Choices III
The Real World

Orithain and Rina

November 2009

Disclaimers: We only wish they were ours. Sadly, this is as close as weíre going to get.

"Jennifer Amber McKay-Andrews, get out of that bathroom this instant; your bus is due in ten minutes," Rodney hollered up the stairs before ducking around a sleepily stumbling Michael, who made a bee-line for the cereal cabinet, pouring a bowlful of sugar-coated goodness and splashing milk on it before plopping down at the kitchen table and staring at it as if heíd forgotten what he was supposed to do with it.

"You. Eat." Rodney commanded, pouring him a glass of cranberry juice and himself another mug of coffee. "Bus or drop off today?"

Michaelís answer was confounded by his mouthful of cereal, but Rodney nodded. "Fine, then I want you dressed and ready in half an hour, and donít make so much noise you wake John up."

"You mean as much noise as you just made yelling up the stairs?" Jen asked as she walked into the kitchen, still fluffing her hair. She grabbed a breakfast bar from the box on the counter and shoved it in her bag.

"I wouldnít have had to yell up the stairs if you had been ready, now would I?" he countered, shuffling a stack of folders into his attache case.

"It still wasnít quiet. And I think Johnís going to get used to this place in the morning," she added as she grabbed a glass to pour herself some orange juice. "He lives here now."

"Really? I never would have guessed that," Rodney gasped.

"Too early for sarcasm, Dad," Michael grumbled.

"And yes, John will get used to it, but itís only been a couple of weeks, and youíve only been back in school three days, so weíll give him a break for now."

"This is a break?" John groaned from the doorway, raking a hand through even messier than usual hair. His sweats hung from lean hips, and he scratched his bare chest, clearly more asleep than awake. "A herd of elephants makes less noise than you three." He grabbed Rodneyís coffee right out of his hands and took a long swallow.

"Sorry." Rodney didnít grumble over the loss of his coffee; he merely hugged John and kissed his temple. "Weíll be gone soon, and you can go back to sleep."

"Morning, John," Michael mumbled as he carried his bowl and glass to the sink then wandered upstairs to get dressed.

"Brush your teeth!" Rodney shouted after him.

John eyed Rodney blearily. "Volume control would be a good thing." But he was leaning on Rodney as he said it.

"As would Michael not going to school with Loch Ness Monster breathóJen, five minutes," Rodney continued without looking at the clock.

"You do this every morning?"

"Unless I have an early meeting; then I set multiple alarm clocks."

John blinked at him. "You have my greatest admiration."

"Of course," Rodney smirked, "until you get a job, if I have early meetings, I have you to get them up."

"You are a sick and sadistic man, and Iím calling the university this morning!"

"Wimp," Rodney laughed, giving Jen a hug as she grabbed her bookbag and passed him by on the way out the door. "Do you have practice tonight?" he called after her.

"No, Jeffís coming over to study. I told you about this, Dad!"

"Oh, so I finally get to meet him?" John said, smiling evilly.

"He survived Dad; heíll survive you," she answered pertly, darting out the door.

"No running him off, heís at least articulate," Rodney commented as he took his coffee back from John and walked over to the counter to drop a bagel in the toaster. "I have a lecture until four; you going to be okay alone with them?"

John shrugged. "I survived this summer; Iím sure Iíll manage a couple of hours today. Want me to start anything for dinner?"

"Youíve survived two weeks of them being home, mostly with me here," Rodney corrected, "But Iím sure youíll be fine. And sure, the van keys are on the hook if we need anything."

"I was asking for requests," John said, stealing Rodneyís coffee again. "I got tired of eating out, so I learned to cook in self defense years ago. Burgers and salad?" he suggested in deference to the early September heat.

"Sounds great, just remember that Michael eats enough for two, and if Jeff stays, he eats even more," Rodney chuckled before glancing toward the stairs. "Michael! Ten minutes!"

"And you, of course, pick at your food like a bird. Right." Finally awake enough to focus, John dropped another bagel in the other side of the toaster and went over to the fridge to get the cream cheese.

"Very amusing," Rodney sniffed as his bagel popped up, and he flipped it onto a plate before slathering it with cream cheese and grape jelly.

"That is disgusting," John announced yet again, watching Rodney while waiting for his own bagel to finish toasting, a tub of herb and garlic-flavored cream cheese open, ready to spread as soon as it did.

"Youíd better kiss me now because Iím not going near you once you eat that," Rodney announced between bites of his bagel.

"So much for true love," John laughed, waiting till Rodney swallowed before leaning in to give him a very thorough kiss.

"Dad, youíre gonna make me late," Michael announced as he swung into the kitchen, a Syracuse ball cap on his head and his backpack on his back.

"So take the bus," Rodney chuckled, pulling back to grin at John, who mouthed Ďtake meí at him.

"Behave, some of us have to work," Rodney laughed, giving John a final hug before stepping back to swat Michael on the rear. "And some of us have school."

"And some of us need to make phone calls and emails to get work." John watched them leave, a smile curving a lips.

"Well, another morningís lectures survived," Rodney commented as he leaned against the doorway to Radekís office. "For the students I mean, of course."

"Of course. And did you make it without making anyone cry today?"

"Sadly, yes, I must be slipping," Rodney sighed.

"Iím sure itís all Johnís fault."

"I have to agree with you; Iím going to have to yell at him about that when I get home. What about you? Reduce any to groveling with that infamous first day equation?"

Radek smirked. "Three dropped before the end of the lecture."

"The student finally surpasses the teacher, but donít worry; Iíll beat you in the total number to drop the class. Now, are we going to lunch, or do you have to check in with the little woman?"

"I hope you call Elizabeth that when Iím around to see it. And film it." Radek closed his work and stood up. "Lunch would be good."

"Haha, I have a trained military man to guard my body now," Rodney smirked. "I donít have to hide from Elizabeth or Laura any longer."

Radek laughed. "The man knows tactics. You think heís going to take on an enraged, hormonal woman?"

"If he wants to get laid, he will. Now come on; Iím starving."

Laughing, Radek followed Rodney out of the office, locking the door behind him. "It took us some time, but we all ended up together, just the way we imagined back then. Congratulations."

Rodneyís smiled softened at that, and a passing admin stared at him in shock. "Sometimes it feels like a dream," he admitted.

"But a good one, yes?" Radek chuckled at Rodneyís almost besotted expression. "But it must be a difficult adjustment for all of you, even so."

"Why would you think that?" Rodney asked, frowning. "Nothingís changed other than the fact that Johnís living with us."

Radek stared at him. "Yes, exactly my point."

"What point? No, never mind, you donít have one." Rodney waved a hand in dismissal as they walked out of the building and across an open quad toward the faculty dining room.

Radek shook his head, thinking that Rodney was in for a rude awakening sometime soon, but he let it go, knowing that he wasnít going to be able to convince his friend of that. Instead they discussed theories and whether there were any students actually worth their time this semester.

"Hey there. Iím on my way to pick Michael up from football, and weíll be home after. Do we need anything?"

Expecting a call back from one of the places heíd sent his resume to, it took John a moment to adjust. "Oh, Rodney. Um, not that I know of but itís not like I took inventory." He glanced over at the clock. "Huh. I guess Iíll call it quits for the afternoon and go get stuff ready for dinner. See you when you get here."

"Yeah, right," Rodney closed his cell and clipped it back to his belt, frowning slightly before grabbing it again and hitting redial. "Never mind making dinner, weíll pick something up on the way home. Mama Pís all right with you?"

There was a moment of silence. "Um, okay, I guess we can have the burgers tomorrow." There was the sound of rustling as John clearly began putting things away again.

"Or would you rather cook? You sounded sort of out of it, so I thought it might be easier..."

John shrugged even though Rodney couldnít see it. "Itís no big deal to throw a salad and a few burgers together."

"All right, I just thoughtówell, never mind, we should be home in half an hour or soóis Jeff still there?"

"Yeah, I donít think heís going to come out till you get home," John chuckled.

"Scare him that much, did you?"

"Who me? Iím a pussycat. Meow."

"Pull the other one, John," Rodney snorted.

"Okay, so I might have been wearing the uniform. With sidearm."

Rodney snickered at that. "Iím surprised Jen didnít pull it and shoot you in the foot."

"She did mutter something about that," John admitted, chuckling. "Right before she stomped on my foot."

"Thatís my girl!"

John laughed. "Yeah, she obviously can take care of herself, and God help the guy who tries to make her do anything she doesnít want to. And if you donít mind, for my own peace of mind, weíre going to pretend that she doesnít want to do anything," he added hastily.

"Fine with me, thatís exactly what I doóthough at least you didnít have to sit through the eye-rolling when we had the Ďsafe sexí talk." Rodney pulled the car into the middle school parking lot and parked near the practice field, waving when Michael looked over from the bunch of boys he was standing with. "And here comes my little jock, better go; weíll be home in about ten minutesóand have Jen and Jeff help fix dinner; frustration is good for them." He smirked slightly at the last then let out an Ďoofí as Michael tossed his backpack at him.

John chuckled. "See you soon," he said before disconnecting. He stuck his head out of the kitchen and yelled, "Jen! Come help with dinner! Your dad and Michael will be home in a few minutes."

There was a momentís silence, then a burst of laughter from upstairs followed by the sound of footsteps on the stairs as Jen descended, followed by Jeff, a tall, lean, dark-haired teen. "I was wondering when you were going to shanghai us," she commented as they entered the kitchen. "How about I do the salad and Jeff helps with the burgers?"

"Sounds good," John replied agreeably while eyeing her slightly mussed hair askance. "For future reference, could you take pity on a guy whoís new to this fathering stuff and brush your hair before you come down?" He gave the teens a toothy smile, and Jeff flushed.

"I will if you and Dad do," Jen laughed.

"Rodney doesnít have enough to bother, and you wouldnít be able to tell with mine."

"The stubble burn kinda gives it away though."

Jeff snickered, his expression sobering when he saw John looking at him. "What can I do to help, sir?" he asked.

John eyed him for a moment longer, making Jeff fidget nervously and Jen glare at John warningly. "You can slice onions and tomatoes for the burgers."

"Yessir." Darting a glance at Jen, Jeff gathered the produce and carried the tomatoes over to the sink to rinse them.

John grinned, and Jen threatened to throw a slice of cucumber at him. "Stop it or Iíll keep interrupting you and Dad!"

"Do it and Iíll ground you till youíre collecting social security!" John yelped.

"That would mean Iíd stay with you and Dad until then," she said sweetly.

"On second thought, Jeff, how do you feel about marriage?"

"To you, sir?" He gave a lightning quick grin before going back to his slicing.

John laughed. "I think Jenís dad might have an issue with that. I was thinking more along the lines of a nice Appalachian teenage ceremony. Jen would look lovely in white."

"You want to give Dad a heart attack?" Jen laughed. "We donít mention the word grandkids around him."

"Youíll notice I very carefully didnít mention it myself. I was thinking youíd make a lovely virgin wife." He grinned as he made patties, piling them on a plate.

Now Jen did throw a slice of cucumber at him. "Iíve heard the stories Aunt Laura tells about you two." Through it all Jeff was carefully arranging the onions and tomatoes, staying out of the line of vegetable fire.

"Ah, but weíre the parents. Do as we say, not as we did."

Jeff sputtered with laughter, his shoulders shaking while Jen raised the salad bowl, hefting it experimentally. "Youíd look good in Romaine, John."

"Iíd look like an insane version of Julius Caesar," John laughed.

"Better those than a fig leaf."

"Iím long past the age for toga parties and losing the togas." John finished making the burgers and started carrying them out to the grill. "How do you like yours, Jeff?"

"Rare, sir," was the prompt reply.

"Incoming!" came a shout from the front hallway before Michael shot into the kitchen, rummaging through the pantry and emerging with a handful of chips. Rodney followed at a more sedate pace, grinning when he saw them all. "So, I see everyone survived."

"Yup." John grinned back over his shoulder. "Jen hasnít even felt the need to threaten me for at least five minutes."

"Other than with the salad," she reminded him.

"At least it isnít a deadly weapon. How are you, Jeff?"

"Relatively unscathed, Dr. McKay."

"I didnít even lurk outside the room when they were upstairs," John put in. "Arenít you proud of me?"

"You get a gold star," Rodney laughed. "And you, no more chips, dinner will be ready soon.

"Especially since we all take them rare. Do we want to eat outside?"

"Yes!" Michael shouted.

"And there we have an answer. Michael, wash your hands, and weíll get the table set." Rodney walked over to the sink, catching John around the waist to give him a hug and kiss on the way.

John was smiling as he went outside to put the burgers on.

"Arenít they cute?" Jen whispered loudly to Jeff.

"Just as long as you donít expect me to find a guy to kiss as well," he snickered.

"You can just stick to me!"

"Fine with me," he grinned, giving her a quick kiss while Rodney had his head in the pantry, gathering up paper plates and holders.

"Ewww, Dad, theyíre kissing!" Michael yelled.

"So long as thatís all theyíre doing, thatís fine," he shouted back, stepping back to carry the plates over to the island.

"Youíll appreciate it when you get older, Squirt," Jeff grinned.

"Heíd appreciate it if Kate kissed him," Jen added.

Michael yelled and launched himself at her, and Rodney ducked out the sliding door.

"Theyíre brawling; Iím running for safety," he announced, slinging an arm around Johnís waist as they stood by the grill.

"I think we need a cattle prod. And did you think to grab the cheese, or do we have to brave them again?"

"Do I look like I have cheese?"

"Plain hamburgers are good too," John said after more yelling from inside the house.

"Good answer, I always knew you were smart."

"Too smart to go in there," John agreed, sliding more of the patties onto the grill.

"Of course, weíll have to go back inside to get drinks..."

John eyed the hose before saying, "They have to stop eventually, donít they?"

"Watch." Rodney turned and looked toward the house, waiting for a crescendo before opening his mouth. "You have until the count of three. One... Two..."

"Need something, Dad?" Jen asked, popping her head out and smiling brightly.

"Thatís impressive," John said to Rodney. "Cheese!" he called to Jen. "And everything else for that matter."

"Slave driver!" Michael shouted in return.

"And a very good one," Rodney laughed, giving John another kiss.

"Should I wear my uniform for you tonight?"

Rodneyís nose wrinkled, and he shook his head. "No thanks."

"Sorry." John slid an arm around Rodneyís waist and hugged him.

"Me too, just a sore spot."

"Here we come, stop making out," Michael called, nudging the door open and carrying out a tray with the cheese, tomatoes and onions on it.

"We can still do that when youíre out here," John retorted.

"If you can, we can," Jen commented as she and Jeff joined them, bringing glasses, bottles of soda, and an ice bucket.

"Like I said earlier, do as we say, not as we do," John retorted.

"You guys are going to make me sick," Michael moaned.

"The boy has no romance in his soul," John said, shaking his head sadly.

"I coulda told you that!" Jen exclaimed.

"Give him a few years," Rodney laughed when Michael stuck his tongue out at them.

"At least you didnít have two girls. I donít think I could survive."

"Sounds like fun to me," Jeff teased before wincing when Jen elbowed him in the side. "Kidding!"

"Geez, even I know better than to say something like that!" Michael exclaimed.

John started laughing so hard that he almost dropped the lifter. "Oh yeah, you have the right temperament to date a McKay!"

"Oh, give me the cheese," Rodney laughed, taking the plate and laying slices on three of the burgers.

"Good man." John leaned over and kissed him quickly.

"Weíre hard to find."

"I dunno, I see three here," Jen grinned.

"Hey!" Michael glared at her. "Four!"

"Youíre not a man."

"A man-in-training," Rodney qualified while Jeff nudged Michael on the side.

"Then youíd better train him right."

"I think we can handle it," John said, sitting down and starting to eat.

The others quickly joined him, passing condiments and bottles back and forth and settled in to eat, interspersing bites with comments about their day.

"So," John said offhandedly, "I have an interview with the dean at Cornell tomorrow."

Three sets of blue eyes turned to fix on him.

"Thatís great!"

"All right!"

"Heís an idiot, but he appreciates talent."

"Another of your many enemies?" John asked wryly.

"Why would you think that?"

"Well, I hope you donít call your friends idiots."

"He does," Michael confided.

"He calls Uncle Carson and Uncle Radek that all the time," Jen nodded.

"Good point. Maybe Iíll just not mention I know you till after the interview, just to be on the safe side."

"Gee, Iím feeling the love here."

"Not at the dinner table, dear," John said, tongue in cheek.

"Haha, and didnít you just send in your resume today?"

"I emailed it this morning, and he called this afternoon."

"Obviously had enough of being around the house, eh?"

John shrugged. "I took a couple weeks to get used to the idea of being out of the Air Force. Now itís time to find what Iím going to do with the rest of my life." He wasnít aware of the wistful glance he cast upward.

Rodney caught the gaze but didnít say anything, and Jeff jumped in to fill the lag in the conversation. "What do you teach?"

"Math. Ideally, advanced n-dimensional geometry, but I doubt Iíll be hired to teach grad courses right away."

"I should have guessed Dr. McKay would pick someone smart; I wondered about R-"

"Anyone want more salad?" Jen asked quickly.

John snapped off a bite of his burger, looking annoyed.

"Hint, Jeff, donít mention that name," Michael whispered loudly.

"It kinda freaks John out," Jen added.

Rodney nodded and squeezed Johnís thigh under the table. "And weíd like to keep him happy."

John smiled wryly, well aware that he was a little nuts when it came to Robert but unable to do anything about it. "You do that very well."

"More sap," Michael groaned.

"Your life is such a trial," Rodney cooed with mock sympathy after squeezing Johnís leg again.

"I am definitely looking forward to his first girlfriend."

Once dinner was over, the leftovers cleaned up, the dishes put away, and the children off to their own pursuits, Rodney and John wandered back out to the deck to enjoy the cooler evening air. "So where else did you send your resume?"

"The airlines that work out of this area and a couple other schools in commuting distance. And the local high school." John made a face at the last. "I think thatís the worst of the bunch."

"I wouldnít know if I should pity you or Jen more if you got a job there." Rodney chuckled.

John laughed. "Oh, come on, isnít it every teenagerís dream to have a parent right there in school with them?"

"Oh, sure it is." Rodney leaned forward on the railing and shook his head. "Iím not sure which of you would survive it."

"Iím voting for mutual assured destruction."

"How about we avoid that, then," Rodney suggested. "Thereís more than one high school in town, so Iím sure we can find a way if it comes to that, though youíd be wasted teaching in high schoolóthey donít have the level classes you can deal with."

"I know. Iím really hopeful about this interview tomorrow. Itíd be perfect." John leaned on the railing next to Rodney, also looking out at the yard and inhaling the scent of the blue spruce in the back corner.

"Iím amazed you got one so factónot for any lack of skill on your partóbut generally it takes a lot longer to get through the layers of bureaucracy."

"The man I spoke to, Dr. Mathews, said that theyíre looking to fill a vacancy in the department. Apparently one of the professors was deported?"

"Deported? Oh, wonderful."

"Yeah, I decided not to ask. His loss is my gain."

"True, though I just think youíre scared of the thought of having to get the kids up one morning if Iím not here," Rodney turned his head to look at John, smirking slightly.

"Iím sure you werenít exactly an expert your first month with them," John pointed out.

"I think youíve got it a little easier than I did then," Rodney snorted.

"True, they can both talk, and I have you to hide behind."

"Even though you tend to get distracted when youíre back there."

"I havenít noticed you complaining," John chuckled.

"That would be because Iím not."

"Oh good, you had me worried for a minute there."

"John, the only time I donít want you behind me is when Iím behind you."

"I hope weíll be doing one of those fairly soon."

"In a few hoursóif youíre lucky." Rodney grinned at the last. "Though you have a job interview tomorrow; I shouldnít tire youóoh my god, do you have a suit to wear?"

"I have dress pants and a sports jacket." John shrugged. "I havenít needed a suit in twenty years."

"Do you want to go get one? The mallís open for a few more hours."

John eyed him. "Youíre not going to relax unless I do, are you? Okay, fine. Weíll go to the mall."

"I simply want you to look your best!" Rodney protested.

"I know and I do appreciate it. I just hate shopping."

"If Jeff goes home, weíll bring Jen; sheíll be in heaven."

John shuddered. "A teenage girl in a mall. Even I know thatís just asking for trouble. And bankruptcy."

"Good thing I have a decent bank account then," Rodney laughed.

"Does that mean youíre going to buy me presents like a good sugar daddy?"

"Do they involve silk boxers?"

"That sounds like fun."

"It does, doesnít it?"

"What does?" Jen asked, coming out to stand beside them. "Jeff had to go home, and the squirtís finishing his homework."

"Your dad decided I need a new suit for my interview tomorrow, so weíre heading over to the mall. Care to join us?" John invited in what he considered the bravest action of his life.

"Of course! The thought of what the two of you might pick out scares me." She shuddered theatrically.

"Ha ha. Weíre two gay men. We should have better taste than you."

"John, you lived in uniforms the past twenty years, and if Dad had his way, heíd go to work in boxers and a t-shirt," Jen laughed. "Youíre the anti-gays when it comes to fashion!"

"I think she just insulted us, Rodney."

Rodney snorted out a laugh at that. "Nothing I havenít heard a million times before."

"Thatís Ďcause itís true," Jen retorted. "I love you, Dad, but youíre a fashion disaster."

"Iím not arguing the fact. Now, letís get your brother and get going."

"Youíve done this more than once?" John muttered to Rodney half an hour later. "Iím already exhausted."

"You missed the back-to-school extravaganza when you were in Antarctica," Rodney sighed. "Just nod and try on what she gives you, and you wonít lose any blood."

"Did you ever try pointing out to her that the parents are supposed to be in charge?" John hissed at him, smiling quickly when Jennifer looked over.

"Of course, she laughed at me and patted my hand."

"Iím doomed!"

"Just smile and nod, dear, and Iíll fix you a brandy when we get home."

"John, come try this on!" Jen called.

With a pained smile, John went over to her, taking the hanger she thrust at him while Rodney and Michael stood there and watched, grinning identical grins.

"I bet youíre glad sheís got someone else to dress up other than you," Michael snickered, and Rodney gave him a rough hug.

"Youíre just glad she hasnít latched on to you for it yet."

"Nah, Iím just a brother. She wonít be bothered with me," Michael said. "Itís all you and John."

"So you think..."

Michael gave his father a baleful stare. "No siccing her on me to save yourself!"

"You forget my first rule of parenting, Michael; make yourself the smaller target!"

"Youíre supposed to protect your kids!"

"Says who?"

"The good parenting handbook!"

"Do we need to send you two to separate corners?" John asked, coming toward them as he buttoned the suit jacket, and Rodney simply stared.

"Stop drooling, Dad," Michael muttered.

Johnís lips slowly curved into a smile. "I think Iíll take it."

"Told you so," Jen crowed. "Dad, no staining the suit tonight!"

"I think I can restrain myself," Rodney muttered though the hungry look in his eyes said differently.

"At least till we get home," John murmured, his eyes still on Rodneyís.

"Go change, John, so we can pay and go home," Jen laughed, giving him a small push toward the dressing room.

"Are you sure you werenít a drill sergeant in a previous life?" John asked, grinning at her and ducking into the changing room when she pretended to swat at him.

