by jenn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Codes: McKay, Sheppard/McKay, NC-17
Author Notes: I got this back *three times* from adannu before she considered it postable, which means whatever mistakes are left are because I just wasn't paying attention. adannu also for the title. amireal and fashes for prereading and supportive happy noises.
This is *porn*. With sand involved. But not in any way that chafes, I don't think.
Later, Rodney will tell Elizabeth of three days of meditation in the desert, a stretch of endless hours beneath a canopy in the sun, watching mirages form promises of water in the distance.
He'll tell her of the desert people, quiet and invisible, leading them to cool caves after, down stairs that seemed endless, into a room that lights with a touch.
He'll tell her of their welcome, embraced as heirs of Atlantis by a civilization as old as the planet, and he'll tell her that these are allies they should keep.
Later, he'll tell her of the celebration and the evening that followed and see Sheppard hide a grin, eyes turned to the table.
He won't tell her why.
Pushing up on both hands from the comfortable pallet, Rodney breathes cool desert air, paper-dry against his face. Atlantis has spoiled him, dry desert uncomfortable in a body adapted to humidity matched to heat, and the chill nights are unlike the softer cool of the city. He sweated through his shirt beneath the glare of an unforgiving white sun as they crossed the miles between the gate and the people they sought, wrapping himself in blankets once the sun set.
So *tired*, but he's awake, crawling to the flap of their canvas tent, night-familiar eyes studying the caravan around them, hundreds of sand-colored tents hung with jaunty scarves that glow all the colors of the rainbow by day--gold, sky blue, glittering green brilliant against the beige and creamy white of the dunes, sand spreading out forever all around them.
Rodney waits, listening until he can pick out the sound of a single quiet voice, track the movement of a single, familiar body, then he climbs out of the tent, uncertain on uneven sand that shifts beneath his feet like something living, making his way past friendly sentries who wave him through with a smile.
Sheppard's easy on this terrain; something to do with a childhood spent moving across the greater United States, adulthood in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, body falling into rhythm after the briefest false start on shifting sand. Rodney thinks of the heat of New Mexico in July, Arizona, chill nights beneath a wide-open sky that looked like it could swallow the world and never notice the loss.
Even with a galaxy as reference, the sky's the same kind of huge, and Rodney thinks of nightfall and counting the stars tonight, surrounding them like an overturned bowl, and the maps he'll create, another set of constellations on another world.
Instead, he follows the instinct that leads him over faceless sand, past fingers of sandstone reaching toward the sky, the ruins of a city that vanished a thousand years before Atlantis fell. One hand trails over rock that still holds the heat of the sun, dull red and glittering beneath three huge moons, almost smiling when he sees Sheppard standing at the edge of the cliff that overlooks the camp spread out over the dunes. Thousands in this caravan. Millions spread over the planet.
Bare toes in sand. Face turned skyward, bathed in silvery moonlight, eyes closed. A world that the Wraith have never touched, a people who hide in plain sight on barren land, Ancient tech worked into the very earth beneath them.
The team walked miles of unending sand to find them, exhausted long before they found the people that they'd sought. They'd eaten strange, leathery meat and desert succulents that Rodney couldn’t pronounce, surrounded a campfire after night fell to listen to their stories of ships that fled the skies too soon, looking for richer worlds, populations that could not hide beneath the shifting sands and vanish from sensors.
It's quiet now, this far from the camp. He watches Sheppard sit down, knees drawn to his chest, both arms looped close. Rodney remembers how the desert girls had looked at their eyes with awe, traced their fair skin with dark, curious fingers, touching Rodney's hair and Sheppard's hands, fine boned and long-fingered. He remembers Sheppard's easy smile fading to something thoughtful, still beneath their touch as sand was washed from their skin, eyes closed when they touched him, them, outworlder males who could use the magic that kept them safe from the Wraith.
Gentle with them, pretty girls who wrapped them in their attention like the most fragile silk, careful with Sheppard the way no one else could be; they knew nothing of military commanders or wars fought beyond their skies. Their stories will have him one day, Rodney thinks as he lowers himself into the sand, Sheppard close enough that Rodney can feel the heat of his body through thin night-robes offered by grateful hosts. Close enough to share a smile as they watch the activity below them. Nights here last for days. Lanterns are strung like small stars around the camp center, flanked with the wide tents of the leaders and the shaman, where they tell stories far into the night, falling asleep wrapped in blankets around the fire.
