Word Count: 14,500
Disclaimer: Wish they were mine... sigh
Author's Notes: This is for the Harlequin Challenge at undermistletoe. Somehow it turned into a Regency Romance (in more ways than one), so expect some serious OOC for our boys. Praise and bowing before the lovely fenchurch1 for her beta work. What she saw was incomplete so any mistakes are mine!
Summary: At sixteen and after the death of his mother, the young High Prince John ran away to Athosia where he became just John Shepard. At thirty-six, he has been recalled by the City to perform his duty.
Back to Part 1
He slept soundly, which was unexpected since he had learned to sleep lightly over the years. Foaling happened at all hours, weather was unpredictable and roaming predators – human and animal – always stalked the plantation. There was something about being back on Atlantis that made him feel safe in a way he had not in a long time. He attributed that to the City itself.
Someone had left rolls and caff in a warmer for him. He was surprised he had slept through someone entering the suite, for after the attack yesterday he did not think he would have relaxed that much.
He poured himself caff and spread preserves on the roll. Strawberry! Something that did not grow well on Athosia yet had been a favorite when he was a child. The work of the City in remembering that.
A chime, to indicate someone was at the door. "Come!" he called.
Lorne entered, dressed in the informal House uniform. "Sir, your Father asks to see you this morning."
"Asks?" Or demands? John inquired.
"Asks," Lorne replied firmly. "At your convenience. If you would bring Scholar McKay, that would be welcome."
"I would like to see Rodney first before I spring Father on him," John decided. "Tell Father we will be available in about..." he looked at a timepiece, "two hours."
"That will be fine," Lorne answered.
"Is Rodney up yet and has he eaten?" John inquired.
Lorne snorted. "He's been up for hours but all he's had is caff and some pastries. He maintains he is working on projects he brought along and has asked for a board he can write on. He'd like access to the City systems but has been told he has to wait on you for that."
"Bring us an assortment of breakfast foods, eggs, meat, whatever the kitchen has on hand," John directed. "I will see what he is doing and make a decision."
"Yes, sir," Lorne replied. "Unless you have any other preferences, I'll assign Protector Cadman as Scholar McKay's escort."
John gave a small grin. "That is fine, unless he has any complaints."
Lorne somehow managed to order breakfast while escorting John to Rodney's apartment which was really just immediately below John's. If he had been alone, John might have taken the stairs but didn't want to offend Lorne's sensibilities too much. Yet. He sedately took the transporter to the next floor, allowing Lorne to do his job.
"Rodney! Good morning!" John called upon entering Rodney's apartment.
"Did you bring more caff?" Rodney demanded.
"It's coming, along with a real breakfast, not just pastries," John replied easily. "The day is easier to face when breakfast is more than sweets and caff."
"Yes, yes," Rodney waved. "Listen, what do I have to do to gain access to the City systems? Anyone I have asked has deferred to you, so – I'm asking you."
John temporized, "Tell me what you want to do."
"I have a theory about energy grids that I need more information to take any further. The fact that the City has one of the largest, single energy grids that we are aware of makes it imperative for me to see more about how it is powered and how it does all the work it does," Rodney expounded.
"What sort of information will you be looking for?" John asked.
"I know the City should have multiple energy sources," Rodney replied enthusiastically. "There should be more than a single ZedPM, for example..."
"Zed?" John interrupted.
"Zed... oh, letter 'zee.' We use that on Bending to ensure what we do not communicate information incorrectly. The letter C and the letter Z sound somewhat alike and can be mistaken when working with others, especially if one has an accent of any type," Rodney explained.
John turned that over in his head for a moment. "Yes, that does make sense," he allowed. "Continue."
"In order to power a City of this size, the ZedPM must be more efficient or... more powerful, or something that we have not been able to duplicate in our own efforts. The units that have been constructed to date deplete too fast," Rodney went on. "If there are any efficiencies we can take advantage of, perhaps the work involved would be simpler or less costly to allow places like your Athosia to afford to create their own energy grid."