Once the suit was paid for and wrapped up, they headed out to the van and started for home. "Hey Dad," Michaelís tone was at his wheedling best. "Custard?"

"Itís on the way," Jen added.

"And what have you two done to deserve it?"

"I picked out Johnís suit!"

"I didnít complain about shopping!"

"And I went shopping," John put in, adding puppy dog eyes to the artillery aimed at Rodney.

"Oh my god, now I have three of you to deal with!" Rodney groaned even as he steered the van into the parking lot of their favorite custard place, Michael hopping out before the engine was even turned off.

"But I have ways of making it worth your while," John pointed out, laughing, while Jennifer followed Michael to the window.

"And how can you do that when youíre in a food coma?"

"From a single frozen custard? I donít think so."

Rodney pointed at the mounding bowl of frozen dessert Michael now had in his hands. "Does that answer your question?"

"Holy crap! We can share one. Wait a minute." John eyed him suspiciously. "Thereís no way youíre going to convince me that a teenage girl is going to eat that many calories. They have to have different sizes."

"Not all teenage girls are anorexic twits, my daughter among them!" Rodney protested before giving in and laughing. "Yes, they have smaller sizes."

"Thank God! That thing Michael has is bigger than some babies Iíve seen!"

"Youíre just jealous because you couldnít eat it all," Michael smirked around a mouthful of chocolate.

"I donít think I could have eaten all that when I was a teenager." John watched him with a kind of horrified fascination. "I hope you brought a wheelbarrow to get him home again, Rodney."

"You could make him run behind the van," Jen suggested.

"Three double Whoppers," Rodney commented as he ordered a small cone for himself.

"Not pure sugar!" John retorted, shaking his head after another glance at Michael. He read through the options and ordered a cone as well, and Rodney dug out his wallet to pay.

"You ate three double Whoppers?" Michael goggled.

"It was a very long time ago, and it was football season." Johnís look at Rodney promised retribution.

"Cool!"

"Just donít ask him to do it now," Rodney chuckled, "we donít need to spend the night in the emergency room."

"I donít think it would stay down long enough for that to be an issue," John said dryly.

"Oh, thatís so gross!" Jen shrieked, shuddering. "I think I lost my appetite."

"Iíll take yours," Michael offered, and Rodney reached out to bat away the hand he raised to grab Jenís cone.

"No, a gallon of sugar is enough for you for the evening."

"Remember when I mentioned locking us in our room?" John muttered to Rodney.

"There wouldnít be a house left when we came out."

"I hate it when youíre logical."

Jen and Michael laughed and high-fived each other, and Rodney grinned. "But youíll live with it."

"I wouldnít have it any other way," John agreed, stealing a quick kiss, and Michael mimed gagging, resulting in Jen smacking him on the back of his head.

"Donít start, you two," Rodney warned.

"I was standing up for you, Dad!" Jen protested, and John took a bite of his custard, not wanting to get caught in that.

"Be that as it may, donít hit your brother, or he might put dye in your hair gel again."

Jenís eyes widened, and she whirled to face Michael. "Donít you dare!"

John stared. "Did he really?" he whispered to Rodney.

"Yup, purple; it wasnít a pretty sight and triggered WWIII in the house for a month along with costing him a lot of allowance to get it fixed."

John shuddered. "Iím glad I missed it."

"The perils of having over-intelligent children though usually I can defuse whatever theyíve come up with before it explodes."

"Should I have brought Kevlar?" John wondered. "Or anti-radiation meds?"

"Hypothetically speaking!"

"Didnít you build an atomic bomb when you were younger than Michael?" John made sure his voice didnít carry to the kids, not wanting to give them ideas.

"I was bored; they donít have time to be bored," Rodney promised.

"And good parenting prevents a nuclear holocaust," John murmured.

Rodney snickered at that, and both kids looked at him assessingly.

"Eat your custard or weíll start kissing again," John told them, trying not to grin.

"Itís so wrong that the thought of us kissing can be construed a threat."

"Only by Michael," Jen laughed.

"Heíll figure out the attraction someday," John said, giving in and grinning.

"Just ask him about Jenís friend Kate," Rodney confided.

"Oh? Got a lady you like, Michael?" John asked, his eyebrows rising.

"What? Dad!" Michael shrieked.

"Hey, as your new second father, I need to know these things."

"Da-ad!" Michael whined.

"Okay, enough," Rodney laughed. "Heíd have known the first time we went to Mama Pís and Kate was working; now finish up."

"The last time I heard that pitch was from you," John chuckled to Rodney, ruffling Michaelís hair.

"Oh, thatís so amusing," Rodney grumbled half-heartedly while Michael ducked away from Johnís hand, making a face at him.

"I thought so." John made a face right back at Michael, making the boy giggle.

"Oh my god, you two are going to feed off each other," Jen groaned, and John and Michael gave her identical grins.

"Donít worry, Jenny-penny," Rodney chuckled, patting her shoulder and giving her a hug, "we can take them."

"Thatís what they think," John said to Michael, his grin widening as he slung an arm around Michaelís shoulders.

"Just remember," Jen said sweetly, "I know where you sleep."

"Likewise," Michael retorted while Johnís eyes widened as he wondered if heíd incited a civil war.

"No planting incendiary devices," Rodney commented, and Johnís head whipped around to stare at him.

"Please tell me youíre kidding."

"Children, am I kidding?"

"Nope," Michael grinned before taking a huge bite of his custard.

"I survived Afghanistan only to be blown up in my own bed," John groaned.

"Donít worry, John, we like you," Jen purred, causing Rodney to glower.

"What have I told you about chasing him off?"

"Youíre sleeping between me and the door," John informed Rodney.

"So much for the tough military man."

"Itís called a strategic retreat when faced with overwhelming odds."

"Wimp."

"Smart," John corrected.

Michael snickered in between his final bites of the monster dessert. "Heís good, Dad."

"How do you think I keep up with your dad?" John replied, chuckling.

"Donít answer that," Rodney ordered after finishing his cone.

"Your version of a strategic retreat?" John asked, amused.

"I call it duck and cover."

John laughed. "Sounds reasonable to me."

Once everyone was done and had thrown their trash away, they headed back to the van, and Rodney pulled out of the parking lot, heading for home. "Michael, half an hour before bed, Jen, an hour," he announced as they turned into their street.

"Could I convince you that itís our bedtime now?" John asked under cover of the kidsí protests.

"Maybe once Michaelís up," Rodney chuckled, "otherwise heíll be up all night."

"Good point. Weíll get him settled, and then we can settle down together and watch a movie. Or not watch a movie," John suggested with a faint smile.

"Should I find Brokeback?"

"Only if we skip past the scene with no lube," John said with a wince.

"I meant not to watch, you nut," Rodney snickered.

"Weíre still fast forwarding past that. It ruins the mood."

"Oh, whine, whine, whine."

"In that case, you can bottom tonight," John hissed.

"Oh horrors, a fate worse than death," Rodney dead-panned as he pulled into the driveway, waiting for the garage door to open before pulling inside, the kids out of the van almost before he had the car stopped.

Alone now, John laughed, "You only say so because you know Iíd never touch you without lube."

Rodney smirked smugly. "Exactly, plus thereís the fact that youíll never get me in a tent in the high country."

"I dunno. That might make a good family vacation," John mused.

"No."

John smirked but let it go... for now. "Come on, we can open a bottle of wineóor a couple of beersóand get ready for our date." He leaned across the van to give Rodney a quick kiss.

Rodney smiled at that before nodding briskly. "Donít forget to bring your suit," he called as he got out of the van and headed into the house. "I want assurances that all homework is done, preferably of the visible kind," he shouted once he was inside.

"As if Iím likely to forget it," John muttered. "Youíd make me go shopping again if I did." He picked up the suit bag and the bags with the various accessories Jen and Rodney had insisted were essential to his look and headed inside to hang it all up so he wouldnít have to iron it.

Rodney was checking over Michaelís math work while Jen had piled her books on the table and was outlining a project for her English class. "Very funny," he sniffed. "Not if it meant I had to as well."

"Good point," John admitted, going up to their room with his purchases.

"Heíll do fine tomorrow," Michael opined, glancing up at his father.

"Did I say he wouldnít?" Rodney asked.

"You look more nervous than he does, Dad," Jen said.

"I want him to be happy, to get what he wants."

"I think he has that," Michael muttered.

"And heíll find a job. Heís too good not to," Jen added. "Heís not going to get bored and leave, no matter how long it takes."

Rodney sighed and shook his head. "You two..."

"Dad," Jen interrupted, "quit worrying. Heís here to stay."

"This is me; you know Iím paranoid!"

John came back in time to hear the end of the conversation, shook his head, and pulled Rodney into a kiss. "Well, quit it."

"Here they go again," Michael groaned, ducking as Jen aimed a smack at him.

"Fine, fine, quitting it," Rodney grumbled.

"Good man." John kissed him again.

"Ugh, Iím going to bed! Good night!" Michael groaned, grabbing his books and stuffing them in his bag, giving his father a quick hug and John a more tentative one before running upstairs.

"Damn, that has side benefits, aside from just being fun," John said, staring after him, and Jen burst into laughter.

"Hate to tell you this, but seeing you guys kiss doesnít make me run and hide."

"Good point, so weíre going to get a drink and run ourselves. Bed in an hour, understand?"

"Yes, Dad. Should I get my earplugs?" Jen asked with a snicker.

"Next time Jeff is over, Iím going to sit on one side of the two of you, and John is going to sit on the other!"

"Uncle!" Jen laughed. "You win; Iíll pretend my dads are vestal virgins from now on."

"Exactly why I pretend you and Jeff are playing checkers when you go out together," Rodney snorted before giving her a hug and a kiss. "Night."

"Gínight, Jen," John said, waving at her over Rodneyís shoulder before catching hold of Rodneyís hand and drawing him toward the stairs.

"I thought we were watchingóor not watching a movie," Rodney murmured after Jennifer called her good night after them.

"We are. In our room where we wonít be interrupted." John grinned at him. "See the advantages?"

"We arenít locking the door," Rodney chuckled.

"No, but Michaelís already in bed, and they donít usually burst into the bedroom for no reason," John said. "We can neck and not watch the movie in relative security."

"Good point, and why do I feel guiltier about doing this with my kids in the house than I did when we were the kids?"

"Because now weíre the responsible adults," John chuckled. "Itís easier being the kid, at least that way."

"That, Mr. Sheppard, is the understatement of the century."

"Iím good at those," John agreed, sneaking in a quick grope of Rodneyís ass.

"Oh, get in the bedroom," Rodney laughed, pushing John inside and pulling the door shut behind them.

"Are you going to take advantage of me?" John asked hopefully.

Rodney chuckled at that. "I suppose I could do that."

"Oh good. Let me just put the movie on first as camouflage."

"Do you really think theyóoh god, never mind," Rodney groaned.

John snickered. "No, I donít, but itís better for our nerves if we pretend they do. So sit down, feel free to unbutton or unzip anything, and Iíll be right there."

"Where are you going?"

"Just to put the disk on." John brandished the case as he walked over to the TV.

"Ahh, all right." Rodney shucked out of his shirt and pants and pulled on a grey t-shirt before sitting down on the king-sized bed, plumping the pillows up behind him and leaning back against them while he watched John set up the DVD.

A few seconds later, John turned to the bed, pulling off his shirt as he walked over. Already barefoot, as he usually was in the house, he sat down next to Rodney wearing only his jeans and the dog tags he still felt odd without.

Rodney slung an arm around Johnís shoulders and shifted them around so that John was half leaning against his chest before sighing with satisfaction. "Much better."

"This is a lot more comfortable than the seats in a movie theater. And we donít have to worry about someone turning a flashlight on us."

"Not to mention the fact that my knees would never be the same."

"And we canít have that. This way we can have fun and still be comfortable too." John twisted his head to grin up at Rodney.

"My joints thank you," Rodney snorted before leaning in to give John a kiss.

"Iím hoping they wonít be the only appreciative parts."

Rodney shrugged and snaked his free hand over Johnís flat stomach, stroking it. "Youíll just have to wait and see."

"Oh damn, Iím gonna hate that," John replied, his tone lazy with contentment.

"Idiot," Rodney grumbled, sliding his hand up to pinch Johnís nipple, making him gasp sharply and arch up into the touch. John leaned more heavily against Rodneyís chest, biting his lip as he enjoyed the sensations of Rodneyís hands on him, and his own restlessly kneaded Rodneyís thigh.

Rodney smiled and brushed a kiss against Johnís hair. "Shift over here," he murmured, patting the spot between his legs.

"With pleasure," John murmured, climbing over Rodneyís leg and settling himself comfortably. Rodney waited until he was still before enclosing him in his arms, and John sighed with pleasure. "I think you just became my favorite chair."

"Do you think Iím going to complain about that?"

"Only when your back bothers you," John chuckled.

Rodney hrumphed at that and bit at the side of Johnís throat before laughing. "Damn right."

"I know my Rodneys," John said smugly, letting his head fall back against Rodneyís shoulder, baring his throat.

"Just how many do you know?" Rodney asked archly.

"Just one. Thatís all I need." John settled his ass against Rodneyís groin and rocked subtly, and Rodney groaned, tightening his arms around Johnís waist and feasting on his neck again as they moved together, his hardening cock rubbing against Johnís ass through the muffling layers of fabric.

"Mmm, you feel good," John murmured, clenching and relaxing his butt cheeks.

"Whyíd you leave your jeans on?" Rodney grumbled, stroking his hands over Johnís chest, pushing his dog tags out of the way to have free access.

"Because I like the way you get me out of them."

"You just like making things difficult."

"Youíre a genius; you can figure out how to undo my jeans."

Rodney grumbled and pinched Johnís nipple again though his other hand slid down to the waistband of Johnís jeans, popping the top button to start opening them. John moaned, his hips jerking upward involuntarily, and he scrabbled at the hem of Rodneyís T-shirt, wanting it off him.

Sitting up enough to grab at the hem of his shirt, Rodney yanked it over his head while easing Johnís zipper downward, his hand sliding in the gap of the denim even as he tossed his t-shirt aside. John leaned back against Rodney, sighing with pleasure at the sensation of warm skin against his back, and he raised one arm to reach back and grasp the back of Rodneyís neck.

"Feel so good," Rodney murmured, nuzzling Johnís throat again before scoring it with the edge of his teeth.

"You too," John panted, squirming against him.

"Need to lose the jeans though." Both hands move to the waistband of Johnís pants and shoved at them, and John lifted up helpfully.

"You too," he rasped.

"Canít until you move."

John groaned and rolled to the side, stretching out next to Rodney and stroking himself as he watched Rodney with hot eyes while Rodney groaned at the sight, starting to reach for John before shoving at his own boxers and kicking them off.

"Lose the jeans," he growled.

Never looking away from Rodney, John arched up and pushed his jeans down, then kicked them off and stretched out beside him again, his hand reaching for Rodneyís erection, and Rodney groaned, arching up into the touch.

"So, are we emulating the movie tonightóminus the no lube of course."

"That sounds good to me," John said throatily, before chuckling. "And neither of us is stuffing our cheeks with wads of cotton before we talk either."

"I donít wish I could quit you, Johnny," Rodney snickered.

"Oh, that was so bad," John groaned, swatting at Rodney.

"Well, I could say it like my jaw was frozen."

"Please donít!" John begged, laughing.

In a quick move, Rodney rolled over on top of John, flipping him over and pressing him against the mattress. "How about this?"

"You can do this anytime," John replied, thrusting his ass up against Rodneyís erection and rocking slightly.

"Just not in front of the kids," Rodney chuckled.

"Obviously," John snorted. "Are you going to do something with that?"

"Like this?" Rodney asked, rocking down against Johnís ass and kissing his shoulder.

"Thatís a good start," John agreed, clenching his cheeks as Rodneyís cock slid between them.

Chuckling, Rodney pushed back to his knees and leaned over to pull open the night stand drawer to grab the lube, squeezing some into this palm then dragging a finger through it to press the finger against Johnís ass. John whined softly and pushed back, trying to force Rodney inside him, and his fists clenched in the soft sheets while he bit his lip at the intensity of his need.

"What do you want, John?" Rodney purred, circling his finger around that tight entrance.

"You," John rasped. "In me."

"God, yes," Rodney whispered, pressing his finger inward, adding a second one once John opened for him. John moaned, his back arching and his arms quivering almost imperceptibly with the tension as he waited for more.

His breath coming in short pants, Rodney slicked his erection with his free hand, pulling his fingers out of Johnís ass and settling his cock there in their place, sliding forward with a groan that reverberated through his bones.

"Oh God yes," John moaned, pushing back to meet Rodneyís stroke eagerly. "Love you," he panted.

"Love you too," Rodney whispered, sliding a hand under John and stroking his erection.

"So move!" John gasped out, wanting more.

"What do you think Iím doing?" Rodney grumbled.

"Just sayiní," John panted, clenching around him and groaning with pleasure.

"If you canít tell Iím moving, thereís not much more I can do here!"

"Harder is good," John suggested, egging Rodney on.

Rodney grumbled, then smirked and continued at his own pace.

"Tease," John murmured, turning his head to kiss Rodney to show he wasnít serious.

"You want teasing?" Rodney asked, pulling back until he was barely in Johnís ass.

"No! Rodney!" John nearly whined.

"Well, I didnít want to make you a liar..."

"Ha!" John snorted, rocking back on Rodneyís cock.

"If I really wanted to tease you, Iíd tie your wrists to the headboard then play," Rodney chuckled before groaning as John tightened down around him and whimpered.

"You are so making good on that some weekend when the kids are away!"

"I think I could manage that." Rodney pressed back inside of John and tightened his hand.

"Oh God, so good," John gasped, "perfect."

"Yes," Rodney whispered, rocking against Johnís ass, lengthening his strokes and grunting when John moved with him.

John moaned, his eyes falling closed as he concentrated on the feel of Rodney in and around him. He shuddered with the mounting pleasure, clenching hard on Rodneyís cock as he felt the touch on his prostate.

Rodney moaned and leaned forward, peppering kisses over Johnís shoulders and neck as they rocked together, each thrust drawing him nearer to the edge. Johnís moans were nearly continuous now, and he reached up with one hand, curling his fingers around Rodneyís forearm.

"John-" Rodney gasped, driving forward, his whole body shaking as the force of his orgasm overcame him.

John moaned desperately, enjoying the feeling of Rodney coming inside him. He waited till the last tremors passed and Rodney was draped over his back before reaching for his own cock, and Rodney shifted his own hand to help, twining their fingers together. "Oh God, yeah, Rodney," John moaned, coming after only a few strokes.

Rodney rolled to his back and collapsed on the sheets with a contented sigh, and John immediately turned and half sprawled over Rodney, his head comfortably settled on Rodneyís shoulder. "It just keeps getting better."

"So this means that in a few years weíll be transcendent?"

John laughed. "Itís something to aim for."

"Just so long as we donít have to meditate," Rodney murmured, curling his arm around Johnís waist and stroking his side.

"Nope, thatís not my thing at all. Iíd much rather see God through sex," John agreed lazily, smiling into Rodneyís shoulder.

"Look to the left."

"Youíd better not be telling me you think youíre God."

Rodney smirked.

John bit his shoulder.

"Sorry, dear, Iím almost forty; I canít get it up quite that quickly," Rodney snickered.

John groaned. "You are so full of it."

"Not lately I havenít been..."

"Sorry, dear, Iím almost forty; I canít get it again that quickly."

"Ha ha, very funny."

"You seemed to think so a minute ago."

"That was because I was saying it."

John gave up and laughed. "You are unique, Rodney. I guess Iím lucky I got the one and only."

Rodney chuckled and kissed his forehead. "Donít forget the brats; weíre a set."

"And that makes me even luckier; I got a whole family when I never thought Iíd have one."

"Just promise me you arenít going to make me go to the next reunion."

"Are you kidding? Chaylynníll be there. Wild horses couldnít drag me."

Rodney bit his lip, but his whole body was shaking as he tried not to laugh.

"Letís see how funny you think it is when some man-eaterís chasing you," John grumbled.

"Trust me, John, that was never a problem for me," Rodney said wryly.

"Then youíve been surrounded by blind idiots."

"Now if weíre talking men I wanted to eat..." Rodney broke off with a chuckle when Johnís head jerked up and he turned a dirty look on Rodney.

"Just remember youíre limited to one course meals from now on!"

"My favorite course," Rodney assured him, kissing his nose.

"It better be," John grumped before smiling and kissing him back.

"Which Iíll happily eat for, oh, the next half century or so."

"Good answer." John smiled and laid his head back on Rodneyís shoulder, one hand idly stroking his chest and belly.

"Mmm, I suppose we should clean up, but I donít really feel like moving."

"Later," John murmured, somehow snuggling closer, his eyes half-closing as he relaxed, for the moment completely content.

Rodney continued to rub his hand over Johnís side, allowing himself to drowse, feeling replete with satisfaction. John lay for a time, listening to Rodneyís deepening breathing until he too dozed in Rodneyís embrace, lulled by the heartbeat beneath his head.

"Hey sleepyhead," Rodney murmured, leaning in to kiss Johnís forehead. "Iím heading out; youíd better get up if you want to get ready for your interview. Oh, and the kids left you breakfast in the oven."

"Huh? Itís morning?" John sat up, knuckling his eyes before grabbing Rodney and pulling him closer for a kiss. "I didnít expect to sleep through."

"Guess I wore you out," Rodney smirked.

"You can call it whatever you like as long as you keep doing it."

"Not a problem, and Iíd say good luck, but you donít need it."

John beamed at him. "Iíll tell you all about it tonight. Wanna go to Mamma Pís?

"Sounds great, now go take a shower, or theyíll think youíre there for something else."

John burst into laughter. "They couldnít afford me. Go work on your Nobel." He stood up, stretching hugely.

"Damn, keep that up and weíre both going to be late," Rodney murmured. "Sure you donít want to be a kept man?"

John snorted. "Youíd be bored with anyone who would be happy as that within a week."

"True, but it doesnít mean it wouldnít be fun for a while."

"Next summer when the kids go to camp, we can play at it," John chuckled.

"Remind me to schedule my grad students time off then as well," Rodney chuckled, tracing a finger down Johnís chest and kissing him again. "All right, off to work to torture young minds."

"Thatís mold young minds, Rodney," John laughed.

"Perhaps for you, not for me." Rodney kissed him again and headed for the door, waving over his shoulder. "You call me once itís over, got it?"

"Yes, sir, whatever you say, sir, three bags full, sir."

"Go take a shower and wake up! And eat what the kids made you!" Rodney called as he headed out into the hall.

Laughing, John headed into the shower. By the time he got downstairs, Rodney and the kids were all gone, and he went into the kitchen to find what theyíd left for him. His nose led him straight to the coffee, and he grinned when he realized Rodney had left him a half pot of the really good coffee. Mug in hand, he peered into the oven and then happily retrieved the plate of scrambled eggs and bagel. "I really love those kids," he murmured to himself, reaching for the paper as he sat down at the table.

"John has an interview at Cornell," Rodney announced as he walked out onto the squash court.