Sheppard's all quiet body, kohl-lined eyes, dust of glitter on one cheek, giggling women dressing him as they did their men, foreign and familiar all at once. He could be one of them, thin body and easy grace, but Rodney would know him anywhere by the slouch of his shoulders, the amusement hovering in green eyes.
"I fix their equipment, but you get all the attention," Rodney says without rancor, rubbing a thumb over the point of Sheppard's jaw that comes back dusted with gold. Sheppard grins back, leaning into the touch for a moment too long.
"They offered you *wives*," Sheppard says, and Rodney studies the curve of his mouth, the softness of his jaw, and smiles where Sheppard can't see.
Rodney grins. "Four."
There were stories tonight, gathered close around the fire, stories older than the Wraith, the coming of the Ancients to bring life from sand and dirt. They told of dazzling cities and the slow claiming of earth from sand, then the Rifting, when the Gate brought nothing but fear, the way the desert claimed their world, leaving them to die slowly, dying beneath a desert sun or a Wraith hand.
Then this. Arbors beneath the ground. Tech worked into the very sand. They would never be found if they didn't want to be.
Sheppard reaches down, running his fingers over the sand. "Four," he says softly, and Rodney thinks of the second offer.
Their currency is their knowledge: Rodney's expertise, Elizabeth's and Teyla's diplomacy, Ronon's strength, Atlantis' technology. But there is also this; the fragile weave of Ancient DNA that makes Sheppard a commodity as valuable as gold.
It took the galaxy a long time to discover it, longer to try to find ways to have it. Rodney remembers the first time, the last time, the bargain of a ZPM against Sheppard's body for one night, that they'd taken too quickly, needed too desperately.
Rodney hasn't forgotten, the early morning after and Sheppard, pale and silent, circles cut deep beneath unreadable eyes, flinching from their touch. Rodney's never touched that ZPM. Zelenka does the maintenance.
Their shoulders brush. "Did they--" Rodney stops himself; there's no way to ask that question.
"Just an offer," Sheppard says, easy, his fingers tracing gate symbols into the sand. "Not a trade item." The desert people don't have the gene, but they don't need it. Pegasus civilizations cross-breed over worlds for the sake of survival--cullings take families, genetic lines lost forever. This, then, was a gift, for Sheppard to leave a promise of life behind.
"Okay." Three moons make the nights bright, but Rodney can still see the stars, faded pinpricks of fragile light. He thinks of his balcony on Atlantis, sleepovers on the mainland, a hundred missions, and leans into Sheppard's shoulder. "Come on." Standing up, he waits for Sheppard to look up, eyebrows raised in impolite disagreement. The moons wash all the color from Sheppard's face, stark black and white with eyes as dark as the sky. "Come on. If they see you, it's back to telling more of your brave adventures facing down the Wraith with only a gun and a stick of gum. No one needs to hear that again."
"There were concussion grenades," Sheppard says mildly, but he takes Rodney's offered hand, hard callused palm against his own, the slide of warm, sandy fingers, a scrape of nails like electricity. Rodney pulls him up, a heart-stopping second of contact with only thin robes between them. Then Sheppard slips away, making his way back down the trail, and Rodney watches him move, a pale shape with a flashing grin that Rodney can feel like the heat of a star.
Later, Rodney will tell Elizabeth they were given rare tropical flowers, the gentle hands of the natives reaching to touch them with curious, welcoming hands as kada, kin, heirs to Atlantis, the oldest stories of Pegasus made flesh.
He'll tell her of technology hidden beneath the ground, warrens and caves with machines he can barely explain, dazzling power running from geothermal engines, the way the sand is a cloak all in itself, shielding everything that touches it.
He'll tell her that he touched crystals unlike any he has ever seen, formed in the depths of the planet's mantle, saw the wide caves filled with forests and flowers and fruit, crops sowed miles beneath the surface.
Later, he'll give her their gift of berry-thick wine and bite his lip against a smile when Sheppard starts to blush.
He won't tell her why.
The elders find them anyway, get Sheppard drunk on berry wines and grinning into Rodney's shoulder, sprawled loose and easy by the fire while they tell stories of the Ancestors. They stumble back to their tent hours later, where Sheppard rolls onto his blankets, rumpled and laughing, with berry-stained lips and fingers dyed red. Rodney licks away the touch of sticky fingers from the back of his hand, kneeling to strip off the outer robe, leaving the thin tunic of cotton spun as fine as cobwebs.