John considered. The idea was not totally new but Rodney was probably the first in a long period of time who could accomplish such a task. However....
"The final decision is not mine," John replied and held up a hand when Rodney would interrupt. "Nor my Father's. It is a decision that the City must make. Examination of the primary power supply for the City is only at her discretion."
Rodney was bewildered. "Her discretion? How does one ask such a thing?"
The door chimes interrupted the start of John's tale. "Let us sit and have breakfast and I will tell you... what I can."
It was someone John did not know who brought in their meal. The man set out the dishes quickly, asked "Anything else?" and when John replied, "No, thank you," left as quietly as he came.
"I did not know I was hungry," Rodney said, drawn to the table of covered dishes. "Smells good."
"I suspect that a diet of just pastry is not sufficient for you," John answered. "And it is another way to spend time together."
"Good of you to think of it, then. Thank you," Rodney replied, sitting and uncovering the gently steaming food.
John allowed the time to fill their plates before he replied to Rodney's question.
"The City has... what many would call a mind of its own," he started. "Yes, I know a City cannot be alive but there is intent behind a serious number of the things that happen. There is no one good explanation so the thought of intelligence is sometimes as good as any."
"But that would take skills we do not have to craft such a mechanism!" Rodney protested.
John debated. Details beyond this were traditionally only for the Ruler and his heir... or for the Bearer and his Match, once the relationship had been consummated. He had no reason to think Rodney would not stay, would not help him create the new line of Rulers, but he could not be sure.
For the records handed down from Ruler to Ruler show that Atlantis was originally created by others who called themselves Ancient. The Old Ones who created Atlantis and the Stargates left behind information that was sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful and too many times incomplete.
It was simpler to go with the truth. "There are parts of this story I cannot tell you until we... bond," John stated. "There are traditions that... even I do not wish to flaunt."
Rodney stared for a moment. "Traditions? Bah! Superstitions, you mean!"he challenged.
"Rodney," John said softly, to get his attention. He took Rodney's flailing hand in his. "I have not the study you have but I ask you to trust me in this. Even as a child I understood that there are some things... some knowledge that all were not meant to have. Think. That is not true in some of the work you do? There are things you know, things you know how to do – if they were to become widely known, you know someone would take hurt from it."
Rodney stilled, thinking. "The Genii..." he replied in the same soft tone.
John nodded. "They would use such for their own benefit. To rule over others with a hard fist, mayhap take slaves. That is not something we should wish on anyone." Although those who would try to rule with such intent would find the City... difficult. She protected herself. He wove their fingers together. "Trust me."
"It seems that I must," Rodney agreed ruefully.
Freeing Rodney's hand, John went back to his breakfast. "Eat. I have something I do think you will be interested in."
Rodney looked puzzled for a moment and then shrugged. He quickly ate what was left on his plate and took a second helping of what was left.
Then John remembered. "My apologies," he stated. "My Father has asked to see us this morning and I sent a message that we would do so after our meal. I do hope that is not too inconvenient."
Rodney sighed. "As you think best," he answered but slowed down eating his meal. "What do you think he wants?"
"I suspect... he is mostly curious," John theorized. "I have not been to Atlantis in twenty years and our only communications have been... brief. With the City revealing your existence, he is now faced with dealing with not only myself but someone who might well be my... partner."
"A meeting of potential family members?" Rodney asked. "Do you dislike your Father?"
John fiddled with the mug of caff in his hands. "It is not as much dislike as... I do not know the man. Remember, I was but sixteen when I left and my mother had died just a year before that. He and I had terrible rows when I lived here but that may have been the vagaries of youth on my part and simple frustration on his."
"Then we present ourselves and see what may happen," Rodney agreed.
"Thank you," John said.
John nibbled on some fruit as Rodney finished his meal, between them they ate all that had been brought to them.
