs like he can read Rodney’s disbelief, the planes of his thighs gathering, flickering as he humps the bed.

“No, it’s not, it’s a good idea, it’s a great idea, it was my idea, glad you finally came around,” Rodney babbles, approaching the mattress on numb legs. “Oh my god,” he murmurs as he draws closer, eyes glued to the dildo, the way it’s buried to the hilt inside John’s body, shiny with sweat and lube.

“Take it out,” John begs, pushing his ass into the air, spreading his knees. “See what you do to me. How bad I need it.”

“God. Okay, fuck, I can do that,” Rodney murmurs, climbing onto the bed carefully gripping the base of the dildo and pulling it out. The silicone is hot and wet in one palm, John’s skin hotter and wetter under the firm splay of the other. And this is so surreal, it’s insane, it’s perfect. John groans as he does it, the dark furl of his hole red and puffy and so well fucked that it winks open obscenely as it’s left empty and god, Jesus, Rodney has never thought about this particular act in the whole of his life, he’s not even sure it’s a thing people do, but some sort of mad primal instinct overcomes him so that without even thinking about it, he spreads John apart, bends down, and starts licking.

He tastes raw and metallic and human under the initial sterility of the lube, and fuck, yeah, Rodney wants more of that, specifically. He forces his tongue deeper, breaching John’s body so easily, thumbs keeping him spread, the dildo burning against his one knee where he dropped it into the sheets. John is chanting an inarticulate string of nonsense into his pillow, moaning and bucking and cursing, moving so much it’s hard to stay put, licking him out the way Rodney wants to, but he’s done far more tedious things,so. He keeps at it, moaning, drunk on the taste of him, on the crazy filthy glory of this thing he’s doing, the way John is rocking back into him, trembling all over.

Eventually, he gets light-headed, so he pulls back, gasping. Then he spits a wad of thick foamy spit right onto John’s hole, watching it roll down to his balls, transfixed at the motion of his own fingers as he rubs it in, wondering how the fuck he’s survived thirty-seven years of being alive without ever doing this. John is so fucking gorgeous, it’s painful—dark hair matted down with spit and lube around his hole, rim puffy and pink, the whole of his body so supple and willing and fever-hot and easy to push into, like he was made for this. Rodney watches his index and middle finger disappear inside him without any effort whatsoever and whimpers, moved.

God, how come—how are you so fucking hot?!” he marvels, angry at himself for not realizing this is the best thing ever earlier. Maybe they could have been doing it already. Maybe Rodney could have been the man John was missing dinner for, the man touching him, the man blowing him or getting blown, and what the fuck, just like that, it hits him all at once. This was what he wanted. This was why he felt sick at the thought of John sleeping with other guys—the whole time, he wanted it to be him. Rodney wasn’t being homophobic, he was being jealous.

He shakes his head, feeling beyond stupid for misinterpreting something so fucking obvious for so fucking long. Of course, that’s why other gay guys didn’t bother him—it was about John. Wanting John without realizing it was want at all. He hated picturing him with Rene Rafael or Ronon because Rodney wanted him, all to himself. But it’s fine because he has him now, under him in his bed like a fucking miracle. He smooths his palms up John’s sweat-tacky back, thumbing into the cords of muscle, bending his head to mouth over his shoulder blades, lick up the salt, drunk on the taste of him. And fuck, oh god, it’s in that moment Rodney realizes he wants to kiss John, so badly. Haul him in with a fist in his dog tags and chew his lips, tongue-fuck them open, taste his spit. He thinks about just doing it without asking, but then Rodney realizes with a lurch in his gut that he’s not sure gay guys are allowed to do kissing stuff during casual sex—like, maybe it’s fine to shove his fingers in and feel the frantic thud of John's heartbeat from the inside out, but it’s not okay to cup his face and turn him at the right angle to make out with. Rodney has no fucking idea, actually. This is all completely new to him.