Radek eyed him. "Do you even know how to say hello? Never mind, thatís wonderful news. They would be lucky to get him. I googled him and found some of his published work. He was wasted in the Air Force. He lost me in some of his theories. Amazing work."

"Well, of course it is," Rodney huffed, glaring at the shorter man. "And Iím up to five."

"What, did you show them a sample from the mid-term again?"

"Grodin said I smiled at them."

Radek burst into laughter. "Yes, that would be terrifying. Perhaps I should have you come smile at my students; only four of mine have dropped."

Rodney tossed the ball in his hand and smirked. "Thatís because you baby them."

"You mean I donít bully them," Radek retorted.

"No, you hold their little hands and kiss their booboosówhat kind of father are you going to be anyway?"

Radek snorted. "I will be a very good father, just as I am a very good teacher. And do you plan to play today or just toss that ball up and down?"

"Bah, youíre going to be run over by that baby." As Rodney spoke, he tossed the ball and hit it toward the wall.

"As you are by Jennifer," Radek retorted, slamming the ball back.

Waiting for the bounce, Rodney slapped the ball back. "I am not!"

"Of course not," Radek replied, intentionally patronizing as he waited for the ball to come in range and hit it.

"I hope you have twins," Rodney growled.

"I think I would like that."

"You would," Rodney snickered, missing the ball as he laughed.

"And we would make you and John baby sit." Radek smirked.

"I think not! Thatís why I have a daughter!"

"Our babyís uncles will need a chance to bond with him or her."

"Not working," Rodney sing-songed, tossing Radek the ball. "Serve."

"It will." Radek smashed the ball against the wall in a powerful serve which Rodney returned on the bounce.

"You forget, Iíve built up defenses!"

"John hasnít," Radek replied smugly. "And babies are cute."

"I hope they take after Elizabeth."

"Her beauty and both our brains," Radek replied, growing distracted as he pictured the baby to come and missing the ball.

Rodney bent over to pick it up and sighed. "This is hopeless, isnít it?"

"Our minds do not seem to be on the game today," Radek agreed.

"Who can blame us? Címon, letís clean up and eat then torture studentsóoh, excuse me, educate them some more."

Radek laughed. "John is already having a good influence on you."

"And just what do you mean by that?"

"íEducate them some moreí?" Radek repeated, grinning. "Youíre mellowing, my friend."

Rodney growled at him. "For that you can buy me lunch."

"It was worth it," Radek chuckled, slinging his towel around his neck before heading to the locker room for a shower.

Later the afternoon, Rodneyís cell phone rang, and he almost knocked it off the bench lunging for it. "Well?" he demanded after answering it.

"Well, I think it went well, but they have other interviews still scheduled. And the position wouldnít start till next semester, so I probably wonít hear for a while. I think it was good though."

"Well, of course it did; theyíd be idiots not to want to hire you!" Rodney blustered.

"I think you might be a little biased, but thanks," John chuckled. "I have a good feeling about it, although Iíll keep interviewing in the meantime just in case. But I really want this one," he admitted.

"Youíll get it, have a little faith," Rodney promised. "And I need to get going, have to check in at the lab and make sure the post-docs arenít totally fucking things up."

"Try not to traumatize anyone into therapy," John replied, amusement clear in his voice. "Iíll see you at the restaurant at five."

"Youíre bringing the kids, I hope," Rodney chuckled.

"Of course. I have to go home to change anyhow, and Iíll pick them up before I leave."

"Well, drive carefully, all right? No speeding tickets."

"Yes, Mom." John rolled his eyes.

"Excuse me for caring about your well being!"

"I love you too," John replied. "And Iíll be fine. Weíll be there waiting for you when you pry yourself out of your lab."

"Iíll be there by six," Rodney promised, "and make sure that Michael cleans up before you go out."

"Having seen what he looks like when he doesnít, you can count on it!"

Rodney snickered at that. "Good answer, and Iíll see you later; love you."

John smiled at the phone as he put it away, and the good mood stayed with him all the way home. Once there, he changed into comfortable jeans and a shirt, then made a sandwich and sat down to check his email and see if heíd received any other interesting offers.

By the time Jen and Michael got home, he had set a new top score on his favorite game.

"Hey, John, howíd it go?" Michael asked, dropping down on the sofa on one side of him while Jen sat more sedately on the other side.

"Pretty good. I wonít hear for a while though." The more he thought about that, the more nervous John got, so he decided not to think about it. "Go get cleaned up, and we can head over to the restaurant. Weíre a bit early, but we can get some garlic bread or something while we wait."

"If you want a glass of wine, Iíd be glad to drive," Jen suggested.

John swallowed hard. "I guess that would be okay," he said, looking a little paler than heíd been a minute before.

"Sheís an okay driver, John," Michael shrugged as he stood.

"As if any McKay wouldnít excel at anything he or she did," John said, reassuring himself as he spoke. "Guess youíre the chauffeur tonight, Jen. Iíll just sit back and enjoy."

"And just think," she said brightly, "in two months I can drive on my own."

"And get yourself home by your curfew!"

"Do you even know when that is?"

"Ten on weekends, isnít it?

"Ha! Very funny, John!"

"Nine?"

"Wrong!"

He laughed. "Have pity on me, Jen. Iím new to having a teenage daughter."

"Think about when you were my ageóno, wait, donít if it was when you were with Dad!" she giggled.

"Forget the curfew; youíre never leaving the house!"

In answer, she stuck her tongue out at him, making John laugh.

"You sure youíre not interested in becoming a nun?"

"I thought you and Dad wanted grandkidsóone day, not any time soon," she giggled.

"Is Jen pregnant?" Michael asked as he came back into the room with a fresh shirt on and his damp blond hair sticking up in spikes from a hurried shower.

"Donít even joke about that!" John nearly shrieked, shuddering, while both Michael and Jennifer collapsed on the sofa, howling with laughter.

"Youíre just like your father," John grumbled.

"Which means you love us."

"Iím pleading the Fifth."

"Does Dad know youíre a wimp?" Michael asked innocently.

"Your father knows exactly what I am," John retorted, mussing his hair and making him scowl.

"I guess we should ask him then," Jen laughed as she stood up and went to get her purse.

"Preferably not in public," John laughed. "Iíd hate for us to get thrown out of a place."

"We need to get there in order to avoid it," Michael announced, hopping to his feet as well.

"Geez, kid, I know weíve fed you recently," John chuckled. "But weíll try to get you there before you starve to death."

"Hey, I had a long day at school!"

"Poor baby," Jen replied unsympathetically. "Iím leaving now, with or without you."

Grinning, John listened to them squabble as they all headed out to the car.

"I hope you all left me something," Rodney commented as he leaned in over Johnís shoulder to snatch his garlic bread, then sat down across from him after giving both him and the kids a hug.

"I didnít let them order the pizza before you got here to make sure that youíd have some too," John said.

"Michael would have been the one you had to worry about," Jen protested.

"Tell me something I donít know," Rodney chuckled.

"Sorry, forgot to memorize the winning lottery numbers," John said, grinning as he watched Michael squirm when the waitress started toward their table.

"Hi, Dr. McKay," Kate smiled. "Can I get you a soda or some wine?"

"Diet Coke would be great, Kate, thanks," he smiled, glancing at Michael as she walked away.

"Donít," John said when Jen opened her mouth. "Just... donít."

"But you can tell me how school went," Rodney cut in.

John smiled, content to let them chat as he simply enjoyed being part of the family. They ordered their pizza and continued talking while waiting for it, then through the meal as well.

"Oh," Rodney commented, once his eating had slowed down, "Radek and Elizabeth are having a get-together this weekend."

"They just want to show off that sheís starting to show," John said. "But it sounds like fun."

"Is this going to be a boring adult thing?" Michael asked.

"Not if you call going to their cottage boring."

"Yay!" Michael exclaimed while John looked at Rodney curiously.

"Cottage?" he asked.

"They have a place on Keuka Lake ," Rodney explained. "Pastoral delights abound."

"Oh, you like it there, Dad," Jen laughed.

"Smores," John said gleefully.

"If you and Michael eat yourselves sick, I am not having any pity on you," Rodney threatened.

"You wouldnít sooth my fevered brow?" John asked plaintively.

"While you throw up on me? I think not."

John opened his mouth, remembered the kids, and bit back what heíd been about to say. He settled for, "I think Iím old enough to avoid eating myself sick."

"Thank goodness."

"Gonna reward me for good behavior?" John asked, making Michael groan.

"Here they go again!"

"Something wrong, Michael?" Rodney asked.

"No, I always wanted a supporting role in a Harlequin TV movie," the pre-teen retorted, making John snicker.

"Shall I guess who you want to be your romantic interest?" Rodney purred, smiling at him while Jen giggled.

Michael crossed his arms over his chest and scowled.

"Anyone need anything?" Kate asked cheerily as she came over to clear the dishes away.

"Weíre good, I think," John replied, ignoring Michael since that seemed the safest course. He glanced questioningly at Rodney and Jen.

"All set here," Rodney assured him.

"Just the bill then, thanks, Kate," John said.

"Be right back with it."

The moment she walked away, Jen broke into giggles, then yelped as Michael kicked her under the table.

"You two keep that up and weíll never eat here again," Rodney informed them.

"No way! You like it too much, Dad!" Michael exclaimed, although he did stop kicking at Jen after making a face at her.

"Itís a small price to pay for keeping peace."

John watched them with amusement. "Besides, Rodney and I could still come here," he pointed out.

"No fair!" they chorused, staring at John and then at their father. "Da-ad!"

"I think itís a good idea," Rodney shrugged.

"I think I liked it better when we outnumbered you," Michael grumbled.

"Too bad, so sad," Rodney smirked.

"It was a lot easier when you were paranoid about messing us up," Jen observed before bursting into laughter.

"Excuse me?!" Rodney blustered.

"They know you so well," John chuckled. "But youíre not outnumbered anymore."

Rodney gave an exaggerated sigh of relief, and the kids couldnít help but giggle.

"And weíre bigger than they are," John added confidingly, his hazel eyes sparkling with mischief.

"Yeah, but weíre quicker," Michael grinned.

"Ah, but we have the power of parental punishment," John retorted.

"Ooo, weíre so scared," Jen laughed.

"I think theyíre laughing at us, Rodney."

"Get used to it; it happens a lot."

"Thatís what I was afraid of."

Jen and Michael laughed, and Rodney scowled at them, reaching for his wallet when Kate came back with the bill. John had been reaching for his, but he stopped when he saw that Rodney had it, a faint frown creasing his brow.

"Wanna stop for custard to top it off?" he suggested.

"Does anyone have homework to finish?" Rodney asked before the kids could answer Johnís question, and John frowned again.

It was still early, and they would have plenty of time to finish any homework whether they stopped or not, and John didnít like feeling pushed aside for Rodney to be the parent.

"Mineís done," Jen said quickly, "but I bet the squirtís isnít."

"Michael?" Rodney asked.

"I just have a couple of math problems left; it wonít even take half an hour," Michael practically whined.

"And you were home how long before you left?"

"Only a few minutes. I had band practice tonight; you know that, Dad!"

Johnís frown was growing, but he held back from commenting for the moment.

"You know the rules, and you should have been home at four thirty from practice; that was enough time to get things done."

"But Dad, we had to find out how Johnís interview went!" Michael protested, and Rodney sighed.

"Yes, I suppose you did, so that means finishing up as soon as we get homeó" Rodney glanced over at John and grinned. "After custard."

"Yay! Iíll finish up as soon as we get home," Michael promised.

"Try to eat a little less than your own weight in custard so you donít fall asleep first," John suggested dryly.

"I think weíll all live on smalls tonight," Rodney snorted as he stood.

"Awwww, Daaaaa-aaad!"

"Deal or live without."

Michael subsided, grumbling but not making the mistake of verbalizing a complaint.

"I think weíre ready to go now," John said, standing up.

"Smallís fine with me, Dad," Jen offered, flashing a smile at Rodney and John.

"So letís get going before another battle starts," John suggested, catching Rodneyís hand and starting toward the door.

"An excellent idea, Dr. Sheppard," Rodney chuckled, looking over his shoulder at the kids. "If you want a ride, get a move on."

"I dunno, it could be fun to watch them jog along behind us," John mused.

"John!" Jennifer gasped. "Youíre supposed to be on our side!"

"Sometimes," he replied serenely as he got into the car. "You riding with me or your dad?"

"Iím going with you, John!" Michael piped up, not willing to take a chance on losing out on custard.

"Iíll go with you, Dad," Jen smiled.

"So weíll see you at Abbottís?" Rodney asked.

"Yup. Iíll just follow you over," John said easily, glancing over to make sure Michael had his seatbelt on.

"Sounds good." Rodney waved over the front of the van as Jen got inside, then followed her in to start the engine and head out for the custard stand.

"So what were you doing before band practice instead of your homework?" John asked.

Michael looked over at him, frowning slightly. "Stuff."

"Uh huh. Stuff thatís more important than following the rules?"

"Geez, band practice was fifteen minutes after school ended, give me a break!"

One dark eyebrow rose. "I asked a simple question, Michael. I donít think thereís any need to be rude."

Michael watched him for a moment, then shrugged. "Sorry. I was just hanging out; Dad knows I donít get my stuff done until after practice."

"I guess weíre all going to have to get used to each other now that weíre living together," John said.

"Yeah; itís different, but Dadís happy and youíre cool, so itís good."

"I guess itís going to be kind of weird for you and Jen to have two parents now; I know itís really different for me to have a family. But good," John added hastily in case Michael thought otherwise.

"Yeah, weíre used to it being just us," Michael admitted, looking out the window.

"Weíll work it out," John promised as he pulled into the parking lot behind Rodneyís car.

"So, who wants what?" Rodney asked as they walked toward the stand.

John moved to Rodneyís side, sliding an arm around his waist and leaning into him, feeling the need for the contact while they listened to the kids deciding on their choices.

"You okay?" Rodney asked, glancing at him and hugging him back.

"Yup. Just getting antsy from this life of leisure, I guess."

"How about you go take over my classes, and Iíll relax," Rodney chuckled, reaching for his wallet after the children ordered. "Want something?"

After a quick perusal of the menu, John placed his order, as usual trying a flavor he hadnít had before, but he put his hand over Rodneyís. "It was my idea; Iíll get it."

"I hope you arenít expecting me to put out because of this," Rodney murmured.

"No, Iím hoping youíll put out because Iím irresistible," John replied equally quietly.

Rodney snorted and nodded toward the cashier. "Pay the girl, will you."

John was grinning as he handed over the money and told her to keep the change.

"Ooo, big spender!"

"Quiet, you. Youíre ruining my image as a kept man."

"To be a kept man, you have to run around in leather vests and hot pants."

"You want to see me in hot pants?" Johnís voice rose, and he got a few odd looks from others sitting at the picnic benches, enjoying their custard.

"Did I say that?" Rodney hissed.

"Rodney, I never make assumptions about what you might mean or do," John said, though he looked relieved that he apparently wasnít going to be parading around in leather Daisy Dukes any time soon.

"I donít know them," Michael groaned to Jen.

"I think theyíre cute," she giggled.

Michael made gagging noises.

"I have one word for you, Michael, and it begins with a K," Rodney commented.

"Iím just going to sit here and eat my custard," Michael decided.

"Smart kid," John observed.

"Well, of course he is, heís a McKay!"

John laughed. "And a healthy ego goes with it, genetically."

"As Dad says, itís not ego if itís the truth," Jen grinned.

John rolled his eyes. "You two remind me of your dad when I first knew him."

"A compliment if Iíve ever heard one."

"Well, I thought you were pretty amazing back then," John agreed, brushing a custard-y kiss over Rodneyís lips.

"We were both pretty amazing, but I think weíre better now," Rodney murmured as Michael gagged in the background.

"I know we are." John hugged him, one armed. "Weíre terrific."

"You guys are so cute," Jen said.

"Now Iím going to be ill," Rodney groaned.

"Jen," John said, "a word of adviceóno guy wants to be told heís cute."

"Jeff doesnít mind," she shot back.

"Thatís because Jeff knows better than to disagree with you."

"True love," John observed to Rodney, trying not to grin.

"Hush," Rodney grumbled. "Thatís my daughter youíre talking about."

"Itís a pure, spiritual love that involves no physical contact with our daughter."

"Thatís better," Rodney grinned.

"I donít think so!" Jen exclaimed.

"Humor us, dear," Rodney begged, while Michael snickered beside them.

"Cute but weird," Jen said emphatically.

Rodney just shook his head and leaned into Johnís embrace while Jen and Michael finished their dessert.

"This is nice," John observed. "I like not worrying about what someone might see or say," he added quietly.

"You see me arguing this?" Rodney answered, smiling when Michael saw a friend, waved and ran over to him.

"I donít think you know how amazing this is for me. Itís a family, a real family." John watched Michael for a moment, then turned to look at Rodney. "And you. Especially you."

"Iím glad, I feel the same," Rodney whispered.

Jen slipped away to join some friends from school, leaving the two men alone for a few minutes, and John smiled when he noticed. "Jenís pretty good about this."

"Thatís because she expects the same treatment if she and Jeff are sitting downstairs.

"Not till her tenth wedding anniversary!"

"Donít worry, John," Rodney patted his arm, "youíll get used to it."

John groaned pathetically. "Are you sure?"

"Well, you learn to live with it."

"That really isnít very comforting."

"At least you have someone with experience telling you this!"

"True, but I think it had to be easier to ease into this, rather than starting with a teenager already dating."

"Diapers."

"Jen was six when she came to live with you," John pointed out.

"Michael was just two," Rodney shot back.

"Okay, okay, you win," John laughed, relaxing and leaning against him again.

"Good answer," Rodney chuckled, tightening the arm he had around Johnís waist, then sighing when some of the people walking up to the stand frowned at them. When John saw the reaction, his smile turned into a toothy grin, and then he caught hold of Rodneyís chin and turned his head to plant a kiss on him.

"John," Rodney murmured, before giving in and kissing him back.

John drew back before the kiss grew too heated for where they were. "Remember where we were," he murmured.

"For later?"

"Exactly. To be continued."

"I think we can manage that--after Michael has his homework done."

"Well, I wasnít planning to do it in front of him!"

"I would hope not!"

John laughed. "Donít worry, Iíve never had any desire to be a porn star." He made sure his voice was too low to carry beyond Rodney.

"Especially in front of impressionable minds."

John shuddered.

"Hey, Dad, is it okay if I go over to Randyís on Saturday?" Michael called.

"As far as I know, yes, but we need to check the schedule," Rodney answered, after a momentís thought.

"Wouldnít a PDA help?" John asked.

"Until a child reprograms it," Rodney chuckled.

"Ah, yes, that would be a problem." John laughed. "The perils of a houseful of McKays."

"This is one of the cases where lo-tech is the best option."

"A little harder to erase ink to get rid of something they donít want to do, huh?"

"Exactly," Rodney nodded as Jen and Michael started back to them. "And weíll have to get a larger one for next year."

"They joining more groups?"

"For your schedule..."

"Oh." John smiled crookedly.

"What? You arenít planning on having meetings and the like?" Rodney grinned.

"I guess I hadnít thought about it. I suppose I will. And office hours, I hope."

"For the new job?" Jen asked when she joined them.

"I hope so," John admitted. "It would be perfect."

"Weíll all keep our fingers crossed. Now then, ready to head home?"

"Sure," John said, getting to his feet and gathering up the containers and plastic spoons to throw them away.

"See you at home," Rodney called as he and Jen walked toward the van and Michael followed John to the car.

"Try not to get lost," Jen added laughingly, and John stuck his tongue out at her.

"You know the way home, Michael," Rodney laughed.

"Iíll remember this at Christmas!" John threatened.

"Jenís birthday is first," Michael offered helpfully as he climbed in the front seat and buckled his seat belt.

"There are times Iím very glad I was an only child," John observed laughingly.

"Dad says our mom used to bug him all the time when they were growing up," Michael offered. "Iím just trying to live up to her example."

John chuckled. "At least youíre not chasing your sisterís boyfriend."

"Jeff? Eww, thatís gross," Michael gagged before snickering. "Now if she had a girlfriend and that girlfriend was Kate..."

"Dream on, kiddo," John laughed, stopping at a red light and looking into his rearview mirror to meet Rodneyís eyes in the car behind him.

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Michael grumbled.

"At the risk of sounding cliched, youíll find someone your own age soon enough."

"Hopefully it wonít take as long as you and Dad did!"

John smiled crookedly. "It didnít take us long to find each other at all. I think we realized it the first day we met. It was realizing that we needed to hang on to each other that I messed up on."

Michael looked over at him, studying him closely, then nodding. "Yeah, well youíre together now, and you make him pretty happy, and thatís good; Jen and I arenít going to be living here forever, and then heíd be lonely."

"Iím going to make sure that doesnít happen," John promised. "I missed him for a long time," he added softly, glancing in the rearview mirror again.

"If you missed him, why didnít you call him?"

"Because Iíd made a really big mistake and I was afraid," John admitted. "And I didnít think heíd want to see me again after all of that, and I didnít want to hurt him again."

"Oh." Michael was quiet for a moment. "But it all worked out finally, so weíre all good."

"Yup. So youíre just going to have to deal with the sap."

"It makes Dad happy, so I guess I can deal with it."

"You kinda donít have a choice," John pointed out with amusement.

Michael stuck his tongue out at John, making John laugh. "I think itís going to be fun having a family," John decided. "Iíve never really had one before."

"You didnít?" Michael asked, now curious. "But I thought you lived with your folks when you lived next door to Dad?"

John shrugged. "My mom was great, but my father, well, he made your grandparents look good."

"Oh." Michael was silent at that, chewing on his lower lip as he looked out the window. "Iím sorry."

"Not your fault, but that was part of the reason why your dad and I werenít together all these years. But just think," he added, thinking this conversation was a little too heavy for a twelve-year-old, "your dad and I know exactly what not to do as parents."

Michael nodded at that, his nose wrinkling as he grimaced. "Yeah, Grandmother and Grandfather arenít the coolest people, and if your dad was worse than that..."

"Fortunately, he doesnít talk to me, so you wonít have to meet him if weíre all lucky."

"Donít worry John," Michael said, leaning over to pat his arm, "if he shows up, weíll protect you."

John smiled slowly. "You know, youíre not a bad guy."

Michael grinned at that. "You know, neither are you."

"I guess your dadís lucky to have us both."

"Heís stuck with Jen, so we balance her out," Michael whispered in a conspiratorial fashion, making John laugh.

"You two have an interesting relationship."

"Jen and I?" Michael shrugged. "Sheís okay, for a sister, but if you tell her I said that, Iíll get you!"

John chuckled. "I wouldnít dream of it. You two wouldnít be nearly as entertaining if you were all sweetness and light."

Michael wrinkled his nose and gagged at the thought, making John laugh again. "Not gonna happen, huh?"

"Never!" Michael vowed, shuddering before grinning at John, obviously pleased with himself and the world.

"Are you two still gloating about the win yesterday?" Rodney asked, glancing at Michael and John, who were pouring over the Sunday sports page together.

"Da-arn right! It bodes very well for the future that the first game we go see together, our team won. Totally." John grinned down at the paper in sheer delight.

"See! Johnís lucky!" Michael crowed, high-fiving him while Rodney shook his head as he sipped at his coffee to hide his smile.