"Let me freshen up before we go," Rodney stated.
"Certainly," John agreed. While Rodney was out of the room, he called Lorne to let him know they were soon ready to see his Father and that someone could remove the breakfast dishes from Rodney's room.
Cadman escorted them to the meeting. "Your Father is in his private rooms and asked that you be brought there." While she was professional, John could tell she was curious but he had nothing to tell her. She brought them to the rooms, rang the chime and stayed outside as they went in.
"You should not be so trusting, meeting us without a guard," John told his Father. "After all, it is well honored tradition for the Heir to take the Rule before his time."
"If I thought you would be interested in Rule, I would gladly give it to you," his Father replied seriously. "You have repeated your lack of interest over the years, mostly by not returning to Atlantis. I suspect I am safer with you than even Scholar McKay is."
"True," John agreed. "I am only here because it was made clear I must return."
"Scholar McKay," John's father turned to Rodney. "I hope I do not impinge on your day."
"No, sir," Rodney replied mildly with a nod. "I am at your service."
"Come, sit with me," his Father said. "Tell me more of what you have been doing. More than the 'I am fine' than you have sent back in your yearly missives."
Startled at the interest, John moved to the sitting area without thought. Rodney followed closely and they sat around a low table near the window.
"I... do not know where to begin," John faltered in the face of the man who had shouted statements he did not want to recall at their last meeting twenty years ago.
"Tell me of your equines, then," his Father suggested. "I understand you have done well there."
With some hesitation, John launched into the story he had told Rodney yesterday. His Father asked intelligent questions about the raising of foals and the keeping of the equines which naturally led into discussion of the Plantation and the Athosians who worked with John. Rodney joined in discussion about some of the methods used on the Plantation with ideas about what could be done differently.
A smaller chime inside the room brought to John's attention that is was now lunchtime and that they had been talking for more than two hours.
"I... we are sorry to take up so much of your time," John apologized.
"No," his Father said, "I must apologize to you... for not making something of an effort with you." He looked between them. "It is we?" he asked softly.
John looked at Rodney who gave a slight nod. "We think so," John answered. "We suit, I think, but we are taking this somewhat slowly. We are not halflings to plunge without thought into what will be a life-long commitment."
"Ah! That is good news, then," John's Father replied. "I am obligated to be elsewhere for luncheon; otherwise I would like to stay." He stood. "If there is anything you need, ask. Please?"
John was thrown by the polite man in front of him. This was not the Father he remembered. He knew they both would have changed over time but... it was still something of a surprise to him. John stood and Rodney followed. "We will, thank you."
"John. Scholar McKay." With a nod he was gone.
Rodney sat with a small 'oof'. "That went better than I suspect you ever could have imagined," Rodney said.
"Indeed, it did," John replied sitting for a moment also. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, an effort to gather his thoughts. "Now, our own lunch or are you up to some minor exploring?" John asked.
"You fed me enough breakfast to keep me for a while," Rodney retorted. "As long as there is no major exertion involved with your exploring, I am open to that."
John stood and held a hand out to Rodney. He wanted to touch but knew he had to limit himself since he did not want to scare Rodney off. "Come, I know something I think you will like."
"What did you have in mind?" Rodney did not remove his hand from John's, seemingly glad to have that connection between them.
"But it would not be a surprise if I were to tell you, would it?" John teased. He came up short when he found Lorne and Cadman waiting for them. He had forgotten that he would not be allowed to roam around Atlantis on his own, especially after the attack last evening. He reluctantly let go of Rodney's hand, "Wait for a moment while I confer with Lorne?"
Rodney nodded. John led Lorne to the other side of the hall and briefed the escort on where they would be going. Lorne's eyes lit up and nodded.
They went back to the waiting pair and John again took Rodney's hand. "Now we can go."
At the transporter, Lorne tapped the map for the location John wanted. It was really only down two floors in the same building for it was technically part of the Ruler's residence.