“What do I do?” he asks, touching John’s shoulders and arms before mauling back down to his hips and holding them tight, loving the desperate, graceless way John is bucking against the bed, begging with his ass. “Do you want me to just, like, shove it in, or—?”

“Let me see it first,” John moans in a hoarse voice, eyes black with pupil. “Want to see your cock.”

Rodney curses, hopping off the bed and fumbling with his belt and pants before kicking them into a pile on the ground. John stares at him, neck craned, mouth wet as he licks it over and over again. “Is my cock good?” Rodney asks then, feeling sort of ridiculous there in his shirt and nothing else, no rule book, no instruction manual, just a fistful of revelations and a hard on.

John chokes out what sounds like a weak sob, knuckles white as he uncements them from the sheets to beckon. “C’mere,” he mumbles thickly. “You’re—you don’t even know. Just c’mere.”

Rodney does as he’s told, walking to the edge of the bed as John rolls onto his side, staring before reaching out and curling his fingers around his cock. Just that is maddening and electric enough that Rodney’s vision whites out for a second, but then John is guiding it to his open mouth, swallowing it down, his face positively devastated as he sucks. And god, every time Rodney has pictured John like this, he felt sick because it wasn’t him. But now it is, and it’s so good, it’s so perfect. He rakes his fingers though John’s messy hair, stares at the miracle of his own hand tangled in it, the shape of his cock bulging obscenely in John’s cheek as he drools, hungry and messy. “I’m—ah. John if you want me to come in your ass, you can’t—you have to—”

He pops off in a froth of spit, licking at the head a few more times before letting him go. “Okay, okay,” he rasps, settling back down onto his stomach, eyes dark and hazy. “Fuck me. Put your cock in me, Rodney, please.”

The word please hits him sudden and painful, such a simple, raw, bare thing to say during sex, astounding in its humility, its vulnerability. Rodney’s breath sticks, his lips parted around an unspoken anything, anything you want, it’s yours, I think I’m yours, actually, which is crazy but true as he straddles John’s hip and lines his cock up before pushing in so insanely easy. John’s hole is lube-messy enough that there’s no resistance, nothing at all but impossible, mind-blowing heat, a maddening pressure. “Oh my god,” Rodney chokes out, digging his fingers into John’s hips to hold himself steady. “Does that feel good for you? It feels good for me. It feels fucking amazing.”

Yeah, fuck, Rodney, so good,” John groans, spine rolling indulgently as he rocks backward into Rodney’s hips, impaling himself, taking it so deep. “Give me that cock. You’ve got such a gorgeous cock, make me come with it.”

Rodney chokes on a sound that’s somewhere between a sob and a laugh, hands all over John, hips pistoning desperately without rhythm yet because it feels too goddamned good for him to get a hold of himself. John doesn’t seem to mind, though. He’s spreading his thighs, rutting against the mattress, groaning into his pillow with every thrust. “I’m not—I’m not hurting you?” he pants, mouth spread somewhere on John’s mid-back.

“Not at all,” John promises, reaching around to paw aimlessly over Rodney’s arm, his thigh, like he just wants to touch, wants to track the motion of Rodney’s body as he fucks him. “Not even a little, s’good, so good, feels like heaven. You can hurt me if you want, though. You can get rough with me.”

Rodney is not sure he wants to hurt John—maybe later, some other time, provided this happens again, and he gets better at it, but right now, all he wants is to make John feel good, drown him in pleasure, give him exactly what he’s been craving and missing out on all these years they've been away from the convenience of Earth. He picks up the pace, though, thighs burning with the exertion of fucking him so hard, John’s headboard thumping against the wall like something from a porno. “I just—I want to come in you. Fill you up,” he says between choppy gasps, trying to remember how John put it that night he told him. “Make you drip.”

“Oh god, Please, fuck, Rodney,” he moans, the last discernable words before he devolves into incoherent animal sounds, clutching at the sheets, the bend in his spine so desperate and slutty. Rodney thumbs into it, grips his waist, palms down his hairy thighs, and then, experimentally, between them to feel out his cock. And fuck, he was expecting it to just be sort of weird and scary, but it’s good, the heat and the steel-hardness and the way he’s slick at the tip. “Oh god,” Rodney mutters, rubbing his face into John’s back, jacking him off in the tight, humid space between his body and the bunched sheets. “Oh, I get it, I get the good cock thing now.”

