Providing the Flame
Big Bang 2008.   Stargate program: Declassification.
When the American Government and IOA decide to declassify the Stargate program, they don't expect the reaction that they get, and John Sheppard is the focus of a whirlwind of deception and intrigue.
Word Count
50425 words
So many people looked at this story and cheered me on, I lost track of all of them. But I ended up with FOUR wonderful betas: morebliss, ladyflowdi, ambrosia4all, and kathgrr. Thank you so much for helping me out!

Companion Artwork
  • Providing the Flame by Elli

Rodney had never understood why they'd kept it so classified in the first place. He'd ranted and raved many times about the way that they were discovering all this new knowledge, yet none of it was being released to benefit humanity. New medicines, new energy sources, new advances in physics, chemistry and botany - all hidden away as if it was something shameful, something to be afraid of.

Having listened to many of these late night rants, John could practically recite them right along with him. He'd never tried to argue Rodney out his uncharacteristically optimistic point of view, though John knew that he could poke more than a few holes, using Rodney's own arguments. "People are morons," was a personal favorite, dating to before DADT had been repealed. It seemed glaringly obvious to John that the reason that it was being kept a secret from the people on planet Earth was because many of them wouldn't be able to deal. There'd be chaos and riots, and it seemed to John that it made sense that no government would want to risk that.

But between the defeat of the Ori, and the destruction of the last of the Wraith ships, John could almost see the writing on the wall. When there wasn't this life or death pressure to keep everything a secret, someone, somewhere, was going to let the secret slip to the wrong person. When that happened, life as they knew it would change, and he doubted it would change for the better. He could just see someone deciding that the wars that they'd stumbled into had been their fault, and blaming the SGC and the members of the Atlantis expedition. If they were very lucky, the IOA would defend those decisions, but he couldn't count on that.

What he never would have predicted was the message that he was looking at right now. "Are they nuts?"

Rodney looked up from his own email. "What?"

"Have you looked at the databurst yet?"

"No, why?"

"Go ahead and look."

There was silence for a moment as Rodney scrolled down, looking... and then a muffled, "Ah ha!" as he found the memo that the Stargate program was being declassified. When John dared a look over at Rodney, he saw that Rodney wasn't moving. For that matter, he was barely even breathing. "Rodney?"

"Do you know what this means?"

John had a strong suspicion that he knew what it meant better than Rodney, but still, he wanted to know what it meant to him, so he said, "No."

"It means I can finally publish. It means that everything I've done, every discovery I've made will finally be on the world stage. I might actually get that Nobel prize after all." Rodney looked so happy that John was afraid to burst his bubble. He was positive that it wasn't going to be that easy, not at all, but he knew that Rodney would never hear him if he urged caution.

So instead he stood up and crossed the room to where Rodney sat in front of his computer. Kissing him on the forehead, he said, "That's great, Rodney. Really, really great." Rodney grinned at him, a happy, open smile that only John ever got to see, and even then only in private. Setting aside his doubts and fears in the face of that smile was easy, and he did so, leaning in to gain another kiss from Rodney.

"Should we celebrate?" he asked, voice low and husky. "Before things get crazy and you're busy writing your Nobel acceptance speech?"

"What did you have in mind?" Rodney replied, but his fingers were already busy undoing his shirt. Shrugging out of it, he let it drop onto the floor. John watched as his chest came into view. Dropping his head, he kissed a nipple, only stopping when Rodney reached for him. "Hey, this is only fun if both of us participate."

He pulled back just long enough to shrug out of his t-shirt, then dove back in, this time sucking Rodney's nipple into his mouth. Nipping at it sharply, he had to fight a shiver when Rodney moaned. Rodney's hands, big and warm, spread out over the muscles of his back, pulling him closer, and he found himself slowly dropping to his knees to give him a better angle to reach Rodney's chest.

Even after all this time, Rodney's every reaction, every small moan and whimper shot like a bolt of electricity straight to John's cock, and he lowered one hand to press ineffectually against the front of his pants, trying to tell himself to just wait a bit.

One of Rodney's hands shifted to the back of John's head, carding through his hair as he shifted between nipples, keeping them both hard and wet, blowing cool air over them. He continued until Rodney was rocking in place, his whole body screaming for more.

Only then did John climb back to his feet, hands already undoing his belt as he rose. "Oh, yeah," Rodney murmured, standing so he could do the same. "This is going to be so good."

It was only a few steps to the double bed. Then they were both naked, and John was pushing Rodney onto his back. Blanketing Rodney's body with his own, he buried his face in Rodney's neck and took a deep breath, smelling sweat and ozone.

Rodney rocked his hips up, rubbing his cock along John's, and John's brain short-circuited. He moved until his cock was cradled in the perfect spot created by Rodney's hip, the spot that seemed created just for him, and Rodney's cock was rubbing against his belly. Thrusting down, he started to move, small gasps of pleasure escaping on each breath.

"John, John, stop for a second," Rodney said, and pushed on one of his shoulders, pushing him away. He made a sound of disappointment but obeyed, rolling onto his back as Rodney dug in the nightstand for something. He came back with the lube, and poured some on his hand. Then, before John could quite compute what was happening, Rodney's slick fingers disappeared behind his back, and John realized what he was doing.

He was opening himself for John's dick.

God, that was hot.

The only thing that would have made it hotter would have been if he could see, but beggars couldn't be choosers and all that shit. Instead, he found himself grabbing Rodney by the upper arm; just holding on in an effort not to come all over himself at the thought of what Rodney might do next.

Rodney still had that open grin as he straddled John's waist. Raising up on his knees, he reached behind himself and gripped John's dick, holding it steady as he slowly sank back, taking John's cock into its favorite place. "Oh, oh, god," he moaned as Rodney took him all the way down to the root.

Leaning forward, Rodney propped himself up on his hands, holding himself so that his face was scant inches above John's. Frantic, John lifted his head, trying to kiss Rodney, who soothed him with a "Shh, John," that did nothing to calm him at all. It was a struggle not to move, not to rock up into that perfect heat, until Rodney told him that it was all right.

Finally, Rodney started to really move, just a little bit up and then back, ripping a moan from John's throat. Rodney echoed the sound, and his eyes slammed shut as pleasure washed across his features. "Hold still," he whispered, as if John had been doing anything but, and started to rock a little faster, a little harder.

John grated out, "Rodney," as his fingers tangled in the blankets. Rodney leaned a little further down, licking at John's lips, and with a moan John opened for him, letting him in, letting him have whatever he wanted as long as he... didn't... stop...

"Now, John," Rodney whispered, and before John could even parse the words, his body knew what Rodney meant, his hips slamming up, hard and deep into Rodney's body. Both of them let out cries of pleasure, and John did it again, and again, as his orgasm approached.

"Touch yourself, please," he begged, wanting to see Rodney come before he did, and Rodney immediately wrapped one hand around his cock, jerking it with the short, fast strokes that he preferred. Without any warning, Rodney's body tightened around him, and he watched avidly as Rodney came over John's stomach and chest. As if that was some sort of signal, his own orgasm ripped through him, and he emptied himself deep inside Rodney's body. The orgasm seemed to last forever and not long enough at the same time, and he fought to keep his eyes open, keep them locked on the look of ecstasy on Rodney's face. Releasing the grip he had on the blanket, he brought up one hand to stroke it over Rodney's cheek.

Rodney stayed propped up on his hands, panting, as they both tried to catch their breaths. Only as sweat cooled and breathing calmed did he kneel up, John's cock slipping from his body. Shifting so that he could lie down next to John, Rodney reached out a hand and took John's. Lying close enough to feel each other's heat, but not so close that they stuck together, they relaxed. John tried to do the best he could to forget his fears. Maybe Rodney would be right; maybe everything would be just fine.

The next few days passed in a blur. Everyone was talking about declassification. Every single one of the scientists seemed to think that making the public aware of the program was a good thing, allowing them to publish discoveries that would either lead to the prizes, fame, and fortune, or to the betterment of mankind - depending, of course, on the scientist.

The members of the military, on the other hand, seemed much more paranoid. John wondered if it was because being military put them in touch with baser human instincts, or if they simply had experience at being political scapegoats. Either way, there was whispering in the halls about being thrown out as victims, whispers that he did his best to ignore, because if he thought about it, paranoia was catching. And as the base commander, he knew exactly who was going to be hung out to dry.

John had hoped that they'd be spared the worst of the declassification hullabaloo by virtue of being in another galaxy. That was before the strongly worded "request" came through for him to report to the mountain to be on hand for interviews and such. He couldn't quite believe that he was being set loose like that. It had been a long time since the black mark in Afghanistan, but the military's memory was long. Apparently they expected high demand for information, though, and all of SG1 were also going to be on the publicity circuit.

The SGC didn't order Rodney home, which surprised the hell out of John at first, but when he thought about it, he realized that Rodney would be a public relations nightmare - impossible to control, and too volatile to release into the wilds of the press. He didn't explain this to Rodney, because Rodney was too busy being glad that he didn't have to interrupt his research. So he was shocked to return to their quarters to pack, only to discover that Rodney was already there, with his duffel packed, loading his laptop into a backpack. "Rodney?"

"Oh, shut up," Rodney said, amiably enough. "Like I'm going to let you face down those vultures alone." Zipping up his backpack with an air of finality, he added, "Aren't you going to pack?"

John stared at Rodney for a long moment. "Who are you and what did you do with Rodney?" he asked finally. "Because I know that you're not volunteering to spend time under the mountain doing nothing."

Rodney didn't meet his eyes, and a hectic flush stained his cheeks as he said, "You know you need someone to watch your back. And who better than me?"

He didn't really have any way to argue that, and still startled at Rodney's unexpected sensitivity, John turned his attention to packing his own clothes. He didn't bother with civvies, because he knew that he wasn't going to have the chance to wear them. He did pack every set of uniforms he owned, including his dress blues. He had no idea what he might need, so he brought it all, even though it made him feel like a huge clotheshound. Rodney didn't say anything, but when John pulled out his rarely worn dress uniform, he made a small sound. Standing, he took it from John and hung it on the back of the door, before pulling out a hanging bag that John hadn't even realized that they owned and carefully zipping it up.

Throwing a set of sweats and a bunch of underwear into his bag, John looked around trying to find something that might stop him from having to go. Finding nothing, he picked up both his and Rodney's bags. Rodney swung his backpack onto his back and draped the hanging bag over one arm. Before John could open the door, though, Rodney stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. Leaning in, he gave John a kiss that was so sweet it hurt. "Before we have to deal with the crazies," Rodney said, and then opened the door.

The people they passed in the hallway smiled and waved for the most part, and the gate room personnel were unusually cheerful, which John chalked up to the fact that he was taking Rodney with him. Doctor Rodriguez waited at the bottom of the steps for them. He'd taken over command in the last shake up at the IOA, and so far had proved to be okay, if a little too willing to believe the IOA's own opinion of itself.

"Colonel," he said, nodding at John, then looked at Rodney. "I didn't think they asked for you, Doctor McKay."

"Yes, well, that just goes to show the complete lack of intelligence on their part. As the lead researcher here in Pegasus, I should have been called on to be at the front of the publicity." Rodney made a face, showing just how disgusted he was by the perceived stupidity on their part, before visibly shaking it off. "At any rate, I'm going with Sheppard. Leave request is on your desk, and of course I'll be reachable if there's a problem."

"I'm not sure - "

"What is there to be unsure about? Do I need to remind you that I'm a civilian? The American government doesn't get to dictate my movements. Now, I can go with your blessing or without it, but I am going." John couldn't help grinning at Rodney, who didn't even look at him. Instead, he focused the entirety of his personality on Rodriguez. John could have told him to just give up and give in, because when Rodney got like that, there was no way that Rodney was going to lose.

Rodriguez looked a bit like he'd swallowed a lemon, but he nodded. "Of course, Doctor. I assume that in your absence, Doctor Zelenka is in charge of the science department?"

"Yes, yes. They all know who to report to, and exactly how dead I'll make them if they screw up the city while I'm gone. Now, can we do this already?"

Giving a short, sharp nod, Rodriguez turned to look at George, who'd replaced Chuck two years earlier. "Dial Earth, please?"

There was part of John that wanted to take Rodney's hand. This was one of the scariest things he'd ever done, and the reassurance would have felt fantastic. But they didn't do things like that, and so John satisfied himself with a soft elbow to Rodney's ribs as the wormhole flared and then stabilized. "Ready?"

"No. Let's get on with it." And side-by-side, they walked through the 'Gate and back to Earth.

Rodney hated being under the mountain. After nine years of working in Atlantis, he was far too used to its high windows and soothing colors. The dingy gray concrete of Cheyenne never failed to depress the hell out of him.

Normally, John was worse off than he was, but right now John at least had the distraction of meeting after meeting where they were trying to prepare SG1 and John for being in the spotlight. Since Rodney hadn't been formally recalled, he had nothing to do all day but sit around and read physics journals. The boredom was killing him.

He was grateful that John had insisted on not hiding their relationship, so at least they got to share quarters and a bed, even though they were both still reluctant to have sex under the mountain. While they had both been reassured that assigned quarters weren't under surveillance, neither of them particularly trusted that guarantee.

Unsurprisingly, Carter and Mitchell were having a fairly easy time of it compared to John, who looked more and more frustrated every time that Rodney saw him. John had never dealt well with being doubted, and from what John whispered to him as they lay in bed on the third night, the SGC expected every decision they'd ever made to be called into question by the press.

Folding his lips tight, Rodney tried not to think of all the times he'd wished for declassification. He'd never wished for this, for John to have to justify their existence to the whole world. Of course, it was probable that Stargate Command was just being paranoid, and that everything would go fine. Trying to ignore the little voice of doubt - it sounded surprisingly like John - he concentrated on that. Everything would be fine. Rodney was more than willing to embrace optimism where John was concerned.

John came through the door just then, moving with the care that demonstrated exhaustion and frustration in equal measures. It was the way John moved when he wanted to throw things, wanted to yell and scream, and couldn't. "It's tomorrow," he said.

"What?" Then Rodney sat up straight. "The announcement? It's tomorrow?" At John's reluctant nod, Rodney came up off the bed and hesitated, waiting for John to give him some indication of what he needed. John didn't even falter, stepping in close and wrapping his arms around Rodney, who immediately brought up his own arms to hold John tightly. He bit back the comforting words that he wanted to whisper, knowing that John wouldn't accept them.

Instead, he held John until he shifted away; uncomfortable, Rodney knew, with the show of weakness. "What can I do?" he asked, hoping that John would feel free enough to tell him, here in this place without a sky.

Now John hesitated, biting his lower lip, and Rodney couldn't help the way that he focused in on the way that his teeth sunk into the pink flesh. He was concentrating so hard on that, in fact, that he nearly missed it when John said, "Fuck me?"

That surprised Rodney, as they rarely did more than sleep in the same bed at the SGC. Since DADT had been repealed years ago, John had finally given in and admitted that they needed shared quarters when pressed by Carter, and while there had been a few comments the at the time, by now everyone just dealt with it.

But just because prior history made Rodney surprised, didn't mean that he wasn't ready. Pulling John back in, he kissed him slowly, mostly chaste for the moment. John melted into the kiss, going boneless in Rodney's arms, and Rodney smiled softly before deepening the kiss, opening his mouth to lick along at John's lips, asking to be let in. With a soft sigh that Rodney barely heard, John did so, licking at the tip of Rodney's tongue and nipping at his bottom lip.

They stood there kissing until Rodney was panting and John was straddling Rodney's thigh, grinding his hard cock into the muscle there. Pulling back a little from Rodney's lips, John kissed his way over to his ear. "Fuck me, now."

"In order to do that, we're going to have to stop kissing long enough to strip," Rodney said, between gentle kisses to John's face. John groaned but pulled away, hands tangled in the hem of his t-shirt, pulling it off quickly. Before Rodney could catch up, John's hands were already busy at his waist, unbuttoning his pants and shoving them down narrow hips.

As John's cock came into view, Rodney stopped to stare. Even after all this time, he loved seeing John naked. His mouth watered, and he started to lower himself to his knees, wanting to suck John's cock into his mouth, only to be stopped by a hand on his shoulder. "Rodney, focus. Naked would be good. Right now."

Shaking his head to clear it, Rodney toed off his shoes and undid his pants, letting them fall. Yanking off his t-shirt, he blinked at the sight of John bent over the side of the bed, offering up his ass. This time John didn't stop him as he slid to his knees behind John, hands on his ass, pulling his cheeks wide and licking a stripe over the entrance to John's body.

John came up on tiptoe, a loud gasp exploding from him. "Fuck," he said, making Rodney smile before he turned his attention to driving John absolutely mad with his mouth, licking and biting and sucking at John's hole until he was incoherent with pleasure, legs shaking and head buried in the blankets. Then he stood up, only to realize that they'd never unpacked the lube.

"I'll be right back," he said, running a hand down John's back. "Need lube."

"Christ, Rodney, use spit if you have to. Just get in me," John ordered, but Rodney wasn't willing to risk hurting him. Moving fast, he dumped his shaving kit out on the dresser, picking up the half empty tube. Slicking his fingers, he eagerly slid one inside John, loving way that he clung around Rodney's finger; soft, wet heat that made him want nothing more than to be inside him.

Pushing back, John demanded more, and Rodney, just as eager, slid a second finger in deep. Crooking the tips of his fingers, he could feel John's prostate, and he rubbed it gently, making John cry out and pant. When he couldn't stand it any more, he pulled his fingers out and slicked up his cock. Lining up with John's hole, he said, "Ready?"

"Been rea-" John cut himself off as Rodney started to push past the tight ring of muscle. "God, yes," he muttered, pushing back and making Rodney slide in even faster.

In deep, Rodney paused for a moment to let John adjust, then started to move slowly, not doing much more than rocking his hips until John huffed out an impatient breath. "Not going to break, Rodney," he muttered, shoving back into Rodney's hips. In answer, Rodney gripped him tight and started to move, fucking hard and deep.

John cried out, a loud, wordless sound that Rodney recognized. Pulling his hips up even further, Rodney continued to pound into John, trying for the perfect angle. He knew he hit it when the sound John was making cut off suddenly. Releasing one of John's hips, he shifted so one hand was in John's hair, pulling it lightly. "Touch yourself," he ordered, knowing that it wasn't going to take much. Not when John was like this.

His shoulder began to shake, telling Rodney that John was fisting his cock, and he smiled a little bit. "C'mon, John. Give it up," he said, pulling John's hair a little harder. John groaned something that might have been Rodney's name before it got mangled, and clenched tight around Rodney's dick. Rodney released his hair, hands back on John's hips as he fucked him through his orgasm, drawing it out, making it last.

Once John had stopped twitching, Rodney said, his own voice harsh with the effort it cost him to maintain this kind of control. "John, please."

"Anything, Rodney," John said softly, groaning as Rodney pulled free from his body. "Turn over," he said. John hurried to obey, flopping on his back, and Rodney lifted his legs, draping them over his shoulders before driving back into John's yielding heat.

John egged him on with his voice, even as his hands roved over Rodney's body, tweaking his nipples, fingers sliding over his ribs. "Going to fill me with your come?" John asked. "Make it so I feel it all day tomorrow?"

Just the thought that John was going to be facing cameras and the press while sore from Rodney's fucking, pushed Rodney right up to the edge, and when John said, "Now," he fell. The orgasm was intense, combining with need and fear to totally wipe Rodney out.

Somehow he managed not to collapse onto John, pulling out slowly and carefully before letting his knees give out, stretching out sideways on the bed. "You're going to be the death of me someday," he said. "Besides, it'll make for an interesting obituary."

Smiling, John turned on his side to face him and leaned in to give Rodney a gentle kiss. "Yeah, but what a way to go," he said, smiling.

Rodney returned the kiss eagerly, not wanting to get up. But they needed to clean up before bed, and John looked even more exhausted, if that was possible. Pulling himself back up, he stumbled to the bathroom, cleaning up and fetching a washcloth for John. By the time he made it back into the bedroom, John had twisted around so he was facing the right way on the bed, though he was still lying on top of the covers.

Dropping the cloth onto John's belly, he climbed into his side of the bed. Turning to face John, he traced one finger down the side of his face. Times like these, he really wished that John were more at ease with his emotions, because there were so many things he'd love to say. But John wasn't ready to hear them - might never be ready to hear them - and so Rodney kept them behind his teeth.

John's eyes fluttered shut at Rodney's touch, and Rodney liked to think it was because John knew what he was trying to communicate. Kissing John one last time, he turned over, reaching for the lamp and turning it off before John moved in close, his nose buried in the hair at the back of Rodney's neck. "I'm scared," John said softly.

"I know," Rodney said. He wanted to reassure him that everything would be just fine, but he couldn't. All he could do was let John hold him and pretend to be the strong one.

The alarm went off far too early, making Rodney swear and slap at the nightstand before he managed to pry his eyes open enough to see it. Finally managing to silence the god-awful noise, he turned over to face John, who was looking at him quietly. There were dark rings under his eyes, and he looked like he'd barely slept all night.

"Do you really think it's going to be that bad?" Rodney asked, a little surprised. He had thought that John was exaggerating his paranoia.

"Yeah, I really do," John said with a sigh. "But it's not my decision to make, so I guess I need to get out there and pretend that I agree with my government. Won't be the first time, won't be the last."

Before John could match action to words and roll out of the bed, Rodney leaned forward, giving him a soft kiss. John returned it with a need and a desperation that Rodney hadn't felt since the last hive ship had gone down in a flaming wreckage on Old Athos. John's hands ran down Rodney's ass and pulled him close, as his tongue sought entrance into Rodney's mouth. Unresisting, Rodney opened his mouth to John's demand, swallowing the small sounds that John was making.

He wanted nothing more than to take the time to soothe John's fears, but if they dallied for too long, Rodney just knew that General Steiner would take great delight in sending an airman to fetch John. So he gentled John back, running soothing hands over John's back and shoulders, until he calmed and let Rodney pull back a little. "Time to face the press," he muttered, and Rodney let him get out of the bed.

The two of them took turns in the bathroom, cleaning up. When Rodney came out, he found John putting his dress blues on carefully. Stopping dead, he grinned and wolf-whistled, making John blush. "This isn't fair," he complained. "You know what that uniform does to me."

Smirking, John struck a playful pose. "Yeah, I do." When Rodney started to advance on him, though, John grimaced and held out one hand. "No time, and I can't get wrinkled, Rodney. I'll let you take the uniform off me later, okay?"

Rodney sighed and backed off. "If I have to wait. But you promise, right?"

"I promise, barring rioting in the streets, you can strip my uniform off and ravish me tonight, yes," John said, grinning.

"Okay." Rodney turned his attention to dressing as well. What he wore didn't matter, since he wasn't going to be allowed to be seen on camera. Instead, he'd been informed that he could wait with Teal'c, Vala and Jackson in the Green room. His ears still burned at the memory of Carter saying to him, "They don't trust you, McKay. You're abrasive and obnoxious, especially to anyone you deem dumber than you, which, let's face it, is almost everybody. Plus, you get overprotective of Sheppard, and no one wants a bulldog going after anyone who asks him a hard question."

He'd tried to appeal to her knowledge of his relationship with John. But she'd shrugged it off. "If you were his wife, you wouldn't be allowed to appear with him either. Face it; the American government controls the IOA, and the way that declassification is handled. That means that they want people they can control dealing with the press."

"Have they met Sheppard?" Rodney had snorted. The thought that anyone could control John like that was laughable.

Except that Carter's eyes had grown soft, and she'd lowered her voice, as if she was trying to impress Rodney with the seriousness of what she was saying. "Look, Rodney. If John wants to keep from being yanked out of Atlantis, he'll toe the government line."

"As if the city would let him go."

"I know that they've left him in place for this long because he's inspired some sort of insane loyalty with the soldiers and the scientists. And maybe you all think that he's irreplaceable, but I'm telling you that the military doesn't see it that way. They've left him in place this long because the fight wasn't worth it for a post at war. But now that there's peace in Pegasus? They'd have no problem replacing him. That's a battle the military has fought before and they'll win. Sheppard knows this, and he'll say what he needs to say in order to keep his post."

Rodney had swallowed. He'd never really understood military politics - something that had gotten him in trouble more than once - but Carter did, and what she was saying carried the ring of truth to it. There was no way that Rodney was going to be responsible for John getting yanked out of Atlantis, and ever since that conversation he'd done his damnedest not to question John about what he was being instructed to say.

Finished getting dressed, he looked over at John, who was fighting with his tie like always. "You grew up wearing the damn things, John. How is it that you can never tie them when you need to?" he asked, crossing to John and tying it for him.

John grimaced. "I hate them. Always have, always will."

Nodding, Rodney straightened it one last time before looking John over. In his uniform, John looked absolutely gorgeous, and Rodney had a sneaking suspicion that between the uniform and John's status as a bona fide hero, he was going to have his own fan club before the day was over. That was fine with Rodney, just as long as he got to be the number one fan. Not that he'd ever admit that to John, of course.

"Okay, it's time to go," he said instead, glancing at his watch. The conference was going to be held in Colorado Springs, at the Crowne Plaza. There was a van taking Carter, Mitchell, and John, and a second one for Jackson, Vala, Rodney and Teal'c.

Rodney still wasn't completely certain why Teal'c or Daniel Jackson weren't being allowed to stand with the rest of their team, but he figured that the American government wanted the credit to fall firmly on the military's shoulders. Of course, he was perfectly clear as to why Vala wasn't being included. She'd probably filch the press secretary's purse just to say she did it.

The two of them made their way to the surface, meeting up with Teal'c and Steiner in the elevator. Teal'c inclined his head at the two of them, and Steiner gave them both his customary glare. After all these years, Rodney had finally figured out that the glare didn't mean anything. Steiner was just completely unable to smile.

As the elevator opened on the first floor, the rest of SG-1 came into view. Vala was fiddling with Mitchell's tie, while O'Neill, Jackson, and Carter watched, amused. Then Carter looked up and saw them. She glanced between him and John, and he nodded, trying to telegraph that he was going to behave, honest.

She smiled at him, and for a moment he remembered when life was different - lusting after her hopelessly - and to wonder what would have happened if she'd actually given in to him one of the many times he'd hit on her. Thankfully, that had never happened, and he had John now, who was glaring at him, as if he could read Rodney's mind.

He gave him an open smile, then turned his attention to the man who'd been acting as a media coach, going over every possible question again and again with SG1 and John. Christian Reid was looking over them with the slight anxiety of a mother sending her children off on the first day of school. "Remember, you are the representatives of the American government out there. People are going to love you. Besides which, you've accomplished amazing things over the last fifteen years. You have every reason to be extremely proud of what you've done."

Rodney caught John rolling his eyes, and rolled his own in response. Yeah, yeah, yeah was all he could think, but before he could sidle close enough to whisper it into John's ear, Reid clapped his hands together. "All right, let's roll out."

O'Neill, Carter, Mitchell, and John all got into a plain white minivan driven by General Steiner, and Rodney had to muffle a snort of laughter at the look of disgust John gave the poor van. Then another pulled up, driven by Walter, and he gave it his own look. Teal'c and he exchanged glances, and Rodney interpreted it to mean that if he tried to get in the front seat, Teal'c would probably break his kneecaps or worse. So, not wanting to sit next to Vala, he climbed into the back, while Jackson and Vala took the middle seat.

The drive to Colorado Springs was done in an uncomfortable silence, but before Rodney could think of a conversational gambit that didn't sound terrible, they were pulling up to the back of the hotel. All of them climbed out, and Rodney looked around for the other van. The hotel had a staff member waiting for them outside, and he interpreted his searching look correctly. "The others have already arrived, and being escorted to the conference room. If you will follow me, I'll take you somewhere you can watch."

Teal'c nodded his head gravely, and Rodney tried to imitate him, not wanting this perfect stranger to realize how his stomach was twisting. They followed him down a short hallway to a small \ room that was outfitted with a large flat screen TV. There were several rows of chairs in front, and small tables at the back of the room that held a variety of drinks and snacks.

Rodney thought about getting something to eat, but only for a moment. He really wasn't sure he could keep it down. Instead, he picked one of the seats in the front row and sat down, fidgeting uneasily.

Gradually, the room started to fill up. There were people that Rodney recognized as being on various gate teams; there to watch as their whole lives were exposed to the world. Jackson and Vala were talking quietly in a corner, and he thought about joining in, but didn't feel that he'd be terribly welcome. Instead he just kept repeating to himself that everything was going to be fine, ignoring the way that the soldiers - mostly combat veterans - were fidgeting and looking more than a little green. He was almost relieved when Teal'c sat down next to him.

"You are worried, Doctor McKay?" he asked.