They exited the transporter into dimly lit halls. "Your Father does not use this space," Lorne explained. "But he... visits from time to time."
That also surprised John but he kept that thought to himself. They approached a set of double doors that whispered open as Lorne passed his hand over the controls. "We will wait here," Lorne announced.
"Thank you," John said, ushering Rodney into the dimly lit chamber.
The lights came up and Rodney breathed, "An omnichora! It is beautiful!"
They walked closer to the instrument and stood together in front of it. "My mother would play for us on occasion." He turned to Rodney and said gently, "I was hoping... perhaps you might want to try it."
"I couldn't...." Rodney started to refuse. "I'm not good enough to..."
John brought him close, to look into those mesmerizing blue eyes. "I hoped you might have joy of the instrument," John explained. "I will leave, if you would like to be alone while you play."
"No," Rodney replied. "Don’t leave. It's just... it's a magnificent looking instrument."
"Ah! But you were not here when, as a very young child – probably about three or four, I vomited all over the keyboard when I was sick one day. Mother thought to soothe me with music but did not realize how upset my stomach still was," John laughed. "It was not a pretty sight."
Rodney laughed. "No that would not have been pretty," he agreed.
"It is an instrument that is meant to be played," John encouraged him. "I suspect no one has touched it since she died."
Without a word, Rodney drew out the bench and initialized the power to the system. He placed a tentative hand on the keyboard and picked out a simple tune. As he became more comfortable with the instrument, the melody became more complex and it was not long before the chamber was filled with music. John drifted back to find a seat out of Rodney's line of sight, so as not to disturb him.
It was almost an hour before Rodney faltered slightly at the keyboard. He brought his piece to closure, and stopped, head bowed above the keyboard. He straightened, turned to look at John.
"That was beautiful," John breathed. "Thank you."
"No, thank you," Rodney replied, flexing his fingers and massaging his wrists. "The beauty and the sound of the instrument drew me to play more than I have in a long time. But any pain I have from that will be more than worth it."
John stood and walked over to Rodney, taking one hand in his. He lightly massaged the long fingers bringing a small groan of delight from Rodney. "I think we can get some muscle relaxing crème for you," he offered. "I would not want you to be uncomfortable."
"I think I will need it," Rodney replied, not taking his hand from John's. After a short time, Rodney put in reluctantly, "I should close down the instrument properly. It is too beautiful to neglect that small duty."
John leaned in, "Allow me. I often did that for my mother." He pressed the proper buttons and moved the controls so that the instrument powered down and the covers that had protected it were placed properly over it.
"Lunch now, I think," John decided.
Rodney's stomach made noises of agreement. "I think we're all in favor of that, then," he laughed.
The exited the chamber to find Cadman waiting for them, eyes shining. "That was beautiful, sir."
"I'm no expert," Rodney protested.
"But it was," John put in. He turned to Cadman. "Where would lunch be?"
"Your rooms, sir," she answered.
"That's fine," John replied. He gently captured Rodney's hand. "If you would have some muscle crème sent to the room, Rodney would like it for his hands."
"Certainly," she agreed.
A lunch of salad and sandwiches was waiting for them in John's room. John got them each a beer from his cooling unit to go with the food and they fell on the meal as if they had not eaten in days. Another guard brought a pot of crème while they were eating the sweet that had been provided.
When they had finished it all, Rodney sat back and sighed. "Now, I could use a nap."
The thought made parts of John very interested in doing things in bed that did not involve sleeping. "You can go back to your suite to lie down, or," he offered diffidently, "you can take a nap here. If you would like."
Rodney looked at him lazily. "That does not sound very slow to me," Rodney teased.
John had to grin. "I would leave you to sleep. Although, if you would like, I could massage the muscle crème into your hands as you relaxed. Nothing more."
"Ohh," Rodney moaned, the sound sending a small shiver down John's spine. "Yes. That you certainly can do for me. Thank you."
