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Beyond the Gate - Part II - Window of Opportunities

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Part II

Window of Opportunities

These words have never left a mouth
We never got to get it out
Communication not allowed
Some things we don't talk about

(Take That 'Wait')



Michael had a period of free time and trekked through the dealer's rooms after breakfast. It was still early enough to do this fairly undisturbed. Most shops were just opening or re-stocking their tables. He purchased a magazine and a photo set of 'The Originals', a 'Vampire Diaries' spin off Tatiana loved, a bunch of mangas for Mia and a new Star Wars light saber for Sam. It would take a while until he'd be able to play with it. But his old one had been broken in battle and he'd wanted a new one for quite some time.

Michael found a broken arm was a good reason to be spoiled a little. And if he brought presents for his youngest he couldn't just leave the girls out. He would have liked to get them something specifically German. But he wasn't kidding himself; his kids wouldn’t value a Duesseldorf coffee mug or anything like that very highly. They'd be happier with mangas, photos and light sabers. They could still tell their friends the stuff came from Germany even though it had probably been imported from the US, the UK or Canada in the first place.

He considered going over to the airport to find a gift for Lexa as a thank you for enabling him to be with Rick. Nothing outrageous, just something to express his love. He couldn't weigh her in gold, he knew that. And he didn't want to buy her anything just because he felt guilty – despite the fact that she had practically ordered him to get laid.

Still weighing the pros and cons he left the dealers and took the elevator up to his room. He tossed his purchases on the bed and headed out again, briefly wondering what the cleaning staff thought of the soiled towels at Rick's. He decided he'd rather not know.

Whistling, he rounded the corner by the elevators and almost ran into Paul Brown who sidestepped quickly as he tried not to drop the pile of towels he carried.

“Sorry,” they both said and Michael quickly caught one of the towels in mid-flight.

“Ah, Michael. Remember the trio photo shoot is at 11:00,” Paul said absently, “Richard will probably be late. He's still signing and the line isn't getting any shorter. Thank you.” He took the towel Michael handed him.

“No problem. Who's taking a bath?”

Paul frowned, then said, “These are for Richard. He's always hot.”

Michael swallowed a reply along the lines of 'yeah, he sure is'. Instead he just nodded and pressed the button to call the elevator.

“I asked a member of the con crew to get him towels, but she never returned. Probably got held up somewhere else. Richard brought one down with him this morning, but he'll need more during the photo shoot. He might even grab a shower before that, if there's time,” Paul went on. “He gave me his key card to get towels. However, there weren't any clean ones left in his room just now. I had to actually find someone of the cleaning staff to get me new ones since his room wasn't done yet.”

Michael coughed and gazed at the ceiling for a moment to compose himself. Surely Paul hadn't gone through Rick's dirty towels to see if they were still useable. Surely Rick had balled his towels up and thrown them into the bathtub so the cleaning people knew to replace them. Surely Paul hadn't...

The elevator doors opened and they stepped into the car.

“He's sweating a lot. It’s a side effect of his meds,” Paul elaborated as Michael hit the button for the lobby.

“Yeah. I figured that,” Michael said lightly, then quickly changed the subject. “Julie reminded me of the photo shoot this morning.” Sometimes he wondered why their handlers seemed to think actors weren't capable of memorizing schedules. Or maybe they just considered it their jobs to play nanny. Julie had told him twice not to miss the shoot.

The elevator doors whisked open and they stepped out into the beehive that was the lobby.

“Good, good. I have to go. I wanted to run over to Starbucks to get some coffee, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. The hotel coffee is very bad.” Shaking his head, Paul hurried off, muttering something about crazy schedules.

Michael checked his watch and decided there was enough time to drop by the airport.

He greeted people on his way out, stopped here and there to say hi and shake hands with some fans he recognized from various other conventions. Some peeps showed up everywhere he went and some he remembered because they stuck out to him for one reason or another. He liked his fans. All things considered there were very few weirdos among those he'd encountered personally. He had met more lunatics on twitter than he'd ever met on conventions, face to face.