"Um, yeah," Rodney admitted, though he wasn't sure when he'd caught John's fear. "I just want this to go smoothly."

"I do not believe that that is an issue," Teal'c said. "They have been well-trained as to what to expect."

And they had been. Rodney knew this - he'd listened as John had bitched and moaned about the hours spent listening to Reid shout questions at them, expecting them to give the standard government answers without taking the time to think about it.

Taking a deep breath, he let some of the tension drain out of his shoulders. Flashing a small smile at Teal'c, he said, "Thanks."

Teal'c nodded gravely and turned to face the large screen. Vaguely, Rodney wondered which channel was going carry the announcement. Then one of the hotel flunkies came in and turned on the TV, and Rodney gasped softly.

The press conference was taking place in what looked like the large ballroom, and it was absolutely thronged with people. Reporters were shouting at each other, video cameras and microphones were being set up, and in the front sat SG1 and John. They looked small and nervous, and the impression wasn't helped by the way that the huge American flag right above their heads dominated the room.

He continued to glance at the screen as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed Jeannie's number. "Hello?"

"Hey, Jeannie."

"Mer!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"Is Kaleb at school?" Rodney asked, smiling.

"What? No, Kaleb is here. He doesn't have class today."

That would make things so much easier on Jeannie. "Hey, do me a favor? Put on CNN?"

There was the sound of Jeannie getting up and moving around, and then the sudden sound of a television. "Okay, it's on. Now what?"

"Just - watch it for the next half hour or so. And then tell your husband about the wonderful work you've been doing for the last few years."

"Mer, what in the world are you talking about? I can't tell him… wait a minute. Are they declassifying the program? That's it, isn't it? They're going to tell the world?"

Rodney choked up for a moment, and he had to clear his throat. "Just watch, Jeannie," he said, and then closed the cell phone.

Just then, John glanced right at the camera providing the feed into the conference room, and Rodney almost felt like he was directly at him. Even though he couldn't be there, next to him, he hoped that John was reassured knowing that Rodney was watching.

John winced as a microphone started to give feedback, only to be cut off immediately. General O'Neill leaned over and said, "Smile, son. People are watching and they're going to get worried if you look like you're waiting to face a firing squad."

Giving him a weak smile, he made a concerted effort to loosen up. He hoped that maybe after all this was over with today he could hit Rodney up for a backrub, because his shoulders and neck were killing him. "I'll be fine, sir," he whispered back.

"Somehow I doubt that," O'Neill said, but he sat back in his chair and folded his hands over his stomach, giving every appearance of a man at ease, instead of a man who was getting ready to be introduced to the entire world as one of its saviors. John had no doubt that the military and the government was going to make every effort to paint them that way.

Just the thought made him want to puke. He wasn't a saviour. Ronon was a hero. Teyla was a hero. Halling and Jinto and thousands of other people who'd worked with Atlantis to destroy the Wraith – they were all heroes. But he wasn't.

But if he wanted to keep his post, then he had to play the game. And if that meant smiling and playing make-nice with the press, then so be it. He gave a nearly inaudible sigh and relaxed back into his chair.

Carter rested one hand on his shoulder. "It'll be fine, Sheppard," she said. "You'll see." When he didn't answer her, she shook him a little. "Hey, this gloom and doom doesn't suit you. What happened to the guy who always saw his way out of any situation, no matter how bad?"

"He's looking for a way out of this one," John said, sotto voice, making her laugh.

"Well, if you spot one, share with the rest of the class, would you? And in return - " The room started to quiet as the press secretary, Ms. Morris, entered and made her way to the front of the room. "Um, too late, I guess."

John nodded and waited for the signal from Reid in the front row for the four of them to stand up. He gave it; a discrete little wave, and then they were on their feet, perfectly centered behind the podium. They probably looked really impressive to the press, especially considering the amount of chest candy that they were wearing.

Ms. Morris waited for the flurry of picture taking to ease, and then started to talk.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we appreciate your attending this media conference. We realize that scant information about its content was given, just an invitation that probably struck many of your editors as just short of an order, something we know most of them are unused to"

The gaggle of journalists chuckled quietly at that.

"We're here to discuss the declassification of the most top secret program that has ever existed. It's one that will strike many of you as purest science fiction, and it will be understandable for you to demand proof. We ask for your patience as we give you the proof that you'll need."

She directed their attention to a large screen TV off to one side of the podium. John turned to look, but knew what he'd see. Sure enough, it was the Cheyenne Mountain Gateroom. The camera was focused on the 'Gate itself and John closed his eyes as a rush of homesickness washed over him. Shaking it off, he returned his attention to the recording, where Walter could be heard, encoding chevrons. Then the 'Gate burst into life, accompanied by gasps, nervous laughter, and murmuring. He could just make out the words, "Wormhole X-treme," and he couldn't stop the smile.

The film cut from the 'Gate to one of the more unique worlds they'd visited, where the sky had been a bright shade of orange, even at high noon, and the trees a vibrant purple. From there, they cut to video of one of the Asgard, which made John wince and mutter about them needing pants, and then to the Apollo, landing at Atlantis. The last earned more gasps and louder muttering.

"As the reporter from the Washington Post so quickly identified, it all looks like something out of a science fiction show. But it's not - it's very real. What you've just seen, in order, were the Gateroom under Cheyenne mountain; PX4-85B, which is a planet in the Pegasus galaxy; an Asgard, one of our allies; and the Apollo, a Daedalus-class battle cruiser. The US, along with our allies, have the ability to generate 'wormholes' that can be used to travel to destinations elsewhere in the Milky Way and the Pegasus galaxy. Travel is made possible by these rings, called Stargates, that an Ancient race left behind thousands of years ago."

"While the original ring was discovered in Egypt in 1928, it took many years to make it operational. In 1994, a brave group of soldiers stepped through to discover a world we could never have imagined; to face dangers we never could have prepared them for. They performed admirably. But it was deemed too dangerous to explore further at that time."

"Then, fifteen years ago, the 'Gate was reopened - this time from the other side. And Earth was catapulted into politics on a galaxy wide level."

The reporters all started shouting questions and John glanced at the security officers stationed at the front of the room. Seeing that they were alert, John relaxed slightly. Ms. Morris hesitated, and John couldn't really blame her. But she picked up and continued on.

"Please. There will be time for questions later. For the last fifteen years, brave soldiers have led explorations, taken risks, and fought battles to keep Earth safe from those who would do her harm. And while we can't say that we're completely safe, for we can't predict the future anymore than you can, we can say with certainty that both the Milky Way and the Pegasus galaxies are safer today because of our defence forces."

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to introduce to you the former and present military members of SG1, Earth's first contact team: General Jack O'Neil, Colonel Samantha Carter, and Colonel Cameron Mitchell. Also the military commander of the Atlantis Base in the Pegasus galaxy, Colonel John Sheppard."

"They will made available for questions one at a time tomorrow, after you've had a chance to review the materials that will be distributed after this press conference. You will also be given a chance to view one of the ships that we've built."

"At this time, I am prepared to take a few general questions."

All hell broke loose in the room, with every reporter shouting questions all at once. John didn't know how Ms. Morris kept her calm, but she did, pointing at one young man down in the front row. "Mister Tyler, please,"

"Is this some form of elaborate prank?"

"I assure you, Mister Tyler, this is no joke. There really is a Stargate system, and we really have been using it to travel between many planets for the last fifteen years."

She pointed at a middle-aged woman towards the back. "Ms. Hernalstein?"

"Wasn't there a TV show called 'Wormhole X-Treme?' This looks very similar."

"It does, doesn't it?" Ms. Morris gave her a small smile that wasn't returned.

"Is there any connection between the show and this so-called reality that you're presenting to us?"

General O'Neill stepped forward and touched Ms. Morris's arm, whispering in her ear for a long moment. As he stepped back, she said, "Yes, the similarity was deliberate. The show was allowed and encouraged as a way of deflecting curiosity about the Stargate program."

Ms. Morris turned her attention to a young woman off to one side, "Ms. Darwesh?"

"Are there actual aliens we're in contact with? Are they friendly or hostile?"

"We've encountered many different species of aliens. Some are unbelievably friendly, but we have also had to fight wars agaist a few of those who are hostile."

The whole room broke out into more shouted questions at that. One man started waving his arm frantically, and before Ms. Morris could identify him, yelled out, "What do you mean, 'wars?' How could we have fought in wars and not noticed or been informed?"

"Members of our military will be available tomorrow. More details will be given at that time. Now, Mister Blackburn?"

"Are you sure that this isn't a practical joke of some sort?"

"Quite sure, Mister Blackburn. Do you have any actual questions?"

He cleared his throat, looking a bit embarrassed. "What can you tell us about the 'friendly' aliens? Are they considered allies?"

Ms. Morris cleared her throat, clearly looking uncomfortable. "Well, they consider us to be something like children. Rather inexperienced in the way the galaxy works, as it were. We're learning rapidly, but we're still centuries, if not millennia, behind other civilizations."

Her face clearing, she looked out over the audience to pick her next person. John concentrated on his breathing. So far, this wasn't going too badly. If most people received the news like the people in this room, they might actually survive it. He wasn't going to count on it, though.

"Are the other governments of Earth aware of this technology?"

"Several of them are, yes. There is actually an international committee, known as the International Oversight Committee, or IOA, who both the Stargate Command and Atlantis base have to report to. They are in charge of ensuring that all decisions made are made for the good of all mankind, not just the U.S. Mister Stephens?"

"You mentioned that these 'Stargates' were left behind by an Ancient race. Who were they?"

"They died out thousands of years ago, but in some ways we would have found them very similar, from what I understand. They looked human, and weren't all that dissimilar from us." John wanted to speak up, tell her what pricks the Ancients actually were, but O'Neill stepped down on his foot, reminding him that he needed to keep his mouth shut. "Ms. Marsh?"

"Are there aliens living among us right now? Could we meet some of them?"

Ms. Morris looked back at them before turning and answering Marsh's question. "There are a small number of them living on Earth, but their identities are classified at this time to ensure their safety."

Marsh and several others looked excited by this, but before one of them could voice a follow up question, Ms. Morris picked a tweedy looking guy out from the back. "Mr. Pierson?"

He stood, looking at her over the tops of his glasses. "Really, this is some sort of elaborate joke, isn't it?"

Ms. Morris sighed, and then said, "Mr. Pierson, you've been a government reporter for a long time, right?"

"Fifteen years, give or take a bit," he answered.

"In that time, have you ever seen the American government exhibit the type of humor that you apparently think us capable of?"

He smiled and shook his head no, and she smiled back. "No, this isn't a joke, though I believe that's the end of the questions for today. If you'll pick up your information packets as you leave the room, you'll find a schedule of who will be available for questions. We'll be starting with General O'Neill at ten AM tomorrow."

She left the podium, and after a signal from Reid, they followed her, not pausing even as members of the press called their names. John was still feeling more than a little ill, but for better or worse, it was done. The government had told. Now to see what the average person did with the information.

The five of them entered the Green room, only to be met by the applause of the other 'Gate teams. John smiled nervously, trying to find the one set of eyes that he most needed to see, and he finally spotted them right in front of the television screen. Blue eyes met his, and John let out a breath as some of the tension left him.

He left SG1 to fend off the well wishes coming from the various team members, and passed Jackson, Teal'c and Vala, who were trying to make it over to their team. He was only interested in one thing, and finally he managed to make it through the throng to Rodney's side. "So?" he asked.

Rodney was smiling, but he said snarkily, "You did a really good job at standing in place and letting someone else field the questions."

"Ha, ha, very ha," John said. "Do you think they believed us?"

"Some of them, yes. More of them no."

Just then they heard the sound of a Daedalus class starship passing overhead towards the airfield.

"Which one is that?" he asked.

"The Apollo. They're only going to be allowed to view her from the outside, but still, it should work to convince them that we're serious."

John nodded, ignoring Rodney's grimace. His dislike of Commander Ellis frequently spilled out to the ship. John had learned over the years to just let it be. Even Rodney knew when it was appropriate to bring up, and right now it wasn't.

"That'll work," Rodney said.

O'Neill nodded. "Yup. Now, why don't you kids go ahead and get out of here? We all have rooms here, since we're going to have to be back in the morning anyway."

A glance over at the door showed that SG1 had already pulled back and were no doubt on their way to their rooms. "That sounds like a plan." O'Neill grinned and slipped to the back of the room.

John was planning how they could make an unobtrusive getaway, when O'Neill called out, "A toast, folks, for a successful press conference," and as everyone turned to face him, John and Rodney slipped out the door.

They made it as far as the elevator before one of the reporters caught up with them. "Colonel Sheppard? A moment of your time, please?"

"Not right now," he said, trying to smile and stay polite.

"But if I could just ask you a few questions?"

"I'll available for questions at one o'clock tomorrow," he said, pressing the button again in the vain hope that it would summon the elevator quicker, before Rodney decided to step in.

"But really, it'll only take a min - "

"What part of 'No," are you having trouble with?" Rodney asked and if John could, he would have beaten his head into the closed elevator door.. "I mean, I've never held the press in terribly high regard, but this seems dense even by those standards."

John dared a glance at the reporter, who was flushing a dull red. "And you are?" he asked, turning his attention to Rodney.

For once, Rodney showed a modicum of restraint. "No one that you need to worry about. Now, why don't you go join the rest of the idiots outside waiting to go see the shiny spaceship? Isn't that where you belong?"

Just then, the elevator doors dinged open, and John hurried aboard. Rodney followed him, but when the reporter tried to join them, he barred the way. "Goodbye," he said with an insincere smile as the door slid shut. He pressed several buttons, saying, "This way he doesn't know where floor we get off at, because I wouldn't put it past them to knock on every door on the floor."

Taking advantage of their privacy, John finally gave in to his desires, banging his head into the shiny metal wall of the elevator. He only stopped when Rodney grabbed his arm, pulling him back. "John?"

"You are aware that I'm going to have to face him - and all his friends - tomorrow, right?" John asked.

Rodney sighed softly, stroking his fingers from John's shoulder to his hand. "Yeah, I know. I just don't like it. Besides, that creep was asking for it - you just know he was trying to get some sort of 'exclusive.'"

"He was just doing his job, Rodney." But John had never been able to stay mad at Rodney, and this time was no different. Turning to face him, he pulled on Rodney's arm until he stepped forward, letting John kiss him gently, before slapping the back of his head. "You don't need to protect me, okay?"

Rodney rubbed where he'd smacked, but a smile was hovering around the corners of his mouth. "Fine, fine. Next time I'll let the press have you."

"You do that." Finally, the elevator opened on the right floor, and the two of them got out. Rodney handed a keycard to John, who started to look for room numbers. He was surprised when Rodney held up his own card. "Apparently we're supposed to be staying in two separate rooms," he said.

"Oh, screw that," John said, grabbing Rodney by the hand and dragging him towards the room that matched the number on his keycard. "We had to sleep separately before. We're not doing it now."

"But John - " Rodney started.

"No. Just no," John said. He found the right room, and opened the door before pausing to whistle. He hadn't realized that the military or IOA or someone was springing for suites. Holy shit.

He moved into the room, looking at the flat screen TV, the comfortable looking couch, and the small kitchenette, before noticing his bag in the corner. Rodney's was distinctly not there, and that was unacceptable. "Let's go get your stuff," he said.

Rodney tried using his reasonable voice when he said, "Please, John. There are still people out there who would have an issue with you sleeping with me. Let's not give them any fuel, okay?"

John turned to look him full in the face. "Rodney, if someone doesn't like me based on who's in my bed, that's their problem. I have had a crappy day on top of a crappy week, and I want you to fuck me till neither of us is thinking anymore. That can't happen if we're in separate rooms." He paused, and then added, "Besides, you promised to peel this uniform off."

"Oh, that's not fair," Rodney said, already moving forward. "Using a man's uniform love against him."

"Wait a second," John said, holding up one hand. "We need to get your stuff, and find the lube, because I am not stopping once we get started." Rodney nodded, and then pulled him close enough to kiss, just a close-mouthed brush of his lips over John's, before he went out in the hall to find his assigned room.

John went over to his bag, and fetched the lube from it. Rodney had returned before he could even close his suitcase again. Dropping his own bag just inside the door, he pounced on John, pushing him down on the couch and straddling his legs.

"Hi," Rodney said, before leaning down and nuzzling at John's neck. "You smell so good."

Smiling, John tipped his head, giving Rodney unfettered access to his neck, shivering a little as Rodney took advantage to lick a stripe over his carotid and up to his ear. Sucking the lobe into his mouth, he nipped at it, making John jump a little and protest. "No marks where they show," he said.

"Aw, you never let me have any fun," Rodney grumbled, but he sat up straight, his hands going straight to the tie that had been doing its best to strangle John since he'd put it on that morning. "Let's get you out of this first, okay?"

"You won't get any objection from me," John said as Rodney untied it and slid it off, laying it down over the back of the sofa.

Then he stood up, and pulled John to his feet. "Let me undress you?" he asked, almost sweet in his apparent shyness. John couldn't stop himself from kissing him before nodding. Rodney gave him a blinding smile and slowly slid the coat off, turning to hang it neatly over the back of one of the chairs. He paused; fussing with it, and John realized that he was trying to make sure that it wasn't going to crease.

When Rodney finally turned back to John, it was all John could do not to demand that he hurry, but he clamped his mouth shut, letting Rodney move at his own pace. Next up was John's shirt, which he slowly unbuttoned; his clever, nimble fingers moving painfully slow over John's chest and stomach. The shirt was given the same treatment as the jacket, and finally Rodney lifted the hem of the plain white t-shirt, pulling it over John's head.

He had thought that since he was now bare from the waist up, he might get some attention to his nipples. Instead, Rodney slowly sank to his knees, and John's mouth went dry. He untied both of John's shoes before urging him to step out of them. He stripped off John's socks, and then his hands settled on John's waist, unbuckling and unbuttoning and unzipping before slowly lowering his pants to the floor so that John could step out of them.

Rodney left him standing there in his boxers as he carefully folded his pants and draped them over a third chair without coming up off his knees. When Rodney returned to his place in front of John, John had to say something. "Please, Rodney," he begged softly.

Carefully lifting the elastic of John's boxers so they wouldn't catch on his erection, Rodney lowered them to John's thighs before letting go, and they slid the rest of the way to the floor on their own. John kicked them aside and said again, "Please."

Rodney's large, warm hands settled onto his hips, holding him steady, as Rodney leaned forward, taking John into his mouth. John had to close his eyes and bite back a moan as warm and wet surrounded his cock. Rodney put his large mouth to good use, taking John deep and sucking softly as John fought the urge to thrust.

When Rodney pulled back to tongue under the head of John's dick, he broke. Weaving his hands into Rodney's hair, he tugged, trying to get Rodney to stand up. Rodney pulled off with a slurp and looked up at John from underneath his lashes. "Don't you want to come?"

"Fuck, yes," John groaned, but he continued to tug until Rodney finally gave up and stood. "But I want you naked more."

"Mmm," Rodney moaned, leaning forward to kiss John deeply as he toed off his shoes and dropped his pants, kicking them away in a twisted wad of fabric. They didn't need to break the kiss as Rodney unbuttoned his shirt, throwing it aside, and then they were pressed skin to skin. John's hands dropped to Rodney's ass, pulling him up tight. Their dicks rubbed together, making them both catch their breaths, and for a moment John let himself rut against Rodney.

But he wanted more, so he pushed Rodney back a step, two, until he was up against the couch. A final shove and Rodney sat, and within seconds John was straddling him. Grabbing the lube off the coffee table, he squeezed some out over Rodney's cock, slicking it thoroughly, and then John shifted, lining Rodney's cock up with his hole and sitting back. "No, John, wait! You're not rea-"

John stopped Rodney's objection by the simple expedient of kissing him hard. Between the lack of preparation and the hard fuck the night before, the penetration hurt, but John resolutely pushed back. He wanted this, wanted to feel it.

Rodney made a soft sound into the kiss, and his hands landed on John's hips as he forced John to go slower. Soon enough, John settled into the cup of Rodney's pelvis, and he pulled away from Rodney's mouth to take deep breaths. "You fool," Rodney said affectionately. "One of these days you're going to hurt yourself doing that." But his hands passed over John's body, soothing and stroking him.

"Rodney? Shut up," John said, and he started to rock, just little motions that caused Rodney to nudge up against his prostate. It didn't take long for the pain to shift to pleasure, making John moan and want even more.

"Shutting up," Rodney said, dropping his head and sucking one of John's nipples into his mouth. He bit it sharply, and then soothed it with the flat of his tongue, making John move a little faster, a little harder.

Bracing his hands on Rodney's shoulders, he rode him, twisting his hips so much that he felt like he was corkscrewing around Rodney's cock. He couldn't get enough, and some of his desperation must have started to show on his face, because Rodney stopped him by gripping his hips and lifting, pulling John off his dick.

John cried out, hips still moving as he sought out the Rodney's dick. "Shh," Rodney said. "Turn around."

Obediently, John climbed off Rodney and turned around so that he was facing the arm of the sofa, his hands on its soft surface, one leg on the floor so that he could spread wide enough for Rodney to get back into him.

"Fuck, you're hot," Rodney said, his hands spreading his cheeks and the head of his cock nudging up against John's hole. "Going to fuck you till that's all you can think about, my cock in your ass. That what you want?"

"Yeah, god. Please?" John couldn't help begging. Rodney was so close to where he wanted him, and yet still not inside of him. Then Rodney started to press forward, sliding in slowly, making John cry out and lower his head, raising his ass at the same time.

Rodney took it as the desperation it was. His hands gripped John's hips, forcing them further back so that Rodney could slide every inch of his cock hard inside John. All John could do in this position was take it. With a sob, John tried to move, but Rodney held him still, the hold almost brutal.

His first stroke inside John was an agonizing pleasure, hitting all the right places but far too slow. But the next was better, and the one after that even better, each stroke building on the one before it until John couldn't tell if Rodney was sliding in or out, just that he was moving, slamming into John's prostate and making him take it.

He was begging, pleading to be touched, to be allowed to come, because Rodney was moving too forcefully to allow him to get a hand down on to his dick. He didn't care that it made him sound like the biggest slut ever - not as long as it got Rodney to touch him.

Instead of wrapping his hand around John's cock, though, Rodney tightened his grip on John's hips, and then he yanked, pulling John up until he was kneeling in Rodney's lap, his cock so deep in John's ass that he could practically taste it. "Come on, John," Rodney murmured in his ear. "Touch yourself. Make yourself come riding my cock." Rodney was still moving, inscribing perfect little circles deep inside John, and without hesitation John slid his hand to his cock, jerking it fast and furious. He was... so... close...

"Going to fuck you every night and every morning, John. Going to send you out to face the cameras raw from my dick, and every time you sit you're going to feel a reminder that you're mine." With that, John gave a harsh cry and came, shooting out over the arm of the couch.

His vision dimmed, and he sagged in Rodney's arms, only vaguely aware that Rodney was coming as well. Then Rodney pushed him forward gently, pulling out. John couldn't stop the soft hiss of pain, and Rodney gave a curse before spreading his ass with his hands. John knew that he should be embarrassed, having Rodney check him for damage like this, but all he could feel was grateful that he cared.

"No bleeding, but if you ever do that again, Sheppard - " Rodney blustered.

With a complete lack of grace, John flipped over on his back, pulling Rodney up so that he could kiss him. "I think I'm going to hold you to that," he said. "I want you to fuck me every time I have to go in front of those damn cameras."

Rodney flushed in embarrassment. "I - "

"I mean it," John said.

All Rodney did was nod, then leaned down and kissed John before climbing off the sofa. "You need a shower," he said. "Then we both need food. Especially if we're going to spend the evening making out, which is what I vote for."

John smiled and stood. "Sounds like a plan to me."

Jack O'Neill whistled as he waited for the elevator. This hotel was definitely a step above the places he usually stayed, that was for sure. It didn't quite make up for the lack of his own bed, but still, it wasn't bad.

The elevator door opened on the first floor and he stepped out, only to freeze at the sight that greeted him. Police officers flooded the lobby, and even with the glass doors closed he could hear the sounds of angry shouting. "Aw, shit," he said to himself. This did not bode well for the rest of the day.

He contemplated going back to his room and ordering room service, but he decided that if the Go'auld hadn't sent him running, a crowd of angry humans certainly weren't going to. Instead, he straightened his tie, tugged his jacket down, and headed towards the restaurant.

Reid intercepted him, guiding him skillfully towards the back of the room. The waitress was there before Jack had even sat down. "Sir, is it true? Are there really aliens?" she asked, eyes wide. She looked about twelve years old.

Damn, I'm too old for this shit, he thought to himself before nodding. "Yep."

"That is so cool," she said. When he looked pointedly - and a little desperately - at his coffee cup, she said, "Oh, yeah," and filled it. He gave her his order, and she scampered off after telling him to call her if he needed anything. He was pretty sure that she'd winked at him, a fact that made him more than a little nervous.

Turning his attention to Reid, he said, "So, I take it news has hit the streets?"

"Yes, along with pictures of the four of you. Things are a little... unsettled right now." Reid looked supremely uncomfortable, a fact that made Jack smile into his coffee cup. He didn't like the guy, and seeing him anxious was amusing.

Tipping his head to the side, he listened to the yelling that he could faintly hear. "Sounds like more than a little."

"Just some hotheaded locals. They'll calm down in a day or two."

"And if they don't, you'll throw us to the wolves, right?"

Reid looked honestly horrified, as if the thought had never occurred to him, but Jack wasn't fooled. There was no way that the Powers that Be were going to take the fall if they'd miscalculated how the average citizen reacted to the news.

He didn't feel like arguing the point with the man, so he simply closed his eyes and rested his head against the back of the booth, waiting for his food. One thing, though. "Has anyone called up to everyone's rooms and let warned them about our audience?"

Swearing softly, Reid pulled out his phone and started to dial as quickly as possible. But even as he started talking - to Sam, from the sound of it - the elevator opened. From the angle that Jack was sitting at, he could see Sheppard and McKay exiting the elevator. McKay's eyes widened and he looked a little shell-shocked. From the dark circles under their eyes, both of them had been up all night. Sheppard in particular looked exhausted.

Nudging Reid, he sent the man out to collar the two men and escort them into to the restaurant. They sat at the table, and for a long moment neither of them said anything. Jack was honestly surprised when it was Sheppard who spoke first. "The space ship convinced them that it wasn't an April Fool's joke, huh?"

"Apparently so."

Closing his eyes to slits, he watched the two men. McKay had turned to Sheppard, and his voice was low as he said, "I don't understand. Why are they so angry? This is the most amazing thing to happen to this planet since our distant ancestors stood up on two feet."

Sheppard just shook his head. "Because people are stupid. You know that better than anybody, Rodney."

"But - " The waitress returned then, bringing Jack his breakfast and taking Sheppard's and McKay's orders. By the time she left, she'd hit on both Jack and Sheppard at least twice, though in a polite and rather low key way. That may have been the only thing that saved her from being disemboweled by McKay, who was shooting daggers in her direction.

As she walked away with more sway to her hips than was strictly necessary, John smacked McKay on the back of the head. "Play nice, Rodney, or I'll send you back to our room."

The waitress brought the food for Sheppard and McKay, and apparently McKay's glare worked this time, because she set down the plates with a minimum of flirting and went off to do waitress-y things. The two of them turned their attention to their food, both of them eating quickly.

Checking his watch, he realized that he had about ten minutes to get into the ballroom. From the sour look on Sheppard's face, he realized the same thing, and he finished up his breakfast in two bites. McKay was already done, but he was still banned from talking to the press, so he didn't stand when Jack and Sheppard did. He did catch Sheppard's eye, though. Jack wondered if he was going to say something mushy, but instead he just nodded and said, "I'll be watching."

Sheppard didn't even acknowledge that he'd heard him, but some of the tension left his shoulders. Jack waited a second longer, then clapped Sheppard on the back. "Let's go meet our adoring fans, shall we?"

"Can we not and say we did?" Sheppard asked, but he started towards the ballroom without complaining.

Rodney was annoyed to still be banished to the back room, but at least there weren't the crowds that had been present the day before. The only people that he had to share the room with were Jackson, Vala, and Teal'c . A few members of other gate teams wandered in and out, but USAF guards on the doors meant that they didn't have to deal with non-SGC people.

He fielded a phone call from Jeannie, thankful that she hadn't called the night before. He could tell that she was practically vibrating with excitement, and he smiled into the phone. "Kaleb took it well, huh?"

"He did! He can't quite believe that I've been working on another planet occasionally, but he says he's very proud of me."