John stood and held out a hand to Rodney. "This way, then." He led Rodney into the sleeping room.
"Take off your shoes and... perhaps your shirt so that you do not get crème on it," John directed. He pulled out a light blanket. "You can use this. The room does not get cool but the cover makes it... comfortable."
Rodney toed off his shoes and took off the stockings he was wearing. He wriggled his bare toes in the lush carpet. "Barefoot always feels good, just don't get to do it very often." He took off his shirt and John had an excellent view of broad shoulders and strong arms before Rodney took the blanket and lay back on the bed, arranging the pillows to his liking.
John toed off his own shoes but did not remove any other clothing. He did not want to tempt himself any more than necessary. He got a towel from the bathing room and placed the pot of crème on the table at the side of the bed and took a scoop on his fingers. With his other hand, he picked up Rodney's lax hand from the bed and started soothing in the crème.
He could feel Rodney relax as he worked the crème into the hand. John worked the fingers individually before working his way up to the wrist and the forearm, knowing that more than the hands would ache from the unaccustomed workout. Rodney was mostly asleep as he moved to the other side of the bed to perform the same task on the other hand and arm. Rodney was fully asleep by the time John finished.
John wiped his hands on the towel and, unable to resist, lay down on the bed next to Rodney. Just for a moment...
John opened his eyes to see blue eyes watching him, close and warm. He had ended up under the blanket Rodney had been using, their legs tangled together.
"Hey!" John said softly.
"Hey, yourself!" Rodney answered.
John wriggled slightly in the bed and moved closer to Rodney. "This is nice," he said. He leaned in for a soft kiss.
Rodney rolled John on his back, laying partially on top of him as they deepened the kiss. John used his hands to touch the skin of Rodney's shoulders, his back, down toward his enticing derriere. Rodney moved his hips against John and John pushed back against the delicious pressure.
Breaking the kiss, Rodney looked down at John. "Slow? Or maybe not so slow?"
John took a deep breath, a second. He grinned, "Maybe not so slow?"
"Good," Rodney replied, moving his hips again. "I want to make you come."
John groaned at the thought. He placed his hands on Rodney's hips to hold him in place as pleasure started to curl around the base of his spine. Rodney held himself firmly above John as John gave in to the urge to move. He arched and came hard enough to curl his shoulders up slightly. He kissed Rodney firmly before he relaxed on the bed. He held on long enough to give Rodney someplace to rub against and Rodney gave a long moan of pleasure.
They lay panting, touching lightly, soothing.
"My apologies but... this is faintly gross," Rodney murmured in John's ear.
"Next time," John started and saw Rodney's head come up slightly. "Next time, we take our clothes off and do this properly."
"Mmmm.... sounds nice," Rodney replied sleepily, laying his head next to John's for a long moment. "Sorry, I would like to clean up."
"Is... is showering together fast or slow?" John asked.
"Oh, probably on the fast side," Rodney answered with a small grin. "But, a shower together would be fun." He looked down at his damp pants. "I hope you can lend me something that will fit."
"I can find something," John replied.
Rodney rolled off the bed stripping off his stained clothing. John watched as he walked naked toward the bathing room. "Coming?"
John scrambled out of the bed, shedding clothes as he followed Rodney. He turned on the shower as he entered, not as hot as he had yesterday but steam started to accumulate in the room.
Showering together was fun, John realized. Rodney was playful as he washed John down carefully. He let John return the favor, making John scrub his back carefully. They toweled off and wandered out into the bedroom.
Rodney grabbed John's hand and pulled him close for a soft kiss.
John wanted to wrap himself around Rodney and not move but they did have to have at least a small talk. He went to the closet and shuffled through the clothes that were there. "Actually, none of this is mine," he explained. "So there are things in several sizes." He pulled out some pants, held them up and handed them to Rodney. "Try these." He dug through to find a shirt that would go with it.
Rodney took them and said, "These should do. Thank you." He pulled them on, they were a little long but clung to his body deliciously and looked good on him.
