John and Rodney arrive on P3C-273 -- Aglaia, as the database had called it -- to an uninhabited city, exactly as the MALP had shown them. The place seems safe enough, just empty streets and empty houses, still with that lived-in feeling, but devoid of life. Not even any animals roaming the streets. Based on the MALP's intel they had agreed that it was better to step through the event horizon one person at a time. The wormhole fails before Ronon and Teyla can walk through.

Thirty degrees Celsius. The sun blazes, making Rodney complain about the heat and John quip that they'll be back on Atlantis for a cold shower soon enough. There may have been a wink. Nothing John does when they’re not alone. Rodney doesn't remember, because shortly after, he finds that all the control crystals from the gate have been removed. No way back.

Atlantis dials back to check-in two hours later, and Rodney almost damages his vocal chords yelling at Ronon and Teyla to stay where they are. The stargate destabilizes and cuts out over and over again, making it too damn dangerous to send anyone through. Thirty-five degrees Celsius and rising. John strips off his tac-vest. With no nearby stargates and the planet far out of jumper-distance, Elizabeth agrees to send the Daedalus, but it's returning from Earth, halfway between galaxies, and will take weeks to reach them.

Perfect time for R&R, John says during the night that doesn't cool down, kissing Rodney, hands splaying over his damp back, hard against his hip. Rodney shifts uncomfortably at the feel of warm hands on his skin. "Yes, perfect," he repeats. John's long, lean body next to his is more than enticing -- they haven't had time to themselves in ages -- but it's so damned hot. A fountain nearby gurgles and whispers. Rodney rises and dips his arms in the basin that is too shallow and small to even dunk his head into it. He heaves an exasperated sigh. Even the water is warm. John doesn't follow.

Day two. Interference begins to disrupt communication with Atlantis. Elizabeth sends water and food. Forty degrees Celsius and rising. Rodney wishes she'd sent ice.

Day three. Elizabeth is on the radio with Doctors Schwarz and Liacescou, their voices uncomfortably hacked to pieces by interference from solar winds gusting around the planet. They have checked the Ancient database again -- belatedly -- and discovered that Aglaia’s extreme axle tilt and eccentric orbit are responsible for the rising temperatures and the unstable wormhole connection. At its closest approach to the primary, nothing human will be able to survive on the surface. The native fauna dig deep burrows and hibernate through the 'summers' that occur once every eight hundred years, while the people of Aglaia descend deep underground into caves, where they go into their own species-specific hibernation until the planet cools again. Seven Ancients died of heat stroke it turns out, trapped just as John and Rodney are, before the rest of their people were rescued.

Rodney flings his soaked and reeking shirt at a nearby wall. It leaves a damp stain. Forty-five degrees Celsius and rising.

Day five. Inside the room, a solar-driven ceiling fan stirs the hot air lackadaisically, doing nothing to help. The tiny refrigeration unit they found in what seemed to be a kitchen kicks on again and the fan slows drastically. Not enough energy from the small solar cell to use both items at a time, but they can’t afford to turn one of them off.

"That'll burn out the motor pretty soon,” Rodney had said earlier, watching the blades turn.

John just groaned and doused his head in water again. The pumps run from the same solar cells as the fan, but the pressure in the water lines is dropping steadily. The wells are going dry. Rodney would shut off the line that feeds the little bird fountain, but the only shut off he finds kills the whole system. They still have the drinking water sent from Atlantis, so he doesn't tell John to ration the local stuff. It will be gone soon enough.

Day six. Communication with Atlantis breaks down completely and there is nothing Rodney can do. His laptop has succumbed to the heat. Forty-seven degrees Celsius and rising. They find suitable clothing in the house they have set up camp in -- pale linen, momentarily cool against their skin and blissfully looser than their BDUs. Sweat rolls down Rodney's body, mingling with the dust that sticks to his skin; dust caught on the wind swirling along the empty streets and between the houses, with their dried up gardens and barred doors. Dust that catches at the back of his throat, dry as the riverbed they glimpse in the distance. He hates the oppressive heat. Hates the continuous sweat, the threat of dehydration. Hates the lack of cold showers.

When John tries to kiss him again that night, he holds up a hand weakly, head pounding. "Too damn hot for touching." John lies back down, shifts away from Rodney. Neither of them sleeps that night. They don't talk in the morning. Rodney feels even worse than before.