Rodney glanced around the room, wanting to make sure that no one was paying attention to him when he said, "He has every reason to be proud of you, Jeannie." Movement on the television screen caught his attention. "I need to go," he said.

"Call me later, Mer," she said.

"Will do." Hanging up the phone, he turned his attention to the screen.

He watched curiously as O'Neill was introduced, and he was peppered with questions. Most of the reporters seemed to be respectful, though there was a bit of a furor over the cost of the SGC program. Then again, Rodney hadn't ever thought of how much it cost, and accounting for inflation and such, twelve billion dollars a year - especially when it received funding from other countries - didn't seem so bad.

Most of O'Neill's questions revolved around costs and politics, which made sense, as he was the senior ranking officer of the SGC that was available. He was also a known figure from his work with Homeland Security, and the press was comfortable with him.

There was a pause as Sam was introduced again, and then the questions started to fly fast and furious. It became rapidly apparent that the larger papers had sent their science reporters, because most of the questions revolved around how exactly the wormholes worked. Sam started to talk about naquadah and the way it interfaced with various other elements, and Rodney had to smile as most of the reporters' eyes glazed over.

She looked around like she was looking for a whiteboard, only to be stopped by Ms. Morris. She returned her attention to the reporters reluctantly. Some of the other questions had to do with what it was like being a female officer in an SGC team, and Sam smiled as she answered. Rodney didn't really care, so he let the answers wash over him, tuning in only as she turned to sit down.

Cameron Mitchell looked like he was about ready to throw up as he approached the podium, and he stared out at the gathered reporters like they were circling sharks. Rodney thought he wasn't too far off, actually. He glanced at Jackson, who looked a bit worried, and that didn't help at all.

Then the questions started. They were mostly about the Ori and how the superweapon had worked to destroy them. A few of the reporters seemed obsessed with the idea of the Priors, coming back over and over again to the subject. But the longer the questioning went on, the more Mitchell seemed to relax, finding a way to work the answers. Rodney had to respect him for that.

Then it was John's turn. Without thinking about it, Rodney moved to the front of the room, so he could be closer to the television, and for the first time all morning, he focused in completely on what was being said.

Ms. Morris introduced John, and he rose to stand at the podium. Rodney watched critically, noting the sweat at his temples, the way that he clung to the wood, and swallowed back the urge to go flying into the ballroom and shield him from the reporters.

The first questions were easy - questions about John's background, his training. When asked how he'd ended up in Atlantis, John laughed softly, starting to relax. "Just lucky, I guess." Several of the reporters laughed as well. But one raised his hand in the back of the room, waiting patiently for Ms. Morris to point to him.

"But what about the Wraith? From what I read in the provided information, they must have been pretty scary."

John nodded slowly. Rodney knew that this was one of the questions he'd been coached on, and he wondered if the reporter was a plant. "The Wraith were pretty formidable, yes. But with the help of our Pegasus allies and the leadership of the IOA, we were able to prevail."

Rodney snorted to himself. The IOA had only helped when it got the hell out of the way. Success against the Wraith was primarily due to John's willingness to learn from the Atlantis Expedition's mistakes, and the value he placed on Teyla's and Ronon's advice. But it would never do to say that.

He'd missed the next question, but the answer was another rote one. " - is under civilian control. Atlantis is - and always has been - a scientific endeavor first and a military base second."

"How can that be? For most of the time you've been there, you've been at war, either with the Wraith or with human form Repli... Repli..."

"Replicators." John took a sip of the water on the podium. "This is true, but just as the Commander in Chief is a civilian, so is the leadership of Atlantis. There was a brief aberration when Colonel Carter was placed in control by the IOA, but it was decided that Atlantis functioned better with a civilian head at that time, and we've never felt a need to change that directive since."

"Who are these civilian leaders? Why aren't they here?"

"For the first three years of the expedition, we were led by Elizabeth Weir, a well-known diplomat. She was killed in a fight with the Replicators." Probably only Rodney could see the grief that crossed John's face. Even after all these years, both of them still missed her. "Since then, we've changed leadership several times. As I've been military commander since practically the beginning, it was decided that I would be a better representative for answering questions."

"Why does Atlantis function better under civilian control?"

John sighed silently, his hands tightening momentarily on the podium. He looked exhausted, and Rodney felt bad for keeping him up so late. "As I've said, Atlantis is primarily a scientific outpost. The scientists function better when a civilian is in charge."

The reporter's gaze had sharpened during John's explanation, and Rodney tensed without knowing why. "Ah, yes, scientists. Everything is being done for the civilian scientists. But why aren't any of them here either?"

Rodney had to smile at the way John's eyes darted from the camera to the door, as if warning Rodney to stay put. He did so, because, as hard as it was, Rodney wasn't going to risk John's position.

"It was decided that for the first wave of interviews, it would be more appropriate to have the members of the military, as the IOA believed that reassuring people that there is no threat from the Ori, Go'auld, or Wraith was more important. The scientists will be made available later, I'm sure."

Before John had even finished, another reporter was on his feet, waving for attention. John visibly stiffened, and Rodney swore to himself. It was the jackass from the elevator the night before. Ms. Morris frowned but called on him anyway. "What is your relationship with Doctor Rodney McKay, Colonel Sheppard?"

John swallowed nervously, though Rodney hoped that he was the only one to notice. "He's the head of science for the Atlantis Expedition, and he's on my team."

"That's who he is, according to these papers, but there's more to it than that, isn't there?" The reporter looked like he'd scented blood, and Rodney had to fist his hands, tight enough that his nails cut into his palms, in order to keep from charging into the ballroom.

There was a long hesitation, as John looked from Ms. Morris to Reid sitting down in front of the press. His eyes flicked to the camera, and he made a face that Rodney couldn't interpret. "No comment."

"But - "

"My relationship with Dr. McKay is not open for the press to discuss, sir. Do you have another question?" Rodney knew that it wasn't going to be that easy. John's lack of an answer would be answer enough for people to speculate. He couldn't help but be glad that John hadn't outright denied him, even though he knew that it was going to make things more difficult for him in the long run.

"Not at this time."

John glanced again at Ms. Morris, who stepped forward, taking his place at the microphone. She thanked the members of the press for coming, tying things up, even as John and the military members of SG1 slid out the door.

Rodney was already on his feet and waiting when the door opened, and the four of them entered, Jackson, Teal'c, and Vala standing next to him. Mitchell got as far as the first row of seats before collapsing to sit down, arms braced on his knees and head hanging down. Jackson moved up quickly, resting one hand on his shoulder as Mitchell took deep breaths. "I hated that," he said plaintively.

John yanked his attention away from SG1. He'd walked right up to Rodney and into his personal space. When he wrapped his arms around Rodney, he couldn't help the way he stiffened, his eyes going to O'Neill and Sam. "I don't care," John said into his ear. "They already know, and I need this."

As soon as John said he needed it, Rodney relaxed. O'Neill and Carter could bite him if they didn't like John wrapped around him like this. "Should we get out of here?"

"I wish we could, but - " Then Rodney heard it too: the sounds of the reporters pouring out of the ballroom and down the hall. He didn't think any of them would be willing to face the press just yet.

"Okay," he said, guiding John around to one of the chairs and pushing gently until he sat. Then he crouched in front of him, hands on his arms, and looked into his eyes. "You did good out there."

"You're not pissed at me?"

"Why would I be?"

"Because I didn't tell everyone about us?" John looked anxious, as if he actually expected Rodney to be mad about that.

"No, I'm not mad. Our relationship is none of their business." Before John could say anything else, Rodney leaned forward, pressing his forehead against John's in the Athosian way. "It'll all be okay, John."

"Promise?" John said, but some of the tenseness in his arms was dissipating.

"Promise," Rodney said.

Donald Wray sat, stonefaced, as Carmen flipped off the television, already wincing in anticipation of his mood. A glance at his face showed her that yes, he was upset. "Tell me that that doesn't mean what I think it means," he demanded.

She couldn't even pretend ignorance. She knew exactly what had him so wound up. "I don't know, sir. It could be. Then again, maybe he's just trying to keep things from hitting a personal note."

"Not likely. And if it means that, it means that the military leader of Atlantis is a fucking faggot!" She winced again, thankful that they were the only two in the room, and that no one had heard his outburst.

"Donald - " she started, not sure what she should say, but certain she should say something. "He's not doing anything against the rules."

"That's the fucking problem, right there. Stupid Clinton, with that whole Don't Ask policy, and then they got rid of that, making it legal. Still doesn't make it right. Our armed services have been overrun by dykes and faggots, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it."

"You can't say things like that," she scolded gently.

"I can and will say things like that until those fucking fairies strip me of my God given rights," he said. "There is nothing that anyone is going to be able to say to convince me that allowing gays in the military was a good idea."

"He's done the job," she said, a little hopelessly. "He led our forces to victory over an enemy that lived by eating people, for God's sake. Don't you think you could cut him a little slack?"

"He should never have been in the air force to start with," Donald growled, and Carmen sighed.

"Whatever you say, Donald," she mumbled. She picked up a stack of papers and dropped them on his desk. "Do you think you could look these over?"

"What is this crap?" he asked, flipping through the carefully arranged stack.

"Three new bills that are being brought to committee, all having to do with new energy sources that were discovered by the SGC."

"How the hell is this stuff hitting my desk already? They only unveiled the program yesterday!"

"I'm sure I don't know," Carmen said, though she had her suspicions. There was no way that everyone within Congress was ignorant of the program. But if there were those in the know, they were keeping their mouths shut. She had to admit, at first glance, the new energy sources looked pretty good. Something called a Zero Point Module could be the answer to the question of nuclear versus coal, and take the pressure off oil prices.

Donald was glancing through the papers, and the look on his face was not happy at all. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"The oil and power companies are not going to be happy about these," he said, waving one bill in the air. "A city the size of Manhattan powered by a device that operates like a car battery?"

"But it's going to be so much cleaner," she started to say.

He cut her off. "Cleaner doesn't matter if it destroys the economy of the country."

"But - "

"No. It's not going to get out of committee if I have any say about it. Get me Morgan on the phone."

Even as Carmen picked up the phone and started to dial, she wondered again if it was a good idea to stay with him. The older he got and the more entrenched he was in congress, the angrier he became. She couldn't even begin to understand it, but it was her job to protect him - even from himself.

The crowds outside the hotel were gaining members - now they could hear them chanting all the way up in the room, even if the actual words were ripped away by the wind. As they packed up their small bags, Rodney kept glancing at John, who looked positively ill. "Hey," he said gently. "You okay?"

"I'll be better when we're back in Atlantis," John said.

Rodney nodded. He wanted to be home too, where he wasn't pushed to the side like this. He didn't handle having to be on his best behavior very well at all, and with so much riding on John's - and by extension, Rodney's - every move, he felt like he couldn't breathe.

"I haven't been kept in the loop. Do we get to go home today or -?"

"I have to stay for at least another week, maybe more," John said. "You could go home if you like." But his face was begging for Rodney to stay, and there was no way that Rodney was going to leave him to face hostile crowds by himself.

"How am I supposed to screw you before you go on camera if I'm in Atlantis and you're here?" Rodney asked, pretending not to notice how John relaxed. "Besides, eventually they're going to want a real scientist to brief the press, and then they'd just recall me anyway."

John chuckled, and bent to zip up his bag. Just then, the phone rang, and both of them jumped. After a moment, John answered it. "Sheppard here."

The conversation was brief and Rodney couldn't figure out what was going on from John's responses. When he hung up the phone, he turned to face Rodney. "They're not going to try and get the vans up to the front of the building. The crowd's too thick and apparently they're starting to get a rowdy. Instead, we're supposed to meet them in the back in ten minutes."

Rodney nodded and finished packing his bag, checking under the bed to make sure that he hadn't missed anything. Picking up his suitcase and John's hanging bag, he waited by the door for John to finish his own check.

Before they went out into the hall, John hugged Rodney, even though he couldn't return it with his hands full. "You know I appreciate this, right?" John said.

"Yeah, I know," Rodney answered, hearing all the things that John had trouble saying in the tone of his voice, the set of his mouth. Leaning up, he gave John a kiss, just a brief press of lips. "You owe me. Let's go."

When they got down to the alley, they found Teal'c waiting patiently. From here, they could hear the chanting of the protesters. "Aliens go home," they were yelling, and Rodney winced, looking at Teal'c.

"Are you okay?" John asked him, concerned.

"I am well, John Sheppard," Teal'c answered, giving a bland smile. "The ignorance of some gives me no cause for concern."

"I wish it didn't give me cause for concern," Rodney muttered, a little discomfited when Teal'c just nodded at him. Before he could say anything else, the rest of SG1 and General O'Neill arrived.

"Now we're just waiting for our magic coaches," O'Neill said. No sooner had he finished speaking than two vans came around the corner. Everyone was climbing in when John said, "Shh!"

In the sudden quiet, Rodney heard what had John frantically tossing bags into the back - the crowd was getting louder. A lot louder. Everyone was getting into the vans, not worrying too much about who was sitting where, when the first of the crowd made it around the building. "There they are!" someone yelled.

The vans started to move slowly, but the alley was narrow, bordered on one side with dumpsters. Before the first van could make it past, the crowd had caught up to them, surrounding both vans, screaming.

"Rodney, get down," John ordered, and Rodney, used to obeying that tone of voice in the field, ducked down behind the seat. He could hear people beating on the windows, and he winced, hoping that they weren't about to shatter and rain glass on him. The van rocked as they pushed it back and forth, and he wondered how they were going to get away.

He couldn't make out any actual words in the inarticulate cries of the crowd, but the rage and fear were coming through just fine. He could hear John murmuring something softly to the driver, and then the van started to move slowly.

The sheer hatred in those voices had Rodney trembling where he crouched. A glance to the side showed Vala in a similar position, with Jackson shielding her from sight. He heard more than felt the sudden increase in speed as the van broke loose from the crowd, and he breathed a sigh of relief, though he stayed in place until John said, "Okay, you can get up now."

Rodney slid back onto the seat, with Vala right next to him. Normally he'd make a smartass comment about her keeping her hands to herself, but she looked as shaken as he felt. He wanted nothing more than to have the van pull over so he could throw up, but that wasn't going to happen, so he swallowed hard and closed his eyes.

He'd faced down wilder crowds before, but this was Earth, not a distant planet. While he'd imagined many reactions to the news, a riot wasn't really on the list.

"Are you all right?" John asked, sotto voice, and Rodney nodded without opening his eyes.

"I will be once we get back to base." He felt the jolt of speed as the van hit the highway, and knew that it wouldn't be long now.

He kept his eyes closed all the way back to the Mountain, focusing on keeping his breathing deep and even. When they hit security at the base, he finally let himself open them, and he looked up to meet John's eyes. The fear there made him want to make it all better, fix it all, and the inability to do so hit him like a hammer.

The van pulled up at the drop-off point, and they climbed out. Vala still looked shaky, and Rodney didn't feel much better. The military contingent all looked uniformly pissed off, but no one said anything as they unloaded suitcases and made sure that everyone had the right bag.

Clearing security took longer than normal because of all the bags that had to be searched, but as soon as they hit the right level, John forged ahead to their room, Rodney right behind him. The door swung shut behind him, and then John shoved him up against the door, face buried in his neck and breathing deep.

"Hey, it's okay, John. Everyone's fine."

"I know," but John didn't pull back, didn't let go. Rodney brought up his arms, wrapping them around John and squeezing him tight. He could feel faint tremors shaking John's frame, and he knew that John could feel the answering shaking in his own body.

Gradually, John's arms loosened, and Rodney let him go in return. He expected John to back off, stuttering and embarrassed to have broken down like that, but instead, John slid down Rodney's body till he was on his knees, his hands already busy at Rodney's belt. "John?"

"Shh, let me - " John said, opening Rodney's fly and pulling out his soft dick. It wasn't going to stay soft for long, not with John kneeling there, looking up at him from under his lashes, and then John leaned up and slid his mouth down over Rodney's cock, taking the whole thing into his mouth.

Rodney couldn't stop the groan that broke free at that. He clawed at the door, trying to find something to give him purchase, except that the door was smooth metal and there was nothing there to grab. He could feel his cock getting hard, sliding out of John's mouth as it grew longer and thicker. John moaned, the vibrations rattling up Rodney's spine.

"Oh, fuck, John," Rodney groaned, his hips rocking a little. He didn't want to choke John, but it was beyond his control. John wrapped one hand around Rodney's hip, holding him still, while the other was on Rodney's dick, covering what he couldn't fit in his mouth.

Slowly, his head began to bob up and down, his hand moving in counterpoint, and Rodney let his head thump back into the wall. "God, you're so good at that," he said. The praise made John redouble his efforts, head and hand moving faster, driving Rodney closer. One of Rodney's hands wove into John's hair, not pushing him faster, just holding him. His other hand clenched into a fist as he tried not to come too fast.

When John pulled off, Rodney moaned. "Oh, please don't stop."

"Not going to," John said. "But don't hold back. I want it all." Before Rodney could respond, John dropped back down on his cock, robbing him of his words and leaving him only grunts and groans. His hips started to rock harder, and not wanting to choke John, Rodney released his hair. Except that John grabbed his hand and put it back, still looking up at him, and Rodney couldn't stand it. If John wanted him to fuck his mouth, he would, and he started to move with more focus, chasing his orgasm that was just out of reach.

He felt the head of his cock slip into John's throat, and the slick tightness around the sensitive tip was the last thing he needed. Hands clenched in John's hair, he held him steady as he pumped his completion into him, while he swallowed and swallowed again, stretching out Rodney's orgasm impossibly.

When he became too sensitive to tolerate the soft touch of John's lips and tongue, he tugged, hard, at John's hair, pulling him to his feet so that he could kiss him deep and hard. His hand dropped to John's groin, only to find a wet spot and a soft cock, and the thought of John being so turned on that he came without being touched made Rodney's cock twitch, but it was pretty much down for the count.

"We need to get out of these clothes," Rodney said, hands already busy with John's belt, undoing it and letting his BDUs drop. He dropped to his knees to untie John's boots and helped him step out of them, and then out of his pants. By the time he'd climbed back to his feet, John had already stripped off his shirt, and stood there naked.

"You now," John demanded, and Rodney hurried to comply, stripping out of his clothes and kicking them aside in one big tangle. As soon as he was naked, John tugged him in, kissing him sweet and hot, and Rodney let himself melt into the kiss.

Without taking his mouth away from John's, he backed him up to the bed, pushing him down. "Rest, John," he said, climbing into the bed next to him and wrapping himself around him, holding him securely. "We're safe here."

"I know that," John said, but his voice was muzzy with sleep, and he was obviously already drifting. It didn't take long for him to be asleep and snoring softly.

Rodney sighed and rested his head against John's hair. If today was any indication, this might be the last time they were safe before they made it back to Atlantis.

"So, you've reviewed the material that has been issued by the SGC," Dixon said, looking at the two of them.

The two men known to him as Craddock and Yates both nodded. If he'd ever been aware of either of their real names, he'd long since forgotten them.

"It looks like you need a specific gene pattern to trigger the equipment that we have. And the two people with the strongest expression of this gene are General O'Neill and Colonel Sheppard," Yates said. "We're never going to get close enough to General O'Neill, but possibly this Sheppard?"

"Possibly," Dixon allowed. "It would help if they hadn't recruited every single person they'd found with the gene. Surely some of them must have been unfit for the SGC. But no, they all work for them, so we're going to have to take someone."

"Well, right now, we're not taking anyone," Craddock said. "They're all locked up tighter than a nun's legs under the mountain, and while we've got people in place, they'd never manage to get out with a fry cook, much less Sheppard."

Dixon had to fight the urge to frown. There had to be a way.

"You know," Yates said. "There is that experimental gene therapy that crackpot of a doctor came up with."

"You mean the one that only works in fifty percent of cases and hasn't been thoroughly tested? No, thank you," Craddock said. "You're not getting near me with a needle, and I doubt you'd find anyone willing to volunteer inside the organization. Besides, you'd still have to get your hands on the serum, which as far as we know is only in Pegasus. And we haven't been able to get anyone in there at all."

For a long moment the three of them stared at one another in silence as they all tried to think of a way to get their hands on a gene carrier. Finally, Yates said, "I don't think we're going to be able to do anything just yet. But eventually security will have to loosen - nobody can stay at high alert all the time. When it does, we'll just have to be ready to take advantage." He paused for a moment, and then added, "And I think we should aim for Sheppard himself. We don't want to put ourselves out for someone who can't do what we need."

Dixon nodded. "It's only reasonable. Besides which, the U.S. needs us in ways that they'll never admit. When they realize that it was NID that took him, they won't work too hard to get him back."

"What about McKay?" Craddock asked, surprising him.

"What about him?"

"Well, he's got the gene - straight from Sheppard, even, so it's almost as strong, even if it's not natural. And he's not military, so he'd probably fold with a little bit of torture. Sheppard's record shows that he'll withstand quite a lot before he gives in."

"You think that McKay is controllable?" Dixon said, trying not to sound as disbelieving as he was. "Besides, then we'll have Sheppard looking for him. I don't know if you heard what happened back a few years ago - a medical researcher took both McKay and his sister. Sheppard went completely psycho until he got him back. There's no way that we can deal with both of them."

Yates nodded. "I agree. I think we'd be better off taking Sheppard if we can get our hands on him."

Dixon and Yates looked at Craddock, who hesitated. "I'm still not sure that we wouldn't be better off taking McKay, but for what it's worth, if we can engineer a safe way to do so, we should take Sheppard."

Rodney was back to reading his physics journals. The difference was that he was able to write the authors of the more egregiously wrong papers and tell them exactly how they were wrong, wrong, so very fucking wrong.

They didn't leave the mountain again for a week. Apparently, unrest in the streets was "greater than anticipated," and it was decided by the SGC that the safest thing to do would be to bring the reporters to Cheyenne Mountain, rather than to send SG1 and John out to be interviewed. Most of the interviews took place in a nondescript room at the top of the complex, but a few of the more influential news programs - CNN, Good Morning America, BBC news - warranted a trip all the way down to see the 'gate in action.

Rodney sent John out to be interviewed well-fucked, like he'd promised, and John was more relaxed, likely to joke with the reporters a little and not stress about them asking questions that they shouldn't. It helped that since that first day, there'd been no attempt to question John about Rodney.

Neither of them was innocent enough to think that the subject had been completely tabled. Right now, though, the press was tied up in the protests and riots that were rocking the globe.

There were the expected xenophobes who wanted to recall the Pegasus contingent, bury the 'Gate, and destroy the ships. There were those who wanted to see more people in Pegasus. There were those that wanted the aliens on Earth to be revealed, and those that wanted them expelled. There were even riots in Egypt over the fact that an artifact had been removed without the permission of the Egyptian people.

CNN aired a "debate" that was based on some of the scientific reports coming out of Pegasus. Rodney had been aware that there were several anthropologists who'd been working on trying to research the lives of the Wraith, and somehow CNN had not only gotten their hands on those reports but had dug up people who were making the most of the fact that the Wraith had their own music, literature, "culture."

They watched this debacle, appalled that there were people who would think that the Wraith should have been negotiated with. But this so-called scientist was advocating exactly that, and proclaiming that Sheppard, as military leader, should have refused the IOA's orders that resulted in Wraith deaths, even though there was no evidence that the Wraith would have been open to offers to deal, and even though refusing legal orders would have resulted in John being removed and court martialed.

The person arguing the other side was a general, though not General O'Neill. He was so incompetent that Rodney was left wondering how the hell he'd gotten promoted in the first place, because it sure as hell wasn't because he was particularly intelligent. He was left flailing under attacks from the scientist, unable to muster the most basic arguments to refute him.

Rodney fumed for days about why he wasn't being allowed any contact with the press. He would have been able to defend John's choices much better than the stuffed shirts they currently had, but the word from the IOA and Stargate Command was still that he wasn't allowed to talk to them. Steiner had said, "Absolutely not," when he had petitioned to be interviewed on CNN, and that had pretty much been the end of it.

They had reassured themselves that the people who had watched the mockery of a debate were unlikely to go out and start anything. What they hadn't counted on was the fact that it was picked up by other news outlets, and repeated ad nauseam everywhere they looked. Even local news channels were airing clips, and they were all edited to make John look as bad as possible.

Instead of slowing, the riots were getting worse, and every piece of information that was released by the SGC just made the situation more unbearable. In addition to those who were upset over the Wraith, there were also those who felt that Atlantis should have been brought back to the Milky Way to protect the people of Earth; that, to quote one armchair general, "Good American soldiers had died for them foreigners, and they hadn't done a damn thing for us." This ass obviously didn't understand the concept that without Atlantis in Pegasus, the Wraith would have found their way to Earth.

John and Rodney watched one particular riot on the streets of Washington, D.C.. Signs declaring that John was the "Butcher of Pegasus" predominated, and when a stuffed manikin dressed like John was set on fire, all Rodney could do was hold John's hand and squeeze tight.

The morning after that particular riot, Rodney quietly went to Carter. "I need your help," he said. "We need to go home."

"There's no reason for you to stay, McKay," she said, almost snapping the words.

"I'm not asking for me," Rodney sputtered. "I'm worried about Sheppard." She rolled her eyes, and he bit his tongue rather than give it right back to her. "Look, he's going to have a nice freak-out if he stays here under the mountain much longer."

"This isn't easy on any of us," she sighed, meeting his eyes.

"You aren't being burned in effigy on the streets, Sam," he pointed out. "SG1 is catching its share of harassment, but no one person is being targeted. He is, and as much as he's not going to admit that he's not dealing well, he really isn't."

She studied his face, and he tried to look as honest and open as he knew how, even though he suspected it just made him look frustrated. Well, he was that, too. Eventually she relented. "I'll talk to Steiner, but there's no guarantee I can do anything," she cautioned.

He nodded. "Thanks, Sam. Any help you can give us, we appreciate."

Going back to the room, he turned on the TV, changing the channel to CNN. It was playing an interview with Noreen Sherwood, a congresswoman from California. She was declaring that John appeared to be guilty of genocide, and he should face charges if they could ascertain the proper court.

In disgust, Rodney turned it off, resisting the urge to throw the remote at the wall. It wouldn't accomplish anything, after all.

He honestly didn't understand what was so difficult for these people to understand. The Wraith ate people. It wasn't a lifestyle choice; it wasn't negotiable. Sure, Atlantis could have, and in fact had negotiated cease-fires in order to deal with a larger threat to the people of Pegasus. But the reality was that all that did was protect the people of Atlantis. It did nothing for the millions of other lives in the Pegasus galaxy.

Anyone with a modicum of sense and experience in dealing with the Wraith knew that no cease-fire would hold. Eventually, they'd run out of other groups to eat, and then they'd make more of a concerted effort to find Earth.

And Earth was not capable of defending herself against that many Wraith ships. She just wasn't.

He would have understood - though disagreed - if they'd continued to refine Carson's vaccine, and that had been what had defeated the Wraith. But with its failure in Michael's hive, that project had been abandoned.

Instead, what had defeated the Wraith was plain old human innovation. John, working with Rodney and scientists from half a dozen worlds, had discovered a way to hack into the Wraith's computers and take over their navigation systems.

From there, the ships had been directed to abandoned worlds where the gates had been removed, and forced to crash6. Waiting teams of humans then hunted down and killed all the Wraith that had survived. There had been no Earth humans on those teams - they weren't needed. Instead, they were all Pegasus natives, who were desperate to see an end to the threat from the Wraith.

On a hundred worlds in Pegasus, John and his team were feted as saviors. Thousands more would just gradually realize that the Wraith had stopped coming and they would never know why. That was fine with John - he hadn't done it to be a hero.

Rodney couldn't understand how someone could see saving millions of lives as something that was wrong.

He was still standing there, staring at a blank television screen when John came in. "Pack your stuff," he said. "We're 'Gating home in an hour."

That broke Rodney's reverie, and he hurried to throw everything into his pack. He wanted to take a minute to break away from John to thank Sam, because god only knew what she'd had to say to Steiner to allow them to leave, but there wasn't time.

Thankfully, she was in the 'Gateroom when John and Rodney arrived, packs over their shoulders. She gave John a quick hug, then looked at Rodney, who didn't hesitate to pull her in for a long hug. He whispered, "Thank you," into her ear, and she pulled back to smile at him.

"I'm sure we'll see you soon," she said. "This isn't for good, but just to give things a chance to cool down. It's not fair to keep you both cooped up in the mountain when there's actual work you could be doing at home."

They both nodded, then turned to face the 'Gate, waiting as the chevrons were encoded. The plume exploded into the room, and the two of them walked through together, like they did everything else.