"I try." John took a swallow of his own coffee as he finally pushed the paper aside.

"So youíre like a rabbitís foot? Or is it a horseshoe?"

"Care to rub me and find out for yourself?"

"John!" Michael wailed. "I was eating!"

"So keep eating while I say good morning to your dad."

"Didnít you say good morning to me after I brandished the tickets?" Rodney chuckled, setting down his coffee.

"You can never say good morning too often."

"Not listening!" Michael said loudly, scooping up his food and paper and hustling out of the room.

John watched him go, grinning. "Weíre so doomed when he starts dating."

"We are? Iíd say he was!" Rodney laughed.

"Weíll worry about that when the time comes. Right now, I think itís been much too long since I kissed you."

"Notice the lack of protest here."

"I love an easy man." John continued around the table until he reached Rodney. He straddled the other manís lap, sat, and kissed him.

Sighing with pleasure, Rodney wrapped his arms around Johnís waist, holding him close as they ate at each other mouths. "That would be because you are an easy man," Rodney murmured before nipping Johnís lower lip.

"Only for you," John murmured, pressing closer.

"Better be," Rodney grumbled before sighing when Jen swung into the kitchen, hiding a giggle as she leaned in to pull a jug of cranberry juice from the fridge and carry it over to the cupboard to rummage for a glass.

"Morning, Dad, morning, John."

"Morning, Jen," John greeted without moving from his perch on Rodneyís lap. "Sleep well?"

"Once you and Michael stopped whooping about the game, I did," she laughed, pouring her drink and putting the juice back in the fridge.

"I know what you mean," Rodney nodded.

"Yeah, but I couldnít shut Michael up the way you did with John, Dad," Jen pointed out wryly.

"I would hope not!" he exclaimed, shuddering.

"Relax, Dad, weíre not ancient Egyptian royalty." Jen shook her head as she started for the door. "Try to remember weíre in the next room."

"With a bathroom between us," Rodney exclaimed.

Jen stopped and looked over her shoulder, laughing. "I meant right now."

Rodney groaned and rested his head against Johnís shoulder.

"Why couldnít you have had kids who were properly horrified by the idea of their parents having sex?" John groaned.

"Well, one of them is."

"True, but judging by Jen, that may have more to do with his age than familial relationships."

"So itís my fault my children feel comfortable around us?" Rodney protested with a laugh.

"Absolutely!"

"Boo hoo, poor baby."

"Wanna kiss it and make it better?"

Rodney leaned in and kissed the tip of his nose.

"My nose has nothing whatsoever to do with it."

Giving a world-weary sigh, Rodney leaned in and kissed his ear.

"Do I have to enroll you in a basic anatomy class?"

"I am not going down on you in the kitchen!" Rodney hissed. "Not to mention physically impossible!"

"Iíd settle for a real kiss."

Rodney chuckled, caught Johnís face in his hands and pulled him in for a slow, deep kiss, making John moan happily and lean into him even more.

"We need to get up soon," Rodney sighed.

"Unfortunately true," John admitted. "Wanna go out for brunch?"

"Urmm, some of us have eaten already..."

"I guess not then. Wanna go hide in our room and neck?"

"Yes, but weíve got to get the yard raked today, or weíre going to be buried in leaves."

"Actually, being buried in leaves sounds kind of fun."

"Along with incredibly itchy!"

John sighed. "I see someoneís in a prosaic mood today."

"In other words, bitchy," Rodney said, sighing as well. "Sorry."

"I didnít say that," John protested.

Rodney shrugged slightly. "You didnít have to."

"If I wanted to, I would! Iím not some shrinking violet, and you werenít being bitchy!" John growled, getting to his feet.

"Well, then what was I being?" Rodney demanded with a frown.

"A responsible adult. Which is fine, I just happened to be in a mood to play."

"Shit," Rodney muttered, raising a hand to rub at his face.

John shrugged, going to get himself more coffee.

"Iím sorry, okay? How about we get dressed, get the kids and go out to hit the leaves?" Rodney offered, giving a hopeful half-smile.

"Sure, sounds good," John agreed, carrying his coffee upstairs with him to get dressed. Rodney waited until he was gone before leaning against the sink, his head lowered.

It was only a few minutes before John came back downstairs, wearing old, faded jeans and a hoodie with a faded ĎAir Forceí across the chest. "All set," he announced cheerfully, putting his now empty mug in the sink. "Got enough rakes for everyone, or do we split the raking and bagging?"

"Everyone rakes then everyone bags unless itís windy," Rodney answered before looking toward the living room. "Kids, finish up and get dressed."

"Why?" Michael called back. "We going somewhere?"

"Out to rake leaves."

"Aw, Dad, they just fall again," Michael groaned. "Why not just leave them alone? Itís natural."

"Not going to work," Rodney chuckled, "and Iím not dealing with mounds of moldy leaves once the snowís gone."

"Gross!" Jen came into the kitchen to get her sneakers. "You just like putting us to work."

"Iím a slave-driver, I know; itís such a terrible life you have."

"Darn right, we make Oliver Twist look well cared for," she retorted.

"Does that make John Fagin?" Michael asked as he came in as well.

"I think Iíd rather be Charles Dickens."

"The real one or the Dr. Who version?" Jen giggled.

John laughed. "Well, the Rift would be kind of cool, and the Doctor might let me fly the TARDIS..."

Rodney snorted out a laugh at that. "Just donít tell me that Jennifer would be Rose."

"I dunno... Can you manage the accent?"

When Jen began to try, Rodney shook his head. "Iím going to get changed." He ducked upstairs when Michael and Jen began arguing over the fact that she compared him to Mickey.

"Okay, outside, we can get started without your dad, and heíll be right down," John said, herding them out the door.

"Thatís what you think!" Michael laughed, shrugging on his jacket and scooting out into the garage to grab the rakes.

"And whatís that supposed to mean?" John asked as he followed Michael, noting that Jen was right behind him.

"He thinks Dad will try to duck out on the work," Jen laughed. "Or maybe he hopes Dad will so he doesnít get leaves stuffed down his pants."

Johnís eyebrows rose. "It sounds like raking leaves might be hazardous to my health in this household."

"Maybe, but itís usually fun," she laughed, pulling on a pair of lightweight gloves and picking up a stack of large paper sacks.

"Sounds like everything else around here," John chuckled, grabbing a pair of gloves for himself. "This yard suddenly looks a lot bigger."

"And just think," Jen said cheerily, "the leaves arenít even half down. Oh, and duck."

Reflexes honed in a war zone had John flat on the ground before he even consciously registered what sheíd said, causing scoops of leaves thrown from two sides to miss and flutter to the ground.

"Jen!" Michael howled, tossing another handful at her while Rodney eyed her balefully, and John rolled to his feet, laughing.

"I donít think thatís the most efficient method of moving the leaves," he pointed out.

"Why? You could carry the yardful in your hair," Rodney chuckled.

Seeing the way Michael was eyeing his hair, John exclaimed, "No!" And then he repeated it in an emphatic tone.

"Chicken!" Michael laughed as Rodney ducked into the garage to pull on his own pair of gardening gloves.

"I call it a healthy sense of self preservation!"

Michael tossed a handful of leaves in his direction and shrieked when Jen snuck behind him to shove some into the hood of his sweatshirt.

"Why do I get the feeling that this leaf raking is an all-day event?" John laughed, keeping a wary eye on both kids.

"It could be worse; it could be Carson and Lauraís yard," Rodney offered, beginning to drag the leaves into a pile.

John shuddered. "Thatís when I pay someone to do it!"

"Iíd do it if you paid me!" Michael offered.

"Why does this not surprise me?" John laughed. "Of course, chores for cash is a time-honored tradition," he mused.

"And someone is saving up for one of the new gaming systems," Rodney commented.

"In that case, why are we out here?" John asked, grinning at Rodney while Jen looked hopeful.

"Because Iím not paying the exorbitant fees he charges!"

"And let that be a lesson to you, young Michael," John intoned. "Never charge more than the market will bear, or you end up getting nothing at all." He brandished his rake for emphasis while Jen snickered.

"There is such a thing as bargaining!" Michael protested.

"With Dad?" Jen looked at him as if he was nuts.

"Well, I could try," Michael muttered, scuffing a foot in the leaves.

Even John snorted. "Dream on, kid."

"Less talking, more raking," Rodney demanded, setting to work and glaring at the three of them until they did the same.

"Bossy," John said, grinning at Rodney as they raked up leaves.

"It gets the job done," Rodney sniffed though he was grinning.

"True." John glanced over at him. "Do I get rewarded later for all my hard work?"

"My god, you have such a custard fetish," Rodney laughed.

"Not quite the one I was hoping for," John retorted, also laughing, and flicked a rake full of leaves at Rodney.

"What? You want a leaf war instead?"

John snorted. "I was hoping to send the kids off to a movie or friends, and you and I could have a couple hours of hot, sweaty sex," he retorted, keeping his voice down so it didnít carry to Jen and Michael.

"Hrmm, excellent idea, Dr. Sheppard," Rodney chuckled, bumping against Johnís side before flicking a few leaves in his direction.

"So letís get this done so we can get to the fun part of the program." John grinned at him before setting to work again.

"Just donít work so hard youíre too worn out for it!" Rodney laughed before doing the same.

"Never happen," John assured him laughingly.

It took some time, even with all four of them working, and the occasional pauses for leaf fights added to the time, but no one minded. Eventually, however, the last leaf was raked and bagged, and they surveyed the green expanse with a sense of satisfaction. A moment later a gust of wind shook a few leaves from the trees, and John burst into laughter as they fluttered to the ground.

"No. I donít care; weíre done for today!"

"Thank you!" Michael panted, flopping down on the ground next to them.

"I really hate leaves," Jen said, swiping the back of her arm over her forehead.

"Me too!" John agreed. "But for a job well done, weíll spring for you to go to a movie," he offered.

"With him?" Jen asked at the same time Michael made a face and echoed the sentiment.

"One friend each, Iím paying," Rodney added.

"Cool!" Michael exclaimed, jumping to his feet and dashing for the house to call his best friend.

"I know what youíre doing," Jen laughed. "Have fun. And donít forget to leave the money before you go upstairs!" she added as she headed inside as well.

"Donít you look so smug," Rodney commented to John, "we still have to get them wherever they decide to go."

"Unless they get picked up, which judging by Jenís last comment, she may be planning," John pointed out. "Still, even with driving themógive them money for burgers afterwardóweíll have a couple of hours to pretend to be teenagers again ourselves."

"Letís find out what plans theyíve managed to come up with, then we can make some of our own," Rodney chuckled as they started toward the garage to put away the tools.

"Aunt Laura and Melissa are coming to pick me up to go to the new Orlando Bloom movie," Jen called. "And then weíre going to go get our nails done!"

"And Mark wants to know if I can spend the night!" Michael yelled down from his bedroom.

"Fine and fine; do you need to be dropped off?" Rodney called up to him.

"No, his momís got to get some groceries, so theyíre going to come pick me up."

"Can I spend the night at Melissaís?" Jen asked hopefully.

Rodney glanced over at John, quirking a crooked grin at his hopeful expression. "Of course you can; go forth and do frilly, feminine things, oh my eldest."

"Youíre the best, Dad!" She hugged him hard, then John, and then ran back to the phone to let Melissa and Laura know.

"Someone up there likes us," John murmured to Rodney, beaming.

"Not arguing that one bit. So, do we want to go out for a nice dinner then relax or hide away, order in and relax?"

"If we stay in, we may never eat," John mused. "And going out would be a nice change."

"Why donít you call Ronon and use your connections to get us a table at Sateda," Rodney suggested.

"Good idea. Then once the kids are gone, we can wash each otherís backs."

"Youíd better find out what time the reservations are for first."

"Iíll call as soon as the phoneís free," John assured him.

"We do have cell phones, you know."

"Yeah, but then I couldnít do this..." John grabbed Rodney and kissed him.

"Cell phones are over-rated," Rodney murmured, groping Johnís ass.

"Definitely!" John deepened the kiss, groaning softly.

"We need to take this inside," Rodney murmured, pulling back enough to get a full breath. "And save it for when the kids are gone."

John nodded. "Yeah. You need to stop tempting me," he added with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes.

"Oh yes, thatís me, Mr. Temptation," Rodney snorted, bending to stow away the extra bags on one of the shelves in the garage.

"Yup. You do me in every time." John leaned against the side of the garage to admire the view.

"Flatterer," Rodney murmured, glancing back at him and flashing a crooked smile.

"Hey, I know what I like."

"Do you hear me arguing about it?"

"Youíre usually encouraging me," John chuckled.

"Yes, well right now Iím encouraging you to go get in the shower," Rodney laughed. "We can take turns waiting for Laura and Michelle to arrive."

John looked disappointed. "Whoíll wash my back then?" he pouted. "Why not wait for them to get here, then we can shower together.

"And if we start that then, are we ever going to make it to dinner?" Rodney asked, his eyebrows rising upwards to emphasize his point.

"Of course we will. Iíll just make the reservations late enough to give us time. Itís still really early for dinner anyhow," John pointed out.

"Well, I wasnít suggesting we eat at-" Rodney glanced at his watch, "two oíclock."

"See, we have plenty of time to enjoy some fun in the shower together, relax for a while, and then go out for dinner and still have the whole night ahead of us."

"Once you call Ronon and see when he can get us in."

"Yes, Mom." John kissed the frown away. "You know he always makes room for friends. But Iíll call now." Looking amused, he headed inside to make the call, Rodney following after him and pouring himself a glass of iced tea and straightening up the newspaper and the morningís dishes that had been left in the sink and on the counter.

It took a few minutes for John to make the call since, as usual, he and Ronon chatted for a while, but eventually he hung up. "All set. We have a reservation for six-thirty, and Ronon says we donít get menus. Heís making something special for us."

"I hope you reminded him not to put any citrus in whatever heís coming up with," Rodney commented as he dried the last of the dishes, making John roll his eyes.

"If he was going to kill you, Rodney, it would be his damn filleting knives youíd need to worry about, not death by lemon," John assured him.

"If thatís supposed to be comforting, it isnít!"

"Rodney! Rononís not going to kill you!" John rolled his eyes.

"I think I know that, John," Rodney sniffed.

"Just making sure," John said before kissing the faintly sulky expression away.

"Well, you can make sure that way any time you want," Rodney admitted with a wry smile.

"I plan to," John assured him, taking advantage of their position to grope Rodneyís ass.

"Dad, I need some money!" Michael hollered as he careened down the staircase, and John chuckled wryly as he stepped back from Rodney.

"Why does this not surprise me?"

"Because he has no job?" Rodney asked, taking his wallet from the counter and digging in it to pull out a twenty and hand it over. "And you, I expect change, understand?"

"Aw, Dad!"

John turned away to hide his amusement.

"Yes, yes, itís a horrible life you lead, and Iím just an ogre," Rodney sighed.

"Aunt Lauraís here; see you tomorrow Dad. Dads." Jen grinned at John, kissed both of them on the cheek and was gone before they could say a word.

"Well, I suppose she doesnít need any money," Rodney chuckled.

"Apparently not," John agreed. "Are you going to disappear like a genie too?"

"Who me?" Rodney laughed. "Not a chance.

"I meant Michael, you nut," John chuckled. "Youíre not going anywhere."

"Just checking, it never hurts to be precise," Rodney laughed.

Michael rolled his eyes, but whatever heíd been about to say was forgotten when a car pulled into the driveway. He grabbed his bag and raced over to it, waving back at Rodney and John as he got in.

Michelle Connors stuck her head out the window, calling, "What time do you want him back tomorrow?"

"Is ten all right for you?" Rodney asked, walking over to the car. "And I can pick him up if itís easieróoh, and he has money; donít let him tell you he doesnít."

Michelle chuckled. "Weíre going out for brunch tomorrow. We can drop him off on the way or around one on our way home if you donít mind him coming with us."

Michael stared pleadingly at his father.

"You really want him that long?" Rodney asked before glancing over his shoulder when John joined them. "Oh, Michelle Conners, this is John Sheppard."

After shaking Johnís hand through the open window of her car, Michelle responded to Rodneyís first remark. "Heís no trouble, Rodney, at least no more than Mark on his own," she said. "I donít mind at all."

"Wait, you said, brunchóMichael, what do you have to wear tomorrow?"

Michael rolled his eyes. "I have khakis and a clean shirt. I do know how to dress myself, Dad."

"And youíre sure you want to keep him over night?" Rodney asked Michelle, making her laugh.

"Iím planning to lock them both in the basement and throw away the key," she assured him.

"My favorite kind of parenting," Rodney laughed, stepping away from the car, his arm automatically going around Johnís waist as he stood by him.

Michelle grinned wickedly. "Have fun tonight, you two." She waved as she drove away with the two boys in the back seat.

I think thatís a given," Rodney commented, glancing up at John, who smirked.

"Very definitely. We can pretend to be teenagers again."

"Are you telling me weíre having hamburgers instead of whatever gourmet meal that Ronon is cooking for us?"

"I meant the sex!"

Rodney managed to keep a straight face for a few seconds more, then snickered before slapping John on the ass and racing for the house with John hot on his heels.

"Your ass is so mine!" John called, laughing.

"If you can catch it!" Rodney called over his shoulder, darting into the house and into the living room.

"Hah!" John raced after him and tackled Rodney, tumbling them both to the overstuffed sofa. He sprawled on top of Rodney, grinning victoriously. "All mine," he crowed.

"Including the ruptured spleen?"

"Iíll kiss it better." John squirmed down the sofa, not so coincidentally rubbing against Rodney as he went, and pulled up Rodneyís shirt to press a kiss to his belly, making him giggle.

"Youíre planning on kissing my spleen?"

"Well, not being Jack the Ripper, Iíll settle for the approximate area on the outside of your body that corresponds to it," John assured him, gently nipping at Rodneyís navel.

Rodney groaned and squirmed beneath him. "Thank you," he murmured, his words sounding breathy.

"My pleasure." John nibbled a little more before resting his chin on Rodneyís bare skin and grinning up at him. "All better?"

"Better than better."

"Oh good." John beamed at him and then slowly squirmed lower, unfastening Rodneyís jeans and pulling them down, along with his boxers, until John could lick the base of his cock with quick, teasing forays of his tongue.

"Youíre going to make me beg, arenít you?" Rodney groaned.

"You can make me beg later," John offered magnanimously.

"Hrmm, I think thatíll be my dessert," Rodney purred.

"Iím looking forward to it," John said, his eyes on Rodneyís as he slowly and gently suckled on Rodneyís hardening cock.

Rodney whimpered in response, his hands moving restlessly on Johnís shoulders and head.

"You taste good," John whispered, looking at Rodney while languidly petting him with one hand.

"Iíd taste better if you sucked me more," Rodney suggested as he panted.

"True, cream sauce is always good," John mused, rubbing his thumb over the head.

"Such a fucking tease!"

"And you love it," John chuckled, his lips hovering just above Rodneyís cock.

"Perhaps, but if my children come home to find me in the hospital because of a stroke, they wonít like it!"

John laughed again even as he took the head between his lips.

Rodney whined and bucked upward, hoping to get more suction, and John finally suckled strongly on the hard shaft, letting Rodney slide into his throat briefly. When Rodney sank back to the sofa, John followed, pulling back only enough to hold his cock head in his mouth, his tongue rubbing over Rodney hungrily.

"John..." Rodney gasped, bucking upward and trying to clutch at him. "Want to taste you too."

That sounded like a wonderful idea to John, and he managed to shuck his jeans and boxer briefs and twist around without ever letting Rodneyís cock out of his mouth.

"Donít fall," Rodney mumbled, twisting to the side to give John more room as he dove in and sucked on his cock. John could only groan, clearly not giving a damn if he fell on his head, just so long as Rodney kept sucking him and he had Rodneyís cock in his mouth.

"So good," Rodney whimpered, grabbing Johnís hips and pulling him deeper while he arched into Johnís mouth. John hummed his agreement before sliding two fingers into his mouth alongside Rodneyís cock, taking advantage of the positioning to stroke him while wetting his own fingers.

Rodney groaned and let go of Johnís shaft to suck his balls into his mouth one after the other, making John lose track of what he was doing and simply moan his pleasure. Rodney sighed and took him deeper as they found a rhythm of give and take that felt good to both of them, and after a short while, John remembered what heíd been doing, and his wet fingers delved between the cheeks of Rodneyís ass.

Rodney moaned around Johnís cock and sucked him harder, switching between his shaft and balls with no discernable pattern, making John squirm. He carefully pushed one finger inside Rodney, slowly stroking him while continuing to suck him.

Finally, Rodney gasped and jerked, pulsing inside of Johnís mouth, crying out around him as he came, the vibrations triggering Johnís own climax only seconds later even as he was eagerly swallowing all Rodney had to offer.

"Oh god, I think you killed me," Rodney sighed.

"Oh good, we went together," John panted.

"And we didnít even stain the couch."

"No way in hell I was going to explain that to Jen!"

Rodney snickered at that and nuzzled Johnís groin. "Didnít quite make it to the shower."

"And now we need it even more once we can walk again," John chuckled. "This worked out well, logistically."

"How do you mean?"

"If weíd waited till after the shower, weíd have to shower again. This order makes more sense," John explained, as if practicality had been the only thing on his mind.

"And what about during the showeróor bath? There is that nice big bathtub up there..."

"Have I mentioned recently that I really like the way you think?" John shifted around until his head was pillowed on Rodneyís shoulder and their legs tangled together.

"At times," Rodney chuckled, wrapping his arms around Johnís waist and holding him close.

"This is nice," John murmured. "I love the kids, but itís nice to be able to just do this without worrying about scarring their minds or something."

Rodney was quiet for a moment before nodding. "Yes, it is."

"Still seems kind of weird for the house to be this quiet though," John admitted with a soft chuckle.

"Thatís an understatement; I usually used this time to catch up on work," Rodney murmured.

"I beat out work? Iím flattered."

"Thatís such a hard decision," Rodney snorted, "grading exams or enjoying quiet time with you."

"Glad to hear it," John replied. "And much as I hate to say it, if we donít move soon, weíre going to fall asleep."

"Then Ronon would come and drag us out by our earsóor other sensitive places."

John shuddered and reluctantly sat up. "You have a really awful imagination."

"I prefer vivid, thank you," Rodney laughed as he stood as well, stretching and sliding his arm around Johnís waist.

"Fortunately, I love you and all your foibles," John said, bending down to gather up their clothes.

"Youíd be bored with anything less," Rodney sniffed, giving in to temptation and groping Johnís ass.

"Good point," John agreed, chuckling as he looked over his shoulder at Rodney. "And can I hope from your grabby hands that shower sex isnít out of the question?"

"I think that both of us are too old for a five-minute recovery time!"

"So we wait a little while before hitting the shower."

"And just what are we going to do during that time?"

"Hmm, curl up together in bed and watch a movie? Or nap? Or just talk?" John suggested.

"How about curl up, talk and nap?" Rodney suggested.

"I like that plan. Weíll just set the alarm to make sure we donít oversleep. I doubt we would, but no sense tempting fate."

"Just remember to allow us enough time in the shower," Rodney teased as they started up the stairs.