John’s hand moves to tangle with Rodney’s, so he can touch Rodney while he touches him, shift the skin over his knuckles, grab his wrist to keep him in place. “I’m so hard for you,” he murmurs, thrusting into the ring of his fist, moving his hips so that he’s milking Rodney’s cock with his ass, everything searing and wet-tight and brilliant. “You make me so fucking hard. Feel so good inside me, Rodney, fuck. Fuck me. Fuck me.”

Rodney does, pressing his forehead into John’s back and spreading his knees wider to gain leverage, fucking in earnest now, solid and determined and desperate and god, he’s not gonna last long like this, John feels too goddamned amazing, and it’s been so long since he had sex at all, and he didn’t even know sex could be like this. It’s burning up his brain, flame encroaching into every inch of it, an absolving, cleansing fire leaving nothing but clean, white-hot light and the feel of John’s ass milking him, so sweet and hot and—“Oh god, yeah, that’s it, fill me up, Rodney, come in my ass, please, please,” John begs, and Rodney is shooting off, he’s blacking out, he’s making a sound he’s never fucking heard himself make before, but he doesn’t care. This is bliss. This is the whole fucking universe and every star in it, whittled down to this impossible place where their bodies are joined.

He tries his hardest to stay upright through the throes of his orgasm, pumping John full of come just like he promised, each snap of his hips making an obscene slap sound as he rides John into the bed. And John is circling his hips so fucking dirty, something rich and indulgent about the motion as he grinds his cock into Rodney’s palm, mouth open and drooling, eyes shut. He follows soon after, crying out as he shoots off messily, ass clenching and spasming in filthy perfect pulses and oh, Jesus. There’s so much Rodney didn't even know about gay sex. “Holy shit,” he says, staring at the obscene stretch of John’s body flickering around his still-hard cock, absurdly pretty, twitching as he thumbs over his rim where he’s drawn tight. “Wow. Fuck.”

John collapses, and Rodney slips out of him in a slick of lube and come, and Jesus, yeah, John was totally right, there is something profound and delicious and world-imploding about all of this. He thumbs through the sticky white before pushing it back up inside John with his fingers, moved by how loose and fucked he is, burning hot inside, full and dripping. Rodney gets lost in this for a little while, just fucking his fingers in and out gently, adding a few more, astounded by how many he can fit, how easily, how slack John is just lying there, whimpering occasionally but mostly just trying to breathe. “Field notes?” he eventually asks in a rasping voice, turning his head, raising his eyebrow. “Learn anything, uh. Noteworthy from your experiment?”

“Only that I’m really good at this. Look at you. You’re like a puddle. You’re all liquid. I’ve never seen you so relaxed,” Rodney murmurs, rubbing a fistful of come up the outside of John’s left ass cheek and leaving it there to shine as he lowers himself down into the bed. It’s very narrow, so John twines their legs to make them both fit, settles into Rodney, and hides his burning face in the ditch of his neck, and well, kissing is still up in the air, but cuddling is very promising. Rodney lowers his hand to the back of John’s head, strokes his fingers through his hair, and realizes he’s always wanted to do that—reach up and smooth the absurd cowlicks down, make a fist in the messy whorls.

“So what are we doing?” John mumbles, looping a tentative arm around Rodney’s waist.

“Lying here?” Rodney offers, bending his head to inhale from John’s hair, sweat and salt and sex and cologne. “Um, breathing? Recovering?”

“No, I meant, like. What are we doing doing,” John elaborates before sighing and adding, “This was a bad idea.”