He crossed the bridge that led from the hotel to the airport, inhaling deeply the fresh air. The sun was out and while it was still cool now, Michael was sure it would warm up nicely later. What a shame to be stuck indoors for most of the day. Maybe he and Amanda should really steal an hour or two to roam the city.

Maybe they should kidnap Rick and take him along.

Maybe he should kidnap Rick and take him somewhere...

He rolled his eyes at himself. Hello, brain, could you please stop thinking about Richard every damn five minutes, thank you very much.

The airport was like a small town in itself. Spaciously laid out over two levels were shops, restaurants, a bank, bookstores and a post office.

Michael entered a jewelry store and browsed it for a while, then moved on to a boutique where he found a lovely red silk scarf. Lexa didn't usually wear scarves, but as Michael let the smooth, cool fabric slide through his hands he thought of several different ways they could play with it. Smiling, he took it and as he waited by the check-out he also found a pair of silver earrings he knew she would adore, so he got those, too.

Maybe she'd tease him about bringing her gifts to relieve his guilty conscience. But she would love her presents all the same and he hoped he didn't have to explain to her what it meant to him that she had given him this weekend. He hoped she knew.

He was a lucky guy, there was not a shred of doubt about that. Lexa could be a pain in the neck sometimes. She was stubborn and independent. She needed her space as much as he sometimes needed his. She could be a real vixen when she was stressed or mad. There was a lot of fire in his lady and he loved that about her, too.

But Lexa was also the most insightful woman he'd ever known. She 'got' him and she never expected more of him than she expected of herself when it came to their marriage. She paired female intuition with a strong need to communicate, to talk things out. That wasn't always something he'd choose to do, but in the long run it worked.

When he'd first met her and they clicked right away he had taken her out. She had been the first woman that piqued his interest since he and Rick were doing it. They had called each other and met more frequently over those first couple of weeks and before he knew it he’d realized he was well on his way to falling in love with her. He had told her about his sexuality on their third date because the subject had come up during a conversation and she hadn't freaked.

One day, several weeks after he'd broken up with Rick, he decided that, since she was already aware about his history with guys, he'd go ahead and tell her about Rick. He had probably needed to talk about this to someone and there'd been no one else he trusted enough to share this with.

She had stared at him. “Seriously, you and MacGyver have been fuck-buddies for three years?”

“Yep. And no paperclips or duct tape kinks were involved,” he had joked it off. “It's no big deal, really.”

“It's over, right? Those STD tests were taken after...”

They had been seeing each other for three months at that time and they'd had sex, but never unprotected. He had gone into this relationship being honest and offered to do any STD test necessary to prove that he was clean. She had done the same in return because, as she had pointed out, they both had the right to know this about each other.

He had taken her hands in his. Such small, delicate hands, so much femininity. Her softness combined with the scent of her perfume – Lexa considered herself a perfume whore – touched a very different string inside him than Rick. But it wasn't in any way less exciting or arousing.

“It's over. And yes, the STD tests were taken after he and I stopped doing it, so the results will be valid. It was over as soon as I knew you and I...”

He had suddenly been afraid he'd gone too far by telling her about Rick. That the vague knowledge of him liking guys, too, was one thing, but that the fact of him actually being with a guy until recently might be a deal breaker. She'd been understanding and tolerant in ways he had never experienced in a relationship. But he'd almost expected her to snap and leave after all.

She had struggled with that new development. But then she had swallowed hard and said, “Okay, this is... None of my exes have ever been this honest with me. So... I trust you. When you say it's over, it's over. This was before us. Or... it was... at least before...”

“I left him for you, hon. And that's not even what it was like. It was just sex.”

“And that happens, I know. I'm way beyond believing the guy I am falling in love with should be a prince on a white horse who has been waiting just for me all his life in an ivory tower. But I need to know it's over for real. I need to know you won't go back on set and continue this 'just sex' thing with him behind my back.”

“That's not going to happen.”

“Michael, I'm not talking about you cheating on me deliberately, just because you could. If you do that I'd be a very bad judge of character and you'd be dead or dismembered.”