"As if I would forget that!"

"Iím just checking!"

John laughed. "You do remember who youíre talking to, right? Do you honestly think I would ever forget to allow time for sex?"

"Hrmm, good point, Iím expecting youíll be waking us up with exactly enough time to allow for shower sex and getting dressed."

John laughed. "Itís not as if I time us, you know. Weíll have enough time for whatever we want to do, and possibly even for a drink before we go."

"And then get arrested for DWI?"

"Fine, fine, Iíll just have a soda," John said.

"Or we can order a limo."

John looked surprised. "I think a taxi would be fine."

"True, but less private."

"Oh." John looked interested. "So, a limo, huh? Are we going to drive around town before we get there? Or after dinner?"

"You do realize I was only joking about it?" Rodney commented.

"Well, damn. I was looking forward to kinky sex in the back seat," John chuckled.

"Youíll just have to settle for kinky sex once we get home."

"Maybe when weíre in that taxi, Iíll lean over and whisper everything that Iím planning to do with you once we get home again."

"You do realize that there is no way Iím getting out of a taxi and walking into Sateda with my pants looking like a tent, donít you," Rodney blustered.

John burst into laughter. "Iíll be more than happy to take care of that for you."

"And then youíll have the same problem, and Iíll offer to take care of it, and weíll never get in to our meal," Rodney laughed.

"Damn, I hate it when youíre logical," John chuckled. "Fine, so we behave in the cab, and we enjoy our dessert when we get back home tonight. I can live with that."

"So can I, and if we leave the windows open, it probably would be cool enough to have a small fire too."

"All we need nowís the bearskin rug."

"Itís not that cold, plus could you imagine the cleaning bills?" Rodney laughed.

"Now youíre just being overly practical," John said, grinning.

"Fine, youíll be the one with clumpy bear fur stuck to your ass, not me," Rodney smirked, and John started to laugh.

"Okay, so thatís about as practical in reality as sex on a beach."

"Been there, done that, so not doing it again, even for you," Rodney shuddered.

"Thatís okay; I really donít want to sand the skin off my dick."

Rodney winced at that and pulled John up the stairs. "After hearing that, I really need to lie down."

"Hey, it would be more disturbing if Iíd said I was interested in that."

"The fact that you arenít interested in something sexual is disturbing in and of itself," Rodney chuckled.

"Hardy har." John made a face at him. "I draw the line at pain."

"And what? You think Iíve got a whip and ball gag hidden away in the basement somewhere?"

John stared at him before starting to laugh. "Oh, now that was a mental image I did not need."

Rodney smirked and patted Johnís ass as they reaching the top of the stairs and started toward the bedroom. "Poor baby."

"Iím going to need some serious hugging to comfort me after the trauma of that."

"I think I can manage that."

"Life is good," John said happily, dropping their clothes on the chair in the corner of their room and then heading straight for the bed, pausing only to set the alarm before settling comfortably.

"Do you hear me denying it?" Rodney asked, following him in a more leisurely manner and stretching out beside him.

John rolled onto his side and smiled into the bright blue eyes only inches away. "I know Iíve said it before, but Iím so very glad I decided to come to the reunion." He leaned in to brush a kiss over Rodneyís lips. "I love you. And at the risk of sounding revoltingly sappy, I always have."

"And you always will? Good because I feel the same."

"So which of us is Prince Charming?" John asked, chuckling.

"I suppose that would have to be you; Iíve never been compared to a hero."

"Youíre my hero," John said simply, settling closer to Rodney as his eyes closed.

"Crazy man," Rodney murmured, hugging him close and settling in for a nap as well.

John had set the alarm to make sure they didnít oversleep, but as usual, he awoke before it went off and reached over to switch it off. He carefully disentangled himself from Rodney, who grumbled but didnít wake up, and moved down the bed to nuzzle the soft cock lying against Rodneyís thigh, inhaling the musky scent of him.

"Mmm, you can wake me up this way any time," Rodney sighed, watching John through half-lidded eyes.

"Iím going to remind you that you said that," John replied before licking a stripe along Rodneyís hip.

"Do you think I have a problem with this?"

"When I get up to go running with Ronon?" John asked, grinning up at him before nibbling on his belly.

"Have you noticed the fact that nine mornings out of ten the kids and I are out of the house before youíre even out of bed?" Rodney chuckled.

"Jealousy will get you nowhere," John informed him, lightly flicking his fingertips over Rodneyís balls before taking his hardening cock back into his mouth.

"Remind me to stick an ice cube down your shorts Monday morning," Rodney gasped.

"Only if you promise to follow it with a hot tongue," John retorted after pulling back enough to speak. He immediately drew Rodney back into his mouth, suckling hungrily, causing the gurgle to change to a moan as Rodney bucked upward into his mouth. John petted him, the moan making his own arousal go up a notch, but he was concentrating on Rodney for the moment.

"Want you in me," Rodney rasped, reaching out to trail his fingers through Johnís hair.

John raised his head, crawling up Rodneyís body to kiss him while grabbing for the lube on the nightstand, and Rodney sighed as he looked up at him. "Perfect."

"Thatís us together," John replied, smiling down at him. He quickly warmed the lube and stroked it into Rodney, groaning at the tight grip on his fingers.

"Damn right." Rodney shuddered and clenched down on Johnís fingers.

"God, canít wait," John groaned, hastily slicking himself and pushing into Rodney.

"Donít recallóoh fuckóasking you to!" Rodney pointed out as he grabbed on to Johnís shoulders, yanking him down for a hungry kiss.

"God, you feel incredible," John gasped into the kiss, his fingers tightening on Rodneyís hips hard enough to leave marks.

"Perfect," Rodney gasped, arching up against him.

"We always are, together," John agreed breathlessly, drawing back so he could drive into Rodney again.

Rodney only groaned, his hands tightening around Johnís back as he met each thrust, carrying them both onward until John suddenly sped up, then tensed, his back arching as he came, groaning Rodneyís name through gritted teeth.

"Mmm," Rodney sighed, stroking his hands over Johnís back and shoulders. "This is good."

"Incredible," John agreed, curling a fist around Rodneyís cock and stroking him rapidly.

"Oh fuck," Rodney gasped, his hands fisting against Johnís back as he came.

John continued stroking him through the aftershocks, only letting go when Rodney squirmed uncomfortably, too sensitive to enjoy any more. Never looking away from Rodneyís pleasure-dazed face, John raised his hand to his mouth and began to lick it clean.

"I may never move again," Rodney murmured, watching John through half-lidded eyes.

"Jen and Michael would kill us if we didnít pick them up when they get back," John laughed.

"Pick them up?"

"Oh right, theyíre being delivered home tomorrow. Hey, take my memory loss as a compliment."

"You mean you lost IQ points because of the sex?"

"Youíre living proof that doesnít happen," John chuckled. "I meant that you pushed everything but you from my mind."

"You say the sweetest things," Rodney grinned.

"You inspire me." John batted his lashes at Rodney, hamming it up.

"To insanity it seems!"

"Well, I am crazy about you..."

"Very glad to hear it and weíd better get cleaned up and dressed."

"In a minute," John said. "I set the alarm a little early so we donít have to rush."

"Good man," Rodney murmured.

"I was inspired," John replied, nuzzling Rodneyís cheek.

"Smart as well as gorgeous," Rodney chuckled.

"Thatís why I grabbed you."

"Hrmm, and here I thought it was because you wanted to be an instant father," Rodney chuckled.

"Naw, that was just a fringe benefit."

"Do you realize how much hearing you say that makes me love you?"

John smiled. "Yet another fringe benefit. Iím definitely coming out ahead."

"Iíd say the kids and I are too."

"Does this make us the twenty-first century version of the Brady Bunch?"

"Are you saying youíre Florence Henderson?"

"Well, they do say blonds have more fun..."

"Youíd have to ask Jenóor Chaylynn..."

John shuddered. "Bite your tongue!"

"Or I could search for the peroxide."

Johnís eyes narrowed. "Do it and die!"

Rodney snickered and yawned. "Thatís okay; I like you as a brunette."

"Hmph." John sat up and pulled Rodney up as well. "No going back to sleep. Ronon would come drag us out of bed if we were late for our reservations."

"And I shudder to think of what parts heíd drag us by!" Rodney said, climbing out of bed. "And no shared shower or we will be late even with the early alarm."

"What?" John protested, pouting. "We have plenty of time!"

"Itís called anticipation, John," Rodney chuckled. "Deal with it."

"You are a cruel, cruel man," John said mournfully, his eyes on Rodneyís ass.

"Now you sound like one of my students, and Iíll give you the same answer I give them: deal with it."

"Thatís what I wanted to do, but you wonít let me!" John protested.

"Shower, Dr. Sheppard," Rodney growled.

"Bossy, Dr. McKay," John laughed, getting up and heading for the shower to the sound of Rodneyís laughter.

"Sheppard! McKay!" Rononís booming voice preceded bone-crushing hugs to both men. "I hope you two are hungry."

"As if weíd dare come without an appetite," John said, trying to catch his breath after that hug.

"Can you eat with crushed ribs?" Rodney asked plaintively, rubbing his side.

Ronon snorted. "Youíre fine. Follow me." He turned and led them through the restaurant toward a table that was somewhat set off from the others by a screen and plants.

"He does know heís not in the army any more, right?" John whispered to Rodney.

"You have to be kidding, right?" Rodney snorted as they sat.

"Drinks are coming along with the first course," Ronon announced, turning and heading back to the kitchen.

"Weíre two grown men," John grumbled quietly. "Why are we afraid of him?"

"Because weíre also two very smart men?" Rodney suggested.

"Good point." John reached across the table and caught hold of Rodneyís hand. "Iím glad we got a chance to do this."

"To be tormented by Ronon?" Rodney asked, before smiling and threading his fingers through Johnís. "I am too."

"Idiot," John laughed. "But yes, even that. We need to remember to have some us time occasionally. And then we can spoil the kids rotten to compensate," he finished with another laugh.

"Theyíre spoiled rotten anyway," Rodney chuckled. "Donít you recall that car Jennifer is getting for her birthday?"

"Did I mention the jacket and cap Iím giving her to go with it when she becomes the new family chauffeur?" John replied, grinning.

"And Iíll save you when she tries to strangle you." A waiter approached with a bottle of wine, opening it and pouring them both glasses, then leaving, all without saying a word.

John stared after him. "Does Ronon cut out their tongues when he hires them?"

"Iíd believe it to keep his recipes safe."

"And donít you forget it," Ronon himself said, making them both jump.

"Damnit, Ronon, someone your size should not be able to sneak up on us!" John complained.

"Ranger training beats Air Force skills any time," the larger man smirked as he set plates down in front of them.

"What is this?" Rodney asked, eyeing the concoction.

"My version of Angels on Horseback," Ronon retorted. "Itís still cheese-stuffed water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, but I use goat cheese instead of asiago and add some herbs. Try it, McKay!"

"Oh, thatís really good," John groaned happily a moment later, and Rodney nodded enthusiastically.

"Told you," Ronon muttered, turning and leaving them alone again.

"Heís unbearably smug," John observed before taking another bite. "Then again, he has reason."

"Iím not arguing that point," Rodney shrugged before lifting his glass of wine and taking a drink.

"If only we could get him to cook for us every day."

"Then he would have to live with us, and Teyla would be the one coming to beat us up," Rodney countered.

John shuddered. "Okay, not one of my better ideas."

"Exactly, but youíre cute, so Iíll let the mental lapse slide."

"Youíre too good to me."

"I know, but I love you so what can I do?"

"Keep on loving me," John replied promptly. "It works for me."

"Me too," Rodney murmured before taking another drink of his wine.

"Pretty convenient, huh?" John sipped at his own wine while looking around the restaurant. "I donít think Iíve ever seen this place not full," he mused.

"Me either," Rodney nodded. "Itís been packed since it opened eight years ago. No idea how he and Teyla do it and keep track of the kids as well."

"They terrify everyone, staff and kids alike, into submission," John laughed. "I know I certainly wouldnít argue with them."

"Of course you wouldnít," Ronon commented, coming back over to their table and setting lush green salads in front of them while the still silent waiter whisked their plates away, "you like your bones unbroken."

"You know," John said, pointing at Ronon with a fork laden with lettuce, "most restaurateurs donít employ terrorism as a means of customer service!"

Ronon shrugged at the comment. "Doesnít affect my business and it doesnít affect my cooking, so stop complaining."

"I was just commenting; I wouldnít dare complain," John said hastily.

Ronon nodded at that, glancing over at Rodney, who was shoveling his salad into his mouth and nodding.

"You already know this, but itís great," John said.

"Still good to hear it," Ronon answered, eyeing them a moment longer before leaving them alone.

"Iím surprised he doesnít want us to write it in blood!"

"Donít give him any ideas!"

"He comes near me with a knife and Iím hiding behind you!"

"He comes near us with a knife and Iím yelling for Teyla!"

Rodney nodded almost violently, grabbing his wine glass and taking a deep slug of it.

"That was nice," John said a couple of hours later, when he and Rodney were back at home, relaxing in front of the fireplace with glasses of cognac.

"Aside from the threats of bodily violence," Rodney murmured, leaning against Johnís side.

"He wouldnít be Ronon if he wasnít threatening someone," John chuckled lazily, his arm around Rodneyís shoulders and his cheek resting against the top of the dark head.

"Well, I knew youíd save me if he got homicidal," Rodney murmured before taking a sip of his drink.

"Teyla doesnít let him kill the customers." John gazed into the fire for a time, both of them content simply to be together. "This is nice too," he said quietly after a while.

"The fire, the drink or the company?" Rodney murmured.

"All of the above, but especially the last. This has been a great day."

"You saying you like it when the kids arenít here?"

"It is kind of nice to have some time alone."

"I know this isnít quite what you imagined," Rodney said carefully.

"Of course itís not; Iíve never had a family so I had no idea what to expect. But much as I love the kids, I like some us-time too."

"Iíll have to put it in my Outlook calendar," Rodney mused, smiling slightly.

John laughed. "Techno-weenie. Of course, since you rely on it as well as that hard copy calendar in the kitchen, you have no excuse to forget any birthdays or anniversaries."

"Techno-weenie?" Rodney asked, outraged. "You did not just call me that."

John smirked. "Yup, I did."

"And you want to get laid tonight?"

John pouted at him, and Rodney simply looked at him, his eyebrows raised. John licked his lips, his eyes limpid as he lightly stroked Rodneyís arm.

"Oh my god, you are such a ham."

"But Iím your ham."

"Oh shut up and kiss me."

John laughed before proving that his years in the military had had one benefit: He was very good at following ordersówhen he liked them.

"Mmm, I like this dessert," Rodney murmured when they finally broke apart.

"Me too, but itís definitely a specialty item, not for general consumption."

"Damn right. Now, I seem to recall you mentioning something about making out on the rug in front of the fire..."

John set his glass on the end table and then took Rodneyís and placed it next to his, then twisted around, pushing Rodney flat on the sofa and stretching out on top of him. "This more what you had in mind?"

"Mmm, youíre getting there," Rodney sighed, stroking his hands down Johnís back as he relaxed beneath him.

"I sure am," John agreed, rocking his hips forward to demonstrate exactly what he meant, the move earning him a low groan as Rodney squirmed lazily beneath him. "You can do that as often as you like," John gasped.

"I think I can manage that," Rodney groaned, sliding his hands under Johnís shirt and digging his fingers into his back.

"Lucky me." John ground down against him, gasping as their erections slid against each other, the sensation incredible even through the layers of fabric.

After a moment, Rodney chuckled, though he didnít stop moving. "I feel like weíre teenagers up over the garage again."

"At least we donít have to worry about being interrupted or grounded."

"Unless Carson or Radek call."

"Voicemail," John replied succinctly as he lowered his head to place a biting kiss on Rodneyís throat.

"An excellent invention."

"Probably yours," John mumbled, still suckling on the same spot.

"It would have been more efficientóohóif it had been."

"Concentrate your efficiency on me."

In answer Rodney twined his fingers in Johnís thick hair, tugging until he lifted his head, then kissed him as Johnís mouth opened eagerly, his tongue meeting Rodneyís while his fingers tugged at Rodneyís belt. Rodney shifted as much as he was able to help with the task, each move drawing groans from both of them. Johnís hands glided over Rodneyís sides under his shirt, exploring the familiar contours as they pressed close.

"Mmmm, did anyone ever tell you that youíre damn hot, Dr. Sheppard?" Rodney murmured, kissing the warm skin of Johnís shoulder.

"I may have heard that once or twice, but feel free to say it again," John said magnanimously, smiling before sliding downward to mouth one of Rodneyís nipples through his shirt, driving all semblance of speech from the other manís mind. After a moment John raised his head to tear impatiently at Rodneyís shirt, and then his mouth closed over Rodneyís nipple again, this time without any barriers between them.

"John!" Rodney gasped, squirming beneath him, his hips bucking upward in a futile attempt to get pressure against his erection.

"Mmm, taste good," John mumbled against Rodneyís chest, one hand working between them to knead Rodneyís cock, drawing a breathless moan from the other man and a sudden clenching of the hands that were roaming over his back and shoulders.

John slid down again, nipping at Rodneyís belly while unfastening his pants and then pushing them down so he could nuzzle Rodneyís erection, inhaling the musky scent of him.

"Drive me crazy," Rodney whispered, his hips shifting restlessly, dragging his shaft over Johnís face.

"Wanna make you yell, donít have to worry about being quiet tonight," John rasped, flicking his tongue over Rodney quickly before nuzzling him again.

"Ahógood point, though donít makeóoh godóthe neighbors call the police on us," Rodney whimpered, squirming under the teasing attention.

"The windows are shut in here," John assured him. "So yell as loud as you want." He very carefully nibbled the length of Rodneyís shaft, interspersing the bites with swipes of his tongue at irregular intervals.

"Oh god," Rodney groaned, his sounds growing louder as John played with him, making John chuckle against him while continuing to tease. He pulled Rodneyís pants down over his hips to get at more of him, a hand sliding down to cup and roll the heavy sac.

"Want you," Rodneyís voice was now a hoarse whisper as he squirmed under Johnís touch.

"Always," John replied before his lips closed over the head of Rodneyís cock and he sucked, Rodney moaning and squirming beneath him, his hands scrabbling at Johnís shoulder and the side of the couch. Johnís head bobbed up and down as he gradually took more of Rodney into his mouth, humming happily at the taste of him.

"Wait!" Rodney gasped, trying to sit up. "Donít wantówant you in me when I come."

John groaned but let Rodney out of his mouth after a final flick of his tongue. He sat up, his eyes on Rodneyís body generating more heat than the fire, and he pulled his shirt over his head without bothering to unbutton it before going to work on his pants, suddenly anxious to be rid of his clothes, Rodney watching hungrily, shifting one hand to stroke his own erection as he stared up at John. Once naked, John grabbed the bottle of lube heíd placed on the end table earlier and then paused, looking down at Rodney as the firelight gilded their bodies.

"Youíre gorgeous," John breathed.

"Glad you think so, now get down here," Rodney grumbled, his cheeks taking on a ruddy tone as he blushed under Johnís intense scrutiny.

"Just let me look at you for a minute," John said quietly, one hand cupping Rodneyís cheek while a thumb rubbed his lower lip.

"Embarrassing," Rodney muttered, making a face.

"I like looking at you. I have twenty years to make up for."

"While I have twenty years of fast food living around my middle."

John bent down to press a kiss to the belly in question, nuzzling the slight rounding. "Youíre perfect."

Rodney made a face, then shrugged. "As long as you think so."

"I do." John nipped gently at Rodneyís navel. "Perfect for me."

"Mmm, glad you think so. Perfect for me too."

John smiled up at him with his chin resting on Rodneyís pelvis. "Iím going to make sure you never change your mind about that."

"Iíve known it for over twenty years," Rodney admitted, looking away before meeting Johnís gaze. "I just couldnít admit it until recently."

John winced. "Iím sorry it took me so long to admit how bad Iíd fucked up to you. But Iím glad we found our way back to each other."

"Itís okay, John." Rodney reached up and stroked his face. "We both got where we needed to be."

After a moment John nodded slightly and turned his head to kiss Rodneyís stomach. "And I really like it here."

"Me too." Rodney reached out and stroked a hand over Johnís cheek. "And I like who we are now."

"Yeah, weíre in a good place now and even almost gainfully employed," John added wryly.

"I thought you liked being a kept man."

John snorted. "Yeah, right. Iím just paid for sponging off people. Though sex slave has a long history," he mused.

"I like it," Rodney grinned.

"But can you afford me?"

Rodney only smirked in answer.

"I guess Iíd better please you then, master," John purred, sliding down a little more so he could flick his tongue over Rodneyís erection in teasing little flicks.

"No master," Rodney grumbled. "Thatís just... wrong."

John chuckled. "Good, Ďcause I suck at obeying orders."

Rodney snickered at that. "Yeah, I knew that, but you suck really well."

"Yeah, I do, donít I?" John beamed before swallowing Rodney down again, drawing a deep-throated groan from him as he fisted his hand in Johnís hair. John hummed faintly, his tongue sliding over the shaft in his mouth, tracing patterns along the rigid length.

"God yes," Rodney groaned, arching up into his mouth.

"Mm hm," John mumbled, sucking harder as he tasted Rodneyís precome, the familiar flavor sending a jolt of pleasure through him.

"John," Rodney panted, rocking up to meet the downward motion of his head. "Going toóoh fuck, so good."

John slid a finger between Rodneyís cheeks, lightly stroking while he continued to blow Rodney, eager to taste more of him.

"Johnó" Rodney gasped, his whole body clenching down as he gasped for breath, then suddenly shuddered and came. John kept sucking on him until he was sure heíd got every last drop, and then he surged up Rodneyís body to kiss him fiercely.

"Want you in me," Rodney whispered in between hungry biting kisses.

"God yes," John rasped, fumbling around in the sofa cushions for the lube heíd dropped earlier and letting out a fierce sound of success when he found it. Seconds later a slick finger was pushing inside Rodney, and John was shuddering with lust as he looked down at Rodneyís relaxed features.

"Want you," Rodney murmured, a fierce glint entering his eyes.

"Youíve got me," John rasped, pulling his finger free and positioning himself, then pushing forward, watching Rodney carefully for any sign of pain.

"Feel so damn good," Rodney sighed, his eyes closing as a beatific smile curved his mouth.

"You feel perfect," John panted, still sliding into Rodney and feeling the tight grip surround his cock.

"Because I am." One bright blue eye opened at that, and Rodney grinned slightly.

"Finally," John crowed before swooping down for quick but deep and wet kiss that had Rodney sputtering when it was over.

"What?"

"I finally got you to admit youíre perfect," John said, remaining motionless except for the faintest twisting of his hips, determined that Rodney would come again.

"Being with you makes me perfect."

John smiled and started to move, rocking lazily, determined to make this last, Rodney meeting each thrust, clenching down on Johnís cock to tease him. "God," John groaned, shuddering above him, "so good, so fucking good."

"Mmmhmm," Rodney sighed, stroking his hands over Johnís shoulders and down his back, his legs wrapped around Johnís thighs.