Zelenka and Lorne were waiting for them on the other side, and other than taking a minute to ask one of the Marines to haul all of their bags to their room, they didn't have a second to say anything to each other as they were dragged off to their respective departments.

It only took a few minutes for Zelenka and Simpson to demonstrate that they'd been following the news as well as possible from Atlantis, asking intelligent questions about the reaction to the news. Unfortunately for them, it just reminded Rodney of the rampant stupidity, and he had to take some deep breaths to keep from yelling at them. It wasn't their fault, after all.

In their absence, three of the new scientists had demonstrated just how stupid they actually were, and Rodney had a whole stack of new repairs that had to be done courtesy of them. He wasn't surprised that Zelenka looked particularly frazzled, and he sent him away to take the evening off.

He hadn't even realized how late it had gotten when John radioed him. "Are you coming back to the room sometime tonight?"

Looking at his watch, he swore. It was already two a.m., and there was going to be a staff meeting at nine. "I'll be right there," he said, shutting down his computer.

He didn't expect anything when he got home, but he was still a little disappointed to find the light out in their bedroom. Undressing in the bathroom, he threw everything in the hamper and then made his way carefully into the other room. Crawling into the bed, he wrapped himself around John.

As he fell into their usual position, his hips snugged up against John's ass, he discovered that John was naked, instead of his usual boxers. John murmured sleepily, and Rodney whispered, "Sorry," into his hair before he let sleep drag him under as well.

It took John a second to remember that they were home when he woke up, but the sunlight streaming in the window reminded him, and the smell of ocean water confirmed it. For a long moment he just lay there, breathing deep and letting it sink in, before he rolled his head to the side and glanced at the clock. Six-thirty. Plenty early enough for what he had in mind.

Turning slowly so that he was facing Rodney, he pushed on Rodney's shoulder until he rolled onto his back. Rodney muttered something, and for a moment, John contemplated just letting him sleep.

Then Rodney's face crumpled into unhappiness, and he reached for John without waking, and John decided, no, he would just deal with a tired Rodney later. This was important.

Moving close to Rodney, he propped himself up so that he could kiss Rodney's lips softly. He focused on that and only that until Rodney began to stir beneath him. When he started to return the kiss, eyes fluttering open, John pulled back a little ways.

"Good morning," he whispered.

"Morning," Rodney said, then yawned. "Time izzit?"

"Early," John said.

"Mmm," Rodney said, turning on his other side. John slid down in the bed so that he could press up against Rodney's back, letting his hard cock press against the crack of Rodney's ass.

Rodney moaned again and pressed back encouragingly. One of John's hands hooked in the back of his boxers, tugging them down, and Rodney lifted up so that he could get free. "Going to fuck me?" he asked softly.

"Thought I might, if it's okay," John answered, pressing as close to Rodney as he could get. Rodney reached out and snagged the lube off the nightstand, passing it back over his shoulder to John.

Making enough room between them for John to get his hand down to Rodney's ass was almost painful. But as his finger sank all the way into Rodney in one slow press, John thought to himself that it just might be worth it.

Rodney was whimpering and rocking into John's touch long before he added a second finger. "Impatient," he scolded gently as two fingers moved slowly in and out, stretching Rodney open for his cock.

"Haven't had you inside me in far too long," Rodney said, pushing back even harder. "Please, John."

He bit down on Rodney's shoulder and added a third finger, treasuring the gasp that Rodney let escape at the sudden stretch. "Going to give you all you can take," he said. "Just give me a little while."

In response, Rodney pulled his top leg up to his chest, opening himself even further.

He pulled his fingers free and slicked up his cock. Lining it up with Rodney's hole, he pressed in, slow and steady, making Rodney cry out. His hand was tight on Rodney's hip, holding him still so that he couldn't hurry John up.

John started to move, slow and gentle and deep with each stroke. Rodney let out a soft sigh of pleasure, tipping his head back so that it rested against John's chest. John didn't even try to stop the smile, looking down and kissing the top of Rodney's head. "You feel so good," he said softly.

"Mmm, hmm," Rodney said. "So do you. Perfect inside me, if you'd just move a little faster."

"Nope," John answered. He wrapped one hand around Rodney's top knee, pulling it up a little further, spreading Rodney a little wider. "Want to take it slow."

"Tease," he said, but there was no heat to it, and John just ignored it. They rocked together, letting the heat build, letting the need grow.

Finally, Rodney's hand dropped to his cock, and he started to jerk off in time to John's slow thrusts. John wrapped his hand over Rodney's, feeling the soft skin of Rodney's cock between his fingers, making him moan. "Are you close?" he whispered, not wanting to break the spell surrounding both of them.

"Uh, huh," Rodney said breathlessly. His hand started to move faster, and he groaned softly.

"Go ahead and come for me," John said, wanting to feel it, wanting to know that he'd brought Rodney pleasure.

"F-fuck," Rodney stuttered. He slammed back into John, taking his cock deep, and his hand tightened underneath John's. His body clenched tight around John's, and come slicked their fists.

John continued to move through Rodney's orgasm, making it last as long as he could. When Rodney let go of his cock, bringing John's hand to his mouth to lick it clean, John had to close his eyes. "Christ," he whimpered.

"Take what you need," Rodney said, and then he deliberately tightened around John's cock, as if he knew what that would do to John, which he did.

Unable to resist, John rolled them both, so that Rodney was flat on his belly, his legs spread wide underneath John. Propping himself up on his hands, his hips started to snap forward, fucking hard and fast into Rodney's body. "Oh, oh, god," he gasped out, orgasm getting close. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."

His orgasm washed through him as he emptied himself into Rodney. "That's it," Rodney murmured as he collapsed down onto Rodney's welcoming body. He was completely winded, out of breath and words. All he could do was nuzzle close to Rodney and hope that he knew how he felt.

After a few minutes, Rodney shifted uncomfortably. "John, you need to move," he said. "I can't breathe."

Reluctantly, John shifted to one side, slipping free of Rodney as he did. They both sighed at the loss of connection. Rodney turned on his side, facing John, and John curled around him. When Rodney reached out and touched John's face, he couldn't help pressing into Rodney's hand, trying to show his affection that way.

They didn't say anything for a long time, gazes locked, and then the alarm went off. Swearing, Rodney turned over and swatted the damn thing. "I guess we need to get up."

"Yeah," John said, and the two of them rolled out of bed and went to get cleaned up.

The staff meeting was basically a review of issues that had arisen while they were gone. Nothing too major, or they would have been recalled, after all, but still, annoying. Then Doctor Rodriquez brought up the reaction to the declassification news.

Rodney bit his tongue as John gave a dispassionate report of the riots and protests. Getting riled would accomplish nothing except upsetting John even more than he already was. But it was hard to keep his opinion to himself.

When the meeting was over, it was time for lunch. The team moved to the cafeteria together, and while Ronon and Rodney fetched food, Teyla and John found a table. When they joined them, Teyla was in the middle of asking, "I do not understand. There are actually people who believe that we should have negotiated with the Wraith?"

John frowned, but before he could give the diplomatic answer, Rodney said, "Yes. They don't understand reality in the Pegasus galaxy."

"Clearly they do not," Teyla said tartly. "Earth may have many things, but I do not think they are very good at imagining the terror that comes with having lived the reality of the Wraith."

Ronon paused in eating to say, "They're idiots. If they like the Wraith so much, we could put them on one of the planets that they culled. Let 'em see the damage that the Wraith did. See if they still feel that way."

John sighed. "That's a good idea, Ronon, but not very feasible, unfortunately."

Teyla turned her formidable attention on to John, "And they are blaming you in particular? Why is this?"

When Rodney started to answer, Teyla looked at him, shutting him up. She clearly wanted the answer to come from John.

"It's because they want someone to blame, Teyla, and I'm an easy target. I'm in charge of the military here, and it was my idea - even if I didn't do the work myself - and that makes it my fault." John sighed and rested his chin on his fist. "Basically, they're looking for a scapegoat to make things less scary."

Teyla shook her head, still looking confused. "That makes no sense," she said.

"People don't make sense," Rodney said. "But unfortunately, they're the people that John has to be responsible to."

John shook his head. "It'll be okay," he said, but Rodney could hear the desperation underlying his words. The two of them didn't do anything as mushy as hold hands, a lack that Rodney felt acutely at the moment since he wanted nothing more than to squeeze John's hand tightly. He satisfied himself with kicking John in the leg and giving him a small smile, thinking to himself that it would be okay, no matter what he had to do to make sure of it.

Still shaking her head, Teyla turned her attention back to her lunch. Rodney met John's eyes dead on, trying to reassure him.

As they finished up their meals, Lorne came into the mess. "Colonel?" he said, rushing up to their table.


"We've got a problem," Lorne said grimly.

John stood, clearly intending to take this elsewhere. Lorne paused, looking at Rodney, and his stomach dove into his boots. "What?" he asked.

"You'd better come too - it's about one of your people."

Rodney's mouth went dry, but he followed John and Lorne out of the mess and to the nearest transporter. "Okay, spill," John said.

"There was an... altercation in the gym."

"What?" John stopped dead to look at Lorne. "What kind of altercation?"

"Between one of the Marines and Doctor Hinson."

John looked at Rodney quizzically. "Hinson, Hinson, who is - oh, yeah. Came in with the last group on the Daedalus. Seemed to be reasonably intelligent, the few times I've interacted with him."

"And the Marine?"

"Sergeant Knight." Both Rodney and John blinked at that, because while Knight had come in with Everett's group, but had proved to be an asset. He'd been on one of the teams responsible for rounding up the Wraith and sending them crashing to ground.

"What in the hell did they have to argue about?"

"Apparently Hinson is, well, is a pacifist."

"Oh, shit," Rodney whispered. "And he pushed Knight, who had first hand experience with what the Wraith are capable of - "


"I assume that Hinson is in the infirmary?" Rodney asked.

Lorne looked amused. "Actually, no. Lucky for him, several other Marines interfered when Knight got physical, and kept him from serious damage. They're both locked up in the brig."

Rodney looked to John, who simply looked... flat. As if he wasn't feeling anything at all. "Let's go talk to them," he said in a monotone.

Rodney shook his head. "No, I'll go talk to Hinson. If he feels that strongly about what we did, then he needs to go back to Earth. Knight... you should punish Knight, I suppose, since there's no way that the Marines should be allowed to think they can assault the scientists, but I wouldn't be too harsh."

Looking a little relieved, John said, "Okay, I want Knight on punishment detail for the next two weeks, plus anger management with Doctor Myles. He might hear a lot of that kind of sentiment soon, and I don't want him going off half cocked." John cocked an eyebrow at Rodney, as if asking if that was good enough, and Rodney nodded.

The three of them made their way down to the brig, which were a series of locked rooms in one of the lower levels. Thankfully, other than for the occasional Wraith, they'd never needed anything stronger. Lorne unlocked the first room, which held a large Marine. He was on his feet like a shot when he saw John. "Sir," he said, going to attention.

"At ease, Knight," John said. "I understand you were provoked, but you cannot beat up the scientists. Can you explain yourself?"

Knight relaxed slightly, but stayed staring straight ahead. "He said that everyone who died fighting the Wraith deserved it. That if we'd negotiated with those vampires like he thinks we should have, that no one would have died at all. I know I shouldn't have hit him, but he... he was blaming us for the deaths of our soldiers, and I just couldn't stand by and let him say those kinds of things."

"You have words, Knight. You should have used them, instead of your fists." Knight stayed silent, but he nodded, and Rodney thanked god. He didn't know what he would have done if Knight had tried to argue with him.

Thirty seconds of silence passed, with Knight looking increasingly uncomfortable, before John finally said, "Report to Lorne's office, and wait for him there. He'll explain what you'll have to do to stay here."

Knight shot back to attention. "Yes, sir!"

John sighed silently, and then said, "Dismissed." Knight threw him a salute, then took off at a trot. They all knew that he'd be waiting outside Lorne's office until he returned. Knight was a good man.

When Lorne unlocked the next room, Rodney took the lead. Hinson was sitting on a bunk, hands folded in front. "McKay," he said, coolly.

"So, what do you have to say for yourself?" Rodney demanded.

Hinson's eyes went wide, but he wasn't looking at Rodney. "So the butcher himself comes down. How touching," he sneered.

Rodney turned to see John bring himself to his full height. He could hear him swallow, and knew what it was costing him to stay quiet. Looking back at Hinson, he said, "How dare you?"

"He is," Hinson insisted. "He killed off an entire species because he didn't like what they ate. He ignored the fact that they had their own culture, made no effort to negotiate with them. And at what cost?"

"Besides which," he continued, "By insisting on staying here, he brought us into greater conflict with the Wraith. He should have just taken Atlantis home, back to Earth, where it could have done some actual good."

Rodney assumed that Hinson had felt this way before his arrival in the Pegasus galaxy, because opinions this strong didn't come out of nowhere, but he'd never indicated a problem before. He assumed that it was because of all the press the other side was getting that made Hinson feel it was safe to challenge a Marine on his home turf.

"Did you honestly miss that they ate people? And what makes you think they would have stopped with Pegasus? They knew that Earth was out there and had tried to reach it before!" Rodney couldn't believe that they were actually having this conversation.

"Did anyone try to find out if they could eat anything else?"

"No, because after ten thousand years of eating humans, if they were capable of eating, say, cows, you'd think they would have done that, don't you?"

Hinson started to open his mouth, no doubt to say something else equally stupid, and Rodney cut him off. "No. Forget it. Colonel Sheppard, with the natives of this galaxy, did something that was wholly necessary. Like it or not, that's the reality. He not only protected the people of the Pegasus galaxy, he protected the people of Earth, who would have made a banquet hall for the Wraith if they'd ever gotten that far. If you can't function under that reality, then I want you to pack your bags. You're going back to Earth, where you'll fit in perfectly."

"Fine. I don't want to be anywhere that you people are, anyway."

Rodney turned to Lorne and John. "Major Lorne, would you get an escort for Doctor Hinson, please? He'll be going home in the morning, but I wouldn't want him to get into any accidents before then. He's allowed to go to his quarters, and that's all."

"Of course, Doctor McKay," Lorne said. "How about meals?"

"He can eat what the Marines fetch him, or he can go hungry. I don't much care which."

"Hey, wait a minute!" Hinson said. "I've got experiments in the labs. I need to get the data from them."

"You should have thought of that before you insulted Colonel Sheppard and this entire expedition." Turning back to Lorne, he asked, "Could you stay here until the escort arrives?" When Lorne nodded, Rodney let himself out of the room, summoning John with a nod of his head.

Once the door slid shut behind them, John leaned back against the wall, looking sick. Rodney laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing tight when John didn't shrug him off. "You didn't have to defend me," John said.

"You should find out if your university has a refund policy," Rodney said. "Because I've never heard something so stupid. We're us. It's kind of my job to defend you when morons attack."

John smiled. The smile went all the way to his eyes, something that Rodney hadn't seen in far too long. "Thanks, Rodney. I needed to hear that, I think."

"I think you did too." Dropping his hand, Rodney said, "So, I need to go dismantle that asshole's projects. Want to give me a hand?"

"Sounds fun," John said.

It was very hard to watch Colonel Sheppard move about the city. Instead of his carefree movement and happy smile, there was a stiffness to him. It made most who knew him watch with dread, waiting for him to break.

Radek knew better. Colonel Sheppard would not break, not as long as Rodney had breath in his body. For two men as reluctant to discuss emotions as these, it was amazing how their affection, and yes, love, communicated itself so clearly.

For Colonel Sheppard, McKay had faced the worst of his fears and come out the other side. And for Rodney, Sheppard had done the same. They were two halves that fit together in ways that everyone who knew them well could see.

Times like these, Radek missed Elizabeth Weir with all his heart and soul. She would have found a way to protect Colonel Sheppard from those who'd wish to do him harm. Doctor Rodriguez was a hard man who disliked Rodney and let that show in his eyes and in his actions. He liked Rodney's relationship with Sheppard even less.

Were it not for Colonel Sheppard's connection with the city, a connection that was invaluable to all that lived and worked there, Radek suspected that Rodriguez would have had him transferred simply so that he would take Rodney with him. And that would be an error of massive proportions.

Atlantis would not have survived to see this day without the two of them, and without them, the Wraith would still be rampaging through the galaxy. For that alone, they deserved credit. But instead, the treatment that Colonel Sheppard was enduring was shameful. And Radek suspected that Hinson was the tip of the iceberg.

There had been an influx of scientists once the Wraith were defeated and Pegasus considered "safe." These so-called scientists had never known the fear of a Wraith attack and thus had no understanding, like children.

Radek worried that Colonel Sheppard and Rodney would decide that there was not enough incentive to make them put up with this abuse. If it got to that point, Radek knew that Atlantis would lose them, a loss they could ill-afford. But, luckily enough, Colonel Sheppard considered Atlantis his home and his team to be his family. It would take much to make him leave. And Rodney would stay as long as the Colonel did.

Staring at the computer screen without really seeing it, Radek hoped that a solution would present itself. Unfortunately, he was drawing a blank. All he could do was shut down those foolish enough to argue about it in the lab and hope that the worst of it never got to them - a vain hope, he feared.

Rodney was aware of the murmurs in the labs. He was equally aware of Radek's efforts to shield him from the worst of it. He was frustrated with the people in his department. They were scientists, for god's sake. They should be able to evaluate the facts, not just accept propaganda. And the propaganda machines were in full force. Jeannie periodically emailed him articles showing him what was going on in the media.

The riots had died down, but it didn't mean that the protests had gone away. They had just become more institutionalized. Various religious groups were demanding access to the Stargate to send out missionaries. Some of the xenophobic groups were still demanding that travel be ended. There were several organizations demanding that the indigenous people of various worlds received full rights, even if they didn't have a way to administer those rights. And at least one group of anthropologists demanded that travel be halted to protect cultures at an earlier stage of development.

For the first time, Rodney had reason to be grateful for O'Neill's stubbornness, because he was effectively stonewalling these groups, preventing Atlantis from being outwardly affected by them.

He tried to avoid talking to John about what he got from Jeannie, because John was already stressed enough. He knew that John didn't feel close enough to anyone on Earth to get unfiltered information from them.

But when he occasionally let something slip, John was rarely surprised. He suspected that John was being kept in the loop by Lorne and O'Neill, but that he didn't want to upset Rodney and was keeping quiet.

There was one thing that had Rodney practically incoherent with rage, and that was the hold ups on disseminating the information about the ZPMs. There was no reason for them, and every day's delay meant another day's worth of pollution. They'd managed to build three ZPMs with materials that they'd found in the city, and they had the designs for the equipment that they'd need to build more. They just needed a place to do it.

He would acknowledge that building a ZPM required a huge outlay of energy, which meant they'd have to be built in industrialized nations. And it would take time and money for systems to be adjusted to use them. But the savings that they'd generate! Given that, the delay was unconscionable.

Rodney assumed that there were politicians behind the hold up, but he had to admit that his grasp of American politics was weak even with his Daily Show viewing. He had no idea how to prove it, nor what he could do even if he could, especially since he still wasn't being allowed contact with the media.

He was so focused on thinking of options that when a hand landed on his shoulder, he jumped. "What the -" he said, spinning around.

It was Ronon, whose face Rodney was finally learning to read. He looked serious, which practically screamed that something was wrong. "Need you in the gym, McKay."

The tone of voice brooked no argument, and Rodney was shutting down his computer even as he said, "What is it? I don't have time for a group workout today."

"Not going for a workout." Ronon waited until the screen went black before grabbing the computer and tucking it under one arm.

Ronon set a brisk pace to the gym; Rodney feeling like a small yappy dog at his heels. "What the hell is going on?" he demanded.

"See for yourself," Ronon said, pushing the door open. The two of them slipped inside quietly, and Rodney looked around, trying to see what he was supposed to be here for.

There were several Marines in the room, but strangely, none of them appeared to be working out. They were all casting anxious glances in the corner where - "Oh, fuck," Rodney cursed to himself. John was there, throwing punch after punch at the heavy bag. Even he could tell that John was exhausted, each blow uncoordinated, clumsy. Teyla was there, murmuring softly to him, but John was ignoring her.

He'd seen John do this before. When he was upset, he'd run until his legs couldn't support him, or he'd fight with Teyla or Ronon until he couldn't get up any more. But as he threw another slow punch, Rodney knew that this was much worse.

He caught Ronon's eye and nodded towards the door. Ronon nodded back and quietly began to round up and oust the Marines from the room. As they caught sight of Rodney, there was more than one visible sigh of relief, and they slid out of the room without protest.

The movement caught Teyla's attention, and she looked around. When she met Rodney's eyes, she smiled without an ounce of humor, before backing up and gesturing towards John as if to say, "All yours."

She and Ronon moved back to the door, staying inside the gym and keeping the door closed. Rodney took a deep breath before heading over to where John continued to swing desperately.

"John?" he said as soon as he was only a few feet away.

"Go away, Rodney," John said flatly, throwing another wild punch.

"Not going to happen," Rodney said, moving close and resting one hand on John's shoulder. The muscles there were unbearably tight, and Rodney didn't know how John could still be moving. But he tried to shrug Rodney off as if it was nothing.

When that failed, he wrapped his arms around the heavy bag, resting his forehead against it. Rodney suspected it was the only thing keeping him up. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing," John said. "Just decided to do some heavy bag work today." But his voice was artificially light.

There was silence for a long time, and Rodney nearly started talking just to fill the space. He knew if he did that, though, he'd never get John to talk, so he kept silent. Instead, he wrapped his other hand around John's shoulder and started to massage him, trying to get some of that tension to relax.

Suddenly, John released his grip on the bag and slid to his knees. Rodney was surprised and couldn't move quickly enough to catch him, so instead he followed him down, pulling on John till he sat flat on his ass, practically in Rodney's lap. Rodney resumed the interrupted massage and didn't say anything about it being uncomfortable.

After several minutes, John sighed softly. "I'm being recalled to Earth," he said. "So are half of my Marines. There's going to be a congressional hearing. And apparently several federal prosecutors are investigating whether or not they have jurisdiction to charge me with war crimes, or if there's a court here in Pegasus that might be better."

Rodney barely heard the soft click of the door shutting, but a glance at it showed that Teyla and Ronon had left the room. This scared the hell out of Rodney, because he had no real idea of what to say or do.

"When are you supposed to leave?" he asked, as he swiftly sorted through possible options.

"In two days," John said. "I'm supposed to meet with an attorney that the SGC has appointed for me. The hearings start in two weeks."

Shit, he thought to himself. That gave him barely any time at all. There was one option, though, that wouldn't require any real time. "Do you want to leave? Go elsewhere in the galaxy? You know that I'd go, and so would Teyla and Ronon."

John turned to face him. "I can't. I'm not ashamed of what I did, Rodney, and I refuse to run and hide because of idiots who don't understand reality out here."

"Okay. What do Congressional hearings mean, anyway? It's not like they're a court of law." Rodney asked.

Shrugging, John said, "No, there's nothing criminally binding about them. But depending on what happens, the military might choose to remove me as leader, or they might decide to quit funding Atlantis, which would end our stay here entirely. Plus, there's the chance that I'll be tried in The Hague or a military court for war crimes. That is binding."

Rodney sighed in relief. If it hadn't gone to a criminal court, then he still had time to think of something. "Then we'll figure out something else."

"No," John said, looking at the floor instead of at Rodney. "You're staying here. I'm not risking them deciding to charge you too. Atlantis needs you just as much as ever."

Shocked, Rodney didn't say anything for a moment. Then, "Keep talking and you might say something intelligent. On second thought, don't." He grabbed John by the chin and forced him to face him. "I will not leave you alone to face this. If you try to leave me behind, look behind you - I'll be right there, coming through the 'Gate."

"But -" John started to say.

"No buts, no arguments. You're my..." Rodney struggled for a word to describe everything that John meant to him, and finally said, "You're mine, and that's the end of the discussion."

"Are you sure?" Rodney had never heard John's voice so small, so scared, and he did the only thing he could. Disregarding the way that John was soaked in sweat, he pulled him in to a tight hug, even though he was furious that John would think that he might let him go alone.

"Mine, John. I mean it."

When John tried to stand, he discovered that his legs seemed to be made of jell-o. Rodney snorted before going to the door and peeking outside. "Ronon," he said. "John needs a hand back to our quarters. Want to help him out?"

Both Ronon and Teyla entered the room, and John could feel the blush rising in his cheeks. Bad enough that so many people had seen him have his version of a temper tantrum, but now Ronon and Teyla would know that he'd overdone it badly.

Ronon held out a hand to John, who sighed gustily and took it. Being hauled to his feet did nothing to dissuade his feeling of weakness. And when Ronon tucked an arm under John's to help hold him up, he contemplated arguing. Then they took a step forward, and he realized that he wasn't going to get anywhere without some help.

He knew that if he refused Ronon's help, Rodney would call Keller instead, and he didn't want to go to the infirmary. He just wanted his own quarters and his own bed, and Ronon would understand that.

Teyla took point without him having to say anything, checking to make sure that each hallway was clear before Ronon hauled him down it like a sack of potatoes. Rodney took their six, holding the life signs detector to make sure that no one would come up on them unawares. He was pathetically grateful, because the last thing his men needed to see was his weakness.

The door to Rodney's and his quarters slid open obediently as they approached, and Ronon helped him into the room and pretty much dropped him into the chair. "Um, thanks," he said, his face heating up. He couldn't believe that he was blushing again - wasn't he too old for this crap?

"No problem. Just don't be stupid again," Ronon said. He turned to leave, and as John shifted in the chair, trying to get comfortable, Teyla came over.

"I am certain that your people will see the truth of what had to be done," she said, then touched her forehead to his.

John closed his eyes, his hands coming up to rest on her shoulders. It was comforting, even though he suspected that she was completely wrong. "Thanks, Teyla."

She pulled away and went over to join Ronon at the door. "Will you be well?" she asked Rodney.

"We'll be fine, Teyla," he said, coming to sit on the arm of the chair. "Thanks."

She nodded her head gravely as Ronon grinned at John, and the two of them let themselves out.

Rodney sighed, shifting around on the arm of the chair, obviously trying to keep it from cutting into his ass. "You know what Teyla would say, right?"

John winced. He did know what she'd say. She'd say that they needed to talk, and then she would beat him until he did. "Yeah. Do we have to?" he couldn't help whining. It wasn't like Teyla was there watching.

"If we don't, you know that she'll be able to tell, and then she'll make us do it in front of her." Rodney didn't sound any happier about it.

He sighed. Rodney was right, unfortunately. "Okay. I'm sorry."

Turning to look at him curiously, Rodney tipped his head to the side. "Why are you apologizing?" Rodney asked.

Fuck. John hated this. He'd hated it when he was with Nancy, he'd hated it with every girlfriend he'd ever had, and he hated it now. But he'd learned his lesson well - better to apologize even when he didn't think he'd done anything wrong. Got you out of the doghouse that much faster. "Because..." he trailed off, trying to think of what to say to end this conversation. "Because I didn't tell you about the recall?"

"Well, at least you have a reason. It's a piss poor reason, but it's a reason. I'm not upset over that, John."

"You're not?"

"Nah. I can understand the urge to beat something up, given the situation. I can wish that you hadn't gone quite as far as you did, but that's not why I'm upset."

"Then why are you upset?"

Rodney got off the arm of the chair and came around to the front, crouching down so that he was eye level with John. "I'm mad because you honestly seemed to think that I might be willing to let you go by yourself."

"Rodney - " John had to find a way to get Rodney to stay behind.

"Nope, don't want to hear it. I'm going with you. You're my partner, and where you go, I go. End of discussion."

"But - "

"Here we go with the buts again. You know, I'd like to see things from your point of view on this, but I can't seem to get my head that far up my ass." Rodney gave a small smile, taking some of the sting out of his words. "John, you know that I lo - love you, right?"

"Aw, geeze, Rodney," John turned his face away. He and Rodney did so well because they never talked about this shit, and yet, here was Rodney, bringing it up.

Rodney just took his chin in his hand and turned it back. "Answer me."

John closed his eyes and sighed. "Yes, I know. And, um, me too."

He could hear the smile in Rodney's voice. "Yeah, I know." Then Rodney's voice got a lot softer and sadder. "Why do you think I'd be willing to let you face this by yourself?"

"You're important to Atlantis, Rodney. Besides, this is your home. I don't want you to lose that."

"You're wrong." Rodney's voice was flat and certain. "You're my home. If you aren't here, then I don't want to be here either."

John could feel the sting of tears that he couldn't shed. He squeezed his eyes even tighter closed, and leaned forward. Rodney wrapped his arms around him, holding him tight against Rodney's chest. "We'll be okay," Rodney said. "One way or another, we'll be okay."