He had snorted, then winced when he'd seen the glare she aimed at him. She had continued more softly, “I'm talking about the need and for how long you can stand seeing him every day without... We need to... we need to talk about this. About what he was able to give you, even if it was just sexually. Because I want to know if I can somehow compensate for what you've done with him. For what you need from a guy.”

From there on out they had started to 'figure it out' together in playful, joyful and downright dirty ways.

That was Lexa. His Lexa. That, and a tenfold more.

Michael didn't even plan his next steps. Before he knew it he was standing in line at Starbucks. He bought four large Coffee Latte to go and headed back to the hotel in time for that photo shoot.

He found Julie pacing the lobby and it occurred to him he hadn't told her he'd headed out. Apparently some helpful fan had informed her of his escape and the minute he was through the door she was all over him, hustling him out of the public's focus into one of the less crowded corridors.

“We need to hurry,” she snapped. “Fans are already lining up. I just hope they won't let anyone enter until Mister Anderson gets there and we can start. He’ll be late as usual.”

“Is he still signing?”

“He was five minutes ago. Michael, you know damn well you need to tell me when you're leaving the hotel... or at least have your phone on.”

“It's on.”

She gave him a stern look. “Set on vibration, right?”

He shrugged. “If Rick's still signing where's the rush?”

“Again, as you very well know, you need to be at the location before all the fans show up and you didn't even know where you were supposed to be.”

“I was counting on you to get me there in time. It's...” He checked his watch, “Ten to eleven. Plenty of time.”

They headed down one of those emergency exit corridors only the staff and official con guests had access to. Julie went on about how the time schedule was way too tight and how Richard wasn't helping things by taking his own sweet time for every single person he signed for like there wasn't a schedule to consider at all.

Michael let her vent, knowing she needed this to unwind. Suddenly she registered the cup carrier in his hands. “What's that?”

“Oh, that. Coffee.”

“I can see that.” She scowled.

“I happened to find Starbucks and thought Rick and Amanda would like some.”

“Since when is it your job to get coffee?” Julie asked, eyebrows raised.

“We used to get each other coffee back when we were on the show.”

Julie snorted. “For old time's sake? Really?”

Michael shrugged. “There's one for you here.” The fourth Latte had actually been for Paul who'd looked like he needed one, but Michael thought it wise to give it to Julie to get her off his case.

“Oh, I can't take a coffee break. I have to talk to Dirk about those paintings they want you and Amanda to sign. So I'll just drop you off at the photo shoot and head right out again. Give it to Paul. I bet he needs one.” But there was a hint of a smile on her face and he was out of the dog house.

They reached the conference room the con people had prepared for the photo shoot via a stairwell in the back. Amanda was already there. She leaped at the coffee and rewarded Michael with a peck on the cheek. “That's heaven sent! The hotel's coffee is awful.”

Julie made sure there were con people around and available to answer questions or take care of any problem that might occur before she headed out again, all business-like as usual.

“She was all over the place searching for you,” Amanda grinned.

“I did some shopping over at the airport.”

“Something nice?”

“Gifts for the wife.” He showed her the small plastic bag with the boutique's logo printed on it in shiny purple letters.

“Ohhh, lucky wife!”

They drank their coffee and she asked about the upcoming season of Saving Hope. He told her he was going to direct this season. It had been years since he'd been behind the camera and he was looking forward to it, but also a bit nervous. She assured him he was going to be great. “Your first time directing was fantastic and you even had to deal with two Jacks,” she grinned.

“Rick was a big help. Everyone was,” Michael recalled.

When he had directed “Double Jeopardy” everyone had been spectacularly supportive. It was just the way the cast and crew of SG-1 had worked together. He'd never experienced that kind of family-feeling on a set again.

“Oh my god, remember when they told you which episode you had to direct?” Amanda laughed. “And none of us envied you for it. We all felt kind of sorry. But we all were sure you'd ace it.”

“Oh, yeah. Of all the episodes they could have given a rookie director, that one was the most fucked up, awful one,” Michael groaned.

“Someone... I think it was Martin... once said that Rick had the last word on it. Apparently they had another one picked for you and he insisted you'd do Double Jeopardy...” She stopped short and blinked. “He never told you?”