John is gone most of day seven. Only returns in the evening and brings Rodney a glass of mercifully cool water like a peace offering, along with a smile. It hurts the back of Rodney's throat when he swallows greedily. It helps. Forty-eight degrees Celsius and rising. Any movement makes him nauseous, dizzy and light headed. Rodney’s just glad that the migraine from hell he had during the first three days hasn’t returned today. He’s running out of Tylenol. His brain is about to dribble out his ears. He doesn't ask where John has been.

Day eight, the heat is so oppressive neither John nor Rodney can bring themselves to move. The sun is nearly below the horizon and the stars are just becoming visible, but even breathing is an effort. They've stripped down to their pants, stumbling out of the shadowed interior of the house they've appropriated as their own, to the little courtyard in back. The house is retaining the day’s heat, making even the furnace outside seem bearable. Staring up at alien constellations, they're lying on the faintly cooler stones of the patio, sticky with sweat and exhausted by the endless day. The closer the planet drifts to the sun, the longer the days appear to get. Sleep is impossible; when Rodney tries it's restless, plagued by strange, sensuous, heat-induced dreams, and he wakes feeling tired and frustrated, fresh sweat on his skin and his throat dry.

"It can't be this hot here all the time," Rodney remarks.

"People get used to anything," John says, sounding nearly asleep when Rodney knows he's not.

"Not this." Rodney turns his head far enough to see John's profile. "I can't even touch you."

John opens one eye and squints at Rodney. "You said you hated touching when it's hot."

"I do." God, did he ever. "The very last thing I want when I'm sticky and sweaty and so hot I’m sick is having someone touch me.”

"You made that pretty clear a few days back," John mutters, closing his eyes again, but Rodney can hear the undercurrent of hurt mingled in John's voice. "So, what's the big deal now?"

"It's been a week."

"Noticed that, huh?" John stretches and groans when a vertebra pops.

Rodney watches the long line of John's body: the sweat-slick skin, his pants riding low on his hips, hair matted by perspiration, nipples dark brown and flat against his chest. Rodney swallows. He remembers the last time his hands moved over John's body, the way it shivered under his fingertips. Remembers how he looked, naked under the shower that was too warm even when turned on cold, head back, eyes closed.

The tip of John's tongue darts out, licking stray drops of perspiration off his lower lip. Something clenches in Rodney's stomach. It's been a week in this oppressive heat. A week of sweat and misery, with no movement in the air, no rain, no way to cool down even for a second. And it will just get worse, they both know. No touching while he had John on display every single day. When Rodney sleeps, he has dream-flashes of John stretched out over him, moving slow and deliberate, rubbing his cock against Rodney's, of John under him, eyes wide as Rodney moves inside him, of John's kisses and of John's hands on him and in him and every single time he wakes up, he is aroused as hell and too sweaty and too damn hot to even touch himself, much less have John touch him.

"I hate this."

"Just one more week, Rodney."

Rodney thinks of another week of those dreams taunting him without being able to bear touching John and groans. "I'm not going to survive."

John's mouth twitches into a wry smile. "I bet you were a pain in the neck on summer vacations."

"I don't mean the heat."

The smile slips from John's lips and he opens his eyes again. "What do you mean, then?"

Rodney closes his eyes to escape John's gaze and rolls onto his back again, arms spread at his sides, just far enough to be close to John, but not touching him. It hurts, but he really can't --


He keeps his eyes closed, just lets the words rush out: "I mean that I would give up half a year’s supply of coffee to have ice-cubes so I could rub you down and finally touch you. I want to have a cool summer rain and fuck you right out here on the patio while the rain washes the dust and the sweat off. I want to rub up against you and feel you clench around me." His breathing comes faster, despair creeping into his voice that he can't keep even anymore. "I want a walk-in freezer so I can kiss you and feel your body all along mine, skin on skin without the sweat and the damn heat making me dizzy. This planet is killing me, and the thought of having to stay here another week is enough to have me crawling out of my skin. I can't abide touch in this weather, and yet every night I dream--" He clamps his mouth shut, just pushes a frustrated huff through his teeth.

John doesn't answer, and Rodney knows that he thinks it's stupid. John has spent much more time in hot climates, after all. The heat makes Rodney sleepy again, thoughts moving sluggishly and erratic. John had been hiding the hurt over Rodney's rejection well, but the fact that he hadn't tried so much as touch a finger to Rodney's tells him enough. It's his own damn fault that he's suffering from a bad case of blue balls. Rodney knows John's touch deprived, and yet he can't make himself overcome the disgust and nausea that is scorching heat, sweat and touch combined. He really wants those ice-cubes. He could take one between his teeth and slide it over John's chest, lower over that trail of dark hair, down to the jut of his hips.