“Not that again!” Rodney scolds, wondering how in the fuck John could possibly say that after coming so hard. And he did come hard—Rodney felt it, there’s no faking something seismic like that. “This is a fantastic idea, and you are insane. Like, wasn’t that amazing, life-ruining, earth-shattering sex for you? It was for me,” he admits, palming down to the wing of John’s scapula, breath catching at the way it fits perfectly in his hand.

“No, of course it was,” John mumbles, frowning as he pulls back from Rodney to peer up at him with squinty, bleary eyes. Rodney zeros in on his mouth, tongue stinging with how badly he wants to kiss him, and kiss him, and never fucking stop kissing him. “Haven’t you figured it out yet?” John asks, quirking up a brow. “I thought you were a genius.”

“I am a genius, I’m not not a psychic,” Rodney snaps. “I can’t read your mind.”

“You should be able to read the rest of me,” John offers, making literally no fucking sense because Rodney probably fucked his brains out. “It’s, like. It’s everywhere. It’s all I am,” he murmurs, blinking.

What is? What am I supposed to have figured out already?” Rodney begs, getting impatient.

John’s eyes come into sharper focus then, something brief and unreadable flickering across his face, quick like lightning. “Why I said I can’t have casual sex with you,” he clarifies.

“Well, you just did, so, no, I guess I haven’t figured it out,” Rodney says. John huffs, closing his eyes before pressing his cheek back into Rodney’s chest while his hands, which were formerly wandering in loose, idle brushes across Rodney’s sides, become firmer, more desperate, like he’s trying to touch his fill before Rodney kicks him out of his own bed. And that’s a little alarming, so Rodney’s heart starts to pound. “What?!”

Rodney,” John sighs, eyes still shut, a heavy line through his brow. “This isn’t casual for me. I love you. I’ve loved you for a—well. For a long time now.”

Rodney stares down at him, fingers pausing along his spine to tap out a hasty, confused morse code. The word love, like the word please, snags inside him, makes his guts tighten up into a defensive fist. John is too raw, is the thing. Rodney wants to bandage him up, remind him to be more fucking careful, or something, splay his hands over his mouth and keep those words trapped so only he gets to touch them. “What do you even mean?” he asks, because he can’t move past that impulse, can’t make sense of any of this. Please. Love.

John’s eyes snap open, twin points of hard, resigned darkness. “What do I mean? What do you mean, what do I mean, I just said it, I mean I’m in love with you.”

Rodney shakes his head. “Wait. You can do that?” he blurts, which he knows is a positively ridiculous thing to say. Of course, people can fall in love. He just—when he thinks of gay guys, he thinks of seedy bars and alleyways and leather and metal and meaningless sex. He doesn’t—he didn’t know— “Men can. With other men?” he asks for clarification, and wow, that comes out even worse than he thought it could. He is truly botching the most important moment of his recent life.

John doesn't seem mad, though, just confused. His mouth falls open, brows lifting, one eye narrowing with incredulity. “Um. Yes?”

“Wait, wait, wait, I need you to operationalize this for me,” Rodney says, peeling away from John to sit up so he can gesture clumsily, lay this all out. “So you love me—and you also want to have sex with me?”

“I want to have sex with you because I love you?” John offers, cocking his head, expression torn somewhere between disbelief, offense, and amusement, which Rodney supposes is a fair intersection to arrive at, given the circumstances. This is unfair to John, really—but he’ll make it up to him. He’ll make it all up to him, he just needs to get this straight, make sure he’s not misunderstanding something so vast.

“But you also want to, like. I don’t know, take me on dates, do date stuff?” he asks, gaze dragging inevitably back to the skeptical twist of John’s mouth, and oh, right, that’s a priority, too, like a really big one, so he adds, “Do you want to kiss me?”

John’s eyes flash, the confusion giving way to something else—that rawness, that openness, that sadness, that thing Rodney has glimpsed so many times before on John’s face and found inscrutable. The thing he’s supposed to read, if not his mind. “Every day,” John tells him then, and somehow it sounds more like a confession than the I love you bit did.