"I... I would like to talk," John put in.
Rodney grimaced. "Those words would normally put a fright into me, you know. But I've just had a delicious orgasm and have the hope there are more in my future." He looked around. "Is there anything to eat?"
The change in subject disarmed John completely. "We can get food. A snack?"
"Yes," Rodney said. "Do we need to be anywhere for dinner?"
"Not that I know of," John replied. "I suspect I should ask." John went to the communicator and called for some food. He logged into the computer that had been left for him and looked for messages. "Nothing for tonight but we have been requested to attend a dinner with Father's councilors tomorrow," he reported.
"We will have to learn to deal with them some time," Rodney was more philosophical than John would have expected. Mayhap his experience being the Lead Scholar in his discipline was helpful. It was all part of the multitude of things he did not yet know about Rodney McKay.
John accepted the invitation to the dinner and went to the cooling unit. The staff had been efficient and had re-stocked the unit with more beer. He brought out two and handed one to Rodney.
More efficiency had a chime at the door and Cadman wheeling in a cart with a variety of foods on it. "No citrus," she promised cheerfully. She set the plates on the low table in front of them. "Anything else?"
"We'd like to have dinner... elsewhere," John said. "What kind of options do we have?" After the attack... just yesterday?... he'd have to defer to whatever security considerations the Guard wished to have in place.
Cadman considered. "Let me consult," she replied. "There are... options."
"Someplace nice," John requested. "Doesn't have to be fancy."
"Certainly," she replied. "In... three hours?"
"Yes," he said. "That will be fine."
She nodded and left them alone.
Rodney piled some of everything on his plate. He nibbled his way through some of it, putting aside something that he had made a face at the taste of. He looked at John, "You had something to talk about."
John took a bite of something and chewed for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He put the plate down and picked up the bottle of beer.
"You have to remember that I have known I am to be the Bearer since I was a child," John started. "My mother made me read the history of the Bearers, the stories of their lives. When I was very young, they were stories that didn't seem to have anything to do with me. As I got older, I understood that I was to play a large part in the history of Pegasus. Some day, another Bearer would be reading about me. That was a very scary thought."
John took a swallow of his beer, grateful that Rodney was letting him tell the story at his own pace.
"When I ended up in Athosia, they did not care that I was the Bearer. They cared for my skill in the fields, my knowledge of energy systems and what I could bring to them. I earned my own way. I would tell the leader of the clan of my status as Bearer, if anything were to happen to me it would be important to get a message back to Atlantis." John took a breath.
"Because of my status, I... kept myself from relationships with others," John said softly. "I... I have slept with women, for there is comfort in a warm body, a willing partner. But I can count on both hands the number and none more than thrice. I have stayed away from men, knowing... hoping there was someone special for me. There were friends... but no one special. Until now."
"Ah!" Rodney looked down at his own feet. "You... have seen only the best parts of me. When I am working, I am irritable, mean spirited and do not suffer fools lightly. Many have left my labs in tears or have quit in anger. I have few friends, more enemies than I want to think about. As a result, my relationships have been few and short lived. I will admit to being willing to sleep with either men or women but I have not much more experience than you."
That was comforting in some ways. John was worried that Rodney would find him... lacking in his experience with men. Their experience earlier did seem to portend good things for them.
"I think, as you told your Father," Rodney replied gently, "we will suit. There will be times that will be difficult for we are both independent and I suspect you can be as stubborn as I can be."
"What makes you think I can be stubborn?" John was curious.
"You stayed away from here for twenty years," Rodney pointed out.
John nodded, acknowledging the issue.
"Now what?" Rodney asked.
"Well, I can see if we can take a walk around the city," John offered. "I would like to take some exercise and since you have never been here before, it would be good for you to see the City."
"I'd still like to access the City systems," Rodney added.
"That will be arranged," John promised. "It will have to be after we... bond. The City is particular who she allows access."
