Stepping back through the Stargate was like going back in time.

Back to a place where he wasn't aware of Genii bad guys or shield power stats or the Wraith. To the simplicity of a world with Ice Hockey, Sumatra Mandehling freshly roasted gourmet coffee and plenty of internet porn.

Sheppard seemed like he was having the same kind of revelation. From the looks of the army officials and scientists buzzing around them asking endless questions, neither of them was nearly excited enough about anything.

"Dr. McKay, can you describe to us—"


"We have a working model of—"


"So exactly how does it function, Dr.—"

Were all Rodney heard for hours, in various meeting rooms and labs, hundreds of faceless scientists waving things in front of his face and asking him questions. It was, Rodney knew, the adoration that had been due to him for years, but since they'd passed back through the gate, he simply hadn't been in the mood.

All Rodney could think of was his desire to eat scrambled eggs with hash browns. His quarters at the SGC were bare and military and he hated them. In Atlantis he'd managed to make his room his own, but here he felt like he was living in someone else's truly depressing space. He lay awake all night, eyes open, and when he did dream he was falling, snapping awake and clutching the bed.

It came to a head during a briefing with the White House Chief of Staff. Halfway through, Rodney found himself being kicked awake by a heavy, booted foot. John raised his eyebrow and looked at him pointedly and he sat up quickly. The piece of paper stuck to his face fluttered back to the table.

"I think," said General Hammond solemnly in his office afterwards, "That it might be prudent for you both to have a little time off."

And that was how Rodney found himself and a backpack standing on the side of a dusty road in Colorado with nowhere to go and nothing to do. As luck would have it, at that moment John pulled up in a sleekly purring car and said, "Need a ride?"

Rodney did.


He'd missed mountains, he decided, clutching his backpack to his chest. The sound of the ocean had stopped being soothing a while ago, and now when he heard that rhythmic pulse he felt only a sense of impending doom.

In Colorado, the cold mountain arched over them. Stretched into the distance - unmoving, implacable, strong and reassuring. Rodney stared out of his window, lulled by the blurring rush of sparse gray foliage.

"Where are we going?" he asked after a little while, looking over at John's mirrored sunglasses, at the hand resting casually on the wheel as they rounded the rocky corners.

"Got no plans," John said with an easy shrug.

"Well, you must have some kind of plan," insisted Rodney. "Or else how will you know when you get there?"

He woke up with a gasp as the car went over a pot hole, and realised that the conversation had been a dream. He could still hear John's voice ringing in his ears.

John was tapping his fingers on the steering wheel and looking more relaxed than Rodney had ever seen him.

"Do you ever feel—" Rodney started to say.

"Like we're not really here and this is all the fantasy of weird role-playing aliens-of-the-mist?" John interrupted.


"Sure," said John, with a lazy grin.

Rodney opened his backpack and pulled out a sandwich. "That doesn't bother you? The possibility that this isn't real?"

"Feels real enough," said John, furrowing his brow against the low sun and staring into the distance.

A flock of birds swooped up into the sky and down again. Rodney felt his stomach flutter with them. "Yes, well, so did the last time, and look what happened there." He knocked on the dashboard, three sharp raps, testing for consistency.

"Eat your sandwich," John smiled wryly, resting an elbow on the open window.

Rodney bit down. Peanut butter. Did he remember making this sandwich or was it all another mist-induced hallucination? He shrugged and took another bite. Tasted real enough.


They found a motel after a couple more hours driving. John hadn’t let Rodney take the wheel, and so while Rodney unloaded their meagre belongings into the room, John staked out one of the beds and sprawled across it wearily.

Rodney showered. The plastic curtain stuck clammily to his calves, the tiles were moulding, the water slightly too cool. It felt heavenly.

When he went back into the room, John was asleep, curled on his side still fully dressed. Rodney wondered whether he should cover him up or leave him.

It seemed a ridiculous thing to think. They lived together for months, saved each others lives, and yet Rodney didn't know… what they were.

He towelled his hair dry at the window, watching a couple leave the motel restaurant and wander towards their room. They stopped outside the door, and when they began to kiss, Rodney covered his head with the towel and scrubbed, hard.

He didn't sleep well that night - he'd slept too much during various meetings and the drive here, apparently. John's deep heavy breathing seemed to steal all the relaxation from the room.


Rodney prodded his poached egg. It wobbled.

"Would you either eat that or leave it alone?" John said grumpily, pushing his dry toast around on his plate.

"This is slightly too good to be true," Rodney said, prodding the egg again. The yolk broke and oozed out over the bacon. Rodney felt slightly sick.

"Runny eggs and a splitting headache are too good to be true?" John slid his sunglasses onto his nose.