He couldn't keep from nodding, or believing. If Rodney said it, with that much determination in his voice, it was true, because Rodney would bend reality if necessary to make it so. "Okay."

Jamie winced at the yelling going on in Doctor Rodriguez's office. He was waiting with the other Marines for the wormhole to Earth to be opened, so he could go home and testify.

He wasn't real clear on what the issue was - the Wraith had been evil, and they'd killed 'em. Seemed simple enough. But he guessed that there were probably people who were smarter than he was who didn't see things that way.

There was a crash, and he jumped a little, looking to Colonel Sheppard for guidance. If it were up to him, they would have interfered already, but Colonel Sheppard just leaned against one of the consoles that the Marines were forbidden to touch, and gave a little smile.

It made all the soldiers around Jamie relax, so he did too, even though the volume was only getting louder. "You're a moron if you think you're going to keep me here," Doctor McKay yelled.

Rodriguez's voice dropped as he said something in answer, and even from here Jamie could see McKay's face go white, then red. Colonel Sheppard's face tightened as well, and he stood up straight, as if he was going to finally step in. Then McKay gave a bitter smile and said something softly.

There was dead silence for a long moment, a silence that spread through the Gateroom as if no one was willing to attract any attention. Rodriguez broke it, finally. "Fine. Go, McKay. Leave Zelenka to do your job. Maybe I'll just appoint him to it, and then you can just stay on Earth!"

McKay snorted loud enough for Jamie to hear. "As if he'd take the job and be willing to work with you more than he's already forced to. No, you'll hold my job if you know what's good for Atlantis."

He didn't wait for an answer. Instead, he bent over and picked up his bag and turned to George. "Dial the 'Gate, now," he said.

George knew better than to look to Rodriquez for confirmation. Instead, he started the dialing sequence. The noise masked most of what Colonel Sheppard said as McKay joined him, but Jamie was close enough to hear some of it. "You sure you want to do this, Rodney? You're burning your bridges, here."

"More like dynamiting them," McKay said with some satisfaction. "The SGC won't let him remove me, and he knows it. Small man, with delusions of grandeur."

The wormhole opened then, distracting Jamie, and Major Lorne called them to attention. "Move out," he yelled, and the Marines crossed the event horizon and back to Earth.

Jamie hated the sensation of going through a wormhole and it wasn't helped by the fact that he knew just enough physics to confuse himself when he tried to read about how they worked. Thankfully, distance didn't seem to matter, so going to Earth wasn't any worse than going to the next planet over.

General Steiner greeted them, and as they came off the ramp, all the Marines came to attention. Steiner waited for the last of them to form up, and then said, "You will find a list of attorneys assigned to you hanging in the Ready Room, as well as the rooms where they're waiting for you. Report to them immediately. Dismissed."

Breaking formation, most of the Marines headed directly for the Ready Room, but Jamie and a couple of other Marines dawdled at the doorway, watching as Steiner greeted Colonel Sheppard. "Sorry to call you back so soon," he said.

"It's not a problem, sir," Colonel Sheppard said. "I assume I have an attorney as well?"

"Both of you do. We assumed that Doctor McKay would insist on accompanying you." Steiner gave something that might actually have been a smile. "He has not been officially recalled for testifying, but when the people in D.C. find out that he's here, they may change their minds."

"What moron is behind this, anyway?" McKay demanded. He looked honestly offended by the whole situation.

"A congresswoman named Noreen Sherwood - she's from California. She supported Berkeley in their short-lived attempt to throw the Marines out back in 2008."

Steiner was still talking, but a hand came down on Jamie's shoulder. "Your attorney's waiting for you," said Sanders. "It'll be fine."

"Right," he said, following Sanders to the Ready Room to meet up with the attorney and start preparing for testifying in front of Congress. He wondered whether his family would watch, and what they thought of the whole thing.

Rodney couldn't believe how stupid this whole thing was. His attorney, a middle aged woman named Lauren Tayler, had introduced herself by looking him over and saying, "I assume you really are as smart as you claim to be?"

Offended, he had said, "Smarter, actually."

"Good. Then you'll be smart enough to shut up and listen to what I tell you to do."

It had gone downhill from there.

Tayler didn't like his answers to her questions, she didn't like the way he sat, she didn't like his uniform, for Christ's sake. The last thing that she'd said when they broke for the day was that he was to go get a suit that weekend - like a suit was going to make a difference.

He stumbled into his room, only to discover that John still wasn't there. He managed to stay on his feet long enough to get unpacked. Then, exhausted from a day of answering questions, he collapsed on the bed, his eyes sagging shut against his will.

Startled awake when the door slammed, he sat up suddenly. It was John, and he looked livid. Before Rodney could get his bearings enough to ask what had happened, John said, "Get your stuff. We're going to stay in town."

"Um, okay," Rodney said, sitting on the edge of the bed and rubbing his eyes, trying to wake up. John slammed around the room, grabbing the stuff that Rodney had just put away.. Rodney finally felt like he could help, and stood, only to have his bag thrust into his hands. John grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out of the door and to the elevator.

They didn't say anything on the elevator ride up, or even the short drive into Colorado Springs. The hotel wasn't as nice as the Crowne Plaza, but it wasn't a dive either, and Rodney was grateful that they had rooms available. John just silently glowered all through checking in, making the clerk look at him nervously.

When they finally got to the room, Rodney turned to face John. "Okay, we're out of the mountain. Want to tell me what crawled up your ass and died?"

"It's that goddamned attorney."


"He wants me to point the finger at you. Say that it was all your fault, and that I was 'manipulated' into cooperating with your evil plans." John even did the air quotes thing. "Led around by my dick is what he's hinting at. And he wants us to stop sharing a room."

Rodney's stomach fell into his shoes. Okay, he thought maybe he should have pushed harder for the "Run away in the Pegasus galaxy plan," because, yeah, this was turning out worse than he'd ever imagined. "So we're here together, why?" he asked.

"Jesus, Rodney," John exploded. "You can't honestly believe that I'd just leave you to the mercies of the American Congress? Not after everything?"

"No, but..." Rodney let his voice trail off, trying to figure out what to say that wouldn't set John off worse. "It's just that there's no need to make things worse. If sleeping separately for a few weeks makes things go easier, then why not?"

"Because you're my partner and I'm not going to deny you, you idiot. If I have to, I'll stand up in front of the world and claim you." John's hands closed on his shoulders tightly and he shook Rodney. "Do you understand?"

Rodney let out a sigh of relief. "Yeah, I get it," he said. "What do you want to do about it?"

"I don't know," John said, releasing Rodney and going to sit on the edge of the bed. "We'll figure something out. One thing's for sure. I'm not staying under the mountain while we rehearse for this thing."

"I'm surprised that they let you leave, actually. Aren't they afraid that you'll run?"

John got a sour look on his face. "No. We were followed from Cheyenne, and I've no doubt that there's someone watching my car in the parking lot."


"Yeah, oh," John said.

Rodney moved up close, into John's personal space, making him look up to see Rodney's face. "Well, we're out of the mountain now," he said.

"Uh, huh." John wrapped his arms around Rodney's back, pulling him in close and resting his face against Rodney's stomach. Rodney ran his hands through John's hair, petting and stroking and trying to make him feel better. He was still surprised when John slid his shirt up, resting his hands on bare skin.

"John?" he asked, trying to get a feel for what John wanted.

"I need this," John said. "Don't - don't make me beg, Rodney."

"I won't," Rodney said, pulling his shirt off over his head. "Anything you want." He stepped back and bent down to undo his shoes before straightening and unbuckling his pants. When they dropped, he stepped out of the whole mess and kicked them aside, standing naked in front of John. "Whatever you need, John." He held his arms out at his sides, offering himself up.

John made an inarticulate, broken noise, and slid to his knees. Pulling Rodney in close, he wrapped his arms around his thighs and held on.

Rodney resumed stroking his hair, not saying anything. If this was what John wanted and needed, then he was more than happy to give it to him.

When John released him, he nearly stumbled, but John supported him until he had his balance back. Then he climbed to his own feet, shedding his clothes in a mad haste. As soon as they were both naked, he pushed Rodney towards the bed. When the bed hit him in the back of the knees, Rodney sat. John's cock was right there, half hard against his thigh, and Rodney did the only thing he could. He leaned forward and licked it.

Moaning, John threaded his fingers through Rodney's hair, forcing him to hold steady. Rodney obeyed, opening his mouth when the head of John's cock nudged against his lips. The heavy, silken weight slid over his tongue, and he groaned softly. The vibrations from the sound made John buck his hips, sliding even deeper into Rodney.

Rodney sucked hard, licking the shaft of John's cock. The head was too far back to lick properly, but when Rodney swallowed past the choking sensation, John's hands tightened in his hair. "God, I love your mouth," he whispered as he started to move, pulling out and pushing in slowly.

Wrapping his hands around John's ass, Rodney pulled him in further, encouraging him to fuck his mouth. John didn't hesitate to take what Rodney was offering, fucking even harder. One of Rodney's hands drifted down to press against his own cock, which was demanding attention. "No, not yet," John said breathlessly, pulling out of Rodney's mouth.

Whimpering at the loss, Rodney pushed against the hand in his hair, trying to get back to John's cock. "Turn over," John said, still panting harshly, and Rodney didn't hesitate. Instead, he turned over onto his face, keeping his ass in the air. Reaching back, he spread his cheeks, ignoring the embarrassment that stained his face red.

John made a choked noise. "Don't move," he said, and then there was the sound of John ransacking the luggage, obviously looking for the slick. Rodney could feel his warmth against his skin when he returned, but instead of a slick finger against his hole, it was the broader pressure of John's dick. "Rodney, please," John said.

Rodney wanted it as much as John wanted to give it. "Yeah, yeah, John. Give it to me," he begged.

When John started to press inside, Rodney's breath caught in his chest. The stretch burned, causing Rodney to whimper, and John paused. "Don't stop," Rodney ordered. "I told you to give it to me!"

There was the sound of a harsh chuckle, and John resumed pushing in. Rodney couldn't push back, couldn't move forward. All he could do was stay on his knees and let John go at his own pace. John didn't pause again until his hips were flush with Rodney's, and then he stopped, obviously giving Rodney a chance to adjust.

Taking a deep breath, Rodney let it out slowly, trying to force his body to relax. John's hands covered his own, keeping him spread, and he released his hold, bringing his arms around in front. That let him breathe a bit better. "Okay," he said.

John started to move, slowly, taking Rodney apart one stroke at a time. Every stroke passed right over his prostate, making Rodney make all sorts of undignified noises. John's hands tightened on his ass, and Rodney could feel the bruises starting to form, but he could tell that John was still holding back. Lifting his head a little, he said, "Please, John. I can take it."

There was a pause in John's steady rhythm. "I don't want to hurt you."

Rodney couldn't help it. He came up on his hands and twisted so that he could see John. He didn't have to say anything, because John smiled a little, obviously reading the glare correctly. "Fine, fine." Lowering his head back to the bed, Rodney braced himself just in time. The next stroke in was spine rattling, as John slammed home.

"Fuck," Rodney moaned. Pleasure ricocheted through Rodney as John was faster and more forceful with every stroke. With a harsh cry, he let his orgasm slam through him, only vaguely aware that he needed to keep his ass up.

John didn't pause, continuing to fuck hard and fast and desperate. It became harder and harder to stay on his knees, but somehow Rodney managed until John came with a cry of his own. His weight came down on Rodney's back as he collapsed with a groan.

For several minutes they stayed like that, but then Rodney's leg started to cramp up. He tried to stretch it without disturbing John, but his balance wasn't that good, and he fell over, knocking John down onto the bed.

After a brief, shocked hesitation, the two of them started laughing, and if there was a note of hysteria in it, Rodney didn't call John on it.

William Galindo wasn't really surprised when Colonel Sheppard stormed out of the room. From everything he'd heard, Sheppard and McKay were extremely loyal to one another, but he had no doubt that Sheppard would come to see the wisdom of what he'd suggested.

So when Sheppard came slamming into the conference room at exactly eight a.m., he was all set with strategies and suggestions. Which was why Sheppard's words flabbergasted him so. "What?"

"Forget about blaming Rodney. If that's your only suggestion, then consider yourself fired. I'd rather go into this without an attorney than one that, first of all, suggests that I blame my partner, and two, wants me to lie. Rodney was not to blame, I did what was necessary, and I'd do it again."

"Um," William stalled for time. He really hadn't thought that Sheppard would argue with him, so he didn't have any other suggestions at hand. "It wouldn't be a lie, would it though, Colonel Sheppard? The suggestion for bringing down the ships was Doctor McKay's, not yours. All you have to do is admit that and this can all be over."

For a moment, William thought that he might have gone too far. Rage, pure and unadulterated, flashed across Sheppard's face, and he clenched his fists tight. He leaned forward, and William braced himself for the punch that was going to come.

Only it never landed. "I'm going to put this in very small words for you, Galindo." Sheppard growled. "None of this was Rodney's idea. The blame - if there is any blame - rests on my shoulders. Rodney did only what I ordered him to do. If you try to shift the blame one more time, this conversation will end. And you'll be out whatever money that the SGC offered you. Do you understand me?"

Swallowing hard, William nodded. "Fine. No blaming Doctor McKay, even if it means you go to prison for the rest of your life."

"That's not your problem," Sheppard said, his body relaxing. There was something puzzling about that, but William wasn't being paid to interpret Sheppard's body language. Instead he nodded and picked up the file off the table. "So, your first encounter with the Wraith was when you attempted to rescue your superior officer from them. You failed, Colonel Sumner died and you ended up in charge. Please tell me about that."

It made Donald Wray nauseous to realize that he was siding with a democrat, but as the saying went, politics made for strange bedfellows. He was smart enough to know what played at home would never work here inside the Beltway, and if he wanted someone other than a pantywaisted fag in charge of Atlantis under a Democrat controlled congress, he'd have to find a reason other than Sheppard being gay.

Sherwood was the easiest patsy he could find. She honestly believed that a species that viewed humans as cattle could be negotiated with, and had showed up in support of several demonstrations that decried Sheppard as a butcher. Donald had wondered briefly if she had been born stupid, or if becoming a democrat had done it, but ultimately it didn't really matter. She had enough clout to get bipartisan support for these hearings, and that was what was important.

Unlike Sherwood, Donald Wray was smart. He wasn't the first Republican to sign up in support of the hearings, but he was the most influential, and with his name on them, they'd gotten a great deal more support from his side of the aisle.

His phone rang, and he glanced at the caller ID. It was Sherwood again, who was as excited as a kid in a candy shop now that dates were being set. For whatever reason, she thought that his support of the hearings indicated support of her personally, and she'd been calling every few days to get his opinions on things. Not that she ever actually listened to the answers. Arrogant bitch.

Reluctantly, he answered the call just before it went to voicemail. "Wray here."

"Hey, Donald." He grimaced hard. Typical California lack of manners. "This is Noreen."

"Ms. Sherwood," he answered. He'd be damned if he descended to her level.

"I just found out that Sheppard's partner in crime is here as well - Doctor Rodney McKay. I'm going to have him subpoenaed."

Donald thought hard about the little he knew about Sheppard's partner. If he recalled correctly, he was hard to control, the reason that he hadn't been in on the first wave of publicity. He had a bad feeling about making his involvement official. "I don't think that's a good idea, Ms. Sherwood."

"Oh, why not? I'm going to make sure that he gets his subpoena just before the hearings start, so he doesn't have enough time to prepare a pack of lies, while giving the appearance of sufficient time so that we can't be accused of being unfair. It'll just cement the fact that Sheppard's a butcher in everyone's minds."

This was sounding worse and worse. "I really think that you should reconsider. Doctor McKay is very clever, Ms. Sherwood, and I doubt that he'd give you what you want."

"Don't worry about it, Donald. I'm having the paperwork prepared right now, for it to go out tomorrow. He should get it just a few days before the rest of them are due here in D.C."

Donald sighed softly. Once again, Sherwood was going to do things her own way, and common sense and greater experience be damned. "As you wish," he said.

He hung up the phone. Well, there was a silver lining. McKay was Canadian, though with a green card. Depending on how the hearings went, he might be able to get the USCIS to revoke his status and deport him.

Smiling, he thought about that more. Yes, that might be a very positive outcome indeed.

Three days before they were due in Washington, Rodney received his own subpoena, demanding that he testify immediately after John. The Marines were going first, and were supposed to take five days, John was scheduled for five days on his own, and then Rodney was scheduled for three, a fact that made Rodney snort in derision. "They're hoping that I'm not prepared," Rodney said to John. "Whoever Sherwood has spying for her isn't doing their job."


"I'll wager that she has no idea that I've been working with my own attorney for the last two weeks. She probably thinks that she's going to catch me flat-footed. If they'd followed their original timetable, she would have given me just two weeks to get prepared instead of almost a month."

"Probably, but don't underestimate her," John cautioned. "Have you seen the list of co-sponsors?"

"Yeah. I know." Rodney made a face. "Donald Wray is on that list, and I'm pretty certain that he's the reason that releasing information about the ZPMs has been held up. He's the head of the energy committee."

"Well, fuck," John said. "He's also got the support of the American Family Association, according to Galindo. He thinks that the guy may have it out for me personally."

The two of them stared at each other in dismay. This just kept getting worse and worse. Rodney didn't know what to say, and he was saved from saying anything at all by the tweedy little runt sticking his head into the mess. "Colonel Sheppard? We were supposed to start again ten minutes ago?"

John looked at his watch and swore. Getting up, he said to Rodney, "I'll meet you at eighteen hundred?"

"That sounds good." John left the mess, and Rodney started to think hard and fast. He had the bare inklings of a plan, but he wasn't sure that it would work. The only way it could would be if Teal'c agreed to help, and that didn't seem likely. But it was at least worth a try.

His attorney had an appointment that she couldn't cancel, so he was on his own this afternoon. No time like the present he thought to himself and went looking for Teal'c.

He wasn't in any of the public areas of the SGC, so he took his courage in both hands and went to Teal'c's private quarters. Finding them was simple enough, but bringing himself to knock on the door was harder. He stood there for a long time, just staring at the door.

He was still standing there when the door opened. "Rodney McKay, how may I help you?" Teal'c said.

Rodney swallowed hard. "May I - may I come in, Teal'c?"

Teal'c nodded gravely and stepped back, and Rodney stepped into his quarters, hoping against hope that this would work.

Surrounded by members of her staff, Noreen evaluated the latest reports from within the SGC. If she had her way, the whole group of them would be up on charges, but SG1 was too popular by far. Enough had been leaked about the Go'auld and the Ori to make people grateful. Grateful! Ha! As if destroying other races was something to be grateful for. The fact that the Go'auld and Ori had targetted Earth specifically bought protection for SG1, a protection that disgusted Noreen.

Sheppard, on the other hand... Pegasus was too far away for anything that happened there to actually have been threat to Earth, and it had taken Earth know-how and capabilities to destroy the Wraith. They were a species capable of living for thousands of years. The knowledge that had been lost was unbelievable.

It was too bad that Elizabeth Weir was dead. Noreen had no doubt that most of this was her fault. She had supposedly been a hotshot diplomat, but when push came to shove, she wasn't very good after all. Instead of negotiating for peace, she'd ended up leading a war.

She knew that there were those who thought she simply had a grudge against the military, and that she was taking it out on Sheppard. Vote against giving them raises a few times, and you inevitably ended up labeled unpatriotic, after all. The reality was that this was the twenty-first century. The Armed Forces were obsolete. Negotiation was the proper way to deal with enemies.

Sheppard - and his team, by extension - represented everything wrong with those who still saw the military as the solution to every problem. She needed to make the world see that, so that they could start reducing the size of their armed forces. If the U.S. did it, other countries would follow suit. That would free up money for social programs and reduce the need for weapons even more.

Noreen made a face as she read over the reports of the co-signers of the subpoenas. She couldn't believe that there was anything that she could support in conjunction with Donald Wray but he was too powerful to risk alienating, even if she really wanted to scream to the world that she didn't share his homophobic beliefs. Ah, well, for the good of humankind, she could hold her nose and cooperate with him.

At least he hadn't actively tried to stop her from subpoenaing that twitchy scientist. The reports said that while the idea had been Sheppard's, the implementation had been McKay's - that he'd been Sheppard's mad scientist almost from the start.

They had Sheppard's own reports on the death of Colonel Sumner, and the errors that Sheppard had made in trying to rescue him. Had it not been for Sheppard's gross miscalculations, none of this would have happened anyway. But they had, and instead of dealing with it logically, Sheppard had involved a whole galaxy in a war, and nearly gotten several of Earth's ships destroyed in the process.

She spared a thought to wonder if Sheppard's insistence on killing off the Wraith was caused by a desire to cover up his mistakes in waking them in the first place. Not that it really mattered after all.

He was a bloodthirsty madman. McKay was no better. If it hadn't been for McKay, the Replicators would never have gone to war against the Wraith, catching the Pegasus galaxy and its inhabitants in a bloody three-way war.

But that very war demonstrated that the Wraith were capable of negotiating with humans when it was in their best interest. They had for a time been allies. If there had been someone capable there, instead of Sheppard, then they could have negotiated a cease fire and found another method of survival for the Wraith. But no, Sheppard hadn't even tried that. Instead, as soon as the Replicators were removed as a threat, he'd returned the fight to them.

She turned to the report from the federal prosecutors. It was a disappointment. They were unanimous in agreeing that this case did not belong in a U.S. federal court, not even the Supreme Court. The military had also decided that they weren't going to hear the case. She'd already read the rejection of the case from The Hague. It looked like they were going to have to find a court in the Pegasus galaxy to try Sheppard.

Ah, well, that was for the future. Right now they had other things to worry about, like the upcoming hearings. Only two more days.

Jamie settled into his seat, fastening his belt and then looking around. He'd spent enough time on the phone with his mother to be grateful that they weren't flying commercial, because Sheppard was still being slammed in the press. If he saw one more report that started by referring to the Colonel as the "Butcher of Pegasus," he was going to be ill, and he didn't know Colonel Sheppard all that well. He couldn't imagine that Doctor McKay was any happier about it.

The two of them settled into seats a few rows ahead of Jamie, and he could hear McKay ranting. He had to smile at what he was saying. "Are you sure that you trust this pilot, John? I mean, I know that he's Air Force, and he's probably been doing it for a little while, but I've kind of gotten used to flying with you. I don't like the idea of putting my safety into someone else's hands like this."

"Hush, Rodney. It'll be fine. Besides, even if I wanted to fly us, I couldn't - I never learned to fly the big planes like this, just the little flying fighter planes and helicopters."

"And 'jumpers?"

"And the puddlejumpers, right. The physics are the same - you know that - but the mechanics are completely different."

"Right. Bet you could, though. You're the ultimate flyboy." Jamie could hear McKay take a deep breath, blowing it out slowly. It was true that he'd never want McKay on his team, but then again, Jamie wasn't on a first contact team. His team's job was to go in and learn about cultural differences, which is why it was made up of two anthropologists and two Marines. There really wasn't a need for a physicist on his team anyway, and to be honest, McKay's mouth would probably drive Jamie to drink if he had to listen to it on every mission. But in small doses, it was pretty funny.

As the plane took off, Jamie relaxed into the seat, thinking about the last two weeks. His attorney was a fiery little redhead named Jennifer Colson. Under other circumstances, Jamie might have asked her out for a drink, but she'd been honestly surprised when Jamie had defended Colonel Sheppard's decisions.

From what he could pick up from the gossip around the mountain, that seemed to be the common factor. It was almost like whoever had briefed the attorneys had prepared them for the Marines to turn on the Colonel, because they were pretty unanimous in their surprise.

Jamie - and the other Marines - didn't really understand. Every single one of them had been to worlds that had been culled. They'd all brought back refugees and helped bury bodies. There was nothing in the universe sadder than a body the size of a five year old, aged till it was just skin over bone. As far as they were concerned, Colonel Sheppard had done the right thing.

Closing his eyes, Jamie tried some of the meditation techniques that Doctor Myles had insisted on teaching all the off-world teams. It took a little while to clear his head of thoughts of the culled planets he'd been to, but he finally managed to relax enough to go to sleep.

He couldn't have been out very long when the touchdown of the wheels to the tarmac woke him. They were landing at Andrews Air Force base, just outside Washington D.C., and even as the plane rolled to a stop beside one of the hangers, Jamie could see the large bus coming up to pick them up.

Transferring from one to the other only took a few minutes. The windows were darkly tinted, and as Colonel Sheppard seated himself in the window seat, Jamie was grateful. Traffic around D.C. was awful, the bus moving extremely slowly, and if hadn't been for the dark tinting, people might have recognized the Colonel. The last thing they needed was to be followed to their hotel.

The bus pulled up behind the Hyatt Regency Capital Hill, and everyone got out. They were all moving sluggishly from the time in the air and on the bus, but when the hotel manager came out back to tell them that dinner was ready, everyone picked up the pace.

Jamie was right there in the pack, so he didn't notice for a long time that Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay weren't with them in the small ballroom where a buffet had been set up. He wondered where they'd gone, but then one of his buddies pointed out the dessert table, and apple pie replaced curiosity in his thoughts.

As the Marines headed off to be fed, John and Rodney split off. "We just want our room," Rodney said to the manager, who nodded.

"Of course, sir," he said. He didn't make them go up to the front desk, instead taking them to a small office where he checked them in and handed over the card keys. "I was told that you'd share a room?" he asked diffidently.

"That's correct," John said firmly, taking the keys.

"We've put you all on the eighth floor," the manager said. "There are guards on the elevators and stairways, so no one can get in without an I.D. card."

"That sounds reasonable," Rodney said while John fidgeted.

"Do you have a fitness room?" John asked.

"Yes, and at this time of the afternoon it should be empty," he said. "Let me just get a guard to meet you."

"John - " Rodney started, only to cut himself off. He wasn't going to get into it front of a stranger. "Let's go get changed first, okay?"

He knew he deserved the strange look that John gave him. Usually he had to be threatened with injury to get him to exercise, but he'd be damned if he was going to let John out of his sight unarmed, even with a guard. If that meant he had to run on a fucking treadmill, then that was a sacrifice he was prepared to make.

The two of them went to their room and changed from their uniforms to sweats and tennis shoes. As soon as they stepped back out of the room, one of the guards stepped forward. "Colonel Sheppard? Doctor McKay? I'm supposed to escort you to the fitness room?"

John nodded and Rodney followed his lead as they took the elevator down to the second floor. As promised, the room was empty, and John didn't hesitate about getting on one of the treadmills and starting off at a slow pace. Rodney moved a little slower, taking the time to stretch and warm up before getting on his own machine. He knew that he couldn't keep pace with John, who was already running faster than Rodney could on his best day, but he did a fairly respectable speed on his own.

Rodney did three miles to make up for the fact that he hadn't really run in the last two weeks, then got off the treadmill. He sat down on a weight bench to wait for John, who was obviously pushing himself.

"You should go back to the room," John said, words barely understandable as he panted his way through them.

"Forget that," Rodney said. "Not leaving you here without me."

"Rodney, I'm perfectly safe."

"No. Forget it. Everyone needs a spotter in the gym. I'm sure I read that in 'Testosterone Monthly.'" Rodney said, and he turned his attention to stretching again to cool down.

John ran until he was covered with sweat, panting harshly. When he almost stumbled, catching himself on the way down, Rodney interfered. "That's enough, John."

"I'm fine," John said, but he was already starting to slow.

"Right, you're fine. Your face is always that vibrant shade of red. You're also getting off that thing, right now." A glance at the guard showed him staring at a fixed point straight ahead, but the twitching of his cheek told Rodney that he was trying not to laugh. Not that Rodney really cared. "Let's go, chop chop."

Sighing, John turned off the treadmill and stepped off the machine. "I just need to cool down."

"Fine," Rodney said, leaning against a wall and watching as John stretched slowly. Finally, John stood up straight.

"All right, let's go," he said.

The guard finally broke his rigid posture to glance at Rodney. "If you'll follow me, gentlemen," he said, leading the way back to the elevator. It was empty when it arrived, and they took it to the eighth floor, where John thanked the guard before turning to go into their room, Rodney right behind him.

"I need a shower," John said, already stripping out of his clothes. Rodney closed and locked the door. Following John's lead, he toed off his sneakers and joined John into the bathroom.

The shower was huge, more than large enough for the two of them, and Rodney got in with John, using his bigger bulk to push John back into the corner of the shower. Weaving his fingers into John's hair, he pulled his head down so that Rodney could kiss him, as sweet and as loving as Rodney knew how to do.

