Warnings (highlight to view): sexual situations
The scene in the mess hall was like every one of Rodney’s nightmares come to life.
Beside him, Zelenka swore expressively in Czech. Rodney nodded dumbly, gaze sweeping over the hall. Even though he didn’t have the faintest idea of what the other man had said, he imagined they were in agreement about the nature of the horror spread before them.
“God,” Rodney breathed, shuddering. “It’s like high school all over again.”
Rodney never would have believed it a couple of months ago, but he now had to admit there was one definite advantage to living under the constant threat of death and destruction. When you were fighting for your very survival, there was a distinct lack of social events to attend.
As soon as the city rose from the ashes of Rodney’s fusion-powered gamble, nearly everyone, grunts and scientists alike, began forming dozens of little cliques and coffee klatsches. It was as though no one had been inclined to form close friendships with the Wraith approaching (although there had been a fair amount of desperate sex, not that he’d been a party to any of that), and now that the pressure was off people were free to discover their mutual interests in vitally important pursuits such as ping-pong and scrapbooking. Add to the mix a few regular supply runs from Earth to restore the superfluous flow of material culture, and pretty soon everyone had hobbies.
What annoyed Rodney more than anything was that it was beginning to look like he’d saved Atlantis so that the city of the Ancients could provide shelter for ladies’ poker and Monday night football. It was an abuse of this incredible feat of architecture and science, in a way that his Mensa meetings hadn’t been. And come to think of it, even those had tailed off in the wake of the new, more frivolous social explosion. Simpson was spending most of her leisure time with the women she’d met in her Oprah book circle, for God’s sake.
In short, the whole city was becoming a parody of itself, and if he needed any further proof of it, there was conclusive evidence staring him in the face.
He had no idea where they’d gotten the disco ball, but the music was straight out of his unhappiest memories of high school dances gone horribly wrong. Footloose was blaring out of massive speakers mounted on the walls, and large numbers of Atlantis’ population were shaking their groove—things—on the makeshift dance floor.
Elizabeth went shimmying past them with—dear Lord—Caldwell—in tow. “Rodney! Radek!” she yelled above the pounding beat. “Glad you could make it!” Caldwell nodded to them both curtly, then placed a possessive hand on Elizabeth’s hip and guided her toward the center of the sweating, gyrating crowd.
Rodney cast a glance at Radek, who was watching the pair with an uncharacteristically blank expression. “This is Hell, isn’t it?”
Zelenka blinked. “Further tests will be necessary, but initial observation seems to indicate this, yes.”
“Do you think they’re under some sort of alien influence?”
Radek shook his head. “No alien could be this cruel.”
A flash of something familiar caught Rodney’s eye, and then he was certain he was back in high school. Because there, in the middle of it all, was the Most Popular Boy. There, wrapped up in one of the most appealing packages ever invented, was the amalgamation of every one of Rodney’s unattainable adolescent crushes, with his perfect teeth and his athletic build and his winning, easy charm.
And his dorky, dorky dance moves.
No white man looked good dancing to Eighties music, and John Sheppard was no exception, though it was unfair that even his lack of grace seemed oddly endearing. He was currently trying to teach Teyla some of his choice steps; she was watching him with that serene gaze that meant she thought the Milky Way types were batshit crazy but was too polite to say as much. But when he took her hands and led her back and forth in a shuffling step, she followed along until they were laughing like fools, two beautiful people wriggling to Kenny Loggins and looking too damned beautiful together.
And Rodney wasn’t jealous, in case anyone was wondering.
Gradually, he and Zelenka gravitated toward the far wall, where some of the more socially maladjusted members of his science team were moping. Of course, they were all men; since the women were outnumbered in Atlantis by a ratio of four to three, even the shyest of the biologists had been snapped up by burly young soldiers. It was pathetic, really, that the same patterns kept repeating themselves over and over. There were certain natural laws that truly deserved to be broken.
Arklow, one of the recent arrivals and even less social than Rodney, if such a thing were possible, looked up at him dolefully from his position on the bench. “The Marines took our dates,” he said dejectedly.
Rodney folded his arms and puffed himself up to deliver some words of wisdom, then deflated when he realized he had nothing to say. He cast a glance over the rest of the scientists, and realized belatedly that one of these things was not like the others.