“No-oh, he didn't.” It was clear that Rick, as one of the executive producers, had known and signed it. Hell, they had talked about it and Rick had patted his back – well, actually he hadn't exactly patted his back - and said he'd be fine. But he had never, not once, indicated that he had been the one throwing Michael headfirst into cold water.

That had happened years and years ago and wasn't worth mulling over now, but he couldn't help wondering why? To teach him a lesson? To challenge him? He'd gotten a damn steep learning curve directing that particular episode. There had been a lot of action, shoot-outs, vicious aliens, and multiple computer generated visual effects. And the damn twinning where each of them had to play dual roles - themselves and their robot doppelgangers. Michael had hoped for something more character based and less techy. He'd lost a lot of sleep and sweat. He’d chain-smoked and – more than once – wanted to just bang his head against a solid surface or be zatted three times.

But when he'd pulled through after weeks of living hell he'd been proud. Exhausted, but proud. Put through the wringer, but happy. He'd done it. And everyone – including Rick - had said, “Told ya so.”

Most of the time during their years on SG-1 Rick had simply passed forward to them what he'd learned, in a non-invading and easy way. He'd given them room to play and grow as actors and if he got bossy here and there it had little to do with them being less experienced and more with him wanting to get the job done faster. They had always been on the clock and while goofing around and having fun was one of Rick's and Michael Greenburg's priorities on set, another one was to get it right and done on time.

And that had basically been the only thing Rick and Greenburg had restricted him about. Keep with the time frame as much as possible and don't get bogged down in too many details, use smaller sequences instead of wide shoots etc etc. Everything else had been nothing but support. Help had come from every department and crewman/woman.

Sure, it hadn't always been easy to listen to all the different voices giving well meant and sound advice. He'd been at the helm and, yet, surrounded by people with far more experience. The strategy had been to find the most viable alternative while still keeping as much of his vision as possible. But Michael had felt safe. Still like a rookie, but not weighed down by too many opinions trying to pull him into all kinds of directions. He'd taken away a whole lot from that experience.

Yep, steep learning curve.

Paul joined them, towels under one arm and his bag slung over a shoulder. “Is that coffee?”

Michael handed him one. “Probably cold by now.”

“I don't care. It's the best thing that's happened to me all day,” he said, taking a sip. “Ahhh, very good, thank you. Richard will be here soon. He's taking a shower.”

“Oh, to be the shower gel,” Amanda sighed dramatically.

“Oh, to be his towel,” Michael moaned.

“Oh, no, wait, I want to be the towel.”

“Too late,” Michael laughed and she stuck his tongue out at him.

“He married me once. I win.”

“But he was only ever gay with me.”

Amanda sniggered. “He wanted to do a Ghost pottery scene with Teal'c in 'Windows of Opportunity'.”

“That doesn't count. Chris chickened out of that one,” Michael said, all victorious. What he didn't say was; I had him up my ass more times than I can count. Try competing with that. And he was slightly perturbed by the childish satisfaction that thought gave him.

“Chris chickened out of what?” Rick stepped between them, grinning from ear to ear. He was dressed in a dark blue shirt, the first two buttons open, and pants of the same color.

“Chris didn't want to play gay with you,” Amanda said.

“Yeah, well, his loss.”

Michael held the last Latte out to him. “Your coffee, hon.”

“Thanks, snookums,” Rick said without batting an eyelid as he took it.

“I'm staying out of that one,” Paul said dryly, then added, “You should have called or texted me. I was about to come and get you.”

“Some very nice young lady collected me, no worries. Apparently I'm late.” He squinted at his watch. “By... what... fifteen minutes. Oy. Sorry, guys.”

“Never mind that,” Paul said. “I will let them know you're all here.” He pushed through the double door to inform the photographer and the assistant.

Rick quickly downed his coffee and some attentive staff member took the cups from them.

“How do I look? Got anything between my teeth? My hair okay?” Amanda bared her teeth and rolled her eyes and they all burst out laughing.

“You look marvelous, ma'dear,” Rick said.

“Gorgeous even,” Michael added and they each offered her an arm.