"I don't have a headache," Rodney said, wrapping his hands around his amazing, wonderful fresh black coffee.

"That makes one of us," John muttered.

"So," Rodney said, pulling out the map he'd bought at the reception desk. "Where are we headed today? I noticed that a few miles back the way we came there is a wonderful—"

John pulled the map out of his hands and tossed it over his shoulder, into the booth behind. "No maps," he insisted. "We're here to relax."

Rodney glared. "How can you possibly relax without a firm plan in place?"

Sheppard raised his eyebrows. "Because I'm not totally anal?"

"Ok, fine, Mr. Free and Easy. We'll do it your way and have no plan, no structure, and get lost and never find our way back again, thereby forcing the Nobel people to give me my award posthumously."

John grinned, sliding out from the booth and tossing some notes onto the tabletop. "Sounds perfect."


John seemed to relax with the driving. The faster he went, the looser his shoulders became – in direct inverse proportion to Rodney's.

Rodney distracted himself by looking out of the window at the passing scenery. And even though it was mostly a case of: oh look, a mountain. And another mountain! Oh, and hey, there's a mountain! it didn't really get old.

He let himself drift, and slowly felt himself falling asleep. John was singing along to the crackling radio as it faded in and out between stations, slightly out of tune, and Rodney could feel his seatbelt digging into his cheek.

They'd brought lunch with them from the diner, and they pulled the car into the side of the road by a flat expanse of wooded land.

"Oh, great, I'm going to get mistaken for a bobcat and shot," Rodney said sourly, pulling out his cold cuts, bread and his almost-empty thermos of coffee.

John, leaning against the side of the car, clapped him on the shoulder and grinned. "Don't worry, Rodney, I'm sure the misty beings wouldn't do that to you." He stole a slice of Rodney's ham and tipped his head back, watching the sky. "Besides, I don't think it's bobcat season anyway."

Rodney laid his jacket on the ground, over the yellow scratchy grass and sat down. "Oh, like you'd know."

They drank in the silence. It was so quiet, so vast that you could almost hear the clouds moving across the sky.

"What I want to know is… If this is all not real," said Rodney, scuffling to flick a bug off his sleeve, "whose fantasy is it? Yours or mine?"

John lowered his hand from his eyes as the sun went behind a cloud. "You never know," he said lazily, with an edge of sarcasm. "Maybe they decided to be really efficient and we're both in the same reality."

Rodney shook his head jerkily. "I mean, realistically this is probably your fantasy, because you get to hang out with me. Clearly, I would not choose to spend my time risking my life with your death-defying driving," he took a bite of bread and chewed, thinking it over. "In which case, I wonder what the real me is fantasising about right now? I mean, I could be having sex with Pamela Anderson or something."

John raised an eyebrow. "You'd fantasise about having sex with Pamela Anderson?"

Rodney scowled uncomfortably. "You know what I mean."

John grinned and stuffed his hands in his pockets.


That night, the motel room sign was right outside their bedroom window, lighting up their room like fireworks, so Rodney couldn't sleep again. It flashed on and off all night: ROOMS AVAILABLE!

John was snoring slightly in a highly obnoxious way, and Rodney spent the night huffing and turning over loudly in an attempt to wake him up. It didn't work.


On day three John decided to veer off the main road, and they found a lake with a pebbly shore. Rodney fell asleep in the sun beside it, and John skimmed stones.

Rodney dreamt they were back in Atlantis. A cool, empty Atlantis, filled with water like a swimming pool. The top of the gate peeked out from the clear ripples, and Elizabeth floated past with long hair like a mermaid.

John drifted up to him and put a cold wet hand on his shoulder, smiling. Even though they were in the gate room, Rodney could feel the open sky above them.

Rodney woke up slowly. The zipper on his jacket was digging into his cheek where he was using it for a pillow. John's hip was next to his face. He listened to the sound of wind brushing through the leaves on the trees.

"I don't think I've slept so much in my entire life," he said, dry-mouthed. John handed him a bottle of water.

"You were talking in your sleep."

"Oh," said Rodney, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. "What did I say?"

Sheppard looked at him solemnly. "Well, let's just say I had no idea you felt that way about Kavanagh."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Very funny."

"No, honestly, Rodney. I think you two will make a lovely couple," he grinned and shifted his feet on the pebbles.


That night, Rodney drank four glasses of wine with dinner, and stumbled back to the hotel room with John's arm around his shoulder.

"I'm perfectly fine," he insisted, stumbling into the room and sitting down heavily on the bed. John went into the bathroom and switched on the light, spilling a square of white over Rodney's bed and into his eyes. He groaned and put his arm over his face.