Something cold on his cheek startles him out of the frustrating fantasy and he blinks his eyes open.

John is kneeling next to him, his face unreadable. In his left hand, he has one of the hand-blown, dark-blue glasses they found in the house. Condensation moistens the outside. In his other hand, there is one of the long, richly ornamented, Asian-looking artist’s brushes the house's inhabitant left behind. The white hairs forming the tip glisten with moisture.


Something playful yet determined flashes over John's face. "Let me try something," he murmurs, eyes hot and curious. John bites his lower lip in concentration; dipping the brush into the glass. He brings it out, a drop of water hanging precariously on the tip, and looks speculatively over Rodney's body.

Rodney swallows.

"Close your eyes," John says, and Rodney shivers despite the heat. He searches John's face, but can't read him at all. "Do it," John repeats, voice low and rough.

So Rodney does. Feels his body flush, skin tight with the thrill of anticipation. Fresh sweat breaks out along his chest and arms. Damn.

For long moments, nothing happens. Rodney can hear John breathing; can hear the musical play of water in the small backyard fountain, the song of a nocturnal bird -- sweet and aching. Can feel the weight of sultry air pressing in around him. John's testing his patience, and Rodney would hate him if this weren’t turning him on so intensely.

"I'll just go to sleep, then," he remarks, goading John.

He imagines the way John's lips reveal his teeth for a broad grin. Hears it in his voice. "Trust me, you won't." The words are light, teasing, but the undercurrent is not.

Rodney swallows and shifts uncomfortably on the limestone floor.

Seconds pass. Minutes. Maybe hours. John takes his time.

When the touch finally comes, it's a shock to Rodney's heightened senses. Cold, soft, slick. Under his eyes. Brush-stroke, delicate. Over his nose. Brush-stroke, tickling, John's musky scent. Around his lips. Brush-stroke, sweeping, shaping, teasing. He can't help but catch a droplet that runs off the brush with his tongue.

The bird is closer now, its song the harmony to the symbols John is painting onto him.

The brush continues caressing his face, dipped in water time and time again, leaving behind wet trails on Rodney's skin until he believes he can make out patterns -- but never completely, not when John's breath fans his cheeks, air cooling the tracery of his brush work.

They're good together, at ease and relaxed and just as they were before there had been sex involved. But for all that Rodney enjoys it hard and rough, he admits freely now that he never would have thought that sex with a man would be this … gentle. Slow. Then again, his brain submits helpfully, this isn’t sex with just any man. It's with John. This, now, this is new; usually when they have sex, it's frantic and fast and immediate, all about need and yes and right now. This is teasing and slow, and the sweeping brush strokes may drive him insane. But for all this is different, the point is -- it's John. Not just any man. John. And he really should learn to stop being surprised by John Sheppard.

The brush leaves his face and Rodney finds himself fighting a whimper. The touch of the brush had been both a sweet relief and torture; its loss is almost painful.

To stop himself from opening his eyes, Rodney tries to concentrate on the silver tinkle of the fountain, on the rhythm of his heartbeat, on the texture of the stone beneath his bare back and under his palms. He scrapes his nails along the rough surface, making his fingertips tingle.

"Keep them closed," John encourages, and the sound of his voice is like smooth red wine.

Rodney wants to kiss the words away to find out if they taste the way they sound, but knows he can't summon the energy, lethargy and John's request prohibiting any movement.

His fingers claw at the limestone again, breathing, anticipating John's next move --

And almost arches off the ground when John pours a trickle of the ice-cold water along his jaw. It runs down his neck, part of it dribbling along his shoulder blades to the ground, some pooling in the hollow of his clavicle. His cock is achingly hard, pressing insistently against the light linen of his pants. Rodney has to fight to settle his hips back against the floor when he wants nothing more than to rip the damn pants off and.... He struggles to draw in shallow gasps, heat and arousal mingling. If it weren't for the temperature, he'd --

The brush is back and Rodney hisses at the unexpected contact. John guides the brush lightly, using the water pooled in the hollow of Rodney's throat to draw a line down to his sternum, under his heart and up along his ribcage. The brush is almost dry by the time John reaches the little pool of water on Rodney's chest once more; it tickles mercilessly against skin slick with sweat. Repeating the motion, John circles Rodney's chest again, finding new, exciting places that make Rodney whimper, shift, seek relief: the juncture between arm and shoulder, the inside of his elbow, the back of his hand, every single fingertip. By the time John's brush -- dry again, every single hair palpable against his skin -- has reached his pinkie finger, Rodney is panting.