"Love you, love being with you," John panted, his hips stuttering as he fought the urge to move faster, Rodney letting out small sighs of pleasure each time John bottomed out in him, pressing his cock between their bodies.

John caught Rodneyís mouth with his, wanting every possible connection between them. At the same, he braced himself on his elbows and caught hold of Rodneyís hands, pressing them to the sofa on either side of Rodneyís head with their fingers interlaced, Rodneyís legs tightening around his thighs as they rocked together, his moans growing deeper as sensation grew.

Gradually, their rhythm increased, the mounting pleasure overcoming their desire to extend it. Rodney shuddered and tightened down on John. "Close," he rasped, his movements growing more spastic.

"Yes." John nodded jerkily, his eyes intent on Rodneyís face as he watched the pleasure begin to wash over the expressive features. "Come for me."

"John..." Rodney whispered, his whole body tensing before he came, his come splashing between them as pleasure greyed his vision. John gasped as Rodney spasmed around him, and his fingers tightened on Rodneyís as he came as well.

"I think you broke me," Rodney mumbled some time later.

"Damn, Iím good." John nuzzled his throat, practically purring with contentment while Rodney managed to snort and shift a leg enough to kick him. "And youíre obviously not broken enough if youíre abusing me."

"Though you obviously are if you think that was abuse."

"You kicked me. Thatís definitely spousal abuse."

"Iíll kiss it and make it better later. Promise."

"In that case, I have a few more places you could kick."

"If you think Iím moving any time in the near future, youíre sadly mistaken!"

"Good; youíre my favorite pillow."

"Weíll just have to remember to clean the couch," Rodney chuckled.

Imagining the results if they forgot, John shuddered. "Youíre a sick man."

"Iím a parent; it comes with the territory."

"Life would have been a lot more fun if my dad had been like you," John chuckled.

"Yes, but then we probably would never have met each other."

"For the first time in my life, Iím glad my fatherís an ass."

"I wish youíd let me call him and tell him what a prick he is," Rodney sighed, pulling one hand from Johnís grasp to stroke it over his back.

"I donít want him even that much in our life."

"Oh, like I couldnít block his caller ID."

"Forget my father; concentrate on me."

Rodney chuckled at that and sighed as he continued to rub Johnís back. "You know the only thing I regretted about when we were kids?"

"My stupidity?"

"Noówell, yes, but tható" Rodney cleared his throat before continuing, "that we never got a chance to have that prom dance we talked about."

"Oh." John propped his chin on Rodneyís breastbone and looked at him. "Would you be my date to next yearís prom?"

"Jen would kill us if we went to her prom and danced."

"Wouldnít that make it even more fun?" John asked mischievously.

"She has the McKay temper..."

"And I have a bigger McKay to hide behind."

"Sheís going to hate us."

"Isnít it a parentís duty to embarrass teenagers?"

"I meant we could dance hereótonight."

John grinned, showing that he hadnít really been serious. "That would probably be safer... and more fun since we could do it naked."

"Weíd have to shut the shades," Rodney snorted.

"I think we could probably manage to do that."

"Once we can move, that is."

"Iím in no rush. Youíre comfortable."

"Glad you think so."

"Tell me when I get too heavy."

"That would be never; I like you on me."

"Pretty convenient, huh?" John pressed a kiss just above Rodneyís nipple.

"Because you like being on me?" Rodney asked, grinning slightly.

"Exactly. If I could, Iíd never move."

"And while I really like that idea, I donít think the kids would, so... weíll have to enjoy this time."

"Iím pretty sure I wouldnít like having my ass hanging out in front of the kids," John agreed.

"Jen might think it was cute..."

"Your sister chasing me was bad enough; I donít think I want to imagine your daughter doing it too!"

"I didnít say sheíd want it!" Rodney shuddered at the thought. "Besides, youíre old."

"Hey!" John bit his shoulder. "I am not!"

"Older than me anyway," Rodney smirked.

"Barely," John grumbled.

"Two years."

"Then since youíre so much younger, you can do all the work next time," John said with a smirk of his own.

"Oh, so I can lead when we dance?"

"Only if you promise not to drop me when we dip."

"Actually, I was thinking of a slow, close dance."

"I really like the way you think."

"Of course you do, Iím a genius."

"Ah, of course, how could I forget?"

"Yes, how could you forget?"

"I guess you hadnít reminded me for more than half an hour," John chuckled as Rodney scowled and raised his hand to smack him on the back of the head.

"And back to the spousal abuse. Youíre going to have to kiss that better too."

"I think I can manage that."

"Oh good." John grinned while resettling himself on top of Rodney.

"As if it was ever in doubt."

John raised his head to bat his lashes at Rodney. "I still like to hear it."

"I love you, and I canít keep my hands off of you; how about that?"

John beamed a purely happy smile. "You can abuse me as much as you like if that comes afterward."

"You know it will," Rodney chuckled, pulling John down for a kiss.

"Life is good," John announced a little later after a final lick at Rodneyís lips.

"Mmm. So, wanna dance?"

"Yeah, I think my legs will support me now." John sat up and then got to his feet, stretching hugely, causing Rodney to watch him appreciatively.

"Just donít give the neighbors too much to see!"

"Much as I appreciate the compliment, I couldnít have too much to show for a while," John chuckled, going over to the window to shut the blinds.

"Perhaps, but they donít need to see any bits of you!"

"I really doubt they have the slightest interest in an almost forty-year-old man," John snorted.

"Well, if Chaylynn came running by, she might break through the window."

"And I would throw myself behind you!"

"While I grabbed the fireplace poker!" Rodney finally stood as well and walked over to the stereo and turned it on.

"My hero. Itís a comfort to know that my honor is in good hands."

"Yes, yes, I promise to protect you from crazed ex-cheerleaders." Rodney flipped through CDs and found the one he wanted, sliding it into the player and keying up one of the songs, making John smile as he recognized one theyíd often listened to as teenagers.

He moved into Rodneyís arms, and they started to dance, smiles on both their faces, Rodney smiling slightly as he rested his cheek against Johnís. "I remember we made fun of this song for being sappy," he murmured.

"We grew into sappy," John said softly. "I like it."

"Yeah, me too, but we wonít tell the kids, or theyíll laugh at us."

"Itíll be our secret."

"Good idea, I hate having them laugh at me."

"True, they do it often enough that we donít need to give them additional fodder."

Rodney shuddered at the thought, and John chuckled. "Exactly. But we can still enjoy it in private."

"Remind me to sound-proof the doors."

"An excellent idea! And then we can christen them."

"Weíd better reinforce them as well then!"

John laughed. "Iíll leave that in your capable hands."

Rodney snorted at that.

"Okay, youíve got my hotel number, right?" Rodney asked, looking so nervous he might be sick. "Iíll keep my cell on me so you can get in touch with me if you need to."

"Rodney, weíll be fine. I promise not to turn into Michael Myers and slaughter the kids while youíre gone."

"Ha! Weíd take you down," Michael snorted, poking John in the side while Jen rolled her eyes at his antics.

"Iím more worried about what theyíll do to you, not vice versa," Rodney commented dryly.

"Rodney, go," John laughed. "Enjoy your conference, terrify all lesser beings, and stop worrying."

"Iím beginning to think the three of you are planning some wild rave here or something," Rodney mused before kissing John, then Jennifer, then Michael even though he tried to duck away. "Iíll call when I get in."

"And weíll be here, unmangled, unmutilated, waiting for you." John grinned as Rodney continued dithering.

"Just go, Dad," Jennifer laughed, handing him his laptop and pointing toward the door. "The taxi is here. Weíll take care of John. Promise."

"Yeah, Dad, go," Michael added.

"If you donít leave, we wonít be able to welcome you home," John pointed out, still grinning.

"Iím going!" Rodney growled. "Love you all, and be good!" He took a step back, then turned and hurried for the door and his waiting cab, knowing if he looked back again, heíd go through it all again.

"Dad doesnít like saying goodbye to us," Michael explained.

"For a while, because of what happened to Mom and Dad, we went everywhere together," Jen added.

"That had to be rough on all of you," John said, shutting the door once Rodneyís cab had disappeared down the street.

"Not as bad as if we hadnít had Dad," Jen said simply.

"Yeah," Michael nodded.

"Like you even remember it," Jen scoffed. "You were two!"

"I remember Mom and Dad! Some," Michael amended after a moment.

"Donít you think this is a silly thing to fight about?" John said, trying to head off an argument before it really got started.

Jen looked away, her cheeks flushing slightly. "We worry about him when heís gone too," she muttered.

"I wouldnít expect anything else. But heíll be back." John smiled quickly. "Heíd never leave us alone without him."

Michael nodded and finally quirked a grin that looked much like his fatherís. "Heíd be afraid weíd all get buried in the mess the house would be."

"Maid service," John said firmly, making Jen laugh.

"Youíre even worse than Dad."

"I like the idea! I wouldnít have to make my bed!" Michael laughed. "So, can we have pizza tonight?" he wheedled. "Mama Pís?"

"Okay, but tonight only! For the rest of the time your dadís away, we have real meals," John warned, trying to look stern.

"I hope you two arenít expecting me to cook for us for the next week!" Jen laughed.

"Iíll have you know I can cook," John retorted.

"So weíre going to live on burgers for a week?" Michael snickered.

John stuck his tongue out. "Iíve been living on my own for a long time. Do you really think I never learned to feed myself?"

"So, what are you going to make tomorrow night?" Jen asked innocently.

"Roast chicken, potatoes and green beans," John replied, his tone adding "so there."

"We reserve the right to judge until weíve actually tasted it," Jen laughed while Michael nodded in agreement.

"And to call Aunt Laura for help if itís inedible!"

"Keep it up and youíll be fending for yourselves," John laughed.

"You promised Dad youíd take care of us," Michael reminded him with a cheery grin.

"I didnít say it would be good care," John retorted.

Both of the McKay-Andrews children stuck their tongues out at him and blew raspberries at him, making John laugh.

"Locking you two in the basement for the duration is looking better and better."

"Suuurrreee you would, John," Jen laughed.

"Clearly I should have tried harder to scare you when we first met," John replied with mock sorrow.

"You were too busy trying to get Dadís attention," Jen shot back.

"I could have spared a little time for intimidation," John retorted, and Michael snorted.

"As if!"

"Itís too late, John," Jen laughed. "So donít even try."

"Well, darn. I guess Iím doomed then."

"Yup," Michael replied cheerfully.

"But itís a good way to go."

"And you get Dad and us out of it," Michael added.

"I suppose it did work out pretty well at that." John pulled both of them into a hug.

"For all of us too," Jen assured him.

"Yeah, youíre a lot more fun than Robert," Michael said, grinning anticipation of Johnís growl, which wasnít long in coming.

"Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

"Well, it is one!" Michael protested laughingly.

"Itís not like I had much to surpass!"

"Then why do you get so grouchy whenever someone says his name?" Jen asked innocently.

"Whatever happened to children being seen and not heard?" John wondered.

"Weíre McKays."

"Iím so doomed."

"So, are all of you still alive?" Rodney asked, the moment the phone was picked up in the house.

"No, actually, I killed the kids the moment you turned the corner, and Iím having them for dinner tonight. Oh, and Iím a zombie, so Iíll be eating your brains when you get back."

"Just my brains?" Rodney asked dryly. "Iím disappointed."

"Just Ďcause the kids are dead doesnít mean I should discuss other stuff in front of them."

"Their poor, dead, innocent ears?" Rodney snickered.

"Exactly. I knew youíd understand," John said.

"It really should terrify me that I do."

"Just means weíre perfect for each other."

"Weíll see if you still think that when I get back and youíve survived five days with the kids."

"Thatís when you can reward me for my valor."

"After I scoop you up from the floor and revive you."

"Send the kids to a movie and join me on the floor," John suggested.

"Iím not sending them off the second I get home!" Rodney protested.

"I hate it when youíre logical."

"Sorry, not going to change that."

"Donít tell anyone, but Iím glad. Itís kinda hot."

"I wonít say a word," Rodney chuckled. "So, what did you all have for dinner tonight?"

"I caved and agreed to pizza tonight, but itís a real meal tomorrow," John assured him sheepishly, making Rodney chuckle.

"Unless they talk you out of it."

"Not gonna happen. I already have the chicken and everything else. Weíre having a healthy meal tomorrow if I have to strap them down."

"Donít forget Michael has hockey practice tomorrow morning," Rodney reminded him.

John rolled his eyes. "As if heíd let me forget, even if you hadnít already reminded me a dozen times."

"Iím just making sure!" Rodney protested. "You arenít used to playing driver for adolescent activities!"

John opened his mouth to remind Rodney that heíd played driver for some fairly important people in a lot tougher situations, realized that reminding Rodney of his time in the Air Force was not one of his better ideas, and shut it again with a snap. After a moment he simply said, "I think I can handle it."

"So you say before youíre driving five teenage girls around," Rodney chuckled. "I miss you."

"Me too," John said. "Iím not looking forward to trying to sleep alone in our bed tonight," he admitted.

"Neither am I," Rodney sighed. "Three more nights..."

"Why does that suddenly sound like forever?" John said plaintively, and Rodney sighed.

"Iím sorry."

"Well, itís not as if we can live in each otherís pockets," John said, making Michael, whoíd come to see if it was his dad on the phone, snort.

"That would be really dorky."

Jen smacked the back of his head. "I think itís romantic."

"Donít hit your brother," John said automatically.

"Yeah, donít hit me!" Michael echoed.

"No trips to the hospital, please," Rodney groaned.

"I think I should have held out for danger pay," John muttered.

"Itís in the dadís job description," Jen assured him with a beatific smile that had him shaking his head.

"Okay, give one of them the phone so I can remind them not to send you screaming into the night!"

John was laughing as he handed the phone to Jen.

"Hi, Dad! Howís the trip going?" she asked brightly.

"Iíll let you know once I hear some of what people are presenting," Rodney chuckled. "Is your homework done?"

"Daaaaaaaaaad."

"Jeeeeeennnnnnnifer..."

"Oh my God, they sound alike," John muttered, sounding appalled, and Michael snickered again.

"Now weíre both scaring John," Jen laughed.

"Hrmm, I suppose that means we should behave. And seriously, homework done?"

"Yup. John helped with the math... at least he explained the concepts better than my teacher does."

"Good, good." Rodneyís smile was almost audible over the line. "Do me a favor and donít torment your brother too much, okay?"

"Iíll wait till you get home so John doesnít run away."

"And if you canít control yourself, at least tie him up so he canít leave."

Jen burst into laughter. "Dad wants me to tie you up, John."

"What?!"

"Can I help?" Michael chimed in.

"Only if they drive you into leaving!" Rodney protested over the laughter.

"Give me that phone!" Once Jen had handed it over, still laughing, John demanded, "What are you inciting, you mad scientist?"

"Would I incite anything?" Rodney asked innocently even as Michael grabbed for the phone.

"Yes!" John exclaimed before letting Michael get the phone.

"Hi Dad!"

"And hello to you; did you leave any pizza at Mama Pís?"

"Well... they have ingredients to make a new batch," Michael temporized laughingly, and Rodney groaned.

"I need to take stock out there."

"Good idea!" Michael agreed.

"This whole familyís insane," John decided.

"Which is why you fit in so well," Jen laughed, hugging him as Michael continued chattering at Rodney.

"Good point," John chuckled, hugging her back. "I guess Iím just meant to be surrounded by McKays."

"Itís a great place to be, trust me."

"Yeah, I kinda noticed that."

The three of them passed the phone around for a while longer, then, after a round of goodbyes, hung up, the adults destined for a night of fitful sleep.

"Wow, you really can cook," Jen marveled the next night, and John pointed a potato peeler at her.

"And you can help!"

"Tell the squirt, not me!" Jen laughed.

"You can both help. Michael, snap the beans. Jen, get the chicken into the roasting pan. Iíll supervise." John grinned at them.

That earned a wave of protest from both of the teens, and Jen stuck her tongue out at him. "You can help too, you know!"

John held up a potato in one hand and a peeler in the other. "What does it look like Iím doing? They donít peel themselves if I cross my arms and blink really hard, you know."

"Huh?" Michael asked, staring at John as if heíd grown another head.

"Barbara Eden lived in vain," John sighed.

"Who?" Michael asked, staring at him.

"Never mind. Just do the beans," John said while Jen nearly screamed with laughter.

"It was a really old TV show," she finally caught her breath to say. "With a genie."

Michael eyed John speculatively as he snapped the beans, then shook his head. "So weird."

"Thatís why I like all of you."

"Because you feel at home with us," Jen commented.

"Yup, youíre all completely nuts," John said with a grin. "Must be a McKay thing."

"We get it from our dad," Jen nodded.

"He must be contagious; Iím sure thatís where I got it too."

"So itís all Dadís fault? Michael asked. "Works for me!"

Even knowing Rodney was going to make him pay for this, John couldnít resist replying, "Sounds about right to me too."

Jen shook her head pityingly. "Dadís gonna get you."

"And make you pa-ay," Michael snickered.

"He always does," John agreed.

"And then youíre both smiling the next day," Jen snickered.

"And thatís the last of that conversation," John said hastily, and the kids snickered, the three of them all going back to work on the food.

"So what did you do before when your dad went away on trips?"

"We stayed with Aunt Laura and Uncle Carson," Jennifer explained.

"Uncle Carson would take me and Andy to do guy things while the girls went and got their nails done," Michael snickered.

"Jen, I hope you realize that Iím never going to take you to get your nails done," John informed her.

"Geez, John, youíre no fun," she sniffed. "Dad might like you with rainbows on your fingers."

"Dad would run screaming into the night if he came home to that," Michael snickered.

"It might be worth it just to see his reaction," John mused, snickering as well, and Jen threw a bean at him.

"No giving Dad a heart attack."

"Iím really good at CPR."

Michael rolled his eyes. "John, weíre not babies. You and Dad just like to kiss. Thatís not CPR."

Jen snickered at Johnís expression. "He has a point."

"I am going to kill Rodney when he comes home; he knew this was going to happen," John muttered.

"Youíll survive, John," Jen laughed. "Dad would kill us if we made you run."

He chuckled as well. "I think I can handle you. Mostly. And Iím not going anywhere."

"Good thing or weíd have to tie you to a chair or sit on you," Michael announced. "And done; how long before dinner?"

"About forty-five minutes. So donít start something thatíll take longer than that."

"So no homework then. Oh darn."

 

 

"John, Jeff is here; see you later!" Jen called, grabbing her jacket and purse.

"Ten oíclock!" John yelled after her. "Donít be late!"

"Ten oíclock, youíre kidding, right?"

John chuckled. "Okay, fine, eleven-thirty, since itís Friday night. But if you make me a grandfather, Iím going to kill you both."

"Do I look stupid to you?" Jen asked dryly, her tone an unconscious mimicry of her fatherís.

"No, you look like a teenager. Hard as this may be for you to believe, I was one once too," John replied equally dryly.

"And I know just what you and Dad got up to, so donít use that on me," Jen grinned. "And so you know, Jeff and I are not having sex. Happy?"

"Ecstatic. Please keep it that till youíre at least thirty, preferably forty."

Jen snorted at that and waved a hand over her shoulder. "You and Dad keep telling each other that, John. See you later!"

John groaned pitifully as the door shut. "Iím going to have grey hair before Rodney gets home."

"We can go buy you some dye if that happens," Michael announced, walking into the room, his attention focused on his PSP.

"Wonderful." John regarded the pre-teen balefully. "Brat."

"Takes one to know one!"

John chuckled. "Good point. And, Michael?" He waited till the boy looked up. "Homework."

"Jo-ohn..." Michael whined. "Thereís the game on TV tonight!"

"Not for another hour, so I guess youíd better get to it."

"Slave driver," Michael muttered even as he headed to the kitchen to grab his backpack. "You can make popcorn!"

"For the game," John agreed. "You donít need it right now; you just had dinner!"

"I meant for the game, and Iím a growing boy; I need food."

John snorted. "You donít need your weight in food every day. I shudder to imagine how much youíre going eat when youíre actually in your teens."

Michael only grinned as he grabbed his books and dropped down at the kitchen table, spreading out as he started his work.

John glanced at the clock for what seemed the thousandth time in the last half hour. "I really wish your dad had let us meet him at the airport," he muttered yet again.

"He doesnít like to have us sitting there, waiting for him," Jen explained.

"And this is so much better," John grumbled, starting to pace again.

"John, sit!" Michael ordered.

"In the other room," Jen added. "Weíll tell you when he gets here."

John looked sulky, but he went into the other room, where he started pacing from the window to the doorway and back again.

"Oh my God, youíre so pathetic," Michael groaned.

"Sit!" Jen yelled at him. "Donít make us make you."

John gave her a mutinous glare before dropping onto the edge of the sofa, where his foot immediately began tapping impatiently.

"Youíre crazy, John," Michael snickered.

"I missed him. So sue me."

"We missed him too," Jen called from the other room, then all three turned at the flash of lights in the driveway. John leaped to his feet and bolted to the front door, flinging it open in time to hear Rodney haranguing the taxi driver.

A fond smile curved his lips, and he stepped out onto the porch, his eyes intent on Rodney. Behind him, Michael and Jen grinned at each other.

"Maybe weíd better give them a minute," Jen murmured to her brother.

Michaelís expression changed, and he frowned for a fleeting second before he shrugged. "Sure."

"And another thingó" Rodney caught sight of the forms on the porch, and he glowered at the cabbie. "Fine, just take itóand use it to get some driving lessons!"

The cab driver grumbled something as he set Rodneyís bags on the sidewalk, but by then Rodneyís attention was on the house. "What are you doing way over there?" he yelled.

Laughing, John jogged to the sidewalk and pulled Rodney into a fierce hug. "Trying not to give the neighbors reason to report us for indecent exposure," he murmured in Rodneyís ear before kissing him.

"Iím not going to jump you out here!" Rodney laughed, hugging him tightly. "Thatíll be after the kids go to bedóand where are the kids?"

"We didnít want to get run over when John saw you!" Jen laughed as she and Michael came down off the porch to hug him.

John looked down his nose at heróbut he wasnít nearly as good at it as Rodney, and she laughed at him. "Okay," he admitted to Rodney, "so I might have missed you a little."

"I missed you too," Rodney murmured, "all of you." He looked up and beckoned the kids closer, pulling them into the hug. "So, how did it go?"

"Maybe we can go into the house, Dad?" Jen asked.

John picked up Rodneyís bag with his free hand, the other arm firmly around Rodneyís waist. "It was fine," he assured the other man as they finally started up the walk.

"Since all three of you are alive and the house is standing, that seems to be the case," Rodney nodded, tousling Michaelís hair as the boy crowded in on his free side.

"You thought Iíd kill them and burn down the house? A little extreme, donít you think, Rodney?"

"I know not to underestimate any of you."

"Good point," John decided, and Jen laughed.

"Andrewís the firebug," she pointed out, referring to Carson and Lauraís youngest son, who had had an unfortunate love for fire for a short time when he was younger, something that he was still trying to live down, years later.

"They still say you gave him the matches," Rodney reminded her.

"I did not!"

"Sure, Jen," Michael snickered.

"Sounds like Iíd have to be more creative in my body disposal," John interjected. "Iíd hate to just be one of a crowd."

"Never," Rodney murmured, making John beam at him while the younger generation rolled their eyes.