He had a vivid dream that night. They were being stalked by the Wraith, who had found earth, but were waiting to reveal their presence until they had murdered John and Rodney first.

Their heavy tread moved carefully through the motel parking lot, along the hallways, skirting the other rooms. They were about to break the door down on John and Rodney when—

"Rodney!" John shook his shoulder firmly and Rodney sat up, breath heaving. "Hey, it's ok," John said, palms on Rodney's shoulders. "It's fine, we're safe."

Rodney made an effort to slow his breathing, and looked around the room. John had snapped the light on, and the dull fluorescence made everything look very ugly and very cheap and very very non-threateningly normal.

"Sorry," Rodney said, eyes wide. "God, sorry. I don't know what's—"

"Hey, it's cool."

"No, it's not, I—," Rodney looked down at his hands, then at John's easy posture, sitting there casually. "We have to be back there the day after tomorrow."

The smile faded from John's face. "I know," he said. "More briefings."

"Elizabeth will want us to go through applications for staffing our teams."

"And we'll need to start making preparations to return – supplies, weapons—"

"I need to update my computer."

John looked down at his bare feet. "I need to go see Ford's family."

"God," Rodney looked down at John's feet as well. It seemed bizarre to be discussing this when everything in this room was so mundane, right down to the ugly, patterned carpet. "So what you're saying is…"

"Tonight and tomorrow night and that's it," John said, eyes meeting Rodney's. "Then back to—"

"The real world."

"Yeah," John breathed, and kissed him.

John's lips were dry, his eyes closed, palm coming up to cup Rodney's jaw. It was as slow and languorous as the past few days, like lying beside that lake listening to the water gently lapping against the shore.

John pushed Rodney back onto the bed and Rodney locked an arm tight around John's neck, pushing his tongue into John’s mouth, giving something back. John tasted like coffee, rich and dark and heart-racing, and Rodney felt like he could never have enough of him. Wanted, in that moment, to taste all of John. To turn him over, pin him down and slide his mouth from John’s arching neck to the soles of his feet.

John's body pushed him into the lumpy motel mattress, hot breath ghosting over Rodney's upper lip as he groaned, a hand in between them pushing up under the warmth of Rodney’s t-shirt, nails teasing his ribs, making him shiver.

"God—" Rodney gasped, and then moved, urging John onto his back, climbing over him, sliding a knee between John's.

Briefly, Rodney wondered if this was another dream. A vivid, surround-sound, porn-movie dream. John arched under him, his free hand skimming Rodney's side, pushing under the elastic of his boxers, sliding his palm slowly downwards.

"Not that I'm easy--" Rodney gasped, "But why didn't we do this straight away?"

John sat up, Rodney straddling his hips, and tugged his t-shirt off over his head, leaving his hair in even more disarray than usual. Leaning forward, he pushed Rodney’s t-shirt up over his belly and leant in, pressing biting kisses to his stomach. Rodney rested his hands on John’s shoulders.

"Because you're not that bright?" he mumbled against Rodney’s skin.

Rodney only got out "Hey!--" before John shut him up the most effective way possible, by sliding a hand deep into the waistband of Rodney’s boxers.

“Oh—oh, okay,” Rodney said absently. “That must be it.”

John tugged Rodney’s boxers down around his thighs, and Rodney only had a second to feel embarrassed before he felt John’s hand teasing his cock, brushing lightly over the tip. He looked down at messy-haired, sleepy-eyed John and closed his eyes, wondering how he made it to this place, after everything that had passed.

He felt John’s hands cup his ass and urge him up and he lifted himself on to his knees, not realising what John was doing until he felt his dick slide wetly along John’s cheek, and glanced down to see John lean back slightly and then take him in his mouth, deep.

John’s cheeks flushed and hollowed, and Rodney almost came at the sight. He leant his arm on the wall over the bed, leaning forward slightly, unable to stop his hips from pressing forward, forcing John to take him deeper, and focussed on the picture hung over the headboard - a hideous landscape filled with yet more mountains. The scene blurred as he felt John’s tongue curl around him.

Rodney groaned and John echoed, speeding up, not waiting for anything, giving him all the acceleration that Rodney hated in his driving. It was hot and wet and better than anything Rodney had ever experienced, including seeing that ZPM during the siege—

Rodney closed his eyes at a sudden lurch of remembered fear from his dream, then breathed deep and let go, curling a hand into John's hair, running it down over the soft skin of John’s neck, his shoulder, gripping tightly.

Rodney felt a hand brush the inside of his thigh, fumbling, and realised that John was pulling himself out, gripping his cock, one hand resting on Rodney’s ass.