“Ronon?” The huge man would normally have been easy to spot, but he was hunched over on the bench, elbows on his knees, looking as forlorn as the rest. “I would have thought you’d be able to find a partner.”
Ronon kept his eyes glued to the dancers. "Satedans aren’t much for dancing,” he said gruffly.
“I see. You’re fighters, not lovers.”
“Something like that.” Rodney followed the line of Ronon’s gaze to where Teyla was now dancing alone to Boogie On Reggae Woman. She hadn’t learned those gyrations from Sheppard, Rodney was willing to bet, but she was well on her way to rewriting several laws of fluid dynamics. A number of the grunts had stopped to watch her in naked, stunned admiration.
He scanned the floor in search of Sheppard, and found him leaning in to talk to Cadman. She grinned evilly and glanced in their direction, then bounded off while Sheppard turned to Rodney and began walking toward him, a purposeful look in his eye.
Oh, this could not be good.
“Hey, Rodney,” Sheppard drawled, coming to semi-rest before him, his lean hips still moving lazily in time with the beat. “About time you showed up.”
And that made no sense, because it implied that Sheppard had been watching for him, and there was no precedent he knew of where the Most Popular Boy took the King of the Geeks to the prom. “Well, I did try to clear my calendar for this important event, but Radek and I had to spend three hours reconfiguring the circuits leading from the ZPM so that the intermittent power surges didn’t, oh, kill us all.” Actually, it wasn’t quite as dire as that; at most, the surges they’d been experiencing would have eventually (as in, within a couple of months) fried the deep-space sensors, and they could cannibalize replacement parts easily enough, but still—
Radek was looking at him out of the corner of his eye and saying nothing at all. Sheppard raised an eyebrow at him. “Excuse me for a second,” he said before walking over to Ronon and speaking in his ear. Ronon sat up straighter, his gaze hardening into something like determination with a side order of terror. After a moment, he rose to his feet and stalked onto the dance floor. Rodney turned away at that point, unwilling to witness that particular train wreck.
Sheppard boogied merrily back to Rodney and Radek, then smiled at Radek and pointed a finger. “And you.”
Radek paled. “Me?”
“Faint heart never won fair lady,” Sheppard informed him, jabbing the finger at him. “Remember that.” He glanced behind him and grinned. “Oh, good. I knew she could do it.”
Rodney looked over Sheppard’s shoulder to see Cadman and a half-dozen other formidable-looking G.I. Janes bearing down on his hapless scientists like Amazons moving in for the kill. He watched in awed horror as the tallest of them grabbed Arklow and yanked him bodily to his feet, then dragged him off toward the dance floor.
Rodney stared at Sheppard, whose grin was now so wide it could span solar systems. “C’mon,” he said, head jerking toward the dancers.
“C’mon—what?” Rodney squeaked, but Sheppard had already seized his hand and was tugging him insistently forward.
Yes. Definitely Hell, Rodney concluded silently as he joined Teyla, Sheppard and a glazed-looking Ronon in the middle of the floor. Ronon wasn’t dancing so much as shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other, his gaze for the most part riveted on Teyla’s sinuous movements, though he did cast the occasional murderous glance in the direction of any Marine who strayed too close. Teyla watched him through half-lidded eyes, her smile beatific and knowing.
Rodney risked a glance at Sheppard. There wasn’t anything holy about Sheppard’s smile, but it definitely knew something Rodney didn’t, and that pissed him off.
“Rodney,” Sheppard yelled over the music after a few moments, moments in which Rodney flopped around half-heartedly like a landed mackerel, “loosen up already. Have some fun.”
“Oh, yes, this is tons of fun,” Rodney shouted back. “I love to be transported back to my excruciatingly painful teenage years. Thank you for thinking of me.”
Sheppard moved closer, doubtless so that he could be heard. “High school wasn’t so great, huh?”
Rodney folded his arms. “Understatement of the millennium.”
Sheppard cocked his head at him, his smile fading. “Yeah. For me, either.”
Rodney stared at him. “Really?” Sheppard nodded. “I never would have guessed that.”