“Oh, lucky me,” she chirped and they waltzed in, leaving their 'real mes'' behind and putting on their public personas.

The whole photo shoot was a blur of people. The photographer barked out orders (“Smile – action – next”) to the fans. Michael, Amanda and Rick were moved around like pawns. Some wanted to stand between Rick and Amanda, some wanted to be hugged by Michael and Rick, one gal didn't want Michael in the picture at all, some didn't care one way or another. Some pics they had to re-take and some people brought plush toys or SG-1 props to pose with.

One hour and thirty minutes later it was over. The fans were – hopefully – mostly happy and hurried off to stand in lines for other actors or roam the dealer's rooms or visit a panel. The photographer asked them to pose without anyone else and they moved to stand together, Amanda sandwiched between them. The whole time while they had actually been working Michael had stayed focused on his job and the fans, but now when it was just them he noticed the faint whiff of Rick's shower gel and how close they were even with Amanda in the middle. It was distracting as hell and he was glad he wasn’t a hormone driven rookie in his twenties anymore.

Finally the photographer had packed up and they were told to wait until their handlers escorted them to their next assignment. Paul had rushed out to clear something with someone and Julie, who had showed up at some point during the shoot, was by the door talking on the phone.

“What's next for you?” Amanda asked.

“I've got a meet and greet. They're probably already waiting for me.” Rick had a towel slung loosely around his neck and dabbed at his temple with a corner of it. He looked pale underneath his grin and Michael noticed how he leaned against a table to take weight off his knee or to support his back.

“I have autographs now,” Michael said.

“Yeah, me too.” Amanda checked her phone for her schedule. “Want to grab some lunch after?”

“Sure, why not. Rick?”

“No can do. Meet and Greet, then autographs again. Seeing how long that line was earlier I suspect I'll be doing that for a couple of hours. Oh, and I have another photo shoot this afternoon.” Rick grimaced. “At least I don't have to be on stage today.”

Neither of them suggested he should take it easy or get some rest. They had worked long enough with the guy to know he would neither listen to them nor appreciate them telling him to take it slow.

“I have a panel tonight,” Amanda said. “You're both very welcome to join me.”

Michael grinned. She was actually nervous going out there on her own. Even after all these years. “No Rick ribbing and no dancing with me, huh?”

“You'll have them eating outta your hands,” Rick said. “At least you remember all the shows and episodes and the people you worked with.”

“Like you don't,” Amanda laughed.

Rick sighed. “My brain's like Swiss cheese, I swear.”

“More like selective, I think,” Michael said dryly.

Rick threw up his hands. “I remember you... two... and the big guy, that's something, eh?”

“I feel flattered.” Michael and Amanda high-fived and he was about to yank Rick's chain some more when his phone vibrated. He pulled it from his jeans pocket to take a look, but it wasn't anything important. Just someone sending him a tweet.

Amanda raised her eyebrows. “Everything okay at home?”

“Yep, just twitter stuff.”

“How is Sam's arm?”

“Oh, he's on the mend. Just takes time. He's the hero of his team. Everyone wanted to sign the cast.”

“Guys,” Amanda said, rolling her eyes.

Rick stopped rubbing his face with the towel and frowned. “What happened to your kid?”

“He broke his arm in two places. Hockey.”

“Awww, I'm sorry to hear that. What position does he play in?”

“Defense. But obviously not anymore this season.”

“Thankfully they bounce back easily at that age. He's, what, ten?”

“Eight. But, yeah, he'll be fine. He's bored and cranky now, but he'll be fine.”

At that moment Paul returned and whisked Rick away to his 'Meet and Greet' and a minute later Julie ended her phone call. Michael and Amanda were ushered downstairs to the autograph tables which had been put up in the main hall.

Another two hours later Michael handed a signed SG-1 Season Five box back to a guy who looked like he spent most of his life in a gym or a Jaffa training camp instead of watching Sci-Fi shows. Which proved, once again, that fans came in all shapes and sizes. The guy thanked him and carried away his SG-1 box like a fragile treasure. Well, it had been signed by most of the cast already so it was probably special.