"Hey, Dad, are we getting Momma Pís?" Michael asked and Rodney chuckled.

"What, you mean you didnít have it every night?"

"Naw, John made us eat healthy," Michael said with patent disgust while Jen laughed at him.

"Good for John," Rodney laughed, hugging the other man while tousling Michaelís hair again.

"Heís getting a little too into this parenting thing," Michael groused.

"You just didnít like that he checked behind your ears after you showered," Jen grinned.

"And I didnít make that mistake more than once," John exclaimed with a melodramatic shudder.

"Did you find the potatoes?" Rodney asked.

"Iím not thinking about it," John said firmly before starting to laugh at Michaelís expression.

"I can see you were all traumatized by my absence."

"Yeah," John agreed, "so letís not do that again."

Jen rolled her eyes. "We didnít even try to scare him."

"Well, Iíve seen what you two do without trying," Rodney commented.

"I have a feeling theyíll be taking over the planet in a few years," John put in.

"Well, at least weíll have an in with the benevolent dictators," Rodney laughed. "Címon, letís order the pizza, then Iíll see if I managed to get you all anything."

"Presents, huh?" John mused. "On second thought, maybe you should go away more often."

"Oh really?" Rodney asked, his eyebrows rising.

"Okay, maybe not. You can buy us presents in town."

"Oh really?" Rodneyís brows rose even higher.

"Or maybe not," John repeated, laughing. "Having you home is good enough for me."

"Iím getting cavities," Michael muttered.

"Iím ordering the pizza," Jen announced. "And donít you two vanish; we missed Dad too."

"You get the feeling they think we have no self control?" John observed to Rodney.

"I have the feeling they know us."

"Sadly true," John agreed with a chuckle. "But at least theyíre not surprised when I do this." He grabbed Rodney for a quick kiss.

"We just throw things if you do it for too long." Michael laughed.

"Pizzaíll be here in half an hour," Jen called.

"Just enough time to unpack," John said, grabbing Rodneyís bag again to carry it up to their room.

"Da-ad!" Michael said, his eyes widening as Rodney moved to follow. "You just got home!"

"Get your mind out of the gutter," John laughed, "and come help. I meant unpacking."

"I meant..." Michael began, frowning, before nodding. "Yeah, Iíll help."

"Good, that means we can dig down to the presents even faster."

"Not without me you donít!" Jen exclaimed with a laugh, rejoining them.

"You all are a bunch of greedy so and sos!" Rodney laughed. "And for that, you can carry my bags upstairs!"

"Like that wasnít a given," John snorted. "You just want me for my muscles."

"Well, they are cute," Jen giggled.

John laughed and hugged her with one arm. "Quit trying to make your dad jealous; Iím taken."

"I didnít need to know that!" she laughed, and Michael groaned.

"Ewwww."

Still laughing, John tousled Jenís hair. "Keep it up and your dad will never leave us... Good plan!" he added in a stage whisper.

Rodney shook his head at that as he unzipped his bag, reached in, and pulled out bags which he handed to each of them.

Jen let out a squeal of delight and put the silver necklace on, running over to the mirror to see how it looked.

"Very pretty," John complimented, still holding his unopened bag in his hand.

Michael tore into his and whooped at the football autographed by several of the Chicago Bears, deigning to hug his father, a gesture Rodney accepted with a wry grin.

Smiling, John finally looked at his gift, and his soft exclamation of pleasure drew all eyes to him. "Rodney," he said and then stopped, his eyes going back to the simple platinum paperweight and the infinity symbol carved on its flat front.

Rodney flushed and cleared his throat. "Yes, well, I saw it and thought of you..."

John pulled Rodney into a hug, pressing his face into the curve of Rodneyís shoulder. "Thank you," he murmured.

"Thought it might helpówith the missing me thing," Rodney explained. "I know from the kids telling me that it doesnít really, but still..."

"So sweet," Jen grinned, and John was too busy kissing Rodney to bother making a face at her.

"Gross," Michael grumbled, but he was grinning as widely as his sister.

"Gross?" Rodney asked, letting go of John to give Michael a noogie. "I think not!"

"Hey! Hands off the hair!" Michael exclaimed, twisting away.

"Just wait till we catch you kissing someone," Jen snickered. "Then weíll see about gross."

"It wonít be as gross as you and Jeff," Michael shot back, sticking his tongue out at his sister.

Rodney chuckled and shook his head. "Now I feel like Iím home."

"Now can we run away from home?" John asked wryly.

"Nope," Rodney laughed while Jen and Michael turned their attention back to them, "I like things just the way they are."

"Me too," John admitted, hugging Rodney and smiling at the kids. "I finally have a family."

"What time are they going to be here?" Jen asked, her expression closed and her voice flat.

"In half an hour," Rodney answered, forcing cheer into his voice as he looked around the living room, making sure that not a speck of dust remained and that things were relatively clutter-free. "Everyone else is due in an hour, so it wonít be long."

"I know, but..." Jen sighed.

"Theyíre idiots," Michael grumbled, flopping down on the couch, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Yes, they are, but theyíre your grandparents, so be polite."

"You arenít," the preteen shot back triumphantly.

"Thatís because theyíre my parents, whole different dynamic."

"Are they still as... distracted as they used to be?" John wanted to know. His stomach was in knots about the upcoming visit, and he just prayed that the older McKays didnít ruin Jenís birthday for her.

Rodney opened his mouth, glanced at Jen and Michael, and sighed. "Regarding some things."

"But not us, huh?" John asked quietly with a glance of his own at the kids.

Rodney grimaced and mouthed Ďlaterí. John sighed and nodded. Trying to cheer everyone up, he said, "I hope we all survive dinner... Iíve never made a cake before."

"Thereís still time to go to the grocery store," Michael offered innocently. "It might be better than blackened chocolate."

John stuck his tongue out. "Who says youíre getting any dessert?"

"Aunt Laura will give me some ice cream," the boy smirked.

"And then you and your sugar rush can go home with her!" John laughed.

"That can be my birthday present," Jen said, joining in the teasing.

"Oh ha ha." Michael made a face at her. "If it wasnít your birthday..."

"You couldnít take me if you tried," Jen scoffed.

"Which you arenít going to do," Rodney cut in with a laugh, some of the tightness leaving the skin around his eyes. "No bloodshed before dinneróor after dinner for that matter."

"No bloodshed at all," John put in. "I have delicate sensibilities."

Jen stared at him and then burst into laughter, Michael joining her while Rodney smiled gratefully at the other man.

The more relaxed mood faded, however, when the doorbell rang a short time later.

"Iíll get it," Rodney announced, visibly straightening as he left the other three, returning a few minutes later with a couple in their mid-sixties, both dressed in country club chic.

Leanne McKayís hair had been skillfully died so that it retained the blond of her youth, and modern chemistry and cosmetics fought a valiant battle against the few lines she possessed. "Jennifer, happy birthday," she said, smiling as she held her arms open for the girl, who shot a look at her father before hugging her grandmother.

Roger McKay moved toward his grandson, holding his hand out for the boy to shake. "Howís it going, Mikey?" he asked gruffly.

"Fine, sir," Michael replied, not even bothering to correct his grandfather on his name. He never listened anyway.

John stepped forward, offering his hand to Rodneyís father. "Mr. McKay. Itís good to see you again."

The older man frowned, clearly not recognizing him, and Rodney spoke up. "This is John Sheppard, Roger; his family lived next door in Ď88."

Leanne finally let go of Jennifer and focused on John. "Didnít Jeannie have a crush on you?" she asked, looking at him through narrowed eyes.

John shrugged. "Yeah, not that I ever encouraged it. It kinda weirded me out, honestly, since I was dating Rodney."

"Dating Rodney?" Leanne sounded skeptical.

"Yeah, all senior year, though we kept it quiet since my dad wouldnít have approved." To say the least.

"Col. Sheppard? He was a very pleasant neighbor," Roger observed.

John snorted but managed not to comment. "Why donít you make yourselves comfortable?" he suggested. "Dinnerís almost ready."

"Would you like something to drink?" Rodney offered quickly when his parents looked at John strangely for acting like the host.

"Some wine would be nice," Leanne said as she sat on the couch, drawing Jen down with her. "And you can tell me all about cheerleading."

"I donít cheer, Grandmother," Jen replied with the air of someone who had repeated that comment many times.

"Well, you should!"

"Jen prefers doing sports to jumping around yelling about them," Michael put in.

"Thatís because sheís good at them," John said, smiling at the girl, who looked uncomfortable as her grandmother fussed with her hair.

"Iím counting on a good scholarship for her between soccer and her grades," Rodney commented. "And one for baseball and grades for Michael when the time comes."

"I would think between your salary and what Jeannie and Brad left the children in trust, there would be no issue in paying for college," Roger said, settling himself in the recliner.

"Of course there isnít," Rodney answered, audibly grinding his teeth together. "Let me get you your drinks."

John followed on Rodneyís heels into the kitchen, pulling him into his arms as soon as they were out of sight. "Just ignore them," he whispered into Rodneyís ear. "Theyíre still idiots."

"I know," Rodney sighed as he poured his parents glasses of the chardonnay they preferred. "And weíve left the kids alone with them; weíd better get back before they start in on their Ďhow your life would have been if your mother and father had livedí shtick."

"Oh, please tell me youíre not serious," John said, appalled. He knew the older McKays were oblivious to good manners, but that was simply hurtful.

"They thought your father was nice," Rodney pointed out as he picked up the two glasses of wine and carried them into the living room, handing them to his parents and breaking into their conversation.

"So, are you going to be heading to Florida soon?"

"Of course we are, Rodney," Leanne replied. "You know we go every year around this time. What a ridiculous question."

Listening to her, John decided that heíd preferred the almost criminal indifference of Rodneyís teens to this cold unpleasantness. "I didnít know that," he pointed out.

"Is there a reason you should?" Roger asked, his eyebrows rising.

"John lives with us now," Michael cut in, and Jen nodded.

"I meant that Rodney was probably phrasing it that way so that I would know what the conversation was about," John said with a smile through gritted teeth.

"You live here? Is that a recent development?" Leanne asked, sounding shocked.

"You donít have to worry about the kidsí mental state," Rodney announced. "John gets along well with them."

"Heís a good guy and great for Dad," Jen said firmly.

John smiled at her gratefully. "Weíre muddling along," he agreed.

"This is hardly an appropriate example for the children," Roger sputtered.

Rodneyís complexion turned a dull red, and he was plainly controlling his temper. He opened his mouth to speak when the doorbell rang.

"Iíll get it," Jen said, quickly jumping to her feet and hurrying.

"New record," Michael muttered, looking like he wanted to run away as well.

"Why donít you go say hello to Mandy and Andy," Rodney suggested, hearing the Beckettsí voices in the foyer.

Michael was gone faster than anyone could blink, and John took advantage of his departure to glare at Rodneyís parents. "You may be their grandparents, but if you ruin Jenís birthday for her, I wonít hesitate to throw you out on your botoxed asses!"

"This isnít your house; you have no say in it," Leanne hissed as she and Roger got to their feet.

"Yes, it is," Rodney said firmly, keeping his voice low. "And I think the two of you should be leaving; you can tell Jen and Michael goodbye on the way out."

John moved closer to Rodneyís side, presenting a united front to the older couple.

"How dare you!" Leanne snapped. "You are no fit guardian for those children!"

John growled, fury clear in the narrowed hazel eyes focused on her.

"So youíve told me time and time again," Rodney answered, resting a hand on Johnís shoulder to restrain him. "But the courts keep siding with me, and before you think about starting another custody case, remember how much the last one cost youóand my lawyer has upped his fees in the last five years, so this one might bankrupt you."

"Disgusting," Leanne hissed as she and Roger gathered their coats.

"Yeah, you really are, but fortunately we donít have to put up with you," John snapped.

Roger started to reply but, after taking another look at Johnís expression, wisely changed his mind and simply took his wifeís elbow as they made their way to the door.

"Jennifer dear, weíre sorry, but we have to go. I do hope you enjoy your present; I know it will look lovely on you," Leanne said, coating her anger with sugary sweetness as she hugged first her granddaughter, then grandson.

"Let us know if you need anything," Roger said gruffly, then the elder McKays were gone, totally ignoring the Becketts, who were watching the scene with narrowed eyes.

"I donít think Iím going to get along with the in-laws," John observed blandly from the living room entrance where he and Rodney stood.

"Which just goes to show what good taste you have," Laura said cheerfully. "Now, I believe this was supposed to be a party?"

"Presents!" Jen exclaimed gleefully, everyone seeming relieved that the senior McKays had left.

"Greedy!" Michael shot back, making Jen laugh.

"Jealous!" she retorted.

"Christmas is coming," he said superiorly, and Rodney breathed a sigh of relief.

"So, drinks anyone?" he asked, giving Johnís hand a squeeze before letting go.

"Us included, Uncle Rodney?" Melissa asked with a mischievous grin.

"You can have soda," Laura informed her daughter, who made a face.

"We should have been born French," she muttered to Jennifer, making the other girl giggle.

"Itís a horrible life, I know," Carson mused. "Now, can I put this food down somewhere, or are we going to watch it melt in the hall?"

"Iím pretty sure the kitchen is right where we left it," John observed, grinning at the look Carson gave him.

"Good, then youíll have no trouble putting them away," the doctor smirked as he handed the bags over, much to the amusement of the children.

"Hey, who made John your pack mule?" Rodney blustered.

"In case you havenít noticed, Rodney, I now have all the food," John pointed out. "Quick, shove them out and lock the door!"

Michael and Jen grabbed them both by the belt loops, and the Beckett children helped.

"Looks as if the two of you are stuck here with us," Carson laughed.

"Well, darn, however will we survive?"

Laura stuck her tongue out at John as she went into the living room. "You should be falling to your knees in gratitude."

"I donít think John does that for women," Radek said as he and Elizabeth came in.

"I know John doesnít do that for women," John said emphatically. "Iím sending you my therapy bill, Laura!"

"There, there," Rodney laughed, patting his shoulder while the kids snickered. "Iíll protect you from the big bad women."

"Iím holding you to that!"

"Not during Jenís birthday party," Elizabeth laughed.

"Jen can protect me today," John decided, grinning widely.

"Oh no, itís my birthday; Iím not getting in the middle of this! Hide behind Michael!"

"Great, thrown to the wolves. Rodney, help!"

"Sorry, Iím getting drinksóginger ale, Elizabeth?"

"Excuse me, for better or for worse?!" John said, tossing a cushion off the sofa at Rodney.

"Oh boo hoo, deal," Rodney laughed as the group gathered in the living room. They were soon joined by Ronon, Teyla and their children and Jeff, the laughter and conversation more than making up for the strained atmosphere when Rodneyís parents had been there.

"Soooo," Jen said, eyeing Rodney and John a little later, "since Iím a year older now, that means my curfewís later, right?"

"Dream on," Rodney snorted. "Maybe during breaks, but not while schoolís in session. And before you say it, I know, Iím so unfair."

"Yes!" But Jen laughed as she said it, and she came over to give each of them a quick hug before returning to her seat next to Jeff, who shifted over ever so slightly when he saw how John was eyeing him.

"Merry Christmas!" Michael yelled the words as he descended the stairs, and Rodney chuckled as he looked at John over the rim of his mug of steaming coffee.

"Told you heíd be up soonóactually this is late for him; last year he was up before five."

John eyed him balefully over his own coffee. "This is obscenely early, Rodney. The sun isnít even up yet!"

Rodney chuckled as he reached over and patted Johnís arm. "Youíll get used to it, and he should outgrow it in a few yearsóthen itíll be drag him out of bed at noon."

"Dad, whereís Jen?" Michael demanded, poking his head into the family room and casting a covetous glance at the tree and the presents under it before coming over to hug first his father, then John.

"In bed asleep, proving sheís the only sane one in this house," John informed him while returning the hug. "Though I doubt she can sleep through this."

"Tell me about it," Jen yawned, stumbling into the room, her blond hair pulled back into a messy ponytail.

"Have some coffee or cocoa," Rodney suggested, indicating the tray holding insulated carafes and mugs on the coffee table.

"Unless Iím going back to sleep under the tree, definitely coffee," Jen said, grabbing a cup as if it was a lifeline.

"Smart girl," John praised.

"Da-ad," Michael whined, and Rodney chuckled, kissing Jen on the head as he stood and turned on the camcorder in the corner of the room.

"Start distributing presents, son-o-mine."

Michael immediately grabbed the stockings and handed one to each person so they could start on the smaller gifts. John held his in his lap but didnít start into yet, wanting to watch the others.

"You arenít opening yours," Rodney murmured, glancing over at him as Michael poured the contents out in his lap to crow over and even Jen woke up enough to explore her gifts.

"I will. I just wanted to watch everyone," John said, reaching over and taking Rodneyís hand. "Itís been a long time since I had a family Christmas."

"Well, itís far from your last," Rodney replied gruffly, squeezing back before lifting Johnís stocking and dumping the contents into his lap.

John gave him a quick smile before digging into his loot, laughing at the keychain that proudly proclaimed "Math geeks do it best." His favorite though was the Rubikís cube he knew had to be from Rodney. "Did Radek ever figure out that we switched some of the labels and thatís why he couldnít solve it?"

"Never," Rodney smirked. "It drove him insaneóand still does."

"And heís never picked up another one?" John shook his head, laughing. "And I thought you were stubborn."

"Oh, like youíre one to talk," Rodney laughed reaching for his coffee and taking a drink, smiling as he watched Jen and Michael compare stocking loot.

"What, just because I fell in love with a guy when I was seventeen and never could settle for anyone else?" John asked wryly.

"Awww." Jen looked up at that. "Thatís so romantic."

"Go open your presents so I can repay the romanticism," Rodney muttered before pulling John in for a warm, coffee-flavored kiss.

"But I canít unwrap my real present while the kids are here," John whispered in Rodneyís ear, tugging playfully at the tie on Rodneyís robe, making the other man chuckle and kiss him again.

"I think weíll surviveóanticipation is part of the fun, right?" Rodney murmured, turning back to watch Michael wade into the pile of presents under the tree, cajoling Jen to help distribute them, which she did after turning on the stereo, sending the joyous sounds of carols cascading through the house.

Leaning against Rodney, John watched anxiously as the other man started opening one of the gifts from John. He just hoped Rodney liked it, and Rodney glanced at him sidelong as he pulled the colorful paper from the shallow rectangular box, tossing it aside and pausing before he removed the lid.

"You do realize that youíre making me nervous," he joked before opening the box, biting his lower lip as he saw the two framed candid portraitsóone of the two of them and one of the whole family, both taken at Radek and Elizabethís cabin that fall.

"You do realize this presents me with a problem," Rodney finally commented, looking up from the pictures to focus his gaze on John.

John suddenly looked worried. "What do you mean?"

"Do I hang them here or take them into work?"

"Donít scare me like that!" John exclaimed while the kids laughed.

"Oh, just hush and open your stuff," Rodney shot back, grinning as Michael whooped in pleasure as he opened a new X-Box game.

"This is fun," John admitted, starting to unwrap his gift from Rodney.

"Yeah, it is," Rodney murmured though it was his turn to look nervous as John pulled the bright wrapping paper from the shallow box and looked inside.

Even the kids looked over at the long silence from John, just in time to see him pull their father into a tight hug, burying his face against Rodneyís throat. "Thank you!" he said fervently, if somewhat muffled.

The only thing he regretted about leaving the Air Force was giving up flying, and Rodney had found a way to give that back to him. A membership in the local flying club would give the sky back to him.

"John, Iím going to go to the movies with a bunch of guys, so Iím going to take the bus home with Mark; I just need you to pick me up at the mall at nine."

Eyebrows rising sharply, John pulled his attention completely from the computer where heíd been tweaking his resume yet again to concentrate on the phone call. "Considering that itís a school night, Michael, no, you donít. You know perfectly well that you have to come home and do homework. You can see the movie on the weekend."

"Címon, John," the preteen wheedled, "itís not late, and everyone else is getting to go."

John shook his head. "No way. You know the rules, Michael. Just because Rodney isnít home doesnít make them vanish."

"Dad would say yes," Michael retorted, a frown creasing his face and drawing his mouth into a set line.

"I really doubt that, but it also doesnít matter. Heís not here; I am, and I said no."

"Fine!" Michael spat, disconnecting the call before John could say another word.

"Well, that went well," John sighed. He didnít like it, but it had been bound to happen. He couldnít be the easy parent all the time, just saying yes to whatever the kids wanted. He just hoped he wasnít going to have to go pull Michael out of the movie theater; that would go over so well.

Forty-five minutes later the front door banged open, letting in a cold draft of air as well as an irate seventh-grader. Michael dropped his backpack on the floor by the door, kicked off his snowy sneakers and let his ski jacket fall on top of them. Without a word, he stormed up the stairs, heading for his room.

"Great," John sighed. "Hi, Michael, how was your day? Mine was great, thanks for asking." He took a contemplative mouthful of the coffee he was holding, debating the relative merits of giving Michael a little while to calm down or going up and dealing with this now.

He was still trying to decide when Jen came in through the door to the garage.

"Hey, John, how was your day?" she asked, hanging up her coat and pulling her boots off, being careful not to step in any of the melting snow on the floor.

"Oh, you know, applications, rejections, same old same old. How was yours?" John knew he was avoiding the issue, but heíd take a few minutes to chat with Jen before going up to talk to Michael.

"I got an A on my history paper," she grinned, digging in her bag to hand it over, "and got more information about the senior trip."

"Good for you," John congratulated before scanning the papers. "Sounds like fun," he said.

"It should be," she grinned. "I just need Dad to sign the forms when he gets home so I can turn them in tomorrow."

John frowned. The school was well aware of the change in the McKay-Andrews home life, and there wouldnít be any questions asked if he signed the form, but clearly that hadnít even occurred to Jen. "I see," he said slowly. "Well, Iím sure heíll be home soon."

"How quickly they forget," Jen laughed, leaning in to kiss his forehead, "Dad is working with his post-docs tonight; he wonít be home Ďtil eleven or so."

"Right." John sighed. "Look, Iím going to lie down for a whileótoo long staring at the computer screen, I guess. Iíll be down to start dinner in an hour or so."

"Are you feeling okay?" Jen reached up and rested a hand on Johnís forehead. "Donít worry about dinner; the twerp and I can cook tonight; get some rest and take some aspirin!"

John smiled bitterly, looking weary. "I wouldnít count on Michael coming out of his room anytime soon." Heíd almost said, Ďas long as Iím in the house,í but even as stressed as he was, heíd realized that wasnít something to say to a teenager he was supposed to be parenting... even if he was starting to conclude that no one else in the family thought he was.

"Heís in a mood? Donít worry, heíll sulk a while then come out," she assured him.

"Uh huh." John wasnít about to start whining to a teenager, but he knew he needed to go be alone for a little while. "Iíll be back down for dinner, okay?" He kissed her forehead briefly before turning to go upstairs.

Jen frowned as she watched him go and debated calling her father but decided against it, hoping whatever was wrong would work itself out.

John carefully closed the door behind himself and leaned back against it, his fists clenched at his sides as he fought for control. Heíd changed his life in the expectation of something better, and while he had Rodney, he was starting to think the idea of a family was nothing more than an illusion.