The word is triplefold, like a fortune cookie, like a heartbeat tripping. Oh, Rodney thinks. Then, he says it out loud. “Oh. Oh. God, come here,” he mumbles in a rush, relief crashing over him, sudden and tidal wave-terrible as he reaches for John’s stubble-rough jaw, hauls him in by it, and kisses him.

John doesn’t kiss back, not at first. He just lies there slack and paralyzed while Rodney crushes their mouths together again and again, persistent and determined, thinking every day, every day, until finally John catches up to him and surges forward around a stifled groan, mouth opening, tongue wet. And—Rodney didn’t know kissing could be like this, either. Like breathing, like drowning, like some mess between the two, suffocation-wet and necessary all at once. John touches him all over with greedy, desperate hands, squeezing up his arms, down his back, into his hair, which is not long enough to make fists in, so instead he just razes his nails all over Rodney’s scalp like that’s the same thing. Like the places where Rodney is lacking are just as important as the rest of him. Like he’s been thinking of this, dreaming of it for weeks. Months. Years. Rodney tries to keep up, tries to hold John together as he’s trembling apart, tries to swallow everything John has to give him, thinking every day, every day, please, love.

Wait,” Rodney says suddenly, breaking their kiss with a gasp. “Can we get married?” John pulls away, eyes wide, and Rodney realizes with a lurch of panic how absurd that sounds. “Oh god! Wait, no, I don't mean right now, I just mean is that, like, is it possible. Or, like. Legal?”

In the Pegasus Galaxy? Probably. In America, no. And, uh, I can’t speak for Canada,” John mumbles, grinning madly into Rodney’s shoulder, before pressing an achingly firm kiss to the thud of his pulse. Jesus Christ,” he growls then, licking a broad, messy stripe up Rodney’s throat to the hinge of his jaw. “Did you—did you actually think guys just traded anonymous blowjobs? And that was it? That we couldn’t—that we don’t—”

“I don’t know! I was repressing a lot of things, this has not been my finest moment,” Rodney admits, digging his thumbs into John’s biceps until the skin dimples bloodlessly under the pressure. God, he’s wanted to touch him like this without even realizing that was what he wanted. That there was a reason his eyes snagged here, why he liked to look at John but didn't let himself. “I thought—I thought I was being homophobic,” he confesses. “Because I hated the idea of other guys touching you so much.”

“Well, hate to break it to you, but you were being homophobic,” John says with a half-grin. “Just not in the way you thought you were.”

“I’m so sorry. I feel ridiculously ashamed, I was—and you know I hesitate to say this—but I was being stupid,” Rodney says, meaning it, chest tight with a million unnamed regrets. “Sometimes I overthink shit and make it into a whole goddamned theoretical physics problem when it’s actually. When it’s actually just like, a simple four letter word.”

“God,” John says, mouth everywhere, eyes dark. “I don’t even care, you’re here, now, and I—I love you so much. I’ve loved you so long, thought—when you started asking me about gay sex stuff, I thought I was going to fucking die, Rodney. What the hell were you doing? Why did you do that?”

“Because clearly I wanted to have gay sex with you!” Rodney yelps, hauling John closer by his thighs, fingers inching back into the come-sticky crack of his ass to feel what he did again, to remind himself that he did have gay sex, he took John, and he gets to take him again, hopefully whenever he wants. “Because I love you, too! It seems absurdly obvious now, given all the evidence, in hindsight, but I just thought. I thought I wasn’t allowed to, or something? So I wrote up a whole ridiculous proof for it—but it was a correlation is not causation situation, it didn’t make sense, this makes sense, you make sense, you feel so good, tell me you won’t ever blow any fucking anthropologists anymore, and we can just—”

“Hey, hey,” John mumbles, rolling Rodney onto his back, pinning his arms above his head and looking down at him with shot, sparkling eyes, midnight-black with points of light gone hazy, like stars through a forcefield. “You have me, if you want me. Not just for sex. You have me. Like. Forever.”

Every day, Rodney thinks, throat thick as he swallows, wrists going numb and tingling as his eyes slide shut, and John kisses him again. Every day, please, love.