"They want to have your babies," Rodney says, catching himself on one hand before he falls over. Sheppard isn't the only one who drank too much.
"They want to marry you," Sheppard answers, smiling into the ceiling, and Rodney tries to remember the last time he saw Sheppard stripped down so much, warm and touchable and easy. Dangerously easy, not the honed weapon of Atlantis, just the man that Rodney fell in love with what feels like a lifetime ago. Rodney collapses beside him, the carafe of wine, thick with preserved berries, between them. "Would you?"
It's not even a question. "They're not that hot." They are. Pretty virgin girls, pretty virgin boys, in cobweb cotton and spun silk, smelling of spice and earth, pressing against him, warm lips and dark, wanting eyes. He was hard all of yesterday, feeling them on his skin, tasting lip paint waxy on his tongue long after they'd left.
It's been years since he was seduced with such careful innocence. Years longer since touch meant anything more than a night. Some part of him--the part before college and easy, frantic sex, before Pegasus and the simple need for release, for feeling something more than fear--some part of him thinks that he lost something along the way. Something that he reaches for in unfamiliar bodies and never finds. In familiar bodies, too.
Pegasus has changed them, he thinks, when fucking isn't as intimate as lying with his team leader in a tent in the desert, inches apart, but stripped of uniform and weapons, alone surrounded by thousands. It's changed him, when he thinks he can't imagine being anywhere else.
He shakes his head as he reaches for the carafe, dipping his fingers inside, taking out crushed berries. Sweet with the bitter edge of hard liquor. Sun-warm from travel, warmer from his skin.
They should trade for this, he thinks, licking wine from his palm, his wrist. He catches Sheppard watching him with dilated eyes and a fading smile. Drunk from more than sweet wine. "I want."
One hand snakes out for the carafe; Rodney pulls it out of reach. Awkwardly, he holds it in the crook of his arm, shifting enough to straddle Sheppard's body, pinning Sheppard's arms with his knees. He watches the dark eyes slant thoughtfully as Rodney settles his weight. "You taught me that." And it's the least of the things he's learned, dipping inside for more berries, holding them just out of reach.
Sheppard doesn't fight him. Rodney watches the soft lips part for the berries, a brush of tongue that makes him hard, instantly, narrowing the room to the two of them on these blankets, Sheppard licking red stained lips before opening for more. "More."
This time, he's not careful, fingers touching teeth, the silky inside of Sheppard's--of John's mouth, and John's not careful, licking slow trails to the first knuckle to catch the juice with a red-stained tongue. Fingers flexing loosely but he doesn't fight the pin, and Rodney's drunk on more than berries, thumb running the curve of Sheppard's mouth to get a brush of tongue, a silent order for *more*.
Eyes huge and watching.
"John," he whispers, feeling something in him twist, uncoil at the familiarity of this when it's all brand new, and John licks his lips with the tip of his tongue.
Voice so low that Rodney can feel it in his belly. "More."
More berries, dripping wine on immaculate cotton like blood, on the bare skin of John's jaw and his chin, and Rodney's eyes close when John sucks his fingers clean. He cups John's jaw, leaning close enough to lick the wine from John's skin, edges of salt beneath the sweetness, gritty sand.
He shifts back so John's hands are free, but John doesn't move, and Rodney gets a handful of berries, licking them from his own palm, and leans down to John's perfect, smeared mouth.
It's slow, awkward like first kisses always are, sweet from more than wine. Gentle, but not careful. He knows John, has known him for the length of a lifetime spent in an alien galaxy. Rodney licks the taste of crushed berries from his mouth, finding John beneath the wine, Sheppard, lieutenant colonel and military leader, gene-carrier, best friend and friendly rival, Rodney's Atlantis clothed in smooth flesh and fine bone.
He wants to kiss John until what passes for morning, lick away every taste but his own. He settles for another mouthful of fruit, shared between quick breaths, and John's hands on his thighs, rubbing over thin cotton with wide, hard palms, finding the skin of Rodney's waist with the tips of his fingers, a touch like a hand on his cock.