John returned the kiss with interest. One of John's hands came up and he thumbed one of Rodney's nipples, making it stand up tight on his chest. Breaking the kiss, John turned his head so that his forehead rested against Rodney's shoulder. "Let me get clean, Rodney," he said, softly. "Then, could you - "

"Anything, John," Rodney answered.

"Could you maybe blow me?"

"I think that can be arranged." Rodney released John so that he could step forward into the spray, showering off the sweat. Once they were both clean, they stepped out, and John took one of the huge towels and wrapped it around Rodney before drying himself off.

Rodney did only a cursory job of getting himself dry. He could still feel damp spots as he led John back to the bedroom and laid him down on the bed. He thought about kneeling on the floor, but after the run he didn't think his knees could take it. Instead, he crawled up on the bed and curled around John, resting his head on John's belly and licking over the head of his cock.

John groaned softly and twisted his hands into the blankets, obviously trying not to grab at Rodney's head. Rodney grabbed one and lifted it, resting it on the back of his neck, trusting John not to choke him with his dick.

Slowly, John's cock filled and lengthened and Rodney took more of it into his mouth, sucking slow and sweet. It wasn't enough to get John off, but it was enough to give him pleasure for a long, long time.

Bobbing his head a few inches up and down, Rodney teased the head of John's dick with his tongue, tracing the ridge around the head, nibbling at the spot where all the nerves came together. John, never a quiet partner to start with, encouraged Rodney with moans and soft sighs, his hips hitching up when Rodney did something especially good.

When John was covered in a fine coat of sweat, this time from holding back, he started to beg. "Please, Rodney. I need to come so bad. Please let me come."

In reward, Rodney started to suck harder, take him deeper, letting the head of his cock nudge into the opening of his throat. Swallowing hard caused John to make a sound of almost-pain, and Rodney could taste pre-come. Swallowing a second time caused every muscle in John's body to lock up and his hips to come up off the bed. A third time made John come with a cry.

Rodney continued to suck gently as John twitched through the aftershocks. Only when he lay relaxed and quiet did Rodney kneel up, his hand on his own cock. "God, John, I need to - " he said, hand already moving fast and steady.

"Yeah, come all over me," John slurred out, and Rodney looked up to meet John's eyes, seeing all the words that John could never bring himself to say there. That, more than the tight hand on his dick, pushed Rodney over the edge and he came, shooting over John's belly and chest.

He managed to stay upright, sitting on his heels as he caught his breath. Then, as John's eyes were already falling shut, he managed to persuade himself to climb to his feet, going to the bathroom to fetch the washcloth. Mopping the come out of John's chest hair took only a moment, and then he tossed the wet cloth towards the bathroom, not caring that it landed on the carpet inches from the bathroom floor.

John didn't seem to want to move, so getting him under the blankets was a bitch, but Rodney finally managed it. Climbing in as well, he reached over and flipped off the light, wrapping himself securely around John's body. John whispered softly, "I want to go home."

Something in Rodney's chest broke at that, because he wanted nothing more than to take John home, but that wasn't an option right now. Instead, he wrapped his arm tighter around John's chest, buried his nose in the hair at the back of John's head and whispered, "I know."

Craddock reviewed the security feeds for the hotel. They had their own people in with the security, but fanatically loyal Marines surrounded Sheppard. Besides, if he didn't show for the hearings, then there'd be a search. Better for everyone if they waited till afterwards.

Depending on the results of the hearing, getting to Sheppard might be easier than they expected, but Craddock wasn't going to count on it. Instead, he was planning for the most difficult - Sheppard being bound over to The Hague for trial. If that happened, he'd have to bribe a few prosecutors to "lose" some evidence. Having Sheppard found guilty and sentenced to prison wouldn't accomplish NID's goals.

But honestly, he didn't expect that to happen. Instead, he expected a fairly neutral outcome - no trial in front of The Hague, but Sheppard to be removed as military commander of Atlantis. If that happened, then he'd probably be forced to retire, which would make it easy to get to him. That would be the best of all possible worlds.

After all, who would care what happened to one washed-out hotshot pilot, even if he'd once been in charge of Atlantis? Just McKay, and he should be easy enough to deal with.

Craddock closed his eyes, lost in all the things that they could achieve if they managed to get the equipment "liberated" from the SGC up and working again. They wouldn't be dependent on their agents for scraps of intelligence any more. They might even be able to return to some measure of their past power. That would be nice.

Even from the eighth floor, John could hear the protesters in front of the hotel through the open window. The first group of Marines had left early that morning to go to the Capitol building to testify, and Rodney had C-SPAN on softly. "They must have leaked our location," John muttered, not wanting to open his eyes.

"Yeah," Rodney said. "Did the T.V. wake you?"

"Nah. It's time to get up," John said, forcing his body to move. Running last night had helped get rid of some of the stress, but it had left him sore and tired this morning.

Rodney shifted around on the bed, wrapping a hand around the back of John's neck and kissing him firmly. "Sherwood is pissed," he said gleefully. "She obviously doesn't know Marines very well if she expected them to turn on you."

That made John turn and look at the television. When the camera pulled back and showed Sherwood, John could see why Rodney would say that. Her face was tight, her lips drawn together in a firm line, and as she asked yet another question, her voice was clipped.

The Marine – Jamie Connelly - was calm and collected as he responded to a question that had been designed to make John look like a power hungry madman. "No, ma'am. There were never any power struggles between Colonel Sheppard and the leaders of the expedition. As far as I was aware, they might disagree and argue, but they always came to an agreement eventually."

"I see here that in your first year in Pegasus, there was a disagreement about containment protocols that led to the infection of more than thirty individuals with a nanovirus?"

"That predates my time in Pegasus, ma'am, but I know about it. If Colonel Sheppard hadn't taken the actions he did, a lot more people would have died. And ultimately, he and Doctor Weir worked it out."

"Did Colonel Sheppard ever attempt to persuade you to his way of thinking?" Sherwood asked, and there was a pause as Connelly's attorney leaned over and whispered in his ear. He shook his head no.

"No, ma'am. He did no such thing. Anyone who'd seen what the Wraith were capable of didn't need persuasion."

There was a knocking at the door, and John and Rodney exchanged a glance, clearly wondering who in the world it could be. A second set of knocks got them moving out of the bed. "Just a moment," Rodney called out as they pulled on sweatpants and t-shirts. Once they were both dressed, John went to the door and pulled it open.

Teal'c stood on the other side, a hat pulled low over his forehead to hide the gold symbol. "Colonel Sheppard, Rodney McKay. I trust you are both well," he said gravely.

"Um, yeah," John said, stepping back from the door. "Come in, why don't you?"

"I thank you," Teal'c said, stepping through. As the door swung shut behind him, he turned to look at Rodney. "It is arranged, Rodney McKay," he said.

"What's arranged?" John asked, confused. "Rodney, what have you done?"

"Nothing for you to be upset over, I swear," Rodney said, holding up his hands placatingly. "Just a fallback in case don't things don't go well." Turning to face Teal'c, he asked, "Why did you come yourself? You could have just called."

"There was need for an escort," he said. "If you would follow me?"

Puzzled, both John and Rodney followed Teal'c out in the hall and down to the opposite end of the hall. There was a large suite there, and Teal'c opened the door without knocking, surprising them. "Teal'c?" John said, then he got a good look at the people sitting on the couch. "Ronon? Teyla? How did you - when did you - what?"

"What John means to say," Rodney interrupted with a smile, "Is thank you for coming."

Ronon stood, grabbing John around the waist and picking him up off the floor. "Like we were going to let you go down for this," he said.

"Okay, buddy, you can put me down now," John said, laughing quietly. "I get the message."

As Teyla stood, pulling John into an Athosian embrace, he asked, "What about Torren?"

"He is well. He is staying with Kannan and Halling while I am here." The embrace broke, and he grinned at her before turning to face Rodney and Teal'c.

Rodney asked Teal'c, "I thought you were just going to get recorded messages?"

"I discussed your suggestion with General Steiner, Rodney McKay. We believed that having your friends here to testify in person would be more persuasive. Were we mistaken?"

"Of course not. I just didn't think that the SGC would let them come through." John had to laugh when Ronon clapped a hand on Rodney's back, making him stagger. "Ow, you Neanderthal. That hurts!"

"I believe you underestimate how much Stargate Command wishes to put this behind them, with a positive turn."

John grinned at Teal'c. "I think you mean 'spin,' there."

"Of course, Colonel Sheppard." One of the doors in the suite opened, and John turned to face... Colonel Everett. Oh, shit.

"Colonel, Sir," he said, stepping forward to assist the man that he knew was in fifties, but looked like he was in his nineties. He got swatted away by Colonel Everett as he made his way slowly across the floor to the chair, settling in with a sigh. "I didn't expect to see you here."

"Of course you didn't, Sheppard," he said. "The last thing Noreen Sherwood wants is a demonstration of what a victim of the Wraith looks like. I've been waiting for someone on our side to call me. Have to say that I wasn't expecting Teal'c to do it."

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir," John babbled, surprised beyond belief. He knew that Everett had come to realize that John had done what he needed to do when it came to Sumner, but he knew the man still didn't like him.

"Any other surprises that I should know about?" John asked Rodney.

Rodney shrugged. "I don't know what else Teal'c has planned."

John turned to thank Teal'c who held up his hand. "No thanks are necessary, Colonel Sheppard. I have only done what is necessary to protect one who has done well and earned that protection many times over." Gesturing towards the T.V. that John hadn't even noticed playing in the background, he said, "From the words of your soldiers, you have earned a great deal of respect."

His cheeks heating in a blush that he couldn't stop, John looked away. "You may say they're not necessary, Teal'c, but it's important to me. Thank you." And then he turned to face Rodney. "And thank you, too."

Rodney grinned at him. "I told you that it'd all work out."

Nodding, he looked back at Teal'c. "So how is this going to work? I doubt you're going to get Sherwood to call Ronon or Teyla to testify."

Everett interrupted. "No, she won't, but Duncan Franks will - and he's on the Armed Forces committee. Sherwood's got powerful people on her side, but not everyone."

Confused, John asked, "But why would he call them? He's stayed out of this mess so far."

With a smirk, Everett said, "Because I knew his daddy. He's known me since he was a kid - he'll do as I ask when I call him."

John's face was starting to ache, he was smiling so hard. This might actually work out.

Teal'c said, "I have also had contact with Mister Bates. He brought some recordings to my attention. There was a Wraith named Steve whom you captured early on during your time in Pegasus?"

"Oh, god." That made John turn to look at Rodney, who had paled. "We have the recordings from Kolya."

Just those few words made John's chest clench, and he could swear that he felt burning in the scars left in his chest. "Um," he said, not sure he liked that idea.

"I know," Rodney said. "I don't want to watch them ever again - once was enough - but they certainly make it very apparent what the Wraith were capable of."

Well, they'd do that, that was for sure. "Let's hold both sets of video on the back burner. The problem is that we did ally with Todd for a period of time, and Sherwood might take those vids of proof of what she's saying."

"Fair enough," Rodney said.

Everett spoke up again. "Ronon, Teyla, I suggest that if you want to do any sightseeing, you do it in the next few days. Once your faces are on the news, you won't be able to move without being mobbed."

Teyla said, "I would like to explore the city if I can. Rodney, John, would either of you join us?"

Before Rodney could refuse, John spoke up. "I think Rodney should go with you. I can't. My face is too recognizable."

"What? Who says I want to play tourist? And are you saying that my face is forgettable?" Rodney demanded.

Grabbing a fist full of Rodney's shirt, he tugged him away from everyone else. "I can't leave the hotel," he said in a low voice. "If we spend too much time together, we'll just want to kill each other."

Rodney stared at him as if trying to make him change his mind, but when he didn't, Rodney sighed and said loudly enough for everyone to hear. "Fine, I'll go too. But you'd better reward me handsomely when we get back to the hotel."

John knew that his ears were getting hot, but that didn't stop him from saying, "Looking forward to it."

Ronon was amused. McKay clearly did not want to be in museums, looking at artifacts of American culture. He kept looking at his watch and shifting his feet, obviously moments from whining every time Teyla paused in front of an exhibit. It was funny enough that every time the exhibit contained weapons, he paused as well. He was waiting for the oncoming explosion -

"Listen, are you always this stupid or are you just making a special effort today?" McKay demanded of Ronon. "That is the fourth display of eighteenth century guns you've stopped us for in the last hour. There can't be that many differences!"

"Just thought I'd see what would make you lose it, McKay," he said. "Figured you'd been too calm since this whole thing started. You need to explode every once in a while or you get antsy."

"What? I do not!" McKay was waving his arms, oblivious to the looks from the people around him. "I'll have you know that when I'm not surrounded by morons, I'm perfectly calm."

"Right, sure," Ronon said, rolling his eyes.

"What Ronon means to say," Teyla said, stepping into the fray with a look that meant Ronon was going to pay for his fun the next time they sparred, "Is that perhaps you seem stressed? And an excuse to lessen some of that tension would only be of benefit to you."

McKay looked mollified, but only a little bit. "Yeah, well, this has been hard for everyone, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. By tomorrow, we'll have your subpoenas and then you'll have to be assigned lawyers and..." his eyes grew large. "Do we know if Teal'c made sure to make things legal with immigration? The American immigration people are vicious, absolutely vicious, if you don't jump every hoop and cross every T."

"Relax, Rodney," Teyla said softly. "Between Teal'c and General Steiner, it was all taken care of properly."

"Oh, okay." But Ronon didn't think Rodney was any more relaxed.

Trying to distract him and looking at the map of D.C. he held in his hand, he said, "Why don't we go to this museum?" pointing at the one marked with the little airplane.

Rodney snorted. "Simplistic explanations of complex concepts. Perfect. You should fit right in." Then he appeared to think about it, and slowly corrected himself. "You'll probably be ahead of most of that stuff, simply because you spend so much time with me."

Teyla immediately shushed him, but the damage had been done. Several of the nearby people had stopped even pretending to be interested in the exhibits, and one, braver than the rest, stepped forward. "Did you say Atlantis?"

Ronon pulled himself to his full height. He'd been forced to leave all of his weapons on Atlantis, but between him and Teyla they should be able to keep McKay protected. But McKay was demonstrating his usual inability to lie. "Uh, what? No, of course not. Why would you think that we're from Atlantis?"

"I know you must not want to admit it because of the crazies, but I heard you say it."

As McKay stuttered and stammered a denial, Ronon closed in on his back, only to be surprised when the man glanced back over his shoulder at his partner, a young woman. She gave him an encouraging smile. "I just wanted to say... thank you."

"Uh," McKay looked as confused as Ronon felt. "What are you thanking us for?"

"For protecting Earth from those Wraith things."

"Uh," Rodney was clearly flummoxed and turned towards Teyla. It was amusing to Ronon that even here on Earth, McKay still looked to Teyla to be the diplomat. "Teyla?"

Teyla bowed slightly, though Ronon noticed that she didn't stop scanning the room for danger. "It is our honor to be able to protect the people of Earth."

"Yeah, that," Rodney said, smiling widely. "We only did what needed to be done."

The young lady stepped forward, looping her arm through the young man's. "Still, it's important that you know that not everyone is out to get you guys. A lot of us understand and agree with what you did, and we don't think putting you through all this is right."

McKay's shoulders started to relax, coming down from around his ears, and that made Ronon relax a little as well. Unless these people were better actors than Ronon thought they were capable of being, he doubted that they were lying, trying to get him to let his guard down. "Well, maybe you should mobilize your friends, get them to call their congress people and register how unhappy they are about these hearings?" McKay said.

Ronon cocked an eyebrow. Coming from McKay, that was almost too civil and reasonable.

Knowing that he could appear intimidating, he stayed in the background.

There was a moment of awkward silence, which Teyla smoothed over in her typical way. "We are so happy to hear that there are people supporting Colonel Sheppard and that see the necessity of his actions. But if you would excuse us, we are expected back at our back shortly."

The young woman smiled and said, "Of course. May we ask a favor, though? No one will believe that we actually met people from Atlantis. Do you think we could take a picture with you?"

McKay was shaking his head no, but Teyla said, "Of course. Ronon? Rodney? Come now."

They obeyed the tone of her voice as always and stepped forward so that the young couple could stand with them. One of the museum docents agreed to take their camera and snapped several pictures, which left Ronon blinking the flash out of his eyes.

As couple smiled and pulled away, McKay said, "Thank you, again. I will most certainly pass your message on to Colonel Sheppard. It will mean... a great deal to him. It means a great deal to all of us."

They stepped away, and Ronon, realizing that they weren't the only people in the large room, decided that it would probably be wise to leave now that they'd drawn attention to themselves. "Teyla?"

"Yes, Ronon, I agree." The two of them bracketed McKay and started to walk, making him move as well. "Where are we going?"

"Elsewhere, Rodney," Teyla said softly, obviously not wanting to give away their next location easily. Ronon agreed completely. Just because one couple had been friendly didn't mean that everyone they met would be.

As they left the museum, apparently unhindered by hangers-on, McKay stopped in front of a street cart. "Oh, you two haven't had hot dogs before, have you?"

"Hot dogs?" Teyla questioned. "The mess hall frequently serves hot dogs. I do not care for them."

"Ah, but these are good hot dogs," McKay said, chortling. "Here," McKay directed them to the front of the cart. "Three hot dogs, mustard and relish on all of them. Oh, and three cokes!" He paid and handed a hot dog and a can to each of them.

Ronon took a bite. "Not bad, McKay." And it wasn't. Wouldn't ever be as good as the Athosian stew that was a staple of the Atlantis kitchen, but the hot dog wasn't bad.

Teyla, on the other hand, had already eaten half of hers and the other half wasn't going to last long at the rate that she was going. "These are very good, Rodney," she said when she'd swallowed.

He looked pleased with himself, taking a sip of his coke, and then a bite of his hot dog. When there was nothing left but empty cans and foil wrappers, Rodney found a trashcan to dispose of everything, then said, "So, Air and Space?"

"I think we should not challenge our good luck," Teyla said. "I suggest that we go back to the hotel."

Rodney's shoulders slumped a little. He apparently was actually looking forward to the Air and Space museum, but Teyla was right. Ronon would have backed her up, but Rodney didn't argue. "I'm sorry you didn't get to see more of the city," he mumbled even as his eyes were busy, obviously looking for one of the taxis.

"Perhaps after everything has settled," Teyla said reassuringly. "I am sure that we shall return."

He nodded, waving down the blue car. Giving the driver the name and address of the hotel, he sank back into the seat. Ronon climbed into the front seat, and Teyla joined Rodney in the back. Together, lost in their own thoughts, they went back to the hotel.

Rodney certainly did not panic when John wasn't in their room and there was no note. John was a big boy who had been taking care of himself for a long time. He didn't need one slightly pudgy astrophysicist to keep him safe. He did wonder, quite forcefully, where he was, though.

He went back out in the hall to question the stationed guard if he knew where John had was. The man said that John, along with several of the Marines, had gone down to one of the ballrooms.

Puzzled, Rodney turned to go back to his room when he saw Ronon, towel in hand, waiting for the elevator. "Ronon?"

"Going down to join Sheppard. You coming along?"

"What is he doing?"

"According to Teal'c, he's sparring with some of the Marines."

Relieved was a good word for how Rodney felt. "Sure, I'll come with you. Just give me a minute to change?"

Ronon nodded and leaned back against the wall, telegraphing his intention to stay where he was. Rodney hurried to his room, and changed into sweats. He wished that he had his own set of sticks here, but he supposed that he could go barehanded just this once.

By the time he made it back out of the room, Teyla had joined Ronon, and the three of them took the elevator down to the second floor. He found himself bracketed by his friends as they made the quick walk to the ballroom, and he felt warmed by their concern even as he opened the door.

One look answered why they were in here rather than the fitness center. There wouldn't have been space. There were at least twenty people, all of who were practicing some form of hand-to-hand, and it took Rodney a minute to find John in the group.

He was slightly startled when he saw that John was on the ground, pinned to the floor by a Marine twice his size, but John was grinning like a loon, and so he relaxed. He and Teyla split off from Ronon as she guided him through his warm up. He knew that he'd never be half as good as any of the people that he sparred with, but as John had told him, his job was to keep alive just a few minutes longer so that one of them could get to him.

In that spirit, he willingly went along with Teyla as she started to walk him through the latest kata that they were working on. He kept stumbling in the same place, consistently stepping to the right instead of forward, but Teyla just patiently corrected him again and again.

When he finally thought he had it, Teyla pulled his attention back to the group. "Ready for some fun, Rodney?" John yelled, making several of the Marines smile.

It wasn't the first time that Rodney had practiced with an audience, and over time, he'd come to be less embarrassed. It helped that the Marines didn't make fun of him and in fact were giving him credit for trying. Several of them pulled back, clearing a space big enough for the four of them in the middle, and with a glance and a nod, the teams were established. This time it was going to be all three of them against John, who needed the workout more than the rest of them.

John, not being stupid, tagged Rodney out first, and so he sat on the sidelines and panted as the three of them circled. Ronon feinted high, as Teyla went low, and Rodney had to blink as John jumped over Teyla's hands and grabbed hold of Ronon's arm, twisting it behind him. Shoving him forward, John jumped back when Ronon went down on his knees. He wasn't quite quick enough to escape Teyla, though, who tripped him. Before he could recover, Ronon was on him, pushing him down onto the floor. "Do you surrender?"

Laughing, John said, "Okay, okay, I give!" Ronon stood and offered John a hand. Everyone in the room could see John deciding whether or not to pull, but Ronon glared at him, and John obviously decided that not doing so was smarter. Instead, he climbed to his feet.

The Marines, sensing that the show was over, returned their attention to each other so that they didn't attract Ronon or Teyla. Rodney snickered a little at that, but then Ronon clapped him on the back, and he winced, knowing what was coming. "You're getting faster, McKay," Ronon rumbled. "Harder to take down. Doing good there."

Rodney turned to look at him feeling shocked. He was used to getting praise from Teyla, but getting it from Ronon was unheard of. Ronon grinned at him, then nodded towards John. "Take him back to your room. Wear him out so he'll sleep tonight, okay?"

Rodney's face heated instantly at that. When he glanced out of the corner of his eye at John, he saw that John's face was just as flushed, so he'd obviously heard it too.

Figuring that it wasn't going to get better, and unable to bear the thought of one of the Marines getting in on the act, he pulled himself to his feet and moved up behind John. Laying one hand on his shoulder, he squeezed lightly. John glanced at him and smiled, before leaning forward to put his forehead against Teyla's. They held position for a few seconds before Teyla turned away to look over the Marines. Grabbing his gym bag, John grinned. "So, are we going?"

"We're going." Two of the Marines moved away from the group that was now watching Teyla spar with two others.

"Hey, we don't need an escort," John said.

One Marine, Sanders, smiled. "General Steiner's orders, sir." Rodney felt more than heard John's sigh, but he didn't argue.

The four of them rode the elevator up. As soon as the doors opened, the floor guards met them. The two Marines smiled and punched the button for one, having obviously turned their care over to the other guards.

Rodney let them into the room, turning and watching as John closed the door quietly. For a long moment they stared at each other, and then they were both moving as one, coming together in a fierce, tight embrace.

He couldn't hold back the groan at the feel of John's body against his own, his scent and his taste under his lips. John's cock was hard, pressed against Rodney's hip, and Rodney pressed back, trying to get friction for his own dick.

Only vaguely aware that he was whimpering, Rodney could still hear John's words as he tried to hush Rodney. "Shh, we've got time," he said into Rodney's mouth. It took everything that he had to force himself calm, but eventually Rodney could pry himself away from John.

"I want you," he said, hands clenching and unclenching as he tried to keep control.

"I want you too," John answered, "but we need to get undressed and on the bed, okay?"

Thankful that he didn't have to worry about boots, Rodney toed off his shoes, pushing down his sweatpants with one hand as he pulled off his t-shirt with the other. John chuckled at Rodney's eagerness, and Rodney grinned back. "You really want this," John said.

"What was your first clue?" Rodney yanked on John's t-shirt, trying to pull it over his head as John kicked off his shoes. "You, naked, now."

"Okay, okay," John said, laughing and holding up his hands defensively. Naked, he fell backwards on the bed, pulling Rodney with him. "Oomph," he grunted, but he turned the fall into a controlled roll, ending up with Rodney underneath him.

Not that Rodney was objecting. On the contrary, he spread his legs, wrapping them around John's waist. "What do you want?" he asked hoarsely. "You can have anything." John didn't answer. Instead, he bent his head, licking up the side of Rodney's neck and making him moan. "Fuck..."

John gently urged Rodney's legs down so that he was lying flat, and then started to kiss his way down Rodney's body. He was going unbearably slowly, and by the time he reached Rodney's hip, Rodney was panting hard, coated in sweat, and begging. "Come on, John. Please don't tease me. I can't take it."

"You said anything," John said, lifting his face from where he'd been lavishing attention to the point of Rodney's hip. "This is what I want."

Rodney groaned and thumped his head back on the pillow. "God," he said pitifully, making John laugh again.

The kisses went on and on, down Rodney's front all the way to his ankles. When John was kneeling past Rodney's feet, he said softly, "Turn over," and moving as if he was drugged, Rodney did as he was told, turning onto his belly. Then, when John urged him up, he slid up onto his knees, spreading his legs wide.

The feel of John's lips at the top of his ass made Rodney shiver. "Oh, god," he moaned, guessing where this was going. He could feel John smile against his skin, and then there was wet and slick licking down his crack to his hole. Leaning forward on the bed, he reached around and spread his cheeks, giving John unfettered access. John promptly took advantage, licking hot and wet around Rodney's entrance and making him buck, trying to get more.

John's hands closed hard around his hips, holding him steady as he continued to lick, and as the tip of his tongue worked its way inside Rodney's body, he gave a cry, body jerking. Each stroke of John's tongue pushed Rodney higher and faster, until he didn't think he could stand it anymore.

The loss of John's tongue made Rodney whimper, but he could feel John moving around, getting the lube, and then the slick head of John's cock pressed against him. "Oh, yeah," he groaned out as John started to slide inside. It was slow, and steady, and everything that Rodney had needed even without knowing it. When John was pressed all the way inside, he paused for a second, and Rodney couldn't help it, he started to roll his hips.

This time it was John who moaned, and it got him to start moving. They fell into a rhythm, bodies moving together. Rodney felt his mind clear, not thinking of anything but how good it was to have John inside him. "Just like that," he murmured, hips continuing to move to match John's.

One of John's hands slid around Rodney's hip, wrapping around Rodney's cock. It didn't move, didn't do much more than give Rodney a place to thrust, but it was enough to push him over the line, his body tightening as he came with a cry. John continued to fuck him, only pausing when Rodney stopped moving.

John started to move faster, shoving into Rodney with increasing desperation. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon," Rodney chanted. "Want to feel you come inside me."

And that seemed to be all what John needed to hear, because he shoved in extra deep and cried out, "Mine," as he came. Rodney had to force trembling muscles to brace both of them as John collapsed forward onto him. He could feel John panting harshly against his neck as he tried to catch his breath.

"You okay?" Rodney asked when there'd been a complete lack of movement for long enough that his hips were screaming.

"Yeah," John said, rolling off of Rodney's back with a grunt. Rodney let himself collapse gratefully. He was going to be feeling that in the morning, but he had to admit that he was glad for it.

The two of them curled around each other, yawning but content. Together they'd get through anything.

Ronon and Teyla were meeting with their attorneys, and Rodney didn't see much point in touring D.C. on his own. Besides, he'd seen the local news the night before, and his face was plastered all over it. As he said to John, "Once all this is over, the four of us will do the tourist thing together," so instead Rodney spent his days reviewing research that Radek emailed him, the low murmur of the T.V. in the background as John flipped between news stations. They all seemed to be carrying coverage of the hearings.

Marine after Marine testified that Colonel Sheppard had never had to pressure anyone to stay in Atlantis; that they believed that he'd done the right thing. They tried to describe the carnage that they had found on planet after planet that had been culled, only to be determinately cut off time and again by Sherwood when she clearly didn't get the answers she was fishing for.

Rodney was as proud of them as he would have been for one of his own scientists. For a bunch of Marines, they were holding up wonderfully well. Not one had lost his or her temper, not even in the face of the sheer stupidity of the questions that they were being asked.

The morning that they were dreading came - the first day of John's testimony. Rodney woke to John staring out of the window at the city lights outside. "John? Come back to bed."

"Can't sleep. I think I'm going to go run," he said.

Throwing back the blankets, Rodney sat up. Scrubbing a hand over his face, he asked, "What time is it, anyway?"

"About four. You should go back to sleep."