Rodney wanted this to never end, wanted to come right now, God— and felt his hips begin to move, to thrust into John’s mouth, some darker part of him wanting to hold John’s head still, to take his mouth harder— deeper—

John's hand sped up and the whole bed creaked and rustled and Rodney closed his eyes and pictured John jerking off over him, coming on him, coming in his mouth— and came.

He felt a warm pulse at almost the same moment, and John groaned, the hot vibrations of his mouth around Rodney's dick pulling aftershocks out of him.

John held Rodney in his mouth for a moment longer, swallowing, and then rested his head on Rodney's hip bone.

Rodney's hand gentled in John's hair and John pulled his hand out of his boxers, wiping in on the side of the bedspread. Rodney reached down and lifted the hand to his mouth, running his tongue in between John's fingers.

John laughed against his stomach as his fingers curled. He tipped his head back against Rodney's stomach, looking up at him.

"Come back here," John said, tugging on the hand he held. Rodney shuffled down the bed and collapsed next to him while John leant back and snapped off the light. Rodney felt the depression of the pillow as John laid his head back down.

They kissed long and slow and, somewhere in the middle, fell asleep.


"If we were in the misty people's fantasy," Rodney said that morning around his toothbrush, "They're clearly a lot more perverted than we realised."

John came up behind him and lifted a towel to Rodney's head, scrubbing his wet hair, "Well they can't get laid very often," he pointed out. "They're mist people. They must find it really difficult to, you know—"

Rodney grinned and pushed the towel away, hair everywhere, leaning over to spit into the sink. "I can tell you've put a lot of thought into this."

John smiled, hanging the towel around his neck and generally looking like every straight woman and gay man's fantasy ever. "It may have occurred to me."

Rodney turned around and kissed him, pulling the towel away from John's hips and palming them lightly.

"We'd be dead by now, anyway," John said into his mouth.

Rodney frowned and pulled away. "What?"

"If we were in that fantasy. We'd have died from dehydration by now. We'd be dead."

He tucked his face into the curve of Rodney's shoulder and inhaled, biting lightly.

Rodney swallowed and tipped his head back. "Are you sure we aren't?" he asked, closing his eyes.


They turned around and started driving south again, back the way they had come. The landscape was a familiar rush now, and Rodney listened to the radio, hummed along to the oldies he recognised, argued vehemently with the obnoxious and stupid talk show segment, and then calmed down when John switched back over to the classical station.

Rodney fell asleep to The Lark Ascending and didn't dream, and when he woke up he felt more rested than he had in days.

That night, in their hotel room – with two beds, out of habit – Rodney fucked John slowly, first in one of the beds, John pulling the sheet off the mattress, and then again in the shower, hot water cascading over them, steaming up the room, John's bare wet foot running up Rodney's calf.

Afterwards Rodney sleepily insisted that this was definitely a porno flick for the misty people, and when John asked if he was complaining, he wrapped a leg over John's, tucked his face into John's neck and fell asleep like a light going off.


They drove towards Cheyenne Mountain at a very restrained pace for John, and didn't arrive until the sun was going down.

Rodney's stomach had been knotting up ever since he saw the big metal gates in the distance. As he stared out of the car window at the brightly glowing sunset he thought about setting off, just a few days ago. The earth that they had returned to then was not the same place as the one they were approaching now.

This caused a mental tangent about the possibility of alternate realities existing within one cohesive reality, and Rodney idly plotted out a paper on the subject as John pulled up to the white metal barriers and flashed his ID.

He'd call it "Beyond M-theory: Alternative realities and boundary conditions”, he decided, as the cool interior of the mountain swallowed them whole.


"Ah, gentlemen, there you are," said Elizabeth with a smile, waving them over. Rodney smiled awkwardly and realised he would have to remember what it was like to be Dr. Rodney McKay again quickly.

"Elizabeth," said John, smiling and kissing her on the cheek.

"How was your time away?" she asked, leading them down the gray corridor. "Restful, I hope?"

Rodney was filled with a sudden intense visual flashback to John in his dream - skin and cold water against Rodney's mouth, John's hands - and almost dropped his bag.

"Yeah, it was great," John said.

"Good," she stopped outside a set of double doors and paused, looking at them both carefully, steadily. It was such a familiar expression that Rodney smiled, for real this time. "Are you sure you're ready to get back into it?"

Rodney looked at John, a different John to the one he had been with twenty minutes ago in the underground parking garage – "This can't—I mean—we can't—" and "I know" – and then turned to Elizabeth with a broad smile.

"As we'll ever be," he said, shouldering his pack.

"Excellent," she said, patting them both on the shoulder. "Well, they're waiting for you," she pushed open the doors, saying. "Mr President, I'd like to present Dr. Rodney McKay and Major John Sheppard…"