“And they call you a genius,” Sheppard said lightly, moving a little closer, so close that Rodney had to unknot his arms to keep Sheppard’s chest from brushing against them as he moved. But when he dropped his arms to his sides, Sheppard only moved closer.
Jesus, Rodney thought, shuffling back a step and feeling Sheppard advance on him again. Thanks to the total lack of human contact since his arrival in Atlantis, his craving for physical intimacy with something other than his right hand had now risen to critical levels. Mercifully, Sheppard rarely touched him, but the last time he’d placed a hand on Rodney’s shoulder on a mission, he’d nearly come in his pants. If he embarrassed himself here, of all places, he might as well dive off the East Pier and be done with it.
“Wh—wh—what was so awful about high school for you?” Rodney countered, trying to reassert some distance between them and figuring asking Sheppard personal questions was the easiest way to accomplish it.
He was right; this time Sheppard took a step back. “Let’s just say I didn’t fit in,” he said after a weighty pause, and that surprised the hell out of Rodney, because if Sheppard didn’t fit in, what hope was there for anyone?
“Well,” Rodney said stupidly, feeling chilled now that Sheppard was no longer in his personal space, “I—”
Before he could finish his sentence, Stevie Wonder faded and was replaced by the opening strains of Wild Horses. Sheppard caught Ronon’s eye, and Rodney saw another flare of fear in the Satedan's expression before he set his jaw and spun toward Teyla. She raised her gaze to his, her own expression faltering a little at whatever she saw in those eyes.
Then she glided into his arms as though she belonged there. They began to move together in perfect synch, as if Teyla’s natural grace was being transmitted to Ronon through her fingertips.
Rodney cast a mildly panicked eye about the dance floor, where everyone seemed to be pairing off, including a couple of the more imposing Marines, now left without suitable feminine companionship. And there, over at the far end of the dance floor, Radek was tapping Caldwell on the shoulder.
Rodney spun back to Sheppard. “What are you, the Pegasus galaxy’s own Dolly Levi?”
“Maybe,” Sheppard said, shrugging. “Too bad you look more like Jack Lemmon than Walter Matthau.”
Rodney frowned at this, and then the city tilted sideways and holy shit he was underwater. Because he’d just understood the reference, and of course Sheppard was teasing him but he couldn’t help wishing Sheppard wasn’t teasing, and that was wrong because Rodney had given up wishing for unattainable people twenty years ago. (And no, Sam Carter did not count, because one day she might receive a blow to the head and wonder how the hell she’d lived without him all these years. In her line of work, blows to the head were practically an everyday occurrence.)
He tried to move away, but Sheppard closed a hand around Rodney’s, placed Rodney’s other hand on his shoulder and pulled him tight to his own body. Dear God, Sheppard’s long-fingered hand was cupping his hip, burning through the layers of cloth right to the skin. “Just go with it,” he murmured in Rodney’s ear as they began to move together. “Just—have fun with me for a few minutes.”
Rodney stiffened in Sheppard’s arms in more ways than one while the muscles in his legs liquefied. He pulled his head back and stared wildly into Sheppard’s eyes. “I can’t,” he blurted, unreasoning panic and frustrated desire making his heart hammer against his ribs. “I can’t. Please. Let me. Go.”
Sheppard released him and moved away so quickly Rodney nearly stumbled. “Sorry,” he murmured, looking at anything but Rodney. “I didn’t mean to—” He shook his head, cutting himself off, then spun on his heel and headed toward the refreshment table.
Rodney wobbled off the floor and exited with as much dignity as a man with an erection and rubbery legs could muster.
Which was to say, none at all.
When the doorchime sounded, Rodney knew who it was. He spent a few seconds debating with himself as to whether he wanted to go with cranky or tired, then decided he could do both.
His sarcastic barb died on his lips when the door slid open to reveal Sheppard. He looked weary and unhappy and genuinely shy, and the fact that he was standing there letting Rodney see him like that was completely shocking.
Not to mention more than a little exciting.
“Hey,” Sheppard said, when Rodney remained silent. “I, uh, I just wanted to apologize.” He waved a hand. “For earlier.”