"You like that?"

John's rich voice is near his ear suddenly, startling Rodney so badly he opens his eyes. He swallows. John's face is so close he could just reach out and touch -- dark lashes shadowing green eyes that gleam in the slowly dimming light, first crow's feet around the corners that are such a delicious sign of John's age that Rodney wants to stretch up and kiss them -- but John's skin is radiating heat, heat that makes him hard whilst stealing air that he needs to breathe.

Rodney forces himself to relax his neck and shoulder muscles and close his eyes again.

"No. I'm just doing my Yoga exercises."

A taunt, again, he knows John can't resist those. Blinking one eye open, he sees a wild, feral grin flash over John's face.

And Rodney really should know better than to mock John, because, oh, God, after he has instructed Rodney to close his damn eyes again, Rodney hears him rise to his knees -- a soft susurrus of fabric against the limestone. Another few excruciating seconds of waiting, where Rodney is ready to just come right there, without John even touching him. John tips the glass and lets a thin stream of ice-cold water run into Rodney's bellybutton; coldness so abrupt on hot skin that Rodney arches upwards, gasping out loud. John doesn't stop and the feeling of the water, cold as ice, burning like fire through the heat, goes on and on, travelling inside and out, along his skin and through his body, into his cock, centering there until Rodney is writhing, arousal wound to a nearly painful pitch.

Rodney's hand twitches, moving to touch himself, and John stops. Sets the glass down with an audible clink. Rests the wooden end of the brush against Rodney's wrist and pushes the hand back to the floor.

"You said you hated touching when it was warm." John's voice is light and deliberately admonishing.

Rodney groans. He's in hell. John's going to make him pay for what he said. He's going to bring him to the edge and then leave him there, denying him the chance to fall over it. Fresh sweat breaks out over his body. He hates the feeling. Hates John for a quick, irrational moment, for turning him on so much.

"I'm sorry, all right?" Rodney grinds out between clenched teeth. He wonders if he could get enough friction if he just moved his hips in the right way. If he could get his cock to rub against the rough linen --

The brush is back, slender wood pressed against Rodney's hipbone. "Don't."

The whimper Rodney gives sounds pitiful even to his own ears.

Then the pressure of the brush is gone and Rodney hears John rise.

Half glad John isn't touching him, half disappointed because he isn't even trying, Rodney raises his head to look around, something that only makes him sweat more, damn it. He doesn't care. "Pants?" he asks, and no, that really isn't his voice.

"Sorry." John shrugs, all mock consideration. "If you want them off you gotta do it yourself. Too hot for touching, remember?"

Rodney drops his head back against the stone floor with a thunk. "I hate you."

John steps into his line of vision and just smiles sunnily as he lazily runs the brush from his left hand over his arm to his torso. "This is nice," he says.

Rodney stares, unblinking. The planet’s axle tilt is more obvious now. The night here is no longer completely dark. There's light even when the planet has rotated the hemisphere they're in away from its sun, reminding Rodney of Siberia and the White Nights. He never would have thought he'd miss Siberian winters one day. Or Antarctica. Or Canadian winters, with their mountains of snow. The winter light, that strange, eternal, age-old light had been the same in all three countries. It's less pronounced here, less bright, but during what should be night here, the light from this sun bathes the city around the gate in an eerie ginger twilight. Bathes John, too. John's hair is haloed by it, his skin warmed from a regular tan to damp golden velvet. The water from the brush glistens on John's arms. Rodney's throat is too dry to swallow. He wants to taste -- John's skin, the salt on it, lick the gold away and feel it on his tongue, trace a long wet stripe down John's navel to the top of his pants, not touching, just licking, tongue is good, tongue would be okay --

John catches Rodney's gaze resting on his crotch and grins. Paints the infinity symbol on the inside of his lower arm. Again and again, over his chest, down his own stomach, mimicking what he did to Rodney, until the brush is dry and Rodney swears he can hear the brush moving through John's incredibly soft hair.

"When they find us, you'll be the one to explain to Elizabeth why I died from sexual frustration."

"Are you frustrated?"

"No, this is fun. Fun." Rodney heaves a helpless laugh. "Seriously, the thought of going down with a hard-on is just so very appealing. It’ll get me a good start in the afterlife. "Hi, I'm Rodney McKay, genius, and --"

Fabric shuffles, rustles. Rodney stops talking and raises his head and his brain short-circuits.

Skin, too much skin, only skin, a cocked eyebrow. Rodney has never thought much of crying when a situation got desperate. He's about to reconsider that tactic.