The last fan in his line was a brunette in her thirties who looked nervous as hell. First timer, he concluded as he greeted her with a cheerful, “Hi there.”

She smiled. “Hi, um, how are you?”

“Pretty good, actually, thanks.” He looked at the picture she wanted him to sign. It was from “Tin Man”, not 'Double Jeopardy” - but it still kick-started the trip down memory lane again as he signed it with a flourish “To Sonja” complete with his name and a smiley face. She thanked him and he thanked her back for coming, just a tad distracted by flashes of...

I'm so gonna blow this up big time,” he panted.

Rick slowed down, but kept driving into him, fingers digging into his hips. “Wha...?”

Double Jeopardy is fucking HUGE.”

Can we focus on the fucking right now?” Rick groaned.

Am not gonna ma... oh god, do that again... am not gonna make it.” He'd read that script. He was doomed. Dead. Toast. And why the hell had he just said that? He hadn't even shared his thoughts... his agony, his doubts, whatever... with Chris. It had just fallen from his lips... as if Rick's thrusts were pushing the words out.

Shanks...” Rick wheezed.

So many scenes to choreograph, too much stuff happening at once, that twinning thing... I don't even know where to start with my storyboard. All I have is a couple of stick figures.”

Rick came to a staggering halt and Michael felt the shift of his lover's cock inside as Rick bent over him and kissed his right shoulder. “Stick figures are cool. Nothing wrong with that. Stop fretting. You'll be great.”

It's too big,” he said gloomily. Now that he'd started voicing his fears it was crystal clear that he was panicking. And telling the executive producer of the show you didn't feel up to the task was such a major no-go. Especially while he was trying to fuck your brains out. Which was most likely the reason he'd just spilled it. Rick had turned his brain into mush.

Don't DO this to me,” Rick moaned. “Not now!”

Sorry. I just...” Despite Rick being in him he felt his erection dwindle, which was a first. And not a pleasant thing to happen.

Oh, for...” Rick pulled out carefully and let go of his hips. “You just killed the moment.”

Michael flopped over on his back and his eyes met a scowl.

Are you telling me you want to quit?”

NO. Well, I don't know.”

The reason they gave you 'Double Jeopardy' is because they believe you can do it. So do I.”

Hey, no pressure then,” Michael growled.

Do you WANT to direct or not?”

YES, I want to direct. You know I do!”

Then do it.”

But this is...”

Michael, my dick is going to explode any moment now and I'm kinda fond of it. So can you stop freaking out just long enough to let me get off somehow?”

Michael's eyes traveled down Rick's body and settled on a beautiful erection. He couldn't help but lick his lips at the sight and he suddenly noticed how open he was, how vulnerable. And that, if they stopped now, he'd have to go back on set soon being horny and pissed all day, which would probably lead to drinking with Chris, which would lead to being hungover and equally as pissed tomorrow because he couldn't afford to be hungover until he was done with this freaking director job.

He had to get to work because his prepping time was limited. Who knew when or if he and Rick would be able to meet again this week or next...

Okay. Get back in there,” he ordered hoarsely, taking himself in hand to get fully hard again.

You sure about that?”

Just do it.”

Rick sighed. “Look, if you need to talk about this right now we can...”

NO. I'm good. Not gonna let you go before you've done what you're supposed to do.”

Oh, I'm at your service,” Rick smirked and positioned himself as soon as Michael pulled up his legs.”And look at that, you're SO ready for me.”

Been at it for a while.” He released his breath when Rick slid back in with one long, smooth move, then stilled. Michael hooked his knees over his lover's shoulders. Rick bent over him, hands coming to rest to either side of his head.

Wanna pep talk?” Rick asked, a wicked gleam in his brown eyes.

Got some sound advice?” Michael murmured, loving the feeling of being doubled over this way and Rick filling him to the hilt.

No. Just this; you will not quit.”

He realized he'd never really thought of quitting. He wasn't a quitter. “I won't. I was just... mmmh.”

They kissed. Rick moaned into Michael's mouth where their tongues stroked and licked. And finally Michael's overactive mind shut down and he was back in the game. Sex proved to be a far better distraction than booze.