"Nah. I'm awake now. I'll come run with you." Rolling out of the bed, he pulled out a pair of gym pants and sat down on the end of the bed to tie his shoes. John sat down next to him, already dressed.

"Rodney, you hate to run."

"I love to do it when it's for my life." John chuckled. "Besides," Rodney continued, "I'm not letting you go by yourself today."

John leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Thanks."

Smiling sheepishly, Rodney detoured past the bathroom to take care of necessities and then the two of them went down to the fitness room, accompanied by one of the ubiquitous guards.

Running side by side, Rodney paced John for a little while, but gradually slowed as John picked up the pace. That was fine. The point wasn't for Rodney to keep up right now - it was just to be there for John. There wasn't anything else he could do - he wasn't even being allowed to go as moral support.

Five days, and everything should be done for John. Rodney was less worried about his own testimony. He thought that they might change the order of the testimony, calling Ronon and Teyla first, and that would modify his own testimony.

After he'd run a couple of miles, Rodney stopped, moving to one side so that he could stretch and cool down. John continued to run, obviously too keyed up to stop, until sweat dripped off of him, and he was stumbling. At that point, Rodney decided it was time to interfere. "John, stop."

"I'm fine."

"I know you are, but it's time to stop now, while you're still fine. The questioning will run you ragged. No need to give them a head start."

John was panting too hard for Rodney to be able to tell if he sighed in resignation, but Rodney would bet that he did. His pace slowed and then he stopped, arms trembling where they gripped the guide rails on the treadmill. Rodney wanted to interfere, wanted to say something, but he didn't. Instead, he watched cautiously as John cooled down, and then the two of them went back to the room.

They took turns showering, and by the time Rodney came back into room, John was mostly dressed in his dress blues. He pulled on the jacket as Rodney watched, and Rodney came up to straighten the medals on his chest. John flashed him a quick, nervous grin. "It's going to be fine," Rodney said. "You didn't do anything wrong, and you're a fucking hero. That'll come across in every word."

John didn't look like he believed it, but he was smart enough not to argue with Rodney. Instead, he bent his head, giving Rodney a kiss that was almost painful in its sweetness. It took everything Rodney had not to grab John and wrinkle his uniform, but somehow he resisted.

Stepping back, he watched as John finished settling his uniform, and then he picked up his hat. "I'll see you straight after."

"I'll be here." Like Rodney was going to go anywhere else. Pretending interest in getting dressed, he tried to hide his fear until after the door shut.

Helen grimaced in distaste as she set up the T.V. for today's hearings. Bad enough that she'd had to spend the last few days listening to Marines sing Colonel Sheppard's praises, but today she was going to have to listen to the butcher himself. The things she did out of loyalty to her boss.

She shared Noreen's opinion of the Atlantis project. She felt that it should be shut down and that Sheppard and McKay should be sent to prison for the rest of their lives. That was assuming, of course, that they couldn't find a court that practiced the death penalty. She had a feeling that they'd be able to find someone in the Pegasus galaxy if necessary.

Except if these poll numbers were accurate, then popular opinion was swinging towards Sheppard. That would never do.

Thus she was stuck watching today's hearings, hoping that she'd be able to find a weak spot to make the average American return to despising him. As she settled into Noreen's chair, she watched the chairman call today's hearings to order, Sheppard and his attorney settling in behind their table.

The first half dozen questions had to do with procedural things and Helen found herself tuning it out. Finally, she heard Noreen's voice, asking, "At its most basic, Colonel Sheppard, these hearings are to ascertain whether or not the actions you took that resulted in the genocide of an entire species were justified. Do you understand this?"

"I do," Sheppard sat up straight, as if he couldn't bear to slouch. Typical soldier.

"Do you admit to those actions?"

Colonel Sheppard leaned over to listen to his attorney, and then sat up again, shaking his head. "If you mean, do I admit that it was my plan that killed the Wraith, then yes. If you're asking if I killed them all myself, then no." A ripple of amusement spread through several of the attending congresspeople, and Helen tried to note their names.

"Of course you didn't kill them all yourself - there were, after all, thousands of them. They had a thriving culture, technology, civilization, did they not?"

This time, Sheppard didn't even lean over to listen to his attorney. "Sure they did. All built around the idea that humans are food."

Noreen rustled some papers and then said, "I have here, Colonel Sheppard, records of you working in alliance with a Wraith you named 'Todd,' I believe?" Helen snorted in derision. As if a human should be allowed to name a creature that had the potential to be thousands of years old.

"Yes, we did. It was in order to defeat the Replicators - an enemy that was killing off humans even faster than the Wraith were."

"And I have here records of you negotiating with a Wraith Queen in the second year that you were in Pegasus?"

Sheppard looked uncomfortable. Interesting. "We did, but if you look further in that report, you'll see that she actually betrayed us and tried to come here to Earth."

"An attempt that was stopped by the combined efforts of the Daedalus and the... Orion I believe."

Sheppard didn't respond, and Noreen, clearly getting frustrated, kept going. "Given that the Wraith had demonstrated that they were willing to negotiate when it was in their own best interest, why didn't you negotiate for the safety of the Atlantis expedition?"

"At the expense of all of the other humans in the Pegasus galaxy? Hardly fair, don't you think?"

"Was there any attempt made to see if the Wraith could possibly eat something else? Cattle, perhaps?"

Clearly exasperated, Sheppard shook off his attorney's hand. "Ms. Sherwood, I'm not sure you understand the reality here. The Wraith, with one or two exceptions, viewed humans as animals. You don't negotiate with animals anymore than you negotiated with your dinner last night. There was no point in the attempt."

"How would you know, Colonel? You never tried!"

Sheppard closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Obviously calmer, he said, "If the Wraith were capable of eating something other than humans, and if they were willing to negotiate with humans over it, don't you think that some time in the ten thousand years that they ruled Pegasus, they would have done so?"

"I don't know, Colonel Sheppard, as this program was kept a secret from us until recently. There was no opportunity to meet a Wraith."

"Look, I did, and it was no picnic."

"Ah, yes, you have met several Wraith, haven't you, Colonel Sheppard? I believe that the first one you ever met was feeding on your superior officer, and according to your report, you shot him to prevent him from giving away the location of earth, as well as 'putting him out of his misery.'"

Sheppard didn't say anything.

"Aren't you going to answer the question?"

"Ma'am? What question? You stated something that's in my report. I'm not going to deny it."

Noreen was fuming, that was clear. "That was your first exposure to the Wraith?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"And that set the tone for all your further dealings with them, didn't it?"

Sheppard sighed, and then said, "Yes, ma'am."

"You had a personal grievance against them, and so you recommended to the IOA that they be destroyed. You presented yourself as a impartial judge, and they took you at your word, and because of you, an entire species of sentient creatures is gone."

Again, Sheppard stayed silent. This time Noreen realized what the problem was and gave him no opportunity to make a fool of her. "Did you consider yourself an impartial judge?"

"No, ma'am. I never represented myself as one, either. I do, however, maintain that I have a clearer grasp of the reality of Pegasus than you do." Sheppard looked smug, and Helen wanted nothing more than to smack that look right off his face.

Reaching out, she slapped the power button on the television. She'd just have to read the transcripts, because she certainly couldn't stand to watch another minute of this without being sick.

At the end of the fourth day of Sheppard's testimony, Donald was caught by Sherwood as he tried to hurry out of the building. "I think it's going well, don't you?" she twittered.

Disbelieving, he stared at her. Did she not realize that Sheppard was making her a laughing stock? The little fag was running circles around her, and according to his aide, public opinion was being swayed towards the Atlantis expedition. If it became a sizable majority, they wouldn't be able to touch him, or his boyfriend. "It's too soon to tell," he gritted out.

His only hope was that the primitives that Duncan Franks insisted on calling on would be so outlandish that it would scare people. A scared populace was one that was easy to control. At least they'd been able to block Franks' attempt to call on Colonel Everett. Donald had seen pictures, and knew that if the public got a look at what the Wraith had done to the man, most of them would immediately side with the Atlantis expedition.

"Did you have any questions that you wanted answered?" she asked, so smarmily solicitous that he wanted to be ill.

But what the hell. He wasn't the only one out there who was made sick by the thought of fags in the military. Might as well play to that. "Yes. We should ask him about his relationship with Doctor McKay. It's inappropriate, to say the least."

Sherwood shot him a dirty look. "Just because he's a homosexual - "

But Donald had thought about the best way to present this to such a stupid woman. "No, no, not because he's gay. It's because of the fraternization rules, which he's breaking in spirit if not fact."

"Oh. Hmmm," she said, clearly thinking, and Donald had to fight the urge to tell her to be careful and not sprain anything. "Yes, we can certainly bring that up, I suppose. You're probably right, and we should investigate whether or not he can be forced out on that basis."

Donald didn't think so, or he would have already suggested it. But he certainly wasn't about to say that to Sherwood. She'd proven to be somewhat capable when it came to twisting laws to suit herself, and if she could do the same to this one, it would be of benefit.

As they made their way out of the capital building, Donald plastered a smile on his face for the protesters that hovered around the entrance to the building. They'd been there for days, signs waving madly. From what Donald had heard, the only thing that had protected Sheppard on the first day from them were the fanatic Marines that surrounded him.

But as he looked around, the smile slid off his face. There were still protesters, but the tenor had changed. There were more there in support of Sheppard and Atlantis than against, and when he was spotted with Sherwood, there were angry grumblings in the crowd. Calls of "Bigot," and "Idiot," rang out, and he noticed that Sherwood looked as nervous as he suddenly felt.

He held his head up high, walking briskly towards his office building, ignoring both the protesters and Sherwood. She turned to go to her own building anyway, and then he was walking by himself.

Letting himself into the office, he had to smile at the controlled chaos that seemed to dominate every time he came in. The interns scurried about, doing intern things, and several staffers were busy on phones or computers. Carmen was in his office, and she came to the door as he wound his way through everybody. She was frowning, and that made his stomach drop.

"Bad news?" he asked softly as they went into his office and closed the door.

"Well, it's not good," she said. "Sheppard's numbers are getting higher every day. Unless something changes and soon, you're not going to be able to touch him."

"Well, crap," he said. "We only have one more day of him, and then things have been rearranged. We were supposed to have McKay next, but instead Franks is calling two Pegasus natives to testify. They're savages, of course, so that should go better. People don't care about what's happening on the next block - they're hardly going to care about some aliens in another galaxy."

"I hope you're right," she said, but she sounded doubtful.

"It'll be fine," he said, but he wasn't sure whether he was reassuring her or himself.

Noreen couldn't believe it. She'd waited all day to ask about Sheppard's relationship with McKay, only to have him turn that stupid grin on her. "I can't see how my relationship with Doctor McKay has to do with anything, ma'am."

If he called her ma'am one more time, she was going to tell him where to stuff it. "He's on your team and under your command. Don't you think that that's a violation of the fraternization regulations?"

"No, ma'am."

She waited for a moment, but he obviously was going to make her work for it. "Why not?"

"Because I've worked with Doctor McKay for a long time, and I know that he doesn't obey anyone's orders, let alone mine."

The chuckle that went through the room at that made her fume. "I doubt that, or you wouldn't have kept him on your team for so long," she said.

He smiled, and this one actually reached his eyes. For the first time, she could see why women thought that he was handsome, but it didn't matter. He was still a genocidal maniac. "Ma'am, if you look at the organizational charts for Atlantis, you'll see that Doctor McKay and I are equals. We both report to the civilian in charge. That is currently Doctor Brandon Rodriguez." He glanced down at the table, as if he was organizing his thoughts, and then looked back up. "I'm as likely to take orders from him in the lab as he is to take them on away mission."

"But - "

"Ms. Sherwood, I have never behaved improperly with a soldier under my command, or with any scientist under Doctor McKay's supervision. That would be fraternization, in my opinion. Again, Doctor McKay and I are equals. Fraternization is not an issue."

Noreen was practically grinding her teeth as she looked around the room. With the exception of a few members whose opinions of homosexuality were well known and unfavorable, most everyone was nodding in agreement with Colonel Sheppard. Damn.

Frustrated, she looked at the time. It was close enough to the end of the day. She leaned back in her chair and said, "I think that we'll end here," she said, without looking at Sheppard. The Chairman paused for a moment, clearly waiting to see if someone else had questions, then pounded the gavel, closing the hearings for the day.

Out of the corner of her eye, Noreen saw Sheppard nod and stand, gathering his papers up. He shook his attorney's hand and then headed out of the chambers where she knew he had Marines waiting for him. Not that he was going to need them today if the crowds outside continued to be on his side.

It wasn't fair. These hearings should have solidified public opinion on her side, but instead, Sheppard had managed to twist things around so that it was falling on his. Mass murderers shouldn't be so charismatic.

Angrily, she slammed her way out of the chambers and headed for her office, ignoring the people who tried to get her attention. The walk did nothing to clear her mind or calm her down, and she was even more upset when the door opened. She just wanted to be in her office and hopefully get her temper under control.

But Helen grabbed her as she marched through the door. "Not now," she said, trying to jerk her arm free.

"Yes, now," Helen said, practically dragging her into Helen's office and shutting the door.

"Fine. What is it?"

"You need to see the latest poll numbers."

With a sigh, she sat down at Helen's desk. "Can't they wait for later?" she asked plaintively.

"No, they really can't." Helen typed something on her computer, then swivelled the screen around to face her. The numbers made her feel physically ill.

"You've got to be kidding me," she demanded. There was no way that those numbers were accurate.

"Sheppard has a eighty percent approval rating? How the hell did that happen?"

"It gets worse," Helen said gravely. She clicked on a different part of the screen, and then Noreen was looking at her own approval ratings.

"Thirty-five percent? This makes no sense!" People shouldn't side with the military over the civilians, especially when the military was costing lives and money by being involved in a war that they had no business in.

Sheppard was a menace, a genocidal asshole that had destroyed an entire race of people. McKay was a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. Together, they had caused untold harm to the Pegasus galaxy, and put the Milky Way in danger's way as well.

If he came out of these hearings without at least losing his post, then going after SG1 became that much more impossible, and the SGC and IOA were, for all intents and purposes, untouchable,

She rubbed a hand over her face tiredly. She couldn't believe how bad things had gotten. Her only hope was that that she'd be able to get people to see that the Pegasus aliens had nothing in common with Earth humans, and how bad McKay was. She needed to be crafty and clever – and hope.

While Rodney lay on the bed to watch the day's hearings, John paced beside the bed nervously.

Rodney watched Ronon's testimony with curiosity. He hadn't been sure what exactly to expect from Ronon. For all his teasing that Ronon was a barbarian, he was well aware that Ronon was very smart and came from an industrialized civilization. Still, seeing him in a suit was just bizarre.

The testimony was everything he could have wished for and more. Sherwood talked down to him, as if she was talking to a small child, only to have Ronon answer calmly and coolly. She reacted as if she'd been slapped in the face.

"Now, Mister Dex, is it possible that you might be a little biased against the Wraith?"

Rodney had no idea how Ronon could convey menace without moving a muscle. "My rank, Ms. Sherwood, is Specialist. And yes, of course I'm biased. They destroyed my home, killed my wife, and made me a runner for seven years. You would be biased as well. It doesn't change the fact that the Wraith needed to be annihilated."

There were nods of agreement around the congressional chambers, Rodney saw as the camera panned around. And Sherwood looked as if she was sucking on a lemon. "My apologies, Specialist Dex."

She went on to ask equally foolish questions, and Rodney remembered the first rule of arguing - when standing in a hole, the first rule was to stop digging. Sherwood had clearly not learned that. She was obviously trying to make Ronon lose his temper, implying that his judgment was warped.

It was amazing to watch, since Rodney knew that Ronon had a temper. But Ronon knew that he couldn't afford to lose it, because occasionally he'd take a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he worked to stay calm in the face of such amazing ignorance.

Rodney knew exactly what he was feeling. Every time he was faced with ignorance in other people's science he wanted to rip their heads off. It made Rodney feel a little weird, in that he knew that he'd be using Ronon as an example of what to do when he was testifying.

As he returned his attention to the screen, the camera focused in on Teyla, sitting to one side. While they had originally been scheduled to testify on separate days, it had been changed so each of them only got a half a day to testify. Rodney detected the hand of Sherwood in that, and he had to admit that it was wise. It gave them less time to swing people over to their side.

It didn't seem to matter, though. More and more people were looking sympathetic to Ronon, and Rodney just knew that when it was Teyla's turn, she'd turn even more people.

He was so lost in his own thoughts that when his attention was drawn back, he saw Ronon stand and shake his attorney's hand. They had adjourned for lunch.

He was startled when the bed bounced, John dropping down on it. "I think it went well," he said.

"I think so too. And Teyla's going to bat it out of the park," Rodney said.

"She will." John's hand came to rest on Rodney's ass, but it wasn't an attempt to start anything. Instead, it was almost like he was just looking for contact, contact that Rodney was happy to provide.

Turning on his side, he smiled up at John. "I'll be glad when this is all over with," he said. "We need to go home, because God only knows what's happening in our absence."

"It'll be fine," John said.

They called for room service, and ate their burgers and fries in companionable silence. As the last of the food disappeared, their attention was drawn back to the television. A tiny Teyla, clad in a business suit, was being sworn in. John jumped back off the bed and resumed pacing, as Teyla introduced herself. "My name is Teyla Emmagan of Athos."

Lauren sat quietly at McKay's side as he droned on and on about science in the Pegasus galaxy. She assumed that for science buffs what he was saying was fascinating, but for her, it was just a recipe for boredom.

The important thing was that McKay was staying calm and collected, not letting the questions get to him. He was doing an excellent job, even if she knew that he was making a tight fist under the table. That was permissible as long as he kept his temper.

The whole first day passed in relative peace as McKay explained the value of what they were doing over and over again, using smaller and smaller words. Long before the day's testimony was over, Lauren was understanding some of the progress that they'd made in the Pegasus galaxy, and some of the value that it carried with it.

Besides, the nanobots sounded like they could be miraculous.

It seemed as though the various congresspeople were going through the motions, as if they'd already made a decision and questioning McKay was just pro forma, not worth the time it was taking.

As they got up and left at the end of the day, McKay looked at her and smiled crookedly, and she had to admit that she saw some of what Colonel Sheppard must like in him. "I think that went well," he said, and she had to agree.

The next morning, though, Sherwood took control of the questioning from the start. Instead of science, she kept going around in circles about the Wraith, until McKay's hands were bunched into fists and he was practically vibrating with tension.

Then Sherwood said, "How do you feel about the fact that you completely destroyed a race that was so advanced that they were flying in spaceships when we were just learning how to live in cities? Do you have any regrets?"

He leaned closer to the microphone. "Not one."

"None, Mister - I'm sorry, Doctor - McKay? Weren't they living, breathing creatures?"

McKay hesitated, and then Lauren could almost feel his temper snap. "Congresswoman Sherwood, why don't you tell us everything you know about the Wraith? I'm sure we have ten seconds to spare. And then I will try to use very small words to explain to you just how wrong you are."

She smiled as if she'd gotten just the reaction she'd been hoping for, and Lauren mentally cursed, even as she leaned over and whispered in McKay's ear, "Rein it in, McKay. You're giving her more ammunition."

He didn't respond, but he didn't have to. Sherwood had asked another question. "Didn't a Wraith save your sister?"

"Yes," he gritted out.

"And that didn't make you feel any less antagonistic towards them?"

"Ms. Sherwood," he said in a clipped voice. "I felt exactly as grateful to him as I would to antibiotics that I took for an illness. That is to say - not at all. And he didn't expect me to be grateful. He was working with us because the Replicators were destroying their food source, not because he felt any sort of affection for humans."

She opened her mouth to say something, and McKay cut her off. "The only reason that he came to us was because he knew Colonel Sheppard from when they'd been held together. There was no question that given a choice between saving humans and himself, he'd pick himself. If you review the records of his work on the nanobots that infected my sister, you'll see that he slipped his leash and fed on a human even as he was supposedly trying to save us."

"But he could have taught us so much!"

"So could the Ancients, but they have a policy of not interfering with humans. And to be honest, it's a wise policy, because humans always learn better when we figure it out for ourselves. I stand on the backs of giants, Ms. Sherwood, but I'm proud to say that they're mostly human giants. I've learned much from doing research on the Ancients' equipment, but I never needed one of them to teach me how to operate it. That was all human ingenuity."

Lauren leaned over, covering the microphone with her hand. "Shut up, McKay," she whispered. "You gave her a good answer, now let her ask another question."

But instead of Sherwood, it was Wray who spoke next. "Do you feel that you have behaved inappropriately with any member of the expedition?"

"No," he said flatly, rolling his eyes slightly.

"Really? You've had more than seventy-five complaints in the time that you've been in charge of the science section of Atlantis."

"And none of those had to do with me being inappropriate. Every single one of them was because I expected my staff to do the work that I hired them for. And with few exceptions, I got that work from them, eventually." McKay tilted his chin. "But I have to give you credit, Mister Wray. That was an excellent effort at making it sound like I sexually harass my staff. Too bad for you that you'll never find anyone to back you up in that, because it has never happened."

Wray's face tightened, and he opened his mouth to respond, only to have McKay cut him off. "Let's cut to the chase, Mister Wray. Everybody with a clue knows that you're cosponsoring these hearings because you're offended that Colonel Sheppard has a male lover - "

He was cut off by the pounding of the gavel and a very red faced Chairman insisting that McKay only answer the questions that were posed to him. His lawyer leaned forward again, about to remind him that there were a lot of people in the military who were on Wray's side, only to stop at the look on his face. McKay was planning something.

Duncan Franks spoke up then, "Doctor McKay, I ask that you finish your statement please."

The chairman glared, but McKay didn't hesitate, "If the words of the Marines who have testified over the last few days aren't good enough, then let me be the one to tell you that the men and women serving in the Pegasus galaxy don't care who John Sheppard sleeps with. And to be honest, my scientists are probably grateful, since I'm not the easiest man to get along with when I'm frustrated."

"But it has nothing to do with the work we have done, or will do, in Atlantis. If you can't see past your own prejudices, that's your problem. It becomes my problem when you target me and those I care about because of those illegal prejudices, and I refuse to bow to a bigot."

All hell broke loose in the chambers at that, as congresspeople whispered and even yelled comments back and forth. Wray was so red that Lauren wondered if he was going to have a stroke, and Franks was smiling.

McKay's next words stopped it all, though. "Colonel Sheppard is a hero, and you should all be thanking him. Instead you've questioned his every order, and even blamed him for decisions made by the IOA. And you wonder why the program was kept quiet for so long, with this kind of disgusting response."

Finally McKay shut up, and chaos ran rampant around him. Only as it finally started to quiet down did the Chairperson bang the gavel one more time. "You're dismissed, Doctor McKay." he said.

McKay stood, shook Lauren's hand, and left the chambers without saying a word.

Rodney had returned to the hotel, and the halls of their floor were full of celebrating Marines. There was no question after today that they'd all be going home to Pegasus, because the testimony had made Sherwood and Wray look like a fool.

The announcement by Duncan Franks that Atlantis would maintain its funding was just icing on the cake. Sherwood and Wray were nowhere to be found in the video. From what John had heard, Wray was facing a recall election at home, and Sherwood was the laughingstock of her district.

John's eyes met Rodney's in the hall, but it felt like everyone was determined to congratulate him, and incidentally keep John away from him. He didn't force the issue, knowing that they'd be together soon enough.

John couldn't turn down the beer that the Marines were pushing on him. But he didn't really want to drink it, either. He had another way of celebrating in mind.

The impromptu party went late into the night, but John excused himself early, knowing that the Marines would have a better time without their CO standing right there. As soon as the door swung shut behind him, he started to strip, and by the time that Rodney followed him in, he was already naked, lying on the bed, one hand on his cock.

Rodney was looking down as he barreled in. Thankfully, the door closed before he looked up, because he stopped dead when he realized how John was waiting for him. "I want to fuck you," John said, voice low and rough.

"God, yes," Rodney said, his clothes flying every direction as he stripped off as fast as he could. Within a minute, Rodney was lying next to John, bare skin pressed tight against him. One of Rodney's hands threaded through John's hair, encouraging him to turn his head for a hard kiss, full of promise and lust.

One kiss turned into two turned into a dozen, and John was only vaguely aware that he was moaning into Rodney's mouth. Finally he couldn't stand it anymore, and rolled them both so that Rodney was on his back. Breaking the kiss was almost painful, but John bent his head to suck at Rodney's neck, making him groan and tip his head back for more.

Rodney's skin was faintly salty, and John took that taste into himself as he worked his way down Rodney's body. He traced the muscles of Rodney's chest with his hands as he sucked a nipple into his mouth. He repeated the action on the other side, earning a cry from Rodney and hands in his hair, pushing his head down.

He went willingly enough, but he bypassed Rodney's cock in favor of nuzzling his balls, sucking one gently into his mouth. "Oh," Rodney gasped softly. "Oh, that's nice." Releasing the testicle, he slid his hands under Rodney's legs, encouraging him to pull them up and back, exposing his tiny hole.

When Rodney's hands covered his, he lowered his mouth to the entrance to Rodney's body, licking around the edges before nudging the tip of his tongue against the hole. When he pushed his tongue inside, Rodney arched and cried out again.

Slowly and steadily, he tongue fucked Rodney till he was squirming all over the bed, the moans and whimpers a steady stream of sound, till Rodney was begging for his dick. Only then did he pull away, wiping his face on the blanket below them before sliding up the bed and reaching for the lube on the nightstand.

His hands trembled as he slicked up his cock. Shifting around, he hooked one of Rodney's legs over his shoulder and encouraged him to wrap the other around his waist, the head of his cock nudging up against him. "You ready?" he asked breathlessly.

"Christ, yes," Rodney said. "Get in me, right -" John pushed hard enough to breach the ring of muscle, feeling the head of his cock pop through. He didn't stop until his cock had slid all the way in, balls deep in one stroke.

He honestly meant to hesitate, to give Rodney a chance to adjust, but Rodney flexed his hips, and it was enough to break John's self control. He started to thrust slowly, feeling every inch slide out and then back in. He buried his face in Rodney's neck as he continued to fuck.

It didn't take long for him to start to peak. Sliding a hand between their bodies, he wrapped it around Rodney's cock. "Want you to come," he gasped out. "C'mon, Rodney. Come for me."

Rodney moaned, his hips coming up to meet John's, once, twice, and then he was spilling, hot and slick between their bodies. Rodney's body clenched down tight around John's cock, and that pushed him over the edge. Slamming in deep, he froze as he came hard.

He barely had enough brain power to let Rodney's legs drop to the bed before he collapsed straight down, Rodney made an oophing sound as he landed, but he didn't object to his sudden Sheppard blanket. Instead he petted John's hair, touching him gently as John caught his breath. If he also needed to hide his face so that Rodney couldn't see the tear tracks, he'd never tell.

As his cock softened and slid out of Rodney, he shifted off of him, lying on his side and looking at Rodney, who had a serious look on his face. "You okay, John?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said. He knew that they should get cleaned up, but he didn't want to move. They stayed like that as the sounds of partying Marines died down and moved away from their room. Eventually Rodney rolled out of the bed, pausing to hold a hand out to John. "Coming?"

"I think I already did," he said, smirking, but he took Rodney's hand. The two of them stumbled to the shower. After getting clean, they went back to bed, where they curled together. John closed his eyes and relaxed as Rodney stroked through his hair.

He was mostly asleep when he heard Rodney whisper, "I love you," but he couldn't say anything back. His hand tightened on Rodney's hip, the only answer he could give.

Most of the Marines flew back to Colorado in the morning, leaving John, Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon, as well as five Marines from SGA3 and SGA4. John joked to Rodney that he wanted to prevent damage to the hotel when he sent the Marines out with orders to sightsee, but neither Ronon nor Teyla would agree to go. Instead, the four of them sat in their suite, talking and joking. Rodney was acutely aware, however, that both he and John were trying not to stare at the phone. Sherwood may have been left a fool, but she still had power. There was still a possibility that the Joint Chiefs or the IOA would choose not to send John back.

Until the phone call came through, telling them that they could go back, both John and Rodney were walking on eggshells. Even though Atlantis would maintain her funding, John's removal could still be forced. The Joint Chiefs of Staff could decide that they wanted someone less… controversial in charge of Atlantis, after all.

After two hours of this, Ronon apparently got tired of John's jumpiness, and pulled him up out of his chair. "Go change, Sheppard," he growled. "Let's run."

Rodney contemplated going with them, but Teyla laid a soft hand on his knee. "Stay, Rodney," she said, and Rodney knew better than to argue.

After the door swung shut behind them, Teyla asked, "How are you doing, Rodney?"