Rodney stepped aside; Sheppard hesitated before accepting the unspoken invitation. He stood there after the door closed looking at Rodney’s shoulder, and Rodney thought about the few places Sheppard had touched him and how he’d memorized every single one, like a pirate’s treasure map. Starting at the back of the head, southwest nine paces to the shoulder, turn due south, twelve paces to the hip—
Rodney contemplated the taut lines of Sheppard’s body, poised for flight, and thought what if what if what if? He was good at asking that question of the universe, but he’d long since given up asking it of people he fell hopelessly in love with. Asking a question to which you already knew the answer was unproductive.
But he wasn’t sure of this answer any more.
Blood pounding through his veins, he took a step toward Sheppard, then another. He held out his arms, aware they were trembling but not being able to do anything about it. “Dance with me,” he murmured, voice cracking only slightly.
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. “How come you get to lead?”
Rodney faltered, all of his momentary bravado disappearing. His hands began to drop.
“No,” Sheppard said, moving swiftly into his arms, taking his hand and placing the other on Rodney’s shoulder. “It’s fine like this, it’s fine, it’s good,” and then his cheek was pressing up against Rodney’s and Rodney couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything but shuffle his feet and try to set a rhythm that was about half the speed of his pulse.
“What are we dancing to?” Sheppard asked after a minute, and Rodney could feel the vibration of sound against his jaw, and God that felt incredible.
“Celine Dion,” Rodney shot back, some of his confidence rising from the ashes as it finally hit him that he was dancing with John Sheppard in the middle of the night, and Sheppard—John—wanted to dance with him, in his room where no one else could see, and he was still too stubborn to acknowledge what that might mean, but there was no denying the evidence—
“So,” John murmured, lips brushing his ear, “are you having fun yet?” His hand slid from Rodney’s shoulder to the back of his neck, making Rodney shiver.
“I could be having more fun,” Rodney answered tartly, and that was apparently all the invitation John needed to pull back and bring their mouths together.
Sheppard kissed nothing like the way Rodney had imagined he would, all cool technique and self-assured Americanness. Instead, he was slightly hesitant at first, quickly shifting into rough enthusiasm when Rodney moaned and glided his tongue across John’s bottom lip.
“Christ, Rodney,” John breathed, diving in for a kiss that was dirtier than every one of Rodney’s secret porn fantasies rolled into one supremely arousing, skin-tingling moment. Which was why his brain shorted out when in the next moment John pushed his hands up under Rodney’s shirt and brushed his fingertips over his nipples.
“God!” Rodney exclaimed, body jerking like he’d been electrocuted. “I didn’t even know they could do that.”
John looked at him, smiling crookedly, and Rodney stammered, “I—I mean, I knew, but, uh. It’s been a while.”
To his surprise, John sighed and slid his hands around to Rodney’s back, clasping him in a loose hug. “Yeah, for me, too.”
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me.”
John’s hands fell away. “Why is that so hard to believe?”
“Why? Look at you!” Rodney blurted, gesturing at John’s rumpled, gorgeous self.
John’s mouth set in a grim line. “Problem is, it’s not so easy to go off base here and get yourself an anonymous blow job in a back alley,” he gritted.
Rodney stared at him gape-mouthed for a few moments, torn between trying to decide if that image was incredibly hot or incredibly sad. “I’m not exactly anonymous,” he said finally.
Sheppard rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I kind of caught that.”
“So what’s changed?”
Tentatively, John placed his hands on Rodney’s hips. “Maybe after the fifth time I nearly died, I had an epiphany?”
Rodney smiled slowly as John pulled him closer. “Took you long enough.”
“Yeah, well, we can’t all be geniuses,” John drawled, leaning in to take Rodney’s mouth again.
“So I’ve been thinking about joining this club,” John murmured into Rodney’s chest.
“Dear God,” Rodney groaned, throwing an arm over his eyes. “Not you, too.”
John pushed himself up on his elbows and looked down at him, frowning. “I thought you’d be crazy about the idea.”
“Why the hell would I be…” He trailed off, gears grinding into motion. “Mensa? You’re going to join our Mensa group?”
John grinned down at him. “Well, it’s either that or Oprah’s book circle. What do you think?”
And that was how Rodney discovered that hitting John repeatedly with a pillow didn’t affect his hairdo one damned bit.
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