Rick started moving, slow and deep. For someone who'd just been on the verge of erupting his body control was incredible. But it wasn't enough, it wasn't what Michael needed right now. He needed to blow up, burn and crash.

Gimme some action here,” he demanded sharply.

You already getting into director mode?” Rick huffed, laughter dancing in his eyes. “Go on, direct me. Practice's good for ya.” He started circling his hips. “Action, you say?”

Thought you were so cl... ose... wait!” When Rick stopped immediately, Michael unhooked his legs from his shoulders. There was a short moment of limbs and bodies rearranging – with Rick staying firmly connected to him – until Michael wrapped his legs around Rick's middle, pulling him forward. The resulting jolt of Rick's cock hitting home had them both hiss and growl.

Nail me,” Michael ground out. “Now!”

Rick complied, hard and fast, just the way he'd done before the earlier interruption. Michael went with it, everything else forgotten and out of focus for the moment.

That's much better, baby,” Rick panted.

Oh, yeah... keep it up... don't slow down...”



You... will... not... blow... it. You... will... be...FUCKING BRILLIANT!” Each word was hammered into him with powerful thrusts and when Rick came with a howl on the 'brilliant' it brought Michael to the edge and over it with full force.

...”Michael? Earth to Michael?” Amanda's hand on his arm made him drop the pen he'd apparently still been holding. He almost bolted from his seat, startled out of his little memory-fest.

Holy shit.

He couldn't do this. Not here of all places, out in the open.

“Are you okay?”

He grabbed the glass of water from his table, relieved when his hand didn't tremble, and took a long swig. Pouring it out over himself would have helped with the hard-on he currently sported, but it would also be a bit awkward.

“Fine,” he said. Voice was steady. Good. “Just tired, I guess. Still kinda jet lagged.” He rubbed his eyes and took a couple of calming breaths, still cursing himself for letting his mind wander down THAT road.

Geez, like a teen with a porn movie. What the hell was wrong with him?

“I'm done,” Amanda announced. Michael glanced over at her table which was set up next to his. Her con assistant, a Sam Carter look-alike, was packing up the various pens and post-its. “Lunch? There's an Asian restaurant at the airport. They told me it's good.”

“Sure.” He got up, carefully adjusting his jeans – thankfully his erection had been startled along with him enough to recede rather quickly – and thanked his own assistant before they headed out of the main hall. They kept walking swiftly in order to avoid raising too much attention.

“I let Julie know we're going out. I asked her to join us, but she has other plans,” Amanda said as they dodged groups of people and hurried out of the hotel.

They only had an hour and as much as they liked their fans they both needed a break now. But they got lucky. No one really tried to bother them on their way to the airport and a moment later they found a nice table at the Asia Gourmet.

Lunch was fun and took his mind off Rick. He and Amanda stayed in touch more regularly via phone and e-mails and sometimes they met for lunch or dinner. But it had been a while since they'd last done that because Michael was in Toronto most of the year, shooting SH, while Amanda worked mostly in the Vancouver area.

Over sushi rolls and Canton duck they caught up on each other's families, took a dip into business gossip and who was in touch with whom of the old SG gang. They chatted about Sanctuary and how she wanted it back, about upcoming projects and whether or not she could imagine being on SH for an episode. He told her about working with Erica and Daniel and how the dynamics of the cast was very different from Stargate. The whole franchise was very different, actually. With SH he'd left the Sci-Fi genre and he loved the new challenges and the more character-orientated work even though he missed the action from time to time.

He moaned about having to stand ten to fifteen hours at an operating table splattered in fake blood and gore, playing with body part props, which had her in stitches.

Somehow they ended up talking about Rick again, though, but at least it was her who started it.

“I know yesterday I said he seems to be coping and all. And he is. But now I'm actually a bit worried. He was so pale and exhausted after that photo shoot.” A shadow crossed her face. “I guess none of us are getting any younger.”

“No, we aren't. But he's okay. Take it from Doctor Harris – the patient needs some rest, a massage, a spa day and he'll be back like this.” He snapped his fingers and she snorted.