"I'd be better if they'd just call John, already," he muttered.

"I know, and we all feel the same way," she said. "But getting agitated, even on his behalf, causes him to become more anxious. You must calm yourself, if not for your sake, then for his."

He let out a sigh. Teyla was right - he knew she was right. But it didn't make it any easier. "What if they don't see sense?" he asked plaintively. "What if they transfer him out of Atlantis?"

"Surely they won't do that," she said. "He conquered the Wraith! They should see that he belongs there."

"I don't know," Rodney said. "Logically, they should send him back. But the American military isn't known for its logic."

Both of them stayed silent after that. What was there to say, after all? But Teyla continued to rest her hand on Rodney's knee and that was a comfort in and of itself.

For a long time, they just sat. When Rodney glanced at Teyla out of the corner of his eye, he saw that she had her eyes closed and she was breathing deeply and evenly. He thought about trying to meditate as well, but his mind was too jittery for it to work well. Instead, he stared out the window, at the comings and goings of all the people on the street.

Eventually the door opened and Ronon came in. He looked hot and sweaty, and he was still panting slightly. But there was no John with him. Standing, Rodney said, "Ronon?"

"He wanted to go shower," Ronon said. "Other than that, he's fine."

"If it's okay with you, I think I'm going to go check on him, since you'd say he was fine if a limb was hanging by a thread." Rodney moved towards the door, ignoring both Ronon's laugh and Teyla's indignant, "Ronon!"

Rodney was halfway to their room before he realized that there were no guards in the hallway. That was strange. He nearly turned right around and went back to get Ronon and Teyla, but decided that he must just be paranoid.

He couldn't help making the approach to his room as stealthy as he could. The door was closed, which was logical, but combined with the missing guards it made Rodney hesitate, and think really hard. He got the feeling that he didn't want to just barge into the room. Then again, John was be expecting him.

Decision made, he slid his key into the lock. For all the good it did, it might as well been a piece of cardboard, because the light didn't even flicker, much less turn green. He tried again and then a third time. Backing off, he thought again. It was possible that his card had became demagnetized, but combined with the missing guards, it was even more suspicious.

He had just decided to deal with being laughed at and go get Ronon and Teyla when the door opened.

The man who was backing out of the room wasn't John. He was tall and blond, built more like a football player than a swimmer, and oh, yeah - he was holding a gun. Fuck.

Rodney didn't hesitate. Years of training with his team kicked in, and he lashed out, striking at blondie's elbow and wrist, forcing it to bend and him to drop the gun. As he turned, Rodney brought up his hand, heel first, and drove it into his face. He heard the guy's nose break, but hard earned lessons stuck and he followed through with a punch to the guy's stomach.

He was just starting to hit him in the back of the head to knock him down when he heard the distinctive sound of a gun being cocked. "I wouldn't do that," said a menacing voice, and he whirled around to look.

A dark haired man had John in a headlock, with a gun pointed at his head. Rodney could feel the bile rising up his throat. Raising his hands, he took a step back. "Okay, okay," he said.

"Rodney," John said, sounding fond and exasperated at the same time. "You have really bad timing."

"I'd say," the brunette said. "You have very poor timing, Doctor McKay. Had you been five minutes later, we would have already been gone." While he was talking, the blond bent over and picked up his gun, one hand on his nose, which was pouring blood. Still holding up his hands, Rodney took another step back, out of range of being hit with the gun.

"Where are you taking him?" Rodney demanded.

"If you think we're going to just tell you, Doctor McKay, you are a fool. Now, you're going to go in the room and sit very quietly, while we take Colonel Sheppard to his new location. If you go to the police or the press, we'll kill him, so just think about that."

Rodney did as he was instructed, walking into the room but he didn't sit down. Instead, he waited, letting the door close and counting to ten before he went to the phone. He hadn't even picked up the handset when he realized that they'd ripped the cord out of the wall. And his cell phone was sitting in Teyla and Ronon's room. He frantically opened the suitcase, pulling out the small case that held John's and his radio. Fitting it over his ear, he prayed that either Teyla or Ronon brought theirs.

Whispering harshly, he said, "Anyone there?" into the mouthpiece. He could have cried when he heard the sounds of someone picking up an earpiece, and Ronon's voice made him weak-kneed. "McKay?"

"They've got John," he whispered. "I need you in the hallway in thirty seconds." Without waiting for a response, he pulled the earpiece off and dropped it on the bed. If this didn't work, then they were all going to be dead.

He opened the door, grateful that they couldn't be locked from the outside. "Hey, wait!" he yelled.

Blondie whirled, pointing his gun at Rodney, who held up his hands but didn't stop advancing. "Please, you're taking my lover. Can't I at least have a kiss goodbye?"

The dark haired man looked disgusted, but gave John a shove towards Rodney. "We're waiting for the elevator anyway," he said.

As Rodney reached John, wrapping arms around him tightly, he heard the sound of a door opening. Trying to predict what Ronon and Teyla might do, he spun, putting himself between the bad guys and John, and then twisted so that they both went down.

There was a growling sound, and then a gun fired, once, twice, before Ronon was on top of them, tackling the dark haired man and punching him in the face twice before the blond could get his gun up. By the time he did, Ronon had the other man's gun pointed at his head, even as he held the brunette up with one hand.

Teyla slipped into the small group, taking the blond's gun and pointing it at the floor. "Rodney, John. Are you all right?"

John turned so that Rodney was forced to let him go, climbing to his feet and tugging his jacket down. Offering a hand to Rodney, he pulled him up as well. "We're fine, Teyla," he said. "Nice work, team." Looking at Rodney, he repeated, "Nice work."

Rodney flushed, but didn't say anything. Instead, he turned his attention to the two men who were still standing frozen, with Ronon and Teyla both guarding them. "Who are they?"

Sighing, John nodded. "Not sure. They wanted me for my gene. They've got Ancient equipment that they can't make work."

He turned to look at John in shock. "Ancient equip- how the hell did they get Ancient equipment? Everything that's been discovered here belongs to either the IOA or the SGC."

"I've got no - " John broke off as the blond man shifted his weight. Both Ronon and John focused their attention on him, but the brunette wasn't counting on the fact that they'd been working together for a long time, because when he tried to take advantage of their distraction, Teyla cocked the gun she was holding and pointed it at his head.

"Let's take this out of the hallway," Rodney suggested, and the whole group started towards the suite that Teyla and Ronon had been staying in. Once in the room, Rodney picked up the phone to call General Steiner, not knowing who else was safe. Meanwhile, Ronon threw a towel at the blond. "Don't bleed all over our room," he growled.

It didn't take long for Rodney to explain, and Steiner said that he'd handle it. They were just supposed to sit on the prisoners, literally if necessary, until someone from the SGC arrived.

"While we're waiting, I want to know who you two work for," Rodney said. He'd been angry and scared many times on John's behalf, but this was the worst. They were on Earth. Their own people weren't supposed to be kidnapping John.

"We're no one," the brunette said.

"Really." John pulled out his wallet and flipped it open. "Dean Craddock. I'm sure that's probably not your real name, but it'll do. Who do you work for, Dean?" Throwing the wallet on the table, he pulled out the blond's wallet, which had a license identifying him as Douglas Yates. "Doug?"

They both kept silent.

John took the gun from Ronon, waving the two men towards the chairs. "You know, guys, I'm a member of the American military, and am bound by their rules. Ronon and Teyla, here? Not so much."

"And I don't take kindly to people trying to kidnap my leader," Ronon growled.

Rodney had to give them some kudos, because they both looked ready to piss themselves, and yet they didn't say anything.

If it had been up to Rodney, he would have let Ronon beat the hell out of the two men until they talked. But he knew that John would never actually allow it. So instead, the six of them sat in an uncomfortable silence until there was a knock on the door.

Before Rodney would open the door, he demanded that the soldiers on the other side hold up their ID up to the security peephole, and then called Steiner to confirm who should be there. When he finally opened it, four serious-faced soldiers came in, cuffing the two men and leading them away, while six more stood in the hallway.

It seemed anti-climatic, after the excitement of the previous hour. Ronon and Teyla seemed just as fidgety as Rodney felt, and John - well, John's face was a study in neutrality. Not even Rodney could read what was going on, which was scary in all sorts of ways. Rodney couldn't remember the last time he couldn't even guess what was going on in John's head.

Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore. Standing suddenly, he said, "I'm going back to the room." Before John could react, he was already out the door. There were several guards in the hall, ones that Rodney didn't recognize, and for a minute he hesitated. Then he figured that if they weren't really there for the SGC, he was screwed anyway and headed for their room.

He got to the room with no problems, and went inside. He wanted to lie down, close his eyes, but his attention was drawn to a piece of paper on the table.

Dear Rodney,

I'm sorry. I can't bear anymore of this publicity and criticism. I'm taking off for a while.

You should go home to Atlantis. I'll join you there soon.


It was John's handwriting, and the thought that he'd sat here, writing this, with a gun trained on him, made Rodney feel ill. Letting the letter fall, he ran for the bathroom. Dropping to his knees in front of the toilet, he threw up until he was dry heaving, thinking of the note the whole time.

He barely noticed when John came in the middle, standing behind him. When he finally finished, John flushed the toilet and placed a cold washcloth on the back of his neck. He then used a second one to tenderly wipe Rodney's face. Then he gave him a glass of water, and Rodney rinsed and spat into the toilet.

"Better?" John asked.

"Yeah," Rodney said. "Sorry."

"It's okay." John pulled him to his feet.

"I found the letter. I'm sorry. You must have been so scared."

John turned Rodney so that their eyes met. "I know that you'd never give up on finding me. I wasn't afraid."

Rodney realized that he was shaking a split second before John pulled him in hard, wrapping him up tightly in his arms. "Hey, it's okay, buddy. We're both here and we're both safe."

He buried his face in John's neck and held on till the shaking stopped. It seemed to take forever, but eventually he managed to let John calm him.

Gradually, he let go of his death grip, pulling back and averting his face so that John couldn't see his blush. "Hey, now," John said. "Let's lie down for a while."

Still unsteady, Rodney nodded, kicking off his shoes and crawling onto the bed fully dressed. John followed suit, wrapping himself around Rodney, who concentrated on his breathing until he finally felt safe enough to close his eyes.

John waited until Rodney started to snore before he let go of his iron control over his reactions, letting himself start to breathe fast and rough. That had been close and if it wasn't for Rodney and his magnificent timing, he'd be out there right now, probably being experimented on by people who'd made it very clear they didn't view him as human.

But Rodney had come, as had Ronon and Teyla, and the four of them made an awesome team, as always.

And now he was as safe as it was possible to get on Earth. After all this, if he got back to Atlantis, he was seriously thinking about petitioning General O'Neill for permission to retire there, so that he'd never have to face the loss of his city.

He wondered distantly if Rodney would agree to stay there with him as he drifted in a haze, not quite asleep, but not really awake either. It was pleasant and warm there, and he snugged himself even closer to Rodney, trying to share his feeling of goodwill.

The sound of a phone ringing ripped him awake, and he sat up suddenly. Rodney snorted, saying, "What?" as John dug in his pants for his cell phone. Dammit, radios were so much easier.

"Hello?" he answered.

"This is General O'Neill. I just wanted to let you know that you're expected back in Atlantis in three days. Your flight leaves in the morning to take you back to Colorado, where you'll meet the additional soldiers that have been assigned to deal with your expanded mission."

Rodney was waving his hands in the air and going, "Well?" but John's brain had gone offline. Did O'Neill just say expanded mission?

"You there, son?"

"Yes, sir. Flight to Colorado tomorrow morning. Just me or the Marines here in D.C. as well?"

"Oh, let's make it everyone. Don't forget that loudmouthed scientist of yours, either."

"No, sir. I won't, sir. Thank you, sir," John babbled, trying not to sound like a fool and suspecting that he wasn't succeeding.

He waited till the General had hung up the phone, then closed it and set it gingerly on the bed, before he tackled Rodney, cackling like a lunatic. "We're going home! We're going home!"

Rodney laughed, grabbing John by the upper arms and yanking him close. "Home? Back to Atlantis?"

"Yeah, back to Atlantis. Three days, but we have to be in Colorado tomorrow. They're expanding the base, giving me more soldiers." John still wasn't sure he believed it, but he sure wasn't going to argue.

"So how do you want to celebrate?" Rodney said, looking lasciviously at John, who laughed again, knowing exactly what Rodney had in mind. But -

"I want to go out to dinner with my team," he said, ignoring the look of disappointment that flashed across Rodney's face. "I want to show Ronon and Teyla some of the best that this planet has to offer, and then I want to come back here and have long, slow sex with you."

"I think I can get behind this plan," Rodney said, already standing up and circling the bed to get to the phone. "I'll call the concierge to see where we can get in while you fill them in, okay?"


It took everything John had not to turn cartwheels down the hallway, but he restrained himself, pounding on the suite door. "John?" Teyla said as she opened it. "Is everything well?"

"Everything is great," John said. "We're going home."

Ronon came out from behind Teyla, grabbing John in a tight bear hug. "We knew it!"

As soon as Ronon released him, he bent down to touch his forehead to Teyla's. "So, come on, get dressed fancy. We're going out to celebrate."

Teyla's soft smile lit up her face, and she turned immediately to change. Ronon did as well, but not before he gave John one last brilliant smile. "Told you so."

"You did."

Returning to his room, he found Rodney in the shower, and he stripped quickly so that he could get in as well. Pressing Rodney into the corner, he leaned down to kiss him, mouths soft and wet. Rodney was pliant under his hands, opening his mouth to let John in without him having to demand it.

One of John's hands drifted down to Rodney's cock, which was already half hard, and he jacked it two or three time, bringing it all the way up. Only then did he break the kiss, releasing Rodney's dick at the same time. "All right - we need to get cleaned up," he said.

"Oh, god, John, you're not going to leave me hanging like this, are you?"

"Damn straight. Dinner first, then fooling around. I like it when you're horny and desperate."

Rodney swore and stepped into the spray, turning the temperature down to just short of frigid. He cursed, and John couldn't help laughing. He felt positively giddy with happiness.

Rodney turned the temperature back up, and the two of them took turns under the spray. Clean, they dried off and dressed, going to meet Ronon and Teyla in the hallway. "Ready to celebrate?" John asked, a wide smile on his face.

As the others agreed, he felt completely light hearted for the first time in months, and not even the two guards following them could do anything to distract him.

When the alarm went off in the morning, he felt less sanguine about the future - at least, unless the future contained large amounts of coffee. "Why did you let me drink so much?" he asked Rodney plaintively.

"You needed the stress relief." When he turned to glare at Rodney, he found him staring with a goofy smile. "We're going home," Rodney said.

"Yeah." Climbing out of bed was difficult, but he found that Rodney had apparently been up for a while, because both of their suitcases were packed and standing next to the door, and John's uniform was laid out for him to get dressed.

A quick shower and brushing his teeth made him feel slightly more human, even though it was still ungodly early, and getting dressed felt like he was putting on his armor. Rodney was dressed in his uniform as well, and it made John feel even better about the day.

There was a government van waiting for the four of them, and a second one for the Marines still there. The ride to Andrews Air Force Base was quiet as they were all lost in their own thoughts. Teyla and Ronon both perked up when they saw the plane. "Will you be flying us, John?" Teyla asked.

"'Fraid not, kids. I don't fly the big ones, even though I know Rodney wishes I did. I'll see if you can go see the cockpit if you like."

Teyla was quietly excited over the idea, so John stopped and had a word with one of the Airmen who were acting as flight crew. He smiled and beckoned both of them forward so that they could enter the small space.

By the time they left the cockpit, John and Rodney were already seated, and several of the Marines were also on board. This wasn't a special flight, so there were soldiers from all over on board, not just John's men, but they all gave him a certain amount of respect that made him flush.

The flight was loud, as always, but the noise was peaceful in its own way, and John found himself drowsing on Rodney's shoulder until long after they'd landed. By the time Rodney jostled him awake, they were practically the last on board the plane.

They were met by another nondescript white van for the ride back to the Mountain, and shown back to the same quarters that they'd occupied for so long. He dropped his suitcase and grabbed for Rodney, wrapping him up in a big embrace. He had to admit that he was a little nervous that the Joint Chiefs would change their mind about sending him back, but he pushed that to the back of his mind.

His hands drifted down to Rodney's ass, pulling him up tight, but Rodney surprised him by pulling back a little. "Rodney?"

"Can we - I want to wait. Till we're home, I mean," Rodney said, looking embarrassed but refusing to back down.

A little unclear as to why, he gave in anyway. "Of course we can wait. I've got two days of briefings."

"So do I," Rodney confessed. "I checked my email this morning, and they're expanding the science section. They want me to run an 'Intro to Atlantis' class for the baby scientists who are coming."

John nodded, leaning in for another kiss. Rodney gave it to him before pushing him away gently. "Meetings, remember?"

"Right, meetings."

The first meeting on the agenda was with General Steiner, and it was one that both John and Rodney were there for.

"Who were they, really?" John asked.

"Carl Smith and Ethan Whitaker. They're still not talking, but we're fairly sure that they're part of the Trust, even if they're not snaked. We did manage to follow their phone records back to a Ray Dixon, who we have under investigation."

Rodney looked up at that. "Are we going to have to worry about the Trust back on Atlantis? Is there any chance that they have operatives there?

"There's always a chance," Steiner said, looking distinctly unhappy about it. "We can guarantee that no one in Atlantis is a Go'auld, because we screen for that routinely. And as far as we know, they don't occur in the Pegasus galaxy."

"But we can't guarantee that we don't have an operative there. All we can do is screen as best we can, and keep an eye out. It helps that the Atlantis team is so tight knit. We seriously doubt that there's anyone there now."

John leaned back in his chair. "So what you're saying is that if there's anyone, it'll be in the people we're bringing back with us."

Steiner frowned even harder at that. "Unfortunately, that is exactly what I'm saying."

"Great," Rodney said. "What do you suggest we do? We can't start spying on our own people."

"I'm not suggesting you do, Doctor. Just… be cautious, is all. Don't assign any of the new scientists to work by themselves, buddy up the new soldiers with older ones. Things you probably already do."

Rodney nodded. "Yeah. It's a good way to screen out those who don't belong in Atlantis quickly and safely. Too many things are dangerous there to let newbies roam on their own."

Steiner was already nodding. "I read your reports, Doctor. I think you have things well in hand."

Both Rodney and Steiner turned to look at John, who was clearly stewing about something. "What's going to happen to them?" he asked. He didn't have to explain which them he was referring to.

"The IOA doesn't want word to get out about the Trust or NID. So they're going to be plead guilty to charges of kidnapping, and get a reduced sentence."

"What?" Rodney exclaimed. "They were trying to take John to experiment on him, and they're going to get a reduced sentence? That's just unbelievable!"

He would have continued his rant, except that John sat up and laid a hand on his shoulder. The contact shut him up, and his jaw snapped shut as he turned to look at John.

"Leave it, Rodney."

"You can't be satisfied with this," Rodney couldn't help saying.

"I have to be," John said. "But I have a message for them, General."

Steiner nodded slowly. "I suppose I can arrange to get it to them."

"Good. Tell them if anyone they worked with ever go after me or mine again, I'll let Ronon loose on them. And they won't like the results."

He chuckled. "Fair enough."

They sat there a minute longer in silence, before General Steiner said, "Okay, you both have new people to meet with. You're dismissed."

The two of them stood, and with a nod from Rodney and a sloppy salute from John, they were out the door. John shut it behind himself, obviously bracing himself for an explosion.

Rodney decided not to give it to him, though. Instead, he just said, "If you can live with it, I'll try to."

"I can live with it."

"Okay, then." Rodney squeezed John's shoulder and then the two of them split up, off to their next meeting.

Jamie looked around the large meeting room. He recognized the Marines that had been with him in D.C., but there were an awful lot of Marines here who weren't from Atlantis. For some reason, that made him more than a little nervous.

They were supposed to ship out at noon, and it was already seven in the morning. Just as he was wondering when they'd start sorting out the people who weren't coming, two of the generals came in - General O'Neill and General Steiner. "Attention!" the Marine nearest the door yelled, and everyone sprang to their feet.

"At ease, take a seat," O'Neill said. When everyone had settled down, O'Neill continued, "Okay, folks, here's the deal. You've all been assigned to Atlantis. You've heard for days and days about the Wraith, and how we kicked their asses, and it's all true."

"But there have been several planets in Pegasus that have come under attack recently. They haven't been attacked by Wraith or Replicators - near as we can tell, they're human. There's some evidence that they might be Wraith worshippers, out to get revenge for our victory over the damn space vampires."

"Now, you're Marines, and you go where you're sent. But in this one case, since we're talking a whole other galaxy, fighting a war against unknown opponents, we're going to give you an out. If you don't want to go, just don't stand up. Nothing will be held against you and you'll be deployed elsewhere."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than Jamie and the other Atlantis Marines were on their feet. They'd faced the unknown before, and they'd won. They could certainly do it again. Besides which, at least these enemies were human. And it was in Atlantis. Another galaxy. And that never stopped being cool.

It took a few seconds, but the non-Atlantis Marines slowly rose to their feet as well. By the time O'Neill looked around the room, there wasn't one Marine still sitting. Jaime had never felt so proud of the Corp. Before either General could say anything, there was a spontaneous cry of "Ooo-Rah," ringing through the room, and both Steiner and O'Neil started grinning.

This time it was Steiner that spoke, "Thank you. Now, you should already be packed, but go hit the commissary and PX - there'll be a bus to take you. It's a long way back if you forgot that one thing you can't live without!"

As they poured out of the meeting room, people in scientist blue were coming out of the room next door. He could tell the Atlantis Marines, because they each slowed till they could pick a scientist out of the herd. "Need to go to the PX or commissary, ma'am?" he said to his own, a young looking Hispanic woman.

"Oh, yes, please," she said. "But I'm not sure - "

"Just follow me to the bus, ma'am."

Rodney and John stood watching the scientists and Marines intermingle as they headed for the bus that would take them to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. The briefing that they'd both attended while the scientists and Marines had been given one last out, had presented what little Atlantis had discovered about the Khoon-sa. It all pointed to them being Wraith worshippers, but as there had been no survivors of their attacks, no one had much information.

So they'd sat around and listened to conjecture and guesses by the IOA, and Rodney had restrained himself from rolling his eyes. Typical pencil pushers.

The good news was that a member of Donald Wray's staff had leaked information about the ZPMs, and public demand for a relatively cheap and clean power source had forced his hand. However, no one wanted that kind of power being produced in their backyard, so for now, building them was going to happen in the Pegasus galaxy. Rodney had been able to demand a one-to-one ratio. For every ZPM built for the Milky Way, one would be built to stay in Pegasus to help those societies that could adapt to the power source.

Since Radek had sent several messages that boiled down to, "Hell, no, I won't take charge here," and since Rodney and Radek together had discovered the process, Rodney's job was safe.

They went back to their room to pack up their things once again, and then went to the Gateroom to wait for everyone else. Gradually the room filled with chattering Marines and scientists, who were urged into lines that would move through the 'Gate relatively quickly. "Ready?" O'Neill called from the control room.

"Ready, sir," John replied. Rodney added his nod, and the gate started to turn.

As the 'Gate bloomed into life, Rodney couldn't help the smile. They were going home. "Atlantis, we have some wayward sheep. Are you ready for them to come home?"

"Ready and waiting," came George's voice, and the lines started to move up the ramp. Neither John nor Rodney hesitated, stepping through together as always.

After Rodriguez greeted them, reminding them that they'd have a staff meeting at nine in the morning, Lorne and Radek led them off in separate directions. But this time, John stopped before he'd gone more than a few feet. "Rodney - reasonable time tonight, okay?"

Rodney smiled. "Fair enough."

Radek said to him as they walked to the labs, "You both look happy."

"That's because we are."

The day passed in a blur of introducing new scientists to the equipment, but at six o'clock, Rodney started to shut down his station. Radek looked up, surprised. "Rodney?"

"Time to go!" Rodney was really looking forward to tonight, and he didn't even try to keep his happiness off his face. "John's waiting for me."

"Ah, yes." Radek shut down his own station. "I have a date as well, but we'll not discuss it before it happens, yes?"

"Or never sounds good to me."

Rodney headed to their room, where he found two plates on one of the desks. He could hear the sound of the running shower, and this time he went to join John.

When he opened the glass door, John had his eyes closed and a head full of shampoo suds. He said, "That better be you, Rodney," making Rodney laugh.

"Who else would be getting in your shower?" he asked, even as he added his hands to John's, massaging his scalp.

"No one," John said, ducking his head down to rinse the soap away. Once he was free of suds, he opened his eyes, wrapping his wet arms around Rodney. "Hi."

"Hi," Rodney said back, knowing that he looked completely besotted.

"We gonna fool around now?" John asked, trying to look innocent and missing by a mile.

"Yep. So get good and clean for me," Rodney said. He lowered his head so that he could nip at John's neck. "It's my turn to take my time."

"Mmmm," John moaned lightly. "Okay, let me just..." Picking up the washcloth, he started to scrub down, fast.

"Less speed, more thorough," Rodney suggested before getting his own washcloth. Rodney loved Ancient showers - big enough for two people to move around easily.

When they were finally clean and dry, they went back into the bedroom. John hesitated next to the food for a moment. "Are you hungry?" he asked.

"Not for food," Rodney said, and then tackled John into the bed. John went willingly enough, and once there, Rodney straddled John's thighs. He couldn't stop the huge smile as he said, "Mine. All mine."

"Yep," John agreed, folding his arms behind his head. "All yours. Now what are you going to do with me?"

"Hmm," Rodney hummed. Then he leaned down and kissed John deeply and passionately, while pinning him to the bed by his shoulders. Then he started to move down John's body, a little at a time, licking and sucking at any bit of skin that caught his attention. "You taste so good," he said as he paused from sucking on John's nipple.

John just moaned, his hips lifting from the bed as if in supplication. "Patience, John. I'll get there," Rodney said.

"You have room to talk," John chuckled even as he groaned.

"Yes, but I'm not the one pinned to the bed," Rodney said. "Now, do you want me to talk or do you want me to lick?"

"Lick! Lick!" John demanded, and obediently, Rodney returned his attention to teasing every inch of John's tanned body.

When he finally moved level with John's cock, he bypassed it entirely, ducking his head and sucking on his balls for long moments. Then he sat up, ignoring the way that his hair was mussed, and the flush that he could feel on his face. John started to object, only to stop when Rodney turned himself around so that they were both even with the other's cock. Rodney didn't have to tell John what to do, because John had already opened his mouth and swallowed Rodney's cock down.

Rodney mirrored him, and they slowly teased each other with their mouths, until both of them were moaning. Only then did Rodney pause and turn, grabbing the lube off the nightstand. Slicking up his fingers, he returned his mouth to John's dick, and slid two fingers into his ass slowly.

He crooked them, feeling the small shape of John's prostate under his fingers, and he massaged it gently, trying to make up for all the times they'd had rough hurried sex in the last few months. John's cock was leaking precome, and Rodney licked it away before pulling back and saying, "Do you want to come in my mouth or on my dick, John?"

"Fuck me already!" John demanded, hips bucking into the stimulation.

Pulling his fingers free, Rodney turned back around. Sounding eager and breathless, John said, "So, how do you want me?"

"On your back," Rodney said, and John obeyed, turning over and spreading his legs wide. Rodney lifted one of his legs to his shoulder, pausing to kiss the hairy calf, before he wrapped the other around his waist.

Rodney started to push inside, slow and steady. John was hot and tight, silk to Rodney's hardness, and Rodney had to clutch at John's legs and moan, a sound echoed by John.

As the tight clench relaxed, Rodney started to move. One of his hands moved to John's cock, stroking it in a matching rhythm. "Kiss me," John whispered.

It took practically bending John in half for Rodney to get to John's mouth, but once there he kissed him like it was never ever going to end. His hips continued to flex, taking John apart a little at a time, and by the time the kiss finally ended, he was lost in pleasure.

Rodney resumed stroking, wanting to see John come undone under him. John shifted his hips a little, lifting them into Rodney's thrusts, and then his eyes shot open. "Oh, oh, god," he moaned, and then he began to come, body clenching painfully tight around Rodney's cock.

Seeing John lost in the throes of pleasure was enough to push Rodney over as well, and he came with a quiet groan. He wanted to stay where he was, buried inside John, but he wanted to hold him more, so he pulled out gently and then collapsed to one side, wrapping his body around John's.

His eyes closed and he let his body relax. He heard John say, "We're home. And no one is going to take it from us." Giving his agreement, he let sleep take him.

The End