John's standing there, gloriously naked, his skin glowing in the eerie light, his cock hard and inviting and yet John's impossible to touch, too warm, too hot, too.… damn. Rodney just wants to die.

Well, no, he doesn't want to die. He wants to come and he wants to feel John come, to watch his eyes go wide and blind with pleasure and follow him over the brink, but it's too hot to breathe hard and his head keeps spinning from just sitting upright. Arousal has slipped past urgent to uncomfortable. Any longer and the teasing is going to become torture. Despite the damned heat, he's going to have to turn the tables on John.

Rodney curls upward, feels sweat and water slick on his belly and on the inside of his elbows, sticky and horrible, but he needs, needs this.

Faster than John expected, Rodney can see from the way John braces himself against the wall behind him, Rodney moves toward John. Hands firmly on the ground. Just his head. Moving until in line with John's cock. Rodney's gaze sweeps over it, takes in the familiar shape, colour, texture. John's a beautiful man in every aspect.

Rodney's mouth waters, saliva pooling under his tongue. He bends closer, takes in the mingled scent of sweat and musk. Opens his mouth and blows carefully on John's cock. A shiver races through John's body, and there's a throaty: "Rodney."

Rodney looks up through his lashes and smirks, knowing exactly what this does to John.

"You said no touching," John says, hoarsely, while Rodney continues to just breathe on his cock.

Rodney's smirk grows wider, the role reversal making him bold. "Oh, but I'm not touching." His tongue darts out, just a single moist dab to hot, smooth skin. "I'm tasting. You do know the difference, right?"

When he looks back up, John's eyes are dark, his mouth slightly open and Rodney's stomach clenches. He moves, without thinking, opens his mouth and leans forward, feels the silk of John's cock against his lips and tongue, breathes in the scent of sex, grinds his own cock against rough linen pulled tight by his movement and John sounds, John --

"Colonel Sheppard? Dr. McKay?"

Rodney jerks back as though electrocuted. Teyla. That's Teyla's voice.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit. Next to him, John scrambles for his pants and pulls them on with enough force to make Rodney wince. They're both wide-eyed and painfully aroused. John's pupils are blown wide, his breath coming in rapid pants, face flushed and God, he smells so damn good that Rodney wants to bury his nose in his --

"Colonel Sheppard, this is Lorne, are you there?"

Rodney presses the heel of his hand against the obvious bulge in his pants and curses fate. Lorne. Of all people.

"We're here, Major," John calls back, and Rodney really, really isn't amused to hear the squeak in John's voice.

Ronon and Teyla round the corner to their yard just when John is about to pull on one of the loose linen shirts they found.

"Are you all right?" Teyla asks; concern threaded through her question.

"Fine, just fine," Rodney snaps. He doesn't look at her. She reads him like a book, and he really doesn't feel like being on the receiving end of that knowing smile now.

"Hot here," Ronon remarks, matter-of-factly.

"Yeah. Hot." John isn't looking at him, and Rodney is incredibly grateful for that. Even the ginger twilight wouldn't hide the blush that's threatening to creep into his cheeks.

Lorne rounds the corner as well. He is down to a basic shirt that shows dark patches under his arms and on his chest. "There you are."

John makes a sweeping gesture toward the yard. "Join the party, Major."

"Ready to go?"

"No, I thought we'd stay here for a bit longer, work on that tan some more," Rodney gripes. "What do you think?"

Lorne grins. "Let's go. We have cool-packs in the jumper."

They walk in silence to where Lorne has landed the jumper. Later, he'll ask how they got here faster than seemed possible and who figured out how to do it. For now though, the sun has begun to rise, tinting the smooth sandstone buildings of the empty city in blood red. Already 40°C and rising again. It would top 50°C today.

Rodney walks with Teyla and Ronon between him and John.

Stepping into the air-conditioned interior of the jumper is pure bliss, and Rodney sighs. Drops on the soft black seat in the back and closes his eyes.

"Do you want to take her up, Colonel?" Lorne asks.

"Go ahead, Major," John answers, and Rodney hears him settle down next to him -- just far enough to not touch, but close enough to hear him breathe.

Cool air moves over them in waves, the chill welcome.

"Are you certain you are feeling all right, Colonel?"

Rodney hears John smile. "Sure. No need to worry. I just need a long, cold shower."

Rodney coughs. John's finger is on his thigh, nail scraping.

"Me, too."

Twenty-five degrees Celsius and falling.

Rodney smirks. He's looking forward to that shower.


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