Rodney snorted. "If I must wait, I will wait. But I may be after you to bond sooner."
"You only want me for my City," John lamented.
Rodney laughed. He said, "You said there are labs in the Tower?"
John considered. All of the labs would be open to Rodney soon, there were a number they could visit now as part of their tour. "Certainly," he agreed. "Let me see what I can arrange."
Rodney looked down at his borrowed clothes. "Before we go anywhere, I need some different clothes," he declared.
"We will be... conspicuous," John warned. "Many will be interested in both of us. Much of our lives will be... public."
"Oh," Rodney said. "I had not thought of that."
John thought Rodney looked dismayed. Public acclaim was something often desired, the reality was not as one expected.
"We can... leave," John offered. "I can go back with you to Bending. Or you can come to Athosia. We are not obligated."
Rodney hesitated, considering. "I suspect you would be unhappy with that after a time. You are an honorable man and while you do not want to Rule, you will do it. And do it well."
John was amazed. He did not deserve such loyalty from someone he had just met.
Rodney stood. "I think... I will have my belongings moved in here. Unless I am ahead of myself?"
John stood also and moved closer. "I do not want to pressure you, but I would like that."
"You will learn quickly that there are few things I will do if I truly do not want to do them," Rodney stated. "I would like to join you here."
As they went to dinner, John tried hard not to blush as he asked the escort to arrange for Rodney's belongings to be moved into his rooms.
Later that evening, someone had arranged for wine in John's – their room. He poured them both a glass. "A good day," he observed.
"Yes," Rodney agreed. He turned to John. "We do not have to..."
John blushed. "I would like to try. If you will be patient with me."
"Oh, I certainly can be patient with you," Rodney stated, moving closer. "For this we need to be naked."
John groaned even at the thought of that. He put down his glass, moved closer to Rodney so he could feel the heat from the other man. A kiss started soft but moved into want.
"Bed, naked," Rodney muttered against his lips.
John's brain had mostly shut down at that point but he wanted this... They quickly moved to the bedroom, shedding clothes. Rodney got him on his back and then slowed it down. He touched and tasted all parts of John's body. They had found more crème in the bathroom that Rodney had declared "would do" and it now sat on the table next to the bed.
John was lost in sensation but not so much that when Rodney leaned over him and asked, "Are you sure?" John was able to answer, "Yes." John knew it wasn't necessarily an answer as much as a groan.
Rodney entered him carefully, taking his time and making sure John was not in pain. The pain was exquisite and exciting but not so much that he wanted to stop. When they were fully joined, Rodney leaned in and John curled up so they could kiss.
Then Rodney was moving, doing something inside him that more than made the pain go away. Rodney put a hand on John and as Rodney's hips stuttered, John came. A few more pushes and Rodney stiffened and warmth bathed John's insides.
In that moment, John understood his part in the City. There was a promise, a blessing, the City sharing itself with them both.
"John!" Rodney's voice held the awe John was feeling.
"I did not know," John replied, stunned. "It's... " John was at a loss for words. He leaned in and kissed Rodney firmly.
"It's beautiful," Rodney said softly. "Like you."
John felt himself blush but pulled Rodney in close, reveling in the closeness. After a moment he felt Rodney get up and then return with a warm washcloth, cleaning them both. Rodney eased into the bed, wrapping himself about John and they fell asleep.
John woke slowly, feeling safe and warm in a way he had not for a long time. He and Rodney lay tangled in each other, more comfortable than he would have thought for two who had not even known the existence of the other a sevenday ago. Now, John could not see his life without Rodney in it.
"Hey!" Rodney said softly. "How are you? You okay?"
"Mmmm..." John agreed. "Very okay."
"We should get up," Rodney suggested. "Not that I want to move."
John moved slightly and flinched at the slight pain in his rear.
"You are not okay!" Rodney protested. "Let me check you out."
"I think, some of the muscle crème and then a day of rest," John countered.