"John?" Jen spoke softly as she knocked at the door to the room he shared with her father. "Dinnerís ready."

Inside the room John started, looking guiltily at the clock to see that over two hours had passed since he sank down to the floor with his back to the door. He pushed to his feet and opened the door, managing a smile for Jen.

"Sorry, I really did mean to make dinner."

"Hey, you make it most nights; I think we can handle it every so often. Howís your head?"

John shrugged slightly. "Iím not going to forget itís there anytime soon," he admitted. "Thanks for covering dinner, kiddo."

"Donít thank me before you taste it," Jen grinned. "Itís spaghetti; Michael made the garlic bread."

"Sounds great," John said, making an effort to sound more cheerful as he slung an arm around her shoulders and they started downstairs. "Maybe I should leave dinner to you two every day."

"Well, weíll have to do more when you get a job, right? Of course, Michael will have to do more of it when I go to college." She grinned as they walked into the dining room where Michael was setting the table, his expression a cross between guilt and leftover anger.

John glanced over at him with a neutral expression before going into the kitchen to get drinks. He knew he was copping out and should talk to Michael about his attitude earlier, but he honestly didnít think he could face it.

Jen glared at her brother, making Ďgo oní motions with her hand while John was gone. When he returned, Michael hunched his shoulders and looked down at the table. "Sorry, John," he muttered, saying it louder when Jen glared at him.

John looked at him and offered a smile that never reached his eyes. "I guess weíd better leave the parenting to your actual parent; it seems to work better for everyone. And heís pretty good at it."

"He would have said the same thing." Michael bit his lower lip and looked up at John. "Iím really sorry. You arenít going to leave, are you?"

John stared at him, genuinely surprised. "Of course Iím not leaving. I love your father, and Iím not going anywhere."

"I was really jerky, I know."

John sighed. "Yeah, you were. But youíre a teenager, almost, so itís sort of your natural state. Iím supposed to be the adult here. So letís forget about it for this time. Next time though..." He eyed Michael sternly.

"Youíll get him?" Jen asked hopefully.

"Not helping, Jen," John told her, but his lips twitched suspiciously.

"Yeah, Jen, listen to John," Michael added.

"Okay, both of you, eat your dinner!" John ordered. "Or Iíll put you on bread and water."

"Slavedriver!" Jen laughed as they all sat down, the tension mostly relieved.

"You think Iím bad, you should have seen my drill sergeant," John retorted.

"Yeah, but we live with Dad!"

"Good point," John chuckled. He hesitated slightly before adding, "So now you have two of us."

Michael quirked a small smile at that and nodded. "Yeah, thatís pretty good too."

"Glad you think so." John toasted him with his glass of milk. "Guess weíre all going to have a few growing pains, but weíre doing pretty well."

"Well, as long as you donít steal my styling products, I think weíre good," Jen laughed as Michael toasted John with his own drink.

John laughed. "Yours couldnít stand up to my hair, so I think Iíll stick to my own."

"Dad says its superglue," Michael commented as he began to eat.

"Your father and I are going to have a long conversation about him insulting my hair."

 

 

"Hey there. Do you have some free time this afternoon?" Rodney sounded out of breath as he spoke on his cell phone.

"Um, yeah, I guess so," John replied, looking at the list of people he wanted to contact about a job.

"Oh good. Can you go by the dry cleaners and pick up my shirts? Iím not going to get out of here in time to get them, and Jen has a game after school, so she canít either."

There was a moment of dead silence before John exploded. "I may not have a job yet, possibly because everyone seems to think that I can drop everything at a momentís notice to pick up dry cleaning, but Iíd appreciate a couple of uninterrupted hours a day to look! Iím not a fucking housewife!"

Now it was Rodneyís turn to be silent, though his was because of surprise. He started to snap in response before swallowing it back. "I realize that fact. Iím sorry to bother you, Iíll see you when I get home." He immediately disconnected the call, afraid of what he would say or hear if it continued.

John listened to the dial tone in his ear in mute shock for several seconds before he slammed the phone down hard enough to crack it. "Son of a bitch!" he yelled, sweeping the papers off the desk with one movement of his arm and then stomping down the stairs and out the door to try to walk off his frustration.

 

 

"What?" Rodney demanded when he realized Radek was standing at the door to his office.

Radek raised his eyebrows. "Do you intend to sit here scowling at the walls all afternoon, or do you perhaps intend to get back to work?"

"Iím not scowling at the walls; Iím working on a paper."

"It is going to be submitted telepathically?" Radek inquired, looking at Rodneyís hands, which were nowhere near either the keyboard or a pen.

Rodney glared at him at that, his fingers drumming on the desk. "Even if that were the case, it would be submitted before your next one!"

"I have a paper being published next month," Radek observed.

"Oh yes, Expectant Father Times is definitely a kudos."

Radek rocked back on his heels, looking up at the ceiling. "No one would ever find the body," he mused.

"What are you babbling about? You know, I donít have time to sit here and listen to you sputter on and on; I have work to do, and I need to be out of here by five."

Radek eyed him curiously. "I thought you were planning to stay late tonight?"

"Well, obviously my plans have changed. I have to pick up some things, not that itís any of your business!"

Radek shook his head. "You mean youíre not going to call John again like June Cleaver and ask him to do it?"

"Excuse me? I do not treat him like that!"

Radekís eyebrows rose. "How many days have you not called him to run an errand for you?"

"Plenty!" Rodney sputtered. "I only do it if Iím going to be here later, and that isnít more than three or four times a month! Itís not as if youíve never called Elizabeth and asked her to get something for youóand why am I explaining myself to you anyway!"

"Because you always babble when someone points out something you then feel guilty about," Radek informed him serenely. "You are useless now. Go home and talk to John."

Rodney looked at him narrowly at that. "Why is it when youíre feeling superior, you speak as if youíre from some Eastern European country? I think you try to make your students believe that so they think youíre smarter."

Radek smirked at him and said something in Czech, his parentsí native language, before switching back to English. "I think you forget that if my parents hadnít defected, I would have been born in Czechoslovakia. As it was, it was a near thing.

"Now stop trying to change the subject and go."

"How can I go when youíre standing in the doorway?" Rodney demanded even as he shut off his computer, kicked off his shoes so he could put his boots on, then stood and grabbed his coat.

Radek ostentatiouslyóand silentlyómoved to the side, a sweeping gesture indicating Rodney should go.

He made it out to his car, cursing as he waited for the defrosters to warm up so that he could scrape the ice from the windows and stamping his feet to stay warm once they finally did. Driving was painful as a storm was rolling in, and Rodneyís mind twitched from worry about the situation with John to concern over Jen driving home from her game that evening.

John had no idea how long heíd been storming around outside before the cold had sunk through his fury and reminded him that it was the middle of winter and he was out in nothing more than sneakers and a sweater.

"Great, now Iím an unemployed idiot," he muttered, looking around to try to get his bearings. He could only hope he hadnít gone too far from home because it was fucking freezing out, and he really didnít relish the lecture he was going to get from Rodney if he froze to death out here.

Fortunately, he saw the street sign at the corner and realized that heíd pretty much been walking in circles around the house, so it was only a few minutes before he got home.

He stripped right in the hallway, dropping his snow-covered clothes and sneakers in a pile and nearly ran upstairs to get into a hot shower.

 

 

"John?" Rodney called as he came in from the garage, pulling his boots off and looking around the empty kitchen. The sight of a pile of clothes in a puddle of melting slush and the sound of the shower upstairs made him breathe a little easier, and he took a deep breath, rubbing his hands over his face before starting dinner, not wanting John to have to do it.

It was the smell of coffee that finally got through to John, and he came downstairs wearing a low slung pair of sweats and still rubbing a towel over spiky dark hair, his nose practically twitching. "Uh hi," he said awkwardly, stopping in the kitchen doorway and shifting uncomfortably from bare foot to bare foot.

Hi," Rodney answered uneasily. "Thereís coffee if you want it. I figured you might be cold what with..." he gestured vaguely toward where Johnís clothes had been on the floor.

"Uh yeah, thatíd be good. I kinda forgot to stop for a coat or boots on my way out," John admitted. He was just lucky they hadnít been robbed since he hadnít locked the door either.

"Oh." Rodney rinsed his hands off, poured John a mug of coffee and handed it to him before going back to peeling potatoes. "Iím sorry if Iím treating you like a housewife; I certainly donít think of you that way." He swallowed before continuing, the sight of Johnís dog tags closing his throat. "I wonít bother you with those kind of things anymore."

John sighed, rubbing the back of his head. "Look, I know you donít mean to, and it does make sense for me to do stuff when Iím home... but I need to find a job, Rodney, or Iím going to go batshit crazy."

"I can make some phone calls..." Rodney began, knowing even as he spoke that it wasnít the solution.

"No! Iíll find a job on my own merits or not at all," John said, trying not to snarl. "Fuck!" He whirled around and slammed a fist into the wall, looking surprised when he found himself wrist-deep in drywall. He stared open-mouthed for a moment before closing his eyes and dropping his forehead against the wall. "Well shit."

Rodney turned at the exclamation and stared, his eyes widening. "IóIíll call the contractor," he said, his voice nearly inaudible.

John didnít bother opening his eyes as he said wearily, "I did it; Iíll fix it." He slowly straightened up and withdrew his hand from the wall, carefully flexing it to see if heíd broken anything. Fortunately heíd been lucky, and his fist had landed between the support beams, so all he had to show for his fit of temper was some scrapes... and a hole in the wall.

"Do you want me to call Carson and have him come check that out?" Rodneyís pulse was thundering in his ears, and he wondered if he was going to have a panic attackóand how he was going to explain the hole in the wall to the kids.

"No," John sighed wearily. "Iím fine. Soap and water and maybe a Band-Aid will fix me right up." He finally opened his eyes, staring at the hole. "Iím sorry," he said almost helplessly. "Itís... Do you remember when we watched First Blood?" he asked, not waiting for Rodney to answer before continuing, "He said something along the lines of over there heíd been in charge of million dollar equipment, but back home he couldnít get a job parking cars. Well, thatís me."

"No, it isnít!" Rodney retorted. "Do you know how hard it is to get a job in academia?"

"Yes, I think Iím well aware of that," John replied. "So Iím unemployed and living off you. Hell, no wonder your kids donít think of me as a parent."

Rodney could only stare at him at that, his face whitening in shock. "Thatís not true," he whispered, reaching for the countertop to support himself and finding himself staring at Johnís dog tags, hating the sight of them.

"No?" John drawled. "Please, tell me where Iím wrong? ĎCause I donít have a job, Iím living in your house and eating your food, and when it comes to anything parental, your kids walk around me to get to you." Every bit of frustration John had been feeling the last few months was boiling to the top and spewing forth, and part of him didnít even care.

"Well, what do you want them to do? Iím their father; I raised them, and Iím sorry if they canít adapt as quickly as you want them to! I love you, and theyíre getting there, but they need time! And as for the living arrangements, do you want me to sell this place so we can buy something together?"

"Youíre their father," John repeated in a dull tone. "I see." He nodded slightly and then quickly cleaned up what he could of the plaster. "You know, I donít think Iím hungry. I think Iíll have an early night, and Iíll deal with this tomorrow."

"Deal with this?" Rodney asked, his tone a match for Johnís. "Tell me one thing; are you going to be here when I get back from work?"

John stopped in his tracks, his shoulders hunching as if against a blow. "Do you want me to be?"

Rodneyís temper finally snapped at that. "What the hell kind of question is that?" he shouted. "I love you, you ass; of course I want you here but not if you donít want to be here, not if you want the damned sky more than me!"

Johnís jaw dropped, and he whirled around to gape at Rodney. "What the fuck?!? I resigned my fucking commission for you! For twenty years I pretended to be someone Iím not to stay in the Air Force, and I gave the whole thing up in a second for you! What the fuck more do you need from me to trust that I love you!?"

"To take off those fucking dog tags!"

John froze into absolute immobility, aside from the hand that slowly moved up to clench around his dog tags. "I see," he said after a long moment. "You want to wipe out my entire life, everything Iíve done or been. I..." He stopped abruptly, shaking his head, all expression wiped from his face.

"You see what you want to see and nothing else," Rodney snapped. "I love you, Iíve loved you for over twenty years, and nothingís going to change that, but the fact that you think such a thing about meóthat I think of you as a fucking housewife, or a boy toy or whatever the fuck and that I want to erase your lifeówell, fuck you, John!"

John opened and closed his mouth several times without managing to say anything and then let out a wordless yell of sheer rage and frustration, looking like he wanted to put his fist through another wall. When heíd caught his breath, he glared at Rodney. "What the fuck is wanting to get rid of my dog tags but trying to wipe out all the years of my life that they symbolize?" he snarled.

"Because it makes me remember all the years that we werenít together!" Rodney screamed.

All the fight went out of John, and he groaned unhappily, slowly sliding down the will to sit on the floor. "And thatís my fault, I know," he said wearily.

Rodney was silent for a moment. "What do you want me to say? That it wasnít? I mean, itís obviously my fault that you arenít happy here."

"What?" John looked up at him like he was nuts. "I want a job, and I want to be a real member of this family, not just a boyfriend whoíll probably be gone tomorrow, but thereís nothing you can do about the former, and as for the latter, I guess only time will take care of that."

"Is that the way you see it?" Rodney asked hoarsely. "That you arenít a member of this family? That youíre here on sufferance? That I only keep you around for the sex?"

"Of course not," John snapped. "I meant the kids. Oh, they like me, and theyíre fine with whole second dad thing in theory, but in practice... no. Clearly Iím no Mike Brady."

"How long have you been here?"

John glared at him. "Six months," he replied sulkily.

"Six months and theyíve been with me for over a decade. Do you want to know how long it was before Jen called me Daddyónot that I wanted to take anything away from Jeannie and Brad at the time! Hell, I didnít want to be Daddy, but we figured it out together, and thatís what weíre doing."

John let his head fall back against the wall. "I know," he said tiredly, "but right now it feels like all I have is you. And thatís great, donít get me wrong, but you canít be my whole life, Rodney."

Rodney sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "So, what do we do about it?"

"I keep trying, and you keep putting up with my fits of temper when the frustration gets too much for me?" John suggested sheepishly.

"Should we invest in stock in drywall?" Rodney asked dryly, still stung by what John had said before.

John flinched, not yet ready to joke about that. "Iíll, uh, work on restraining myself more," he said unhappily.

"And Iíll work on not taking you for granted. The kids... thatíll just have to come with time."

John nodded, again looking up at Rodney, but before he could say anything else, the front door opened, and Michael came into the kitchen seconds later.

"Hi, I..." He trailed off, looking from one to the other, his gaze pausing on the hole in the wall. "Uh, should I call Aunt Laura to come pick me up?"

"Itís all right, Michael," Rodney assured him, forcing himself to release his iron grip on the counter. "John and I had some things to work out."

"And the wall got in the way?" Michael asked, the snark falling flat.

John sighed. "No, that was me doing what we tell you not to do and losing my temper and acting like an idiot."

"And from now on weíll talk things out before they get to this level," Rodney said quietly.

"Yeah," John said, pushing to his feet. "You donít need to worry about this happening again."

Michael looked from one to the other and chewed on his lower lip. "Was it something I did?"

"Not at all." Rodney pulled him into a rough hug. "Thereís some things we all need to discuss, but thisóI suppose this was some things that needed to be said."

"Yeah, itís okay, Michael," John said. He darted a glance at Rodney. "When two people with more personality than tapioca are in a relationship, theyíre going to argue sometimes. Itís inevitable. But weíre also always going to work it out."

"Dad never fought with Róanyone he dated before," Michael observed, and Rodney pointed a finger at John.

"Not a word."

John coughed into his fist, the sound suspiciously like Ďtapiocaí, and Rodney shook the finger he still had pointed in his direction.

"We should probably get back to making dinner," John observed, the tension that had been tightening the skin around his eyes gone now and humor once again glinting in the hazel depths. Their problems werenít miraculously solved, but theyíd work through any issues; that was what families did.

"Hey there, Iím on my way home, do we need anything?" Rodney asked, juggling the phone and his attache case. "And may I say that I think the last snow pile finally melted in the parking lot, so I think we should have a celebration; hot sweaty sex on the living room rug work for you?"

"We have lots to celebrate," John nearly sang into the phone. "Stop and get a couple of bottles of champagne... and lots of lube. Donít forget the kids are away. God, I love spring break."

"Weíve used lots of lube already in the four days the kids have been gone," Rodney laughed as he locked his office and headed toward the stairs. "And I didnít realize that snow melting got you in such a good mood, but Iíll get everything you asked for."

"Good man. Youíll be amply rewarded when you get home. Oh, and I have steaks marinating, so we can cook them during our seventh inning stretch," John chuckled.

"Have you been drinking?" Rodney asked suspiciously. "Youíre very chipperómore chipper than even the thought of lots of sex all over the house without the worry that the kids would hear us would make you."

"Tonight youíre going to be fucking the newest member of Cornellís faculty!" John said, unable to hold back any longer.

"What?" Rodney stopped walking and stared at his cell phone.

"They called today; I got the job! Tenure track!"

"Oh myó" Rodney let out a whoop that echoed through the halls and had several passing students staring at him, wide-eyed.

"Exactly, so get your gorgeous ass home so we can celebrate!"

"If I get a ticket, youíre paying it!"

"Itíll be worth it! So step on it, Rodney."

Rodney arrived home in record time, especially considering that he stopped both at the grocery store and a liquor store to pick up two bottle of Dom Perignon. "Is there a professor in the house?" he yelled as he walked in the door.

"I think there are two," John said gleefully, pouncing on Rodney and yanking him into an exuberant hug, Rodney barely getting the bag with the champagne down on the counter before hugging him back.

"Congratulations," he murmured after kissing John soundly, "I knew you could do it."

"Sorry Iíve been such an ass lately," John said. "I was starting to doubt I could."

"Youíre forgiven, but if it happens again, you wonít be dealing with Mr. Nice-Guy."

John snickered. "Iíd rather deal with Mr. Gonna-Fuck-Me-Through-the-Mattress-Guy."

"Is he here?" Rodney asked innocently before smirking as he groped Johnís ass.

"It sure feels like he is," John chuckled, pushing his ass back into Rodneyís hand.

"Well then, why donít you go get ready and heíll be up in a minute," Rodney purred, nipping at the point of Johnís chin.

"Donít take too long or I might start without you," John laughed over his shoulder as he headed upstairs.

"You do that, Iíll sit and watch and then start all over from the beginning!" Rodney called, waiting until John was gone to place one bottle of champagne in the refrigerator, kicking off his shoes and hanging his jacket over the back of a kitchen chair. Grabbing the other bottle, he followed John up the stairs, making a soft sound of pleasure when he entered their bedroom to see John sprawled out on the bed.

"You are overdressed for this party, Prof. McKay," John informed him, reaching down to stroke himself lazily.

"So I see," Rodney murmured, setting the bottle down and beginning to unbutton his shirt, his eyes locked on Johnís languid moves.

"So whatcha gonna do about it?" Johnís eyes watched every move, drinking in the slowly bared flesh.

The shirt was tossed toward the corner of the room before Rodney pulled his t-shirt over his head. "Fuck you until you scream," he said conversationally as he started in on his belt. "Iíd also suggest you get yourself lubed up."

John groaned throatily, his cock twitching at Rodneyís words. "Christ, keep saying stuff like that and Iím going to come before you ever touch me." He half sat up to grab the lube off the nightstand and squeezed some into the palm of one hand. He met Rodneyís gaze, never looking away from the blue eyes as he slowly worked two fingers inside himself.

Rodney shuddered in vicarious pleasure at the sight, stepping out of his pants and boxers the moment they hit the floor, moving toward the bed even as he loosened the wire cage holding the cork in the bottle. The moment the pressure was gone, the cork popped out, shooting toward the ceiling and spilling foam over the opening. Rodney deftly maneuvered the spillage so that it dripped onto Johnís body, making him shudder as the cold foam flowed over his heated skin.

"Kinky bastard," he observed in a breathy tone. "Gonna clean me up now?"

"Damn right," Rodney smirked, spilling more of the cold beverage on Johnís chest, one corner of his mouth quirking upward as he watched the other man squirm from the temperature and the feel of the bubbles popping against his skin. He knelt between Johnís legs then and leaned in, licking a path through the champagne, his gaze never leaving Johnís face.

"God," John groaned, his head falling back as he arched up to meet that knowing mouth, shivering at each sweep of Rodneyís tongue.

"Yes, Dr. Sheppard?" Rodney purred before dipping his tongue into the shallow indentation of Johnís navel, lapping at the warming liquid there.

"Okay, no," John chuckled. "I love you, but you are not God!"

"So you say now," Rodney chuckled as he pushed up to his knees, pulled Johnís hips onto his lap, and pushed inside, relishing the tight grasp of his passage.

"Who needs God?" John panted, arching up to meet Rodney.

Rodneyís smirk grew wider at that, and he began to move, arching his hips against Johnís, each thrust angled to brush against the other manís prostate, Johnís arched back and straining muscles showing how much he was enjoying the possession.

"Okay, happy to worship you," John admitted, his fingers clutching at Rodneyís forearms.

"Glad to hear it." Rodney continued to move, at the same time, stroking his free hand up Johnís thigh.

Giving up on coherent speech as a distant memory, John simply squirmed and moaned, a dark, hungry sound that expressed what he was feeling far better than any words ever could. Rodney shuddered at the sound and drove forward, increasing the pace of his thrusts, his hand tightening down around John. Johnís eyes flew wide open, focusing on Rodney, and he cried out, his entire body going rigid as he came.

Rodney rode out his climax, the tendons standing out in his neck as he strained to keep from coming himself. Once John had collapsed back against the mattress, his eyes-half closed with satiation, Rodney raised his own hand to his mouth and licked his fingers clean, all the while rocking his hips back and forth.

"God," John finally gasped out, his eyes opening as he smiled up at Rodney, licking his lips.

"Thatís twice you called me that," Rodney said huskily as he continued to move, wanting to draw it out.

"Iíll build you a temple tomorrow," John promised before moaning softly at the sensations coursing through him.

"Iíllóahóremind you of that," Rodney gasped as he continued to move, his hips rocking back and forth as he leaned in over John, staring down at him. The relaxed, satiated expression there knotted his gut, and he fisted his hands in the sheets as he came, driving one last time into Johnís ass, his head dropping to Johnís shoulder as he shuddered out his climax.

"That deserved one," John mumbled, tugging at Rodney to make him lie down now, wanting to feel the weight of Rodneyís solid body pressing him into the mattress and anchoring him.

Rodney sighed, the sound a pleasured hiss against Johnís neck. He started to say something, then frowned and pushed up onto his elbows, staring down at John intently.

John waited until Rodney met his eyes again, and he smiled. "You were right. I was clinging to something thatís not part of my life anymore."

Rodneyís gaze flicked to the bare skin where Johnís dog tags had rested, and he swallowed. "I donít want you to feel like youíre giving everything up."

Moving a hand to cover Rodneyís, John smiled. "Iím not. I have you."

Rodney closed his eyes and tightened his hand around Johnís. "Always."

END

 

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