“Do you think he's lonely?” she asked thoughtfully.

“No clue. He seems to have everything he wanted. A house, a kid, dogs, sunny California, no worries about money. He's worked his ass off to get all that and it paid off. If you're talking about relationships... I guess he's just not made for that kind of commitment. Now he has to live with that.”

“Wow. Nice summary,” she said, giving him a cool look.

“Well, what do you want me to say? That I feel sorry for him? Maybe there's no reason to. I haven't seen him – aside from that Comic Con in 2008 and Calgary – in years. He might well be happy like a clam with his retirement and despite being old. I don't know.”

“In twenty years we'll be where he is now,” she said gloomily. “Career wise I'm not sure what that means, how things will develop. And everything else... I hope I won't be sitting in a big house, divorced and too old to play anything but the mother-in-law bitch, the hard-nosed business woman or the mommy of the nation.”

“Don't forget the botox treatments and the pains of keeping up with your personal trainer who'll be young enough to date your kid.” Joking was good. It took the edge off.

“Oh, god.” But she laughed and they ordered coffee.

Michael didn't want to think about Rick being lonely or getting old right now. He had just gotten him back into bed after all these years. He wanted to pretend – at least for a little while – that they could pick up where they had left off. He could accept the fact they were both older and that Rick didn't have the same stamina Michael was used to. The bodily changes were no issue whatsoever for him, but he was afraid that if he gave in to thinking about Rick's troubles, he might discover that he still cared way too much.

And he couldn't. He had to take this weekend as what it was. Borrowed time. A gift. A very precious gift. But he had to return the 'toy' in the end and get on with his life. And he could do that. As long as he kept it simple.

Simple and fun. Yep. That's the way to do it.

And while he was making this vow to himself, to keep this weekend light and easy, he knew he shouldn't have raised that argument about Lexa this morning either. There was no point in opening old wounds. He didn't want to fight and argue over spilled milk.

Simple and fun had always been their way of tagging the 'friends with benefits' relationship. “Let's keep it simple and fun,” they used to remind each other whenever they'd entered territory that threatened to take them beyond simple and fun.

And, oh boy, there had been moments.

When you worked together so closely and basically lived in each other's pockets, when you weren't just fuck buddies but also friends and colleagues, the boundaries would eventually blur a little – in good and bad ways.

Like when they'd both had their kids with them on set and had taken turns looking after them. Sometimes they had met on weekends and taken the girls to the playground or spent an afternoon at Michael's place watching a game while the kids were napping or playing. Michael had kissed Wylie's owies better and Rick had tried to feed Tatiana broccoli (with very little success). They had mostly avoided meeting at Rick's place in Vancouver because there was always a chance of paparazzi hanging around, trying to get pictures. The press was much less aggressive towards Rick in Canada as opposed to California, but you'd never know.

Of course there had been no way they'd end up in bed or even necking on the couch whenever the girls had been with them. Especially not once their babies had reached toddler stage. Little ears and eyes and out of babe's mouths could be worse than public media.

Domestic stuff. Something that had felt like they were a happy little family with two dads. They'd done that. Not all the time and not during hiatus – they'd rarely ever seen each other during hiatus. Sometimes Rick had called and they had actually engaged in phone sex once or twice - but they'd done domestic stuff, yep.

Sometimes when it felt like they had gotten too close they maintained a certain distance for a while. Never for long, though.

Then there had been issues about personal boundaries like Rick being on Michael's case over partying and drinking – mainly with Judge – and Michael griping about Rick's tendency of being jealous and going alpha on him in a not-so-subtle way whenever he'd felt Michael had gotten too cozy with one of the guest stars. And then, of course, Rick had accused Michael of over reacting and being 'out of line' when he'd been pissed about Rick ogling J.R. Bourne during those early Tok'ra episodes. Rick had been Covert Ops about it, but Michael had known him too well and seen the signs.

So, they'd had rows. And moments of crossing certain lines and acting stupid and pig headed. But they'd always managed to reach the common ground of 'simple and fun' again. Until Michael had met Lexa and things had changed in a big way.

Not right away, but slowly and steadily.