"John..." Rodney protested.
John leaned in and cut off any further protest with a kiss. "I have hurt more from a session with an equine. It is not serious," he soothed.
"Then a warm shower and some breakfast," Rodney countered.
John laughed. "Yes, Rodney."
Rodney checked him out thoroughly but efficiently in the shower. As they finished, Rodney admitted, "I have a... compulsion. One to keep you safe, something I never would have considered before." He wrapped one arm around John's waist and placed the other on his stomach. "I think..."
John concentrated for a moment. "A son. We will have a son..." He looked into shining blue eyes. "Rodney. Thank you."
Rodney leaned in for a kiss. "He will have your eyes," he promised. "And will be loved."
"As I love you," John returned the promise with the kiss.
"Rod-nee..." John whined.
"What?" Rodney turned and looked at John. "What do you want?" John knew the exasperation had a level of fondness underneath it and did not take offense.
John wriggled in the bed and plastered himself against Rodney. "Do you think we have time for a visit to Athosia?" He couldn't hold in the grin. "A vacation maybe?"
"John!" Rodney demanded. "You aren't..."
Inexplicably, a feeling of shyness overcame him. He nodded and wrapped an arm around Rodney's waist.
"John..." Rodney sighed. "You aren't even close to forty anymore."
"Rod-nee..." John brought out the whine.
"That hasn't worked since... Grace, for heaven's sake," Rodney replied calmly. "That was three kids ago."
"Had to try," John mumbled against Rodney's stomach. Then he grinned. "Well? Can we go on vacation?"
Rodney sighed. "Your call, as you know. Can Atlantis spare us for a couple of weeks?"
"Yeah," John replied. "The delegations from Liad and Sateda have to be put off a few days but if we throw in some equines they won't complain... it's what they really want anyway."
"You're right there," Rodney agreed. Even with the work they had done on expanding power grids on planets and making ZedPMs more affordable, the equines from Athosia were a proven, reliable form of transportation as well as making excellent service animals. Giving power to all the planets of Pegasus was a never ending project. Good thing the Ancients had planned for that.
"A boy this time," John said softly. Almost as soon as John conceived, the city could tell them the gender. It wasn't as soon as their first but still amazed them that she could do that. With all they now knew of the City, it shouldn't be quite so amazing but this was personal.
Rodney's eyes lit up. The last three babies had been girls. All adored and all loved but something in Rodney had been hoping for another boy to go with Samsun, their first born. Now twelve, he would be thrilled to finally have a younger brother.
"This has to be the last one," Rodney was firm. "The doctors said last time that you shouldn't get pregnant again."
"City says it's okay," John was firm. And that was the final answer, they both knew.
"The last one," Rodney was adamant.
"Yes, Rodney," John replied dutifully. He leaned in for a kiss, warm and familiar.
John could hear the frustration in that. He grew serious. "If the City had indicated there was the least bit of risk, I would have asked her to sterilize me. Well, after talking with you, of course."
"Better," Rodney huffed.
"It was a long shot anyway," John admitted. "But she said if I did get pregnant it would be fine. We make great kids."
"You could have warned me, you know," Rodney protested mildly.
"Ummm... yeah, sorry," John apologized.
"Last one?" Rodney persisted.
"Last one," John promised.
"So when do we leave on this vacation?" Rodney asked, being practical John knew.
"Soon as we tell the kids," he replied.
"They'll be thrilled," Rodney sounded resigned to the squealing with happiness the girls would be making. Well, little Lizzie might not understand what the fuss was about but she'd follow the example of her older sisters. Samsun would look superior, like he had planned the entire thing himself. Although Rodney probably would be having his own talk with the City, Samsun's connection to the City was strong enough that he might have had some small influence over the entire situation. The City wouldn't do anything dangerous, but it certainly might do something their son wanted if Samsun presented his case properly.
"Love you," John whispered against Rodney's lips.
"You idiot," Rodney replied fondly.