He pulls back, John hard beneath him, hot through thin cotton, like a long day's sun is soaked into his skin. Reaching with stained fingers, Rodney pulls the loose lacing at John's throat, revealing skin as pale as new milk, dark hair, old scars and new ones. He traces the delicate bones of John's collar with red, leaning down to lick the stains away. He can hear John's breath catch, scrapes his teeth just hard enough to get a soft gasp, then pulls the shirt open completely, pale cotton pooling on either side of John's body.
Sheppard says, "Rodney," breathless and stuttered, and Rodney kisses him quiet, reaching for more fruit, trailing it from throat to belly, leaving red handprints on John's arms when he holds him down, lowers his head to lick the fruit from John's skin. "Rodney."
You're beautiful, he wants to say, whisper like a secret into John's throat while John gives it up by slow degrees, arching into Rodney's mouth, half-formed words forgotten before they're spoken.
He licks patterns into John's chest, his stomach, smoothing the line of hair with the tip of his tongue, dipping into his navel, feeling him tense and relax, move into every small touch with fast, shallow breaths. The loose pants gather around narrow hips, and it's easy to slide his fingers beneath, cupping hard bone through thin, silky skin. John's hand strokes through his hair, fingernails skimming his cheek, drawing him back up into a open-mouthed kiss that steals his breath before giving it back.
He likes the slow draw of John's tongue, the tilt of his head into Rodney's hands, the way he lets Rodney slide between his thighs, the smooth cotton stuttering roughly over their cocks as they settle together with a shared breath. Callused fingers work open the laces on his shirt and Rodney sits back long enough to pull it free, stripping off John's with slow touches against skin that seems too fine for a soldier. He breathes a kiss into John's bicep, another into the hollow of his throat, works down their pants enough for skin to touch--oh Christ, that's what he wants, needs like the air he isn't getting in panted breaths. John's arm loops around his neck, drawing him into another slow kiss, going boneless beneath Rodney as he arches with every shift of their bodies, cock against cock sending sparks up his spine.
Rodney can feel sweat prickle on his back, their skin clinging from the wine, catching with every movement, a slow grind of skin on skin he can feel everywhere, even the places they don't touch; John's hand is steady on his hip, guiding them both; warm chest against his, and the addictive mouth that licks lazily over his, berry-sweetness fading with every brush of his tongue. Dark hair silky slides between his fingers, pushed from eyes dilated black and hungry, like John's as starved for this as Rodney is.
"Rodney," John murmurs as Rodney licks a stripe up the side of his throat, sucking a kiss below his ear before matching it with his teeth. John draws in a sharp breath, one leg hooking around Rodney's, drawing him in closer, harder. "Please. Yeah, that…."
He thinks he could do this all night, all the cool dark of the next day, touch John and feel him let go a little more with each stuttered breath; tie the tent closed and stretch John out on soft blankets, pour wine over his body and lick it off inch by inch, taste him, learn him with fingers and tongue, every bump and ridge of bone, every scar.
He breathes against John's skin, I want you. Please. Touch me.
He can feel John's smile, watches John pull the hand from his hip, lick it slow and dirty, tongue wet and obscenely red, reaching between them to wrap met and messy around their cocks. Rodney shudders, burying his groan in John's mouth, holding him there through every shudder, the slide into orgasm like falling into pure light, blinding and amazing. John comes seconds after, a second rush of heat between them, the smell of sex drowning the scent of berry wine, and Rodney watches John lick his wet fingers clean, kissing the taste from his mouth.
Some eternity later, Rodney surfaces with his mouth against John's throat, John's fingers lazy in his hair. Pushing himself up, he winces at the pull of sticky skin, opening his eyes on John staring up at him.
The arm around his waist tightens. "Stay," he whispers, and Rodney nods yes.
Rodney finds his bedroll, dragging off the blankets, curling up against John's long, sticky body and covering them both.
Later, he thinks he'll wonder what this means.
So he draws gate symbols into John's skin with come-slick fingers that spell home, eyes closing as John sleeps against his shoulder, boneless and warm.
Later, he'll tell Elizabeth of Teyla's negotiations and trade items, the desert people making promises that he thinks they'll keep. He'll tell her of the days in the desert, hot and cold by turns, watching the sky stretching out forever above them, measuring the distance between stars.
He'll tell her of the pretty girls who wished them luck and long life, tell her of their smiles as they left, of their promise to return.
He'll feel Sheppard's fingers brush his thigh beneath the table, a scratch of nails from hip to knee, and catch his breath.
He'll never tell her why.